Will T&T’s working class be slaves or rebels? Vidale examines root of capitalist exploitation

EPL Infrafred Sauna

As I contemplated the best way to express my thoughts for this blog I came to only one conclusion. This will perhaps be the most unpopular piece that I have ever written.

If I asked the average employer in Trinidad and Tobago whether they would endorse slavery the answer would probably be no. However, I want to suggest that many of us are steeped in the philosophies and attitudes towards labour which were held during that tragic phase in our history.

Photo: A satirical take on the relationship between businesses and unions.
(Copyright Carol Simpson)

In fact, I would go so far as to say—and the evidence supports it—that we fundamentally agree with similar terms of conditions of work, except that we would never actually lay claim to owning a person as chattel in 2018.

I want to focus on two things. Firstly, the prevalent notion that exploitation is due to character flaws of the exploited; and secondly that we cannot continue to pretend that ‘all ah we is one’.

I am amazed and disheartened by what passes for analysis when we discuss the question of exploitation in our society. Worse yet is our value set, which has embraced exploitation as the price you pay for not being educated enough or not being ambitious enough.

These are views, interestingly enough, not articulated openly by employers but by workers who, because they are ‘skilled’, hold themselves above the mass of the working class. Furthermore, the ‘privileges’ associated with being skilled are because of their ability to adapt to a changing employment market.

Exploitation is not a state of mind, it is the nature of the state!

There is nothing new about skilled workers in this society and moreover there is nothing new about workers ignoring the exploitation of other workers—especially here in Trinidad, where on average 40 per cent of the African population was free during the period of slavery and went about their business and left no record of any mass uprising led by them rejecting the institution of slavery.

Photo: A depiction of slaves serving their masters in Trinidad.
(Courtesy Netssa.com)

Let me treat further with this perceived dichotomy of skilled versus unskilled workers. There is a growing narrative that in the modern workforce there are workers who have specialised skills and this therefore is responsible for their value to a company.

They hold the view that their individual bargaining power makes trade unions irrelevant. While modes of production have advanced and workers have evolved, it is grossly inaccurate to argue that skilled workers and ‘special’ treatment are a modern phenomenon.

Craton tells us that [the enslaved] were commonly hired out—either as jobbing gangs or as individuals with special skills.

Estate record books that list the slaves in their gangs and include alongside each slave his or her assessed market value are therefore not merely an indication of an owner’s assessment of his capital assets, but an indicator of the slave’s actual value, potential bargaining power, and consequent status.

In other words, being skilled and having bargaining power cannot be a measure of progress since such situations existed for the last 200 years.

This takes me to my second point. The society has not undergone fundamental transformation in its power structures over the last two hundred years. The continued ‘development’ of the current state advances interests which are inimical to the interests of the mass of the population.

Photo: A satirical take on capitalism.
(Copyright Tjeerd Royaards)

The fact that our leaders look like us is absolutely irrelevant in this regard. What is important is whose interests is being served!

Being called a colony was not merely a title; it was a brand. And as with any well marketed brand, it imposed itself and became embedded in our subconscious.

The change in title to independent nation did not affect our brand! Colonial value systems are as much a part of our collective consciousness now as they were prior to 1962; and I dare go further back to say prior to 1834.

If we take this as true, then we will begin to understand our lack of success in trying to appeal to some higher moral values of those whose interests are being propagated and protected by the state.

This is the primary lesson which Eric Williams leaves us with in his seminal work, Capitalism and Slavery. The English had great difficulty with his challenge to their morality narrative as the reason for the abolition of slavery. The danger of the economic rationale was that the exploitation of a worker such that he could be reduced to a thing existed not because of some moral deficiency of a greedy few; but rather it was at the heart of an economic system, which in large part remains unchecked up to today.

Williams tells us that “the indifference with which the rising capitalist class was beginning to reckon prosperity in terms of pounds sterling, and… becoming used to the idea of sacrificing human life to the deity of increased production” was characteristic of the historical narrative of the period.

Photo: A satirical take on capitalism.

There is hardly a difference in that description of the period of slavery and the prescriptions for success presented by many of our economists. Our oversimplification of business strategy to reduction in wages is also found in Williams’ writing when he says: “here, then, is the origin of Negro slavery. The reason was economic, not racial; it had to do not with the color of the laborer, but the cheapness of the labor.”

I make no apology for this comparison. Workers must take these attacks as an opportunity to consolidate and to challenge the current model of development.

There is a great opportunity in the naked attack on the trade union movement as it has unmasked the true nature of our state. Ask yourselves, why are organised business groups issuing media releases to tell workers that workers’ organisations are obsolete? The irony of this is lost on many of us.

There is a line in the sand and its construct is based on class. If workers do not organise and organise quickly then the opportunity can be lost.

Organise at work but also in your communities. Being organised and acting as a collective is not just your line of defence, it is your mechanism to advance your collective interest as a group.

I end with CLR James when he says: “if you are not their slaves, you are their rebels.”

Photo: Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor plays the role of Solomon Northup in the film adaption of 1853 slave memoir “12 Years A Slave.”
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About Akins Vidale

Akins Vidale
Akins Vidale lectures at the Cipriani College of Labour and Cooperative Studies and is a UWI graduate with a B.A. in History. He has served as the president of the Trinidad Youth Council and is the General Secretary of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOs (FITUN). Read his blog: http://akinsvidale.wordpress.com/

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  1. Akins Vidale’s assertion that Trinidadians had no record of any mass uprising in slavery is extremely misleading. In fact no Trinidadians now are wholly descended from the Trinidad’s slave population. We who are now settled here are Haitians and Grenadians and Barbadians and Saint Lucians who have the most outstanding records of insurrection in world history. We ignore that fact at our peril because that error distorts our self image and even blocks our natural pathway of truth towards Federation.
    Talk of capitalism and slavery that does not include our neighbours with whom we are strongly related, and without whose contributions we could never be competitive, does seem narrow minded and a negro folly from my distance.

