Socrates at Large – PNP Politics: We are going down. The PNP politics will make sure of that. It is bigger and stronger and more pervasive than any internal opposition. Irrespective of whether the good guys win or lose. These are just steps on the road. They will not alter the trajectory. Because the politics of subservience and disingenuousness is deep in the bloodstream of the PNP.
Here is an uncomfortable home truth to muse on. The one that says the president is the master of the politics of survival. That his visible incompetence in all matters of governance and the party should not blind us to his capacity to hold on to the core levers of Power in the party. And moreover that he has the capacity to patiently prepare the groundwork for the changes necessary for renewing the party.
Peter Phillips is indeed a master tactician and survivor, everyone says. But no one cares to ask how this state of affairs came about. No president of a political party lives in a vacuum. Surviving involves outsmarting and outmanoeuvring your opponents, be they in your party or government or more broadly in the opposition parties or the battalions of civil society.
So it begs the question: are his opponents too dumb, too asleep, too fearful, too politically compromised themselves, too without any backbone to put up any real fight? Yes, they are all of those things. And more. They are also his tame sheep. Some are His whipping boys. His useful idiots. But that too begs a deeper question: How did all this political slavery come about in our body politic?
Part of the answer lies in the political culture of the PNP itself. Going way back to its formation from among a tiny black section of Jamaica it glorified one white man. Elevated him to cult status. A culture that embedded itself over 100 years inside, then outside and then back inside the country. It’s the political culture that says we are in the PNP and we are a multiclass broad church, that we are praise singers for our leaders and we are beholden to them, we serve in positions of authority in their favour, we bow before the power of the owners of capital and global institutions, we use double-speak to survive before the masses, we carry multiple party caps that allow us to be different proponents of conflicting politics in different organisations and sites of struggle.
We lie and we cheat and we think that’s smart and clever politics. We are leaders and insiders who believe in our hearts that we are clever and superior to the mass of the electorate. We defy or scarcely respect the Constitution and the rule of law. Let alone the separation of powers. That’s just an irritant. We are gods. We are the chosen ones. This is the politics of the inner culture of the PNP. It’s not an aberration. It’s the dominant culture.
In the PNP this is how we do things day by day. We have a plan. A plan to spend to spend millions to put and keep our friends in representational politics. In that order. Or a plan to remove a principled long-serving cadre who is a troublemaker and re-deploy another. Or a plan to beat down the opposition in a meeting or in a constituency or wherever. These are the day-to-day plans we make to hold and extend our control and power of the party. We were trained in making these plans. So we go to another comrade. One on one. We explain the problem. We articulate our plan to solve the problem. We solicit support. And then we go to another comrade. We solicit more support. And another. More support.
Each supporter has been chosen and selected for their track record. They are loyalists. That is their core competence. Soliciting support one on one from loyalists is like feeding sweets to kids. Especially if you are the president or he or she who wants to be President, Chairman or MP. And each of them takes that plan to others. Sells it as an insider story from “the chief”.
Then we take our process to step two. To a meeting of a collective. It could be the constituency executive Or just a set of insiders or NEC. Or an alliance meeting. We have caucused. The loyalists are there. They will raise the issue and even propose their plan to ensure that their plan is adopted. So if things go wrong we have covered our bases. We have been through the organisational process. We have the record. We have the minute. This plan was agreed in this meeting or that. If a critical comrade wants to now oppose the plan’s dirty side he is fingered and told: but you supported this plan, you may have even spoken in favour of it, the organisation has decided and we are bound by the decision.
The plan maker says it’s not his plan. It’s yours. It belongs to the collective. Why do you accuse me? Why do you blame me? The collective decided. And so it goes. That too is the methodological, unwritten custom and practice of the PNP. It’s been in the culture for generations. Our president only knows that culture. He is not smart. He is simply doing what he has always been told works for the PNP. And it does for him too. Almost by a default. He, however, has no new plan of his own.
