CLR James 1958

Lecture on Federation

(West Indies and British Guiana)

Source: Lecture on Federation, (West Indies and British Guiana)
Delivered: June 1958 at Queen’s College
Printed:at the “Argosy” Co., Ltd., Bel Air Park, East Coast, Demarara [Guyana]
by C.L.R. James 25 pp.;
Transcribed & marked up: by Damon Maxwell for the Marxist Internet Archive.


Introducing this lecture in printed form to the West Indian public and particularly to my fellow Guianese is an unusual honour.

Mr. C.L.R. James is undoubtedly one of the distinguished West Indians of our time. His patriotism is beyond question and with another West Indian, George Padmore, now Adviser on African affairs to the Prime Minister of Ghana, he has had a profound influence on the movement for colonial freedom throughout the British Empire, if not the world.

Mr. James, who is now secretary to the West Indian Federal Labour Party, has distinguished himself in the fields of Literature, History and Political Theory and brings to his new field of activities in his native West Indies a maturity and experience which may be equalled but hardly surpassed.

A special invitee to the opening of the first Federal Parliament in Trinidad last April, he took the opportunity of visiting British Guiana, and his public lectures on “Federation”, “Literature and the Common Man”, “Political Institutions in the advanced and underdeveloped countries and the relations between them” were a source of controversy and education for many Guianese. Many of the latter for the first time recognised the possibilities and scope of our national movement and its intimate relation to that in the Caribbean in particular and the colonial world in general.

When this lecture here embodied was delivered at Queen’s College, Federation had just been born. It has grown stronger since that time and promises to give political form to West Indian aspirations and nationhood.

You may not agree with every conclusion of the lecturer, but his main ones are incontrovertible. Reading this book I am sure will be a scintillating experience. I take pride in presenting it to you in the name of the People’s National Congress as some small evidence of our appreciation of its author’s worth and our undying loyalty to the cause of West Indian Independence.

Political Leader,
People’s National Congress.
March 1959.

Mr. Chairman and Friends,

I must begin by noting one or two criticisms that have been made not only about Federation but about my presence in British Guiana. It has been said that I, a stranger, have no right to come here to discuss with the people of British Guiana the question of Federation. I am not in the least offended by the remark. My welcome in many quarters has been very warm, even enthusiastic, and I think I detect in the critic’s remarks not so much an objection to my presence here, as a means of indicating in a disguised manner his opposition to Federation.

It shows the strength of the case for Federation that those who are opposed to it distract themselves, to find ways and means by which they can indicate their opposition without coming out openly and saying so. After all. Federation proposes unity, a unity between the British West Indies, which have federated themselves, and British Guiana. What conception does anyone have of Federation or of discussions about Federation when he objects to one member of the proposed unity discussing with other members. Where does he expect us to meet? On neutral ground? In the sea midway between British Guiana and Trinidad? Such criticism is absurd. I have noticed that Mr. Gajraj, who acted as observer for British Guiana on some of the discussions which took place between representatives of the various islands, has stated in the Legislative Council that although he was only an observer at these discussions he was given every opportunity to express his views and to register his opinions. I believe that is the only way in which the matter can be safely settled. I believe that Messrs. Burnham and Carter in inviting me here and Mr. Gajraj in taking the chair at the last meeting, acted in the true spirit of Federation itself, no matter what may be the legislative position at the present time. I do not think we should worry very much about that kind of criticism. That sort of attitude has never been present where I have lived in recent years, in London.

West Indians in England

As you know I was invited to attend the celebrations surrounding the inauguration of the Federal Parliament in Trinidad. This invitation came from the Governor-General of The West Indies. I cannot consider that the invitation was due to any personal merit of my own. I think it rather due to the fact that the Federal Government and the Governor-General recognised the pioneer work that has been done by West Indians in London at a time when to advocate self-government was almost equivalent to treason. But what is treason in one period is often respectable twenty years afterwards. I want here to associate with that work the name of an illustrious West Indian, George Padmore. I refer to this among other reasons because it has a bearing on what I have to say this evening. At that time most of us West Indians lived in London, which was for long one of the great centres of imperialism. But being one of the great centres of imperialism, it follows that now it is one of the great centres of the passing of colonialism. To London came and have come through the years a steady stream of colonials, newly emancipated, half-emancipated, demanding emancipation, about to be emancipated, all types. We the West Indians in London meet them, discuss with them, take part in their political meetings and demonstrations. They take part in ours. We thus get a total view of the whole movement which it is difficult to get elsewhere. We are also in the political centre of Britain. We are able to follow closely the actions (and reaction) of imperialism in its parliament and other state institutions, in its political parties, in its great organs of the Press and other means of communication. After a time we begin to understand better the attitudes of the British people themselves to imperialism and colonialism.

We are not very far from Paris, another great centre of imperialism. We have more or less constant communication with colonials of the French Empire.

Thus we are in a position to see the general trends of development, to mark the stages, to see each problem as part of a whole. This is the point of view that I shall be placing before you this evening. Doubtless you on the spot experience and see much that escapes us who live abroad. There will be a time for questions, when you will be able to raise some of these points and I shall deal with them to the extent that I am able. But I believe that what I shall have to say is for the reasons that I have given, valid and valuable.

A Low Level

Now in Europe and the United States we discussed Federation for years before World War n and I cannot remember a single occasion in which it ever crossed our minds or the issue was raised that British Guiana would not join the Federation. We always took that for granted. The Trade Commission in London includes British Guiana and British Honduras. The West Indian Students’ Union includes British Guiana and British Honduras. The West Indies cricket teams always include British Guiana. You were always one of us. But after the war, and especially during recent years, there began to be sounded a note which has grown in intensity. We heard that the East Indians in British Guiana were opposed to Federation and these were the reasons given. They had a numerical majority over the other races, they hoped to establish an Indian domination of the colony; Federation would bring thousands of Africans (or people of African descent) from the smaller islands to British Guiana, These knew how to work land and how to build up from small beginnings. They would place the Indians in British Guiana in an inferior position. Therefore the Indians were against Federation.

We heard also that the African population of British Guiana was now eager for Federation particularly for the reason that it would bring this reinforcement from the smaller islands, once more establish African numerical superiority, and so check the East Indians. Since I have come to the West Indies, and particularly since I have come to British Guiana, I have heard these arguments constantly repeated. That is to reduce the great issue of Federation to a very low level.

Worse still, in British Guiana racial rivalry and even racial tension have thrust themselves into the Federation discussion.

There is undoubtedly racial tension, racial rivalry in British Guiana (also in Trinidad). To what degree it has reached, what are the likely consequences, whether it will increase and go to extremes of one kind or another, that I do not know. I do not know British Guiana sufficiently to express an opinion which would be of value or carry any weight. But I believe I have something to say which would assist all parties to view the situation in a balanced perspective.

