An ideology is a frame or lens through which certain problems or issues
in social life are viewed and interpreted. To have such a position means
to have a set of values to justify thinking and acting in a certain way.
These are important since they address problems and focus on the
improvement and development of such. It also gives an insight as to
what others think and feel. When an ideology begins to have followers
or adherents a movement is formed : writers, thinkers and activists
communicate these ideas to a wider public to create the conditions for a
better society in their estimation. In doing so intellectual traditions are
born. In the Caribbean ideologies are at the centre of the PAN AFRICAN
MOVEMENT, NEGRITUDE, CAPITALISM, MARXISM, FEMINISM,
AND INDO CARIBBEAN AND INDIGENOUS PERSPECTIVE which
will be considered.
This movement began in the 18th century when Africans in North
America tried to get back to Africa. They were in a place where they had
been brought illegally and now wanted to go home. It was spearheaded
by people in the African diaspora notably from the Caribbean and
North America. Henry Sylvester Williams a native of Trinidad educated
in England and the US held the first Pan African conference in London
which was attended by mostly Africans from the Caribbean, US and
England. Their main objectives were
To promote the view that black people wherever they lived had a
bond which united them
To raise the consciousness of African people about Africa
To free Africa from the control of the Europeans
To seek justice for the black people
To promote black pride, consciousness, and nationalism
To repatriate Africans back to Africa
To seek the unification of the entire African continent under African
Many Caribbean persons were involved in the establishing of the
movement in the early 20th century.
Some of these included:
Jamaican Marcus Garvey- through his newspapers the negro world, the
Blackman and the new Jamaican he attempted to raise the consciousness of
African people and to preach about the freedom of African countries.
Garvey a national hero of Jamaica now lives on in the reggae music made
famous by Bob Marley and inspires budding politicians, trade union
leaders, civil rights movement and others in the Caribbean.
Cyril Briggs a native of Nevis who was an ardent supported of pan
Africans formed the African Blood brotherhood and was also involved in
the newspaper business, Crusade, believed that the fundamental cause of
poverty and oppression faced by the Africans was Capitalism. He was
however the first black leader of the US communist party, he was
influenced by garvey.
Malcolm Nurse a Trinidadian under the name George Padmore studied
communism in Russia amd his main aim was to undermine the colonial
control in Africa through his newspaper Negro Worker. The russian leaders
used pan africanist such as padmore and others to spread the communist
ideas in africa north america and the caribbean.
Marcus garvey was one of those who sought to establish a number of
organizations that sought to give African americans health and social
services denied them by the american society. He was an inspiration for
other pan africanists and had a direct impact on the rastafarian movement
where his ideas lived on. In the 1960’s martin luther king and the civil
rights movement sought to liberate black people from their powerless role
in white america by peaceful protest. However the movement encountered
opposition and riots and racial tension from the whites . They viewed the
struggle as a war and vowed to use any means necessary to ensure that
african americans were allowed to form they own institutions to enjoy the
same rights as other citizens and to establish their own communities and
In the british caribbean in the 1930’s there were widespread strikes,
riots and the growth of trade unions this was because of the growing
colonial control and the worsening of economic conditions. To the
lower classes then the struggle for bread merged into the desire for the
downfall of colonialism, a growing consciousness of unity and black
nationalism. The rastafarians were influenced by garvey and thought of
him as the second john the baptist, especially when Haile Selassie was
proclaimed emperor of Ethiopia. They were inclined to take his “back
to africa” call literally and they had put into practice more than any
other groups the teachings of garvey. The caribbean soldiers who had
fought for the bristish in the 1st world war was able to understand
politics on a much wider stage than at home since they experienced
racial discrimination within the ranks of the british armed forces.
Therefore the pan african movement served to mobilize nationalists
sentiments and deepen the decolonialization movement.
