– End U.S. overt and covert wars, drone wars, sanction/embargo wars, and death squad assassination wars.
— Close of all U.S. bases on foreign soil. Dismantle all nuclear weapons.
— Bring all U.S. troops home now. Self-determination not military intervention. U.S. hands off the Middle East, Africa, Asia and
Latin America. End military aid to apartheid Israel. Self-determination for Palestine. The U.S. cannot be the cop of the world.
– $Trillions for human needs… for jobs and social services, quality debt-free education and single payer health care. No to anti-
union legislation. For $15 and a Union Now.
– Defend the environment against life-threatening fossil fuel-induced global warming. For a just transition to a 100 percent
clean, sustainable energy system at union wages for all displaced workers.
— No to white supremacy, police brutality/murder. End racist mass incarceration. Black Lives Matter
— No human being is illegal. No to mass deportations. Yes to DACA and TPS (Temporary Protective Status)
The U.S. government and its leading Pentagon generals openly and repeatedly threatened nuclear war or massive military intervention against sovereign nations. Such is the case today with North Korea, Iran and Venezuela. Simultaneously, U.S. military forces are at war in several nations including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia. Hundreds of U.S. military bases circle the globe in more than 170 foreign countries at the cost of $trillions while these same $trillions are subtracted from critical social programs at home. $Trillions in tax cuts and corporate bailouts are granted to the super rich while the war at home takes on virulent racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, Islamophobic and homophobic forms.
LATIN AMERICAN CONSENSUS: Perspectives for a political program of agreements of the Left, the popular parties and movements of Latin America & the Caribbean – Sâo Paulo Forum Working Group – Managua, Nicaragua 10 January 2017
Fidel Castro, example of unity and internationalism
Among the incomparable examples left by Fidel as his legacy to the revolutionaries of Latin America & the Caribbean, two stand out as having been decisive in the struggles of our peoples, our parties and movements. They are: unity, and reasoned internationalism.
“The duty of the oppressed and exploited nations to fight for their freedom; the duty of every people to act in solidarity with all the oppressed, colonized, exploited and wounded peoples, regardless of where they are in the world and the geographical distance that separates them…………Being internationalist is a way of paying our debt to
humanity”. (Fidel Castro).
This Sâo Paulo Forum Working Group dedicates the results of its modest efforts to the example and revolutionary integrity of Comandante Fidel Castro.
- Aims of this document (foreword)
- The values and principles that unite us
- The reality we want to change (diagnosis)
- Strategic guidelines. What is to be done?
- The political instrument for change
- Conclusions and recommendations
Aims of this document (foreword):
This document is the result of work based on a set of ideas and concepts designed to contribute to developing progressive and revolutionary processes in the various regions and countries of Latin America & the Caribbean. It is now a collective document, adopted by parties and organizations of the subcontinent. The name refers to unity, both as regards declarations and a program and its associated political practice.
Over 500 years have passed since the start of the European invasion, at Abya Yala, an event which Latin America’s popular movements proclaim as being the beginning of still unfinished indigenous, black and popular resistance. The fight against the conquistadores, the indigenous uprisings of the 18th century, the rebellions of African slaves, the Haitian revolution – the first heroic anti-colonial and anti-slavery campaign to triumph in these lands – and the struggles that produced Latin American independence, are a precious historical legacy which feeds our present battles for emancipation. In his turn, over 200 years ago, in his well-known Letter from Jamaica, Simón Bolívar defined the seminal moment in which, with the new independent republics, a new world was being born, destined to become a great nation.
“The veil has been torn aside: now we have seen the light and they want to send us back to the darkness; the chains have been broken; we have become free; and our enemies are trying to enslave us again”, he wrote, and added with visionary certainty: “Without doubt, what we lack to complete the work of our regeneration is union”, thus completing his description of the triumph of Latin American and Caribbean popular hegemony over its own destiny.
Our Latin American and Caribbean societies have been reshaped and diversified. Our way of organizing ourselves and seeing the world have also been transformed, enhanced by the experience of popular power and of access to extensive social benefits, which have enabled the progressive transformation of our region’s socioeconomic and political realities – a situation reflected in changed perceptions of political and economic efforts and the visions of power.
In its need for survival, capitalism has resorted to predatory behavior in relation to society and nature, placing at risk the progress in the quality of social relations achieved by contemporary society, and especially the advances as regards democracy and the guaranteeing of human rights, engineered by the continent’s progressive governments. Mankind is languishing under the onslaughts of a financially-speculative capitalism in crisis. At the same time, this reflects the worsening of the effects it produces within our societies. These are to do with a sense of neoliberal accumulation under practices that take place in two settings: go for firms of the national states and appropriate the public budgets in order to socialize the losses of the private companies; accordingly, this should be cause for encouragement of our struggles against the system.
Financial capital, the “bankocracy” cited by Karl Marx, performs its role as speculator; it is the tool of neoliberalism which breaks the rules of liberal capitalism; it is the voraciousness of a ruthless model derived from the spirit of capitalism’s epicenter: accumulation. In this corrupting phase of the capital accumulation process which neoliberal imperialism seeks to impose on us, we see this as the moment to build the Latin American Consensus. This Latin American Consensus does not accept the notion of an end to the progressive cycle or that it is the moment for regretting the reverses suffered on the political or electoral plane. It is the moment for constructive self-criticism and for learning from our good decisions and from our mistakes. At every level, we are continuing to struggle for power within all the institutions and to harness it to serve the alternative project, improving the coordination between forces in all the forms of power existing in society.
Taking account of the specific conditions in each country, the entire continent should share and intensify the events manifesting our struggle. We of the progressive and left-wing political parties are keeping up the fight against the system. In this struggle, we are advancing shoulder to shoulder with the social movements of every kind. Despite temporary setbacks and the aggressiveness of today’s capitalism, our fight for power is undeterred. We perceive a shift in the balance of forces in the region, and see the present as a time of political and social deceleration and de-accumulation – the result of an imperial counteroffensive, our own mistakes and a capitalism that shows intensification of certain trends possibly indicating a change in the capitalist cycle within its current phase. In any event, this is not a time for lamenting past political or electoral setbacks; our proposal consequently also reflects our own accumulation, political and social, which creates a joining of forces in favor of the popular democratic camp, to keep up the struggle against unbridled capitalism and towards a socialist horizon. To that end, we need to redefine the role of the individual and society, and the production relations prevailing in today’s world.
This political program is a horizon that encompasses the political concepts, values and perspectives appropriate to the left-wing and progressivism, with the aim of steering the changes in Latin America & the Caribbean. In this context, we should view Latin America & the Caribbean not as an isolated entity, but as an integral part of a worldwide socioeconomic production system with a tendency to multi-
polarity, in the throes of an organic structural crisis of overproduction of goods derived from the development of the forces of production, and that if distributed on the basis of changed relations of production with social justice, these would enable society to prosper.
This political program has the primary aim of promoting unity among the political and social forces and organizations that subscribe to it. In this way, it seeks a broad appeal, based on a wide-ranging approach, free of sectarianism and other attitudes threatening to fragment us. This program must respect and contain ideological diversity, within the limits implied by the shared values enumerated below, and constitutes – by definition – a strategic proposal. The program consequently embraces the ideal of the transformation of our societies, beyond the singularities and specific characteristics of each country and the ideological differences between the political and social organizations involved. Given the scope of its aims, its mobilizing role will be paramount, as regards not only the Sao Paolo Forum forces and organizations but also all the political movements that can and should contribute to this struggle.
With this program, we are aiming to surmount an exploitative system in crisis, responsible for underdevelopment, inequality, destruction of Mother Earth, the alienation and permanent loss of the sovereignty of our peoples. We believe that a better world is possible, that it is already progressing in the freeing of our peoples from imperialist and capitalist domination. Our horizon is a society which seeks to close the ever-widening gap between rich and poor and overcome the inequalities associated with gender, ethnic group and age.
