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Feb 10, 2022 Features / Columnists, Freddie Kissoon
Kaieteur News – The daughter of David DeCaires, the founder of the Stabroek News recently wrote that Guyana is not a functional democracy. I wanted to give this article the caption, “Isabelle DeCaires shouts eureka, eureka.”
I thought it would not be appropriate for some people; not that I care who says it is not. I chose to change it because I think the present headline is a more curious one. But Ms. DeCaires did in fact exclaim, “eureka, eureka.” Why? Because, it is only after 2020 she discovered that Guyana is not a functional democracy.
When a government won a general election by less than one percent, that country cannot be a functional democracy. I don’t know where Ms. DeCaires was at the time in May 2015 but she certainly did not address that philosophical caricature. A country could not have been a functional democracy when it retrenched 7,000 sugar workers without financial compensation as required by law. The wider connection with family and relatives meant that 42,000 persons connected to the sugar industry were devastated. I didn’t see the invocation of sympathy for these helpless people by Ms. DeCaires.
A country cannot be a functional democracy when its political leadership refuses to accept a legitimate no-confidence vote (NCV) and embarrassed Guyana in front of the world by asking the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to rule that in the Guyana Parliament of 65 MPs, a majority vote is 34 not 33. The CCJ ruled a majority of 65 is 33. I didn’t read anything about this comical adventure from Ms. DeCaires.
I don’t know the area of scholarship to which of Ms. DeCaires belong but if it is political theory and comparative sociology, then she ought to know that a functional democracy does not emerge from the impulses and actions of the government or the state. Democracy was an evolution process in which the government plays a part like the rest of society.
The 21st century bears a strong resemblance to ancient societies where class struggle determines if a country becomes a democracy or an oligarchy. This is ironic and is bound to meet with skepticism with the response that the world has changed beyond recognition from ancient societies. It has not in terms of class dynamics.
In his 1966 magnum opus, “The Social Origins of Democracy and Dictatorship,” Barrington Moore produced a stunning study of ancient societies of how class struggle shapes society (one of the best scholarly books ever written). Moore’s thesis is still relevant today. What has changed in the 21st century is form not substance.
Post-colonial Guyana can be studied by the application of class struggle and in using that methodology one can see why Guyana has not been a functional democracy since Independence. Whereas Moore made use of class structures to account for the birth of democracy, in Guyana the race problematic is the twin of the class methodology.
What has happened since the 1940s is that class and ethnicity have been the propelling forces that have stultified democracy in Guyana. From the time the Jaganite organisation won power in 1957, there have been ethnic and class forces that continue to reject Indian acquisition of power. The 2021 onslaught from the non-Indian sections of Guyana plus the Creole middle class is a continuation of what happened to successive Jagan governments of 1957 and 1961, 1992 and the PPP administrations of 1997, 2001, 2006, 2011, and 2020.
The dramatic rejection of the Natural Resource Fund Act (NRFA) is just one more catalyst for the subtle repudiation of Indian control of government. In 2022. The furor seen against the NRFA will continue against all government policies. As I remarked to attorney Sase Gunraj recently, the issue is not the NRFA or election reform, it is about anti-Indian class confrontation.
Ms. DeCaires ought to know that a functional democracy is sustained when civil society educates the population about moral values, political rights and philosophical foundations. Civil society activism preserved democracy. But in Guyana civil society is anti-philosophy, anti-democracy and obsessed with displacing what they see as an Indian government. Ms. DeCaires is in charge of Moray House in Guyana which sponsors monthly symposia to educate the population on vital challenges facing democracy in Guyana.
Moray House has avoided any discussion of the NCV and the five months of rigging. It wasn’t in the interest of Moray House to acknowledge that the NCV and the election rigging were dangerous threats to a functioning democracy. But no doubt we will see Moray House “educating” Guyanese on the danger of the NRFA in weeks to come. I hope Ms. DeCaires herself doesn’t become a threat to Guyana’s functioning democracy.
(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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