THE SOCIOLOGY OF DECOLONIZATION: THE CASE OF GUYANA BAUXITE

Summary and Conclusions

This paper pinpointed the major structural conditions that possibly influenced the Guyana government’s decision to nationalize the  foreign owned Demerara Bauxite Company, as well as to  look at some  of the possible structural repercussions of this action.

In carrying out the aim of the paper I examined the existence of a number of structural conditions in the community and in the company which were productive of strains and disenchantment for workers at Demba. Foremost among these conditions were the features attributed  to  the fact that  Linden  was not only a company town, but also possessed features characteristic of a colonial society.

This disenchantment,  I argued, led  to  the occurrence of a relatively large number of  unofficial strikes. Both the high incidence  of  unofficial  strikes and  the  reasons  for these  strikes contributed  to the  provision of an atmosphere par t1cularly conducive to anti Demba action such as nationalization.

In addition to these predisposing factors at the community and the company levels, I also examined very briefly other factors at the national and international levels.

The paper ended by posing the question  as  to  whether  nat1onalizat1on  of  Demba  could  be seen as part of a decolonizing process. In this final section I looked at a  number of  other possible changes following from nationalization which needed to be made in the structure of the community, the company and the country in order for the nationalization venture to be successful.

The nationalization of Demba can be seen as part of a decolonization movement which has so far contained three stages, each of which contains a number of internal contradictions sufficient  to generate the next stage, In the first stage Linden was colonized, in the second stage workers attempted t.1l:Jct1vely to remove some of the strains produced by colonialism and in the third stage the government capitalizes on anti-company feeling in order to push through nationalization of the company.

There is now a fourth stage which will involve nation-alizat1on of Demba .  This  envisions  worker ownership and control of company and community facilities. Whether this stage is achieved through hostile means (i.e., more wildcat strikes and possibly violence) is to a large extent contingent upon the government’s acceptance of this eventuality. Promulgation of  the  idea  of  making  the small man a real man in the Co-operative Republic suggests that the Guyana government has thought of this eventuality. Whether thoughts are followed by appropriate deeds remains to be seen.

Finally, the paper suggests that the initial impetus for a decolonization movement will come from disenchantment with the economy. The Guyana government is making a number of significant changes in this section of the society. But, it is clear that these changes are not enough to ensure the fruition of nation­ alization efforts. Other changes in the superstructure must be made which should try to nation -alize the company and community and country.

This paper does not pretend to be exhaustive in satisfying its purported aims. No doubt the economist or the business administrator would have looked at things somewhat differently, but then so would the sociologist.

Notes

  1. Hereafter refered to a Demba.
  2. See especially Norman Girvan “Bauxite, Why We Need to Nationalize and How  to  do  it”, New World, Pamphlet No.6, Kingston, Jamaica, March 1971 and N. Girvan “The Guyana-Alcan Conflict and the Nationalization of Demba”. Talk given to the New World Group, Jamaica, on Thursday, 19th March, 1971 at Excelsior High School.
  3. L. F S. Burnham, “Guyana’s Bauxite” Broadcast Address to the Nation, Saturday, 28 November, 1970, p. 6 (Pamphlet).

4          See H. Davis “Company Towns”, Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, E.R. Seligman,  editor-in-chief  and  A. Johnson, Associate editor, New York: The Macmillan Co., 1948, pp. 119-123, for a discussion of company towns.

  1. These bear a striking resemblance to the housing accommodation  provided  for  sugar  plantation  workers.  See in particular – C.B. Jagan, The West on Trial, London Michael Joseph, 1966, Chapter 1 and C. Jayswardena, Conflict and Solidarity on a Guyanese Sugar Plantation, London: Athlone Press, 1963.

6          A road linking Georgetown and Linden was completed in 1968.

7          See Labour Ordinance No.2 of 194 2. Unpublished Report of a Committee of Inquiry appointed to inquire into the causes of dispute between the Demerara Bauxite Company Limited and its employees and generally upon-conditions of employment under the Company, p. 14.

8          The workers claim that a salty tasting medicine which they call ADT (Any Damn Thing) is the local medicinal panacea.

9          See Girvan, op. cit.

10,       Sec “Report of the Demba Panel of Consultants on Community Attitudes and Their Effects on Industrial  Relations” (lvor Oxaal, Chairman). n.d. (Mimeographed).

The concept of negative solidarity is here used to refer to cohesive forces which conduce to  solidarity  which are negative  (e.g.,  a  general  dislike  for  the  company)  rather   than positive (e.g.,        based on the possesion  common features such as ideology, levels of consciousness and so on). The concept is particularly relevant in the Linden area where although workers display tremendous esprit de corps  In  walking  off  their  jobs,  they  nevertheless  remain quire apathetic when it comes to collective action to ameliorate their condition in the community.  For• further discussion of this concept see M. Crozier , The Bureaucratic Phenomenon, Chicago University of  Chicago  Press, 1964, p. 37-38, 100-101.

For a more detailed treatment of these intra company generators of strain see Maurice St. Pierre “lndustrial Unrest in Mackenzie, Guyana” in F. Henry (ed. ) McGill Studies In Caribbean Anthropology, Occasional Paper Series, 5, Montreal: Centre for Developing Area Studies, McGill University, 1969, pp. 65 .

See Maurice St. Pierre, ” Industrial Unrest in a Guyanese Mining Community” . Unpublished M.A. Thesis, Department of Sociology, McGill University, 1969 . Ibid.

Op. Cit .

I am here making a distinction between what I call politically motivated and economically motivated strikes. A politically motivated strike is one in which a strike by workers is occasioned by a desire for power on the pen of workers to effect some change in the unilateral decision making structure of the company. Therefore, when workers strike in protest against management’s decision to dismiss a worker, they are  acting  in  a  political  manner because they are challenging management ‘s right to make such a decision. Whether they succeed In upturning management’s decision or not it means the letter can no longer  make  that  particular decision willy nilly without a prior worker consultation. There is thus a change in the decision-making structure. This means an erosion  in  the power base. An economically motivated strike such as one caused for a demand for increased wages is one in which workers do not question management’s power base. After  they  return  to  work  the  decision  making  structure remains intact .

See Maurice St . Pierre, “Reply to C.L.C. Principal”. Letter to the Editor, Guyana Graphic, Saturday 14th February, 1970 , p. 4.

I am using the term here after the fashion of Amilcar Cabral in his article ” National Liberation end the Social structure” , in W. Pomeroy (ed.), Guerilla Warfare and Marxism, New York: International Publishers, 1970,