Many Guyanese have wondered about the utility of the WPA in the PNC’s formation of APNU when, objectively, the WPA had dwindled to a handful of elderly armchair warriors by 2011.
The answer lies in the WPA’s role in rehabilitation of the PNC in the aftermath of the PNC’s sordid history, by deploying the moral capital Dr Walter Rodney had earned in Guyana as a member of the WPA between his return in 1974 and his assassination by Burnham in June 1980.
In the continued effort to prove their relevancy in the upcoming elections, and to ensure that the WPA continue to occupy a possible Cabinet seat, WPA Executive Dr David Hinds recently went even further, by seeking to rehabilitate the founder leader of the PNC, Forbes Burnham, as summarised in the caption of his column: “Our Guyana, Our Caribbean and Our Forbes Burnham,” (KN 5-45-19).
He begins his restorative project by setting up a false dichotomy in asserting he “realize(d) that there is no line between our critique of leaders and our demonization of them.” Why does “critique” have to be contraposed with “demonization” if the critique is factually based? Hinds’s denunciation of “demonisation” of Burnham would be morally offensive to the hundreds of thousands of Guyanese whose lives were ruined by Burnham’s policies. The rice farmers, for instance, who were immiserated by being forced to sell their rice and paddy for a song to the PNC Government, which made windfall profits on the world market. Or sugar workers who saw their hard-won profit-sharing snatched away with the levy Burnham imposed.
Hinds’s epiphany on Burnham evidently arose because he has “become aware that Mr. Burnham meant a great deal to the earlier generations of African Guyanese.” But this is an epistemologically untenable position. That Burnham was a hero to a great many Guyanese does not confer on his positions any greater truth or validity. Hitler was a hero to the vast majority of Germans, but that does not excuse his horrible excesses.
As Walter Rodney said in his “People’s Power: No Dictator”: “We cannot say that Guyana today has reached the same stage as Germany under Hitler’s rule, because that would be to lose a sense of proportion. Burnham as a dictator is petty because ours is a nation of less than a million people.”
Situating Burnham in a “complex Guyana”, Hinds postulated, “There are three narratives about Burnham, each of which is valid. First, there is the narrative of Burnham the visionary who used government to empower Guyanese, especially the poor, and who lifted the image of Guyana globally through a most progressive foreign policy.” But we know that Burnham did not seek to “empower Guyanese”, just those who had PNC “party cards”; as recently reiterated by PNC Chair, Volda Lawrence.
As for Burnham’s “progressive foreign policy”, Rodney had this to say: “On the international scene, Burnham could never be a powerful force.” Rodney, of course, experienced the opportunism of Burnham with his pretentions on “progressiveness”, and this was expressed decades later when African progressives opposed the latter receiving an honour from South Africa.
According to Hinds, “The second narrative about Burnham is that of the dictator”, which he concedes but excuses: “to think that that was all that defined him is to be equally dishonest. And many in our midst, especially our Indian Guyanese brethren and sistren, are of that mindset.”
But did not Rodney describe why Indian Guyanese might hold that view? “We should refer to the pamphlet by Jessie Burnham, entitled Beware My Brother Forbes, in which she describes his racist attitude to Indians, his absolute selfishness, and his limitless ambition to hold others in domination.”
The third narrative, according to Hinds, is his self-described “critical” one adopted by himself.
Rodney, however, had a different position. He demanded Guyanese call a spade a spade: “Our language must express not only ridicule but anger and disgust….Guyana has seen the “Burnham Touch” — anything he touches turns to shit!”