BAHAMAS––Thousands of Africans in the Bahamas marched to celebrate Majority Rule Day on Tuesday January 10, 2017 in the Bahamas.
Fifty years ago on that day the first black government was elected into office in this country.
During that 1967 election, the vote was split 18 seats for the Progressive Liberal Party, who represented the executive committee of the local African petit bourgeois and 18 seats for the United Bahamian Party, the all white ruling class party.
From slavery to 1967, this oligarchy of white merchants and white landlords used the House of Assembly to fight over who would be first to exploit the native Africans, a population of former slaves converted to workers.
The only thing they were united in was their belief––which was grounded on an economic foundation––that African people, especially workers, should forever be exploited and oppressed. That belief is what the electoral process and the United Bahamian Party represented to African people in this country.
In that 1967 election however, African working people put a severe dent in the entire structure of this colonial system. Alvin Brayen, a UBP Member of Parliament, turned into an independent and became the Speaker of the House of Assembly. It came down to Randall Fawkes, the Member of Parliament for The Labour Party––and the only man in the entire House of Assembly that symbolized and embodied the organized voice of African working people in this country––to break this political tie, and he did.
Randall Fawkes, the leader of the Bahamas Federation of Labour and the labour movement in this country, joined the PLP and gave the PLP the majority of the seats in the House. That move ushered in the first black government in the Bahamas.
But the importance of Majority Rule of 1967 cannot be understood within the Bahamas history. It has to be historically lodged in its proper world historical context.
Majority Rule was a part of the African Liberation Movement
Majority Rule was actually a part of the African Liberation Movement, and it particularly represented the rise and defeat of the Black Power Movement in this country and around the world.
Real majority rule actually began in Ayiti (Haiti). In January 1804, African workers in Ayiti, after beating the English, the Spanish and the French, declared that slavery was to be abolished in Ayiti. They declared that the Republic was to be a free nation and that any African who came there would be free.
For this, Ayiti would pay a dear price with an imperialist imposed embargo that strangled its economy. The island was also forced to pay France for freeing its property, i.e., African people. But African men and women from around the world still heard Ayiti’s African national liberation call for African Unity.
One such man was Dr. Robert Love. He was an African born in the Bahamas. He was a clergyman educated in the U.S. who worked in Ayiti and Jamaica. He spent the last years of his political life as a writer and politician in Jamaica where he wrote about Africa and democratic rights for African people.
When Marcus Garvey was growing up in Jamaica he read Dr. Love’s articles. Garvey said that Dr. Love was his greatest influence.
In the 1920s, Marcus Garvey would form the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Garvey preached Africa for the Africans at home and abroad. Garvey’s organizations were comprised of millions of African people from all around the world, including branches in the Bahamas. It is the greatest African mass organization that we have ever seen.
In the Bahamas in 1920s and 1930s, the Nassau Garveyites like Reuben Bethel, Oscar Johnson and CR Walker formed and joined Garveyite organizations like the Union Mercantile Association Ltd. and the Citizens Union. Both organizations promoted pride in their African identity and African economic self-determination. In 1928, Marcus Garvey also visited the Bahamas as the guest of Mr. Leon Walter Young, a local businessman and politician.
Then came Kwame Nkrumah in the 1930s and 1940s. He was an African born on the Continent in Ghana. He went to school in England to study law. Nkrumah met and formed political associations with Africans from the Caribbean like CLR James, George Padmore and Amy Garvey. They formed the International African Service Bureau in London where they wrote about and organized support against Imperialism in Africa.
In 1947, Nkrumah returned home to Ghana and by 1957 Nkrumah and his party, The Convention People’s Party, had forced the British government to cede political power. Ghana’s liberation ushered in the national liberation struggles of other African countries on the continent and in the Caribbean.
Kwame Nkrumah represented a united liberated socialist Africa and African people. He spoke about a United States of Africa for all African people.
In Kwame Nkrumah’s autobiography, he said that Marcus Garvey was his greatest influence.
In Randall Fawkes autobiography, “The Faith that Moved the Mountain,” he recalled the day as a young boy that he became aware of what he wanted to be.
He wrote that one day his sister had come home from school and she was crying. When his father asked her why she was crying, she said that her white teacher had said words to her that basically meant that she was stupid because she was black.
Randall Fawkes wrote that his father, a proud black man, a stonemason all his life, was angry and he paced up and down the house pondering over what to do. Their cousin, Mr. Leon Walter Young, a Garveyite, came walking along and asked Mr. Fawkes what concerned him.
That night the two men drafted a letter that was delivered to the white teacher the next day.
The white teacher replied with an apology letter that same day. That night Randall Fawkes wrote that he knew that he wanted to be a lawyer to fight for the rights of black people.
This was the same Randall Fawkes who would become the leader of the Bahamas Federation of Labor––which was based on the workers revolts of the 1940s and 1950s––who had to break the political tie in the 1967 election and usher in the Bahamas’ first black government.
Majority Rule also represented a defeat for African workers
However, despite the fact that Majority Rule represented a victory for black workers in this country, it also represented a defeat for the workers.
By 1966, imperialism was completing the counter-revolution and the dawn of neocolonialism––white power in black face––had already begun. All the real black revolutionaries that represented the Black Power Movement of the 1960s were victimized, assassinated, overthrown and imprisoned. And then neocolonial puppet politicians and political parties were supported and implanted in place of the real revolutionaries all across the colonized world.
By the time Majority Rule came in the Bahamas in January 1967, Patrice Lumumba had already been killed, Kwame Nkrumah was already overthrown and Malcolm X had already been assassinated.
Randall Fawkes knew on January 10, 1967, that the struggle of black people in the Bahamas was connected to the world wide Black Power Movement.
But nothing has changed. It is up to our generation to move the mountain even further.
The road to real economic and political power for black people in the Bahamas is still through One Africa.