"Why win the world and lose your soul? Wisdom is better than silver or gold"
—Bob Nesta Marley
The fact that the discussion which emerged from the immediate responses by both victor and vanquished in the 2013 Barbados general election revolved around the shocking levels of "vote buying" necessitates some reflection on the issue.
In particular, it is necessary to examine the class of person likely to sell his vote, a group which, I am contending, approximates the category that German philosopher Karl Marx described as the lumpenproletariat.
In his analysis of the classes that could be entrusted with the onerous responsibilities of political action and engagement, Marx was forthright in his rejection of the "lumpenproletariat".
The lumpenproletariat then, as now, refers to the groups of the underclass that are on the fringes of society—the vagrants, the pimps, the prostitutes, the drug dealers, petty thieves and vagabonds—who are close to the working class in physical and economic terms, but whose objective location as groups given to deviance rather than honest work makes them an untrustworthy "dangerous" class.
To Marx, the lumpenproletariat, "in accordance with its whole way of life, is more likely to sell out to reactionary intrigues".
It is a class with no ideology other than the quick dollar. It aspires to no national purpose and believes in nothing above petty material advantage.
Indeed, it is a dangerous class since it can destroy society and its institutions, not for progressive development, but for purely fleeting and transitory considerations. In short, it is a class that is for sale.
Given what has been said of the political opportunism and recklessness of the lumpenproletariat, it should be clear to all who aspire to positions of public responsibility that they should not pull this vicious lion's tail.
However, the signs are not promising. Politicians are notoriously opportunistic, and the examples from across the Caribbean have shown that regional leaders are not averse to using deviant elements to achieve their political objectives.
It is therefore a significant cause for reflection on the nature of Caribbean society that a group that Marx had described as a fringe and deviant social category is now moving closer to the political centre.
Indeed, the brazen march of the "ladies in white" in opposition to the extradition of Dudus Coke recently in Jamaica was a worrying glimpse of the Caribbean's future.
Today, the open admission by all concerned that there was a heightened and open practice of vote buying in the last election in Barbados suggests that the feared future has now become our harsh present reality.
Historically, the alliance between the lumpen elements and the opportunistic petty bourgeoisie has birthed either anarchy or fascism. Politics is often a difficult road in the avoidance of either tendency. Those encouraging vote buying deserve isolation.
—Courtesy Barbados Nation
• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org