Eusi Kwayana's political and biographical sketch of Walter Rodney, dealing with the period 1975-1980 in Guyana. As well as details about Rodney's activity in Guyana before his assassination, it details the complex relationship between some of the political formations in Guyana, the official trade unions, and self-organised struggles of Bauxite and sugar cane workers.
Reproduced from http://www.guyanaundersiege.com/Leaders/Rodney1.htm
Eusi Kwayana's book 'The Bauxite Strike and the Old Politics' was recently republished, and deals with self organised struggles of bauxite miners and sugar plantation workers post-independence in the early '70s.
This is a political article first and foremost and should not be expected to provide biographical details where these have no relevance to, the main argument. It is concerned with trying to explain, how Walter Rodney's return to Guyana affected the pack of things at home, affected the working people's movement for freedom and the patriotic movement for freedom, and led to the modification of the state and its organs. Apart from his interest in the African revolution and his usefulness to it, and the historical work he was conducting on that scene, one thing which kept Rodney out of Guyana for a few extra years was the racial cleavage which had taken place among the working people. A political scene which had as a main tendency political racial polarisation would have been a very inhospitable one for him to return to. When at last he applied to the University of Guyana for the headship of the History Department to teach one of his favourite subjects, Comparative Revolutions; many of his partisans and admirers in many countries of the West asked whether it was safe for him to work here. The most pointed enquiry came from Monica Jardine in a direct question, "Can he work here? Can he survive?" My answer was equally direct. It was a straight yes, but my, answer was to a narrow political question: whether the cleavages in race relations were sufficiently breached to permit him to achieve concrete results. The question may have had other political dimensions and concerns which were not visible to me at the time. The answer to the question was correct so far as the question was testing a political potential. Seen as a test of physical survival, the answer was hopelessly wrong and shortsighted. One can say that the class forces in Guyana developed in such a way that political responses of the people can be predicted. We can say that the predicted response is due to the consciousness of the working people and marginally to that of other social groups which play and have always played a key role in the forward movement in our countries. It is not certain that class forces alone can account for the particular response. There has always been something in the Guyanese understanding of life that responds to outstanding scholars. This is true of most formative economies. There is particularly an even stronger something that responds to the victim of oppression. When outstanding scholarship and victim are both combined in the same person, the size and weight of the response rise accordingly. This was the case with Walter Rodney.
PROPHET OF SELF-EMANCIPATION
Walter Rodney was concerned, from the time of his awakening, with the destiny of the poor. His activity off the campus at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica showed this. He was concerned with the deprivation of the oppressed classes inside any given country and also with the oppression of the subject peoples of the earth by oppressing nations. In relation to the fate of the oppressed classes in a given country, he believed that they must discover themselves in order to understand their historic mission in their own oppression. From the outset, Rodney knew that the emancipation of the oppressed could be brought about only by the oppressed themselves. Thus it was useful for those who had knowledge, or were in the course of getting knowledge, which the very institutions of oppression had kept from them to point their vision in the direction of that knowledge and open up their appetite for self-discovery. There is nothing in this that can be in conflict with Marx, and if it is, then it only shows that Marxism has a potential for growth and is not a closed Bible as some regard it. Looking at the Indian scene in 1853 Marx also saw that the emancipation in his mind had settled down in a state of non-motion. Marx's views on the future results of British rule in India drew this comment: "Karl Marx, it is true, wrote like a modern liberal when dealing with the impact of England on Indian civilisation. England, it is true, in causing a social revolution in Hindustan was actuated by the vilest interests and was stupid in the manner of enforcing` them". And he quoted Goethe, "Should this torture then torment us since it brings us greater pleasure?" ("Scars of Bondage" by T and E Kwayana)
Everyone knows the story of the Jamaica drama. The restless, downtrodden Jamaicans who were influenced by the transmission of Rodney's message, the good news of their human worth and the new class consciousness which was reinforcing proletarian, or working class self-consciousness could not be tolerated by the Caribbean mock bourgeoisie any more than God could tolerate rebellion in Heaven. The ideas popularised by Rodney had become enough of a force in Jamaica to lead the Jamaican government to apply a special technique in suppressing, what they saw as the mischief. They waited until he had left the country to attend a Black Writers' Conference in Canada and then banned him from re-entry. The spirit of the episode and its deep significance for Jamaican society are captured in the novel Joey Tyson by Andrew Salkey. For the more structural results of Rodney's activity in Jamaica, one must examine the whole liberation movement dating from that time as it has expressed itself in every part of the Caribbean to the present day. When Rodney returned to the Caribbean for he returned to the Caribbean rather than to Guyana only the organisations which had been formed or had been radicalised in the wake of the Jamaican struggles had all become important in their own locations. With the exception of NJAC, all of them had moved to Marxism as a tool of national liberation. NJAC did not accept the testimony of Marx, especially since many of its propositions had long become part of the general culture of every revolution and of much of the spirit of scientific enquiry. AC124 accepted Marx but had never accepted the need for a single orthodoxy. DLM had gone through the fire of structural analysis and was seeking to base itself in the needs and aspirations of the Dominican poor. The various campuses had founded their forums and were gearing themselves to be of service to the working people's rebellion against the establishments. In St Vincent, St Lucia, Guyana, Grenada, Belize, Suriname: a whole cluster of organisations was born with the aim of breaking with the old society inspired by imperialist Europe and preparing the people's intervention on the stage of history. The most dramatic development was the February Revolt of the masses in Trinidad & Tobago. Guyana was one country in which the element of orthodox doctrine was never absent from political disputation. The PPP emerged as the spokesman of orthodoxy and the United Force with' its Western orthodoxy claimed its origin in the need to depose the PPP and save the country from communism. The PNC had two approaches: In the drawing rooms it was anti-communist as it was at the level of mass mobilisation. It took a full part in the anti-Cuban hysteria and the anti-Korean, anti-Soviet excitement. For the record, however, in formal public presentations, it was "non-communist rather than anti-communist" and in left circles opposed only the adventurism in the PPP. US White House aides who interviewed the PNC Leader found him "firmly anti-communist" and on that basis and on the condition that he work for multiracialism, decided to use their diplomatic clout to force Britain to change the voting system. The US’ interest in multiracialism was not out of concern for Guyanese. It was put as a condition to ensure that their candidate leader and his party would have a base for continued re-election inspite of the relatively small Afro-Guyanese vote. Perhaps it is in obedience to this condition that the PNC has created by fraud, a multiracial electoral constituency without multiracial support, and at present, with little voluntary support at all. NJAC, one of the offspring of the Rodney renaissance, has run into much criticism because of the long-term emphasis they have laid on the cultural aspects of imperialism, not, as some unfairly claim, to the neglect of the economic and political aspects. NJAC became an authority on the cultural aspects of imperialism in the post-independence Caribbean societies, and since energies cannot be spent in two directions at the same time, stagnated as a social political force appealing not only to the converted, but to the masses at large and the patriotic elements a very essential area for a revolutionary organisation to include in its work. This over-emphasis on the wreckage of African traditions on the soul of the Caribbean man and the Asian/Indian psyche helped to present NJAC as that kind of organisation, with only a secondary interest in the battle for economic survival and advance on the Western model. Apart from cultural imperialism, there is, and few serious scientific minds will contest this, another evil into which third world revolutionaries, especially in the Caribbean, are prone to fall. It is the upside- down of cultural imperialism. This evil which has harmed our institutions, our means of communication, our strengths and our effectiveness in many places, is the importation by us of orthodoxy, style, phrase and even mood from this or that revolutionary base in another part of the world. This is one of the ailments against which Walter Rodney's ideological make up was almost completely immune. His political students, including my wife, did not leave his courses spouting slogans and quotations from the great masters, but with some competence in the art of examining the social relations and trying to discover the social motion, or at least with a sense of the need to do this as an important political task. His students left his courses interested in discovering the story of the oppressed classes, and not of these only, and learning of their efforts and limited successes in the destiny of self-emancipation, for which, Rodney taught, there was no substitute.
GOVERNORS SAY N0 THE PEOPLE SAY YES
The regime in Guyana has misled, or sought to mislead, foreign political leaders about Walter Rodney's direction and intentions. The Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago was assured by the Guyana government that Rodney was killed by the CIA, whereas another was informed that Rodney was an agent of the CIA, and thus had not wanted to work in the University of Guyana. Other juicy bits of gossip were scattered in various directions, as thought 'suitable to the hearers. For these reasons we shall try to re capture the time of Walter Rodney's re-entry to his homeland, before going on to select the important ways in which he helped to accelerate positive tendencies which had begun to appear and the pace of popular rebellion. The Academic Board of the University of Guyana had already taken its decision to appoint Walter Rodney to the headship of the History department, when a certain Minister, Mr Hamilton Green, returned to Guyana from a visit to Tanzania and began to be quoted as saying that he had learned there that Rodney had been a "security risk" and had been thrown out of Tanzania. Apparently working on these pretences, Mr Hamilton Green moved to have Rodney's appointment rescinded. The appointment was rescinded on the orders of the rulers through the University Council, dominated by a large PNC team headed by Green and including elements of the security forces. This confirmed Rodney's exclusion from the university of his own native land. It was the second time that the PNC had refused Rodney's services at the University. The Mirror of October 24, 1968 carried the headline "UG Governors Say No to Rodney". The rejection of his application was moved by Mr T Anson Sancho and seconded by Winston Verbeke of the Guyana Mine Workers Union. Perhaps it was so soon after his expulsion from Jamaica by Burnham's ally, Shearer, that no one thought the incident worthy of comment. I, for one, would not recall it without the aid of the paper cited. The second rejection was about August 1974. As soon as the Council's decision became known, there was a rallying of forces in defence of Rodney's right to teach at the University of Guyana and in defence of the right of Guyanese students to benefit from his teaching. He was already well known as a Marxist historian, a soldier of the African revolution and a partisan of a multiracial working people's movement, in his own phrase, non-racial working people's movement, and as an original thinker. ASCRIA took the lead in proposing that a number of groups and individuals cooperate in the protest against this attack on the action. It took particular pains to invite among others the PPP and it did this not in order to get PPP supporters involved in the protests, but out of respect for Rodney's own position which had seen the PPP as a progressive organisation. Mr Miles Fitzpatrick and Mr Rickey Singh, both supported the protests and mobilised among other sectors of the population in support of them. These protests caused the PNC to panic and caused its thug forces to resume the role they had played during the elections campaign of 1973 when they habitually broke up opposition meetings and destroyed, in at least one case, public address equipment. The first meeting at Durban and Louisa Row in Georgetown brought at least three thousand people into the streets much to the surprise of the purblind PNC. Its thugs were unprepared for this public response and had to confine themselves to heckling with racist jibes at the fact that Cheddi Jagan and I appeared on the same platform after about 21 years with the exception of a single protest meeting in 1968 protesting the banning of C Y Thomas from Jamaica. The organisations involved were the People's Progressive Party (PPP), the People's Democratic Movement (PDM), the Indian Political & Revolutionary Associates (IPRA), Ratoon, ASCRIA and Movement Against Oppression (MAO). The first public meeting was described by some observers as "like 1953" and in any case dwarfed by a long way the many election rallies of the 1973 campaign. It was "like 1953" in size and multiracial composition. Thus, before he had shifted residence back to Guyana, before he had spoken a single word in his home country, Walter Rodney was a political issue and a threat in the eyes of the regime. He was also a hero among the people as he had been ever since his expulsion from Jamaica for daring to fan the flames of the rebirth of the black and oppressed. For it must be remembered that even when he had merely advanced as far as the black renaissance black power Rodney defined it to include the masses of oppressed in the West Indies and in particular the (Asian) Indians. In Groundings with My Brothers he writes, anticipating the debate, "Today some Indians (like some Africans) have joined the white power structure in terms of economic activity and culture; but the underlying reality is that poverty resides among Africans and Indians in the West Indies and that power. is denied them. Black power in the West Indies therefore, refers primarily to people who are recognisably African or Indian". (page 28) He added prophetically, "Black power is not racially intolerant. It is the hope of the black, man that,he should have power over his own destinies. This is not incompatible with a multiracial, society where each individual counts equally. Because the moment that power is equitably distributed among the several ethnic groups then the very relevance of making the.distinction between groups will be lost". We say "prophetically" because these are the very issues that' are today vexing many parts, not only of the Third World, but those parts of Europe where the national, or ethnic, or religious problem ‑ calling it as it is called here and there has come to the front.