Italy’s attempts to invade and annex Ethiopia lead to the fall of its capital
Addis Ababa and the exile of Emperor Haile Selassie causing widespread
concern and anger in the Caribbean. A minor border dispute with the Italian
held Somalia was all the excuse Benito Mussolini, the italian dictator needed
to invade with the intent to build a large empire similar to those of the
Britain, France etc. he wanted to link the terrotories of eritrea and somalia
into a large italian african empire. This act toward a personage the
rastafarians considered a god deepend their hostility to the white man’s
world. The british who saw it as a denial of their authority persecuted the
rastafarians. This angered the Caribbean people as a whole that it lead to
trinidad dock workers refusing to unload italian ships and the young men
joining the ethiopian army.
In the late 1960s and 1970s the message of black power coincided with an
economic downturn which was mainly because the economy was largely
controlled by multinational companies. Black power analysts felt that the
government had failed since the british was merely replaced by a black elite
who did little for the poor.
However the movement had grave consequences since many were
prevented from returning to their home countries, there was a mass
protest, three persons were killed and the unrest spread to other
campuses. Caribbean students at the university of the west indies
protested racism, picketed the gates at the campus and refused entry to
the canadian governor general and the PM. NJACK National joint
action committee an organization seeking the empowerment of black
people made up of university students and lecturers became the body
in which a revolution developed.
There were similar incidents in the caribbean and in grenada the unrest
led to the take over by the new jewel movement. Cuba gave assistance
to liberation groups in africa fighting for their independence especially
in angola against the portuguese. In all these cases the emphasis was on
the idea of garvey and pan africanism more empowerment to african
people, better economic conditions, and less emphasis on foreign
By the 1940’s more africans had become involved in the pan african
movement. This was due to garvey’s ideas still being prominent in focus
of the movement on the removal of the european colonial powers. The
objective was to unite all african countries in the form of conomic
coperation. Today africa’s massive problems of poverty AIDS civil wars
and growing numbers of refugees are being tackled through a vision
largely outlined by pan africanist ideas for development.
Negritude is a unique brand of pan africanism that exist in the french
colonies of the caribbean and africa. Its objective was for the people to
celebrate their blackness, focus on their black consciousness, and black
pride because as these activities saw it living in a context where only french
culture and civilization were promoted threatened the core of a black
identity. This movement began in paris where members expressed
sentiments about the french policy of total cultural assimilation of its
colonies the sidelining of african culture and the near impossibility of
gaining independence. In martinique and guadeloupe a small marxist group
sought to mobilize the people to overthrow the french but with little success.
It urged to move away from traditional european ideologies such as
capitalism and from the earliest days there were experiments with
communism. Franzt fanon sought to explore the alienation of black people
from their cultural roots. He saw no other course but to violently overthrow
the colonial governments. Leopold senghor sought to celebrate blackness in
his works by describing the values and traditions of african culture as
distinctly different from the europeans. He experimented with the socialist
ideology as outlined by max but felt that since communal life had long
existed in africa an african type of socialism was more relevant. The french
caribbean has absorbed the philosophy of negritude and it is given full
flower in poetry art and literature today.
Sir william arthur lewis born in st. lucia became a distinguished economist and
spearheaded economic reforms in developing countries.he was instrumental in
establishing the caribbean development bank in barbados. He threw light on the
economic problems of ex colonial countries and the strategies to improve economic
growth. He was also awarded the nobel prize. In puerto rico operation bootstrap was
established its objectives were to propel puerto rico from being an agrarian society
and exporter of primary products to an industrialized nation. It would use cheap
labor as an incentive for multinational companies and would also receive tax free
concessions. The result, puerto rico became idustrialized and large numbers of
agricultural workers left poorly paying jobs in the rural areas to join the ranks of
factory workers earning wages. Deliberately inviting foreign investments interested
lewis to think how it would work in the ex colonies of the british west indies.
Therefore lewis proposed that we invite foreign investment as an interim measure to
stimulate growth not only in industry but also in agriculture and therefore to reduce
our dependency on the export sector. So instead of depending on the goodwill of
other countries these MNCs would use their own resources together with the
abundant unskilled labor and tax free holidays in these countries. However it was
not meant to just be industrialization but it was attempt to deal with the situation
of large surplus of labor and to jump start economic diversification. Lewis also
envisaged that if wages went up in agriculture then technical innovations would
become possible to increase productivity.