We are witnessing a time of changes in the relations of forces, highlighting the prospects of the Left in Latin America & the Caribbean. Based on our successes and failures, teachings and lessons, we believe we have learned enough to be able to vindicate our struggle and our plans. We are ready to confront and, with resolution and unity, rise above this state of things. It is what our peoples expect of us, and we must channel our efforts, corrections and plans to that end. This political manifesto is based on a priceless historical heritage that spans from the very dawn of the pre-Columbian civilizations to the emancipating struggles against European colonialism and the fighting traditions of our native peoples, of country folk, of laborers, of intellectuals and workers in general. It is intermixed with concepts such as that of “living right”, the humanist, revolutionary, Marxist and progressive currents which emerged in Europe and the authentically Latin American and Caribbean manifestations, not to mention the inheritance of those who were at the forefront in our battle with European colonization: Hatuey, Tekun Uman, Diriangen, Guaicaipuro, Cuauhtémoc, Rumiñahui, Túpac Amaru, Diriangen, Bartolina Sisa, Atahualpa, Túpac Katari and Lautaro; and the thinking of our liberators: Louverture, Bolívar, Manuelita Saenz, Sucre, San Martin, Artigas, Javiera Carrera, Policarpa Salavarriera, Hidalgo, Morazán, Alfaro and Martí in the 19th century; and of Sandino, Farabundo Martí, Mariátegui, Flora Tristán, Zapata, Villa, Cárdenas, Camilo Torres, Manuel Marulanda, Albizu, Allende, Torrijos, Seregni, Manley, Hándal, Kirchner and Chávez in the 20th and 21st centuries. We bring the best teachings and reflections left to us by the revolutions of the 20th century and the collapse of Eastern European “real socialism” and by the kinds of organization offering resistance to dictatorships, fascism, imperialism and the emergence of new popular and unitary structures, fruit of the process of accumulation of forces. In turn, we benefit from the ethical and internationalist legacy of Che Guevara, and from the example of resistance and ideological and humanist stance of the Cuban Revolution, especially the seminal thinking of Fidel Castro. Its complete implementation requires political tools, characterized by discipline, rigor in their application and readiness to cooperate with other organizations with similar aims.
This manifesto is not a specific plan for any particular country or political force. The reality we are seeking to change varies widely from country to country, and also within these, and even among the political and social organizations called on to participate. Nonetheless, it reflects a view of Latin America as a whole, with a common path and destiny. Its validity resides in being a document of reference democratically approved within the Sao Paolo Forum, the regional political body most representative of the revolutionary, progressive and democratic organizations of Latin America & the Caribbean.
In the words of the champion of Cuba’s independence, José Martí: “Our enemy is working to a plan: to unsettle us, scatter us, divide us, stifle us. So we work to a plan of our own: to show the best of ourselves, stand shoulder to shoulder, bind to one another, evade him, and finally make our homeland free. Plan against plan”.
The values and principles that unite us. The countries and peoples that form Latin America & the Caribbean have similarities and differences, but we see ourselves as a community and as a large homeland. The similarities, especially, are the product of socioeconomic and political structures derived from a common history, which in each era have suffered and are still suffering subjugation by the hegemonic powers of the times, be they the European colonists or the American imperialists. The values defended by the Left are our points of reference, and can be summarized as follows:
1- Equality, fairness and social justice. Our aim is that this should exist to the greatest possible extent among our countries, peoples and individuals, under the principle of fairness. Economic and social policy should be designed to ensure a fair distribution of wealth. From each according to his means. The object of economic and social decision-making is mankind: human beings in the most all-embracing and collective sense. The large majority, especially those historically discriminated against, should be the primary object of these policies.
2 – The common good should be our priority and consequently defense of the common assets. Sustainable use of natural resources and care of the environment should be our commitment, as the premise for safeguarding the survival of Mother Earth, the totality formed by the human race and nature. In this context, we emphatically reject the commercialization of such resources.
3 – Democracy and the struggle for freedom. We are at a stage of resistance, fighting also within our own forces (self-criticism). That is why the struggle to regain continuity and progress by the left-wing forces and governments and the progressivist initiatives implies a commitment to democracy, which should of necessity reinforce its popular, direct, participative and community character, and also the building of a Latin American national identity as a mechanism for creating hegemony and people’s and political power. We reject arbitrariness in politics and authoritarian decision-making,
4 – The unity of our forces and organizations and the inseparable relation with our peoples are of paramount importance to the development and dissemination of this Latin American Consensus. Thus it is possible to bring about change despite not being in government, if we are able to discern when people are ready to carry the struggle forward, through the social organizations, and dispute the economy and production with the bourgeoisie, such that these are aligned with organizational structures that ensure fair distribution of wealth.
5 – Ethics, integrity, modesty and being an individual and collective example are values of the left-wing organizations, reflecting the need for mobilizing these in pursuit of our goals. These elements form a substantial part of our ethical principles, since they contribute to ensuring the necessary climate of society’s trust in us and in the work we are defending.
6 – Transparent exercise of government and administration, of public and collective assets, while social control of these must reflect a genuinely left-wing approach. A relentless assault on corruption, as an inherent feature of the system we need to change; this is essential and forms part of our integrity and the ethics in our processes to take measures against the corrupt and show the tools for combating corruption.
7 – Rejection of any manifestation of fascism, racism, xenophobia, discrimination of any origin or nature, and other expressions of exclusion for social, religious, racial, gender or sexual-preference related reasons, should be part of the agenda of the Left.
8 – Solidarity, with other individuals and nations, complementarity between man and nature, is the basis of the humanist vocation of our positions in every sphere.
9 – Full exercise of the right to peace is a prerequisite for enjoyment of all the other human rights and should be a priority for the Left. We reject all forms of terrorism, assassination of social or political leaders, and the arms race, by virtue of the ethical character of our struggle, of our belief in peace, in respect for national sovereignty, for freedom, for human dignity and the guarantees of a decent life.
10 – The right of every country to choose the political and social system democratically determined by its peoples, should be respected. We reject any kind of intervention that breaches the sovereignty of our peoples. As a fundamental premise, we consider that there can be no national sovereignty without comprehensive Latin American sovereignty, implying the requirement for complete institutionalization of the integration mechanisms, such as CELAC, UNASUR, ALBA, Petrocaribe etc.
11 – Pro-Latin American and internationalist sentiment is intimately related to our desire for integration as a major regional bloc, able to preserve everything formally achieved in the last 200 years or more, in an emancipating, liberating, non-subordinated sense. Accordingly, we regard the development of the Community of Latin American & Caribbean States (CELAC) as a strategic aim, and that its proclamation of Latin America & the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, approved at the 2nd summit in Havana in 2014, provides the political and legal framework for uniting us in all our diversity, and defending ourselves.
12 – Patriotism and internationalism should be intrinsic to the Left. One cannot be left-wing and not feel the utmost outrage at any injustice committed against any human being, anywhere in the world, as we were taught by Che Guevara.
13 – Our struggle seeks new ways of living, abjures violence of all kinds, ethnic and social discrimination and especially the daily abuse of women and children.
The reality we want to change (diagnosis)
Imperialism and the oligarchies constitute our primary adversaries and the main factor in our basic problems; they are a growing threat to the foundations of civilization and to survival of the human race. Our region is suffering the effects of a wide-ranging imperialist offensive against progressive governments, designed to undermine the morale of our forces and recover lost ground. They seek to turn back the clock to the worst stages in the implementation of the neoliberal model, with its sequel of impoverishment, subjugation to the large transnationals which reinforce monopoly power and erode sovereignty in their efforts to subjugate our peoples and impose on us the most retrograde and conservative values in the political and ideological landscape We find similarities in our main structural problems, be they of a socioeconomic or political character, beyond certain situations.