    • I never said there is no history of mass uprising…don’t misquote me. There is no record of the free Africans engaging in mass protest against the institution of slavery during its existence. That is what I said and that is historical fact. As for the rest of your comment s…they are extrapolated from a statement I never made and as such your extrapolation cannot be attributed to me either. Honestly I genuinely don’t understand the last point.

    • Danny Holder what gets me is that so many forget that the indigenous peoples were here and most keep ignoring their plight! It’s not so bad in T&T as it is elsewhere for them but everyone is crying slavery this and that, African this and that.

      You’re right, we are all one Caribbean and a mix of so many people. Try to remember the indigenous people when you get a chance too.

    • Akins Olatunji Vidale there is no chance of my having misquoted you, I used “copy and paste” directly from your essay. As for my last point, we are Caribbean in the Caribbean circumstances of race and work. We have no chance of competing successfully until we at least find out what Guyana and St Kitts have to offer. Trinidad was peculiar in that we had less slavery than the rest, but Trinidad’s borders fell over 100 years ago to the newly fenced-in migrated settlers we have today. Any analysis of capitalism and slavery should look to the populations where and when present Trinidadians came from.

    • “In Trinidad, where on average 40 per cent of the African population was free during the period of slavery and went about their business and left no record of any mass uprising led by them rejecting the institution of slavery.”

    • This is part of why we cannot have progressive discussions. You want to hold your ground on a lie.

    • Akins Olatunji Vidale, “a lie” is a bit strong when you consider that my phrase is wholly contained within your sentence and from my view does not detract from the meaning you intended in any way. “left no record of any mass uprising” is a phrase directly lifted from your sentence so therefore qualifies as a quote.
      But this is unnecessary heat. Calm down, we is friend.

    • Danny Holder I was very specific in terms of who I was talking about and that makes a big difference in interpretation. The failure of the “free” is my point of contention. I extrapolate this to our contemporary society to suggest that those of us who have achieved by society’s standards turn blind eyes to the rampant exploitation which exists around us. And yes buddy we is still fren lol…

    • Akins Olatunji Vidale, a friend posted an appreciation of his ailing father on FB this week, whom I recognised as similar in every respect to Black men in my Trinbagonian/Bajan family. Except that my friend is British Black, his father is Jamaican and his mother is Cuban. Clear evidence that we could reference true evidence of the slavery experience in Trinidad from anywhere in the Caribbean.

    • That is a different discussion. The plantation experience is a common thread throughout the region. It provides us with common historical beginning. There is no argument from me there..my focus on Trinidad ( and note I did not include Tobago in my assessment) was to address very deliberately a very specific set of circumstances. It seems as if there is a misinterpretation of what was written and by extension the intent and focus of the blog.

    • Danny Holder a phrase fully contained can be and as now been proven to be very inaccurate.

    • Akins Olatunji Vidale frankly this is why we cannot have meaningful discussions. you posited a view and it nucleates a discussion and a very constructive and worthwhile on at that. I honestly unplugged my self when we began to go down rabbit holes about capitalism, socialist democracy etc., which in my view were tangential and unnecessary. So we ended up with nothing but a set of drivel and other discussions which don’t really address your point which I still believe is worthy of a good discussion.

    • I find I am spending too much time avoiding an argument with you Brian Harry. I am from the world of that discussion but the premise is inconsistent with what I have previously settled as Caribbean slavery history. My point on the subject will always be geared towards Caribbean federation and equality, opposite to yours which as I remember attempts the failed theory that racism only exists in the minds of the accusers, the power of wit and wisdom will triumph under any circumstances. Tra-la-la-la-la. I’m sure that some can buy a house with the benefits of that theory but others will build a nation with better ones.

    • Why fight about who is right? None of us were there. Let’s move on.

  2. excellent article the Vidale. Thanks.

  3. Will T&T’s working class be slaves or rebels?
    Vidale examines root of capitalist exploitation
    Akins Vidale Monday 19 November 2018 Guest Columns, View Point Leave a comment
    As I contemplated the best way to express my thoughts for this blog I came to only one conclusion. This will perhaps be the most unpopular piece that I have ever written.
    If I asked the average employer in Trinidad and Tobago whether they would endorse slavery the answer would probably be no. However, I want to suggest that many of us are steeped in the philosophies and attitudes towards labour which were held during that tragic phase in our history.
    In fact, I would go so far as to say—and the evidence supports it—that we fundamentally agree with similar terms of conditions of work, except that we would never actually lay claim to owning a person as chattel in 2018.
    I want to focus on two things. Firstly, the prevalent notion that exploitation is due to character flaws of the exploited; and secondly that we cannot continue to pretend that ‘all ah we is one’. I am amazed and disheartened by what passes for analysis when we discuss the question of exploitation in our society. Worse yet is our value set, which has embraced exploitation as the price you pay for not being educated enough or not being ambitious enough.
    This article presents what is call “a teachable moment”
    Capitalism and Slavery: Reflections on the Williams Thesis
    By Guy Emerson Mount November 21, 2015 1
    The thing we call slavery and the thing we call capitalism both continue to provoke scholars with their incestuous relationship. In 1944 Eric Williams published his classic Capitalism and Slavery which sparked a scholarly conversation to date.
    Guy Mount reminds us, that In many ways, the debates generated are more vibrant today than ever and promises to be a lasting benchmark for future historians.
    Historians long depicted slavery as a an aberration or precursor to capitalism
    We must be reminded here in Trinidad & Tobago that the lessons taught by Rt. Honorable Dr Eric Eustace Williams lives on the universal table of argumentative discourse are listed in the chronicles of higher education serving readers with insights.

