Posted December 4th. 2007
A. Definition of Economic Democracy
I am extremely grateful for the privilege granted me here tonight by Dr. Rupert Roopnarine to explore ideas with the faculty of Critchlow Labour College on labour history, economics, politics, culture and social development. The leadership by Dr. Roopnarine and the faculty will situate economics, politics culture and social development in the context of labour history given the racial admixture of that history. It would be a grave mistake to continue viewing social development outside of the context of that labour history. This economy has been distorted into ugliness by the racial struggle. Whether corrections to that ugliness can be made is doubtful. Some of the distortions will remain as ugly scars for ever. As Eusi Kwayana has implied in "No Guilty Race," no one race must be held blameworthy for our present dilemmas. They are a function of our past in which our Euro-centric slave masters, using racial differences to prop an ailing sugar industry, denied Guyana the ability to realise its full potential.
Economic democracy as presented here should be seen in the context of the ideal of a civilised society where a civilised society is defined as one with full employment without the gross inequalities of income and wealth that prevail in Guyana today.
Economic democracy in the context of a civilised society is the "right to a useful and remunerative job." The idea that people have a right to work is an essential part of the United Nations Charter; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948; and the International Covenant on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights approved by the General Assembly in 1966. It would seem appropriate if the faculty of Critchlow Labour College works with the United Nations Development Programme to identify the essential aspects of the United Nations Charters and declarations and apply them to Guyana.
Guyana is an undeveloped country where the right to work should embrace also the right to be awarded government contracts and the right to investment. These rights to work, to invest and to be awarded government contracts must be seen as contributing to the achievement of racial parity. There has been a great failure in the governing party to embrace racial parity as a specific overarching goal. The opposition parties have fallen into the trap of political correctness and do not aggressively advance racial parity as their over-riding goal.This negligence on the part of the political parties places an immense burden on the labour movement to fill the gap in the agenda for economic democracy.
Economic democracy should not be compartmentalised into separate and divisible rights to work, to invest and to be awarded contracts. Many contractors and investors are small and have not developed sharp distinctions between workers and investors and contractors as in developed capitalist situations. In the context of the racial struggles in Guyana, the three rights are inseparable. Elevation up the social ladder is a function of the ability to move from worker to small entrepreneur which embraces the contractor and the small investor. The government behaves as if economic democratic rights are separable and the Opposition allows the government to get away demarcations that do not apply because social relations between small producers do not have unbridgeable contradictions. The trade union movement should educate Guyanese that more than just the right to a job is at stake when we are considering economic democracy.
It was always necessary to educate workers in business skills to allow for the option of workers to change from employment to entrepreneurial activity and thus relieve businesses of carrying excess labour when fortunes change. This wider concept of trade union interest is particularly important where there is so much scope in the context of a developing country for improving equity by taking advantage of small entrepreneurship.
When the argument is made that, for reasons of racial security, employment in the disciplined forces requires inclusion of all races in those forces, the labour movement should agree with those demands but make that agreement contingent on economic democracy in this wider context of total employment, investment and contract awards. The over arching goal must be that of achieving racial parity. It is disgusting to hear Dr. Luncheon pontificating about the supposed transparency in the contract award process without putting it in the context of overall equity. In actual fact, the institutional arrangements for awarding contracts remain undemocratic. When the claim is made that the dictatorship ended in 1992, considerations of economic democracy indicate that the claim is false. There is a harsh continuing dictatorship in the award of contracts, just as there is in the scope for investment and in the denial of the right to work. Amerindians are shunted aside as if they are not participants in this wider society.
In summing up this section on the definition of the concept of economic democracy, it should be noted that every individual has the right to employment, to contracts and to investment, all with the objective of achieving racial parity. In this wide context, there is no doubt about the fact that the dictatorship is alive and well.
B. The nature of Guyanese. Does that nature justify the right to economic democracy?
In an article on "The Right to a job: a Post Keynesian perspective" in the Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, Summer 2007, Diane C. Zannoni and Edward J. McKenna argue that "The claim that someone possesses a right is an exceedingly strong one."
