GUYANA UNDER SIEGE
|by Eusi Kwayana||Page 4 of 4|
MASS ACTION SELF-ORGANISATION SELF-EMANCIPATION
The unkindest attempt on Walter Rodney's reputation is not the accusation of alleged populism. In the phase of the struggle at home in which he operated, persons looking superficially at the pattern of his activity could be excused for fudging the activity populist. The express malice arises in the slander that Walter Rodney promised the people of Guyana freedom on a 'platter, and moreover, promised them a Christmas present in1979. It was the chance of the old political forces to get some of their own back at him for being so rude, such an 'upstart' as to electrify the masses with the call for the removal of the dictatorship and for people's power. His self-appointed rivals who were not being rivalled by him created their own apochrypha around the issue and preached it relentlessly with all the suck teeth, bad mind and bad eye for which our culture is so notorious.
Walter Rodney's message to the people was the message of self-emancipation. He had no other message. At his death we called him the prophet of self-emancipation. He warned against the would-be deliverer and asked his people to beware of them. He did not know he was to be attacked as a would-be deliverer. In one speech he was in fact responding to the growing sentiment that he was a deliverer by reminding the massive crowd of Burnham's rise to power as "Guyana's only hope". He reminded them how in his time they had promoted themselves and their Comrades as deliverers. He then ended with the dramatic imagery of experience: "And look what they delivered you into!"
The accusation of the old forces that Walter Rodney had promised the masses of working people a Christmas present was a stubborn hangover from one of the flaws of the progressive anti-colonial movement in the 1950s. It was a fault we all shared. It was setting up ourselves as champions of the people. In the early 1950s, the masses still maintained some of that readiness to act in given situations. One only has to look at the great struggles of the late forties, the bauxite and sugar strikes, the Transport strike against Colonel Teare and the general ferment of the masses of the population who were pouring onto the streets around the PPP. The suspension oŁ the Constitution was widely resented by the population, but the scale of popular resistance was smaller than the situation deserved. In fact, the Colonial Office understood as much as that and weeks before the invasion of the British troops and the supervision, as has been recently revealed, it had planned to "contain" the most effective leaders in one way or another. The Colonial Officer argued that without the leaders to stir up trouble, little action could be expected. This was not altogether true. The people, deprived of a freely functioning organisation which had directed their struggles for a few years had to fall back more on their own inventiveness and their own resources. Had they been better prepared the level of resistance would have been a fine example for the colonial empire.
The instinct for self-emancipation was not fully lost however. It had been under attack by our ideas of leadership. During the emergency of this period a considerable number of actions took place in the motion of the people. Doubtless Cheddi Jagan had given leadership to the masses of Guyanese working people in the six years he stood up in the Legislative Council against the old colonial order and sundry exploiters. The rest of us gave leadership in whatever section of the struggle we engaged. The momentum was living because large pockets of people still ran trade unions, friendly societies, social clubs, religious associations, village councils; farmers' organisations, miners' organisations and ethnic societies which were accustomed to directing themselves. Many of these surfaced politically in opposition to the Enmore shooting. But without intending any harm the growth and outlook of the PPP gradually replaced all of that with a new tradition of looking to leaders to call for action. During the racial violence of the sixties, although the bulk of it was centrally directed there was also another period of falling back to self-organised action. The ethnic communities felt that the programme was clear and they were largely free to act. Several peace committees were also self-organised at a later stage. Not surprisingly, the same racial crisis in its fullest effect ended with more authority passing to the hands of the political parties. And within the parties it led to more authority passing' to the leaders. Matters reached such a point that it began to be seen as an act of treachery for someone of a given ethnic group not to support the leader of that group. The leader became the "only hope" of the ethnic group.
Mr L F S Burnham enjoys the honour of carrying that dependence of people on leadership and authority of leader over people to absurd limits. The reason why resistance to the present regime does not take the form of political-type protests as people expect should be looked for in the tradition set from about 1951, which by 1964 had reduced the working people to sections of an army waiting for orders. Thus, the building of that kind of party also had t h: disadvantage along with its many benefits. The present regime works on the theory of the colonial state. It regards the people as passive on their owl and it has a number of South African type bans on those who associate with rebellious activists. These bans operate in a subtle way. They usually threaten the person's job or the job of a relative, and in selected cases give rougher treatment.
