by Beverley Sinclair
Our fore-parents who were sold into slavery in Africa and brought to the Caribbean, fought to their deaths for freedom to live as human beings and not chattel. This would require economic freedom and the ability for them to make their own decisions about their future.
Fast forward to the days following the abolition of slavery when the “freed” slaves and their descendants found themselves working for the former slave masters for paltry wages and under inhumane conditions.
Fast forward to the fight for independence which was carved on the backs of what was then known as the working class, with promises that things would be better for them once the old colonial masters were removed and we, the descendants of slaves, would own lands and can take care of our own business.
The plantations on which the descendants of slaves worked were big business for the colonial masters, and the first reality to hit after the colonial masters were duly dispatched, was that the workers had no idea how to manage these businesses and had no access to the trading partners that made agriculture lucrative. So the plantations were no longer valuable and the descendants of slaves were still in poverty.
The political class then rose from the death of the plantocracy, with loud empty promises to improve the lot of the “working class”. Note that it was now members of the “working class” that were propelled into positions of leadership, and they learned very quickly how to do the same thing the colonial masters had done – use the working class to enrich themselves and prop up their personal lifestyles.
While there can be no arguing against the fact that the still so-called working class has seen much improvement in working conditions and salaries over the years of independence, it is also fact that they are still fighting for their share of the better life that independence promised for all descendants of slaves, aka the working class.
While salaries, benefits and working conditions have improved, the still so-called working class is not seen as equals to the political class, and their remuneration in many respects, barely keeps them above the poverty line.
The political class seem hell bent on continuing the oppression which the colonials started, and they use their positions to swing the institutions of state against the very people who are supposed to make these institutions work as the corner stone of our democracy and freedom.
Our fore parents never envisaged that their fight for freedom was to set up a new set of Massas, but selfishness, greed and badmindedness (a truly Caribbean word) have set people in positions of leadership who are all about themselves, not for a just and equitable society.
When will the still so-called “working class” enjoy the fruits of independence? When will the still so-called “working class” be rewarded fairly and equitably for their contribution to nation building, without having to still be at war with employers?
What is independence if not for the benefit of all citizens and the growth of a nation? The country cannot progress if the citizens are not progressing, indeed poor people cannot make a rich nation.
Independence must be for all, not just the political bourgeoisie, or else we can only say, we have indeed been betrayed by independence.