20 December 2018
Neo-Colonization and Jamaica
Before neocolonialism can be understood we must first understand Jamaica's relationship with slavery and colonization. Columbus arrived on the island of Jamaica in 1509. He was there to solidify Spanish rule over the island which lasted up until 1660. While the Spanish ruled They killed off the native Arawaks which was about sixty thousand people. Jamaica functioned mostly as a rest stop for slave traders so it wasn't really developed. At some point, the Spaniards began importing African slaves to work the land. Real development and exploitation didn't begin until 1660, the British and the Spaniard fought over the island and Britain had won. The population grew under British sovereignty, and real exploitation began. The crown gave European colonist land to produce sugar and cocoa because there was now a growing and the very profitable market growing for both “The European planter has been described as a machine for making money” (Waters, 22). The economic system put into place was made to benefit the settlers and Britain, everything being produced was being exported off of the island and that money was going right into the pockets of Britain through consumer markets and capital growth. Plantations relied on the free labor of slaves to uphold the market and to maintain high profits. One million slaves were brought to the island between 1655 and 1808, Persaud ( 72) says, “the plantation system, the totality of institutional arrangements surrounding the production and marketing of plantation crops, has seriously affected society in Jamaica”. Because of this Jamaica's economic and societal structure was built on slavery “Jamaica's class structure today reflects its history as a colonial plantation society and its beginnings of industrial development characterized by a high rate of inequality and poverty” (Waters, 1985: 26). During colonization there was resistance as well, The Maroons were a group of spanish slave descendants that escaped the British and created a community in the mountains of modern-day Kingston They formed rebellions and worked to destroy the system that enslaved them and disrupt the market that benefited from their free labor. Between 1663 and 1738 The Maroons attacked plantations and used guerilla like tactics to reclaim their freedom and the freedom of other slaves. The most important rebellion was the Sam Sharpe rebellion, between 1831 and 1832. The rebellion was named after him because he was the leader of “one of the most extensive rebellions in Jamaican history” (Barrett, 1997: 39), many believe that this rebellion was the catalyst for a huge restructuring of Jamaican ideology and economics. Many believe that this rebellion occurred because slaves began to feel deprived and no longer saw themselves as slaves. Unfortunately, the Sam Sharpe rebellion did not equate to the end of slavery, the British did not end slavery after the sam Sharpe rebellion. During this time the British had actually entered in the Free Trade Policy which heightened the competition between countries and called for faster production of sugar, religious and political disputes led to the Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865, at the end of the rebellion jamaica became a colony of Britain and created a new constitution. This new constitution gave some power back to Jamaica ( the Governor and his cabinet). The colony was to be maintained as long as it continued to produce sugar and coco. After a century of strife and rebellions and the emancipation of slaves, two political parties were established to be a voice for the Jamaican people. The People's National Party ( PNP) founded by Norman Manly and The Jamaican Labor Party ( JLP) established by Alexander Bustamente. These two parties have played key roles in fighting neo colonization because their inception occurred at the end of colonization. History has shown that Jamaica has a deeply rooted history of colonization and that no longer allowed the system created to exploit them was going to use them any longer they had now shaken off the shackles of colonization and were now beginning to enter a new era economically, socially, and ideologically.
Neo-colonization takes many forms and has affected Jamaica in ways that can be traced back to its roots. Jamaica's evolution from colonization to neo-colonization and a new constitution did not benefit Jamaican citizens and British colonies felt inclined to “reassess the local arrangements for supervising the colonial economy” (Campbell, 1987: 86) which only lead to further oppression of the people. “The dilemma of Jamaica today arises from the island's neocolonial status. Freed from British dominion in 1962, Jamaica became an uncharted economic entity, with the responsibilities but not the means for true independence” (Nicholas, 1996: 18). Neo-colonialism defining feature is a country show sign of economic success while still being economically dependent on larger countries or financial institutions like the IMF. As Kwame Nkrumah describes it like this, “the economic system and thus the political policy [in neo-colonies] is directed from the outside…Neocolonialism is the worst form of imperialism. For those who practice it, it means power without responsibility and for those who suffer from it, it means exploitation without redress” ( Nicholas 18). Jamaica has A lot of economic potentials but that is unfortunately negated by modern exploitation.
