Call for Papers – Conference on Tim Hector, Caribbean Politics and Economic Development

Date: January 10-12, 2013
Venue: University of the West Indies Open Campus, Antigua and Barbuda
Organizers: University of the West Indies Open Campus Antigua and Barbuda, the Leonard Tim Hector Memorial Committee/ACLM, Antigua and Barbuda Studies Association, and Oilfield Workers Trade Union of Trinidad and Tobago

It is difficult to believe that 10 years have already passed since the death ACLM leader, Tim Hector. He was a major presence in the intellectual, political and journalistic, life of Antigua and Barbuda, and also of the wider Caribbean. It is to mark the tenth anniversary of his passing that the above organizations have come together to put on this conference. We extend an invitation to you to attend and participate.

From 1972 until his death in 1992, Tim Hector was a major figure of the Caribbean New Left Movement, and was also its leading proponent in the twin-island state of Antigua and Barbuda. Paradoxically, this regional New Left Movement emerged not long after the larger territories of Jamaica, Trinidad, Guyana, and Barbados gained their political independence from Britain, and the smaller states achieved sub-national statuses such as associated statehood or departmentalization. The movement for independence had its roots in the 1930s struggles of an older Left Movement. This movement sought to address the harsh impact of the Great Depression and the sharpening contradictions that it produced in the racialized political economies of the Caribbean. In Antigua and Barbuda, this anti-colonial and nationalist movement was a labor-based one that threw onto the historical stage, political leaders such as Reginald Stevens, Luther George, V.C. Bird, Douglas (Kem) Roberts, Novelle Richards, and others.

Around the region, leaders of similar caliber and outlook such as Norman Manley (Jamaica), Eric Williams (Trinidad), Grantley Adams (Barbados) helped usher in the postcolonial period.

The paradoxical rise of this New Left Movement of which Hector was a part marked the onset of neo-colonial cracks in the nationalist solutions of the leaders of the Old Left. The critiques and alternatives posed by the newer movement made it clear that through these cracks political corruption and old economic problems were bursting out along with the intensifying of racial and class contradictions. These were the broad features of the social context that gave birth to the Caribbean New Left and its break with the Old.

In Antigua and Barbuda, disappointment with the neo-colonial cracks that had opened in V.C. Bird’s postcolonial regime produced the formation of two black power groups. One group was led by Mali Olatunji and Robin Bascus while the other was led by Barry Stevens and Lestroy Merchant. The first was more culturally oriented and emphasized engagements with the African heritage of the culture of Antigua and Barbuda. The second group was more scholarly, and emphasized the writing and recovering of the history and thought of Antigua and Barbuda, and, more broadly, of people of African descent. They published a journal, Outlet. It was this latter group that Hector joined on his return to Antigua after studying in Canada.

At the time of his return, Hector had been deeply influenced by the political philosophy of CLR James and also by the Black Power Movement that had erupted in the United States and subsequently spread to Canada and the Caribbean. When he joined the Afro-Caribbean Movement (ACM) of Stevens and Merchant, the neo-Garveyite ideology of Black Power was very much its dominant discourse. After few years with the ACM, Hector assumed the leadership.

The impact of his leadership was clearly visible after 1973, as he took the organization in a Jamesian direction, and later renamed it the Antigua Caribbean Liberation Movement (ACLM). By the time of its emergence, the ACLM was not an isolated occurrence on the regional scene. In Trinidad, there was NJAC and New Beginning; in Jamaica, Abeng; in Guyana, there was ASCRIA, and in Grenada, the New Jewel Movement, (NJM). These were some of the major organizations of the Caribbean New Left and their leaders were the new political figures that they throwing onto the regional historical stage.