Two Stages of Nationalism

It has been observed that when a colonial country is approaching national independence, there are two distinct phases. First, all the progressive elements in the country begin by supporting the national independence movement. Then when this is well under way you have the second stage. Each section of the nationalist movement begins to interpret the coming freedom in terms of its own interests, its own perspectives, its own desires. Thus the accentuation of racial rivalry at this time is not peculiar to British Guiana or to Trinidad. It takes place everywhere during the period of intense political excitement due to the national awakening. This political excitement, however, carries with it certain dangers. It is those I wish to warn you against, and we have an example, of worldwide historical significance, in what has happened to the former British colony of India.

It is an established fact that before Indian independence in 1947, tens of millions of Hindu and Moslem workers and peasants lived side by side in peace without conflict. It is an equally established fact that since the independence great numbers of these continue to do so. Yet in the days before World War n there sprang up the movement for a Moslem state which finally succeeded and resulted in the formation of Pakistan. I do not wish to say that there were not honest and sincere elements in the movement. But in it there were three types against whom I want to warn you here in British Guiana—fanatical racialists, scheming and ambitious politicians, and businessmen anxious to corner for themselves a section of industrial and commercial possibilities. The movement succeeded. Pakistan was formed.

What is the result to-day after less than twelve years? The party which led the struggle for the national independence has never been able to get more than a few seats in the legislative assemblies. The people have no use for it.

More important. In East Bengal, Hindus and Moslems have decided that they do not any longer want communal elections, that is to say separate Hindu lists and Moslem lists. They now vote as one people.

Finally I am reliably informed that there are now elements in East Bengal who want to form a third state. East Bengal to join with West Bengal to form a Bengal state. But West Bengal is a part of India. In other words they are ready to throw aside the Hindu—Moslem differences which in a moment of exceptional political excitement prompted them to support the formation of a Moslem state. Many, however, believe that this talk of a third state is only a shame-faced way of admitting that they wish once more to be a part of India and regret that they allowed themselves to be rushed into the formation of a new state. And this before twelve years have passed. We have seen a similar move in Ghana by the Ashantis. Prime Minister Nkrumah was able to keep it in check. I suggest then that you see the undoubted racial tension in British Guiana as a part of the inevitable political upheavals always associated with a national struggle. It has to be watched, it may run to extremes, but all should be on guard against that trio I mentioned earlier – fanatical racialists, scheming and ambitious politicians and greedy businessmen. They can help to lead the people into courses which, a few years later, when the excitement has died down, the people can bitterly regret.

Defensive Arguments For Federation

Under this pressure many pro-Federationists have been driven into a defensive position. They feel, for example, compelled to advocate Federation on the ground that it will provide a market for the surplus rice of British Guiana. Now this question of the sale of rice, and the price that the West Indies will pay for British Guiana rice, is undoubtedly a very important one and may indeed play a great role between British Guiana and the Federation. But in my view it is wrong and very misleading to base the whole great issue of Federation on a market for rice. British Guiana has been selling rice to the West Indies for years without being federated. Again under pressure from the anti-Federationists, some Federationists proceed to argue that if the British Guiana plan of economic development is to succeed it will need a market larger than the half million local population. Federation offers a way out. They tie themselves into knots over freedom of movement of people from island to island. And finally, the greatest obstacle of all, the Great Barrier Reef — the fact that British Guiana had been offered only six seats in the Federal Parliament.

Now we absolutely have to get these problems in their proper perspective. All of them are matters of bargaining and negotiation. It is so in the West Indies and it is so in every country including the most advanced countries in the world to-day. Do not pay too much attention to the speeches of politicians before a conference or to their speeches when the conference is over. They utter beautiful sentiments (often with an eye to what The Opposition at home will say) and as soon as that is over and the doors are closed, they take off their jackets, roll up their sleeves and get down to business. Take Customs Union. One politician representing Jamaica (let us say) will declare that Jamaica is for complete Customs Union but owing to special circumstances Jamaica must exclude 35 per cent of its production from such a union. Another politician (say from Barbados) will say that this is absolutely impermissible, but he is ready to allow Jamaica 25 per cent. They argue for days. Then I can imagine Sir Grantley Adams in the chair (having kept quiet most of the time) proposing a compromise: “You say 35 per cent; you say 25 per cent; I propose 30 per cent.”— Jamaica representative says, “No,32 per cent.” Finally, they agree on 31 per cent for five years only— after that they will see.

That is the way it goes. Always. I want to emphasize that, because otherwise these problems are elevated into insuperable obstacles. In Europe they have been working for years on creating a common market (I shall refer to this later). The other day I was much amused to read that the agreements were in danger, over the question of what ? The nature of ham. Some claimed that ham was dairy produce, others claimed that it was manufactured goods— ham was something you had to make. Obviously, if ham was dairy produce, it came under one set of customs duties, taxes, etc.; if ham on the other hand was classified as manufactured goods it would come under another set of customs dues, etc. They argued, they quarrelled, they threatened, but they came to an agreement in the end.

It is the same among us. Take the question of freedom of movement of populations. To listen to some of the anti-Federationists you would believe .that half the people of the West Indies are sitting by the seashore with their bags packed, just waiting for the news that British Guiana has joined the Federation, to descend on it like a swarm of locusts. It is not so. (Some people in Trinidad have the same fears.) It is not so, it cannot be so. What has actually happened is this. Two years ago, representatives of the islands met to discuss this very question of freedom of movement between the islands. Trinidad allowed entry to some fifty types of persons who had formerly been excluded. But the important decision was that for five years each territory could make its own laws as to how many it would admit and under what conditions. After the five years were up, each territory would still have the right to make its own laws about admission of immigrants, only now these laws would have to be ratified by the Federal Parliament. That is the way all these problems can and will be settled.

No such problem can be a serious obstacle to Federation. The idea that all the islands would gang up together to force unreasonable and oppressive conditions on British Guiana is out of the question—for one thing it would be political stupidity.

I have dealt with these problems in order that they should be kept in perspective and not allowed to obscure the fundamental issues.

Federation in 1958

What are these fundamental issues ? Every generation has its own ideas of Federation, usually an idea that is related to the particular ideas of that particular day. I was reading recently in a lecture on Federation by Dr. Eric Williams that in 1876 a colonial official advocated Federation, among other grounds, because it would facilitate freedom of movement for lunatics, for lepers, for criminals and for policemen. What particular ideas of the day this particular kind of Federation was related to I do not know. It is interesting but not important.

