“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake,” George Orwell wrote in 1984. “We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means: it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”
– George Orwell in 1984, quoted by Chris Hedges on page 265 in Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, Vintage Canada, 2013
“Goldman Sachs’ commodities index is the most heavily traded in the world. The financial firm hoards futures of rice, wheat, corn, sugar, and livestock and jacks up commodity prices by as much as two hundred percent on the global market so that poor families can no longer afford basic staples and literally starve. Hundreds of millions of poor in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America do not have enough to eat in order to feed this mania for profit. The technical jargon, learned in business schools and on trading floors, effectively masks the reality of what is happening: murder. The cold, neutral words of business and commerce are designed to make systems operate, even systems of death, with a ruthless efficiency.”
– pg. 268, ibid.
I have some ideas about what has been going on in the socio-politics of Belize, but it will take me quite some time to fully understand the recent initiatives of the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU). These initiatives of the teachers will be seen by historians, I believe, as monumental in the chronicles of the independent Belize.
Dr. Theodore Aranda, whose doctoral dissertation was in the field of education, appeared on Plus TV recently, and I understand that he has called for a constitutional convention. I did not hear him myself, and I have no details.
Those of you who have been regular readers of this column know that I have been a fascinated student of the Mexican Revolution which began in 1910 and is considered by some scholars as having lasted until 1940. The teachers of Mexico played a major role in a revolutionary constitutional convention which was held around 1917 or so. This was a truly historic convention in the annals of Mexico.
There are some scholars who refer to the period between 1944 and 1954 as a period of democratic revolution in Guatemala. Most Belizeans know very little about the Guatemalan presidencies of Juan Jose Arevalo and Jacobo Arbenz which took place during the period after the overthrow of the military dictator Jorge Ubico, who had ruled Guatemala with an iron hand from 1931 to 1944. I do know that Guatemalan teachers played an important role in that Guatemalan revolution of 1944–54, if we can describe it as such. President Arevalo, in fact, was a teacher.
As some of you know, there was a CIA-supported counter-revolution in 1954 in Guatemala which re-introduced decades of military rule, and sparked a civil war from 1960 to 1996 which saw hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans killed, mostly Indigenous Guatemalans. Much more has been written by English-speaking scholars about the bloody post-1954 era, as opposed to the 1944-54 period of democratic hope in the republic.
If I remember correctly, there was a pre-independence constitutional conference for Belize held in London in 1981 which the Opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), led at the time by the said Dr. Aranda, refused to attend. Belizean scholars have not studied this conference or written about it analytically. I would say, off the top, that the British must have merely handed us Belizeans a copy of the constitutions they had previously given to their Caribbean colonies like Jamaica, Trinidad, and Barbados when they were granted political independence in the 1960s. And I suppose these would have been patterned off the independence constitutions of their African colonies like Ghana and Nigeria which the British granted independence before the Caribbean islands.
There are two points I would like to make here. The first is that we can now see that Belize is blessed with serious, courageous and intelligent teachers. Big up, big time. The challenge here is for the other trade unions in Belize to get up to speed. This independent nationhood is very serious business, Belizeans. We have seen how quickly our society has deteriorated socio-politically and legally since independence. I am tempted to speak strongly to the other unions, because they have been exposed by the BNTU as lacking where a correct and militant read of Belize’s governance situation is concerned. I will not speak sternly, however, because of the second point I wish to make, which has to do with major party politics.
It is quite possible that the unions which did not support the teachers as robustly as they might and indeed should have, were wary of giving too much succor to the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP), which was roughly removed from office, albeit by electoral means, just eight and a half years ago. There were extreme circumstances in 2005 which saw all the unions of Belize unified in protest against the PUP’s Said Musa administration. There may be a question as to whether that PUP has been adequately reformed. From the beginning of the recent resistance by the teachers, the ruling UDP has pushed a propaganda line which accused the teachers of acting as PUP surrogates. That is what may let the other unions off the hook, so to speak. They may have bitten that UDP bait.
After all these years in public life, I respect the power of the two major political parties more than ever. The UDP and the PUP are the only two vehicles through which an individual or a group can achieve political power. This is historical fact. The constitution which the British gave us in 1981 made for governments which have been essentially impregnable within their five year terms. Some Belizeans like myself have reached the conclusion that the power of our Prime Ministers has been fundamentally monarchical.
Medieval, monarchical rule was not what we Belizeans desired in 1981. But, for all intents and purposes and in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we left the core writing of our constitution up to our British colonial masters. The result has been the imprisonment of the Belizean masses by a new, post-colonial elite – a native one. Not only that, when you weaken the UDP, you strengthen the PUP, and vice versa. And, the leaders of the two parties have learned how to work together against the masses. That is why, and because of the monarchical constitution, that nothing came out of the Social Security Board and Development Finance Corporation inquiries ten years ago. This is a PUDP game which needs to be changed. We agree with Dr. Aranda.
What is it about political power, Belizeans? It is the control over our financial resources as a nation and the power to decide how those resources are deployed. The teachers of Belize made huge sacrifices in order to demand mechanisms to monitor and measure how our moneys are spent. Once we do not tear up this monarchical constitution, however, so that we take unto ourselves the power to jerk these scoundrels out of office before five years, it is difficult to achieve substantive change. As it is, the heroic teachers of Belize now have to return to class, and a corrupt government remains in office. The corruption beat goes on.
As a stop gap move, Belizeans, let us all demand the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) now! This one makes crooked Belizean politicians quake in their boots. They shudder when they glance at the bars around Perez Molina across the border. Bring back, I say, bring back Maccabee Version.
Power to the people.