In my presentation at a recent conference to mark the 40th anniversary of the Grenadian revolution, I argued that the decline of leftwing revolutionary parties that emerged in the Caribbean in the 1970s was directly tied to the demise of the revolution in 1983. The events that led to the end of that revolution, and the response of the USA, effectively brought an end to the age of revolution in the region.
Interestingly, the WPA is the only one of those parties that still exists. The others have either closed down or have joined with others to form new parties. I also argued at that conference that despite the passing of the age of revolution, the radical instinct still exists in the society at large. As the pragmatism that was adopted by the leaderships in the wake of the debacle in Grenada failed to transform the region, there was a gradual re-emergence of radicalism in the society.
Here in Guyana, the extreme politics of domination by the PPP served to radicalise a large section of African Guyanese, and a smaller section of Indian Guyanese. Many in this group also became alienated from the PNC which they felt had become an ineffective opposition.
The AFC was able to tap into that instinct when it arrived on the scene in 2005-2006, with a message of independence from the status quo. It eclipsed the WPA as the organised symbol of radicalism. However, once the AFC became a big part of the government, it adopted a pragmatic approach which ran counter to the radicalism of most of its initial constituency.
The WPA, which had lost its multiracial appeal due to a combination of factors, helped to form APNU, but was reduced to a very junior partner once the AFC joined the Coalition. The problem for the WPA was that it could not identify its constituency. Its former multiracial and radical constituencies were gone, Multiracialism was dead, and the new radical youth did not warm to the party.
So, from 2015 we adopted a very uncomfortable dualism of pragmatism and radical critique. The public radical critique came mainly from this writer, Brother Tacuma Ogunseye and Deon Abrams, the host of the party’s TV programme, Walter Rodney Groundings, but it reflected the thinking of many within the party. At the personal level, I felt that someone had to give voice to the radical instinct of the Coalition’s base, and I did so.
We now know that this radical instinct, which cut across social class and generation, had great expectations of the Coalition when it came to power—they expected big change. The Coalition, however, governed from the centre, did not adopt radical policies and made some errors of judgement. This led to alienation of this group from the government, if not from politics, which was manifested at the 2019 Local Government election, but not acknowledged by the Coalition.
The WPA spotted this alienation and felt that if it were not attended to, the Coalition could lose the coming election. We decided to go into the communities and confront the problem. Our objective is to win those voters back to the Coalition, which we concluded is the better choice despite its failings. As veterans of radical activism and politics, we are confident that we have the credentials to get the job done. But we were not sure what to expect when we set out on the campaign trail.
As we travelled across the coastland these last five weeks speaking at community meetings to real people, I have been surprised at how different the real Guyana is from the one constructed by political scribes and commentators. Despite the proliferation of social media, Guyanese are still attached to the bottom-house or school-room political meetings, where they get a chance to see the speakers close-up, listen to reasonings rather than speeches, and get to ask questions and express their views on a range of subjects.
I have been energised and uplifted by those gatherings, partly because most of those who have attended the meetings share my views on Guyanese politics and those of the WPA, and partly because there is still a collective passion for Guyana.
We have found out that our critique of the government and our conclusions about its tenure are shared by a critical mass. This has allowed for relatively fruitful conversations. In effect, the WPA has begun to give leadership to the radicalism in the Coalition’s base. It is a return to where the party began in 1974—the source.
The message is diverse. First, we have apologised for the government’s failures and acts of omissions. Second, we highlight both the accomplishments and the non-accomplishments of the Coalition, Third, we encourage grassroots activism as the most effective means of ensuring better government. Fourth, we insist that constituents make demands of government to ensure that they get returns for their votes. Fifth, we argue that a Coalition is in theory a superior form of government to a one-party government.
Sixth, we contend that part of the coming Oil and Gas wealth must be used to directly improve the material circumstances of the poor. Seventh, the values and policies that WPA feels strongly about, stand a better chance of being realised under the Coalition government.
Eighth, the WPA has asked the communities to empower the party to become a bigger voice and influence within the Coalition, by becoming members and supporters.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
More of Dr. Hinds’ writings and commentaries can be found on his YouTube Channel Hinds’ Sight: Dr. David Hinds’ Guyana-Caribbean Politics and on his website www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.news. Send comments to [email protected]
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