[This article is reprinted from Peking Review, #2, January 11, 1974, pp. 9-11.]
THE people of the Commonwealth Caribbean have in recent years undergone a new awakening and their struggle against colonialism and neocolonialism is making new progress. The dependencies in that region are fighting for independence, while the states which have already gained independence are striving to consolidate it. The old order and decadent systems dominant there for many years are being violently battered.
The Commonwealth Caribbean is composed of 16 territories from the Bahamas off the southeastern coast of the United States down to Guyana in the northeastern part of the South American continent. With an aggregate area of 272,600 square kilometres and a total population of 4.8 million, these territories were or still are British dependencies. In the last three decades, the people there also have been subjected to oppression, plunder and bullying from other sources. As a result of infiltration over the years, U.S. imperialism has long surpassed Britain in both direct investment and trade with the area. Soviet revisionist social-imperialism, in its pursuit of world hegemony, is also taking pains to make inroads into this area of strategic importance. It has on many occasions sent its warships there for ulterior purposes. Every progressive struggle in the region, therefore, constitutes a blow, direct or indirect, to colonialism and imperialism.
Thanks to the valiant struggle of the people, the process of realizing national independence and self-determination in the region has been accelerated since the beginning of the 70s. After Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Barbados became independent in the 60s, and the Bahamas proclaimed independence last July. Thus, more than 86 per cent of the population in the region has got rid of direct colonial rule. Among the 11 other territories, Grenada and Antigua will become independent in 1974 and 1976 respectively. Although those territories are bound to meet with numerous difficulties and obstacles on their way to independence, the historical trend that countries want independence, nations want liberation, and the people want revolution is irresistible.
The sovereign states are striving to consolidate their independence. In 1970, four years after independence, Guyana became a co-operative republic, the first Commonwealth member in the Western Hemisphere to end the “dominion” status. Economically, the governments of these states have in the past few years imposed various degrees of restrictions on U.S. and other foreign capital in equity ownership and in investments. They have also taken certain localization measures against foreign business. Guyana has partially nationalized its main industry, bauxite, and Trinidad and Tobago, the petroleum industry. The sugar industry, the second largest in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, has partly returned to the hands of their nationals through redemption. From 1970 to last August, these three countries established their first commercial banks. In all the sovereign states and some self-governing territories, public utilities, radio and television, telegraph and telephone services as well as foreign trade have come under government control to varying degrees.
At the same time, exploratory efforts are being made in the independent countries to alter and diversify their lop-sided economies, a left-over dating back to the colonial days centuries ago. Above all, measures are being taken to achieve self-sufficiency in food as the importance of this as a solid basis for sound economic development is being gradually realized. In Guyana, a second five-year plan aimed at achieving self-sufficiency in food, clothing and housing in 1976 is being carried out. Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago are putting into execution plans to increase cultivated land. Last year Jamaica succeeded in planting soya beans for the first time, trained her first group of lumberjacks and established the first plant to process waste bananas into food. In the newly independent Commonwealth of the Bahamas, attention is also being paid to agricultural development.
It is worth noting that the Caribbean countries have become increasingly aware of the importance of union in their efforts to achieve political and economic independence. The Carribean Community, including a common market, came into being officially on August 1 last year with four independent countries—Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago—joining the new set-up from the inception. The seven territories which have signed the agreements concerned will join on May 1, this year. The community will then replace the present Caribbean Free Trade Association, embracing 11 members with a total population of more than 4.5 million and a gross national product to the tune of 2,200 million U.S. dollars. The purpose of the Caribbean Community is to strengthen economic and trade co-operation between members, unite them gradually into a unified common market with a common protective policy and co-ordinate their respective foreign policies, in the interest of the development of their national economies. It is reported that intra-regional trade is steadily on the increase.
Since the beginning of this decade, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago have broken away from the pattern of foreign relations which tilted towards the United States, Britain and Canada, by establishing diplomatic relations with more countries of the Third World. They have also joined the ranks of non-aligned countries. These new developments bring the struggle of this region in closer unison with the struggle of other Third World countries. In the last year or so, the Caribbean Free Trade Association and the East African Community signed an agreement on taking a united stand in relations with the European Economic Community and on other major international issues.
Trinidad and Tobago have applied to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries for membership. As the host nation, Guyana made positive contributions to the Foreign Ministers’ Conference of Non-Aligned Countries in August 1972. At the Fourth Summit Conference of Non-Aligned Countries in September 1973, the Guyana and Jamaican Governments announced that if the Organization of African Unity so required, the two governments would send volunteers across the ocean to receive training and assist the fraternal African people in “the successful overthrow of the Smith regime, Portuguese colonialism and South African tyranny.”
The Commonwealth Caribbean was the first area colonized after Christopher Columbus set foot on the Americas at the end of the 15th century. Since then, the colonialists and neocolonialists have taken countless wealth from the region. In the 60s, U.S. and other foreign companies in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago remitted home 1,000 million U.S. dollars in profits alone. In spite of its fertile soil and considerably abundant natural resources, the region, as a result of protracted colonial and neo-colonial rule, is only able to produce and export a few farm and mineral products such as sugar, bananas, citrus, bauxite and oil, with practically everything else imported. Moreover, under the colonialist “divide and rule” policy, the peoples of the territories have long been severed from one another. However, in the context of the tumultuous world situation, the Caribbean people have become wide awake. The tide of national liberation in the region is now rising and constitutes an inseparable component part of the struggles of the oppressed nations and peoples of the whole world.
Prime Minister Forbes Burnham of Guyana gave expression to this trend of nationalism in his speech opening the Caribbean Festival of Creative Arts in August 1972. He said: The Caribbean has seen not only the buccaneers, it has seen the slaves. We live in a world of superpowers. We are committed to the right of the Caribbean to speak out in the world, not as satellites or appendages to other nationas, but as one single nation. It is time now for us in the Caribbean to rule the waves of the Caribbean.
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