TRANSFORMING OUR POLITICAL CULTURE
by Henry Charles
HOW DID WE GET INTO THIS MESS
IN THE FIRST PLACE?
Both the ruling SLP and main opposition UWP are mass base political parties with significant national support bases. However throughout their existence, success as an electoral party has hinged on the electability of their populist and/or maximum leaders. This was the case during the Sir George Charles and Sir John Compton era and same with Kenny Anthony.
Changing demographics, diminishing confidence in the existing political culture and near comatose posture of those political organizations relevant to the much needed transformation of Saint Lucia's social, economic and political ethos, establishes a compelling case for the restructuring, rebuilding and re-positioning of both political dinosaurs. Perhaps the time has come for both parties to consider the following options:
1. EVEN COMPTON WAS A GOOD SOCIALIST COMPARED TO TODAY’S POLITICIANS: Relinquish their deformed ' democratic centralist' posture.
2. BRING TRUE DEMOCRACY TO PARTY ELECTIONS: The delegate system is too easy to corrupt. Adopt a ' one man, one vote' principle to elect new leadership. This will allow the entire party membership to participate in the process and may serve to re-energize the base.
3. FREE UP DE PARTY FOR EVERYBODY: Adopt more transparent and democratic organizational and policy formulation structures and processes. Party groups and organs must become fully engaged in the dialogue on programmes and policy. As things stand now, all voices are equal, but some voices are far more equal than others.
4. BE YOUNG OR DIE: While the varied versions of 'Flambeau' and 'Layba' mantras may suffice to rally 'ground troops' there is an urgent need to adopt more embracing messages or clarion to re-engage the broad masses, especially the more discerning young citizen.
5. NO MORE POLITICAL CHILD ABUSE: The propensity to simply mobilize and engage young people as 'electoral mascots' must be revisited and abandoned. Instead there is a compelling necessity to empower and engage young members, sympathizers and supporters. They, the youth, must have a place at the table as equal partners in the governance and policy development structures and processes of both parties.
In essence both parties must engage in a process of profound democratization and transformation.
Unfortunately, recent history give no indication that the parties or the current crop of leaders are equipped to even think this thought, much less walk this walk.
Hence the need to refresh the University of the Market Steps.
SOCIAL DEMOCRACY 101:
PEOPLE POWER MUST PRESSURE POLITICIANS PERSISTENTLY
If, as a citizen, you tell your government what to do, you are doing it wrong.
I am often reminded that many of our citizens, especially the youth, seem unaware of their CIVIC responsibility and oblivious to the REAL ISSUES of Governance. No doubt the structural deformities of our political system is a major contributing factor. And so, it is said, people get fed up with the pappyshow and withdraw from the political process, altogether. Some argue it is the only way out.
But does it help change the price of cocoa?
I contend that if our political and governance systems are broken and/or marginally functional, then withdrawal from the process is CANNOT be the answer. Au contraire, withdrawal may provide those who benefit from the systematic dysfunctional with an even greater incentive to perpetuate the status quo.
Withdrawal from the political process is a sure way to make things worse. It encourages them in their maji.
The result is the consolidation of power in the hands of cabals. Hence, the prevalence of the social and economic marginalization of significant sectors of our societies. Unfortunately, many may not immediately grasp the political context of such marginalization and like the traditional anarchists or Luddites, are driven to respond in the realm of anti-social behavior. And, we still wonder, why the State apparatus seem so ineffectual in combating the scourge of spiraling criminality.
There is an urgent need to enhance the political and social consciousness of the masses, and accentuate their rights, responsibilities and role as engaged citizens, particularly the youth.
We have faced similar situations in the past. St Lucian youth performed quite admirably, so much so that many grew up to be the giants of today's St Lucian history.
CALLING ALL CONSCIOUS YOUTH
In the mid-1930's, unwilling to bear any further pain from the oppressive social and economic conditions the working class revolted. Their organized anger forced the Colonial authorities to appoint the Moyne Commission, which subsequently proposed significant improvements in the social and economic conditions.
During the struggle for Adult -Suffrage the ORGANIZING COMMITTEE, including stalwarts like G.F.L.Charles, Emmanuel Springer Sr. and others, travelled the length and breadth of Saint Lucia agitating for ' pouvwa po matay ti-kwa' (the right to vote) and succeeded.
In both instances the working class, working people and their leaders demonstrated profound social and political consciousness, and civic responsibility. Many argue such social and political consciousness is non-existent in our contemporary society. But…
Is that a fact?
Perhaps the missing ingredients are the absence of a genuine working class political movement and diminishing capacity of civil society organizations, bona fide community groups and institutions to be more strategic in their public advocacy agenda.
Perhaps what we need more of in St Lucia politics is not more leaders and followers, but more people setting the agenda, deciding for themselves what is important and pressing for it.
Perhaps what is missing from St Lucian politics…is you.
Henry Charles is a St Lucian social democrat with roots in the trade union movement. He was active in the St Lucia Labour Party but was thrown under the bus by his political comrades after a few accounting irregularities emerged in what was called the NCA Scandal. The investigation into the scandal cleared Charlo of wrongdoing, but Labour has kept him at a distance to their detriment, losing both Central Castries and Castries South-East, two seats he was instrumental in helping to bring to Labour. But Charlo eh digging nothing on dem fellas for that. He has run the Commonwealth Youth Program’s Caribbean secretariat and has worked as a consultant on many regional and international youth development programs. He is also one of only two members of the St Lucia Labour Party who know exactly how to retire Richard Frederick from St Lucian politics. What Charlo is really digging horrors on is how the new, super-educated Labour elite have forgotten the working class and helped the working class forget that they are the closest thing to an absolute monarch this country has.