Today marks 40th death anniversary of Walter Rodney

This year marks the 40th anniversary since the assassination of Dr Walter Rodney, and he has been saluted once again as one of the Caribbean’s brilliant minds for his scholarly works.

Dr Walter Rodney

Dr Rodney, born in 1942, was dubbed a historian, scholar, educator, prolific author, Pan-Africanist, and political activist.
The Working People’s Alliance (WPA), once headed by Rodney, on Friday posited that even though he lived a short life, he distinguished himself “as one of the foremost thinkers and activists of the Guyanese post-colonial struggle for bread, justice, and freedom”.
It celebrated his life by saying, “His contributions are hailed beyond Guyana, (pointing) to the breadth and scope of his importance to the universalist Caribbean intellectual and political traditions. We celebrate him on this 40th anniversary as a bright light that showed the way to freedom for all the children of bondage.”
Between 1974 and 1980, Rodney emerged as a leading figure in the resistance movement against the increasingly authoritarian and repressive Guyana Government led by President Forbes Burnham. Within a few years after the WPA was formed, he had grown to prominence for his stance that ‘the working people must liberate themselves’.
On June 13, 1980, Rodney was killed by a bomb hidden in a walkie-talkie.
The WPA sought to mention that this year’s anniversary comes when the country is faced at a serious juncture. Moreover, there appears to be attempts to insert Rodney into the current situation – one which was condemned.
“We wish to steer clear of that temptation and to instead remember our brother for what he contributed at another critical moment…Rather than use his memory to validate competing contemporary narratives, we prefer to leave it to the younger generations to critically interrogate that period and tease out Rodney’s contributions to aid them in their struggles,” the WPA said in a statement.
The current Alliance went on to say that he reflected on unity through the convergence of race, ethnicity and class.
“To isolate his thoughts on and activism in relation to any one of those without reference to the others amounts to a falsification of history and a denial of his full worth. His Marxism must be seen as inseparable from his Black Nationalism, his anti-imperialism, and his Caribbean nationalism. Although an advocate and activist in the global Black Power movement, Rodney did not see the philosophy of the movement as a contradiction of the multi-ethnic struggle in Guyana.”
Turning to present day, the WPA said there have been setbacks in establishing a multiracial society since his death. In fact, there are still tensions brewing among the population among racial lines.
“Since Rodney’s demise, there have been serious setbacks in the goal of a multiracial society in which no group feels threatened. WPA regrets this development, but recognises that in many ways the dynamics of Guyana and the world have undergone tremendous changes since 1980. The rise of globalisation and the neo-liberal order have altered the global dynamics. In Guyana, we are still to resolve the tension between ethnicity and majoritarian democracy,” the WPA highlighted.
Prior to Rodney’s assassination, the historian and politician were charged along with other WPA members of an arson attack against a government facility. Rodney was facing prosecution on these charges; nonetheless, he continued to organise and speak out against the PNC Administration.
Those close to Rodney said he believed that there was a plot underway to take his life. A key finding of the Commission of Inquiry into his assassination was there was a conspiracy involving the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), the Guyana Police Force and others to kill Rodney and that former President Forbes Burnham had to be aware of it.