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Melanesian Socialism: Vanuatu's Quest for Self-Definition and Problems of Implementation

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MELANESIAN SOCIALISM:
VANUATU’S QUEST FOR SELF-DEFINITION
AND PROBLEMS OF IMPLEMENTATION
Ralph R. Premdas
McGill University
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
In the southwest Pacific, Vanuatu has emerged as one of the region’s
trouble spots along with New Caledonia. To Prime Minister Walter
Lini, his country is doing nothing extraordinary. Yet in a region notable
for its conservatism, Vanuatu has opened diplomatic relations with
Cuba, Nicaragua, the Soviet Union, and Libya. In addition, Lini has
granted fishing rights to the Soviets and at the United Nations he has
called for the recognition of Arafat’s PLO. Vanuatu’s Middle Eastern
links have caused much controversy. Libya has been courted assiduous-
ly. Many missions have been sent to Libya to seek training, to solicit aid,
and on one occasion to attend a conference on world liberation move-
ments. Libya has reciprocated, sending small groups to examine Lini’s
accomplishments. It was announced that “in a short time, Libya will
establish a People’s Bureau in Port Vila."1
Lini has defiantly asserted Vanuatu’s right to determine its foreign
policy. As an active member of the Non-Alignment Movement,
Vanuatu’s actions are deemed only to represent “a policy of indepen-
dence and diversification in its foreign relations and aid.” Lini has
described his government’s philosophy that guides its strategy of devel-
opment as Melanesian Socialism. With only about 130,000 people and
an export-oriented, monocrop economy heavily dependent on Western
Pacific Studies, Vol. 11, No. l--November 1987
107
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aid, investment, and markets for survival, this choice of socialism has
many ironies. In this paper, I look at Melanesian Socialism as adum-
brated by Lini, pointing to its sources and the difficulties it may con-
front in implementation.
Unlike many progressive Third World leaders who are often ambigu-
ous about their radicalism, Vanuatu’s Walter Lini embraces socialist
ideals. However, Lini is quick to note that his brand of socialism is in-
digenously derived and therefore should be appropriately described as
“Melanesian Socialism.” Lini affirms that in socialization and culture,
he and his compatriots “remain products of Melanesian Socialism."2
Equal in importance to the word “socialism” in the phrase “Melanesian
Socialism” is the word “Melanesian,” which seeks to anchor Lini’s ideol-
ogy in his own indigenous society. Lest he be charged with importing
alien ideas, Lini has pointed out that the precepts and practices of
Melanesian Socialism preceded Marx and Lenin. He gave the example
of his government’s land policy to illustrate the point: “Land exists to be
used by the community for its needs. This is by definition a socialist
principle, but one which we practised hundreds of years before Marx,
Engels, or indeed Lenin were even born, let alone heard of."3 Lini has
denounced colonialism and the role of foreign values in transforming
Vanuatu society. Hence, to be consistent, he has found it necessary to
emphasize that his socialism is Melanesian in nature and origins. Fur-
ther, Lini separates his socialist beliefs from “communism,” fearing that
they may be mistaken for or identified with the Soviet variant. Cautious
about the possible repercussions of such an association, Lini has noted
that “we only have to give a side glance eastwards and we are immedi-
ately accused of courting the Communist world."4 In eschewing the
term “communism,” Lini has employed the alternative designation
“communalism,” calling his beliefs at times “Melanesian communalism”
or, more often, “Melanesian Socialism.”
What, then, is Melanesian Socialism? Lini has expounded on the
underlying principles. Its most salient aspect is Melanesian values.
These are the cultural beliefs of his people; they allegedly existed in
their pristine form in precontact times, but were altered in many ways
and varying degrees by colonial rule. The cardinal convictions of
Melanesian Socialism can be poignantly depicted by juxtaposing them
against their capitalist, antithetical counterparts: communalism versus
individualism, sharing versus self-interest, humanism versus material-
ism. What do these terms mean to Lini? Communalism is “based on an
awareness of the community where the individual was not to consider
himself or his private interests taking precedence over the general inter-
Melanesian Socialism: Vanuatu’s Quest
109
ests of the community."5Sharing is akin to practices of giving and receiv-
ing in Melanesian culture: “Giving was based on one’s ability to do so.
Receiving was based on one’s need."6This giving-receiving prescription
is similar to the Marxist reward-work relationship: “From each accord-
ing to his ability, to each according to his needs,” but differs from that
found in the Soviet constitution: “From each according to his ability, to
each according to his work.” Finally, in Lini’s Melanesian socialist lexi-
con, humanism refers to the de-emphasis of materialism in human rela-
tions and stresses “compassion and mutuality.”
The principles of Melanesian Socialism, then, are simple: communal-
ism, sharing, and humanism. Nothing is said about a mode of analysis
such as the historical or dialectical materialism so integral to Marxism,
nor are familiar Marxist categories such as property relations, classes, or
class conflict explicitly utilized. Even European socialist luminaries are
eschewed. For instance, in relation to the role of conflict in the revolu-
tionary transformation process, Lini has invoked not Marx but a black
American visionary, Frederick Douglass: “Power concedes nothing
without a demand. It never did, it never will. If there is no struggle,
there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, yet deprecate
agitation, are men who want crops without ploughing up the ground.
They want rain without thunder and lightning, and want the ocean
without the awful roar of its many waters.“’ Neither has Lini ex-
pounded on his preferred relationship between government and the
economy, nor on nationalization. Many of his views bear striking simi-
larity to the populist sentiments of other progressive Third World
leaders without being colored by the concepts of a Marxist-Leninist
vocabulary.
During the period of colonial control of Vanuatu, the original values
of Melanesian Socialism were challenged and in part changed by Euro-
pean and Christian influences. Hence, the Lini regime sees as one of its
first tasks the need for a cultural revival; he has called for a “Melanesian
Renaissance,” described as “a festival of the spirit.“* Melanesian Renais-
sance refers to “the rebirth of our identity and purpose, and to preserve
without inhibition our God-given right to develop in our own way and
in accordance with our own values and expectations."9 Melanesian
Renaissance seeks, then, to eliminate alien ways and influences and in
their place to forge institutions “geared and tuned to serving and nur-
turing the creation of a social, political, and economic order born of the
environment of Vanuatu."10 Nothing is said about the difficulties that
are likely to be encountered in the quest for a collective national iden-
tity. For instance, Vanuatu has more than one hundred languages; insti-
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Pacific Studies, Vol. 11, No. l--November 1987
tutional cultural variations exist between the Melanesian and Polyne-
sian populations, and even among the Melanesian groups distributed
over islands and villages. Westernization has brought into existence a
small but significant stratum of ni-Vanuatu who are urban-based, pro-
fessionally trained, and increasingly individualistic in outlook. Further,
the monetization of the economy and the dominance of cash cropping
by private economic enterprises pose as much a hurdle to Melanesian
cultural revival as the subtle but pervasive influence of Western cultural
artifacts and tastes. The challenge to cultural renaissance stems also
from the new state collectivity called Vanuatu, which never existed
before colonialism and which, in scale and diversity, is strikingly in con-
trast to the ancient Melanesian village, small and subsistence-oriented.
