By the time the PPP returned to office in 1992, elements of the traditional capitalist class and the nouveau riche class were well positioned to ingratiate themselves with the ruling party. In fact there was a very smooth transition, with the leadership of the PPPC catapulting to the wiles (and wining and dining) of the propertied classes in Guyana.
These classes exerted their influence on the PPPC. They were able to extract generous concessions from the government. More importantly, they were able to force the PPPC to emphasize a public sector investment programme that fattened their coffers.
The working class in turn was assured that as the tide of economic growth rose it would raise their leaking ship. They got some elevation, but they saw superliners towering over them as the tide rose between 1992 and 1997.
Reforms in the financial sector and donor financing triggered a boom in the first five years of the PPP’s rule. It was the propertied class with its sunken collateral that benefitted from the pursuit of a neo-liberal agenda, which saw contracts being given to private contracting firms to undertake public works to rebuild the derelict infrastructure left by the outgoing PNC regime.
These projects led to the development of another powerful class, built from the largesse of the State. This class had strong affiliations to powerful figures with the PPP.
For many years there was a cozy relationship, the traditional capitalist class, the nouveau riche class that had developed under the PNC and this new class of super-rich individuals which had developed under the PPPC. Together these groupings imposed their will on the ruling PPPC. They became the ruling economic class.
The cozy relationship between these groupings, however, began to suffer some stresses from around 2006, after the PPPC was returned to office for a fourth consecutive term. Serious problems developed. The super-rich class that developed under the PPPC converted itself into an oligarchic class with tentacles reaching deep into the political directorate. This class bankrolled the PPPC elections campaigns. Rumours were even heard that this class was paying persons who worked in Freedom House. In effect, there was a virtual takeover of the ruling party by the oligarchic class.
Today there are tensions between the traditional capitalist class and the oligarchic class. The latter is gobbling up important economic space formerly controlled by the traditional capitalist class. In Guyanese parlance, the oligarchic class “is calling the shots.”
This class is extremely powerful and it is believed that this class is not interested in local government elections. This objection is not because the oligarchic class feels that the PPPC will lose those elections. That is next to near impossible given the demographics of Guyana. The PPPC should comfortably command about 60% of the votes cast in any local government. They did so in 1994 and they will do it again. The oligarchic class knows this.
The reason, however, why it is opposed to local government polls is because financing an election campaign costs a great deal of money and the oligarchic class is not willing to spend monies on something that it does not consider as important. It is not interested in local democracy; it is keen on having its puppets hold on to political power so that the largesse can continue to flow.
Local government elections will not alter the governments grip on power at the centre, which is what matters to the economic oligarchs. The oligarchic class also believes that campaign financing – which the PPPC has virtually outsourced to the oligarchic class – can be better deployed by them towards generating greater wealth.
The oligarchy is the ruling class in the country. The political directorate is beholden to this class. And the PPPC has to dance to the tunes of the oligarchy.
Donald Ramotar has tried to break this grip, but he has been unsuccessful. The constant volley of political fire emanating from the opposition has forced him into a defensive mode, and to become reliant within his government on the elements that are allied to the oligarchy. Facing an imminent no–confidence motion, he cannot at this stage break free from this class, because this would create a void in his party’s campaign financing.
But that is not the bad news. The fact is that the other political contenders in Guyana embrace an economic model that is similar to the PPPC. They have not failed to disprove the hypothesis of being more pro-business, and especially pro-big business, than working class.
Things therefore are not likely to change for the working class, even if by some miracle the opposition parties are able to win free and fair elections in Guyana. Nothing will change.
The only way for change to take place is for the dismantling of the oligarchic class. No one, however, wants to make that commitment, because just like class analysis, this will attract a leftist label.
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