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Sunday, October 30, 2005

Alliance For Change launched

Raphael Trotman named Presidential candidate

- adapts rotating Presidency

The Alliance For Change (AFC), the newest political party on the local scene, was officially launched with much pomp and ceremony yesterday in an occasion that was highlighted by the announcement that Co-founder Raphael Trotman will be the AFC's Presidential candidate for the elections scheduled for next year.

Fellow Co-founder Khemraj Ramjattan was named Chairman and Leader of the AFC.

Among the other key members of the party named were Sheila Holder, who chaired yesterday's proceedings, Anthony Vieira, Gaumattie Singh, Chantalle Smith, Vivien Jordan, Marisa Mohamed, Orlando Adams, Trevor Williams, and Gerhard Ramsaroop.

The party has adopted a policy that the AFC's Presidential and Prime Ministerial candidates shall each hold offices respectively for half-term in the event that they are successful at the general elections.

Thereafter, such offices shall be alternated, whereby the President and Prime Minister shall be obliged to transfer office to each other.

In similar terms, if the Presidential candidate is only successful in being elected as Opposition Leader, such office shall be held by him for half term and thereafter such office shall be transferred to the Prime Ministerial candidate.

The event, which took place at the Ocean View International Hotel, saw a gathering of the young, old, and the not-so-old who latched on to every word that Trotman and Ramjattan had to say.

The atmosphere was one of heightened anticipation as the hundreds of supporters and other interested persons who thronged the hotel's Convention Centre waited to hear more about the new political culture the AFC had to offer to the Guyanese populace.

Trotman told the gathering, which included members of the diplomatic community, the private sector and leaders of some political parties, that the event marked the turning point in the lives of the Guyanese people.

Trotman stated that the AFC is not just simply another political party, but rather a movement born out of a unique set of circumstances that brought together those identifying with it.

“We are hewn together in the same way as others are mobilised, by strong patriotic links forged in our belief in a better tomorrow. We do not present ourselves as the better group, but yes, we believe that we bring something different to the otherwise barren landscape. “Today's ceremony is not the launching of a political party, but the birth of a movement of consciousness. A consciousness that says that we the people have had enough and want what is our sacred due: Respect, equality, prosperity and security,” Trotman said to resounding applause.

He stated that the party's vision, in plain and simple terms, is to bring healing to Guyana; and the creation of a just, equitable and unified state to ensure that Guyana move from being a struggling, under-developed nation to one that is proud, self-sufficient and developing.

Trotman declared to the gathering that there will be severe opposition to the AFC, character assassination and harassment. He said that attacks have already begun in the form of rumour.

“In the recent past we have been referred to as ‘wishy-washy' rejects, upstarts, dreamers, and opportunists,” he said. “We expect that before this is over, we will be accused of every crime ever declared, and every vice ever practised.”

Trotman stated that the leadership of the AFC believes that what the people of Guyana want is the emergence of a new political consciousness which peels away the layers of old hatred and old wrongs.

“The AFC intends to work steadfastly and relentlessly to bring this vision to reality and to be a part of a movement for change. From where we stand today, the future looks better than bright.”

Rising to loud handclaps to speak to the gathering, Ramjattan recalled that the movers of the AFC were scoffed at when they gave some indication that they were forming a movement to take Guyana out of the doldrums.

“The Alliance For Change is well aware that once the first step is successfully made, then for a modern Guyana to be realised will require a massive reconstruction and rehabilitation of our society at all levels – political, social, and most importantly, economic,” he said.

Ramjattan stated that the old politics of suspicion, spite, and strife will get the country nowhere.

He declared that the new political movement will endeavour to alter the political landscape of Guyana and to transform the mindset to new energy and activity.

“Choosing change is the key to the realisation of this new realm. Choosing change is the first step to unlocking this country's potential. Not to change is to remain in the ethnic enclaves we have persisted in for over four decades. Not to change is to remain in polarised politics permanently.”

Ramjattan noted that the AFC has been accused of being sluggish over the past months but he pointed out that the leadership was working to formulate a cluster of strategic goals, the concrete realisation of which can make Guyana a developing nation.

He acknowledged that the business of economics and government is a tall order, particularly, according to him, when a movement such as the AFC does not want to be straight jacketed by the conditionalities of the IMF and World Bank.

He revealed that the AFC will hold public consultations with major stakeholders in determining its final Action Plan for its economic, social and political platform.

He explained that the thrust of the AFC's platform is one based largely on private enterprise with the State being the facilitator and promoter.

Ramjattan expressed the belief that the National Development Strategy is still a useful document even though it cannot be used as the absolute blueprint because the economy and society have deteriorated substantially since the document was drafted.

He said the situation warrants a reformation of policies because institutional systems have since been corrupted. There is total disregard for the rule of law, excessive government control and political patronage now characterise the economic space, and there is rampant corruption and lack of accountability in the public sector.

According to Ramjattan, an analysis by the AFC has concluded that some $2 billion is lost monthly through ill-advised and misconceived enforcement procedures at almost every revenue collection agency.

“With just the right political will to get after defaulters, many of whom are friends of the administration, this massive sum per month can be garnered from tax evaders, fuel smugglers, ‘under-invoicers', corrupt officers involved in dolphin deals, duty-free scam deals, and so many others,” he said.

Ramjattan declared that the implementation of the recommendations of the Disciplined Forces Commission would go a far way in solving the crime situation.

He pointed out that a favourable investment climate will only emerge when crime and criminality is brought under control.

Ramjattan stated that the AFC is daring to be different in its approach as a political movement.

He said the party is aware that unless innovation in political procedures and arrangements are created, the racial and ethnic divide will persist.

(KAIETEUR NEWS)

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Alliance For Change launched

Alliance For Change launched

Ramjattan leader and chairman, Trotman presidential candidate
By Miranda La Rose

Sunday, October 30th 2005

Khemraj Ramjattan is the Leader and Chairman of the newly-launched Alliance For Change (AFC), while his colleague Raphael Trotman, is the party's presidential candidate.

The announcements were made at the official launching of the party at the Ocean View Hotel and Convention Centre, Liliendaal yesterday morning. Trotman, who along with Ramjattan outlined the party's vision, said the ceremony was not the launching of a political party but the birth of a movement of consciousness that says the people have had enough and want their due of respect, equality, prosperity and security.

WPA MP Sheila Holder, who worked with the AFC in its establishment, chaired the programme which included prayers by the three major religious groups, Christian, Hindu and Muslim. The packed auditorium included special invitees, members of the diplomatic community and members of the AFC from various parts of the country. The auditorium was decorated in the party's green and gold colours.

Twenty-two year-old Ryan Samuels gave his perspective on the AFC, saying he had felt "left out" of the older political parties and as such had opted to join the AFC instead.

The AFC's leadership style would see its prime ministerial and presidential candidates, if successful in their bid to form a government, each hold office for half a term. After that they would switch posts.

Similarly, Ramjattan said, if the presidential candidate were only to be elected opposition leader, that office too would be held by the presidential candidate for half the term and thereafter be transferred to the prime ministerial candidate.

He said the party took this position conscious that unless innovation in political procedure and arrangements was created, the racial and ethnic divide would persist. These decisions, he said, were agreed to by the party's steering committee and were to be ratified by the party's membership.

Apart from Holder, Ramjattan and Trotman, the party's steering committee includes attorney-at-law, Gaumattie Singh; television station owner, Anthony Vieira; administrator, Chantalle Smith and economist and former finance minister in the PPP/C administration, Asgar Ally.

Strategic goals

Outlining the party's strategic goals, Ramjattan listed one of them as being improving the living standards of Guyanese from US$600 per capita to US$6,000 per capita within ten years. This was to be done through the introduction of information technology and market linkages, and then through high productivity.

The party intends to achieve balanced and sustainable development of all regions and all people as far as possible; ensure an economically just society in which there is fair and equitable distribution of the wealth of the nation and full partnership in economic progress; and substantial investment in education and human resources to support the needs of the changing society and a competitive economy.

The party also intends to restore independence, confidence and integrity to the existing government and state institutions and to establish new and appropriate institutions to protect and advance the constitutional rights and freedoms of all Guyanese. It also aims to reconfigure and strengthen the processes and institutions which would enhance and guarantee the people's representation; and bring respectability to the judicial process and the rule of law by the timely dispensation of justice.

Ramjattan said an action plan along with mechanisms and processes to realize these strategic goals was far from complete, but a major effort was ongoing to ensure completion within a couple of months. The AFC would conduct a public consultation with major stakeholders in determining its final action plan in relation to its economic, social and political platform. This was mandatory in view of the demand for a new dispensation in Guyana's politics, he said.

