Kaieteur News – There has long been the recognition amongst the Political Leaders of Guyana, that race and ethnicity were important factors in Guyana’s political development. Some of the foremost leaders of the land felt that there was an inseparable link between politics and economics.
Against this background, one would have expected that they would have paid far greater attention to the role of race and ethnicity in Guyana’s political economy. Unfortunately, most of the major political leaders of Guyana – Forbes Burnham, Cheddi Jagan, Walter Rodney and Janet Jagan – underestimated the significance of race and ethnicity in Guyana’s development.
After the neo-liberal experiments of the 1990s, it was hoped by many, including the West, that with a market economy in place, ethnic and racial divisions would have given way to group and interest agitation. Even Mrs. Jagan held to the view that once the economy grew and everyone began to benefit, race and ethnic divisions would disappear.
She was to be sorely disappointed because the stronger the economy became, the greater and more reinforced were these divisions. Instead of the divisions becoming more class-oriented, Guyana has retained the same old divisions that have bedeviled this nation prior to independence.
It was expected that as Guyana transitioned to a democratic polity and a market economy, a number of civil society and interest groups would have emerged, and they would have been vigorously agitating their interests.
This plural model has not materialised and today, the private sector is the only grouping outside of the political parties with any capacity for wielding influence. Even the trade union movement is now without bite.
The most powerful of interest groups in Guyana is the private sector, but one has to question why with such a powerful grouping, interests have not superseded ethnic and racial interests as the source of political agitation in Guyana.
Let it, however, not be confused that there is no system of class domination in Guyana. There is, but the form that this class domination takes is not one of acting independently. The political elite rule in the interest of the dominant economic grouping. This has always been the case, even under that discredited system of cooperative socialism.
The bourgeoisie class has never carved out for themselves an independent space. They have always attached, cuddled under, and been cozy with the ruling class. They have wooed and coerced the ruling political elite rather than dominated them.
By inveigling themselves to the political elite on all sides, they have been able to penetrate deeply into all the political parties in Guyana. These parties may claim to have working class sympathies, but they depend a great deal on the propertied class to fund their election campaign and the propertied class knows how to get what it wants from these political parties without directly taking over the leadership of these parties.
The propertied class exercises influence from behind the scenes. In this way they are able to protect their interests. But this is certainly not what was expected by the western powers that played an active role in allowing Guyana to make the transition towards parliamentary democracy and a market-based economy.
Those who pushed Guyana along the road of a market economy and democratic society must have been hoping that by now the local bourgeoisie would have been a powerful grouping that did not need to cower to political interests. They would have been so powerful a force outside of the political parties that it would have been unthinkable for anyone to contemplate objecting to their presence at a meeting aimed at resolving a national crisis.
They would have been so much respected and feared, that instead of the bourgeoise class having to cower to these parties and shower them with campaign funds, when the bourgeoisie class spoke, the politicians of Guyana would have trembled.
This is quite unlike the culture in developed countries, where the propertied class is quite prepared to wield its muscle. In those countries, politicians have to bow to the wishes of the propertied class. Here in Guyana, the propertied class has to wheel-and-deal their way to influence within the political parties.
The propertied class has the greatest to lose in the vent of political unrest. In fact, they have suffered the most in those years when political unrest was rife.
At least one member of the propertied class has made clear that there is a relationship between political instability and the falloff in economic growth in Guyana. As such, the bourgeoisie class understands that political unrest is not good for them and they know this all too painfully from experience.
It is time that this class comes out and asserts its importance. It is time that it emerges from the shadows of the political parties. It is time for this class’ interests to assert itself for the better of the country.
Since the working class is enfeebled, then the only class that is capable of enforcing its will on this country’s politics is the bourgeoisie class. This class must have learnt by now that it has to forge its own independence and cannot continue to waltz between the raindrops as represented by the political parties in Guyana.
Instead of cozying up to these parties and trying to exert influence from inside through coercion and other forms of influence, the bourgeoisie class must insist that it has the greatest to lose from this political tug-a war that is taking place in the country, and that it intends to use its influence to ensure that Guyana does not go down that slippery slope of decline again.
It is time that the propertied class asserts its independence from the political parties and begins to demand the changes that they see as necessary in Guyana.
So what is holding them back? Is it that the bourgeoisie class itself is shackled by the same polarized divisions that constrain progress in Guyana? Or is it that the local bourgeoisie class lacks the capacity to exert its influence even though today, they dominate 80 percent of the economy.
Are they vulnerable to the divisions that have afflicted Guyana for over five decades or are they simply lacking in that capacity to advance their own interests outside of the clutches of the political parties?
(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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