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Ronnie Sookhdeo

For a socialist Caribbean

(March 1981)

From Militant, No. 543, 13 March 1981, p. 10.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In last week’s article Ronnie Sookhdeo described the economic impasse of capitalism in Guyana and the vicious nature of Forbes Burnham’s regime.

This week, he looks at the policies and programme of a relatively new party, the radical Working People Alliance [WPA].

The WPA programme is a definite advance compared not only to Burnham’s ruling People’s National Congress (PNC) but also the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) of Cheddi Jagan.

It declares: “The alliance is revolutionary and not reformist.” It calls for “The nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy, still under private ownership i.e. banks, insurance companies, etc.”

It demands “land for those who work it” and the “elimination by decree of all outstanding indebtedness of small and landless farmers.”

Most significant it also declares that: “The alliance sees the revolution in each country as permanent.”

It is clear from this that the authors of the programme have borrowed some of their ideas from Trotsky’s theory of the permanent revolution.

Trotsky argued that the capitalist democratic revolution in a backwards country – basic questions of land reform, democratic rights, freedom from imperialism – could only be carried out through the working class coming to power in alliance with the peasantry.

One in power it would be forced to go over the to the socialist tasks i.e. nationalisation of the means of production.

But no single country, and particularly a backward country is able to advance towards socialism itself.

The revolution would therefore be forced to spread to other countries, particularly the industrially advanced countries if it was to maintain itself. Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution was borne out of the experience of the Russian revolution.

Workers’ and peasants’ councils

The WPA programme calls for:

“... a national assembly based on the following principles: direct representation of organised labour. Representatives will be elected from workers assemblies organised on the basis of the essential transformation of inherited state structure.

“They will include for example assemblies of sugar, bauxite, transport, unemployed and domestic service workers, teachers, peasants, students, youth and housewives; representation from constituencies.

“Election on a constituency basis will serve to strengthen the traditions of community responsibility and ensure accountability; the right to recall; elections to the national assembly and to all representative bodies which will be based on the right of recall.”

If implemented, this would represent the establishment of workers’ and peasants’ councils in Guyana as organs of rule of the masses.

The demand for “the right of recall” is a very important rule for a planned economy. Its implementation is completely incompatible with a Stalinist regime. If coupled with the demand for no official to receive more than the average wage of a skilled worker it would represent a check on the growth of bureaucracy.

At the same time the WPA leaders are not entirely clear as to the national and international perspectives for the revolution in Guyana.

Guyana is potentially immensely rich, it is true. However, it is still a backward country, when compared to the advanced capitalist countries.

The experience of the Russian revolution, and latterly of Cuba shows that a revolution in a backwards country which has a low cultural level and is isolated from a revolution in an advanced industrial country, will inevitably degenerate and will see the emergence of a bureaucratic privileged caste.

This is the case in Cuba where the leaders of the revolution twenty years ago set out with entirely laudable aims of developing Cuba along modern lines.

Therefore, it is paramount that the revolution in Guyana must be seen as a link in the revolution throughout the Caribbean.

It is true that the programme “pledges itself to work towards the emergence of a free, integrated and socialist Caribbean.” However, the WPA does not clearly understand that the development of a socialist Guyana must be linked to a socialist federation of the Caribbean.

This in turn would be a bridgehead for a socialist federation of South America and eventually of North America as the precondition for the development of Guyana along the lines of a democratic workers’ state.

Guyana is at the crossroads. Along the ‘Burnham’ road, lies further decline in the Guyanese economy together with enormous social and racial strife.

For benefit of the people

The other road leads to a socialist and democratic Guyana. This would represent a giant step forward for the workers and peasants of the country, also for the poverty stricken masses throughout the Caribbean and throughout the whole of Latin America.

It would mean that, for the first time, the rich, abundant natural resources of Guyana would be exploited for the benefits of the majority of the people of the country. It would mean undreamed of plenty and at the same time represent a giant step forward to a socialist Caribbean and a socialist Latin America.

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Last updated: 26 February 2020