Then there was Dr. Meikle. When I was a small boy living in Arima in Trinidad, before World War I, I knew Dr. Meikle, a tall, quiet man. He had very advanced ideas for his time, his book on Federation is a good book and holds a place in our history. But his conception of Federation cannot be ours.

My own conception of Federation before World War II is not the same that I have to-day. To-day, 1958, in the second half of the twentieth century, this is how I see Federation. Federation is the means and the only means whereby the West Indies and British Guiana can accomplish the transition from colonialism to national independence, can create the basis of a new nation; and by reorganising the economic system and the national life, give us our place in the modern community of nations.

The only conception of Federation which I think worthy of consideration, the only conception which I believe can make Federation a success in the age in which we live, is the conception that sees Federation as the West Indian method of taking part in that general reorganisation of industrial production, commercial relations and political systems which is the outstanding feature of our world. Federation for the West Indies is the means by which it will claim independence, modernize itself and although small in numbers, be able to take its place as one of the modern communities living a modern civilized existence. Without Federation, I do not think this can be done. It has to be done or the consequences for these islands would be dreadful. I see Federation therefore (and I am not alone) as the process by which the West Indies, in common with the rest of the world, seeks to leave one stage of its existence which has lasted for some 300 years, and move into a new sphere, with all the privileges, the responsibilities, the difficulties, and the opportunities which the transitional stage of existence offers to all who are able to take part in it.

That is what Federation means and it will mean that or it will mean nothing. This is my conception of West Indian Federation at this stage of History, and everything that I say will revolve around this. The times we live in are a time of transition, the world we live in, the world in which we have lived for three centuries as colonial possessions of imperialist powers, is falling apart. The chief imperialist powers, Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Holland and Belgium, are all states of Western Europe. The important thing, the thing that is new about them, the thing that concerns us is that they are no longer world powers. The world in which they ruled and shaped our destinies according to their will, imposed upon us their ideas of the economics and the politics that they thought suitable for us, that world is gone. We shall enter as a free people into a world that we never knew and which our masters never knew until recently. If they were merely losing their colonies and continuing as before that would be one thing not only for them but for us. What is happening is something entirely different, and, as I believe that most of the shortcomings in our thinking of our future spring from an inadequate grasp of this central fact, I shall spend some time on it.

Rise and Decline

The period in which our masters ruled as imperialist states has a definite beginning and, historically speaking, is not very long. It is only 300 years. It begins at the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth centuries. It began to come to an end with World War I.

I shall deal briefly with four aspects—their economic foundations, their political institutions, their foreign relations and their social thought. These more or less constitute the whole and I shall use that classification again when we come to the West Indies Federation.

The beginning of their history as imperialist states is marked by a new economic system — the system of wage-labour. Before that time workers were attached to the land or worked as artisans in the guilds. Wage-labour, workers divorced from the means of production and working only for wages, marked the beginning of an economic development such as the world had never seen before. This was capitalism. It nourished and was nourished by imperialism. What is the situation to-day?

The wage-labourers of the imperialist powers have organised themselves into massive trade unions. Labour Parties, Communist Parties. They have declared openly that they intend to transform the capitalist economy into a socialist economy. One result you can see in England. The Labour Party nationalises the steel industry. The Tory Party denationalises the steel industry. The Labour Party declares that when it comes into power it will renationalise the steel industry. That is not any form of economy — it is chaos. To-day the economies of these imperialist powers are not classic wage-labour; they are not socialism. They are bastard systems, neither one thing nor the other, in continuous crisis and disorder, not knowing which way they are going. The economic power which sustained the imperialist domination is gone.

Politically it is the same. These powers came into existence and were able to thrive on imperialist exploitation because they established the national, independent state. Previously they were ruled by royal families, dynasties with real power, who were tied up with one another in marriages, alliances, petty wars, etc. The famous Hundred Years War between England and France was little more than a series of raids by the British across the Channel seeking loot. For long periods the Pope exercised not only religious, but political domination over large areas of Europe. The national state put an end to that. Whoever might rule, the state was now independent, devoted exclusively to the national interest, independent of all other states.

Today that independence is gone. China and India which, fifteen years ago were a semi-colonial and a colonial state, to-day have more independence than Britain, France or any other of the imperialist states of Western Europe. You remember no doubt the brutality with which the Moscow regime under Mr. Krushchev crushed the uprising of the Hungarian workers in the Hungarian Revolution. But we should remember too that at about much the same time Sir Anthony Eden and the French Prime Minister thought that they could indulge in some old fashioned imperialism by staging a raid on Egypt. This did not suit the foreign policy of the United States. President Eisenhower told them to get out and to get out at once. And they got out fast enough. The European imperialist states, which formerly conducted their own affairs and the affairs of their vast empires, to-day as far as foreign policy is concerned, are no more than satellites of the United States.

War For The World

Closely connected with the independence of the state is the question of foreign relations. Some of your students will have read, and may still be reading in your history books, all sorts of fanciful reasons as to why this or that European war was fought. In nearly every case the reasons given are a lot of nonsense. I think it safe to say that ever since the religious wars of the middle of the seventeenth century, nearly every great war between the European powers has been fought over the colonial question. Either they were fighting to get colonial territory, or to prevent a rival getting colonial territory, or they were seeking to occupy strategic positions on the road to colonial territories. This is their history right up to the War of 1914 covering some 250 years. Their armies, their navies, their strategic conceptions, even their conceptions of themselves, were governed and shaped by these necessities of empire. To-day that is finished. The only war, the only serious war that we face is the war for world domination, not for colonial territory; and the powers of Western Europe are pawns of the United States in its conflict with Russia for world domination. These two are going to fight for domination of all the land, and all the seas, and of the air above, and now for outer space. They are trying to reach the moon and if they do get there they will fight as bitterly over moon domination as they are fighting over world domination. We can do very little about that. But wars for colonial territories are finished, and with that is finished the particular relation that existed between imperialist powers and colonies on a world scale.

And that I may say is the reason why the colonial countries (ourselves included) are gaining our freedom with such comparative ease. If these powers had the economic basis, the political independence and the world-wide domination which they exercised for so many centuries, you can be sure that they would not have tolerated these demands for independence and the attitude of the colonial peoples to-day.

The Totalitarian Challenge

There is another reason for the decline and decay of these powers as imperialist powers. The national unity is broken and they no’ longer have confidence in themselves. There are many millions of people in these European states who are hostile to imperialism and wish nothing better than to be rid of the burdens and the strains of colonialism.