Referring to the view held by some that they had been sluggish, Ramjattan assured the audience that they had actually been hard at work, understanding and formulating a cluster of strategic goals to make Guyana develop as a nation.

He addressed the issue of a diversified agricultural sector and industrialisation in relation to the AFC economic platform, which, he said, was based largely on private sector enterprise with the state being the facilitator.

Noting that the National Development Strategy was still a useful document, he said the basic building blocks and guiding principles on which the strategy had been based no longer existed, and there was need to revise its strategies and policies.

Noting that funds were available to achieve the party's strategic goals, Ramjattan said an analysis of the state's finances revealed that $.2 billion per month was lost through ill-advised and misconceived enforcement procedures at almost every revenue-collecting institution, the biggest being the Guyana Revenue Authority. With the political will, he said, this situation could be corrected.

Additionally, the Guyanese diaspora's contribution through remittances was another source to tap for nation building. The adoption of innovative methods to "fund ourselves out of poverty" was not being done by the government at present, though the head of the Poverty Alleviation Committee was paid the sum of about $2.6 million per month.

Vision

Apologising for levelling accusations at the PNCR over the attacks on his home recently, Trotman said: "We have become impatient and intemperate making utterances that are hurtful and unnecessary, as even I have regrettably done quite recently. Like a spent arrow, the spoken word could never be recalled but one should be able to say sorry."

Addressing concerns and discussions about his continued involvement in the affairs of the National Assembly, Trotman said that as Speaker Ralph Ramkarran had given his ruling on the matter of his disqualification, he believed the time was propitious for Leader of the PNCR Robert Corbin and himself to meet, "as he recently proposed, to discuss and decide as mature and responsible representatives of our respective constituencies, my resignation from the Assembly. I hope that he would keep his promise to meet and speak."

While he awaits that information, he said he intended to keep himself gainfully occupied with the people's business by advancing the cause of public access to information, accountability and transparency in government.

He spoke too of the crime situation in Guyana and the need to mount a strong and united defence against it; the need for indigenous peoples to be recognized and accepted as the first peoples of Guyana entitled to recognition and respect and not handouts and prescriptions; and of a tiredness with the old politics.

He outlined the party's vision which he said was no different from that of Martin Luther King Jnr's dream for the betterment of the people.

Noting that in recent times, he and Ramjattan had been described as "wish-wash rejects" and would be accused of every possible crime and vice, he said that if there were believers, Psalm 118 reminded us that "the stone which the builder refused is to become the headstone of the corner."

He said that having walked the country and listened to the voices of the people, the AFC believed that Guyanese wanted the emergence of a new political consciousness and a wholesome form of government which would peel away the layers of old hatreds and old wrongs, political recrimination, finger-pointing, killings, corruption, mismanagement and lawlessness. The AFC, he said, intends to bring this vision into reality.

Interest of the people

Also addressing the issue of seats in Parliament, Ramjattan said when they were elected members of the National Assembly, their respective parties regarded them as worthy representatives of the people. "Surely it cannot be presumed that we were selected into the National Assembly to represent our respective party's interest over and above the people's interest or the national interest. This is precisely why the party which selected us cannot terminate our duty to represent the people and the national interest in the National Assembly on the ground of party disaffiliation." He added that the constitution did not give power of removal to political parties.

He said there was constitutional recognition of the fact that in the National Assembly the interest of the people was greater than the interest of the party. That was why there was no prohibition against any member of the National Assembly voting inconsistently with the party's other members, or refraining from voting consistently with them.

He argued those MPs who perceived themselves as representatives of their respective parties rather than representatives of the people were subscribers to the concept of party paramountcy and the democratic centralist doctrine, and were corroding and eroding the essence of parliamentary democracy. As such, he said, the call for himself and Trotman to vacate their seats on the narrow grounds of disaffiliation from parties was misconceived.

He gave the assurance that they would continue to occupy their seats in Parliament until such time as they individually decided to vacate, "if ever we so decide."

He said that because of old contorted politics, national interest was being subverted for partisan party interests. For that reason, the Procurement Commission was not constituted or operational so that awards of contracts were not scrutinised, among other reasons.

The launching ceremony also featured a number of greetings from friends and well-wishers in India, Italy, the United Kingdom, the USA, Canada, Grenada, the Cayman Islands, Finland and Denmark.

There was also a video documentary of greetings from the local constituency from various parts of the country and a Hilton Hemerding song sung by Sharon Archer with musical accompaniment by Trevor John.
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Trotman to lead AFC into elections

By Mark Ramotar

ALLIANCE LAUNCH: Alliance for Change (AFC) co-leaders Mr Khemraj Ramjattan, left, and Mr Raphael Trotman were all smiles yesterday during the launch of their political party. (Quacy Sampson photo)

FORMER People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) executive member, Mr Raphael Trotman will lead the country’s latest political party into the 2006 general elections, the group announced at its formal launching yesterday.

Trotman was named as the party’s presidential candidate for the elections and expelled People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) executive member, Mr Khemraj Ramjattan is his running mate as prime ministerial candidate.

The alliance said it has a rotating leadership system with Ramjattan as AFC Leader but with Trotman as its presidential candidate for next year’s elections.

The official launch of the new political movement took place at the Ocean View International Convention Centre at Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara, with a wide cross-section audience of AFC members, supporters, well-wishers and observers.

“We dare to be different in our approach as a political movement (but) this task of being a major force on the political landscape of Guyana is not going to be easy and we are well aware than unless innovation in political procedures and arrangements are created, the racial/ethnic divide will persist,” Ramjattan told those at the launching.

He said it is for this reason that “the concept of rotation in leadership positions” in the AFC has been agreed upon by the party’s steering committee made up of himself, Trotman, Sheila Holder, Tony Vieira, Gaumattie Singh and Asgar Ali.

The AFC has been touted as the `third force’ to challenge the traditional dominance of the local political landscape by the PPP/C and the PNCR.

Ramjattan said his group is awaiting “reactions to this novelty” leadership idea, which it views as a “useful innovation in a polarised landscape, where talk of sharing must begin within parties if we want to be realistic that it will happen at other levels”.

He said that based on this rotating leadership plan, the AFC has decided that its presidential and prime ministerial candidates, if successful in their bid for these offices at the national elections, shall “each hold such offices respectively for half-term, and thereafter such offices shall be alternated whereby the President and Prime Minister shall be obliged to transfer office to the other, who is obliged to assume such office.”

In similar terms, if the Presidential candidate is only successful in being elected as Opposition Leader at national elections, such office shall be held by him for half-term, and thereafter such office shall be transferred to the prime ministerial candidate, Ramjattan explained.

He declared that the “old politics of suspicion, spite and strife will get us nowhere, except infecting in our psyche a migratory culture and the celebration of mediocrity.”

“And it is not only a migration from Guyana to other lands but a migration from good standards, good values and beliefs, ethnical conduct – a moving away from the decent to the indecent, as it were, resulting in that land of mediocrity”, he said.

Ramjattan said the AFC was working on an action plan along with mechanisms and processes to realise its strategic goals.

Trotman told supporters the party will face “severe opposition, disappointment, attacks some of which have already begun in the form of rumour, character assassination and harassment (but) we will have to grit our teeth and persevere because the nation expects nothing less of us.”

Noting that in the recent past, the leading players in the AFC had been referred to as “wishy-washy rejects”, “upstarts”, “dreamers” and “opportunists”, he told the gathering that the AFC expects to be also accused in the future of “every crime ever declared and every vice ever practiced”.

Trotman assured that the AFC will work steadfastly and relentlessly to bring this vision into reality and be a part of a movement for change

“From where we stand today, the future of Guyana looks better than bright,” the AFC Presidential candidate declared.

(Guyana Chronicle)
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Saturday, October 29, 2005
Lalahs Curry Powder
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Friday, October 28, 2005
Afro-Guianese extract from [Despres Leo A., (1967) Cultural Pluralism and Nationalist Politics in British Guiana]: page 50-54

Beginning with a series of ordinances in the 1850’s, the central government became increasingly involved in the village affairs. At different times, a Central Board of Villages, the Public Works Department, and the Central Board of Health represented the controlling authority for local government. In 1907, the Department of Local Government and the Local Government Board appeared. Under these, the entire country was divided into village councils (elected locally), country districts, and rural sanitary districts. In all three types of local authority, ultimate control of village affairs was vested in the local government board and its representatives.

