The following are a series of letters in the Guyana media responding to David Hinds and others who had replied to my letter of December 30, 2009 entitled ‘We Must Eschew Us vs Them Mentality’.
It is important to point out that subsequent to this series of exchanges between myself and WPAites, WPA leader, Dr. Rupert Roopnarine, disclosed that Rodney had been accumulating arms.
Re Dr. David Hinds’s response (KN, 01/01/10) to my letter ‘We must eschew the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality in the New Year’ (SN, 31/12/09), if I ridiculed Walter Rodney by referring to him as ‘political naïve’ then so, obviously, did CLR James, who was quoted by Ravi Dev and whose quote I merely emphasized.
Also my references to Rodney were with respect to the political arena in Guyana and I’m rather disappointed that David extracted quotes from their contextual moorings and presented them as absolutes as if to imply that I was referencing Rodney the man and the sum totality of his achievements. I hope that David did not deliberately set out to be insidious, as I believe that he is above this kind of strategem. I’m even more disappointed about his interpretation of my references to Rodney as ‘as a stupid politician’. Among other things this is rather condescending….a trait I would not have associated with the esteemed gentleman.
Furthermore my references to Rodney were not meant to negate the reality that Rodney was a person absolutely courageous, patriotic, charismatic, magnetic et al, who like Jagan, lived the conviction of his beliefs – unwavering commitment to the welfare of all Guyanese, to nation building and a future that saw the flowering of Guyana’s full potential.
In passing I did mention that Rodney is one of our foremost academic, political theorist, essayist, author, researcher, thinker, et al. I do not believe that these components of the man needed to be detailed as not only are they well known but also my intention was not to engage in a comparison of the personalities of Rodney and Jagan.
My reference to Ravi Dev as ‘almost objective’ stands, as I do not believe that anyone can be absolutely objective. Thus if David wants to see this as a categorization of Ravi’s ‘detractors’ as ‘almost non-objective’, whatever that means , he is free to so do – my categorization would be quite different.
My reference to Rodney mistaking crowd attendance for electoral support was borne out by the 1992 election results. Had it been otherwise, then, quite clearly the WPA would have ran away with the elections. It is also borne out by historical reality, as other individuals and entities failed to transform crowd attendance into electoral support. So David can put whatever spin he wants on what I said but his spin does not negate the reality, although again I’m rather disappointed that he interpreted what I wrote as “those crowds were morons who risked brutality from the police and thugs and other forms of victimization to hear some rhetoric and attend a novelty show”, especially since I tabulated a list of reasons that sparked crowd attendance.
Additionally, Walter Rodney’s political legacy is referenced as it relates to the WPA, and while David and other WPAites would want to think otherwise, the reality is that WPA has existed in little more than name, post Walter Rodney. Outside of the WPA, Rodney’s legacy is awesome and needs no itemizing. Also reference to Jagan eschewing violence relates to the acquisition of political power. It would be duplicitous of me to suggest that the history of the PPP is bereft of violence as a political tactic, although it has been argued that in many instances the PPP and its members were being reactive rather than advocatory.
Also the statement, “These Jaguarites pointed to Rodney’s experience to support their conclusions that violence was the way to have gone and refused to accept that Rodney was ‘politically naïve’”, is too explicit to have been interpreted as Boodram characterizing Rodney as ‘violent’. So let me spell it out: some members of the Jaguar group, in discourses with me in the early nineties, referenced Rodney’s murder as proof that Rodney was about to engage in violence as a tool to get rid of Burnham and the PNC. In the course of these discussions they also rejected my contention that this tragic outcome was the result of Rodney’s political naivety. In any case David cannot be unaware that some analysts and commentators have pointed out that the circumstances of his death indicate that Rodney may have been considering violence as a political tool and this consideration could not have been an ad hoc gesture, given the caliber of thinker and organizer that Rodney was.
David also points to ‘omissions’ about Rodney as if to say Boodram’s intention was to miniaturize and dismiss Rodney.
