Errol Walton Barrow and the Postwar Transformation of Barbados
The Independence Period, 1966-1974
436 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.00 in
- Published: November 2020
This companion volume to Errol Walton Barrow and the Postwar Transformation of Barbados: The Late Colonial Period, which covered the social and political forces between the 1920s and 1966 that shaped the trajectory of working-class struggles in Barbados and led to its decolonization, addresses mainly the first two decades of Barbados’s independence as a sovereign monarchy under Errol Barrow and the Democratic Labour Party.
“[An] incisive and rigorous left analysis of the conundrum facing a peripheral capitalist Caribbean society. Watson explains why Barbados, unable to break decisively with its colonial past and hamstrung by the deceit of the promise of sovereignty, is forced to make compromises with imperialism and its domestic representatives of capital.”
–Linden Lewis, Professor of Sociology, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania
“[A] masterful exploration of Barbados’s political development. . . . [Watson] offers a skilful critique of Barbados’s quest for ‘development’, ever unable to be pro-working class, in the shadows of colonialism and the spectre of the United States. . . . A must-read for anyone seeking a sophisticated and nuanced understanding of Barbados, the Caribbean and world politics, not only between 1966 and 1976 but in the present.
–Kristina Hinds, Senior Lecturer in Political Science (International Relations), the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados
“Meticulously researched and brilliantly written. . . . All of the major influences that helped to fashion the young state are carefully catalogued, analysed and associated with their relevant theoretical underpinnings. . . . Watson lays bare the intricacies and contradictions that made the [independence] period and its main actors so important to the shaping of modern Barbados.”
–Harold Codrington, Deputy Governor (retired), Central Bank of Barbados
List of Abbreviations / xiii
Introduction / 1
1. Foreign Policy of Barbados under Barrow and the DLP, 1966–1976 / 21
2. Freedom, “Harmonious Progress” and the Public Order Act: Crisis of Hegemonic Liberal Internationalism / 81
3. Politics of Indicative (Development) Planning in Barbados, 1946–1976 / 136
4. Education and Change in Postwar Barbados / 205
5. The State, Patriarchy, Women and Gender under Barrow / 245
Conclusion / 304
Postscript / 318
Notes / 341
References / 369
Index / 389
PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
THE FIRST VOLUME OF THIS WORK , Errol Walton Barrow and the Postwar Transformation of Barbados: The Late Colonial Period, covered the social and political forces and the circumstances that developed between the 1920s and 1966 and fundamentally shaped the trajectory of working-class struggles that led to decolonization in Barbados and the British Caribbean. Those struggles and other world developments, including the outcome of World War II, which left Britain in a severely weakened international condition, forced the British to implement the bourgeois democratic revolution that was deliberately designed to order and manage decolonization and give the disintegration of British imperialism a soft landing. The anti-colonial and descriptive anti-imperialist struggles in the British Caribbean never became substantively anti-capitalist or anti-British.
In Barbados the targeted reforms occurred in areas that included capital- labour relations, workers’ rights in the workplace, the development of party politics, franchise reform and electoral reform, via the introduction of universal adult suffrage, which led to the black majority government. The reforms were implemented gradually and coincident with the reinforcement and entrenchment of white-minority capitalist hegemony within a changing international geopolitical (Cold War) framework. This complex, contradictory process, which left an indelible imprint on the transition to independence in Barbados, was mediated by the “historic compromise”, which conditioned the “political consensus” that the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) especially reached for governing Barbados and keeping working-class aspirations in check. This second volume addresses mainly the first two decades of Barbados’s independence as a sovereign monarchy under Errol Barrow and the DLP. As with the first volume, the present work extends the theme of transformation as a dialectical, open-ended process of change in which social classes, their strata, groups and individuals cooperate on complementary interests and contend around contradictory issues to influence or control the state and the production and exercise of state power, with the aim of shaping the trajectory of the allocation of resources, the distribution of income and the accumulation of capital and wealth in the political economy.
The volume adds to the extremely sparse literature about the role Errol Barrow played and the contributions he made to the transformation process in Barbados, with an eye on the wider Caribbean, mindful that political and intellectual development and change occur within an international cultural context, a claim that mirrors Barrow’s conviction that sovereignty works best when it allows a society to appreciate that a state’s real strengths are best exhibited and realized in the pursuit of interdependence to benefit humanity.
