Taken From Democacy and Clientelism in
The politicalized section of the middle class and
lower-middle-class intelligentsia claimed the right to challenge the
planter-merchant elite for political ascendency. The
working class claimed the right to bargain for national benefits and to put
their collective strength of numbers and organization in competitive
contention with the power of the capitalists to improve working conditions and
the rewards of labor. The universal adult suffrage idea, introduced in 1944,
(and promoted by the liberal colonial officialdom in
Between this early period and independence, the class structure witnessed important changes in the drift towards a more competitive class system. These changes included the following main trends in class composition and class relations:
• Enlargement of the capitalist class to include a wider grouping of light-skinned ethnic minorities (Afro-European, Chinese, Lebanese, etc.) offering competition to the white planters. This created a multi-racial coalition of minority ethnics bonded by an interest of common ownership of capital.
• Intraclass competition among the capitalists leading to the ascendency of the newly emergent merchant-manufacturing sector over the planters. This process
set the stage for the beginning of a modern capitalist class.
• The development of an affluent and multi-racial upper middle class of professionals and managers sharing the power of the capitalists.
• The growth of a highly unionized urban working class with strong bargaining power within the expanding modern sector. The emergence of an expanded lower-middle class within the wage workers enjoying social respectability and aspiring for entry into the upper-middle class.
• The increase in inequality in levels of living between the most affluent and most impoverished classes as the economy diversified and the modern sector
expanded due mainly to foreign investment.
• The growth of counter ideological social belief systems emphasizing black consciousness, racial pride and African identities among the more militant and alienated within the poorer classes.
• The decline in cultural differences between the main classes and the weakening of the racial factor in the reward system as education became more important as
a means of upward social mobility.
• The development of party politics as a middle-class power base. Increased upward mobility between the lower and middle levels of the stratification system.
In many respects these changes
were as profound in effect as the labor and peasant disturbances of the late
1930s which have been so misunderstood and misrepresented by most accounts of the
period. To begin with, these disturbances by the comparative standards of
The ethnically biased reward system and rigid paternalist class structure with its residue of the slave plantation history was never fully accepted by the poorer classes. There was always at the lower reaches of the class structure a subculture of resistance and alienation among the poor that regarded the system as basically unjust. What changed in the 1930s due partly to the impact of returning migrants from overseas, middle-class political agitation for democratic political changes and the racial message of the Garvey movement was the emergence of leadership willing to challenge the old order. This was aided by an increasingly apparent weakening of the power structure due to economic failures and a growing sense of power on the part of the alienated minorities among the poor. The most significant thing about the disturbances of the 1930s is that they combined the feature of a general strike with a coalescing of militant forces between wage labor, the poor peasantry, and the parasitic sector of the hard-core unemployed.
class systems develop a subculture of alienation which questions the reward
system and the power structure but is usually contained by the dominant
ideological belief systems that reinforce the hierarchy of class power and
rewards. Such subcultures of alienation represent the other side of the
dialectical duality of class relations. When the power structure is in
disequilibrium, the minority subculture of alienation may provide militant
support for reformist or radical revolutinary social
change movements. This alienation produces militancy and aggressive behavior
which should not be confused with ideological radicalism or acceptance of an antisystem ideology. Antisystem
ideologies are invariably the products of the alienated among the middle-class
intelligentsia or of “prophets” or “messianic~~ figures from lower-class,
millenarian movements. Both types of countersystemic
ideologies have emerged with full force in contemporary
Subcultures of class alienation can be mobilized by any social change movement which can inspire confidence in its ability to take hold of the power structure and change it, regardless of whether its ideology is left- or right-leaning. It is in that sense that subcultures of class alienation are ideological, blind or neutral. It is the character of the mobilizing forces leading the social change movement that determine ideological directions.
dominant postwar antisystem movement in
paradox of the evolving class structure of
Rapid economic growth in the 1950s and 1960s merely postponed and disguised the buildup of social tensions which exploded mainly in the direction of crimes’~ of violence in the 1960s and 1970s. Rapid and accelerated rural to urban migrationls, urban overcrowding and joblessness created urban ghetto communities. These ghetto communities became integrated into the two-party system through patronage politics but increasingly also provided community power bases for the lumpenproletanat through street gangs who lived by crime and violence. The ghetto areas became the focal points of political and class militancy. The lumpen gang leaders became an integral part of the urban power base of the two major parties and were soon able to bully their way into large patronage benefits, organized crime, illegal wealth and middle-class material affluence.
