Kaieteur News – Bharrat Jagdeo’s assertion that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) is committed to the working class while simultaneously disavowing any allegiance to specific ideologies raises questions about the party’s evolution since the death of its founders Cheddi and Janet Jagan.
At his last Press Conference, he is quoted as saying, “We want to work for people to get into the middle class and get wealthy so if any ‘ism’ whatsoever is inconsistent with that, it cannot continue to be the prevailing philosophy of our party.”
The PPP, originally established as a national party, underwent a transformation from a broad-based political entity to one with explicit socialist-Marxist-Leninist leanings. This history behind this evolution is well-known and needs no repeating here. This evolution, however, prompts scrutiny as Jagdeo, the General Secretary, distances the party from any particular ‘isms.’ Such a departure from ideological labels creates ambiguity around the PPP’s commitment to its historical roots and working-class orientation. It also raises concerns as to why Jagdeo is not scared of being seen as being part of any ‘ism’, especially when it was a country with an ‘ism’ and a party attached to an ‘ism’ that was responsible for his higher education.
But the more transformative evolution of the PPP took place under Jagdeo’s presidency when the party came under the ambit of the bourgeois class. Jagdeo’s tenure as president marked a departure from the socialist ideology that once defined the PPP. The wholesale adoption of neoliberal economic policies by Jagdeo saw his government embrace a path of economic liberalization, privatization, and an open economy. Even Desmond Hoyte did not go as far as Jagdeo did in removing the harnesses of the economy.
This shift and the cozy relationship between elements of the bourgeois class and Jagdeo’s government raised concerns about a departure from traditional working-class principles of the PPP. One of the paradoxes highlighted by Jagdeo’s stance is the seeming control exerted by the capitalist class over the PPP. The party’s embrace of neoliberal economic policies aligns with the interests of the capitalist elite, raising questions about whether the working class truly remains at the forefront of the PPP’s priorities. Today, it is the bourgeois class that is believed to bankroll the operations of the PPP/C since the party no longer has a commercial arm.
Jagdeo’s implicit assertion that a party can be committed to the working class without subscribing to any specific ideology is inherently contradictory. Ideology serves as a guiding framework for political parties, shaping their policies and actions. By disavowing ‘isms,’ the PPP risks losing its ideological compass, leaving the working class without a clear basis for assessing the party’s commitment to their interests.
A crucial aspect of any party’s commitment to the working class lies in the formulation and implementation of policies that address the needs and concerns of this demographic.
The tension between working-class advocacy and the adoption of neo-liberal policies is a central dilemma facing the PPP. Can a party genuinely champion the working class while simultaneously embracing economic policies that may exacerbate social inequalities?
The notion of ideological neutrality within a government or political party is a tempting concept. But it is an illusion, since every decision and policy inherently reflect underlying values and beliefs. There is no such thing as ideological neutrality. And if at his age, Jagdeo does not know this he is in the wrong profession then he needs help because every decision made by a government or political party is inherently rooted in a set of values and principles, whether explicitly acknowledged or not. The very act of governance involves choices that reflect a particular worldview, moral stance, or understanding of societal priorities. Even if a party claims to be neutral, the absence of a declared ideology does not negate the presence of implicit beliefs shaping its actions.
Neutrality in governance often implies a detachment from ideological influences, but policies crafted under the guise of neutrality can have profound ideological implications. Decisions regarding taxation, social welfare, education, and healthcare inherently embody values and priorities, affecting various segments of society differently. The claim to ideological neutrality can obscure the real impact of policies on different socioeconomic groups, potentially exacerbating inequalities. Examining historical examples reveals the difficulty of maintaining true ideological neutrality. Governments and political parties often emerge from specific historical, cultural, or social contexts, shaping their values and priorities. The PPP arose from the working class. It has deep roots within the working class.
Even when professing neutrality, political parties and governments are influenced by prevailing ideologies, making the idea of complete detachment from ideological moorings unrealistic and a fallacy. Jagdeo must be bold enough to come forward and admit that the PPP was seized by the bourgeois class during his time as President. The PPP/C now acts at the behest of the bourgeois class.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of this newspaper and its affiliates.)
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