HELPING LIONS LEARN TO PAINT
When Walter Rodney returned to Guyana.to.reside about 1975, he had already made the natural, or necessary, leap through black power to the science of the revolutionary working people, Marxism. This at first disappointed many who thought he would stop at lending dignity to the Afro‑Guyanese presence. Many of the fanatic wing of the PNC were highly offended when in August 1974 ASCRIA invited the PPP among other organisations to a joint public campaign against the exclusion of Walter Rodney from the University. Some heckled while, in my speech that night, I read from Groundings with My Brothers the passages quoted above. Rodney, therefore, returned with an abundance of.goodwill for him in his country. The various sections though, had various expectations of him. The revolutionary working people wanted him to take, and expected that he would take, their side in .the political struggle. The still comfortable middle class merely, wanted him accepted as an educator at the University of Guyana so that he could teach their children. Some even wanted him installed there at the head of the History department in the hope that it would keep him out of the political struggle. His support extended across racial distinctions. Those who fear struggle are not confined to any one ethnic classification. There are today aspirants to the role of Walter Rodney. They have carefully documented his actions on his return and are hoping to act similarly, behave similarly, put on a similar outer look and win the popularity he won later, within a few short years. Unlike him, they come, "nest" and go. First, these aspirants should know that the Guyanese people can distinguish "fowl egg from fowl dung". Secondly, they should learn that Walter Rodney rose to a prominent place in the hearts of the Guyanese public, not simply on account of who he was. In other words, the historical moment, provided the slow preparatory work has been done, will reveal the actors capable of the roles. If the work has not been done (and the work involves mother, teacher and rebels) the moment will pass, bubble and excite and burst and leave to the future a one-sided account,' full of regrets, but of no lasting blessings. Finally, they should remember that when history repeats itself in this narrow, way, the second performance is more like farce than history. Methodical by nature, Walter Rodney on his return began systematically to inform himself about where the country had reached, how organisations, classes and individuals stood in respect of one another. He did not join the WPA until he had investigated everything fully. He told the only press conference he had ever addressed as an individual in response to a question, "I aspire to be a marxist leninist". From the first public lecture organised for him soon after he joined the Working People's Alliance, he launched into the theme of the self-emancipation of the working class and tried to give it a sense of its, own being and potential power. To illustrate the role of propaganda, current and historical, he told a tale, unknown till then in Guyana, of lions who went to view an art exhibition and were amazed at the claims on canvas made by hunters and their glorifiers: A lion shook his head with resignation and was heard muttering, "If only lions could paint!" One has to assume that it was in order to help lions to learn to paint that he set out with energy to hold classes in political economy with groups of workers and other interested persons. In these classes, it was not his concern to fit events and developments artificially into a certain mould in historical 'sequence which was not native. He dealt with things as they developed in history and applied the method of scientific materialism to those phenomena. To a great extent his student were able to escape the culture lag, or the historical jet lag, which leaves many such enquirers staggering theoretically, concerned that things are not showing themselves or working out as they did in such a place and such a ‑time and wondering whether something is not seriously wrong with history itself or wondering whether Guyana had not missed the boat. His work among the bauxite workers was more concentrated and more intensive. Two things made it so. They had only three main locations or communities - Mackenzie, Kwakwani, Everton with Ituni as a very small township Secondly, their best elements had organised themselves into the Organisation of the Working People (OWP) sometime before. This organisation was able to organise classes running many weeks with both C Y Thomas for. labour economics and Walter Rodney for classes in political economy (on the spot) and revolution, with others of us holding a class or two as reliefs or on special themes. His work among the sugar workers was less intensive and less thorough. The WPA went to the sugar estates in those days mainly by invitation. For the sake of good understanding and mutual trust between us and the PPP we avoided establishing bases in the sugar estates. Not only the PNC, but the PPP also had and misgivings about, the long-term effect of WPA agitation ' and organisation in the sugar belt ‑ and in the case of the PNC, the bauxite belt. Both, from their separate perspectives, saw it as a challenge to established‑leadership. At this point, Rodney and the WPA also had no wish to establish themselves as rivals to the PPP. The WPA still saw itself purely as an agency for the revolutionising of the political culture and for the reversal of political polarisation. The PPP then being the major force opposed to the regime, the WPA very consciously directed its blows outside of the areas of traditional PPP support, and visited those areas only at the invitation of interested persons. It was also our position at the time that while the party would not present itself as an alternative to the PPP, it would also uphold the freedom of choice of all Guyanese. To refuse to organise sugar workers on their invitation would be to deny them freedom to choose. Some political forces have taken the credit for the antipolarisation gains of the Guyanese working people. Doubtless, all political forces in the opposition contributed. An important part of this anti-polarisation process was the fact that the WPA supported every struggle of the sugar workers for improvement in their wages, living conditions and industrial relations. This support was declared not only within the sugar belt itself in the face of the sugar workers, but in the non-sugar areas which had formerly been open only to ruling party propaganda which always had a very distasteful, non-industrial quality. In these efforts Walter Rodney was not idle. They were occasions for preaching the.gospel of the class of earners as well as for advancing the cause of multiracial, or what he called, non-racial politics. The most dramatic of these developments was the sugar strike in 1977 soon after the PPP had proposed the National Patriotic Front which aimed mainly at the time at a political solution in which the PPP, or the PNC, whichever won a fair and free election, would form the government and the other would be unopposed by its counterpart for the Presidency. It also offered scope for the inclusion of other forces in a minor role. GAWU's response to the claim of the sugar workers for their, arrears bonus payment, which by then had run into at least tens of millions, and their declaration of a strike to enforce the demand gave the PNC the occasion it wanted to deal the growing interracial solidarity and empathy a telling blow. The strike surprised both the industrial allies of GAWU (NAACIE and UGSA, now UGWU) and another pro-worker union, the CCWU. They had not been consulted, nor alerted; nor was the WPA, of course. The immediate response of the PNC was to take command of the airwaves and agitate against the PPP on an openly racist basis, telling the public that the PPP wanted "all the money in the treasury" for the sugar workers and asking what would be left for the rest of the nation. The whole issue was played in terms of alleged subjective "greed" and the strike was declared to be political. It was said that the collective labour agreement procedures had not been followed and that the strike had been used as a' first resort. The radio propaganda, totally one-sided, included personal abuse of those who defended GAWU, including this writer who was reminded of his previous antagonism with Dr Jagan and his call for what the propaganda described as "partition". Not for the last time, the WPA had to set aside its own agenda and take to the streets. Our first handbill .on the question avoided the biased frenzy of the regime and. pointed out that there was an industrial dispute between the sugar workers' union and their employers, GUYSUCO. The handbill pointed out that the sugar levy had been imposed on the industry to cream off the higher profits resulting from the record world market 1974 prices for sugar, and had been creamed off without any settlement of the workers' outstanding claims for the customary bonus payments. The regime did not stop at propaganda. It recruited four thousand scabs to take the places of the sugar workers on strike. The bulk of these, in some areas at least, were Afro‑Guyanese out of work. They were trucked to the plantations daily. They included youth hardly of working age and large numbers of unemployed women. The army and other military and semi-military units, the House of Israel and government workers were directed to the canefields. The anti-strike campaign and propaganda followed the well known principle of the rulers "no holds barred". WPA's support campaign for the sugar workers ran up against such widely distributed economic offerings as those named. Nor should it be supposed that only Afro-Guyanese scabs were recruited. The ruling party's counter-moves showed clearly the limitations of GAWU's organisation on its home ground. Scabs were recruited from right within GAWU communities. In many cases striking workers remained at home and scabs from the same home, youth not previously employed, offered themselves for work to keep the home pot boiling. The WPA was not allowed to hold public meetings to oppose the anti‑worker propaganda more effectively. Some 14 public meetings of GAWU and the WPA and others were banned outright for the duration of the 135‑days strike without a proclamation or state of emergency. Our work in the ranks of the people off the sugar estates was energetic and may have prevented serious ethnic conflict. In little time the masses throughout the country accepted the strike as an industrial dispute and the sugar workers won wide moral support. The events of 1977 provided all the evidence necessary to prove to the country a strong PNC characteristic, especially the responses of its leadership: it is the habit of overreaction. This is one of the factors somewhat limiting the normal forms of political struggle and political action in Guyana. Every strike, even every protest, becomes "political" and is surely "aimed at overthrowing the government". The same accusation was made recently against the Guyana Council of Churches for daring to meet to discuss a paper drafted by an official on the Guyana crisis. The biblical reference to the, a putting down of the mighty from their thrones drew a massive response from the PNC including the disruption of the GCC's Annual General Meeting and the accusation that the church was planning violent overthrow of the regime. In the previous year (1976), Rodney had led the support work for a strike in the bauxite industry caused by a rebellion against the fact that a union executive, rigged into office by the regime, had signed a labour agreement on behalf of the workers. On that occasion, the bauxite workers staged a picket saying, "Six percent can't wuk". Forty‑two militants were arrested and locked up in the police station ‑ to be. attacked later by the bursting of tear‑smoke bombs in their cell. The incident had drawn dozens of women‑ into the streets. It essentially marked the fall of the PNC in the Mackenzie and Wismar areas, a course to be followed by Kwakwani and Everton (Berbice) in a matter of two years. Rodney was shortly after invited to speak at the Oilfield Workers Trade Union in Trinidad & Tobago and he lost no time in. mobilising support for the victims. The OWP marked the occasion by the publication of the booklet PNC Versus the Bauxite Workers. It must be emphasised strongly that the support of what would, but for the WPA, have been "Indian" causes to the mass of persons off the sugar estates, was a powerful factor in the anti‑polarisation movement in which the PNC state was a major reactionary force. GAWU, on at least two occasions, had‑declared one‑day strikes in support of the bauxite workers, but the political significance of these can be overdrawn. True, they were actions at the crucial class level and were in the form of 12 solidarity in real terms. But there was no mobilisation around the issues in either the rural or the urban or the bauxite communities and thus the main impact was diffused. I should like to stress however, that these were also measures of the antipolarisation quality and that they were very consciously taken. Solidarity for sugar workers' struggle did not in those days come from the bauxite unions, but from the militants of the OWP who collected money and wrote voice of the Worker in support. They did not control the union.
