It’s late where I am (0200hrs in the UK), so this isn’t going to be a very coherent post. I just wanted to get some rough notes out of my head to possibly develop further later – and I welcome feedback in the creative process!
The closest historical event we have to the events of January 2015 is the General Strike of Spring 1981.
1981 took place while the promise of global socialism was much more real, despite the nightmare deformations of the Soviet Union. The Greneda Revolution offered a model for a similar English-speaking island, and Jamaica was experimenting with an alternative model. 1981 also took place in the context of the Cold War and ‘red scares’.
More importantly though, we have a more diverse media/communications system. Despite a reduced ‘traditional media’, the rise of social media has somewhat democratised the flow of information, at least in terms of up-to-date news. Bernews provides a rapid news dissemination, as does, particularly, Facebook. Email, Whatsapp and BBM all play a role now too. And despite the failure of the PLP Governments to develop an alternative model for Bermuda, there were some gains that are useful now, such as more union-friendly media in the form of radio stations.
What remains the same though is the racial/class division. This is evident in the social media and the comments of the traditional media. This, of course, does not mean to say all Afro-Bermudians support the strike and all Euro-Bermudians oppose it. That is absurd. Nonetheless there are clear social divisions for or against the actions in question, and these do seem to generally reflect our racial/class breakdown.
The 1981 strike occurred during the beginning of the neo-liberal revolution. The 2015 actions are occurring during one of the greatest prolonged crises of neo-liberalism since.
The red scare is not so much prevalent now, however those opposed, particularly the more fanatical supporters of the OBA, engage in equal fantasies of this being orchestrated by the PLP. The truth is that, yes, the PLP is going to try and capitalise on this, but if anything the PLP are being dragged along purely by opportunism and are not in any way playing a leading role. This in some ways demonstrates the growing ideological and organic rupture between the PLP and organised labour, something perhaps best displayed in the emergence of the novel ‘People’s Campaign’, which in some ways represents a potential new political movement approach.
It’s likely that labour friction would have occurred under a post-2012 PLP Government (indeed, OBAers seem to forget that the PLP Governments experienced much more labour strife than one might have expected of a nominally ‘labour’ government). The question is to what degree – to what tempo and pitch would the industial action be taking?
It’s clear there’s a growing rupture between the ‘party of labour’ and ‘organised labour’. This occurred under the post-1998 PLP Governments, and may have been accelerated since post-2012. The PLP would also be engaging in budget deficits, although arguably with a less aggressive neo-liberal approach. This would likely have reduced the tempo and pitch of industrial strife, but does not rule out the potential for a similar mass action. It would likely have delayed it though and reduced the pitch and frequency.