The evolution of the progressive and revolutionary processes during the last 15 years has not been sterile. In any case, the present situation can be characterized as open confrontation between the progressive popular forces and the pro-imperialist right wing, as suffering occasional political setbacks but at the same time generalizing the popular movement’s resistance struggles.
The Right has identified the strong and weak points in our proposals, and takes advantage of the systemic crises by venting them on our peoples. The adversary has sought to characterize this moment in history as the end of our processes. And that is totally false. Our commitment addresses new collective lessons and the prospect of reconquering the processes of transformation. In other words, we must make progress in the development and dissemination of our processes of political and social change, to achieve new victories. To this end, our progressive and left-wing movements, organizations and parties should recreate our methods, theories and practices so as to underpin the development of this Latin American Consensus. In this respect, there is a basic need for mass generation of leaders and leaderships able to listen and learn from the experience and wisdom of our peoples.
From the economic point of view, there are no longer any doubts that globalization, which in the economic sphere has been of a neoliberal character and predominantly financial, represents a new chapter in the history of capitalism, distinguished from the initial, basically commercial capitalism which lasted until the 19th century, and the capitalism of a largely industrialist character which occupied almost the whole of the 20th century.
The imperialist model whereby the global economy evolved and continues to evolve is erected basically on a great financial fiction, which in the form of a bubble has spawned the issue of credit and money supply in the most diverse and complex ways, creating a highly fragile system in which the cracks began to appear between 2007 and 2012. All the signs are that its steady demise will continue. There is breakdown of agreements within the societies, including those regarding work and social security. This rupture in the world of work is causing massive unemployment, insecurity among the citizenry and is destroying the social security systems. The end of the welfare state in the industrialized world is a central aspect of the policies pursued in the wake of the crisis in 2008 and also among those governments associated with a right-wing recovery in Latin America. The progressive, left-wing administrations have effectively restored the human rights that neoliberalism has destroyed:
1 – The capitalist system and its history of conquest, colonialism and neocolonialism is the cause of the underdevelopment that characterizes our economies, our societies and the social awareness of individuals. Reproduction of secular backwardness and dependence on power centers outside the region constitute the main obstacle to the achievement of full independence and to progress among our nations.
2 – The subordinate way in which we have participated in globalization poses serious obstacles to modernizing and expanding the industrial and other elements of our production system, increasingly making us mere exporters of raw materials with scant or no value added.
3 – In effect, financial speculation, as the hallmark of the world economy, has a cyclical impact on the prices of those exports, causing spells of ephemeral prosperity, reflecting the existing structural limitations. We should therefore affirm our resistance to the attempts to control international financial capital, typified as the modern expression of a world-wide tyranny, ubiquitous and deregulated.
4 – The reluctance of successive Latin American governments to invest in scientific development, coupled with the obstacles and restrictions applying to access to industrial credit, unfair control of intellectual property by the transnationals and the brain drain and other factors, have hampered the ability to progress independently, contributing to the present degrees of dependence. The contradiction between wide-ranging commercial projects undertaken by major capital, mainly in agroindustry, and self-sufficiency and food sovereignty, can only be resolved when our actions make progress in meeting the need to close the gaps between town and country, between social classes, in equality of rights, based on social distribution. In this context, we should recognize the economic and social imbalances among our countries, in some of which there are national oligarchic groups bigger than the transnationals. Given the above, there is a need for an educational model aimed at accelerated technological innovation.
5 – The dominance of the large transnationals, which impact our economies with little or no state control, which are party to the predation on our societies and the environment – to cite only two of the evils that urgently require remedies – causing the destruction of the labor force and of nature.
6 – The scourge of foreign debt, an eternal burden, far from having been resolved, continues to erode our economies, operating as one of the main tools of imperialist domination. This involves extreme forms of speculation and legalized financial blackmail, such as the workings of the “vulture funds”
7 – The imposition of the FTAs (free-trade agreements) which encumber government purchases, patent rights, intellectual property and jurisdiction over disputes foreign to the parties, while perpetuating relations on unequal terms, tend to intensify subordination, imply loss of sovereignty and make no real contribution to trade, economic or social development, as claimed by their imperialist promoters. A new era of mega-TLCs, such as the Transpacific Partnership for economic cooperation (TPP) or the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), or that negotiated by the US with Europe, are blatant examples of the sort of treatment we can expect.
8 – Capitalism, in its neoliberal phase, is in the throes of a crisis of its own making as another means of accumulation and concentration of capital, while its dynamics result not only in expansion through financialization and transnationalization, but also damage in the form of de-industrialization of national production bases, denationalization of state enterprises, outsourcing of strategic economic sectors, privatization of the land and appropriation of the income generated – mainly in the mining and energy sector.
9 – The political and social bloc seeking change should have a popular, democratic national development plan for direct foreign investment constrained by a state legislative framework designed to ensure that key development areas are prioritized, and that it does not become a mechanism for domination and irrational exploitation of the natural world. The struggle for the surplus is key, enabling the setting up of co-participation and incorporation of various layers in our struggle, and thereby integration of further participants; dealing with issues such as ecology becomes essential. The emphasis in these considerations is on unity, dialectics in the processes and the popular struggle.
10 – Our region, from the Rio Bravo to Patagonia, including the insular Caribbean, is a part of the world blessed with substantial mining-energy and water resources, extensive biodiversity and intellectual and human development, with every potential for becoming an area of sustainable prosperity for its inhabitants, and able to contribute to the well-being of other peoples of the world. We regard natural resources as common assets, use values – not exchange values – which belong to the people, while their administration is a matter for the state. They are not privatized and are managed so as to preserve the balance between society and Mother Earth, seeking harmony and restoration of the diversity of life systems.
11 – The existence and coexistence of various types of plural economy (state, community, cooperative social and private) is recognized, under a planning regime in which the state controls the strategic sectors and organizes their interrelation, with a view to raising the quality of life of the population, food security, redistribution of wealth and Latin American & Caribbean economic integration. Nevertheless, we should respect all the forms of ownership, democratizing the factors of production, defending in a spirit of solidarity the small and medium-sized industrialists and producers, fostering and disseminating the types of state ownership and association which confer greater freedom of production and association.
12 – We recognize the successes of these 20-plus years of work by the Left organized at the Sao Palo Forum, and almost 20 years since the victory of President Hugo Chávez. There are gains from the colossal economic and social battle waged, although we have not yet been able to change the capitalist production relations. We must change the script written by the Right unbridled capitalism and imperialism, rewrite our inclusive manifesto and develop our proposals for building hegemony, establishing new structures for accumulation enabling comprehension and empowerment of the achievements of our governments, in order to meet the needs of the peoples.
We reaffirm our support for what has been done and propose to build cooperation, consolidating our forces for change, the working class, farmworkers, small producers, the self-employed, self-management projects, individuals organized in cooperatives, addressing the new problems that arise and ensuring organization and action by area or locality, such that these units can move up the value chain, recouping the gains that the system deprives them of through the market. From the social point of view:
1 – Our region is still the world’s most unequal place, despite the notable social progress achieved in recent years by the progressive and left-wing governments.
2 – The concentration of wealth associated with the above is the main reason for the persistence of poverty and social marginalization, phenomena impossible to overcome without a new basis for the distribution of wealth that recognizes the work contributed – very different from the redistribution processes we have seen so far, based on the market. A radical review of the existing taxation and financial systems is essential.
3 – Poverty has a lasting impact on the quality of life of our citizens, both male and female, even in the middle or rich segments, to the extent that the exploitation of capital affects us all via the market, the intensification of insecurity, trade and trafficking in persons, organized grime and trafficking in narcotics, among other problems. At the same time, we should see these conditions as incentives for progressing political and social change, reforming the state and designing a new economic framework that favors the interests of the large excluded majorities.