    There is a new generation of thinkers that insist upon distorting the lines between contemporary society’s founding institutions,
    The old guard committed to the transformative power of emancipation.
    The other demanding thoughtful specificity that will delineate and distinguish capitalism from slavery.
    Few people today will doubt that there are existing coordinates between slavery and capitalism.

    Do our present day concept of slavery and capitalism confuse the original legitimacies behind them?
    Does substituting an abstract set of intellectually enforced paradigms to construct two separate classes where none might actually exist create an understanding of these concepts?
    If not, then what is the relationship between a more compartmentalized notion of slavery and capitalism?
    What kinds of assumptions are we consciously missing by framing the question in a way that asserts their separateness?
    At its most basic, understanding; the Williams thesis alleged that capitalism is economic modality that quickly replaced slavery.
    It claims that once European elites hoarded a vast surplus capital from slavery; they financed their industrial revolution. In this context T&T working class will be slaves; it is not in their genes to rebels.
    Dr.Cliff Bertrand

    • Cliff Bertrand except we keep forgetting that the masses of ‘average’ Europeans were also part of the slavery agenda.

    • The idea is not to forget,but to enlighten the masses in our country about,our own pathway,to answer this cry of inward hunger we must examine “The middle passage” “Capitalism and Slavery”. and “From Columbus to Castro”.to go local.Fast forward to another form Capitalism,slavery and corporate leadership in our Independent Republic all our work on participative management will come to naught. when an educated mass as exist in T&T embraces the opportunity to elect “a motor mechanic” to perform open heart surgery , we have yet to distinguish between participation as a form of entitlement and participation as the basis for learning.in the search for new ideas.

  4. Without reading the others’ comments, I’m suggesting that the problem is wider than you think. You touched some of it in reference to capitalism. It’s what capitalism is all about.

    Unfortunately capitalism has taught us these values and there are hundreds of thousands of white slaves in America too.

    The moment people realize that a socialist democratic society that places great value on this various roles of citizens necessary to run a society successfully – whether they’re a shoe sales person or a garbage collector or a financial analyst, we are lost.

    I’m T&T it’s especially bad because cleaners are regarded as slaves – simply due to the low wage they continue to earn, regardless how that helps the corporate person run their own life very successfully. It’s why I avoid home cleaners as much as possible. I do everything myself. For various reasons.

    The REAL problematic in my view is the slave mentality as well. I’ve always paid noticeably more than the average but guess what happens? The worker is so not used to being treated fairly that they mostly turn around and then walk all over you or think you’re so soft and no s they start to take all sorts of liberties. I probably had just one house helper who did not adopt that response.

    I also paid by the law, 1.5 times on Saturday and 2x on Sunday. I think it was almost 3x, not sure.

    In the end I had to give up because I just didn’t feel good about hiring any house helpers for measly pay and if I paid them better they turned into beasts. It seems that if will take generations for the abused to react appropriately as well.

    I got the same response with employees too. Paid them excellent salaries plus bonus and suddenly it wasn’t only not enough they had the audacity to leave without giving notice and then even say they were never treated this badly. After tears welled up in one’s eyes saying she was never treated so good all the years she worked one Christmas it was different by the time she stormed out after insisting that she needed a raise and to earn 25k per month. It was a mess. No need to say that I will never have employees again. About 2/3 of my staff turned out to be extremely ungrateful and the good treatment went to their heads – same as the house helpers! These payments I made weren’t even on par with what is paid for house cleaners in Germany!

    I now do sub-contracts – everyone should be independent and work and pay taxes for themselves. I agree to a figure and 99.9% I’ll pay you what we agreed unless you don’t complete what was agreed. If you did the work but I wasn’t impressed or extremely disappointed, I’d still pay your fee but I will never use you again. For the time bring, I don’t use any house cleaners for the very same reason.

    It’s maddening to hear from local people that I invited bad behavior by ‘treating them too good’.

    I honestly do not understand that type of thinking. There are countless people in this country who think that certain people should never earn anything that will have them survive with their heads just about the level of the water of below. It’s really true.

    Thanks for your article. I certainly agree with your take. The only thing I insist is that this is a capitalist-problem and we have people of our own color who are just fine with all of it.

  5. Life is as the chicken coup principle. Exploitation is never good when it is NOT accidental or untended. People all over the world need to be treated with respect for they, each and everyone, are creations of God and God is actually disguised in each person. Deliberate cruelty and exploitation will result in a faceoff with God – “game, set, and match” or, for the sophisticated, “checkmate”.

  6. With such a string social support structure, don’t most have the OPPORTUNITY to aspire and achieve? Secondly, who exactly are these employers that the writer seeks to suggest wants to “enslave people”? Is it BP, Carib, Massy, Ansa McCal? Who? And do these employers pay a living wage? What about the minimum wage act, does this not protect persons to some degree from “enslavement”? With all the “freeness” that so many persons in our society get, is there not ample opportunity for persons to aspire and achieve?

    • The ‘enslavement’ is probably in the cases where people do not utilise the opportunities given to aspire and achieve. This is why we have CEPEP and other ’10 day’ work programmes that people stay in instead of using them as an opportunity to move forward as was supposed to happen.

    • Judy-ann Stewart in an interview I did for a research project, a former leader at a state institution shared with me that the patriarch of the Ansa McAl group once shouted at his employees “if you all think we’re bad, I would be happy to send you back to the cane fields”. Suffice it to say, even in large formal supposedly successful organizations, we have this mentality!

    • Malcolm Kurt Marquez many organizations especially from our merchant class operates a command and control structure like we are still om the plantations. Recall they fired about 40 employees because they wished to discontinue mandatory overtime at Francis Fashions. If employees are working their normal hours and doing everything required of them in their regular shifts, they should not have to work overtime and subject themselves to the level of exploitation that became apparent in that organization. There are several other instances I have heard of from friends and colleagues working for organizations in T&T. Expanding one’s network can be helpful in learning more about people’s experience.

