Randy Persaud Responds to His Critics
Guyana Journal, JUly 2006
I thank Dr. David Hinds for clarifying his position on violence for Guyanese citizens and for the relevant offices and officers of the international community. Hinds June 17 article in Kaieteur News has confirmed my worse fears. His position is much closer to an Armed African Nationalism than I thought.
Allow me to also note that Alissa Trotzs defence of Hinds misses the point. Trotz says that Hinds has consistently been on the side of peace and transformation for all Guyanese. I have always thought so myself. In fact, my concern is with the SHIFT in Hinds position. If someone like Evan Thomas took a position of so-called armed self-defense by African Guyanese I would not be so concerned. It does matter, however, when a thoughtful and moderate individual like Hinds begins to shift to the right.
Incidentally, I met with David Hinds in Georgetown and said so to him in person. He does not share my interpretation and so the conversation must go on. David told me that the words attributed to him were in fact Rodneys. The newspaper (KN, June 12) that carried the Hinds article in Question, had misplaced the quotation mark. Now, let us get back to the arguments.
Hinds position as articulated in his June 12 and June 17 articles in KN might be summarized as follows:
a. Walter Rodney had issued a call to violence against the PNC dictatorship and that call was justified on account of PNC misrule.
b. Violence is a tool of struggle because [p]eople have a right to self-defence when they are confronted with the violence of the state.
c Violence is a means of
last resort or when all other doors to peaceful settlement are closed.
d. The WPA, PNC, ACDA, and ROAR have sought such a peaceful settlement, but the sitting government has refused to listen.
e. The PPP government is the representative of Indians. The PPP
has since 1992 turned its back on the reasonable proposal to share the power of government with representatives of African Guyanese and Amerindians.
f. Since the WPA (and Rodney specifically) had called for violence against the PNC, it is now just for them to incite or at least support violence against the PPP government.
Hinds position on violence as articulated in the above mentioned articles is simplistic because it is logical rather than historical. The position is that since the WPA was ready to use armed struggle against the PNC, then quite simply and logically, it should be allowed to do the same against the PPP.
Now, let us take a look at these positions developed by Dr. Hinds. Ill present my arguments in five parts.
(I) The first problem is that in contradistinction to the long held position that the WPA is multiracial, Hinds Africanises Rodney. This is the only way in which he can claim that since AFRICANS were willing to take up arms against an African government, i.e. the PNC, it is now ok to do the same against an Indian government. By framing the matter thus, Rodneys primary identity then rests on his African-ness, not his multiracialism. Hinds has performed political surgery on the WPA and Rodney here. His position, as he himself has written it, is that the armed struggle against the PNC was an African Struggle. The poetic justice that Trotz claims is actually a dangerous potion. She should toss it out the window.
The multiracial façade has now crash-landed and the Black Nationalism that has always underpinned the movement is now there for all to see, only this time without apologies. I am surprised that Trotz, who is a careful scholar, has missed this shift. Her input would be more productive by drawing out and analyzing this shift, rather than pointing fingers at those who do expose the WPAs new alliance. I know David Hinds too, and Alissa Trotz has known me for a decade and a half. I am commenting on Hinds writings, not his inner mind. Unlike Uncle Freddie, I have no access to people inner thinking.
I want the WPA to know something. Walter Rodneys name does give you a permanent alibi to help destabilize an elected government. I make no apologies for political democracy. The PNC can win an election in Guyana if it has a good platform; if it accepts it past wrong-doings; if it promises not to steal elections, etc. The PNC, unlike the WPA, is a real political party. It has assets and supporters. Like the PPP, it has a political machinery. By contrast, the WPA is like a Mini-Bus Tout-Man for the PNC. Turn the music down brother.
(II) Secondly, to equate the PNC record of misrule (to put it politely) with the record of the PPP/C is nothing short of another form of everyday bullyism. The PNC ran a National Security State. In such a state, most of the resources are spent on bolstering the armed forces, police, and militias, etc. Command of the disciplined forces is paramount, and that is something the PNC had under full control. They apparently still have the confidence of the military and police force. Ill leave others to talk about the Guyana National Service.
The PPP government is the diametric opposite of that. Most of their resources go into housing, education, healthcare, water supply, etc. The current government does not enjoy the confidence of the military or police. I would say this, however: if there is evidence of extra-judicial killings linked to the current government, then the responsible parties must answer. No government should rise above the law, not this one, or any, in the future.