In this context, the message of Walter Rodney was revolutionary. Rodney had been arguing precisely the need for public activity self-organisation and mass action showing the masses how their activity, not his, had kept the enemy at bay, reduced file,.' House of Israel thugs to a margin, kept the thugs sent 4o do mischief from striking. Then he argued that perhaps if the oppressed working people and all the oppressed classes were to' take the struggle seriously, we could give ourselves a Christmas present, by bringing about the defeat of King Kong. The whole concept was that the open class struggle of the masses of working people for their political rights could not long be ignored within the industrial organisations, that the energies of such activity of the working people would inspire efforts at correcting oppressions, that the rising of the whole people in peaceful militancy would have its effect on the military, and was having its effect, and that whatever coordination. was necessary would emerge from the struggle itself and from the creativity of those engaged in it.
BAUXITE WORKERS ACTION
The process did in fact begin to take shape. A strike broke out in the bauxite belt at Kwakwani, long the least militant section of the workforce. The WPA had never visited Kwakwani. The strike was concerned with merit increments which had been denied the workers for the year 1979. It was a rather general issue among workers in the public sector, in which, according to the Wages Agreement of 1977, they should have received $14 a day from January 1, 1979. In two enterprises, the managements, after being instructed not to pay the contracted wage of $14 a day automatically applied the merit increments and in the case of GUYSUCO and one other corporation, paid these increments to workers until May 31, 1979 when they received orders by circular not to make payments higher than the wage rate for 1978. The Kwakwani strike soon became a general strike in the bauxite industry sanctioned by the union. A new period of initiatives from the bottom had broken out in the bauxite industry, all a result of the struggle of the Organisation of Working People (OWP), but outside OWP. Guyana is famous for these formations of people who while accepting the objectives of a pioneer band of fighters; organise separately and in such a way as to disguise their inspiration and avoid the stigma which the pioneers have earned. The official bauxite strike led by persons among whom were members of the ruling party, on the narrow question of increments, caused the PNC such extreme discomfort that it did not deem the strike political.
However, when other unions called a solidarity strike after the bauxite issue remained unsettled for weeks, the regime deemed the whole movement political and "designed to bring Gown the government". These other unions were GAWU, CCWU and NAACIE, with the university union sympathetic but unable to offer concrete industrial support at that time of the year. The entire movement collapsed because of the frailness of many of the institutions of Guyana, which have a certain image in public, but in reality are something less imposing. Surely this weakness is not confined to the Caribbean, but it is here this writer knows it best. It exists in Guyana in extreme form. A trade union is not necessarily what it ought to be, but a, loose gathering of individuals. The same can be true of a cooperative society.. The same can be true of socialism. The need to impress is perhaps the most important form in which our colonial selfdepreciation shows itself. This intervention is deliberate if our Caribbean compatriots in the Caribbean diaspora are to understand our social motion and not be puzzled by it. The formal institutions are only skin-deep. The working people have a cryptic, way of expressing the same criticism when they say, "What is important is who you know, not what you know ...".