    • Keston K. Perry He has moved on to higher things and the people operating Ansa are unlikely to treat with their employees in that way now. I had also heard various stories about him but he belonged to a different age and that attitude may not be widespread but I take your point that some people still have that mentality though in toay’s world they have to keep it under cover.

    • Judy-ann Stewart the gall of this man to think he was doing African and Indian people a favour. Did you miss the Anthony Bourdain video? This is very current.

    • Keston K. Perry I saw the excerpts of the video. It is a fact that these are successful businessmen whose families came to TT with nothing and, by dint of hard work, were able to succeed and build empires which hire a lot of people. There are some businesses that may mistreat their employees but this is not confined to that community. How widespread is this? I don’t know.

      I maintain that the people who take advantage of the opportunities in TT will not be at the lowest level of employment where they are always vulnerable especially with all of our ‘immigrants’ who are willing to take any job.

    • Keston name the executive nuh! Your description didn’t provide enough clarity for me ?

    • Steven Mawer trolls gonna troll…

    • Judy-ann Stewart ‘maintaining a position’ does not actually make that position true or verifiable. It just makes it an opinion.

    • Keston K. Perry so you can’t name the ansa patriarch who said is best he sends people to go back and plant cane? Why boy?

      I mean, if is true…you have no reason to be fraid right?

    • Steven Mawer I am a researcher. It was in the conduct of my doctoral research that this was shared. It was a relevant anecdote to what was being discussed. That’s all. You need to come for people who come for you. I am not that person.

    • A lot of people in TnT are butt hurt because their fore-fathers had no vision for the future. They let immigrants that came after them take everything. I’ve read that when we first sought self governance the Africans were mostly interested in jobs and the Indians could not be bothered.

      Yes there is racism among the elite I’ve witnessed it before. At the same time there is a severe lack of self worth, productivity and responsibility among our people. All that does is justify their opinions in the mind of a racist.

    • Lasana Murray your comments deserved to be shared far and wide. Ill be sure to give it the publicity it deserves ?

    • Lasana Murray you also have no real sense of history, and think very highly of your uninformed opinions. The fact you feel so brave to share such false, highly problematic narratives means no form of evidence or logic will help. I leave you to the universe to deal with. Bless.

    • Keston K. Perry you keep criticizing then bailing out without providing no real analysis. Now you are resorting to post shaming, seriously?

      What happened to the energetic young critic of the Manning administration that could never stop talking even if he was wrong?

      Times change huh?

    • Keston K. Perry That’s what I have been doing – expressing my opinion.

    • I just think the article perpetuates (without evidence) what I believe is the misconception that some large part of the working population in T&T is “enslaved” and working for “dog wages”…..

    • Malcolm Kurt Marquez what would you consider “evidence”?

    • Something that’s not based on opinion

    • I am not sure how you conflate that article with capitalism and how employers pay people in Trinidad….maybe you could explain? The article you sent does not say whether those “poor people”‘ are employed full time, part-time or at all…..

    • Malcolm Kurt Marquez where did I mention capitalism? Akins can more than defend what he has written. But the article cites Eric Williams whose work explained that industrial capitalism emerged because Great Britain was able to oppress plantation societies like ours, making them impoverished. That is a basic understanding of what Williams wrote, and Akins’ use of that argument to show what prevails and continues today. What I can add is that we have at least 30 per cent of our population who live on low wages and struggle to make ends meet. This number is increasing, as employers are allowed to get away with paying low wages or people are stuck in insecure work etc.

    • #1. Capitalism is mentioned in the article heading this page. #2. Eric Williams work is dated……socialism and communism have over time proven to be unsustainable models….capitalism on the other hands prevails to this date in most countries throughout the World. #3. As for the 30 percent you refer to, the article does not say whether they are unemployed or employed. Also I’m sure you are aware we have a minimum wage act to protect employees, a Labor Board and an Industrial Court. The claims of “enslavement” have little or no basis in fact or reality and is being exaggerated and overplayed.

    • Malcolm I haven’t followed the entire chat here. As editor, I imposed a headline based on what I felt the article projected.
      So there is a chance that I was wrong. So better to hold Akins responsible for the content of the blog and not necessarily the headline.
      I don’t know if headline was accurate or not but that was my responsibility.

    • Malcolm Kurt Marquez
      * work being dated does not make it irrelevant. *Capitalism prevailing does not make it the best system lol
      *I am telling you 30% – you can take my word for it. Lol
      *Being employed does not mean youre not poor.
      *I think “enslaved” was a metaphor

  7. The article is an opinion piece that is virtually devoid of any facts or statistical references. The facts are that we have free education from childhood to tertiary level. The facts are we have free Government housing for the lower income earners. Lower income earnings are also exempt from paying taxes…we also have free health care….etc, etc, etc. The long an short is factually we have a very strong social support structure. Is it perfect? No, but what is?

  8. unions have a bigger fight coming


  9. I think some of the reasoning here is dated:

    “Organise at work but also in your communities. Being organised and acting as a collective is not just your line of defence, it is your mechanism to advance your collective interest as a group.”

    ^ I believe this to be where unionists are misleading their members. Why can’t they organize and form cooperatives/companies that then sell their labor? That gives them equity, share in a profit. Why do they have to join a union and pay fees that they don’t get back in a tangible form?

    Why encourage workers to fight a system that is dying by a 1000 cuts? Why not encourage them to see how the nature of work is changing and the idea of the proletariat is operating on borrowed time?

    Did man send a probe to Jupiter by the sweat of hundreds of 1000s or by the knowledge of a few 1000?