Integral to such a claim is the view that an individual must, in normal circumstances, be treated in a certain manner by others. This means, for instance, that a majority, or even a super majority, cannot override what is due to the individual. How can such a strong claim be justified? In most instances, claims of rights are based upon an understanding of the nature of a person; an understanding that makes clear that the absence of the right in some sense undermines the very idea of what it means to be a person. (Zannoni and McKenna, p. 560)
A powerful statement of a right based on the nature of a person is that which asserts in the Constitution of the United States that all men are created equal. Notwithstanding that declaration, the very Constitution later designated the enslaved as three-fifths of a man.
In similar fashion, declarations of racial parity are made in Guyana while, in the next step, discrimination is practised. In the United States, the stigma of the three-fifths inequality persists and allows the ruling class to control all the people by the implicit division that is consequent upon the notion of superiority. The white individual is happy with the notion of her or his superiority and is prepared to accept many injustices if, in the exercise of those injustices, white superiority prevails.
Much the same applies in Guyana. The superiority of East Indians over Africans is subtly and not-so- subtly maintained. The satisfaction which accompanies notions of superiority permits the governing classes to pursue all kinds of mismanagement without protest from East Indians. This is now compounded by the presence in Guyana of Brazilians, Colombians and Venezuelans who hail from societies with similar notions of superiority over Africans and Amerindians and who will find it more easily possible to seek race discriminatory alliances with the ruling elites and apply an implicit three-fifths notion to African Guyanese.
Is there an overpowering notion of a true Guyanese in evolving circumstances that strengthen racial discrimination? In Noam Chomsky's lecture on Government, the true nature of the worker is identified. That true nature is universalist and applies with equal force to the African Guyanese worker as it applies to the East Indian worker, as it applies to the worker anywhere else.
Chomsky bases his true nature principle on the observations of Alexander Von Humboldt. For Von Humboldt, and before him, for Rousseau, and before him the Cartesians, man's essential attribute is his freedom. "To enquire and create-these are the centres around which all human pursuits more or less directly revolve." These ennobling features are integral to the nature of the worker where ever s/he is working. These features indicate that the right to work, to receive contracts and to invest, cannot be over-ridden by a majority.
Von Humboldt, through the mouth piece of Chomsky continues:
All moral culture springs solely and immediately from the inner life of the soul and can never be produced by external and artificial contrivances. The cultivation of the understanding, as of any of man's other faculties is generally achieved by his own activity, his own ingenuity or his own methods of using the discoveries of others. (Chomsky, ibid)
To what extent are there opportunities for the exercise of the ingenuity of the worker, the investor, the contractor, using his own methods or the discoveries of others? The reason for the domination of Brazilians over Guyanese is not only racial prejudice and the notion of superiority. It is also based on the grasp of more efficient production and investment technologies. Guyanese are unable to compete in these circumstances.
The appropriate response for the Guyanese society in reinforcing its rights is the establishment of arrangements for using the more efficient technologies of the Brazilians. Since cross fertilisation of technologies cannot take place at the level of the grass roots where Brazilians, Venezuelans and Guyanese interact, the Government of Guyana must seek arrangements with the Government of Brazil for the transfer of the appropriate technologies to Guyanese. This will level the playing field between Brazilians and Guyanese. A level playing field is the basis for economic democracy where trading relations are the basis for human inter actions.
At present, trading relations at the grass roots are modeled on crude exploitation. A Guyanese concession holder sub-leases his concession to a Brazilian and demands a 10% off-the-top revenue without participating in the physical task of mining. The Guyanese becomes a "capitalist" without capital. The right to equivalence in returns from the mining operation is undermined by an artificial contrivance and results, in tensions that destroys the rights of the Guyanese and the Brazilian.
