“The Democratic Socialist in Relation to Other Political Parties”

NB – This is a continuation of a manifesto originally written in 2002 with the intention of organising a socialist party in Bermuda (the DS). I am publishing it online for possible discussion and out of historical (albeit mostly personal) interest.

A fundamental question that must be decided by the DS is whether to form a new political party (the Democratic Socialist Party) or to act as a left opposition within the current PLP (i.e. the Democratic Socialist Caucus of the PLP, a la the NDP Socialist Caucus). While one argument for forming a new party is presented below, for political purposes, at the immediate moment, the DS is forced to act as an independent party.

This is because the DS was unable to organise before the PLP’s October-November Convention, the last one before the next general election, and potentially for another four years. While the DS will be active within the branches of the PLP, it is unlikely to be able to influence the party platform for the upcoming election.

This question must be settled by the DS, or by external factors, relatively soon, but for now its primary objective is the initial organisation of itself to the point where such a discussion may be achieved adequately. Nonetheless, a general sketch of the DS in relation to other political parties is presented below:

The UBP – As the ‘naked face’ of Bermudian capitalism, any collaboration with the UBP is highly unlikely. The DS must maintain a constant opposition to the UBP, critiquing its policies while defending and promoting the interests of the workers against the UBP. Only in the event of a far-right group arising separate from the center-right UBP would a collaboration with the UBP be even conceivable, solely to prevent the rise of a fascist state in Bermuda.

The NLP – As an eclectic mix of ideologies and interests, the NLP must be both critiqued and worked with simultaneously. The DS must critique the right-wing and pro-capitalist elements of the Party, while encourage the left-wing to either seek control of – and reform the Party – or to split the Party and join with the DS.

The PLP – As a ‘wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing’ and with a strong historical association with organised labour in Bermuda, the PLP will be one of the main focuses of the DS. As with the NLP, the right-wing and pro-capitalist elements of the Party must be opposed while the left-wing is supported and encouraged. Only through such a strategy would it be possible to either bring the PLP back to the political left (with the subsequent union of the DS with the PLP), or to attract the left-wing of the Party to split and join with the DS.

The BIU is to be considered an informal wing, or a ‘backdoor’ to the PLP, and the DS must be active within the BIU, critiquing the union labour aristocracy, and voicing and defending the interests of the workers. This strategy would either support the PLP left-wing, or bring the left-wing to the DS, while also forging links between the DS and the BIU. A similar strategy will be conducted with other organised labour groups (Bermuda Public Services Union, Bermuda Union of Teachers, etc.).

While the PLP is currently a ‘party of the bosses’ it continues to possess some centre-left trappings, and is thus the only Party with which co-operation is most likely. Unless the DS forms a majority government, but possesses elected MPs, a coalition with the PLP is possible as a short-term tactic, provided the DS continues to critique and oppose the PLP’s right-wing.

Why not operate as a left-opposition within the PLP?

This is the standpoint of similar democratic socialist groups, namely the Socialist Caucus of the NDP in Canada and the remnants of the Militant Tendency within the UK Labour Party (centered around the marxist.com website and the Socialist Appeal journal). In the context of the Canadian and British political environment this strategy appears to be the correct one.

In the Bermudian context however, with a much smaller population, it may be argued that an independent party organisation is both viable and the best strategy for the DS to take, with the analogy that stones make bigger ripples in smaller ponds. For one thing, the stranglehold of power within the Party by the Executive/Cabinet makes the establishment of an independent organisation highly valuable for organising left opposition within and without the PLP.

As previously mentioned, this topic must be determined by the DS once it is organised at a higher level than it currently is.

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