As a result of the introduction of local government, many of the communal villages were partitioned for tax purposes. These were given an elected council which, in turn, appointed an overseer who was made responsible for the maintenance of streets, dams, and internal drainage. The villages that were not partitioned (and there were many) became country districts. Except for some improvements in sanitary conditions, these villages remained essentially as they were when they were founded. They had no village councils unless the shareholders or older heads organized one voluntarily. They had no overseer unless one was temporarily appointed to supervise a project. They paid no taxes. They were not made responsible for the Public Road. Their streets (if they had any) and their internal drainage systems (where they existed) were matters of their own concern.

Most of the communal villages that remain today are located in areas of the coastland where there are no sugar plantations and where the planters had no interests in developing permanent sea defenses.

Neither the organization of local government nor the partitioning of communal villages for tax purposes solved most of the problems of the Afro-Guianese peasantry. In a way, both added to the burdens that already existed. Most of the taxes collected in the villages were communal villages used to maintain public roads and sea defenses that were important to the sugar plantations. There was seldom enough money to put village lands in repair and develop the basis for a viable cash crop economy. As land became less productive, villagers had to seek outside employment in order to raise money for the payment of taxes. Partitioning, on the other hand, added new dimensions to the land tenure problem. In many instances, it resulted in such extreme fragmentation that individuals elected to sell their small holdings rather than attempt to work them. In some cases, the partitioning of children’s property provoked bitter disputes between relatives. The cost of settling these disputes ate up the value of the land in legal fees. At best, partitioning provided only a temporary clarification of land relationships by the distribution of new titles. As soon as these proprietors died, the titles once again devolved upon the children, and land relationships were as confused as before.

While all of these circumstances made agriculture difficult for the afro-Guianese, there were other factors that served to divert their interests away from life in the villages. One of these was education. In 1841, there were 101 elementary schools in British Guiana. At that time, education was almost completely in the hands of the London Missionary Society. The schools depended for their support primarily on fees, but money was also received from the churches, the government, and the planters. In 1852, the teachers’ Benevolent and Improvement Association was organized. Because of its efforts, in 1855 an Education Ordinance was passed which provided for teachers’ certificates. This particular ordinance also settled the issue that there must be religious education in schools receiving government aid. This became the basis of the system of “Dual Control”, whereby the schools are owned and managed by Christian churches (or private companies in some cases), but the cost of maintenance, buildings, and teachers’ salaries is borne by the government.

In 1876, a Compulsory Education Ordinance was passed which required every child to attend elementary school. This particular bill also made it legal to employ children under nine years of age or those over nine who did not hold a certificate of proficiency from an elementary school.

The Compulsory Education Ordinance was not equally enforced for all Guianese. The children of East Indians living on the sugar estates were encouraged to maintain their own customs, and, as a consequence, they were not required to comply with the law by attending Christian schools. Since there were no Hindu or Muslim schools at the time, this meant that these children did not go to school at all.

The afro-Guianese, more than any other group, took advantage of these developments in education. There must have been many reasons for this, and one of them most certainly involved the lack of opportunity in agriculture. The desire to live as Europeans perhaps was important also. Another consideration involved the teachers. From the beginning of developments in education, Africans were prominent among the ranks of teachers. In the village, the headmaster occupied a position of influence and trust. He was frequently the chairman of the village council and responsible for the administration of village affairs. The young as well as the old sought his advice on many matters. There can be little doubt that the headmaster played an important role in generating a deep desire for education on the part of many Africans. In any event, educational achievement opened the door to employment opportunities not available in the village itself. By 1900, the Africans dominated every department of the civil service. They also dominated the skilled trades. In 1900, when a Guianese Scholarship was instituted, Africans were among the first to pursue higher education in England. By the First World War, Africans had organized the trade union movement, controlled the teaching profession, and were prominent in law, medicine and government.

Quite apart from education, there were other developments that drew heavily on the African rural population. Most historians of Guiana would concur with J. Sidney McArthur’s statement: it is beyond controversy that without the Blackman the gold and the balata industries could not exist in the colony…it is only by working the colony’s forest that the Blackman can earn a living wage, and there in the hundreds, they spend the greater part of every year where there is no imported coolie labourer.

It is impossible to tell precisely how many African peasants left the village farmlands to become prospectors (locally called pork knockers). During the twenty year period from 1871 to 1891, the number of individuals employed as gold seekers and woodcutters increased from 2,131 to 6,646, Balata Bleeders (men who collected balata gum in the interior) were never counted apart from “other labourers” by the census takers, but in 1891 there were 24,146 individuals listed in this category, and it seems probable that the vast majority of these were Africans. Subsequently, in 1914, the bauxite industry was organized, and its labour force was almost primarily African in composition.

There can be little doubt that these new industries represented important forces fro change in rural African culture. At first, in the 1880s, they provided many rural African with an opportunity to earn some of the money they needed to pay taxes on property that could not easily harnessed to a cash crop economy. Subsequently, however, these industries brought rural Africans into the urban settings. Although the pork knockers and balata bleeders carried on their work in the interior, they were paid in the city, where they spent much of what they earned for European goods and pleasures. When these individuals returned to the villages sometimes seemingly rich because of the savings they had accumulated during the long months they spent in the jungle, they excited others with stories of their exploits and good times. Eventually, working the land no longer seemed interesting and worthwhile. Much of the land owned by Africans was alienated to East Indians.

In conclusion, the type of social system forged by British colonial policy not only produced the emergence of an African peasantry into an urban proletariat. Census figures provide partial evidence for the rapidity of this transformation. Between 1891 and 1921, the population of African descent (including the Coloured) increased by only2.23 percent, while the number of Africans in urban areas increased by 10.18 per cent. This trend continued during the following twenty-five years. Between 1921 and 1946, the African population grew by 22.55 per cent, but the number of Africans in urban areas increased by 51.00 per cent. Thus, unable to earn a livelihood in the villages, pushed out of their jobs on the sugar estates by low wages and indentured workers, taking advantage of educational opportunities, rural Africans increasingly turned to urban sources of employment. Many of them became professionals and civil servants. The vast majority became prospectors, balata bleeders, lumbermen, bauxite miners, artisans, and semiskilled workers.


Bibliography:

McArthur, J. Sidney “Our People”, Timehri, the Journal of the Royal Agricultural and Commercial Society of British Guiana, 7 (1921), 23-24.

(Special Thanks to M'lilwana Osanku - Sancho of Nabaclis.)
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Afro-Guianese extract from [Despres Leo A., (1967) Cultural Pluralism and Nationalist Politics in British Guiana]: page 45-54

So much has been written on the subject of chattel slavery in the New World that little needs to be said about it here. In Guiana, as elsewhere, slavery entailed the almost complete destruction of African institutions and customs, of necessity, the slaves adopted the language of their masters. Their communal patterns were destroyed and replaced by the authority structure of the plantation and its managerial system. African religious beliefs and practices were suppressed, and, at the same time, most planters resisted missionary efforts to convert slaves to Christianity because of the close identification between missionary activity and the emancipation movement.

Similarly, kinship and family patterns were destroyed. In Guiana the privileges of Christian marriage were denied the slaves until 1825, and the separation of slave families was not prohibited until 1831. as a result of these and subsequent conditions, practically no vestiges of African culture remain in British Guiana, today.

The termination of slavery in 1833 changed the entire structure of Guianese society. The most immediate effect of emancipation was economic ruin for dozens of Guianese planters. In 1829, there was approximately 100,000 slaves in the colony. More than half of these lived and worked on 230 sugar plantations and 174 coffee and cotton estates. In 1829, they produced 66, 722 hogsheads of sugar, 6,778,350 pounds of coffee, and 7,272 bales of cotton for export. Between 1839 and 1842, this level of production declined by three-fifths. By 1849, the number of sugar plantations had been reduced to 180, and only 16 of the 174 coffee and cotton estates remained. In 1845, cotton disappeared completely from Guiana�s list of exports. The sugar industry, of course, survived, but it took more than thirty years to reach the level of production it had achieved prior to emancipation.

The most direct cause of these economic changes was the emergence of a free Negro peasantry. It had been feared by some that the freed slaves would retire into the bush and develop villages with traditional patterns of African culture. This did not happen. The acculturation of the slaves had progressed much too far during the period of their bondage for them to have reconstituted their traditional ways of living. Instead they sought land of their own in the coastal region where they also could grow crops for the market. The gravitation of the former slaves away from the plantations was so rapid that the planters attempted to stop the flow of labour by adjusting the price of Crown Lands beyond the reach of most.

However, they could not control the sale of private lands and abandoned estates. The acquisition of these by the negroes was made possible by the rapidly declining value of plantations as well as by the savings which the slaves had accumulated during the five-year period of apprenticeship which preceded emancipation in 1838.

