“’Others mistake compassion for development, and claim massive transfers of wealth somehow, miraculously, will produce new well-being,’ he said, repeating the line he had used often at Cancún (International Meeting for Cooperation and Development, October 1981). With his customary smile, Reagan pointed out that this ‘misses the real essence of development.’ The private sector had to be favored, aid had to be thrown back to the charity industry, and free trade and liberalized financial systems had to be the engine for development. That was the neoliberal development agenda.”
– pg. 79, The Poorer Nations, Vijay Prashad, Verso, 2012
“When the ‘old order’ tried to assert itself, Reagan brushed it off. India’s Indira Gandhi spoke of the need for agricultural subsidies, but her heart was not fully in it. Gandhi had vacillated between the road to socialism and the IMF’s road since the early 1970s. It was her vote bank in rural India that won her the election in 1980, and it was this vote bank – mainly large and middling farmers – whose well-being was sustained by governmental subsidies. Reagan cut her off. ‘This is cheating,’ he said. ‘Subsidizing agriculture is cheating.’ Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere was in the meeting and was clearly confused. He stopped Reagan, which was itself an unusual occurrence: ‘But President Reagan, I have the figures here about your subsidies,’ he said, referring to the considerable US government subsidies to its agribusiness sector. Nyerere read out the numbers. Reagan consulted with his team. After a while, he said, ‘But the subsidies were established by Carter.’ No more was allowed of such heresy.”
– pg. 81, ibid.
As we enter the New Year of 2014, the newspaper would like to review the last couple years of ruling UDP and Opposition PUP party politics. Our readers will have noted that we have been trying in these pages to cut through the shrill personality aspect of Belize’s politics in order to analyze core philosophical issues of socio-economics. It has not been an easy task. There has been, it appears to us, a considered effort to confuse the Belizean people with all kinds of noises and distractions. The campaign to confuse originates from the same places which gave us slavery, colonialism, and neocolonialism: you can fill in the blanks.
There was a kind of golden age in Belizean politics where socio-economics was concerned. Quite arbitrarily, we would say this golden age was roughly from 1958 to 1968. Under Hon. George Price, the PUP government was seeking to remove the ethnic injustices and class differences which had been characteristic of British colonialism here. This was the sociology. On the economic side, the PUP plunged into agricultural production in a determined effort to improve the living conditions of the people in the midst of declining forestry resources and revenues.
There were Belizeans who could or would not make the adjustment to the new socio-economics, so there was substantial political opposition to the Price program. The Guatemalan claim, as orchestrated by the British and the Americans, ultimately exposed how vulnerable Mr. Price was on the Belizean political landscape and how little time he had to transform our colonial socio-economics.
In retrospect, we can see that Mr. Price’s vision did not correspond with the plans which London and Washington had for The Jewel. Those of you who are old enough to remember the founding of this newspaper in 1969 may ask: why would we praise Mr. Price in 2014 when we were attacking him in 1969? Well, in 1969 we had begun to see that black Belizeans were being marginalized and were marginalizing themselves. This was not Mr. Price’s fault, per se, but he was the Leader, and therefore he had to take the blame.
The frightening problem has always been the Guatemalan claim, a claim which had originated with the British and was being manipulated by the Americans. Without the Guatemalan claim, things would have been quite different in and for Belize. The Guatemalan claim always divided Belizeans back then, because there was an ethnic aspect to the claim which was very alarming to black Belizeans.
Our region changed with the coming to power of Ronald Reagan in the United States in 1981. Socio-economic revolutions like those of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and Maurice Bishop’s New Jewel Movement in Grenada, came under direct attack from Washington, and the Americans used their military might to intimidate the Central American and Caribbean region, and indeed the world.
Russian communism collapsed in 1989, and with it a socio-economic option Third World countries had enjoyed since the end of World War II. A new American neoliberal capitalism, a more harsh and yet more sophisticated form of financial imperialism, took over Belize’s socio-economics. Neoliberalism triumphed in the PUP while Mr. Price was still alive, but because he was living in a nostalgic Queen Street past, he could not denounce the dangerous philosophy. He publicly supported neoliberal personalities because he considered them loyal to the PUP.
PUP neoliberalism, with the insistence of the party’s leading financiers, was absolutely headed in a dogmatic direction when the marginalization of Mark Espat and Cordel Hyde began in late 2004. By the end of 2011, after various ups and downs, Espat and Hyde were completely isolated in the PUP, even though their anti-neoliberalism positions had enabled them to defend their Albert and Lake Independence seats during the 2008 UDP general election landside. Arguably, the 2008 general election results proved that Albert and Lake I had become “safe” seats for the PUP, all things being equal.
The PUP’s decision to insist on monolithic party neoliberalism ended up costing them the 2012 general election when Albert and Lake I both went red. The last two years of PUP propaganda have featured hysterical attempts to blame Mark Espat and Cordel Hyde for the 2012 defeat. Along with those attempts have come a dangerous mood in the party executive which involves some rural PUP area representatives arguing that they don’t need Belize City to return to national power. The fact that the original dispute in August of 2004 involved development philosophy has been lost amidst the hysteria.
What the PUP’s neoliberal obsession ended up doing was creating enough space for UDP Prime Minister Dean Barrow to establish elements of a welfare state in the party’s Belize City strongholds. At the same time, however, Mr. Barrow has allowed the Americans to take over key sections of Belize’s security forces, and the result is a living hell amongst many Belize City youth. And, government taxes on the private sector have remained so high that Mr. Barrow’s treasury is in good shape, while the dominoes in the nation’s private sector keep crashing, one behind the other.
In pursuit of their neoliberal agenda, the PUP sacrificed Mark Espat and Cordel Hyde. In so doing they sacrificed the population, education, media, and financial center of the nation. Mr. Barrow took advantage of the opportunity to increase his street popularity, while simultaneously romancing predatory transnational corporations like American Sugar Refining and Norwegian Cruise Lines. If you really think about it, this may be as close to Mr. Price as you can get: doing what you have to do when you have to do it. Mr. Barrow’s is a pragmatic, amoral regime which ignores serious Cabinet corruption and so far has gotten away with it.
When they returned to power in 1998, the PUP went neoliberal in a rigidly dogmatic form. They got away with this because they were being led by a man who had been known to be a socialist thinker. It took six years for people like Partridge Street to realize that what was happening, was no accident: it was a conspiracy.
A recent attempt at rapprochement with Cordel Hyde suggests that the PUP may be coming off their neoliberal high horse. Whatever, whatever. Mr. Barrow has gotten away with a bunch of things, and was able to do this because the PUP in Opposition was so focused on protecting their neoliberal agenda.
The people of Belize have pretty much come to understand that neoliberalism is only the post-modern version of slavery and colonialism. We Belizeans need a return to our revolutionary days. We must resist foreign domination of our minds and economic exploitation of our resources. Straight up.
Power to the people.