Haunted by 1980 | ‘800 people killed for what?’ - Lambert Brown says JLP ‘human rights’ committee pushed violence in bitter war
Lambert Brown, the now-veteran trade unionist who was a loud voice in the leftist Workers Party of Jamaica (WPJ), laments that the war between the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP) leading up to the October 30, 1980, election caused too much bloodshed.
Brown’s WPJ had aligned itself with the PNP when the Edward Seaga-led JLP battled the Michael Manley administration amid fear of socialism and communism.
“The Workers Party was a communist organisation. Its purpose was to liberate the society to make the workers be the boss and the workers to be the ruling class. That turned out to be mere wishful thinking.
“We gave what was called critical support to the PNP. We criticised things that we felt weren’t right, but we supported the things that were positive for people,” Brown told The Gleaner in a recent interview.
Brown argues that many of the policies that Manley championed are now being adopted by the JLP and, therefore, the ideological war was all for nothing.
“We fought and we divided over unnecessary things. We fought a bitter fight. Eight hundred people killed in that election – for what? Where did it take us?
“And now many years after we trying to go back to where we were, to do the right things that were opposed in the 1970s that led us to that terrible election in 1980,” Brown, now an opposition senator and member of the PNP, contended.
COMMUNISM CREEPING IN
But the JLP has maintained that communism was creeping into Jamaica and the strong opposition to Manley’s regime was not just the domestic policies which were being pushed by Manley.
“One of the slogans in 1980 of the JLP was ‘turn them back’. Turn back the free education. Free education meant that from primary school to university, there was no tuition to be paid,” Brown underscored as a major plank of Manley’s administration which, he said, the bauxite levy helped finance.
“This country, had it continued to follow the policies of Michael Manley of the ‘70s and we didn’t get turned back with the promise of money to jingle and deliverance, and the Cuba policy, our country would be much, much better,” Brown asserted.
He, however, admitted both he and the PNP have since learnt although some of the polices were well intentioned, they had severe economic consequences. He maintains that Manley had been driven to pursue them nonetheless because of the deep gap between the rich and the poor.
In ramming through the message that the PNP had to be stopped because of its ideological stance, Brown said the JLP had been the aggressor in the war that resulted in the bloodshed.
“The JLP had a formidable organisation. They had a manual which required every constituency to have what they called a human rights committee. So nice, the human rights committee was really a group of men to defend the JLP. Not ideological, but physical defence.
“Those human rights committees were responsible for leading violence. People were fearful!,” Brown claimed.