Caribean; marking down Marx

Washington departed from its customary reticence about other people's election and welcomed last week's outcome in Jamaica. Moscow, seldom afflicted by reticence, lamented the loss of "a valuable ally" in the defeat of Marxist Prime Minister Manley.

We mention the fact of superpower comment to suggest the importance of the election and of the Caribbean area toward which it draws attention -- not to follow the narrow line of seeing every third-world country in terms of East-West conflict. What both East and West should want for any developing nation is what best serves that nation's needs along with the frest and fairest possible means of achieving it.

Thus no less important than the results of the Jamaican election was the fact that the vanquished Manley could consider the voting itself fair and orderly. Now both his partisans and those of winner Edward Seaga will have to mute their bitter and often violent divisions and join in the reconciliation the former leader called for.

Similar challengers ar being faced elsewhere in the Caribbean, where political andc economic conflict has been fanned by Soviet surrogate Cuba. And similarly the role of nearby United States and other nations of the industrialized world should not be political intervention; it should be the kind of judicious developmental aid and reduction of trade barriers to permit the Caribbean nations to help themselves toward the economic stability that fosters freedom and insulates against radicalism of the left or right.

When Grenada and post-Somoza Nicaragua took leftward paths last year, concerns about Cuban communist influence were heightened. But any communist notion of "historical inevitability" has been challenged by events elsewher. Voters have rejected leftist parties in St. Kitts-Nevis, Dominica, St. Vincent, and Antigua.

The Caribbean sensitivity to any hints of outside influence was indicated in Dominica, for example, where the poor showing of the incumbent's party was linked to controversy over his government's contacts with a US-based firm said to have been connected with the late Shah of Iran's family. The new prime minister, Mary Charles, gave assurances that her "liberal, democratic, and anticommunist" party would pursue a nonaligned policy in foreign affairs.

The need for the nonaligned throughout the Caribbean is for nonalignment to mean what it says and not the alignment with the Soviet Union exemplified by Castrohs Cuba, currently chairing the nonaligned movement. Prime Minister Cato of St. Vincent, confirmed in office in the latest election against "new left" opposition, said he would not seek to join the movement because to be in it is "to be aligned." However, some criticize his habit of labeling almost any reform movement as inspired by communism.

Rejecting communism should not mean rejecting reform. which brings us back to Jamaica and the need for Mr. Seaga to continue such Manley reforms as reducing elitism and encouraging wide political participation, even while rejecting the allegiance to Cuba that Mr. Manley came to represent. Ironically, many businessmen are said to have originally voted for Mr. Manley in 1972 because they considered then Finance Minister Seaga too socialistic. Now Mr. Seaga is challenged to move away from Manley socialism and find Jamaica's own way to restore an economy that has kept declining. That decline continued whether under Manleyhs initial policies, the recent three years of imposed restraints by the International Monetary Fund, or the revised Manley policies after he cut Jamaica's ties with the IMF last spring.

In addition to everything else, the new leader needs to attack the traffic in ganja (marijuana) not only as a commercially exploited drug but as an insidious element in religious observance. jamaica's progress will be difficult enough without this debilitating handicap.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.