In mature democracies such as the United Kingdom it is customary that the views, philosophies, experiences and contributions of politicians and parliamentarians particularly Ministers of Government in the form of Commentaries, Reviews, Biographies and Autobiographies are recorded and published for posterity. Numerous examples—Balfour, Pitt, Chamberlain, Mc.Millan, Eden, Churchill, Bevin, Bevan, Attlee, Wilson, Callaghan, Thatcher, Blair—come to mind.
This practice has not yet taken root and is not widespread in the Caribbean generally although there are a few publications for example on Norman and Michael Manley of Jamaica; Eric Williams, Kamaluddin Mohammed and Patrick Solomon of Trinidad and Tobago; Forbes Burnham Cheddie Jagan and Shridath Ramphal of Guyana; Grantley and Tom Adams of Barbados. In the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States pioneering efforts in this regard such as Rick Wayne’s trilogy—Foolish Virgins, It’ll be alright in the Morning, Lapses & Infelicities; James ‘Son’ Mitchell’s Beyond the Islands and Kenny Anthony’s At the Rainbow’s Edge have started the ball rolling.
Peter Josie’s Shattered Dreams, coming from the horse’s mouth so to speak, must therefore be regarded as a very valuable and welcomed addition to nurturing the growth of political historiography of the sub-region and indeed the wider Caribbean.
In Shattered Dreams Peter Josie has bravely given a polymorphic historical perspective of Saint Lucia in that he touches and provides snippets, not previously dealt with, on several aspects of the educational, agricultural, political, social, economic and psychological history of his native land which he obviously loves so much and has dedicated his entire life to its upliftment.
He has used his agricultural science training which is basically an integration of the hard core sciences with the soft socio-economic sciences to give an interwoven multivariate analysis of post-war St Lucia. To a certain extent the book reminds the reader of Son Mitchell’s (now Sir James Mitchell) ‘Beyond the Islands’, which deals with similar subjects during the same time span, both in its presentation and style of writing. As the two authors are trained agronomists from the same world renowned Agricultural Institution, it may be that we are witnessing the beginning of a new style of Caribbean agro-politico historical documentation.
The early chapters of the book deals with Peter’s childhood experiences as well as some of the socio-economic history of Vieux Fort and the southern part of Saint Lucia. The strict parental control and guidance from father, mother and grandparents, especially MaDoe, gave rise to a young man of firm conviction, inquisitive nature, forthrightness and independent mindedness. We get snippets of the American influence in Vieux Fort and Saint Lucia.
As the topic of the legalization of Prostitution is now in the air it may be appropriate to indicate that the book reminds us that Vieux Fort was perhaps regarded as the ‘Prostitution Capital’ of Saint Lucia during World War II attracting not only Americans but also hosts and clients from all over the island. The trade or industry, if you like, left free balloons for the young boys of Vieux Fort to blow with full vigor.
The compulsory acquisition of the Vieux Fort lands to accommodate the American base left many families landless. As a result of the loss of numerous paddy fields Vieux Fort lost its status as being self sufficient, in rice, which was the main carbohydrate source of the large East Indian population. It may very well be that the squatting problem which governments—UWP and SLP—still find difficult to solve was created by the Colonial Government’s land lease deal with the Americans. After the war the people had no alternative but to re-capture these lands which were left unattended, uncultivated and abandoned on the return of the Americans to their native land.
Of course, as Peter pointed out, the Americans did leave behind some positives although some of them by mistake and unplanned. Abel Ghirawoo in his autobiography entitled Run, it is going to Rain points out that the American Military Hospital (St Jude’s) was really meant for Trinidad.
Today it is located at the Stadium built by the Chinese (not Taiwanese) because of the foresight of Brother George Odlum, (of whom we will discuss later) who always looked at the bigger and longer term picture of the development of his beloved Saint Lucia. Wasn’t it a good thing that Bro. George established diplomatic relations with mainland China rather than accepting a few foot paths from Taiwan?
Without the Americans there would be no Hewannora Airport today. In addition the land reclamation works, drainage works, concrete road network around Vieux Fort left behind by the Americans are good object lessons in civil engineering. Have we learnt from these examples?
By dint of hard work the young Vieux Fort lad gained entrance to that highly regarded institution—St Mary’s College—which was the only secondary school for boys at the time. Peter had soon imbibed all there was to learn at College both in class and at extra-curricular activities like cricket, athletics and football. Peter was influenced to certain degrees by the various Masters who taught him.
Brother Ignatius Flahive (Iggy) taught him how to bounce back and to persevere from his manner of marking where absolute zero was—4 and +6 the highest mark. His self-confidence he developed in mathematics class taught by Bro Delellis or “Ti Pap,” (who incidentally is still labouring in the Saint Lucian Vineyard and I agree with Peter that he deserves a national honour). At this early stage in his life an important contact was made and that was with his Brother George.
