Insurance Against Disorder

Part of the Institute of Social Studies book series (ISDS, volume 3)


In December 1938 a Colonial Office official had advocated the use of relief work in Jamaica as an ‘insurance against disorder’. In May, June and July 1939 an attempt to implement such a scheme had played a major part in the labour unrest, reaching a peak in rioting in mid-June, which we have just examined. Nevertheless, on the labour front the remainder of 1939 was quiet: as a later report summed it up, there were thirteen work disputes in all from May to the end of the year, and of these, 6 were enquired into by the [Labour] Department and amicably settled before any stoppage occurred, and the remaining 7 were called off after the strikers had been interrogated and advised by the Conciliation Officer.’1 A year after the labour rebellion, the movement which it had created can be said to have gone through the first phase of its existence. It had developed certain levels of consciousness, organisation and leadership, and put them to their first tests. For its part, the Colonial Office and its Jamaican subordinates had also developed the rudiments of a new system of labour relations, intended as a longer-term insurance against disorder, and exposed them to the first test of practice. By 3 September 1939 the social forces of labour, capital and administration were again in uneasy balance. On that day Jamaica, along with the rest of the colonial empire, became involved in Britain’s war with Nazi Germany, and all of its contradictions were hence-forward interpenetrated by the global one within capitalism as a whole, the fight for hegemony between the fascist and bourgeois democratic forms of that historical formation.2


Middle Class Land Settlement Labour Movement Wage Labour Colonial State 
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© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1978

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