In the end we conclude that the political party is essentially another cultural product. Heritable, difficult to disown. Impregnated with the positives and the shameful of the value system of the peoples that gave it birth, it may yet benefit from the vision and will of a single leader and similarly suffer degradation through the weakness and will of another. But in general and particularly in our case its birth and development and senescence respond to conditions that arise from our character as a people. And that however we may wish to parse it, PPP & PNC and AFC and the others are outgrowths whose personalities and behaviour will be reflective of how we think and react as a group of cultures. They are our creations and will not go away, because we need them and have created and sustained them and have used them as the instruments of certain aspects of our cultural expression. Cultures in a dynamic relationship with their environment.
The case of the pre independence creole with his complexes extinguishes itself in a modern and globalised post-Obama world where post-independence both Indian and Black have taken a turn at the helm and shown how they would manage the crises we inherited, or that we created and that we had thrust upon us. We may not have been entirely content with the results of our own self-government, but we continue to vote for ourselves, and to do so in the most limited definition of the self ‒ the ethnic group. And we oblige ourselves to vote for its cultural-political expression ‒ the race based party.
Which brings us back to the starting points and the initial questions. Was the Jagdeo-Ramotar era of the fin de regne PPP a historical inevitability as had been the Burnham PNC-Rodney era? Perhaps. Each phase and the personality that would express and mould it may be seen as historically determined and generated by we ourselves. It is a conclusion that does not lead to resignation and immobility, but that helps us understand the strength of the forces against which we struggle.
This brief reflection is spurred by a series of commentaries over the last few days in the newspaper columns. And letters by various ‘Concerned’.
Mr Ramkarran warns that the APNU incarnation of the PNC seems to be re-creating and reliving its old scenario and condemning us to sharing its destiny as the party of poverty, racism and incompetence. Dr Hinds sees a different predisposition at work, with the insensitivity to its ethnic mission as a major handicap that is linked to a bizarre amateurishness for one of the nation’s oldest parties. Lincoln Lewis alerts us to the dangers of de-motivating the flock as 2020 nears. Ramkarran, we read, may have been misquoted. Analyses from Lincoln Lewis and David Hinds, consistent over recent times, reveal concern.
These are three commentators whose opinions always merit reflection. They share two points. The first being that the coalition is endangering itself, and the second seems to be that the government increasingly appears to be in the force field of old PNC bad habits that destines the PNC to revert to being the party that can never win, neither by the size and support of its ethnics, nor by the impression left by its works. In short, a coalition predestined to playing the role of the historico-mythic foil of a PPP in its turn predestined to win whether in its Marxian incarnation or in its embodiment of the collection of businessmen of all sizes sharing the free for all at the trough. And, according to Cde Ramkarran, while this good time was being had by all, a PNC springs up to drag us back to the pauperisation of ‘cooperativism’ . Land is not being given out quickly enough and no convincing programme for the regeneration of the village movement or black economic progress has been rolled out. Points made by Hinds and Lewis.
No one bothers to quote manifesto and constitution, except to show how our governors breach and seemingly betray them as Jagdeo was said to betray the legacy of Cheddi Jagan. The coalition’s legal lapses are regretted by Mr Lewis in a column in which he lists cases.
A manifesto is campaign rhetoric, and sets the goals and standards by which parties wish to be measured and judged. Our constitutions, crafted with public participation set out the standards with which we as a collectivity and civilisation wish to adhere to and be judged.
We bear in mind that the texts of the constitutions have a limiting, but essentially limited role in the life of the polity, and that therefore whatever ideals and standards they express, represent concepts often in conflict with the practices and mentalities of the real leaders or of the masses.
We need only look at the recent events in the USA or reflect on the essay on certain facts of Saudi Arabia recently published to recognise that we are witnessing the effects that superimpose themselves on slogan or sacred text, and that predetermine the quotidian realities of life in the lands of e pluribus unum and of the sacred places. Neither historical lesson nor formal education nor the activism of small groups of dissidents can change the mentalities and subjective conditions that create these problems and determine the solutions that are destined to contribute to our histories.
All of which brings us to the warnings and speculations about the next round of national elections. To my mind the dis-affirmation of the likelihood of the coalition’s winning the next poll and the recitation of its failings increase confusion and may serve to de-motivate its voters. We compare this with the positivism of the PPP’s affirming that it never lost (even though it failed twice in succession to gain a majority) and that it has regained its ethnic support and will be victorious in 2020. It most likely will win if calls for overseas voting, where it has most of the emigrant vote, are heeded. But in fact the only chance it has today is if there is a weak turnout of APNU and AFC voters.
Politics in voting democracies is about calculating probable exit poll results. Many years ago we made the point that PPP supporters have to be discouraged if that party were to be reduced as a victorious force. And that the current government has to be particularly sensitive to its interaction with the populace at those points where it offers services. The public relations has got to take into account not only PPP propaganda, but the public words of those minds inclined to think in critical-analytic mode within its own camp. There is a constant stream of analysis and criticism from some APNU+AFC supporters. It is part of the political culture, developed and rendered necessary over the years, which spans race and has a life of its own. A counter-discourse has to be developed that goes beyond the needed press releases from ministries and corporations and commissions. An authoritative and mentally nimble unit has to be created to respond to foes and friends alike. Imran Khan has been effective in his rebuttals. But he is alone and occasional.
Both the old PNC and the successor PPP government made errors, beyond the material mistakes, for which they had no adequate PR explanation or response. Both channelled the cultural handicaps native to their political origins. Both paid the price.
To conclude, the assumption of government imposes a reading of the political and cultural landscape that is based on the reality of the predispositions of the peoples under study. Perhaps we cannot expect perfection of either of the major parties. They are creatures of the cultures from which they were cast up. They will change only as we change.