    • Lasana Murray unions negotiate a price for your labour and also negotiate for profit sharing. Steel workers won a landmark judgement at the Privy Council which has benefited all workers in T&T. Do you think any individual worker has resources to get that legal issue settled and bring certainty to the law? Legal representation (in disciplinary matters too) is one of the benefits of unions. Collective Bargaining and Grievance Handling are two of the main tangible benefits of paying dues. Because of Unions, workers all over the world have increased benefits and protection with Health and Safety legislation etc. in the workplace. What benefits have any individual worker achieved for the working class? Unions are owned by their members. We are so caught up in promoting maximum leaders that we missed that the power structure of the unions places members at the top. The leader takes directives from the General Council and General Membership. He /she along with other Officers of the union, negotiates for all workers in the bargaining unit. It is the preferred option than to allow individuals to negotiate for their labour by themselves. Ten persons negotiating as a team should produce better outcomes than one. Unions bring balance to the unequal power relationship between worker and employer. Unfortunately, some unions may have allowed their leaders to be a law unto themselves but that is another topic for discussion.

    • “Unions are owned by their members”
      Lester Logie so you are saying unions are already cooperatives then?

      No doubt unions have done a lot in the dark ages (pre global Internet access) to bring basic respectable working conditions all over the world. But times have changed and the game is played on a different level. People need to up their knowledge and actual value not depend solely on the man power they can provide.

      The days when aspiring to be a worker all your life was desirable are over. Even China has been allowing more entrepreneurship and individual wealth. Put it simply, we need to focus on obtaining wealth not salary. In a sustainable way that is.

    • Added to what Lester Logie has stated, the idea that an individual should directly benefit from payments made in a collective endeavor is an unfortunate sign of our times…. individualism is rife and has created more harm than good – crime, greed, corruption, suffering, you name it. Unions by their nature offer a collective good. Just as when public authorities spend on education through public programs – it is hoped that the education one receives will benefit the entire society through skills used in production or attitudes developed where deviant behaviour is discouraged. The idea that unions should come up with capital to spread around, when public resources are being used for the benefit of all of us, is ludicrous. If the state owns the means of production, it is a collective asset for all of us, not just a few or for individuals to benefit from. That was a basic principle I learnt and gained from my time in school.

    • You realize these socialist ideals have resulted in the death of people the world over right?

    • Lasana Murray everyone cannot and should not be an entrepreneur… and this is not because one does not have skills or ambition but because society should not only be about creating fortunes but about cultivating attitudes, mores and norms that enable all of us to improve our collective lot. Not to mention, the true wealth creators are not often those at the top, but organisations are made of of groups of people that contribute to its performance. If all of us went out to go into business at the expense of others, not to mention some have greater advantages through geography, race, educational level, inheritance, money etc. Assuming that individuals who end up with most of the gains are somehow responsible for that wealth is inaccurate. People in groups, teams and organizations build products or do things that can help humanity. This kind of deep sense of individualism is damaging. How can we start thinking about harnessing collectuve effort and ingenuity?

    • Lasana Murray I am not even talking about socialism. Lol but since you brought that up, I like to see the evidence and an argument that supports such a claim – that socialism has been more harmful than others ways of organizing society?

    • Lasana Murray as I read it I had the same thoughts. Having worked (consulting) with a number of corporations where there is more of a partnership with Management and where the development of union members to grow their capabilities and competencies is a greater focus, I believe that unions can evolve to have a more progressive role

    • Brian Harry look at film unions in north america. They don’t operate like starving dogs waiting to bite any hand that come near.

      They actually contribute to the growth and development of their industry and encourage members to improve themselves.

    • Lasana Murray well that’s a great example. The USA auto industry is another example where the hardships of 2008-2011 was a catalyst to shift their approaches have now enabled the USA auto companies to now become more competitive. Look at the share price performance of Ford motors as an example of value creation. Look at how USPS has changed their model to now compete toe to toe with Fedex and UPS. This is an area that’s fertile for progress

    • Keston K. Perry everyone does not have to be an entrepreneur. But each person must have the chance to provide and make decisions on their own so that they learn responsibility.

      Collectivism does not allow that.

    • Lasana Murray I am not sure where your line of logic is going. You seem to have started in one place and wobbling down the road to somewhere else. Lol

    • Lasana Murray why do you live in a society? If you had a choice, would you live on a rock by yourself?

    • Keston K. Perry “I like to see the evidence and an argument that supports such a claim – that socialism has been more harmful than others ways of organizing society?”

      ^ There is enough evidence on youtube. Mao, Pol Pot, First Afghan war, Venezuela, Cuba, Vietnam. Pick one.

    • Lester Logie I don’t really consider T&T a society. More like a collection of tribes on an island.

      I’m here because of logistical reasons.

    • Lasana Murray every person will never be an entrepreneur. Also the meaning of the term entrepreneur has been broadened. When an employee acts with ownership over his/ her role in a corporation, they are indeed acting as entrepreneurs. A core competency at many modern firms is “entrepreneurial spirit” and there are performance measures which are applied to those folks.

    • Lasana Murray I dont take evidence from youtube I read and analyze books and put together thoughts from that. Youtube does not offer sufficient nuance for many issues. Snippets are good for basic information but perching an argument on a youtube video at least in my line of work will get you laughed at. Anyway, peace to you man.

    • Lasana Murray thinking of it ….. it’s more of an apt description than I thought. There’s very little that binds us …… frightening isn’t it. But it’s what happens when one of your guiding principles is “tolerance”

    • Keston K. Perry I figured you’d say that. Books can also be heavily summarized. If you really are a subscriber to socialism then research what I mentioned.

      Too many of you are unable to provide answers to the constant oppression socialism and centralization breeds. It’s wonderful in theory but it does not take into consideration human nature.

    • Brian Harry “There’s very little that binds us …… frightening isn’t it. ” Can you explain that a bit?

    • Lasana Murray saying something over and over again does not make it true or factual. … do with that whatever you want. Cheers.

