It is an accepted fact that politics in Guyana is defined and shaped by race; political parties are race based. But whereas in the recent past, a party, like the PPP, for example, could win an election because of race arithmetic was in its favour, this is no longer the case as the latest census reveals. Multi-racial or multi-party coalition is the only road to government. It is also the right course of politics in Guyana because no party or no race should dominate the others. The PPP, indeed all the parties, must pursue multi-ethnic alliances to win an election. Racial tokenism (such as appointing representatives of the various groups to feign multi-racialism) as happened under both the PNC and PPP will not work. There must be genuine inter-party or racial alliances – shared power.
The PNC-led APNU has coalesced and was successful at the last election. The PPP needs to follow a similar strategy to improve its chances at the next election. To promote racial healing and national unity, all the opposition forces (old political and ideological rivals) must come together. But there seems to be resistance from the PPP leadership.
It is understood from PPP sources that a multi-party alliance does not find favour among all members of the executive, some of whom fear their own loss of influence and title in the party should the party go down that road. These individuals are not concerned about nation, supporters, and the future of the party, but themselves. They fail to recognize that without a real multi-party or multi-racial alliance, the PPP will find it difficult, if not impossible, to win. Besides, a multi-racial or multi-party alliance is best for the divided country to bring people together; that is a prerequisite for national development.
The old timers in the PPP have to stop seeing about an alliance amounting to a deviation from the core values of communism, as was the thought during the 1970s and 1980s when some PPPites crossed over to the PNC because that was where the soup was flowing. The old timers have to recognize that communism got it removed from power three times already, and will keep it out of power for years to come unless the party moves to the centre and starts making alliances with other forces regardless of ideology. If the PNC and AFC can come together, why can’t the PPP form an alliance with other democratic or right-of-centre forces? In several countries, right and left have come together, as indeed have enemies, for the greater good of the country. During the struggle for the restoration of democracy in Guyana, right and left embraced each other. Such an alliance, even where a political outfit has token support, is needed now more than ever because one party or one race dominance must come to an end. The PNC coalesced with parties whose support can be counted on one hand, but such an alliance helped the PNC’s image eventually vaulting it into office with an alliance with AFC and its Indian base.
The PPP needs to recognize that embracing other political forces is not a betrayal of hard core communist or Marxist or Leninist or Maoist principles, and, in fact, is in complete consonance with political goals, empowering the middle, professional, lower and working classes of the society. Besides, ideological purity will not get the PPP very far as it found in its history since 1950 – being thrown out of office three times on account of its unnecessary fight with the US and Britain. In addition, the PPP is facing an unprecedented crisis in terms of both strategy and tactics to win office. There has been significant erosion of its electoral ethnic base as also its political influence that migrated to the AFC because it was neglected and abused by some PPP leaders. Every time the PPP attacked the US and Britain it lost support. The elections in 2011 and 2015 saw diminishing returns marking an electoral decline for the PPP. Also, the party lacks attractive candidates to win the next election on its own.
Now that the PPP’s return to office and its very future are at stake, ideological purity (adherence to and deviation from) should not be a priority. Multi-racial and multi-party unity should be its focus. It was in pursuit of the same ideological purity that saw the PPP overthrown in 1953 and 1964 and kept the party out of office for 28 years. There is nothing wrong with allying with ‘bourgeois’ forces for the greater good of the country. In Italy, France, Greece, UK, India, Finland, Sweden, etc, the left teamed up with the right. In Guyana, the left wing WPA allied with the party that is accused of killing its leader, Dr Rodney. The TUF had collaborated with the PPP between 2006 and 2011. At one time, the PPP was willing to tie up with the WPA, DLM, TUF, URP and PDM to get into government. Dr Jagan put together an alliance in 1992 embracing bourgeois forces to get into office. So what is the problem with seeking a similar alliance now?
If the PPP leadership were to traverse the ground, they will find that grass-roots supporters and the professional classes want the PPP to form a multi-force alliance joining hands to face up to an existential threat from a common opponent. This issue of an alliance also matters for the larger polity because of complaints about the militarization of the state, among other things. These and other reasons should be sufficient to settle the debate on the necessity of a broad united front. Majoritarian politics or one party rule must come to an end. Parties must be willing to join forces in contesting elections to address the serious racial division facing our nation.