Last month, when David Granger didn’t even mention the name of Cheddi Jagan when he listed the names of Indian Guyanese who’d contributed to Guyana, your Eyewitness noted Granger was deploying a most potent political weapon: silencing of the historical record. Granger’s a historian, and knows more than most about historiography that goes beyond the cliché about “history being written by the victors”.
He’d know about the ground-breaking work by the Haitian anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillet, whose book, “Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History”, opened up the wider public’s eye to the phenomenon of “silencing” and its use in creating narratives by silencing other stories.
“Silencing”, as used by Trouillet, isn’t merely inadvertently leaving out facts, or because one doesn’t consider them “important”; it’s a conscious, deliberate act intended to deny the “silenced” any agency in history. Who is Jagan, if no one knows of his contributions? From that standpoint, silencing is an act of violence – an epistemic one, as pointed out by Gaytri Spivak, since the public is being denied knowledge of the complete truth.
Well, June 6th came and went, and there wasn’t a single mention of the “Enmore Massacre” that was committed by the colonial government 71 years ago!! If this wasn’t “silencing”, what is? The Enmore massacre was an inflection point in our history of independence, when the ordinary people of British Guiana rallied to the banner of the young Cheddi Jagan to protest the shooting and killing of five sugar workers who’d merely insisted they wouldn’t have their workload doubled for the same pay. Jagan took at the gravesides an oath which led to the formation of the PPP – the first national political party in the country.
But Granger knows why he’s silencing the history of Enmore. How could he extol the sacrifice of those sugar workers for the independence he loves celebrating when he callously threw 7000 sugar workers into the streets by shuttering four estates – including Enmore?? But yet he and his government did!! Enmore was only the last in a line of bloodied resistance by sugar workers against the sugar oligarchy that was coterminous with the colonial state: every decade since 1872, sugar workers’ blood was spilled by the colonial police as they confronted the oppressors of Guiana. Even Forbes Burnham didn’t go so far as Granger, since he actually commissioned the Monument to the Enmore Martyrs.
Yes…Granger is fulfilling Burnham’s legacy all right. By the time he’s finished, he clearly intends to literally and figuratively wipe out any political opposition. With elections imminent after the CCJ decision due next Tuesday, the GDF has already practised quelling internal protests.
Remember “Exercise Rattrap” from last week?
Your Eyewitness is writing this piece on the anniversary of the assassination of Walter Rodney by the agent of the PNC under Burnham. He’s not surprised the PNC hasn’t commemorated the event; after all, they were all complicit in his assassination, weren’t they? Look at what a rear-guard battle they waged to degut the Commission of Inquiry’s Report!! It’s the WPA’s betrayal that stinks to high heaven. Their Chairperson feeds on the great man’s legacy to secure “Minister wuk”, but utters not a word about the man’s assassination!
But while Rodney’s legacy is secure, the Nigerian novelist Wole Soyinka explained why it’s touchy: “Walter Rodney was no captive intellectual playing to the gallery of local or international radicalism. He was clearly one of the most solidly ideologically situated intellectuals ever to look colonialism and exploitation in the eye and, where necessary, spit in it.”
And Rodney himself explained today’s betrayal: “Most African leaders of the intelligentsia…were frankly capitalist, and shared fully the ideology of their bourgeois masters…. As far as the mass of peasants and workers were concerned, the removal of overt foreign rule actually cleared the way towards a more fundamental appreciation of exploitation and imperialism.”
Which of the “Rodneyites” around today practise self-emancipation; self-mobilisation and self-organisation to transition beyond capitalism?