The performance of the British Labour Party in the elections last week has been spectacular. The Party’s spirited and brilliant campaign was focused on its agenda as set out in its Manifesto, “For the Many, Not the Few,” which accurately captured the aspirations of a wide cross-section of the British people, particularly the youth, motivated them and brought back those who had been swayed by the Conservatives and UKIP in the past. The enthusiastic new half a million members of the Labour Party knocked on doors and got out the vote, one of the highest in recent memory.
Jeremy Corbyn’s transformation in three weeks among his own colleagues and many supporters of Labour, from a liability, and among the Conservatives and his own right wing parliamentary colleagues, from the disorganized, incompetent, disheveled bumbler that they painted him as, to the charismatic leader that he is, has been as equally dramatic as the election results. His closest colleagues’ belief in Corbyn never faltered. They knew his potential and chose to project the 68 year-old man, his character and his qualities, before the British people, with confidence that he would effectively market Labour’s Manifesto and attract support. But the projection of his character was not done through advertisements, such as for Prime Minister Theresa May, hailing her as ‘strong and stable’ but who turned out to be ‘weak and wobbly,’ stiff and uncomfortable in interviews, afraid to face her opponents in debate, hidden from the public, and forced to withdraw the ‘dementia tax’ against the sick.
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.
The Christmas season, referred to as the season of goodwill, will see Guyanese of all religious persuasions seizing the opportunity of participating in all that the season has to offer. They delight in the exchange of gifts, pamper the children and enjoy family gatherings. Some try to bring cheer to the less fortunate. Many Christians take the opportunity of reaffirming their faith, to give thanks and to celebrate the life and work of Jesus Christ. All participate in the fanfare of welcoming the New Year. Some consume too much alcohol and drive recklessly.
In this period religion plays an important, sometimes a dominant, role in the lives of many people in Guyana and around the world. Christians engage in religious observances and reflect on the lessons that Jesus in His short time on earth left with us. Different people are moved or motivated by particular aspects of the teachings of Jesus, depending on their special interests. Jesus’s clear, outspoken and uninhibited partisanship towards the poor, oppressed, disadvantaged and sick are what appeal most to me.
For most politically conscious people of my age, Nelson Mandela has been with us all our lives. I was not yet a teenager in the late 1950s when I remember a sticker on my father’s car ‘End Apartheid Now,’ the meaning of which I only later learnt. By the time the Rivonia Trials came around, and because I was from a political home, I could feel the impact of the trial and imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and his colleagues because all the adults around me felt and talked about it.
In the ensuing years the entire PPP and all the current leaders of my generation were deeply affected by apartheid and were involved in the struggle against it. Most of us knew many South Africans from the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party and met many others during travels to overseas conferences. The anti-apartheid movement in the UK was very powerful during the time I was a student and afforded the opportunity to me and thousands to contribute tangibly to freedom for South Arica and all political prisoners.
The Constitution of the PPP was adopted in 1977. It was designed to entrench the ideology of Marxism-Leninism and assist in the transformation of the Party to a Leninist party of the new type. The objectives were to officially adopt and promote Marxist-Leninist ideology and organizational methods. The need to create a more disciplined movement was also dictated by the increasingly authoritarian conditions under which the Party was operating. We believed that in the conditions we were then facing where open, democratic, activity was becoming difficult and we might have to function in conditions of illegality, the constitution had to be adapted to enable us to survive with a structure. It was our belief at the time that the party of the new type was ideally suited for these conditions.
Whatever may be said about the constitution which was adopted, the PPP remained intact and largely united in the difficult years. It built the best organized political movement in Guyana, won over Amerindian support after decades of painstaking work, resumed political work in Linden in difficult conditions after the 1960s, made alliances or collaborated with other groups throughout the 1970s and 1980s, maintained dialogue with the trade union movement and civil society and played a major role in sustaining opposition to authoritarian rule in Guyana. Many argue that Burnham needed an intact PPP to ensure continuing American support. Whether that was true or not, PPP supporters died, were tortured, imprisoned, beaten and harassed and the democratic movement was suppressed. No PPP member or leader could take seriously the argument, at that time, that Burnham did not intend to cripple, if not destroy, the PPP.