The analysis develops within the social science discipline of international political economy, which approaches change through the lens of the social relations of production that humans enter into in the process of reproducing themselves in a larger world context. Barbados’s transition from colonialism to independence represented constitutional change in the international status of the territory; however, it did not occur as a rupture or separation from the past that nationalists and other state- centric thinkers typically assume to be the core, defining mark of the achievement of sovereign autonomy as an end product in a country’s political development. Change and transformation are best understood as a dialectical process, bearing in mind that preservation is a part of transformation, given that we make our history not under conditions of our individual strivings, but with the burden of history conditioning our actions.
The bourgeois democratic revolution in Barbados effectively canalized the energies of the population and especially the working class, and resulted in change that strengthened the position of the owners of capital and the political leadership strata, but also improved the lot of the working- class mass at large. Peter Morgan (1994), a close confidant and associate of Barrow, argued that Barrow transformed Barbados from a collection of villages into a modern society. The bourgeois democratic revolution in the British Caribbean was expressed in ways that, institutionally and nominally, coincided with notions of sovereignty, freedom, individual rights, justice and democracy – parliamentary (representative) government – political party competition and labour and trade union politics, the rule of law, and deontological equality and other arrangements that comprise what Jeffrey Perry (2010, 1) labels the “capitalist social control formation”. The bourgeois democratic revolution unfolded in a process of highly regulated, intra-systemic change. The decision the decolonizing elites reached to advance Barbados from colony to sovereign monarchy in the Commonwealth, with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, preserved traces of the power of the Crown, notably with the “savings clauses” that were built into the Independence Constitution and survive to this day.
The decline of Britain’s position in the postwar international order found the British state acting desperately to control decolonization not merely to influence how former colonies would exercise their sovereign power domestically and internationally, but also to protect its far-flung material and geopolitical interests, as it was forced to play a much diminished role as a junior partner under US hegemony.
This volume questions the nationalist mantra that misrepresents the cultural institution that is the nation state and the modern national state as naturally evolved political bodies, rather than as the historical institutions humans create in the process of reproducing themselves. The study also contests the claim that imperialism was and remains an external imposition on colonial and postcolonial societies, the legacies of which independence would erase from the national body politic.
Nationalists routinely imagine the nation as an organic – antecedent and unencumbered – body (much like a living organism), an ideological notion that reflects the habit of reading change through the logic of “historical uptime” that Etienne Balibar (1991) labels a “retrospective illusion” of the “national personality” of the state. This form of ideological dissembling unnecessarily imposes on sovereign statehood a burden that is beyond the capability of any state to shoulder (Santner 2011).
Richard Koenigsberg (2018, 1) describes nationalism as a “disease . . . of neurosis” that is fed by the “fantasy of an omnipotent, indestructible part of the self that will never die”. He adds pointedly, however, that a “self that can never die cannot mourn; there is no possibility of intrapsy- chic change or growth. The object inside the self symbiotically clings or sticks to the self, constituting a burden or encrustation.” The Barbados decolonizing elites idealized the British-derived and inspired norms and institutions they internalized as part of their cultural development, on which they drew in ways that impressed the British as they set about steering the ship of the decolonizing state. Errol Barrow differed from Grantley Adams by degree rather than kind on the fundamentals of freedom, justice, equality and democracy with reference to the constitutional development of Barbados.
The transition to sovereignty reflected what Barrow and other leaders of Barbados accepted as the independence that was available under British mandates, a contradictory process that Gary Wilder (2015, xii, xiii) considers when he speaks about “transformative possibilities that may have been sedimented within existing arrangements . . . through decolonization, to remake the world so that humanity could more fully realize itself on a planetary scale”. Barrow and his counterparts embraced a cosmopolitan politics that was part of modernity’s encrusted “state- centrist discourse and practice that treat liberal internationalism as the definitive universality, which subsumes struggles for self-determination and freedom under the right to exploit that complicates the struggle for our full humanity” (Watson 2019, foreword).
