The fascist impulse in the PLP
Published: Sep 12, 2013
There is an entrenched conceit and pernicious lie which constitute the PLP’s claim of superior nationalism, most recently on peacock-like display over the past few weeks.
It is at minimum a sort of soft fascism which seeks to divide the country between the PLP, to whom God or history apparently bequeathed The Bahamas, and those supposed traitors who left or do not support the PLP or who fail to support its policies, or even oppose its wrong-doings.
There are various degrees of the conceit. Within days of each other, three of the party faithful gave voice to the full throttled, high-pitched, chest-thumping “we are better than you” nationalism of which the PLP self-adoringly indulges.
Consider this: Nearing the 60th anniversary of the party’s founding, a PLP-leaning columnist suggests that the party is the more nationalistic of the two major parties even as he has written of his party’s abandonment or mere lip service of certain liberal and progressive values.
Then, a senior Cabinet minister concluded a press statement with a rallying cry to “true-blooded Bahamians”. True-blooded is a synonym for full-blooded, which means, “of unmixed ancestry, purebred”, which invokes all manner of troubling overtones.
The most vile and repugnant claim came from junior minister Senator Keith Bell who attacked the FNM as treasonous and traitorous for comments the party and its leader made relative to the Cuban migrant affair.
Dr. Hubert Minnis has given considerable public service to the country as both a medical doctor and a politician. For the sake of his own credibility and decency Bell should apologize to the leader of the opposition.
While Bell is hardly known for intellectual acuity, certainly even he must be aware that the charge of treason is one of the most serious that can be levelled at a citizen. Treason carries with it the severest of punishments, even capital punishment.
Bell’s claims are as ludicrous as they are malicious. Significantly, he was not asked to withdraw or apologize for his comments by his political seniors. But his words are not new for a PLP that has seen fit to wield malevolent tactics and rhetoric in attempts to beat opponents into submission.
In 1970 a delegation of PLPs travelled to Grand Bahama to apprise local party officials of their alarm at the direction the party was moving in terms of its abandonment of certain policies and the cult of personality mushrooming around an increasingly dictatorial Sir Lynden Pindling.
The delegation included Cecil Wallace Whitfield, Arthur A. Foulkes, Maurice Moore, Garnett Levarity and C. A. Smith, all veterans in the fight for majority rule.
The meeting was held in a school room at Lewis Yard, with a raised platform for the speakers and rows of folding chairs for attendees. The meeting opened with a prayer. Then all hell broke loose.
Having just invoked the Lord’s name, apparently in vain, a goon squad sprang from the front row. They shouted that there would be no meeting. Once on their feet they grabbed the chairs, folding them into bludgeons.
Then they viciously set upon their targets on the platform. They drew blood from Sir Cecil, bashing him in his head, and bruising others.
While a few in the crowd sought to stop them, officers of the Royal Bahamas Police Force looked on. They refused to intervene.
What is little known of the Lewis Yard event is that Sir Cecil suspected that something might happen. His instructions to members of the delegation were to keep their hands at their sides if they were attacked.
His reasons were both practical and philosophical. By refusing to return the blows, the delegates were demonstrating a commitment to the nonviolent tactics of the U.S. civil rights movement. Further, there would be no doubt as to the perpetrators of the violence.
On the way out of Lewis Yard, a close associate of Sir Lynden, who would later resign from the former’s Cabinet in disgrace, was observed in a trench coat, standing in the rain.
The scene foreshadowed events to come, including decades of intimidation, victimization, abuse of power and corruption by the Pindling regime.
It does not require of a leap of conscience or imagination to characterize what happened at Lewis Yard and the fascist impulse behind it.
At Lewis Yard, Bahamian citizens, including three members of Parliament, were denied fundamental and constitutional rights including that of assembly and of freedom of speech. They were denied the protection of the state as a mob attacked and police officials stood by watching the beatings.
There is certainly no democratic impulse at play here. The democratic impulse is not frightened by the sort of dissidence exemplified by those at Lewis Yard, who had a difference of opinion as to the direction their party and the country should take.
At the time, one of the highest-ranking PLP ministers sought to diminish what took place at Lewis Yard, noting that such incidents were to be expected in Bahamian politics.
To ensure that those who disagreed with Sir Lynden and his court got the message intended at Lewis Yard, PLP MP Henry Bowen went on ZNS to denounce the dissidents as traitors.
Just to recall, he was denouncing fellow-PLPs who were considered as not only betraying the PLP. By calling into question Sir Lynden’s leadership they were supposedly also betraying the nation.
The charges were replayed on state radio in a barrage and loop of intimidation. Those attacked were allowed no right of reply. Over the ensuing decades the PLP relentlessly utilized ZNS as a major propaganda tool.
Even more diabolical, it kept a monopoly on the broadcast media. In the modern era autocratic and dictatorial regimes understood that the maintenance of political power demanded as much control of the media as possible. It is a fascist impulse to allow only one party line to be heard on state media.
Today still, many in the PLP firmly hold that those who may disagree with them are somehow traitorous and treasonous, even when they oppose wrong-doing in the party as did the Dissident Eight in 1970 and Hubert Ingraham and Perry Christie in 1984.
The PLP is not a fascist party. But there is a virulent fascist impulse that developed in tandem with the cult of personality around Sir Lynden.
Unlike the biblical Moses, Pindling, the Bahamian Moses, was set to enter the Promised Land. Thereafter the apotheosis of Sir Lynden, seen by many PLPs as an icon of the nation, whose very persona supposedly embodied the nation, was underway.
The fascist impulse has so invariably developed in parties of liberation and majority rule-cum independence, which almost as an original sin tend to equate the good of their organization and needs with that of a country.
To wit: What is good for the PLP is good for the country. And, the most full-blooded and patriotic Bahamians must be PLP or vote for the party. It is no accident that the PLP chose similar colors for both the national flag and their party flag.
Even as the PLP betrayed the national good whether through wrecking what promised to be a successful national airline or giving drug barons near carte blanche to ply their trade, the party betrayed many of its founding ideals.
Yet it continued, often quite successfully, to play the politics of nationalism and to demonize many who had a different vision of the national good and a more inclusive vision of a shared nationalism and common good.
More next week.