Response to Sister LaVerne Furbert – One

“That you should re-assess why you chose to become a member of the Bermuda Progressive Labour Party.”

Initial thoughts

My initial thoughts on reading this comment was that it was a not so veiled threat. Within the Party Constitution there is set out scope for discipline, from censure to expulsion. It may suprise some outside of the Party to discover that Sister LaVerne is perhaps the most well-versed Party member on the Party Constitution, a skill she has displayed well throughout her service within internal Party meetings, and she deserves to be commended for it.

Any member is free to raise this issue in any Central Committee meeting and call for my discipline and even expulsion from the Party. This is not the first time that I have been presented with what I consider a veiled threat, and there have been numerous times that I have observed a whispering campaign which I percieved to have my voluntary departure of the Party as their ultimate goal. I have no such intention of leaving the Party and at the moment have every intention to resubscribe to membership on the expiration of my current membership.

I have not attended Central Committee since the December election, this is true. Shortly before the election I resigned my dual position as Secretary of the Youth Wing and Youth Wing Representative to the Central Committee. I did so for a combination of reasons, partly to allow for succession, partly due to other personal committments, one of which will become apparent in the coming weeks, and also due to a belief that the Party machinery was dysfunctional to the point that Central Committee was functionally irrelevant and that it would be more important to rebuild the branches at the moment. Central Committee has little to no bearing anymore on the policy decision making of the Party. Its function now is little more than to relay decisions to the members, to allow members to ‘show face,’ to vent frustrations, and to have any genuine frustration or original idea to be sentenced to death by committees that never meet. True, I have not attended for close to six months now, perhaps the situation has changed. I, and several other members are of the opinion that while CC should not be ignored, what is required is rebuilding fromt he ground up, from the grassroots.

Why I Joined the Party

I joined the Party a few days after the historic win in 1998. I had only turned 18 in 1997, and I am one of the last generation of children of ex-patriate workers who was able to be born in Bermuda and be ordinarily resident for eighteen years, and obtain Bermudian citizenship at that point. Prior to obtaining citizenship I had not thought it possible to join the Party, something I found later to be mistaken. Other factors that caused me to join the Party at that time was that I only really became politically conscious around the age of seventeen, and also there was, and continues to be, a general sense of percieved danger for a White Bermudian to join the Party. The impact of social ostracism was much stronger at that time, but lingers on even today. Nor was it entirely myth, I have encountered what I consider to be some backlash as a result of my joining the Party. But with the PLP in power I considered it much safer than before.

So why did I join the Party? I considered myself, and continue to do so, a democratic socialist. My political views have developed much since then, from an originally more Trotskyist perspective to the libertarian Marxism I am today. But as a democratic socialist, and in the absence of a socialist Party in Bermuda, I saw the PLP as an organic growth of the Bermudian labour movement, and correctly percieved it to have socialistic currents within it, even if they were not necessarily dominant.

Additionally, I shared what I percieved to be the PLPs anti-racist ideology. While there are some elements within the Party that are justly criticised for being race reactionary, on the whole, the Party is far more progressive on race than the UBP. Furthermore, the PLP did grow from the organic liberation struggle of anti-racism, anti-capitalism, feminism and democratic emancipation. This heritage is one I could identify with, and I identified more with its historic liberation struggle than with the conservativism of the UBP.

I did not enter the PLP with any illussions of it being a leftist Party. I have not lost any illussions in it today. It is mostly what I thought it was when I joined it, a third-way social democratic Party with a distinct Black capitalist theme. There are progressive, anti-capitalist groups within the Party. They are very much marginalised, even if the ideology they represent is closer to the vision of the grassroots. My intention was to work with what existed, and if possible assist in the ideological and practical defence of these ideals, and also seek to expand their influence.

So I joined the Party because I identified with its ideals, with its historic struggle against the racial oligarchy. It should not be me that needs to re-asses why I joined the Progressive Labour Party. It is those who would pose that question to me and who would continue to blindly defend the current direction of the Party that is very much moving contrary to the ideals that the Party originated from that should be re-assessing their position.

I continue to be loyal to the principles of progressive labour. I have warned numerous times that loyalty to the Party Line is not necessarily loyalty to the Party principles, and that such false loyalty would ultimately undermine progressive labour itself.

My conscience is clear in defending the principles that I understand to be progressive labour, namely anti-racism, anti-capitalism, feminism, the expansion of democracy and the democratisation of the economy and politics. Crude loyalty to the Party Line leads to double think, to barriers to knowledge and impediments to critical thought. Those who seek to shore up Party Line loyalty blind to the contradictions to progressive labour principles are automatically convicted of reaction and enmity to human progress.

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