Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Ghosts of 'New PNP' Are Haunting Us

“Ghosts don't haunt us. That's not how it works. They're present among us because we won't let go of them."
"I don't believe in ghosts," I said, faintly.
"Some people can't see the color red. That doesn't mean it isn't there," she replied.
~Sue Grafton, M is for Malice
Twenty-something years ago, in the mid 90s the so-called New PNP emerged. PJ Patterson’s PNP a machinery efficient at the grassroots level but bereft of socialist ideology and teeming with neo-liberal ideas and globalization as there buzzword. Economic divestment abounded, and as such government sold Air Jamaica and JPS to suit the New World Order. Today, his political heirs are hesitant and ambivalent to consider or re-inject socialism into Party from living up to its history. At stake is opportunity to capture the Zeitgeist and the possibility that the PNP will lose more elections and be out of step with international academic thought, which has seen a resurgent socialism globally.

A fundamental battle for democracy is in progress—a conflict over whether to reduce the power of delegates which outweighs and is out of step with the will of the electorate. That struggle is set to reach a threshold soon as delegates push into power their friend who benefits them… delegates fight for spoils and scarce benefits, despite the hopes of party supporters and the electorate. Hence we have an upper echelon in the PNP listening to delegates who to a great extent do not represent or understand the plight of the electorate… and while it is delegates who give MPs and Councillors strength and position… it is the electorate who actually gives them power. So while the party listens to sycophants and minions, it risks the real prospect of alienating true party supporters and the electorate.

To understand the PNP Party’s current internal battle lines and what’s at stake, it’s important to know how we got here.

After a few years of awful Labour government, where Edward Seaga's policies left us in the maw of the United States and the IMF. Then P.J. Patterson emerged and proved to be just the type of rhetoric for the average citizen, “black man time now!” and in terms of action proved to be the politician neoliberalists loved. Patterson settled into office in the early 90s as the leader of path breaking New PNP. This wasn't you grandma's socialist PNP it was populist in every way. Many media outlets hailed him as a visionary statesman who had overcome left-leaning socialist Manley left in his wake and set the party straight.

Those days Patterson seemed a youthful and articulate, breath of fresh air and boost of collective confidence after a long colonial experience and the repugnant politics of calling a people “black scandal bag” as Mr Seaga had seem to have done. Yet for all his rhetoric Mr. Patterson was down with corporate power—not as far down as today's Government, but nevertheless in the thrall of big business and the big banks.

Patterson's neo-liberal policies went over big with moneyed interests, its policy pursuits would end up driving a wedge between the PNP Party and the working class. Of course the guys driving Patterson's economic train loved the North American Free Trade Agreement. Why wouldn’t they? Workers were costs, not people. Corporate trade deals were profit boosters. Downsides and job cuts rocked Jamaica while local production and manufacturing tool a hit.

Weeks after joining NAFTA Jamaica's milk began to spoil. Go watch “Life and Debt”.

This is the point at which the electorate truly would diverge from the PNP, though Mr. Patterson would woo the public every few years at election time, he had to continuously court a people who new he had switched. The PNP no longer cared for the proletariat nor new what the word meant.

The PNP newcomers ushered in by Mr. Patterson “are don’t-rock-the-boat” types, and they are exactly what private sector and transnational business types. A far cry from yesterday's PNP socialism. Now socialism is experiencing a tremendous resurgence in the 21st century due to the growing economic disparity, anger at the establishment and charismatic older socialist politicians like Bernie Sanders in the U.S. and Jeremy Corbyn in the U.K. who gathered massive support from the young. A new wave of socialist thinkers is also beginning to emerge that looks to distance the movement from the historical stigma to formulate a new socialism that speaks to the challenges of today.

The Ghosts of the new PNP and how they behaved in office—and the electoral disasters that ensued are grimly acute. Until the wave of socialism is endorsed in some way by the PNP they will not excite the imagination of the youth and the electorate. However I suspect that this PNP more concern with playing PR and social media catch up with the JLP whilst maintaining an image of success and air of professionalism.

Now, the New PNP and those walking in their footsteps are battling to retain control of the party and the government. The agenda of the new PNP best serves in the long run to choke off democracy as much as possible, lest the riffraff get away with undermining the ruling elites. Let’s face it: Democracy is dangerous to the powerful who rely on big money, institutional leverage and mass media to work their will. The insurgencies of this decade against economic injustice—embodied in international movements like the Occupy movement and then Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign—are potentially dire threats to the established unjust social and economic order.

For those determined to retain their positions in the upper reaches of the PNP Party hierarchy, democracy within the party sounds truly scary. And inauthenticity of the party—and its corresponding heavy losses of seats from Parliament to the councils—don’t seem nearly as worrisome to the PNP party elites as the prospect that upsurges of grass-roots activities might remove them from their privileged quarters.

About the author: Yannick Nesta Pessoa B.A. is Jamaica’s first blogger, a Community Activist and Law Student at Utech Western Jamaica. Follow Yannick on Twitter at @yahnyk |

1 comment:

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