Rodney did have a view on power sharing
May 21, 2002
Letters on powersharing
I would like to commend Mr Emile Mervin for drawing to our attention those insightful thoughts from Dr Walter Rodney (Stabroek News May 16). Oh, if only Guyanese can be persuaded to act on the wisdom of those words. The WPA in a statement to mark the 21st anniversary of Walter’s murder observed that while his words are today more relevant than ever to Guyana, they are sadly being ignored. The PPP loves to talk about Rodney, but never about his ideas, because they know his ideas are contrary to their practice of politics. The PNC cannot talk about his ideas because that party is yet to make peace with its past, which includes Rodney’s blood. Guyana does not know Rodney, except as a footnote to our history, because those who have the capacity to make Rodney an active tool in our national struggle for emancipation - the government, the media, the university - for differing reasons refuse to do so. And those of us who call ourselves Rodneyites have been relegated to the periphery of the process by a political culture that tends to favour racial warlords and gun toting freedom fighters.
This leads me to the real purpose of my letter. Mr Mervin got it wrong. Dr Rodney did articulate strong views on power sharing. He was one of the chief architects of the WPA’s 1979 power sharing proposal called "Proposals for a Government of National Unity and Reconstruction." How could Mr Mervin think that Rodney, the crusader for racial unity, would have missed power sharing? Let me reiterate that the WPA from its inception in 1974 has been a forceful advocate for power sharing; a concept that was first introduced into Guyanese political conversation in 1961 by another underused thinker and political activist, Eusi Kwayana. Now let Walter Rodney speak for himself on power sharing in this excerpt from a speech at a public meeting in Georgetown in 1979.
"The WPA has called for a government of National Reconstruction and National Unity. Inevitably, the working people must play a leading role in such a government. Yet, it is proof of the maturity of our workers that they fully understand the need for patriotic compromise with other classes and social strata. Workers know from the most bitter of experiences how hopeless the economic situation has become.
"Small farmers know from heart-breaking experience that it is impossible to cultivate and survive. So the vast majority of our people will surely rally around a programme, which restores the economy through the participation of all. They will rally round a programme, which restores democratic rights.
"One can sum up on the national question by saying that all classes in Guyana have an objective interest in unity. That is to say, each class has suffered materially from economic chaos; each class has suffered in one way or another from arbitrary rule, insecurity and lack of the opportunity to do an honest job. Collectively, we are faced with the threat of disintegration and the loss of commitment to Guyana as a nation state. This is tragically seen through the large numbers lining up at the embassies and passport offices and in the large numbers who have but one ambition in life - to leave Guyana.
"This is a time for calling on our resolves of patriotism. The road to recovery of national purpose lies through the restoration of democracy. All parties and all interest groups must somehow be represented in a Government of National Reconstruction and National Unity.
"Burnham Must Go! Yes, but that is only one side of the coin. There must be an alternative to replace the dictator. Let that alternative be a Government of National Unity. A clear alternative is a powerful political force. It gives our people something to mobilize around. It gives the outside world something to think about as the force of the future in dealing with Guyana. In the last days of the Burnham dictatorship, a Government of National Unity must be declared. It will unite races and classes; it will attract civilians and uniformed personnel; it will itself contribute to speeding up the end of the reign of King Kong. People’s Power! No Dictator! All Power To The People!"
The sadness about Guyana is that those words spoken in 1979 at the height of the dictatorship are more relevant today 10 years after the exit of the dictatorship. We now understand why Rodney is banished by the status quo.