In August of 1971, the Rev. Gerald Fairweather, the father of the more famous Compton Fairweather, came to Belize from Brooklyn to inform the leaders of the UBAD Party that he would finance red shirts and green trousers for the UBAD movement to march in on September 10 – St. George’s Caye Day. UBAD had never received such a substantial donation, and we were appropriately grateful, and impressed. The Belizean community in New York had been very important in the Opposition where its financial support for Hon. Philip Goldson’s Opposition National Independence Party (NIP) was concerned. Rev. Fairweather’s donation made UBADers feel, for whatever it was worth, that we counted for something in New York.
I remember Rev. Fairweather took us to Brodies on Albert Street to purchase the cloth material. I think we were also supposed to get black berets, but I don’t believe we did.
It was just around the time of the uniform march that I began to teach at Wesley College after two years in the streets. And it was soon after I began work at Wesley College that Mr. Goldson and the Opposition NIP, the legal Opposition based on Mr. Philip’s Albert seat in the House of Representatives, approached UBAD to request that we join his NIP in a coalition for the December 1971 Belize City Council election. At the time, I did not know that Dean Lindo, whose People’s Development Movement (PDM) had been in a coalition with the NIP for the 1969 general election, was boycotting this December 1971 BCC election.
You will understand and forgive me for thinking, after the BCC defeat in that 1971 election, after money had come from New York to finance UBAD uniforms, and after the Supreme Court sedition victory of Ismail Shabazz and myself in July of 1970, that we had some kind of role to play in the opposition to the ruling People’s United Party (PUP), which had never been defeated up to that point in time. Opposition to the PUP had featured, to repeat, the NIP and Lindo’s PDM in the 1969 general election. Insofar as thinking I had some role to play in some future alignment, I was very, very wrong.
In 1968 in the United States, the right wing Republican Richard Nixon had been elected President, and his consigliere was another serious right winger – Henry Kissinger. Nixon had been instrumental, as Vice-President to U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower in 1954, in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) overthrow of the reformist Jacobo Arbenz government in Guatemala.
Nixon was extremely anti-communist. After he was re-elected in 1972, Nixon was responsible, along with Kissinger, for the overthrow of the democratically-elected socialist President of Chile, Salvador Allende, and the coming to power of General Augusto Pinochet, a brutal military dictator. According to Naomi Klein, this was done to facilitate the American transnational giant – AT&T.
There was nothing ideological about the UBAD Party, which formulated its policies each week in a meeting of its ten-member executive. UBAD was black-conscious and pragmatic. I personally was socialist, in the sense that I believed the state had a responsibility to protect the masses of the people from the rapacious rich and their corporations. I was definitely not a communist, but I believed the enslavement of our ancestors had been orchestrated by capitalist systems in Europe. As a result, I was definitely hostile to capitalism of the laissez-faire variety. I also believed that our Belizean people had survived slavery and colonialism because we practiced socialist sharing amongst each other. I believe that this is how we have survived the virus so far.
After Mr. Goldson gave up his newspaper business and left to study law in London in early 1972, the Opposition was taken over by capitalist, merchant elements, and they were focused on replacing the roots Goldson with the right wing, pro-Republican Dean Lindo, an economist and lawyer trained in New York and London. (When Mr. Goldson went to London, his wife, Hadie, a trained attorney, took their six children to Brooklyn, where she worked for years as a legal clerk.)
I was 24 years old, and a real political rookie. After the December 1971 BCC defeat, I spent five futile weeks on the road, along with Ismail Shabazz, travelling by bus in late 1971 and early 1972 through Mexico and Los Angeles to New York. New York was where we hoped and expected to get help for UBAD. Remember, I have told you that I never saw myself in Belize’s electoral politics, because of my airplane phobia. The defeat in the December 71 election made me ride buses for days and weeks. What the hell was I thinking?
I was thinking that Philip Goldson, no matter what, was impregnably iconic, that no one could overthrow him. I was very wrong. The establishment of the United Democratic Party (UDP) in 1973 split the UBAD executive down the middle, and the UBAD Party was formally dissolved in early November of 1974. (UBAD was an organization that was putting hundreds to march in the streets as late as 1971 and 1972.)
46 years later, my son Cordel is the second ranking leader in the Opposition PUP, a party which informal polls have given a good chance to form the next Government of Belize in a couple weeks time. Cordel came out of Kremandala, it may be said, but he is now his own man for sure. He knows what he is doing. Politically speaking, Cordel does not belong to Kremandala: he belongs to the PUP and to the nation of Belize. But, needless to say, I support him unconditionally.
So then, if the PUP forms the next government and there is any foul up somewhere down the road, how do the media systems of Kremandala handle that? How would we retain our core credibility? This is, ultimately, the question to which I have been moving to confront in these last two columns.
A few weeks ago a Belizean in the diaspora who had been intimate with the workings of the UDP from its formation in 1973, told me that the man Ismael Gomez had been a Philip Goldson supporter, and that it took a while for him to come around to the new UDP order of things. I never knew that. I always lumped Ismael Gomez along with the Santiago Castillo empire (read: Net Vasquez) in the Liberal Party and UDP initiatives of 1972 and 1973.
My diaspora source revealed that Dean Lindo had been in close contact with highly-placed Republican Party personalities from the time of the 1974 general election campaign. I had heard of Lindo’s contacts with Republican officials on his periodic fund-raising swings through the U.S. during the UDP’s heyday between 1974 and 1979. (I had also heard that he had become a member of the Conservative Party in England while studying law there in the early 1960s.)
I believe what we have established in these last two columns is that Philip Goldson’s roots NIP was essentially replaced by a pro-Republican Party, right wing UDP in 1973. Dean Lindo, a first cousin of my late mother’s, had been a hero of mine in my childhood visits to the Unity Club with my father. I did not think, however, that he was made of the stuff that Goldson was made of insofar as being willing to sacrifice himself personally for the good of the Belizean people. Mr. Philip had proven this definitively in 1951, and again in 1966. This was how I saw it, and I paid the price between 1973 and 1979 for not riding the Dean Lindo neoliberal train.
Anyway, I am the one responsible for luring Cordel into PUP politics in 1993/94. Said Musa and Barry Bowen, after the PUP lost the June 1993 general election, tried to convince me to take over the PUP Lake Independence constituency, with their support. My answer to that was to recruit Cordel, then a very young man. I don’t believe that this was really what Said and Barry had in mind.
But now more than a quarter century has passed. Things are very different today. Cordel has matured. There is a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. He represents a very large constituency of basically marginalized Belizeans. There is a pandemic in place which is driving all of us crazy. A PUP government would face serious challenges.
For its part, Kremandala now features several of my siblings, in addition to four of my children, in key positions. I will conclude this look at my personal introduction into Belize’s electoral politics, with the abdication of one man responsibility on Partridge Street. Kremandala is now a family enterprise in strategic areas, and I am not in any kind of position to predict the future. If this sounds to you like a copout on my part, and you wish to criticize me for this, I bow my head and accept that criticism.
Power to the people.