THE CIVIC WAS NEVER INTENDED TO BE A FORMAL GROUPING
There was a false expectation that the PPP would not have gone on to the last elections with the Civic component attached. It was expected that the Civic would have been subsumed by the party. This was a false premise and was based on the notion that after close to twenty years in power, the PPP would have been able to bring over the Civic personalities into the party, thus creating a party of balanced political interests.
This was, however, never the idea behind the Civic. The Civic component of the PPP/C was conceived to create a balance within the government, and not the party.
Dr. Cheddi Jagan had the foresight to understand that his party’s roots, its history and ideological affinity would not have allowed it to have easily become a party representing the totality of interests, classes and ethnicities within the country. The Civic was created to ensure that balance within the government.
The Civic was never intended to be a formal grouping in an alliance with the PPP. It emerged following the breakdown of the talks within the Patriotic Coalition for Democracy (PCD) to have a joint slate. The main villains in that process were the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) and the Guyanese Action for Reform and Democracy (GUARD), a civil-society movement.
Within the PCD there was great opposition to Dr. Jagan becoming the presidential candidate for the 1992 elections. It was said that he was old and would not attract the support of African-Guyanese.
When he offered to have Dr. Roger Luncheon as the presidential candidate, the criticism was that while the doctor was Black he was a communist.
In the end there was an agreement for a presidential slate comprising Dr. Jagan as President, Clive Thomas as Prime Minister and Paul Tennessee as Deputy Prime Minister. However, the WPA and GUARD weaved their mischief and eventually scuttled the process.
This then led the PPP to come up with the idea of the Civic which would comprise of individuals from the professions, academia, religion and business, that would add balance to any government involving the PPP, since the PPP did not enjoy such balance.
Cheddi did not see the PPP as transforming itself into anything other than a working class party. He therefore could not envisage the PPP becoming a party of all classes and interests.
If the PPP had undergone such a transformation, it would have bettered the record of the old socialist, Desmond Hoyte, suddenly experiencing an epiphany and overnight becoming a champion of the free market.
The PPP did not have to change to become a party of all interests. Following the departure of Mrs. Janet Jagan as President, the party was hijacked by the bourgeoisie class.
The challenge of Donald Ramotar is how to return the party to the working class roots, to becoming once again the party of Cheddi Jagan. That process is not going to be easy and it is not going to be swift.
President Ramotar will continue to face fierce criticism about not going far enough, not moving fast enough and not distancing himself from his predecessor.
These same criticisms were leveled against Desmond Hoyte when he became President. Many were upset when he retained most of the old Burnham guard after the death of the founder-leader of the PNC. Hoyte in time consolidated himself in his party and government and was able to eventually banish most of the old guard into political obscurity.
The same charge of not distancing himself from the old guard was also leveled at the feet of Bharrat Jagdeo. He too eventually was able to place a wedge between himself and the party. He eventually consolidated his power to the extent that he could have referred to the views of one of the leading lights of party as the opinion of a “private citizen.”
It will take Donald Ramotar some time, but eventually he too will have his way within the PPP. State power which now resides in his hands is much too powerful to prevent that from eventually happening.
The PPP will therefore return to its working class roots. Already Ramotar is maneuvering party loyalists closer to the government.
He knows what he is doing. It is the party, through its stalwarts, that is taking command of the negotiations with the opposition. It is only a matter of time, perhaps within six months, before Donald Ramotar wrests control of the party from those whose interests it has served and return it to its working class roots.
What is however not going to change is the nature of the Civic. There is not going to any grouping known as the Civic. The Civic as conceived is supposed to about individuals serving within the government. Civic is about individuals who the PPP has been able to attract and who can add gender, ethnic and class balance to the government, and not to the party. So if you are a Civic and are not in the government you are out like south.