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The Politics of Machiavellianism in Guyana


by Gokarran Sukhdeo
Guyana Journal, July 2006

If politics is a dirty game it is because of its extensive but surreptitious use of Machiavellianism in achieving desired outcomes.

Although politicians and political systems, both democratic and undemocratic, use Machiavellianism as an effective weapon, they are not disposed to be associated with the practice because Machiavellianism has come to be regarded as a pejorative since it denies the relevance of morality in political affairs and holds that craft, deceit, undemocratic means and unscrupulous manipulations are justified in obtaining and maintaining political power, or desired political outcomes.

However, in the business world of private capitalism Machiavellianism is a common practice and is more often accepted than condemned because capitalism, like Machiavellianism which favors autocracy and sacrifices morality and ethics so long as its objectives are achieved, by its very nature is an exploitative system that seeks the shortest, least bureaucratic and least expensive route towards its objective. In other words, the end justifies the means. It is therefore not necessarily dirty to be called a Machiavellian manager, or a person having a Machiavellian personality as it is to be called a Machiavellian politician. That is exactly why Richard Nixon was kicked out of the White House, and why some believe that the present G.W. Bush is competing for the position as worst President in the history of the US.

Thus, while mostly latent in practice, Machiavellianism predominates current social and political structures. What we call Islamic fundamentalism or even terrorism can, in other words, be called Islamic Machiavellianism. Ditto for Israeli Machiavellianism.

In looking back at Nicole Machiavelli’s works, particularly The Prince, I cannot help but conclude that the man’s philosophy was greatly misunderstood, and, for that reason the pejorative stigma is attached to it. In politics, the basic misconception is that Machiavellianism is definitely antithetical to democracy. This is where a dichotomy exists because Machiavellianism can be both a constructive as well as a destructive tool.

Constructive Machiavellianism is a method of bypassing red tape, bottlenecks and bureaucracy which might be ineffective, detrimental or even fatal, and taking decisive (perhaps unilateral) action to accomplish a task such as performing emergency heart surgery for an individual or protecting the masses from imminent threatening danger when conventional means fail to accomplish same.

That the security forces in Guyana and the government failed by conventional means to protect the masses of the population from the murderous Buxton bandits, and an altruistic Robin Hood type emerges and uses his own resources to effectively eliminate some of these thieves and murderers, albeit, by using unethical means, is certainly an example of Constructive Machiavellianism which brought relief to the masses. It may thus be argued by some that because it benefited the masses it, in a sense, is not antithetical to democracy.

Another reason why Machiavellianism is stigmatized is that analysts hypocritically make the assumption that the world is perfect – that democracy is a perfect system or their organization, whether it is the PNC/R or the conservative Bush administration, is too perfect, and they cannot or will nor condone unethical means to achieve good objectives. But don’t all police organizations – which are idealized as the symbol of law, order, courtesy and professionalism, stoop to the gutters in making deals with criminals? And isn’t this Machiavellianism in open practice? One may call this Constructive Machiavellianism.

Nicole Machiavelli’s main justification for his means is that the world is imperfect. Thus one must descend from one’s hypocrisy and admit that the world is imperfect, and, at times, it is not possible or practical to use perfect means to deal with imperfect situations. But, again, it must be stressed that if the end justifies the means, it follows that the end must therefore benefit the masses, and, if it does, it is not antithetical to democracy.

The use of Constructive Machiavellianism is also helpful in determining personality traits. Indeed, the Machiavellian personality possesses certain traits that are good and desirable by most – assertiveness, self-efficacy, a calculating approach to problems and in the interactions with people, not overly dependent or trusting on imperfect systems and persons, economical in the use of resources and time, more realistic and less idealistic, more objective and less subjective, not overly empathetic. When these traits are possessed and utilized for the benefit of the masses, it is constructive.

Destructive Machiavellianism, first of all, is the use of unethical means to obtain and maintain power for personal benefit or the benefit of a few – the few meaning one particular ethnic group or an elite group, to the detriment of the masses. In this sense it is undemocratic. While Constructive Machiavellianism favors a certain degree of autocracy, Destructive Machiavellianism leads to totalitarianism and bestows unlimited authority on a single individual as we saw in Benito Mussolini, General Franco, and the late Guyanese dictator, President Forbes Burnham.

Psychopathic behavior and less education are also related to (Destructive) Machiavellianism, according to studies by Ray and Ray of the University of New South Wales, Australia (1982). In this respect one can understand GW in the US, and in Guyana, the behavior of the PNC/R which still practices Burnham’s Destructive Machiavellianism, and their retinue of apologists, dishonest academics, and pseudo-academics – Kean Gibson, David Hinds, Clive Thomas, Rupert Roopnarine, Rickford Burke, Tacuma Ogunseye, Clarence Ellis, and others.

It should be noted, however, that although bullyism is a psychopathic behavior and a common trait of the PNC/R, it is not directly related to Machiavellianism, according to Professor E. Andreau of the University of Thessaly, Greece, an expert in psychopathic behavior.

How now do we use our knowledge of Machiavellianism to understand the pre-election behavior of the PNC/R? And, in understanding their past and present behavior, can we make reasonable assumptions regarding future behavior so that we can use conventional means or even Constructive Machiavellianism to counter them?

