As the Labour Party prepares to hold its annual conference, we take note of a statement issued by the Rastafarian Movement that the Labour Party has developed into an elitist party.
This statement must be taken seriously since it turns on the matter of choice between the current political parties which rival for the attention of the electorate in our democracy.
While we would not say whether we agree or disagree with Nyabinghi’s assessment, we think it might be fruitful to examine the premises on which this allegation is based.
The publishers of this statement must have based their contention on the fact that when it began in 1932, The Labour Movement’s mission was to champion the cause of the poor and to defend the weak and helpless from the rich and powerful.
For many years of its existence it carried a mandate which was given it by poor people who have loyally supported that party and identified with its goals.
The people felt that they could rely on the industrial arm of the Labour Movement to represent them at their work places and they gladly put their trust in their Labour leaders to protect their interests. They elevated their leaders and loyally accepted a succession of recruits to the leadership.
Perhaps the Nyabinghi’s problem is the quality of the successors and their general attitude to life. Some of them have university qualifications and the life style which is associated with higher education. Others who may not be as educated, have similar aspirations.
It is obvious to the Nyabinghi, as well as to others, that the leaders of the working classes are all middle classers, but this is how it started; Thomas Manchester, Edgar Challenger, Mathew Sibastian were all men of the middle class who identified with the masses and tried to uplift them from their extreme poverty.
The men who succeeded the first pioneers were the first fruits of this upliftment process. Bradshaw, France, Slader, Glasford, were all men of the working classes who took up the mantle from the early pioneers.
Perhaps in the perception of Nyabinghi, the link between the Labour Movement and the working class is broken and the aspirations of these two groups the middle class leaders and the working class no longer coincide.
If Nyabinghi is right, this is a serious problem for it leaves the poor working class with no clear option as to the political party which would serve their better interests.
The great gulf between the leaders and their rank and file supporters is stark and it is very possible that the Nyabinghi perceives that there it very little difference between the Labour Party which they support and the Opposition Party.