But now there are parts of the PNP that are making a noise. The constitutionalists. The so-called democrats. They are getting uncomfortable. It’s all too much. Too many plans have gone wrong. The betrayals of the constitutional oath, the control of select families over all our plans, the rating downgrade, the endless corruption. This opposition starts to get uneasy and restless. They start to make a noise. Very cautiously. But you can see it in what they don’t say, so the commentariat says. That’s what they hang onto as signs of hope: Hope that the government Will stumble. So we the citizenry can hold that hope. We want to believe in a future that may still emerge from the PNP, from the good guys, from the Democrats and constitutionalists. From the very same people who were trained and imbued with the very same PNP politics of supremacy and control and making plans. Somehow we live in hope, we like to believe the Democrats are the lesser evil. That they can undo the past decades of this rotten politics. That they are disease-free. And they can somehow undo the grip of this insidious politics on the very institutional fabric of our country. Use a thief to catch the thief. Beware it doesn’t end up catching you.
But there is a big, big problem. The politics of the kleptocracy has traction. Their plan has meaning. It’s called radical economic transformation (RET) the same stories of the JLP. It sings in the ears of the restless poor people. When you splice it up in the partisan talk it rings loud in the experience of many Jamaican poor people too.
No one but the intelligentsia cares to want to know what RET means. Why? Because the masses already know. It means more of the same. More of the politics of the leader and the Chairman and the councillor and the shop steward securing a future for themselves and caring for their subjects. Even if this means going against the needs of the community or the worker in the factory. Still, we believe in it. Because in the end, it means that some of us can escape the misery and poverty and squalor of our parents and grandparents. We can become “a somebody”. An insider. We need to just show loyalty to our leader. And loyalty will deliver fame and fortune.
And so maybe we will be there tomorrow. We have seen others make it out of squalor. And there are many thousands more of us poor and marginalised people lining up to give credibility to the leaders plan in the search for fame and fortune. There is no other future for us. RET makes perfect sense. It makes visible what we know: that land and factories were not given to poor people. Classism permeates our everyday experience. Now is our time. Our leader will secure this. We will be free. We back our leader. He knows our lives. Simple.
The good guys howl. They scream. They may even squeak from a backbench of Parliament. They appeal to the leadership to listen. But their words are empty. Meaningless. They land on deaf ears. They have no answer for PNP elites. They can only mouth something more palatable like we must do this for the people. But it’s helpless. And hopeless. Useless, in fact. Moving the deck chairs on the Titanic. We are going down anyway. The politics of the PNP will make sure of that. It is bigger and stronger and more pervasive than any internal opposition. Irrespective of whether the good guys win or lose. These are just steps on the road. They will not alter the trajectory. Because the politics of subservience and disingeousnes is deep in the bloodstream of the PNP.
The trajectory is set and the road down is long and deep. It didn’t start with PJ or PSM or Phillips even. It started in the political methodology and culture of the PNP. It’s set in the everyday politics of the choices the leaders make. It’s not written down. It’s a value set of embedded politics. It’s deep in the contour lines of PNP practice. It’s the politics of subservience and favours. Of loyalism and compliance and subservience for reward. It’s the politics that say that independent critical thought is a problem, not a blessing. Sometimes they may even dress these politics up. Call it names and let it follow a set organisational process. It’s called democratic centralist decision-making. It’s the politics that the PNP has learnt from the JLP And vice versa. And the PNP learnt these same politics from the laps of their Stalinist friends in what was the Soviet Union through the dark days of the Sixties and Seventies and Eighties. It’s a politics that takes no prisoners. It doesn’t countenance dissent. It praises leaders. It crushes uprisings. Even among its own. And it awards and rewards the chosen few with bags of money or safe seats or anything really. And it does this in the name of the people and the democracy.
This is the politics that governs the PNP and our country. And it will be with us for a very long time.
So the party has a decision to make. Angela Brown Burke and the east Kingston mafia or the constitution of the party.
Editor at Large, Mckoy’s News: the views expressed in this post are that of the writer and not that of Mckoy’s News.
Contributed by: Socrates at Large