Ideology and Class Conflict in Jamaica: The Politics of Rebellion


192 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-0745-0
DDC 972.92




Reviewed by Kenrick E.A. Mose

Kenrick E.A. Mose is an associate professor of Spanish Studies at the
University of Guelph.


In this study, Bakan manages to give a coherent, analytic narrative of
the evolution of the Jamaican working class from the slave era to the
trade unions that form the base of political power in modern Jamaica.
She accomplishes this by focusing on three celebrated incidents of
popular rebellion by the working classes.

What brings cohesion to the picture is Bakan’s pursuit of common,
underlying forces that prompt like human responses under different
circumstances of abuse. Bakan identifies “a general and recurrent
pattern of ideological resistance” in the slave uprising in
Jamaica’s western parishes in 1831, the Morant Bay rebellion of 1865,
and the much more widespread strikes and demonstrations of 1938. This
interpretation is bolstered by an analytic framework compounded of
Antonio Gramsci’s ideas on “willed” and “organic” ideology and
George Rudé’s refinement of “willed” ideology into “inherent”
and “derived” ideas. The “organic” or historically specific
conditions that give rise to rebellion persistently find allies in what
Bakan calls the “religious idiom,” a religious tone and texture
informing liberation struggles, and in the workers’ somewhat
paradoxical belief that the despotic British Crown had their interest at

The introduction places the study in its analytic framework. The first
chapter traces the workers’ social and economic development and how
their relationships with the landholders evolved through the period
under study. Three chapters follow, each analyzing one of the rebellions
and divided into segments with identical headings examining developments
according to the initial framework. The concluding chapter links the
development of the working-class ideology with the evolution of the
trade unions and political parties of the contemporary era.

Bakan has composed a fluent narrative, extensively documented, on a
theme central to the understanding of the Jamaican political process.
Its very few uneasily integrated moments find more than ample
compensation in the thought-provoking concept of the work. One can only
hope that Bakan will bring her clear, analytic vision to bear on the
more contemporary Jamaican scene.


Bakan, Abigail B., “Ideology and Class Conflict in Jamaica: The Politics of Rebellion,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 25, 2024,