First of all, like a masterful chess player and an expert in pre-calculating, the PNC/R in using Burnham’s Destructive Machiavellianism, apparently successfully recruited some key pieces in order to lure or force the opponent’s king out from his protected territory into unprotected territory and into the clutches of another (recruited) enemy piece, and thus check or checkmate the opponent’s king (like Burnham recruited Gregory Smith to checkmate Walter Rodney). These key pieces might be:

1. the Commissioner of Police who concocts the initial spurious charges and posted “wanted” bulletin to force Roger Khan to vacate his recluse.
2. the army chief who helped to hunt and harass Khan.
3. a US consulate figure presumably sympathetic to the PNC/R’s racist and destructive agenda, who might have been instrumental in digging up Khan’s US records and pushing for his extradition, all the time conniving with his Suriname and Trinidad counterparts to smoothly execute the international extradition plan.
4. a figure in the unprotected territory versed in Destructive Machiavellianism, such as Desi Bouterse (who had a year ago made a secret MoU with the PNC/R’s Robert Corbin), or the Suriname
government itself which is historically hostile to the government of Guyana, to, like the Guyana C of P, concoct spurious charges to detain Khan until the US authorities could take over.
5. the Buxton terrorists to commit acts that appeared they were done by Khan, such as:

a. the murder of a government minister
b. the robbing, murdering of villagers on the East Coast
c. planting an AK-47 in Enterprise

all of which added impetus to the police and army’s efforts to chase Khan into the hostile Suriname territory where Bouterse is waiting for him. It must be noted that Bouterse, the unscrupulous and sadistic de jure president of Suriname, is enjoying complete protection and impunity from international police, and wields a mighty influence on the populace to the extent that he competed for the country’s de facto presidency with significant support.

6. indirect cooperation of the Trinidad authority to turn a blind eye to the extradition plan, just as they had always turned a blind eye to Burnham and Hoyte’s rigging of elections and brutalization of Indo-Guyanese.

If this sound this a conspiracy theory, the logic is undeniable, and worthy of further tests and investigation.

It must be noted that there does exist a wealth of (circumstantial) evidence that all of the above pieces conspired and collaborated with the PNC/R in the checking (and possibly checkmating) of Roger Khan. One should note the similarity in actions between the C of P in Guyana and his counterpart in Suriname, as if they were puppets attached to the same string. They both concocted spurious charges against Khan, charges similar in nature – without any evidence, and, following their satisfaction that Khan was secured in the tentacles of US authority, they both abandoned their charges. Then there is the statement unwittingly issued, or perhaps issued in a moment of triumphant and impetuous alacrity by Army Chief Collins in which he gave himself and his cohorts full credit for the capture of Khan. He wasn’t lying; he actually let the cat out.

The entire enactment of the set-up and capture of Khan reeks of manipulation by a central figure aided and abetted by a number of other figures, one in particular with international influence who coordinated the clockwork operation of the international “kidnap”, a person with strong enough authority to disregard regional and international protocol, and even international law. This reminds us of a similar situation in June of 1983 when two US diplomats were expelled from Guyana by the late president Forbes Burnham for engaging in practices outside their diplomatic functions and/or inimical to the interest of the Guyanese people.

It must be noted also, that, like the assassination of Walter Rodney, the plan to eliminate Khan was at least a year in the making (calculating), ever since they tried and failed by conventional means to do so two years before. Do you see the Destructive Machiavellianism of Burnham here? Do you also see that some of the very afore-mentioned pieces involved in the capturing of Khan were also involved in the murdering of Walter Rodney? It’s the same plan taken out of the closet and polished up. Do you see that Khan was equally a thorn in the PNC/R’s flesh just as Rodney – or perhaps even more dangerous since he, Khan, allegedly rubbed out some of the PNC/R’s freedom fighters? Do you see, now that you have re-visited the alleged taped conversation between the C of P and PNC/R Chairman, how certain pieces in the jigsaw conversation make sense?

If the above sounds frightening, there is worse to come. Removing Khan was not the primary objective. He was just the Queen protecting the King in this Destructive Machiavellian chess game. The real goal is to dislodge the PPP/C.

How do they intend to do this? Let’s go back to the closet and take out the X-13 Plan and re-examine it. The X-13 is a classic Destructive Machiavellian masterpiece.

One must note that the PNC has never been comfortable with democratic processes. It is a party that was conceived through Machiavellian efforts of CIA and British Imperialist parentage, and nurtured and strived on violence throughout its life. The PNC cannot abandon violence. If it does, it dies.

Thus with the fullest cooperation of the key pieces – the rooks, knights and bishops mentioned above, in complicity with the GTUC and some Caricom supporters, they will all descend simultaneously on the PPP/C like an Armageddon. The aim – to postpone general elections indefinitely until the street protests aka mayhem, arson, looting, murdering (the whole recipe adumbrated in the X-13) and executed by the African Freedom fighters and PNC supporters, all with the encouragement of the trade union movement and other paranoid and power hungry politicians.

A constitutional crisis is created, just like the fifties – another good Machiavellian tactic – and an interim government is put in place. Uncle Sam, being well advised by its stool pigeon and PNC sympathizer at its Consulate, stands ready to support any party that brings stability to the country. And voilà! PNC calls off their dogs of war and is catapulted in power! The torture of three decades, from the sixties to the eighties, repeat itself all over again. It is that simple. It is so simple that few, least of all the PPP/C believes it can happen.

How can we prevent it? I have my suggestions. Unfortunately they are too Machiavellian to put in writing.

The writer is an economist and social psychologist. He is the author of the novel The Silver Lining which won the Guyana Prize for Literature in1998.

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