Depending upon the method which the freed slaves used to purchase land, two types of villages were established. Allan Young has called these �proprietary� and �communal� villages. The proprietary villages were settled by individuals who had accumulated sufficient capital to make separate purchases. Thus, each proprietor held a title to the land he had purchased. However, when Individuals did not have sufficient capital to buy land, they pooled their resources with other Individuals and took advantage of the provisions under the Roman-Dutch code whereby groups could own undivided lands.

Thus, land titles in communal villages were vested by way of a single deed in the names of the representatives of a group of purchasers. Individual members of the group were listed on the deed as owning a specified number of shares of undivided land. In most cases, the proprietary villages developed on lands put up for sale by plantation owners in order to maintain a labour force near at hand. The communal villages, on the other hand, were usually abandoned plantations put up for sale by absentee owners. Under the conditions existing following emancipation, the communal village came to be the dominant form of African rural settlement.

The period between 1838 and 1848 marks the ascent of the Afro-Guianese peasantry. Before 1838, there were only two villages on the entire coast of Guiana. By 1848, there were more than a hundred. During these years, the village movement received added momentum from two prolonged strikes in the sugar industry and from the introduction of more than 23,000 indentured workers who were willing to labour for wages lower than those demanded than by the freed slaves.

By 1848, only 19,939 Africans remained on the sugar estates, while more than 44,000 had established themselves in villages. Of these, approximately 7,000 owned land in proprietary villages. The remainder, except for those who lived in thirteen settlements that had been established on Crown Lands, were shareholders in Communal villages. The total value of property acquired by the freed slaves during this ten �year period has been estimated in excess of $2 million (BWI). The village movement did not end in 1848, but the condition which provided its momentum changed, and its decline became incipient.

As a cultural form, the African peasantry lacked adaptability. There are many reasons for this. For one thing, most of the plantations purchased by the villagers were in very bad repair. The buildings had deteriorated; the roads had been neglected; many of the dams had to be built anew; and much of the farm land had to be cleared of bush before it could be cultivated. These works required capital, and most of the new proprietors had used all of their savings to purchase land. Additional capital, moreover, was hard to come by. As slaves during the apprenticeship period, the Africans were fed, clothed, housed, and paid. As proprietors, they had to provide themselves with these necessities. At the same time, the wages available to those who were willing to work on the plantations were no higher than those paid during the apprenticeship period. Thus, the average villager found his resources exhausted by the purchase of land, and there was little or nothing left for development or operating costs.
Added to this was the problem of land fragmentation. Under the Dutch, when the ecological pattern for plantations was first established, each settler was granted a rectangular tract of land containing 250 acres. Typically, the estate was laid out with a fa�ade of 412 yards and extended inland from the sea for a distance of approximately 3,089 yards. When this area was empoldered by the construction of sea defenses, sideline drainage trenches, and a back-dam, the owner could claim an additional 250 acres located at the rear of the �first depth�. thus, the plantations purchased by the villagers normally consisted of tracts 412 yards in width and nearly four miles in depth. When �shares� were allocated, the new proprietors took care to provide that each shareholder occupy proportionate amounts of land containing good and bad soils. This was accomplished in one of two ways. In Demerara and Essequibo, the estates were divided into sections according to the types of soils available, and, in turn, these sections were further divided into cultivation plots according to the number of shareholders. In Berbice, the entire estates were divided into parallel strips according to the number of shareholders. Both methods resulted in fragmentation. Either the shareholder occupied plots in widely separated sections of the estate, or he occupied a strip of land twenty to forty feet in width and four miles in depth. This situation was made worse by the fact that many individuals owned half or quarter shares.

The difficulties engendered by the physical fragmentation of land were augmented further by the social fragmentation of ownership rights which resulted from the application of the Roman-Dutch law. In the case of intestacy, all the descendants of a proprietor inherited �equal but undivided shares� of the proprietor property. Children inherited land rights from one or both parents. Sons inherited as well as daughters. Illegitimate children inherited property rights through their mothers. The property thus inherited came to be known as �children�s property�. It constituted an estate in which all of the �children� could participate. Since the making of wills was not a common practice among the freed slaves, it was not long before entire villages consisted of children�s property. Practically anyone born in the village could claim the right to a house lot or a cultivation plot. Similarly, almost anyone could pick coconuts and other fruits from the trees on family land.

The fragmentation of ownership rights not only served to reduce the investment value of land but complicated the problem of land management. This was particularly the case with respect to the maintenance of drainage and irrigation systems. If one proprietor, for want of capital or motivation, allowed his dams and ditches to deteriorate, it affected the production of all the others. Under these ecological circumstances, cooperative effort was an absolute necessity. However, the former slaves had no tradition of social organization suitable to meet this need. The traditional pattern of African kinship that might have been functional under these conditions no longer existed. They were replaced by a bilateral kinship structure that was partly extended through the practice of serial polygyny and common-law unions. The kindred associated with the inheritance of children�s property did not constitute a corporate economic unit. Nuclear families and matrifocal households comprised the two major types of economic unit. Neither of these provided the organization of human resources necessary to maintain kokers or floodgates, dams, and drainage trenches.

At the same time, there was no tradition of village organization or local government to solve the problems of land management. Under slavery, small groups of individuals recognized �older heads� as leaders on the basis of their personal status. This principle of headman ship appears to have been functional in the communal villages when they were first owned by a few shareholders who had come together in a cooperative fashion to buy and work land. However, the population in most of the new villages grew rapidly beyond the bounds of this type of leadership. In New Orange Nassau (Buxton), to site one example, the number of shareholders increased from 128 to nearly 2,000 during a ten-year period. Most of this increment seems to have occurred as a result of many of the original proprietors selling portions of their shares to outsiders migrating from the plantations. Others died, and their shares were inherited by descendants. Dome of these, in turn, sold portions of their inheritance. Subsequently, land relationships became extremely complicated, and, apart from the central government, there was no agency to resolve disputes and fix rights and responsibilities.

The ultimate consequences of these problems have been extensively described by historians. Individuals would not or could not assume cooperative responsibility for roads and sea defenses. Dams were not repaired. Drainages ditches were not cleared of new growth and much of the farmland became useless for cultivation purposes. Without capital, without cooperation and free labour, and under the burden of complex land relationships, the whole system broke down. Increasingly, the villagers were forced to turn to a subsistence type of economy. Ground provisions were grown for home consumption, and, where possible, the produce from coconut and fruit trees was picked and sold in the local markets for a small cash income.

In numerous ways, the villages became a problem of major proportions to the central government, the roads that passed through them were necessary to the plantation economy. The sea defenses were equally important. Similarly, the diseases resulting from poor sanitary conditions and lack of water control could not be confined to the villages but affected the public health of the whole colony.

Beginning with a series of ordinances in the 1850�s, the central government became increasingly involved in the village affairs. At different times, a Central Board of Villages, the Public Works Department, and the Central Board of Health represented the controlling authority for local government. In 1907, the Department of Local Government and the Local Government Board appeared. Under these, the entire country was divided into village councils (elected locally), country districts, and rural sanitary districts. In all three types of local authority, ultimate control of village affairs was vested in the local government board and its representatives.

As a result of the introduction of local government, many of the communal villages were partitioned for tax purposes. These were given an elected council which, in turn, appointed an overseer who was made responsible for the maintenance of streets, dams, and internal drainage. The villages that were not partitioned (and there were many) became country districts. Except for some improvements in sanitary conditions, these villages remained essentially as they were when they were founded. They had no village councils unless the shareholders or older heads organized one voluntarily. They had no overseer unless one was temporarily appointed to supervise a project. They paid no taxes. They were not made responsible for the Public Road. Their streets (if they had any) and their internal drainage systems (where they existed) were matters of their own concern.

Most of the communal villages that remain today are located in areas of the coastland where there are no sugar plantations and where the planters had no interests in developing permanent sea defenses.

Neither the organization of local government nor the partitioning of communal villages for tax purposes solved most of the problems of the Afro-Guianese peasantry. In a way, both added to the burdens that already existed. Most of the taxes collected in the villages were communal villages used to maintain public roads and sea defenses that were important to the sugar plantations. There was seldom enough money to put village lands in repair and develop the basis for a viable cash crop economy. As land became less productive, villagers had to seek outside employment in order to raise money for the payment of taxes. Partitioning, on the other hand, added new dimensions to the land tenure problem. In many instances, it resulted in such extreme fragmentation that individuals elected to sell their small holdings rather than attempt to work them. In some cases, the partitioning of children�s property provoked bitter disputes between relatives. The cost of settling these disputes ate up the value of the land in legal fees. At best, partitioning provided only a temporary clarification of land relationships by the distribution of new titles. As soon as these proprietors died, the titles once again devolved upon the children, and land relationships were as confused as before.

