PNC POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY PREVAILS
The emergence and success of the People's National Congress (PNC), as a major
political influence in Guyana is predicated on the uncompromising attitude or perhaps the philosophical differences between Dr.
Cheddi Jagan, a perceived communist and Forbes Burnham, a pragmatic politician and consummate statesman.
The origins of the People's National Congress (PNC) began in October 1957,
following a split in the People's Progressive Party (PPP) which was formed seven years previous in Georgetown, Guyana. The constitution of the PNC states that it is a Socialist Party, committed
to the achievement of its objectives through the mechanism of the Co-operative.
One of the objectives of the PNC is: To provide every Guyanese the opportunity to work
for and share in the Economic well being of the Country and to ensure that there
is Equality of opportunity in the political, economic and social life of the country.
The Mission of the Party states: We
want a Guyanese Nation which knows where it is going, which understands its objectives, which is prepared to struggle at every
level for the attainment of these objectives, and the safety and preservation of our sovereignty.
The People's National Congress believes in the democratic process, and recognizes the fundamental
freedoms enshrined in the Constitution and is committed to the preservation of these freedoms. The PNC is also resolute in
its defense to uphold parliamentary democracy, the right of dissent, the right of association including the right to form
and support a Political Party of one's choice.
The history of the PNC could be divided into three phases; in the first phase of its
existence, the Party was engaged in the anti-colonial struggle, which ended with the attainment of
independence. The second phase was a period of political construction. Unfortunately during the final phase of economic construction
the policies, strategies and tactics associated with economic development were inapplicable, more often introduced for short-term
political expediency and therefore impeded economic growth.
The PNC has an open door policy towards membership; individuals are recruited from every
district by the Party foot soldiers. In all regions of the country, the PNC has established groups where both adults and young
people hold regular weekly meetings to be informed about Party activities and when necessary some political gladiators elucidate
on policy implementation and programs of interest to members. In this way the Party has become broad based, all-inclusive
and truly representative of the people. Every Party member is expected to participate actively in election campaigns, assist
when called upon to promote and disseminate relevant Party information, as well as its platform.
The word comrade is used to describe every Party member, who is expected to be
committed to the socialist revolution. Of-course, each comrade must display self discipline and patriotism
at all times. Concomitantly, comrades are dedicated to the ethos that renders their cause of realizing an egalitarian society
possible. The PNC has played and continues to play a vital role in the life of the entire Guyanese nation. It has promoted
orderly, democratic and in many ways balanced development in the country. The PNC derived its prestige and influence from
the nature and quality of the work rendered in the society since its inception. As a vanguard Party, the PNC has consolidated
its proletarian base and brought decisively other sections of the working class as well as peasants into its fold of convinced
and faithful supporters.
In December 1974, the PNC held its first Biennial Congress in Georgetown. At every such forum delegates from friendly and fraternal overseas Parties, PNC delegates and representatives of affiliates
of foreign countries, as well as local delegates drawn from across Guyana, gather together for extensive discussions, meaningful proposals and serious planning. Generally, delegates in attendance
determine all major policy positions, programs and activities of the Party.
These Congresses are organized by the party Secretariat, regional, district and group officials,
who over a span of several months, work unceasingly to ensure the success of every Assembly. Through these interactions, many
rank and file members share their ideas and suggestions with members of the Executive Committee, General Council and the Party
Leader. It affords members the opportunity to discuss problems, both national and local, which concerns them and fellow citizens.
CONTEMPORARY POLITICAL PARTIES
Politics is, and has always been, the dynamic of human society. The political life of modern
States is characterized by the existence of Political Parties; a Party is both the typical form and the hub of contemporary
political organization. A Political Party aims chiefly at the control of political power, and at the same time it aims to
gain and hold power by giving effect to certain doctrines and beliefs.
In all modern States, it is only through a Political Party that the masses of people can
best articulate their concerns and pursue their aspirations in a coherent, methodical and effective manner. In addition, it
is only through a Political Party in government that changes deemed to be desirable in the society could be brought about.
Every Political Party, properly constituted, is inspired and solidified by a set of principles
and objectives, which determined its ideology. A Political Party functions for several reasons, these include but are not
limited to among other things: to allow people to engage in political socialization, to contest elections general or by-elections
when they are called. Political Parties also form governments or perform the role of opposition.
Political ideology is defined by Edmund Burke, as a group of individuals united for promoting
by their joint endeavors, the national interest upon some particular principles in which they all agree.
In Leo Epstein's definition, he describes a political party as, any group that is organized,
seeking to elect government office holders under a given label for promoting national interest.
In our contemporary world, modernization has dictated that a methodical approach in all
sphere of life is germane to stability and progress. The modern Political Parties like all other aspects of human civilization
have evolved over many centuries. They did not emerge under the same circumstances or time; there were differences in their
ideologies and methodologies.
