Part VIII: Prologue

  1. Is a coalition the only way out in the short term ? This depends on whether the society can, without a coalition:

    i) achieve and maintain the working stability necessary for independence and, related to this,
    ii) whether the economy can acquire the minimum viability required to support stability under conditions of independence.

For some insights into the answer it will be necessary to examine briefly some trends and forces operating on

i) the economy and society as a whole,

ii) each major internal grouping, namely:

(a) the PPP, its rural following and their urban associates,

(b) the PNC, its urban following and their rural associates,

(c) the UF, and their supporters.


Firstly, certain trends and developments during the last 15 years can be briefly noted.

a) The entry of the masses into the electoral machinery in 1953* and the bringing together of popular forces within a single political organisation. The arrival of universal adult suffrage marked a watershed in Guyanese political history. Up to then, agitation had been carried on by the masses almost entirely outside of the constitutional framework – at least from the Berbice Slave Rebellion to the 1935-38 Caribbean-wide disturbances.**

LACK of unity and cohesion at the mass level, the limited vision of the middle classes and the strength of the internal and external machinery of the colonial system had combined to prevent a complete structural breakdown and had allowed the system time to adjust itself. In 1953 in Guyana, with the advent of universal adult suffrage, the structure revealed its flexibility under pressure by bringing the masses into the electoral-constitutional framework.

In addition, there was the trend which has already been noted in Part III above; the urban and rural masses and the more progressive elements in the middle class made a real advance towards genuine unity within the confines of the PPP coalition.

b) Since 1953 developments have taken a different turn. The trends towards

i) The unification of popular forces, and

ii) The establishment of the position of the masses within the electoral (constitutional) framework have been reversed. With the split in the PPP coalition, factors that had been secondary once more assumed a dominant position.

The 1957-61 electoral victories of the PPP, if seen as a middle stage between the 1953 victory and the suppression of the 1962 riots, will help in understanding the post-1953 developments.

In 1957-61 the two parties formed from the ‘53 movement fought electoral battles for their various sectional interests* within a mutually accepted electoral frame.

The PPP victory in 1957 thus had certain negative and unhealthy connotations (unlike the 1953 election success in which constituted a genuine leap forward) if only because of the nature of the campaign. A PNC victory would have been the other side of the coin. Nonetheless, this victory still took place within a mutually accepted electoral framework.

It was the 1961 election, which drove home to the PNC the improbability of electoral success under the old system, and which also further deepened the racio-cultural divisions. The result was the February ‘62 riots which marked a new and more dramatic stage in the process of reversal which was inherent in the breakdown of the PPP coalition of 1953. The masses, and their middle-class leadership, once again stepped outside the electoral framework to achieve their aims. The historical process had been reversed – but put on a new plane. Whilst these sections had previously operated outside of the framework because (i) it bad not been available to them and (ii) their agitation bad been directed against dominant external forces and their local allies, now they were operating against one another, outside of a structure which had previously contained them for a short while.

(c) Along with, (and to a certain extent contained within) the development noted above, there emerged a re-alignment of political identity.

The racio-cultural groups, (Indian, African and Portuguese), identified themselves with separate party organisations thus further distorting class alignments. The formation of the UF can thus be seen as the latest stage in a process that began in 1955 (the split) in which each separate group seeks an exclusive-protective form of association in order to defend its own interest against the new developments which were, and are, taking place within the society.