    • Lasana Murray what exactly is your take away from the blog though? I can’t tell.

    • Lasana Liburd me neither lol… lol

    • He seems to be having an emotional fit to stuff he had in his mind… and looking for an outlet. Because I seeing, straw men only falling on their sword one by one lol…

    • Lasana Murray first you will have to agree on what socialism. I am not sure we are on the same page with what is socialism.https://youtu.be/NjwGzYbvyIc

    • Keston K. Perry lol, buddy remember I have met you on several occasions. I know your character. The fact that you did not go off but are still commenting is enough to let me know you are unwilling to face the facts

    • Lasana Liburd it’s in my original comment. The focus is outdated and while I have seen some of the OP stuff before and respect his intelligence it’s not where you should be focusing the attention of these so called “workers”

    • Lasana Murray we live and work as separate tribes. Look at how decisions are made at the highest levels. Our politics is the “battle of the races”, hard to get some centralization or purpose and a clear set of national objectives. So even when political ideologies are very similar the outcomes vary significantly. We have held on to watchwords “discipline, production and tolerance”, so we have merely tolerated each other, leading to a place where our diversity should be a strength but it has not worked that way. This is going a bit afield of the Central issue of unions, but I do believe that more progressive unions can help us to transcend this state

    • Lester Logie that’s one of the problems with socialism, it gets redefined like Christianity by whoever is selling it. That’s why it’s oppressive. Ironically socialism tends to be against religon.

    • Yes Lasana Liburd good question lol

    • Lasana you think workers are better off abandoning the collective and striking out on their own? That this way is the path to prosperity?
      That’s extraordinary. Can you offer any evidence of a team of one being preferable to a collective?
      (Apart from when the team of one is a scavenger who tries to prey on the collective)

    • Lasana Liburd I know you didn’t ask the question of me. I think they are better as a collective but I think the objectives of the unions and the style and content of advocacy has to change

    • Brian I think Akins would agree with that too. I would—although I’d still need to know what’s the end game of the change you suggest.

    • Lasana Liburd it’s better for people to focus on building their wealth. Collective reasoning does not do that. Collectivism only ensures your place as a cog in a machine. People are not machines.

      Mankind only started working for other people a couple thousand years ago. Before that you went out to the wilderness built your home, grew your crops and traded with people nearby. Life was hard but that was real wealth.

      Unions should be encouraging members to do the equivalent in this 21st century. Or at least figuring out what the equivalent of that would be. Working for others should be seen as bridge to that wealth creation, not the destination.

    • ^ To add to that, the supposedly elite have less control over people who can stand on their own two feet. Same goes for the politicians.

      That instantly means that if somebody wants something you can provide, they have to negotiate because you can probably live without them.

    • Lasana Murray the elite understand the collective and that’s how they are able to manage them. Apple was never Steve Jobs alone you know.
      And mankind worked in the collective to survive winters and hostile territory from practically the beginning of time.
      From dividing household duties between cleaning, cooking, fixing and throwing out the garbage is an exercise in collective cooperation.
      So I’m confused by what you’re saying.

    • Lasana Liburd the end is higher corporate performance and value creation, which leads to healthier communities. Secondly, more productive than workers translates to enhanced self confidence, productivity and reduced social tension.

    • Brian so long as the needs of the workers are satisfied and not just the needs of the employer.

    • Lasana Liburd there is significant research that supports the point I just made. See chapter 1 Koller et al in their book Valuation: Measuring and Managing the value of companies

    • Lasana Liburd mutually beneficial contracts vs owner/slave or employer/employee relationships.

      In the case of Apple, many people got stock. When you mention dividing duties I’m sure there was a lot of oppression but there were also a lot of mutually beneficial alliances between peoples for survival.

    • Lasana Liburd no of course not, there has to be mutual benefit. But it has been proven that happy, empowered employees create more value for their corporations. Enlightened corporations then strive in return to ensure employee satisfaction and engagement

    • Lasana Murray I believe a collective is a group of individuals working for a mutual benefit.
      And so as not to go too far off the reservation, I don’t see how Vidale’s suggestion that they work together to preserve the rights of the working class could possibly be a bad thing.

    • It’s not a bad thing, it’s outdated or rather is becoming that. It’s like someone fighting over the right to an HDC apartment that is eventually condemned.

      I mean if he is calling for people to excel professionally in their fields, then band together, fine. But he mentioned the lack of sympathy of the skilled for the unskilled.

      The unskilled are supposed to be the youth now entering the workforce. Fighting against their mistreatment is understandable to a point but they should in no way be encouraged to fight to remain as they are.

      The unskilled that are not now entering the workforce need to go. Sorry. For every unskilled job a person over 40 holds there are probably 10 youths who can’t make enough cash to pay school fees because you are building your house and just bought a hilux

    • As far as I see it, it is the union’s job to ensure good working conditions and a fair wage. It is the company’s job to ensure square pegs don’t end up in round holes and that labour is used efficiently.
      You want the unions to run the company too?

    • Lasana Liburd i think the two do not have to be mutually exclusive. Progressive unions get invited and involved in corporate development. I’ve seen it happen. It’s not the norm but it’s where things are headed

    • Brian that’s exactly how it should happen. But it’s silly to blame the union for a guy goofing off.
      A well run company has mechanisms in place to spot and deal with an incompetent worker without violating labour laws.

    • Lasana i agree but once they decide to cooperate, executive performance is common ground. Look at the boards of Chrysler and United Airlines. The union reps on those boards also have input on executive performance . So I don’t think it’s an issue of blame but one of cooperative responsibilities

    • Lasana Murray and Lasana Liburd the other element that emphasizes the value of an educated and well functioning Union is their ability to constructively advocate and agitate. We know that change tends to be slow (if at all) without agitation. Some thing to consider. As with many discussions it’s about balance. Isn’t it ?