In search for that true nature of the Guyanese worker, or for that matter, for any worker, we need to pursue Von Humboldt where he warns against opportunistic exploitation and the alienation of labour. He warns that man should not sit on the laurels of what he possesses but should focus on what he does. In the example of the Guyanese concession holder, his involvement in the technologies of mining would indicate whether 10% is an appropriate return to the ownership of the concession. It is not surprising that, in many instances, Guyanese concession holders come to grief. Democracy is not present in the arbitrariness of a 10% rule-of-thumb ratio.
Von Humboldt's idealism surfaces in the visualisation that the true inalienable right of the worker to a job, the contractor to a contract and the investor to an investment, must flow from the inner grasp of the task. Emphasis on that inner grasp can elevate workers into artists, that is, workers who love their labour for its own sake. In contrast to Von Humboldt's ideal are the many frauds that proliferate in Guyana today. That central principle of loving labour for its own sake is the justification of the right to work. In other words, work, properly conceived, forms the basis of humanity. And any worker who embraces that concept has a right to a job. It is work properly conceived that prevents the work place from becoming a veritable hell that makes Mondays, a day to fear, and Fridays, a day to rejoice.
There are many medical studies that indicate considerable illnesses of stress are associated with the syndrome of hating to return to work on Mondays. There are similar studies that indicate that cars which come off the production lines in America on Mondays and on Fridays are likely to be lemons, that is, they are likely to be poorly assembled.
This section closes with Von Humboldt's emphasis on freedom, associated with that inner grasp of the task, providing the basis for salutary results. What ever does not spring from a man's free choice and is only the result of instruction and guidance and does not enter into his very being remains alien to his true nature.
When mentioning Dr. Roopnarine's request to conduct this seminar, Mr. Lincoln Lewis suggested that I emphasize the need for the role of the shop steward. My insufficient experience in the trade union movement disqualifies me from commenting on the details of shop steward activity apart from an example that will be mentioned shortly. My reading of Von Humboldt, however, suggests that trade union leaders and shop stewards should emphasize that the right to work is based on the noble principles of loving work for its own sake and for developing a work environment that permits the activities of the worker to spring from her or his free choice. That Von Humboldt ideal is sadly missing in trade union leadership in Guyana.
A good example of the failure to develop these critical intangibles in the shop steward's activities was obvious in the GPSU strike a few years ago. Mr. Leslie Melville and I were attempting to assess the cost to the Government of alternative percentage increases of wages. Mr. Melville alarmed me when he said that he was going to ask Mr. Gopaul for those estimates. I found the situation preposterous.
And this is why? I had re-designed the Estimates in 1981 so that all Government employees were classified into about five groups-managerial and senior professional, senior technical, other technical, clerical and support staff and other operatives. The intention was to be able to gauge the capability of managers to effectively supervise a given number of technical, support level and miscellaneous operatives. When it was seen that a single manager had to supervise 500 or more employees, it was obvious that such operations were over staffed.
There were many such instances. Managers agreed to dispense with such numbers as they found impossible to supervise. The staff reductions were massive. In many instances, husbands and wives were both terminated. The hardships were widespread and severe. Mr. Burnham came to the rescue and rehired many of those dismissed into a then recently created guard service.
To return to Mr. Melville and the need to rely on Mr. Gopaul. It was easy to estimate whether the costs of the Government as reported in the Estimates were reasonably accurate. Shop stewards in each department should know very easily how many civil servants were employed in each category. I had eliminated the column of vacancies but re-inclusion of vacancies did not present a major estimating difficulty.
If shop stewards had the basic employment numbers, the application of averages for each pay grade would give a reliable estimate for the total wage bill. It would have been necessary to consider expatriates separately since they were paid at much higher rates than the average.
The problem was that the shop stewards never collected those numbers of staff and of averages of pay for the various wage bands. How could a union bargain if it did not have its own estimates of the cost of wages? It was at a severe disadvantage. My impression is that it continues to remain at a disadvantage today because those data are still not available.