The discovery of the old, pristine Melanesian values may require as
much skill in delving into the past as in recreating a mythical heritage to
legitimize the proto-socialist intentions of the contemporary rulers.
Sources of Melanesian Socialism
The origins of Melanesian Socialism point to several sources. Christian-
ity perhaps provided the most immediate and incisive inspiration. Wal-
ter Lini himself is a trained Anglican (Episcopalian) pastor; he attended
Christian theological seminaries in the Solomon Islands as well as in
New Zealand. In recounting the events that led to his vocation as a
Christian priest, Lini said: “One evening while I was at prayer, I
became completely overwhelmed with the challenge that God had
given me. Try as hard as I could, I was not able to find any alternative
to that of becoming a priest. So I dedicated myself to becoming a
priest."11 Lini’s education, like that of nearly all ni-Vanuatu during the
colonial period, was acquired in Christian denominational schools. He
served as an altar boy when young and he frequently sought advice
from priests about pursuing a career. It is, therefore, not accidental that
so many of the doctrinal features of Melanesian Socialism bear close
resemblance to basic Christian tenets. Lini, however, did not think that
the European planters, administrators, and missionaries were sincere
Christians: “While the Christian religion was widely compatible with
the ethic and principles of Melanesian Socialism with its emphasis on
mutuality, compassion, and caring for one another, it was a practice
that very few Europeans appeared to follow."12 He condemned many of
the early Christian missionaries for failing to understand or accept
Melanesian spiritual practices: “Practices which had very real social
and spiritual value were outlawed by many of the early exponents of the
Melanesian Socialism: Vanuatu’s Quest
111
Christian religion."13 Lini, however, noted that in their ideal form,
Christian ethical values bore great affinity to Melanesian values. It is
not too farfetched, therefore, to assume that he sees Christianity as
socialist as much as Melanesian culture. Like Lini, many of the
founders and activists in his party, the Vanuaaku Pati (which spear-
headed the struggle for independence), attended Christian denomina-
tional schools and theological colleges. Among the Vanuaaku Pati
parliamentarians and cabinet ministers there is a large contingent of
pastors and catechists.
Another major source of Melanesian Socialism emanated from Papua
New Guinea (PNG), where in the early 1970s a radical challenge
against the colonial authorities was mounted for independence.14 The
ideology of the PNG nationalists was represented by the term “the
Melanesian Way."15 Its chief proponents were Father John Momis and
Bernard Narokobi, who advocated a radical restructuring of the PNG
society and the polity after independence. Several ni-Vanuatu students
who were subsequently to become executive members of the Vanuaaku
Pati in Vanuatu attended the University of Papua New Guinea, which
was then the hotbed of anticolonial radicalism in the southwest Pacific.
Related to the PNG source is the Tanzanian connection.16 On the faculty
of the University of Papua New Guinea, especially concentrated in the
law school, was an influential contingent of expatriate lecturers with
extensive experience in Tanzania and sympathy for Julius Nyerere’s pop-
ulist socialist beliefs. Several of these persons established intimate advi-
sory relationships with Papua New Guinea’s radical nationalists. After
PNG’s independence, several of these persons traveled to Vanuatu,
where they served the ni-Vanuatu nationalists on constitutional and
political matters. During the struggle for Vanuatu’s independence, sev-
eral ni-Vanuatu nationalists visited and sought training and advice in
Tanzania.” The cumulative effect of the Tanzanian factor has been
obvious in shaping aspects of Vanuatu’s policies. In his speeches Prime
Minister Lini often refers to “the good thoughts of my comrade
Nyerere."18 More substantively, like Tanzania and PNG, Vanuatu has
promulgated an extensive leadership code bearing much resemblance to
the Arusha Declaration and a system of decentralization to bring deci-
sion-making powers closer to the people.19 Further, the Tanzanian ver-
sion of African socialism has had much impact in orienting Vanuatu’s
foreign policy to that of the nonaligned movement. It is no accident,
then, to find an uncanny resemblance between the views of Melanesian
Socialism and Tanzanian socialism in relation to nonalignment and the
critique of international capitalism and imperialism.
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Together, then, the external sources of Melanesian Socialism--Chris-
tianity, the nationalist ideology (“the Melanesian way”), and the Tanza-
nian factor--when added to the egalitarian aspects of Melanesian cul-
ture provided the ideological compass for the Vanuaaku Pati’s policies.
Clearly, Melanesian Socialism is not solely Melanesian. To be sure,
Melanesian culture stresses traditional egalitarian and meritocratic
principles in the assignment of power and collective decision making.
But clearly the role of Christian, African socialist (Tanzanian), and
“Melanesian way” (PNG) factors have affected institutional practices
such as local government and decentralization, party organization, the
leadership code, and foreign policy. To Lini and his party, however, it is
crucial to underscore the distinctiveness of Melanesian Socialism, espe-
cially in relation to the legitimization of social change directed by gov-
ernment policy.
Melanesian Socialism: The Challenge of Implementation
Translating the principles of Melanesian Socialism into practical pro-
grams at the domestic level has been among the most difficult, if not the
most ironic, aspects of the Lini administration. The ideals of com-
munalism, sharing, and human sensitivity embedded in the doctrines of
Melanesian Socialism do not constitute an operational blueprint for
ready implementation. To apply the general ideas over uncharted policy
terrain in the modern state, and in doing so to maintain the spirit of the
doctrines, has been the critical challenge. The task has been made dou-
bly difficult because Vanuatu under Melanesian Socialism bears little
likeness to the postcolonial polity and economy bequeathed by the colo-
nial powers after nearly a century of control. That was a society increas-
ingly shaped by capitalist, individualist, and materialist motifs. If
Melanesian Socialism were to entail radical alteration of social, eco-
nomic, and political structures, then its task would be nothing short of
revolutionary change. In this section I look briefly at each segment of
Vanuatu-polity, economy, and society; describe what was inherited;
and then evaluate the performance of the government in implementing
its vision of the future, Melanesian socialist state.
