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Regional Discourses on Society and History

Shaping the Caribbean

Edited By Jerome Teelucksingh and Shane Pantin

This book thematically analyses and surveys areas of Caribbean history and society. The work is divided into three parts: part one addresses migration and identity; part two explores policy and development; and part three explores music and literature. The volume places a fresh perspective on these topics. The essays depart from the usual broader themes of politics, economics and society and provide a deeper insight into forces that left a decisive legacy on aspects of the Caribbean region. Such contributions come at a time when some of the Caribbean territories are marking over 50 years as independent nation states and attempting to create, understand and forge ways of dealing with critical national and regional issues. The volume brings together a broad group of scholars writing on Caribbean issues including postgraduate students, lecturers, and researchers. Each chapter is thematically divided into the aforementioned areas. This book addresses areas much deeper than the linear historical and social science models, and it offers Caribbean academics and researchers a foundation for further research.

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8. Fighting a Losing Battle?: Labour in Trinidad and Tobago (Jerome Teelucksingh)


8. Fighting a Losing Battle?: Labour in Trinidad and Tobago

Jerome Teelucksingh

Ideology, Politics and Trade Unionism

During 1950–1970, the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) was the strongest and best organized union in Trinidad and Tobago. Undoubtedly, the OWTU was the mainspring of the island’s economy and thus its leadership along with other union leaders was crucial for the direction and future of the trade union movement. In 1958, having spent more than two decades in North America and Europe, CLR James, a prominent intellectual and Pan-Africanist, decided to return to Trinidad. One year later, in 1959, Prime Minister Eric Williams welcomed James as editor of The Nation, the newspaper of the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM). Later, at the fifth PNM Convention on 30 September 1960, Williams gave a glowing tribute to the services of James as editor of The Nation.1 However, the cordial relations soon soured as both men had differing political visions:

His partnership with his former student and friend Williams came to an end as a result of the break-up of the West Indies Federation and, more particularly, as a result of Williams’s rejection of a non-aligned position, in favour of the USA and its retention of the Chaguaramas Naval Base.2

The ideological activities of James were also a cause of concern among PNM party members who felt James was spreading Communist ideas among its members and allowing Communists to enter the party.3 In 1961,...

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