Working Notes Towards the Unification of Guyana (Part III)

26.      So, the so-called split may not have been at all. What happened, perhaps, is that, for the first time. the society saw * its unintegrated condition, But the condition had been there all along. The urban faction, negro and christian, had been introduced into the country first, and bad been under longer pressure to become Afro-Saxons, bastard Europeans. After Emancipation, they had gradually moved to the towns. The Indians had been brought to fill the rural gap. By 1953, with the imperial system on its last legs, they were still, however, not yet completely acculturated. They had not yet accommodated to the necessity to wear jackets and ties and closed shoes in order to protect themselves from the tropical winter; they were ‘unchristian’ and ‘uneducated’. They were decidedly of a lower cultural and economic order in the popular colonial conception!

27. The popular movement did not permit the split of 1955. It had always been there. Between 1955 and 1962 the population became increasingly aware of it. Paradoxically, the main factor making for increased awareness has been the high rate of integration itself. Over the period, as members of the rural group moved into the towns, the Civil Service, the professions, etc., as they acquired the urban culture. as they began to ‘play’ the juke-box and dance the cha-cha-cha on Saturday night, the two groups came into direct confrontation. With the universalistic vision (of social reform and a place for all) blurred, the leaders having remained inarticulate about the programme, this cultural integration caused resentment.

28. Matters were further complicated. Among other things, by psychological lags. The newly acculturated members of the urban groups who had ‘just’ come from the country retained their psychological indentification with the rural group and instead of forming a bridge between the factions became a ‘fifth column’ in the towns. In part, their attitude has been historically necessary since. again paradoxically, the very breakdown of the Imperial System which was taking place made continued identification with the less-European culture of the countryside a source of pride. By the same token, the completely and long-acculturated urban class tended to become neurotic in a situation where it possessed no cultural basis for independence from the imperial system.


29. The increase in awareness of differences between the former partners in the 1953 P.P.P. coalition and the neurotic behaviour which it has induced have to be regarded as a factor which distorts the alignments and restricts the operations which the drive towards social reform would demand. On balance this factor may well have reversed the whole of the advance made by the P.P.P. coalition of 1953.

30. If the neurotic behaviour continues it will almost certainly make social and economic reform impossible. And although some integration does take place within the existing social and economic order, only fundamental changes permitting full development and utilisation of the forces of production can guarantee more complete integration ultimately. The threat of 1963 is that neurotic behaviour will not only continue but increase in breadth and depth.

31. A key factor in the situation has been, and remains, the leaders. Yet this is not simply because they are locked in rivalry for power. Nor even because they have differences over strategy. These reasons are important primarily because they have held up progress towards the articulation of an executable programme of social and economic reform. They are also important because they have induced both factions of the popular move­ment to embrace elements which are instinctively (but not irrevocably) committed to the maintenance of the status quo. In Appendix II, notes 4 and 5, it is pointed out that each faction has extended its ‘right’ foot to cover more ground and consolidate its political (i.e. power) position. This may not be so important if it is accepted that any movement towards reform must have a vision universalistic enough to convince the ‘right’ that it has a secure and dignified place in the system. (See Appendix III).

32. The articulation of the programme may well be the decisive step towards integration and towards social and economic reform. When this step is taken, it is certain that new conflicts will emerge. But these will be different from the destructive conflicts, (cultural jealousy, racial prejudice, class snobbery, etc.) inherent in colonial society. They will relate to alternative sets of constructive proposals for improving the society. They will be healthy conflicts.

33.  The failure of the leadership as a whole (political on all sides, entrepreneurial, bureaucratic, intellectual, etc.) to direct the nation towards thinking in terms of programme has led to difficulties even where partial attempts at facing national realities have been made. Thus, for example, eminently sane fiscal and monetary reforms have been made to appear as authoritarian measures and have provoked emotional responses rather than a demonstrably more feasible and more efficient (in terms of national goals) set of proposals.


34. Part of the difficulty in the period under review (1953-62) has arisen from what in Part II have been cited as constant factors in New World Affairs, the presence of imperial interests and the shifts in importance of the imperial rivals.