And finally social thought. In the days of their power these European states undoubtedly laid the basis for and helped to develop democratic political institutions. By the end of the nineteenth century, democracy was at least an ideal, and on a world scale nations were judged by the extent to which they had achieved it or were in process of doing so. Not only in social thought but in art, literature and other important phases of civilization, the imperialist powers undoubtedly made some splendid achievements. But all that to-day is gone. Over the last forty years we have seen the rise of a new system, the system of totalitarianism. To-day almost a billion people are living under this new system. It is the sworn enemy of democracy. It has its adherents in the very heart of the democratic regime itself, as in France where there are 140 Communist Deputies in the French Parliament. For some time it seemed as if the Russian system did offer a way out of the present world crisis.

But over the last years there has been evidence that Russia is as much a prey to economic disorder, rebellion among its subjects and permanent political crisis as is the Western World. So that democracy is not only challenged, but is challenged by a new system which more and more shows that it too offers no way out. The result is a complete moral and political crisis in the imperialist powers. There is no perspective by which the individual can orient himself either to the state or to other individuals.

That is the condition of the imperialist powers to-day. The connection between them and their former colonies is being broken. But the connection is not one between states which have their former power and colonies which are newly independent. No. We are becoming free in a world of chaos and disorder. That imposes enormous difficulties upon us, and in order to understand ourselves and our relations with what are still the advanced countries of Western Europe, we have to get the new relation clear and bear it constantly in mind.

Federation as the Way Out

The first point is that these powers recognize what has happened to them. They know that they are in a different world. We too must recognize that we are in a new world. And the first thing that we must do is to see the method by which they are attempting to meet the challenge of the changed conditions. I can sum up their method in one word— Federation.

First, there was Benelux. This was the recognition by Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg that, small countries as they were, it was necessary for them to unite in order to meet the changed conditions. Benelux is the name given to their organisation for customs union and special arrangements in regard to market, movement of populations, etc.

Secondly, there is the arrangement among the iron and steel producers of Western Europe to unify their production on a continental scale. These iron and steel producers of Europe have fought each other bitterly for centuries. They are divided by all sorts of national prejudices and national peculiarities of production But they have systematically struggled for unity until they have arrived at some common ground. What is the word for that? The only word is—Federation. Still more important. The European countries as a whole have worked for years and now have established the basis of a European Common Market. They hope that it will be complete in twelve years. By that time they hope that production and distribution will be as free among the countries of Europe as it is among the different states of the United States of America. What is the only word for this? Federation.

I have been asked by certain anti-Federationists: if those people can unite economically without actually federating, why can t British Guiana do the same with the West Indies ? The answer will give them more than they bargained for. It is this: those countries cannot federate because of language differences, methods of production, of social organisation, and of government which have separated them from each other for centuries, including many bitter wars. It is a tragedy for them that their past history and their social and political organisations prevent them from uniting in a more complete Federation. Substantial numbers of them bitterly regret that these barriers exist. It is to our advantage, it is our good fortune that we have no such difficulties. There are many people in Europe who profoundly wish that it was as easy for Western Europe to federate as for example it is for the West Indies to federate with British Guiana.

Franco-African Federation

The changed conditions of the modern world have produced the most fantastic idea of a Federation that I have ever read or heard of anywhere. France has as you know many millions of colonial subjects in Africa. These people, like the rest of the colonial world, have already reached the stage where they are no longer prepared to accept colonial status. Yet some of them are not anxious to break what they consider the valuable connection with metropolitan France. France on the other hand has been thrown out of Indo-China, has been thrown out of Tunis, has been thrown out of Morocco, and will most certainly be thrown out of Algeria. Without African colonies, France faces the prospect of being an insignificant territory on the coast of Europe. Yet it is dear that freedom for the African colonies cannot be long delayed Out of this situation has arisen the proposal for a Franco-African Confederation in which Ivory Coast, Dahomey, Senegal, all the French African colonies will participate in a Federation with France on the basis of complete equality. Now African civilization, despite the fact that it has been so brutally maltreated by imperialism, still preserves great virtues of its own. But nevertheless the African civilization is profoundly different from the highly sophisticated civilization of metropolitan France. Yet the fact remains that there is this movement on each side to attempt to work out what would undoubtedly be the strangest Federation that history has ever known.

Reorganisation of Economies

The second method they are using is a desperate attempt to reorganise their economies. These formerly proud and powerful states are now continuously dependent upon all sorts of aid, economic, financial, military, from the United States. We want aid, yes. But without the United States they would have collapsed long ago. And also they seek to reconstruct the economy. Take Great Britain. The British realised that they were falling behind, had fallen behind. They therefore took a jump ahead. They saw atomic energy as the key to the industrial future, and they planned and have succeeded in being foremost in the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes.

I want to make one thing clear. European Common Market, Franco-African Federation, use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes as the salvation of the British economy, these conceptions and plans are challenged. I do not want to go into that at all except to say that those who challenge them do not challenge the principles of Federation and reorganisation of the economy: they say that these imperialist states cannot carry them out successfully. To discuss that would take us too far. It is enough that the principles themselves are challenged by nobody, are agreed upon by everybody. Does anybody seriously propose that British Guiana can reorganise its economy on its own, by going it alone? Isn’t it a commonplace that loans, plans and technical assistance are far easier to get and far easier to handle by larger, integrated territories than by small isolated ones ? Who denies it? Nobody. To do so would make him a laughing stock. It is expansion and development that raise the level and perspective of the whole society, not counting how many Africans and how many Indians. That way, all will be struggling at the same low level in a world that at every step would be leaving us further and further behind.

Discarding The Colonial Economy

It is not only the countries in Western Europe that are doing it. Mr. Nehru is establishing a steel industry in India at tremendous cost. The Germans are building a steel mill for India. The Russians are building another. The English are building one and I think the Americans one. Some people I know with knowledge and experience of steel have challenged the value of this enormous expenditure and the general dislocation of the economy which it will cost. And India undoubtedly has been in great trouble with its foreign exchange over the steel mills and similar expenditures. I have no doubt that the economists and the engineers have calculated the costs and advantages, that is, as far as they are able. But to-day there are no purely economic questions. Freedom from colonialism is not merely a legal independence, the right to run up a national flag and to compose and sing a national anthem. It is necessary also to break down the economic colonial systems under which the colonial areas have been compelled to live for centuries as hinterlands, sources of raw material, backyards to the industries of the advanced countries. Independence is independence, but when you continue to live in territories which still bear the shape of the old colonial territories, it is extremely difficult to free yourself from the colonial mentality. And most of the best colonial statesmen are determined to put an end to that. Despite the fact that they cannot hope in a decade or two to reach anywhere near to the level of the advanced countries, they are taking the necessary steps which will enable not only foreigners but their own populations to see that they have laid the basis of a balanced economy, and of an economy which is not a hinterland, a mere periphery, to the great centres of civilization. That is what the colonial areas are doing. That is what the West Indies will have to do. And I suggest that it can be done only by Federation and it is certain that British Guiana will be able to gain very, very few inches indeed if it attempts to do it by itself.