Polity
With only about 135,000 people scattered over a dozen major and many
more smaller islands, and speaking about 110 indigenous languages
apart from French, English, and Bislama (local pidgin), the Republic of
Melanesian Socialism: Vanuatu’s Quest
113
Vanuatu became independent in 1980. The most significant political
fact of the modern Vanuatu state in relation to Melanesian culture and
history is its relatively recent administrative union. The traditional ni-
Vanuatu polity typically consisted of small-scale units of fifty to three
hundred persons, decentralized into numerous autonomous, democratic
societies that practiced collective decision making through extended dis-
cussion and debate until a consensus was reached. Hence, when the
colonial powers created a single political unit under their control, they
simultaneously violated several indigenous practices, namely: (1) the
operational size of the society, (2) the democratic consultative system of
decision making, and (3) the meritocratic-equalitarian norms of social
organization. To those who seek a Melanesian Renaissance, therefore, a
daunting challenge beckons. Vanuatu was administered a particularly
virulent form of colonial control. Instead of being burdened by only one
colonial master, it was controlled by two, the French and the British, in
what was called a “condominium.” Over the course of nearly a century
(1887-1980) little was done until the 1970s to engage ni-Vanuatu in col-
lective decisions affecting their lives. To be sure, after seven decades of
nonconsultative administration, local councils were introduced in 1957.
But after a decade and a half, the councils remained substantially
nominated bodies with limited powers and functions. Their form was
imported and inappropriately adapted to ni-Vanuatu political culture.
They were less intended as a preparatory school to foster democracy
and advance the colony toward self-government than aimed at main-
taining law and order in defense of expatriate interests.
If local grass-roots initiatives were ignored, the new national institu-
tions that were created by the imperial powers were as alien as they
were novel. From 1887, when England and France assumed control of
the archipelago as a “sphere of joint influence” and agreed to establish a
Joint Naval Commission “charged with the duty of maintaining order
and protecting the lives and property of British subjects and French citi-
zens in the New Hebrides,” to 1980, when the condominium adminis-
trative structure was dismantled, the form of government was bifurca-
ted. A dual-headed state structure emerged particularly after 1906,
when the English and French appointed resident staffs in Vanuatu to
oversee the interests of their citizens. When this arrangement proved
inadequate for maintaining order in the midst of expatriate grabs for
indigenous lands, the French and English negotiated a more compre-
hensive condominium “Protocol” in 1914, by which they governed
jointly. While on the one hand, under the Protocol a common core of
government activities such as customs, postal services, and public works
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Pacific Studies, Vol. 11, No. l--November 1987
was carried out jointly by a combined Anglo-French administration, on
the other, a larger set of services such as health and education was
administered by separate French and English staffs.
Underlying Anglo--French cooperation were suspicion and rivalry
between the two imperial powers for territory and resources. The
Anglo--French administrative structure superimposed an artificial
cleavage that came to pervade most aspects on ni-Vanuatu life. In daily
interaction, the French and British administrators and their respective
citizens, businesses, and churches were engaged in intense competition
for the loyalty of ni-Vanuatu. While at one level this provided oppor-
tunities for some ni-Vanuatu, overall the impact was disastrous. After
decades of such rivalry, some ni-Vanuatu spoke French, attended
French schools, went to French-run Catholic churches, and availed
themselves of French-administered services. Other ni-Vanuatu spoke
English, attended English schools, went to Protestant (mainly Presbyte-
rian) churches, and accepted English-run government services. The
terms of the 1914 Protocol legalized and institutionalized this polariza-
tion. Because of the pervasiveness of the public bureaucracy in the life
of the colonial state, this administrative division deepened the reli-
giolinguistic segmentation in the society. Further, it created a wasteful
duplication in personnel and services; there were different laws, proce-
dures, traditions, and even typewriters. In addition, Anglophone and
Francophone ni-Vanuatu acquired the jealousies and distrust that the
English and French held for one another.
Without indigenous concepts of large-scale government organization
found in the modern state, such as a public bureaucracy, ni-Vanuatu
accepted those introduced by their colonial masters. The ni-Vanuatu
had no other choice, for the infrastructure of political institutions of the
modern European state--derived from the peculiarities of European
history and society--was superimposed, like a scaffold, on the indige-
nous system, creating a new if abhorrent political reality. As indepen-
dence approached, the repressive colonial apparatus was challenged by
a group of ni-Vanuatu leaders. But the institutions through which they
mobilized public opinion, such as the political party, and the reforms
that they demanded, such as an elected parliament, all reflected prac-
tices of the European liberal democratic state. The doctrines of libera-
tion invoked for political change, such as sovereignty and popular rep-
resentation, were also of European ancestry. Practices of precontact
Melanesian culture would have to be brought later to bear on the struc-
tures of politics implanted by the Europeans.
Repercussions of the bifurcated administrative structure reverberated
Melanesian Socialism: Vanuatu’s Quest
115
in the area of party formation. The political parties that emerged in the
early 1970s in anticipation of the condominium powers’ conceding uni-
versal adult suffrage and establishing an elected representative assem-
bly were almost exclusively based on either Anglophone or Fran-
cophone ni-Vanuatu support. The New Hebrides Culture Society,
which was formed in July 1971 and became the New Hebrides National
Party in August 1971, was constituted mainly of English-speaking ni-
Vanuatu. The National Party agitated for an accelerated program
toward the granting of independence. This in reaction triggered the
launching of several Francophone parties (most importantly, the Union
des Communautes des Nouvelles Hebrides and the Mouvement Autono-
miste de Nouvelles Hebrides) that opposed early self-government.
Organized all the way to rural villages and hamlets, these parties mobi-
lized Francophone and Anglophone ni-Vanuatu into exclusive, antago-
nistic political groupings. In certain places the contest among the par-
ties spilled over into violence, especially on Malekula and Efate islands.
The parties not only defined the issues and debated them, but because
of their exclusive religiolinguistic bases, they exacerbated the internal
bifurcation of the society. Throughout the 1970s, demonstrations, boy-
cotts, and political agitation by the parties were the order of the day.
The contest crystallized over two main issues. The first concerned the
date of self-government. The second dealt with the substance of the
constitutional and political structures that were to prevail after inde-
pendence. It was the latter issue that eventually emerged as the more
salient area of controversy. Specifically, the Francophone ni-Vanuatu
who constituted a minority of about 30 percent of the population feared
domination by an Anglophone majority. The problem was to design a
constitutional system that entrenched the protection of minority rights
and identity. But many Francophone expatriates did not trust such a
solution and preferred to dismantle the archipelago into separate inde-
pendent states.20 These persons cultivated and nurtured the Anglo-
phone--Francophone cleavage among ni-Vanuatu, especially on Santo
and Tanna islands. The objective was to prepare these islands for seces-
sion.21
Toward the end of the 1970s, the internal struggle reached a head.
While a decentralized form of regional government was agreed upon by
most parties, several disenchanted Francophone expatriates in collabo-
ration with external interests planned the secession of Santo and Tanna
islands. In mid-1980, when independence was conceded under the Prot-
estant-oriented and predominantly English-speaking Vanuaaku Pati
(formerly the National Party) government, civil war broke out. Santo
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Pacific Studies, Vol. 11, No. l--November 1987
and Tanna declared unilateral independence, and without the interven-
tion of Papua New Guinean troops, it was likely that Santo would have
succeeded in separating.
