At the macro level, the leaders of Belize’s two major political parties are cynical people. That is to say, they do not really care what you think or what you have to say unless you have a lot of money or unless you can put people in the streets. The leaders of the two political parties usually represent constituencies which are considered “safe” for their respective parties.
At the micro level, or the level of the individual area representatives and standard bearers, there is usually more skittishness. The area reps and standard bearers keep a very close eye on their constituencies, and they are immediately interested once any organized movement of people, no matter how small the group, begins stirring around in their divisions. After all, over the years several constituency elections in Belize have been decided by fewer than twenty votes, so any movement of people, no matter how small, can decide an individual Belizean politician’s electoral fate.
If you start any kind of group in any political constituency in Belize, whether it is a sewing group or a sailing group or a sports group, you can end up deciding an individual politician’s electoral fate. The individual politician has to find out, as quickly as he can, in what political direction your group is likely to head. If you are likely to head in his opponent’s direction, the politician will seek to sabotage and intimidate your group, no matter how small, in any way he can. If you are likely to be favorable to him, then the politician will nurture you and your group. If you insist on being independent, both parties will become suspicious of you. You will then be attacked from both sides of the political spectrum.
So then, we see that the power of the two dominant political parties in Belize and the nature of the struggle between them, are such that they hamper any and all community initiatives, except the initiatives of the churches, which are foreign-based, foreign-financed, and foreign-controlled institutions. The two dominant political parties are, arguably, indigenous and authentic organizations, but they are also dominant, to the point where they routinely monitor and mash any other indigenous and authentic initiatives.
The United Democratic Party (UDP) and the People’s United Party (PUP) are surpassingly important national organizations. In our mid-week editorial, we said that the political parties and the churches are the most powerful national organizations in Belize. We must now point out that the trade unions are also nationally organized, and they are the only group, apart from the political parties and the churches, which can put thousands of Belizeans in the streets to support or oppose any specific position.
One characteristic of Belize which we all must recognize is that this is a very small nation. This newspaper has recently been running some excerpts from Naomi Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine, which have to do with the fact that powerful elements in the United States decided how they would infiltrate and influence the most important of decision-making processes in Chile. That process of infiltration eventually reached the point where related American elements financed and supported the military overthrow of a socialist Chilean government in order to install a neoliberal regime. Chile is a much larger and much more sophisticated society than Belize. Belize is absolutely vulnerable to distraction and destabilization from outside our borders.
Since Belize’s independence in 1981, all our governments have clearly been more neoliberal than socialist. Only the UDP and the PUP have formed governments here since independence, so we are saying that both the major political parties in Belize are, manifestly and proven, neoliberal. Washington did not have to overthrow any Belizean government, because, where development philosophy is concerned, the two parties are the same neoliberal thing.
In 1919, 1934, and 1972, we saw where the streets of the population center could throw a monkey wrench into the socio-political status quo, but the streets of the population center have been involved in a bloody urban civil war for the last quarter century. Since independence and television, there is no political education in the streets of Belize City: the crime and violence are totally related to the “material world” and its consumer goods.
The story of how the two political parties, which were basically indigenous and authentic at their foundations, have become neoliberal instruments of American and British foreign policy, is an interesting one. It would also, of course, be a controversial one, because neither of those two dominant national parties would accept the thesis of the previous sentence, that they are neoliberal instruments of American and British foreign policy. But, if such a story were ever to be written, we think a critical aspect of that story would involve the understanding, the rapprochement which began to characterize the relationships amongst the leading Belizean attorneys in the late 1970s. Essentially, the big time PUP and UDP lawyers decided that the pie was big enough for attorneys from both parties to share it. The problem, as we see today and have seen for the last quarter century, is that nothing was left over for the streets. Only the lawyers ate.
Older readers may well ask: where is Partridge Street in all this? At foundation, we were in the streets, then our organization was splintered and swallowed up by the dominant political parties. This newspaper has been the most widely circulated in Belize for the last 32 years, and Partridge Street acquired radio transmission capacity in 1989 and television in 2003. In 2013, Partridge Street represents, then, a kind of community success story which encourages some optimism, but we do not fool ourselves back here. Belize is run and controlled by the PUDP and the churches. The only people who could ever change this game are the unions. For now, the streets are dead, victims of mass suicide.
Power to the people. Power in the struggle.