It is not only Mr. Nehru who is doing that. There is Colonel Nasser. The whole Middle East situation has been turned upside-down because of Colonel Nasser’s determination to put a dam in Egypt and to lay some visible, obvious symbol of the modernization of Egypt. These men have no illusions that they will modernise their country in one step. But they know they have to make some dramatic step in order for it to be understood that colonialism is left behind, not only in form, but in the economic and social conditions in which the people live.

The same motive animates Nkrumah who has stated that his greatest aim at the present time is to establish the Volta Dam. It is a huge project which will cause the transference of thousands of people, the destruction of ancient villages, the reorganisation of hundreds of square miles, in order to bring the modern world right into Ghana so that everyone will be able to see that the transition from colonialism, not only to freedom, but to modernization has been made.

I say that this is the task, that is what Federation means in the middle of the twentieth century, whatever it meant in 1912. That is why we believe that British Guiana should come in with the other islands for their own benefit and also for the benefit of British Guiana. I have heard a few arguments which seem to believe that there was an attempt to lure British Guiana into the Federation for some purposes unknown. It is nothing of the kind. Now it is true that the West Indian Federation is not a very exciting Federation, nor did it come into the world with vigorous screams as a healthy baby should. But nevertheless it has got one advantage. It is the only Federation I know which has come into existence with the specific charge (at the head of all its tasks) to unify, diversify and develop the economy. That is what the Federation is for. In that it bears the stamp of the age in which we live. I cannot conceive of these tasks which are being carried out in the other colonial territories, to whatever degree their economic resources allow, I cannot conceive of these tasks being carried out except by means of a Federation. They will be difficult enough under any circumstances.

I want you to understand that this is not a question of an ideal. This is not a question of something we ought to have. It is not something which we can choose to have, or take up according to the way we feel at any particular moment. In my opinion (and in the opinion of others who think the same but do not speak openly about it as I do), these countries, unless they develop themselves along the lines that other new colonial countries are doing, are bound to experience tremendous difficulties, not only economic but social and political.

Why We Are Compelled To Reorganise

Democracy is not a tree that seems to thrive very easily in the tropical soils of Latin-America. When you look at Latin-America over the last 130 years of its freedom, the picture is one of almost continual political instability. When you look at the curve of the West Indian islands, the picture is not too different. Look at Cuba. Look at Haiti. Look at Santo Domingo. There you have one of the cruellest dictatorships in these parts. When I was a small boy in Trinidad and Castro and Gomez were fighting it out in Venezuela, it used to be said that this instability was due to the poverty of the people of Venezuela. To-day, there is no longer poverty. Four hundred million dollars a year, I think, is the sum that Venezuela gets from oil royalties. The political disorders have increased in scope with the increase of wealth.

There are many reasons for this. One of them is the absence of a stable middle-class which has got solid economic roots ‘in the country, touching on the one hand the upper ranks of the working class and on the other hand, the ruling classes. None of these countries have such a class and it makes democracy a problem.

It is a problem in these Latin-American countries as a whole and it is my opinion that it is doubly a problem in the British and French West Indies where the populations are in some respects the most peculiar in all the colonial territories. I do not know of any population that has the specific historical qualities of the populations of the British West Indies. In Indo-China, in India, in Ceylon, in Ghana, in Africa, the native populations have got a background and a basis of civilisation which are their own. They have a native language, they have a native religion, they have a native culture. These exist to a substantial degree and from this culture they make the transition or they are making the transition to the modern world. Anthropologists to-day are discovering more and more the values of these civilizations. They were ridiculed simply by the ignorance and arrogance of the imperialist powers. These people have got this basis and they move from this to something else.

The populations in the British West Indies have no native civilisation at all. People dance Bongo and Shango and all this is very artistic and very good. But these have no serious effects upon their general attitude to the world. These populations are essentially Westernised and they have been Westernised for centuries. The percentage of literacy is extremely high. In little islands like Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica and even in your own British Guiana, the population is so concentrated that with the development of motor transport, nobody is very far from the centre of things. There is an immense concentration of knowledge, learning and information. People live modern lives. They read modern cheap newspapers, they listen to the radio, they go to the movies. The modern world is pressing upon them from every side giving rise to modem desires and aspirations. There is no national background to mitigate or even to influence the impact of these ideas upon the social personality of these islands. The result is that you have what I call a £500 a year mentality among the masses of the West Indian countries. The difficulty is that the territories in which they live have a cash per capita income of only about £50 a year. The difference between the mentality, the desires, the needs, which are the result of the kind of life the people live, and the limited resources of the economy is a very serious one. It is not only an economic question. It is developing and in a few years can become the source of the gravest political disorders. It is no use blinding our eyes to that. At Inaugural Celebrations we make hopeful speeches and everybody applauds. We hope for the best. But when that is over you must look at things with a certain realism. When the British flag goes down and the national flag goes up and there will be no more cruisers and soldiers to come, and all authority depends upon what is native and rests upon the attitude of the people, then these islands are going to test for themselves how far it is possible for them to achieve the democracy which has evaded so many other territories in these parts.

Now I am not an economic commission and I don’t want to pretend for a second to tackle its problems. It is sufficient for me to emphasize that the organisers and the planners of the economy of the Federation must have a clear conception of what they are organising and planning, and why. They must know and the people must know and constantly bear in mind the world in which we live.

Technical Institutions

This evening, however, I wish to draw your attention to two points only in connection with economic reconstruction. The first is the matter of technical and scientific institutions. The second it the matter of technical personnel from Britain and other countries abroad. First, technical and scientific institutions. We have to get rid of the colonial mentality. Scientific discoveries and processes are making industry less and less tied to specific sources of raw material and climate. That tendency will doubtlessly increase. We have to develop our own institutions. To a limited degree, for we are not and for a long time will not be one of the industrially advanced areas of the world. But we have to develop our own institutions outside of the conception that we are merely West Indian. The Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture is in Trinidad. It is not a West Indian institution. It is an institution that serves the needs of people concerned with tropical agriculture the world over. I hope, I look forward to seeing the West Indian University in Jamaica become a centre” not only of general studies but of specialised learning which will serve to advance and add to the accumulation of knowledge which is taking place all over the civilised world.

I believe that, to the extent of our limited resources, some of the institutions that we; are planning and will plan must be conceived in terms of our playing a role in the general scientific advance of modern society and not be confined to the limited interests of a purely West Indian perspective. The West Indian people need to see such institutions. The people outside need to know that such institutions are being developed in the former colonial territories of the West Indies. Can British Guiana do this by going it alone ? It will be difficult enough under any circumstances. But it is not only an economic but a social and a political necessity.

