“Marcus Garvey, 100 Years Later: A Garveyite Evaluation of Black and African Leadership in the 20th and 21st Centuries” by Rhone Fraser, Ph.D.
When the forty-fourth president of the United States of America visited Jamaica on April 9, 2015, then Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller requested that he pardon Marcus Garvey for his 1922 arrest and imprisonment on a mail fraud charge. His administration replied repeating their response four years prior, saying that they declined the pardon because such a move “would be a waste of time and resources since Garvey had been dead for ages.” Although Garvey has been dead for ages, his Black Nationalist philosophy intended to uplift Black people is still relevant and provides an important blueprint and roadmap to what Black Liberation means in the twenty first century. Although Simpson-Miller used her executive authority to request the pardon, she has not used her executive authority to provide a kind of leadership that is anywhere close to the kind of leadership articulated by journalist Marcus Garvey, born in Saint Ann’s Bay Jamaica, on August 17, 1887. Born in humble beginnings, Garvey believed it was the duty of political leaders to use their education to serve the people and not their colonial masters in the United States and England. Despite her request for Garvey’s pardon, Simpson-Miller’s leadership has been conforming to the pattern that every Prime Minister of Jamaica has essentially been conforming to. This is a pattern that was articulated by Kwame Nkrumah who was a student and devotee of Marcus Garvey: a pattern of “neocolonialism,” where essentially, leaders like Portia Simpson-Miller and Andrew Holness, “derive their authority to govern, not from the will of the people, but from the support which they obtain from their neo-colonialist masters.” Simpson-Miller’s request for United States to pardon Marcus Garvey is a proverbial grain of salt compared to the mound of neo-colonial policies she has overseen while Prime Minister. Her most egregious neocolonial policy that she approved of included the sale of one third of Jamaican land to private Chinese companies. On the fifty second anniversary of Jamaica’s perceived independence from Great Britain, the writer of CucumberJuice.wordpress blogged that over 1,200 acres of Jamaican land was sold to Chinese government to build the Mount Rosser toll road bypass from Kingston to the North Coast. This blogger is also known as “Alice Clare” on Twitter. This sale was approved not only by Portia Simpson-Miller but by Robert Pickersgill, who is the Minister of the Government responsible for Water, Land, Environment and Climate change. Clare wrote that according to her sources, the Chinese government as intermediary for these private Chinese companies, can choose the land they want to build the Mount Rosser road. She asks what if the land that the Chinese government chooses is already occupied or lived on by Jamaican citizens? It is apparent that the Jamaican government would gentrify the land to make room for Chinese citizens to live and work on this land. The Jamaican government essentially made China their neo-colonial master to the detriment of the Jamaican people. Before sailing to the United States on March 23, 1916, Marcus Garvey sailed to England, and developed a Pan-African critique of colonialism after he observed the similar ways that England was colonizing African people in the Caribbean, West Africa, and East Africa. For the Sudanese-Egyptian editor Duse Mohammed Ali, Garvey in 1913 wrote an article critiquing the kind of Jamaican leadership that serves colonial masters outside of Jamaica, writing in 1913 “for the last twenty years, it [Jamaica] has enjoyed a semi-representative government, with little power of control, the balance of power resting in the hands of the red-tapists, who pull the strings of colonial conservatism from Downing Street, with a reckless disregard for the interests and wishes of the people.” Portia Simpson-Miller and Robert Pickersgill by approving the sale of over twelve hundred acres of Jamaican land are being pulled by strings of colonial conservatism not by Downing Street in London in the 1913 case of Marcus Garvey’s article but by China. Simpson-Miller and the Jamaican government’s leadership is also still controlled by strings of colonial conservatism in England and the United States. In 2012, Simpson-Miller asked the Congressional Black Caucus to lobby the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to lend money to Jamaica, even though the terms of those loans that Jamaican leaders like Simpson-Miller agree to, essentially reflect in 2016 Jamaican society what Garvey in 1913 described as “a reckless disregard for the interests and the wishes of the people.”
