Ronnie Sookhdeo Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Ronnie Sookhdeo


Burnham Faces Growing Revolt

(October 1980)

From Militant, No. 523, 10 October 1980, p. 11.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The brutal car-bomb assassination of Dr Walter Rodney earlier this year gave an indication of the growing crisis in Guyana and the Caribbean.

Dr Rodney, was the leader of the left wing Working People’s Alliance and a vociferous critic of the Burnham regime.

Within the country, the murder precipitated a wave of industrial unrest and acts of sabotage which is having serious repercussions on the economy. That unrest has not died down.

A ‘national disobedience campaign’ brought the country to a standstill and shook the Burnham regime. More importantly, it united for the first time all the strands of opposition.

Since Burnham came to power in 1964 in collusion with the CIA he has used constitutionality in order to mask his corrupt and repressive policies. He has maintained his government in office by all manner of electoral frauds – which have included the votes of children and nationals from other countries in the West Indies.

In the recent period he has cancelled all elections and changed the constitution to safeguard his position and ensure his rule for life! He has also had an increasing reliance on thugs, pseudo religious groups and reactionary forces.

When the crisis of capitalism in the period 1973–75 devastated the fragile Guyanese economy, Burnham was compelled by the pressure of the masses to nationalise the foreign-owned sugar and bauxite monopolies – 80% of the economy is now in the hands of the government.

Declaring his policies as Burnham-Leninist and his party as Marxist-Christian this former stooge of imperialism resorts to demagogic slogans in order to hide the mounting chaos of his economic policies.

But only a genuine workers’ state with complete nationalisation of the remaining big firms together with a plan of production based on workers’ control and management could have begun to eliminate the bureaucracy and chaos that is stultifying the economy.

A plan of production, of workers and small farmers’ councils management of the economy, right of recall with regular rotation and controlled wage differentials would not only have abolished the racist divisions but provided the basis for better living standards in the region.

The present economic crisis highlights the dangers of not implementing socialist policies. The country’s principal foreign exchange earners, sugar and bauxite have both declined dramatically due to a combination of strikes, mismanagement, adverse weather conditions and the slump on the world market.

For the second year running the government has had to scale down its sugar targets from 360,000 tons to 300,000 tons. Similarly, the 27% drop in bauxite production has been responsible for the massive foreign exchange deficit of £50m.

The government desperate for aid for an economy already bankrupted through paying for the huge oil price increase and foreign goods have negotiated loans from the world bank, West Germany and the IMF.

The repayments on these loans are now higher than the new loans being sought. The IMF continues to exert a stranglehold on the economy.

The government was compelled to carry through savage cuts in public expenditure and adopt deflationary policies in order to curb the spiralling inflation. As a consequence unemployment has rocketed to over 50% with a further 30% underemployment.

Food, fuel costs and other essential commodities have all increased astronomically whilst wages have been held down to 5%. This savage cutback in living standards is fuelling an explosion from below.

The enormous discontent within the country is reflected in the growth of the Working People’s Alliance. They have managed to form an alliance against Burnham which has cut across the racial divide.

In the past this racial divide helped to consolidate the unpopular Burnham regime. Burnham, unable to contain the explosive situation has now turned back to the USA and has given an assurance to open up the country to private capital.

The murder of Dr Rodney and subsequent mass imprisonments will not stop the movement against the Burnham regime. The growth of the WPA indicates that Guyana is bound to face further and more serious upheavals in the next period.

Ronnie Sookhdeo Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 10 September 2016