“Attributing the Opposition’s awful stance on the Venezuela question to them being Indian is race-baiting, plain and simple. In the Caribbean, colluding and conspiring with foreign powers are hardly the sole preserve of Indians.
“[…] Consider again the case of the late Prime Minister of Dominica, Eugenia Charles, who made Margaret Thatcher look like a kitten in the eyes of late former USA president Ronald Reagan’s aides. According to the Watergate journalist, Bob Woodward, her government was paid millions in support of Reagan’ s Grenada adventure…”
The following letter to the editor on Professor Selwyn Cudjoe’s two-part series on the UNC’s stance on Venezuela and its link to race was submitted to Wired868 by David Johnson of Maraval:
Two decades ago I wrote a ‘scathing’ piece on Professor Selwyn Cudjoe in a local newspaper. I had grown weary of columns in which the professor clothed himself in a tradition of radical black thinkers and activists, even as he remained mired in a divisive politics of ethnicity and race that was antithetical to the very tradition.
My breaking point was his descent into discredited social darwinist theories of race to explain the position of blacks in Trinidad and Tobago vis-à-vis his nemesis, Indians.
In more recent years I began to revise my take on this affable brother, seeing him as also revising his perspectives, with more thoughtful offerings on the world that Africans and Indians have forged in Trinidad and Tobago. I even managed a complimentary email for a fine column he penned on women, gender and the limitations of male leadership in T&T.
To be sure, doubts remained, but hey, show me someone you think is always flawless of thought and I will consider you a sycophant.
It turns out, however, that there are limitations to Professor Cudjoe’s evolution, as evidenced by his two-part response to Moonilal and the Opposition’s alliance with the Donald Trump administration to police our compliance with the monstrous regime of sanctions on Venezuela. (Express, May 10 & 24).
For the professor, this admittedly shameful collaboration with US imperialist designs in the region has a simple explanation: ‘irrational Indian fear/hatred of blacks and a feeling of un-belonging’. In support of this irrational thesis, he forages our history for evidence of the collective malady of Indians who, time and time again, have committed treachery against the nation, from its embryo to the present.
Albert Gomes, politician and writer, is exhumed and called as first witness. He makes it known that after the labour disturbances of 1937 ‘white and near white’ upper and middle classes feared being swamped and usurped by ‘blackness’. That Indians did not inhabit the panicked class/race groupings identified by Gomes, thus making his observation irrelevant, does not detain the professor as he speeds ahead with his sloppy research methods.
On his journey Professor Cudjoe selectively uncovers all manner of disloyal Indians at odds with the nation. Even those caught celebrating the independence of India in 1947—just as Africans in Trinidad and Tobago celebrated the independence of Ghana ten years later—are rounded up by the professor for their questionable patriotism, after Gomes squealed on them.
Inevitably, Professor Cudjoe arrives at those he sees as haters who twisted and manipulated the words of Dr Eric Williams in order to create divisions that remain at the heart of the nation. For them, Williams called all Indians a ‘recalcitrant and hostile minority’. That Williams spoke in the heat of the battle over Federation and aimed his words at a particular group of Indian politicians, made his comment no less ill-advised.
His words have since been whipped into the service of ethnic mobilisations and desperately needs to be rescued, as Professor Cudjoe rightly observes. The trouble is that the professor’s own record of stirring the ethnic cauldron renders him singularly unsuited to participate in the rescue mission.
Now, Professor Cudjoe may well retort that, in talking about Indian hatred of blacks, he does not mean all Indians. Such a retort, however, would be belied by the lack of balance in his opinion column, where we encounter only alleged Indian racists, separatists and traitors to his idea of the nation. There is little sense here that alternatives existed.
Amazingly, his story takes off in the aftermath of the 1937 rebellions, a pivotal moment in the birth of this nation, and he turns to Gomes for the voices of Indians. Yet looming large in the period is an Indian hero of Trinidad and Tobago, Adrian Cola Rienzi, who revealed no contradictions between his connections with mother India and fighting like few others in the interest of working people as a whole.
Coming closer to our own time, Cudjoe’s argument could have been further nuanced by considering a figure like Raffique Shah, who consistently for 50 years, from his leadership of black soldiers and cane farmers to his re-invention as journalist, has offered us a vision of a nation completely at odds with the one Professor Cudjoe seems determined to impose on our imagination.
The professor could have directed readers to Shah’s court martial address, once described to me by George Lamming as a remarkable transcript of Caribbean emancipation, or to Shah’s recent column on the Venezuela question.
Dear gentle reader, take a look if you have not already done so and compare Shah’s reflections in this column, even the quality of his prose, with that of the learned English professor. Perhaps in the professor’s constructions Shah is not a real Indian, whatever that is.
Maybe Cudjoe will have us invert a page from apartheid South Africa and declare him an honorary African, since by the professor’s logic we blacks are the only ones with a real sense of identity with this place called T&T.
Attributing the Opposition’s awful stance on the Venezuela question to them being Indian is race-baiting, plain and simple.
In the Caribbean, colluding and conspiring with foreign powers are hardly the sole preserve of Indians. Consider the paramilitary groups in Haiti that worked with US and French sponsors to kill activists sympathetic to the Aristide government, and eventually to overthrow it.
Consider again the case of the late Prime Minister of Dominica, Eugenia Charles, who made Margaret Thatcher look like a kitten in the eyes of late former USA president Ronald Reagan’s aides. According to the Watergate journalist, Bob Woodward, her government was paid millions in support of Reagan’ s Grenada adventure. She was one of dem Black Stalin identified for Peter’s fire on judgement day.
None of these bad actors, stooges all, looked like Kamla and Moonilal. Would Professor Cudjoe want to read their treachery from their Africanness?
There are simply too many dark alleys into which Professor Cudjoe’s essentialist thinking leads. It may strike him as common sense to see the Opposition’s action on Venezuela as an Indian thing. However, a task for anyone with radical intellectual pretensions is to assist at times in making nonsense of common sense, and not encourage us to wallow in our ignorance and prejudices.
Count me as one of those responding to the professor’s call in the column for raised ‘voices to eliminate poisonous doctrines that can feed dangerous impulses in our society’.