4 – Health as a basic human right, is far from showing encouraging indicators. It is unaccountable that despite the notable advances in the development of medical sciences, we are still seeing high rates of infant and maternal mortality and of deaths from preventable diseases. The hospital and general medical infrastructure remains inadequate.
5 – The education situation is also worrying. Millions of Latin Americans and people of the Caribbean are still in an age-old condition of backwardness, reflected in hundreds of thousands of illiterates and semi-literates. Education in general remains poor, as does the quality of instruction in the schools and universities. A shortage of teachers at both secondary and primary levels, and their low salaries and poor preparation, are factors in this problematic situation.
6 – Access to decent employment, providing wages that are fair and based on skill level, without discrimination on grounds of gender, race or origins, is still a right whose full enjoyment is denied to millions of women and men in our region, who have access only to informal employment, jobs on precarious terms and poorly-paid, in which their basic rights as workers are not respected.
7 – As an aside, we should reflect on the serious downgrading implied in the neoliberal concept of work, the material and subjective effects generated at the grassroots level in today’s production relations, also implying new kinds of exploitation of human beings, entirely regardless of whether those exploited are adults, young people or children. We must establish, at the heart of our societies, discussion of the impact of the new technologies on the world of work. The replacement of manpower caused by robotization and the applications of the new information and communication technologies (ICTs), and how we are to retrain these excluded workers for new areas, and analyze the impact on social security, including retirement pensions and similar benefits.
8 – Social security has been severely affected by the neoliberal policies. The insurance companies and pension funds, mostly privatized, remain a mechanism for extortion from the workers and for financing the bourgeoisies and economic groups that control activity. This causes insecurity and hopelessness among hundreds of millions of people who are consequently not guaranteed a decent life in the future.
9 – Access to resources and technology capable of mitigating the repercussions of climate change remains restricted and with strings attached for our countries. The centuries-long indiscriminate use of fossil fuels by the capitalist industrial model has led to the phenomenon of global warming, an escalating threat to life on the planet. This situation is aggravated by the pollution of the atmosphere, seas, bodies of water and “úselos” resulting from lack of planning in the rational use of natural resources; the predatory practices of the transnationals, especially those in the mining and petrochemical sectors; the destruction of woodlands, and runaway desertification. This highly irresponsible and destructive confrontation with Mother Earth by major economic interests is leading to impoverishment and insecurity among numerous countries and peoples, reaching an extreme whereby climate change threatens to cause the partial or complete disappearance of Caribbean insular states and territories. From the political point of view:
1 – Latin America & the Caribbean is marked by the colonial domination of various peoples by a number of European powers and by the United States. Colonialism represents a shameful historical anachronism which has been repeatedly condemned by the international community. Contributing to the final, total elimination of colonial domination in Latin America is one of the great challenges and responsibilities of the Latin American & Caribbean Left.
2 – The current political and electoral systems, established in the wake of the wars of independence, bear the stamp of liberal bourgeois democracy and with the passage of time have become tainted by authoritarian practices, that of obtaining votes in return for government posts etc., and other types of habitual fraud undermining the interests of the voters.
3 – The powers that be have demonstrated the ability to control the legal and electoral system. Any scheme for purported separation of powers generally conceals concentration of political power in the hands of elites elected by no-one. The reactionary offensive does not stop at trying to derail progressive and left-wing policies: it threatens the entire Left in any country; it is a plan to eliminate any emancipating alternative that opposes imperialist domination.
4 – The politics crisis, and the merger and transnationalization of the media concerns has led to consolidation by the mass media of their role as a source and wing of power. The results include the imposition on the peoples of a homogenization of information and cultural expression. The traditional transnational media and the new media players that emerged from the revolution in information and telecommunications technologies, promote imperialist interests by simplifying the language, trivializing the political message and imposing a pensée unique. At the same time, these mechanisms are being used as a means of denunciation and resistance which we should support and disseminate with technological independence and sovereignty.
5 – Culture is a battlefield, of resistance to invasion and manipulation by imperialism and the local oligarchies. This occurs not only in the arena of the mass media, but also in the form of the “global entertainment industry”, carrier of a colonizing message that discounts our history, aimed at domesticating awareness and against any critical or emancipating thinking. At the same time, the global market in art and literature has established itself as the judge and jury in matters of dissemination. The aim of this cultural war against our peoples is to underpin imperial hegemony.
6 – Imperialism and the local oligarchies have undertaken an offensive directed from Washington targeting the countries with left-wing administrations. It is applied via a route that seeks changes of government in short order, or undermines them by forcing them back to the polls. These policies underline the concept that the main enemy of the Left and of our peoples is imperialism.
7 – Transnational organized crime, including femicides, which have increased in several countries in the region, associated with the trafficking networks and the drug consumption markets, traffic in migrants and illegal trade in persons for the purposes of exploitation as workers or of sexual exploitation, with the arms trade, with contraband, with financial crimes and terrorist acts, has become a tool of blackmail and political domination at the service of the global hegemonic powers. Its devastating effects on social cohesion and its promotion of a new scale of anti-values threaten the fragmentation and virtual collapse of the national states, under the premise that reducing them to chaos will facilitate the plans of subjugation and national and regional plundering of our wealth
8 – The efforts in our region towards integration are at risk of failure if we cannot create a majority social awareness in its favor. Undertaking this task, sharing the ideal of unity in diversity, is a priority task of the progressive and left-wing political and social forces.
Strategic guidelines. What is to be done?
The transformations needed to change and develop Latin America & the Caribbean and contribute to the ideal of a better world go beyond any national program; the requirement is for development of a common set of general aims and principles on which the changes should be founded. Those aims and principles should be adopted jointly, by all of us who are committed to such change, with recognition of national differences but in an integrationist and internationalist spirit. On the economic plane:
1 – In this context, the emphasis should be on liberating – not subordinated – integration, with a view to the economic and social development of Latin America, obtaining the greatest possible degree of coordination among the countries. Promotion of international enterprises and associations could be a good starting point, by enabling deployment of economic strengths such as the available natural resources, and technological and scientific development of the workforce in each zone, country or group of nations. An essential step will be to draw up an infrastructure plan to improve connectivity, communications, transport and supply, and also setting out in detail the industrial, trade and financial proposals between our countries and developing countries elsewhere in the world.
2 – A comprehensive economic and social integration process, addressing not just the markets, is key to guaranteeing our sovereignty, seen in a patriotic light, and also as a prerequisite for our insertion into a globalized world, preserving the capacity for decision-making on our future.
3 – We should develop an internal regional market favoring the sustainability of the economic model we plan to adopt and as an alternative to the instability of the external market. This does not imply isolating ourselves from the world, but creating links based on a better position in terms of economics, social development and preservation of our independence.
4 – We need autonomous financial systems, also as part of the integration process. We should establish a Latin American & Caribbean development bank and introduce a common currency – instruments potentially contributing to such independence. Initiatives such as the Bank of the South, the Banco de ALBA and the existence of SUCRE are practical experiments for consideration, without affecting national plans for development banks.
5 – There is a need to work towards consensus economic planning at regional levels, enabling the countries of Latin America & the Caribbean to act as an independent bloc in dealings with the rest of the world’s economic actors. The aim should be full employment, which is basic to development of society. The political parties and popular and left-wing movements should support this call to their governments, on a permanent
6. Any development plan must seek to replace the policies that favor mono-culture and exclusive export of raw materials and basic products. Other priorities include modernizing strategic sectors in industry, renewable energy sources or those that ensure food and technological sovereignty, among others. This will necessitate maximum deployment of science and its practical application to economic processes.
7 – The repercussions of neoliberalism create an imperative need to generate productive, prosperous, sustainable economies, with equitable distribution of wealth. In this context, it is especially important to restore agrarian reform to the political agenda. The new society to which we aspire cannot be built on poverty, incompetence and inequality.