    • Lasana Murray didnt Capitalism cause millions of deaths through colonialism and slavery? to see u claim socialism caused deaths from Mao to afghanistan to venezuela is really mind numbing esp when u forget many of those countries faced outside aggression and socialism is an economic theory not a governance method. There are Capitalist mass murderers and dictators also .

      the union offers an ability to go to court an avenue many persons cannot afford. Nasa used the brains of thousands but the sweat of 10s of 1000s.

      in France and Germany due to destruction of property by unions many unions have far more power than here in trinidad siting on boards and charting the company progress. the laws are more stringent and executives are arrested for allegations of fraud or even poor health and safety

      here in tt white collar is virtually untouchable

    • Lasana Liburd you have me thinking bro. Is it’s as clear cut as that? Can that be the case for progressive agent-worker relations?

    • True. We will soon see whether all crime is treated equally.

    • Lasana Liburd the unions have abused their positions and their demise is at hand. The great thing about capitalism is that this negation of the negation (Brian Harry i know you see) wiĺl result in a better and different union. We are all slaves to something or other. I do not know that any condition of man is better or worse (in the current context). If you do not like your lot it is up to you to change it.
      Make it happen…

    • Wendell Raeburn unions have faced far worse boom and bust cycles of Capitalism and have survived as they serve a higher and noble purpose. They will survive this latest bust cycle.This is nothing new. Labour is the main cost that is affected according to economic theory. Union membership falls in a bust cycle as they come under attack by private interest with deep pockets that influence and control legislatures.

    • Lester LogieLogie…..ummm…i have no idea where to start … i think you may want to re read my post and come again…

    • Kyon Esdelle note: I never once brought up capitalism. Proponents of socialism often criticize capitalism to validate their claims. That is not making a valid case for socialism, that’s playing politics.

      The fact is, both ideologies are heavily influenced by European culture. Cultures that have been homogeneous, been oppressed, oppressed others and prone to go to war with their neighbors. Their ideologies may not map well to a country as diverse and devoid of historical context such as ours.

    • To the brighter lasana. Lol. Thanks for the logical level headed progressive discourse.

    • Kyon Esdelle trolls gonna troll lol

    • Brian Harry I respect your reasoning here. I can see a possible future where trade unions transition from what they are now to something similar to organisations such as ACCA/ICATT law association etc.

      Of course these structures have their own issues, but we do see a lot more individual prosperity spread around than crowds of “the oppressed”.

    • Timothy Christopher P Nokio not sure who you are referring to but can we converse without personal insults? 🙂

    • Lasana Murray no man is an island and no island is in a bubble

      the historical context in TT is slavery colonialism and low wages followed by a govt using O&G revenue to develop the society in a socialist model

    • Lasana Murray it was a joke
      Trust me. Liburd will ignore my dumb ass. Lol

    • i didn’t even know where to go with that so I stayed peeping from the trenches oui… ?

    • Lasana Murray you’ve forgotten that socialism – more communism-like) as practiced by Cuba et al didn’t work because it was witch-hunted from the start by the corporatists capitalists.

      Germany practices socialist democracy. It worked superbly until they were overloaded with the reunification and perhaps the EU. Still, it remains the most capable and independent of all the EU countries.

      Part of that secret is to keep industry local and not outsource everything. Germany remains the leader in certain manufacturing where these allow villages to thrive.

      As a comparison, America outsourced everything and then trump complains that the Chinese are doing them bad. No Americans themselves or rather their corporations forgot the collective and decided that the collective wasn’t important once they could get everything manufactured in China for a penny a piece rather than pay people fair wages. Instrumental in all that were the Democrats too which a lot of blind Americans can’t see. The corporations own America and they care about shareholder profit, they don’t care about the average man and the unions.

      Intellectuals in Europe have had recent round tables discussing the failure of capitalism actually. You probably know most if this already anyway. Sorry if I’m talking as if you might not know.

    • Keston K. Perry Lasana is correct when he says you should take evidence from YouTube. You should also take it from Instagram too. Lol

      It’s a fact and so you’re not up to date on what’s actually going on.

    • germany also didnt lay off when the economy had problems so they recovered faster than usa after the credit crisis

    • Lasana Murray socialism is being confused with capitalism and hey that was always the plan of the American corporations. It’s has worked excellently.

      No, socialism is NOT quite communism, big differences there. As I said earlier, Germany practices socialist democracy, nothing there looks like communism to me.

    • Linda Louison I welcome intelligent discourse that is not driven by emotions anytime. 🙂

    • Kyon Esdelle exactly. It puts its efforts on the collective.

    • Linda Louison can you briefly explain socialist democracy?

    • “socialism is being confused with capitalism” — are you referring to me?

    • From Wikipedia:”
      Social democracy is a political, social and economic ideology that supports economic and social interventions to promote social justice within the framework of a liberal democratic polity and capitalist economy.

      The protocols and norms used to accomplish this involve a commitment to representative and participatory democracy; measures for income redistribution and regulation of the economy in the general interest; and welfare state provisions”

      ^ Linda Louison ?

    • Lasana Murray not really or maybe yes but someone spoke about socialism as thought it’s communism. It might have been you yes.

      Socialist democracy? Lol well Trinidad is actually practicing it to s certain extent except that the workers who are supposed to make this society work aren’t working that hard. Take out CEPEP. Put back in free university education.

      Socialist democracy is not supposed to encourage laziness.

      I’m not going to reinvent the wheel but here is a summary from Wikipedia.

      I’ll look for one that explains how it works in Germany which is a country that provides for all but people are not lazy, they work.

      Additionally Germany’s society encourages or rather insists on training for everything. You can’t sell shoes or even be a sales assistant in a shoe shop without training. That way, people are also not underpaid for their services. There is value in every cog in the social wheel. Everyone is trained to be the best in what they do.

