Same Party as in 1974–80? Please!
From our Archives- January 27, 2016
Even by the Machiavellian dictum that "Politics is not about truth", it must have taken a severe attack of Alzheimer's, or else an extraordinary degree of nerve, for Dr. Philbert Aaron to assert, as he did in the Chronicle of January 15, that the Labour Party under present leadership was the same Party that was led by Mr. Patrick John in 1974-80. More realistically, the faux-pas might be credited to the settled habit of eschewing the claims of truth from the objectives and tactics of political propaganda. The disingenuous propagandist becomes so brainwashed by his political philosophy that he is no longer able to distinguish truth from falsehood and fact from fiction; and since whatever happens to be convenient is apt to become the truth, he eventually believes his own lies and will even try to defend them as the naked truth.
I therefore expect to be corrected. I will be informed that "same" does not always mean "same". It can sometimes mean "similar" and might, as the occasion requires, even mean "different". It depends on what one prefers, or the definition that seems for the moment to be most convenient or, perhaps, on the new theme-song that little Tommy Tucker must compose and sing for his supper. It all depends.
Whatever the rigmarole that might be concocted, it will take more than semantics to persuade me that the Labour Party I voted for in the General Elections of 2000 and 2004, and which caused me to refrain from voting in 2009 was the same Party; nor will I concede that it was I who mutated, and the change had nothing to do with the Party. Otherwise, someone will have to explain to me the estrangement of Mr. Patrick John from the Party he once proudly led, and the promotion of His Excellency Charles Savarin to the Presidency of Dominica and Head of State under the administration of the "same" Labour Party that was shaken to the ground in 1979 by a popular uprising of which he was the leading agitator. Additionally, I should be interested to know where all these more recent vocal, eminent, high-minded Labour protagonists were during the long period of Freedom ascendancy while the defeated Labour Party languished in the political wilderness.
Same Labour Party? Give me a break! If the Labour rank-and-file have not yet understood what happened to their Party at the closing of the second millennium, they might do well to engage the remnant Leadership of the Freedom Party in a reflection on the run-up to the 2000 General Election, and the strategies that were put in place to ensure that the United Workers Party did not return to power. It is common knowledge that, at the behest of the late Dame Eugenia Charles, the two Parties – Freedom and Labour – hitherto sworn enemies, decided to close ranks in order not to split the voting by competing for the same Constituencies. The plan succeeded, but only too well; and it was probably the success beyond her intention and wildest expectations that hastened the Dame's demise. She evidently had not reckoned with the meaner pecuniary considerations that spur Dominicans to participate in electoral politics. She actually expected that, mission having been accomplished in the ejection of the UWP, the successful Freedomites would return to barracks, consenting only to a loose coalition of critical support; and having re-organized the Party for the next time around, they would be able to field their own slate of Candidates and regain power on their own. It did not occur to her that Politics in Dominica was no longer about Party ideology, Party affiliation or Party loyalty. It had also become a way of using the democratic process for personal well-being, and that was the dominant incentive; and if it meant reneging and jumping ship, then so be it. Consequently, there was neither the return to barracks nor even the loose coalition, but a takeover of the Labour Party by the Freedom renegades, by skillfully adopting a Labour disguise, mimicking the Labour mantras and shouting the Labour party-cries in order to enchant, beguile and secure the support of the considerable Labour following.
The problem now facing the ruling Party (I am not sure whether to re-name it "Labdom" or "Freedbour") is that, after a decade and a half of successful camouflage, the disguise is unraveling and the paint is peeling off. If the results of the 2014 elections are anything to go by, it seems that the voting population in the capital has already seen through it – sooner and more clearly than the other constituencies, which is only to be expected. The current obsession with Lennox Linton as Leader of the Opposition is therefore understandable. It is not about him so much as a feverish attempt at diverting attention from a looming crisis. It is a ploy to keep the spotlight elsewhere in order to delay an answer to the question of how "Labour" the Leadership of the Labour Party really is.
The Leader of the Opposition need therefore lose no sleep over the persistent denigration of him in the columns and on the talk-shows. Had he been the angel Gabriel, he would still be caricatured as the "Wannabe who cannabe". Suffice it, however, that he will not have been the first "Wannabe-Cannabe" who became! What seems to be coming clearer every day is that the bluffing is wearing thin. Kieron Pinard-Byrne's exultation, following the verdict handed down by the Privy Council, suggested not simply the euphoria of personal satisfaction, but the political death-knell of the Leader of the Opposition, alas premature! Indeed, the massive, spontaneous out-pouring of public support for Mr. Linton in meeting the fines imposed which, it was hoped, would have bankrupted him out of the House, was not only a massive shock from which Mr. Pinard-Byrne and his ilk will take some time to recover, but also a clear warning, to whom it may concern, that less and less of the common folk of our Commonwealth are taking on Tony Astaphan and his disciples. The writing is on the Wall. "Nabes and the girls" should get acquainted with "no-GCE, no-CXC, nom débas". His becoming our next Prime Minister is no longer a distant impossibility. Change could be closer that we expected. It might benefit us all if we got used to the idea.