History of wealth and poverty in Jamaica

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By Shalman Scott

Two European powers in particular, namely the Spanish and English, dominated economic activities in Jamaica during the period of colonization and slavery spanning a period of four hundred and fifty six years. The Spanish period of occupation officially began in 1506 and ended with the signing of the Treaty of Madrid (1670) between England and Spain when the island was finally ceded to the English. So although our history, written by the English, gave the impression that the capture of the island from the Spaniards in 1655 by the British invasion forces, led by Admiral Penn and General Veneable, gave ownership to the English, that was just not the case. It was the Treaty of Madrid fifteen years later that finally, after several failed attempts by Spain to recapture Jamaica, that gave the English invaders full legal control of the country.This was in exchange for the English to get rid of their pirates and buccaneers including Henry Morgan, who was put before a firing squad and shot in Honduras.

The defeat of the Spanish by the English at the battles of Ochio Rios (1658) and the battle of Rio Nuevo (1659) resulted in the last Spanish Governor, Arnaldo de Yassi, “running away” from the island to Cuba. The cave in which he was hiding and from which he fled is today known as the ‘Runaway Caves’ in the parish of St Ann. The name of the caves was NOT derived from it being a hiding place for runaway slaves, as is commonly believed, although undoubtedly, slaves running away from their plantation would avail themselves to the use of such facilities.

During Spanish occupation, Montego Bay became prominent as a port from which huge amount of Lard (hog fat) was exported to Spain, and which saw a Spanish Governor, Alonso de Miranda, having his official resident at Miranda Hill across from the Spanish Fort next to the present craft market on Fort Street in the city. The Spanish military base was at Success Property, a few chains north easterly from the John Rollins All Age School at Rose Hall.

Both the Spaniards and the English used predominantly African slave labour to maintain the economic activities, whether it was cattle rearing by the Spaniards or sugar, logwood and tobacco production by the English. Although the island saw a change in colonial ownership between the two European powers, one thing remained consistent and that was a progressively increasingly massive inflow of African slave labour until the abolition of the Slave Trade in 1807, but not the abolition of slavery itself until thirty one years later. It is these African slaves, and later the indentured labourers from Ireland, India and China, that became the new working class within the Jamaican labour force, with Africans outnumbering by a wide margin the composition of that labour force.

COMPENSATION
The African former slaves received no compensation for their enslavement for a period of four hundred and fifty six years, while at the time of British emancipation of the slave, the slave masters were compensated in the British West Indies to the tune of ten million Pounds, and absentee plantation owners living in England, most of whom never knew or even visited their plantation in Jamaica, received an additional equal amount for the loss of their slaves, totaling twenty million pounds. So the African slaves who worked on the sugar, cattle, logwood plantations and in the mines throughout the British West Indies, were organized into persistent poverty through the colonial system’s denial of any reward for labour or compensation at the end of that slave labour. That historical injustice has created an energy force of its own dynamic to manifest in a historical landscape of organized wealth and poverty in Jamaica. And so, the generations of the rich continue to be rich and the generations of the poor continue to be poor.

Same pattern can be seen also in a broader context as the warlords and landlords of Feudalism became the oligarchs of Mercantilism, and the Oligarchs of Mercantilism became the Capitalist entrepreneur or the new Industrial Bourgeoise of the Industrial Revolution and the birth of Capitalism. Different rigging of the world economy over centuries, but the same families and classes continue to dominate through organized slavery and organized poverty, even in “freedom” so-called.

Adam Smith, a Jew and known as the ‘Father of Free Market Capitalism’, in 1776 at the time of the American Declaration of Independence across the Atlantic, produced his treatise on the “Wealth of Nations”. Smith argued that of the elemental factors of production: land, labour and capital, any factor that can be put to the greatest alternate use when combined in production, such factor must receive the greatest reward/returns from the wealth or revenue created from such combining activities. It stands to reason that cash (capital) is the factor that can be put to greatest alternate use. So a medical doctor whose labour skills may not be able to fly an aircraft, but has cash can pay to hire the services of a pilot. Since capital gets the greatest return from income generated in productive activities arising from the combination of the factors of production, and since income determines one’s social class, then the owners of land and capital in particular become the ruling class.

FREE MARKET CAPITALISM
Adam Smith’s maneuver, which strengthened the hands of descendants of Feudalism’s Warlords and Landlords of Mercantilisms Oligarchs and of Capitalism Entrepreneurs, saw the Industrialists and landed gentry of Europe unreservedly and enthusiastically giving their support to Smith’s propositions, creating a philosophical model of ‘Free Market Capitalism’, that would dominate the world economy arriving at its zenith with the advent of globalization and liberalization, consolidating, through a sleight of Smith’s hand, a polarization of income between the rich and the poor of this world. From the land barons, to oil barons to railroad barons and now to Hedge Fund Managers, the owners of money particularly (not labour despite your number of academic degrees), have been running the world.

And, that’s where true political power in the world economic system really resides. Not so much in the political realm, be it Democracy or Communism, as it is the rich who finance revolutions resulting in a government’s overthrow or a political leader’s assassination, on the one hand, or finance also of political parties’ election campaign, on the other hand. For example it was the rich and powerful Jewish Rothschild’s Family, based in democratic America, that funded the overthrow of the Tsarist Autocracy of Russia’s Nicholas 11, to establish Communism on that side of the Atlantic Ocean. Take careful note! No wonder that the number one concern of the United Nations and international agencies in the 21st century is not just the fear of war and terrorism, but growing global income inequality and increasing poverty.

Feudalism warlords and landlords a different capitalist economic phase but same families and same social class, Mercantilism Oligarchs, another different economic phase in the evolution of capitalism, but same families and social class and the Capitalist entrepreneurs yet another different phase and name but same class and families as in mercantilism. The common thread weaving throughout human history from the Dark Ages to the Enlightenment to the Industrial Revolution into Globalization and Post-Modernism, is that the ownership of money and arable lands trumps the ownership of labour as capitalism evolved through its various stages and phases. It should not be difficult to see by now that if wealth is globally and historically organized, poverty is also organized. And the Jamaican situation is no exception.

The Spanish Maroons, in their Palenques (settlements), led by Juan de Sierras and Juan de Bolas, who received a mountain named after him between St Catherine and Clarendon, the Juan De Bolas Mountain, by the English after switching sides from supporting the Spaniards and received acres of infertile mountainous land, their black descendants fared no better economically than the English Maroons who fought and captured for a fee the remaining black population fleeing from slavery on the island of Jamaica. Poor quality land and lots of it has been the consistent cause of their persistent poverty of both the descendants of the Spanish and English Maroons. The rest of the majority Black population while fighting and winning their freedom, which they bequeathed to their descendants, remained in a rigged economic structure where many are only free to decide on the best ways to remain poor.
Denial is one such useful tool it seems.

1 COMMENT

  1. Why is it that the Native Jamaicans along with the Africans brought to Jamaica mostly in chains as prisoners of war are represented as second class citizens and chattel property. These savage barbarians who are products of the ice that are the topic of the article have only brought misery and extreme hardship and poverty no matter where you look on the face of the earth. The critical problem here is one of governance and the current structure has never facilitated the people to make decisions in their own best interest. The most crucial institution of consequence that has promoted the wanton poverty that Jamaica has experienced has yet to be properly addressed for its wicked sinister evil intentions and we are speaking of the Bank Of Jamaica which is in no way Jamaican and has never been.
    Information without context is like having a key that fits no door.
    Wisdom only comes with experience, yours or someone else.

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