Arise Ye Starvelings: The Jamaican Labour Rebellion of 1938 by Ken Post (auth.)

By Ken Post (auth.)

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Additional info for Arise Ye Starvelings: The Jamaican Labour Rebellion of 1938 and its Aftermath

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Already by 1890 some 100 of the 162 factories were using steam power, and another 19 steam and water. 67 The important distinction was now emerging between such centrals, which not only grew cane but maintained a factory for grinding it, and smaller growers who sold their cane to the factories because they could not afford mechanised grinding facilities 68 The big, heaVily-capitalised sugar estates thus remained as an important part of the top level of Jamaican agrarian society, controlling the small cane growers througb their purchasing policy; during the boom period of the First World War the small growers supplied a third of the cane milled, and were the first to be sacrificed when the boom ended.

In so doing they found themselves becoming part of a much more complex rural class structure than existed in the \lId days, when in effect a few white masters squatted on the backs of their black and brown slaves. As early as the 1850. differentiation was appearing among the new peasants, based on the distinction between those who specialised in export crops and sugar for local consumption (nearly 6,000 tons in 1870), and those who grew food crops purely for local use_ An observer noted in 1860 that 'A sort of better class is ...

Given this opportunity the former slaves, to adapt Lenin's famous description, voted with their feet; they walked off the sugar plantations. In so doing they in effect turned economic change into a revolution 41 King Sugar was dealt a blow in Jamaica from which he never completely recovered. The basis of the island's economy remained the production of agricultural exports, but sugar never regained the dominance it began to lose in the 1850s. The changing composition of exports can be seen in Table 2, but there was far more to the long-term effects of the revolution than can be seen there.

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