The modus oprandi of most Parties vary but of the 500 political groups that currently exist
around the world they all find origins from 4 theories:
-Institution theory: In most developed countries this is applicable, following the fall
or demise of the monarchy (absolute). The parliamentary system of government engendered introduction of inter alia-elections,
people seeking power, ideological differentiation, solidarity/alignment emerged as well as many organized groups formed to
perpetuate their ideas and principles.
-Historical situation theory: The present framework of Political Parties modified
over the years had its embryotic manifestation in Africa and Asia. Following the increase of imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism,
the expansionists claim to territories, gave rise to many nationalist movements and political parties.
-Developmental theory: The culmination of World War 11 brought about a renewed
sense of nationalism and political consciousness the thrust towards urbanization, a proliferation of technology and the effectiveness
of mass communication. In Thailand and Ethiopia the influence
of neighboring countries and the demise of absolute monarchy intensified political development.
-Revolutionary theory: In China and Russia political parties emerged following the revolutions.
STRUGGLE FOR POLITICAL LIBERATION
Guyana, a former British colony, emerged from almost two hundred years of colonial domination to attain
its political independence from Britain on May 26, 1966 and four
years later on February
23, 1970 became the first Co-operative Republic in the world, severing all formal ties with the British monarchy.
The drive towards national liberation in Guyana began on February 23, 1763 with the Berbice Slave Uprising.
This drastic action culminated years of minor revolts induced by bottled up anger and revenge after suffering inhuman treatment
imposed by European planters.
Following the official abolition of plantation slavery on August 1, 1834, opposition to colonial manipulation continued over the deteriorating social
and economic conditions experienced by the inhabitants. It was only during Sir Henry Irving's governorship that the issue
of constitutional reform and his policies of rural improvement gained favorable public support against the European planters.
In June 1887 the British Guiana Political Reform Club was formed and became
the first organized political group to compete with the Europeans for political power. But, regrettably it took until 1922
before Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow, considered by many people to be the father of trade unionism in Guyana, launched a significant mass organization. The British Guiana Labor Union was expected to defend
and protect Guyanese workers from colonial exploitation and bring about socio-economic change within a democratic society.
THRUST TOWARDS SELFİGOVERNMENT
In many ways the colonial domination continued unabated until 1950, when the thrust towards
self-determination was accelerated. The formation of the People's Progressive Party headed by an Indo-Guyanese Dr. Cheddi
Jagan and its chairman an Afro-Guyanese Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham; this was seen as the first serious challenge to remove
the colonial oligarchy from office.
The PPP successfully garnered support from a wide cross section of the population and soon
became a national party and a threat to the white elite.
Following the recommendations of the Waddington Commission there was a major
revision of British Guiana constitution in 1953. The constitutional changes were intended to place the
country on a path to eventual self-government by giving elected members increased responsibility for government.
The first general elections under the new constitution were held in April 1953 and the
PPP swept to power, winning eighteen of the twenty-four seats. The victory was due in large part to the Party's leadership
and its attractive program, which had placed emphasis on economic development, improved social services, independence and
the creation of a socialist State.
The election campaign revealed the contrasting styles of the two leaders. While they both
agreed in political conception, Dr. Jagan and Mr. Burnham differed on strategy and consequently an uneasy partnership began
to fester. Both men had seen the struggle for independence in the context of a worldwide struggle against imperialism. The
two leaders had similar concomitant aims for the Party; namely self-government and the creation of a socialist society, but
their appeal to the constituents were contrasting in style and intonation. Jagan was perceived as uncompromising and a left
wing ideologist, on the contrary Burnham was seen as being more pragmatic and accommodating.
SUSPENSION OF CONSTITUTION
In October 1953 the triumph of the PPP was dealt a severe set back when the
British Government perhaps, overreacted and suspended the constitution after the Party had been in power for only 133 days.
During that time the British Guiana constitution was considered to be the most advanced in the entire English-speaking
It appears this measure was taken in response to a situation, which superficially
appeared to be the danger of an apparent communist subversion. Between 1953 to1957 an Interim Government administered national
affairs in British Guiana with unwavering (carte blanch) support from nominated ministers. Politicians
who did not receive any endorsement from the electorate occupied the entire legislature.
The British intervention was a reaction to Jagan's inflammatory remarks during the election
campaign and his open pronouncements of having ties with communist organizations abroad. Maybe, Dr. Jagan's rhetoric, which
was perceived as seditious should be viewed in the context of the early 1950s Cold War atmosphere. Many people in the PPP
saw Jagan's public postulation or highly charged comments as injudicious if not extremely dangerous.
