By A.T. Freeman
The United Workers’ Party government in St Lucia led by Allen Chastanet, is generally considered to be a ‘right wing’ government in the region. On coming to power, Chastanet declared that he intended to run St Lucia like a business and has generally pursued a policy of attempting to lure foreign direct investment into the country by offering tax free deals and other sweeteners for the said foreign investors. His government has also been supportive of the US government’s regime change project in Venezuela. In March 2019, he attended a meeting in Florida with Trump, along with the leaders of The Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica, in which he profusely thanked Trump for his ‘support to the Caribbean’. Chastanet is often referred to as the ‘Trump of the Caribbean’.
Mia Mottley’s Barbados Labour Party government, on the other hand is generally regarded as one of the most ‘left wing’ in the region. She never fails to speak to the Barbadian workers in their own language and her election campaign slogan was ‘Mia cares’, even as her government implements an IMF approved austerity programme. She has resisted all efforts by the US government to drag Barbados and CARICOM into its regime change project for Venezuela and recently condemned Mike Pompeo’s visit to the region as an attempt to sow division amongst the CARICOM member states.
However, the social and economic crisis triggered by the collapse of the tourism sector as a result of the Coronavirus has exposed the underlying unity between the ‘right wing’ and the ‘left wing’. Tourism is the major economic sector for both St Lucia and Barbados and its collapse has seen unemployment skyrocket to around 30% in both countries. With a severe decline in government revenue and locked into a neo-liberal economic approach, both governments have come up with the same idea in order to force the workers to pay for the crisis. In April, the ‘right wing’ Chastanet’s government proposed paying some public sector workers part of their monthly salaries in government bonds which would be redeemed at a later date. The workers and their unions immediately opposed this measure, describing it as a pay cut. The situation has been further complicated by a statement from the St Lucia Bankers Association that banks in the country would not be accepting government bonds from customers. A few weeks later, in May, the ‘left wing’ government in Barbados came up with the same idea. Again, the proposal has been met by opposition from the workers and unions, who like in St Lucia, regard it as a pay cut. While others have warned that allowing such a pay cut to pass in the public sector will only embolden private sector employers to impose pay cuts there too.
This anti-worker unity of the ‘right wing’ and the ‘left wing’ demonstrates the need for the workers to have their own independent programme, to work out what is in their interests and to organise and unite so that they can use the force of their numbers to achieve their goals. They cannot put their trust either in the ‘right wing’ or the ‘left wing’.