The Alliance For Change extends emancipation well wishes to all Guyanese especially our African descended brothers and sisters.
The occasion of Emancipation Day observances is perhaps the best reminder of the herculean struggle our people have engaged in amidst overwhelming and dehumanizing hardships.
Although there were multiple reasons behind the emancipation proclamation in the British colonies, a fervent restiveness of the slaves themselves or what historians call emancipation from below, stands out as very prominent.
The emancipation of slaves in the French Saint Domingue and their establishment of the independent republic of Haiti, recognized by the Great Powers, elevated slave revolts from the field of island politics to the sphere of national policy and international diplomacy.
It should be noted here that the Haitian Revolution was actually predated by the 1763 slave rebellion in Berbice which saw the slave population assuming control of the territory albeit for a brief period of time.
In 1823, British Guiana went up in flames, the total slave population involved was 12,000 on fifty plantations. Slaves demanded unconditional emancipation. The Governor reported what the restive slaves communicated to him “… God had made them of the same flesh and blood as the whites, they were tired of being slaves to them…”
The British policy of amelioration and gradualism failed to dim the spirit of freedom and in 1831 it was Antigua’s turn to revolt. The climax came in Jamaica at the end of the year. The Governor reported that it was not occasioned by any sudden grievance or immediate cause of discontent; it had been long concerted and at different periods deferred.
Thus when the emancipation proclamation document was drafted, its language revealed the British’s marked anxiety on the issue of physical security.
Complete emancipation which was won in 1838 was a major achievement but did little to abolish the endemic domination of African Guyanese. They were taxed to fund an immigration scheme designed to undercut their own bargaining power for a livable wage and their village movement was subject to systematic undermining.
The impetus provided by the Caribbean slave system to Europe’s Industrial Revolutions is unquestionable. For instance, the English Port town of Liverpool can be cited as a specific example. In 1774, there were eight sugar refineries in Liverpool, two distilleries were established for the express purpose of supplying slave ships and there were many chain and anchor foundries, manufacturers and dealers in iron, copper, brass and lead.
The slave trade which brought the town an annual profit of £300,000 transformed Liverpool from being a fishing village into a great centre of international commerce. The population rose from 5,000 in 1700 to 34,000 in 1773.
Yet, in spite of this vast triangular empire and edifice of slave sugar, the desire to secure liberty and humanity would constantly eat away at its corrupt foundations, resulting in its eventual fall in the 1830s.
Our own Martin Carter articulated this restiveness in his immortal poem Death of a Slave: “In the dark floor, In the cold dark earth, time plants the seeds of anger.”
The Alliance For Change is indebted to the struggle of African people in Guyana and across the Caribbean who fought for change and for an end to systems of tyranny and oppression.
It is the view of the AFC that this restive desire to secure liberty and humanity to halt the march of oppression must continue to guide the course of our beloved homeland.
In the 20th century, African Guyanese would continue to be in the forefront of the struggle for social, political and economic justice. The towering role and contribution of Hubert Critchlow in securing some semblance of a just relation of production stands out as perhaps most prominent.
The present dispensation, however, reveals a far from satisfactory situation. There has developed in some quarters, a widespread perception of marginalization. The AFC submits that such perception is not without validity, but must be tied into a wider emasculation of the society by the PPP.
Aggrieved bauxite workers when they picketed the Ministry of Labour accused the administration of the egregious crime of racism. The callous response or rather lack of response can only contrive to reinforce such perceptions.
The AFC intends to reform the State apparatus to ensure that all Guyanese are guaranteed equal and just treatment. This, we submit, is at the nucleus of a progressive society.
We have submitted before that Henry Mayo’s work on democratic theory is instructive. He treats justice as the sixth specific value of the democratic system. Its achievement is often regarded as the core of political morality and the defence of democracy on this ground must be that it is the system best able to produce justice.
The Guyanese society inherits a debilitating colonial legacy, wherein our peoples were pitted against each other by a vicious colonial system and a post-independence legacy rife with ethic discord and even violence, produced by a dysfunctional political system. This polarization has sapped the lifeblood out of our people and has entrenched our underdevelopment.
The essence of the political approach of the AFC is to nurture and tend to the healing of these engrained fissures. Such will entail the adoption of genuine multiculturalism and the abolition of all vestiges of discrimination perpetuated by the State.
The importance of a just and equal society cannot be overemphasized in the thrust of fashioning a healthy society. Nelson Mandela, whose approach on ethnic issues was able to transform perhaps the most racist place in the whole of the 20th century into a workable democracy, said at his trial in the 1960s:
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons can live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Outstanding Guyanese historian Dr. Winston Mc Gowan in his outgoing lecture from the Walter Rodney chair did say that Guyana craves a “Mandela approach” to our politics. What Guyana does not need at this juncture is a further calcification of ethnic enclaves which will see a corollary calcification of ethnic suspicions, prejudices and tensions.
The AFC has resolved to work in pursuance of the Mandela approach premised on strong institutions geared to ensure that the principal deliverables of democracy are realized and that the scourge of ethnocentrism is buried deeper into the abyss of the regrettable past.
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