Kaieteur News – There is a part of my theorising on the class structure in Guyana in this column that is going to be met with raised eyes and even disbelief. But this is what academics do. They theorise based on how they research and study things. What is contained in this article on Guyana’s class structure is based on my knowledge of this country. It may not be compellingly factual for other researchers but it is my findings.
I have received several comments and questions, mostly from academics based outside of Guyana, on my Sunday column on Guyana’s class structure. Here now are two of the most pressing clarifications I think people want. Yes, I agree there were missing links but I did warn that the truncation would have been extensive since it is a newspaper column.
First, there has always been tension in the relation between the Mullato/Creole elites and the PNC leadership because of class and colour. Forbes Burnham was rejected for membership of the League of Coloured People Organisation because he was seen as not classy enough and was not of light complexion.
Burnham locked that embarrassment deep in his mind and it shaped his psychic attitude to the Mullato class. He never liked that stratum and sought to undermine them once he acquired state power. Burnham hated the WPA more than any Indian competitor, than any PPP leader because he knew the urban elites had birthed the WPA to overthrow him.
John Carter was seen as the embodiment of the urban educated middle class and his party, the National Democratic Party catered for the interests of the Mullato elites. Carter merged his party with the PNC because the urban elites knew that they needed the strategic placements of the urban African proletariat that Burnham controlled.
A good example of the distance the dark-skinned Africans kept from their natural allies in the Mullato class was Dr. Ptolemy Reid. A dark-skinned, high official in the Booker empire in British Guiana, Reid never socialised with the Whites, Portuguese and Mullato groupings because he knew he would never be accepted as a part of that elitist society. Instead, he chose to help Burnham build the PNC which essentially catered for the Black masses.
If Dr. Jagan and his party did not emerge, there would have been constant wrangling between the urban educated elites and the PNC. They formed a natural bond because both needed each other and they had a common enemy – rural Indians wanting to come to Georgetown to become lawyers and doctors. The PNC wanted the resources and societal connections the Mullato/Creole class had, while that class needed the physical fortress the PNC brought.
The second clarification has to do with how I end my column yesterday- my prediction of the end of history in Guyana with the demise of the two organisations: the elite, light-complexioned, middle class birthed – the WPA and AFC. Which section of the middle class will then exert pressure on the PPP government in the coming decades?
That middle class is in dormancy. The PNC will remain active. It will be left to the Stabroek News to carry the torch for the Creole middle class. Space constraint always shows its unwanted presence and I will not be able to elaborate but call me on 614-5927 or email me at [email protected] and I will answer your queries.
I sincerely believe that my studies of Guyanese society lead me to think that the middle class vacuum will be filled by the Stabroek News (SN). I have not done a class analysis of Guyana’s two leading newspapers because the predictable reaction will be, “he will say that because he writes for the Kaieteur News (KN).”
Founded by two Portuguese elites, the SN is the opposite in class orientation to the KN. I know this because I spent six years at the SN. I saw the power of class and colour at SN. It has remained in this mode since its birth. It speaks for the middle class elites that would find it infra-dig to send their letters to the KN. A Jesuit priest once told me, “I don’t read that paper.” I never saw even an ounce of class prejudice and colour obsession at KN. I’m sorry if you think I write this because I work there.
Look at the attitude of the two papers to the five-month election imbroglio. KN took the stance that the paper accepted that there was rigging. It stopped its columnists and letters to the editor that supported rigging. The SN did not. Its columnists were openly embracing rigging and anti-Indian racism. Don’t accept this from me. Go back and read SN for that period. I have nothing against SN. This is my academic analysis.
(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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