The P.N.P. in the l970s sought to harness the alienation of the urban
ghetto youth a vanguard force towards building a militant socialist, anticapitalist and class conscious base of support. The immediate power or tactical objective (as in the earlier 1938 period) was to manipulate and amplify mass alienation to establish control over state power. In this later period, the stakes were even higher as a P.N.P. radical petty bourgeois intelligentsia sought to displace and eliminate the class ascendency of the merchant-manufacturing capitalists and the opposition challenge posed by the J.L.P. This was attempted through state ownership of the means of production, and ideological and racial attacks on the ethnic minorities who were identified with the J.L.P. as having sold out to capitalist interests. The weak merchant-manufacturing class was easily put to flight but in the process they migrated in large numbers and highjacked the economy by the export of foreign currency, the decapitalization of production, the closure of several enterprises, and the creation of an embattled and militant mood of panic in the private sector that brought investment acitivity to a virtual standstill. The J.L.P., on the other hand, stood its ground and mounted ideological counterattacks. The near collapse of the economy (accelerated by these developments as well as by increased government deficit spending and waste on an unprecedented scale) forced the government to abandon its leftward drift and to seek aid from the I.M.F.16 This aid and the terms attached to it pushed the government’s fiscal and economic policies decidedly to the right of center.
Underlying these power contentions and ideological conflicts were some
continuing trends of change in the class structure in the following main
areas over the first and second decades after independence:
• Relations between the classes became more egalitarian as there was a decline in patterns of deference between the lower, middle, and upper strata.
• The cultural and institutional difference between the classes narrowed even further as wealth and income became more and more the dominant determinants of social status.
• Black racial consciousness advanced particularly in the middle strata, bringing with it very visible younger generation changes as regards racial attitudes and responsiveness to Rastafarianism and lower-class cultural trends in music, dress, and life styles.
• The economically dominant and privileged light-skinned ethnic minorities either migrated in fear of political upheavals or violence, or remained in a more low-key and defensive class posture, shedding some of the class arrogance inherited from the planter-merchants of the older class order.
• The lumpen strata became increasingly aggressive, independent, confident, and power conscious, often challenging the leadership dominance of the middle-class politicians at the local levels.
• The growth in the absolute and relative size of the parasitic sector which increasingly survived by crime and plunder against the wealth and income of the productive classes (both wage labor and entrepreneurs).
• Increasing social pressures and tensions built up against the multi-racial middle and lower-middle class by the dispossessed militant unemployed and lumpenproletariat in the parasitic sector.
• Generational antagonisms and ideological conflicts’7 at both middle- and working-class levels as militant and radical minority-class tendencies at both class levels among the younger generation departed from the more passive status quo and accommodating views and opinions of the older middle- and working-class generation.
• The challenging of the dominant ideological belief system legitimizing private wealth and capitalist accumulation by socialist and populist doctrines advocating equality of income and property, state and people ownership, and vilifying local private wealth as ill-gotten gains plundered from the working class.
• The further decline of the racial factor as part of the reward system in the power structure as patronage links, party connections, political influence, and education assumed greater importance.
• Increasing foreign ideological
influences by way of Cuban P.N. P. party links on the sub-culture of
alienation, giving birth to an emergent pattern of
• The aggressive and confident assertion of lower-class culture through popular music celebrating lower-class social struggles and articulating populist militancy.
Implicit in the foregoing analysis is a view that the Jamaican class hierarchy consists of three main status groups as set out below and seven main class groupings. These groupings derive from the earlier analysis of the sectors of the political economy. The hierarchy of class groupings is as follows:
STATUS GROUPINGS CLASSES
1. Capitalists (0.5 %)
(Owners and managers of large and medium scale privately owned enterprises and farms who employ wage labor regularly and in significant quantities)
UPPER MIDDLE CLASS 2 Administrative
(Public sector top bureaucrats and technocrats, independent service professions, politicians,
clergymen etc., who administer and control the key public institutions and public services)
2. LOWER MIDDLE CLASS 3.
Independent property owners
or middle-level capitalists (5%)
(Shopkeepers, small businessmen,
middle farmers, and landlords who
live on rental that accrues from
4. Labor aristocracy (18 %)
(Professionals, technicians, white-collar workers, and high-wage and skilled workers)
3.LOWER CLASS 5.
Own-account workers or petty
(Small farmers, higglers, petty-
traders, small contractors, etc.)
6. Working class (23%)
(Low wage manual workers)
7. The long-term or indefinitely
The grouping of seven classes represents divergent sources of livelihood and income, levels of wealth, and relationship to the means of production. The three status aggregations of these classes represent the dimension of status rank which correlates with class in all class systems. Both class in the narrow economic sense and status have to be taken into account in examining the social forces influencing political behavior.
Most analyses of the Jamaican social structure of the period prior to independence centered around the dominance of European values and the white bias in the power structure.’8 These analyses have become rapidly dated and have lost contemporary relevance in the face of the growth of black racial consciousness among significant secti9ns of the lower and middle strata, the aggressive assertion of lower-class culture through popular music and the growing acceptance and populartity of Rastafarianism as it penetrates all levels of the ethno-class’9 structure.