New Human Relations

The question of personnel from abroad to give us “technical assistance is more immediate. We are sending our boys and girls away to learn and they are doing very well. But we must make up our minds to the fact that for a long time we shall need technical assistance from abroad in our efforts to modernise ourselves. We are breaking the old connections between us and the advanced countries. We have to finish away with the old type of colonial official and the old type of technical assistant who came here to rule and to command people whom he considered his inferiors. But if we are breaking the old connections we have to establish new ones. To-day in England and in Europe there are many young men and women who have a very different attitude towards us than their parents had. Much of the arrogance and sense of superiority have been stripped away from them by the troubles and trials through which Europe has passed over the last years. Many of them have been through the war and have learnt to judge men as men. Numbers of them have a sense of guilt and of shame now that the realities of imperialism and colonialism have been exposed. They are anxious to do what they can to help restore some historical balance in the accounts of imperialism and the colonial peoples. Finally, they want to do a good job. They want to be paid but they want to feel that their work is helping people who need it and that in any case it will not be destroyed by some atomic or hydrogen bomb. (With the advent of Sputnik, I don’t know that anywhere to-day is safe. But that is by the way.) I know many of these people. We are breaking the old connections, we have to establish new ones. These people come to work but they are looking at us. We have to show them that though limited in our material resources, we are in thought at any rate and in aspiration citizens of the modern world. Some of them I am sure will be ready to identify themselves with us completely. We should be on the lookout to welcome them. I have met one or two in Trinidad and in British Guiana since I have come here. They have ideas that are far more advanced than the ideas of many West Indians in high places who still suffer from the colonial mentality to an astonishing degree. Above all, let us not repel them by showing them when they come that we are governed by the same narrow nationalist and particularist conceptions which have caused so much mischief in Europe and elsewhere, and which some of them are running away from. We need all the help that we can get and help of this particular kind is precious and is far from being a purely economic question. This also is a social and political necessity. Industrial expansion is not merely a question of material forces but of human relations. There are other issues of infinitely greater scope, but this evening I confine myself to these two.

Dr. Jagan and Federation

I want now to pass from economic relations to the political sphere. I can assure you that I will not, in dealing with these, spend so long as I did on the economic question. Otherwise we shall not be able to get away from here at all. However, in regard to the political issues I have to come a little closer to home. I have to deal with Dr. Jagan. Now I have to treat Dr. Jagan’s views with a certain respect. First of all, he is the head of the majority party of this country.

It is very important at this time in particular that the authorities of the country based upon local elections should be treated with a certain respect. The old authority is going. The new authority is not yet firmly established. It is necessary as I say to treat its representatives always with respect. (If you do not like them, then remove them.) The second thing is that Dr. Jagan is no petty racialist, not at all. I am unalterably opposed to the political philosophy which he accepts. I am unalterably opposed to its methods. I have told him so in person. And therefore there is no reason why I should not say so in public. He has not hidden his views, there is no reason for me to hide mine. But in regard to his aims for British Guiana, and for the West Indies as a whole, they are those of an enlightened modern person. He is not counting up how many Indians and how many Africans and how many acres of land, and basing the future of British Guiana on that. Some of his supporters might be doing that, but his general view is not that at all However there are one or two aspects of Dr. Jagan’s attitude which demand serious examination.

To Plebiscite or Not to Plebiscite

The first of them is this question of the plebiscite. Now I read a day or two ago in the accounts of the debate m the Legislature (You will help me, Mr. Chairman, if I am wrong.) that Mr. Stephen Campbell said he had been here 60 years, he said he was against self-government and he said that if there was a plebiscite, he was sure that the majority of the people in British Guiana would vote against it. Now that would be an excellent type of plebiscite. He begins by saying, “I am against and I ask you to vote and show that you are against too.” Maybe he is totally wrong but that is not what is at issue here. I am thinking of a certain type of political activity, the method of the plebiscite or referendum.

Now if Dr. Jagan says that there must be a Plebiscite to decide Federation here, all I have to say is this: Trinidad didn’t need a plebiscite, Barbados didn’t need one. Jamaica didn’t need one, none of the other islands needed one. Yet Dr. Jagan says that for certain special internal reasons British Guiana needs one. That is a matter for Messrs. Carter and Burnham and the others to discuss Mr. Burnham says it is a lot of nonsense, but I cannot say that. If I did I would be told: you are a stranger, you do not know the country, and I am not going to put myself in any position where that attack can be made against me. But there is one thing which I know of all Plebiscites in whatever country they are. And that is this: the political leader must say precisely where he stands and ask the people to decide on clear political positions. A plebiscite must not say: “On this issue I have no opinion exactly. I don’t know whether it is good or bad and therefore we must have a plebiscite and I leave you to decide.” That would be absolutely intolerable and a complete abdication of the responsibilities of political leadership in a critical situation. That I hope is clear. I do not know how Dr. Jagan is going to develop his ideas on the plebiscite. I want insist hat you haven’t to know British Guiana to know what is a proper plebiscite and what is a plebiscite that is most improper. I want to add this: the question of the plebiscite or the question of Federation is not an abstract question or a political question which can be left hanging in the air too long. Racial rivalry is involved. To what extent I do not know, and I have given reasons for not coming to extreme conclusions about it. But it undoubtedly exists. It also exists in Trinidad. The only way to meet such a difficulty is to present arguments and distinctive political positions so that the rivalry, the emotionalism, are met with reason and ideas. You counter one thing with the other and you place reasonable clear-cut decisions before the people to decide. But if you do not do that, if you say that on this issue the people must decide, then what you are doing is to give the racial rivalries free play. And then they can run to extremes which they could not possibly have run to if they had been met in the first place by the proper political actions of responsible political parties and leading individuals. The question of a plebiscite is not a theoretical question. It is not a question of letting the people decide”. In the last analysis, the people have to decide everything in a democracy. But no one ever holds an election in which everybody walks around and tells the people, “Well choose some people.” No, people come forward in political parties and they say, “This is our programme, this is what we wish to do and I .am the person to be chosen. I and my colleagues are able to carry out this policy.” They offer the people definite choices. But what is now taking place is that Dr. Jagan and his political associates say in effect, “We came forward to you to ask you to elect us to the leadership of the country. We are ready to tell you how to fight the British Government on the question of the Constitution. We are able to tell you how much money is needed to develop the country and how much we should borrow in order to develop an economic plan. We are able to tell you how much should go for education and what should be the type of education. We not only know these things, but we are able to denounce and expose in argument those who dare to oppose us. We are able to undertake the government of the country on a national and international scale. We are ready to become independent and have Dominion Status. But on the all-important question of Federation, here we confess we have no definite opinion. We leave it to you to decide.”

