PPP set to erase Marxism-Leninism, socialism from party constitution; Ramkarran says retaining “democratic centralism” prevents one delegate-one vote

Last Updated on Sunday, 5 May 2024, 16:14 by Writer

The People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) is Sunday expected to approve a motion, sponsored by Dr Irfaan Ali’s party group at Leonora, to remove all references to Marxism-Leninism and socialism from that party’s constitution.

When contacted on Saturday, Dr Ali told Demerara Waves Online News that, “The Leonora group and all other resolutions will be considered at the appropriate time at the Congress. The Congress will discuss all proposed resolution and decide,” he said. Demerara Waves Online News was told that resolutions for constitutional amendments would be considered on Sunday.

Most references to that ideological mix are expected to be replaced with the concept of the “working class” which PPP General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo stressed at the public opening of his party’s long-overdue 32nd Congress being held at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre. “This party has had one ideology from its beginning: a working class ideology, a working class ideology that is reflected in our constitution,” he said, adding that the preamble of that document refers to political and ideological pluralism, political democracy, cultural diversity and racial equality.

More than one year ago, Mr Jagdeo had remarked that, “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.”

According to the PPP’s Leonora Group’s motion, several references to “Marxism-Leninism” “our Party’s founding principles, political philosophy, core values, history, struggles, and achievements” and “socialist” with “just and equitable”.

Delegates are also being asked to approve the proposed replacement of two provisions of the preamble. The first replacement reads that “The Party’s strategic objective is to create a fair and equitable society. This objective will find expression in the establishment of a national democratic state, will embrace political and ideological pluralism, political democracy, cultural diversity, racial equality, and a mixed economy. Such a state, with a multi-ethnic and multi-class plural government, will fight to prevent foreign domination of any kind and to preserve the full democratic rights of the people.”

The second proposed replacement reads: “The People’s Progressive Party is guided by the ideology of the working class. The Party will ensure that the primary objective of its policies and programmes is to improve the lives of working people, the poor, and the dispossessed. This shall be achieved through a pro-poor approach to economic growth and development. Further, the Party will be organized on the basis of Democratic Centralism which is in line with the democratic principle of majority rule.”

Writing in the Stabroek News column, ‘Conversation Tree’, former PPP Executive Committee member, Ralph Ramkarran criticised the intended retention of Democratic Centralism rather than introduce a system of appointing members of the Central and Executive Committees through a system of one delegate-one vote. “Democratic centralism’ facilitates a tight grip on the election process. It is contradictory to remove ‘Marxism-Leninism’ from the constitution but retain the Stalinist construct of ‘democratic centralism.’ The ‘democratic centralist’ core, the executive committee, the jobs of whose members depend on one or two persons, would still effectively determine the presidential candidate,” said Mr Ramkarran.

The constitution of the once left-leaning PPP that was co-founded by Dr Cheddi and Janet Jagan in 1950 states that that party “is guided by Marxism-Leninism, the ideology of the working class and is organised on the basis of democratic centralism.” Further, the PPP’s 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.”

Persons familiar with the PPP’s historical and ideological evolution believed that move to remove Marxism-Leninism and socialism from their party’s constitution was aimed at satisfying the United States (US), Guyana’s major trading, investor and national security sector partner. “They want to keep the US close to them. I don’t think the US told them to do it but I think they are anticipating what the Americans want,” said a party official who is familiar with the international arena.

They said Marxism-Leninism provides the basis for greater participation of workers in the management of industries and other workplaces so that they could play integral roles in the production relations. “It is not that socialism failed, as some people would say, but we didn’t put in the institutional mechanism to bring in the working class more closer to the centre of power by educating them in the hope that they will eventually be able to play a bigger role until they will be able to take over control of things,” said a now inactive PPP member who opted not to attend Congress.

Then PPP Executive member, Khemraj Ramjattan had in the 1990s faced stiff opposition to his efforts to expunge references to Marxism-Leninism in the Progressive Youth Organisation’s constitution and he had been accused of playing up to the Americans.