Marcus Garvey’s Economic Philosophy Has a Capitalism Problem


04 July 2017 |Ajamu Nangwaya | teleSUR

“… Marcus Garvey was born on August 17, 1887, in a racist, colonial environment that was hostile to the interests of African-Jamaicans. During the years 1910-1914, Garvey traveled to a number of countries in Latin America and Europe and this experience brought a high level of awareness of the exploited condition of Africans. Garvey created the UNIA in July 1914 in Jamaica and went to the United States in March 1916.

The United States became the organization’s headquarters and prime site of its success and failure. According to Garvey in the book “The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey” by 1921 the UNIA had “900 branches and with an approximate membership of 6,000,000.” Garvey’s claim about the number of members has not been independently confirmed.

Garvey’s commitment to self-reliance and liberation of the global African community led him to place a strong emphasis on business development. In “Philosophy and Opinions” Garvey declares that, “Chance has never yet satisfied the hope of a suffering people. Action, self-reliance, the vision of self and the future have been the only means by which the oppressed have seen and realized the light of freedom.”

Self-reliant economic development is actually a key element of an oppressed group’s strategy to develop the alternative economic institutions and practices today, which will serve as the seeds of the liberated society of tomorrow. Collective self-reliance will bolster the extent to which an oppressed group or country is able to withstand the pressure or punishment of its enemies.

Even before the independence movements or national liberation struggles in Africa and the Caribbean, Garvey demonstrated the possibility of bringing the people onto the stage of history. However, retired UWI Professor Rupert Lewis and Garvey expert reported in his text “Marcus Garvey: Anti-Colonial Champion” that the now defunct Workers Party of Jamaica saw the Garvey movement as an ‘alliance of the proletariat and the petty bourgeoisie albeit under petty bourgeois leadership.’

In the effort to ‘create a new people,’ Garvey practiced a race-first economic development framework. The late Garvey scholar Tony Martin provides a scope of the UNIA’s portfolio of businesses in his book “Race First: The Ideological and Organizational Struggles of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Improvement Association.” The UNIA operated laundries, tailoring business, grocery stores, printing press, doll making company, the Negro World newspaper, a hat making establishment, shipping company, restaurants and a hotel. It had assets such as trucks and buildings and hundreds of employees.

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