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POLITICS IN OUR NAME? By Ken Howell

posted 19 Feb 2019, 09:08 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 19 Feb 2019, 09:21 ]
“People aren’t listening to their labor leaders any longer. It’s become a social movement.”
Abdio Lorenzo
Mexican small,businessman


The government of Trinbago, which is currently led by the PNM, is caught in a vortex of US imperialist geopolitical machinations, without realising that it is already in too deep.

This is because its leaders believe that capitalism is the only political and economic option suitable for social and economic development. As a result they are blinded to the reality that there is a connection between the misdirected decision to close down Petrotrin and the blatant aggression that has been directed against Venezuela.

The attack against the workers of Petrotrin is an attack on the working class in the same way that the attack on the legitimate government of Venezuela is an attack on the working class of that country, because, to a large extent, what is currently described there as socialism is really state capitalism. The economy of Venezuela is a mixed economy. But the aspiration of the social democratic party which is led by President Nicholas Maduro is to create a socialist society in that country.


Had it not been for the revolt led by the NJAC in 1970 and the campaign by the OWTU to nationalise Texaco, we were not going to have state enterprises that we must now fight to defend. 
Here, in Trinidad and Tobago, the aspiration of the PNM has always been to continue from where the colonial masters left off. Had it not been for the revolt led by the NJAC in 1970 and the campaign by the OWTU to nationalise Texaco, we were not going to have state enterprises that we must now fight to defend.

As a consequence, our economy is also state led. In other words, what we have in Trinbago is state led capitalism. But US imperialism will have none of that here in this country or in Venezuela. We are an oil rich country although not as rich in energy resources as Venezuela, who hold the largest reserves of oil and gas in the world. We are just a few miles from Venezuela by sea, and we also share in a pool of oil and gas reserves. Therein lies the geopolitics about which I speak and the basis for the trade unions to engage in a politics, the kind in which they have never been involved before.

But the writer of the Sunday Guardian articles purporting to be about industrial relations continues to pretend that he is concerned about the future of this country. And he claims to be concerned about whether trade unions are complying with the requirements of the Trades Union Act of the 1930s. In addition, he is querying whether unions have set up political funds as is required under the Act and whether members who do not wish for their union contributions to be utilized for political purposes, are allowed to opt-out of the fund.

He is raising all these matters, as if he is concerned about the well being of the members of trade unions, when, in fact, he is really doing the bidding of the imperialist powers, in the comfort of the grip of the local capitalist class.

On Sunday 27th January 2019 in an article headlined: POLITICS IN WHOSE NAME? He went on to a place which they visited in their secret meeting. A copy of a recording of that meeting revealed that copies of the unaudited financial accounts of some trade unions became the subject of discussion and decisions were taken to seek the intervention of the Registrar of trade unions in order to expose alleged misappropriation of union funds by their leaders. That is a line of attack which they decided on.

It appears that steps are being taken to execute that plan. That is why in this article he has chosen to focus attention on the TRADE UNION ACT which came into force in the 1930s. He raises the question of politics and clearly he is pointing to the OWTU and its association with the Movement for Social Justice. The implication is that the union is diverting union funds into that party in order to serve the narrow interests of the union’s President and the MSJ.

Let me make it as clear as I possibly can. It is the democratic right of each member of a trade union, including the President, to belong to a political party of their choice. But what these hitmen of the local and foreign capitalists are seeking to achieve is the destruction of the trade union movement by first planting suspicion in the minds of the members of trade unions, as well as those who are potential members. The strategy is to divide and rule.

But this question about the involvement of trade unions with and in political parties is nothing new. The history of the trade union movement in the Caribbean is one of involvement with and the formation of political parties. Throughout the Caribbean political parties which captured political power as far back as in the 1930s were those which were led by Trade Unionists. It was only in Trinbago where that was not the case. So his concern about trade union involvement in politics is absurd.

In fact the trade union and its leader, whom he is encouraging other leaders to emulate, is one who comes from a tradition of pro-employer union leaders such as James Manswell former President of the Public Service Association, Nathaniel Critchlow former President of the NUGFW, W.W Sutton former President of the Amalgamated Workers Union, Vas Stanford former leader of the Union of Commercial and Industrial Workers and Carl Tull former leader of the Communication Workers Union.

These were all members of the Peoples National Movement. So his concern about the involvement of trade unions in politics is without any basis in logic. For his information, there were also the Workers and Farmers Party and the United Labour Front. What we never had and what we really need as workers is a Revolutionary Democratic Workers Party with a policy and programme which is prepared by and for workers.

Such a party must also incorporate the interest of the farmers and small business people in its affairs. That is the politics which we now need in the workers name. Because if we do not begin to understand that we are in a war and that US imperialism has been using different approaches in their dealings with different targets, then we will never understand the interconnection between the closure of Petrotrin, the assault on the economy of Venezuela and the purported articles on industrial relations which have been appearing in the Sunday Guardian.

You see the Prime Minister led the country to believe that he was the initiator of the decision to close down Petrotrin, when in fact there were invisible hands on the levers of real political power - the kind that reeks of neo-liberalism. In other words, although they know where the PNM stands on the question of capitalism and the direction in which it believes the economy should be pointed, they were not taking any chances.

They ensured that their man, Wilfred Espinet, was there to ensure that there was a smooth transition from state owned to the private sector once again. The truth is that if the US imperialist is successful in overthrowing the government of Venezuela it will end up benefiting the oil giants such as EXXON and Chevron. So when that writer asks the question: “Politics in whose name?” we are certain that the current brand of national and geo - political machinations are not in the interest of the broad masses of working people neither in Trinbago nor in Venezuela.

That is why the workers must begin to fashion a brand of politics to serve their class interests and no amount of attack on the movement or threats to involve the Registrar of Trade Unions in a plan to shake down the leaders of trade unions will change that fact. It is about time that working people come to the reality that they alone can change their social, political and economic reality and no amount of intimidation from the employer class can stop them.

The writer believes that we are fools. He is claiming that he is not trying to be petty, when in fact he is because he does not have any interest in developing the trade unions because strong trade unions are not what the government and the employer class want. His real motive is to devise ways and means to damage the confidence of the workers, unionised and non-unionised, in the integrity and ability of the movement to effectively represent their class interest.

Very cleverly, he sighted the foolish decision of some of the trade union leaders who jump from one pro-capitalist political party to the other pro-capitalist party, from the UNC to the PNM, as examples of the trade union movement’s involvement in politics. If he chooses too he can, but in our view the behaviour of these leaders must not be the yard stick by which we must measure the intelligence of working people. One of these days when the objective and subjective conditions synchronize and the workers are ready to change their social, political and economic conditions, the current brand of trade unionist would be swept away along with the employer class. That is what they are afraid of. Dare to struggle dare to win!
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