This month marks the 68 years since the formation of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP). The party was founded on January 1, 1950 under the leadership of Dr Cheddi Jagan, who served as General Secretary, his wife Janet and Forbes Burnham, who was Chairman.
This year also is the centenary year of the late Dr Jagan who was born on March 22, 1918. Indeed, the PPP as a political institution is organically linked to the ideas and philosophy of Dr Jagan which by and large continues to influence and shape the thinking of the PPP until this day.
It is to the credit of Dr Jagan and the party he founded, that in just over three years of its formation the party won a landslide victory in the elections of 1953, the first under universal adult suffrage. The PPP won 18 out of 24 seats and continued to win all elections from then on until it lost office in 1964, thanks to the intrigues of Anglo-American vested interests in collaboration with local reactionary forces which included the PNC and the United Force.
What transpired after that is now history and represented a break from competitive electoral politics based on the Westminster model of majoritarian rule. From 1968 the PNC rigged all elections until democracy was finally restored to the country on October 1992 which once again was decisively won by the PPP.
There are some who attributed the success of the PPP to race politics which, they argued gave the PPP a competitive advantage at the polls by virtue of a predominant Indian base. This, however, masks some fundamental characteristics of the PPP among which is the working class orientation of the party and its embrace of an ideology that transcends the narrow confines of race and religion.
It is this universalistic appeal of the PPP that is responsible for the party enjoying the confidence of the Guyanese right across the ethnic and religious spectrum of the society. The PPP is the largest multi-ethnic party in Guyana with significant Amerindian and Afro-Guyanese support in addition to its core Indo-Guyanese support base. This is why any discussion on inclusive governance, national unity and social cohesion cannot ignore this fundamental reality.
This is by no means an attempt to downplay race as an important variable in our national politics. It is merely an attempt to refocus attention away from ethno-culturalism determinism to one that is more class-oriented where the working and living conditions of all Guyanese regardless of race or ethnicity must be placed at the centre of our developmental agenda. All Guyanese look forward to the good life and it is the duty and responsibility of the government to ensure that its policies and programmes are reflective of this fundamental truth.