One of the enduring enigmas of this country is that there are Indian individuals and Indian companies both inside and outside of Guyana that hold Cheddi Jagan passionately in their embrace but are yet to finance the ultimate biography of the iconic leader.
No one would believe that they cannot afford it. Hand-In-Hand company paid Clem Seecharran to do a history of Guyanese cricket. Someone can approach that particular historian or someone similar and let him/her quote a price.
No PNCite in the diaspora, despite countless academics out there who love Burnham, has even attempted a short biography of this fascinating human.
To date, Tyrone Ferguson book, “To Survive Sensibly or to court Heroic Death: Management of Guyana’s political economy, 1965-1985” remains the definitive work on the Burnham period. A caveat is in order – the book is not a biography of Burnham; far from it.
The PNC celebrated 62 years of birth last week. I plan to do a series on that party using the periodisation schema. I will compartmentalise the party into five distinct lives – “Burnham out of power”; “Burnham in power”; “Hoyte’s metamorphosis”; “the trials and tribulations of Corbin”; and “the PNC under Granger”.
I have learnt from my three decades of newspaper columns that readers do not like consecutive articles in a series.
They prefer the analyst to assess the emergencies that grow from day to day. Make no mistake; if I do five columns consecutively, I am going to miss out on crucial things that will happen in the next five days. Readers will want interpretations on those daily events.
This is the first in the five part series. I honestly don’t know when Part 2 will appear but it will not be far from now.
I have a similar obligation to my readers to use the periodisation schema for the PPP. That will be a five part series too- “Jagan after 1964”; “Jagan in the age of Rodney”; “Jagan in power after 1992”; “the passion, purpose and performance of Jagdeo’; and “the PPP’s unthinkable loss of power in the 21st century.” I begin part one of the PNC right now.
After the united PPP lost power in 1953, the PPP imploded and Burnham formed his own party, the People’s National Congress. Contrary to popular opinion, the new party was not an open capitalist entity. Both PNC and PPP in the fifties endorsed working class directions and even though Burnham had middle class personalities in his hierarchy, Burnham made no secret that the PNC was a party of the masses.
When Jagan won the 1957 election and the West began to pressure Jagan over his communist attachments, Burnham embraced realpolitik and pragmatic politics. He knew Guyana was a poor, obscure country on the world stage that the West with the blink of eye would obliterate in an age of voracious Cold War competition.
For Burnham then, the strategy was to offer himself as a non-communist alternative to Jagan. To do so, the West wanted their pound of flesh. They were not prepared to guillotine the Jagan administration without the energetic participation of the PNC. So Burnham obliged. Burnham grew stronger in his conviction that Jagan was hopeless for two fundamental reasons.
One was that Jagan was oblivious to his congenital line faults – he didn’t have African Guyanese support and he did nothing to convert them. Secondly, Jagan was over-zealous in his communist embrace and was paralysed in strategising a way out of the labyrinthine cave the West had locked him in.
The history of the PNC from its birth to its acquisition in power in 1964 is filled with stains that for many are indelible. The West used cruel methods to vitiate the elected rule of Jagan. Burnham, with shameless and crude sycophancy, played the card the West gave him. But there are those who would argue that Burnham had no choice.
In a situation where, a country had a popular but misguided leader that the West wanted out, the longer he stayed in the more intense will be the destruction of the country.
If you are a fan of Burnham, you will buy this argument with eyes closed. After all, it worked. Jagan was removed, Burnham accepted Cold War realities and the violence and destruction of Guyana became a thing of the past.
Many of Burnham’s admirers use the realpolitik perspective to exonerate Burnham’s shameless flirtation with the West prior to 1964, the year he won power.
Those who are alive today, like Hamilton Green would argue that Burnham’s role was essentially to wrest control of Guyana from the West that Jagan was too intellectually naïve to do.
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