Labour Movement and Politics (Jamaica (Many migrants returned to the…
Labour Movement and Politics
Early Revolutionary Enthusiasm
1884-1912: 20 serious strikes and disturbances in the Caribbean, mostly in Jamaica.
British government had an 'ad hoc' response to labour unrests
Trade unions repressed and made illegal (or severely restricted) by colonial administrators
The Negro World
Most impact in areas with large West Indian migrant populations such as Costa Rica, Cuba and Panama.
Created a platform of race-first, worker-oriented, anti-colonial politics.
World War One
British West Indians volunteered to fight in the First World War out of loyalty to the mother country.
The British West Indian Regiment (BWIR) experienced relentless racism abroad coupled with unequal living conditions leading to disillusionment with Britain.
Taranto Revolt December 1918
Troops of the 9th Battalion stationed in Italy after the war had finished who were still required to work, loading and unloading ships and building and cleaning latrines for white soldiers. When they discovered the white soldiers had been given a pay rise that they were not, it escalated these grievances into rebellion.
They refused to obey orders and 180 signed a petition complaining of poor pay. A few days later, they were joined by the 10th Battalion. After a few days, a black non-commissioned officer (NCO) was killed and a lieutenant colonel assaulted.
As a result the 9th battalion was disbanded, 60 were tried for mutiny receiving sentences between 3 and 5 years, one man got 20 years and another was executed via firing squad.
Bitterness persisted and later that month about 60 NCOs of the BWIR formed
The Caribbean League
who called for equal rights and a closer union between the West Indies - they had some violent provocations.
Many of the riots that erupted in the Caribbean post-WW1 were led by ex-servicemen,
was radicalised by his wartime experience and became editor of the
, a newspaper dedicated to exposing the economic, social and political conditions of working-class Barbadians.
Cipriani had been a captain of the BWIR and it was impressed by the West Indians, which inspired him to become a labour leader in the movement
Political re-assessment and move towards independence
Class and racial consciousness increased as well as awareness about the issues with British colonial rule.
Increase in trade unions and political parties.
Trade unions made lawful in all the colonies it had been unlawful and legislation amended to make peaceful picketing of employers' premises lawful and giving trade unions immunity from actions for breach of contract as a result of strikes.
Increased the self confidence of the workers and convinced them of the influence they could exert through united action.
No organised colonial response and even when the colonial leaders recognised that workers weren't being paid enough, nothing was done (i.e. in Trinidad and Tobago the Colonial Officer was transferred and Governor forced to resign because the principal share-holders of the companies were influential in the government circles in Britain.
Short-lived legacy of early protests in the 1920s.
Colonial development and welfare fund
Caused return migration - returning migrants crucial to labour movements -
Migrants returned being accustomed to higher wages, a higher standard of living and more experience taking economic action.
Wages lowest since the days of slavery
West Indian exports almost halved between 1928 and 1933 and workers forced to submit to drastic wage cuts, increased taxation and mass unemployment.
Caribbean economies had close ties to the metropoles of Britain, France and the US and were susceptible to external influences
Standard of living declined, particularly for agricultural workers, who it was already incredibly low for - infant mortality increased
Working conditions declined in terms of the physical environment and the abuses they endured.
Opportunities of migration stopped, between 1910-29 2170,000 Haitians and Jamaicans had moevd Cuba and this now had to stop as thousands were persecuted and deported
Sugar prices collapsed leading to pressure on wages and employment felt by small cane farmers and those working on large estates - ten workers in Trinidad earned only £113 between them for 1,218 man-days in 1936-7.
Over 33,000 Barbadians returned home between 1932-37.
Contributed to pan-African thought
Impact of this had a lot to do with Garveyism movement that had encouraged pan-Africanism
Ethiopia was one of the last remaining independent nations in Africa so its loss was significant
World War 2
Delayed the nationalist movement in Britain due to loyalty to the mother country
Leaders like Bustamante and Butler were imprisoned in order to reduce disturbances during wartime.
Experience of soldiers abroad fed into labour politics due to the racism and discrimination they experienced abroad.
Spread of Negro World in the Caribbean and the dissemination of radical ideas - Government attempt to ban it only escalated situation.
Resurgence in the 1930s mostly as a result of the Great Depression
The movement was sustained through its adaptability throughout the years.
Slave economic structure still persisted in the Caribbean
Stagnant economy that had seen little change between 1830 and 1930 as a small planter minority had been able to maintain dominance over the remainder of the population.
Relationship between colonial elite and the masses similar to that of the slaves and masters.
Repression during the labour movements only provoke more oppression (example of Rodney and Butler riots)
Labour movements in the anglophone Caribbean became the bases for successful nationalist movements that would lead to independence .
French colonies although experiencing depression, instead moved closer to the colonies and became departments of France.
Argues the importance of
in forming Caribbean identities as it led to realisation that they shared a common experience of poverty and colonialism
The Great Depression hit the West Indies like a hurricane
Trinidad Workers Association (TWA) - Renamed to Trinidad Labour Party (TLP) in 1934
One of the earliest and longest-lasting organisations of working-class people in the British Caribbean - both skilled and unskilled workers
Led by Captain Cipriani from 1923 (white man) who focused on legal and constitutional methods.