WORKER AND PEASANT FAMILIES REMEMBER HIS VISITS
In the time available to me, no more than samples of the activity of Walter Rodney can be given. He always found occasion to visit the various parts of the country, often attempting to find human sources for books he was writing or editing. This took him into the homes of persons of all classes and all over the coastland. In the most distant places, worker and peasant families remember his visits and in some cases the fact that he had passed the night in their homes. This led to numerous arrests by the police. It was as though he needed an internal passport for movement from one part of the country to another.
This preoccupation of the police reflects the concerns of the ruling clique that something not in their interests was taking root. His visits too, as in the case of other WPA leaders, often led to minor or major inquisition of those who entertained him, by the numerous security police. The response of the Indo-Guyanese masses to Walter Rodney was something remarkable. I have never reconciled myself to the statement by Dr Cheddi Jagan in the Morning Star of August 23, 1980: "As a black leader ... Dr Rodney attracted many of the People's National Congress 'disillusioned supporters' who are prominently Afro-Caribbean". Surely if "disillusionment" was a factor in the support Walter Rodney attracted, this malaise was not absent among the Indo-Guyanese, especially after the PPP's correct or incorrect declaration of "critical support" for the PNC. Another people's movement which invited Walter Rodney's support was the Democratic Teachers' Movement (DTM) based on the Corentyne. This movement was almost entirely Indo-Guyanese. Some of its members, for opposing the official line of the Guyana Teachers' Association (GTA) and taking a real interest in the welfare and progress of the students and teachers, were victimised with transfers and dismissals. I was there when Walter Rodney visited to address ass public meetings called by this movement. Whole villages just surged into the streets. At . the first meeting, to my ,surprise, they spotted my presence and demanded that I should also speak, but I declined to take advantage of their politeness. This may be the place to make some points about the political personality we are discussing. HIS POLITICAL PERSONALITY One of Rodney's main characteristics was the attention he paid to the opinions of working people and everyone he talked with. Together with his own very keen perceptions, he used such material to make a more or less total picture of the forces at work in the society. When he called himself an aspiring Marxist- Leninist, he was not aspiring to fit any mould. He was fully aware that what he had to master was a method of examining the world. Yet he was not afraid of the‑ unexpected truth. It taught him something and he would not reject it because on, the surface it went against what some would see as logical. He has been called "populist" and "a progressive of largely acceptable views" although recently his lecture on "Marx and the Liberation of Africa" was reproduced by the PPP along with an article by Cheddi Jagan as a way of "exposing" the WPA which it had feared had abandoned Marx, because of its readiness to examine the deeper meaning of Grenada. The fact is, the essay in question has always been on sale at our Centres. Rodney did not for one moment hitch the revolutionary wagon to any new-found star. What he did was to painstakingly talk to persons of all strata affected by the dictatorship, using his tremendous prestige to get home to them the dangers that silence could encourage. He talked with them because he understood human society better than most and knew that in Guyana we are very far from a classless society, that in fact, new classes are daily in formation in the post-independent Caribbean, and that nationalisation did not change that, but, only changed their variety, and their location. He did not in Guyana play the role of an organiser, but in so far as he did organise in the sense of cells and learning groups, it was workers and other working people that he organised, with always a special respect for the.producers. He spoke to the middle class (the so-called petty bourgeoisie) from the vantage point of history. He declared himself a member of that class and declaxed that for himself, he had committed himself to serve the historic destiny of the working class. He appealed to the middle class to see themselves as formative, unstable and in a profound way futureless and appealed to them to solve this problem in the interests of society by considering whether they would lend to the workers' movement their acquired talents, skills and their support in exchange for a life of honour and freedom. This political personality, Walter Rodney, did not interpret the admiration arid perhaps the veneration of the masses as hero worship. He saw it as a helpful political factor, if properly handled, and used it largely to explain that self‑emancipation was the only true emancipation. He warned them against deliverers and refused to go around with "I am Dr Walter Rodney" written in his manner. His analysis of Burnham, the one-man ruler of Guyana, was not emotive. True, his weapon of ridicule disquieted Burnham profoundly'. He refused to regard Burnham as a puppet of some other ruler or power. He very painstakingly sought to discover the exact formation of the Guyana regime. His campaign style was by no means flippant and catchy, or if it turned.out to be catchy, it was not on account of shallowness or flippancy. He thought very carefully about everything he had to say and so far as I knew did not speak, as some do, without preparation.
GLIMPSES FROM HIS PUBLIC ACTIVITY
A few glimpses from his public activity will help to give the memory flesh and blood. At Durban Street and Louisa Row one night at a public meeting a policeman came up, to say that time was up. Rodney thanked him, and said he would round off his discussion. The crowd suddenly surged forward and ordered him to continue. The policeman, along with his former intentions, was forced to surge backwards and allow the meetin to continue for a good fifteen minutes more.'' The crowd did not intend that a policeman should put an end to an unfinished discourse. If the time fixed by the police was up, they had not fixed any time limit. In Mon Repos, during the 135 days sugar strike, he was speaking with GAWU at two bottom house meetings. Rodney's presence turned the bottom house meeting, held not far from the' public road into a big overflow gathering,, flowing into the" yard and the street beyond. The speakers left there for another bottom house meeting deeper in the village, what we call in Guyana, the backdam side. The entire crowd thereupon followed, much' to the surprise of the organisers. Walter told Brother Herman Holder, a WPA activist who was with him, "Well now I `` can't say the same thing I said there. I'll have to find another speech because they heard it all already ..." On August 22, 1979 a bold attempt was made against his personal safety. Being obstructed in obtaining permission to use a noisy instrument, that is, a public address system, and knowing that the law required for public meetings without a noisy instrument, only notification to the police, the WPA decided on a form of application which informed the police of its intention to hold a public meeting and then in the second paragraph applied for the necessary permission to use a noisy instrument. The police promptly refused. permission, but according to plan the meeting was promoted by means of roneoed fliers and at 6 p.m. thousands had gathered. The plan was that the speakers would stand on a dray cart and speak from it. Among the speakers was Walter Rodney. Suddenly, a squad of uniformed policemen, including Rabbi Washington's men dressed in police uniform and carrying no regulation numbers, attacked the meeting which they claimed was illegal. It was a total assault with batons on the crowd of peaceful citizens by a crowd of well armed policemen of the Tactical Service Unit (Riot Squad). Soon the crowd burst and scattered from the meeting point at Delph Street and Campbell Avenue and dashed for Middleton Street and. then across it to Kitty. Scores of people were beaten by the police. They were on fire with a venom not noticed before. This was due to the House of Israel. Brother Moses Bhagwan who took refuge with some livestock in a nearby yard was dragged out and beaten, ending with a broken arm. After that he was arrested and charged. This led to a lawyers' strike the next day. Mr Burnham commented on the incident the following Sunday as he spoke to a rally closing the Third Biennial Congress of the ruling party. He identified himself clearly with the police action by saying it was rude of the Worst Possible Alternative act to hold a meeting just two corners off from Sophia where the opening session of his Congress was being held. He also commented on Rodney's prowess as an athlete and promised to send him to the Olympics. On the same evening of August 22, sometime after the police beatings, two young attorneys at law stood near a car on Sheriff Street discussing the action of the police. One was an official of the Director of Public Prosecutions office. The other was a private practitioner. The private practitioner was affronted and roughed up physically after refusing an order to move at once. In court proceedings which followed in the civil court, Police Inspector Cort told the court that his men had been dispatched from Brickdam Police Station with orders to break up the meeting once it was being held, "with or without a loudspeaker."
