NB – This is the first chapter of a draft document, ‘Founding Paper of Democratic Socialist Caucus/Party of Bermuda’, written in 2002.
The Progressive Labour Party (PLP) of Bermuda, the oldest Bermudian political party, was founded originally to represent the interests of the Bermudian working class in opposition to the ruling oligarchy (’40 theives’), later represented by the (conservative) United Bermuda Party (UBP). Following the virtual defeat of the working class uprisings in the 1970s (largely in the form of a ‘black nationalist’ movement and union militancy), an internal struggle within the PLP led to its formal division into the respective right and left wings of the party, the smaller National Liberal Party (NLP) and the larger PLP. This party division split the votes and dealt both the NLP and PLP crushing defeats in the 1980s.
Also during the 1980s Bermuda experienced an economic boom combined with various labour victories by the main union, the Bermuda Industrial Union (BIU), leading to a general material increase in wealth for the working class as a whole. This increased material wealth saw a large increase in the ‘Black middle class’ and a further acceleration of a centrist labour aristocracy within the BIU and the PLP. This labour aristocracy saw its interests to be more in line with the capitalist system of the oligarchs (the ‘bosses’) that it had originally risen to do combat with.
By the beginning of the 1990s the NLP had become virtually redundant due to a combination of its initially small size relative to the PLP, and the return to the PLP of many members who had left to join the NLP – largely due to the PLP increasingly taking the centrist platform of the NLP. The PLP had in fact become a centre-left party by the end of the 1980s, mirroring trends in the Western social-democratic parties, namely the Canadian New Democratic Party (NDP) [federally in the form of Alexa McDonough and provincially in the form of the Ontario Bob Rae government of 1991-1995], the German Social Democratic Party (SDP) under Gerrad Schroeder, and (perhaps most relevant to Bermuda) the UK Labour Party under Tony Blair [the PLP is formally affiliated with this party, sending representatives to all annual conferences].
As with each of these fellow ‘third way’ social-democratic parties, the transition of the PLP from a party representing the interests of the working class to one representing the interests of the bosses class became abundantly clear following their respective election victories (generally following an internal crisis within the conservative parties and a jettisoning of all leftist platforms in favour of third-way rhetoric and boss and middle-class friendly policies) and subsequent actions as the government (continuing or accelerating the policies of the conservative parties).
While each of these parties followed similar paths of action signifying their transition to a bosses party, in Bermuda some of the significant actions of the PLP government [the first PLP government in Bermudian history, elected in 1998] include:
– The centralisation of power within the Party by the Executive/Cabinet, effectively castrating the power of the Party rank and file (represented by the branches and the secretariat);
– Manipulation of the Party constitution by changing the party convention timetable from every two years to four, and abusing the principle of election boundary revision in order to reduce the power of the future back-bench;
– Disregard of the Party constitutions’ commitments to Independence and resistance to receiving ‘gifts’ from the UK government (ie. Louise Browne Evans’ ‘Dameship’);
– Appointments of PLP ‘bigwigs’ to token positions within the former oligarchy (corporate boards, etc.) – blatant political corruption of the Party by the oligarchs!
– And various superficial trappings such as extravagant travel expenses, luxury cars for MPs, and even excessive champagne consumption!