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Book Review

Jamaica: Struggle in the Periphery
by Michael Manley.
London: Third World Media Limited
(In association with Writers and Readers
Publishing Cooperative Society Limited
1982, paperback, 259 pages, GBP 3.95.

Reviewed by Suzanne Soracco

Michael Manley's latest book is an attempt by the former Prime Minister of Jamaica to come to terms with the factors which led to his electoral defeat in the 1980 Jamaican elections. It is a detailed account of the policies of Manley's Peoples National Party (PNP) government and the reactions those policies provoked both locally and internationally. If it is not the definitive historical analysis of the period, it is a courageous and lucid first-person account. And while the book offers a very specific discussion of the particular problems faced by Jamaica during the seventies, it parallels other experiences in the Third World.

Manley's first term began auspiciously. Jamaica was still enjoying the relative prosperity of the sixties, and Manley - son of PNP founder Norman W. Manley but enormously popular in his own right - swept into office on a wave of public enthusiasm. His populist appeal was both a strength and a weakness for the PNP. This became increasingly evident as the Manley government came to grips with the harsh realities of the seventies.

Although the PNP had historically identified itself as a socialist party, it had no coherent socialist program in 1972. But the government's attempts to deal with worsening economic conditions, accelerated by the OPEC oil price increases of 1973, led to a proclamation of "democratic socialism" in 1974. But while the slogan "Socialism is Love" was intended to be soothing, its vagueness had a disquieting effect on many middle class Jamaicans.

More disquieting was the U.S. reaction to the bauxite production levy imposed by the Manley government in 1974. Manley discusses this not in terms of the technicalities of the levy or the aluminum companies' retaliatory cutbacks in production, but rather in the context of his confrontation with Henry Kissinger. From that time onward, Jamaica commanded what would seem to be a disproportionate share of U.S. attention.

From that time also, the Jamaican government played an increasingly prominent role in the Third World. Although the intention was to join with other developing nations to break the chains of economic dependence - to move out of the post-colonial periphery and establish a new balance of power in the world - the process was crudely distorted in the American press in terms of East/West power struggles. Manley's Jamaica, like Grenada today, was portrayed as a willing pawn of Cuban and Soviet hegemony in this hemisphere.

Manley presents a case that his government was the target of a destabilization campaign by the CIA abetted by local conservative forces and similar to the campaign which resulted in the fall of the Allende government in Chile in 1973.

A campaign of terror was certainly mounted within Jamaica during the election year of 1976. Random acts of violence, not always with clear political motivations, became common. The government declared a State of Emergency which contained - but could not end - the violence. Meanwhile the opposition Jamaica Labour party led by Edward Seaga and The Gleaner, the country's major newspaper, conducted a propaganda campaign claiming that Manley was leading the country into communism.

Manley points out that some of the rhetoric employed by some of the younger "leftist" members of the PNP in this increasingly surreal atmosphere "lent color to the propaganda which the opposition was working assiduously to establish in the country." A sizeable portion of the middle class, fearing for their way of life as much as for their lives, fled to Miami.

Yet, in spite of the deepening economic crisis and the well-orchestrated antigovernment campaign, Manley's government was returned to office in December 1976 by a 57% majority, the largest in Jamaica's history. The victory was by no means the end of trouble, though, and the next four years were devoted more and more to crisis intervention.

In 1977 the Manley government reluctantly negotiated its first standby agreement with the International Monetary Fund. While the agreement was being negotiated, the PNP sought to develop an alternative path, seeking loans from a variety of sources and preparing an economic plan that concentrated on increased domestic production.

But the alternative path was doomed from the beginning. The attempt at national economic mobilization came too late, and the time had not yet come for the nations of the world to seriously address the imbalances within the IMF system and discuss alternative economic support structures - as they are today. Nevertheless, Jamaica was the first country which did not meekly accept the domestic hardships imposed by the IMF's monetarists policies.

"As I look back," writes Manley, "I doubt if we ever really recovered from the 1978 (IMF) package." By 1979, delegates to the PNP's annual Conference overwhelmingly urged a rejection of the IMF program, leading to the decision in March 1980 to break with the IMF. Once again, the Manley government could not muster enough international support to see it through the crisis.

The election year of 1980 was a repeat of 1976: only this time, more than 750 people lost their lives in what Manley euphemistically describes as "political violence." (It was nothing short of fratricidal war, externally manipulated. Wartime conditions prevailed: a climate of terror descended on the country, basic foodstuffs were unavailable, and the number of tourists and business visitors dwindled to zero.) Still a substantial percentage of the people supported their government.

But in the end, exhaustion and fear won the day - and Manley lost the election.

Despite Manley's loss his government created and preserved significant social programs - including literacy training, youth employment, and health care. The PNP enacted legislation creating a minimum wage and maternity leave rights for women workers; and it participated fully in regional integration programs, such as the aluminum-producing arrangement with Venezuela and Mexico Ahich came into operation in the months following the end of Manley's government.

Manley's father used to say that Jamaica must develop its own socialism, that it could not adopt a British or Soviet or any other model. In this book, Manley articulates his underlying philosophy, and describes the process of creating and defining that Jamaican socialism - a process that still continues.

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