(III) Thirdly, Hinds gives the impression that Guyana is like apartheid South Africa or pre-civil rights America. He has to give this impression so that the thesis of just self-defense can be sustained. This message resonates quite nicely with liberals in the West because so many of them want to atone for past misdeeds in their own countries or ex-colonies.
If Guyana is like South Africa, then one might very well understand an armed struggle. But as they say, wake up and smell the coffee.
There is marginalization in Guyana, but it has no racial identity. There are poor and powerless people all over Guyana. I came back from Bartica yesterday where I saw wrenching economic distortions. But it isnt all about race. The class aspect that Walter Rodney was so concerned with is still palpable.
On top of that, there is a real URBAN/RURAL divide. As I noted in a previous article, places with heavy concentration of Africans in Guyana have the best facilities. Linden and Georgetown, for instance, have had flush toilets, all-weather roads, electricity, telephones, and fantastic schools for decades. Most people in the country-side both Africans and Indians are still struggling with latrines, mud roads, gas lamps, middle-walk water, and poor schools.
The rural situation has been improving since the late 1980s, but Georgetown and Linden are still the darlings for receiving services. In the meantime, the Guyanese African Middle Class, just like the Indian Middle Class, enjoys the best in this country. Just drop in to one of the fancy restaurants or clubs in Georgetown and take a cursory look at the clientele. Drive up to QC, Bishops, or St. Roses and assess the student body. Go to the courts and come back and tell me about the composition of lawyers, magistrates and judges. Try processing any government document and then come back and tell me what kind of marginalization you saw in government employment. Go to the Police or the GDF and come back and report on the marginalization you encountered. Have lunch at Germans Restaurant or coffee at Oasis (where David Hinds and I met recently) and tell me if it looks like South Africa. Have a look around all over Guyana and tell me if one only section of the population has the fancy SUVs and cars. Go to any of the fancy pool-side establishments in Georgetown this evening, or for that matter any evening, and come back and report to me on the race/ethnic composition. Go to the Georgetown Public Library (an important place to access newspapers, etc.) and take a look at the patrons, and then file your report. Examine the faculty, staff, and student body and UG and then give me a break-down.
It is not all about race, or about one section of the population having all (or even more) and the other none, or less. Indians and Africans share a lot more than we think, and not all of it good.
Thus, I find aggravated snobbishness by both the African and Indian middle class in Guyana to be a trade mark. They have both mastered the art of Looking Down. This trophy goes to Indian women who insist on being called Mrs. whatever their surnames are. The Indian, African, Portuguese, and Mixed well-to-do in Guyana go to the same parties, visit the same fancy places, invite each other to their homes frequently, and inter alia, share the same derision for the country people.
(IV) Fourthly, the notion of a peaceful settlement is actually conducive to the destabilization of the current government. Why in the world should a government elected by the people of this country enter into a settlement with the WPA which is made up or no more than a dozen individuals? Go out and win some votes first! Why should the government enter into a so-called settlement with the PNC who has brought violence to this country at every election? Moreover, do not forget that many in the PNC considered Desmond Hoyte a traitor for actually agreeing to a free and fair election. If the PNC cannot cooperate on GEOCOM, how do you expect then to cooperate in shared governance?
Hinds gave the impression that ROAR was on the WPA side with respect to some form of armed solution. Ravi Dev has now said that is not the case. From what I have seen, Mr. Dev has been touting his candidate (Hardy) with great aplomb and responsibility. It is actually Mr. Kissoon who has been encouraging something he calls protest.
(V) Fifth and finally, I want to comment of Hinds astounding claim that the PPP is running a government to advance Indian interest. It is sad that the WPA which once proudly claimed the title of a multiracial party should now be so lost in the dark. The WPA for all practical purposes does not exist anymore. All that is left is a handful of people that I would call The Hadfield Street Few. There are also some bright overseas academics such as Dr. Trotz. But that is it. The question to the WPA, PNC, ACDA, and ROAR is this: what specifically does the PPP government give to Indians that they do not give to Africans? Name the benefits.
The Hadfield Street Few is now fronting a language of protest and violence for the major party which they have recently embraced. The Hadfield Street Few has been lost for a long time, jumping around from this one alliance to another. During the Cold War, the US government used the Voice of America for its propaganda purposes. Today the WPA is the Voice of the PNC. Just watch their antics on the voters list issue and the broader GECOM process and you will know what I mean.
Dr. Randy Persaud is an Associate Professor of International Relations, American University, Washington DC.