Lewis’ strategy was based on the capitalist ideology to enable the
caribbean nations to emerge from their depressed condition. He
thought that they would learn the managerial and technical skills and
the state could then set up industries however this strategy failed since
the government invited the MNCs but they did not control them. They
provided them with tax holidays sited etc but these companies were
capital intensive than labor intensive so it had a significant number of
persons left unemployed again. There was no provision to train
citizens. Lloyd best and the new world group believed that any
economic strategy for the caribbean had to recognise the dependency
model of economic thought. This model sees the caribbean as a
plantation society one that is still enmeshed into the colonial strutures.
He said that in order to address the problems of the caribbean you need
to have inward thinking and creativity. Though the policy made by
lewis had no effect on the caribbean his ideas and ideologies have made
a fundamental contribution to the economic thought. Today many
modern economists believed that the theory made by lewis was a
practical one and now because of globalization MNCs drive global
industries and his ideas are more relevant now.
Karl Marx had put forward a theory about how societies develop overtime and its
underlying concepts proved to have great power in explaining caribbean life with
marxist and neo marxist thinkers forming a radical tradition in caribbean
intellectual life. This idea was embraced by many caribbean thinkers of different
ideologies. It sought alternative explanations to capitalism in investigating the
plight of the black underclass experiencing racism colonialism and the persistence
of colonial structures. Many economists have adopted the marxist and neo marxist
positions in contributing to the debate on development. This theory saw society as
evolving through various stages where the economy and the relationships of
different groups within the economy defined the type of society that evolved. Some
are : communitarian and egalitarian. Marx was able to show that the societies
underwent change when contradictions or tensions developed in the economy,
bringing about changes in the social relations between groups. This lead to the
decline in nobles. The economic base shifted to business manufacturing and heavy
industry such as iron and steel. Marx was able to see his theory first hand in
england, and how workers were exploited by their bosses. There was the problem of
maximum work to minimum wage. This enabled the rich to grow richer and the
poor got poorer. Ths resulted in trade unions agitating for better conditions and
wages by holding strikes. The poor however did not hold these strikes for long
periods. According to marx there will come a time when the workers will overthrow
the capitalist and bring an end to that form of society.
The next stage introduced by marx was that of socialism where the goal
is to bring about a classless society. This is where all members of society
share in the position but first of all they need to understand their
position. According to marx only when people can see through this
false consciousness in which they have been socialized will they
recognise the need for socialism. This is the period when institutions
are being put in place for everyone to own the wealth of the land and to
have an equal voice in government. Marx stated that the state withers
away because a state is really a machinery to get thing done to ensure
that no group is exploiting another to protect people and so on. From
the end of the 19th century caribbean thinkers saw freedom from racial
and class oppression in a marxist understanding of society more than
any other. Pan africanists also preferred a marxist or neo marxist vision
for the caribbean society. Later on many theorists focused on
underdevelopment within a neo marxist framework. Many as well have
gone through a lot to bring marxist principles into the caribbean
Marxist thinkers who greatly elaborated the role of the superstructure
in influencing social life are called neo marxists. While marx did
discuss the superstructure (those social institutions such as family
religion mass media etc) his emphasis tended to be on the economy or
substructure. Neo marxist sowed that through its control of the mass
media the police and politics the capitalist class is able to increase and
consolidate its dominance in the society. To criticize the system or how
it works is regarded as rocking the boat or disrupting the status quo.
Marxist and neo marxist refer to this as false consciousness.