THE ATMOSPHERE HE WORKED IN
As the people of Wismar-Mackenzie began to show more and more interest in the WPA, the PNC declared an edict that Walter Rodney should not go back to the area. This edict was in the form of an announcement by Dr Ptolemy Reid, the Deputy Prime Minister. He said that Rodney would not be allowed to return to Wismar-Mackenzie, rechristened Linden after the PNC leader. Dr Reid, at the age of 62, made such an announcement at a public meeting. He descended to personal slander against WPA leaders. On the occasion of the very next WPA public meeting there, the PNC organised a team of hecklers to disrupt the public meeting. The hecklers were led by Robert Corbin who has roots in the bauxite community. It attempted to incite the crowd against the speaker, to disrupt the meeting, to push the crowd aside and move in to some kind of assault. But the workers stood firm and sternly warned the intruders. Faced with this massive disapproval from the crowd, the tightly knit band of intruders faded out, to the chants of "People's Power! No Dictator!" It is reported that the assigned leader of the irruption burst into tears at the dramatic evidence that his forces were rejected by the masses. It is not generally known that, even more overtly then than now, the PNC security personnel, a numerous band of military and para-military agents, carry weapons at all times and can use them with impunity either in political or private issues. There seems to be a pact that no military person will be charged with murder. The killers of Ohene Koama (November 18, 1979) and Edward Dublin (February 1980) have not been brought to book. The only political inquest held was that into the death of Ohene Koama. This inquest was rushed and closed without the cross examination of a vital police eye witness. The testifying policeman, a member of the Death Squad, contradicted both himself and commonsense to such an extent that his colleague was bound to vary significantly from his testimony. After Payne's examination-in-chief and a few questions in cross examination, the state requested that Sgt Andrews, known as Agent, should be allowed to testify as he had to attend a police course in the United States of America. When his testimony was finished, it was announced that Payne, the original witness, was ill in a hospital in Cuba. Nevertheless, the inquest was suddenly concluded without the. knowledge of the counsel Mr Bhagwan who was watching the interest of the family of the deceased. In October 1982 a member of the Presidential Guard shot a rival lover in a private incident at a woman's home. In February 1983 after the brother of the victim had carried out a vigorous campaign in New York where he lived, an inquest was held. The record reads, "The jury finds Bertrand Wilson criminally responsible for the death of Fitroy Spencer". To this day no prosecution has followed. On the face of it, this is a non-political matter. The quarrel was not political, but the right of bodyguards and others to kill without fear of prosecution is most political. One other example will serve to give some sense of the total lack of control of the security elements, many of whom overlap with the House of Israel. Sgt Goodluck, then bodyguard of the present Vice President Hamilton Green, was present at the Ministry of Labour, as it then was, at Homestretch Avenue, when Ms Rose Ann Barrow, a close acquaintance of the PNC leadership, visited the Ministry and asked to see the Minister. She tried to force her way in and Mr Goodluck told her very firmly that she could not see him then. Miss Barrow was a bold and spirited type of woman and unlikely to be put off in that way. She was also reported to be an epileptic: The circumstances of the incident have not been established despite the demand of opposition forces for a full investigation. Suffice it to say that Ms Rose Ann Barrow was not long after found dead with evidence of gunshot wounds on her body. There was no statement by the police on the incident. There was no announcement of police investigation. No current inquest was held and to date none has been announced. Taking into account the large number of armed bodies and individuals enforcing public order, various people may make various guesses about guilt in the matter of Ms Barrow's death. Sgt. Goodluck was soon after transferred to do duty at CID without any explanation to the public. Although an El Salvador situation does not exist in Guyana, the masses of the people are very aware of the threat of violence and of the massive military and para-military apparatus of the regime. In 1979, before the assassination of Walter Rodney, their presence in the streets was very visible. The regime considers that it can accomplish more with the use of the semi-visible police state. combined with exemplary and intimidatory assassinations. The main active weapon of the regime, however, is victimisation of the political offender and any of the offender's relatives who do not perform acts of submission to the ruling party. Many ordinary government workers were victimised after being accused of "following" him. The party took special measures to conceal membership. The campaign of victimisation reached the private sector. A US insurance company dismissed a major and two minor employees at the insistence of the PNC leader. It was in this atmosphere that Rodney spent his efforts, not as an individual but as an outstanding member of our collective leadership.
HE WORKED IN AND OUT OF THE PARTY
Previous to July 1979, Walter Rodney, as a member of the executive of the pre-party formation of the Working People's Alliance, worked inside and outside the organisation. Along with others he held classes, spoke at public meetings, set up cells, established bases, investigated the actual living conditions of the working people. In particular, and as an individual revolutionary, he planted seeds in many parts of the country by invited visits and familiar groundings with bodies of working people. He also opened his fertile mind to the seeds which the working people also wished to plant. In the academic arena, he painstakingly edited Guyanese Sugar Plantations which set him on the trail of detailed investigation of rural life. He saw it as his task to update and explain the many features of landscape, labour organisation and social and political life noted by the nineteenth century author of the original. His diligent efforts turned this collection of thumbnail sketches by an unknown author in the Daily Argosy into a historical document of great value. His research for his epic work, A History of the Guyanese Working People 1881‑1905, must have overlapped in part with research on this and other efforts. I mention Plantations because it is less known than the History of The Guyanese Dorking People and because it is even further evidence of that combination of academic interest and competence with revolutionary activity which typifies our hero in such a marked degree. He found time for attention to whatever artists were doing, especially the unrecognised artists, attended ceremonies of the Indo-Guyanese and Afro-Guyanese, himself promoted at his home poetry and drumming sessions in which he and others read poetry. He read from S G Benjamin, Mobutu, and all the young rebel poets, apart from Martin Carter and some of the better known poets. I was very touched for his declared liking for some verse of mine on the Arnold Rampersaud agonies, called "The Longest Rope". Mention of Arnold Rampersaud compels me to deal with an aspect of the struggle in the urban areas.
THE BATTLE FOR THE LIFE OF ARNOLD RAMPERSAUD AND AGAINST RACIAL DEFENSIVENESS
The winning of the city of Georgetown over to the point of view that Arnold Rampersaud, PPP activist, .had been framed, was not a walkover. The regime was playing, when it sought and was granted a change of venue of the trial from New Amsterdam to Georgetown, on the lurking racial insecurity of a possible Georgetown jury, which, on a sample would likely contain a majority of Afro-Guyanese and state employees. The PPP has sac in London that the freeing of Arnold Rampersaud of the charge of murder of an Afro-Guyanese constable at a toll station was due to "international solidarity". Surely international solidarity played a part and should not be discounted in any frame up charge. The people in Amnesty International gave evidence of their non-partisan stand in this trial, since they were taking interest in a member of a party that had declared itself to be Marxist Leninist and attached to the grouping of Communist and Workers' parties. The Caribbean Conference of Churches, the National Conference of Black Lawyers and other organisations, including the National Council of Civil Liberties and others whose names are not at hand, played an important part in combination. But the battle to save Rampersaud from an unjust conviction rested on the sense of ordinary men and women in Guyana who have never cared about international exposure, since their names were not known or announced. They were the jury. Because of this, what .was very crucial in the defence, apart from the high competence of his lawyers and the cut and thrust of argument in the face of judges in three trials who had to choose between the law and the dictator, was the social protest against the frame up which took the shape of an indictable offence. The Defence Committee, in which Walter Rodney served, played an important part in bringing about this awareness. At the street corner, the Committee waged the battle against pockets of stubborn defensiveness rooted in the racial violence of the sixties. I could sense it quicker than most of the younger generation: Walter Rodney had already won a certain kind of authority with the Guyanese masses in 1977, though not as much as he was to win later. There was much unease in the crowd at Durban Street and Louisa Row when he declared after a day of watching the trial, "First of all, to tell you the truth, sitting in that court room, which I have Attempted to do on as many days as possible, I have felt sick when I've seen one black man after another come to the witness box, lying his head off,being shown to be lying ... Whatever else we may have been in our history in this country we have been a people with dignity. We came out, of slavery with dignity and that was a tremendous achievement; because slavery is inherently degrading ..,". Pockets of the crowd began to mutter, "He don't know Indians fo true ...". This was precisely the sentiment the rulers relied on. There is always this brush‑off for those who did not live in Guyana during the years of racial violence. I said to one of them, "I live here all the time, you know. And I say it is a frame-up ...". The panic in the pockets was not trivial. The ground was already slipping from under their feet. Those with the necessary experience know that whatever advances have been made,, and these advances have been made mainly at the political level, have not been made by resolution and structures. It is .the mass discussion and even-handed examination of sensitive race issues in which the WPA has engaged more than any other that created the conditions for changes at the level of the formal structures. Walter Rodney played a leading part in this process.
NINE DAYS IN JULY 1979
Some of us believe that history, and social development which is part of it, proceeds in uneven motion, often with slow additions of the same kind of occurrences, until these themselves are mature and ready for a leap to a new plateau, a new identity, having of course the marks of the old. This is to try and identify as closely as possible, if it can be done, the period which marked the leap in Walter Rodeny's political status in Guyana from that of a much admired and respected scholar and political figure to one chosen by the people, in spite of himself and his philosophy, to lead the struggle against the dictatorship. This transition took place in the few days between July 11, 1979 and July 20, 1979 and included the martyrdom of Fr Bernard Darke. The events of those few days also triggered the formation of the Committee Against Repression in Guyana (CARIG) and a similar body in Trinidad & Tobago and many other committees of protest 'and support around the world - Germany, Nigeria, USA, Canada, Jamaica, Barbados, Suriname. The London CARIG lost no time in mobilising for the defence of Guyanese combatants. On or about July 10, or between July 10 and 11, 1979, Guyanese organisations observed the anniversary of the great referendum fraud of July 10, 1978. These observations included a public meeting of the PPP at which Walter Rodeny was a guest speaker. In those days the two organisations often exchanged guest speakers on important issues. The same night, there was, among other observances, a vigil of anti‑dictatorial organisations at Parliament Building. The vigilers burnt bush torches until about 1 a.m. with much police interference. Overnight, Georgetown dwellers were by various means attracted to an unusually bright glare in the sky. A building in Camp Street which turned out to be the "Office of the General Secretary, People's National Congress and Ministry of National Development" was on fire. By the afternoon of July 11 several WPA members and associates had been arrested and held by the police. Within a day or two of the list of those arrested was Bonita Harris, Kwame Apata, Maurice Odle, Omawale, Rupert Roopnaraine, Karen, de Souza, Walter Rodney and Davo Nandlall. Although these arrests were made very swiftly, the regime hid from the people the fact of the arrests. As protest cables poured in to the regime from the rest of the world, WPA activists not arrested picketed and circulated leaflets to get the news to the public. By evening, the state‑owned radio admitted the arrests. All over the country, on the coastlands and the bauxite belt, knots of people grouped to discuss the events and denounce the arrests. A document of the period records: "It turned out later that Rupert Roopnaraine was isolated at Eve Leary. Omawale, Apata and Nandlall were at Camp House. The two women were at a section of Eve Leary police station. "Large groups of citizens kept noisy vigils outside the prisons on Wednesday night (La Penitence and Eve Leary), Thursday (La Penitence and Eve Leary up to midnight) and Friday night (Betet- verwagting Police Station). On Wednesday night under a heavy camouflage of armed guards Bonita Harris and Karen de Souza were removed from Eve Leary to La Penitence prison and Rodney was in turn removed from La Penitence Police Station to Camp House Prison. "On the same Wednesday night, Rupert Roopnaraine remained in isolation at Eve Leary.. The police theory was that if pressure was brought to bear on him he would 'break'. Roopnaraine was kept handcuffed with his hands behind his back and interrogated in that condition: He had one answer to all their questions, 'This regime is illegal'. To their threats of physical pain, he replied, 'Nobody likes to feel pain, but whatever pain you inflict, my answers will be the same. This is an illegal regime. It has no right to jail anybody.' "Attempts to interrogate Rodney separately brought a similar response, 'Do not question me. The regime is illegal."' Without any public appeal or advertisement, large pocket citizens were seeking out the places of imprisonment and keeping vigil outside the prisons helping party members with pickets. The details of the struggle for bail, the magistrate's resistance of orders to refuse bail to the accused, the pooling of bail by citizens and the middle class, the only ones with property qualificatidns, the laying of police charges of arson in response to writs of habeas corpus, need not detain us here. What was coming out of social importance was that by arresting Walter Rodney, the regime had definitely associated him, in the minds of all who needed proof or reassurance, with the struggle against their oppressors. With all the preconditions marking him out for the role of popular revolutionary hero, the regime did the rest or left very little to be done. This little, Rodney, with quite other purposes in mind from those of hero making, did on July 20, 1979.