As the crisis escalated it created divisions between those who believed that the objectives
of the Party could be achieved by conflict, as opposed to others who saw the need for Guyanese to solve their own problems
by peaceful means, through diplomatic negotiations.
DEVELOPS IN PPP
In 1953 the two leaders parted company to lead separate groups. The two entities were referred
to as the Burnhamite and Jaganite factions of the PPP. Ideological, racial and personal reasons were contributing elements
in the split, though not along racial lines as many Indo-Guyanese followed Forbes Burnham, a young lawyer of African descent.
More constitutional changes occurred in 1957 that restored the elective principle.
Later that same year both factions of the PPP contested the elections. The faction headed by Dr. Jagan won 9 out of the 14
seats, while the other led by Burnham gained only 3 seats. Of the remaining two seats, one was won by Mr. Stephen Campbell,
who became the first Amerindian to enter a Legislative Assembly in Guiana, and the U.D.P. a fringe Party captured
one seat. The PPP split was formalized in October 1957, when Burnham changed the name of his Party to the People's National
PNC CREATES IMPACT
After the elections it was acknowledged that a lack of campaign skills had
contributed to the PNC defeat. Nevertheless, there was reservation that the Party could become a major political force in
future. This was reinforced when Mr. Burnham, leader of the PNC attended the 1960 Constitutional Conference that was held
When the 1961 election was held the PNC had established a well organized party and despite
winning only 11 seats it had captured 41 per cent of the popular vote compared to the PPP's 20 seats and 42.6 per cent of
the vote. The United Force (UF), led by a prominent businessman, Mr. Peter D'Aguir, obtained 4 seats with 16.4 per cent of
As Dr. Jagan and his PPP regime pursued social and fiscal reforms, considered by many as
reasonable but because of Jagan's communist leanings the changes were opposed and dubbed as acts of a dictator. The PPP austere
budget, which was presented on Wednesday, January 31, to the Legislative Assembly, perceived as harsh on the working class,
resulted in general strike and mass demonstrations. The wide spread violence and chaos forced the Governor to declare a general
Emergency, British troops arrived and the situation was brought under control.
Notwithstanding the disturbances, leaders of the three main Political Parties
attended another Constitutional Conference in Britain during October
1962. The PPP had demanded a single-member constituency, voting at age 18, and no elections before Independence. It was not surprising that the PNC and UF held a contrasting position, which insisted on proportional representation,
voting at age twenty-one, and elections before Independence. As the Parties failed
to reach a compromise the Conference was adjourned.
Unable to compose their differences the leaders requested the British Secretary of State
for the Colonies to settle the outstanding issues on the authority of the British Government. In his ruling Mr. Duncan Sandys
recommended that new elections be held under the system of proportional representation, with the voting age set at twenty-one.
FIRST COALITION GOVERNMENT
In 1964 industrial unrest escalated and racial clashes across the country caused many people
to be killed, scores injured, some 1,400 homes destroyed by fire and approximately 15,000 persons were forced to relocate
in communities where people of their ethnic group predominated.
Despite the continuing violence, the Governor proceeded with arrangements for the General
Elections. In December 1964, the initial results did not produce a clear winner, the PPP had captured 24 seats and 45.8 per
cent of the votes, while PNC won 22 seats and 40.5 per cent popular support, and the UF 7 seats secured 12.4 per cent of the
total votes cast.
The Governor called upon Dr. Jagan to form a government but he was unable to get Burnham's
consent. With support from the United Force (UF), a new PNC
Government came into existence. This coalition became the first in Guyana's history and was headed by Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham.
During its twenty-eight years in power the PNC transformed the country's political
orientation, by removing all vestiges of colonial domination and foreign influence. The economic policies, which the Party
pursued, reflected the Socialist ethos, which were embraced by the PNC leadership. In April 1970, the PNC enunciated at its
13th Annual Congress a basic and fundamental principle: Ownership and Control of the country's natural resources. In other-words
locally elected leaders must dictate Guyana’s internal
affairs and manage the economic levers for national development. Subsequently, there followed the nationalization of all major
industries within a six-year period.
Guyana hosted the conference of Foreign Ministers of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1972, also during that
year the country played host to Carifesta, a regional exhibition of arts and crafts. The Party and government contributed
financially to the African Freedom Fighters and supported them in their struggle against colonialism and the despicable system
Over the years PNC leaders have played prominent roles at the United Nations
and were instrumental in bringing about changes at many international forums like UNCTAD, the Committee of 77, and the Commonwealth.
Following the demise of the West Indian Federation, Guyana has played a vanguard
role for Caribbean integration and economic union.
