The notion in 1950 by the leaders of the PPP that freedom will bring justice has not materialized. We have won Independence and have shaken off authoritarian rule, but justice has not arrived. The rotation of political power between parties, supported mainly by our two major ethnic groups, has not fulfilled the dream of economic justice and equality of opportunity that were the promise of Independence, notwithstanding our economic and human potential. The nature of our exports in nearly fifty years of Independence tells the entire story. It was raw material then and it is raw material now.
That the promise of Independence has not been realized ought not to have been a surprise to our leaders. Imbued with an ideological orientation that suggested the primacy of class conflict and class dominance as the motive forces of injustice, they excluded their regimes from equation and the trap of economic relations of production. The theory holds that exploitation is inherent in an economic system where class rule predominates and such rule predominates in any market, or capitalist, economy.
In Guyana class rule has always predominated. It did under PNC rule and it does under PPP rule. It was not for nothing that President Jagdeo declared that we are building capitalism. Apart from acknowledging the truth, he was proclaiming the supremacy of capital and its owners, over labour and the owners of labour power. President Jagdeo knew that only trickle down justice was available in a post colonial economy that has seen little structural reform of its productive system. And if there is any kind of justice available in Guyana today, that is the kind that prevails for working people. Our leaders have never analyzed for us the inevitability and power of the grip of class forces and how that power can be mitigated for the benefit of all. Instead, the grip has been allowed to tighten.
Fully conscious of the theories of class and exploitation, the leaders of 1950 envisaged the building of socialism after independence. They figured no doubt that the implementation of socialist policies would mitigate the harshness of exploitation and eventually eliminate it altogether. The split of the PPP in 1955 put an end to the dreams. What was ostensibly a split of the ‘moderates’ from the ‘radicals’ turned out to be the period when ethnic considerations became the determining factor in political allegiances. Justice then assumed an ethnic hue.
And so Guyana blundered on with the PNC proclaiming the end of the dominance of ethnicity in politics because it rigged the support of 60, then 70, then 80 percent of the electorate and the PPP proclaiming that class solidarity will eliminate ethnic politics, forever hoping that it alone can restore the dreams of 1950.
But it was the PPP that first came to the realization that this was all wrong. In the 1970s it developed the belief that it was the Cold War and the depth of ethnic insecurity that was keeping the PNC in office. Prodded by its ‘friends,’ encouraged by the PNC’s leftward direction and acknowledging that class solidarity was not eliminating ethnic political solidarity as it had predicted or hoped, it unveiled first, Critical Support in 1976 and then the National Patriotic Front in 1978. Although both were rejected by the PNC, they placed on the agenda the issue of a ‘political solution.’ The proposals are now dated but the necessity for a ‘political solution’ remains the most important issue facing Guyana. It will not go away.
The upcoming election campaign offers the opportunity to place before the electorate the issue of whether political justice can be obtained without a political solution. While one suspects that the dictates of electoral competition will result in the dreary accusations over the past three years and before being repeated ad nauseam, even though they will have little outcome on the results, nevertheless the political parties must be pressured to address the issue of a political solution to Guyana’s political distress.
The PPP beliefs have changed since 1991 when Cheddi Jagan last proclaimed his adherence to ‘winner does not take all’ politics. It now believes that a political solution lies in its political dominance. The PNCR has never genuinely embraced a ‘political solution’ for Guyana. Its lip service to ‘shared governance’ in the past has been merely a deviation from its vain belief that it will return to political office with the same massive support that it ‘secured’ between 1968 and 1985.
A window of opportunity has opened up by the AFC’s promise to unveil its proposals for constitutional reform. But even the AFC will be distracted by its campaign which has to focus, not on a political solution, but on wresting as much votes as possible from the PPP and winning as much youth support as possible. Let us hope that the AFC understands that the youth, the largest single electoral group, is fed up with the ethnic dimension to our politics, want a political solution will be responsive to, and be motivated and energized by, such debate. Youth interest in a political solution can still force all political parties to raise a ‘political solution’ at the top of its political agenda.