Today marks 40 years since Walter Rodney was assassinated. The Commission of Inquiry, which his very close revolutionary comrades, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine and Clive Thomas, refused to testify at, concluded that President Forbes Burnham was complicit in the assassination.
The historian is inevitably tempted to ask: if this or that hero were alive today, what would he/she think of the times we live in and how would they see and judge those that they fought with. Would Che Guevara have accepted that a head of the power structure should rule forever? Fidel Castro only stepped down from power because old age undermined his health.
Would Burnham have chastised those who seek to perpetuate his name by proclaiming the role of the state is not to provide employment? What would Rodney have made of what Cheddi Jagan became? Rodney literally gave Jagan a lifeline when his dynamism overtook Guyana and melted Burnham’s magic.
If Rodney were alive, he would have parted company with Jagan because Jagan spent all his life championing working people’s economic well-being but he became a helpless victim of ethnic retrogressive politics. As president, Jagan did not reach out to the African peasantry and the urban African proletariat.
There isn’t a Rodneyite scholar on Planet Earth today, June 13 that will not be fascinated by the question they are all asking; how would Walter have approached the merger of the PNC and WPA in 2011 and what would have been his thinking of the return of rigged elections. More importantly for me, is what would have been his attitude to his intimate colleagues who are still alive today and are still talking and writing about Guyanese political economy?
Space of course will be a constraint but here are a few of my takes. I believe he would have accepted the PNC/WPA merger but he would have argued that just as the dialectics make the human, the human makes the dialectics. This meant he would have laid down formidable guidelines for the merger as an opposition party and as a party in power. Once the merger had acquired office and Rodney saw that the class power had shifted away from the working people, he would have pulled out of the coalition. Andaiye and Moses Bhagwan believed this was what the WPA should have done. They took this position because they think this was what Walter would have done. Andaiye is dead. Bhagwan is alive so he could expand on that feeling.
On the question of the 2020 election, because his politics was grounded in class dialectics, Walter would never have accepted the disenfranchisement of the working people through rigging as the APNU+AFC did on March 4 with Clairmont Mingo as its agent. Though he would have argued that the election brought into power the Jagdeoite ideological perspective of economics, Walter would have advocated for the confrontation of continued Jagdeoite economics. He never would have embraced the 2020 rigging because of one, seminal rule in life – if you allow permanent power, you are paving the way for permanent dictatorship.
On the last question – what would he have made of Bonita Bone, Rupert Roopnaraine, Clive Thomas, David Hinds, Eusi Kwayana, Tacuma Ogunseye etc? The least said of Ogunseye the better. Walter would have expelled him from the WPA over his horrible rhetorical support for the pathology of race violence in Buxton, something which Andaiye felt the WPA should have been done.
Would he have accepted Bonita Bone’s embrace of the politics of Ronald Waddell? Imagine Waddell went on Channel 9 in 1997 and urged East Indians in Guyana who voted for the PNC that they will be given physical protection and that those Indians who voted for the PPP have themselves to blame if things should happen to them. Those tapes are still available. Bone had to know that Waddell was deeply involved in the “Buxton Trouble.” This columnist knows of the activities of Waddell in Buxton but then again that is no secret.
If Walter were alive and had retired from politics and someone came up to him and explained the backward transformation of Rupert Roopnaraine from Third World revolutionary to reactionary Cabinet minister, how would he have reacted?
Roopnaraine told his party at a statutory executive meeting (and to Dr. Alissa Trotz, Dr. David Hinds and WPA executive, Keith Branch) that as a Cabinet minister, he can no longer discuss government business with party leaders. Ogunseye is the only one to go public with that information in a letter to the Stabroek News. Finally, Clive Thomas – since December 2018 to now, Thomas, in his weekly Stabroek News column, has penned not a single line on politics.
(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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