What then are the policies open to us? It might be simplest to set out some alternatives and go on to consider them separately: –

  • Union with the countries that formed the West Indies Federation (followed later perhaps by an alliance with one or more of the large Latin American countries, probably Venezuela, possibly Brazil.)
  • Some form of association with the Common Market.
  • An American Dependency.
  • A Russian Dependency.

It is essential to begin our discussion of policy by clarifying our political attitudes and making some analysis of the general situation. We are at present emerging from a colonial, dependent status and are struggling to create a new national consciousness and identity. In this context it is clearly inconceivable that we should expressly formulate a policy designed to make us a satellite of either America or Russia and those alternatives can be dismissed as deliberate objectives of policy. However, though rejecting these alternatives the difficulties must be faced. As indicated above, we must accept that we will have to rely to a considerable extent on external financial and technical assistance. America and Russia are the obvious though not the only sources of assistance. Our policy must be then that while retaining at all times our determination to avoid subservience we must accept our need for assistance and do our best to obtain it. We must try to remain uncommitted while attempting to obtain economic assistance from one or both of the two powers. Clearly this is a very difficult road of policy, full of pitfalls. The problem will increase with the size of investment required. If we had to approach one or both of the industrial powers for aid on a very large scale our dilemma might be very real. It is still an open question whether a policy of neutrality is really workable. In this connection, it will be interesting to see what effect the Cuban crisis has had on the American attitude to Russian intervention in this hemisphere even in the form of economic assistance. In addition, the Chinese attack on India will clearly have repercussions on the non-aligned countries. One fact seems clear and that is that it is difficult though not impossible to live outside of the cold war.

Private foreign investment might of course provide a partial solution. However, there are certain preconditions to make this acceptable. Obviously a government operating from a weak position in an economy already dominated by foreign capital could only allow further private investment in important spheres of the economy on terms that would give the government a considerable measure of control over the direction and policy of such an enterprise. It would be inconceivable to throw open the country to investors on their own terms or without adequate protection. Apart from the risks involved in such a policy it would make further planning very difficult and could in fact amount to a virtual abdication from responsibilities. If private investors can be encouraged to come in on terms giving the government a reasonable degree of control this possibility should of course be given very serious consideration, and would be of considerable assistance in our development.

We do not see our future then as a Russian or American dependency though we recognise that we might have to rely on one or both of them for aid. The next possibility we can deal with is that of association with the Common Market. The obvious objection here is that this might mean fundamentally a continuation of our present colonial status. Though we will be provided with secure markets and guaranteed prices it will almost certainly result in our remaining primary producers largely because of the disincentives to industrialise due to the inflow of cheap preferential manufactured goods. It is true that associate countries have been given the right to set up tariff barriers to protect a new industry, but the general point will still apply. In any event with the breakdown in the negotiations for the entry of Britain the present position is uncertain.

The next and most obvious possibility is federation with the countries that formed the West Indies Federation. Apart from the obvious advantages inherent in the similar background and culture of these territories, there are sound arguments in favour of such a federation. The reasons for the breakdown of the Federation cannot be analysed in detail here. It is clear that far too much attention was given to narrow calculations of the possible benefits to the various territories in strictly economic terms. Few attempts were made to formulate possible overall objectives for the federation and little consideration was given to the fact that this broader political unit could more easily have overcome the type of problem facing the various islands of the federation.

As Lloyd Best and Alister Mcintyre pointed out in their paper “The Political Economy of Federation”* two questions should have been asked. The first is whether democracy can be maintained more easily in a federation than in a single territory. The second is whether Federation will permit an easier re-organisation of the individual economies than if each territory proceeded on its own. After answering both questions in the affirmative they go on to say:

“Federation will permit an easier re-organisation and a greater diversification of the economies than island independence. The fruitful possibilities which exist have remained obscure only because economic policy continues to be based on colonial perspectives. The vision of the future is in terms of sugar, bananas and oranges for export. But if policy were re-formulated to give precedence to production for local consumption, to substitute fresh fish for salt fish and paw paw juice for apple juice; if it were recognised that vital resources are being immobilised by the multiplication of car-marts and super-markets; if fiscal and monetary policy are regarded as instruments of development and not as part of the cultural heritage of a colonial administration, then the possibilities begin to strike home.

This is not to say that Federation promises spectacular and dramatic results in the way of economic development. It is only to say that with a new vision, it can be demonstrated to be superior to island independence. It is to say further, that it is not so much the objective resource position which is important in deciding about Federation as national policy designed to impose order on the national life.

It is the absence or the new vision, the dissipation of energy on discussions about the distribution of power and the substitution of spurious economic analysis for economic policy that have made judgment about Federation difficult”

Obviously, we must do some serious re-thinking on the question of federation (it was largely shelved in the first case because of the fear of the majority party of negro domination in the federation). We must consider the possibility of reforming it and the type of union that might be formed, e.g. a loose federal structure reserving considerable autonomy for the independent units or a strong central government or a staged development from a looser to a more centralised structure. The union of the Little Eight might be a step on the way. At this moment, most of the West Indian leaders are openly committed to the West and we must decide what effect this will have on our policy. In this connection, we should remember that one lesson of the Common Market will surely be that economic union can only be the prelude to political union.

Even a West Indies Federation might be too small to be viable as an independent economic unity and we might then go on to think in terms of Federation with one or more of the Latin American countries.

It is also possible to consider some form of association with Venezuela or Brazil quite apart from the West Indies Federation. Though geographically attractive this is at present entirely speculative. Both of these countries are at present politically unsettled and it is difficult to make any definite assessment of their future.

In conclusion, attention must be drawn to the present local political situation. Because of the unfortunate split which has resulted in racial alignments, politics is degenerate and many of the serious issues have not even been considered. Our politicians are content to rely on imported slogans which conceal their failure to make any analysis in terms relevant to our own situation.

Most of the policies I have discussed assume an end to this political stalemate, perhaps in a coalition. Without some form of political settlement, it is difficult to plan any future for Guyana.

* Vol. IX, 2 and 3, Pelican, University of the West Indies, December, 1961, and March 1962.