The strategy of the ruling party was concentrated on one objective. The PNC leader called in the bauxite union leadership, no doubt over drinks, and explained to them how he was beleagured, how by encouraging the solidarity strike and other gestures from GAWU, they were putting Jagan on top, how the whole thing was designed by WPA (that upstart Rodney) and the PPP to take over Guyana. The usual threats would follow this soulful appeal for loyalty to the old ties. There would be a promise of "no holds barred". There would be a promise to put pressure on militants who were giving the leadership of the union a headache, and a deal would be struck. Part of the threat would not merely be threats of activating Part II of the National Security Act and "putting you in Sibley Hall and throwing away the key". It would be a threat of personal ruin the salary, the mortgage, the position, the children in this or that position. My faith in the Guyanese masses has remained and remains unshaken. Yet it is true that 85 out of every hundred of our bureaucrats, governmental or trade union, would buckle to such and another ten would seize the option of migrating. After the 1984 TUC elections, there is an increasing number of trade union leaders who would not even be summoned, who are being put beyond the pale. Thus it was that on the motion of the bauxite union in whose interests solidarity had been expressed, the strike collapsed. The bauxite union won increment concessions some time later, but these increments continue tbe denied to the rest of the public sector, although NAACIE won an action in the Court of Appeal, the final court, in favour of the payment of increments, based on application of the law of contracts. This decision was overturned by the Parliament in the Labour (Amendment) Act which according to Attorney‑General Dr M Shahabuddeen did not interfere with the decision of the Court of Appeal, which was very sound, but which "put it out of action". There was no conspiracy between the WPA leadership and the bauxite union leadership. The strike was not. in any way instigated by the WPA which had no relationship with the union leadership. It was clear to us that in the anti‑dictatorial mood sweeping the country, the working people would seek to remove from their path dictatorial measures such as the unilateral denial of agreed wage payments, in order to defend their Standard of living. This is all the interference the TNTPA can plead guilty to in the 1979 industrial disputes. It is surprising, then, to read later, a report not yet denied, of a PPP speaker claiming during the 1980 election campaign that Rodney made the strike political. Who then had made the 1977 strike political? The 1979 strike met with very businesslike and brutal repression before its collapse. Guyana Stores workers were beaten up in broad daylight by ‑a band of official thugs who knew they would not be arrested or charged. House of Israel thugs appeared in many guises beating up Indo and Afro Guyanese and other militants in the trade union or political struggle. The death squad was the permanent street patrol. Resistance was widespread. Gordon Todd was arrested for appearing with his..members in public, taken off to a military outpost and held incommunicado for several hours until the TUC General Secretary J H Pollydore intervened with the Prime Minister Burnham, who it would seem, had not left these details to mere assistants. The collapse of the combined strike still has to be examined in detail and assessed. Let us content ourselves with saying that the masses had placed a great deal of hope in its outcome. Large lumbers of the workers on strike had no intention of going back under the existing government. That is where the expectations were. It needs some historical vision to absorb a collapse of that nagnitude and most popular activists were not able to absorb it. the striking workers went back to work with a heavy heart and after carefully considering whether or not they should obey their unions. This, let it be repeated, is not a description of the strike, but merely an attempt to fit the industrial action into the general movement of the day. The rest is murder.
As the civil rebellion went on the defensive after the collapse of the industrial action, the regime became emboldened and resolved to take the initiative in ways open to them. There was one way and that was murder. When the industrial action broke, the workers' movement became the frontline of the civil rebellion, in objective terms. The workers were conducting a struggle and in our minds it needed all support because so much rested on it, including the ability of the working people to make ends meet. In the eyes of the masses of working people, the urban and rural poor, the patriotic middle class the original ranks of the civil rebellion, it was the WPA which had to explain the collapse because in their view it was a WPA struggle or as some would have it, Rodney's struggle. They looked .to the WPA for an explanation. To give such an explanation, the WPA could be forced: to engage .in open criticism of other anti-dictatorial forces which the forces of the old politics would certainly not abide and which would play into the hands of the dictatorship in such an open way that the masses themselves would regret it. Moreover there had been no opportunity to discuss these failings with the organisations concerned in the first place anal it would be on the whole, on our own standards, to go public and pose as schoolmasters of organisations much more senior and well structured. The WPA finally explained in broad and general terms that the main reason why the dictatorship still remained in power was that there was a crisis in the political life, outside of Parliament; there was an industrial crisis of limited but important scope; but no crisis in the security forces. Nor would the crisis in the security forces take place until the civilian forces, that is, the forces of labour and the popular forces, manifested a clear and united purpose. Part of the dilemma also was that historically, the WPA had been propagandising in favour of trade unions, in favour of workers joining trade unions and taking an active part in them. Workers, at least in those days, much preferred to spend their time in political organisations than in the structures of their unions, in which with few exceptions, they had little faith.