Jakob Johnston has written for the Center For Economic and Policy Research that Jamaica has, thanks to its leadership’s “red-tapist” acceptance of Anglo IMF loans and its “red-tapist” sale of land to China, endured the most austere budget in the world which is bolstering a debt-to-GDP ratio of nearly 140 percent. According to Johnston’s report, the terms on which Jamaica could receive IMF money required that they implement social policies that have seen “a two-fold increase in poverty since 2007.” The IMF encourages a social order where the same colonial masters maintain and enrich their wealth at the expense of the masses. This kind of leadership is the exact opposite of the leadership model described in The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey. Garvey wrote, in the second volume of his 1925 edition published by his second wife Amy Jacques Garvey, that the organization he founded in 1914, the Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A.) promoted a unique style of leadership. The U.N.I.A. “teaches our race self-help and self-reliance, not only in one essential, but in all those things that contribute to human happiness and well-being. The disposition of the many to depend upon the other races [white English and Chinese] for a kindly and sympathetic consideration of their needs [as Simpson-Miller did in her request for IMF funds] without making the effort to do for themselves, has been the race’s standing disgrace by which we have been judged and through which we have created the strongest prejudice against ourselves.” Simpson-Miller has already created a prejudice of Jamaican people as beggars when she requests the United States, ruled by industrialists who are philosophical anathema to Garvey, to pardon Garvey. She also supports this when she asks to borrow money from the International Monetary Fund, instead of pursuing an independent economic course in the manner of Cuba. This is why United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron can continue to respond to this kind of prejudiced view of Jamaicans as beggars and insult the Jamaican people by announcing the UK’s building of a prison in Jamaica. The prison is essentially a symbol of how the English world still sees Jamaican people and is demonstrating to them their own idea of how to promote and grow their economy: through the construction of prisons for the Jamaican people. Simpson-Miller and her Jamaican government leaders showed no protest to this future vision of Jamaica and apparently thought it an acceptable response to Simpson-Miller’s misguided request to the UK government for reparations. Simpson-Miller’s leadership seems to expect that the nature of the relationship between England and Jamaica changed or improved from Garvey’s lifetime. Garvey described in 1925 this kind of leadership:
It is the slave spirit of dependence that causes our “so-called leading men [or women]” (apes) to seek the shelter, leadership, protection and patronage of the “master” in their organization and so-called advancement work. It is the spirit of feeling secure as good servants of the master, rather than as independents, why our modern Uncle Toms take pride in laboring under alien leadership and becoming surprised at the audacity of the Universal Negro Improvement Association in proclaiming for racial liberty and independence.
Simpson-Miller in her requests to borrow money from the IMF and her sale of land to the Chinese is “laboring under alien leadership” instead of concentrating on ways to build the wherewithal of the Jamaican people. The colonial masters of the neocolony of Jamaica also depend on leaders like Portia Simpson-Miller who was groomed by Michael Manley, seen as one of the leaders of a so-called “democratic socialism” in Jamaica that in practice, like the public 2015 statement of Bernie Sanders claiming to be a “democratic socialist,” are nothing short of being the weak yells of a reactionary capitalist. Marcus Garvey’s model of leadership encourages sacrifice. In Garvey’s own model of state socialism, “all control, use, and investment of money should be the prerogative of the State with the concurrent authority of the people.” However the responsibility of the state managing “all” investment of money was a large responsibility not to be taken as lightly as Donald Trump took his last multimillion dollar investments. Historian Tony Martin writes that Marcus Garvey had “a fatalistic acceptance of sacrifice as the inevitable consequence of leadership, despite occasional complaints concerning the difficulties of race leadership and the unworthiness of errant colleagues.” Martin also wrote that for Garvey, leadership also potentially meant martyrdom. It means being willing to make enormous sacrifices in order to not betray the interests of the masses. An African leader who probably comes closest to psychologically accepting and fulfilling this fatalistic acceptance of sacrifice was Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso in West Africa. He led an important socialist revolution in 1983 and, unlike Portia Simpson-Miller’s leadership, avoided the IMF and pursued revolutionary programs for African self-reliance. As a leader, Sankara used the state of Burkina Faso for the interests of the people of Burkina Faso (Burkinabe) in ways that Marcus Garvey described almost sixty years prior to seizing power in West Africa. In a recent history of Sankara, Ernest Harsch writes that “state office was to be regarded as a public trust with public goods and affairs managed on behalf of the population, not in the officeholder’s own interests.”