22
The government of Walter Lini suppressed
the secessionists, jailed or deported their leaders, and enforced a regime
that bore the unmistakable imprint of an English-speaking, Protestant
government. The system of decentralized regional government intended
to protect minorities was unceremoniously scrapped.23
In the end, Vanuatu became an independent state, but with its politi-
cal backbone crippled. A massive fissure dividing the victorious Anglo-
phone population from the Francophone remained as the most distinct
feature of the polity. The parliamentary system of government adopted
was staffed mainly by Anglophone ni-Vanuatu. The governing
Vanuaaku Pati made few concessions to its adversaries. It composed its
first cabinet only of its own confessional and linguistic adherents. At
independence, a disunited nation was launched into the international
community. The country was not only severely divided and ravaged by
civil strife, but it also inherited enemies in neighboring French-con-
trolled New Caledonia who harbored designs to destabilize the new
nation.24
While the Republic of Vanuatu has survived its traumatic birth,
severe internal political problems remain. The ruling Vanuaaku Pati is
riven with dissension: during the first five years of independence, more
than half of the cabinet had resigned and several votes of no confidence
were introduced against Prime Minister Lini. Even though aid from
both France and England has been restored, the Francophone opposi-
tion party (the “Moderates” under Vincent Boulekone) has charged that
the English bias of the Vanuaaku Pati is making Vanuatu “a colony of
Australia."25 Many positive events have also occurred, however, and the
Vanuaaku Pati government was returned to power in the 1983 elections,
although its popular majority was reduced from 67 percent in 1979 to
55 percent in 1983.
Economy
The contemporary Vanuatu economy is based mainly on copra, al-
though during the last decade tourism, offshore banking (a tax haven),
and beef production have introduced some diversification. Until recent-
ly, copra provided about 75 percent of total export earnings and, not-
withstanding low contemporary world prices, continues to generate
most cash income for the population. With practically no industrial
base, Vanuatu depends heavily on five primary export products for sur-
Melanesian Socialism: Vanuatu’s Quest
117
vival: copra, 75 percent of the total; beef, 11 percent; cocoa, 8 percent;
timber, 2 percent; and coffee, 1 percent. The direction of export trade
points to extraordinary dependence on Western products within EEC
countries (Belgium and the Netherlands bought 94 percent of Vanuatu’s
copra in 1982), Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and the United States.
Imports by national source show Australia with 34 percent; New
Zealand, 10 percent; France, 9 percent; Fiji, 9 percent; and socialist
East Europe countries with very negligible amounts. The impact of this
export-import dependency is in part offset by the fact that some 80 per-
cent of the population is still rural-based with about 30 percent made
up of almost completely subsistence farmers.26
Despite copra’s preeminent role in the economy, the original reason
for commercial contact with the Vanuatu archipelago was another
product, sandalwood.27 Harvested primarily in the 1840s, the sandal-
wood exported by European traders to China in exchange for tea was in
short supply. Sandalwood was soon exhausted within a few decades and
other items emerged as the main commercial reason for continued exter-
nal contact and colonization. During the third quarter of the nineteenth
century, the recruitment of indigenous labor (called “blackbirding”) for
service on Australian plantations predominated. During the 1860s and
1870s, English (mainly Australian) and French settlers established cot-
ton plantations in the islands to capitalize on the shortage of cotton
caused by the American Civil War. When, like sandalwood, cotton pro-
duction and blackbirding became unprofitable enterprises, the expatri-
ate settlers resorted to coconut production, which then became the
mainstay of the cash economy, a situation that continues to the present.
Rivalry between French and English settlers influenced colonial pen-
etration of Vanuatu. While individual settlers acquired land and organ-
ized plantation cultivation of cash crops, other commercial activities
such as shipping and trading were dominated by two large companies,
one English (Australian) and the other French, with both receiving sub-
sidies for their operations from their respective governments. The
French firm, the Compagnie Caledonienne des Nouvelles-Hebrides
(CCNH), initiated trading with the islands in 1882 and embarked on a
massive drive to acquire local land. In response the Australian firm,
Australasia New Hebrides Company (ANHS), was launched in 1889
and it, in turn, sought to acquire land and sponsor English commercial
activities. These companies actively promoted settlement of the Vanua-
tu archipelago among their own nationals, who engaged in feverish
competition to obtain land and win control over the islands. The two
companies and their lineal successors would not only dominate trade in
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Pacific Studies, Vol. 11, No. l--November 1987
the late nineteenth century but through the twentieth also. Their con-
temporary successors are Burns Philp of Australia and the Compagnie
Francaise Immobiliere des Nouvelles-Hebrides.
Coconut production on a plantation scale entailed two far-reaching
consequences. First, abundant cheap labor was required. This was sup-
plied by indigenous labor on an indentureship system. Where local
labor was inadequate, the French planters in particular imported
Tonkinese migrants from Indochina to fill the gap. Indigenous labor
recruitment would disrupt village life and initiate the alteration of the
traditional needs of the indigenous population as the colonizing powers
vied to capture the loyalty of the ni-Vanuatu. Second, plantations
required large tracts of land. Through dubious methods, about 40 per-
cent of all arable land was alienated to foreigners. Nearly all cash crop-
ping was in expatriate hands. European-owned plantations produced
ten to twelve thousand tons of copra annually, of which ni-Vanuatu
owners produced about 15 percent prior to World War II. The legacy
bequeathed for an independent Vanuatu was an agricultural economy
that was erected around one major export crop; a land tenure system in
which large tracts were under alien ownership; and a cash economy
almost wholly under foreign control.
Following World War II, the condominium powers sought to diver-
sify the coconut plantation-dependent economy. Foreign firms were
invited to invest in other activities. In 1956, the Japanese Mitsui South
Pacific Fishing Company was opened on Santo island. In 1962, a man-
ganese company was erected on Efate island. In the late 1960s, an abor-
tive attempt was embarked upon by a group of foreign land speculators
to establish holiday resorts. Timber, cocoa, and beef production also
received attention. Timber exports peaked at about $1 million (U.S.)
per year by 1972, but tapered off toward the end of the decade. Cocoa
exports reached about $175,000 (U.S.) by 1978.28 Beef production and
exports flourished and maintained a steady but small part of exports,
about $1.5 million by 1978. There were changes in the structure of
copra production. In the 1960s and throughout the 1970s, agricultural
cooperatives were extensively introduced as the means to organize
indigenous coconut production and sale, as well as to serve as agencies
to control retail trade of consumer products among rural ni-Vanuatu. In
what was to become one of the most spectacular stories in the Pacific
Islands, the cooperative movement in Vanuatu successfully turned over
most of the country’s coconut production to indigenous control and cap-
tured a significant part of the rural retail business in consumer prod-
ucts. To be sure, the two major English and French multinationals,
Melanesian Socialism: Vanuatu’s Quest
119
Burns Philp and Ballande respectively, continued to dominate most of
the retail and wholesale business in Vanuatu. And while the co-op
movement has indigenized aspects of local production and distribution,
it has failed to move the country away from its excessive reliance on
coconut production geared to an externally controlled market.
