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New book shines light on Michael Manley

ORATOR: Michael Manley was famed for his ability as a public speaker

A NEW biography of Michael Manley promises to shed new light on his time in office as Jamaica’s Prime Minister. Manley, who served as Prime Minister between 1972 and 1980 and from 1989 to 1992 remains one of the country’s most popular political leaders since independence according to opinion polls.

The book, called a Biography of Michael Manley, written by Belize politician and lawyer Godfrey Smith, has been described as the most definitive biography of Manley and covers his tense relations with the United States as well as the close ties with Cuba’s Fidel Castro and the Communist Party’s support for Manley’s People’s National Party (PNP) after 1980.

Speaking about what inspired him to wrote about Manley Smith told the Jamaica Observer: “Since high school, I’ve been fascinated by the lives of the progressive, daring — some might say radical — political leaders of the Caribbean, among whom Manley ranked as the most charismatic. Through happenstance, his daughter, Rachel, was given a copy of a biography I had written about Belize’s George Price, and when fate brought her to Belize in November of 2013, our paths crossed and the idea of a definitive biography of Michael Manley was born”

Explaining what will be different about this book he said: “This is the only book that covers the full public and private life of Michael Manley. Readers will get a clear view into his private life based on first-time interviews with all his children, interviews with his surviving wives, confidential letters between himself and with his confidantes.

"I didn’t want this to be just another book about Michael Manley. I wanted this book to be the definitive work on his life; the benchmark against which other works would be measured. In attempting to achieve this, I knew it had to be as thoroughly researched as could be.”

As well as examining the political career of the former leader of the People’s National Party the book also explores his early life and family. He was the son of the revered Norman Manley, the first Premier of Jamaica.

Throughout the book there is reference to the Norman’s towering stature and achievements which made Michael feel inadequate about his own academic achievements and early career.

However, his success as a trade unionist was the start of a political career that saw him become revered throughout the Caribbean and on the world stage.

His belief in socialism, black liberation, the Rastafarian faith and biblical references formed an important part of the powerful oratory that saw him achieve election success in 1972 and 1976.

Manley’s campaign slogans such as 'Rod of Correction', 'Power to the People', and 'Better Must Come' captured the imagination and desire of thousands of Jamaicans living in poverty.

Throughout the book Smith includes interviews with family members, close political associates and former wives in a bid to help readers understand what drove him.

The biography also touches on the issues Manley dealt with in post-colonial Jamaican society, such as shadism which was a legacy of slavery, the importance of class in national life and allegiance to the ‘Mother Country’ Britain.

Smith said: “For me, personally speaking, what amazes me the most about Michael Manley was the fact that from the outset as prime minister he grasped, I mean really understood, how the international economic system worked and realised that only fundamental, structural changes to the international system could move Third World countries like Jamaica from their position of chronic dependency.”

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