Decoding European plantation system of governance

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
November 02, 2015

Dr. Kwame NantambuThe 27 October 2015 (191-2) vote/resolution passed by the UN General Assembly that called “for an end to the decades-long US embargo on Cuba” brings to the fore the contemporary modus operandi of the 15th century European plantation system of governance in two aspects, namely, the Euro-British-imposed Westminster system of government on then colonies in the Caribbean and Africa in the 1960s and the United Nations system in 1945.

By way of elucidation, in the 15th century European plantation system, only the slave-master had veto power over the operation of the plantation. All power control was vested in the slave-master’s mansion.

And in order to secure, maintain and perpetuate that supreme plantation power control, the European slave-master divided the slaves into two categories, namely, house-servants and field-hands. This policy overtly manifests the European successful Divide & Rule system of governance.

Simply put, if there were 1,000 slaves on the plantation, the European slave-master separated, divided, designated 100 as house-servants and 900 as field-hands. In other words, the house-servants were the chosen few (minority) while the field-hands were in the majority.

Thus, this two-tier plantation division automatically created inherent, acerbic hatred, mistrust and antagonism between these two entities.

On the one hand, the house-servants were treated as protectors of the slave-master’s interests while on the other hand, the field-hands were treated as destroyers of the slave-master’s interests.

As slain African-American nationalist Malcolm X aptly surmised in a speech delivered at Michigan State University on 23 January 1963:

“… during slavery, you had two Negroes. You had the house Negro and the field Negro. The house Negro usually lived close to his master. He dressed like his master. He wore his master’s second-hand clothes. He ate food that his master left on the table. And he lived in his master’s house— probably in the basement or attic— but he still lived in the master’s house.

So whenever that house Negro identified himself, he always identified himself in the same sense that his master identified himself.

When his master said: ‘we have good food’, the house Negro would say: ‘Yes, we have plenty of good food’. When the master said: ‘we have a fine home here’, the house Negro said: ‘Yes, we have a fine home here.’ When the master would be sick, the house Negro identified himself so much with his master, he’d say: ‘What’s the matter boss, we sick’? His master’s pain was his pain. And it hurt him more for his master to be sick than for him to be sick himself. When the house started burning down, that type of Negro would fight harder to put the master’s house out than the master himself would.

But you had another Negro out in the field. The house Negro was in the minority. The masses-the field Negroes — were the masses. They were in the majority. When the master got sick, they prayed that he’d die. If his house caught on fire, they’d pray for a wind to come along and fan the breeze.”

Ipso facto, it was this Divide & Rule plantation policy that permitted the European enslavement of African people to last from 1 August 1516 to 1 August 1834(38) in the Caribbean. The model worked to the max.

Hence, it need occasion no great surprise that when the descendants of these ‘freed’/emancipated African slaves were demanding political independence from their former slave-master and colonizer, the Euro-British government (Mother Country) stipulated that before political independence was granted, the colonized in the Caribbean and Africa must meet the basic “criterion of eligibility for independence,” namely, “a full-fledged two-party system in operation.”

In addition, the Euro-British government insisted that independence was not automatically a right of those who were nationally distinct. It was rather a right only for those who were capable of maintaining and perpetuating Euro-British liberal democratic institutions.

The Euro-British government termed this “full-fledged two-party system in operation” as the Westminster model of government for the newly independent nation-states in the Caribbean and Africa in the early 1960s.

The salient geo-political truism/reality is that the Euro-British two-party system of government under the rubric of the Westminster model is nothing more than a new and improved, modern-day version of the successful plantation model of governance in the 15th century.

In other words, the members of the ruling government in the 1960s in the Caribbean and Africa are the descendants of the house-servants in the 15th century plantation system. At that time, for protecting the slave-master’s interests they were called house-servants. However, under this so-called new Westminster model in the 1960s, they are now called Prime Ministers and/or Presidents. The salient key is that they have continued the tradition of protecting the interests of their former slave-master/colonizer from the 1960s under the system known as neo-colonialism.

