The Congress of the Peoples’ Progressive Party, few and far between, is taking place this weekend in the elevated ambience of the Arthur Chung Convention Centre at Turkeyen, Georgetown. It is the largest in PPP’s history, attended by 3,000 delegates and observers. The number of delegates has not been revealed, so it is impossible to calculate the membership of the PPP, which has always been proportionately low in comparison to its support, and secret. The reasons for this occurred from the early 1970s when membership rules were tightened to create a more disciplined party to contend with its changing nature and the intensification of authoritarian rule. If the same rule of one delegate to three members apply, then a publication of the number of delegates would indicate the size of its membership.

The three important issues that are likely to dominate the Congress are economic progress in Guyana, changing of the Party rules and elections to the Central Committee. As regards the latter, there will be obsessive/compulsive attention paid to the persons elected and how many votes each obtains. Of particular interest would be the votes obtained by President Irfaan Ali as compared to those obtained by Vice President and General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo. The two individuals are not likely to be in any personal competition. The President is likely to get the higher number of votes than the popular Vice President, and I doubt that they expect otherwise or will be concerned about this outcome. But there is always speculation within the ranks of the delegates and observers, and the public.

In Party terms the changes in the rules will be of historical significance although it is hardly unexpected. The end of the Cold War, the collapse of socialism in the ‘communist’ countries, the less direct influence of Marxism in the world, make the elimination of ‘isms’ in the Party Constitution, as Vice President referred to it, as inevitable. The advent of VP Jagdeo into the leadership of the PPP’s government quickly saw a de-emphasis of the ideological sympathies of the PPP. The Party had long before advocated a mixed economy and its past economic policies in government (1957-1964) and after it entered office in 1992 clearly indicated that it would follow market policies and sustain the privatization and deregulation of the economy which had started under Hoyte.  But VP Jagdeo, for whatever reason, needed to emphasize a point. We’re building capitalism, he declared.

The rule changes, of which I have had a glimpse, are not sweeping and sustain the core of the PPP’s orientation as a party of the ‘working class.’ But the PPP cannot build ‘capitalism’ without building a capitalist class and without ‘bourgeois ideology’ assuming dominance over the PPP, facilitated by ‘ideological pluralism’ in the ‘working class’ party, a contradiction in terms. The role of the working class and its ideology are specific and defined. Existing in an ‘ideologically plural’ party in a ‘capitalist’ system with a growing ‘capitalist’ class exercising inevitable influence, the ‘working class’ will be ideologically and politically submerged in a ‘working class’ party. 

I did predict to some ‘old timers’ of the PPP not long ago that changes are likely to occur in the PPP’s Constitution to modify its ‘leftist’ orientation but that under no circumstances will the Stalinist democratic innovation of ‘democratic centralism’ be removed. The method ‘democratic centralism’ of electing a central committee at Congress and for the Central Committee to later elect a general secretary, other officers and executive committee allows maximum control of the elections process as opposed to the democratic method by which individual leaders, office holders and executive members are elected individually by the Congress delegates. ‘Democratic centralism’ facilitates a tight grip on the election process. It is contradictory to remove ‘Marxism-Leninism’ from the constitution but retain the Stalinist construct of ‘democratic centralism.’ The ‘democratic centralist’ core, the executive committee, the jobs of whose members depend on one or two persons, would still effectively determine the presidential candidate.

The leaders of the PPP will have much to boast about, and rightly so, about its great success in thwarting the backward forces of authoritarianism to once again seize control of Guyana and impose another quarter century of dictatorship on our people. The Congress will reflect on the national trauma resulting from this attempted electoral coup that shook Guyana to its core and note the forced retirement of that leadership and the continuing convulsions in the Party that was behind it. It is unlikely that the triumphalist sentiment that will pervade the atmosphere will allow a debate on Guyana’s constitutional future.

Last, but probably most important, the Congress will want to reflect on the vast economic changes that are occurring in Guyana which are being facilitated by the income being derived from our growing oil industry. Despite the remarkable progress already made, in the coming years Guyana will be transformed into an unbelievable economic powerhouse with a high standard of living for all and growing influence in the Caribbean and Latin America. The Congress would no doubt note this fact but hopefully would also understand that sturdy, transparent and independent administrative structures and measures to prevent corruption are necessary to drive and sustain the Guyana story and a continuing and leading role for the PPP.  

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