Dec 05, 2023 Letters
Unlike Dr. Vishnu Bisram, Dr. Randy Persaud was genuinely attempting to end his critique (‘Dr. Henry Jeffrey has it wrong again,’ KN 28/11/2023) in an even handed and positive manner, but the way he sought to do so would prevent us from properly grasping the nature of the problem and the possible solutions. Unfortunately, this defect epitomises the customary shallowness of his contributions.
‘Finally,’ he said, ‘let me say that to try and blame Burnham or Jagan for what Maduro is doing is ridiculous. To label the critique of Burnham’s authoritarianism as racist, is the equivalent to those who equate the critique of Netanyahu as anti-Semitic.’ Dr. Persaud, Forbes Burnham, Cheddi Jagan and Nicolás Maduro did not suddenly drop from thin air. Maduro was born in 1962, the same year that Venezuela informed the United Nations that it would not continue to abide by the arbitration award of 1899 and given the level of the state propaganda since then, generations of Venezuelans have grown up believing that Essequibo belongs to them. To make matters worse, he now finds himself in a political career in which, regardless of what his own opinion may be, the management and/or manipulation of public opinion is critical to his and his party’s survival.
It cannot, therefore, be ridiculous to attempt to reconstruct history to determine how it may have contributed to his generation’s present behaviour and in the process attribute historical responsibility, i.e., blame. I would argue that such an exercise (digging up dead bones, if you wish Dr. Persaud) is necessary if we are to get to the root of the problem and seek to convince Maduro that his position is untenable. Indeed, if as Cheddi Jagan believed, it was the USA who sought the reemergence of the border dispute to stymie any possibility of Jagan spreading communism on the mainland, it would not be out of place for Guyanese to call upon the USA – the Venezuelans did in the 1890s – as still the senior regional power, to seek and reinforce a peaceful means of ending the controversy.
As for the comparison between ‘Burnham’s authoritarianism’ and Netanyahu, you appear to be comparing unlike things and the cases are sufficiently different as to make such comparison invidious. Netanyahu has made it quite clear that Israel is a Jewish state and in many ways the Palestinians are treated as second class citizens.
‘Dr. Jeffrey’s first error,’ he claimed, ‘is that he thinks that the Guyana-Venezuela matter before the ICJ is a bilateral matter. Nothing could be further from the truth.’ Where did this come from? How could a court case be bilateral? I have the habit of quoting people so that the reader would know what was really said. I suspect that Persaud’s was trying to create and destroy a strawman: if so, he has failed miserably! What I did say is that ‘The Guyana/Venezuela border controversy is one of the costliest PPP legacies’ and notwithstanding Dr. Bisram’s byline ‘Not the time to attribute or apportion blame for the border predicament Guyana finds itself’, entrapped by PPP ideology, he then used archaic PPP propaganda that Burnham should not have agreed to the 1966 Geneva agreement, to surreptitiously do 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.’
‘Jeffrey’s next jeopardy,’ we are told, concerns the PPP’s supposed ethnic ideology. …The case of ethnic ideology is built bizarrely on an ancient letter written by Cheddi Jagan in 1951. In that letter to the Czechoslovak Communist Party, Dr. Jagan belted out some political positions popular in anti-colonial struggles. There is no mention of race … (but) Jeffrey massages the document into a racial text.’ Instead of responding to Robin Singh’s characterization of Burnham based on the history of that era, he chose to convert Jagan’s anti-imperialism into anti-African racism.’
Understandably as a current PPP propagandist, Randy Persaud appears to want to discard history, but he should not underestimate the importance and reach of old documents. The entire border problem we are confronted with today has been based on ‘ancient’ documents. Secondly, Jagan did not ‘belt out’ anything; he gave a short but careful analysis of the PPP’s position and its possible contribution to the development of communism in the region. ‘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. …British Guiana will … most likely play the leading role in any future development of the Caribbean Area and …. As such a strong militant party in British Guiana is vitally necessary. The balance of power in the Executive Committee of the party is with the communists.’ (Cheddi Jagan, SN: 11/04/2023).
Thirdly, the truth is that the PPP was bent upon swapping Western imperialism for brutal Stalinism imperialism! As Jagan was writing his letter in 1951 based upon methods rooted in the first communist international, senior dissident members of the Czechoslovak Communist Party were being imprisoned for participating in a ‘Trotskyite-Titoite-Zionist conspiracy’ and after a typical Stalinist show trial (the Prague trials), 11 of them were executed. I cannot recall joining the Stalinist fold being popular in the anti-colonial movement, and certainly not in this region!
Fourthly, race need not have been mentioned in the text: it was what underpinned Jagan’s promise and it still is the foundation of the PPP’s political power that it frequently nurtures with dog-whistles like ‘don’t split the votes,’ reminders of ‘kick down the door bandits,’ although being in possession of thousands of security forces allowing disruptive remnants from a PNC associated protest march to harass its vendor supporters at Lusignan, etc. The West understood the longevity of ethnic alliances with which the PPP was attempting to entice international communism. I repeat, if according to Robin Singh, Burnham cooperating with the Western world to prevent the PPP from spreading communism in the region is ‘shameful’, Jagan’s effort to facilitate its establishment was ‘disgraceful.’
Indeed, now that the PPP’s attempt to deprive the Guyanese people of their democratic rights has been unmasked its historic moral pomposity about rigged elections, PNC racism, etc., has gone to hell! And when this is coupled to its current but understandable behavior a total reassessment of the PPP is required!
Dr. Henry Jeffrey
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