No, it wouldn’t do. Plebiscite or no plebiscite is an internal affair. But the kind of plebiscite is a strictly political matter on which anybody can take position without having put a foot in British Guiana. I have given you my view and I hope you bear it in mind to deal with persons who hide behind the idea of a plebiscite to avoid taking a definite decision. You know, it is a very hard thing .for an honest intelligent man at this stage to say, “I am against Federation. And that’s why they say, “James has no right to come here as a stranger to talk about Federation.” What he’s saying is , that he is against but he doesn’t want to say it so openly That’s why he say, “It is necessary to have a plebiscite for the people to decide.” What he is really saying is “I am against, but I haven’t the nerve to say so.” I am not saying Dr. Jagan is that way at all. I’m speaking of the ideas that he puts forward. His ideas have to be examined. A leader is responsible not only for what he says but for what interpretation his followers give to what he says. All sorts of reasons are given by people who, in face of the massive arguments that have existed over so many years and which have been so intensified in recent years, have not got the nerve and the courage to come forward and say plainly, “We are against.” They seek all sorts of ways and means by which they give the impression without committing themselves. Don’t let them get away with that.

West Indian Leaders Let Down B.G.

The second political question is one on which Dr. Jagan undoubtedly has a certain amount of right on his side. He says that the West Indian leaders have not supported British Guiana in its struggles with the British Government over the Constitution. So far he is absolutely correct. If West Indian political leaders claim that British Guiana is a part of the Federation and all that is needed is the legal step, if they feel as they undoubtedly feel that we are al one people, then any attack upon the liberties of the people of British Guiana, the taking away of the Constitution, should have been met by the united forces of the West Indian people. The Federation should have begun there and then. They have not done it. They have got themselves entangled in and confused by Dr. Jagan’s political beliefs. I believe that Dr. Jagan has a serious responsibility to express and clarify his political ideas to the people of the West Indies. When he says he is not going to make any confessions to the Colonial Office, in my opinion he is absolutely right. I don’t see why he should make any explanations to them. I certainly wouldn’t and I wouldn’t ask anybody to do anything which I wouldn’t do. But he owes it to the West Indian people to make al his political ideas clear. Not to do that is to make a mockery of democracy.

The West Indian leaders have kept away. They have left British Guiana more or less to itself. Dr. Jagan says that is what they have done. He has a sense of grievance which is justified, | I have told the West Indian leaders my opinion on this matter. . have repeated it to them in private. I shall continue to repeat it in public. But you can’t continue to do only that. It is necessary to take some steps forward. I believe that if Dr. Jagan were to declare (and his declaration would just clinch it) that he is ready to enter the Federation, the attitude of the West Indian leaders, whatever reasons they may have had for it in the past, will have to undergo a change. Dr Jagan will come with outstretched hands. “Well, here I am, boys, I have joined you, I am one of you now. We are all one except on the matter of the Constitution. All of you have internal self-government. Here I am. Are you willing to join with me in order to request internal self-government for British Guiana?” I believe his position would be unassailable, and whatever weakness and feebleness there was, the West Indian leadership would have to begin the struggle for a West Indian attitude to the problem of British Guiana there and then. But if on the other hand he says, “No Federation without Dominion status,” Federation then becomes something which you are bargaining about. “To get Dominion Status we are prepared to give you Federation.” Those may not be the ideas that Dr. Jagan has. But a political leader is not only responsible for what he says, but for the interpretations which intelligent people can read into his words. And “No Federation without Dominion Status” places Federation in a light which I think is harmful to the very idea of Federation.

A Constituent Assembly

The final point in regard to the political ideas is this. Dr. Jagan in my opinion has the opportunity not only of assisting the people of British Guiana but of assisting the whole of the West Indies by going into the Federation and demanding, not in two years or one year, but immediately, on behalf of the people of the West Indies, a Constituent Assembly, by which the Dominion Status will be made concrete. The best way is by means of a Constituent Assembly. This is the only proposal I have made in West Indian politics. It is the only one I intend to make and I am ready to give all the services I am able to give in order to get this idea accepted from end to end of the West Indies and British Guiana. A Constituent Assembly means (allow me to go into it in some detail) an election, most probably according to proportional representation. That is to say, no party is going to be allowed to win all five seats in Georgetown. You elect on a national scale. All the votes are going to be added up nationally and the seats are going to be divided according to the number of votes each party has. In this way you are certain to have representation of every type of political thought in the country because that is needed when a constitution is being discussed. The Constituent Assembly then discusses various constitutions. After two or three months it comes to some conclusions and then the constitution which gains the majority of votes is taken back to the people for ratification. They say whether they approve of it or not, not voting by parties but by each individual giving his opinion. It is possible that they may reject it and say to the Constituent Assembly: “You go and make another one.” That is their right because this is something in which the whole nation has to express itself. It is the beginning of its national existence. After the constitution has been decided upon, men an election takes place in the ordinary way according to parties, the legislative chamber is constituted and politics continues under the new conditions.

I state that a Constituent Assembly is the only possible means now by which the masses of the people in the West Indies may be brought to participate and take their role in the establishment of a Federal Constitution not only for a Federation but for an independent West Indies. The last Constitution came like a thief in the night. Some people went abroad and some experts wrote and then suddenly the people were told, “This is the Federal Constitution.” It is no wonder that they were not particularly interested and have not been enthusiastic to this day although they are generally in favour of the Federation.

I propose a Constituent Assembly as a means whereby all parties in the West Indies, including British Guiana, will be able to take part in the formation of the Constitution and the establishment of the new state. I take the liberty of saying to Dr. Jagan and to his supporters: does this not meet both the demand for Federation and for Dominion Status at the same time ? I put the idea forward. It has met with some approval in various places. I know there are politicians in the West Indies who are very sympathetic to it. I hope that you will discuss it among yourselves and perhaps a movement in favour of it will start among you. That however is for you and your political leaders.