8 – Regional integration should include the building of a new trade, economic and financial architecture, using our own institutions and financial resources, thereby capable of financing development projects, industrial coordination and ensuring the region’s economic and financial stability. To that end, we must revive the strategy for industrialization, reindustrialization and agro-industrialization, replacing imports, to counter the effects of de-nationalization and de-industrialization caused by the dominance of the neoliberal model in our countries.
9 – A post-capitalist economy should adopt as a principle the search for quality, by applying plans that ensure high levels of productivity, efficiency and effectiveness in the production processes. Redesign of taxation policies should bring progress in the redistribution of wealth. Fiscal reforms and the role of direct taxation on production and consumption should have an effect in the reduction of purchase taxes as a basic priority, based on their impact on the basic shopping basket and on the adverse effects they produce for wide sectors of society; policies should be developed for replacing purchase taxes with progressive taxes on income and wealth.
10 – The state should play the basic role of directing and regulating economic activity; consequently it should ensure fair distribution of wealth and implement plans for economic and social development that enjoy popular support and are consistent with the Latin America & the Caribbean regional integration program. The state should have enterprises that are productive, efficient and healthy, especially in strategic sectors such as energy, finance and telecommunications. The profits generated by these should be used to stimulate the economic and social development of our countries on a self-financing basis.
11 – Our progressive and left-wing governments have demonstrated the possibility of initiating a process of gradually transferring to civil society certain management functions hitherto reserved exclusively to itself by the state. The aim is to strengthen the role of the people’s power, to reinforce and empower the social fabric, and promote active participation in the form of co-management and self-management, while accepting the importance of leaving the function of allocating resources in the hands of the state.
12 – This does not exclude the role of the private sectors, either national or foreign, but in all cases under the guidance of a national development plan aimed at strengthening the internal market, at value-added exporting, aligned with a regional integration process and compliant with the labor, environmental and other areas of legislation. A long-term development strategy should prioritize structural transformation and technological change compatible with macroeconomic balance and focused on the goals of human development, equality and environmental sustainability. This strategy implies giving the state a central role in setting objectives and in determining systems of incentives and the building of ideologies and values; its role will consequently not be to replace the various social actors, but to secure wide-ranging consensus and lead the process of institutional construction, based on the development of a dense network of institutions and diverse forms of organization of civil society.
13 – There is an imperative and urgent need to formulate and resource a new economic and social model, whose central aim is “zero poverty”. On the social plane
1 – The fair distribution of wealth is a hallmark of a left-wing program. Fiscal policies should be designed and applied under the principle that there can be no genuine development without the greatest possible social inclusion, equality of opportunity and access by all citizens of both sexes to the socially-produced goods and services, according to the contribution of each.
2 – The education and health services must be accessible by every citizen, designed under principles reflecting humanism and solidarity.
3- Education should be a public policy, compulsory, free, secular and scientific; and it should extend from the beginnings of infancy to the higher level, passing through the basic and middle-higher levels. A higher level of public investment in early-infancy education is needed. Girls, boys and young people should be the priority beneficiaries of the development and progress achieved by progressive and left-wing administrations.
4- The most recent discoveries in the field of nutritional research and the neurosciences indicate the urgent need to provide a diet for children marked by extremely high levels of proteins and neuronutrients, essential to growth and development in this formative stage of the brain, and also early education from pre-conception, the prenatal stage and early infancy, in a setting rich in stimuli; this will ensure our children enjoy comprehensive growth, with the aim of enhancing the development and the societies and countries of Latin America.
5- The progressive and left-wing movements, organizations and parties, as well as the governments, should commit to higher levels of public investment in science and technology.
6 – In applying its public policies, the state should be constantly concerned to eradicate the neoliberal scourges of poverty, indigence, drug addition, social alienation, and neglect of the disabled, elderly, children and the other most vulnerable sectors, women, people of African descent, aboriginal peoples, the LGBTI community and others historically victims of discrimination, among other evils.
7 – The state must guarantee respect for the social interests of all its citizens, both male and female, giving greater weight to those decisions that favor the large majorities.
8 – Dialectic balance between the need for development and the rights of nature is an aspiration which must be realized. We are heirs of centuries-old processes that ignored this approach, and we must now commit ourselves to adopting it. Our development must be sustainable, as distinct from the fabrications of “green capitalism” and the developmentalist vision of society.
9 – The economic and social precariousness prevalent in numerous countries of Latin America & the Caribbean has obliged millions of people to emigrate to other countries in our region or to America. These migration flows turn the migrants into second-class citizens or victims of transnational crime. Even the left-wing governments have not been able to change the socioeconomic, political and security conditions which stimulate these flows; these governments need to adopt safe migration policies that guarantee in law and in reality full enjoyment of the human rights of their citizens of both sexes.
10 – The existence of organized crime is a threat to every democratic state. The head-on fight against the traffic in narcotics and organized crime requires comprehensive policies that include punitive state action, while recognizing the social dimension of these phenomena and seeking to apply salutary measures in resolving the problems. Special policies are needed, for instance, to remedy the poverty and marginalization in the precarious urban concentrations where these evils flourish.
On the political and ideological plane:
1 – In our perception of the winning of power, we must look beyond the recovery of its symbolic trappings – the presidency and government of a country – and develop strategies for its devolution it to the various levels – borough, province, state, nation – emphasize the role of parliaments, public debate, and ways of protecting and promoting the success of public enterprises and the forms of collective management and ownership. Similarly, we must prevent the use of judicial power in ways that serve the interests of the Right. We need to democratize and subordinate the military command structures and forces of law and order to the political power freely instituted by the will of the people and to serve national interests. These bodies are the guarantors of the processes of Latin America’s liberation, sovereignty and independence.
2 – We must work every day to strengthen and defend our conquests, understand that our adversaries will hinder or sabotage them, learn that the oligarchies always act in concert at local and regional level and in close alliance with imperialism and its local representatives. This includes the adoption of (partial or total) constitutional reforms wherever possible, which enable the institutional obstacles created by the system introduced under the predominance of the bourgeoisie to be overcome.
3 – In this context, there is a need to confront the mechanisms used by imperialism to undermine, destabilize or replace the legitimately elected governments, involving the use of all the means at their disposal, including military and parliamentary coups d’état, judicialization of politics, and ultimately through subordination of judicial power to its interventionist policies.
4 – A left-wing government which lacks absolute respect for the human condition and human and social rights is unthinkable. In this respect, the role of the state in guaranteeing the enjoyment of human rights – which are universal, indivisible and interdependent – is irreplaceable.
5 – Building and consolidation of the people’s power in the economic and political spheres is fundamental. As a prerequisite for implementing the program and the strategic aims of necessary structural changes that enable grassroots democratization of institutionalism, aligned in all cases with the particular conditions in each country or region.
6 – It is equally necessary that the organization, structure and working of the parties of the Left – both those in government and those in opposition – each adapted to its own reality, respect the autonomous agenda of the people’s power, its open and participative character. The People’s Power as a programmatic national expression of the totality of local and social dual powers, is the foundation of a new kind of political and ideological relations between the governing and the governed, in all sections of society. It is a concrete expression of hegemony at a given time. The People’s Power is the fount of legitimacy. As a people organized in permanent self-construction and formation it is also a guarantee of proper performance and operation of the progressive and left-wing governments, and the antidote to “soft coups” and other means of destabilization.
7 – We also need to modify the rhetoric and the political language, based on new codes, which include an appropriate class- and gender-related approach, which maintains honesty, direct and reliable communication with people, able to listen and reflect their worries and interests, which contributes to the development of independent thinking, committed to revolutionary change.
8 – We need radical changes in matters of communication. This inevitably implies confronting the processes of information concentration, the media and culture. There is a need for far-reaching reforms that democratize access to information and respect diversity of opinion, culture and history, that are at the service of our peoples. While the presence of the traditional mass media is being extended, we should increase the involvement of the new media, in particular the internet-based social networks, where our technological disadvantages are apparent.
