Norris McDonald | Machiavelli, ‘Puppa Eddie’ and an analysis of JLP’s 1980-89 mandate
Eddie Seaga decimated the People’s National Party (PNP) in the 1980 general elections. When the bell sounded for the count, on October 30, 1980, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) had overperformed in voter turnout.
Jamaican elections between 1967 and 1989 were a back and forth between both parties, with the significant high point of the Michael Manley years being 1972-1980, and the Seaga years, 1980-1989.
When ‘Papa Eddie’ won in 1980, the popular voter turnout was 85.2 per cent. The JLP got 502,115 of the popular votes, to the PNP 350,064. This 30 per cent edge was more than enough to secure a massive landslide. As the data show, Seaga-JLP romped home with 51 seats to the Manley-PNP getting nine seats. (See chart).
EDWARD SEAGA’S MANDATE
Seaga got elected on a mandate of “turning them back”. One of his early actions was to break diplomatic relations with Cuba.
There are some political events between 1980 and 1989 that I believe will help you decide the relative success or failure of the Seaga era.
Seaga called a snap election in 1983, which the PNP boycotted. Why call an election just three years after getting such a devastating popular mandate?
I believe that by 1983, political reality had reached Mr Seaga and he perhaps, knew that he was in big political trouble.
By 1983, two years after Mr Seaga became prime minister, it was now obvious: he was faced with the same global monetary problems that bedevilled Michael Manley and the PNP.
The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) 1984 report tells us why.
THE CAPITALIST WORLD MARKET
According to the IMF, the capitalist world market was facing serious recessionary pressures. There was rising unemployment in the industrialised countries. Total output in the international centres of capitalism was in decline for the first time since 1975.
One policy implication of this, in terms of feedback on the developing countries such as Jamaica, would be greater political economic constraints on the ability to export along with possible decline in income derived from the export of commodities sold to the capitalist world market.
As the IMF explains in its 1984 report, “ f alling prices of primary commodities (bauxite, sugar, etc) further undermined the export earnings of most developing countries.”
By 1985, world economic growth was still sluggish and was not creating any wealth to trickle down.
This implies a negative feedback on the Jamaican economy. Mr Seaga was clearly in trouble!
I believe it is reasonable to conclude that as these new political realities set in, ‘Puppa Eddie’ saw political economic constraints on his ability to deliver his promise of making “money jingle” in the poor and working-class pockets.
Wait! Then again, he did. He left Jamaicans pauperised with only pennies, truppance, fathin’, penny-fartin’, and one cent to jingle!
AMERICANS FELT BETRAYED
The Americans were, by now, feeling extremely betrayed. Given Ronald Reagan and American Conservative support, with the Caribbean Basin Initiative, he was just not able to deliver all that was promised.
When Seaga met Reagan in 1981, he also met David Rockefeller, of Chase Manhattan Bank, who was head of an American investment group waiting to pour billions into Jamaica if Seaga had fully delivered whatever he had promised the Americans.
By 1986, the Americans became very angry with Mr Seaga. Dr Timothy Ashby of the Conservative, Heritage Foundation, wrote a book in which he called Mr Seaga “Jamaica’s con-man”. He berated Seaga for having wasted over U$1billon and of “squandering American goodwill”.
In a 1987 stinging rebuke to Edward Seaga entitled The US Message To Seaga: It’s Time To Keep Your Promise, Juliana Geran said that the only success after seven striking years was in the Kingston Free Zone, and that “that had been built by Michael Manley”.
The main cause of Jamaica’s woes in 1986, Juliana Geran said, “is that Seaga’s government has failed to create a fertile investment climate for foreign and local businessmen”.
Juliana Geran put to shame the lie that Manley was taking Jamaica to communism.
According to this American right-winger: “Although the PNP is chiefly a social democratic party, its powerful left wing is dominated by Marxists who maintain close ties with the island’s official communist party, the Workers Party of Jamaica (WPJ).”
So if they knew that Jamaica was not going communist, why did the CIA intervene in the 1980 elections and support and promote violence?
HISTORY AS A MORAL GUIDE
We can now understand the political context of Mr Seaga’s 1989 loss to Michael Manley.
Edward Seaga 1989 voter turnout, as my chart shows, when Michael Manley beat him, was significantly less than the 1980 number. The Seaga era was done.
How can we summarise?
Jamaica invested political capital in Mr Edward Seaga, who replaced Michael Manley.
The Americans invested billions in Mr Seaga. If he was a true economic genius who could make the IMF political economic model work, why would the Americans who, in my opinion, he put above love of country, turn against him?
And again, if the American Conservative way of thinking makes sense, why is Mr Andrew Holness and his ruling JLP now depending on Chinese money to bail out the country’s trust-deficit skin?
Machiavelli warns people who usurp power by violence to be careful of the consequences of their political action because in the end, the force you use to achieve a desired outcome may not truly, in the end, create the desired outcome.
Niccolo Machiavelli himself was a strong advocate of force, which he talked about in his doctrine of necessity in his book The Prince. But how did all this violence and force purportedly used by Mr Seaga help to make Jamaica a better place?
JAMAICA’S POLITICAL PRICE
I do not know if Mr Seaga took political notes from Machiavelli, so it is a matter of conjecture. But that is irrelevant to my analysis. As a student of human society and the role personalities play in the making of their own history and that of their own society, we try to understand how and why people act given the political choices they face.
Let us face some political reality. Isn’t the fact that Prime Minster Andrew Holness has to be governing with the use of states of emergency to curb crime and violence a direct consequence of Puppa Eddie Seaga’s political legacy?
Mr Seaga made his choices. We didn’t do it for him. We are human beings. we are not gods, so we are not here to judge him.
But the Jamaican electorate did that in 1989 when they rejected Puppa Eddie Seaga and once again elected Michael Joshua Manley as Jamaica’s prime minister.
In 1989, at the end of his time, Mr Seaga left Jamaica just as bankrupt as how he got it, if not worse.
The Seaga economic wizardry was a failure. What means he used to justify his action did him, his political record or the country any good. That was why he was voted out of office in 1989, and, later on, removed as JLP party leader.
That is just the bitta truth!