Tuesday, August 24, 2010

WPA has outlived its usefulness

Dr Randy Persaud: The Working People’s Alliance has outlived its usefulness and the time has come for it to acknowledge this to the Guyanese people. No one will doubt that the party was once vibrant, and that it made a real contribution to the re-emergence of democracy in Guyana. But time and circumstances change, and when a political party or group refuses to adapt, it must suffer the ignominy of being ignored.

Back in the late 1970s Dr. Walter Rodney and colleagues worked tirelessly with other democratic forces (the PPP, the DLM, GAWU) to bring about betterment in the lives of all of Guyana’s people. Although the country still has many challenges, there is clear evidence today that it is a country on the move.

The honourable thing for the WPA to do today is to acknowledge the sea change, beginning with the fact that governments are democratically elected, and that Guyanese have practically no limits in expressing their political views. No such thing seems possible from the small group of men and women who speak under the name of the WPA.

One question that future historians would have before them is to explain the dramatic decline of this once influential Marxist party. We all look forward to the history and historiography on this. As a warning, we should note that it would take qualified historians and political scientists to do this work. No shallow and vengeful columnist is up to the task, no matter how many references are made to Kant, Hume, and Hobbes.

Two points come immediately to mind regarding the decline of the WPA.

Firstly, the party was founded on an interesting admixture of progressive cultural nationalism and Marxist political economy. Over the years, the ‘progressive’ part of the cultural nationalism has mutated into a politically convenient and reactionary nationalism. Without any shame, the party intellectuals now only speak for one ethnic group in Guyana. Anyone who does not claim ancestry to that group is nonchalantly vilified in the discourses of the WPA.

As for a critical political economy perspective, the party intellectuals have retreated. To the best of my knowledge only Prof. Thomas has maintained an active research agenda. Many of his columns are interesting and thoughtful. The other intellectuals have replaced all that is critical about subaltern knowledge to a sign, in this case, race.

There is no problem with that in and of itself, excepting that rather than using race as an analytical tool to investigate lived experience, the current ‘intellectuals’ of the WPA use to make irresponsible pronouncements. The aim, it seems, is always to find some group guilty.

The second reason for the decline of the WPA is that it has never managed to rid itself of both the fact and stigma of being a group of urban intellectuals who have no taste for walking through the far-flung regions of a country defined by vast forests and roaring rivers. The option for these Georgetown intellectuals has always been to stay at Turkeyen from where they issue press statements that have no resonance with the Guyanese people.

It appears that all of Guyana knows that the WPA is extinct, excepting, of course, for the WPA itself.

President Jagdeo’s visit to Buxton has been so massively misconstrued by the WPA that they have gone from confused nonsense to patent nonsense. Just read the party statements fronted in Kaieteur News and Stabroek News.

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