Mr. Editor, please allow me to address David’s concerns:
“But many will also ask where is the criticism of Dr Jagan whose presence on the Guyanese political stage lasted 54 years as opposed to Rodney’s six.” I am on record as disagreeing with Jagan’s ‘critical support’ of Burnham and of being flabbergasted to learn about the 1985 agreement with Burnham for shared government. I do not disagree with the criticism that Jagan’s embrace of communism led to the British/American machinations that brought Burnham to power and directed pre-colonial western policy, towards Guyana. However, I have argued that this is a hindsight conclusion that cannot be viewed in absolute terms but rather contextually. Many who embraced Marxism in the sixties and seventies were blindsided by the propaganda coming out from behind the Iron Curtain and Jagan was no different; besides the treatment meted out to Jagan/PPP by the British/American axis would have only caused him to tighten this embrace. I have pointed out the paradox of a ‘vanguard’ party whose base has been more ethnic rather than working class across ethnic lines. I did refer to Jagan’s insulation from the day to day workings of the PPP. I am also on record as having pointed out the inherent contradiction of democratic centralism. I do agree that the PPP could have found common ground to work with the WPA post 1992. But was this lack of common ground solely the fault of Jagan?
“Boodram critiqued Dr Jagan’s Marxism but did not give Dr Rodney’s Marxism the same treatment. He did not critique Dr Rodney’s praxis; he simply presents him as devoid of praxis.” That Rodney was an internationally recognized Marxist intellectual and theorist goes without saying. That his embrace of Marxism was neither dogmatic nor akin to a belief system meant that he was free to adapt and evolve on the basis of reality and experience rather than trying to fit reality into rigid theoretical constructs. Thus he strove to use his understanding and experiences of social reality to infer the appropriate theoretical framework to underpin progress. Consequently Rodney impacted a range of changed perspectives from how the World Bank was viewed to the relationship between Europe and Africa, all different from hitherto existing perspectives.
In the context of Guyana, Rodney had returned to a socio-political landscape that had not been duplicated elsewhere in his experience and was quite different from the one he had departed in 1960. Thus his theoretical framework for change and progress was still evolving as he grappled with the complexities and nuances of this landscape. Who knows what could have been had his life not been tragically cut short?
He situates Dr Jagan as part of the Indian culture but presents Dr Rodney as having no cultural attachment or connection to other great African leaders.” Rodney’s profound ‘groundings’ with the Rastas; his popular educational work in the ghettoes of Kingston; his highly awakened black consciousness; his assessment of the situation in Africa; his incisive and clear exposition of the role of the black intellectual and academic; his standing as a pan-African theorist; his confidential missions for the African Liberation Committee of the Organization of African Unity all speak of his cultural attachment.
Rodney’s interaction with and location among a veritable who’s who of African leaders is no secret: Professor Ali Mazrui, Clive Thomas, CLR James, colleagues in the Dar es Salaam School (Tanzania, Africa), the James Group (London, UK) and the Institute of the Black World (Atlanta, USA), Julius Nyerere and his contemporaries in the OAU…the list is almost endless. That Rodney has earned a place among the pantheon of scholar activists such as W.E.B.Dubois, C. L. R. James, Marcus Garvey, George Padmore is undoubted.
“He invoked Dr Jagan’s, ignored Dr Rodney’s humanity.” Rodney the person, I did not know in any intimate manner, but I have no reason to doubt that he was warm, caring, humble, sincere, approachable, down to earth, et al. In fact, to suggest otherwise would be to go against all the evidence that exists. Among other things, his work in the ghettos of Kingston and his willingness to return to Guyana to fight against dictatorship and for the implementation of the new society as he envisioned it, testify to a person simultaneously caring, compassionate and humane.