THE REFERENDUM FIVE THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL THE MURDER OF FR. DRAKE
Though we shall miss the details of the court advocacy, the story of the mass struggle resumes with the release on bail of the "Referendum Five" three of whom were charged with "arson with intent to injure". These charges had been laid, not because of evidence in hand, but in order to find an answer to the writs of habeas corpus and arrange for denial of bail so that the accused would be forced to remain in Camp Street prison until the ruling party consented to bail. The professionalism of a deviant magistrate upset these plans. He granted bail and was rewarded with a swift transfer into the interior of Guyana. Although the thousands who gathered outside the magistrate's court, Georgetown, on July 14, 1979, came there to see and support, as they did, the WPA accused; it contained militants of all the parties opposed to the dictatorship. It also contained a number of spies and agents, plainclothes police and House of Israel men trained by the regime in surveillance. The one defendant to be bailed on the spot, Karen de Souza, was lifted shoulder high by the crowd as she left the courtroom. They had never known her name. It was her baptism into mass political activity or any political activity. While bail for the others was being arranged, the police took the "precaution" of bundling them off to the Camp Street prison. The crowd moved behind the vehicle in a mass march in a celebratory and protective mood. All of this, with their chants and cries, in broad daylight, did not fit in with the regime's image of the party of the whole people. The rulers decided to act. The House of Israel, which was observing its Sabbath, was called out by the ruling party. It answered the call since apparently the master had an ox fallen into the ditch. The PNC's fear of cameras is well known. Armed with such a dangerous weapon, Fr Bernard Darke SJ, in the logic of his assailants, became responsible for his own assassination. Darke was their only fatal victim of that day, but they should have been charged with the attempted murder of Mike James, a courageous journalist, and Jomo Yearwood, a bauxite worker, both of whom were seriously wounded. The prisoners were spirited away to their prison, quite unaware of the impending tragedy. Nor was the day in other ways uneventful. The break up of the people's march, or its disruption by the House of Israel, was a 'brutal operation informed by a political culture close to fascism. Apart from their stabbing of Darke and Yearwood with military bayonets, they assaulted scores of persons, running some of them down in the streets with knives drawn. Several ran into the homes of unknown citizens who gladly rescued them. The House of Israel had reestablished itself as a force of hooligans, a name it had won for itself during the referendum campaign. It is perhaps in these circumstances that the spirit of the anti-dictatorial alliance was born. The persecution of Rodney, and now the murder of Drake and the vicious assaults on numerous workers by this thug arm of the ruling party defined what the regime saw as its enemies and no doubt galvanised the spirits of the masses of freedom-loving people and of broad patriotic interests in the Guyanese society:
JULY 20, 1979 MASS MEETING AT THE MALL
If we are to look for the moment which confirmed for the masses of working people the role they were to impose on Walter Rodney, it was July 20, six days after their release on bail. The arguments within the pre‑party WPA reflected the state of active thought that has always marked the Working People's Alliance. The air was thick with rumours about plans to liquidate Walter Rodney and Rupert Roopnaraine in particular. Now and then the reports included Omawale and others. A few of us had the responsibility of ensuring that the open‑air behaviour and movement of the WPA would pose problems for would-be assassins. The most certain shield was, however, the mass of the population at the meetings. This shield, though obvious, was discovered by Walter Rodney. Arguments raged within about whether or not to go to the streets, whether there was any way of fending off the House of Israel. As an old combatant on the ground, always surprising others with my, faith in the Guyanese masses as a political community, I am glad to say that no one understood the keeness and readiness of the urban masses in those times as well and as accurately as Rodney. So strong was the anti-dictatorial movement in the city and elsewhere at that time, but particularly in the city, that the police did not feel bold enough to refuse permission for the use of a noisy instrument, that is, a public address system. Our plan was to start at 4.30 p.m. in order to make it easy for workers an their way home to attend the meeting. The police at first granted approval for the use of the set at the 4.30 p.m. time, but at the last minute thought better of it and put the meeting for two hours later hoping no doubt to frustrate it. Crowds turned out for 4.30 and hearing the explanation refused to leave the Mall until it was time for the meeting to begin. It was a vast and vibrant multiracial crowd with the working masses clearly dominant and with long lines of cars which pointed to the presence of administrative, professional and business groups.
THOSE DAYS AND THESE DAYS
Those who know social conditions in Guyana today will see those of 1979 as, princely by comparison. There are many who see a straight connection between the."price of bread" (in Guyana, the "price of rice") and the spirit of rebellion. Deprivation at the material level certainly fuels discontent in a society of people close to the poverty line or in most societies. This, however, also has to be related to the kind of acceptance enjoyed by the rulers. In Caribbean circumstances, it is very clear to me that a regime can lose moral authority even before material conditions become unbearable. Other factors are the morale of the struggling forces, their estimate of the span of struggle time, and their availability for the activities of struggle. The WPA is much more active now than then, in all the other political areas but mass mobilisation, yet, though its rallies may still be the best attended in all parts of the county, the surging of the thousands into the streets is not there as a factor today. It is not that the moral authority of the regime has, risen. It is aware of this and is increasingly relying on coercion or compliance which in Guyana is represented officially as political support. It is not out of place to explore the proposition that social relations in Guyana today have many parallels with those of serfdom. If we look at enforced behaviour, they have even more similarities to the double life lived by the slaves during slavery: a life for the most part of outward compliance with the spirit in open rebellion. There is one notable feature of present-day compliance: Large numbers of workers may turn up at a parade or meeting on a directive in order to keep their jobs. But after they have fulfilled the requirement they make it as uncomfortable as possible for the jailers, fully realising that they are making apolitical donation to the ruling party by their presence. Again, coday, material conditions are very bad. But the housewives who would comprise a good one-third of that surging into the streets are at the very hours engaged in the hunt for illicit foodstuffs, for kerosene, for water. Thousands more are kept at home because of the prevalence of violent housebreaking crimes, many directed against rural Indo‑Guyanese. House thefts are generally rampant even in the urban areas, and villagers anticipating blackouts and thinking of thefts and street violence may keep indoors and relatively few care to be absent from their homes. These interventions in the narrative are not meant as interruptions, but as a link between those events and our sense of the mass concerns of these times.
WALTER’S JULY 20 DECLARATION THE PNC MUST GO
The platform in those days comprised speakers such as Joshua Ramsammy, Tacuma Ogunseye, Kathy Wills, C Y Thomas, Bonita Harris, Andaiye with Rupert Roopnaraine and Walter Rodney as main speakers. When I had the honour to chair, I introduced the main speakers as symbols of the new 'politics. On the particular occasion there was a guest speaker from the PPP, Moses Nagamootoo, who declared that "reactionary violence should be answered with revolutionary violence". Rodney spoke last a full length, serious, simple and lively speech. At the climax he declared, ''The PNC must go and they must go by any means necessary!" This call did more to revolutionise the outlook of the Guyanese people towards the dictatorship and to place the removal of the dictatorship on the agenda than the millions of words spoken and written since 1968. Never before had the people heard such a direct call for the removal of the dictatorship. The people confirmed their original assessment of Walter Rodney and from that moment to this, despite himself and his commitment to self-emancipation,. they made him a champion or messiah. People will accept political directions, advice, calls for this kind of action as against that. What they will not accept, that is, in the Caribbean, is logical arguments from one they deem a messiah explaining why he is not.
THE CIVIL REBELLION
The rural meetings were equally earthshaking.. They took place in areas of Indo-Guyanese or Afro-Guyanese and wherever possible at the dam between their separate villages. Throughout the Demerara Berbice coast the reception was uniform. Thousands of people surged into the streets and took part in acts of rebellion. The typical slogan of the moment of the period was "People's Power! No Dictator!" We have called it the Civil Rebellion. The urban meetings and some of the rural often ended in unscheduled marches through the streets, shadowed very closely by tie armed police and the plainclothes death squad (the Special Branch of the CID) which seemed to regard the WPA as the highest crime of the times. Each time they were sprung as a surprise. This movement which we have called the Civil Rebellion, for the reason that it was a civilian movement and saw almost the whole society creeping out of the shadows into the .light of hope once more, standing in defiance of the power that was extracting submission of their very self-respect, and imposing economic and financial oppression and hardship, and for the reason that it embraced all of the coastlands, except the western part of Essequibo, and included the bauxite belt. It established links only with the Amerindian students in Georgetown and Amerindian peasants and workers who took the initiative while in Georgetown to visit the Centre of the WPA. However, one of its mayor weaknesses, not yet corrected to satisfaction, is that it embraces no Amerindian community. These are not only physically difficult of access, but there are political barriers: Even opposition MPs of the PPP are often excluded by denial of one form of permission or another.
The charge of populism has been laid at Rodney's door. If has bees laid by bookworm types who do not understand that each political situation at a given moment had its own tasks, that in political activity one is not in a confirmation class preparing for confirmation, having to know the catechism, and in the old days at least, recite it without a flaw. They run through a speech of a political activist, dealing perhaps with a gross abuse of the people at large: "Hm!" they mutter, "Hm! There, you see! He said nothing about class, not one word about class!" They never stop to think whether this was not an audience which could instruct the speaker about class! I am not suggesting that a bookworm is a worm, or even if it is, that a worm is a pig. In my view, a bookworm is a worm which knows only books, whereas a revolutionary should not know only books, but, as Lenin advised, should "live in the midst of the masses". You make a really serious speech, stressing the lack of democracy. The bookworm, who can only understand what is written, wants to know what on earth is democracy for. He never stops to ask himself what a hardpressed working people will do with democracy. If you do not spell it out, letter for letter, there is a fear that all you want is bourgeois democracy, as though bourgeois democracy is not the result of definite social formations and struggles and struggles and formations and as though in all cases it is not superior to dictatorship! In the same way they look at Rodney talking about the people and people's power arid they brand it populism as though any revolutionary doctrine worth the name in our time can be revolutionary without people's power.