The reason for this state of deficiency is that of an inferiority complex in relation to the right to work. That inner conviction that springs from the love of work for its own sake is missing. Frauds abound among workers, contractors and investors. The evidence of an employment mess has placed Guyana at a very low level of favourability in the environment for doing investment.
C. General Principles of an institutional framework.
The reason for that disastrous consequence of the dismissal of workers was our lack of conceptualising the holistic framework for considering economic democracy. Our deficiency in conceptualising in the Burnham era resulted in our willingness to reduce employment. In effect, we were denying workers their right to work. We had not developed the worker and the workplace to give meaning to the right to work. That responsibility is a joint one that should be borne by the employer and the trade union. Both Government and the GPSU should have been constantly upgrading the worker environment to make it pleasant. We failed and the adversarial relations between the Government and the GPSU make that ideal almost impossible in today's world. To that must now be added the imposition of low wages in the PPP regime.
The pressure for either dismissals or for low rates of pay is passed on to the Government by the IMF and the World Bank who do not adhere to the principles of the right to work that were enshrined in the United Nations charters mentioned in Section A.
This was not always so. In the years immediately following the Second World War, the economic policy framework included (a) full employment (b) economic growth (c) balance of payments equilibrium and (d) economic equity. When the Reagan and Thatcher regimes faced the difficulties of achieving economic equity and full employment which we earlier defined as fundamental requirements for a civilised society, the decision was made to reduce the policy choice to one between inflation and employment. It was agreed that low inflation must be achieved even it meant high unemployment. The economic policies followed by Federal Reserve Chairman Volcker were brutal. High rates of interest were necessary to bring inflation down. The high rates of interest contracted activity and brought employment down. Prices fell. The right to work was sacrificed.
Zannoni and McKenna argue that full employment can be established in a capitalist economy only with the collective establishment of institutions. It is obvious that such institutions have to be appropriate to the circumstances of each specific country. In that regard, the institutional relations that can be taken for granted in a developed country have to be modified for a country such as Guyana.
The first institutional consideration is that of establishing the inter-relation of social democracy, political democracy and economic democracy. Social democracy is the willingness to abide by the terms of a social contract to develop policies, financial arrangements, markets and institutions for full employment and equity. Societies have taken social democracy as the third way between communism and unfettered capitalism. In effect, social democracy has become the second way, as opposed to unfettered capitalism, since the failure of communism in the Soviet Union.
Political democracy gives citizens a voice in making the decisions that govern their lives. Political democracy relies on co-operative and collegial decision making at all levels in the decision making process.
Economic democracy, which we have already defined, is full employment in the society with equity. Both of these objectives are realizable only when" the understanding of the self held by an individual is coherent in the context of the entire social matrix of which the individual is a part" (Zannoni and McKenna, p. 567)
The authors of "The Right to a Job" assert that: "Any society that relies on institutions to solve problems must also rely on the goodwill effort of the majority of its citizens to play by the rules embodied in these institutions." (ibid, p. 570) That is followed by the observation that: [N]o society can work well if its citizens do not positively support the rules embodied in its institutional structure." (ibid, p. 570)
This brings us back to the lopsided ugliness of the racial struggle mentioned in Section A. In our political institutions, decisions should be made co-operatively and collegially. I have discovered only recently that the culture of governance in the situation of political party paramountcy ascribes, in the view of the political class, a status superiority of politicians over bureaucrats. Given this bias, it is not surprising that PNC politicians do not wish to reverse the institutional relation of party paramountcy. The achievement of democracy, in all its ramifications, is not possible if collegiality and co-operation do not inform the relations within and between institutions.
There are five fundamental within-and-between changes which are necessary for collegial and co-operative interrelations. The first is the empowerment of Parliament to exercise oversight over the Executive. This requires a super majority in Parliament for the passing of all bills, including the Budget. The second is the depoliticisation of the public services. Time does not permit full consideration of the changes necessary for this institutional change. The third change is the empowerment of local authorities to make decisions relating to the drainage, road upkeep, waste disposal and the development potential of their jurisdictions. The fourth is the decentralisation of the administration for the implementation of the decisions emanating from improved decision making. The fifth is the bringing together of the races in a combined executive.
