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Guyana – Economic Crisis Deepens

(Winter 1977/78)

From PNP Youth Movement Bulletin, Winter 1977/78, p. 5.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The sugar workers strike which is now in its twelfth week in Guyana, is having disastrous consequences for the Burnham government and has aggravated the severe economic crisis which is affecting the country. This is being viewed optimistically by agents of imperialism and other interests who are seeking to restore capitalism.

Hammer Blows

The strike began after the government’s rejection of a £50 million profit sharing scheme which had been approved earlier. This would have greatly benefitted the 20,000 miserably paid workers who were sent reeling under a series of hammer blows induced by external factors such as the in oil prices, world recession, EEC legislation and drought, which have all combined to produce record low sugar yields. This year’s sugar production is estimated to be below last year’s which was the lowest in recorded history.

This is characterised by the high incidence of the number of strikes in the industry in this period. Between 1973 and 1976 there were 462 strikes which resulted in the loss of 1,424,000 man days.

The government’s uncompromising stand against the present strike and the drafting of 6,000 strike breakers of soldiers and civil servants has led to sympathy strikes by the bauxite workers and more importantly the radical Trinidad oil-field workers who have imposed a ban of fuel shipments to the country which is 90% dependent.

This has opened up and intensified the difference between the Prime Minister Burnham, who now claims to be a “Maoist” and the Stalinist opposition leader, Cheddi Jagan, which had appeared to be healing in the face of mounting foreign intervention, in the wake of sugar and bauxite nationalisation.


The present conflict has given encouragement to America and capitalist interests. The bankrupt economy has forced Burnham to rely increasingly on foreign aid and Washington has dangled the prospect of economic assistance. The US which has interfered decisively in the past, has pledged a substantial increase in aid if Guyana, which has already nationalised 80% of the economy, abandons its move towards a planned economy and opens up the country to capitalism and private ownership of the economy. But concessions to capitalist industries would do nothing to solve the endemic poverty of Guyana.


Only a genuine democratic workers state in Guyana and a complete nationalisation of the remaining big firms can eliminate the wanton bureaucracy and chaos that is at present stifling its economic progress. A plan of production and the introduction of workers and small farmers councils, management of the economy with democratic election of all officials, right of recall with regular rotation and controlled wage differentials will not only abolish the racial problem but set the basis for a drive for better living standards in the area and lead to the creation of a socialist federation of the West Indies.

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