It was a shock to learn recently that Walter Rodney was either a member of the People’s Progressive Party or was close to that party. That is the only way in which it could be said that the PPPC betrayed Rodney.
One can only be betrayed by someone to whom you are close. And therefore if it is being alleged that Rodney was betrayed by the PPPC, then Rodney had to have been either a member of the PPP or very close to the PPP.
Charrandass Persaud was said to have betrayed APNU+AFC. He was a member of the AFC, and a part of the APNU+AFC team in parliament. If he was not a member or if he was not close to APNU and the AFC, he could not have been said to have betrayed them
The narrative that somehow the PPPC betrayed Rodney has been tried before. Many years ago, agents of the PNCR peddled the lie that it was the PPP which was responsible for Rodney’s death. They were attempting to exculpate Burnham from his heinous act and so they tried, years after Rodney’s assassination, to spread the untruth that Rodney was killed by the PPPC.
The denunciation of this narrative came almost immediately from within the WPA. But with the passage of time, old untruths are resurrected and reappear as new narratives.
A recent one emerged from within the WPA. One of its former leaders is quoting second-hand sources as saying that at some political rally, Dr. Jagan made negative remarks about Rodney. It is not clear whether the WPA leader got that from Special Branch sources, and why this was kept concealed for so long. The WPA had never before mentioned that Dr. Jagan made such remarks about Rodney, and Dr. Jagan was not known to engage in such talk.
Revisionist narratives continue to be manufactured. It is now said that it was the PPPC who benefitted from Rodney’s death.
No one benefitted from Rodney’s death. Declassified documents revealed that Rodney’s adventurism has reached its apogee. The PNC police state had him cornered. He knew it. He approached the United States embassy and asked them to help protect his family in the event of his death. The Embassy official with whom he met was of the opinion that Rodney had a premonition of imminent death.
The WPA has long glamorized the period from 1978-1980 as the period of the civil rebellion. But by 1980, the sparks had fizzled. The WPA had become battle-fatigued. The police state’s constant harassment of its activists, the breaking-up of its political meetings by PNC and House of Israel thugs, the constant searching of the homes of its members, the dragging of its activists before the courts on charges and the assassination of the party’s comrades, took a toll on the party.
One aspect of the narrative is that the PPPC was ineffective during that period and that it was the WPA which weakened Burnham. Well, how effective was the WPA when it had burned itself out. The two parties – the PPP and the WPA – admittedly had different approaches. The PPPC struggle was on more than one front, including parliament. The WPA had only one front – the streets.
The WPA’s support was more multiracial. But that was because Walter was special in that regard. But part of that multiracial support was because of the PPP. Make no mistake, PPPC supporters were in the trenches with the WPA. But the party wants to take credit for the civil rebellion and it is entitled to its day in the sun.
It was Miles Fitzpatrick who went to Dr. Jagan’s house to deliver the devastating news that Walter had been assassinated. And Jagan’s reaction was that it was so regretful because he had so much promise.
Jagan was more matured and understood that the PNC could not topple in the manner and as quickly as Rodney had hoped. Rodney wanted to do too much, too quickly, and using the wrong methods. It was for this reason that people called him an adventurist. To Rupert Roopnaraine’s credit, during the funeral oration he argued for the party to be strengthened and become more disciplined.
Walter died and the WPA died with him because, as Jagan probably felt, Rodney, an avowed Marxist, never took the time to ensure that the objective and subjective conditions were ripe for the change he wanted. CLR James implied as much.
This in no way justifies the murderous act of Forbes Burnham. The late dictator will forever have the murder of Walter Rodney on his hands.
The WPA, the party founded by Walter, is now in a different mode. It is keen to jump once again into bed with the PNC, and so it is resurrecting the discredited narrative about the PPP betraying Rodney.
While it is at its favourite pastime these days in bashing the PPP, it should address whether Walter was betraying those fine young men who had followed him during the civil rebellion. Financial pressures forced a number of WPA bigwigs to leave. Omawale left to take up a job with an international organization overseas. The bulk of the middle class and professional support went into retreat; many migrated. They lacked staying power.
And guess what? During the Rodney Commission of Inquiry it was brought out that in 1980, Rodney himself was leaving to take up an appointment in Zimbabwe. He was abandoning the struggle. So who betrayed whom?
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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