Mr. Editor, I do not expect all and sundry to accept my perspectives. And I do expect individuals of the caliber of Dr. David Hinds to point out actual flaws and/or present alternate points of view. What I do not expect from David is the ferreting out of the two monsters: ‘us’ versus ‘them’ interpretation and ‘a racial bent’ in a narrative that sets out to ditch both. I suspect, however, that until we can begin to take people at face value rather than seeking to ferret out ulterior motives and biases where none exists, we will continue to dredge up these two monsters in each other’s narratives. I suppose though that given our collective historical experiences, accepting each other at face value is a destination only to be reached at the end of a long, hard road. Hopefully David will join with me in giving each other the benefit of the doubt as we collectively attempt this journey.
Published January 2, 2010
While I did expect the WPA to come out with guns blazing, given that the issues I raised had not been previously ventilated in the Guyana media, I did not expect the application of an apparently new analytic tool of ‘ferreting out’, aided by a synecdochic labeling, whereby parts of one’s writings are extrapolated to represent the entire thrust and/or are detached from their contextual moorings and then used to label the writer. Thus, for example, by seizing upon an explicitly straightforward letter and transforming it into a statement on race, then proceeding to framework the motiveless juxtapositioning of Cheddie Jagan and Walter Rodney into a paradigm on race, David Hinds provided scope for the bandwagon effect that avoided or skirted the issues I raised and instead focused on attacked the writer.
In any case while I reserve comment on David’s subsequent admission that he does take me at face value, I welcome and reciprocate his embrace of brotherhood. However, unless David and other WPA members and sympathizers are saying that its okay to place what has been said and written about the influence and impact of the PPP and Cheddie Jagan under the revisionist microscope but similarly treating the WPA and Walter Rodney is a sacrilege, then I do not see how my letter can be perceived as an assault on David’s collective place in the positive tradition of Guyana. By that logic the continual campaign to diminish and distort that, which I, and thousands of others, placed personal advancement on hold, to sustain and bring to fruition, also has to be seen as an assault on our collective place in the positive tradition of Guyana, unless the argument is that we don’t have a place because we did not have name recognition on par with David and the WPA intellectuals. Besides, how can critique of the PPP and Dr. Jagan be revisionism while a similar treatment of Dr. Rodney and the WPA is labeled ‘rewriting of history’? Or is it a case of different strokes for different folks?
Furthermore, my letter focused on two national leaders, both with international standing. It was David who reduced Dr. Jagan and Dr. Rodney to Indian and Black leaders. Yet it is David (and the WPA) who argues that Dr. Rodney was a multiracial leader. So which is it – a black leader or a multiracial leader? In short Mr. Editor, David Hinds and company end up being guilty of exactly what they accuse me, yet, not unexpectedly, they fail to see themselves as the pictures in the frames they build.
Mr. Editor, let me make it absolutely clear that I did not state or imply that in toto Dr. Rodney was not a great person or that he wasn’t influential in Guyana’s political culture at a particular conjuncture. My point is that his contributions in the context of Guyana’s politics, have assumed hyperbolic proportions across time, through the pens of WPA intellectuals even though, outside of the their assertions, the literature on Dr. Rodney makes scant reference to any enduring impact on the Guyanese political landscape. And these grandiose assertions do not stand up to scholarly scrutiny but rather seem to be premised on little more that the writers’ say-so, the implication being that their hyperbole should be unquestionably accepted as gospel. More importantly, anyone, who dares to challenge their conclusions, is automatically dubbed a racist and a PPP apologist or spin-doctor and any calls by such persons for a changed political culture is then deemed suspect.
So what are the issues I raised? As I previously pointed out, Dr. Rodney had returned to a socio-political landscape that had not been duplicated elsewhere in his experience and was quite different from the one he had departed in 1960. Thus his framework for change and progress was still evolving, when his life was tragically cut short. This has been confirmed by a source, who was also a WPA insider like David Hinds, and who pointed out that seasoned politicians like Kenneth Persaud and Eusi Kwayana had to help Dr. Rodney maneuver the complexities and nuances of Guyana’s political landscape.
