We rarely speak about class inequalities, external domination or dependence; this language is unfashionable – and is often dismissed as ‘unsophisticated’ – now. However, back in the 1970s, this was rousing political language throughout much of the Caribbean. Academics and activists such as Walter Rodney and Michael Manley explained, in most accessible terms, the ways in which colonial and neocolonial power were often exercised as domination and repression.
They exposed the legacies of racial and class inequalities and encouraged ‘people power’, which they defined in terms of collective resistance to secure ‘liberation’. ‘People power’, as these leaders conceptualised it, required independence, initiative and self-belief. With respect to the latter, they recognised that slavery and colonisation had left a lasting, though not necessarily irreversible, imprint on the minds of the people.
As Palmer (1968) describes in the context of Jamaica, ‘one of the more harmful by-products of European domination was the effect of that rule on the minds of sections of the Jamaican populace: A white bias had come to prevail and with it a concomitant devaluation of the sense of self of the citizens of African descent’. ‘Mental slavery’ – as Bob Marley famously depicted it – had many dimensions and could result in tacit compliance with various forms of injustice.