Foreign Relations of British Guiana

There are only two points remaining and I will be brief on each of them. There is the question of the foreign relations of the state. You know, I have a sympathy for those people who think of British Guiana as having a continental destiny. I have a sympathy for them. But I believe they are lacking in political sense. At any rate they do not commit the abysmal folly of thinking in terms of British Guiana going it alone. There is no reason why British Guiana, placed as it is on the South American Continent, should not be able to form associations of one kind or another with the other two Guianas. I understand some people there already have made overtures There is absolutely no reason why something of that kind should not take place. No question of loyalty to any metropolitan country is involved. Today Great Britain is a member of the Commonwealth. It is also a prominent leader in the Sterling area. Canada, which is a member of the Commonwealth, is not a member of the Sterling area. It is a member of the Dollar area. Holland, which is not a member of the Commonwealth, is I believe a member of the Sterling area. Great Britain, which is a member of the Commonwealth, and a member of the Sterling area, is now seeking to join the European Common Market. All these permutations and combinations are perfectly feasible in the modern world. There is absolutely no reason at all why British Guiana should not be able to form some sort of association with the other two Guianas and go even further. Methods of communication are developing so rapidly that Brazil and Venezuela, moving in one direction, British Guiana, moving in another, in a few years might even be able to form associations which at the present time are not within the compass of our ideas. There is no reason why British Guiana should not take advantage of its situation to be able in time to pioneer in these directions. There is every reason why it should. There is only one . thing to be noted. If it attempts to do this by itself, it is going like a1 babe in the woods and the Latin American woods are very big and, very dark. It can attempt these connections only if it is firmly associated with the West Indian islands, with people who speak the same language, who have more or less the same type of historical experience, who have had the same European association. That is the natural unity. Upon that basis, while on the one hand Jamaica and these others can make their experiments for association with Cuba and Haiti, at that end of the curve, British Guiana can pioneer into these areas at this end. But always upon the basis at both ends of a solid unity which is the result of a natural historical evolution. That is what I think the foreign relations of a country like British Guiana should be.


My last word is in regard to social thought which as I have said includes artistic as well as political ideas. I have said economic conditions, political conditions, foreign relations and social thought. In reality they are one. They are not to be separated. But you cannot speak about everything at the same time, so for the sake of convenience I divided them. In regard to this I want as a final word to draw one or two things to your attention, one or two points relating to literature in the West Indies. I shall take two writers now before the public in the West Indies and in England. One is Selvon. The other is Naipaul. They are Indians and that is why I choose them. Selvon first. I was lunching in London a year ago with Dr. Williams and Mr. John Lehmann, the editor of “The London Magazine”. Dr. Williams was discussing with Mr. Lehmann ways and means of developing literary and artistic talent in the West Indies. Selvon’s name happened to come up and I said that I didn’t think that his work had the vital quality that some other West Indian writers had. (Williams, I think, differed with me.) Mr. Lehmann said he didn’t agree, he was very much interested in Selvon. My remark had been made because Mr. Lehmann had been writing enthusiastically about Selvon. I said, “Well, that is my view, but one thing I have noted: Selvon has a remarkable ear for dialogue. He catches the rhythms and cadences of West Indian speech and he is able to reproduce them in his writing.” Then Mr. Lehmann said something which I have never forgotten and which I want you to remember. He said, “That is precisely why I am so much interested in Selvon. I am very much interested in what the colonial writers are going to do to the English language”.

Now here is this Englishman recognising that with increasing freedom and increasing capacity for self-expression we and the other colonial peoples, particularly those who have no other language but English, or use English as their literary language, our writing is going to affect the form and content of the English language. He is not afraid of it. The English language has a history and a literature—it is one of the great languages and literatures of the world—which can stand the individual turns which colonial writers will give to it. The language and the literature will even benefit by it. It is a point that I had missed entirely. Now Selvon is Indian, but if I am not mistaken he is part African too. One of the books of his that I have read dealt chiefly with the Indian population of Trinidad and contained a great deal of English dialogue as spoken by the poorer class of Indians. But the Evening Standard of London not so long ago published with great fanfare some stories by Selvon describing the lives of West Indians in England. And the most noticeable thing about those stories, and what I believe chiefly attracted the English reader, was the way the West Indians spoke. Selvon is equally at home with the Indian population and the African population of the West Indies. In other words he is a West Indian. Are we going to close ourselves in narrow compartments, whereby we shall be limiting our writers and our artists to the free expression of only one aspect of our community ? Writers, and artists of all kinds, are of particular importance at this transitional stage of our development. They interpret us to ourselves and interpret us to the world abroad which is anxious to know about us. These highly gifted people are able in a few thousand words to illuminate aspects of our social and personal lives which otherwise would have taken us years and great pain and trouble to find out. We have to give them all the help we can, create the conditions in which they can best perform their work for our society. Above all we must beware of limiting them in any way. In doing so we limit ourselves.


The second writer I wish to take is Naipaul. He also is an Indian from Trinidad and there is no question in anybody’s mind about his literary quality. He is obviously a born man of letters. Naipaul has written a novel called The Mystic Masseur. This novel is very funny indeed. Naipaul describes an Indian politician. First of all he used to massage people. Then he thought he would like to write books. He bought encyclopaedias and copied out a lot of information in order to publish books of his own on subjects which he knew nothing about. He decided to go into politics, he was elected a member of the Legislative Council and his political career is as absurd as the early part of his life. Naipaul makes no bones about showing up this politician as a charlatan and an ignoramus. This politician, please note, is an Indian and obviously Naipaul describes him because as an Indian himself he is most familiar with the Indian community. But as you read the book you see that when Naipaul makes reference to African politicians he has no more respect for them than he has for his Indian hero. And when you finish the book, I at least am left with the impression that Naipaul has an attitude which is ready to pour ridicule on politicians of all kinds, Indian, African, colonial or European. I have no objection (and I hope that Messrs. Burnham and Carter have none) to seeing politicians held up to the light by a brilliant and satirical pen. It should do them some good.

Freedom For The Artist

Now it would be terrible if Naipaul were prevented from writing freely about Indians because by doing so he would be giving ammunition to African people or people of other races to attack the people of his own race. Or for that matter if a young African writer were prevented from writing freely about Africans for thereby he would be harming the cause of the Africans in the eyes of the Indians, etc. You know what I mean. We have not got that kind of thing among us at present. Both these young men have written freely. Very soon now the young novelists of British Guiana are going to be bursting out. Let us see to it that we maintain that freedom of conditions which will enable our young writers to develop freely. You should invite Naipaul here. I am a little concerned because he is really so clever that he may be adopted by the English literary world. I think you should bring him here so that he could renew his contacts with the native roots. And I do not mean that the Indians of British Guiana should bring him here. I mean those people in British Guiana who are interested in literature. I am not going to refer to other West Indian writers. Personally I believe that George Lamming the Barbadian is the best of them so far There are others. I have preferred this evening to concentrate on these two.

In conclusion let me say this. I have spoken as a member of the West Indian Federation, thinking of the interest, the goodwill and the solidarity of the West Indian people. Please believe that I have been thinking in the same way of the interest, goodwill and solidarity of the people of British Guiana.