Friday, June 19, 2009

David Hinds and history

David Hinds and history
June 19, 2009 | By knews | Filed Under Letters

Dear Editor,
David Hinds, a trained political scientist, displays a particular narrative of Guyana and its recent political history that is alarmingly shallow and downright deceptive. (Letters to Kaieteur News, June 5 and SN, June 6).
In arguing that the PPP should apologise to Guyanese, in response to my recent article in the Mirror and Chronicle on the subject of a PNC apology, facts which do not fit into his narrative are conveniently ignored in order to maintain his warped version of history that the PPP is responsible for ethnic/political divisions in Guyana.
Let’s just take one such fact. He accuses the PPP of turning its back on ethnic unity by abandoning the Patriotic Coalition for Democracy (PCD) in 1992. Prior to those landmark elections, discussions broke down within the PCD as to who should be, or from whence should come, the presidential candidate.
The PPP then decided to field its own candidate and list. Notwithstanding, the PPP invited Professor Clive Thomas to be Cheddi Jagan’s running mate. The WPA, Dr. Hinds’s party, rejected the offer and, further, rejected Cheddi Jagan as a presidential candidate. Thereafter the PPP approached the GUARD Movement and Sam Hinds was asked. The question is, why in his diatribe against the PPP, he completely ignores this history and the potential of a Clive Thomas Prime Ministership and what a PPP/WPA alliance would have meant for the future of Guyana.
Dr. Hinds teases out of the historic woodwork a haphazard patchwork of obscure or unknown events. The “offer” of the “communist” Cheddi Jagan’s to Mr. Eusi Kwayana, then Sydney King, of the chairmanship of the Party, while accompanied by a “capitalist,” clearly of Indian ancestry, is one of Dr. Hinds’s offerings. The PPP at that time was not a “communist” party but a broad alliance with across the board ideological persuasions. But Kwayana was still in the Party in April, 1957, with these “capitalist” or “bourgeois” types when he issued a strong statement against Burnham. This was long after the Party Congress in September 1956 when the chairmanship issue arose and which Jagan explains differently. He did not leave with the Carters and Westmaas in 1956.
But most startling is Dr. Hinds’s twist to a Burnham ruse of trying to break the solidarity of the PPP African leadership by proposing Kwayana as the “compromise” candidate. Hinds said that Mr. Kwayana “turned down the position of leader and the opportunity to become Premier in 1953 so that Jagan could prevail.” Whether or not Kwayana would have obtained across the board support, he was a committed leader of the left and would not have, and did not allow himself, to be baited. Dr. Hinds fails to give credit to Kwayana for his principled leadership and integrity and seeks to personalise the issue as between Jagan and Kwayana.
In any case these anecdotes and circumstances in the cut and thrust of politics, though probably important at a personal level and weave into the broader historical tapestry, are converted by Dr. Hinds into substantive historical data which are poured into his paradigmatic framework, with a heavy dose of polemical bile and, hey presto, out pops the PPP, ethnically driven. Dr Hinds seeks to “prove” that although Jagan “owed” Kwayana, he displayed ingratitude to him and thus initiated ethnic divisions. The truth is that it was not until 1957 that Kwayana fell out with the PPP. The general elections of that year, in which the PPP and PNC squared off against each other for the first time, were for that reason and not surprisingly, the first ethnically divisive elections in Guyana; and that’s where it started, not when Keith Carter was expelled and Martin Carter and others followed him out of the PPP in 1956. Space does not permit me to deal with more of the arguments that Dr. Hinds’s deployed to “prove” his case. Many have been answered in the past. But the most glaring omission is the PPP’s proposal in 1977 for a National Patriotic Front Government as a means to end ethnic/political divisions.
I believe that academics have a duty to be accurate and thorough and try to avoid using anecdotal history or flawed analyses to defend, promulgate and sustain prejudices. This is the minimum standard we should observe in this month of June, the 29th Anniversary of the assassination of Walter Rodney, Guyana’s revered son, historian and partisan of a united working people, who collaborated closely with the PPP in his lifetime and was as fully acquainted with its history as Dr. Hinds. He would have been appalled at Dr. Hinds’s conclusion that from the 1950s “the PPP has proved to be the ultimate barrier to ethnic unity and nationhood in Guyana.”
There is no way that a person of Dr. Rodney’s political integrity would have associated with a Party such as the PPP in the 1970s, had he subscribed to Dr. Hinds’s conclusions.
Guyana is a society with large minorities and, like most such societies, it faces political/ ethnic problems that are difficult and can even be intractable. They require enlightened, fair and constructive analysis. Dr. Hinds unfortunately prefers a subjective, tendentious and accusatory approach that seeks to sustain one side of a narrative of historical guilt that adds nothing to serious debate in Guyana.
Ralph Ramkarran

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