The PNC has provided regular seminars and teach-ins, aimed at educating and raising the
consciousness of its members and the general public. The Cuffy Ideological Institute has been used for training members of
the Young Socialist Movement (YSM), youth arm of the PNC.
cadres receive a six-week period of orientation, grounded in ideology at the practical and theoretical levels. After graduation
hundreds of recruits are absorbed in the party structure-groups, districts, regions and other Party agencies. Some staff members
have received training in foreign countries while others that have achieved a high level of competence; experience and consciousness
are involved in lecturing and teaching.
PARTICIPATION OF WOMEN
The PNC subscribes to the
principle of equality; women have made considerable gains in political life over the years. In the past they accounted for
24% of the Party’s member who serve on Municipal Councils, 30% in the National Assembly.
Much of the progress made
by Guyanese women can be related to the unremitting efforts of the Women’s Revolutionary Socialist Movement (WRSM).
This Movement has played an influential role in fostering a better appreciation of the legitimate claim of women for recognition
and pre-eminent status in the society. The valuable work and efforts for promoting the welfare and interest of women have
enhanced the image of the Movement.
The PNC party has relied upon the Young Socialist Movement (YSM) to undertake the critical responsibility for working
among the young people. In this regards the YSM is treated as an integral organ of the Party.
Members of the PNC have assisted fellow citizens in building schools and bridges, community centers and hospitals, river
and sea defenses, among other works. The Party has rendered a significant role in mobilizing people in various communities
for tasks, whether small or large projects.
From its inception the Peoples National Congress (PNC) has played and continues to play an essential
part in the life of the entire nation. It has promoted orderly, democratic and in many ways balanced development in Guyana. The Party derived its
prestige and influence from the nature and quality of the work rendered in the society subsequent to its formation. In every
region there is a Party group, whose members are fully committed to uphold the basic ideals and principles, which the Party
As an egalitarian Party, it is deeply rooted in the notion that racial unity transcends all national predicaments.
The racial divisiveness prior to Independence May 26, 1966) serves only to reaffirm in the minds of progressive minded-people, political power at any price
is extremely dangerous.
its tenure in office the PNC has never wavered from the fundamental principles of Socialism, while this approach has manifested
in critical socio-economic difficulties, its ideology remains entrenched in the society. For many years opposition supports
and detractors of Forbes Burnham have compared him to some nefarious dictators. Only time will determine as Guyanese witness
various governments demonstrate either a capacity to bring about positive change or consolidate on the foundation created
by the PNC administrations.
will certainly reveal whether the unfounded criticisms leveled at the Party and its leaders were indeed legitimate. The strength
of this Party and its ardent supporters were tested in 1985 following an unexpected death of Forbes Burnham (founder leader).
He was until his death the only leader of the Party. It was not surprising when five months later Guyanese re-elected the
PNC for another five-year term to govern the country.
After decades of uninterrupted rule the PNC finally lost power in 1992. What was the overriding issues or circumstances
that contributed to this defeat? Why did Dr. Jagan fail in his attempts to keep a myriad of opposition groups united against
the formidable PNC administration? And finally was Sam Hinds’ candidacy for Prime Minister a strategic move to capture
where resentment against the PNC was at an all time high or did Dr. Jagan inject race into the election campaign for political
After months of acrimonious debate and dissension a plethora of fringe groups, which dwindled
as the election date got closer formed a coalition. The PPP/Civic coalition gained
power trumpeting pledges and promising a brighter future for all citizens.
apathy and complacency certainly characterize the attitude of the PNC supporters during voting day. Further, it should be
noted that Mr. Hoyte’s commitment to the international community to hold free and fair elections, weighed heavily on
his mind. Perhaps, in an attempt to satisfy international observers he decided to reject the concerns of senior Party officials
over wide spread irregularities and discrepancies with the voters list. Unfortunately, Hoyte’s failure to act decisively
to what has become albeit a common Election Day problem, resulted in an unexpected defeat in 1992. In fact many PNC officials
were well aware of the chaos that ensued during previous elections when members were eliminated from the voters list.
Some leading PNC stalwarts even accused the Election Commission of duplicity
for submitting a seriously flawed document even though it had promised to rectify the voters’ list by Election Day.
In retrospect, the narrow defeat at the polls could have been avoided if the leader of the PNC had taken appropriate action
either on the day in question or shortly thereafter. Of-course, the fall out from such measures and the wrath of the international
community may have weighed heavily against such a decision.
Many years later the new regime appears reluctant to implement any significant socio-economic
and political initiatives, maybe the Jagan administration is resigned to perpetuate many of the very programs, policies and
strategies which they had vociferously resisted while in opposition.
there is little denying that politics still remains the art of the possible. However, age is wisdom, unquestionably true and
perhaps best reflected in the cautious approach, as opposed to the uncompromising style that the PPP adopted during the struggle
leading up to independence and destructive tactics during the PNC tenure in office.