Secondly, it is quite clear that while Dr. Rodney did have some strong supporters, and had excited the imagination of umpteen others, he could not have claimed political allegiance on the part of the great masses of the population across all ethnic groups, given the fact that he had not intensively and extensively crisscrossed the nation to have been able to personally connect with every community, nor was he allowed time to impact their collective consciousness. For example, according to very reliable sources, he held about four meetings on the entire Corentyne Coast. It seems that most of his efforts were concentrated in Georgetown and parts of Demerara. And, given the psycho-social and ethno-cultural nature of political loyalties in Guyana, would it really be accurate to conclude that Dr. Rodney, charisma and all, could so easily have swayed these loyalties on a mass scale? Eusi Kwayana, more than most, should know the difficulty of this endeavor.
Thirdly, I never stated or implied that Dr. Rodney was a violent person while Dr. Jagan was not. Instead, I proposed that Dr. Jagan’s rejection of armed violence was premised on his ideological analysis of the situation. This does not mean that the Marxist, Dr. Jagan, may not have considered using violence as a political strategy. In fact, I agree with Eusi Kwayana that Cheddi Jagan would have realized that a PPP call for an armed confrontation would have resulted in ethnic genocide of Indians given that the PNC held all the trump cards. And had Mr. Kwayana read Ravi Dev’s column, which I quoted, he would have known that mention was made of the lessons Dr. Jagan learnt from the sixties. In any case Mr. Editor, it is duplicitous of Mr. Kwayana to state “Dr Jagan and others had experienced four years of ethnic conflict in the sixties” without also stating who the others were.
Also, given that he was a Marxist revolutionary, it would be logical to deduce that Rodney’s analysis of the political situation and his consequent actions would also have been similarly premised and thus had nothing to do with whether he was a violent person. And, given Mr. Kwayana’s admission of Dr. Rodney’s call for ‘by any means necessary’, it would also seem logical that Dr. Rodney’s conclusions about the objective and subjective conditions may have been different from Dr. Jagan’s. However, to assert “that the only political figure who could call on the nation to remove the PNC by any means and not excite fears of racial violence among the people was Walter Rodney” is mere supposition. We do not know what such a call would have excited had it been allowed gestation time to imbue national consciousness. As it was, Dr. Rodney’s call made little stir beyond the confines of Georgetown. What we do know is that it was a relatively simple matter for the PNC to take Dr. Rodney out.
It is also worthy of note that Dr. Rodney was continually labeled a romanticist by Mr. Burnham, who was a shrewd judge of character, and who, some claim, assassinated Dr. Rodney not because of any perceived threat to his ‘throne’, but rather because of a deep seated personal animosity premised on Dr. Rodney’s constant belittling of Forbes Burnham. After all others had been murdered for far less. The simple fact, Mr. Editor, is that the real reason has gone to the grave and no single speculation can claim to have all the merit.
Also it was not Annan Boodram who deemed Walter Rodney to be politically naïve; rather it was CLR James. Yet those who jumped on my backs conveniently forgot to challenge CLR James’s conclusion. In any case, Rodney’s actions do seem to support Mr. James’ conclusion given that Dr. Rodney allowed himself to be so easily set up and murdered. Perhaps too the WPA may have played a part in this tragedy. To date no one within the WPA has been able to definitely say exactly what Dr. Rodney was up to when he was assassinated. Would it not therefore be logical to assume that Rodney trusted no one in the WPA to the extent that he would have fully shared his confidence? And perhaps that is why he did not use an intermediary, as any significant leader would have done? In fact, a very reliable source informed me that one of Dr. Rodney’s siblings did emphatically disclose to him that Dr. Rodney did not fully trust the WPA leadership.
