Erica Williams Connell
When Professor Tony Martin of Wellesley College first broached the subject of reprinting these proceedings of Howard University's 7th Annual Conference of the Division of Social Sciences, I confess, I was both amazed and delighted.
The latter, because for 22 years I have been attempting, in my own small way, to keep my father's numerous contributions to scholarship, to politics, indeed to nation-building, in the forefront of popular analysis and introspection. Amazed, because in today's mercenary world, the "bottom line" - inevitably money - is what publishing is mostly about, having very little to do with academic worth or viability. Thus, far too many of yesterday's important works have been lost to public view, with many questioning whether a book first published in 1944 holds any relevance for the conditionalities of today.
I submit, unequivocally, that it does. "The more things change, the more they stay the same," to quote modern parlance and, precisely because of this, many of the problems we face today have their roots in the past. One has only to focus on such international hotspots as Kosovo, Taiwan, Israel and the Arab world, to name just a few, for this to be self-evident. Therefore, why not listen to the voices of yesteryear, to their deliberative evaluation of, and potential solutions to, our difficulties? Why does each generation feel it has to reinvent the wheel? Why not, as one preservationist says, "pay attention to the road marks of the past in order that the future does not begin to lose its points of reference."
And so, the republication of The Economic Future of the Caribbean at this juncture, after a lapse of well over half a century is, clearly, auspicious. The many theories and suppositions it explores are very much au courant with recent developments in respect of America and the World Trade Organization vs. the European Union and the Caribbean exportation of bananas; with island nations struggling to maintain their sovereignty, facing the double-edged sword of "Shiprider Agreements," increasing drug flow and the steady encroachment of this scourge into the daily lives of our citizens - not to mention our institutions - with all its resultant consequences; with Caribbean leaders disgruntled by the interminable foot-dragging of the US Congress in terms of implementing fast-track free trade negotiations between the US and Latin American/Caribbean regions. A September 2003 presentation by the chief US diplomat for Western Hemispheric affairs failed even to mention the Caribbean, prompting one West Indian diplomat to voice his hope that such was an egregious omission rather than governmental policy. But the point speaks for itself.
Throughout, the lack of real Caribbean unity has been striking in its consistency although, clearly, great strides have been made in the enhancement of regional institutions, such as CARICOM, and in the establishment of the Association of Caribbean States. As one prelate has it, "more is said than done," and therein lies the crux of the matter. For today, the very reasons for which the Howard University conference was organized in the first place still hold true: perhaps, the imperatives are even more pressing. I quote an excerpt from one of the papers presented by Eric Williams - written some sixty years ago!
"We are now in a position to indicate some possibilities for the future. One thing is clear: change there must be. And that change, it is equally clear, must be carefully planned and must involve a closer union of the now separated Caribbean units….Federation will make possible an economic development now impossible, and give the Caribbean area a bargaining power in the world which its isolated units do not now have. If we may alter slightly the words of President Roosevelt on his recent visit to Mexico: the peoples of the Caribbean have for some years increasingly recognized the principle of independence; it is time now for them to recognize the privilege of interdependence.
In view, then, of the commitment of the Eric Williams Memorial Collection at the University of the West Indies (Trinidad and Tobago campus) to promote projects that continue to chronicle the process of history, I commend Professor Martin and the Majority Press for their perspicacity and steadfastness in bringing to light this long-forgotten work, which is of immeasurable importance to the Caribbean and its citizenry.