Harsch writes that in July 1986 and March 1987, public hearings during Sankara’s socialist leadership were organized in Burkina Faso’s House of the People, where state enterprise directors, administrative councils and financial experts had to give an accounting of their performance over the previous three years. In order to responsibly demonstrate some level of personal sacrifice for the Burkinabe people and to responsibly conserve state resources, travel costs for Burkinabe state officials were kept to such a low minimum, that instead of paying for expensive hotel rooms, “mattresses were put on mission floors for government ministers accompanying him.” About this sacrifice of material comfort, Sankara is quoted as saying “’there is nothing wrong with that. This should bring you back to some of your memories from the time you were students. The money saved on hotel bills, he reminded them, would be better used for new wells and schools back home.” Eventually, Sankara’s stable socialist state attracted the ire of the imperialist powers to eventually fund and arm an army that would surround him and murder him. He was known to be very self-sacrificing up to his death. When guns were pointed at the building he was in, he told his supporters to step aside and let him confront the gunmen: “he left the room, hands raised to face the assailants. He was shot several times, and died without saying anything more.” Harsch writes that his assassination was orchestrated in part by Minister of Defense Blaise Compaore. This is part of a pattern in military leaders being armed by U.S. or European imperialists to lead a coup against their leaders. It was demonstrated in Egypt with the support the U.S. government gave military leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to overthrow the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule over Egypt. The U.S. led a coup that using the strategy of “American dollarism” or Zionist dollarism” that Garvey critiqued and will be discussed later in this paper. Thomas Sankara comes closest to practicing Garveyism in the twentieth century since Garvey’s death. To what extent would Simpson-Miller have public hearings where government officials would have to report their accountings during their three year tenure? To what extent would Simpson-Miller or most recently Andrew Holness decide to forgo luxurious hotel stays in order to save money to build desperately needed infrastructure such as wells and schools?” Alice Clare also wrote in 2014 about how Jamaican schools are so badly underresourced, that students are told if they want to use their bathroom, they have to bring their own bucket of water to flush the toilet. What comforts are Jamaican leaders willing to relinquish in order to bring Jamaican public infrastructure into the twenty first century?
Marcus Garvey inspired several anticolonial movements in the twentieth century, specifically the independence movement of Ghana. Kwame Nkrumah was a student at Lincoln University. Ama Biney writes that in his autobiography, Kwame Nkrumah said that The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey deeply impacted him. It expressed “a sense of racial pride in the young Nkrumah and optimism for the future of the African continent. However, Biney would later write that Nkurmah would “prove himself to be diametrically opposed to Garvey on the ideological question of European involvement in the development of Africa.” Biney would later write that Nkrumah depended, like Portia Simpson-Miller, on the International Monetary Fund for support, and contravenes his lessons from Garveyism with this significant oversight. While he was alive, Garvey was sure to issue critiques of African leaders whom he thought violated his principles of self-reliance by depending on European capital too extensively. In 1937 he critiqued the celebrated Ethiopian leader Haile Selassie for not doing enough to raise “the living standards of the masses.” Garvey wrote:
the Emperor of Abyssinia allowed himself to be conquered by playing white, by trusting white advisers and by relaying on white governments…If Haile Selassie had educated thousands of his countrymen and women, and raised them to the status of culture and general knowledge necessary to civilization, the Italians never could have dared an offensive against Abyssinia, because Abyssinia could have found leaders on the spot competent and ready to throw back the invader.