9 – We must progress the development, strengthening, dissemination and enhancement of our peoples’ cultural wealth, thereby equipping us for an all-out cultural battle against the alienating values of capitalism; we must work to establish a front of intellectually-mobilizing thinking of the kind that has been excluded by the hegemonic power and is able to generate content of a truly decolonializing character, endowing people with solid cultural references in a world increasingly overrun by consumerism and banality.
10 – The continuous building and maintaining of social consensus and trust in the left-wing agenda are key to the sustainability of our plans. Consensus is built through permanent dialogue with society and the peoples, ensuring the prevalence of accords over differences, with a clear intention of uniting in order to grow and progress, on the basis that the struggle for truth and justice must be permanent and can never be abandoned.
11 -The Left’s foreign policy should be founded on the universally recognized values of international law enshrined in the UN charter, and should be expressed in solidarity, the desire for peace, and coexistence and cooperation between nations. It should include a profound anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist commitment, which vindicates the peoples’ right to independence, sovereignty and self-determination.
12 – We hold onto the dream of Latin American nationhood, unique and indissoluble, in accordance with the ideals of our ancestors. Our plan should propose models for promoting and stimulating a regional integration that is not subordinating but liberating. This is why we strongly advocate promotion of the integration processes under way in our region, through UNASUR, MERCOSUR, SICA, CARICOM, ALBA-TCP and other mechanisms. In these circumstances, the Community of Latin American & Caribbean States (CELAC) occupies a position of particular significance, constituting the most important and far-reaching of all the integration initiatives undertaken. It is imperative that we demand that our progressive and left-wing governments progress the integration process, derived from a plan adopted by all the popular and left-wing parties and movements. There is consequently an urgent need to draw up a plan for integration of the Latin American nation.
13 – We advocate a stronger role for gatherings such as the Sao Paolo Forum and other platforms for debate, among both the political forces and the popular social organizations, and for building alternative ways of combating the advances of imperialism. The political instrument for change We must equip ourselves with the political instruments needed to implement this program. The bases for organizing these will differ from country to country and place to place, based on accumulated experience, the history of struggle and the concrete reality of the location. This does not imply the existence of a single organization, should this prove impossible, but rather to apply predetermined principles in seeking the best forms of association for effective, comprehensive use of our knowledge and our experience of struggle.
Despite diversity, a set of valid principles can be adduced for creating political organizations able to meet the challenges that face us, lead the processes of change and achieve the aims embodied in these proposals.
1 – Collective building of a political program is needed. History has shown that any proposal outside the formally-agreed political program ends up as some individual’s pet project with limited prospects.
2 – No political force can survive without a permanent unitary policy. Division, sectarianism and the cult of personality, among other diversions, contribute to exacerbating [sic] the interests of our adversaries.
3 – The vitality of a political force resides primarily in the form and content of its basic structures, depositories of the democratic vocation of that organization and guarantee of permanent interrelation with the people. In this context, it is vitally important to promote, develop and reinforce the grassroots interchange between left-wing governments, popular parties and movements in the economic and social as well as political arenas.
4 – To the extent permitted by the possibilities and concrete reality, we need local and national administrations dedicated full time to this important task.
5 – The ability to summon and mobilize should find the way to generate propaganda and use the networks and other mass media to persuade with direct and customized messages. Neither should be mechanically supplanted by the other.
6 – A political force that fails to develop permanent relations with popular organizations or social movements has little chance of implementing a political manifesto of this nature. A true popular, left-wing force should have specific policies towards such social sectors as the workers, small and medium-sized enterprises, young people, students, women, excluded minorities. It should also have specific policies addressing all the state’s institutional sectors.
7 – The social and popular movements have a wealth of experience in struggles and resistance against the predatory patriarchal capitalist model, and imperialism’s hegemonic policy. Their organizational structures vary widely, are plural and general reflect their sectoral origins and character as vehicles of protest. However, they do constitute legitimate expressions of popular demand for radical social change. The essence of the indispensable relations of tactical and strategic coordination between the political organizations and the social movements resides in the necessity for these to be based on an open relationship that preserves identities and autonomy.
8 – Unity of action is needed, coupled with trust, to enable our adversaries’ manipulation of legitimate social demands to be detected and neutralized. The political practices of favors for votes and welfarism must be replaced by joint responsibility. The organized peoples possess the strength to undertake transformation, embed the process of change and ensure its success.
9 – We reiterate that popular mobilization is capable of winning and maintaining power for the people. We are convinced that there is a dialectical relation according to which, to the extent that our policies fully reflected the great aspirations of the masses, we will receive greater and lasting support by these. In this context, the left-wing governments should have policies for all the people and for every class and social sector. In this respect, it is especially important to develop policies addressing all the state institutions, so as to orient their working to defend a sovereign national and regionally integrated agenda. Only an organized and aware people can be the originator of a new history, a history of freedom, equality, fraternity, justice, democracy and happiness.
10 – A political force needs at its heart a permanent debate, but when resolutions have been passed, it must undertake to implement them to the full.
11 – The political training of leaders, with special reference to youth, is essential to the most effective working and a guarantee for the future, including that of cultural development. The political leader is the backbone of any of our left-wing organizations. He or she should feel the constant need to progress in every way, have a sense of the historical moment, clarity of mind and analysis, and the ability to work in tandem with all the other representatives of the Left. His or her training, and that of his/her deputies and alternates, coupled with their mutual defense and integration, is an ineluctable responsibility. And this training should include the ability to develop and direct social and production processes.
12 – A permanent political and ideological educational effort addressing the population should be maintained. This assumes greater importance when in government. The link with the people cannot be lost. The political and electoral setbacks we suffered should enable us to learn from our mistakes, and then renew the debate, basically with the young people, who are part of a generation that has theoretical and practical knowledge based on having experienced the development stage of our governments, but should take into account the historical background to our initiatives for change.
13- The great challenge for any political instrument is to secure, by political and ideological work and persuasion by its leaders and militants, the participation of the entire people in the tasks involved in making the changes to society aimed at ensuring economic and social wellbeing. Add and multiply. Never divide or take away. A basic element of this challenge is the need for greater knowledge and skill in communicating the ideas underlying our plan and program, and especially in integrating them into our peoples’ daily practice.
14 – One of our priorities is to learn how those to whom our message is addressed – especially the younger generation – see life and their objective and subjective needs. Active and militant participation by the new generations in the struggle for better societies is an urgent need. Youth is already in the vanguard in several scenarios and we must recognize the importance of their participation as one of the primary historical subjects; we must consequently fight to prevent the enemy from de-politicizing or neutralizing or taking control of this large sector of society.
15 – An effective electoral strategy is required, to enable access to the present era’s various entities of government. It should include proactive, ambitious approaches and avoid short-termism, voluntarism and the discouraging effects of the beguiling postmodernist debate. Our strategies for fighting elections, building the People’s Power and exercising government should include both the rational and emotional elements.
16 – Our need for efficiency in the electoral arena requires that we prioritize territorial presence, precisely where the electors are; however, reality has shown that in the places we govern, it is wise to establish basic structures in strategic locations, such as large companies, universities and other places where politics is a daily phenomenon. Experience has shown us that in the places we govern or establish people’s power, there is a need to organize permanent basic structures, for example in the large companies, the universities, areas of customary concentration and other places where politics is a daily phenomenon.
