The origin and use of violence in the PNC
Wednesday Perspective with Freddie
July 14, 2004
Born out of a culture of violence, the PNC’s philosophical conceptualisation of the role of violence as a method of pursuing political goals comes from the following sources: Italian philosopher, Machiavelli; German fascist thinkers; and the French philosopher, Georges Sorel. In their philosophising on the virtue of violence, these writers conceptualised violence as a necessary value in the realisation of a political group’s eventual goals. Violence then is a virtue in human relation.
From Burnham to Hoyte down to the younger PNC generation like Aubrey Norton and Sherwood Lowe through to even the Reform component best exemplified in the intolerant and petulant diatribes of its leader, Jerome Khan, the PNC, as a politically driven organisation, utilises the use of violence with abandoned nonchalance. The PNC’s founder-leader, Forbes Burnham perfected for his coterie of underlings, the necessity of violence. Burnham’s philosophical search for the meaning of the contextual use of violence was a unique combination of communism formulations, fascist theories and ancient Rome’s senatorial machinations.
If there is any philosophical legacy Burnham left with the PNC, it is the doctrine that there is a sacred purpose that is inherent in violence. While it would have been unthinkable for any Anglo-phone Caribbean leader (including Eric Gairy) to use assassination as a form of state policy, Burnham was callous and remained unmoved after his murder of Walter Rodney and other opponents from the WPA.
Perhaps the most morbid example of Burnham’s insensitivity to the effects of violent occurrences was when he asked Mr. Hoyte if he was emotionally stable to still undertake the task of addressing the Linden May Day rally, just minutes after the announcement that the only two children of Mr. Hoyte had died in a car crash and Mrs. Hoyte was terribly injured on the Linden Highway. The suggestion and question should never have been posed by Mr. Burnham. No rational, cultivated mind would have contemplated asking Mr. Hoyte to carry on.
Only fascists and communists would have done what Mr. Burnham did to Mr. Hoyte. If Burnham was a leader with basic human inclinations, he would have insisted that Mr. Hoyte assign himself to Mrs. Hoyte’s bed side immediately, and would have ordered Hoyte to go on compulsory leave. Normal minds do these things when tragedy strikes but Forbes Burnham cultivated a coldness inside his heart as part of his preparation for leadership. The little, published booklet of Burnham’s sister, Jesse, “Beware My Brother Forbes” is an under-recognised, competent essay of a psychoanalytic attempt in understanding the personality of Forbes Burnham.
Other training manuals he used in his teenage quest to control Guyana were Machiavelli’s The Prince; the writings on the Roman Empire by the brilliant historian, Edward Gibbon; and communist literature. One of the things about Burnham’s early association with communist literature that has not been written about was his fascination with the violent resistance of the Yugoslavian partisans under Tito. It was no accident that Burnham’s first experience in living and working in a communist country was Yugoslavia. Contrary to what many PPP leaders do not know, Burnham was a competent digester of communist theoretical writings. Because Burnham’s intellectual reach was beyond comparison to those in the PPP, he had a greater understanding of communist literature.
The Guyanese people, especially those in middle age and advanced age, still believe that the PPP were the people who read and breathe communist books but Forbes Burnham knew the marxist classics very well. The difference with the PPP leaders and Burnham is that while the former studied communist texts for ideological reasons, Burnham devoured them for the descriptions they provided in the organisation of violence. Burnham also was a voracious inhaler of books on the Roman emperors because they contained endless expositions on the utility of violence.
In leaders, who accept the Machiavellian doctrine of violence, then sentiments play no role in human relationships. It is in this dimension of life that fascism merges with communism. Both ideologies see sentiments in politics as a fundamental barrier to the acquisition of power. Here is where Burnham’s permanent guide to the PNC will be with that party for a long time despite whoever becomes leader. The master’s legacy is a continuous thread running through the post-1985 PNC (Burnham died in 1985).
Despite his history-making compromise to the Guyanese people, violent thinking was never a distant companion of Desmond Hoyte. Hoyte’s familiarity with violence through his long association with Forbes Burnham played a leading determinant of his oppositional strategies. He went to Buxton and literally justified criminal violence there. Hoyte attended the funeral of notorious gangster, ‘Blackie’ London, at the Square of the Revolution. It was the culture of violence that resides inside the biology of the PNC that led some leading elements inside that party in 2001 and onwards to flirt with criminals in Buxton.
`Peeping Tom’ once wrote that he favoured Sherwood Lowe to be the new PNC leader after Hoyte died. He thought that Lowe was intellectually competent and possessed leadership qualities. But Lowe’s position on Buxton was a display of the political culture into which he was nurtured. With another leading PNC executive, James Mc Allister, he didn’t see the mayhem and savagery that emanated from Buxton as being a shocking occurrence that warranted modern police methods.
When the state decided to buy armoured vehicles to confront the criminals ensconced in Buxton, these two PNC executives denounced the move and urged a budget for Buxton instead. There was no budget but yet the violence ended when the GDF and the phantom squad, operating separately and on their own behalf, fought the remaining gunmen after a US Embassy official was kidnapped.
Aubrey Norton was resurrected by Corbin after Hoyte’s death not for any other reason but for the role he can play in the PNC that Hamilton Green once played. The reason why a liberal like Raphael Trotman was almost expelled is because he doesn’t belong to the Burnhamite culture with its emphasis on violence. He is generally seen as an outsider. Come election year in 2006, the legacy of Forbes Burnham inside the PNC will show itself and World Cup cricket will turn its back on Guyana.