JUNE 13th marked 38 years since Dr. Walter Rodney’s death. There will be conversations of the goodness of this man, what he fought for and wanted for Guyana and Guyanese, presented more to refashion an image that is contrary to his actual praxis. Dr. David Hinds, one of the leading promoters of this re-making, has been doing exactly that over the last two Sundays in his Kaieteur News’ column.
Though Dr. Rodney proudly proclaimed his Marxist belief, an ideology that also advocates forceful overthrow of governments, some Rodneyites would want it to be believed he did not support such thinking and action. In his last Sunday column, Dr. Hinds made use of the term “political violence” to address Dr. Rodney’s praxis, but did not delve into the subject. In the meantime, society has the benefit of Dr. Rodney’s praxis on this subject from one of his closest confidants and only co-leader, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine.
In 2010 Dr. Roopnaraine said “We [the WPA] were accumulating weapons…we were accumulating equipment of various kinds. A certain amount of that was coming from the military” (‘WPA has been accumulating weapons prior to Rodney’s death’-SN: September 19, 2010). He also publicly said the party was responsible for burning down the Ministry of Mobilisation and National Development during the People’s National Congress (PNC) government.
If there was no belief in violence, why was such action practised during and under Dr. Rodney’s direct leadership? Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through non-violent measures created political tsunamis that resulted in the transformation of their societies, though regrettably their lives were snuffed out through violence. These men were fighting systems that were of the most oppressive- colonialism and denial of civil rights. In Guyana it was political rivalry for the control of government, aided by propaganda (fake news) to justify forceful removal from and entry into office.
It is said Dr. Rodney “rejected the superficial unity embraced by the PPP and the PNC, such as ethnic tokenism and multi-ethnic rhetoric” (Hinds, KN: 10 June 2018). Yet this remains the identity of the WPA. Dr. Roopnaraine retains the record of being the only East Indian in the party’s co-leadership structure. The African record is held by Bro. Eusi Kawayana and Drs. Clive Thomas and Rodney.
The WPA remains the only party presenting itself as a major force that never held an election to elect its leadership, who have all been anointed/appointed. This gives rise to doubt that the party truly believes in electoral democracy and can make genuine claim it fought for it on a national scale.
The oft-repeated Dr. Rodney’s interest in “multi-ethnicity” is tied only to East Indians and Africans –their presence and role in the body politic and leadership. Consequently, it is reasonable to ask if the role of other races mattered or conclude they never mattered to him.
Marxism also believes in a closed society which would have implications for private media ownership. How does this juxtapose with our present state, started by President Desmond Hoyte, living in an open society and the private sector having a role in media? What would have been Dr. Rodney’s position given his hardcore ideological persuasion and which by the West’s standards he was deemed among the most extreme of the politicians of his time, with Mr. Forbes Burnham seen as the least?
Society is still to be told by the WPA of Dr. Rodney’s PPP upbringing/association and where his parents and siblings remained. How has this shaped his life and what was/were his reasons for leaving, if he ever did leave?
Dr. Hinds argued (KN, 3 June 2018) that Dr. Rodney represents the best of us. What does this mean? Does this take into consideration his academic brilliance and pursuits which are goals every parent/family holds? Dr. Rodney was fortunate to win scholarships to higher educational pursuits, though it must not be ignored he was of the time when education was not universal and girls and the poor were left behind. Does the best refer to the political? On this Dr. Rodney can claim “groundings” with the dispossessed in Jamaica and the Jamaica government deeming him a threat to the society, resulting in him being persona non grata. Tanzania also found this “groundings” undesirable. Locally, Dr. Rodney wanted to form a ‘national front government’ that excluded the PNC, which meant the party’s supporters, members and leaders. How national is this or representing the best of us?
The saintly remaking of Dr. Rodney’s image has to explain the above. Having the “belief” of his ‘goodness’ or anything for that matter absent validation/corroboration will not suffice. It could also be said given Dr. Rodney’s academic acclaim he would have valued the integrity route to validating the ‘saint theory,’ as against making up stories to support it. True academics find the non-academic approaches to proving any theory discomfiting.