The differences between Hector’s and Bird’s political philosophies were quite indicative of the differences between the Old and New Left Movements across the region. In other words, Hector was very representative of this generation of New Left leaders. In the case of V.C. Bird, the course of his political philosophy was one that began with a strong black democratic socialism and a firm commitment to nationalizing the major industries of the Antiguan and Barbudan economy. However, succumbing to both internal and external pressures, Bird’s democratic socialist philosophy slowly evolved into a black laborism, which was marked by Bird’s commitment to empowering the laboring masses in Antigua and Barbuda through an order of state capitalism that relied primarily on the foreign investor.

In contrast to Bird, the course of Hector’s political philosophy was one that began as a synthesis of Black Power ideas on race and CLR James’ insurrectionary socialism, particularly the political economy of the text, Facing Reality. In response to primarily local pressures, this initial position shifted to a new synthesis of Black Power ideas on race and the socialist philosophy for workers in Trinidad and Tobago that James developed in the text, Party Politics in the West Indies. Consequently, these two works are particularly important for understanding the socialism of Hector and the ACLM.

Some of the crucial policy differences that followed from these different Old Left/ New Left philosophical positions can be seen in their proposed models of economic development. In contrast to Bird’s tourist-driven state capitalism, Hector and the ACLM advocated a new socialist model of development in which workers would be in power both in the state and the economy. In this model, locally owned agricultural cooperatives would be the basic units of production and the enterprises driving agro-industrial development. Along with this shift away from foreign capital as the prime engine of development, Hector and the ACLM were also strong advocates for a system of popular or participatory democracy that was distinct from the existing system of representative democracy. In short, the different political philosophies of Bird and Hector, led to two different visions of the political economy of Antigua and Barbuda, and by extension the Caribbean region as a whole.

As noted earlier, Hector and the ACLM was not an isolated political formation on the Caribbean landscape. Rather in Abeng, NJAC, ASCRIA, Yulimo, New Beginning and the New Jewel Movement similar insurrectionary socialist alternatives to postcolonial state capitalist orders were being proposed. These organizations were the homes of Hector’s political colleagues and counterparts: Trevor Munroe, Geddes Granger, Eusi Kwayana, Ralph Gonsalves, Maurice Bishop, George Odlum and others. So as we reflect on Hectors successes, achievements, contributions, limitations and failures, we must also make comparative references to his political generation and the overall impact of the legacy of their new Left Movement.

Thus in thinking about topics of papers for presentation, we, the organizers of the conference, would like to make the following suggestions: similarities and differences between Hector and his generation on the one hand, and Bird and his generation on the other; comparisons between Hector and one figure of the Old Left or between Hector and one of the leaders of his New Left generation. Papers could also focus on the internal development of Hector’s political philosophy and its impact on his praxis. Further, they could focus on the nature of his journalism, or they could focus on the party years of the ACLM, their campaigns, experiences at the polls, or specific policy positions in areas such as education, participatory democracy, gender, economic development, black liberation or working class liberation.

As our final set of possibilities for paper topics, we also suggest papers that focus on the New Left of the future with Hector and his generation as the Old Left. How would they look from its perspective? What would be the significance of the re-introduction of the market in the economies of China, Vietnam, and most recently Cuba for a New Left of the future and also for the socialism of Hector and his generation? What is the significance of the rise of female political leaders in the Caribbean for a New Left of the future? To what extent can the Great recession of 2008 be the basis for a New Left Movement of the future? These are some of the topics that we encourage you to think about as you write the papers that you intent to present.

Before we let you go, we want to emphasize here our aim to produce an edited volume out of the revised papers from this conference. It is the only adequate way in which to really mark the 10th anniversary of the passing of Tim Hector, this major intellectual and political figure of the Caribbean New Left Movement of the 20th century.

Finally, the submission of abstracts of individual papers and panels are due by November 1st, 2012. They should be emailed to Paget_Henry@Brown.edu and copied to ian.benn@open.uwi.edu. Abstracts should state clearly and succinctly the problem(s) that will be addressed and include the title, the name of the presenter, and a short bio by which we can introduce you at the conference.

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Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, Caribbean Plus Lit News

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