In the context of this book George Odlum’s greatest influence on Peter Josie may well be his legacy from the study of English. Although Peter indicates in the book that George slept most of the time in his English Literature classes it would appear that George did inculcate in his young ward a love for reading good literature and the need to use quotations to amplify, beautify or enrich descriptions of a particular situation, person or thing.
I have come to this conclusion from the manner Peter has written this book in which the language is well structured, clear, alive, fluent and exciting. At times the writing was light hearted and jovial as the ‘Gardez Borda Brada George’ (look at Brother’s backside) and the ‘foreward ever backwards river’ (not never) incidents.
These were examples of Brother George’s flair for street theatre at its highest and fastest.
Quotes from the incidents pp 382-383: As far as George’s propensity to sleep was concerned I believe that just before he fell asleep he must have given a quotation to sweeten the sleep. Perhaps it might have been ‘tired eyelids upon tired eyes’.
Peter had the best training in Agriculture Science that was available in the Caribbean by his attendance at both the Eastern Caribbean Farm Institute (ECFI) and the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture (now the University of the West Indies (UWI) both located in Trinidad.
His Trinidad days afforded him an opportunity to make a special study of the great West Indian Historian, Dr Eric Williams, who became the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. He also was influenced to a great extent by the famous Agriculture Economist George Beckford of Persistent Poverty Fame. His active participation in sports led to a relationship with one of our greatest West Indian Cricketers, Sir Frank Worrel who made him a god—the sun god Rah. His relationship with fellow students who were aligned to the Black Power Movement and his active participation in protest action led to him being banned from St Vincent by Son Mitchell and into trouble with his boss of the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Blair, upon his return to St Lucia from studies. He suffered discrimination in the context of Caribbean insularity, in the Large Island/Small Island syndrome in the matter of selection on the National Cricket Team of Trinidad. But perhaps the most salient point raised by Peter about his Trinidad days was the influence of the Canadian gift boats—Maple and Palm—in fostering closer Caribbean Integration.
In these times of globalization and free trade liberalization we need greater movement of goods and services in these Island States. Perhaps now is the time to have our diplomatic representatives revisit the question of inter-island shipping services for not only trade but Caribbean Tourism as well, with our generous Canadian friends, who as Peter describes give aid with no strings attached as opposed to other developed nations.
As one trained in the best Tropical Agriculture Institution in the world at the time Peter gives some insight into the post World War II development of agriculture in Saint Lucia. Of significance in that regard is the long term strategic planning and implementation of a highly diversified agricultural programmes, including aquaculture, led by Swithin Schouten (From Anguilla) and a long list of pioneers from Jamaica – Gage, Atkinson, Stewart Miller, Mullings, Dominica Pemberlon, Isaac, St. Vincent – Williams and our own Cadet, Louisy and Matthew.
This was an era when the farming community considered Schouten a ‘mad man’ for introducing machinery for the mechanization of certain aspects of agricultural development. If he didn’t agriculture would still be in a comatose state and even road building might still be done with pick-axes.
Unfortunately, Schouten’s diversification plan was superseded by the contribution of the monopolistic Banana Industry which created the ‘ Green Gold’ era, which, while providing for the development of a rural network of roads, improved housing and social services, also had negative effects in increasing soil erosion, soil degradation, increased frequency of landslides, river and land siltation, river pollution, dried up springs, elimination of ‘basins’ and destruction of water sources.
Both Peter and I tried to contain the destruction brought about by the Banana Industry by the introduction of a scientific comprehensive Land Use Plan for the country but this fell on deaf ears by the Political Directorate of the era which was only interested in the political benefits to be derived from the Banana Industry.
One is invited to check the Labour Party’s recent Manifesto which talks about the Revitalization of the Agriculture Sector. Opening the statement are references to ‘Making use of the Land’ and ‘ A Land Bank and ‘An Action Plan’, issues dealt with by Peter in this book. Quote pp17-18 of Saint Lucia Labour Party—Our Blue Print for Growth Manifesto, 2011.
Of significance is Peter’s comments on the ordinary St Lucian Farmer or peasant. Their level of ignorance he found profound and the job of changing their mind-set almost impossible. The story he told of the farmer during one of his numerous extension farmer visits is instructive.
Quote pp 44-46
Everyone was surprised at the number of spoilt ballot papers at the last general elections in 2011. Do you see why there is a need to revisit the issue of the manual marking of an ‘X’ on the ballot paper!
Peter was an early participant (before George Odlum) of the Saint Lucia Forum which began on studies and reviews of critical issues —historical, social, economics, psychological—affecting the population. George Odlum was invited to join the group which he accepted hastily and Peter and himself became the dominant players. The group played a major role in awakening the confidence and self-esteem of ordinary people and educating them politically.
The regular groundings of the group gave rise to strong bonds among the active members whose main aim was to empower the ordinary folk to take control of the commanding heights of the economy.