While all of these circumstances made agriculture difficult for the afro-Guianese, there were other factors that served to divert their interests away from life in the villages. One of these was education. In 1841, there were 101 elementary schools in British Guiana. At that time, education was almost completely in the hands of the London Missionary Society. The schools depended for their support primarily on fees, but money was also received from the churches, the government, and the planters. In 1852, the teachers� Benevolent and Improvement Association was organized. Because of its efforts, in 1855 an Education Ordinance was passed which provided for teachers� certificates. This particular ordinance also settled the issue that there must be religious education in schools receiving government aid. This became the basis of the system of �Dual Control�, whereby the schools are owned and managed by Christian churches (or private companies in some cases), but the cost of maintenance, buildings, and teachers� salaries is borne by the government.

In 1876, a Compulsory Education Ordinance was passed which required every child to attend elementary school. This particular bill also made it legal to employ children under nine years of age or those over nine who did not hold a certificate of proficiency from an elementary school.

The Compulsory Education Ordinance was not equally enforced for all Guianese. The children of East Indians living on the sugar estates were encouraged to maintain their own customs, and, as a consequence, they were not required to comply with the law by attending Christian schools. Since there were no Hindu or Muslim schools at the time, this meant that these children did not go to school at all.

The afro-Guianese, more than any other group, took advantage of these developments in education. There must have been many reasons for this, and one of them most certainly involved the lack of opportunity in agriculture. The desire to live as Europeans perhaps was important also. Another consideration involved the teachers. From the beginning of developments in education, Africans were prominent among the ranks of teachers. In the village, the headmaster occupied a position of influence and trust. He was frequently the chairman of the village council and responsible for the administration of village affairs. The young as well as the old sought his advice on many matters. There can be little doubt that the headmaster played an important role in generating a deep desire for education on the part of many Africans. In any event, educational achievement opened the door to employment opportunities not available in the village itself. By 1900, the Africans dominated every department of the civil service. They also dominated the skilled trades. In 1900, when a Guianese Scholarship was instituted, Africans were among the first to pursue higher education in England. By the First World War, Africans had organized the trade union movement, controlled the teaching profession, and were prominent in law, medicine and government.
Quite apart from education, there were other developments that drew heavily on the African rural population. Most historians of Guiana would concur with J. Sidney McArthur�s statement: it is beyond controversy that without the Blackman the gold and the balata industries could not exist in the colony�it is only by working the colony�s forest that the Blackman can earn a living wage, and there in the hundreds, they spend the greater part of every year where there is no imported coolie labourer.

It is impossible to tell precisely how many African peasants left the village farmlands to become prospectors (locally called pork knockers). During the twenty year period from 1871 to 1891, the number of individuals employed as gold seekers and woodcutters increased from 2,131 to 6,646, Balata Bleeders (men who collected balata gum in the interior) were never counted apart from �other labourers� by the census takers, but in 1891 there were 24,146 individuals listed in this category, and it seems probable that the vast majority of these were Africans. Subsequently, in 1914, the bauxite industry was organized, and its labour force was almost primarily African in composition.

There can be little doubt that these new industries represented important forces fro change in rural African culture. At first, in the 1880s, they provided many rural African with an opportunity to earn some of the money they needed to pay taxes on property that could not easily harnessed to a cash crop economy. Subsequently, however, these industries brought rural Africans into the urban settings. Although the pork knockers and balata bleeders carried on their work in the interior, they were paid in the city, where they spent much of what they earned for European goods and pleasures. When these individuals returned to the villages sometimes seemingly rich because of the savings they had accumulated during the long months they spent in the jungle, they excited others with stories of their exploits and good times. Eventually, working the land no longer seemed interesting and worthwhile. Much of the land owned by Africans was alienated to East Indians.

In conclusion, the type of social system forged by British colonial policy not only produced the emergence of an African peasantry into an urban proletariat. Census figures provide partial evidence for the rapidity of this transformation. Between 1891 and 1921, the population of African descent (including the Coloured) increased by only2.23 percent, while the number of Africans in urban areas increased by 10.18 per cent. This trend continued during the following twenty-five years. Between 1921 and 1946, the African population grew by 22.55 per cent, but the number of Africans in urban areas increased by 51.00 per cent. Thus, unable to earn a livelihood in the villages, pushed out of their jobs on the sugar estates by low wages and indentured workers, taking advantage of educational opportunities, rural Africans increasingly turned to urban sources of employment. Many of them became professionals and civil servants. The vast majority became prospectors, balata bleeders, lumbermen, bauxite miners, artisans, and semiskilled workers.



Bibliography:
Cameron, NE., the evolution of the Negro, 2 vols. (Georgetown, British Guiana: Argosy Company, 1934)
Clementi, Sir Cecil A constitutional History of British Guiana (London: Macmillan, 1937)
Despres Leo A., (1967) Cultural Pluralism and Nationalist Politics in British Guiana (Rand McNally & Company
Marshall, A. H., Report on Local Government in British Guiana (Georgetown: Argosy Company, 1955)
McArthur, J. Sidney �Our People�, Timehri, the Journal of the Royal Agricultural and Commercial Society of British Guiana, 7 (1921), 23-24.
Ragatz, L. J., the fall of the Planter Class in the British Caribbean 1763-1833 (London: Oxford University Press, 1928)
Ruhomon, Peter Centenary History of the East Indians in British Guiana 1838 -1938. (Georgetown, British Guiana: The Daily Chronicle�s Guiana Edition, 1946)
Smith, Raymond T., the Negro Family in British Guiana (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, Ltd., 1956)

(Special Thanks to M'lilwana Osanku - Sancho of Nabaclis.)
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Thursday, October 27, 2005
THE GEORGETOWN DIARY
THE GEORGETOWN DIARY

Repairing the Human Spirit

It is easy, given the nature and scope of the political and economic problems facing Guyana, to be overcome by despair. That is why ever so often reports or analyses based on developments in this country are seamed with pessimism. And this pessimism is catching. It has affected me to the extent that it has blinded me from time to time from seeing the positive improvements which might occur simultaneously with ugly happenings or might be dwarfed by them. It seems to have gone unnoticed, for example, that at the very moment when Guyana seems to be bending under the weight of its problems, that three publications have emerged which suggests that Guyana’s reputation for producing ideas and plans to redress and mitigate its ailments remains undiminished.
Dr. David HindsEusi Kwayana
Within recent times Dr. David Hinds has produced a positive and highly rational booklet entitled “Race and Political Discourse in Guyana;” Judaman Seecomar “Contributions towards the Resolution of Conflict in Guyana” and Eusi Kwayana “The Morning After.” These publications contain thoughtful solutions to Guyana’s dilemmas. They should be read and studied and be made to become part of the public discourse on the solution to Guyana’s political and racial problems. If they do not, I will be, as others will too, convinced that the leaders of this nation are not interested in bringing the agony that we have lived with over 50 years to a peaceful end. Others have commented intelligently on the works of Dr. Hinds and Judaman Seecomar. I want to take a look at Eusi Kwayana’s offering.

Eusi Kwayana is a remarkable man. He is untouched by a political culture that has been stained by violence, undermined by corruption, the blood of the innocent, racial division, hatred and antagonism. The “Buxton Sage” has remained blessed to be free of these sins and has therefore become a respected and trusted figure to all Guyanese across the racial spectrum and the political divide. His preferred methods are honesty of vision, clarity of purpose, and commitment to the cause of working for the promotion of harmony and understanding among Guyana’s multi ethnic population. At the end of it all, Kwayana is one of the few politicians and individuals who have brought light rather than darkness and obfuscation to the public domain. Because he can be trusted, when Kwayana speaks, Guyana must listen. Between February 2002 and June 2003, events occurred in Guyana which were compounded of political violence, ethnic aggression, the take over of Buxton by gunmen called “Talibans” and the attempt to use that violence as a means of bringing the state to its knees. Kwayana places this bloody period in our history under the microscope and what he has found is both enlightening and disturbing: the destruction of his home village; militarism and drugs; a corrupt and insensitive PPP/C Admin-istration; the refusal by the PPP/C Ad-ministration to pay attention to constitutional solutions to Guyana myriads difficulties and problems; the refusal to come to grips with the allegations made by Andrew Doug-las; the continuing arms build—up that continues under the PPP/C Administra-tion; and, as a consequence of all this, the need for a new political culture.

