Micheal Burke: The Holness self inflicted shot to the foot.
Not one mention of the oil crisis!
By Michael Burke
So Andrew Holness learned a political lesson in the last week or two. He lambasted Michael Manley and the so-called “missteps of the 1970s”. But who expected the backlash? Not even PNP supporters expected it, although the turnout to Michael Manley’s funeral was one of, if not the biggest Jamaica has ever seen.
Hundreds of the thousands of Jamaicans lined the roadway for the journey to National Heroes Park to lay Michael Manley’s body to rest. Neither National Hero Sir Alexander Bustamante nor National Hero Norman Washington Manley got that sort of outpouring when they died.
No one expected the backlash despite the warm welcome the Cuban medical personnel got as they came to Jamaica some months ago to help with the COVID 19 crisis. That alone was really a tribute to Michael Manley and it might have bene the start of a revival of Michael Manley support that reached tipping point when Holness scored a ‘defender’s goal against himself and the JLP when he misspoke.
Politically it was unwise to issue a revised statement as this will help the PNP in the general election whether they win or lose. Had he just left it the statement would have been a nine-day wonder just as all of the rest were.
I recall Norman Washington Manley’s death in 1969, two months before I turned 16 years of age. The PNP had many ‘conversions’ from the JLP when the JLP government of the day led by then prime minister Hugh Lawson Shearer heaped on the praise of Norman Manley. Some former labourites joined PNP groups.
“Ow dem use to seh such bad tings about Manley and now dem a praise ‘im? Many ordinary perhaps illiterate folk asked. (Yes, ‘illiterate’, because at that time the majority of our people were in fact illiterate). Holness revised statement might have the same effect on young people who were not yet born while Michael Manley lived.
I have no doubt in my mind that the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America played a great part in sabotaging Michael Manley in the 1970s. I find the excerpts of the CIA manual as found on pages 210-211 of Struggle in the periphery by Michael Manley to be instructive. Everything mentioned there in terms of sabotage was what was taking place in reality. And I lived through it.
But no mention has been made, not even by the PNP of the oil crisis. And here I am not so much interested in scoring political points as I am in putting everything into a historical perspective.
The facts are that while there was something of a social revolution in 1972 when the PNP led by Michael Manley came to power in a landslide, there were things happening in the other side of the world that few persons locally were observing. I know that I was NOT paying attention to that at all not until it became a world crisis.
Some US interests went into the Middle East and offered to develop their oil on the condition that the oil would be sold in US dollars. I believe that this was a master plan to get newly independent countries to sell their assets and resources to private US interests. Those US interests could not make those offers while Jamaica and the rest of the newly independent nations were still colonies of Britain as Britain would have had none of it.
So now there would be a great need for US dollars to buy oil. This was not the days of developed renewable energy technology. And in any event, even countries that used hydroelectric power from ‘day one’, as the world became more mechanised with more vehicles and factory machines etcetera, the demand for oil rose sharply affecting economies all over the world.
While all of this was going on in the other side of the world, Michael Manley announced on May 2 1973 that as of September that year, Jamaica would be “embarking upon a system of Free Education in Jamaica”. It would mean free tuition, free uniforms free meals while at school form primary to University level. In September 1973 free education began. In December 1973 the oil prices rose at the start of the oil crisis.
At that time Jamaica’s economy was based mainly on raw agricultural products with sugar and bananas being the main produce along with some raw bauxite sales and a slow and emerging tourism industry.
But all of a sudden the government was faced with a choice. Could they, after one only one short semester of free education abandon the project as all of Jamaica’s foreign exchange was now taken up in buying oil?? The government certainly could, but at what price? Michael Manley’s victory at the polls in 1972 averted what many believed might have been a bloody revolution as the masses were in no mood to tolerate an extension of oppression that was not halted by political independence in 1962.
But how would paper for school books be bought at a time when paper was essential to schooling as there was no social media and paper was essential for textbooks?
As Michael Manley would explain it, in December 1973 the equivalent of three bunches of banana could buy one barrel of oil and by the end of 1974 it took the equivalent of 40 bunches of bananas to buy one barrel of oil.
All of Jamaica’s foreign exchange was now going into buying oil and there was none for such niceties as American apples, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Campbell’s and Heinz Vegetable Soup etcetera to the annoyance of upper class Jamaicans, especially if Free Education was to continue.
