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Challenges of a labour party
The withdrawal of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) from the People’s Partnership government must be viewed against the backdrop of their desire to have the MSJ become a labour party that will advocate a working class agenda. To this end, it must be understood that there is no room for compromise with any other political entities as there can be no compromise on such an agenda without diluting that agenda.
The ideological purity of a working class agenda can only be founded on a Marxist-Leninist set of values and ideas, otherwise it would be fraudulent. Having to compromise with the private sector on the use of a different approach than a state-centred approach to development would do a grave injustice to the ideological purity of their argument.
The pure Marxist perspective is based on the philosophy that class struggle is driven by class consciousness. The MSJ needs to establish a working-class consciousness in order to transcend the current drivers of political motivation and support that operate with other political parties.
Their view would also include a belief that the stages of history in Trinidad and Tobago are such that they believe that the working class is sufficiently alienated from the means of production that they will be prepared to rise up against those political and economic forces that currently control the economy.
The revision of Karl Marx by V I Lenin is best captured in his 1902 publication What Is To Be Done in which Lenin lays out the road map for a party of revolutionary intellectuals to lead the working class in order to capture political power by any means.
To this end, Lenin set aside the Marxist view that the forces of history would bring about the eventual collapse of capitalism and usher in an era of socialism and then communism. For Lenin, the creation of a vanguard party was necessary so that the working class would have intellectual and ideological leadership.
Whether the MSJ is committed to that type of ideological purity to drive their struggle will have to be gleaned over the coming months. Simply organising mass protests and defiance of lawful authority will not impress the working class without an agenda. There must be a purpose to all of this struggle that transcends the mere attempt to remove a government from power.
If all of this is just about pique and anger with the People’s Partnership, then their struggle will amount to nothing more than the uncontrolled anger that Edmund Burke wrote about in his famous work Reflections on the Revolution in France. For Burke, the French Revolution of 1789 was nothing more than uncontrolled anger without purpose. However, the MSJ needs to state what their political agenda is and outline it for the population.
If they are seeking to use the State as the guarantor of economic opportunity, this must be clearly stated. If this is nothing more than an anti-government strategy to remove certain persons from office and to replace them by others from their group, they will suffer further criticism.
This column is being written on the premise that the MSJ is operating on the basis of a certain ideological purity that is driven by an anti-capitalist perspective that will have no room for the private sector in development and will make the State the sole driver of economic transformation for the population.
If they have a variation of this approach, they must state what that is so that the population and the wider society can make a fair assessment. This will be important for their recruitment drive as they seek to convert the consciousness of the working class who support them in their pursuit of improved wages and salaries as trade unionists into support for them as their political leaders.
To this end, they will naturally seek to recruit members and supporters from political organisations that are already opposed to this government. Those persons would already be members of the PNM or disenchanted members of the COP, UNC, TOP or NJAC. That will be a monumental task for which class consciousness will be the only solution and ultimate motivation for the working class to switch their current allegiances.
In the past the Workers’ and Farmers’ Party led by CLR James in 1966 and the United Labour Front led by Basdeo Panday in the 1976 general elections are the only precursors of the role that the MSJ is seeking to play. The former was decimated at the polls and the latter replaced the DLP by winning their constituencies in Trinidad in 1976.
Is the MSJ only going to be confined to Trinidad or will they seek to carry their working class agenda to Tobago to challenge the PNM and the Tobago Organisation of the People? That remains to be seen. For the time being, the MSJ is planning to have a massive show of strength on September 7 in Port-of-Spain, whereby they want to signal to the society that they have a following. Hopefully they will also articulate their agenda.
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