Our Readers' Opinions
June 18, 2010
Expanding the conversation on Socialism in SVG

by Maxwell Haywood Fri, Jun 18, 2010
It is always a healthy thing when a nation consciously reflects on the nature of its political economy. In the first place, human beings have an obligation to be conscious of the systems that they themselves create and support to govern their lives. In the economic sphere, this is a necessity. Human beings would not be cultured without the basic rudiments of an economic infrastructure.{{more}}

Through the ages, societies have been preoccupied with economic activity which served to sustain individual and community (local, national, regional, and global) life. A survey of the history of economic thought reveals that human beings have dedicated a considerable amount of time to thinking and acting on the political-economic affairs of their societies.

So it is good to see that in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), issues are being raised in the public domain regarding the political economic systems of socialism and capitalism. But this exchange of thoughts on this issue would serve SVG much better if it is a structured and organized national conversation, instead of the piecemeal approach we are seeing now which results in more confusion, misinformation, and misunderstandings.

The discussion need not only be about socialism, which does not exist in SVG; it should also be about capitalism, which exists. As a nation, we would gain more if we dissect and honestly examine capitalism that has been governing our lives for a long time. Wouldn’t it be a good service to the nation to examine capitalism to see what it has offered us in the spheres of economics, politics, and culture over all these years? A national review is in order.

It is important to note that below the surface of this phenomenon, of talking about socialism in SVG, are the roaring socio-economic tides that are threatening our survival. These tides are occurring within a specific political economic system. The current crisis of capitalism has been generating a lot of suffering around the world. Protests are occurring in many parts of the world in response to this suffering. There is now a rethinking of its fundamental principles. Our nation, SVG, must also rethink its political economy.

In many ways, the current economic crisis of capitalism is a threat to our well-being. It is real! And we must confront this economic crisis to ensure that we
are on top of it. Unfortunately, the contemptuous nature of a lot of the talk about socialism in SVG seems not to be about a serious exchange of ideas on these crucial matters. I pray that we do not allow this vital conversation to be dominated by political party compulsion and pure rigid religious and political ideologies.

The condemnatory tone of a large part of the debate does not augur well for the development process of our nation. For it to be of any benefit to SVG, the debate should be a conversation that is thorough and grounded in the economic history of SVG and the rest of world. It cannot be only about Ralph Gonsalves, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. It cannot only be about the ULP and the NDP. It should also be about the opinions and philosophy of Marcus Garvey, the expertise of Sir Authur Lewis, Dwight Venner, Errol Allen, Norman Girvan, Clive Thomas and other outstanding thinkers and practitioners in SVG, the Caribbean and the wider world. Shouldn’t there also be room for the so-called “ordinary man and woman” who work the farms and other productive enterprises? They too have a lot to say.

Thus the condemnations and denunciations are not going to do the trick. We must get down to the serious task at hand, which is to dissect our political economy, inspect it thoroughly, treat it, heal it and provide all the necessary rehabilitation facilities for its well-being. Have we been doing this?

No matter which political party is governing the nation, the difficult economic road at present and ahead of us does not naturally allow for this luxury of contentious exchange of talk. The nation will not benefit from a quarrel-some cross-talk. This way of conducting public discourse on crucial matters of the nation has no place in serious and meaningful reflections on socio-economic reality. The society just cannot afford it. Time is not on SVG’s side in terms of the urgent socio-economic needs and issues that have been accumulating for hundreds of years, and stifling the real potential of Vincentians to build a more just, compassionate and productive society.

As we develop this conversation regarding the state of the nation’s political economy, Vincentians will have an enhanced understanding of the various political economies, including socialism and capitalism. This understanding is necessary if Vincentians are to create effective responses to the many critical socio-economic issues facing SVG. Indeed a national conversation is in order.