…foundations of Black lives
Yesterday the nation commemorated “Emancipation Day” – the 182nd such day since that fateful day on Aug 1, 1838, when African slaves were finally freed after hundreds of years of toiling as “chattel”. They subsequently left the scene of their humiliation en masse, and founded the “Village Movement”. They used the sums of money they’d saved from their Sunday Markets and wages during the Apprenticeship period, between 1834 and 1838, to buy abandoned plantations, erect their own homes, and cultivate their own farms.
They pulled themselves up, figuratively by their own bootstraps, in the years after, by imbibing education and gradually forming a middle class in both the rural and urban areas; not only through the public services, but in the teaching, medical and legal professions.
Through the divide-and-rule strategy of the British, they were herded into the Police Force and the Volunteer Force to provide the deadly force their government needed to keep down their fellow countrymen’s protests for their basic rights. It’s not coincidental that the early Police Stations were established near the new African villages.
African-Guyanese remained on the sugar estates as the skilled workers in the factories, and those skills were transferred into many of the new light industries that sprung up, especially by the end of WWII. Sprostons, (today GNIC), for instance, could build our own ferries by the 1960s. Then most of the employees in the bauxite industry at Mackenzie were African-Guyanese, and, for decades, they were the elite of the working class, since they earned the highest wages among them.
African-Guyanese, therefore, were poised for massive development when Guyana was granted Independence under the PNC and Forbes Burnham in 1966. Yet, by 1992, when the PNC’s illegal regime was finally brought to an end through free and fair elections, African-Guyanese were worse off than any other group; for example, the Indigenous Peoples, who had been peripheralised in the interior.
What happened?? Burnham happened, that’s what!!
Burnham declared he knew what was best for “his people”, and that he would “mould their destiny”.
He insisted that African- Guyanese weren’t “disciplined”, and so he formed the “Disciplined Forces”: The GDF, The People’s Militia, The Guyana National Service, The Cadet Corps!! We now know it was really to give him the firepower he needed to rule as a dictator; but, in the meantime, he drew over 23,000 young African-Guyanese away from what could’ve been productive enterprises. With his “cooperative” harebrained scheme, he destroyed the bauxite and sugar industries, plus everything else after he had nationalised 80% of the economy.
Yet, Granger has promised to complete Burnham’s legacy! As he preaches about “Emancipation (??)” it has clear that it’s time African- Guyanese emancipate themselves from the PNC!
But Burnham’s destruction of Guyana – which is the template for Granger’s “Decade of Development”! – wasn’t just one of the sins of omission due to his airy- fairy delusions about cooperatives. He consciously set out to destroy agriculture – which might’ve been the anchor of the Guyanese economy, but which he saw only as the support base of the PPP. In first term budgets, he persistently lowered the allocations for agriculture, and even the pittance allocated he focused on public works that employed his own supporters. This is the pattern that was exposed in Granger’s past five budgets.
The pattern was intensified by Burnham after his nationalisation of sugar and taking-over of the milling of paddy and sale of rice. He destroyed sugar by exacting a levy that scraped off all profits; and rice by buying paddy dirt cheap and exporting rice and keeping the profits to fund his pipe dreams!
So, when Granger and his gang complain about the need for “subsidies” to keep sugar afloat, they should remember the rot all started within their levy!!
But he’s succeeded, hasn’t he??