Part IV: The Basis for a New Approach

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44. The brief sketch of the historical process in B.G. 1500-1962 has nevertheless yielded some insights into what bas to be taken into account in the formulation of a new strategy in 1963.

45. It may be noted in summary that:

a) In B.G. as in the rest of the New World, there is an underlying popular drive towards social reform. Emancipation, Adult Suffrage, Independence have been possible because of this drive. Decolonisation, development, democratisation, are further steps on the road. The populace are aware of this. What is required now is a programme to energise and rally the popular forces. The failure to find the right programme may be the major factor retarding the nation. B.G. is not unique in this respect.

b) In B.G. as in the case of every country in the New World, (U.S.A. included) the ruthlessness of European imperialism has left a legacy of social dislocation, racial antagonism, cultural diversity and jealousy. These factors operate to divide nations. At any point in time the major issue is whether the popular drive towards reform can establish dominance over the divisive forces. In the U.S.A. and Canada it has, and in B.G. of 1953 it did. In most of Latin America and the Caribbean it has not. B.G. is not unique.

c)  In B.G., as in every country in the New World, the manoeuvres of external imperial rivals have greatly influenced the internal situation. This is inevitable. Colonial territories, however large, can never be powerful (in the nature of things) at the juncture of Independence and when as in the case of all the New World colonies, the dominant culture is imported and not indigenous, the defencelessness of the territories against external manoeuvre is inherent; where, as in the case of B.G. and the Caribbean countries, smallness of physical size is an additional factor, an extra dimension is added to the defencelessness. B.G. is not unique. Not even because the Soviet Union and the U.S.A. are the powers openly involved.* Cuba and Guatemala are glaring New World examples of the current Imperial interplay.

d) To be sure in B.G. today as always and everywhere (in the New World particularly) imperial interests are active. Yet today, perhaps more than ever the initiative is slipping away from the imperial powers. This is due not solely (or not even primarily) to the fact that two imperial giants are espousing the cause of ‘peaceful coexistence’ but also to the fact that the international institutional framework favours now more than ever the ‘colonial’ territories. This has to be taken into account in formulating a new political strategy for B.G. in 1963.

e) In B.G. as in every other country, struggles for power between leading personalities arising partly from pure personal rivalry, partly from differences over strategy, have affected the political process. This is nothing new or unique. It is the business of politicians to deal in power and it is inevitable that there should be differences over strategy between leaders even when they are seeking the same goals. What is important about B.G. (but does not distinguish it) is that the almost total inarticulateness of the society creates a vicious circle. The oppressiveness of the colonial condition at one and the same time sharpens the demand for radical change and inhibits the emergence of the class of men who can articulate a programme and execute it successfully. Yet the sharper the demand for change the greater the necessity for this class. Some of the leaders have perceived this and properly moved in the direction of a Guianese University and reform of the Civil Service so as to find, train and let through creative men. Perhaps, it is the absence of a class to provide basic information and to articulate the possibilities of and the limits on political operation which in large part permits legitimate and natural differences between politicians to assume inordinate importance. It is certainly not the absence of popular drives or of popular ‘understanding’ of the problem. The inarticulate leadership (intellectual, political, religious, entrepreneurial, etc.) rationalises its bankruptcy by charging that the people do not ‘understand’; they have to be ‘educated’. If this is so, let the leadership account for the Berbice Riots, for the struggle in support or Emancipation, for 1938, for 1953, and all the various steps on the road to decolonisation already passed. The evidence is certainly that the people have been ‘ready’ since slavery. (This is not to deny that they need education, i.e., an opportunity to acquire certain technical skills. But that is an altogether different matter.

f) It can hardly be, as is popularly suggested, the ‘uniqueness’ of the politicians in British Guiana, their special love for power, or their desire to “sell their country”. The very fact that each group describes the others in similar terms suggests that it may be profitable to attempt to identify characteristics of the system as a whole rather than characteristics of individual leaders or groups.


* In the case of the U.S.A. and Canada, it was England and France.