The world woke up to the news yesterday that Fidel Castro had died. Although his increasingly frail health and advancing years suggested that Fidel’s continued sojourn amongst us would be of limited duration, the news of his passing nevertheless delivered a shock, then sadness, that a revolutionary giant of the 20th century would no longer be a presence. It was the sheer audacity and bravery of his Moncada attack, his inspiring speech (“history will absolve me”) at his trial and the death-defying persistence of the Granma invasion, buttressed the rousing speeches but vague notions in Guyana of independence and socialism, that inspired me as a teenager.
The success of the Cuban Revolution lies not only in the social developments which it brought to Cuba by way of its world class health and education systems, exemplified by one of the highest literacy rates and one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world, but by bringing an end to the second class status for Afro Cubans who were historically discriminated against and lived in dire poverty. These social benefits are available to every single Cuban.
Against all expectations, Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States of America. From the moment he appeared on a descending escalator in Trump Tower, his luxury building and home in Manhattan, New York, announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination, very few took the billionaire property developer seriously. Trump, whose messages on the campaign trail were of racism, sexism, xenophobia, misogyny, violence to opponents and more, exhibited all the traits of a confirmed narcissist – abusive and easy to offend.
Defying the Republican Party’s decision in 2012 that it must court the Hispanic vote after Mitt Romney’s reduced support in 2004 on account of Republican hostility to immigration reform, Trump accused Mexico of sending its ‘rapists’ and ‘criminals,’ threatened to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico to stop illegal immigration and to expel the eleven million undocumented immigrants, mostly Hispanic. He also promoted Islamophobia and promised to ban Muslims from entering the US.
October 5, 1992, was an historic day for Guyana – the day when democracy returned in free and fair elections for the first time in twenty-four years. It is commemorated only by the PPP but in a way that aids its own credentials and whatever current political disputes it is engaged in. It would have marked a maturing of Guyana’s political leadership if the PNCR could have also noted the importance of October 5 and claim ownership of the role it played in restoring democracy. Since the PNCR would have had to confront a part of its past to do so, this period of its and Guyana’s history, like several others, for which it shares some credit, remain unaddressed. Guyana will have to ascend to a higher level of statesmanship for both of our main political parties to put the events of that now historic period in full perspective without the politically antagonistic framework in which it is now remembered.
By the time October 5, 1992, came along, both the world and the PNCR had changed. The Cold War had ended and, quite independently, the PNCR had transitioned dramatically from a party that espoused Marxist socialism, close relations with socialist countries and state ownership of the means of production, to a party which identified itself in completely opposite terms. The PPP came to accept these changes in 1992.
The frightening reality is that the race for the presidency in the US is so close, and getting so much closer, that Donald Trump may well win the presidency. On Monday evening the two contenders, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would have their first debate so as to give the American people a further opportunity to decide which candidate to support. While there is a large number of undecided or independent voters that each candidate will seek to win over, each faces specific hurdles which need to be overcome in order to ensure victory in the elections.
Hillary Clinton is struggling to attain a knockout punch because, having been hounded by the press for over twenty years, compounded by lapses in judgment, she faces skepticism in a part of the electorate. ‘Untrustworthiness’ of her has flourished because of her use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State. Even though there is no evidence that she treated with confidential material, apologized and previous secretaries of state have conducted official business by private email, the Republicans and the US media have been unrelenting in their criticisms and allegations of ‘lies.’
A liar, racist, demagogue and misogynist is the presidential candidate of the once great Republican Party. He won the nomination by exploiting the deep insecurities generated by decades of growing inequality in the United States. This in turn exacerbated and exposed the racist hostility to Mexicans, Muslims and African Americans, which lies just below the surface of American life.
The general consensus among progressives in the US is that the large and growing inequality is responsible for the rise of Donald Trump and the ‘angry white man.’ For conservatives, led by a Republican Party which has been moving further to the right since Barry Goldwater became its presidential candidate in 1964, the problem is President Barack Obama. The fact is, though, that the Republicans have now reaped in Trump the kind of politics they have been sowing since 1964. Nixon’s Southern strategy, designed to win the support of Southern whites from the Democrats by exploiting fear and hatred of African Americans, attained its apotheosis in the Republican leadership’s open hatred of Barack Obama.