In this booklet of a 124 pages, Kwayana also distills his expert knowledge of Guyana’s politics. Those who have forgotten will have their memories refreshed of recent and passed events. He reminds, for example, that as early as 1953 he had made proposals for a joint premiership and partition as a last resort. His chronicle of political events in Guyana (page 100) is masterful in a sense that it cast a long shadow on coming events be-cause anyone studying this chronicle will realize that at the heart of it is the inability of our po-litical system and politicians to create an environment of peace and stability. Every attempt at dialogue at seminal points in our history has failed. But the burden of Kwayana’s argument is that a violent solution is not possible. He does not mince words. Here is his pronouncement:

“The morning after a national coup would be wet with blood, cluttered with collateral damage, reeking with lingering waste and gunpowder, clogged with traffic to embassies, the airports and the Corentyne ferry, the Ogle airport and the Venezuela border, foodless, with empty markets, and shivering with uncertainty. In this case, too, because of its special context, it would create a situation which could not sustain itself.”

In Kwayana’s deliberate judgement Guyana does “not need arms and bloodshed. It needs a political settlement.”

But it is the destruction of Buxton that moves Kwayana to write in elegiac terms about the decline and destruction of a place where he had lived all of his life. He points out that a village is an intricate and complex social organism:

“In Guyana a village is a basic community of people. Amerindian vill-ages have a long long history and were the homes of the original peoples. They are tied to the land and see it as their mother. At the same time it is an economic unit, a primary education unit, a social unit and a unit of government, a unit for cultural refreshment and preservation.”

Yet it is this complex organisation that young men of a type that Kwayana could not recognize set about to destroy. The background to this situation is set out to great clarity and understanding of the events related to them. Kwayana takes the reader through the aftermath of the 2001 elections, the disturbances that followed, his encounters with the young men in his village, the killing of Shaka Blair, and, finally, the destruction of Buxton. This was too much for a man who had drawn succour and life from it. Having to leave his village, provoked one of the finest passages in this booklet:

“This small book comes from me with much pain and comes only because of a sense of duty. The sense of duty comes from my long years of activity in the politics of Guyana; some will say the Caribbean Region. The pain is there not only because it is about Guyana, but because the epicenter of the unfortunate actions was my home village, which I have called home ever since my elders left Lusignan estate, when I was seven.”

But not only the destruction of Buxton: what was initially resistance to unwanted intervention in Buxton degenerated into attacks on Indians and the complete control and terror unleashed in the village. A group of gunmen, with a different philosophy and outlook, with little mercy, and guided by commanders who remained in the dark, had turned the village into an armed camp. But there was something more here. The Jagdeo Administration appeared incapable of either dislodging or bringing them to heel. Such impotence, warns Kwayana, “courts collapse.” But while the coup at a national level seems not to have taken place, it is certainly a reality in Buxton. I can do no better than to quote Kwayana at his best:

“The coup has been executed in Buxton. It is now defending itself, but in relations within the village the gunmen represent a power similar to state power, including the power to impose the death penalty.”

Kwayana has been an admirable proponent for a new political culture. And after he has made clear that he is opposed to the violent solution to Guyana’s political problem and the cancer of corruption that has afflicted our polity, he has moved on to suggest solutions to our dilemmas. It may be necessary here to point out that on the question of corruption Eusi Kwayana does not spare those who are guilty. His criticism of the corruption of the PPP/C Administration is searing and well documented. He listed corruption in respect of the contract issued of the law books, contracts for road projects and the issuing of arms. Kwayana is forced to conclude that the PPP/C has little interest in putting an end to this situation:

“If indeed they are corrupt and many of them indeed are, (see issues of Watch Post, a publication written by me), then it means that the majority decision making group of persons in the country care more about their power and privilege than about their reputation as an accountable government. Their ambition is to out do the former rulers in ruthlessness and they are well on the way to achieving that.”

But Kwayana’s experience and critical eye does not rest only on corruption of the PPP/C; he sees dangers in the way the Administration carries out its political functions: “The able people in the leadership of the PPP/C Administra-tion have no power and the powerful people in the PPP/C are not noted for their ability.” I cried amen when I read this.

But to return to a new and different political culture. Kwayana carefully reviewed efforts made towards this end and has high praise for the works of Dr. David Hinds and Judaman Seecomar. He also critiques Dr. Kean Gibson’s controversial “Cycles of Violence” as a possible search for a solution to Guyana’s political problems. I was particularly struck by something I had never read anywhere before and that was the proposal which Kwayana considered to be of great importance and one made by Shahabudin McDoom to the Constitutional Reform Commission. After Jagan’s proposal for a Mandela formula at the municipal level, McDoom suggested that voters be allowed to make a choice for their parties, they can then proceed to decide whom they prefer from among candidates of rival parties. It is not surprising, given the nature of our politics, that this sensible proposal, supported by Kwayana, has not seen the light of day. Guyana is the poorer for it.

It is often the fate of books and programmes which have been submitted to the Guyanese public as offering a solution to its political and economic crisis, that they are either ignored or relegated to the periphery of the public discourse. It would be a tragedy if this were the fate of Eusi Kwayana’s authoritative dissection of the ills of Guyanese society, for he proposes that there are constitutional means to overcome these problems. But this will require hard work and commitment to a cause which would ensure the healing of wounds and the repairing of minds. Such a struggle must be political in nature if Guyana is to avoid the tragedies which have overcome societies such as in Haiti. Words cannot convey my deep admiration for this work by Eusi Kwayana which has come at a time when Guyana is in desperate need of a solution to its problems.



Source: Austin, Richard - The Georgetown Diary – “Repairing the Human Spirit”, Caribbean Impact; October 1, 2005 (Volume # 3, Number 21), page 10.
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Monday, October 24, 2005

WALTER RODNEY: A BIOGRAPHY

guyanacaribbeanpolitics.com

Walter Rodney was born in Georgetown, Guyana on March 23, 1942. His was a working class family-his father was a tailor and his mother a seamstress. After attending primary school, he won an open exhibition scholarship to attend Queens College as one of the early working-class beneficiaries of concessions made in the filed of education by the ruling class in Guyana to the new nationalism that gripped the country in the early 1950s.

While at Queens College young Rodney excelled academically, as well as in the fields of athletics and debating. In 1960, he won an open scholarship to further his studies at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. He graduated with a first-class honors degree in history in 1963 and. he won an open scholarship to the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. In 1966, at the age of 24 he was awarded a Ph.D. with honors in African History.

His doctoral research on slavery on the Upper Guinea Coast was the result of long meticulous work on the records of Portuguese merchants both in England and in Portugal. In the process he learned Portuguese and Spanish which along with the French he had learned at Queens College made him somewhat of a linguist.

In 1970, his Ph.D dissertation was published by Oxford University Press under the title, A History of the Upper Guinea Coast, 1545-1800. This work was to set a trend for Rodney in both challenging the assumptions of western historians about African history and setting new standards for looking at the history of oppressed peoples. According to Horace Campbell "This work was path-breaking in the way in which it analyzed the impact of slavery on the communities and the interrelationship between societies of the region and on the ecology of the region."

Walter took up his first teaching appointment in Tanzania before returning to his alma mater, the University of the West Indies, in 1968. This was a period of great political activity in the Caribbean as the countries begun their post colonial journey. But it was the Black Power Movement that caught Walter's imagination.

Some new voices had begun to question the direction of the post-independence governments, in particular their attitude to the plight of the downpressed. The issue of empowerment for the black and brown poor of the region was being debated among the progressive intellectuals. Rodney, who from very early on had rejected the authoritarian role of the middle class political elite in the Caribbean, was central to this debate. He, however, did not confine his activities to the university campus. He took his message of Black Liberation to the gullies of Jamaica. In particular he shared his knowledge of African history with one of the most rejected section of the Jamaican society-the Rastafarians.

Walter had shown an interest in political activism ever since he was a student in Jamaica and England. Horace Campbell reports that while at UWI Walter "was active in student politics and campaigned extensively in 1961 in the Jamaica Referendum on the West Indian Federation." While studying in London, Walter participated in discussion circles, spoke at the famous Hyde Park and, participated in a symposium on Guyana in 1965. It was during this period that Walter came into contact with the legendary CLR James and was one of his most devoted students.

By the summer of 1968 Rodney's "groundings with the working poor of Jamaica had begun to attract the attention of the government. So, when he attended a Black Writers' Conference in Montreal, Canada, in October 1968, the Hugh Shearer-led Jamaican Labor Party Government banned him from re-entering the country. This action sparked widespread riots and revolts in Kingston in which several people were killed and injured by the police and security forces, and millions of dollars worth of property destroyed.. Rodney's encounters with the Rastafarians were published in a pamphlet entitled "Grounding with My Brothers," that became a bible for the Caribbean Black Power Movement.

