All men meet destiny in their turn, unless they choose the saving road of humble identification with the people. Even though some escape, this must remain truth for the majority

The future of the Caribbean depends on the future of the world and today, in 1977, Nobody knows or is able to have a clear or convincing idea of what the world will be in ten years time. Therefore, the only thing that can be done is to state the theoretical, that is, the philosophical premises with which you begin and from there examine the future of West Indian society.

First of all, the West Indian nation will be conscious of the needs for self-defense. It is unlikely that the individual islands will be able to purge themselves of the economic, financial and psychological residue of the plantation system without, if not violence, at least resolving externally and to each other that the new order would be established, if even violence is needed. The new nation need not begin as a unit of all constituents, but one sure guarantee of immediate acceptance into the new nation is immediate control of national resources; and immediate control of national resources will pose to every citizen before, during and after the establishment of the new nation, the question of defense. There is no nation unless the citizens feel the need of self-defense. In the Caribbean today that does not exist anywhere (except Cuba). And if there is no urgent sense of self-defense in the Caribbean (except Cuba), this is because the inhabitants feel first, that they have nothing worth defending; and, secondly, from the very beginning of the Caribbean territories, they have all been taught to look for defense from the metropolitan countries. That must be changed, and nothing will change it but the establishment of a nation. One does not think about the attack upon, far less defense of, an island of 100,000 people.

Next, there must be considered that the Caribbean territories are not forming a unity. They are but separate territories which will join together. The new nation will consist of peoples who would have at last arrived at the maturity of a national consciousness, all its responsibilities and all its advantages. Almost automatically, there will take place constant interchange of population from island to island. Geographically, those territories already form a unit. It is history and the metropolitan mastery and exploitation of the resources that have kept them apart. Whereas, formerly, for economic development and financial needs, the population of these islands automatically looked to the metropolitan master, the formation of the nation will begin its financial development by looking toward each other. If even this national unity may find it necessary to seek assistance and collaboration from abroad, there is obviously a vast difference between the islands organised as a nation and these as individuals and units seeking the limited assistance which is all their size and poverty can dare request.

Today, I am more than ever convinced that a great deal of what we are suffering from, in the Caribbean, is not in the matter of small farming, hut in education, and general social and political attitudes, experiments and creativity, in which we continue to be the legitimate offspring of the sugar plantation which has dominated our history and development from the very beginning.

The whole question of what land in the Caribbean is used for is a question involving the total reorganisation of the whole economy and the political system. I am not speaking merely about the food habits of the population, of their attitude to agricultural labour, to work, etc. All social, political and psychological attitudes begin when a government makes it clear to the people that the land is going to be used as a basis for their needs and not for the production of commodities for export. Nobody knows what the Caribbean population is capable of. Nobody has even attempted to find out. The only history that there is, is the accumulation of facts and fantasies of intellectuals - physically, mentally and psychologically products of the colonial plantation system -telling the people what they ought to do to accommodate themselves to the very system which in all its brutalities is stifling and strangling them.

Today there is CARIFESTA, CARIFTA and CARICOM. But one only has to read the documents to see that they are governed by the economics of the plantation system. A genuine sense of economic production, of creative expansion in economic life does not exist in the Caribbean to this day. For one thing is certain, any new and genuine economic development of the Caribbean has to begin first of all with the involvement of the mass population. Those responsible for plans and production are not even aware that this is missing. For them, the business of workers and peasants is not to concern themselves about industry, bringing to bear their accumulated experience, their practical knowledge, and their creative handling of the materials that they use every hour of the day. Their business is to work. And that is why the West Indian economies are so barren in productivity and insular exchange.

All men meet destiny in their turn, unless they choose the saving road of humble identification with the people. Even though some escape, this must remain truth for the majority

(Excerpted from ‘Contemporary Caribbean -A Sociological Reader, ed. by Susan Craig, 1981)

Birth Of A Nation

C. L. R. James