On the flip side, the descendants of the field-hands, that is, the leaders of the violent slave revolts are now promoted to the status of leaders of the Opposition. Division, as in neo-colonial Divide & Rule, exists today and counting.

And this stark contemporary geo-political reality is reflected not only by observing which governments in the Caribbean and Africa are subjected to a friendly versus hostile policy by successive American administrations since the 1960s but also those who receive foreign aid/foreign economic assistance.

In addition, one only needs to look at those governments who have been either destabilized, overthrown or militarily invaded in order to ascertain the reality that the 15th century pro-anti-European plantation policy mind-set still exists. Today, this mind-set is called foreign policy decision-making process.

The second aspect of this analysis focuses on the United Nations system. At the outset, it must be stated quite equivocally that the current United Nations system is nothing more than a new and improved, modern-day version of the successful European 15th century plantation system of governance at the international level.

For example, when the United Nations Charter came into effect on 24 October 1945 (but signed in San Francisco on 24 June 1945), veto power was assigned to five permanent members. Today, they are China, France, United States, Britain and Russia. In other words, then, whereas only one person (European slave-master) had veto power on the plantation in the 15th century, today, that number is five; moreover, it must be explained that in order for any binding United Nations resolution not to become international law, only one permanent member has to cast the veto— not all or any number thereof. In essence, therefore, the 15th century plantation unilateral veto power still resides in the United Nations system today.

The fact of the matter is that the 15th century European Divide & Rule plantation policy is now the spinal cord of the United Nations system. For example, whereas there are now 193 members of the United Nations system/organization, only five are designated, divided and separated as permanent members.

Furthermore, whereas there was a two-tier institutional division of the 15th century plantation system of governance, namely, the European slave-master’s mansion and the general slave population, the same, albeit divisive, Divide & Rule model, exists in today’s United Nations institutional schema. As such, today’s United Nations institutional framework reflects of the same two-tier framework, namely, the Security Council and the General Assembly.

In the final analysis, analogous to the ineffectiveness of the majority membership (slaves) on the plantation, except through slave revolts, the membership of the UN General Assembly who comprise the Organization’s majority have also been totally ineffective to the extent that since 1992, the UN General Assembly has been passing resolutions annually for the United Stated States to rescind its economic embargo against Cuba.

As an addendum, whereas the European slave-master was the Chief Operations Officer of the 15th century plantation system, today, the Secretary-General is the Chief Operations Officer of the United Nation system.

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is Professor Emeritus, Kent State University.

7 thoughts on “Decoding European plantation system of governance”

  1. So, Dr. Kwame Nantambu, since you so eloquently identified the problem, what is your solution?? In the field of management problem identification is the least important of the variables. Problem solving is the major variable.

  2. I will hold a response to this article in abeyance until I address a matter of cultivating and revisiting out culture from its past to the present. Trinidad and Tobago is rich in culture and artistry but you would never know that if you read the political blogs posted on this thread. Today, there is a pre-occupation with who (race) control the economy and it is being made into a contest of who controls the access to the treasury in terms of which race should be in power. It is obvious that the Trinidad of old has seen many patriots make contributions to make us proud but as a people we are very loose in keeping count of those who made stellar contributions to our culture and way of life. No less than six weeks ago I wrote a blog championing the need to make Trinidad and Tobago history a priority to be encouraged and championed in the schools. Be it elementary, secondary or tertiary we need to keep close to understanding what those who came before us did. If such knowledge were to be pursued vigorously in academic and social circles, I am sure that the lives of ordinary citizens would be enhanced, because there will be a sense of where we came from and therefore gives us a gauge to new horizons. Matters of this sort can and will enhance the values we place on history and historical artifacts that are placed as reminders of the struggles, artistry, evidence of growth, trials and errors they faced to make our country what it is today. In this respect, we must commend the efforts of the Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley who has made it a point during the last campaign to encourage the history of Trinidad and Tobago to be taught in schools. He recently commissioned the purchase of one of our great artist, Michel-Jean Cazabon, to be purchased from Christie’s of London. This is a good start for the preservation of our historical talents and by the same token, introducing the greatness of the Trinidadian talents to those of us who were otherwise uninformed. This kind of information helps to mould young and inquisitive minds to explore areas of development that may not be on the minds of every citizen. It also instills value to creativity. Value as a character should not always be monetary, it should carry a sense of pride, a sense of achievement and a sense of contributory evidence to the greatness of the character of the Trinidadian. It is my hope that this start will continue because there are many such people as Michel-Jean Cazabon whose works have added tremendously to our sense of belonging and definitely a contribution to the building of our character. Another such person is Wilfred D. Best, he is the creator and author of The Student’s Companion, a book that have given many Trinidadians the edge in terms of general knowledge (especially on foreign soil) and continues to this day to educate and elevate our knowledge of things around us. Having said that, I heard negative voices on the radio echoing racial connotation to the idea of having Michel-Jean Cazabon’s paintings on the walls of our renowned institutions just because he was white. This to me is absurdity. We need to accumulate the works of all members of our society who have added value to our society and history. There are untold many and it is my hope that people like George Bailey, Peter Minshall and others can be display and put into historical perspectives to treat our minds to the historical greatness of the Trinidadian. Congratulations to Dr. Rowley for taking those first steps.