Tubal Uriah 'Buzz' Butler
Challenged the leadership of Cipriani by taking a more militant stance to the labour movement with a biblical rhetoric which appealed to the African race consciousness.
Organised a hunger march from the oilfields to the Port of Spain which resulted in workers settling for a 2% increase in wages and marked the beginning of Butler's rise as a labour leader
Established the Trinidad Citizens League (TCL) in 1935
Established his own political party: The British Empire Workers and Citizens Home Rule Party - he was loyal to Britain and wanted to see the rights of British citizens extended to the colonies.
Mass unionisation in the wake of the riots with ten unions established by 1938 - such as Oilfield Workers' Trade Union
Butler planned a peaceful sit-down strike - began with oil workers sitting down on their jobs in Fyzabad.
Police attempted to arrest Butler during a speech he was giving to a crowd of 500 workers at Fyzabad - the crowd exploded in anger and rushed at the police, allowing Butler to get away
Corporal Charlie King was beaten and burned to death and sub-inspector Bradburn was killed - the police forced to retreat without capturing Butler or retrieving King's body
Police determined to arrest Butler and quell the riots only led to the violence escalating into an island-wide rebellion.
No centralised, coordinated rebellion leadership - instead a spontaneous series of actions that evolved into a prolonged general strike.
State of emergency declared, Elma Francois arrested and Butler is arrested in September
Governor and Colonial Secretary both publicly admitted that wages were too low and employers in the oil and sugar industries and the govt. had an obligation to ensure that workers were treated fairly and reimbursed
However, principal share-holders in these mainly foreign owned industries were influential with govt. circles and therefore governor forced to retire and colonial secretary transferred.
National Unemployment Movement (NUM) - Later the Negro Welfare Cultural and Social Associations (NWCSA)
Formed by Elma Francois, a critique of Cipriani, calling him Britain's best policeman in the colonies.
Won over former members of the TWA/TLP with its more radical ideology and militancy.
Agitated against the Italian invasion of Ethiopia as dockers refused to unload Italian ships and speakers denounced Britain for refusing to sell arms to Ethiopia
Created Condensed Milk Association: criticised the price of this commodity and the advertising which encouraged women to buy expensive brands.
Blocked the Shop Hours Bill which would have damaged small businesses and their working class customers.
Movement peaked in 1936, never had mass appeal of Butler (although had links with him) but did a lot to pave the way for the 1937 riots.
Fared better in the 1930s than the sugar industry due to being a capital-intensive, highly profitable industry
Taxes and royalties paid by the companies remained low
Racial discrimination as black workers aware of the visible inequalities in standard of living between themselves and the white employees - white employees with no more experience were given higher wages and promotions.
Many migrants returned to the island in the 1930s due to the Depression leading to less work available abroad - they often returned to a country worse off than what they had left. For example, in 1931 12,000 Jamaicans returned home from Cuba.
Heavily dependent on international economy.
Labour unrest led to activists forming trade unions and political parties that went on to orchestrate independence.
: Leader of Industrial Trade Union which developed into the Jamaican Labour Party by 1943 - a white man so believed this helped his success in the movement.
(also white) of the National Workers Union formed the other main political party in Jamaica, the People's National Party - showing how the labour movements corresponded with politics
Rebellion in 1938 which began when a strike turned into a riot as police shot and killed strikers and bystanders in Westmoreland.
One returning migrant from Cuba, Robert E Rumble formed the Poor Man's Improvement and Land Settlement Association, claiming membership of 800 by March 1939: Started a movement in which tenants refused to pay landlords.
The government realises that keeping labour leaders like Bustamante in prison would only worsen situation and so they decide to release them to ease tensions but strikes and demonstrations had already spread across the island and these continued.
Bustamante forming a trade union helped quell the riots by the end of June.
Bustamante and Manley both promised the workers would now get proper representation.
28 June - Acting governor Woolley announced in the legislative council that two loans would be raised to finance land settlements and other infrastructural developments.
Cigar workers, electrical workers and sugar workers established national unions in 1927, 1928 and 1932 respectively.
Cuban Communist Party created in 1925 and active in organised labour
Hunger marches, demonstrations and and strikes including a general strike in 1930 paralysed the country, workers and soldiers fought, demonstrators were killed .
Although the largest and nominally independent since 1902, economy still heavily reliant on the US and therefore was hit hard by the Depression.
Sugar production fell from 4.6 million tonnes in 1930 to under 2 million in 1933.
Wages fell by as much as 75%
: Sugar workers rebel in 1935. Began at one plantation but news soon spread and others also refused to start the crop. The strikers then mobilised, travelling to other plantations and persuading them to join the strike. Started non violently but soon 200-300 workers gathered, some with sticks, and after being demanded to continue working,, some began to throw stones leading to the manager firing into the crowd. The crowd swelled to about 500 and local military force arrived who put an end to the riot with 39 strikers being arrested.