JAMAICA: Struggle in the Periphery by Michael Manley

JAMAICA: Struggle in the Periphery

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As socialist prime minister of Jamaica from 1972 to 1980, Manley was a new Third World hope: son and political heir of a National Hero; a charismatic personality committed to discovering for Jamaica an alternative to either Puerto Rican-style economic development or Cuban-type social revolution. This ""Third Path"" would be independent, egalitarian, and root-and-branch democratic. But by 1980, as Manley notes, Jamaica was ""on the verge of civil war,"" and his People's National Party was overwhelmingly defeated at the polls. Assessing what-went-wrong, Manley is an articulate spokesman for the domestic and international policies he followed (if less than fully informative as regards their application) and very much a self-identified ""progressive""--among which he counts both the social democratic parties and regimes of Northern Europe (i.e., the Norwegians, the Dutch) and the Marxist/Leninist states (Algeria, Cuba, etc.). His major charge, then--that the US (through the CIA) ""destabilized"" Jamaica, as it did Allende's Chile--should not be overstressed, though he appends a chronology of events in evidence (and time may, as with Chile, prove him right). The book is at once more subtle and more obtuse than that. Thus Manley effectively defends the PNP decision to openly (and riskily) go socialist--in order to mobilize Jamaica ""behind national objectives""--while failing to acknowledge the panic-potential, domestically and abroad, of his fulsome praise of Castro. (He insists, however, that Cuba didn't send troops to Angola until after South African intervention.) Manley's government also achieved worldwide notoriety--and perhaps assured its downfall--by breaking with the International Monetary Fund. He is very firm here on the unsuitability of IMF ""demand management"" (devaluation, to increase foreign competitiveness; belt-tightening, to reduce domestic demand) to developing economies with little productive capacity. What he doesn't say is that the IMF subsequently took heed. All this does matter: Manley's conservative successor, Edward Seaga, was Reagan's first foreign guest, and the money-flow resumed immediately. And Manley himself is a more sophisticated, less plodding Third World ideologue than Tanzania's redoubtable Julius Nyere.

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 1983
Publisher: Writers & Readers--dist. by Norton