Kaieteur News-[N.B.: There was a typographical mistake in yesterday’s column. It stated that the Minister had raced ahead and set the date for the DCB elections. This should have read the GCB elections and not the DCB elections which were reportedly ordered by the Court. This column apologizes for the mistake.]
If we accept that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) represented more than half of the electorate in 1970, then it is false to say that the majority of Guyanese did not support the attainment of Republican status. The PPP was always supportive of Guyana becoming a republic.
What the PPP opposed was the type of Republic which existed, one which Jagan viewed as a smokescreen for capitalist-imperialist domination. It is the same type of domination which is rearing its ugly head today through foreign control of our oil and gold.
The PPP had its reservations about what took place on February 23, 1970. And these reservations were expressed by Dr. Cheddi Jagan in his address to the National Assembly.
Jagan made it known that Guyana becoming a republic was always one of the main objectives of his party. He listed the others as universal adult suffrage, voting at age 18, self-government and Independence.
Addressing the National Assembly one year prior to Guyana becoming a Republic, Jagan said that the PPP’s position has always been, as matter of principle, in support of republicanism.
He would have preferred however for Guyana to become a Republic and to sever all constitutional ties with Great Britain upon the country attaining it Independence. But he said when he raised this issue in London in 1962/63, Burnham said he preferred to have the monarchy for a little while.
He said that the attainment of Republican status was not based on principle. He saw it as merely a means through which Burnham could subvert the courts by outlawing appeals to the Privy Council. For Jagan, the Republic declaration also was a mere change in form and not in substance since in his mind the colonists has merely surrendered symbols and forms rather than substance.
For him, cooperative socialism was hoax. He said it was a cloak and cover for neo-colonialism and a capitalist-imperialist republic. He was correct because even at Republic, the commanding heights of the economy were in foreign hands. He himself asked how could a socialist society be established when the economic foundation and the political and ideological superstructure were becoming more and more under imperialist control; when the country’s resources were being bartered away, and when the country had “been mortgaged and strangled by huge local and foreign debts; when the real producers are penalized, agriculture hindered and industrialization stifled…”
He was convinced that so long as the economic structure was in the hands of foreign capitalists, that cooperative socialism would fail. His prediction proved accurate. Even when the economy was controlled by the State, cooperative socialism failed.
Jagan was not convinced that cooperatives would work even though in principle he was not opposed to cooperatives. Cooperative socialism he said was a mere slogan. History proved him correct. He also did not believe that cooperatives was the means to achieve socialism. Rather, he said, it is only socialism which will permit of the growth and development of cooperatives. Again, history deferred to him.
According to Jagan, “Conceptually, republicanism was a declaration of independence, an enunciation of the principle that sovereignty derives from the people and not from tyrants.” But in Guyana the sovereignty of the people had been hijacked by electoral fraud by a minority regime which was running roughshod over the rights and aspirations of the people.
At the time of Guyana becoming a republic, the PPP spoke on behalf of the majority of Guyanese and the PPP’s position has always been and still is in support of Guyana becoming a Republic. It is very important that the young generation not be deceived into believing the revisionist drivel which is now being pedalled that the majority of the population did not support Guyana becoming a Republic.
But one must ask what is behind this revising of history. Why is this inaccurate position now being peddled in the public? To what ends?
God knows that Guyana is being recolonized by foreign oil and gold companies which are riding roughshod over our people’s claim to a fair share of the national patrimony. The least thing that Guyana needs at this stage is a distortion of our history which would suggest that the people of Guyana were divided at the time the country became a Republic.
(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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