  3. The “modus operandi” of the British to this day is to empower minority to control majority. In the process use minority to divide majority so that power is never in the hands of the majority. The British and other colonialist nations did this successfully.

    The house nigger (polite term negroe) was used to control the majority by being the chief enforcer and protector of massa. His job was to instill fear in all especially when he worked on the estate as chief enforcer. He was extremely loyal to his boss. In the indentured Labour system the enforcer was clothe like massa with a tall boots to kick those who were not working hard enough. So to when the British came to India it was Indian soldiers hitting the head of Gandhi supporters as they came forward. They crack the skull of their own people.

    The bizarre control that the British used to divide and conquer gave birth to Pakistan and Shri Lanka Tamil. In the case of India/Pakistan over a million people were slaughtered at the time of partition. There was no Afghanistan, Pakistan or Bangladesh, it was all India prior to British rule. In Shri Lanka there was a 20 year war because the Tamils stood up to the Sinhalese. The British brought the Tamils in from India and gave the high government offices, upon their departure a blood conflict erupted that saw thousands dead and displaced.

    The divide and rule policy has been a colonial control policy program. Practiced extensively, today it is still active.

  4. Divide & Rule may have been a tactic, but in many cases they did not CREATE the divide…they simply exploited it or simply benefitted from it. In the case Of aindians brought to T&T….The purpose was explicitly stated….”Because Of their caste prejudices they will stand aloof of & never unite with the africans..” William Hardin Burnley 19th century Trinidadian (Tacarigua) Slaveholder, during discussions with other influential persons & leaders in T&T, as to whom should be brought to replace labour (Africans).BEFORE Indians arrived in T&T…
    Time to do away with that deceitful myth that The British Divided “us” & if it weren’t for them & the system of politics “we” (Indians/Africans) would be wining on each other in the streets all day…
    Indians were brought by the British for the same reason the mongoose was brought from india…to “deal with” a local “problem”.The mongoose took care of the snake problem & Indians …The Africans whom they (british) despised & wanted to undercut
    the gains of them & the abolition movement….This was done all over the african colonies also…Indians were basically brought as administrators to Africans & this fit in also with the racist plantation system whereby Indians were considered a genetic cousin Of Wnites albeit inferior but superior to African (Genetically)…In fact…the whole nazi obsession with hinduism was actually a European obsession with Hindu history as related to the europeans by Brahmins…That they (upper caste indians & Europeans) had an ancestral link (Aryans) who concquered Dark Skinned India & proved white superiority. It was actually a craze in europe about india & Hinduism because they were recognized as
    ‘gods’. John Morton, The canadian Presbyterian who was on sick leave in T&T whe he founded the Presbyterian church & mission to indians only as well as Naparima boys/Girls Irie high school etc…He kept a detailed diary of his experiences & told of an incident on his way to town & he passed a labourer tilling the earth (hindu) & he said the Hindu greeted him as “A Fellow Brahmin”….so hitler was just one of many who were fascinated with the whole white skinned superiority as a religion.This is in stark contrast to Africans who were considered 20% human…legally!

