PPP’s 32nd Congress – changing with the times, maintaining values and principles

The PPP’s 32nd Congress has come and gone, but the 32nd Congress has officially endorsed dramatic changes in the party’s outlook and make-up. As usual, the party’s congress was conducted from beginning to end with utmost unity. Elections were held in which 93 persons contested for 35 places in the Central Committee (CC) of the party, with an additional five non-voting members.
As with every congress, some stalwart members made way for new members. There was no in-fighting, no allegation of skullduggery. Those who did not gain a place on the CC were disappointed, but, without exception, wished the new and retained members in the CC well, and vowed that together they will all work to ensure the biggest ever electoral victory in free and fair elections in Guyana.
This party is ready for Elections 2025. The party members overwhelmingly endorsed the path the Dr. Irfaan Ali Government has traversed and is traversing. The party members clearly adore their president. They rewarded him with the highest vote count, just barely ahead of Guyana’s Vice President, the party leader and General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo.
Both leaders praised each other, and the party members and the Guyanese public must have been assured that Guyana’s President and VP are working together in total unison. GS Bharrat Jagdeo has clearly become a legendary leader while still young, while still the undisputed leader of Cheddi Jagan’s party. Like the president, BJ is adored and is a hero to the president, to the party members, and among his Guyanese sisters and brothers.
The members, while confident of victory, want to work even harder to ensure that the PPP enters Parliament after Election 2025 with more than 36 seats, to break the record of most seats in Parliament in a free and fair election.
The 32nd Congress, however, was remarkable because fundamental changes occurred. On January 1st, 1950, when the PPP was launched, it was declared that the party would pursue ideological pluralism. In subsequent years, under the banner of ideological pluralism, the party pursued a path of socialism, akin to Marxism, and was deemed by its opponents at home and abroad as a communist party. The leader of the party, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, branded himself a Marxist. But the party has never been obsessed with “isms” politics. It did not abandon its founding principle of ideological pluralism. It recognized that the initial battles for independence and unshackling the country from colonialism, and ensuring the lot of the working class is improved, might require a certain ideological posture. The party also recognized that while its Socialist/Leninist/ Marxist posture might align with its social justice and working-class agenda, entrepreneurship and free enterprise, the capitalist path, must also be vigorously pursued to generate financial capital.
The 32nd Congress of the PPP was not timid in acknowledging that its constitutional commitment to Socialism/Leninism/Marxism no longer fully reflects its changing mission. Independence was achieved, and Guyana is about to celebrate its 58th Independence anniversary in two weeks. Guyana has also emerged from being a poor, highly indebted country into being a high middle-income country. With its economic growth, Guyana is poised to become the biggest economy in Caricom by 2030.
The ideological posture that the party believed served the people and the country best, after the 1960s and for the first five decades after independence, is not the vehicle to lift Guyana to new heights, to permit the party to take the country to a developmental platform that few imagined possible just a few years ago.
The 32nd Congress clearly wanted to persuade all economic groups in Guyana that the party has their backs. The party had to gain the confidence and trust of every economic group. The original founders committed that the party would never abandon championing the welfare of the working class. Therefore, the 32nd Congress emphasized its working-class credentials, and further committed its allegiance to the promise of standing strong and unbending as the champion of the working class.
As the trajectory has entirely shifted away from the state commanding the height of the economy, the party must gain the confidence and trust of business. The party, in fact, has always maintained that the private sector is the engine of growth. This explains why the party, from the inception, emphasized that it would never be beholden to one ideology, and that it would pursue ideological pluralism. There was clearly a clash – how could the party’s posture be Socialist/Leninist/Marxist when its founding principle remained ideological pluralism?
The 32nd Congress of the PPP, with no hesitation, removed the inherent conflict between retaining its constitutional commitment to Socialism/Leninism/Marxism while simultaneously committing to its original promise of ideological pluralism. It has made the change in its constitution, that while it would continue to strenuously fight for the working class; fight for entitlements to ensure the working class’s welfare and social justice are promoted through health, education, housing, water, sanitation; and create a pathway for wealth accumulation for the working class; it would also create the empowering milieu for business to generate the financial capital that would sustain Guyana as a developed country.
For sure, the usual suspects will come out kicking and screaming that Bharrat Jagdeo has abandoned Cheddi’s path, has discarded the principles and values that the founding leaders enshrined in the constitution. They would be wrong. The founding leaders anticipated that the economic and social development ideology would, by necessity, have to adapt to changing mission and changing times. It is why it’s enshrined in the constitution at the very start that the PPP is built on the principle of ideological pluralism.
The 32nd Congress of the PPP changed approach, but has maintained its original promise that subsequent leaders would maintain the freedom to change under the banner of ideological pluralism, and never be straightjacketed by ideological dogmatism.
Cheddi Jagan would be proud were he to be still around.