A University of the West Indies (UWI) lecturer is urging the public to be wary of political opportunists and is advocating instead for the “professional politician”.
Tennyson Joseph, head of the Department of Government, Sociology and Social Work at the UWI Cave Hill Campus in Barbados, told a lecture in Kingstown on Thursday that he uses the term “professional politician” as the Americans use it to criticise the longstanding senators.
Joseph made his observation as he delivered a lecture on the topic “‘Any Cook Can Govern?’: Plato, Donald Trump, and the rise of Caribbean Businessmen Politicians”.
He said that in his work “What is to be done?”, Russian communist revolutionary, politician, and political theorist, Lenin refers to a professional revolutionary as a man who makes revolution his profession.
“So, a professional politician is one who makes politics his profession. It is not a part-time job. It is not something you do as an offshoot. A politician is somebody who is involved in public life.”
However, in the current environment, the politician who has been around for a long time is considered a negative, said Joseph, who argued against the rise of businessmen politician in the Caribbean.
“In the US system, the senators who are elected term after term, they are viewed as a negative thing,” Joseph said.
He said the electorate is now calling for the outsider “because, apparently, they (longstanding politicians) fail so badly that we can try something new.
“That is the context in which I used the term professional politician,” Joseph said.
It was noted that in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, there are people who are obviously jockeying to enter politics but it is not clear what have been their contributions to the nation, outside of their political ambitions.
‘The word I will use for that is political opportunism,” Joseph said.
He said that when Lenin presented his model of the vanguard party, he said he was doing so as the way of rooting out political opportunity.
“Democracy creates post-glacial opportunists. You have to keep your eyes open. Even the technocrats, some of them will say, ‘You need term limits, you know’ in a nice technocratic way to explain for you good governance and democracy.
“But when you have term limits, you open the door for opportunists. Because you are saying this one had two terms, mine next…
“Opportunism is the absence of principle… It is a complicated thing. You cannot, technically, get rid of opportunists.”
Joseph was asked if there is anything inherently wrong with taking advantage of opportunities, whether they are in politics or business.
“You are asking a bright question but you know the answer yourself. I said to you, leadership is like true love. It cannot be described and explained, it can only be experienced. The same thing with opportunism: you might have the church, some of them are genuine Christians, others are opportunists,” Joseph said, adding that the same is true for the Rotary Club or a school band.
“I might want to be prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines but I shouldn’t want to be prime minister at any cost,” he said.