17 – The changes in certain Latin American societies have generated new needs among the citizens who benefit from economic development, and are paving the way for building collective identities with a new vision of well-being and of life. Today’s social subjects rely on a far-reaching alliance between various sectors of society which come together in the search for a new social paradigm. They aspire to a change in the qualities of the individual in his or her collective life, as well as struggling for material well-being. They are constructed, transforming simultaneously reality and themselves. Conclusions and recommendations We, the continent’s progressive and left-wing political parties and social organizations and movements are called upon to achieve and consolidate unity in diversity. Putting our shared views above our cultural, regional, ethnic, religious and other differences must be the banner under which we prevail, over the destabilizing and interventionist attempts of the empire The popular and left-wing parties and movements have the responsibility of reinforcing our political organization at regional level, equipping it to take on the task of steering and leading revolutionary Latin America, the true builder of the Great Homeland and a post-capitalist society free of exploitation and injustice Experience of social revolutions, of popular parties and movements which have reached government on our continent, constitute a body of lessons that merit in-depth analysis. We recommend that the Sao Paolo Forum should contribute to the systemizing and socializing of the experience in building people’s power and social economy in Latin America.
In our turn, the political organizations and social movements should promote the creation of our own political, social and economic indicators, above and beyond those proposed by the international organizations. An immediate task is to convert this document into an instrument of debate and political action, circulating it and submitting it for elaboration by our political bases and the social movements. With the guide, the teachings and example handed down, we have a single option: Fight and grow. Fight and win. Fight till victory. Always!
EQUIPO DE SERVICIOS DE TRADUCTORES E INTÉRPRETES
The Barbados born Jackie Opel – one of the most important architects of Jamaica’s Ska beat; creator of Barbados’ Spouge beat; and arguably the Caribbean’s greatest musical innovator – died on the 9th of March 1970, some 44 years ago. And in those 44 years, the governments and musical establishments of both Jamaica and Barbados have shamed themselves by failing to acknowledge Opel’s seminal contributions and to confer upon him the honour, acclaim and respect that he so richly deserves!
A typical example of this shameful neglect can be seen in ex-Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga’s recent publication on the history of Jamaican music – “Reggae’s Golden Jubilee: The origins of Jamaican Popular Music”. Mr. Seaga’s essay was published in 2012 to coincide with the celebration of Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of Independence, and constitutes the core historical text that accompanies a four compact disc aural retrospective of fifty years of musical development in Jamaica.
One will search Mr. Seaga’s fifty page text from top to bottom and not find a single reference to the great Jackie Opel– the Barbadian multi-dimensional singer, dancer, composer, musician, arranger and musical inventor who was brought to Jamaica by the late Byron Lee at the beginning of the 1960’s! And what makes Mr. Seaga’s omission all the more glaring and inexcusable is that Seaga– as owner of the WIRL recording company in 1960’s Jamaica– was one of a handful of record producers who recorded the late Jackie Opel back in the 1960’s. (The others were Leslie Kong, Coxsone Dodd and Justin Yap.)
But Jackie Opel has not been treated any better in his own homeland of Barbados! Back in December 2013 I took it upon myself to write to the General Manager of the government of Barbados’ radio and television company– the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)– pointing out Barbados’ shameful neglect of Jackie Opel, and requesting that CBC make a special effort during the month of March 2014 (the month of Jackie Opel’s tragic death in a car accident) to share Jackie’s story and his awesome musical legacy with the people of Barbados. Needless-to-say, I did not even receive a letter of acknowledgement, much less a positive response.
And of course, it is not only me who has publicly complained about Barbados’ neglect of their greatest musical son! Such doyens of the Barbadian entertainment industry as Richard Stoute, Mark Williams and Al Gilkes have long denounced the shabby treatment of the ‘poor boy’ from the inner city “ghetto” of Chapman Lane who bestowed upon Barbados the inestimable gift of a national musical genre known as “Spouge”.
In my letter to the General manger of the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation , I tried to explain Jackie Opel’s historical significance to him as follows:-
“I recently met Bunny Wailer – the last surviving member of the Bob Marley / Peter Tosh / Bunny Wailer trio – and I asked him about Jackie Opel. His response was to gush that Jackie Opel was the greatest ofthem all; that the Wailers provided backing vocals for many of Jackie’s recordings; and that the only act that dared to take the stage after a Jackie Opel performance in Jamaica was the Wailers. The legendary Bunny Wailer was paying respect to an artist that he considered to be greater than himself, and yet, in Jackie’s own homeland he is relatively unknown and under-appreciated.
Jackie’s significance and genius can be seen from the following:-
(1) He was the lead singer of the legendary Jamaican band known as “The Skatalites” — the band that was primarily responsible for developing the Ska beat– the music that went on to spawn reggae.
(2) Jackie was the composer of many of the songs of the Skatalites . And, along with Roland Alphonso, was the band’s musical arranger.
(3) Jackie is reputed to have composed more than 700 songs in the genres of Ska, Rhythm & Blues, Soul, Gospel, Calypso and Spouge, in spite of his early death at the age of 32 years.
(4) He was voted “Entertainer of the year” in Jamaica on several occasions.
(5) Jackie was one of the few persons in history to develop a new genre of music — Spouge.
Jackie Opel died on the 8th of March 1970 , and has never been given his rightful place in the annals of Barbadian history.”
Perhaps the reason I did not get a response to my letter is that what I was saying sounded so fantastical that CBC’s General Manager didn’t quite believe me! But trust me- it is not only me (or Bunny Wailer) who testify to Jackie Opel’s greatness! Listen, for example, to the testimony of legendary Jamaican artist, Desmond Dekker, as recorded in “The Encyclopedia of Reggae”:-
“ According to vocalist Desmond Dekker, Opel “just come and dominate the scene”…Dekker also commented that this occurred to such an extent that other singers on Kong’s Beverly’s Record label, including Bob Marley, sought different producers…”
The international music Journalist, Greg Burgess, also tries to convey a sense of Jackie Opel’s unique multi-faceted brilliance in his essay “The Jackie Opel Story” as follows :-
“Alton Ellis says to see Jackie Opel was a life affirming event – he was a performer in the style of young Jackie Wilson…Opel would spin and fall to the ground in a crescendo of legs drooping and flailing arms, a small man in stature but a big man in heart and personality…his talent was such that he could turn up at a studio and write songs on demand, seemingly with little preparation…he could also sing anything, in any key and with perfect timing”
But the best way to get a sense of the genius of Jackie Opel is to actually listen to his classic compositions and performances across a range of no less than seven different genres of music – Calypso, Gospel, Rhythm &Blues, Ska, Rock Steady, Soul and Spouge. Listen, for example, to such classic Ska recordings as Old Rocking Chair, My Sweet Lover and Say Say Business. Listen to Jackie’s searing soul renditions of Cry Me A River, Shelter The Storm, Wipe These Tears and Forever And Ever, and to such magnificent Rhythm and Blues compositions as Eternal Love, Don’t let Me Die, Every Word I Say Is True, and One More Chance.
And then of course there is Spouge — the totally new beat that Jackie invented and launched just prior to his untimely death in 1970. Jackie’s Spouge runs the gamut from the slow and groovy Welcome You Back Home to the hard- driving You’re No Good and You Got to Pay. It is just such a pity that Jackie was not around to nurture and guide the development of the new Barbadian beat in the years after its launch at the commencement of the 1970’s.
No objective analyst can doubt the genius and historical significance of Jackie Opel! And so, the question must arise – “Why has he been written out of the history of Jamaican music”? Greg Burgess thinks he has found an answer to the question, and expresses it as follows:-
“The subsequent years have not been kind to the memory of this great, great singer…he is only a footnote in the history of Jamaican music. Maybe his Barbadian origins are held against him…”
If Mr. Burgess is correct, this is indeed a great shame, for Jackie Opel is a member of an historic trio of great Barbadians who lived in and served Jamaica, and who identified with Jamaica as much as they identified with their own Barbadian homeland. The other two are the great cricketer, Sir Frank Worrell, and the great poet/historian/educator/culture scholar, Kamau Brathwaite.