  5. I was in that Malcolm X head-space about 20 years ago, until I realized it was accomplishing exactly what it sought to decry…division enabling the enemy better to rule.

    With all the demonization of the “house kneegrow”, as a people we were that much more firmly ensnared by Satan. That wind having been sown, we are reaping the whirlwind now, with our youth out of control and acting in disdain of anything smacking of the “Negro”, and embracing everything that we associate with being a “Nigga”.

    Two generations ago, resistance against the colonial power was measured by the degree of intellectualism that could be brought to bear. We had to beat them at their own game. And we had two or three generations of great intellectuals that carried forward the struggle as no negre jardin could. Douglass, du Bois, Garvey, Williams (Eric), Williams (Sylvester), Fanon, Diop, even Martin and Mandela.

    Let’s face it, the negre jardin then could not take our struggle forward, and the ghetto nigga today, even the hip-hop intellectuals, however seemingly brave and eloquent, simply are ill-equipped to lead us forward in the struggle.

    We should remember that the one who led the Haitian revolution, such as it was, Toussaint L’ouverture, was a “house kneegrow”. Who better to outgeneral the master than the one who knows him best?

    Here in T&T, it is a mistake of analysis, to suppose that anyone who is not rough of intellect and manners, cannot be sufficiently militant to lead radical change. Lloyd Best’s “afro-saxon” coinage did a lot of damage to those of our youth who took that as a reason to disdain educational and other accomplishment.

    Thank God for Rowley. Here is a demonstration in the flesh that an educated “black” man, can be just as unbowed, and indeed more so, than any last-of-the-Mohican black-power militant spewing rhetoric but otherwise ineffectual, or even worse, trapped by their own half-baked idea-ologies into a state of dalithood under a “Partnership” alliance. Cue Mackandal Daaga. Alyssa is right to call the latter a disgrace. He had his moment, but I trust it is not too late for him to grow back a pair and worry not about eating ah food.

    So I have no use for this house vs field negro analysis. Malcolm was our “shining black prince”, but woefully misguided in my humble view. And for the same reason as our David Muhammad. If they are trapped in Ishmaelite Q’uranic rhetoric they ultimately will fail our people. Just as surely as did Mackandal Daaga, trapped as he was in an alliance with the Edomite enemy of our people. For the Ishmaelite also are our enemy. That is Holy Writ:

    “They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance. For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against thee: The tabernacles of Edom, and the Ishmaelites…” (Psalm 83:4-6)

    Why settle for less when we the “Negro” are indeed Israel (meaning: prince with God). And btw recall the analysis which shows that “negro” in the Hamitic languages likewise identify us as kings (Cf. the Kushitic (Ethiopic) “Kebra Negast” — the Book of Kings, so “negro/nigger” and “negast” are cognate terms meaning king, with the “ng” phoneme carrying that meaning even in the word “king” itself, and in the German, koenig). Negro and nigger became terms of disdain only because in our reduced and powerless and meek condition, these terms of exaltation were thown back at us. We may well see the term “white man” come likewise to become a term of disdain.

    The key question is the identity question. That is what unites us, not any sort of ideological or sociological red-herring that would succeed only in nursing resentments at the expense of dividing us. Just as Toussaint, the house negro, was in the end more effective and more militant than any negre jardin could ever be, so also the best generals of the liberation movement must come from amongst the ranks of those who are well schooled, and know the enemy best. Enough of feel-good but half-baked militants.

    The identity question is well answered in only one place. That is the Book of Yahweh. It is ourstory, written by our forefathers the prophets as guided by the Holy Spirit. It gives our history and prophetic destiny, both. In it lies the truth that shall make us free.

    May the Most High pour out His Spirit, that we may all be led into that truth that shall make us free.