Mr. Editor, I never claimed or implied that Dr. Rodney was a maximum leader or that his mission was to build a political entity that endured with viability; to lay down a policy/programme that was visionary or impactful or to establish a cadre of leaders that forged ahead with any degree of political success. I merely pointed out that these were some of the generally accepted indicators that reflect a political leader’s enduring influence and impact and in their absence such influence and impact would seem to be transient and personality centered. Yet the WPA and its intellectuals want to have their cake and eat it too! For while they consistently assert Dr. Rodney’s enduring influence and impact in the context of Guyana’s politics, they point to no markers, rhetoric (powerful, persuasive language and style) aside, by which this assertion can be validated. Furthermore, I never stated/implied that Dr. Rodney was focused on creating a legacy (most people do not deliberately set out to create legacies), but is a legacy (maximum leader or not) not a manifestation of enduring influence and impact?
Also, the assertions that I do not criticize the PPP or Dr. Jagan and that I raised up an Indian leader while I pulled down an African were answered in my second letter (Chronicle: 01/04/10), which also addressed David’s concerns regarding omissions I supposedly deliberately made in relation to Dr. Rodney. Besides, among my references were Dr. Rodney’s groundings, although one cannot help but wonder why such a positive concept as groundings would lead to Dr. Rodney’s expulsion from Jamaica. Furthermore, given the limitations under which he operated, did Dr. Rodney actually achieve any significant level of groundings (which, by the way, he did not precisely define) in Guyana? May I also point out that nowhere in my letter did I framework Dr. Rodney within the single leader concept, but can anyone seriously deny that Dr. Rodney stood head and shoulders above every other individual in the WPA leadership? Moreover, most of the characteristics that Nigel Westmaas itemized as reflective of Dr. Rodney’s difference – the promotion of scholarship that was not only qualitative, but “relevant” to active life; free classes et al – actually are not features singular to Rodney, in the context of Guyana’s politics, nor do they, by themselves, prove significant impact/influence, especially since none of them were pervasive or enduring.
In any case, to date, no one, David included, has offered any subsequent acknowledgement of the contents of my second letter (Chronicle: 01/04/10). To quote his request made in relation to Dr. Randy Persaud, will David Hinds now ‘have the proper decency’ to acknowledge his error and apologize?
Published January 26, 2010.
When I stated that the WPA floundered, flopped and flailed (SN: Dec 31, 2009), I was simply using an alliteration to emphasize the point that the WPA lost significant momentum with Dr. Rodney’s death. I did not imply that the WPA did nothing at all, but rather that it ceased to excite the imagination and regressed to just another one of the miniscule third parties that have dotted Guyana’s political landscape over the years. There were many reasons for this. The first was the fact that, in the words of a WPA insider (referenced in my previous letter), “everyone wanted to become Walter Rodney”, while the few individuals who continued to do organizational work were undermined by the others. Consequently, there was Intransigence and a breakdown of the nationwide organizational structure. Additional reasons for the WPA’s regression included the following: no large scale membership (Nigel Westmaas’ claim that the WPA “held an impressive multi-racial membership from Georgetown extending all the way to the Corentyne, and Amerindian communities in the interior” was not validated by the 1992 election results – unless the argument is that somehow the PPP was responsible for this lack of validation); very few, if any groups at the grass roots level; no mass base; no structured or far reaching propaganda machinery, lack of adequate financial resources and logistical capacity and, with one or two exceptions, ivory tower leaders who were more or less disconnected from the electorate, not having been imbued with Rodney’s ‘groundings’ capacity.
Incidentally, the WPA’s involvement in the PCD had nothing to do with its impact or influence but rather with fact that it existed and the PCD was an attempt to bring all the opposition movements together, regardless of how tenuous were their existence. And the fact that the WPA engaged in the activities adumbrated by Nigel Westmaas is not proof positive of impact and influence on any significant scale. Lesser organizations have organized on grander scales.
