Round Table with Oscar
February 2, 2016

Vincentian discontent and hope

It is easy to see that a degenerate or inadequate democracy will generate uneven pressure and disadvantage at many points in society and community… these fragmented cases of discontent and hope have as their origin the social construction of power, but they do not have a political logic that is inherently democratic; that is why new moral and intellectual forces become important mediators in their development of a dynamic towards radical democracy. (Theory and Practice of Radical Democracy… 2009, O Allen){{more}}

An undemocratic governing regime is definitely a structure of multiple repressions and it is from the communities of hurt and hope that a movement for expanded democratic space rises up. If we examine our recent mobilizations over the past 40 years or so, however, those movements, though intense, did not seem to aspire to a well-grounded deepening of democracy and social change. In fact, in two cases, the movements, in 1981 and about 20 years later, called themselves a ‘defence’ of democracy campaign, not one for a ‘deepening’ of democracy. To defend is to restore the situation that existed before the violations occurred. To deepen is to move the democratic practice to enable a more entrenched authority of the citizenry. Our Constitutional Reform campaign, more recently, touted a conservative and rhetorical tinkering with governing processes, rather than propose a citizen powered Basic Law and mode of Governance. Our recent battles for democratic reform therefore, whether effective or defeated, have been socially and intellectually barren. I submit this opinion as a self-critical confession, from one who took some part in most of these events. We did not empower the movements to enter the material institutions that frame social life and culture. The campaigns did not have a thorough democratic project to share ‘authority’ with the communities of hurt and hope. In the present discontent, which we consider to be an elections result protest, communities of discontent and of hope are silently and implicitly calling for a project to deepen our democracy, away from the built-in infrastructure that normalizes violations by the governing regimes.


The New Democratic Party has refused to accept the results of the General Elections of December 9, 2015, and many of those who voted NDP are fully behind the party leadership on this claim. Electoral misconduct is not new in Vincentian politics, but it is very likely that in the recent campaign, new heights or lows in depravity did occur. In the event that the NDP does prove its claims and wins the elections in two contested seats, that victory for the democratic will of the people will certainly be unprecedented and worthy of acclaim. Democracy will have been defended. The deepening of democracy, however, will still be an unattended mission. Although I expect that an NDP administration will attempt to look into cases of misconduct by the outgoing ULP, does that amount to a structural deepening of democracy, an empowering of the citizenry to manage the balance of power between the governing and the governed sections of the nation? Is that on the cards?

Within the protest campaign, there are claims and hurts and hopes, which are quite independent of the election results, but which are also profoundly related to the quality of governance and the quality of civic life. Should these concerns depend on the result of the NDP campaign, should they not find their own space in this democratic upsurge? A radical democratic movement makes room for the identification of different claims and interests and defines its project as an articulated synergy that seeks outcomes and success for the whole democratic movement. If the elections claims do not succeed in the court, should it be that the democratic upsurge also has no future?

These considerations lead to two propositions: first of all, a consultation within the NDP on its strategic platform to seek and seed out the strands that are embedded in its broad network of support; secondly, those of us whose hope is larger than a change of government must also consult on how we articulate our cause democratically with the movement for election cleanliness.

Vincentian hurt and hope can deepen Vincentian democracy this time.