Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
The apparent primacy of the race question over the class struggle in Guyana is understood best when viewed in the context of the domination of the local economy by metropolitan capitalism. The monopolization of local resources by a few multi-national corporations engaged in monocultural production for the metropolitan market, resulted in very little of the surplus extracted being ploughed back into the local economy. Few linkages developed between the dominant capitalist sector and those in which there was some local control.
l have argued that changing conditions in the sugar industry in the immediate post-emancipation period, led to the differential incorporation of racial groups into the modes of production. This has had serious repercussions for the development of class struggle as chronic underdevelopment has reinforced the ethnic division of labor. Between 1905 and 1924, mounting contradictions between the capitalists and the workers, both African and Indian, produced a spate of strikes and work stoppages. In the immediate pre and post-World War l years, the emergence of a united working-class trade union seemed imminent. There was, however, a marked paucity of genuine working-class leaders. Consequently, it devolved on the 'middle class' to provide union leadership.
Rivalries were rampant in the 'middle class'. 'Middle class' Africans, lacking a base in the distributive trade but prominent in the legal profession, held many of the elected seats in the legislature by the early 1920s. They had access to the patronage and privileges of the colonial administration. The Indian 'middle class' was largely unrepresented in the legislature. However, their increasingly strong base in the distributive trade in conjunction with their rising representation in the independent professions in the 1920s, did much to antagonize the African 'middle class'. This was exacerbated by the Indian 'middle class' fierce interest in gaining political honors.
It was in this context that workers' militancy was developing. To dampen this, the colonial state bidded up the price for patronage. The 'middle class' had to demonstrate its capacity to control the trade unions. In the process, working-class militancy was eroded, as racism was used by the 'middle class' politicians in advancing their narrow class interests.
Shiwcharan, Clement, "problems of Class Formation in Guyana" (1977). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 5311.
McMaster University Library