Round Table with Oscar
February 11, 2014
From competitive to co-opetitive politics

Competitive Party Politics rises to a peak in the form of ‘tribal’ war. We nearly reach there now. In “larger” countries like the USA, it rises to a kind of class war, mixed with ethnic type issues. {{more}}This is a simplification of a very ugly reality which we must first grasp and recognize, and then turn away from.

In party politics, citizens like you and me get to become invested with political identities. A party political identity surrounds me with a group of persons like me with a set of beliefs like “Our group is best for SVG; the other group is a disgrace. Our leaders will bring us to the promised land; the other leaders have nothing good to offer. I must always promote and defend my group, no matter what, and show how the other group is worthless. When my group is in office/power, we have a right to all the bread, meat, gravy and drinks that we want. When my group is in power and I want something, and it is within my reach, I can tek it. Nothing really name corruption, it name ‘Our Time Now.’ And when election time comes; don’t give them any chance. Our party has things, just stretch out your hand; as for the next side, just chant them and jam them. We looking for one more term, our time now.”

When a political party is in charge of government in SVG, it owns the war chest. The party tribe will get the benefits from their side, especially when resources are scarce and cannot reach everybody. The other half of the nation will bear their grind and bide their time. Defeat at the election polls means personal loss, business challenges, constituency neglect and more. That is why elections are a fierce battleground, and after elections, the dust does not settle easily. Competitive politics even separates the victorious tribal leaders into two sections; an elite which becomes a stronger business class, enriching itself from projects and contracts and property deals. Then, there is the token group, getting by with a few trips abroad, positions on statutory boards, and minor enrichment opportunities.

There is thus a High Command class that grows and later, outside of Parliament, sets up a business empire that can even challenge the political leadership. Tribe and class weaken the unity of the nation and destroy its capacity to stand and deliver to all the citizens. That is the destiny which competitive party politics holds out to us in SVG.


Over the past 100 years or so, political changes took place in ‘socialist’ and in national independence revolutions in Asia, Africa and the Americas. In these countries, cooperative and co-opetitive political systems emerged. They, too, have shown us weakness, but also possibilities.

What I call cooperative political systems are those which attempt to do politics by submerging differences within the countries, either by political force or by overriding ideology. For example, the socialist/ communist community did politics by seeking – seeming to give to the working class the control of the state, i.e. the party, the parliament, the economy, the military etc. This power of the working class to dominate the society, they said, would keep injustice and exploitation out until everybody cooperated and so no classes would exist. It has not yet happened.


In some newly independent countries in Africa, the leaders made it their business to call the whole nation to the task of decolonizing the country after the backwardness and underdevelopment that colonialism had caused. “All hands on deck,” they said. Let us have one government in which all of us take part. “We have one great task before us; we must become a united government. There will be one party.” Some of these governments did have a period of success, notably President Jeacher Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and his Vjamaa system of a “nation family.” What then can we look forward to as we face the destructive logic of Vincentian competitive politics? Let us imagine and examine what co-opetitive politics can do for us. We will co-operate as a nation family, and we will compete in niche politics and activities that contribute to overall political culture, effectiveness and integrity.

Shall we begin to imagine this revolution in our politics?