Yesterday was the 19th anniversary of the death of Dr Cheddi Jagan, founder of the People’s Progressive Party. Normally there would’ve been a big pilgrimage to the site of his cremation at Babu Jaan, not far from his birthplace at Port Mourant, Berbice. But this year things were relatively muted. Could it be the present leaders of the PPP are moving on from the total identification of the party with the old leader?
There are those who believe the process is long overdue – and your humble Eyewitness is one of them. Nothing against the old fella personally – it’s just that Jagan was from another era and literally another place and it would be more than passing strange if his diagnosis, prognosis and prescriptions don’t have to be re-examined for relevancy.
There’s been some of this re-examination – but from outside the party. Dr Baytoram Ramharack has critiqued Dr Jagan’s reliance on Marxist analysis of Guyanese society and ignoring the elephants in the room of race and ethnicity. In that he was invoking CLR James oft quoted aphorism, “The race question is subsidiary to the class question in politics, and to think of imperialism in terms of race is disastrous. But to neglect the racial factor as merely incidental is an error only less grave than to make it fundamental.”
Ramharack found Jagan’s position quite ironic since his support base among the Indian-Guyanese was completely due to their identification with him as an “Indian” and not because of any “class consciousness”. Some of Jagan’s critics saw the situation not as a matter of “irony” but of calculated exploitation of the race card, since in all his attempts at coalition building he took it for granted that he would be the “Indian” leader.
One wonders when the critique from within the PPP will start. It is possible that the powers that be believe that any critique would seem like a “betrayal” of the great man. But why does it have to be? Let’s take Dr Jagan’s Marxist premise that if the party focuses on economic development of the country without discriminating among the ethnic groups, class consciousness would wipe out racial consciousness.
Every election since 1992 has been “fair” and has confirmed the racial cleavages are just as salient as the PPP found them when they took office in that year. Now that can be so only if they either a) discriminated against African Guyanese or b) class is trumped in Guyana by race. And since every PPP leader would honestly swear it isn’t (a) then they have to accept (b).
And admit that Jagan was wrong – at least in that issue – and the party needs to move on.
In Guyana Jagan and Burnham are inextricably linked in the popular mind such that young people believe there was a fella named “JaganBurnham” who was later split asunder. And maybe they were – symbolically. So if there’s going to be a re-evaluation of Jagan in the PPP – can one hope the PNC will follow suit on THEIR “founder leader”?
More than anyone else that can ONLY come credibly from our sitting president – Brigadier (rtd) David Granger. Granger caught Burnham’s eye very early when he was fishing around for options to replace the racially balanced Special Services Unit formed by the British as the core of the soon-to-be country’s army. Granger was sent to Mons and within a decade was heading Burnham’s indoctrination unit in the army. In 1979 he was made head of the army to head off Rodney’s subversion of the officer corps.
His later training in history provides the methodology and the Rodney Commission, the grist. His remarks on the release of the Report will give us a clue of the revisionism of Burnhamism.
In the wake of the prison rebellion, President Granger now wants a “maximum security” prison. Does this mean no more pardons?