This book had its first publication in 1972 and since then remains perhaps the most thought provoking study so far published on the ending of the British constitutional presence and the growth of party politics in post-war Jamaica. Impressive documentation is assembled from a variety of sources including government papers, newspaper material, parliamentary debates and interviews with leading politicians and officials of state. from this data the work sustains a number of challenging propositions. For example it suggests that a central basis of the Jamaican two party system is a debilitating division of the working classes; that the delay of Jamaican independence was due in part to negligence on the part of the leading politicians. In addition, the study attempts documentation of a number of controversial findings – the domination of the JLP and the PNP by the brown middle classes; the encouragement given by imperialism at the outset of the cold war to the fight by local capitalist interests to crush the socialist wing of the nationalist party; the near-conspiratorial circumstances surrounding the drafting of the Jamaica independence constitution; the resurgence of class-colour antagonism to revolutionary proportions in the post-independence period.
These interpretations are combined with critical comment on the applicability to Jamaica and similar societies of some of the more established academic concepts in the literature of political-institutional studies – the notions of ‘charisma’, ‘mass party’, ‘autochthony’ to name a few.
The overall argument suggests that Jamaica’s apparent stability has rested on the efficiency of elite controls, rather than the extent of mass support for the political system. In particular, the underlying unity of its political class and its close linkages with the dominant economic groups have so far overcome the relative organizational and ideological weakness of the mass movement.
The superficiality of the socio-economic changes accompanying post-war politics from the majority’s point of view renders Jamaica in the eyes of the study an apt illustration of what Frantz Fanon has called ‘false decolonization’. It is this reality which, the book suggests, both provides a basis for the growth of revolutionary activity and makes the connection between the Jamaican situation and many of the recent developments in other ‘third world’ countries.
This book is required reading for students – academic and non-academic – with an interest in the politics of decolonizing societies generally and the peculiarly noteworthy Jamaican case. It is a significant contribution to studies of new states and as such to understanding one of the main political developments of the contemporary epoch.