Rodney: On Organising
Photo : Ravi Dev
ROAR of Ravi Dev
Thirty-eight years ago, Dr Walter Rodney was assassinated when he was just thirty-eight. While we thought he was too optimistic on the potential for socialism to eradicate racism, and even more so about including Indians in the Caribbean under the banner of “Black Power” in 1969, we still believe the proposal be made the following year on organising Guyanese Indians and Africans, was most realistic. We published it several times since 1998, hoping for a positive responsive from African Guyanese activists. Without success.
Dr. Rodney said: “Let us take the fact that, over the last decade, Indians and Africans, in Guyana, have been at one another’s throats, for a variety of reasons, internal and external, and that there is a tremendous amount of ill-will and suspicion, on both sides; let us take that fact. Now some people deny this and talk about racial harmony, but it isnot so. It may be submerged, but it is there; it has to be there: the system ensures that. But what can we do about it? I feel that there are at least two levels at which one must try to organise against the prevailing condition of racial antagonism.
One must organise within the African community, within the Indian community, too, to build different forms of consciousness, different types of social bases, which will ultimately be the form of a new State, and simultaneously, one must begin to find effective revolutionary integrative mechanisms, both organisational and ideological, in terms of people, purely and simply, people, you know, as contributors to the new concept of group consciousness, group power, as for example, like putting six persons. Three Africans, three Indians, not just in form of a symbolic show (they have, of course, to be ideologically consistent and so on), but putting them in a meaningful, nationally-powerful position of leadership, and as a unit.
Now, you have at the second level, to begin to indicate what you would like the society to be like, what that unit should be about, because, if you organise separately, this may well be construed by each group as something exclusive ands hostile. So, you have, at the same time, while doing that bringing together, which is historically necessary, to produce the integrative mechanisms, and act in the kind of fashion, and use the kind of language which makes it clear to the other group (let’s say the African and the Indian are the main groups) what the national aims are, what the country’s Socialism wants to achieve, in spite of race. We have a number of other people, including the Amerindians, the original inhabitants of the country, who are the most neglected. Our integrative mechanisms must be organised to include that group….(A)s we move towards Socialism, we’ll also be, in the process, contributing to the total eradication of racism, in its most violent forms, a racism which has arisen through the slave trade, slavery, indenture, class and colonial oppression.
What we must try to understand (and this is a point I’m always trying to make very clearly) is that there is no contradiction between saying that, at this particular point in time, a man needs to assert his given identity, so that, at another point in time, he won’t need to assert it. It would be taken for granted, the whole business of identity, because people will respect that fact, in the changed society, where race will have no marks of identification, whatsoever, on which anybody can lead for support, or for whatever. But it is a respect which no group has, at the moment, at the moment, in the present system, in Guyana.
And I think that within our community of Guyana, different ethnic groups need to assert their identity, need to put themselves together, to pull themselves together, and when they have and when they can operate on the basis of mutual respect, which they are not now doing, now, then I think the way will be clear for building a new society, a society of a mixed unit through Socialism. But, first, the various groups must be built up, made conscious of their own potential, their own dignity, their own power, as Guyanese.”
Rodney was a prophet of emancipation.