The last institutional change often referred to as power sharing will not function co-operatively and collegially if Parliament does not have the capability of putting a check to any likely authoritarianism of the Executive. Similarly the Executive will not make well informed decisions if the public services are not freed of perceived partial Ministerial preferences. Most crucial is the fact that only an independent public service will have the motivation to pursue the taxation audits of the curse of giant corporations that are financed with narcotics money laundering proceeds. This public service must be decentralised if any headway is to be made in de-emphasizing external and artificial contrivances, Von Humboldt's hatreds. Guyana has gone far along the road of the external vulgarity. Turning back is going to be difficult.
As one goes through the building boom that has taken hold of Guyana, one is very aware of a developmental emptiness which is devoid of creativity. Where are the opportunities for the expression of freedom if each household is cramped into the same exact limitations of space.
Where were the public officials who approved the design of those communities? Don't they realise that the congested environment throughout Guyana's coastlands is a hindrance to the development of creativity in people? Were they aware of the fact that housing developments in North America assume a developed society where individual initiatives on house plots are reduced to recreational activity? Guyana is still an empty country. House plots can make provision for income earning activities. The gated communities and the cramped housing schemes will cramp the character of Guyanese for centuries. We must thank the unimaginativeness of the Guyanese governing elite for the destruction of our inner selves.
The suffocation of economic democracy is very evident in the drainage and irrigation bias of the Government. In the MMA Scheme, for example, the decision was earlier made to de-emphasize anything that Burnham started. Maintenance of the MMA drainage and irrigation facilities was consequently neglected. Now that common sense has returned and attention is once again being given to the Scheme, party supporters are given priority.
An earlier reference was made to the need for the majority to play by the rules embodied in institutions. That principle is being over-ridden in MMA and in numerous other instances. The ruling party bullies its way into a right for the majority that is not consistent with the right of every individual to be free. The building of the Berbice River bridge similarly bullies its way into establishing a right without following the rules. The bridge seems destined to become a calamity. The lack of democracy in economic decision making is largely responsible.
Of the greatest importance in the institutional inter relationships is the role of the press. The present stance of the press is to comment on the functioning of existing institutions without venturing into a critique of the appropriateness of the existing structure of institutions. Given the weak relation between the self and the social matrix in Guyana, the stance to avoid commenting on the structure of existing institutions is not defensible.
Even in relation to the functioning of existing institutions, however, the press failed miserably in promoting democracy. One instance is that of GT&T which extracted amounts in the vicinity of U.S. half a billion dollars because of weak institutions. The press deliberately suppressed letters alluding to GT&T's mis-direction of funds. This has been a substantial breach of the democratic code. It denied Guyana the opportunity to debate the repatriation of resources that were badly needed for the development of good telephone connections. We are paying the price for that today in the miserable telephone connections between Guyana and the external world. We have one of the worst telephone systems in the Caribbean. Institutions are important for all aspects of democracy, including economic democracy. The performance of the press was criminal.
This seminar should consider Section C as the most important in the paper. Section A and B lead into Section C where seminar decisions are most required for addressing the functioning of institutions and their importance for the workplace. Section D which follows provides an important historical backdrop that sets out the limitations of what can be achieved in Guyana. Section E provides the major challenge for change in Guyana.
D. The backdrop of the wider world
The Euro-centric world gained ascendancy during the last 500 years over the ancient societies and virtually removed the mother centred and democratic influences that prevailed in Africa and, to a lesser extent, in India. Four major patriarchal authoritarian institutions dominated the world scene. They are (1) the ecclesiastical church, (2) the large European empires, (3) the nation state, and (4) the large modern corporation. Patriarchal authority is so strongly entrenched that the most militant feminists do not spontaneously conceive of a female pope.