Other economic activities were also undertaken to diversify the
Vanuatu economy. In 1971, the British administrators in the condomin-
ium introduced a tax haven to generate new income. Under the New
Hebrides Companies Regulations, offshore companies were registered
and permitted to operate free from the scrutiny of public tax inspectors.
Several companies established offices in Vila, the capital of Vanuatu,
and set off a boom in commercial activities, mainly in communications,
accounting, and office buildings and other infrastructures associated
with tax haven activities. By 1976, about 479 tax exempt companies
were registered. In 1981, this had increased to 531. By 1985, about
1,107 companies were registered, of which 644 did business exclusively
overseas. In addition, eighty-five banks were registered, of which only
five engaged in local retailing. From the offshore tax haven and bank-
ing system, some three hundred local jobs have been directly created as
well as about $2 million (U.S.) annually generated in taxes for the gov-
ernment. Vanuatu has also opened an international shipping registry; in
1983, forty-eight ships were registered and in 1986, about sixty-eight
ships.
Tourism also emerged as a major source of national income. Starting
slowly in the early 1970s and accelerating, some thirty thousand tourists
arrived by 1979. While the civil strife during 1980 temporarily curtailed
this new source of economic activity, tourism picked up again so that by
1983 it surpassed copra as the country’s chief foreign exchange earner.
In 1986, about twenty-eight thousand tourists arrived; they generated
about one thousand local jobs. But, like coconut and copra, tourism is
dependent on external sources. Most tourists come from Western coun-
tries, mainly Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. Hence, tourism fur-
ther exacerbates the reliance of Vanuatu on external forces for its sur-
vival.
Finally, and adding even more to the country’s dependence on West-
ern sources for its well-being, is the role played by foreign aid, nearly all
of it bilateral. Derived mainly from Britain, France, and Australia, aid
constitutes about 50 percent of Vanuatu’s total government revenues. In
effect, foreign aid is essential not only to maintain and extend vital
infrastructures, but also to defray the cost of recurring expenditure for
salaries in the public service. Some of this aid is directly linked to yet
120
Pacific Studies, Vol. 11, No. l--November 1987
another area of dependence, namely the need for skilled professional
people. Aid pays the salaries of skilled expatriate staff who provide a
vital support to the public service.
In summary, then, copra, tourism, tax haven, and foreign aid provide
the backbone of the economy. All the economic activities, in turn, are
under the control of external actors, nearly all Western sources.
Society and Culture
The term “Melanesian Renaissance” has been used by the Lini govern-
ment to suggest that, culturally and socially, Vanuatu is scheduled for a
period of radical transformation, “a festival of the spirit."29 Melanesian
Renaissance has become a catchword in Lini’s policy orientation. The
promise is that the colonial past will be uprooted and jettisoned to
launch an era of renewal. For more than a century, Vanuatu societies
were altered by European penetration. Not merely was the structure of
government implanted of European origin, but institutions closest to
the people such as the schools and churches were English and French,
each playing a deeply influential role in the lives of ni-Vanuatu. In
effect, the impact of alien entry was not confined to extraction of
resources so that, after the colonial powers were evicted, the traditional
cultural heritage could be easily restored. What colonialism did was to
architecturally recast indigenous social structure into a mold reflecting
European ways and serving their interests. As Franz Fanon noted, “the
forced occupation of one’s land soon entails the occupation of one’s psy-
che by the same oppressor. An oppressor who occupies another land
sooner or later settles in the very center of the dominated. Oppression is
thus neither piecemeal nor selective. In the end, the victim is totally vic-
timized. . . ."30
In effect, Melanesian Renaissance confronts a formidable challenge
in rejecting the present and returning to the past. From prolonged colo-
nial penetration, fundamental social patterns were reshaped. The area
of social equality and reciprocity serves as an example of such impact.
Mainly through cash cropping, altered land tenure, wage labor, and
large-scale plantation production of export crops, new forms of social
inequality and class differentiation have emerged. Anthropologist Mar-
garet Rodman has traced this process of incipient class formation on
Longana:
A category of relatively rich peasants is emerging in Longana
through inequalities of customary land distribution that allow a
Melanesian Socialism: Vanuatu’s Quest
121
few large landholders to earn incomes at least four times as
large as the average copra producer. The production strategies
large landholders follow, together with new kinds of entrepre-
neurial, middleman, and landlord relations, mark the begin-
nings of differentiation between categories of Longanan peas-
ants. Wealthy peasants operate more and more as capitalists.
They come to hold more land and control more wealth at the
expense of smaller peasant farmers, who ultimately could be
expected to fall back on their own labor power as wage
workers.31
The manner in which inequality has evolved has ironically been
through the legitimating cover of kastom (tradition). In the contempo-
rary situation, where indigenous entrepreneurs seek expression of their
individualist quest for power and wealth, this practice of accumulation
has proceeded inexorably and seemingly consistent with the traditional
behavior of big men. Thus, inequality has been progressively implanted
in the countryside where most of the population including the peasantry
reside, altering and undermining the bases of established social and
power relations. Notes Rodman: “The course of differentiation is pro-
ceeding slowly. The fact that the process of incipient class formation is
in such very early stage allows the illusion to persist that inequality
between ordinary men and those who are wealthy landholders is funda-
mentally no different than past inequalities between men of rank and
their followers."32
Inequality and class distinctions are more evident in the urban sectors
where ni-Vanuatu wage earners, professional persons, and civil servants
obtain ready and lucrative employment that sets them distinctly apart
from each other as well as their rural compatriots. In both the rural and
urban areas, the Lini government, in the years it has been in power, has
done practically nothing to divert or decelerate the forces that have
stimulated disparities in wealth acquisition and its attendant social dif-
ferentiation. Melanesian Socialism is yet to come to terms with this
problem, which strikes at the very foundations of communalism,
sharing, and nonmaterialistic humanism. In fact, the Lini government’s
well-deserved praise for bringing economic prosperity to Vanuatu, by
promoting local capitalist initiatives and enterprises, is the very cause of
continued acceleration of class formation and differentiation.