Garvey chided Haile Selassie for the same reason he chided Jamaican leaders in 1913 for being pulled by strings of colonial conservatism instead of utilizing the potential of the people within his country. What Garvey wrote here also relates to African leadership of natural resources in the twentieth century. Historian Horace Campbell wrote that after the 1973 war between Egypt and Israel, the Libyan government under the leadership of Moamar Gadafi nationalized its most valuable natural resource, which is oil in 1979:
the example of radical nationalization established by Libya had been followed by Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. Over the fifteen year period after the revolution in Libya, countries such as Iraq, Venezuela, Nigeria, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates fully nationalized the holdings of the Western oil companies.
There is no question that state nationalization of natural resources is the first step to having, according to Garvey’s philosophy, “all control, use, and investment of money…be the prerogative of the State with the concurrent authority of the people.” According to my 2011 interview with former U.S. Representative Cynthia McKinney, Gadafi was utilizing resource nationalism, which was the use of the state to fund the ability to provide free healthcare and free education and free post-secondary education to all of its citizens. However, Campbell writes, by 2003, Libya had been influenced by Western “soft power” diplomacy that led to the privatization of state owned enterprises that went mainly to U.S. companies. Samir Amin would write that in Libya “oil rent which was widely redistributed became the target of small groups of the privileged, including the family of the leader.” The relationship Gadafi willfully began, like Nkrumah did, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) led to his murder in 2011. Although McKinney said that Gadafi practiced resource nationalism, Campbell writes that trade unions in Libya did not benefit from the reforms because the post-2003 reforms in Libya increased inequality and strengthened those social forces close to ruling circles already wealthy before the privatizing of state owned Libyan oil companies. Like Selassie in 1937, Gadafi in 2010 by Garvey’s evaluation, did not do enough to raise his Libyan citizens to “the status of culture and knowledge necessary for general civilization,” in a manner that could have helped him avoid getting duped by Western “soft power” interests. The Agrarian Reform Law and the National Literacy Campaign in Cuba after the Cuban revolution are examples of efforts by the state to raise their citizens to a status of culture and knowledge necessary for general civilization. Gadafi’s leadership however does not excuse the treacherous objectives of private U.S. oil interests who seek to continue dividing and conquering within Africa. In his Philosophy and Opinions, Garvey articulates a clear anti-imperialist message when he writes:
Men like Morgan, Rockefeller, Firestone, Doheny, Sinclair and Gary should not be allowed to entangle the nation in foreign disputes, leading to war, for the sake of satisfying their personal, individual or corporate selfishness and greed for more wealth at the expense of the innocent masses of both countries. Oil “concessions” in Mexico or Persia…to be exploited for the selfish enrichment of individuals, sooner or later, end in disaster; hence ill-feeling, hate, and then war. Let us unite and stop it for the good of the people of the nation…this kind of dollar diplomacy is a disgrace to our civilization and for the sake of humanity should be stopped.
What Garvey described in 1925 as “dollar diplomacy” is what his ideological descendant Malcolm X, whose Garveyite parents met around 1920 in Montreal at a conference, would call in 1964 “American dollarism.” Malcolm X wrote this speech imploring African nations not let their independence movements to allow European colonialism to be replaced with American dollarism. When Malcolm X issued this critique, he was making the same warning Garvey issued thirty nine years prior in his Philosophy and Opinions. Thirty nine is also the age at which Malcolm X was assassinated. However his message inspired the Black Panther Party For Self-Defense to emerge as yet another ideological development of Garveyism and yet another essential development of the Black Freedom Struggle. Garvey also in his philosophy saw the role of the state as central in uniting “for the good of the entire nation.” He saw it as national leadership’s responsibility to be prepared to personally sacrifice one’s own life for the cause of serving the people, for the cause of responsibly using the “prerogative of the State with the concurrent authority of the people.” This includes allowing labour to thrive and not be silenced or abused by capital. Tony Martin wrote that Marcus Garvey had a record of struggle that was more outstanding than that of most of his Communist critics: “Garvey’s most sustained activity in the labour movement came during 