Nov 27, 2023 Letters
Kaieteur Sports – Perhaps the following is the most destructive document in Guyanese history. This occurred to me when last week I came upon what I thought was a patriotic piece – ‘Not the time to attribute or apportion blame for the border predicament Guyana finds itself’ by Dr. Vishnu Bisram (SN: 20/11/2023) – which led me to conclude that perhaps the border problem is having a sobering effect upon the body politic. I should have known better for my optimism was soon dashed. How could I possibly have allowed a byline to make me believe that Bisram could so easily overcome a lifetime of socialisation and advocacy within our political context!
Two days later, among other very questionable opinions, we heard from Robin Singh: ‘Shameful as it may be to countenance, Forbes Burnham, the first Prime Minister of Guyana, was an agent of the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) before and, during his tenure in office (1962-72). This is a fact and not an ‘accusation’ as the Sunday Stabroek Editorial of 19.11.23 suggests.’
Ideology is an extremely powerful force holding people together and it has been so for the PPP. In Guyana’s context, it is much important than complaints about incompetence, corruption, dictatorial behaviour, etc. This is not about Marxism/Leninism for apart from its democratic centralist element that still allows the PPP’s oligarchy to run roughshod over the membership and facilitates some aid from comrades abroad, it has quite literally disappeared. What has, quite rightly, been coming under attack and has been raised again by the border quarrel is the PPP’s day-to-day political ideology that is rooted in the ethnic demonization of Forbes Burnham, the PNC, and the African people.
There is now evidence that the PPP should bear the heavier portion of the responsibility for the dysfunctional historical condition of Guyana. Chronic elections manipulation, the Guyana/Venezuela border problem, the entrenchment of racial/ethnic politics, the so-called ‘Burnham dictatorship’ and, arguably, our inability to institutionalise a more appropriate political system. In 1951, during the rule of the dreaded Soviet communist dictator Joseph Stalin when the Western inspired process to contain communism was on its way, Cheddi Jagan, the leader of the PPP, secretly sent the following letter to the International Department of the Czechoslovak Communist Party – in communist modus operandi to international communism – that has been responsible for all of the above ills.
‘1. The purpose of this letter is to outline the political situation in British Guiana and the role of the People’s Progressive Party and to solicit aid on behalf of the Party. 2. The Imperialists are now actively engaged in exploring potential mineral resources. The British plan to federate most of the British West-Indian islands and British Guiana into a glorified Crown Colony. …British Guiana will therefore most likely play the leading role in any future development of the Caribbean Area and in the future federation. As such a strong militant party in British Guiana is vitally necessary. 3. The balance of power in the Executive Committee of the party is with the communists. 4. To fight for and to preserve peace is also to fight the imperialist at their weak points – the colonies. … The second reason for urgency is the fact that our party will face a general election in 1952/55. To strengthen the party … however some financial assistance is required. (Cheddi Jagan, SN: 11/04/2023)
The PPP sensibly kept its plan to deliver Guyana and the entire British West Indies to the Soviet camp to itself and I am certain that Mr. Robin Singh will join me in characterising this behaviour as ‘disgraceful.’ However, with only rumour to go by, over decades the PPP, and particularly Cheddi Jagan, gained a great deal of sympathy from many Guyanese of all races. Many came to see the PPP as a national/socialist group that merely wanted betterment for its people but was wrongly thrown out of government by the West and the internal forces such as the United Force, its archrival Forbes Burnham and the People’s National Congress (PNC). Also, out of government for decades with nothing else to hold their ethnic supporters together, the PPP resorted to the most potent weapon at their disposal – aapan jaat ‘vote for your race’ – and the demonisation of Forbes Burnham, the PNC and by association, Africans became the order of its day.
The letter quoted above threatens to upend all sympathy for the PPP: its leadership, with is ethnic Indian majority, was to electorally deliver the entire region into the communist camp. There is one time that the majority rule must be rejected and that is when it seeks to end majority rule, and that was precisely the goal of Soviet communism and its so-called dictatorship of the proletariat, and the West rightly pulled out the stops to prevent the PPP from executing its plan.
The Guyana/Venezuela border controversy is one of the costliest PPP legacies and so notwithstanding his disclaimer, Mr. Bisram sought to place it at the feet of Forbes Burnham, the PNC and of course Africans. He began by endorsing the view that Guyana should not be having bilateral talks with Venezuela to resolve the border dispute since the matter is before the ICJ and international law, legal precedent and almost every nation support Guyana’s position. But entrapped by PPP ideology, he then proceeded to use a quarter of his short missive to do to Burnham precisely what he advised against! ‘The case before the ICJ has nothing to do with any past president or their actions or whether they sold out Guyana’s rights to gain or retain office. … Blaming Burnham for opportunistically agreeing to revisit or reopen the Arbitration Award will not provide a solution to the conflict.’
In a nutshell, to get rid of the PPP or to mitigate its influence, the British colonial authorities and their local supporters began elections manipulation by jerrymandering, buying votes, etc., in 1957, before the PNC was formed. Neither the British nor the PNC threw the PPP out of government: they sought to curtail its communist intent by suggesting shared governance but Jagan rejected this, perhaps because the party was already tied to Soviet communism. Jagan accepted that it was his communism that led to the Guyana Venezuela border dispute being raised again immediately after the Cuban missile crisis that brought the world the closest it has ever been to nuclear war. The so-called ‘Burnham dictatorship’ was the outcome of the scheme concocted by the PPP and perhaps contributed to saving all of us from the stranglehold of a Soviet-type of dictatorship.
To clarify: over many years, I privately and publicly described Jagan as a communist and I cannot remember him ever denying it. What I do recall is that he attempted to convince me that Soviet-type one party democracy was as good as liberal democracy. I do not believe that the Jagans themselves were racists and initiated ethnic political allegiance, but they contributed significantly to its entrenchment.
Dr. Henry Jeffrey
AUBREY NORTON FRIGHTEN RENEGOTIATION AND RING-FENCING
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