The decade of the seventies was perhaps the most intense and active political period in the history of Saint Lucia. It was a period when Comptonism prevailed and showed its head in the 1974 elections which was considered by many locals to be suspect.
However the hard political work by the political twin—Odlum and Josie—together with the co operation of others in the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Union, Teachers Union, Civil Service Association, National Workers Union led to a landslide victory at the polls for the Saint Lucia Labour Party in the July 1979 elections despite the fact that Compton had taken the country to independence (after much cajoling ‘to do it right’) in February 1979.
Soon after the Labour Government took office stresses and strains between Louisy and Odlum began to show. The author has described in detail the leadership struggle in a fair, truthful and balanced manner. Despite the fact that the author has some of Sullivan d’Auvergne’s DNA he has exhibited some ‘lapsus memoria’ in respect of some of the details, for example, the attempt at reconciliation between Odlum and Louisy by a lawyer who was no other than Hilford Deterville, then president of the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Union who was one of the platform speakers on that May Day celebration at Mindoo Philip Park.
Naturally the author’s political twin—Brother George Odlum—features throughout the book. Those of us who were associated with the pair and know some of the details of the close bond that existed between the two and the great ‘big bang’ that came later on in the relationship, will agree that Peter’s overall treatment of Brother George has been truthful, fair, candid, balanced and shows no sign of malice. Perhaps some may consider Peter to be overgenerous.
The leadership struggle provided a golden opportunity for the traditional old guard reactionary force in Saint Lucian society to return to the status quo of pro-capitalist Comptonism. Thus the anti-SLP Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture, Employers Federation and other like minded associated institutions, organizations and prominent societal individuals went into high gear to guarantee the demise of the SLP Government. Who would not take advantage of such an opportunity?
At this point the dreams of all forumites, public officers, teachers, nurses, supporters of Labour were shattered giving rise to the title of this book.
The death of the SLP was imminent and although the author does not say so he was responsible for the eventual resurrection of the SLP when they fought the 1982 elections. Put simply, without Peter Josie’s heroic efforts there probably would be no SLP today.
For one who was taught by George Odlum to demonize Saint Lucia’s first Prime Minister—Sir John George Melvin Compton—and refer to him as Papa Diable, Peter’s portrayal of Sir John in the later chapters of the book as a complex man who was a great leader was fair, generous, well balanced and showed unexpected love and admiration for the man.
I am of the view that the author’s main point of Shattered Dreams is that while there may have been progress in the political, social and economic development over the years, there has been no progress in the psychological development of the people. This is demonstrated most beautifully by the attitude of our banana farmers during the ‘No Cut’ strike period.
The concept of peasant farmers becoming independent agro-businessmen had not seeped into their psyche. For heavens sake they did not realize they were striking against themselves and not Daddy Compton.
Peter Josie has given several lessons of general applicability to a wide spectrum of persons and or Institutions and Organisations both political and non-political arising from this discourse. Examples include:
Need for elimination of ignorance, disease and poverty; education; the relationship between politics and criminality; need for building self esteem and self confidence criteria for selection of candidates for elections; making agricultural diversification the foundation of progress.
There are too lessons for government such as the need to establish clear goals for future national development; the necessity for forward planning in a long term context rather than the continuing usual patching up or superficial alleviation measures of the numerous problems facing resource poor underdeveloped nations.
As one reads through the book there are a multitude of such lessons that can be identified but as is said in our death announcements they are ‘too numerous to mention’ in this short commentary.
At the end of the book the author has provided an Annex which should not be ignored. This Annex provides a summary of the main initiatives and accomplishments of the St Lucia Labour Party during the Leadership struggle from 1979-1982.
Out of these achievements two—the establishment of the National Commercial Bank for the citizens of the island and the establishment of the Land Reform Commission in an attempt to regularize family agriculture land ownership and to cure further fragmentation resulting from the Napoleonic Code—are of major significance to the Forum Dreamers who had continuously pronounced that political independence needs the concomitant economic independence for real national progress.
For the record, the National Commercial Bank owes its origin to Hilford Deterville’s Forum Presentations and later his efforts at catalysing the whole establishment process.
The Land Reform Commission owes its origin to Peter Josie and your humble servant’s Forum Presentations that there can be no real progress in agriculture development unless the family land fragmentation problem is addressed. The recommendations from the Land Reform Commission led to the Land Registration and Titling System now in use nationally. However, certain aspects of the family land “disease” still have to be cured.
It is instructive to make an analysis of these achievements plus those of the Saint Lucia Labour Party Government from 1997-2006 with those of the United Workers Party during their long years in office.
Finally, as one closely associated with the leadership struggle, for the record it must be stated that Peter Josie was also a Prime Minister of St Lucia. He “served” for one day as he was chosen to the office by the majority of his parliamentary colleagues but was ‘still-born!’
If he had survived the ordeal in the womb and had a normal “Prime Ministerial Birth” he would not have capitulated as Cenac did and the political history of Saint Lucia would be entirely different.