These notes come from 2004, during a period where I had let my membership lapse following the failure (in my eyes) of the 1998-2003 PLP term and the 2003 election events that deposed Ms Smith.
On a side-note, excerpts of these notes were used by me in letters to both the RG and the Workers Voice, and I maintain I beat Mr Julian Hall to the ‘out-UBPed the UBP’ phrase, but I’m happy with him taking the credit – afterall, maybe I unknowingly took it from him in the first place!
Additionally, this note formed the basis for this blogs name ‘Catch a Fire’.
The Vulgar Democratic Centralism of the Leadership
The Leaderships’ vulgar democratic centralism first fully revealed itself under Smith. The transition from bottom-up democracy to top-down democracy was formalised at this time (and, indeed, took advantage of the chaos of branch restructuring with the new constituencies).
The resulting confusion and demoralisation of the grassroots led to a decline in party activism – further ceding power to the Executive.
A ‘last stand’ of the grassroots was, arguably, represented by Hodgson’s leadership challenge (albeit open to possible charges of mysogynism, a la the historical challenges to Brown-Evans?), but was already weakened to such a degree that this failed miserably, setting the stage for future events.
The resulting excessive centralisation of power at the expense of the grassroots caused a feeling of uneasiness within the party which in turn manifested itself in general disillusionment of the rank-and-file, but also in the forming of secret groupings – ‘rebels’.
These secret groupings resulting in the ‘coup’ against Smith, and the resulting compromise of Scott. This has set-up fractures and fault-lines for the PLP going forward – it has set precedents.
Due to his compromise position Scott was forced to tread carefully, but he has increasingly followed the same path as his predecessor.
There is now a gathering storm on the horizon within the party.
This storm is developing as a result of the centralisation of the power within the Leadership, the aristocracy of labour in Bermuda.
Without the advancement of workers democracy, the Leadership has transformed itself; in the eyes of the worker the PLP’s leadership has become seen as simply another section of the ruling oligarchy.
One of the ironies of history is that while the PLP historically accused the UBP of ‘stealing its manifesto ideas’, the PLP has now out-UBPed the UBP. The UBP now finds itself thrown into confusion simply because the PLP assumed the general ideological positions of the UBP. Differences between the two parties now are more cosmetic than substantial, in ideological terms.
The necessary result is confusion and demoralisation amongst the workers.
On the present course this will be manifested in a growing apathy and dwindling election numbers.
A general decrease of democratic participation will necessarily result in an erosion of democracy itself. Not simply in terms of internal democracy of the party, but also in the increasing abdication of democratic participation in society itself. Decisions are increasingly made by special interests and corporate boardrooms rather than the shop-floor and the grassroots in general.
The Solution is Revolution?
The solution to this problem can only be the reintroduction of workers democracy within the PLP, and a resumption of progressive labour as a radical historic force, with a radical vision for our people.
This need not be a top-down decision, where the leadership reintroduces workers democracy by its own accord. Indeed, this would be a contradiction in terms!
The grassroots can reclaim the party themselves through sheer force of numbers and agitation. The challenge is the need for a vision with which to spark this move. How to get the grassroots to catch a fire with a radical vision for their party, of a better world being possible?
By all means, let there be unity in action in preventing the return of the UBP!
But this does not mean self-censorship on the part of the grassroots or individual members.
After all, at present there is no real substantial difference between the PLP leadership and the essence of the UBP, ideologically. Despite this, the membership, the rank-and-file, constitutes the party still, and remains the only mechanism to reclaim the party from the opportunists.
Instead of the current situation of donkeys leading lions, let us put lions in charge for once, and return to the ideals of progressive labour!