Analysis of political developments in Guyana tend to shy away from undertaking a class assessment of Guyana’s main political parties, the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) and the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR).
This reluctance is because those doing the analysis fear being labelled as leftists since class analysis are associated with leftists.
If you remove the glossy covering from all of the main political parties, all that separates them is the narcissist view that each can govern Guyana better than the other. But for one party to govern a country better than the others, means that the policies of that party have to be different to the policies of the others.
But how different are these policies going to be when the two main political parties represent the same class interest. You cannot represent the same class and have any significantly divergent policies.
It has been a paradox of Guyana’s political history that despite the PPP and the PNC claiming to be left-wing parties, they both became captive of the bourgeoisie class in Guyana. Their policies have benefitted the propertied class more than the working class.
In the 1950s and early 1960s when the PPP ruled Guyana, its policies were viewed as radical and leftist. And indeed the PPP policies were progressive from a working class perspective. But even though Jagan pursued left-wing policies, the propertied class was able to exert considerable influence on his party.
It was, for example, felt in some circles that it was this class that caused the fracture between Jagan and Kwayana over the favouring of Balram Singh Rai.
Burnham came to power in 1966 and by 1970 declared his government as socialist.
He proceeded to bring the commanding heights of the economy under his control. Quickly, more than 80% of the economy was under State ownership.
Burnham policies benefitted a small family-styled local capitalist class more than it did the working class.
Indeed the working class suffered under his rule. Burnham’s party lost power in 1992 and it took it 23 years to be returned to office.
One of its first acts was to jettison the Rodney Commission of Inquiry. It did so because the Commission was revealing how brutal, oppressive and hard life was under Burnham.
The younger generation does not need such a Commission for them to understand the hardships and oppression unleashed on Guyanese under Burnham. They know that from the stories they would have heard from their parents and grandparents.
The real reason for shutting down the Rodney Commission of Inquiry was not the sullying of the PNC.
The real reason for the opposition was the shame that such a recollection evokes.
The PNC wants that narrative removed from the collective conscience of our nation. The PNC has chosen to forget, to erase from the historical memory of Guyana, what is too shameful to remember.
This is why since 1992, supporters of the PNC object to the PPP and its supporters referring to the PNC’s twenty-eight years in power. They do not want to touch that narrative.
Under that narrative, it was a small band of family-owned businesses that reaped the greatest benefits from Guyana’s economy. The private sector was miniaturized, and it was this miniaturized remnant that made a lot of money. The traditional propertied class did well and many members of this class transferred their monies outside of Guyana.
After the food shortages hit, a new entrepreneurial class emerged. They made a lot of money by doing what the official economy was unable to do. And out of this grouping of entrepreneurs emerged a nouveau riche class.
By the time Desmond Hoyte came to power in 1992, there were two strata of the capitalist class in Guyana. On the one hand you had the traditional family-owned business class, and on the other hand you had the nouveau riche.
Elements from both of these classes joined forces in an attempt to have Hoyte re-elected. They used their finances to gain favours and influence over Hoyte. But behind the scenes, some of these same persons were two-timing Hoyte. They were also financing the PPPC.
Therefore when the PPP came to power in 1992, it was easy for elements of the propertied classes to find favour with the leadership of the PPPC. They could do this because behind the scenes they were heavily financing the PPP.
And they used their financing of the PPP’s elections to curry favour with the leadership of the party. Under the PPP, and under neo-liberal policies of the PPP, it was the propertied classes that benefitted more than the working class.
The working class did benefit and benefit tremendously under the PPPC, but the propertied class benefitted far more because the economic system favoured that class. The PNCR has returned and nothing much has changed.
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