In another area of social change pertaining to kastom chiefs or tradi-
tional leaders, the Lini government has been going in two directions at
the same time. At the rhetorical level, in accordance with the vision of
122
Pacific Studies, Vol. 11, No. l--November 1987
Melanesian Renaissance to recognize ancient practices, a National
Council of Chiefs and similar regional councils were established to
accommodate the views of traditional big men and elders, especially in
the area of cultural affairs. But to accommodate the role of kastom
chiefs is often to accept authoritarian acts that contravene the idea of
accountability preached by the Vanuaaku Party itself. In practice,
where conflict of this sort arises, the new democratic ideas are made to
supersede old conventions. In one community study on the island of
Aoba, it was demonstrated that sacrosanct traditional leadership was
set aside under the behest of Melanesian Socialism for it was now the
“obligation of kastom chiefs to be accountable to an electorate . . . or
else be bypassed."33 In one notable instance, on Lini’s own home island
of Pentecost, kastom chiefs who, in 1982, had imposed excessive fines on
offenders were themselves jailed.34
Apart from the areas related to class formation, inequality, and tradi-
tional leadership, similar social changes reflecting the forces of Wes-
ternization have taken their toll in creating among many of Vanuatu’s
predominantly youthful population a new popular culture with themes
and practices radically divergent from the traditional ethos. Specifi-
cally, in the areas of intergenerational conflict, young ni-Vanuatu defy
their elders and kastom in asserting their right to venture in chosen
directions such as picking their own marriage partners. In the area of
rural-urban migration (where a slow drift has stimulated new consumer
tastes and created new occupational possibilities), in the critical sphere
of dispute settlement (where new Western judicial processes have been
introduced), in all these areas and many more, the forces of social trans-
formation challenge the task of Melanesian Renaissance to return to the
past. Tonkinson has pointed out that the program of returning to the
past has stirred fears that
because the leaders of the independence movement were evok-
ing a revival of kastom as a symbol of national identity and
unity, they were obliged to keep its meaning as generalized as
possible. The masses for whom this consciousness-raising was
designed tended not to interpret the message ideologically;
instead, they grappled with it in terms of practicality, and
much confusion resulted. People in some rural areas took the
message quite literally. They worried about a return to grass
skirts and penis-wrappers, spears and bows and arrows, and
wondered whether they would have to destroy non-kastom
things such as hunting rifles, aluminum dinghies, outboards,
and SO on. If they were to return to the rule of kastom law, and
Melanesian Socialism: Vanuatu’s Quest
123
revive the graded society or male initiation, who among them
still remembered enough to make such things feasible? And
what of good and bad kastom? Surely they would not be asked
to revive warfare or cannibalism or the practice of women
walking on their knees in the presence of certain male kin,
etc.?35
In effect, Melanesian Socialism will have to fight not only against the
new, accepted alien social practices that have been gradually em-
bedded, but also will have to seek to implement its program by rein-
venting conventions to legitimize the novel practices.36
In the area of land, where the indigenous inhabitants lost their
resource to European settlers, the Lini government has acted to remedy
the situation. Enshrined in the independence constitution is the provi-
sion that “all land in the Republic belongs to the indigenous custom
owners and their descendants.” However, the task of discovering the
bona fide owners of the alienated land has triggered claims and
counterclaims and revived old traditional conflicts among indigenous
groupings, threatening to add another tier of internal dissension to the
already severely divided state. The Lini government sees in the return of
land to its original owners the possibility of restoring the foundations of
an old traditional order. But such an objective in the land policy may
have come too late, for other forces have entered Vanuatu society, chal-
lenging and undermining the old ethos. Specifically, the foreign-con-
trolled capitalist economic structures--whose pattern of economic de-
velopment under the Lini government continues to bestow on distant
investors and markets the economic destiny of the new nation--have
also radically altered the economic behavior of the most influential ni-
Vanuatu. The new monetized economic system that the colonial powers
introduced has stimulated the creation of private property, the profit
motive, unbridled individualism, and exaggerated selfishness, and has
gradually modified the communalistic motifs of traditional society. The
modern monetized sector in particular has permeated all aspects of ni-
Vanuatu life (in some places more so than others) and has created a
growing indigenous minority class of propertied, educated, privileged,
and salaried individuals. The ni-Vanuatu leadership elite come essen-
tially from this group, whose habits and life-style imitate the Western
materialist consumer model and, in turn, attract the ni-Vanuatu young
to their fold. Lini’s Melanesian Renaissance thus faces the growth of
Western secularization and urbanization influences that have made
major inroads in altering ni-Vanuatu traditional practices.
It is in this context fraught with contradictions that Lini announced
124
Pacific Studies, Vol. 11, No. l--November 1987
his policy of Melanesian Renaissance: “The great adventure of indepen-
dence and the duty of presiding over the rebirth of our identity and pur-
pose and to preserve without inhibition our God-given right to develop
in our own way and in accordance with our own values and expecta-
tions essentially means casting aside many of the inherited attitudes that
at present bolster natural practices that are alien to the Melanesian
mind."37 Despite major erosion of traditional culture, Lini, who para-
doxically is a Christian priest, feels that indigenous culture possesses
enough resilience to recapture and revitalize the past. He, however,
does not believe that all things European should be replaced, saying
that “we will take with us into the future those aspects of European
practice which undoubtedly are beneficial."38 Just exactly how he
intends to tear the social structure apart to separate desirable from
undesirable portions has been left unspecified.
Analysis, Comment, and Conclusion
A small, almost powerless Third World country that professes a variant
of socialism but is hemmed in geopolitically by pro-Western and poten-
tially hostile powers tends to attract sympathy. Vanuatu, in particular,
has been unfortunate; it was burdened not by one, but by two colonial
powers simultaneously. It was left with not one alien colonial imprint
but with two, which further intensified the splits in the sociocultural
personality of the country. Poor, small, dominated, remote, and en-
dowed with few resources, but possessed of a strong desire to chart its
own course to development, Vanuatu deserves sympathetic analysis. No
evaluation of the new nation and its ideology of Melanesian Socialism
can fail to consider the adverse historical background from which the
country seeks to extricate itself to assert its independence and a dignified
identity. It is with this in mind that these final comments will be made
about Melanesian Socialism.
Is “Melanesian Socialism” a complete, comprehensive, and inte-
grated ideology? Clearly, it focuses on certain aspects of life while omit-
ting others. At one level, Melanesian Socialism is intended as reproof of
European colonial practices in Vanuatu. It is much more than that,
however. It is intended to serve as a broad policy map that guides the
Vanuatu ship of state toward particular destinations. As a practical
guide, however, it provides a poor portrait of the waters to be traversed.
It is erected on a paucity of principles: communalism, sensitivity, and
sharing. It does not enunciate a theory or definition of the purpose of
man and society, although it can be construed to embrace a collectivist
Melanesian Socialism: Vanuatu’s Quest
125
social structure with strong humanist motifs. But its sweep of prescrip-
tions is too wide and abstract to serve as a map to instruct practical pol-
icy. More specifically, it needs to spell out those structures of Melanesian
society and culture that it embraces and those it rejects. Obviously,
many traditional ni-Vanuatu practices such as gender and role inequali-
ties cannot be easily subsumed under the egalitarian doctrines of
Melanesian Socialism. The fact that Lini is a Christian, and a Christian
pastor at that, does not clarify the problem; rather, it confuses it
immensely. Are we to assume that Christian values are coterminous
with Melanesian socialist beliefs?
