West Indies Federal Labour Party

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The West Indies Federal Labour Party (or WIFLP) was one of the two main Federal parties in the short-lived West Indies Federation. The party was the first national party of the planned West Indies Federation. It was organised by Norman Manley, Grantley Adams, V.C. Bird, Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw, Joseph Nathaniel France, Eric Gairy, Carl La Corbinière and William Henry Bramble in June 1956 as the Federation of Labour Parties of the British Caribbean. However, at its inaugural conference on September 1, 1956 in St.Lucia, its name was changed to the Caribbean Federal Labour Party. Only later on did its name finally change to the West Indies Federal Labour Party (although it was also mistakenly called the West Indian Federal Labour Party or the West Indies Federal Party). The WIFLP then went on to contest and win the Federal Elections in 1958. Since neither Manley nor Eric Williams contested the Federal elections, Sir Grantley Adams became the Premier. The Opposition party was the Democratic Labour Party.

At its inaugural conference in St. Lucia, a constitution for the party was drafted providing for a biennial conference and an elected executive council which would act between meetings. This council was to convene at least once a year and was composed of party officers and seven others elected at the biennial conference.

The party was a confederation of local parties from each of the constituent territories. Generally speaking its constituent parties were the more urban based parties. Member parties were required to pledge active support of trade union movements and public ownership or control where this would best serve the public interest. Member parties were also required to advocate a society offering equal opportunities for all, regardless of race/colour or religion. Initially there were no Trinidadian parties included and in May 1957, in order to include the Trinidad's non-socialist People's Nation Movement, the constitution of the WIFLP was amended to allow admission of progressive parties and democratic trade unions, whether socialist or not. By the time of the first elections, the WIFLP was a grouping of the ruling parties in each territory except St. Vincent — although in October 1957, both the ruling party of St. Vincent (the People's Political Party) and the opposition party (St. Vincent Labour Party) had applied for membership, the latter was ultimately approved and the former joined the Democratic Labour Party. Associate membership was open to parties in British Guiana and British Honduras.

After the successful election, the party suffered from the awkward situation of the two most influential leaders (Manley and Williams) absent from the federal government, and holding a minority of seats from their respective territories Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

Parties affiliated with the WIFLP included (incomplete)

The WIFLP's political manifesto (which formed its election platform) advocated a democratic socialist society, maintenance of close contacts with countries with which the islands had strong cultural and economic links, encouragement of agriculture and tourism, establishment of a central bank to expand credit resources throughout the area, dominion status within five years, full internal self-government in all the unit territories, encouragement of British Guiana, British Honduras and the Bahamas to join the union and an international project for technical and financial aid to the Caribbean.

When Sir Alexander Bustamante won a referendum in Jamaica to leave the Federation, Eric Williams decided that the remaining burden was too great for Trinidad and Tobago to bear alone. Once Trinidad and Tobago declared its intention to leave the Federation, the British government dissolved the West Indies Federation.

Confusion over the name of the party during its existence and afterwards could have been partly due to existence of another party by the name "West Indian Federal Labour Party" that was loosely organized and established in 1926 at a conference in St. Lucia (The party discussed in this article was not associated with the 1926 party).

References[edit]

  • Meighoo, Kirk. 2003. Politics in a Half Made Society: Trinidad and Tobago, 1925-2002 ISBN 1-55876-306-6
  • Wallace, Elisabeth. 1977. The British Caribbean: From the decline of colonialism to the end of Federation University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-5351-3