Having been expelled from Jamaica, Walter returned to Tanzania after a short stay in Cuba.. There he lectured from 1968 to 1974 and continued his groundings in Tanzania and other parts of Africa. This was the period of the African liberation struggles and Walter, who fervently believed that the intellectual should make his or her skills available for the struggles and emancipation of the people, became deeply involved.. It was from partly from these activities that his second major work, and his best known --How Europe Underdeveloped Africa - emerged. It was published by Bogle-L'Ouverture, in London, in conjunction with Tanzanian Publishing House in 1972.

This Tanzanian period was perhaps the most important in the formation of Rodney's ideas. According to Horace Campbell "Here he was at the forefront of establishing an intellectual tradition which still today makes Dar es Salaam one of the centers of discussion of African politics and history. Out of he dialogue, discussions and study groups he deepened the Marxist tradition with respect to African politics, class struggle, the race question, African history and the role of the exploited in social change. It was within the context of these discussions that the book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa was written."

Campbell also reports that " In he same period, he wrote the critical articles on Tanzanian Ujamaa, imperialism, on underdevelopment, and the problems of state and class formation in Africa. Many of his articles which were written in Tanzania appeared in Maji Maji, the discussion journal of the TANU Youth League at the University. He worked in the Tanzanian archives on the question of forced labor, the policing of the countryside and the colonial economy. This work-- " World War II and the Tanzanian Economy"-- was later published as a monograph by Cornell University in 1976".

Rodney also developed a reputation as a Pan-Africanist theoretician and spokes person. Campbell says that "In Tanzania he developed close political relationships with those who were struggling to change the external control of Africa He was very close to some of the leaders of liberation movements in Africa and also to political leaders of popular organizations of independent territories. Together with other Pan-Africanists he participated in discussing leading up to the Sixth Pan-African Congress, held in Tanzania, 1974. Before the Congress he wrote a piece: "Towards the Sixth Pan-African Congress: Aspects of the International Class Struggle in Africa, the Caribbean and America."

In 1974, Walter returned to Guyana to take up an appointment as Professor of History at the University of Guyana, but the government rescinded the appointment. But Rodney remained in Guyana, joined the newly formed political group, the Working People's Alliance. Between 1974 and his assassination in 1980, he emerged as the leading figure in the resistance movement against the increasingly authoritarian PNC government. He give public and private talks all over the country that served to engender a new political consciousness in the country. During this period he developed his ideas on the self emancipation of the working people, People's Power, and multiracial democracy.

On July 11, 1979, Walter, together with seven others, was arrested following the burning down of two government offices. He, along with Drs Rupert Roopnarine and Omawale, was later charged with arson. From that period up to the time of his murder, he was constantly persecuted and harassed and at least on one occasion, an attempt was made to kill him. Finally, on the evening of June 13, 1980, he was assassinated by a bomb in the middle of Georgetown..

Walter was married to Dr Patricia Rodney and the union bore three children- Shaka, Kanini and Asha.

(http://www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics....rodney_bio.html)
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Saturday, October 22, 2005
PNCR seeks to unseat Trotman as MP

THE main opposition People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) is seeking to unseat its former top member Mr. Raphael Trotman as a Member of Parliament.

A statement from the party said its leader, Mr. Robert Corbin, on Thursday invited Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr. Ralph Ramkarran to make a declaration that, in accordance with Article 156 (3) of the Constitution, Trotman is “no longer qualified to be a member of the National Assembly and that, in the absence of his resignation, his seat should be declared vacant.”

The PNCR said it had hoped that the “norms of ethical behaviour would have prevailed and that Mr. Trotman would have by now resigned his seat as a PNCR Member of Parliament.”

“However, to date he has failed to do so”, it said.

Trotman has linked with expelled People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/Civic) executive member, Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan to form the new Alliance For Change, billed to be formally launched later this month as a `Third Force’ against the traditional PPP/C and PNCR dominance of the local political landscape.

The PNCR said that on October 14, after a telephone conversation with Trotman on the subject of his resignation, Corbin formally wrote Trotman “indicating that the Parliamentary recess had ended and that the party was ready to execute its National Assembly programme.”

“He therefore invited Mr. Trotman to take the appropriate action in keeping with his formal communication with the party. Regrettably, the reply from Mr. Trotman dated October 19th 2005, gave no indication of his intention to take immediate action”, the PNCR reported.

It recalled that on Friday May 27, 2005, Trotman formally tendered his resignation to the General Secretary as a member of the PNCR with immediate effect.

“On the aforesaid day he also formally advised the Leader of the PNCR that he had resigned from the PNCR”, the party said.

It added that in keeping with his resignation from the party, Trotman, by letters dated June 1, 2005, formally indicated to the Chairpersons of the Standing Committee For Constitutional Reform and the Special Select Committee For the Implementation of the Disciplined Services Commission Report on which he represented the PNCR List that he was resigning as a member of these committees.

“It is evident that Mr. Trotman has, by his letters and actions, declared that he will no longer support the PNCR List”, it pointed out.

The party said that when Trotman formally notified its leadership of his intention to resign from the party, he was informed by both Corbin and its Chairman that the PNCR has “never stood in the way of any member pursuing his/her personal interests, since the philosophy of the party is grounded in the principles of freedom of expression and association.”

“It has been five months since Mr. Trotman resigned from the PNCR, resigned from the Parliamentary sub-committees on which he represented the PNCR and publicly announced his intention of launching a new political party. Mr. Trotman has also been absent from the last eleven Sittings of the National Assembly.

“The party therefore expected that Mr. Trotman would act in conformity with his declared high ethical and moral standards. Regrettably he has failed to do so, but the PNCR has a responsibility to pursue the interests of its members throughout Guyana”, the statement said.

Repeated efforts yesterday for a reaction from Trotman failed.

(www.guyanachronicle.com)
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Friday, October 21, 2005
History Didn't Happen

History isn't what happened, but a story of what happened. And there are always different versions, different stories, about the same events. One version might revolve mainly around a specific set of facts while another version might minimize them or not include them at all.

Like stories, each of these different versions of history contain different lessons. Some histories tell us that our leaders, at least, have always tried to do right for everyone. Others remark that the emperors don't have the slaves' best interests at heart. Some teach us that this is both what has always been and what always will be. Others counsel that we shouldn't mistake transient dominance for intrinsic superiority. Lastly, some histories paint a picture where only the elites have the power to change the world, while others point out that social change is rarely commanded from the top down.

Regardless of the value of these many lessons, History isn't what happened, but the stories of what happened and the lessons these stories include. The very selection of which histories to teach in a society shapes our view of how what is came to be and, in turn, what we understand as possible. This choice of which history to teach can never be "neutral" or "objective." Those who choose, either following a set agenda or guided by hidden prejudices, serve their interests. Their interests could be to continue this world as it now stands or to make a new world.

We cannot simply be passive. We must choose whose interests are best: those who want to keep things going as they are or those who want to work to make a better world. If we choose the latter, we must seek out the tools we will need. History is just one tool to shape our understanding of our world. And every tool is a weapon if you hold it right.

(http://www.historyisaweapon.com/)
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George Jackson: Black Revolutionary


By Walter Rodney, November 1971

To most readers in this continent, starved of authentic information by the imperialist news agencies, the name of George Jackson is either unfamiliar or just a name. The powers that be in the United States put forward the official version that George Jackson was a dangerous criminal kept in maximum security in Americas toughest jails and still capable of killing a guard at Soledad Prison. They say that he himself was killed attempting escape this year in August. Official versions given by the United States of everything from the Bay of Pigs in Cuba to the Bay of Tonkin in Vietnam have the common characteristic of standing truth on its head. George Jackson was jailed ostensibly for stealing 70 dollars. He was given a sentence of one year to life because he was black, and he was kept incarcerated for years under the most dehumanizing conditions because he discovered that blackness need not be a badge of servility but rather could be a banner for uncompromising revolutionary struggle. He was murdered because he was doing too much to pass this attitude on to fellow prisoners. George Jackson was political prisoner and a black freedom fighter. He died at the hands of the enemy.

Once it is made known that George Jackson was a black revolutionary in the white mans jails, at least one point is established, since we are familiar with the fact that a significant proportion of African nationalist leaders graduated from colonialist prisons, and right now the jails of South Africa hold captive some of the best of our brothers in that part of the continent. Furthermore, there is some considerable awareness that ever since the days of slavery the U.S.A. is nothing but a vast prison as far as African descendants are concerned. Within this prison, black life is cheap, so it should be no surprise that George Jackson was murdered by the San Quentin prison authorities who are responsible to Americas chief prison warder, Richard Nixon. What remains is to go beyond the generalities and to understand the most significant elements attaching to George Jacksons life and death.