Now, in their rush to defend the grandiose assertions about the WPA, its intellectuals say that the WPA was not interested in elections. Indeed the original WPA may not have been. But what about the political party that resulted from the coalescing of that original UG based group with Moses Bhagwan, Eusi Kwayana, Brindley Benn and their respective groups as well the PPP splinter that included Kenneth Persaud and a few others, and that was joined by Dr. Rodney? After all, the raison d’etre for any political party is winning political power. And power is obtained either through the ballot box or the bullet. So is Nigel Westmaas saying that the WPA was focused on power through the bullet?
We are also told that the WPA never claimed that the crowds would translate into votes at elections. But a political party does not have to state the obvious expectation. Besides how else does a political party gauge its influence and impact if not by electoral support? And since one WPAite admitted that they expected a good showing at the elections (at least to hold the balance of power), on what was this expectation based? In any case, I never stated that the WPA expected the crowds of 1979-80 to translate into votes in 1992. Instead I simply asked why did its crowd attendance not translate into electoral support for the WPA at the 1992 elections? David’s assumption that I was referring to the Rodney crowds is an admission that post Walter Rodney WPA attracted no crowds to boast about at its public events, another indication that the WPA had regressed after Rodney.
Yet was it not this expectation of popular support that caused the WPA to hold on to an inflated self-image of its impact and influence, to extent that it felt that its proposal on the composition of the PCD slate should have been accepted by the PPP? So even though the WPA also rejected the various proposals of the PPP it attributed all blame for the failure of the PCD to the PPP. And even after it was blown away at the 1992 elections, the WPA still clutched its overblown self-image to the extent that it refused an invitation to join the PPP cabinet and then proceeded to express bitterness at the PPP for shunting it aside. In short, both pre and post 1992 the WPA’s self image colored its refusal to work towards common ground with the PPP. Yet all the blame was placed squarely at the door of the PPP, which simply negotiated on the basis of its strength, confirmed at the 1992 elections.
Incidentally, David Hinds disclosed that Cheddi Jagan was rejected as head of the PCD slate because he “would alienate African Guyanese voters”. Given its supposed impact and influence did the WPA not feel that its presence in the PCD would have negated that ‘alienation’?
Incidentally too, Mr. Editor, the WPA has always claimed to be a multiracial party. Yet the percentage of WPA leadership that was non-black was not significantly greater than the percentage of PPP leadership that was non-Indian or the percentage of PNC leadership that was non-black. Surely, the WPA couldn’t seriously argue that the coming together of Eusi Kwayana and Moses Bhagwan from opposite ends of the race spectrum indicated multiracialism? Additionally, the WPA could not have pointed to its membership or group composition to support this contention since neither was significant. And, as one WPA intellectual himself pointed out, the WPA was not mass based. So what was the basis for the WPA’s conclusion that it was a multiracial movement?
Now as they grapple with the contradiction between what is and what they claim, the WPA shouts to the rooftops that the PPP has marginalized them. But how could the PPP have marginalized a political movement, as influential and impactful as the WPA was, in the estimation of David Hinds, Eusi Kwayana, Abu Bakr, Nigel Westmaas and others? Surely they’re not suggesting that the WPA needed the PPP for validation? After all, after 25 years in the political wilderness, the PPP could not be marginalized by the PNC nor did it ever make such a claim!
Published January 31, 2010.
Mr. Editor, against overwhelming odds the PPP claimed and occupied political space during the Burnhamite years and it was this political space that enabled the WPA to find a niche. It was also this recognition of the PPP’s endurance that led Dr. Rodney to Dr. Jagan when the former first returned to Guyana. And, contrary to the assertions of WPA intellectuals and sympathisers, Dr. Rodney’s relationship with Dr. Jagan and the PPP remained cordial and based on mutual respect, until his tragic assassination. If Mr. Kwayana wants to be honest he would attest to this, although this attestation may be unlikely, given Mr. Kwayana’s strategy of attempting to sanitize aspects of his role in Guyana’s politics (SN: Jan 17 and Feb. 6) by according self-motives in studied retrospect, rather than frankly conceeding the time appropriate motives which were usually quite different, or by deeming to be one persona whereas his writings reveal another (see Ravi Dev: KN, Feb 7) while simultaneously spuriously recasting Dr. Jagan. Of particular significance are the mischievous insinuations inherent in the phrase “the question of Dr Jagan’s estate has been ignored”.