THE TRADE UNION STRUGGLE
In Guyana, the organised working class by definition has long had its own trade unions. However, the majority of these unions are class organisations only in a very limited sense. From 1975, a majority of them fell victim to the PNC's campaign to have unions affiliated to it. Those which affiliated to the PNC fell, so to speak, under the PNC's whip. This whip relayed even to what candidates could be elected to their leadership. The whole programme of the union became the serving of the needs of the PNC which justified this by affirming its role as the vanguard of the proletariat. The spirit of these controls is manifest in a workshop report of the First Biennial Congress of. the PNC, distributed by the PNC itself to trade unions as part of the document "Report on the First Biennial Congress of the People's National Congress (1975)". Here are some of the recommendations at random: "vi) During this period Unions should make available funds annually for education of workers in programmes approved by the State; "vii) Punitive measures should be meted out to Party members who support trade unions whose aims and objectives are not, consistent with the revolutionary movement; "viii) Salaried unionists should be phased out because thisencourages such leaders in supporting any unjust demands by the workers; ... "x) Government must ensure that there are free and fair elections in trade unions: "2 (vi) Trade unions operating in the Public Sector must be affiliated to the Party since Unions not affiliated can undermine the aims and objectives of the Party and Government; "(vii) Because of the paramountcy of the Party it should seek to control unions in the major sectors of the economy, e.g. sugar, bauxite, rice, etc" (Pages 257-258). In view of the many revised definitions of Paramountcy which are given defensively these days by PNC leaders, it is fitting to quote the Leader himself who went into a workshop and made the following remarks in the course of a contribution: "We have an example at this Congress here of one Comrade who is a delegate and has decided to answer a harebrained strike call which merely came about because of a conflict between non-PNC leadership in a union for power. This particular comrade was on strike before he came to Congress and then he says he is a strong PNC member, even though he knows that the PNC's position is that this strike was certainly not justified and in fact, is contrary to the remarks appearing in the Leader's address". A little later on he said: "One other point I would like to suggest should be taken up in the workshop for deliberation is the paramountcy of the party with respect to trade unions. We talk about the paramountcy of .the party with respect to the Government. I suggest we ought to discuss the paramountcy of the party with respect to the trade unions. "(1) The party is the vanguard party, mobilising the people in execution and pursuance of the socialist revolution; "(2) By definition, the socialist revolution should involve the proletariat and other sections of the working-class which means the membership of the trade unions; "(3) Therefore, there cannot be another institution which lays down a line superior to the party in this respect, and "(4) Therefore, that your membership of a trade union, though obligatory, should not be subordinate to your membership of the party. If the party has a certain position on an important matter from whom then do you take the lead? The party or a union that may be led by persons who do not necessarily subscribe to the party's objectives, the party's strategies and the party's tactics?" (Same Report, pp 254-255) In 1977, the Head of Government declared at his party's Congress in the main address that political strikes would be met with political measures and there would be "no holds barred". He reserved the right to declare a strike political. As a result of these and other developments, trade unions in general became deformed. Those affiliated the same Report boasted of ten - lost all self-determination. They became another division of the Special Branch, against militant workers. Union life became arid. Few workers would express their views within the union when they could not toe the line and in most cases there was little opportunity to express views. GAWU was challenged externally by the founding of a union by the PNC the Agricultural & Allied Workers Union (AAWU), with the aim of winning recognition in the sugar industry. It was supported by the Labour Desk, a PNC device with much authority at workplaces and working closely with the Office of the General Secretary of the PNC and Ministry of National Development. Its efforts took different forms, but it failed dismally to win over anything like a significant body of workers.
GAWU, however, as a consequence of all the pressures became highly defensive in order to preserve its integrity and has officially come out viciously against reform movements among its members assisted by WPA organisers, accusing them of wanting to undermine the major union and thus hurt the working class struggle, and the anti-imperialist movement. Before the September rebellion at the level of TUC delegates, leading to the 1984 George Daniels' victory over the PNC's candidate for the Presidency with just one or two exceptions, union meetings were not the agreed forum of expression they are supposed to be. The union which appeared to me to practise the highest level of internal democracy was NAACIE, which, on a decision of the Executive appointed me on my application, to work at organising classes, taking my offer to work at the minimum wage. I left, full of respect for its democratic procedures and only when my presence there attracted all sorts of police surveillance, the photographing of all those entering the building, and a whole squadron of police measures which could not help an independent trade union to keep its integrity. NAACIE had existed as a dynamic, progressive and independent trade union for years before I ever worked in it. Yet, such is the disrespect of the regime for trade unions and other organisations that they felt my presence there had something to do with politicising the union, although I was not a member and did not enter its governing councils.
In such an atmosphere the great accent in the revolutionary movement, as we saw it, was not to add to the agonies o£ workers by introducing into their organisations a partisan struggle, but to organise 'them as citizens of the working people and make the struggle for independent trade unions an important part of the democratic agenda. It is, however, true, that in the ranks of the trade unions there is considerable support for the WPA positions and that the struggle which anti-democratic unions had to face internally in those days and even at present is always denounced by defensive leaders as somehow connected with the WPA. Our only response has been to defend all workers fighting for their just demands against the convenient and diversionary accusation of doing the work of the WPA or any political party. It is perhaps better known that all strikes in the public sector are as a rule labelled political from the start. As an aside, it is almost certain that an examination of the Comrade Leader's relation to the class struggle in Guyana will provide many answers to the present structure of Guyanese institutions and of the state. When critics say that Walter Rodney was a mere populist, they are talking in ignorance of the particular situation in Guyana, then and now. The WPA is firmly rooted in the working people. It does not call itself a vanguard party. The country is already served by two of them: the PPP, the more senior, and the PNC. Yet it would be no exaggeration to say that support for the WPA, among the organised workers belonging to trade unions, which are affiliated or not affiliated to the PPP and the PNC, is not insignificant.
MASS ACTION SELF-ORGANISATION SELF-EMANCIPATION
The unkindest attempt on Walter Rodney's reputation is not the accusation of alleged populism. In the phase of the struggle at home in which he operated, persons looking superficially at the pattern of his activity could be excused for fudging the activity populist. The express malice arises in the slander that Walter Rodney promised the people of Guyana freedom on a 'platter, and moreover, promised them a Christmas present in1979. It was the chance of the old political forces to get some of their own back at him for being so rude, such an 'upstart' as to electrify the masses with the call for the removal of the dictatorship and for people's power. His self-appointed rivals who were not being rivalled by him created their own apochrypha around the issue and preached it relentlessly with all the suck teeth, bad mind and bad eye for which our culture is so notorious.
Walter Rodney's message to the people was the message of self-emancipation. He had no other message. At his death we called him the prophet of self-emancipation. He warned against the would-be deliverer and asked his people to beware of them. He did not know he was to be attacked as a would-be deliverer. In one speech he was in fact responding to the growing sentiment that he was a deliverer by reminding the massive crowd of Burnham's rise to power as "Guyana's only hope". He reminded them how in his time they had promoted themselves and their Comrades as deliverers. He then ended with the dramatic imagery of experience: "And look what they delivered you into!"
The accusation of the old forces that Walter Rodney had promised the masses of working people a Christmas present was a stubborn hangover from one of the flaws of the progressive anti-colonial movement in the 1950s. It was a fault we all shared. It was setting up ourselves as champions of the people. In the early 1950s, the masses still maintained some of that readiness to act in given situations. One only has to look at the great struggles of the late forties, the bauxite and sugar strikes, the Transport strike against Colonel Teare and the general ferment of the masses of the population who were pouring onto the streets around the PPP. The suspension o£ the Constitution was widely resented by the population, but the scale of popular resistance was smaller than the situation deserved. In fact, the Colonial Office understood as much as that and weeks before the invasion of the British troops and the supervision, as has been recently revealed, it had planned to "contain" the most effective leaders in one way or another. The Colonial Officer argued that without the leaders to stir up trouble, little action could be expected. This was not altogether true. The people, deprived of a freely functioning organisation which had directed their struggles for a few years had to fall back more on their own inventiveness and their own resources. Had they been better prepared the level of resistance would have been a fine example for the colonial empire.
The instinct for self-emancipation was not fully lost however. It had been under attack by our ideas of leadership. During the emergency of this period a considerable number of actions took place in the motion of the people. Doubtless Cheddi Jagan had given leadership to the masses of Guyanese working people in the six years he stood up in the Legislative Council against the old colonial order and sundry exploiters. The rest of us gave leadership in whatever section of the struggle we engaged. The momentum was living because large pockets of people still ran trade unions, friendly societies, social clubs, religious associations, village councils; farmers' organisations, miners' organisations and ethnic societies which were accustomed to directing themselves. Many of these surfaced politically in opposition to the Enmore shooting. But without intending any harm the growth and outlook of the PPP gradually replaced all of that with a new tradition of looking to leaders to call for action. During the racial violence of the sixties, although the bulk of it was centrally directed there was also another period of falling back to self-organised action. The ethnic communities felt that the programme was clear and they were largely free to act. Several peace committees were also self-organised at a later stage. Not surprisingly, the same racial crisis in its fullest effect ended with more authority passing to the hands of the political parties. And within the parties it led to more authority passing' to the leaders. Matters reached such a point that it began to be seen as an act of treachery for someone of a given ethnic group not to support the leader of that group. The leader became the "only hope" of the ethnic group.
Mr L F S Burnham enjoys the honour of carrying that dependence of people on leadership and authority of leader over people to absurd limits. The reason why resistance to the present regime does not take the form of political-type protests as people expect should be looked for in the tradition set from about 1951, which by 1964 had reduced the working people to sections of an army waiting for orders. Thus, the building of that kind of party also had t h: disadvantage along with its many benefits. The present regime works on the theory of the colonial state. It regards the people as passive on their owl and it has a number of South African type bans on those who associate with rebellious activists. These bans operate in a subtle way. They usually threaten the person's job or the job of a relative, and in selected cases give rougher treatment.
In this context, the message of Walter Rodney was revolutionary. Rodney had been arguing precisely the need for public activity self-organisation and mass action showing the masses how their activity, not his, had kept the enemy at bay, reduced file,.' House of Israel thugs to a margin, kept the thugs sent 4o do mischief from striking. Then he argued that perhaps if the oppressed working people and all the oppressed classes were to' take the struggle seriously, we could give ourselves a Christmas present, by bringing about the defeat of King Kong. The whole concept was that the open class struggle of the masses of working people for their political rights could not long be ignored within the industrial organisations, that the energies of such activity of the working people would inspire efforts at correcting oppressions, that the rising of the whole people in peaceful militancy would have its effect on the military, and was having its effect, and that whatever coordination. was necessary would emerge from the struggle itself and from the creativity of those engaged in it.
