|Author: Delano Franklyn is an attorney-at-law and former chairman of the Michael Manley Foundation..|
Holness having to backtrack on his earlier comments about Manley’s ‘misadventures’ reflects the level of pushback he got when, without reason or cause, he attempted to blame Michael Manley for the current ills of the society.
Holness’ utterances led to the article entitled ‘Andrew Holness, leave Michael Manley alone’, which appeared in last Sunday’s Gleaner. It generated a flood of comments from readers.
The responses were largely positive and came from people of all ages living inside and outside of Jamaica. Of the large number of emails and calls received, three stood out.
First, an email from a young lady in her mid-20s who is a graduate of one of the rural-based community colleges developed by the Manley regime of the 1970s. She confessed that although she knew, because the college so indicated, when the institution started, she had no idea, until now, that it had anything to do with the vision of Michael Manley.
The second was an email from a Kingston-based male teacher who is in his 40s. He has been representing his colleague teachers on the school board of a very prominent high school for over five years. He explained that he was not an overt fan of Manley but that he had ‘no clue’ that his right to sit on a school board had to do with Michael Manley’s efforts to democratise school boards in the ’70s.
The third was an email from a lady in her late 50s who said that she was able to start the process of acquiring her first house in her early 20s as a result of a mortgage she obtained from the National Housing Trust. Why, she asked, do the persons who know the good deeds about Manley remain so silent, resulting in, if we are not careful, Manley’s efforts being distorted by others?
Manley on the global stage
There were quite a number of responses that raised or enquired about Manley’s activism on the world stage.
Manley was clear in his mind that the social and economic reforms that he sought in Jamaica could not be achieved if similar attempts were not made internationally.
The JLP’s foreign policy, as enunciated by its founder, Sir Alexander Bustamante, was very simple, ‘We are with the West’, which in effect meant we are with the USA.
When Manley became prime minister in 1972, he recognised the importance of maintaining good relations with the USA but broadened the scope to mean ‘we should be with the world, including the USA’.
Manley was also of the view that Jamaica’s interest would best be served if Jamaica developed and solidified relations with countries experiencing similar developmental challenges. Hence, his thrust to bring countries from the south together to negotiate with the countries of the north, commonly referred to as North-South Dialogue.
This influenced his attempts to create a New International Economic Order (NIEO). His call for an NIEO came about as a result of his deep concern that the terms and conditions of trade between countries, such as Jamaica and the developed world, were disadvantageous to Third-World countries. This imbalance had to be corrected if countries like Jamaica were to successfully benefit from and participate in world trade.
In his quest, Manley sought allies. Two of the more meaningful ones were the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) and the People’s Republic of China. He was chastised by most countries of the West, including the USA, for having close ties with both countries.
While the USSR was later dismantled into different states, Jamaica, to this day, enjoys a very meaningful and productive relationship with ‘communist’ China. Prime Minister Holness’ running around to open different roads is as a result of Manley’s vision to forge relations with China.
Apart from the NIEO, Manley’s efforts also led to, in 1973, the conversion of CARIFTA to CARICOM, thus enabling the strengthening of Caribbean integration. In the effort to influence a change in the global economic architecture at the time, Jamaica could not do it alone. It required the collective effort of all Caribbean territories. Other giants in the sphere of Caribbean leadership such as Forbes Burnham and Cheddi Jagan of Guyana, Eric Williams of Trinidad and Tobago, and Errol Barrow of Barbados were all on board.
From very early in his administration, Manley recognised the importance of Cuba as a sovereign independent state, and in 1974, Jamaica, along with Guyana, Barbados, and Trinidad, established diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Manley sought increased working relations with countries of Central and South America. This increased relation resulted in, among other things, Jamaica benefiting from an ‘oil deal’ with Venezuela. The San José Accord later morphed into the Petrocaribe Energy Accord, allowing Jamaica to cushion the blow of one oil crisis after another.
Manley also recognised the importance of forging very strong relations with Africa, in particular, African countries fighting for their independence. It was this that led to Jamaica’s support for the national liberation struggles in Southern Africa.
Manley’s voice became of significant value in the liberation and independence of Mozambique, Angola, and South Africa.
Nelson Mandela never forgot the role Manley played against the apartheid regime of South Africa. Upon becoming president, Mandela visited Jamaica in 1991 and showed his respect to Manley for his and Jamaica’s role in the liberation of South Africa.
During all this time, Manley constantly sought to explain what he was about in frank and open discussions with the USA and Jamaica’s European partners. This was reinforced by the leadership he gave to the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries in negotiations with the Europeans.
Challenges faced by Manley
Manley’s increased working relationship with Cuba, his assistance to the liberation struggles in Southern Africa, and his desire for an NIEO, did not find favour with countries of the West, in particular the USA.
Manley himself related the story of a 1975 request by then US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Mr Kissinger asked that Jamaica oppose, or at least remain neutral on Cuba’s intervention in Angola to help defeat the racist-invading South African troops.
At that time, Jamaica was in the process of seeking a US$100 million line of credit from the USA. Manley, being satisfied that the Cubans were in Angola because of the invasion by the South African army, ignored the US request and supported Cuba.
According to Manley, he never heard another word about the $US100 million line of credit.
Another example of the tension that grew between Manley’s struggle for an NIEO and the countries of the West, was Jamaica having to enter a borrowing relationship with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), one of the international financial institutions Manley was trying to have reformed.
The main players in the IMF were not amused. They tightened the domestic screws against Manley. The IMF demanded harsh adjustment programmes, resulting in Jamaica descending into an economic tailspin.
Yet another example of Manley’s challenges was his imposition of a bauxite levy on the bauxite companies in Jamaica. US interests openly stated their opposition to the bauxite levy.
What, however, drew the sharpest criticisms from local and international forces who were in opposition to Manley’s efforts to reform the Jamaican and world economy was his declaration of democratic socialism in 1974.
Manley had become such a colossal on the international political stage, and had gained such popularity in Jamaica, that it took the combined efforts of local opposition forces working in tandem with international opposition forces to bring about his electoral defeat in 1980.
He readjusted his policies, thereafter, and was returned as prime minster in 1989. Arguably, apart from Fidel Castro, Michael Manley has become the most well-known voice from the region that gave voice to the voiceless on the international stage. For that, among other things, he has gained the respect of many, including, as is now declared, and if it is to be believed, that of Prime Minister Andrew Michael Holness.