Incidentally Mr. Editor, Mr. Kwayana is being less than honest when, in reference to our appearance on New York’s WBAI Radio, he stated, “Regarding his question to me and my answer, I could not answer such a serious question in a soundbite or two. A proper answer, not so much for him but for the audience, would have meant leaving the mischievous book aside and expanding on another topic. Not only would the audience have been disappointed, but, I would have had to encroach on the time available to other panelists. It is the kind of answer the moderator could not fairly allow.” The facts are that Mr. Kwayana and I were the only two panelists, the author of the book declined to show up, the program ended up focusing on the WPA and the moderator did not disallow any aspect of the discussion. So Mr. Kwayana had the time and scope to tell us about the enduring political legacy of Dr. Walter Rodney in the context of Guyana’s politics, but there was not to much to tell, as borne out by his subsequent letter (SN: 01/17/10), in which his main thrust was to be condescending.
Also, contrary to the assertions of Mr. Kwayana and others, what I have done thus far is to analyze Rodney in context (although some of Mr. Kwayana’s WPA colleagues see context as a deliberately misleading ploy, while others seem confused as to what constitutes context) – the context being his sojourn on Guyana’s political landscape, which, as I pointed put elsewhere, does not negate his tremendous, multi-faceted accomplishments as a scholar, academic et al. Furthermore, my treatment of Dr. Jagan does not imply the opposite treatment for Dr. Rodney. For were this so then, by the same logic, the all positive accolades heaped on Dr. Rodney by David Hinds et al would also imply the opposite for Dr. Jagan, which would then parallel exactly what they accuse me of. Therefore I have to ask: how is mine an “attempt to turn Walter Rodney into someone in all respects unworthy”?
Additionally, it was and still is not my intention to compare Dr. Rodney and Dr. Jagan, although David and others ‘ferreted out’ this intent in my letter. In fact, I too postulate that Dr. Jagan and Dr. Rodney were not in competition and not opposed to each other but rather saw each other as allies in the common goal of returning Guyana to the democratic fold. However, the fact remains that their respective locations in the political milieu are still been sorted out and mine is simply another perspective in this endeavor, one that I’m willing to change if proven wrong on the basis of hard evidence as against simply being emotively characterized as wrong. Meanwhile, Mr. Editor, given that I, and others, have adjusted our perspectives on Dr. Jagan in the face of new evidence, in the same manner should not the WPA intellectuals and their erstwhile supporters adjust their perspectives on Dr. Rodney when they are unable to support such perspectives with nothing more than repetitive rhetoric?
Mr. Editor, this range of repetitive rhetoric, the fallacy of which have previously been pointed out, is typified by Peeping Tom, in his Kaieteur News column of January 29 headlined ‘Rodney was no Romanticist’. Denying that Rodney had to seek assistance from seasoned campaigners such as Kenneth Persaud and Eusi Kwayana to negotiate the nuances and complexities of a political landscape that was new and strange to him, Tom reproduced the worn out declaration, “that Rodney…hardly needed help in understanding the political dynamics of the country”. Tom conveniently ignored the WPA insider source which I quoted since he could not negate that source. And, of course, he offered no corroboration of his declaration.
After a series of such dangling assertions and denial of reality, all of which have been repeated ad nauseam over the years, Tom concluded, “The PPP has recognized Walter Rodney as a hero. It awarded him the country’s highest national honour, the Order of Excellence. So what are we to assume by all of that, that the PPP and Cheddi Jagan did not know what they were doing when they elevated Rodney to this standing?” Actually we don’t have to assume anything of that nature simply because this recognition was accorded to Rodney for his life’s works and achievements not for his brief (1974 to 1979) sojourn on Guyana’s political landscape. In effect this honor was not an acknowledgement that Rodney had has an enduring impact/influence on Guyana’s politics or bequeathed any substantive legacy therein, but rather that in toto, his accomplishments confer on him the status of an outstanding son of Guyana.
