June 13, 2018 is exactly thirty-eight years since Walter Rodney was assassinated by the PNC regime. It is a very significant anniversary, since Rodney would have been dead as long as he lived, thirty-eight years.
Yet, this young man’s life is still remembered by ordinary people thirty-eight years after he died. He is being remembered because of the life that he lived, the contribution he made to the cause of the oppressed in Guyana, the Caribbean, Africa and the world.
Walter Rodney was not just a substantial intellectual. He was recognized as a very powerful historian and his works on Africa’s history have become classics. The difference with Rodney and most of the other intellectuals was that he was an activist. Theory and practice went hand in hand. He was not an armchair general.
He was an advocate of Black Power and was deeply concerned and moved by the plight of working people in Africa and the diaspora.
However, he was not a racist. In his application of Black Power to the Caribbean he was completely inclusive, it was for him all the oppressed peoples. He was one who advocated and worked for unity of the working people. This was seen in his approach to the Guyanese situation in particular and to the Caribbean more generally.
I have had the privilege to have heard many of the speeches he made when he returned to Guyana in 1974. I must have heard most of those delivered in Georgetown.
To me he was probably the only African Guyanese leader, outside of the PPP/Civic, to have consistently carried a line for unity of all working people. He never sought to use his obvious standing in society to put one race against the other. His intellectual integrity and honesty always came through in his every presentation
This is where he stood head and shoulders above his colleagues.
Indeed, I have noted elsewhere he stood alongside Cheddi Jagan in the politics, in both content and form, that he advocated. Honesty and sincerity are the hallmarks of this politics.
That is why he took a strong position against the PNC regime. He stood for justice. He did not just blindly idolize black people. He also made a distinction between oppressors and oppressed in that group as well.
His disdain for the PNC dictatorship was marked. He was truly saddened and moved by the way the PNC used race to mislead African Guyanese and to make the Black working people develop hostility to the Indian working people. This was most manifested in his active support for Arnold Rampersaud, a PPP activist, who was framed with a murder charge.
It also came through clearly in his solidarity with the sugar workers strike in 1977.
Today, we are observing his life’s work at a time when the gains we have made are being once again lost as the PNC-led APNU regime has taken up where the PNC left off.
In one of his speeches, published in the book; ‘Walter Rodney Speaks’, he said, referring to the PNC regime; … what the new African dominated Guyanese state is trying to do is to ensure that some areas are closed off as preserves for the African section of the petite bourgeoisie…”.
Once more we are seeing racism being used as a policy of the state under this APNU+AFC regime. Discrimination is a tool of promoting and keeping people divided.
The PNC, now APNU, has not lost its hate of Walter Rodney.
One of the first things it did in 2015 was to halt the International Commission of Inquiry into the assassination of Rodney. Not much more was left to be done, but they stopped it.
Many of Rodney’s ex-comrades, who still pay lip service to his work, have become the new oppressors.
Some of them even, very skillfully, try to show him as a violent person. Now we are being told he was amassing arms. The message here is that Burnham had a right to kill him.
In March of 1980, Walter Rodney, Eusi Kwayana and Rupert Roopnaraine held a press conference in which they handed out two documents. One claimed that the PNC took delivery of weapons from the Guyana Defence Force on behalf of the House of Israel and the other claimed that orders for the assassination of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) members had been made.
In that same press conference they all denied the allegations that the WPA was engaged in a conspiracy of violence.
What was really happening was the PNC was preparing a case to assassinate Rodney. The propaganda was being used to poison the Guyanese people’s minds to prepare them for June 13, 1980. Unfortunately, the comments of Rupert Roopnaraine recently have given some credibility to the nasty propaganda that the PNC used against his party at that time.
The PNC racist element will never forgive Rodney. They are victims of their own propaganda. His unmasking of the PNC racism was done clinically and the racial card they used against the PPP was ineffective against him.
Rodney’s life was short but meaningful and productive. He will always be remembered as a champion of the poor and powerless. His all-round intellectual work sought to liberate the minds of colonial peoples generally and Black peoples in particular.
His message to the African Guyanese masses today would most likely have been to urge them not to be used by the PNC again to go against their own interests for racial satisfaction.
Instead, to unite with all progressive and democratically-minded Guyanese to halt the drift to dictatorship and give dignity to all our people.