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PNM: THE POLITICS OF DECEPTION by Ken Howell

posted 19 Feb 2014, 13:03 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 19 Feb 2014, 13:04 ]
Have we ever considered the significance of the struggles waged by our forefathers, post slavery?

The struggle for the right to vote and the right to form trade unions, are the foundation upon which the PNM was able to campaign for independence. Dr. Eric Williams entered the political arena when a lot of the spade work was already done by Uriah Butler, Albert Gomes, Dr. Patrick Solomon and others who were in the progressive stream of the politics at that time. 
 
Dr. Eric Williams
So what should be said of such a grand entry, as Dr. Williams' was said to be? If one is to consider, that the colonial office was uneasy about the mood of the natives who, post 1937-1946 era, were still unhappy with their working and living conditions they would have seen in Dr. Williams, an employee of theirs at the time, a worthy candidate for the task of exciting the political imagination of the population away from a more revolutionary path to independence. 
 
Suffice it to say, that he fitted the bill perfectly. Sensing that the political mood was trending to the left under the influence of leaders such as C.L.R James, Dr. Eric Williams presented himself as a Fabian Socialist. From all accounts it would appear that he succeeded in achieving his goal which was to convince them that he was one of them, fighting for the same cause. Elements on the left at that time, recalled that Dr. Williams was able to create divisions in the ranks of the progressives largely because of his intellectual credentials and the fact that those whom he engaged in debate though correct in the arguments they presented, were not in the eyes of his supporters of his standing. 
 
He entered the arena, as a Doctor of philosophy and in the eyes of the citizenry, an intellectual who some people say was the second brightest man in the world. Having achieved such a reputation, he searched and found Dom Basil Matthews a Catholic Priest of great intellectual depth with whom he went toe to toe in a debate on philosophy in the public library on Knox Street Port of Spain. Having proven his intellectual standing in the debate it was only a matter of time before he moved against leaders such as CLR James - a leading light of the left movement. 
CLR James


Why did I choose to look at the entry of Dr. Williams into the politics from this angle? It is because, the so-called national movement enunciated by him, was really aimed at leading the country into neo-colonialism. His decision to impose the Arthur Lewis model of industrialization by invitation on the population clearly exposed this fact. You see, Sir Arthur Lewis was a student of and an advocate of colonialism having gotten his education in that system. In the circumstances however, Dr. Williams survived that unfortunate decision. 
 
When the working people made their intervention into the politics in the 1970s and demanded the nationalization of critical enterprises, he was forced to nationalize banks and a part of the oil industry to name just a few. Today, our oil and gas resources are once again back in the hands of the multinational corporations. 
 
By using the state to intervene in the economic activities of the country, he was able to deceive keen political observers, hiding as he did under the cover of the anti imperialist and liberation struggles at that time. His political stocks went up when Colonel Gadaffi and the O.P.E.C countries caused the price of oil to increase very rapidly in the 1970s.  
 
But the political script was already written in Marlborough House; 1970 was just an obstacle along the pro capitalist road taken by the PNM under the doctor and every successive leader of that party, as well as those of the political parties which replaced the PNM over the years. Even Prime Minister George Chambers was known to have said on assuming the position of Prime Minister following the death of Dr. Williams, in one of his addresses to the Parliament on the state of the economy, that state enterprises are held in trust on behalf of the people, until it is appropriate to dispose of them. Clearly it was not the intention of the state to be involved in economic activity indefinitely. 

The problem however, was that having intervened to the extent that it had, and having at its disposal oil revenue and recognizing that the private sector was not inclined to invest in important areas of the economy, the state sector grew larger and larger over the years accounting for the largest number of citizens employed in that sector. 