1927 to 1935.” His Blackman newspaper according to Martin, became “an organ for the exposure of labor grievances.” In the Blackman, Garvey would blast the mainstream Jamaican Daily Gleaner newspaper, claiming it is “the mouthpiece of special privilege and cold blooded capital in the Island of Jamaica” that in most cases should “keep his monstrous ‘paws’ off the situation, lest the Blackman “tell him where to get off at,” as it was “always ready to tell him without any hesitation.” Garvey would also play instrumental roles in the two men who would define mainstream Jamaican politics in the twentieth century: Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamante, “two cousins who were jockeying for a place in planter society.” Norman Manley would lead one of the two major parties, the People’s National Party and Bustamante would lead the other major party, the Jamaica Labour Party. Garvey would first become familiar with Norman Manley, a barrister or lawyer who was hired by Calypsonian singer Sam Manning to sue Garvey for libeling him. Manning at this time was dating Garvey’s first wife, Amy Ashwood Garvey, whose marriage Marcus had annulled in 1920. Manning’s suit apparently placed Garvey in jail and motivated a young Norman Manley to encourage the Kingston Saint Andrew Corporation Council (KSAC) not to allow Garvey a seat on their council that he ran for. Manley won that battle but also won the ire and satire of Garvey’s Blackman newspaper who editorialized that the KSAC’s declining Garvey’s joining was a result of an opinion by Norman Manley that “supports…the immoral desires of that section of the Municipal Council who would, at any cost, keep Marcus Garvey from his rightful place as the people’s representative.” Garvey would have no similar animus against Alexander Bustamante whom, Tony Martin said, Garvey approved of his entry into politics in 1938. Campbell writes that this year was historic in Jamaica because “it showed that all sections of the proletarianized masses were organized and that direct action was the only way to bring about change. However, these proletarianized masses, according to Campbell “received limited gains and any gains were actually stepping stones for the aspiring petty bourgeoisie, [like Manley and Bustamante]…to participate more fully in the perverse capitalism which colonialism had introduced.” These limited gains included up to today, increased privatization of the Jamaican state and land, to the detriment of the masses and essentially betraying Garvey’s original philosophy. Alexander Bustamante became leader of the more politically conservative Jamaica Labour Party and, like the drug dons such as Lester Coke that employed him, is described by bourgeois historian Colin A. Palmer as “tempermentally incapable of functioning in an environment where the principles of democracy prevailed.” Horace Campbell wrote that Norman Manley expelled the Marxists from the People’s National Party (PNP). The drug economy and gun violence that define both of these parties is a legacy led by individuals who are “tempermentally incapable of functioning in an environment where the principles of democracy prevailed.” This is why they ruled with an iron fist that was brutal and completely contravened the teachings of Marcus Garvey. Amy Jacques Garvey writes in Garvey and Garveyism of her husband being betrayed by labor union leaders like Bustamante, when she describes that the Union Treasurer left Jamaica with the money that was earned largely because of the labor of the Black workers which “broke the morale of the men.” Garvey had a passion to fight on behalf of Black people that Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamante simply did not share. The ways in which they continued, after Garvey’s death, to support a system that furthered racist inequality is a testament to the still longstanding need of Garveyism to be practiced in Jamaica.
 Garvey, Marcus. “The British West Indies in the Mirror of Civilization: History Making By Colonial Negroes,” in Marcus Garvey And The Vision of Africa, John Henrik Clarke and Amy Jacques Garvey, eds. New York: Random, 1974, p.79-80.
 Martin, Tony. The Philosophy And Opinions of Marcus Garvey Edited by Amy Jacques Garvey. Dover: The Majority Press, 1925, 1986, Volume 2, p.25.
 Bernie Sanders said on November 19, 2015, at Georgetown University: “I don’t believe government should own the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal.” https://berniesanders.com/democratic-socialism-in-the-united-states/
This contravenes the definition of a socialist laid out by Marcus Garvey on page 72 of the second volume of his Philosophy and Opinions who said that “all control, use, and investment of money, should be the prerogative of the State with the concurrent authority of the people.” Colin Palmer in his recent bourgeois history of the 1938 labor rebellion of Jamaica called Freedom’s Children, describes Michael Manley as “a Fabian socialist,” which essentially encourages that socialism be replaced by gradualism, at a pace dictated by capitalists.