But if that is Jamaica’s excuse for neglecting and marginalizing the great Jackie Opel, what can Barbados’ possibly be?
Clement Payne Movement of Barbados
Marvel and Walt Disney’s blockbuster “The Black Panther” has already raked in $922 million globally and is soon expected to blow past the billon mark. So far the film ranks as the ninth-biggest domestic moneymaker of all time.
With a dazzling, predominantly black cast; a compelling futuristic vision of a mythical African country untouched by colonial predation; a kickass regiment of bald female warriors; gorgeous men shrink-wrapped into panther suits; and a brilliant female scientist carrying the torch for the character Q of the James Bond series, there’s a lot to enjoy in Marvel’s high-adrenaline adventure. (The Black Panther character first appeared in Marvel Comics in July 1966.)
There’s a plot point, however, that is leaving some moviegoers a bit puzzled. In the film, agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) is a white CIA operative (spoiler!) whose selfless heroics help the Wakandans save their kingdom. However given the intelligence agency’s checkered history, especially in Africa, the CIA’s star billing and heroic turn in a celebration of black empowerment feels a touch off-key.
The CIA’s star billing and heroic turn in a celebration of black empowerment feels a touch off-key.
The character of Ross debuted in a 1998 Black Panther comic as a bumbling State Department attorney. Christopher Priest, one of the comic’s most influential writers,has stated that Ross, based on the Chandler Bing character from the TV program “Friends,” was enlisted to help bring in white audiences — the primary readers of Marvel comics. Not until the character made the leap to film in “Captain America, Civil War” (2016), was Ross reinvented as a skillful CIA operative.
The agency, as Tricia Jenkins explains in her 2016 book “The CIA in Hollywood,” has a long history of partnering with Tinsel Town, dating back to the 1950s. During the Cold War, movies helped win over foreign audiences, shape U.S. foreign policy and promote a rosy view of American life. The agency would often push for script adjustments, to make the United States look less racially divided.
Before the 1990s, CIA agents in film and on TV were either bad guys (“Three Days of the Condor”) or comical screw-ups (“Get Smart”). That was partly the result of stunning revelations from the Church Committee, a 1975-6 Senate panel chaired by Idaho Sen. Frank Church that investigated abuses by U.S. intelligence agencies. The committee revealed that, among other things, the CIA and FBI had been spying on and harassing American civil rights leaders and anti-war protesters. In response, some Democrats, like Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, went so far as to call for the abolition of the CIA. Congress demanded greater transparency and oversight of its spying operations.
By the end of the Cold War, the agency needed an image makeover. So it hired Chase Brandon, a veteran secret operative, to help it get cozy with filmmakers, actors and producers. CIA agents in the movies soon became heroes working for a highly moral organization desperately needed in the world.
The 1990s saw the birth of the Tom Clancy film franchise, with Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck portraying intrepid CIA agent Jack Ryan. Since 9/11, the CIA has worked directly on programs like “24” and “Homeland.” Jennifer Garner, who played agent Sydney Bristow in the TV show “Alias,” even did a CIA recruitment commercial. The moviemakers behind “Zero Dark Thirty,” a film about hunting down Osama bin Laden, worked closely with the agency.
Indeed since 9/11, as author Nicholas Schou laid out in his article, “How the CIA Hoodwinked Hollywood,” the agency has been working overtime with moviemakers to bolster its image. Langley regularly grants special access and favors to movie people at its headquarters — access often denied to journalists.
So while it’s not so surprising that a CIA agent is a hero on the screen, what does it mean in this particular movie?
“The Black Panther” tells the tale of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the new king of Wakanda, an independent country that possesses the most potent mineral on Earth. T’Challa is confronted by Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordon), a black revolutionary whose violent creed puts not only Wakanda, but the whole world at risk. T’Challa and his people must team up with Agent Ross to save the day.
Since 9/11, the agency has been working overtime with moviemakers to bolster its image. Langley regularly grants special access and favors to movie people at its headquarters.
The CIA’s long history of involvement in the affairs of African nations presents a contrasting backdrop, however. Take what happened in the Congo in the early 1960s, when independence was stirring on the African continent, a region long battered and looted by colonialists and profiteers.
Patrice Lumumba, a young intellectual and Pan-African nationalist, was elected the first prime minister of the independent Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1960. He was determined to make the mineral-rich country an African success. But Lumumba got on the wrong side of Washington by being friendlier to the Soviets than was thought acceptable to U.S. interests. Declassified documents reveal that the CIA engaged in covert actions in the country, including plans to replace Lumumba with a more pro-Western leader. The agency even allegedly cooked up a scheme to poison his toothpaste. Then in 1961, Lumumba was captured by a secessionist group and brutally murdered.
In 2002, the former colonial power Belgium admitted involvement in the killing. But there has never been a full explanation of the U.S. role.
The CIA is also widely believed to have meddled heavily in the governments of Chad and Angola. The 1962 arrest of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela was claimed by ex-CIA agent Donald Rickard to have come as a result of a CIA tip-off. At the time, Mandela was considered a communist enemy of the U.S. and a dangerous revolutionary. He spent 27 years behind bars before his release and election as South Africa’s first black president.
Writing for “Esquire,” Steven Thrasher asks, “Does the film ask its audience to root for the wrong character?”
Not surprisingly, the fact that a black revolutionary leader in “The Black Panther” is the bad guy, while the CIA agent is a good guy, rubs some black audiences the wrong way. Writing for “Esquire,” Steven Thrasher asks, “Does the film ask its audience to root for the wrong character?”
“Killmonger wants to use Wakanda’s weapons to stop the suffering of black people globally, and we, the audience, are manipulated into rooting against this because we live in an ideology in which nonviolence is always expected of black people no matter what,” Thrasher writes. “I could not bring myself to root against Killmonger’s desire to help the black diaspora any more than I could begrudge him wanting to take the throne of… the child of the man who’d killed his father.”
Thrasher also quotes author James Baldwin, who believed white people wanted to think of black people as nonviolent because “white men do not want their lives, their self-image, or their property threatened.”
It should be noted that the CIA tried to influence the writing of many authors and artists, including Baldwin, through the Congress for Cultural Freedom. This organization, founded by intellectuals in 1950, was later revealed to be secretly sponsored by the agency.
If there’s a new stage in the rapprochement between Hollywood, American liberals, and the national security state, Agent Ross’s leap from an inept comic book character to an adroit film persona may capture it.
Thrasher is critical of how Killmonger is morally contrasted with Ross aka “your friendly neighborhood CIA agent,” noting that the agent prevents “Killmonger’s crew from exporting weapons from Wakanda to help black people.” Ross, Thrasher argues, is therefore used tovalidate and excuse U.S. imperialism, “granting cover to how the CIA (in our Wakanda-less world) has been arming African countries and playing them against each other for decades.”
There’s also a Twitter hashtag, #TeamKillmonger, that expresses the views of filmgoers like Thrasher, who are more sympathetic to the anti-hero than the dull-by-comparison heir to Wakanda.
The movie also seems to track with a political realignment in regards to U.S. intelligence. Since the Ronald Reagan era, Republicans have typically viewed the CIA as the movie treats agent Ross: the ultimate good guy. By contrast, many Democrats have often been far more skeptical.
In the Trump era, however, these positions have been essentially reversed. Conflicts between the president and the national security apparatus appear to have encouraged many Democrats’ friendlier stance toward to the agency.
If there’s a new stage in the rapprochement between Hollywood, American liberals, and the national security state, Agent Ross’s leap from an inept comic book character to an adroit film persona may capture it. “The Black Panther” takes moviegoers for a ride — but perhaps not quite as liberating as it promises.
Lynn Stuart Parramore is a cultural theorist who studies the intersection between culture and economics. Her work has appeared at Reuters, Quartz, Lapham’s Quarterly, Salon, VICE, Huffington Post and others.