Even if fundamental assumptions are not articulated, at least a more
comprehensive institutional exposition and analysis is required to give
respectability and credibility to Melanesian Socialism. For instance,
what sorts of economic and political structures are preferred? It cannot
be inferred that because Lini condemns the capitalist market model that
all nonmarket models are preferred. Can it be legitimately argued that
because the Vanuatu state under Lini’s control since 1980 has been over-
whelmingly capitalist that Melanesian Socialism accepts capitalism in
practice but abhors it in theory? During the years of Lini’s stewardship
of the Vanuatu state, the capitalist structures inherited from the colonial
powers have been further entrenched rather than diminished. To be
sure, there has been limited state intervention in the Vanuatu market
economy and some public equity participation in businesses established
by foreign firms. But none of these modifications has struck at the root
of the profit-based free enterprise mode of production and distribution
in Vanuatu. In the political arena, the inherited parliamentary model
from the West continues to operate without significant structural altera-
tion. No attempt has been made by Lini to share power with his
Melanesian compatriots in the opposition parties. The consultative
grass-roots mechanism of party organization embodied in the practices
of the ruling Vanuaaku Pati points to a desire to inform state policy by
popular participation. In this respect, the Vanuaaku Pati can claim that
its practice of Melanesian Socialism points to grass-roots government
through party organization. Yet nothing has yet been put forth about
the party institution and its form (one-party versus multi-party) in rela-
tion to institutional polities of Melanesian Socialism. As it is set forth in
the Vanuaaku Pati constitution, the party’s decisions are the preeminent
and paramount guide to government policy. There have been several
crises and schismatic divisions in the Vanuaaku Pati about the obliga-
tion of the government to follow the directives of the party. Prime Min-
ister Lini, himself, has been repeatedly accused of dictatorial leadership
126
Pacific Studies, Vol. 11, No. l--November 1987
because of his periodic refusal to follow party decisions and directives.
In part, much of this problem stems from a failure of the Vanuaaku Pati
to engage in a critical evaluation of the institutional structures that are
congruent with the broad doctrines embodied in Melanesian Socialism.
How does Melanesian Socialism relate the polity to society? In Marx-
ist socialism, the answer is expressed in a general theory; these relation-
ships are set forth: property relations determine political structure and
class relations. Like any ideological system, such as capitalism or Marx-
ism, Melanesian Socialism must propound some theory about the con-
nections between various aspects of social structure. In doing so, it also
needs to state its theory of social change to indicate how it proposes to
alter the social order to attain its objectives. Marxism, like capitalism,
identifies certain underlying forces such as profit or class conflict as the
features that catalyze historical change. How do things happen in the
Melanesian Socialist cosmological order? What are the levers of change
and how do they operate? If these vital missing components are not spe-
cified, it does not mean that the proponents have yet to develop these
ideas. It is clear, however, that unless quick attention is paid to these
questions, the detractors of Melanesian Socialism can easily draw their
own conclusions about the ideological authenticity of Melanesian
Socialism and even the sincerity and intellectual powers of its propo-
nents. For instance, the five-year Development Plan released by the
Vanuaaku Pati government has led one analyst to describe it as “com-
mon place capitalist development” belying the socialist claims of the
Lini regime.39
As an ideological structure, then, Melanesian Socialism is underde-
veloped. At this point in its evolution, there is no reason to condemn it
with finality. Conceivably, its adherents are still talking and thinking
about it. No living ideology comes into the world fully developed and
ready for delivery. On the anvil of challenge and experience its details
can creatively evolve. A few simple ideas can offer a nucleus of beliefs,
serving as takeoff points to further growth and progressive development
over time into a more complete and comprehensive edifice of faith. It is
in this sense that one can call Melanesian Socialism an ideology, albeit
an incipient ideology. Clearly, fast action is needed lest the actions of the
Vanuaaku-led government flounder without ideological direction.
Melanesian Socialism, even in its rudimentary doctrinal form and in
its inconsistencies, serves many salutary purposes. Hurt by colonialism,
diverted from ancient moorings, and humiliated by alien intrusion, the
ni-Vanuatu need an assertive palliative to view the past, to restore their
confidence, and to chart a new course. Melanesian Socialism explains
Melanesian Socialism: Vanuatu’s Quest
127
Vanuatu’s poverty and dependence in terms of European colonial prac-
tices. It supplies a salve for a deep wound inflicted by alien domination
and a convincing explanation of the current state of affairs. Further, an
independent state needs unity and a common identity to attain its objec-
tives of economic development. Traditional precolonial Melanesia,
including the Vanuatu archipelago, was riven by internal interclan,
interethnic, and interisland dissension and strife. In postindependence
Vanuatu, some mechanism is required to facilitate unity. Melanesian
Socialism is nationalist in scope, drawing ni-Vanuatu together by its
mythology of the past and its vision of the future. All ideologies that
have succeeded in crisis situations do this. They rewrite and reinterpret
history in contemplation of contemporary needs. Melanesian Socialism
under the charismatic Lini, backed up by his grassroots-based Vanuaa-
ku Pati, organizes the perceptions, emotions, and energies of the ni-
Vanuatu toward common nationalist goals. Vanuatu, like nearly all
states in the Third World, needs to unite to survive. Melanesian Social-
ism offers visions of a new unity over the entrenched traditional mosaic
of rival clans and divergent cultures.
NOTES
1. H. Fraser, “Accusations Fly in Libya Trip Wrangle,” Pacific Islands Monthly, January
1987, 19.
2. W. Lini, Statement to the 38th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (New
York, 1983), 7-8.
3. Ibid., 6.
4. Ibid., 7.
5. Ibid., 9.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid., 10.
8. Ibid., 8.
9. Ibid.
10. Ibid.
11. W. Lini, Beyond Pandemonium: New Hebrides to Vanuatu (Suva, 1980), 14.
12. Lini, Statement to the 38th Session, 9.
13. Ibid.
14. See R. Premdas, “Papua New Guinea: Internal Problems of Rapid Political Change,”
Asian Survey 15, no. 12 (1975): 1054-1076.
128
Pacific Studies, Vol. 11, No. l--November 1987
15. See B. Narakobi, The Melanesian W ay (Suva, 1983).
16. J. Jupp and M. Sawyer, “The New Hebrides: From Condominium to Independence,”
Australian Outlook 33 (1979): 15-26.
17. J. Jupp, “The Development of Party Politics in the New Hebrides,” Journal of Com-
monwealth and Comparative Politics 17 (1979): 264-280.
18. Lini, Statement to the 38th Session, 8.
19. R. Premdas and J. Steeves, Decentralisation and Development in Melanesia (Suva,
1984); see also R. Premdas and J. Steeves,
“The Evolution of the Administrative and Polit-
ical Content of Decentralisation in Vanuatu,” Public Administration and Development 4
(1984).
20. R. Premdas, “Secession and Decentralisation in Political Change: Vanuatu,” Kabar
Sebarang 15 (1986).
