“They call it Stormy Monday, but Tuesday is just as bad …”
– STORMY MONDAY, original lyrics by T-Bone Walker, 1947
“An older, more modest, and more mature view of the presidency was summed up by Calvin Coolidge with characteristic concision: ‘It is a great advantage to a President, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know that he is not a great man.’”
– pg. 15, THE ATLANTIC, December 2016, from an article by Jonathan Rauch entitled “Leaving a Clean Desk.”
“There is no reason to be optimistic about Belize’s future. The only light of hope recently has come from a labor union – the Belize National Teachers Union. The capitalist power structure of Belize, which, along with the churches, controls the two major political parties here, saw no need for the political demands which the teachers considered so critical as to have them go on strike and risk their daily bread.”
– Evan X Hyde, addressing the annual general meeting of the Christian Workers Union (CWU) on Saturday, February 25, 2017
So far the Prime Minister of Belize, Rt. Hon. Dean O. Barrow, has done a masterful job softening up the people of Belize for his “Stormy Monday” budget speech scheduled for next Monday, March 13, 2017, in the House of Representatives. Mr. Barrow had not spoken to the Belizean people in a press conference for weeks and weeks, leaving us mortals to speculate, in feeble powerlessness, about the nature and specifics of his 2017/2018 budget, a budget dreaded by all and sundry of rational capacity in The Jewel because of Belize’s financial and economic crisis. When he finally spoke, at a Wednesday morning press conference this week, it was to congratulate himself and his “team” for “bringing home the bacon” with respect to restructuring, for a third time in a little more than a decade, the frightening superbond.
The problem is that the aforementioned “softening up” represents a political solution to what is a financial and economic problem. The reason we are in this mess is precisely because of political solutions to economic problems. The politicians of Belize since 1998, both from the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) and the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP), have found themselves unable and/or unwilling to come clean with the people of Belize. In their electoral political brilliance, our political leaders concluded that the people of Belize were unable and/or unwilling to face the truth.
At the end of World War II in 1945, British Honduras was an undeveloped, isolated British colony which, like every other entity in the British Caribbean, had experienced serious labor agitation from the natives in the 1930s. News travelled slowly in those days, but there had been a communist revolution in Russia in 1917 which had affected (neoliberals would say “infected”) the Mexican Revolution, which had begun in 1910 just north of us. And yes, the Garveyite movement of black assertiveness which peaked in the 1920s, had played an important role in the roots consciousness of Belizeans.
It was in India, the British Empire’s most brilliant colonial jewel of the era, where the post-World War II surge to self-rule in British possessions began, in 1947. Soon, all over Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, native populations, led by militant labor unions, began to pressure the British for self-government and independence. British Honduras officially joined that happy band when the PUP was formally established in September of 1950, in alliance with the General Workers Union (GWU).
Despite massive population losses in World War II, Russia was one of the victors of that conflict, along with the British and the Americans, and it soon became apparent that communism had transformed Russia from a weak feudal state into a modern industrial powerhouse in a matter of decades. So that, Russia and their radical development philosophy became players in the Third World, forcing the United States, which had become the leader of the Christian capitalist West after World War II, to play ball, so to speak, with the new nationalist leaders in Asia, Africa, and the rest of the Third World who were challenging British, French, German, Dutch, and Portuguese colonialism. America had to play ball with us because Russia was an option.
Arguably, communism, which triumphed in mainland China in 1949 with Mao Tse-tung’s Chinese Revolution, industrialized feudal China even more quickly than it had industrialized Russia. In the beginning, China acquired its industrial and atomic technology from Russia, but by 1972, when U.S. President, Richard Nixon, and his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, made their historic visit to China, China itself had become a player on the world stage and began negotiating for American technology.
It was Russia which had enabled Fidel Castro’s 1959 Cuban Revolution to survive. And, it was because of the regional influence of Castro’s communist Cuba that the United States tolerated, we submit, Belizeans’ rejection of Washington’s Seventeen Proposals in 1968 and Belize’s subsequent romance with socialism, a milder version of communism, in the 1970s.
By the early 1990s, however, communism had collapsed in Russia and a kind of state capitalism had emerged in China. In Third World countries like Belize, there was no one to play off against Washington, which imposed free trade and globalization on us as a mandatory development philosophy.
Space considerations compel us to fast forward to 2017, where both the UDP and the PUP are committed to foreign direct investment as Belize’s development philosophy. The evidence suggests, however, that the Mennonite groups, the Ashcroft Alliance octopus, American Sugar Refining (ASR), Santander, and Norwegian Cruise Lines have not materially benefited the Belizean masses and the Belizean economy. At the base of Belize’s population, our economy may be in its worst shape ever, while the civil war-level violence in Belize City, the nation’s population center, means that our quantum of personal and family grief has become cruel and catastrophic.
Belize is, for all intents and purposes, now an American possession. Although Russia has recovered economically from the 1990s, Russians do not present the foreign aid option for the Third World which they once did. In addition, the new American President, Donald Trump, has made it pretty clear that he wants to work along with Russia, presumably to contain China. But China is not an option for Belize, because we are locked in Taiwan’s embrace.
First, there was slavery, then came colonialism. Post-World War II, we experienced the euphoria of self-government and independence, in major part because there was a regional and international option to rapacious capitalism. In 2017, there is not much of an option in Belize to American consumer capitalism, and it is for that reason that we, as a people, have returned to a kind of serfdom in the twenty-first century.
One of our good friends described the Evan X Hyde CWU address of February 25 as “radical”. Well, the maladies which have been afflicting the Belizean economy in the third millennium may end up being terminal. This journey from slavery through colonialism to self-rule was always supposed to be about freedom, dignity, and prosperity for us natives. It was not supposed to be only about political rhetoric and statistical sleight-of-hand.
On the ground in Belize, there is suffering in this land. On Stormy Monday, the talking head of the new serfdom will be dishing out more of the same hard times in his budget. Einstein is much quoted: you can’t keep on doing the same things and then expect different results. It is written.
Power to the people.