It was Burnham’s brand of cooperative socialism which brought ruination to the country

Dear Editor,

I welcome Mr Rashleigh Jackson’s letter published in Stabroek News of June 2 (‘What programmes would Dr Jagan have pursued in Guyana as a socialist?’).  I had hoped that his ideological skirmishes in respect of Dr Jagan’s economic and developmental prowess would have triggered some polemical exchanges within our society. But alas, this did not come to pass save for one solitary response which was too general.

The Former Foreign Minister claimed that it was not his intention to “get embroiled in a debate” between me and Mr Clarke. I respectfully suggest that by adopting this approach Mr. Jackson sought to sidestep, or rather, implicitly support Mr. Clarke’s efforts at re-writing history. That is precisely the approach that gave rise to my challenge to Mr Clarke. Mr Clarke is entitled to his own interpretation of the events at that time  but he cannot lay claim to his own facts. My challenge to Mr Clarke should be seen in a much wider historical, political/ideological context and not simplistically, as a “Rohee-Clarke debate” as suggested by Mr Jackson.

Secondly, Mr Jackson, is wrong when he claimed that I sign my letters as ‘ex’ this and ‘ex’ that. On the contrary, depending on which of the three portfolios I once held as a cabinet minister, I would always sign as ‘former Minister’  of the corresponding portfolio. As regards letters to the editor not carrying the appendage ‘former General Secretary of the PPP,’ it is because such letters reflect my own personal views and not necessarily those of my party.

In respect of the nub of the matter raised by Mr Jackson as to the reason for Burnham and Jagan parting ways, the fact is that the national movement was split in 1955 and it was that split that eventually led to the establishment PNC. Splits in national movements are commonplace due to the broad nature of their ideological and social composition. Political opportunism, red carpet fever and the divisive political praxis of external forces are contributory factors in this regard.

Splits in national movements are known to have occurred in India and national liberation movements in Africa, in a number of communist and workers’ parties in Europe as well as social democratic, conservative and liberal parties around the world. Splits should be seen as a natural process in the evolution of broad-based, mass political parties. Both the splitters and the traditionalists usually have their distinctive perspectives as regards the genesis of the split and those perspectives would last for generations into the future.

According to Mr Jackson, “The real question to be considered now is what programmes Dr. Jagan intended to pursue in Guyana as a socialist if he had the opportunity?” Mr Jackson made reference to Premier Jagan’s meeting with President Kennedy in 1961 which is to be found at page 537 of Volume XII, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963 , American Republics. In the same volume, at pages 596-601,  the answer to his own question is to be found.

Thus the programmes Dr Jagan would have pursued in Guyana as a socialist if he had had the opportunity included proceeding with a hydro-electric economic feasibility topographic and geological survey at Tiger Hill; Demerara East Bank Highway development; Ebini agricultural area support to UN soil survey ‒  preplanning of land settlements ‒ water conditions; economic study of New Amsterdam; architectural study for outpatients clinic for Georgetown hospital.

In addition, an application for a development loan was made to finance road and drainage irrigation projects and the construction of an interior road from Parika to Lethem.

Further, economic assistance had been sought for a land reclamation project: the Tapacuma Drainage and Irrigation Scheme; purchase of  rice milling equipment ‒ cleaning, drying and storage; increasing domestic savings and applying the said savings to productive investment; development programmes laying stress on improving the quality of life of  people, for example by expenditure on education and training, and increasing the stock of physical capital; seeking markets or capital equipment wherever they may be obtained most advantageously; safeguarding the fundamental rights in our present Constitution and in the Constitution of an independent Guyana and to provide adequate protection for private property.

These are but a few of the programmes Dr Jagan intended to pursue in an independent Guyana. He had outlined them in his letter to President Kennedy dated April 16, 1963.

As Guyana’s Permanent Representat-ive to the United Nations,  Mr Jackson was in the midst of the political stirrings at the time when the  Declaration at Sophia (1974),  heralding the policy of ‘party paramountcy’ was adopted. That declaration preceded the promulgation of the I980 Constitution which resulted from a rigged referendum held in place of general elections in 1978.

I make this point to demonstrate that since Mr Jackson sought to enquire into the pursuance  of socialist programmes in a post-independent Guyana it is incumbent upon him to examine that phenomenon in its totality and not from a blinkered perspective focusing only on Dr Jagan.

Mr. Jackson is aware that subsequently, his party erroneously wrote into the 1980 Constitution that Guyana was at a stage of “transition from capitalism to socialism.” Consequently, it was in pursuance of programmes under Mr Burnham’s brand of ‘cooperative socialism’ that brought ruination and untold suffering to our country and its people.

Yours faithfully,

Clement J Rohee