By 1958, the two political parties the PLP (Progressive Liberal Part) and the UBP (United Bahamian Party) we’re going head to head in House of Assembly. The PLP was first. The UBP has only just formed in March 1958, out of the white independent members in House of Assembly. They organised in response to the General Strike of January 1958, and heavy pressure from Britain to create more political seats, especially on New Providence. The British made the stipulation for more representative seats, in order that the growing population of island could have better political representation.
The Parties were drawn along racial, social and economic lines. For the PLP, the accusation that they were solely a negro political party, was as damning to their prospects, both locally and internationally, as much as if they were being labelled communists.
A PLP co-founder Henry M. Taylor, wrote in the Nassau Herald of May 1958, to clear up the question of whether the PLP was solely a negro party or not. The Nassau Herald was owned by Cyril Stevenson, another co-founder of the PLP.
It is from Taylor’s response that we see the word ‘deliverer’ and ‘Moses’ being used. These words would come to be attached to the first Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Lynden Pindling. It was a label that many have erroneously felt that he attaches for himself. We see from Taylor’s own words, it was an idea of the time and the circumstance and the need.
This question has been asked on all sides. Is the Progressive Liberal Party a negro party? The statement that is a Negro party has been made by both our enemies and also by many of our adherents.
Our enemies have tried to capitalise on this statement, by showing that the Progressive Liberal Party is only organised for Negroes. This is done for several reasons, some of which are:
(1) To impress upon the white Bahamian that his place is not with the Party.
(2) To keep off would be white sympathisers from joining the Party.
(3) To impress the Negro, would be whites, that he should not mix with his darker skin brothers by joining an organisation that would identify his origin in no uncertain manner.
(4) To keep all the fair-minded negroes from affiliating with the party that the adopts are segregated attitude in a mixed community.
The reasons No. 1 & 2 have been more successful than reasons 3 & 4.
Some success has been achieved for each of these reasons by the Bay Street group.
Those of our adherents who feel that the PLP is a Negro organisation are voicing their innermost hearts desire. The negro people of this country have been kept in the background for so many years and like the children of Israel in the days of the Egyptian Pharaohs, they are looking for a deliverer. They feel that is this deliverer is not necessary for the white man any more than Moses was for the Egyptians at that time. They feel that an organisation that will look after the political, social and economic emancipation at the Bahamian negro do not have to include members of the white race in its programme. They also feel that at least a section of the white race is blamed, although some of them may not be implicated they are at least assisting in keeping them in this state because of their passive attitude to the whole question. “No country can be half slave and have free.” Words that resound around the world doing the American Civil War and spoken by the great Abe Lincoln. During this war there were white men who were dying on the battlefields to assist in freeing slaves of the nation. In the Bahamas we cannot find one white man who is prepared to face his white brother and say “I will join the PLP and help to lift that the Bahamian negro to find his place in the sun.
The PLP is composed of an entire membership. This statement is true. First let us see whether this fact was intended by the founders of the Party.
The first job of the founders in forming the Party was to draw up a platform, showing the aims and objects of the Party. I shall quote from the platform:
“The PLP is not a black man’s Party, it’s not a White man’s Party; it’s a party for all Bahamians.”
According to this we can see that the founders of the Party recognized that the population of these islands were a mixed community and as such we have got to live together for ever and a day whether we like it or not. Therefore the quotes from the platform prove conclusively that the Party was organised for all Bahamians.
Although the objects of the Party was equal rights for all Bahamians, the plank in the present platform on Jim Crowism was not inserted until the Second Annual Conference of the Party. This plank was left out at first because it was feared that our enemies might take the opportunity of misrepresenting the facts spreading the idea that we were only for the negro population. Since this was done in any case the plank was introduced and adopted at the Second Conference of the Party.
A platform of a party expresses the Party’s desires and hopes. There are times when members may differ on minor matters, but the policy laid down in the platform must be adhered to at all times. The platform is the Party’s policy I know difference of opinion is permitted.
The platform can only be changed by the Annual General Conference of the Party. There has never been any suggestion changing the above quotes from the Party’s Platform at any time. No member of the Party Conferences has ever challenged or attempted to offer an amendment to it. The Party speaks policy through its platform.
The final answer to the question, “Is the PLP a negro organisation” is an empathic, “No.” Never has it been our policy and never will it be our policy as long as members of other races have to live side by side in these islands with members of other races. The Party has always been open to members of the white race that can face the Sands’, Symonette’s and others of the Bay Street political machine to become fighters in the cause of the underdog. Where are they?
Echo answers Where?
The negro must then go it for himself. We have been accused of stirring up race hatred. How? May I ask? How are we to go out and snatch freedom without attacking those int he front line of battle against us?
And who are these men in the frontline? WHITE MEN. And who are the people who are so passive and who enjoy the fruit of the battle when we lose a round? They are the PASSIVE WHITES who realised that his white brothers are wrong but who dare don’t ice the ire of the Bay Street Generals and the scorn of their families at home by joining in the fray on the side of the downtrodden.
No we do not hate. We inform our brothers of those that hate us. Of course here again they do not (hate) us, that is “if we stay in our places.” If and when we try to actually take a places in the Bahamian way of life on equal terms with our white brothers then — No it is not hate by our white brother but just arrogance and impedance on the part of the negro. Let those that accuse us of race hatred examine the corners of their own consciences. Let them say why negroes must not have a good education, why they must not aspire to the good things of this life, why should so much segregation be practiced in some mobile schools, yes even in some of our churches. We preach hatred? What a joke. What about those practice ice hatred.
The PLP is still open to all men and women of goodwill, regardless of the race that was designed for them by the Almighty dispenser of all the good gifts.
The PLP is composed of all negroes, not because we refuse to accept white membership, but because members of the white race practice segregation by keeping aloof from the PLP. There has not yet been found one person of the 12,000 white people in these Bahama islands who has been willing to affiliate himself and join in the fight to assist negroes to have an equal status with himself. The example of the Federal Army in the American Civil War is good, but our Bahamian whites prefer the example of the Confederate Army to assist in perpetuating a system of negro slavery.
The PLP will fight for the rights of “all Bahamians” whether we continue to have an on all negro membership or whether the white people will join in with us and have a mutually sound Bahamian government for all people by the Progressive Liberal Party.