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The Impact of the Leftist Ideology on the Caribbean

Essay by   •  December 4, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  4,987 Words (20 Pages)  •  1,430 Views

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The discourse of this paper is guided by the desire to see people within the region educate themselves about the events in history which ultimately impacted and led to the formation of trade unions and political parties. Many people in the region today do not know or even appreciate the labour movement history and how it has shaped the political, economic and social landscape in the Caribbean. The information acquired from this research could also be used in educational programmes to educate people of the region about the impact of the Cold War (Leftist Ideology) on our Labour Movement and Political Parties as we know them today. It is from this back drop that reference must be made of the historical background of this paper would try to look at some of the events in the British Caribbean from the 1800's to the first half of the 1900's. Of specific interest emphasis would be placed on the events which took place during the Cold War era in countries like Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica, Guyana and Grenada.

Research Questions

This research report seeks to answer the following research questions:

1. What conditions existed within the Caribbean contributed to the adoption of the Leftist Ideology during the Cold War era?

2. What were the effects of the Leftist ideology to the political movement and Labour Movement within the Caribbean?


Study Design

A qualitative approach was adopted for this research paper. The qualitative research approach is one which "systematically gathers information about a particular person, social setting, event, or group (i.e. a case) to permit the researcher to effectively understand how it operates or functions" (Saunders et. al. 2007 ). To be more specific, a narrative research design which is a qualitative research tool was adapted for this study. The narrative research design is used primarily to highlight "experiences as expressed in lived and told stories of individuals" (Saunders et. al. 2007). Oral histories emerge from narrative research designs and participants may be asked to record experiences in a chronological order in a journal or diary or researchers may do the recording (Saunders et. al. 2007).

Research Instrument

Interviews were conducted with Mr. Bobby Morris, Deputy General Secretary, Barbados Workers Union and Mr. Trevor Prescod, former Government Minister (1998-2008). An interview was also scheduled to be conducted with historian Trevor Marshall but because of commitments on his part this was did not materialise. For the purpose of this research paper Mr Bobby Morris therefore wore the hats of an historian and as a trade union leader. Interviews were conducted on November 15th, 2011 with Mr. Morris and November 21st, 2011 with Mr. Prescod at the Barbados workers Union and the Israel Llovel Foundation respectively. The interviews which were conducted were unstrucrued, therefore they were no set questions to ask the persons interviewed but the dialogue was kept within the parameters of the research question.


By the early eighteenth century Great Britain became the leading colonial power within the Caribbean. The colonial power domination was characterised by the exploitation of cheap labour and the resources by creating structures of inequality between the planter class who controlled the means of production and a working class who were in virtual servitude and bondage in the Caribbean (Goolsarran 2005). The origin of Caribbean trade unions can be described as one shaped by the British and American industrial relations practices during and prior the 1930's. The trade union emerged out of the early labour movements known as Workingmen's Association and the United Negro Improvement Association (Bolland 2001). To get an understanding of the events leading up to the formation of trade unions one must examine the employment relationship in the British Caribbean prior to 1930 (Barrow-Giles 2002). The employment relationship in the British Caribbean prior to 1930's was one characterised by a dominant planter class who enslaved Africans and indentured Indian servants for the cultivation of tobacco, cotton and sugar. These slaves worked and lived under poor political, economic and social conditions in the Caribbean (Nurse 1992). Mars 1998 views this relationship as "highly restrictive and circumscribed political universes with a virtually impassable divide between rulers and ruled". Goolsarran 2005 contends that labour relations in the Caribbean were shaped by the authoritarian nature of the social relations of the plantocracy which was in a position to control and dominate the way in which labour issues were handled. This was further facilitated by the state which provided a supporting role for the plantocracy. The period of 1930's represented a significant turning point for the working class of the British Caribbean and the development of trade unions (Barrow-Giles 2002). The 1930's for most of the working class represented the first time during colonialism there was a demand for self-government and political democracy (Robert J. Alexander 2004). Spreading throughout the Caribbean in the 1930's was the Garveynism philosophy which spoke about nationalism and acquiring political power. The philosphy being espoused by Marcus Garvey in the 1930's seemed to have ignited the class conciouness of the working class towards the planter class in the Caribbean (Barrow-Giles 2002). This marked the third such wave of labour unrest which spread throughout each Caribbean territory indicating similarities in work and living conditions (Hart, From Occupation to Indepedence: A Short History of the Peoples of the English-Speaking Caribbean Region 1998). The events of the 1930's can be seen as a reaction by the working class in the region to the political, social and economic dominance of the planter class (Bolland 2001). The working class in the Caribbean rose up against the effects of the exploitation and the autocratic management of the planter class (Trade Union Behaviour and Industrial Relations Practice in the Commonwealth Caribbean 2011). This is reinforced by Richard Hart who states that "the distressing economic conditions of the workers and the frustrations imposed on the intelligentsia by colonialism had become intolerable" (Hart, Towards Decolinisation: Political, Labour and Economic Development in Jamaica 1938-1945 1999). The rise against the establishment took the form of riots, strikes and revolts



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