The recent events in Grenada have posed a serious threat to the integration movement in the Commonwealth Caribbean. As Anthony Payne so graphically describes, however, since the demise of the Federation of the West Indies in 1961, every movement toward closer cooperation and integration in this region has faced as serious and sometimes even more serious threats. Attempts to establish the “Little Eight” after 1961 foundered; the thrust toward the establishment of CARIFTA (and later CARICOM) was tortuously slow and has not yet attained its ultimate objective of economic integration; the difficulties relating to the establishment of the Caribbean Development Bank were another case in point. While in the post-1961 period most of the integration efforts focused on trade and economic matters, it was the regional, subregional, and individual island political realities that raised impediments to integration progress.
During the period 1961-79 covered in the book, Payne over and over again documents the suspicions and reservations that individual leaders harbored about political integration. For example, he notes that during the discussions leading to the establishment of CARIFTA, “Seaga’s [then Finance Minister] speech gave full voice to Jamaica’s disregard and contempt for the Eastern Caribbean. . ..” Again, in the face of continuing domestic opposition to any arrangement that smacked of Federation and going as far as refusing to use the term “integration” (preferring the term “cooperation”) the Jamaican government questioned the motives of many of the Eastern Caribbean states noting inter alia the strong political flavor of the Grenada Declaration. Further, the growth of ideological pluralism and especially the radicalism of Guyana highlighted the inherent conservatism of Jamaica. My emphasis on Jamaica’s concerns should not obscure the many other difficulties the integration movement faced. Payne describes them all: the MDC/LDC polarization; the problems of distribution of economic benefits between MDCs and LDCs and even among MDCs themselves; the questions associated with a wider versus a deeper integration, and so on. Clearly, as Payne opines, these disagreements had deep “historical roots,” beginning with the objections of even the smallest entities to early attempts by the British Colonial Office to rationalize regional administration (seeing in this a threat to their individualism, authority, and even narrow cultural roots).
Part one of the book describes the historical and political origins of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and ends with the establishment of CARICOM in July 1974. This section discusses in a step-by-step fashion each shift, each nuance in the regional chess game, reflects the concerns of individual leaders and states and emphasizes the outstanding work of the regional technicians and officials. One incident encapsulates the fragile nature of the political accommodations: the refusai of the premier of St. Kitts to sign the CARICOM agreement in May 1974 because the British government advised that he could not sign for Anguilla since Anguilla had seceded from the St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla political entity. Such is the stuff of Caribbean politics and integration!
In Part two, Payne provides a careful analysis and evaluation of CARICOM arrangements—economic integration, functional cooperation, and foreign policy coordination; he attributes many of the difficulties to the style of regional decisionmaking and the institutional arrangements that support it. It is instructive to note that the supreme body of CARICOM, the Heads of Government Conference, brings together a group of leaders who are familiar with one another; this familiarity, as Payne points out, has its dangers since familiarity can breed the contempt recently demonstrated by the vicious language used by individual leaders on the two sides of the Grenada incident. What clearly is absent from the decision-making process is any principle of supranationality. Payne further catches the flavor of the whole integration process when he asserts that “the performance of the (Community) Secretariat and its Secretary General has undoubtedly been a critical factor for the advance of the integration movement,” comprising as it does officials from the member states who are genuinely committed to regional integration. Can this body assist in healing the new wounds opened by the Grenada incident and in forging a new commitment to regional integration?
After reading Payne’s book and keeping in mind both the recent disagreements about sharing of economic benefits in CARICOM as well as the polarization over the Grenada incident, one must ask the question: is there any real hope for political integration in the Commonwealth Caribbean? Five arguments adduced to support this development are discussed by Payne: the need to satisfy the region’s sense of nationhood; the need for regional solidarity vis-à-vis external (non-regional) relations; the need for economic integration; the need to reduce wasteful duplication; and the possibility of protecting individual civil liberties through the dispersion of power beyond individual entities. Are these the stuff of which political union is made? On the negative side, the evidence of history, both recent and past, clearly questions such a development, and there is no movement on the horizon to provide any impetus in this direction. In fact, the contrary is closer to the truth.
Payne’s book is replete with facts and interesting trivia; these are presented with clarity and conviction contributing to a most interesting reading exercise both for those of us who are familiar with the regional integration efforts as well as those who are coming to it for the first time.