This focuses on the historical experience of the caribbean in tracing the
origins of our social and economic problems today. Writers who have
studied british capitalism write from a marxist or neo marxist perspective
even those who do not call for a debunk on the economic system that
continues to support an elite class and large masses of poverty. Whether
marxist or not it has been decribed as the radical school in caribbean
intellectual thought. Dr. Walter Rodney of guyana examined how
capitalism under colonialism sought to keep colonies in an economically
backward state. Dr, Eric Williams of trinidad analysed the reasons for the
abolition of slavery in relation to the demands of british capitalism rather
than the belief that it was the humanitarian of the british public and
parliamentarians such as william wilberforce. Llod best for example who
did not take up the marxist view showed that the caribbean was obstructed
by the historical capitalist structures of the plantation system even today
we have only succeeded in creating a modified plantation society.
According to best what we need to combat the legacy of british capitalism
as independent countries today is a focus on the non plantation aspects of
the economy. He feels we can develop our own economic ideologies that
support economic independence which has been elusive to date.
Before feminism became an ideology there were feminists these are
women who are concerned with the inequities being suffered by
women as group as well as other disadvantaged groups were willing to
take leadership roles to address the issue. The caribbean had a
remarkable group of women our early feminists. Feminism is based on
the perceived need for equality of the sexes. Feminism is not about rule
by women it is very much concerned with men and the relationship
between men and women. Therefore it may be men and women since it
is the study of gender inequality. In almost every sphere of life men are
the primary decision makers and exert influence and power over others
leading to an imbalance between sexes this feminist say arises from
Patriarchy refers to the organization of society where gender ideologies
that promote men’s interest as superior to women’s. it must be changed
in order to achieve gender equality. However this system blocks the
aspiration of women who may want to venture into traditional male
centres of power. Feminists goes on to show that men as a uniform
group and women as a uniform group does not exist in social life. A
deeper interpretation of patriarchy is it is a gender system that inflicts
violence and oppression on women and men who are seen as threats.
The extent however to which women view themselves can support the
exploitation of women by men. Some are silently allowing patriarchy to
prevail while others want it to stop.
This saw the development of the WOMEN IN DEVELOPMENT
programme of the UWI and the university of guyana to integrate
women into the development process through income generating
projects and increasing access to educational opportunities. Then there
was the focus on gender studies, this is the study of the social
relationship between men and women in the past and in contemporary
life. Then there was gender identities which was a part of the study and
to a large extent brings the process of gender socialization under
examination. A more holistic approach then resulted the WAND
women and development it was concerned with how to incorporate a
gender system as we have it into national political economic social and
cultural life so that both men and women can contribute and benefit
equally. In short terms then feminism seek to end oppression of women
Gender- the social construction of meanings and the relationship that
define masculinity and femininity which tends to be based on one’s
Gender bias- unfair treatment based on one’s gender there are certain types
of jobs where women are not expected to be successful and are considered
Gender identity- how a person defines and expresses what they believe
their gender to be
Gender ideologies- strong beliefs or ideas about the roles that male and
female should play and how they should behave
Gender roles- how a person understands how they are expected to behave
given their gender identity.
Gender socialization- the process whereby members of society induct new
members into the appropriate roles and behaviors that they should take up
to conform to society’s expectation.
Gender stereotypes- gendered behavior that are expected of by males and
Gender system- the characteristic set of gender relations that are dominant
in a particular society.
It views that all sexes should be equal and both should enjoy political
social and economic equality. It started with the right to vote for
women and the removal of all barriers that prevent women from
enjoying the same rights and opportunities as men.
This sees that the root cause of the inequity being suffered by women
as their oppression by men. It encourages sexism a form of
discrimination where one sex women is believed to be inferior to the
other. It tends to stress the differences between men and women while
liberal stress sameness or equality. On the whole radical feminism
seeks to bring about a cultural change that debunks stereotypes of
Marxist feminists believe that the relationship between men and women as set
up by capitalism encourage the oppression of women. With the systems all
being dominated by a patriarchal system of beliefs. In a capitalist the
traditional work of women is devalued and subordinated to man’s work
outside the home. It argues that domestic work should be seen as paid work as
women also work outside the home. However man’s work is seen as more
important than woman’s and they continue to oppress women who work both
inside and outside the home. Also those who at the same time have the
responsibility for spiritual moral and emotional life of the family.
