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The PPP’s onslaught continues. They have now ditched the constitutional consultations with the Leader of the Opposition. They are unilaterally appointing persons to constitutional commissions. There is not even the pretense of democratic governance. On the economic front they continue to splurge money on areas of the workforce that are dominated by their supporters. There is not even the pretense of ethno-political equitability. We are going down the road of totalitarianism—in a hurry. The opposition says it’s going to court. Very well. Judicial Review is an important form of struggle and resistance. But surely, they have to do much more than that.
Fighting autocracy in real time is never easy. The government and by extension the ruling party have the monopoly on State Force, on the media and on the powers of distribution of wealth. Opposition supporters are therefore vulnerable to government coercion, bribery and propaganda. Frustration and fear become normative. Opposition parties are reduced to complaints and sobbing. They are coerced into playing by the “rules” even as the government breaks the rules. The opposition leaders have to silence their true feelings and play to the gallery of their opponents’ base. They are mortally afraid to speak to their own base.
Where does that leave us? I think the opposition base is quickly losing confidence in their leaders. That is a bad omen. It means that the door is wide open for alternative “leaders.” Others would decide to play ball with the PPP—something the PPP welcomes. The opposition could ill-afford such fragmentation. But it seems inevitable. I still believe that Aubrey Norton is the right PNC leader for this moment. But as is usually the case with mass parties, the importance of his leadership becomes a victim of the logic of the electoral machine.
The PNC has to strike a balance between the party as an electoral machine and the party as defender of its supporters’ non-electoral interests. The two are equally important. Because the party has never come to grips with the fact that it has to cede some space to other actors in the African Guyanese community, it is left with the burden of doing everything for the tribe. That’s where I think Norton is falling short. He was elected leader of the PNC to first defend the tribe even as he looks after other issues such as party-building and electoral preparation. My view is that he understands this task, but he is hamstrung by intra-party logic which privileges the elections-machine over defense of the tribe. It is that thinking that locks the party to the crossover vote Jumbie and the inadequate mantra of “the other races are suffering too.”
Let’s be frank here. The rest of the opposition does not have the institutional reach of the PNC. Even if and when they influence public opinion, they lack the institutional capacity to turn that into a sustainable movement that would cause the PPP to budge. At the end of the day there has to be a movement that would stand in the way of the PPP barrage. Nothing short of that would suffice. And the PNC has to lead that movement.
The PNC’s reluctance or inability to inspire such a movement means that the PPP is in total control. Their ideological thrust is clear. “One Guyana” is not a replacement of “One People, One Nation, One Destiny” as I heard from some of the PNC comrades. The PPP has no time for that. One Guyana is a mask for Ethno-Political Domination of society—economics, politics and culture. Ethnic Capitalism is the economic thrust. Transfer resources to the Ethnic Private Sector via Mega projects and steer some resources to the Ethnic Poor via handouts. Yes, there is a Rich Guyana and a Poor Guyana. But that is not the only classification. While the Rich is a monolith, the poor is not a monolith—there are several “poors.” The PPP’s regional strategy is not informed by a commitment to Caribbean Nationalism. Rather it is a payback for Regime Change in 2020 and an investment in future support for Regime Continuation.
In the meantime, the so-called Guardians of Democracy pat the government on its wrists while avoiding upsetting the power dynamics. They want the PPP to remain in power—bottom line. The old Indianists and the new Indianists (they are all Indianists) quarrel among themselves about the meaning of Indianism, but they are united on one thing—the PPP must hold power at all costs. It’s so amusing to hear the most vocal Indianists bawl out that he is not an Indianist. In that regard, his new friends are right to expose the hypocrisy.
The PPP fool them about the Oil Contract and about investigating the elections, and they feign surprise that they were fooled. But any schoolchild will tell you that you don’t renegotiate the contract of Oil Companies which help you to come to power. But if you think the PPP is in power because it won an election, you must be surprised. But the PPP knows better. And you sure don’t investigate an election when you know that your hands were caught in the proverbial cookie jar. The PPP knows the truth even if the Article 13 brother chooses to be blind.