The JLP put Jamaica in the international stage, Bustamente saw Jamaica's potential to work outside of its Third world country label by aligning itself with Western Powers like Britain ( the countries former oppressors) and the United States. Bustamente believed that embracing westernization was the countries answer to success. At this time Jamaica had a functioning democracy, economic infrastructure and raw resources that could be used to make it wealthy. Bustamente pushed and made sure that Jamaica played roles in multilateral organizations, during its time of independence. After heavy involvement from the US government , and collusion with the JLP( the governing party at the time) Bustamante only began to further push western capitalistic ideology onto Jamaican people “With the [Jamaican] government's acceptance of American inspired ideas and institutions, the quest for economic resources was to be achieved through multi-nationals, international financial institutions, and/or bilateral relations with Western developed countries” (Persaud 123). But the seeds of capitalism were sowed in Jamaica during times of slavery. Rich and white worked alongside Bustamente and the JLP to enact significant change that would ultimately lead to further exploitation of the country.
Tourism has also become a more modern component of neo-colonization on the island. The Great Houses from the plantation past of Jamaica have now been replaced by tourist attractions and luxury hotels meant to appeal to the foreign palette. Despite the huge tourist economy almost 10% of Jamaicans still work in the old sugar industry, despite the fact that Brazil has taken over that market a long time ago. “chronic unemployment and embarrassing cheap labor Jamaica provides, not slaves exactly but the next best thing” (Boot, Thomas 50), when we look at popular hotels like Sandals and Iberostar they function almost completely on Jamaica's lack of workers laws or minimum wage, paying their employees basically below living wages. In 2012 five star hotel Iberostar experienced workers strike after years of paying its employee's incredibly low wages with a percentage decrease every couple of years. A smaller group of young activist started a petition to fight “Jamaican workers are being used and exploited by both the local and foreign own businesses in the Tourism Sector. Many are only making the Jamaica minimum wage of only US$55.00 = JA$5,000 weekly, and some are not being paid at all. Many are required to work overtime for which they are not being paid, and are required by the terms of their employment not to accept gratuities (tips) from guests.” ( Thompson). There is very little accountability and the current Prime minister Andrew Holness is hesitant to enforce any kind of actual change out of fear of scaring away foreign investors. This dependence on foreign money and willingness to appease western powers at the expense of Jamaican people shares some parallels with Jamaica's past with slavery.
Despite Jamaica's best efforts many countries that invest in a business venture in Jamaica do not reinvest in Jamaica's economy. This lack of participation in the economy hinders Jamaica's ability to reach its full economic potential. The island is full of natural resources but there is one specifically important resource that has now made Jamaica even more vulnerable to exploitation. This mineral is bauxite, bauxite is a red ore used to make aluminum, it's scarce in the world and hard to mine for. Jamaica is sitting on a large deposit of bauxite which has attracted large corporations like Reynolds to the island. Between 1950 and 1957 bauxite became the center of the economy for Jamaica and as of 2016 represents about 15% of the countries GDP and two-thirds of its exports. Despite bauxite having the potential to create jobs and boost the economy of the island, the bauxite industry has not been too kind to Jamaican people or the actual environment. In 1976 foreign capitalists had acquired more than 191,000 acres and displaced 560,000 rural Jamaicans between 1943-1970 (Campbell 86). There have been cases of natives being forced to relocate so that corporations can mine and people being bullied into taking cheap prices for their valuable bauxite-rich land. Forcing people off their land has only made unemployment worse and created political unrest. Small farmers that produced for sustenance, not profit have especially been affected. Jamaican legislation has created loopholes. While corporations are heavily involved in Jamaica they are hesitant to re-invest into the economy. The mines have only provided about 10,000 temporary jobs to citizens and have mining equipment shipped in from their countries:
Many small farmers from St. Elizabeth and St. Ann, who had been uprooted by bauxite companies, watched helplessly as the transnational bulldozed their homes and small provision grounds to take out the red dirt from the ground, sending this dirt to the sea on conveyor belts, where ships could carry it to provide jobs in the aluminum industry in Europe and North America. (Campbell 88)
The heavy displacement of natives has caused brain drain and flight from Jamaica to countries like the UK, and Canada.
The Jamaican government has worked hard to paint a profitable picture of its current state, disregarding the poverty to attract a market that ultimately hurts more than it helps, “racist notions of a happy-go-lucky people have been recreated in glossy tourist brochures in the hothouse effort to organize recreation for the international bourgeoisie” (Campbell 87). Between the Bauxite mines, Tourist economy and western exploitation, Jamaica is at a real disadvantage. The island is trying to recover from the economic drain of slavery, colonization and government corruption. It's hard to predict where this country is going, but before it will see any significant growth it has to once again shake off the shackles of their oppressors and take a page from the book of past rebellions and reclaim their land.
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