And since Michael Manley decided to continue free education, a way had to be found to bring in more foreign exchange to continue free education. And a way was found by way of the 1974 bauxite levy. In plain language the total reason initially for the bauxite levy was to finance free education.
But with the oil crisis growing more and more and only talk of alternate energy, Michael Manley continued the social programmes such as Free Education the JAMAL Adult Literacy programme, the National Housing Trust, the Pioneer Corps the National Youth Service and Community Enterprise Organisations etcetera.
Bearing in mind the mood of the masses by the 1960s as manifested in the strike demonstrations, the Coral Gardens Riot, the Chinese Riots and the Rodney riot, coupled with the rising Black Power Movement etcetera, Michael Manley NEVER forgot that he was elected to bring about fundamental change, so he pressed ahead despite the oil crisis.
First, as already mentioned, bauxite levy was introduced in 1974 to finance free education.
Second, from before the oil crisis, Michael Manley declared that Jamaica was non-aligned, in that it took no sides in the then prevailing Cold War between the USA and China, and that Jamaica had a right to trade with any nation that it pleases as long as there was mutual agreement between both sides.
Jamaica took doctors from Cuba and received with thanks three or four schools built by Cuba, Jamaica sent university students to Cuba and the USSR and we bartered bauxite with LADA cars from the USSR, all to find alternatives to scarce foreign exchange. And Jamaica expanded its tourism industry.
But the oil crisis made trade with Cuna and the Soviet Union more imperative, which in turn annoyed the USA, and they obviously took steps to bring down the Michael Manley government so that Jamaica would continue to buy food and goods such as motor vehicles from the USA. And Edward Seaga was the stooge used to bring Michael Manley down And this was where the sabotage started. While the variety of foreign food became less available due to the oil crisis, the shelves had food until 1980, election year. Violence also increased to get the Michael Manley government out because the oil crisis, which was largely contrived by the USA, would not make Michael Manley bow to their wishes of the US in wanting to buyout industries in countries in exchange for precious US dollars to buy oil.
Immediately as the oil crisis began, all sorts of ways were sought to have alternate energy and to otherwise save foreign exchange. For one, at Easter time the limited amount of flour in the country could either make bread or buns and the bakers opted to make buns. So Jamaica would be out of bread for a week until the buns had been sold. Even flour would be scarce as it went into the manufacture of buns And this trend continued down to the 1990s when globalisation made food cheap on the world market.
During the 1970s there was talk about recycling wastes and this was done on a limited scale only. For example paper was recycled into toilet tissue in the late 1970s. It was a fairly rough variety of the commodity so use the word ‘tissue’ advisedly.
As there were only old vehicles on the roads (the importation of new vehicles put a great strain on the nation’s foreign exchange reserves until the bartering arrangement of bauxite for LADA cars from the USSR) the employment of mechanics rose sharply and there were motor vehicle garages on just about every street.
But alternate energy would not be developed until this century after the so-called nine-eleven. The USA was then at war with the Middle east and could not get oil for their jet fighters and this caused the development of ethanol; solar and electric cars. The regime of the 1970s had no such luxury.
Sometime in the last two moths Mark Wignall had a post on Facebook (or was it one of his Gleaner columns?) where he said quite correctly that with respect to COVID 19, the script was not written as it is a new problem.
I understood Wignall to be stating that we should be understanding of any mistakes made by the present government led by Andrew Holness and in my view Wignall is correct to a point. I write “to a point” because using the crisis to give out contracts to friends and relatives who cannot properly account for hundreds of millions of dollars is where we should all draw the line.
But how is it that the same Mark Wignall who is so critical of Michael Manley and the 1970s when the script for the oil crisis was not written either? Indeed there is no mention of the oil crisis in the 1970s that changed the entire world. And this coupled with Andrew Holness misstatement which he revised are the main motivations for this post.
By the way on a totally different note, today July 24 makes it 29 years since the late Nelson Mandela arrived in Jamaica.
THERE IS ONLY ONE ONANDI LOWE !
"Good things come out of the garrisons" after his daughter won the 100m Gold For Jamaica.
"It therefore is useless and pointless, unless it is for share malice and victimisation to arrest and charge a 92-year-old man for such a simple offence. There is nothing morally wrong with this man smoking a spliff; the only thing wrong is that it is still on the law books," said Chevannes.
Last edited by Sir X : July 25th, 2020 at 01:59 PM.
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