35. Formally Britain has maintained some interest in the area but in fact, under the surface, the U.S.A. has extended her imperial mantle from the Latin to the European Caribbean. Considerations, military (Chaguaramas), economic (Texaco in Trinidad, the bauxite companies in Surinam, B.G., Jamaica, hoteliers and ‘pioneer’ entrepreneurs throughout) and political (anti-communism) were all present.


36. The significance of this extension of American interests for the Caribbean territories was that any hope that the withdrawal of European power would force a formulation of the aspirations of the popular movement in national terms soon faded. Outsiders, and, in a colonial society defenceless against foreign ideas like B.G., insiders, too, inevitably began to see every conflict in terms of the threat of ‘socialism-communism’ to the established ‘democratic’ order. Regional leaders took different positions in this international ideological conflict and most of them took different positions at different times. At any rate, unconsciously, the leaders ratified imperial interests in the region,

37. In B.G. these regional developments have produced some curious results owing to the split in the leadership of the popular movement. Each faction has made a de facto alliance with one of the two main imperial systems while declaring for ‘neutralism’ and ‘mixed economy’. Thus, paradoxically, the structure of power and the struggle between the leaders have yielded an unconscious consensus about feasible policy-neutralism and mixed economy.

38. In that respect, for the long-run, the situation in B.G. is better defined than in, for example, Trinidad and Jamaica where the whole leadership is banking on the West and on Pioneer industry legislation, about which large sections of the population are unhappy.

39. Yet in the short-run the position in B.G. is more unstable. Although the struggle for power has produced the basis for a feasible programme because of what the rival leaders have recognised as reasonable, the actual programmes remain unarticulated and in practice, each faction is identified by the other with the worst excesses of its imperial partner. The one side is expected to coerce and exploit on public account, the other on private. At the same time, both factions are expected by the population at large (opponents and supporters) to create conditions of life in Guyana which would provide the high level of material welfare enjoyed in the imperial countries. Thus, the failure of the factions to dissociate from their imperial partners has reinforced the colonial condition and the small size of the country as factors promoting an inflow of sometimes irrelevant and dangerous foreign ideas.

40. The most curious thing of all is that popular interpretations of these complex developments describe the period under review simply as one of increased racism and of the growth of the communist or reactionary threat (depending on the side). The tools for analysis of the political process with which socialists are traditionally associated are hardly known. Yet it is claimed that over 80 % of the population are ‘socialist’.**

41. By 1962 a decade of irrelevant by-play has brought Guiana to the brink of total chaos. The drift of the leadership towards external imperial supports, their failure to articulate universalistic and feasible programmes, the failure of the society to recognise that the very breakdown of the imperial system of the old world would lay bare racial, cultural, and class conflicts have all contributed to the demoralisation of Guyana. So confused and demoralised is the nation, so little is the confidence it has in its own viability as an integral whole that no sane debate was possible on the Independence Constitution.

42. Up to the Independence Conference the nation had silently hoped somehow to pull through at the last minute (as Trinidad appeared, falsely perhaps, to have done). Now that hope has all but vanished. Thoughts are being turned towards open advocacy of beggar-my-neighbour ‘solutions’. The consensus about the necessity for early Independence, for social and economic reform, for decolonisation and final rebuffing of all imperial inter­ests is being reconsidered. That is the threat of 1963. The temporary neurosis of the last decade threatens to become a permanent feature of the character of the society (as happened in Latin America after Independence in the 19th century).

43. One last chance remains. Sane men are exploring the possibility of a rapprochement between the leaders. Desirable and necessary as this rapprochement undoubtedly is, it must be clear from what has gone before that no mere agreement to share power between leaders can be sufficient to ‘solve’ the national problems. In addition to the struggle for power between the leaders the constitutional, cultural, economic and racial confusion that the British have left has to be faced squarely and the imperial variables have to be reckoned for. In the light of all these, a new strategy must be devised to put the nation on the road to decolonisation, development, and democracy. That is the task attempted in Parts IV, V, VI and VII.


* i.e., realized the significance of the group differences in terms of political action and public policy.

** The interpretation of this paper is that they are for ‘social reform’ involving, certainly, some measure of socialism.