ANR Robinson
So when the price of oil collapsed in the 1980s and the prospect of having to face an uprising of the kind which confronted them in the 70s, the task fell to the National Alliance for Reconstruction led by Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson, the then Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly and a member of the Demas Task Force which recommended far-reaching structural adjustment measures as the solution to the country's economic ills at that time. Robinson, who became Prime Minister in 1987 hastened to implement those plans which were crafted by the PNM for the dismantling of the state sector. 

That plan came in two parts; in the Euric Bobb report and the Demas Task Force Report. Mr. Robinson failed to implement all of the plans which he set out in his letter to the then head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) because of the intervention of many people’s organisations under the banner of the Summit of Peoples Organisations. The PNM, who rode on the backs of that organisation, was returned to power and to the disappointment of many progressive elements, on the night of the elections, in his victory speech, Manning promised to continue the policies of Mr. Robinson; which he did. The PNM did privatize state companies such as Tanteak, ISCOTT, TTEC’s generating capacity, WASA management and many others. 
 
During the tenure of Prime Minister Basdeo Panday and that of Mr. Patrick Manning who was anointed by Mr. Robinson (when the election resulted in an eighteen- eighteen stand-off) after he became President as a gift from Mr. Panday, the phenomenon of corruption which it was alleged to be a feature of the Eric Williams era reared its ugly head. 

A close examination of that phenomenon would reveal that while it serves to fill the pockets of greedy politicians, it is also a tool of the propaganda machine of big business interests through which ordinary people and the working class are mobilised to support the privatization of the patrimony of the people. Without question, corruption is an evil which must be exorcised from the politics and economic activities of any country and any system.

It is the view in some quarters, that the Peoples Partnership Government is the worst example of a corrupt government. This view is held by those who wish to claim that the Dr. Rowley-led PNM should not be made to pay for the sins of past PNM administrations. By adopting that position, they hope that the sins of the father will not fall on the Rowley generation. But as the old people say God don't sleep! 
 
While the PP government plunders the treasury and dismantles the health sector whose foundation for destruction was prepared by the PNM during the tenure of Mr. Gordon Draper who was the Minister of Public Administration, they have also embarked on the task of implementing privatization policies which the PNM passed on to them for implementation. 
 
At every turn in this political and economic game of death, the deceptive hand of the PNM operating in the shadows have succeeded in eluding the population and so, once again, they are presenting themselves as the best party to lead the country. But I can take a bet that if you ask them, if when they get into government, whether they will reverse all decisions to privatize state enterprises I am certain you will get no response. 
 
We must understand that state control of the economy was never part of any deliberate, thought-out economic policy of the Peoples National Movement. The national movement which the doctor led was really intended to mobilise the population for continued service in the interest of foreign capital. 
 
The evidence is clear. The energy sector is firmly in the hands of foreign capital and the financial sector will soon follow. The Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago was sold to the Royal Bank of Canada, which it is alleged is about to sell its retail banking operations to the HSBC Bank which it is also alleged was found to be involved in money laundering. All of this did not start with the PP government. They are running their leg in the relay race to complete the privatization of the state sector in fulfilment of the commitment made to the IMF by Mr. Robinson. 
 
Against this background, what therefore are the options open to the working people and the ordinary masses whose financial resources are earmarked to be transferred to foreign and local capital? I would suggest that even in the absence of a combat-ready labour movement the central issue facing all of the people is not simply to remove the current government from office in 2015, but also to reject all of the others including the PNM, and to create a mass movement people’s organisations led by the best among us to take power through the process of national election in order to create a true people’s government  
 
It will not be an easy assignment it will require hard work and trust and confidence in our ability to succeed but we can do it. We who overcame slavery and indentured labour, formed the trade union movement, fought for and won the right to vote and invented the steel pan as a musical instrument, have the ability to achieve anything we set our minds to achieve.  

It is about time we, the working masses, rely on ourselves. If we did not know it, it is we who are the producers of the wealth of the society and therefore it is time for us to get the largest slice of the pie. That is why we have a duty to expose the mastermind: the imposter - the PNM.
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