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On the occasion of the 42nd Anniversary of the assassination of Dr Walter Rodney, the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) reminded that his struggle was against the obscenity of dictatorship in all its forms regardless of race and party.
Below is the full statement by the WPA
Today marks the 42nd anniversary of Walter Rodney’s assassination. WPA joins the Rodney family and associates in remembering the contributions of our brother to Guyana, the Caribbean, Africa and the wider world. His contributions were enormous and wide-ranging, and they continue to have resonance four decades after his life was ended by a Guyana government and State that had descended to the lowest depths of dictatorship and autocracy. On this 42nd anniversary we ask Guyana to remember so that we do not forget—historical memory is a vital tool in making sense of the present. We also ask Guyana to reflect on whether we have returned to the dictatorial government and State against which Rodney fought.
Looking back, WPA remembers with pride the six years Brother Walter spent in our party’s ranks. It was a period of bravery, heroism and intense resistance against the rapid deterioration of our Independence covenant. But it was simultaneously a period in which we demonstrated to Guyanese that we could co-exist as a nation regardless of our social and ethno-racial differences. Rodney and WPA gave Guyana both a blueprint for confronting dictatorship and an example of what a truly liberated Guyana could look like.
Walter Rodney’s and WPA’s greatest contribution to Guyana, therefore, was the demonstration to our Guyana that through struggle another more humane and more progressive world was possible. Rodney led us in showing Guyana another side of itself. That we did so via individual and collective sacrifice in the context of a broad and inclusive movement remains the envy of some in our midst today who daily seek to reduce Rodney’s contribution to the “them versus us.” WPA salutes the thousands of Guyanese dead and alive who answered Rodney’s call for People’s Power in the face of dictatorship –they were and are true patriots of freedom who did not betray Rodney on the frontlines when he needed them most.
Much has changed since June 13, 1980. The dictatorship of that era was eventually defeated in 1992. WPA remembers with pride the dogged movement of “Rodney after Rodney” that refused to be assassinated after the prophet was taken away from us. While Brother Walter was not there as we crossed that line, his teachings and example continued to inspire the anti-dictatorial movement that survived his brutal assassination. The 1992 victory of People’s Power over dictatorship was replete with the fingerprints and footprints of Walter Rodney. The real heroes of the 1992 moment were the fighters who fought alongside Rodney and who continued the struggle after he was removed. Walter Rodney Lives was more than a slogan—it was a living affirmation of Rodney and the ideals of the movement that he joined and inspired.
As we confront the present, WPA looks on with amusement as some in our midst attempt to school us on what Rodney would have done if he were alive today. We see those attempts for precisely what they are—the enlistment of Rodney as validation of narrow, partisan agendas. Unfortunately, 42 years after Rodney’s demise, the Guyanese State has come full circle. Out of the ashes of the dictatorial State that was overcome by the struggles and example of Rodney and the WPA and the movement it spawned came the Criminalized State that took root under the PPP (1992-2015) . That State has now morphed into a full-blown dictatorship.
It is apt to remember that Rodney’s resistance was not simply against one party or the other; it was against the obscenity of dictatorship in all its forms regardless of race and party. Rodney did not fight against one party or race or class. In that regard, Guyana can call on the anti-dictatorial praxis of Walter Rodney as the country contends with this newest form of dictatorship.
Walter Rodney could not in 1980 anticipate an oil-producing Guyana—it was not on the horizon. But he grappled with some of the dynamics that now accompany the Oil and Gas era. From geopolitical machinations to dictatorial governance to ethnic fracturing and dominance to persistent poverty, Rodney helped prepare us for the overriding challenges we face today. It is therefore in Rodney’s memory that WPA recommits itself to the twin struggle to reduce poverty and end the current dictatorship.
The struggle for bread and justice resonates today as it did five decades ago when Professor Clive Thomas planted the formulation in the national consciousness. While WPA respects the struggles for better oil contracts and other related issues, we situate ourselves in the struggle for the Guyanese people to benefit directly from the oil revenues.
This stance is driven by both our Emancipation and Independence promises to lift the poor and powerless out of the damaging cycle of poverty. We can never be a truly independent and democratic country if we do not break the back of institutional poverty. WPA, therefore, recommits its energies to the ideals of the Buxton Proposal. Our struggle for a Universal Basic Income and for Cash Transfers to households remains at the top of our agenda in the coming period. In our view, the reduction of poverty is one of the greatest gifts we can give to Walter Rodney to ourselves as a nation.
WPA is not surprised that since coming to office in 2020 the PPP has fast-tracked the government and State in the dictatorial direction.
The manner in which it came to office in the wake of the disputed 2020 election and its agenda of domination coupled with its willingness to stretch the limits of the Majoritarian Winner-Takes-All system in the context of ethnic division provide fertile grounds for dictatorship. The willingness of some of the Guyanese elites to succumb to the pressure of political expediency also played a pivotal role in clearing the way for the current dictatorial order.
Faced with dictatorship, the people have no option but to resist. It is against this background that WPA calls for a broad anti-dictatorial movement similar to the one built in the Rodney era. Such a movement should be multi-party, multi-racial and multi-class. WPA is prepared to help build that movement.
Our objective in this regard is not just the offending party, but most importantly against the offending political order. From the Rodneyite perspective, an anti-dictatorial movement must not simply exchange one party for the other as we did in 1992, but it must strive to erase the conditions under which dictatorship thrives.
WPA also takes this opportunity to recommit itself to a political solution as the ultimate defense against foreign domination and domestic ethno-racial domination. Towards this end we renew our support for power sharing and shared governance. We urge the leaders of the two major parties to find ways to prepare the country for this eventuality. For us in the WPA, power sharing is not about one party sharing the power of the other party, it’s about all parties sharing the collective power of the people of Guyana. While WPA feels that electoral democracy is an essential ingredient in building a democratic order, it does not see it as the only means to a multi-ethnic democracy.
Finally, WPA recommits itself to the regional integration movement—a commitment to which Rodney was unwavering. We condemn the opportunism and growing insularity in some sections of the society that threaten to tarnish our country’s principled embrace of Caribbean unity and development over the years. Despite its oil resources, Guyana cannot achieve real development outside of a pan-Caribbean development.