When he was killed in August this year, George Jackson was twenty nine years of age and had spent the last fifteen [correction: 11 years] behind bars—seven of these in special isolation. As he himself put it, he was from the lumpen. He was not part of the regular producer force of workers and peasants. Being cut off from the system of production, lumpen elements in the past rarely understood the society which victimized them and were not to be counted upon to take organized revolutionary steps within capitalist society. Indeed, the very term lumpen proletariat was originally intended to convey the inferiority of this sector as compared with the authentic working class.

Yet George Jackson, like Malcolm X before him, educated himself painfully behind prison bars to the point where his clear vision of historical and contemporary reality and his ability to communicate his perspective frightened the U.S. power structure into physically liquidating him. Jacksons survival for so many years in vicious jails, his self-education, and his publication of Soledad Brother were tremendous personal achievements, and in addition they offer on interesting insight into the revolutionary potential of the black mass in the U.S.A., so many of whom have been reduced to the status of lumpen.

Under capitalism, the worker is exploited through the alienation of part of the product of his labour. For the African peasant, the exploitation is effected through manipulation of the price of the crops which he laboured to produce. Yet, work has always been rated higher than unemployment, for the obvious reason that survival depends upon the ability to obtain work. Thus, early in the history of industrialization, workers coined the slogan the right to work. Masses of black people in the U.S.A. are deprived of this basic right. At best they live in a limbo of uncertainty as casual workers, last to be hired and first to be fired. The line between the unemployed or criminals cannot be dismissed as white lumpen in capitalist Europe were usually dismissed.

The latter were considered as misfits and regular toilers served as the vanguard. The thirty-odd million black people in the U.S.A. are not misfits. They are the most oppressed and the most threatened as far as survival is concerned. The greatness of George Jackson is that he served as a dynamic spokesman for the most wretched among the oppressed, and he was in the vanguard of the most dangerous front of struggle.

Jail is hardly an arena in which one would imagine that guerrilla warfare would take place. Yet, it is on this most disadvantaged of terrains that blacks have displayed the guts to wage a war for dignity and freedom. In Soledad Brother, George Jackson movingly reveals the nature of this struggle as it has evolved over the last few years. Some of the more recent episodes in the struggle at San Quentin prison are worth recording. On February 27th this year, black and brown (Mexican) prisoners announced the formation of a Third World Coalition. This came in the wake of such organizations as a Black Panther Branch at San Quentin and the establishment of SATE (Self-Advancement Through Education). This level of mobilisation of the nonwhite prisoners was resented and feared by white guards and some racist white prisoners. The latter formed themselves into a self-declared Nazi group, and months of violent incidents followed. Needless to say, with white authority on the side of the Nazis, Afro and Mexican brothers had a very hard time. George Jackson is not the only casualty on the side of the blacks. But their unity was maintained, and a majority of white prisoners either refused to support the Nazis or denounced them. So, even within prison walls the first principle to be observed was unity in struggle. Once the most oppressed had taken the initiative, then they could win allies.

The struggle within the jails is having wider and wider repercussions every day. Firstly, it is creating true revolutionary cadres out of more and more lumpen. This is particularly true in the jails of California, but the movement is making its impact felt everywhere from Baltimore to Texas. Brothers inside are writing poetry, essays and letters which strip white capitalist America naked. Like the Soledad Brothers, they have come to learn that sociology books call us antisocial and brand us criminals, when actually the criminals are in the social register. The names of those who rule America are all in the social register.

Secondly, it is solidifying the black community in a remarkable way. Petty bourgeois blacks also feel threatened by the manic police, judges and prison officers. Black intellectuals who used to be completely alienated from any form of struggle except their personal hustle now recognize the need to ally with and take their bearings from the street forces of the black unemployed, ghetto dwellers and prison inmates.

Thirdly, the courage of black prisoners has elicited a response from white America. The small band of white revolutionaries has taken a positive stand. The Weathermen decried Jacksons murder by placing a few bombs in given places and the Communist Party supported the demand by the black prisoners and the Black Panther Party that the murder was to be investigated. On a more general note, white liberal America has been disturbed. The white liberals never like to be told that white capitalist society is too rotten to be reformed. Even the established capitalist press has come out with esposes of prison conditions, and the fascist massacres of black prisoners at Attica prison recently brought Senator Muskie out with a cry of enough.

Fourthly (and for our purposes most significantly) the efforts of black prisoners and blacks in America as a whole have had international repercussions. The framed charges brought against Black Panther leaders and against Angela Davis have been denounced in many parts of the world. Committees of defense and solidarity have been formed in places as far as Havana and Leipzig. OPAAL declared August 18th as the day of international solidarity with Afro-Americans; and significantly most of their propaganda for this purpose ended with a call to Free All Political Prisoners.

For more than a decade now, peoples liberation movements in Vietnam, Cuba, Southern Africa, etc., have held conversations with militants and progressives in the U.S.A. pointing to the duality and respective responsibilities of struggle within the imperialist camp. The revolution in the exploited colonies and neo-colonies has as its objective the expulsion of the imperialists: the revolution in the metropolis is to transform the capitalist relations of production in the countries of their origin. Since the U.S.A. is the overlord of world imperialism, it has been common to portray any progressive movement there as operating within the belly of the beast. Inside an isolation block in Soledad or San Quentin prisons, this was not merely a figurative expression. George Jackson knew well what it meant to seek for heightened socialist and humanist consciousness inside the belly of the white imperialist beast.

International solidarity grows out of struggle in different localities. This is the truth so profoundly and simply expressed by Che Guevara when he called for the creation of one, two, three - many Vietnams. It has long been recognized that the white working class in the U.S.A is historically incapable of participating (as a class) in anti-imperialist struggle. White racism and Americas leading role in world imperialism transformed organized labour in the U.S. into a reactionary force. Conversely, the black struggle is internationally significant because it unmasks the barbarous social relations of capitalism and places the enemy on the defensive on his own home ground. This is amply illustrated in the political process which involved the three Soledad Brothers—George Jackson, Fleeta Drumgo and John Clutchette—as well as Angela Davis and a host of other blacks now behind prison bars in the U.S.A.

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Street Speech

by Walter Rodney


Note: It is important to understand that the following comments were made specifically in the context of the Guyanese situation.

You see, we have had too much of this foolishness of race. I'm not going to attempt to allocate the blame one way or another. I think more than one political party has been responsible for the crisis of race relations in this country. I think our leadership has failed us on that score. I think external intervention was important in bringing the races against each other from the fifties and particularly in the early sixties. But I'm concerned with the present. If we made that mistake once, we cannot afford to be misled on that score today. No ordinary Afro-Guyanese, no ordinary Indo-Guyanese can today afford to be misled by the myth of race. Time and time again it has been our undoing.

Does it have anything to do with race that the cost of living far outstrips the increase in wages? Does it have anything to do with race that there are no goods in the shops? Does it have anything to do with race when the original lack of democracy as exemplified in the national elections is reproduced at the level of local government elections? Does it have anything to do with race when the bauxite workers cannot elect their own union leadership? Does it have anything to do with race when, day after day, whether one is Indian or African, without the appropriate party credentials, one either gets no employment, loses one's employment, or is subject to lack of promotion?

It is clear that we must get beyond that red herring and recognise that it is intended to divide, that it is not intended in the interest of the common African and Indian people in this country. Those who manipulated in the 1960s, on both sides, were not the sufferers. There were not the losers. The losers were those who participated, who shared blows and who got blows. And they are the losers today.

It is time that we understand that those in power are still attempting to maintain us in that mentality - maintain us captive in that mentality where we are afraid to act or we act injudiciously because we believe that our racial interests are at stake. Surely we have to transcend the racial problems? Surely we have to find ways and means of ensuring that there is racial justice in this society? But it certainly will not be done by a handful of so-called Black men monopolising the power, squeezing the life out of all sections of the working class, and turning around and expecting that they will manipulate an issue such as the Arnold Rampersaud affair and get the support of ordinary black people because we will say, 'After all; is only an Indian. We could hang him. No sweat.'

Because, as I said before, you start with one thing, you end with another. The system doesn't stop at racial discrimination. Because it is a system of class oppression, it only camouflages its class nature under a racial cover. And in the end, it will move against anyone irrespective of colour. In the end, they will move even against their own. Because, don't believe if you are a member of that party today, that you will be protected tomorrow from the injustices. Because when a monster grows, it grows out of control. It eats up even those who created the monster. And it's time that our people understood that.

(http://www.historyisaweapon.org)