It’s close to 68 years since the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) entered the field of politics formally in this country after some of its core members had served passionately in the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) which was founded back in 1945.
The Party, since then, has fought aggressively for the development of this country on several fronts as it pushed for Guyana’s right to solely determine the collective future of its people. It supported strongly an end to colonialism and direct foreign rule. This resulted in the PPP also working earnestly with independent groups and other political allies here to secure Guyana’s independence from the British and to establish a system of socialist-democratic rule.
Since Guyana gained that independence in 1966, the Party transformed itself and its style of politics. The Party under the leadership of Dr Cheddi Jagan and his wife, Janet Jagan, demonstrated political maturity, agility and the highest levels of patriotism during the early 1960s and 1970s. It toiled and worked for the disadvantaged and its leaders were often told of the need to adapt to the changing local, regional and international political environment in order to remain relevant and in sync with the mood of the masses and their struggles.
Dr Jagan, in particular, held no brief for politicians or comrades who were more interested in their ‘big titles and designations’ than the problems facing the poor and ordinary classes of people. Jagan was humble and understood his own political limitations. He knew that he appealed to a certain demographic and ethnic enclave of people and he was unapologetic about it because he felt that they were his core constituency.
Up until 1997, Dr Jagan took a backseat in many areas allowing the new blood in his party to take up important and senior ministerial, governmental and party appointments while he served as the ‘old guard’. He never believed in standing in the way of the PPP’s progress and was many times prepared to step aside, if the Party’s membership ever lost confidence in his abilities. He was prepared to work along with and guide young people as he knew that the survival of the PPP did not depend on him alone but on him knowing when and how to bow out.
The biggest problem facing the PPP since the last elections, is the fact that some of the old guards from Dr Jagan’s era of politics refuse to set aside, sit back and guide, or even make room for newer blood and young people. They believe that their years of service in the party and their relationships with some its leaders including the Jagans have guaranteed them the right to occupy critical positions in and outside of the party for life even though some of them have outlived their political usefulness and are being constantly outfoxed because they are not au fait with the new trends and under currents sweeping the political scene.
Some of these old guards are willing to hold the PPP hostage because of they can only achieve relevance by holding onto party power. They do not see the hurt and damage being done to the party as use their voting power and links in the party to dismiss new and transformative methods of executing political tasks. The old guards, while respected, must give way to the young so that they can continue the struggle, make mistakes and move the PPP forward.
Bharrat Jagdeo and the crop of young PPP leaders including many who served as Ministers over the last 17 years have not done a bad job despite the perception painted by the People’s National Congress/A Partnership for National Unity and now APNU/Alliance For Change coalition alliance. Unless the old guard adopt positions where they mentor, train and guide the young PPP politicians, there can be no continuity and party will always appear wise but weak and fragile.
The some of the old guards cannot fight or strike. Wise men do not win political wars, these days. Abled bodied, versatile, youthful and energetic youths can seal the deal. They have the political venom needed to paralyse any opponent and win back the seat of power. They only need some of those who have fought and are tired to relax, retire and support them. This is no country for old men… and the coalition is learning that daily too.
The PPP has come a long way since it was founded back in 1954; the four founding members in 1943, composing the PAC (Political Affairs Committee) – Cheddi, Janet, Jocelyn Hubbard, Ashton Chase; the grabbing of the recently returned young lawyer, LFS Burnham, to be Chairman of the newly founded (in 1950) PPP; the formation in 1990 of the PPP/Civic when it appeared that there might be a return to fair and free elections, adding and combining new non-PPP persons (patriotic and not anti-PPP) with those who had stuck with Cheddi and the PPP during the years after 1964.