It seems therefore that real conflicts within these societies are going to arise over class interests on the one hand and over competition for power on the other, and are likely to involve alignment with outside forces. While ethnicity may be invoked and even perceived as the major cleavage, it may be an expression of quite different bases of conflict.

British Guiana’s experience over the past ten years highlights some of these problems of interpreta­tion very clearly. The tragic events of this period are easily construed as an inevitable clash between sections of a plural society consequent upon a change, or impending change, in the relations between these sections. The element of truth in this interpretation is very obvious, especially to Guianese who have experienced the full bitterness of racial hatred, but it is an inadequate and incomplete explanation and is misleading if it is taken as a measure of future pos­sibilities. To interpret what has happened in the past as an expression of a fundamental social division between ‘African’ and ‘Indian’ sections is to ignore the conflicts of interest over economic questions and the effect of alignment with outside forces and interests.

It also ignores the role played by other elements in the society which are interested in maintaining some of the basic structural features of creole society. The fact that political party loyalties have been allowed and even encouraged to crystallize along racial lines represents a regression to the normative order of colonial creole society, and under these cir­cumstances, it is quite fitting that the Queen of England should remain as Head of State of the new nation of Guyana. But the other structural realities remain and will have to be faced.

After the independence spree what then? Will meaningful goals be established for the whole society and will there be marked changes in the relations arising from the economic system? Or will independ­ence mean simply a change in the composition of the elite, leaving the basic structure of the society unchanged? Grave problems must arise in trying to satisfy the aspirations of a rapidly increasing popula­tion and there is bound to be a growing reservoir of resentment and frustration just as there is in most new nations. At the same time that those problems are being faced, there is the problem of trying to overcome the limitations of colonial creole society at the cultural and symbolic level. This issue may be evaded of course and some variant of the popular slogan of  ‘Out of many, one people’ used as a means of trying to erase ethnic differences.

But before ethnic identity can be transcended, it must be asserted in order to ensure the stature, par­ticipation and self-respect of everyone in the local community; not because race is a necessary basis of social identity, but because it has been made so in creole society. This is not a situation peculiar to the Caribbean; it exists in the United States of America which Dr. M. G. Smith considers not to be a plural society at all!

All these forces, economic, political, cultural and racial, combine to create the climate in which Guy­anese society has to develop. The problem is to face up to the reality of the situation and to find a sense of belonging in the fact of living together and building something new. Politicians need be neither admin­istrators of the colonial estate, mere creatures of the plural society, nor abject sychophants of the great powers. They cannot create something out of nothing in a sterile environment, but neither are they wholly determined in their course by the forces of the past. Men create their own history out of the materials that are at hand and although the materials are not very lavish, they have to be used. It is rather foolish to talk about the Caribbean showing the rest of the world how to live. This is mere posturing in order to obtain a nod of approval from the ‘people who count’. Nobody will learn anything from the way in which Caribbean peoples create their own history; it is the living and the creating that matter, not the demon­stration. The dangers of parochialism and ‘narrow nationalism’ are greatly exaggerated; no small country can avoid involvement in the wider world, but it needs to value itself and its peculiarities and find significance in its own experience at the same time.

Guyana faces independence in a dangerously divided condition and it would be an optimistic person who did not foresee a long period of strain within the new nation, aggravated by the unfortunate domination of politics by personalities, rather than principles. The elan of 1953 has evaporated but the past 13 years will not have been wasted if they have taught Guianese something about themselves. They have measured the depth of the things which divide Indians from Africans; what they have not yet done is to measure their ability to create something together.