      You can envy garbage collectors and street sweepers in Germany. The only vagrants I ever saw were people who loved to live out in the open. I mean there’s certainly something not functioning there because who wants to do that in winter? But overall I cannot fill one hand, I knew only 3 tramps. There’s no vagrancy. You also can’t die because you have no money for hospital plus when you go to hospital you certainly don’t meet a POS general hospital.


    • Lasana Murray in the final analysis remember that ‘socialism’ is about the society. Communism is about keeping society in chains trying to make things equal which is extremely restrictive and destructive.

      So to use the simple term socialism to describe countries which must take more than average control of its citizens’ life is erroneous.

      Not only that, it’s the greatest irony that in America the society is slowly moving towards extreme control BUT with everyone’s approval hahaha. NSA, google and Facebook, social media … a well oiled machine taking everyone’s data. People think that oh once I’m not drug running that’s just no problem but let someone like Hitler take over and control will be swift. Trump hasn’t even gotten that near and people act as though he’s the next Hitler. No the next Hitler might come in a form you might invite into your home.

    • So there is a lot I could get into here but it’s way off topic. You’re the first one here to properly defend socialism in any form. I called out socialism because it’s ideologies are easily corrupted into various forms that lead to the subjugation of people in the name of the “greater good.”

      Looking at the Wikipedia description, social democracy sounds a lot like an extreme version of what free market proponents advocate. The major difference to me of course being the welfare state. But the idea that the state steps in under certain conditions is there. But off-topic.

    • Linda Louison Also I think Germany’s supposedly social democracy utopia has something to do with the homogeneity of the society.
      As the nation becomes more diverse and has to deal with unwanted immigration it will be seriously tested. We are already seeing the return of Nazi supporters and European nationalism in general.

      I personally hold the belief that our diverse culture here makes it difficult for such systems to work. It’s too easy to split people along race lines.

    • Lasana Murray um not really. Of course immigration makes the problem worse but that happens mainly in economies that are worsening anyway.

      The Neo-nazis in Germany started long before this immigration crisis. It always was there but like a seed waiting to sprout. It sprouted right after the Berlin wall fell, many East Germans becoming victim to the rotting seeds that waited on the right time. The East German youth, traumatized by the extreme change in society and looking for someone to blame why everything didn’t go honkey Dory immediately and they weren’t being swept up in everyone’s arms and given the riches they were led to believe was part and parcel of western ‘entitlement’, joined these evil emeffers and looked towards the immigrants.

      The silent nazis came alive and fostered hate of foreigners along with holocaust denial theories.

      So East German people coming out of communism who weren’t Nazi before became Nazi. That was the only time I needed to be more watchful when traveling alone late at night in the former west.

      When my job took me to the former East German cities in 1992-1994, my colleagues became worried about me traveling alone. The former east had opened up a whole new grey world of work for everyone in the west and in some or many areas, the East Germans were way behind in development and suffered being sidelined by West germans who took their important jobs. Perhaps even the firm i worked for was one. West german firms just went in and took all the best opportunities for business – hiring the East Germans as ‘minorities’.

      I then chose to travel only when I had a colleague to accompany me. I was in training and they were all my seniors anyway, even though as a trainee I normally had freedom to take trips independently.

      By the told I took one of my last trips to Dresden and more into the interior, before I left in 1994, many Turks and other foreigners were attacked. Even 2 friends of mine from Africa, were attacked in Stuttgart and thrown in the river and left for dead. Whole houses with Turkish families burnt, first time west Germany now reunified saw this type of thing happen. The neo nazis especially loved to slash the faces of Turkish women and scar them for life.

      Anyway, on that particular trip , I was walking ahead of my colleague taking data on the buildings in Goerlitz, a breathtakingly beautiful but communistically coal covered and grey city on the Neisse river on the polish border.

      Well what do I bounce up. At a square I see the building flying the Nazi flag. I was so taken aback that I stopped and looked back at my colleague who had his eyes on me but took his time. I myself didn’t want to walk back to him, I always told them don’t worry and I continued walking into the square.

      Well I was taken aback even more when suddenly the double doors in this building opened and out walked about 10 Neo Nazis, all towering blond haired Germans. They were decked out in full Nazi clothing, but short black boots. I guess they couldn’t source Hitler’s tall black ones. Lol

      Anyway, I simply froze. I literally froze and couldn’t do anything else but stare. I was even more shocked to watch other people in the square not even turn a head or look surprised. This formidable group walked right past me close enough to touch me and it was as though they never saw me. I mean I know I get white when I live anywhere without sun but Turkish women are most times more fair skinned than I am. I had the black hair too. I was considered ‘exotic’ too, I certainly don’t look German.

      Up to this day I don’t know how this group passed me without noticing me especially since I couldn’t take my eyes off them.

      I’ve seen a lot in my life Lasana and no ‘immigration’, far less ‘unwanted immigration’ has anything to do with it. These words and phrases are thought up as excuses by an evil thread that runs through persons in every society that looks to apply blame for their conditions on someone else. Mind you, the Jews did not make things easier for Germany shortly before Hitler took power and they were at the time far from being immigrants any more. They were the richest people in German society back then, FULLY integrated.

      Think about all of that and know that there are people and elements out there who would have you think that immigration causes problems. Yes it does in this day and age with strict borders.

      The fact of the matter is, it is about using people to achieve one’s goals. Once you need help, immigrants are ALWAYS welcome. Once you don’t anymore, they typically are invited to leave even after they’ve spent their whole life since their birth in your country. Immigration is never welcomed in any society – I heard many diverse people right here in T&T get upset and say they don’t want Dominicans to come to Trinidad even for 6 months.

      When societies begin to worry about where their next dollar is coming from, the immigrants are never wanted. Including in our oh so ‘diverse’ culture.

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