BAUXITE WORKERS ACTION
The process did in fact begin to take shape. A strike broke out in the bauxite belt at Kwakwani, long the least militant section of the workforce. The WPA had never visited Kwakwani. The strike was concerned with merit increments which had been denied the workers for the year 1979. It was a rather general issue among workers in the public sector, in which, according to the Wages Agreement of 1977, they should have received $14 a day from January 1, 1979. In two enterprises, the managements, after being instructed not to pay the contracted wage of $14 a day automatically applied the merit increments and in the case of GUYSUCO and one other corporation, paid these increments to workers until May 31, 1979 when they received orders by circular not to make payments higher than the wage rate for 1978. The Kwakwani strike soon became a general strike in the bauxite industry sanctioned by the union. A new period of initiatives from the bottom had broken out in the bauxite industry, all a result of the struggle of the Organisation of Working People (OWP), but outside OWP. Guyana is famous for these formations of people who while accepting the objectives of a pioneer band of fighters; organise separately and in such a way as to disguise their inspiration and avoid the stigma which the pioneers have earned. The official bauxite strike led by persons among whom were members of the ruling party, on the narrow question of increments, caused the PNC such extreme discomfort that it did not deem the strike political.
However, when other unions called a solidarity strike after the bauxite issue remained unsettled for weeks, the regime deemed the whole movement political and "designed to bring down the government". These other unions were GAWU, CCWU and NAACIE, with the university union sympathetic but unable to offer concrete industrial support at that time of the year. The entire movement collapsed because of the frailness of many of the institutions of Guyana, which have a certain image in public, but in reality are something less imposing. Surely this weakness is not confined to the Caribbean, but it is here this writer knows it best. It exists in Guyana in extreme form. A trade union is not necessarily what it ought to be, but a, loose gathering of individuals. The same can be true of a cooperative society.. The same can be true of socialism. The need to impress is perhaps the most important form in which our colonial selfdepreciation shows itself. This intervention is deliberate if our Caribbean compatriots in the Caribbean diaspora are to understand our social motion and not be puzzled by it. The formal institutions are only skin-deep. The working people have a cryptic, way of expressing the same criticism when they say, "What is important is who you know, not what you know ...".
The strategy of the ruling party was concentrated on one objective. The PNC leader called in the bauxite union leadership, no doubt over drinks, and explained to them how he was beleagured, how by encouraging the solidarity strike and other gestures from GAWU, they were putting Jagan on top, how the whole thing was designed by WPA (that upstart Rodney) and the PPP to take over Guyana. The usual threats would follow this soulful appeal for loyalty to the old ties. There would be a promise of "no holds barred". There would be a promise to put pressure on militants who were giving the leadership of the union a headache, and a deal would be struck. Part of the threat would not merely be threats of activating Part II of the National Security Act and "putting you in Sibley Hall and throwing away the key". It would be a threat of personal ruin the salary, the mortgage, the position, the children in this or that position. My faith in the Guyanese masses has remained and remains unshaken. Yet it is true that 85 out of every hundred of our bureaucrats, governmental or trade union, would buckle to such and another ten would seize the option of migrating. After the 1984 TUC elections, there is an increasing number of trade union leaders who would not even be summoned, who are being put beyond the pale. Thus it was that on the motion of the bauxite union in whose interests solidarity had been expressed, the strike collapsed. The bauxite union won increment concessions some time later, but these increments continue tbe denied to the rest of the public sector, although NAACIE won an action in the Court of Appeal, the final court, in favour of the payment of increments, based on application of the law of contracts. This decision was overturned by the Parliament in the Labour (Amendment) Act which according to Attorney‑General Dr M Shahabuddeen did not interfere with the decision of the Court of Appeal, which was very sound, but which "put it out of action". There was no conspiracy between the WPA leadership and the bauxite union leadership. The strike was not. in any way instigated by the WPA which had no relationship with the union leadership. It was clear to us that in the anti‑dictatorial mood sweeping the country, the working people would seek to remove from their path dictatorial measures such as the unilateral denial of agreed wage payments, in order to defend their Standard of living. This is all the interference the TNTPA can plead guilty to in the 1979 industrial disputes. It is surprising, then, to read later, a report not yet denied, of a PPP speaker claiming during the 1980 election campaign that Rodney made the strike political. Who then had made the 1977 strike political? The 1979 strike met with very businesslike and brutal repression before its collapse. Guyana Stores workers were beaten up in broad daylight by ‑a band of official thugs who knew they would not be arrested or charged. House of Israel thugs appeared in many guises beating up Indo and Afro Guyanese and other militants in the trade union or political struggle. The death squad was the permanent street patrol. Resistance was widespread. Gordon Todd was arrested for appearing with his..members in public, taken off to a military outpost and held incommunicado for several hours until the TUC General Secretary J H Pollydore intervened with the Prime Minister Burnham, who it would seem, had not left these details to mere assistants. The collapse of the combined strike still has to be examined in detail and assessed. Let us content ourselves with saying that the masses had placed a great deal of hope in its outcome. Large lumbers of the workers on strike had no intention of going back under the existing government. That is where the expectations were. It needs some historical vision to absorb a collapse of that nagnitude and most popular activists were not able to absorb it. the striking workers went back to work with a heavy heart and after carefully considering whether or not they should obey their unions. This, let it be repeated, is not a description of the strike, but merely an attempt to fit the industrial action into the general movement of the day. The rest is murder.
As the civil rebellion went on the defensive after the collapse of the industrial action, the regime became emboldened and resolved to take the initiative in ways open to them. There was one way and that was murder. When the industrial action broke, the workers' movement became the frontline of the civil rebellion, in objective terms. The workers were conducting a struggle and in our minds it needed all support because so much rested on it, including the ability of the working people to make ends meet. In the eyes of the masses of working people, the urban and rural poor, the patriotic middle class the original ranks of the civil rebellion, it was the WPA which had to explain the collapse because in their view it was a WPA struggle or as some would have it, Rodney's struggle. They looked .to the WPA for an explanation. To give such an explanation, the WPA could be forced: to engage .in open criticism of other anti-dictatorial forces which the forces of the old politics would certainly not abide and which would play into the hands of the dictatorship in such an open way that the masses themselves would regret it. Moreover there had been no opportunity to discuss these failings with the organisations concerned in the first place anal it would be on the whole, on our own standards, to go public and pose as schoolmasters of organisations much more senior and well structured. The WPA finally explained in broad and general terms that the main reason why the dictatorship still remained in power was that there was a crisis in the political life, outside of Parliament; there was an industrial crisis of limited but important scope; but no crisis in the security forces. Nor would the crisis in the security forces take place until the civilian forces, that is, the forces of labour and the popular forces, manifested a clear and united purpose. Part of the dilemma also was that historically, the WPA had been propagandising in favour of trade unions, in favour of workers joining trade unions and taking an active part in them. Workers, at least in those days, much preferred to spend their time in political organisations than in the structures of their unions, in which with few exceptions, they had little faith.
The attack on Fr Bernard Darke SJ of July 14,1979 took place in, the context of a mass demonstration on Brickdam and in broad daylight. Every other assassination of the regime has been carried out in rather different, concealed or semi-concealed, circumstances. It was in the course of a lull in the street activity that Ohene Koama was gunned down in Roxanne Burnham Gardens near twilight, on the evening of November 18, 1979 on the anniversary of the Jonestown massacre. The murder of this young leader of the WPA, whose special work was administration, and in his own right, a tough pioneer of agricultural cooperatives, was carried out in terms of the Burnham doctrine. This can be construed as the right of the armed forces to shoot down anyone who is accused of having a firearm. The state held an inquest into the death of Ohene Koama in the second year after his murder, perhaps because it felt secure in the evidence it had to present. However, we have listened to the part of the evidence that was put before the tribunal since the cross-examination of a vital police eyewitness was not facilitated. The evidence presented by Sgt Andrews of the Death Squad, who did the shooting, did not stand up to cross examination. The claims he made were physically untenable. He spoke of a weapon fully assembled in a canvas bag. When in court, the weapon could not be hidden in the bag presented. He spoke of the same weapon being shut into the boot of a particular car, when the boot of that car could not enclose the weapon. He claimed all of this because he wanted to claim that he fired in self-defence after Ohene aimed at him with the weapon. Assuming that there had been a weapon in the car' driven by Ohene, it could only have been held in the boot in a broken-down state. So Ohene could not have assembled it and aimed it at Andrews who suddenly drove up on him from behind while another car blocked his path. Andrews had to "assemble" the weapon after the fact to plead justification. The plea was exposed in open court and certain of the other physical tests were therefore evaded by the Coroner under police pressure. It was cold-blooded execution. A serious law enforcement agency would have arrested Koama and presented evidence of catching him red-handed rather than executing him on the spot. This incident brings out more than any other the' ruthlessness of the Burnham regime and the falsity of its alleged non-violence.
DUBLIN AND RODNEY
The second killing of a WPA activist, Edward Dublin, a member of the ranks of the unemployed in Wismar, the bauxite belt: He was accused, after his killing which took place as he left a night spot, of "stealing cement" being stacked for use in the remaining work on the PNC's Palm Tree cinema in the area. It was a very privileged category of cement, requiring a person who stole it to be executed on the spot. About late March 1980, before Walter Rodney was denied the right to travel, though he pledged to return to face his trial there came into his hand a copy of the "Recognition Handbook - Working People's Alliance". A US journalist who was shown it at a press conference said, "Oh, a hitlist!" The booklet carries the following under the caption, "Foreword": "These notes are designed to provide a guide to the easy recognition of personnel of the Working People's Alliance and vehicles that are associated with the organisation's activities. It must be appreciated that vehicle numbers and colour may change from time to time as is now a regular practise (sic) with that organisation". The three arson accused appear together in the first photograph and after that pride of place was given to Walter Rodney. The list also contains non‑members of the WPA thought to be members by the wellinformed security forces.