21. C. Plant, The New Hebrides-- The Road to Independence (Suva, 1977).
22. R. Shears, The Coconut W ar: The Crisis of Espiritu Santo (London, 1980).
23. Premdas and Steeves, Decentralisation and Development.
24. See R. Premdas and M. Howard, “Vanuatu’s Foreign Policy: Contradictions and
Constraints,” Australian Outlook 39, no. 3 (1985).
25. Islands Business 9, no. 9 (1983): 36. There are some indications that Lini may realign
his relations away from Britain and more favorably toward France. See “Lini Speaks Out
in Plain Language,” Pacific Islands Monthly, April 1986, 17.
26. First National Development Plan 1982-86 (Vanuatu) (Vila, Vanuatu, 1982), l-210.
27. D. Shineberg, They Came For Sandalwo od (Melbourne, 1967).
28. For these and the other economic statistics that follow, see Economist Intelligence
Unit 1986-87 (London, 1987), 64-70. Also see Premdas and Howard, “Vanuatu’s Foreign
Policy.”
29. “Lini Pleads for Understanding of the Melanesian Renaissance," Pacific Islands
Monthly 53, no. 4 (1982): 25-28.
30. For a full discussion of Fanon on this feature of the colonial question, see R. Premdas,
“Idealogy, Pragmatism, and Great Power Rivalry in the Pacific,” in Foreign Forces in the
Pacific, edited by R. Crocombe and A. Ali (Suva, 1983).
31. M. Rodman, “Masters of Tradition: Customary Land Tenure and New Forms of
Social Inequality in a Vanuatu Peasantry,” American Ethnologist, February 1984,77.
32. Ibid.
33. W. Rodman and M. Rodman, “Rethinking Kastom: On the Politics of Place Naming
in Vanuatu” (Mimeo., MacMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, May 1984), 9.
34. Ibid.
35. R. Tonkinson, “National Identity and the Problem of Kastom in Vanuatu,” Mankind
13, no. 4 (August 1982): 306-315.
Melanesian Socialism: Vanuatu’s Quest 129
36. See J. Larcon, “The Invention of Tradition,”
Mankind
13, no. 4(August1982): 330-
337.
37. Lini, Statement to the 38th Session, 8.
38. Ibid., 22.
39. M. C. Howard, “Vanuatu: The Myth of Melanesian Socialism,” Labour, Capital, and
Society 16, no. 2 (1983): 191.
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In some oceanian societies, kava is associated with all major customary celebrations. Men transform the roots of the plant in a beverage to get in touch with the beyond or create social link. In Vanuatu, after more than fifty years of religious prohibition, the practice came out again in the seventies in the context of urban migration and fixation of the Islanders in the city. The attainment of the archipelago to independence has generated a progressive but fast modernization and democratization of the age-old practice associated with an unprecedented craze (periodicity, frequency, consumption, transformation of the traditional places) testifying to a deep change of the society.
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In Vanuatu, the popularity of reggae music has been on the rise since the late 1980s. Today, reggae music and reggae culture is ubiquitous. For many young people in Port Vila, Vanuatu's capital city, it is a fundamental component of their sense of belonging to the city. Their attraction to reggae derives from its messages of camaraderie, equality and justice. This paper argues that for many urban youth, playing, consuming and sharing reggae music and culture instrumentalises their urban place‐making activities and helps reterritorialise themselves in urban spaces. Drawing on ethnographic research, we demonstrate the extent to which its lyrics and messages resonate with youth who feel they are unable to express their social, economic and political discontent through other mediums. Furthermore, we show how for many youth, reggae conveys a sense of hopefulness that emboldens them to build a new life or ‘father land’ for themselves and their children.
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Hassall provides a broad overview of the concept and practice of social equity in the independent Pacific Island states. Some disparities between social groups appeared during the colonial period, while others came with the process of “modernization”. Urban elites obtained education, health services, and government jobs, while those residing further from the urban and administrative centers transitioned from subsistence agriculturalists to “rural poor”. The chapter argues that whereas international development agencies partner with national governments and civil society to monitor the quality of governance and to craft national development plans and sectoral plans to promote social equity, the small island nations are struggling to deliver on the aspirations set out in their independence constitutions and political manifestos.
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Reviews the evolution of the socialist party under Walter Lini. Concludes that nationalism, Pan-Pacificism, and socialism do not always mix; that the first rests on tradition used by local elites for their self-promotion, while socialism should reach beyond nationalism, ethnicity, and social democratic capitalism.-from Editor
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Vanuatu's transformation into a predominantly Christian country entailed the loss of much traditional culture and the devaluation of the pre-contact era. In the 1970s the growing independence movement used kastom as a rallying cry to evoke a distinctive non-European national identity. In promoting unity and solidarity, the movement's leaders promulgated kastom on a safe ideological plane, avoiding any definition or differentiation of the concept, whereas the populace attempted to interpret kastom pragmatically. This led to confusion and difficulties because kastom is so ambiguous; its capacity to unite at one level is offset a t others by its political utility in defining difference and in marking boundaries. For Christians, a major problem has been to reconcile the new positive view of kastom with long- entrenched negative attitudes. For the nation-builders, the challenge has been to uphold the virtues of kustorn-within-Christianity while avoiding as much as possible its inclusion in legal codes or in structures and strategies associated with Vanuatu's functioning as a Pacific republic.
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Local government came late to Vanuatu (formerly the New Hebrides) and even then was more a response to external events than a reflection of community interests. The first local council experiment, from 1957 to 1958, failed because of rivalry between the colonial powers, Britain and France. Subsequently national political developments set up additional obstacles to the successful functioning of local government. Political conflicts at the national level, reflecting the divisions created by the Anglo-French condominium, delayed implementation and undermined the administrative viability and democratic quality of local councils. Popular support for and trust in local government has not developed. A system created in haste and altered to serve the interests of competing national elites has not been able to adapt to the needs of local communities. A viable system of decentralization requires a degree of national consensus to be combined with local involvement in planning and implementation.
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The persistence of customary land tenure in a cash-cropping context is giving rise to new forms of social inequality that masquerade as perquisites of traditional preeminence in Longana, Vanuatu. This paper examines the processes through which a few customary landholders were able to create relatively large coconut plantations in the 1930s, and the ways in which some of their heirs have maintained these holdings, emerging as wealthy individuals who are beginning to follow copra production and investment strategies that increasingly differentiate them from smaller landholders. A flexible system of customary land tenure has both legitimized the actions of such individuals and obscured the new consequences of following tradition. [land tenure, social inequality, differentiation in peasantries, copra, Melanesia]
Accusations Fly in Libya Trip Wrangle Pacific Islands M onthly
  • H Fraser
H. Fraser, " Accusations Fly in Libya Trip Wrangle, " Pacific Islands M onthly, January 1987, 19.