A Black Bermuda divided
This is not intended as an anti-political party opinion, as much as it is intended to cause reflection and hopefully develop a sense of accountability for the truth of the effects of party politics on Bermuda.
It has been stated and even repeated that the many of our political forefathers and trailblazers had warned us not to embrace party politics because of what they feared would be its divisive effects on Bermuda society. What has not been said is that they were right.
It is understandable that in life we also need to deal with what is, rather than what could or should have been. However, reason gives us the space to critically examine where we are, what the intended goal was, and what was or was not achieved. That’s a position every human society has, and if truth is to be ascertained or maintained, then a necessary exercise needs to be placed systemically within our processes as an essential part of our conscious activity going forward.
Having marches of commemoration and Founder's Day observances as ritual behaviours perhaps are good traditions, but often when we examine the roots, we find less to celebrate and more to ponder.
We all now appreciate that the Black community of 1960 was far stronger and more united on core political issues than we are today. It was not providence alone; it was hard work and advocacy that accounted for us having the beginnings of a complete educational construct, having just completed the development of primary schools, having built the Bermuda Technical Institute. But for a college or university, we as a society were on our way.
We had strong churches, strong workmen's clubs, lodges, two unions and an abundance of very strong businessmen. The adult vote was on the way; that battle had already been won, paved by the likes of W.L. Tucker and many others. Here in the early 1960s is the point of inflection, which truly shows whether the result of what one decides to do brings more value or less to the table.
An honest evaluation would be to ask what did the society of 1960 need. We can make it even more personal by asking what did persons such as Herbie Simons, Reg Raynor or Reginald Burrows need. True, we could ask the same of persons such as “Cheese” Ray or Benny Sousa.
Ask the churches, the sports clubs and lodges what did they need. The answers may come back: a sympathetic banking system, healthcare benefits, scholarships, sports academies and a range of what could be referred to as "development tools".
Up to that point, all the efforts within Parliament and of political activism actually assisted in bringing development tools. That’s why we had enough schools by then, which was certainly progress when compared with 30 years earlier.
Can we imagine just how alien to our social and intellectual fabric a party was back in the early 1960s?
If we have problems understanding that gap, imagine this: a party forms in 1963 and by 1968 has independence in its platform.
Or imagine this: the society is based on free enterprise and mercantilism, and a group emerges with socialism, nationalisation and anti-capitalist rhetoric. Was that a consensus-driven movement? Or a movement that was completely arbitrary to what existed? This was indeed alien to the glorious thoughts of a deliverance or liberation party
Judgment doesn't fit in that question about whether socialism is or was good or bad, or capitalism right or wrong. The question is, by whose authority? Who is calling the shots? Is it the Bermudian people up to that point? Or a small group with a new idea? A new group with the idea of actually telling the majority which way they need to go or are to be led?
No one on this planet has been able to convince me yet that the party proposition of 1965 and beyond was not against the grain of basic Bermuda, which had made tremendous progress to that point.
Black Bermuda became a divided society from that point in 1965 onward; there was or is no other reason. It as clear as the George Floyd murder. George would have survived if not for the 9min 29sec that a knee was on his neck. Merchant Bermuda and political Black Bermuda would have still been alive had it not been for the knee placed on their neck by the Progressive Labour Party and also the oligarchy standing on their back for an entire decade.
The divisions that began in 1965 still persist today and are celebrated as a victory. So Dr Gordon was right, E.T. Richards was right. I can go on and name a host of persons, who were right, including Eva Hodgson — party politics singlehandedly is responsible for dividing the Black community. It’s an inescapable reality.
Added to that comes the next question of who should take responsibility for the division. Ultimately, who should lead the change in healing the division.
We can't blame the White man for our disunity; he did not start the divergence. We had an enthusiastic group intent on achieving power who could not estimate the damage to a community which was not involved and which would become the victims.
There is nothing new under the sun; most things have their equivalent somewhere on the planet. The issue of runaway party politics can be resolved by reattaching the community to the parties through progressive reform that gives the people more say over and within the organisation.
Unfortunately, as foreseen by Sir Henry “Jack” Tucker, who feared that a Black party would develop and resemble his oligarchy. That was the bane of his lifelong struggle, and if it did happen, the new oligarchs would be toothless, ie, without the support of a financial machinery. He, too, was right because it would appear this group would resist any attempt to broaden the base of leadership to include "the people".
For them, seemingly, “the people” are the Gombeys and those who come out and march in the streets on their behalf, but not on behalf of the electorate whose involvement they negate.