From the African point of view, the most devastating feature of this period is the enslavement of Africans and the underdevelopment of Africa. The dilemma for modern society was the immense advance of technology and science that ushered in a period of prosperity that often, justified the undemocratic operations of patriarchal authoritarianism.
Peace and world order were maintained by a combination of force of arms and of rules based operations. Von Humboldt's emphasis on the essential attribute of inner freedom to enquire and create gave way to the selfish greed of authoritarian elites. Both Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. saw the futility of a society based on the preparedness to resolve conflicts by violence but it was King who was driven most strongly by the compulsion of love.
At the same time as Western authoritarianism evolved into a dominant world force, Muslim fundamentalism stressed an equally virulent patriarchal authoritarianism with jihadist declarations to eliminate infidels. The present clashes between these two authoritarian forces threaten our world with extinction. The efforts to deny the acquisition of nuclear weaponry by the Muslim countries are the result of the recognition by the Western nations that mankind's existence would be threatened if the two authoritarian camps commanded equal force.
Martin Luther King's message of love and of a more mother-centred democracy is conveniently remembered on his birthday but forgotten during the rest of the year. Re-organisation of society along the lines implicit in social democracy is our only salvation. The examples of achieving peace internally by Western example to the rest of the world is our only hope. The process will take a long time but the jihadists and the neo-conservatives do not have the patience for the fundamental philosophical changes to take hold. We have to hold our breath.
The lesson for Guyana is that the path of racial domination is doomed. Racial parity is the only solution. It may appear that for a while that the exercise of authoritarian force will work. But subjugation will not be accepted for ever.
The trade union movement should take the initiative to renounce authoritarianism in the work place and in the wider society and to give such renunciation world wide publicity. The attacks on Mr. Lincoln Lewis for expressing abhorrence at authoritarianism are unjustified. While I have some ambivalence about characterising the Burnham rule as one of a dictatorship, I will, for the sake of argument, accept the characterisation and make the point that the dictatorship has returned. Many in the dominant community are beginning to deny all Guyanese the right to be a person. The arrogance in the expression and behaviour of those in the ascendancy is frightening.
Participation in the World Social Forum usually held at Porto Allegre in Brazil but held in Mumbai in India in 2004 ought to be compulsory for all trade unionists. As Nobel prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz asserts in echoing the Mumbai slogan, "Another World is Possible." The world of open, lively and unfocused excitement at Mumbai contrasts with the pre-occupation of world leaders at the Davos assembly of the World Economic Forum, overly concerned with the return of higher profits to the dominant corporations.
The major thrust in the World Social Forum is that governments should intervene to improve the functioning of markets. To put this approach into effect, Guyana will require information (statistics, understanding of the attitudes of the different races) fed into a more independent public service. President Jagdeo saw the need to address the arrogance in the dominant community by the hiring of Pandit Gossai in the Presidential Secretariat. The President should see the need for attitudinal studies in all races. Another world is possible but it cannot be based on arrogance resting on ignorance.
E. Transforming the Plantation
Deliberate dismantling of the plantation which has dominated Guyana for almost four centuries is our only hope for achieving comprehensive modernisation. If any institution denies the achievement of economic democracy, that institution is the plantation. That the PPP is seeking to entrench the production mode of the plantation at Skeldon is an indication of the contradiction between revolutionary rhetoric and rigid domination. The acceptance of the perpetuity of the plantation mode is an indication of the callous consignment of large numbers of Guyanese, primarily East Indians, to near servitude for the foreseeable future.
This means that egalitarianism (social democracy, political democracy and economic democracy) for all races is not at all on the PPP radar screen. If the PPP cannot conceptualise revolutionising production and social relations of the major members of its own constituency, why should it be bothered with issues of racial parity involving Africans?
To go even further, the fact that there is excitement in the production of ethanol to fuel the consumption of the world vehicle markets is an indication of acceptance of servitude to world consumerism. The Mumbai and Porto Allegre message is the production of food primarily for food security and not for motor vehicle fuel. Assignment of a major part of our agricultural production to the ethanol market reduces market control and the scope for strengthening domestic production links. The excitement of food production is in the expansion of tropical fruits and the bio-technical manufacture of health foods. These prospects will be buried in the emphasis on the plantation such as is envisaged at Skeldon.