The attack on Fr Bernard Darke SJ of July 14,1979 took place in, the context of a mass demonstration on Brickdam and in broad daylight. Every other assassination of the regime has been carried out in rather different, concealed or semi-concealed, circumstances. It was in the course of a lull in the street activity that Ohene Koama was gunned down in Roxanne Burnham Gardens near twilight, on the evening of November 18, 1979 on the anniversary of the Jonestown massacre. The murder of this young leader of the WPA, whose special work was administration, and in his own right, a tough pioneer of agricultural cooperatives, was carried out in terms of the Burnham doctrine. This can be construed as the right of the armed forces to shoot down anyone who is accused of having a firearm. The state held an inquest into the death of Ohene Koama in the second year after his murder, perhaps because it felt secure in the evidence it had to present. However, we have listened to the part of the evidence that was put before the tribunal since the cross-examination of a vital police eyewitness was not facilitated. The evidence presented by Sgt Andrews of the Death Squad, who did the shooting, did not stand up to cross examination. The claims he made were physically untenable. He spoke of a weapon fully assembled in a canvas bag. When in court, the weapon could not be hidden in the bag presented. He spoke of the same weapon being shut into the boot of a particular car, when the boot of that car could not enclose the weapon. He claimed all of this because he wanted to claim that he fired in self-defence after Ohene aimed at him with the weapon. Assuming that there had been a weapon in the car' driven by Ohene, it could only have been held in the boot in a broken-down state. So Ohene could not have assembled it and aimed it at Andrews who suddenly drove up on him from behind while another car blocked his path. Andrews had to "assemble" the weapon after the fact to plead justification. The plea was exposed in open court and certain of the other physical tests were therefore evaded by the Coroner under police pressure. It was cold-blooded execution. A serious law enforcement agency would have arrested Koama and presented evidence of catching him red-handed rather than executing him on the spot. This incident brings out more than any other the' ruthlessness of the Burnham regime and the falsity of its alleged non-violence.
DUBLIN AND RODNEY
The second killing of a WPA activist, Edward Dublin, a member of the ranks of the unemployed in Wismar, the bauxite belt: He was accused, after his killing which took place as he left a night spot, of "stealing cement" being stacked for use in the remaining work on the PNC's Palm Tree cinema in the area. It was a very privileged category of cement, requiring a person who stole it to be executed on the spot. About late March 1980, before Walter Rodney was denied the right to travel, though he pledged to return to face his trial there came into his hand a copy of the "Recognition Handbook - Working People's Alliance". A US journalist who was shown it at a press conference said, "Oh, a hitlist!" The booklet carries the following under the caption, "Foreword": "These notes are designed to provide a guide to the easy recognition of personnel of the Working People's Alliance and vehicles that are associated with the organisation's activities. It must be appreciated that vehicle numbers and colour may change from time to time as is now a regular practise (sic) with that organisation". The three arson accused appear together in the first photograph and after that pride of place was given to Walter Rodney. The list also contains non‑members of the WPA thought to be members by the wellinformed security forces.
