Last Updated on Friday, 17 November 2023, 9:50 by Denis Chabrol
General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday rejected suggestions that his party has abandoned its working-class platform and has instead become one of small-scale businessowners, in stark contrast to his own party’s dogma that names the “petite bourgeoisie” as one of three enemies.
While he said the removal of Marxism-Leninism from the party’s constitution is a matter for congress, he signaled strongly that those references are not in keeping with aim of fighting poverty and creating wealth for the working class. “We want to work for people to get into the middle class and get wealthy so if any ‘ism’ any ‘ism’ whatsoever is inconsistent with that, it cannot continue to be the prevailing philosophy of our party, cannot,” he said.
“That’s a question for Congress,” he said when asked by Demerara Waves Online News. Asked whether he would advocate the erasure of Marxism-Leninism from the PPP’s constitution, he remarked that, “I have my positions and I am not going to, in the public domain, explore this.” The PPP has not held a congress, its highest decision-making body, since December, 2016.
The PPP’s Constitution states that that party “is guided by Marxism-Leninism, the ideology of the working class and is organised on the basis of democratic centralism.” Article 5, dealing with the rights and duties of members, states that “all party members shall undertake continuous study so as to improve their political knowledge and their understanding of Marxism-Leninism. To this end, they shall study and distribute party publications and other appropriate literature.” The functions of the PPP party groups include agitating and struggling for the promotion and acceptance of Marxist-Leninist principles and party policies” as well as “educate members in Marxism-Leninism and in a spirit of dedication and loyalty to the party and its policies.” Then PPP member, Khemraj Ramjattan had in the mid-1990s run afoul of leading members of that party for advocating the removal of Marxism-Leninism from the youth arm’s constitution.
In January, 2023, during a meeting with business executives, Vice President Jagdeo had, on reflecting on when the private sector had asked government to find a scheme to discourage foreign companies from taking away their already trained Guyanese workers by paying them more, stated that “they wanted us to find some way of keeping those people in serfdom…He has a right. It’s a free country. You have to train more. That’s the reality of living in a capitalist, free market system. People want vestiges of socialism still to hang on to people.”
That is in contrast to the PPP’s Handbook for Groups and Party Bodies that states “capitalism and imperialism are very dangerous”, “backward customs and traditions are the second economy because they put hidden obstacles in the way of the revolution and the “third enemy is individualism, petty bourgeoise ideology that still persists in everyone of us. It is waiting for a chance to raise its head. It is an aly of the two above-mentioned enemies.”
Dismissing a recent Stabroek News editorial that the PPP had become a petite bourgeoisie, Mr Jagdeo said his political organisation does not care about ideological “isms” but about improving human development. “We will continue to work to create more petite bourgeoisies in this country because that’s why we’re promoting small business development,” he said. He indicated that historically the PPP has recognised the role of the private sector and was responsible for the development of Guyana’s first industrial estate.
Mr Jagdeo, a former Soviet Union-trained economist, said since coming to power in 1992, the PPP has created a number of middle-class tiers. He also shrugged off the Stabroek News editorial position that the PPP administration has been rewarding supporters with scholarships, focussing on highway developments rather than a light rail and publicly owned transportation.
The PPP Handbook for Groups and Party Bodies states that “the PPP, like all communist parties, is the revolutionary vanguard of the working class and its aims and tasks are to lead the working class, firstly, to political victory and, secondly, to the building of socialism.”
The People’s National Congress (PNC) that had initially profiled itself as pro-business eventually took Guyana through the socialist experiment from the 1970s to around 1985 when its founder-leader, Forbes Burnham, died, Months later, his successor rapidly switched to a market-oriented economy and had embraced International Monetary Fund and World Bank-led Economic Recovery Programme. That programme was broadly adopted and modified in some ways by the PPP which won the 1992 general elections that were widely regarded as the first free and fair polls in almost 30 years.