Barrow did not necessarily view nationalism as an “empowering impulse” that sets the nation on its trajectory vis-à-vis other nations and states. Barrow did not attempt to deflect attention from the ways the exercise of state power shelters private economic power and wealth and domination from appropriate critique and exposure. He saw sovereignty as a means to deepen international understanding and to move humanity to a greater appreciation of the commensurability that informs our human interdependence; however, he did not abandon cosmopolitanism, with its state-centrist biases. He pursued a foreign policy that was mindful of the hegemonic designs that the United States and its weakened British and European allies employed to force the newly independent states to exercise sovereignty in keeping with their strategy for expanding and strengthening the spatial extent and power base for international capital- ism. The United States did not only reject competing geopolitical centres of military power in the West, but also worked deliberately to obstruct any attempt by the working class to influence decolonization and gain control of state power in decolonizing societies.
All the issues addressed in this volume – foreign policy; the challenges that led to the passage of the Public Order Act (1970); indicative (development) planning as a strategy to foment economic diversification and improve the lot of the largely marginalized population; educational change and social mobility; and the state, patriarchy, women and gen- der – unfolded within an international cultural context that conditioned the process of change and the progress that was realized in the society. The study explores the complex relationship between modern patriarchy and capitalism, with attention to the fraught relationship that existed between Barrow and the DLP and women in Barbadian society. It includes a postscript that explores selective issues of Barrow’s legacy and how the making of transnational capitalism has left Barbados with more difficult choices about the future, with attention to the defeat of the DLP in the 2018 general election, in which the party failed to win any parliamentary seats: the ruling BLP gained control of the entire House of Assembly, an outcome that is unprecedented in the electoral politics and parliamentary government of postwar Barbados. This development is worth considering within the context of the larger global hegemonic crisis (Robinson 2014), rather than limiting it to a peculiarity of the Barbadian political economy, mindful that the national is largely a particular expression of the larger global constellation of forces and processes.
The debts I incurred to individuals and organizations in researching and writing this volume are much like those I owe for the first volume. Bucknell University supported me with travel and research grants over the years when I did research in the United Kingdom and in Barba- dos and presented papers at a number of conferences. The UK National Archives (Kew, London), the Barbados Department of Archives, Barbados Parliament Library (Public Buildings, Bridgetown), University of the West Indies Federal Archives Centre (Cave Hill), and the West Indies Collection (University of the West Indies Library, Cave Hill) were the sites where I did most of the research. I was astonished when a senior staff member at the Barbados Department of Archives informed me that it did not have any scholarly material about Errol Barrow in its records, and it would be a challenge to do the research I proposed into Barrow’s role in the postwar transformation of Barbados. After I completed research for the first volume at the UK National Archives and began to research this second volume, I found that there was a dearth of literature and documents on Barbados and Barrow for the independence period in its holdings. I began research for this volume at the Barbados Department of Archives and the West Indies Collection at the Cave Hill campus, University of the West Indies. Sir Hilary Beckles, then campus principal, listened attentively, offered helpful suggestions and graciously provided office space in the CARICOM Research Building during my 2008–9 sabbatical year in Barbados.
Several colleagues, friends and others – Linden Lewis, Dave Ramsaran, Alex Dupuy, Don Marshall, Andrew Downes, Harold Codrington, George Belle, Nigel Bolland, Dion Phillips, Michael King, Leroy Trotman, Cynthia Barrow-Giles and Tennyson Joseph – offered suggestions at different points during the research and writing phases. Conversations with Cedric Licorish, Monica Jardine and Jeb Sprague on a variety of topics helped in clarifying a number of issues toward the end of the writing process. Several individuals granted me interviews for which I am thankful: Sir Courtney Blackman, Sir Shridath Ramphal, Sir Erskine Sandiford, Sir Peter Morgan, George Lamming, Dr Peter Laurie, the Hon. David Thompson, Maurice King, Freundel Stuart, Dr George Belle, Francis Belle, David Commissiong, Carlisle Carter, Horace King, Maizie Barker- Welch, John Connell, Mitchell Codrington, Woodville Marshall, Astor B. Watts, Tennyson Beckles, Yvonne Walkes, Marjorie Lashley, Antoinette Thompson, Norma Jackman, Carlton Brathwaite and Gwen Hurst, among others. Members of the University of the West Indies Press staff vari- ously provided technical support. Among them Joseph Powell, Shivaun Hearne and the UWI Press team deserve special mention. I am also very thankful to two external reviewers for the University of the West Indies Press for their comments and suggestions.