All the executions, including that of Walter Rodney, were carried out at periods when the public activity of the WPA was noticeably low. Those who have said that the assassination of Walter Rodney was responsible for low momentum should balance the element of truth in that with the knowledge that he himself was killed in a period of low public activity. The story of Rodney's assassination is well known. What we can usefully note here is some common features running through the PNC's assassinations of WPA personnel. The PNC in each case speaks in the place of the police through the radio and the state-owned newspaper. There is no such thing now as a police bulletin following an unusual occurrence. It is the ruling party that speaks on the question. Even if it should publish a statement and attribute it to the police, in Guyana, that police officer can make no protest at all. The ruling party is presumed to have a claim on his loyalty. After all, it gave him his job. The next feature is that the PNC always attempts to blame the victim for his own death. The victim must be made responsible. In forming this alibi; the PNC does not realise that it is proclaiming to the world the level of its ruthlessness. It also shows blatant .disregard for its own courts, since the upshot of its defences is that it knows of plans for insurgency or some act leading to insurgency; but scorns to bring the culprit to justice and exercises the right of the tyrant to summary execution. The penalties in the written law for possession of firearms, for stealing, for possession of explosives or whatever is the accusation made by the regime, are set aside and the death penalty substituted. This is the cold record of the WIC's peaceful repression. In. the case of Rodney, the PNC has been fed the story that he was killed in order to prevent his physically removing the dictator. I listened a month ago in silence to this defence from an apologist. This is, when examined, a confession of murder or conspiracy to murder. For a sane man to accept such a report and to act on it with such finality, he must have very convincing evidence. The evidence would be enough to place before a court or at least to cause the person in authority to use in order to secure more damning evidence. A ruler would indeed be very fortunate to hear‑of such a plan and so convincingly that he believes it and takes retaliatory action. He could have enhanced his whole political position by pursuing the matter while taking the necessary precautions through his very reliable agent or other agents. Any such explanation from the mouth of a person wielding state power is a confession of murder and of substituting himself for the law, a confession of utmost ruthlessness. However, the tactical blunder in selecting the wrong victim so early in the plotted agenda, and the international alarm it raised for years after, set aside by many political formations outside of Guyana only to deal with the Reagan menace which is also a concern to Guyana, has served to stay the hand of the regime in relation to other targets of that type. The testimony of an exile now living abroad, one who claimed to be in the employ of the regime in those crucial days, stamps itself as largely credible because of one fact. It states that the original plan in May 1980 was to charge Rodney with treason, but that this plan was discarded in favour of a plan to assassinate him. The treason trial of the West Coast brothers, Ivan Sookram and others, seems to confirm this testimony. An international enquiry into the killing would surely have given wider audience the chance to sift, such evidence. The men charged with treason in 1980 had all been tortured at the Eve Leary headquarters in order to extract from them evidence implicating themselves in acts seen as treasonable. The evidence, however, also implicated Walter Rodney. It was most damaging testimony implicating Rodney in all sorts of highly' uncharacteristic forms of violence and hairbrained schemes. While conducting his own cross examination at, the Leonora Magistrate's court because of the absence of counsel, Ivan Sookram asked the head of the homicide squad: Did you question Walter Rodney? No, was the answer. Did you at any point arrest him? Why? `I had no instructions. ' The law enforcement machinery was a mere tool in the hands of the rulers. Perhaps "instructions" had been given to torture the suspects and extract evidence of a certain kind from them. They yielded to pressure and gave the kind of evidence required of them. The fact of their torture has of course by now been accepted; by the highest courts which sat on the issue. Yet, after all this invasion of people's person and conscience, the regime took a decision not to prosecute Rodney for treason, but to take him before a court where he could not plead. There are even more killings of the fallen: the criminals who y are always killed "in confrontation with the police". Since investigative reporting is not allowed in the state media and the scope for it is sadly restricted in the non-governmental press, the powers that be get away with murder. They need not answer questions put to them by the press. The Guyana Human Rights Association has listed lists of criminal suspects or offenders summarily dispatched by the police. Information from the street, not confirmed, tells of leading PNC members who, after exploiting. the criminal tendencies of individuals in their control, pass their names on to the police for "writing off". True, as the Report on the Joint Mission on Political Freedom in Guyana finds, there have been no recent political killings. So far as the politically active are concerned, there have peen killings recent enough to affect politics at the present day.
RODNEY ON RACIAL JUSTICE A LEGACY FOR ALL
A symposium recently sponsored by the History Department of the University of Guyana on Elsa Goveia and Walter Rodney took note of the academic legacies of each of those two outstanding Caribbean workers. In closing this account; I shall attempt to look at some of the political legacies of Walter Rodney, not perhaps in exactly the same words as I have done before or with the same emphases. In this task, I wish to leave a document, a small passage from Walter's best known speech on the Arnold Rampersaud case. I want to claim that the approach to race which is partly revealed here has been one of the most lasting legacies of Walter Rodney to Guyanese and Caribbean politics. For while Guyana is sick, the Caribbean suffers with it, as it does with Jamaica, or Grenada. "What, after all, do we expect of a jury? What is its task? These twelve people, supposedly the peers of the accused, are supposed to come to a rational, logical decision as to whether the crime could have been, or teas committed by this particular individual concerned. That is why, in the United States, Black men have been fighting against white majority juries. They have been saying: 'White juries cannot be our peers in a society where those white people do not live in our community, do not understand our community. To be put to be judged by a jury that comprises a majority of whites is, in fact, to threaten our very freedom, our very liberties.' So that, under normal circumstances, it is general, it is accepted, that the trial will take place in the area of jurisdiction in which the crime, or alleged crime, took place. "In this case,, contrary to the standard practice, though there have been exceptions before, the state, the prosecution; intervened to say that they could not expect justice in Berbice. "Now I am not too sure what are all the political implications about whether they have support or do not have support in Berbice, but they are saying some very significant, things the moment that they put that to a judge in Berbice and get him to accept that the case must be transferred to Georgetown's jurisdiction. "They are saying, first of all, that in the whole of Berbice county, they have no confidence that they can find a jury from the jury list, twelve men who can give a sane verdict. So, number one they say that Berbicians either have no sense or no sense of justice. So that's half the country they have wiped out already a very large section of our people. "They then go further. They are putting the onus, and they are putting pressure on the accused. They are not asking the question which is the normal question, whether the accused can have a fair hearing. They are saying: 'Can the prosecution have a fair hearing?' "And then they transfer it to Georgetown after putting forward as their reason that there is political opposition, that people in Berbice are opposed to the toll gate. And they come to Georgetown and they either imply, or, in the present trial, they actually come out openly and state, that the reason for the offence was political. It was because Arnold Rampersaud was a member of a particular party, the party opposed 'to the toll gate, that this individual therefore carried out the crime with this political motivation. "Having said that, they are saying that they expect the jury in Georgetown to judge that political matter more sanely, more logically and in a fairer manner, than the jury in Berbice. "This is giving it its best interpretation and there is no basis for such an assumption. Because, if the case is political, if they are alleging political motivation and if they are asking Arnold Rampersaud to be iudged by twelve members of our community, then any twelve members of the community will have a political involvement and therefore an automatic bias and we must ask what is the probable nature of that bias. "They're removing him from Berbice. Now let us speak frankly to each other as Guyanese who know the situation. When they remove him from Berbice the clear indications are as follows: He is an Indian. Berbice is primarily Indian. He is a PPP member. And they believe there is too much PPP support in Berbice. Therefore, they will remove the trial from an area where the jury list might probably reflect Indian support, or PPP support. And they will bring it to an area where they believe, or imagine, that the jury list will reflect Afro‑Guyanese or African support, Black support and PNC support. To put it in plain words, they are bringing this Indian and this PPP member to ask him to be judged by Black people in Georgetown, and probably by people with either membership or connection with the PNC. "Now I cannot, by the widest stretch of imagination, come to a conclusion that there is any intention to give justice to the accused when one creates that type of situation. "And this foolishness about the mixed jury is intended to camouflage that basic fact. The very manner in which the last trial was conducted and the manner in which this present one began, is calculated to put to those African members possible PNC members in the jury that it is their responsibility to see to it that this man. is convicted. Because they are saying, 'Why you think we bring him 'all the way from New Amsterdam where he would have got off? You think we bring him here for you to let him off?' "They are virtually enjoining upon that jury, by a form of political pressure and social pressure which all of us understand; they are enjoining that jury to hang the man. "This is their admonition to that jury. Never mind all the evidence and the cross examination and the points of law which have been raised in that case when it went to that last jury. If and when it goes to this present jury; they will have that type of political and social pressure on their minds . ... "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 then 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 of this country. "Those who manipulated in the 1960s, on both sides, were not the sufferers. They were not the losers. The losers were those who participated, who shared blows and got blows. And they are the losers today. "It is time we understand that those in power are still attempting to maintain us in that mentality; maintain us '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 will certainly 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 a 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 our people understood that." (WR, 1977) Indo-Guyanese activists similarly have stood up and are standing up against attempts to manipulate the Indo-Guyanese sections of the population, by addressing them directly, whether in mixed audiences or not, on these issues which form the very raw material of revolution and all possibilities of democratic advance.
SOME CLOSING WORDS ON RODNEY'S POLITICAL CULTURE
His interest in political power at all, or in political power for its own sake, has not yet become the standard among political leaders anywhere and not in the post-colonial world. He was first and foremost a Caribbean citizen from the country of Guyana. He was firmly and consistently anti-imperialist, but not blind to what the people living in the bosom of imperialist centres, were capable of producing in the way of culture, art, struggle and human progress. He was firmly anti-racist and worked everywhere, even when he joined in attacking racism, for the non-racial society. He favoured a sufficient period of reconstruction of Guyanese society, as he knew that the possibilities of constructing socialism in the short run had been ruined both politically and economically. He remained committed to socialism as the historic solution to the problem of class and poverty and was in quest or state forms which entrenched in theory as well as in practice the primacy of labour. He taught us to be alert about social formations and class formations in particular, bowing to no dogma on the question of how a given society ought to develop, bowing to no prognosis of doom. He rejected theories suggesting that classes were about to disappear and that soon the class struggle itself would be out of date. He considered it a duty to trace the various ways in which the class struggle presented itself in various social settings; He was of course committed to a society in which no class exploited or oppressed another on any explanation. He was extremely alert in those issues where race and class overlapped. He did not underestimate the power of race as a factor, but rejected purely racial explanations. His manner is a subject of comment until now in our ranks and beyond. He dealt with persons of any station in life with unfailing respect. Many have feigned such a respect, only to indulge their ego in the secret of their own homes with their own family. His respect for his remarkable partner, not in formal terms his academic peer, and for his children, his mother and father, his wife's mother and father, his sister and brothers, his fellow party members was by no means inconsistent with his public posture. An example of his readiness to be guided by the healthy sensitivities of the masses, by the signs of rebellion from them was his public promise not to use the word "comrade" since the PNC rulers had for all practical purposes corrupted it and placed it at the centre of their insincere and anti-human communications. In his political culture, he had little energy to invest on theses about revisionism or this or that error in the international revolutionary movement. Whoever came to him with such, a theme would draw the reply, sometimes after a few patient minutes, "Those people, however, made a revolution. We are in no position to preach to them". He was the prophet of self-emancipation and this inflexible commitment was proof against all levels of imperialist intimidation as well as against slanders which cast him in the role of a would-be deliverer.
And only where our footsteps end can tell whether the journey was an old advance or a new retreat;
or whether in the dust our heel marks and our toe marks are confused
---- Martin Carter ----