Caribbean feminism is not in full agreement with the feminist abroad as the
concerns and issues of women in the caribbean are different from those in the
western society. For e.g women in the western society tend to be a uniform concept,
however women in the caribbean are put into different social groups based on race
etc. therefore they suffer different levels of oppression.
One of the main concerns is to produce a realistically engendered history of the
region one that opposes male dominated activities. It has sought to uncover the
parallel lives of women through journals, diaries, narratives etc by showing how
historical events impacted on and were influenced by a group that has been silenced
by men writing in history. Therefore reference need to be made to slavery,
indentureship, colonialism, and independence. Slavery has been the focus though
to throw light on the contemporary relationships within the afro-caribbean families.
In the era after the abolition of slavery families as nuclear units did exist. Women
continued to rebel and resist their condition yet their lives have gone unreported.
Women in the western society women were tied to their domestic roles whilst the
male were the breadwinners, however in the caribbean in lower classes women were
the breadwinners and had to assume the role of dominant adults in the home.
Therefore being powerful in the home did not translate into being powerful in
Gendered relationships existing between men and women are
organized into subtle and not so subtle ways to maintain patriarchy or
male dominance. It aims to explore and lay bare how power exists
within the gendered relationships. The theories to date attempted to
explain the formation of gender identities and gendered behaviors as
benign socialization, are those that tend to make the process seem
neutral and harmless. Shows how gender ideologies are passed on
within the gender system where males hold more power than females.
They want to expose the gender stereotypes and bias that are passed on
because of this very imbalance of power.
Citizenship in the caribbean has been built on an image of males as the
ideal citizens and even when it is stated in the constitution that there is
gender equality, the laws are based on men’s lives. Tracy robinson a
feminists used the case of guyana in 1982 when a guyanese women
could not get the court to rule in favor that her foreign born husband
was dependent and therefore could live in Guyana. However, the
foreign born wife of a guyanese man could be deemed a dependent and
live in guyana. This was based on the notion that a woman had to be
dependent on her husband but no the other way around.
Feminists criticize the theory of male marginalization (this is having
the idea that girls are better performers than boys and as such treat
them accordingly )since the power of men continue to wield in society,
therefore they do not see any marginalization taking place. They
contradict this point by showing that even though more females are
being enrolled in schools and do obtain higher qualifications and better
jobs this does not mean that they go on to hold positions of power and
leadership. Therefore whether women are more successful now than
before men are still dominant.
Caribbean feminists are interested in studying how all the intersection of
age, race, class, ethnicity, geographical location and historical experience
come together to create and perpetuate gender ideologies, gender identity
and gender socialization within and between different groups.
An example of this is the indian group in trinidad and how they relate to
the african group both being equal numbers. They have different gender
systems, in the Indian community women play a subservient role to men,
whilst the African group is matrifocal with women enjoying much
autonomy. Patriarchy is present however, the ideology about the
superiority of men are found and widespread but not as explicit as in the
indian community. For many the patriarchial system has been eroded since
education has levelled the playing field between males and females.
Therefore indian women adopt the ideologies of african women.this system
of patriarchy could be broken if women played a more successful role in
lowering the ethnic polarity that exists between the indians and the
africans. If more indian women become involved in arts, literature, drama
etc then they will become more like the african women.
The Asians who came to the Caribbean as contract labour mainly from
China and India in the 1800’s experienced the restrictions of colonialism
and the hardships within their contractual arrangements.
Indo- Caribbean thought was largely a response to these conditions and an
expressions of their culture within the Caribbean.
To date, Guyana, Trinidad and Suriname have the largest concentrations of
Indians in the region. Guyana and Trinidad have two major ethnic groups
(Indians and Africans); while Suriname has at least four ethnic groups
(Hindustanis or East Indians, the creoles or Africans, the Javanese or
Indonesians, and the Bush Negroes or Maroons)
Most whites who researched and analysed Indian communities in Guyana
and Trinidad centred their studies against the background of colonialism,
oppression and poverty (and how to reverse certain trends that emerged).
