Kaieteur News – I met Leyland DeCambra at the beginning of the 70s. It was a friendship that has lasted ever since. He left Guyana shortly after and has since settled in the UK. Together with one of the famous names in the Guyanese diaspora, Ann Braithwaite, they formed the UK branch of the WPA.
It is a historical gem to have the recorded analysis of people from the 70s who were part of the WPA, interacted with the now infamous names of the WPA leadership, and are prepared to reflect on the insane, unbelievable degeneracy of those who were Walter Rodney’s comrades.
Not many persons from that period are alive; those that are have achieved advanced age. It doesn’t appear they will publish anything about what happened in the 70s. What people like DeCambra and Braithwaite have to say therefore is a priceless gem.
My questions and his answers cannot fit into one column. I will have to do part two on another occasion because Leyland’s pronouncements are too precious to be left unpublished. This part begins with the first few questions and his answers. Part two should cover most of his thoughts. I hope to publish the reflections of Ms. Braithwaite too.
FK – I have been asked the question countless time since 2015 – why the WPA, those in Guyana, and abroad, became so supportive of the PNC and rigged election, what is your take on that?
LD – I feel that for many people race is the main reason. For others it was opportunism, a selfish desire to gain office/benefits by associating with APNU+AFC (Rupert Roopnaraine comes into this category). For others it was a historical dislike of the PPP.
Although we were far away in London, we got a good sense of how the leaders of the WPA felt on many issues. Apart from the party literature and other correspondence that we received, there were regular visits by party leaders. Andaiye spent a year in London in the early 1980s, working with the Support Group. Rupert visited once sometimes twice a year, his parents, son and brother lived in London. We also had visits from Clive Thomas, Nigel Westmaas, Moses Bhagwan and Eusi Kwayana.
When I left Guyana in April 1974, I was disenchanted with the racial polarisation. I had a good level of political awareness. Within a year of Rodney’s return in late 1974, I found out that the WPA had begun to chip away at the racial division. By the time the WPA became a political party in 1979; great strides were made in breaking down racial barriers.
It was the news that the WPA was successfully promoting socialist and multi-racial politics that inspired me to join with a few others to form the WPA Support Group in London in early 1980. Josh Ramsammy was in London at that time and he worked with us to get the group going.
I feel that Rodney was the key to the transformation in Guyana. We know that he was passionately committed to multi-racial politics and from his academic work his class analysis of society. I also feel that he had a soft spot for the PPP and Cheddie. A key achievement of Walter was to get ASCRIA to adopt a less antagonistic approach to the PPP, to move from essentially a race to a class position.
By 1992 it was almost back to square one in Guyana. The WPA did not take their poor results in the 1992 elections very well. A clear indication for me was when the PPP government, after the 1992 elections, offered Clive Thomas the position of Minister of Planning and Development. The WPA turned it down on the spurious grounds that the WPA had to decide. In my view, they could not stomach the fact that the PPP had won and did not want to be a part of a government led by the PPP. I remember Rupert attempting to explain their rationale for rejecting the offer, it was not convincing.
I feel that the aggressive and antagonistic relationship with the PPP that existed pre Rodney time (1974) returned with a vengeance. From the conclusion of the 1992 elections, the PPP came under sustained attacks. These culminated in the Buxton violence in the early 2000s. The PPP also blundered after 1992. It seems to me that people like David Hinds, Ogunseye and Kwayana returned to their ASCRIA roots, joined by others like Ronald Waddell. This is my take on how the WPA was slowly integrated into the PNC. What I still cannot comprehend is why they abandoned such Rodneyite principles as democracy, multi-racial and working class 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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