On his 38th death anniversary yesterday, friends and colleagues of the late Dr. Walter Anthony Rodney gathered to remember and honor his life and contributions.
A product of Guyana and the Caribbean, Rodney gave hope to thousands and provided inspiration to millions. He believed that it was possible for all of Guyana’s diverse groups to live in harmony.
A scholar and activist, Rodney put his individual gifts to the service of the masses, acknowledging that his achievements were made possible by the sacrifices of the working peoples of Guyana and the Caribbean.
Born into a working-class family, Rodney was committed to social justice and equality for the downtrodden. Dr. Rodney is remembered most for his tireless crusade against dictatorial governance and his firm belief that such governance could be checked by a multi-ethnic movement of the working people.
The mobilization of people across ethnicity and social class in defense of their fundamental rights ran counter to the agenda of the then rulers. It brought to the fore the inherent contradictions in Guyana’s politics and society.
His supporters believe that his death resulted from a politics of revenge and malice and a desire by the rulers of the day to monopolize power as an end itself was beyond doubt. But people who knew him and associated with him believed that he initiated his own demise by moving explosives.
Rodney attended the nation’s premier high school, Queen’s College, where he became a skillful debater, and the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Jamaica, where he graduated with honors in History. He won the Faculty of Arts prize at UWI. He earned his PhD in African History in 1966 at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London at age 24.
His dissertation on the slave trade on the Upper Guinea Coast, was published by the Oxford University Press in 1970 titled: A History of the Upper Guinea Coast 1545-1800. His most famous book, “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, was widely acclaimed for its originality and its challenge to the conventional wisdom of the slavery.
Today, there is still no clear evidence as to who is responsible for the death of the revolutionary Walter Rodney at age 38. It is widely believed that his assassination was orchestrated by the PNC government.
The late Walter Rodney worked untiringly to uplift and empower the poor and to end racial divide in the country. He fought for the masses, even though they were locked into party loyalty and solidarity. He wanted to free them from the racial and repressive politics which had engulfed their lives.
He was a visionary and transformative leader who shunned opportunistic politics. His ideas transcended the petty party politics.
Rodney was well known internationally as an activist and a scholar. He taught at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and at UWI in Jamaica before he was declared persona non grata in October, 1968 by Jamaica’s Prime Minister Hugh Shearer.
What followed was a series of violence, dubbed the Rodney riots, which caused the deaths of many and millions of dollars in property damage. They triggered an increase in political awareness across the region.
Rodney returned to the University of Dar es Salaam to teach before returning to Guyana to lecture at the University, but was barred. Not having a job, Rodney became involved in active politics. He co-founded the Working People’s Alliance party that at the time provided the most effective and credible opposition to the PNC government.
At the time of his death, he was in the process of developing an indigenous economic development model to help the countries of the region overcome imperialism and dependency.
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