Our ‘lumpen intelligentsia’

By Raffique Shah
August 28, 2023

Raffique ShahIf Karl Marx were alive and still fighting to establish his elusive dream of a pure communist country, he might have been amused by a 21st-century phenomenon that he would have uproariously branded “the lumpen intelligentsia”. Of course, just about everyone so branded, and most who are not, will be equally lost. You see, the vocabulary nowadays has excised such words and terms as if their mere mention would leave a stain on them.

If you or I walked up to one-time die-hard communists such as Wade Mark, who was among a small band of Marxists who fought elections in 1981 but won hardly any votes, they’d likely tell you, “No, boy, ah doh do dat again.” So it’s left to a handful of us revolutionaries to at least keep the memories of another day alive, if not kicking.

So back to “lumpen intelligentsia”. Marx used the term “lumpen” with “proletariat” to focus on workers in the lowest ranks and among the lowest paid, most indisciplined who will never organise themselves and seek a better day, better wages and working conditions.

Now “intelligentsia”, as I understand it, are people who are not just educated, but intelligent as well. Such people have been successful at least at the secondary education level, and likely have some tertiary-level education. Depending on their mindset, their jobs could range from teaching to public servant, middle and upper management in the private and public sector; in other words, middle-class in the societal structure.
Unlike the uneducated in the lower-end working-class, such middle elements are also expected to have the ability of reason, of critical thinking.

I, who never enjoyed tertiary-level education, do not restrict any such capabilities because I do not have the regulation certificates that go with the validation. Just as I apply reason and thought to most things I say or do, especially when writing, say, this column, I expect other people, certainly all who have sound secondary-level education and above, to have similar command in what they speak or write about. So I am very disappointed in those supposedly intelligent, if not, educated people, who blindly follow leaders in whatever sphere or activity, seemingly without the benefits of thought and reason.

The recent local government election put on display of leaders at varying levels of party structures, many of whom promoted themselves not merely as potential councillors or aldermen, but as leaders of the country. Among them were, in my view, persons of unsound mind not deserving of consideration to lead a pack of pot-hounds, far less the Trinidad and Tobago that we must attain if we are to see this country add benefits to what we have already achieved.

I can say proudly that post-colonial T&T is, in many respects, a far better country than it was before Independence. For example, the percentage of citizens who have enjoyed an education that compares favourably with global standards can be proud of that. True, it’s far from perfect. We waste a phenomenal sum of money in the Ministry of Education that does not yield the quality of citizens we expect. Too, the level of crime, and the fact that almost all the criminals are products of our education system, tells us that there is a gaping hole that needs to be filled if we are to go anywhere forward.

But when leadership, such as I referred to above, which lacks vision and the ability to reason, is what the masses are following, we are in deep trouble.

Members of the intelligentsia who should have united this society, instead seem to relish in widening the cracks, adding fuel to fire for self-benefits. Rather than use whatever leadership ability they claim to have to weld together our 1.4 million population nation, they—with impunity, I might add—carve up whatever unity and brotherhood is left.

I heard, for example, one “leader” proclaim “party before country” as her mantra, and another seeking to control gang “turfs”—well, that’s what he said. And, imagine these people have die-hard supporters from among the intelligentsia who will not dare correct them. They don’t seem to care if the country implodes the way Guyana did on several occasions in its short history as a nation. Guyanese killing Guyanese based only on their ethnicities. The intelligentsia teachers, managers, shapers of opinions, those who have influence seem to easily abandon any responsibility to the wider society, focusing only on fattening their bank accounts with as much as they can loot from the public coffers.

In other words, when we carefully examine the intelligentsia, what we find are empty heads that have nothing to show for the education they received, nothing to give back to their country. Theirs is only to plunder which makes them no different to the teenage bandits they created [in their homes, in the schools, on the streets].