“Another institution which significantly contributed to the early success of the People’s Committee and the PUP – indeed without whose support such success would have been unthinkable – was the General Workers Union. This body too was associated with the People’s Committee from its inception, and, its president, Clifford Betson, was one of the members of the Committee as announced on 6th January, 1950. By the end of January 1950 the People’s Committee and the General Workers Union were holding joint public meetings and speaking on topics ranging from devaluation to improvement of labor legislation to constitutional reforms and federation.”
– from THE BIRTH OF THE NATIONALIST MOVEMENT, by Assad Shoman
“The population of Belize in 1946 was about 60,000. Of these, about 60% were of mainly African and Afro-European origin, about 27% were Maya and Mestizo, 7% Black Carib, 4% European, and 2% East Indian. These statements are based on the 1946 census, but they must be treated with caution, as such classifications are notoriously unreliable, and they do not take into account the mixtures that occur between these various groups.”
It seems to me that at foundation in 1950, the People’s United Party (PUP) was a revolutionary movement, but I am not convinced that the Right Honorable George C. Price was himself a revolutionary. In 1951, the National Party (NP) was definitely a colonial organization, but the Hon. Philip Goldson, an original PUP leader who in 1958 led the Honduran Independence Party (HIP) into a coalition with the National Party to form the National Independence Party (NIP) was certainly not himself a colonialist.
In the early 1950s Mr. Goldson was a more daring official of the PUP than was Mr. Price. Mr. Goldson visited Guatemala City for a week during the presidency of Jacobo Arbenz, and on his return to British Honduras he publicly described that week in Guatemala as “seven days of freedom.” Afterwards, he was convicted in the British Honduras Supreme Court for sedition and served nine months in jail, “with hard labor.”
The first Leader of the PUP was Johnny Smith. Less than two weeks after Richardson and Goldson were imprisoned, he buckled under heavy pressure from the British colonial authorities and resigned from the leadership and membership of the PUP. He later ran against Mr. Price in Belize North in the 1954 general election, and was badly beaten.
Leigh Richardson, who was imprisoned for sedition along with Mr. Goldson, became the PUP Leader after Johnny Smith. Richardson was at this time revolutionary in his thinking.
I believe that Assad Shoman was a revolutionary. Mr. Price, for his part, has to be given revolutionary credentials for accepting Assad into his government in the early 1970s. Because of this, the conservative mainstream of the Catholic Church in Belize turned against Mr. Price. There was a “liberation theology” section of the Church in Belize, as there was in all the republics of Central America. In Belize, the liberation wing of the Church included two Jesuits, Tennant Wright and Richard Buhler, and they were supportive of Shoman.
Mr. Price had himself studied to become a Catholic priest, both in the United States in the late 1930s and in Guatemala in the early 1940s, but the Catholic Church in both these countries was dominated by conservative thinkers.
We have discussed in these pages before the fact that in 1950 the PUP was a black, urban, working class political party. We know that the PUP was working along with the General Workers Union (GWU), and both of these organizations were openly hostile to the Belize Estate and Produce Company (BEC), the flagship of British colonial business and industry in British Honduras.
I think that the most revolutionary leader to emerge in the PUP was Jesus Ken, a descendant of the Santa Cruz Maya who was breathing fire and brimstone in the villages of the Corozal District before Mr. Price felt forced to sacrifice him to the British in 1964, in return for the Tate and Lyle sugar industry investment. (After they returned to Belize in 1967 from law school in England, Shoman and his sidekick, Said Musa, became Ken’s disciples.)
Jesus Ken had emerged after Mr. Price took over leadership of the PUP in 1956, whereupon the Maya and Mestizos of the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts realized that the nationalism of the new leadership would empower them after many decades of discrimination under British colonialism. In this respect – his attacks on that specific aspect of ethnic discrimination in the colony, Mr. Price was radical, but he never revolutionized the education system or confronted capitalism in Belize.
After Mr. Goldson led the HIP into coalition with the NP, he took a back seat to the NIP leadership of Herbert Fuller. Between 1958 and 1961, it appears that Mr. Goldson, who had married Hadie Jones in 1954, concentrated on publishing and editing The Belize Billboard, which was a daily at the time and making enough money for Mr. Goldson to finance on his own his wife’s legal studies in Great Britain between 1961 and 1965. Mr. Goldson did not even run for the NIP in the 1961 general election, the first held under a new Ministerial constitution.
Mr. Goldson took over the NIP in 1962 after Mr. Fuller’s death, and the NIP then became known for fighting the Guatemalan claim to Belize. This is what The Belize Billboard had been doing from 1958 onwards, because it was in that year that the most aggressive Guatemalan president ever with respect to the claim, was elected to office. That was Miguel Ydigoras Fuentes, a general of the Guatemalan army who had actually been a governor of Petén during the Ubico dictatorship. Fuentes later claimed that the John Kennedy presidency of the United States had promised him to support Guatemala’s claim to Belize in return for his having Guatemala serve as a training base for the Cuban exiles who tried to invade Fidel Castro’s Cuba in April of 1961.
By the middle and late 1970s, independence for Belize had been delayed for more than a decade after self-government in 1964. Younger Belizeans do not know that by the late 1970s there was serious and growing doubt here whether Belize would ever become independent under Mr. Price. The United Democratic Party (UDP), which incorporated the NIP on its foundation in 1973, was led by an anti-communist neoliberal, Dean Lindo, who was downplaying the Guatemalan claim which Mr. Goldson had always emphasized as a serious threat. The UDP was extremely popular, and appeared certain to win the 1979 general election. Had Mr. Lindo become Belize’s Premier in 1979, it is for sure Belize’s history would have been different.