August 23, 2010

In the Diaspora: The Life and Death of a Nation

Aaron Kamugisha is a Caribbean citizen and a lecturer in Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus. He can be reached at aaron.kamugisha@cavehill.“

Physically burdened as I am, I feel impelled to overcome my difficulties to the extent that that is possible and tell you what are my political views in the present crisis. It is the most desperate that the WI (West Indies) have faced since the emancipation from slavery. The idea of a West Indian nation cannot dissolve… For me this is not a question of governments but of people, of what world the young people will grow up into, what spirit they will have…But what I fear is that the whole conception and organization of a WI nation is on the way to being destroyed or corrupted… This is a matter of the life and death of a nation…

C.L.R. James, 1961

C.L.R. James, the Trinidadian Marxist Pan-Africanist intellectual wrote the above words when convalescing in Barbados – probably illegally – from a car accident that almost took his life in Jamaica. James’s anguish at the slow demise at the federation, which he foresaw in a letter to George Padmore on his departure for Trinidad in 1958, is as difficult a read as any document of its time in its slow realisation of the crushing forces preventing a progressive alternative to the colonial status-quo, its resignation at the vacuity of the new middle classes who were to lead the Caribbean nations into independence, and doubts of the future. He wrote it in Barbados, a country which fascinated him throughout his life for reasons both idiosyncratic to him, and shared by a wider Caribbean community.

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