The strength of MG. Smith’s20 work on cultural pluralism lies in his singular recognition of the intergroup power contentions of the society, the instability of the hierarchy of power and the continuing contentions for ascendency. While this culturalist theory mistook the symptoms of cultural differentiation between the main ethno-class groups for the underlying structure of class domination (to which the cultural paraphernalia were mere interclass barriers), Smith’s work more than any other analysis preindependence Jamaica captured the essence of the fluidity, instability and fragility of the Jamaican power structure.
The demonstrated error of this cultural approach is to be found in the fact that the cultural differences between the ethnic and class grouping have narrowed precisely at a point in time when interclass antagonisn cleavages and tensions have increased rather than declined.2’ Indeed, it precisely as these cultural gaps in language, dress, religion, music and entertainment, sports and media use become narrower that class competition and challenges increase. This is so because with this cultural levelling sections of the subordinate class aspire for higher levels of living, resent impoverishment, challenge the reward system as inequitable and demand greater equality in various social spheres. The narrowing of these cultural gaps has been part of the transition from a paternalistic to a more competitive class system,22 homogenized by attendant and inevitable conflicts and cleavages.
Color and racial differences remain as a residue of the “plantation” slave history of the society. This is in spite of the fact that black and dark skinned persons now make up a majority of the professional sector oft upper middle class, a growing proportion of the private sector top management, and a majority among white-collar workers and the state sectors administrative elite. The blackening of the upper reaches of the status hierarchy has been accelerated by massive emigration by light-skinned eth minorities of whites, Jews, the light-colored, Chinese, and Lebanese in 1970s.
In spite of these changes, race remains correlated with class since t overwhelming majority of the ethnic minorities own property or located in the upper reaches of the class and status hierarchies. This does not diminish by one iota the fact that the social structure is based on a class system of stratification in which race has been assuming a diminishing r as a part of the reward system.
The grouping of individuals into the class categories outlined earl does not imply that the respective classes are internally homogenous. This raises the complex issue of how different are these classes and what are main factors responsible. The mere fact of this classification does not deny the existence of some interclass similarities and common tendencies wit the broader tripartite status categories and between them as well. The precise nature of these differences and similarities and their implications political attitudes and behavior will be explored in the chapters that follow.
Class consciousness and awareness are unevenly developed within any single class. Additionally, sections of any class are subject to divergent and contrary agencies of political socialization24 in home, community, regional, workplace, and other environments of influence. Most importantly, all social classes reflect in any society dual or multiple political and social tendencies.25 Precise class analysis as distinct from abstract theorizing involves determining empirically what are these tendencies, locating the dominant ones, and linking them to patterns of political behavior and opinions.
The clear implication is
that class coalitions or what I have referred to in an earlier work as multiclass coalitions26 in Jamaican politics
involve cross-class alignments between factions of different classes with
identifiable tendencies. These class tendencies account for the allegiance to
particular party or class coalitions. As in the case of class tendencies, the multiclass coalitions also reflect dominant and subordinate
coalition tendencies based on a number of factors. The class coalitions in a
stable two-party system such as
It is evident from the
foregoing analysis that conflicts between the classes in
While these class challenges have focused essentially on the symbolism, social ideology, and belief systems underpinning the hierarchy of paternalist ethno-class dominance, other areas of class challenges have focused on power contentions and material distribution. These include power struggles between the left intelligentsia in the P.N.P. and the capitalist class in the l970s.
Also included are conflicts between the lumpenproletariat and the established power domains of the elites in the public and private sectors, and the contentions between labor and capital in both the public and private sectors.
Class contentions are essentially three-dimensional as class power rests on ownership or control of wealth, ideological or symbolic reinforcement for that hierarchy of controls and the actual distribution of material rewards in the political community that maintains the hierarchy and the ideological belief systems. The most advanced and antagonistic conflicts involve all three dimensions, while lesser conflicts are confined mainly to one dimension. Advanced power contentions between classes always involve all three dimensions. Where the major classes are all involved in such advanced power contentions the result is either revolutionary change or counterrevolution in the long run, or anarchy in the short run. Lesser conflicts may create instability if prolonged but are not likely to escalate into creating the preconditions for revolutionary or counterrevolutionary changes.
Where fragmentation of conflicts occur in the sense that the respective conflicts involve different classes, such conflicts are manageable. When, however, all classes in a political community are involved in the same dimensions and areas of conflicts, the contentions are less manageable and system change is likely to occur even if it is not as far-reaching as revolutionary changes.
The major areas of class
The only potentially revolutionary conflict is the conflict between the left intelligentsia supported by a section of the P.N.P. mass base and the capitalists as it embraces all three class domains of conflict and has the potential to embrace or coalesce with the other areas of conflict. The fact that the capitalist class is a common enemy in all these contentions further reinforces the revolutionary potential of that conflict. The major limiting factor has been the failure to harness the majority class tendencies in either wage labor or the peasantry in that ideological and power struggle.