All the executions, including that of Walter Rodney, were carried out at periods when the public activity of the WPA was noticeably low. Those who have said that the assassination of Walter Rodney was responsible for low momentum should balance the element of truth in that with the knowledge that he himself was killed in a period of low public activity. The story of Rodney's assassination is well known. What we can usefully note here is some common features running through the PNC's assassinations of WPA personnel. The PNC in each case speaks in the place of the police through the radio and the state-owned newspaper. There is no such thing now as a police bulletin following an unusual occurrence. It is the ruling party that speaks on the question. Even if it should publish a statement and attribute it to the police, in Guyana, that police officer can make no protest at all. The ruling party is presumed to have a claim on his loyalty. After all, it gave him his job. The next feature is that the PNC always attempts to blame the victim for his own death. The victim must be made responsible. In forming this alibi; the PNC does not realise that it is proclaiming to the world the level of its ruthlessness. It also shows blatant .disregard for its own courts, since the upshot of its defences is that it knows of plans for insurgency or some act leading to insurgency; but scorns to bring the culprit to justice and exercises the right of the tyrant to summary execution. The penalties in the written law for possession of firearms, for stealing, for possession of explosives or whatever is the accusation made by the regime, are set aside and the death penalty substituted. This is the cold record of the WIC's peaceful repression. In. the case of Rodney, the PNC has been fed the story that he was killed in order to prevent his physically removing the dictator. I listened a month ago in silence to this defence from an apologist. This is, when examined, a confession of murder or conspiracy to murder. For a sane man to accept such a report and to act on it with such finality, he must have very convincing evidence. The evidence would be enough to place before a court or at least to cause the person in authority to use in order to secure more damning evidence. A ruler would indeed be very fortunate to hear‑of such a plan and so convincingly that he believes it and takes retaliatory action. He could have enhanced his whole political position by pursuing the matter while taking the necessary precautions through his very reliable agent or other agents. Any such explanation from the mouth of a person wielding state power is a confession of murder and of substituting himself for the law, a confession of utmost ruthlessness. However, the tactical blunder in selecting the wrong victim so early in the plotted agenda, and the international alarm it raised for years after, set aside by many political formations outside of Guyana only to deal with the Reagan menace which is also a concern to Guyana, has served to stay the hand of the regime in relation to other targets of that type. The testimony of an exile now living abroad, one who claimed to be in the employ of the regime in those crucial days, stamps itself as largely credible because of one fact. It states that the original plan in May 1980 was to charge Rodney with treason, but that this plan was discarded in favour of a plan to assassinate him. The treason trial of the West Coast brothers, Ivan Sookram and others, seems to confirm this testimony. An international enquiry into the killing would surely have given wider audience the chance to sift, such evidence. The men charged with treason in 1980 had all been tortured at the Eve Leary headquarters in order to extract from them evidence implicating themselves in acts seen as treasonable. The evidence, however, also implicated Walter Rodney. It was most damaging testimony implicating Rodney in all sorts of highly' uncharacteristic forms of violence and hairbrained schemes. While conducting his own cross examination at, the Leonora Magistrate's court because of the absence of counsel, Ivan Sookram asked the head of the homicide squad: Did you question Walter Rodney? No, was the answer. Did you at any point arrest him? Why? `I had no instructions. ' The law enforcement machinery was a mere tool in the hands of the rulers. Perhaps "instructions" had been given to torture the suspects and extract evidence of a certain kind from them. They yielded to pressure and gave the kind of evidence required of them. The fact of their torture has of course by now been accepted; by the highest courts which sat on the issue. Yet, after all this invasion of people's person and conscience, the regime took a decision not to prosecute Rodney for treason, but to take him before a court where he could not plead. There are even more killings of the fallen: the criminals who y are always killed "in confrontation with the police". Since investigative reporting is not allowed in the state media and the scope for it is sadly restricted in the non-governmental press, the powers that be get away with murder. They need not answer questions put to them by the press. The Guyana Human Rights Association has listed lists of criminal suspects or offenders summarily dispatched by the police. Information from the street, not confirmed, tells of leading PNC members who, after exploiting. the criminal tendencies of individuals in their control, pass their names on to the police for "writing off". True, as the Report on the Joint Mission on Political Freedom in Guyana finds, there have been no recent political killings. So far as the politically active are concerned, there have peen killings recent enough to affect politics at the present day.