    “But the saints of the most High (i.e. the “niggers”, the princes with God) shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.” (Daniel 7:18)

    1. An afterthought: re the idea that the term “white man” could become a term of derogation: this indeed was the case, for the term “leper” was a term of derogation, and in its literal meaning means nothing more or less than a white person; 2 Kings 5:27, Numbers 12:10.

      The term “leper” indeed is now used to mean someone who is ostracized because for whatever reason they have offended society. But in literal meaning, it meant one who had lost their pigmentation, as did Gehazi and Miriam in the scriptural examples just cited.

      So strong became that as a term of opprobrium, that white people have sought to hide or disguiuse its plain biblical meaning. The term has come to be used to refer to a different condition altogether, namely Hansen’s disease. This is a disfiguring disease that also renders the patient less physically capable than before as appendages rot and fall off. This was not the case with Naaman, who though a leper, was a mighty man of valour; 2 Kings 5:1. Thus we may infer that biblical leprosy was not Hansen’s disease.

      I say this not to engender hatred of white people, nor disdain. For if Gehazi was Israelite before being turned a leper; 2 Kings 5:27; he and his seed after him remained Israelite, although turned white.

      In any case, the Most High let us know that a leper that was turned all white was to be pronounced clean; Leviticus 13:13: “pronounce him clean that hath the plague: it is all turned white: he is clean.”

      My suggestion therefore is that when the Israelites came fleeing into Africa after the sack of Jerusalem, they were given Hamitic designations meaning essentially: the people of the Book; princes with God; children of God; etc. These are the literal meanings of terms like Bantu, Negro, Niger,
      etc. as they came to be applied to the Israelite children of what also became knows as the Bantu expansion. They went clear across the continent to where no one before dwelt, which is why they ended up far west, far south, and also came to occupy much of central Africa. The Hamites already occupied the north and north-eastern parts. And the Ishmaelites already had a toe-hold on the northern and northwestern shores of Africa, as well as the eastern lands at and about Zanzibar, south of the Hamitic lands proper of the north-east. Indeed the continent is named after the Ishmaelite tribe of Apher; Josephus’ hypothesis which I am spiritually guided is true. The Hamites too spread into inner Africa, e.g. the Egyptian tribe of Wolof spread as far west as Senegal. So Africa is peopled by tribes with deep histories of enmity amongst them. The Israelites were selectively chosen for enslavement, as prophesied, at the hand of their near-kin the Edomites (black and white), and the Ishmaelites (red and black). Thus the royal terms nigger/negro and bantu carried a trace of irony, which morphed into full-fledged disdain. In the same way, under future black rule, “white” in reference to skin colour could become a term of derogation, as happened to the term “leper” in ancient times.

      The irony should be plain. We Israelites have been made to endure the lash of skin-colour prejudice that our Father might teach us a lesson that we had need of. So as I talk about the true biblical meaning of the term “leper”, I do so with no intention of bringing pain upon those who might so be called today. But it is with the intention that my brethren, the “Negro” and true Israelite, might have a glimpse of part of the truth that shall make us free.


  6. Divide and rule in India.

    Divide and Rule (divide et impera in Latin) is a very old political strategy. It basically means that you divide the population into manageable chunks and that makes it impossible for them to come together and fight against the sovereign authority. This strategy is also used in economics and society.

    India had divisions by a combination of “nation states”, Gujrat, Malyalam, Bengal, Kolkata, Madrass..etc. Each had their own language. Further division by religion, Muslim versus Hindu etc.

    The first serious threat to British dominion came after Gandhi started gaining prominence in the Indian National Congress circa 1920. Before that it was just a gathering of urban, Oxbridge educated lawyers and such and not really a force to reckon with. Then Gandhi went out and started gathering the masses under its banner and that is when the British really started noticing and plotting to keep the house divided.

    The divisions are not only Hindu-Muslim : Indians did not need much help from outside to make that happen. Other divisions were promoted. Let me give an example

    Between 1930 and 1932, 3 Anglo-Indian round table conferences were held in London.

    Gandhi kept pushing for ONE representative for the whole of the country. That did not happen. It was declared that NO one person had the mandate to speak on behalf of the whole country. So a number of people were invited representing.

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