The PPP has an authoritarian culture
By STABROEK STAFF | LETTERS | MONDAY, JANUARY 30, 2012
Freddie Kissoon is bang-on with his position that the PPP has and has always had an authoritarian culture. However, Mr Kissoon did not examine why. I must state that many features of the analysis below are applicable to that other political wrecker-in-chief, the PNC, now APNU. It starts with the fact that the PPP remains a communist party at heart. Communist parties are totalitarian in structure and practice. Nonsensical notions like democratic centralism are used only to hoodwink the followers. At the end of the day, a handful of men and women handpicked by the bigwigs have always controlled all the power within the PPP, excluding the rank and file. Ever since Balram Singh Rai challenged the Jagans, the PPP has centralised power in the hands of a few who make all the decisions for the hundreds of thousands who support the party. It is this travesty that saddled this nation with a neophyte like Mr Jagdeo who went on to rival Burnham for his authoritarian tendencies and currently Donald Ramotar, who had many questions surrounding his qualifications for the presidency. The autocracy started with the Jagans and has continued. Cheddi Jagan’s political skill and class made him an obvious choice for leader but there was nothing wrong in Cheddi being re-elected in a proper transparent democratic process.
Authoritarianism thrived in the PPP because of several factors. Firstly, the PPP inner circle fooled its membership into believing that internal dictatorship was necessary for the survival of the PPP in order to prevent Western intrusion. Secondly, this argument was extended to the claim that PPP’s internal dictatorship was necessary to fight the PNC dictatorship. Thirdly, the PPP inserted serious anti-dissent clauses in its communist constitution to keep the membership in line. Fourthly, totalitarian concepts like democratic centralism were masqueraded as democracy when they were nothing but rank autocracy. Fifthly, the PPP exploited the lack of education about democracy among its supporters. Sixthly, the PPP exploited ethnic insecurity and promoted the concept that democracy within the party was expendable in order to maintain the PPP’s standing as the provider of security for Indians. The PPP blurred the lines between ethnic affinity and party fairness. Ethnic security or insecurity is no barrier to internal party democracy. In fact, the PNC has just demonstrated that fact. Democratic elections within the PPP would have still delivered Cheddi and Janet Jagan as leaders, but likely not Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar.
Ninth, the PPP practised blame transference by focusing on the PNC’s dictatorship to deflect its own internal autocracy. Tenth, the PPP congresses were carefully managed, controlled and influenced events which led to the same set of people getting selected again and again to the prime positions within the PPP. Eleventh, the PPP centralised power to small groups such as its Executive Committee, a group of 15 that directs and controls the party. Twelfth, the PPP fosters functional superiority where an incompetent who is loyal must be put on a pedestal by the general membership simply because he has ingratiated himself with those who were handpicked for power. The incompetent serving as a minister or as a party executive must not be questioned and must be embraced at all costs. This is classic functional superiority and leads to party totalitarianism. Mr Jagdeo who could not hold a candle to men like Mr Nagamootoo and Mr Ramkarran within the PPP obtained functional superiority over these giants by an innately undemocratic selection process led by Janet Jagan. The same could be said for Donald Ramotar’s selection as the PPP’s presidential candidate. Thirteenth, the PPP has planted some fears in its supporters such as don’t-split-the-vote and unity-at-all-costs to detract PPP supporters from the real problem of internal dictatorship.
There is nothing wrong in the PPP having an internal revolution akin to what occurred in the PNC after its 2006 election debacle. Despite its continuing flaws, the PNC has become more democratic than the PPP and has elected its presidential candidate in a far more transparent process than the PPP. It is quite ironic that PPP supporters who complained bitterly about the PNC dictatorship had nothing to say about the PPP’s own internal dictatorship. The PPP supporters must demand democracy within the PPP before it wrecks itself. It is not only the loss of Indian support that internal authoritarianism brings, it is the loss of ethnic crossover voters who are necessary for the PPP to win a majority.