RODNEY ON RACIAL JUSTICE A LEGACY FOR ALL
A symposium recently sponsored by the History Department of the University of Guyana on Elsa Goveia and Walter Rodney took note of the academic legacies of each of those two outstanding Caribbean workers. In closing this account; I shall attempt to look at some of the political legacies of Walter Rodney, not perhaps in exactly the same words as I have done before or with the same emphases. In this task, I wish to leave a document, a small passage from Walter's best known speech on the Arnold Rampersaud case. I want to claim that the approach to race which is partly revealed here has been one of the most lasting legacies of Walter Rodney to Guyanese and Caribbean politics. For while Guyana is sick, the Caribbean suffers with it, as it does with Jamaica, or Grenada. "What, after all, do we expect of a jury? What is its task? These twelve people, supposedly the peers of the accused, are supposed to come to a rational, logical decision as to whether the crime could have been, or teas committed by this particular individual concerned. That is why, in the United States, Black men have been fighting against white majority juries. They have been saying: 'White juries cannot be our peers in a society where those white people do not live in our community, do not understand our community. To be put to be judged by a jury that comprises a majority of whites is, in fact, to threaten our very freedom, our very liberties.' So that, under normal circumstances, it is general, it is accepted, that the trial will take place in the area of jurisdiction in which the crime, or alleged crime, took place. "In this case,, contrary to the standard practice, though there have been exceptions before, the state, the prosecution; intervened to say that they could not expect justice in Berbice. "Now I am not too sure what are all the political implications about whether they have support or do not have support in Berbice, but they are saying some very significant, things the moment that they put that to a judge in Berbice and get him to accept that the case must be transferred to Georgetown's jurisdiction. "They are saying, first of all, that in the whole of Berbice county, they have no confidence that they can find a jury from the jury list, twelve men who can give a sane verdict. So, number one they say that Berbicians either have no sense or no sense of justice. So that's half the country they have wiped out already a very large section of our people. "They then go further. They are putting the onus, and they are putting pressure on the accused. They are not asking the question which is the normal question, whether the accused can have a fair hearing. They are saying: 'Can the prosecution have a fair hearing?' "And then they transfer it to Georgetown after putting forward as their reason that there is political opposition, that people in Berbice are opposed to the toll gate. And they come to Georgetown and they either imply, or, in the present trial, they actually come out openly and state, that the reason for the offence was political. It was because Arnold Rampersaud was a member of a particular party, the party opposed 'to the toll gate, that this individual therefore carried out the crime with this political motivation. "Having said that, they are saying that they expect the jury in Georgetown to judge that political matter more sanely, more logically and in a fairer manner, than the jury in Berbice. "This is giving it its best interpretation and there is no basis for such an assumption. Because, if the case is political, if they are alleging political motivation and if they are asking Arnold Rampersaud to be iudged by twelve members of our community, then any twelve members of the community will have a political involvement and therefore an automatic bias and we must ask what is the probable nature of that bias. "They're removing him from Berbice. Now let us speak frankly to each other as Guyanese who know the situation. When they remove him from Berbice the clear indications are as follows: He is an Indian. Berbice is primarily Indian. He is a PPP member. And they believe there is too much PPP support in Berbice. Therefore, they will remove the trial from an area where the jury list might probably reflect Indian support, or PPP support. And they will bring it to an area where they believe, or imagine, that the jury list will reflect Afro‑Guyanese or African support, Black support and PNC support. To put it in plain words, they are bringing this Indian and this PPP member to ask him to be judged by Black people in Georgetown, and probably by people with either membership or connection with the PNC. "Now I cannot, by the widest stretch of imagination, come to a conclusion that there is any intention to give justice to the accused when one creates that type of situation. "And this foolishness about the mixed jury is intended to camouflage that basic fact. The very manner in which the last trial was conducted and the manner in which this present one began, is calculated to put to those African members possible PNC members in the jury that it is their responsibility to see to it that this man. is convicted. Because they are saying, 'Why you think we bring him 'all the way from New Amsterdam where he would have got off? You think we bring him here for you to let him off?' "They are virtually enjoining upon that jury, by a form of political pressure and social pressure which all of us understand; they are enjoining that jury to hang the man. "This is their admonition to that jury. Never mind all the evidence and the cross examination and the points of law which have been raised in that case when it went to that last jury. If and when it goes to this present jury; they will have that type of political and social pressure on their minds . ... "Does it have anything to do with race that the cost of living far outstrips the increase in wages? "Does it have anything to do with race that