In respect of the production technology, there is nothing more stultifying than being consigned to the task of cane cutting from early youth to retirement. There are no opportunities for Von Humboldt's enquiry and creativity. The sterility results in alcoholism, in domestic violence, in sexual adventurism, in AIDS and eventually in higher rates of suicide. No amount of religious intervention can compensate for the illiberal structure of production relations of the plantation in a modern world where television broadcasts a wide range of different life styles.
Single industry trade union representation that supports unreformed production relations is a betrayal of workers' rights. GAWU is trapped in providing support to the PPP and in being confined to wage bargaining when its focus should be to change the existing plantation mode to a co-operative farming mode and the single crop production to a more diversified agriculture.
When I made this suggestion in an exchange of letters with Mr. Ravi Dev, Mr. Dev backed off and treated my proposal as being utopian. There is nothing utopian in my proposal. The co-operative (conceived by Eusi Kwayana) can be associated with share ownership of the factory activity. Share holding can be drawn from co-operative farmers, factory workers and a wide range of Guyanese. This will totally re-structure the social relations of the isolated plantation managerial elite. Why is GAWU not revolted by the present authoritarianism? Is it because of the power enjoyed by a selected few in the GAWU leadership?
Co-operative production and widespread share ownership of factory production are the basis of sugar and rice production in America, the bastion of corporate capitalism. Co-operative agricultural production arrangements exist in Belize. Australia prospers on individual cane farmers in the sugar industry. Why not Guyana?
Similar arrangements are necessary in the rice industry where landlords rent small farms to tenants who often have to over-fertilise their operations to squeeze profits from their small plots. The over-fertilisation results in polluted rice that runs water shortly after it is cooked. This is disastrous for external markets. In a manner similar to that suggested for the sugar industry, rice farmers should enjoy share holding in rice factories and flexibility to shift into more profitable agriculture. The rigidity in production arrangements should be liberalised.
The co-operative form of production already flourishes in the fishing industry and can be extended to agricultural production in the villages. The production of these ideas by the Opposition political parties will cut into the PPP oligarchy that has given no thought about how to achieve egalitarianism in future social and production relations.
It is clear that the plantation mode cannot be changed overnight. Nearly 400 years of plantation arrangements will not yield to rapid change. It can be attempted, however. The trade union movement should seek a common front with GAWU to undertake a 20 to 25 year horizon for the dismantling of the plantation.
The PPP will find itself scrambling for support if its race based constituency enters the world of co-operative ownership. Minister Rohee always argues that the essential problem in Guyana is race and not class. He is correct up to a point. The essential problem is the plantation. Is Minister Rohee prepared to lead a charge to dismantle the plantation? It would be interesting to see how the Minister will dance on a pin head if the PNC, the AFC, the WPA and ROAR lead an assault on the concept of the plantation. One can be certain that the race argument will somehow feature in the Minister's response. Similarly the rice estate owners and owners of rice mills will shout blue murder if they see themselves losing the profits from the repression of the rice tenants.
When the claim is made that the dictatorship ended in 1992, the concept of economic democracy should be used to point out that the dictatorship assumed a new and more virulent form that entrenches undemocratic production relations. Call it what you will, Mr. Lincoln Lewis is putting his finger on an oppressive relationship. My term for it is economic dictatorship. This situation is a denial of economic democracy.
Clarence F. Ellis, November 5th, 2007
Chomsky, Noam, "Roles of the State", A 1970 Lecture.
Davidson, P., "Are we making progress towards a civilised society", Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, Spring 2007.
Joseph E. Stiglitz, "Making Globalisation Work", W.W.Norton, 2006
Zannanoni D., and McKenna, E., "The Right to a job: a Post Keynesian perspective", Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, Summer 2007