The middle class has never been a revolutionary class. However, most of the intellectual class who end up agitating for social change tend to originate within the middle classes, end up being part of the middle class or were captured by middle class values and interests.
In the early stages of revolutionary agitation, the middle class often takes the lead in mobilizing for change, but as the process unfolds the middle class fades into the background and leaves the task of foot soldiering to the working class.
The working class, however, always has to be led, and they are often led, sometimes to misfortune and betrayal, by the middle class.
Karl Marx once called on the workers of the world to unite since all they had to lose were their chains. In Russia there was a peasant revolution in 1917, but the leadership of that revolution was drawn from the intellectual and middle classes because when it comes to social change, the middle class views its interests as being served by encouraging such change which will allow its members greater upward ascendency.
Burnham understood this very well, because he was a product of the lower middle class. He was ambitious. He saw politics as a means to personal glory and he used and sacrificed both the middle class and the workers to secure what he wanted.
When the bureaucratic class that he created joined forces with other elements of the professional class and with sections of the lower middle class to turn against him, Burnham knew their weak spots and how to deal with them.
He unleashed a reign of terror and intimidation, the likes of which have never been seen before in Guyana. He transferred teachers, dismissed those whom he felt were in sympathy with the WPA and set his goons loose on peaceful protestors.
Political opponents were intimidated. Their homes were searched and their every movement monitored. One young woman became casual friends with the wife of an opposition figure only to one day discover that she was being tailed by the Special Squad.
Agents of repression turned up all over. They were planted at the University of Guyana to monitor what was being said in classes and to report back to their political masters.
In the face of these measures, the local middle class began to retreat slowly. Their revolutionary torches began to dim rapidly.
By the time Burnham unleashed his death squads, by the time Fr. Darke, Ohene Koama and Edward Dublin were taken out, the message was clear: Burnham would stop at nothing.
He made it clear that he would not easily entertain free speech. He not only sent his thugs to break up opposition meetings, these thugs went after Rodney forcing the man to have to scale fences to escape. This narrow escape from the clutches provided a source of humour for Burnham who publicly ridiculed Rodney by telling his cheering supporters that he would send Rodney to the 1980 Moscow Olympics to take part in the high jump.
Rodney did not end up in Moscow. He ended six feet under.
By the time Rodney was assassinated, the middle class had been softened up. Many of them who had flocked in droves behind the WPA abandoned ship and country. Many of them are to be found outside of Guyana and some have become critics of the PPPC.
Today, the middle class in Guyana is devoid of revolutionary instinct. There may be a few individuals who have the spirit within them but as a class, the middle class cannot be expected to lead any process of peaceful social change.
The middle class of today was not subject to the deprivations and loss of prestige that led them to flock behind the WPA. What we have today is a different middle class, one that is generally self-serving and selfish. To therefore expect that this class will speak out as a class and agitate for improvements is to ask too much, way too much.
The WPA no longer has a lien on the loyalties of this class. This class was behind the AFC which is a party that is tied to business interests and which cannot be a vehicle for social change. The AFC was always incapable of organizing any meaningful social protest in Guyana and one reason is because the middle class is no longer the same as it was in yesteryear.
The middle class is not pleased with the APNU+AFC government. It however does not wish to go over to the PPPC. It is therefore up for grabs. A New and United Guyana (ANUG) is hoping to carve out a niche within the middle class but the new party is ill-suited to this task. The way things are going it may not be able to field a slate for the elections.
The middle class therefore will end up in a quandary. With no party to represent its interests, it will become like the Guyana Police Force, a lost cause.
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