there are no goods in the shops? "Does it have anything to do with race when the original lack of democracy as exemplified in the national elections is reproduced at the level of local government elections? "Does it have anything to do with race then the bauxite workers cannot elect their own union leadership? "Does it have anything to do with race when, day after day, whether one is Indian or African, without the appropriate party credentials, one either gets no employment, loses one's employment, or is subject to lack of promotion? "It is clear that we must get beyond that red herring and recognise that it is intended to divide, that it is not intended in the interest of the common African and Indian people of this country. "Those who manipulated in the 1960s, on both sides, were not the sufferers. They were not the losers. The losers were those who participated, who shared blows and got blows. And they are the losers today. "It is time we understand that those in power are still attempting to maintain us in that mentality; maintain us 'in that mentality where we are afraid to act or we act injudiciously because we believe that our racial interests are at stake. "Surely we have to transcend the racial problems? Surely we have to find ways and means of ensuring that there is racial justice in this society? But it will certainly not be done by a handful of so- called Black men monopolising the power, squeezing the life out of all sections of the working class, and turning around and expecting that they will manipulate an issue such as the Arnold Rampersaud affair and get the support of ordinary Black people because we will say, 'After all, is only a Indian. We could hang him. No sweat!' "Because, as I said before, you start with one thing, you end with another. The system doesn't stop at racial discrimination. Because it is a system of class oppression, it only camouflages its class nature under a racial cover. "And in the end, it will move against anyone irrespective of colour. In the end, they will move even against their own. Because, don't believe if you are a member of that party today, that you will be protected tomorrow from the injustices. Because when a monster grows, it grows out of control. It eats up even those who created the monster. "And it's time our people understood that." (WR, 1977) Indo-Guyanese activists similarly have stood up and are standing up against attempts to manipulate the Indo-Guyanese sections of the population, by addressing them directly, whether in mixed audiences or not, on these issues which form the very raw material of revolution and all possibilities of democratic advance.
SOME CLOSING WORDS ON RODNEY'S POLITICAL CULTURE
His interest in political power at all, or in political power for its own sake, has not yet become the standard among political leaders anywhere and not in the post-colonial world. He was first and foremost a Caribbean citizen from the country of Guyana. He was firmly and consistently anti-imperialist, but not blind to what the people living in the bosom of imperialist centres, were capable of producing in the way of culture, art, struggle and human progress. He was firmly anti-racist and worked everywhere, even when he joined in attacking racism, for the non-racial society. He favoured a sufficient period of reconstruction of Guyanese society, as he knew that the possibilities of constructing socialism in the short run had been ruined both politically and economically. He remained committed to socialism as the historic solution to the problem of class and poverty and was in quest or state forms which entrenched in theory as well as in practice the primacy of labour. He taught us to be alert about social formations and class formations in particular, bowing to no dogma on the question of how a given society ought to develop, bowing to no prognosis of doom. He rejected theories suggesting that classes were about to disappear and that soon the class struggle itself would be out of date. He considered it a duty to trace the various ways in which the class struggle presented itself in various social settings; He was of course committed to a society in which no class exploited or oppressed another on any explanation. He was extremely alert in those issues where race and class overlapped. He did not underestimate the power of race as a factor, but rejected purely racial explanations. His manner is a subject of comment until now in our ranks and beyond. He dealt with persons of any station in life with unfailing respect. Many have feigned such a respect, only to indulge their ego in the secret of their own homes with their own family. His respect for his remarkable partner, not in formal terms his academic peer, and for his children, his mother and father, his wife's mother and father, his sister and brothers, his fellow party members was by no means inconsistent with his public posture. An example of his readiness to be guided by the healthy sensitivities of the masses, by the signs of rebellion from them was his public promise not to use the word "comrade" since the PNC rulers had for all practical purposes corrupted it and placed it at the centre of their insincere and anti-human communications. In his political culture, he had little energy to invest on theses about revisionism or this or that error in the international revolutionary movement. Whoever came to him with such, a theme would draw the reply, sometimes after a few patient minutes, "Those people, however, made a revolution. We are in no position to preach to them". He was the prophet of self-emancipation and this inflexible commitment was proof against all levels of imperialist intimidation as well as against slanders which cast him in the role of a would-be deliverer.
And only where our footsteps end can tell whether the journey was an old advance or a new retreat;
or whether in the dust our heel marks and our toe marks are confused
---- Martin Carter ----
© 2001 Guyanaundersiege.com