Street Speech

by Walter Rodney


Note: It is important to understand that the following comments were made specifically in the context of the Guyanese situation.

You see, we have had too much of this foolishness of race. I'm not going to attempt to allocate the blame one way or another. I think more than one political party has been responsible for the crisis of race relations in this country. I think our leadership has failed us on that score. I think external intervention was important in bringing the races against each other from the fifties and particularly in the early sixties. But I'm concerned with the present. If we made that mistake once, we cannot afford to be misled on that score today. No ordinary Afro-Guyanese, no ordinary Indo-Guyanese can today afford to be misled by the myth of race. Time and time again it has been our undoing.

Does it have anything to do with race that the cost of living far outstrips the increase in wages? Does it have anything to do with race that there are no goods in the shops? Does it have anything to do with race when the original lack of democracy as exemplified in the national elections is reproduced at the level of local government elections? Does it have anything to do with race when the bauxite workers cannot elect their own union leadership? Does it have anything to do with race when, day after day, whether one is Indian or African, without the appropriate party credentials, one either gets no employment, loses one's employment, or is subject to lack of promotion?

It is clear that we must get beyond that red herring and recognise that it is intended to divide, that it is not intended in the interest of the common African and Indian people in this country. Those who manipulated in the 1960s, on both sides, were not the sufferers. There were not the losers. The losers were those who participated, who shared blows and who got blows. And they are the losers today.

It is time that we understand that those in power are still attempting to maintain us in that mentality - maintain us captive in that mentality where we are afraid to act or we act injudiciously because we believe that our racial interests are at stake. Surely we have to transcend the racial problems? Surely we have to find ways and means of ensuring that there is racial justice in this society? But it certainly will not be done by a handful of so-called Black men monopolising the power, squeezing the life out of all sections of the working class, and turning around and expecting that they will manipulate an issue such as the Arnold Rampersaud affair and get the support of ordinary black people because we will say, 'After all; is only an Indian. We could hang him. No sweat.'

Because, as I said before, you start with one thing, you end with another. The system doesn't stop at racial discrimination. Because it is a system of class oppression, it only camouflages its class nature under a racial cover. And in the end, it will move against anyone irrespective of colour. In the end, they will move even against their own. Because, don't believe if you are a member of that party today, that you will be protected tomorrow from the injustices. Because when a monster grows, it grows out of control. It eats up even those who created the monster. And it's time that our people understood that.






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"What I am trying to say is simply this: The revolution is made by ordinary people, not by angels, made by people from all walks of life, and more particularly by the working class who are in the majority."
- Walter Rodney