The Socialist Workers Alliance of Guyana believes that the only way forward for the Guyanese people is through the struggle of the Guyanese workers, unemployed, small vendors and farmers, who toil daily and whose ancestors have toiled for centuries to produce the wealth of our society.
The struggle for a socialist society has a long and storied journey in the history of humanity in Europe, North America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Guyana and the wider Caribbean have been no exception. Socialism is not an ideology alien to the Guyanese people, in fact, the founders of the modern Guyanese state invoked socialism in fighting for national liberation against the British colonialists. As we explain in The Case for Socialism in Guyana, Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham were not committed to building societies where working class people were in control, but needed the support of the working class to remain in power, so they both used pseudo-socialist programs to bind working people to their nationalist interests.
The state of modern day Guyana, with half of the population living abroad to seek opportunity, 40 percent youth unemployment rate , and the third highest per capita suicide rate in the world is indicative that the Guyanese masses saw no qualitative improvement in their well-being from their alliance with nationalist leaders espousing socialism. Yet the People’s Progressive Party, which governed from 1992-2015 still maintains a “Marxist-Leninist” constitution and the People’s National Congress, which ruled from 1966-1992, left an indelible mark on the Guyanese state through the current constitution.
Section 22.3. of the constitution states, for example,
“The Right to work is guaranteed by – (i) socialist ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange; (ii) by socialist planning, development and management of the economy.”
These constitutionals measure are of little comfort to the unemployed and compared to the actual unemployment statistics it makes clear why many Guyanese people may be suspicious of the idea of socialism.. In addition to Guyana’s history of socialism under former president Burnham and the communist views of Cheddi Jagan, Guyanese people are also privy to what has been portrayed as “the failure of socialism” in neighboring Venezuela where Hugo Chavez and now Nicholas Maduro have tried to pursue national economic development through state management of the oil economy under the guise of “Twenty-first Century Socialism.”
For these reasons the Socialist Workers Alliance understands that it will take patient work to win the Guyanese people to our political views. We are given confidence, however, by the mass anti-austerity revolts which have swept the world in the last decade through which many have rediscovered socialism as the only solution. Given the current political crisis in Guyana, brought on by the passage of the No-Confidence vote against the current Coalition A Partnership for National Unit (APNU) and Alliance for Change (AFC) government it is clear that the Guyanese working masses need their own political party.
The Socialist Workers Alliance does not consider itself a party, but hopes to work with other Guyanese both in and out of the country towards building such an organization. We fight against the cynicism brought about as a result of the betrayals of the PPP and PNC’s flirtations with socialism and at the same time we strive to connect today’s current struggles to the history of Guyanese radicalism from the resistance of indigenous Amerindian people to Dutch and British colonialism to the 1763 Berbice slave revolt, the 1823 Demerara slave revolt, the 1834 Essequibo slave revolt onwards to the resistance of the Portuguese, Chinese and East Indian indentured servants brought to British-Guiana to replace Africans on the plantation.
This radical tradition continued in the labor struggles under British colonialism, and in the movement for independence, however, as documented by Walter Rodney in his History of the Guyanese Working People, the British used the racial divide in the working class to undermine such actions. Guyana’s post independence leaders continue to maintain and exploit racial divisions to the to point that they have polarize Guyanese politics. As such, the SWA reiterates Rodney’s assessment that the principal task of our generation is to break the divide in the working class by forging unity through struggle.
Thankfully Guyana’s radical tradition is not long and buried but has been kept alive by its working people who have struggled since independence in 1966 against the austerity measures the the PNC, PPP & APNU-AFC have instituted against the population. The teachers’ strike in 2018, the ongoing fight by the sugar workers against the shut down of the sugar estates, the defeat of Guyana’s crossdressing law, the 2016 March for Girls and the holding of Guyana’s first LGBTQ Pride celebration all point the way forward. What is needed is a broad alliance of these social movements to fight against balancing the national budget on the backs of the ordinary people.
There are many people in Guyana searching for an alternative to the main parties which have dominated politics since 1966. The Socialist Workers Alliance invites those looking to center working people in the struggle for a better, Guyana, a better Caribbean and a better world to join us. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or check us out on Facebook & Twitter.