Themes in Indo- Caribbean thought focused on:
1. Identity- which covers religion and rituals e.g. marriage
Indians have retained their religions of Islam and Hinduism. Although they
have accepted Western dress, religion still prescribes a code of conduct,
rituals, food preparations etc.
Customs and religion also reinforces endogamy (choosing prospective wives
or husbands for children from the clan)
However, the caste requirement of their culture had to be abandoned as
Hindus and Muslims begin to intermarriage and the “mixed” population
in Trinidad and Guyana begun to grow.
2. Citizenship- which covers such ideas as who is a genuine citizen (Africans
or the Asians) and also who has more rights to the national “cake”.
None of the groups felt upon independence, that they were equal as citizens
The Africans felt that their long history of settlement and suffering gave them a
prior claim as authentic citizens of the land.
Indians argue however, that they worked in building the agricultural sector and
rescuing the colony in the aftermath of emancipation.
This situation grew as Africans believed they should have been awarded land
upon emancipation as the Indians were.
This discourse led to increasing polarization between the two groups, who later
both sought to form political parties and governments where one ethnicity
dominated. (Lead to fraud claims: Forbes Burnham repeatedly returned to power
even though Guyana has a majority Indian population)
Indo- caribbean writers include:
V.S. Naipaul, Samuel Selvon and Ismith Khan (Indo-
Clem Seecharan and David Dabydean (Indo-
For many years Amerindian groups were portrayed by Europeans as
childlike (Arawaks) and vicious cannibals (Caribs).
Writings with an indigenous slant have rejected these ideas.
Beginning in the first half of the 19th century West Indian scholars
sought to reverse this perception. One critical objective of indigenous
perspective was to correct the view that the natives did not have a
history. Several writings or histories have sought to place indigenous
groups on the historical map.
A history of the Guyanese Working People- Walter Rodney
The Black Jacobins- C.L.R. James
The Slaves Who Abolished Slavery- Richard Hart
Black Rebellion in Barbados- Hilary Beckles
The Indigenous peoples of the Caribbean have also sought to change
the myth started against them by the Europeans that they are extinct
and that the small surviving populations are not “pure” Amerindians
Another objective of the writings was that Amerindian and African
contributions must not be understood only in the capacity of labour,
but for their cultural contribution.
Issues of concern to Indigenous peoples especially in Dominica,
Guyana and Belize relate to:
1. Marginalization- social, economic and political
E.g. Guyana is often said to be divided between the Indians (Indo-
Guyanese) and the Africans (Afro- Guyanese), the Amerindians
are usually forgotten. They are seen as a separate group located
deep in the interior of the island and are referred to as just
Amerindians in the region live in poverty and isolation
The intellectual tradition of feminism is based on the desire for equality
between men and women in the workplace, politics, the family or in
leadership positions. It is not about rule by women.
Feminist writers argue that in almost every area of social life, men are able
to exert influence and control over others which result in an imbalance of
There are several strand of feminism:
1. Liberal feminism- they hold the view that men and women are equal
and should both enjoy political, social and economic equality. They
believe that legislation and education can bring about gender equality
2. Radical feminism- stress that the oppression of women by men is the
root cause of inequality. Society is organized based on a male system of
power that encourages sexism.
3. Marxist feminism- the view that by its nature, the system of capitalism
oppresses women. The economic, political, religious and education
systems are all dominated by the patriarchal system of beliefs.
The issues concerning women in the Caribbean were
seriously brought to the fore in the 1960’s and 1970’s and
came out of the feminist movement in the USA.
Throughout the Caribbean, women’s organisations have
been created to promote the cause of women such as:
The National Organization of Women (NOW)
Caribbean Women’s Association (CARIWA)
The volume of feminist writings has brought about some
positive change in the
attitudes of society towards women. There is now growing
women in managerial positions and politics.
Some Caribbean Feminists include:
Mary Seacole (Jamaica)
Amy Ashwood Garvey (Garvey’s wife)
Elma Francois (St. Vincent)