Additionally Mr. Editor, another ruse to offer supporting ‘proof’ of dangling assertions is the circular argument. Nigel Westmaas typifies this argument in his letter (SN: Feb. 6) headlined ‘Context Has Been Omitted’. For example he states, “Mr. Boodram likewise critiques Rodney’s “groundings” and wonders, “why such a positive concept of groundings would lead to Rodney’s expulsion from Jamaica.” Astonishingly, Boodram answers his own question without realizing. It was precisely the effect of Rodney’s groundings in Jamaica that led to the authorities’ refusal to allow him re-entry! His “positive” groundings among Rastafari and poor people of urban and rural Jamaica were too much for the state and he was banned.” The only valid conclusion anyone can derive from this astounding convolution is that the Jamaican authorities simply did not welcome positive activism aimed at enhancing the quality of people’s lives! Unless, of course, the argument is that the Shearer government did not see Rodney’s groundings as positive, in which case the question has to be asked: did Rodney possess exclusivity as to what was positive and life enhancing? After all attempts to actualize his political philosophy in real life situations got him banned from Jamaica and tragically led to his assassination in Guyana. Perhaps this is why CLR James declared that in relation to power, Dr. Rodney’s method of proceeding to that goal was wrong. Consequently, is it not logical to infer that a wrong methodology derives from a wrong understanding and a wrong analysis of the dynamics of power?
Even more confusing was Westmaas’ assertion that “Rodney, like others in the WPA, disdained the puffed up, restrictive intellectual outlook of the formal academy and was candid on the issue.” But did not the WPA emerge out of and remain rooted in the restrictive intellectual outlook of the formal academy? And were not the gestation and sustenance of the leading lights of the WPA, Dr. Rodney included, enveloped within similar settings? Also do not current WPA intellectuals, Westmaas included, continue to feast off the bounty of this formal academy? So where then are manifestations of the lessons taught and learnt?
Perhaps worse Mr. Editor, is the fact that some of my critics went beyond ‘ferreting out’, to actually attributing to my letters (SN: Dec 31, 2009; Jan 27, Feb 2, 2010) what was not even written. For example, one responder triumphantly declared, “Rodney did not alone launch or lead the WPA”. Yet nowhere in my letter did I even imply, much less state the opposite. Others stated that I referred to Dr. Jagan as Gandhi and a saint, and by implication to Dr. Rodney as a demon. The fact, however, is that my precise point, that Dr. Jagan was seen by the mass of his supporters as Bapu, a la Gandhi (an ethno cultural connection), has been verified by Mr. Eusi Kwayana. Would Mr. Kwayana agree that this perception of or any of his other laudatory references to Dr. Jagan automatically conferred demonic status on Rodney?
Also Mr. Editor, some WPA supporters/sympathizers attempt to rebut valid argumentation by referencing each other. Thus one responder exclaimed, ‘Those Who Were Around Rodney Can Bear Witness’. However, all that those who were around Rodney have done is either contradict each other, repeat grandiloquent assertions as if their say so transformed such assertions into facts, employ questionable analytic tools such as ‘ferreting out’ and reading what they want to see rather than what is actually written, attribute ulterior motives to what I (and others) write in order to denigrate the messenger in lieu of addressing the message or engage in dubious tactics such as circular argumentation and doublespeak. One example of doublespeak – one yardstick for the WPA and Dr. Rodney, another for others – is that while I am on record as being critical of both Dr. Jagan and the PPP over time, neither Dr. David Hinds nor any other WPA supporter/sympathizer has found anything to be critical of the WPA and Dr. Rodney. Would Dr. Walter Rodney have agreed that he was infallible?
Published February 11, 2010.