Marx famously said that religion was the opium of the masses. Religion is not the opium of the oligarchy, mind you: religion serves the purposes of the oligarchy, who live in luxury, by basically sedating the pain of the suffering masses.
In my family, in the marital, offspring, sibling and relative sections, I am surrounded by ladies who are deeply, deeply religious. These are not members of the oligarchy, but they have their daily, material needs being satisfied. In other words, they are not suffering physically.
Marx and Engels, who were middle/late nineteenth century thinkers, thought that the communist revolutions which they believed would be the logical socio-political products of the oppressive industrialized capitalism which dominated the European nation-states at the time, would first occur in said industrialized nation-states.
Instead, when the first communist revolution in history occurred, the Russian Revolution in 1917, it took place in a country which was pretty much feudal, and basically agrarian, as opposed to being industrial.
Communism is an atheist philosophy which places priority on satisfying the physical, material needs of human beings, which is to say, food, clothing, shelter, education, and so on. Religion, on the other hand, addresses the needs of the soul as its dominant focus.
At a certain point in the late nineteenth century, the communist parties of European nations like Italy, the home of the Roman Catholic Vatican, had become so popular and powerful, that Pope Leo XIII developed a social philosophy which addressed the material needs of oppressed workers, but allowed those workers to continue believing in God and practising the Catholic religion. This new philosophy became known as socialism.
I am no kind of expert on these matters. I’m only trying to give you a rough idea of what is going on around us in Belize, in our region, and in the world. In 1949, China, the world’s most populous nation, went communist. China in 1949 was similar to Russia in 1917 in being basically feudal and agrarian.
Today, both Russia and China have been transformed by communism and have become two of planet’s earth industrial powerhouses, and they have become major players in the nuclear arms race wherein the other members of the United Nations Security council (the United States, the United Kingdom, and France) seek to influence and control the rest of the planet.
Personally, I always considered communism an impossible proposition in Belize because our population is so deeply Christian and religious. In fact, I have often wondered how Fidel Castro could have possibly taken Cuba down the road to communism, because I believe the Cuban people are mostly Roman Catholic.
The matter of socialism in countries like post-Somoza Nicaragua and Venezuela under Hugo Chavez is very interesting, but again, I am uninformed about the history and nature of those societies, except for believing that they are probably heavily Roman Catholic.
In the case of the small revolutionary movement I led between 1969 and 1974, the UBAD section was never ideological. Our critics said that we were racist. The PAC movement, led by Assad Shoman (and Said Musa), which joined with UBAD between October of 1969 and January of 1970, was ideological, I would say, and socialist in thinking, if not communist. UBAD and PAC found problems working together, but this has been the history of black and leftist movements in the twentieth century. (See The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, by Harold W. Cruse, 1967.) Pure communists believe that all race problems would disappear in a communist state. That sounds very, very idealistic to me. Communists are always sympathetic to black activists, but there is usually friction which develops eventually between the two groups.
Rt. Hon. Said Musa became Prime Minister of Belize in 1998 after he had given up all the leftist thinking he had shared with Assad Shoman up until 1984. The ten year rule of Mr. Musa was described as “growth economics.” It was characterized by privatization of public assets, aggressive incentives for foreign direct investment, and a kind of free-for-all economic development approach.
When Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow succeeded Mr. Musa as Prime Minister in 2008, not much changed except for the faces in Cabinet and all the middle and lower level job opportunities where PUP supporters could be replaced by UDP ones. The one change was that a couple major public utilities, telecommunications and electricity, were nationalized. The free-for-all approach to economic development continued. Under Mr. Barrow, emphasis was on infrastructural development rather than human development.
There is a lot of human suffering that is visible in the streets of Belize City. It is very sad. After we dissolved UBAD in 1974, I decided to focus on job creation on the Southside. As I said before, I had no ideology on such. The Kremandala process, therefore, can be condemned as a capitalist one by scientific socialists and communists.
In retrospect, it seems to me that the only two leaders of major political parties who have had a socialist concern in their thinking were Rt. Hon. George Price and Hon. Philip Goldson. From 1984 with Rt. Hon. Manuel Esquivel, then 1998 with Rt. Hon. Said Musa, to 2008 with Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, it’s all been oligarchical capitalism and foreign direct investment.
Now the new Guatemalan President has said that he wants to be friends with Belize. What this means is that he wants our economy to become oligarchical, like his. Belize has already been headed in that direction for decades. As a result, all around us today we can see violence and pain and fear amongst our roots people. It was not this way under Mr. Price, but we didn’t know how good things were until we tried something else.
Power to the people.