PPP used terror, striking workers in attempt to seize control of country- Fr President Granger

This year – 2024 − marks the 60th anniversary of the ‘March murders’ of Edgar Munroe, an African; Ramraj Gunraj, an Indian; and Godfrey Teixeira, a Portuguese schoolboy. They were the first three victims of violence in March 1964 in the Guiana Agriculture Workers Union (GAWU) strike that ravaged this country for 165 bloody days. Terrorism was ignited by the People’s Progressive Party’s ‘Hurricane of Protest’. The bloodbath began when the Union called a strike in the sugar industry.

Former President David Granger, speaking on the programme – The Public Interest – lamented the terrorist violence of the GAWU strike during the ‘Disturbances’ from March to July 1964. The strike destroyed the notion of workers’ fraternity, eclipsed the idealism of trade unionism under the shroud of terrorism, injected death into peaceful villages and incinerated ideals of solidarity on a pyre of workers’ corpses.

The first victims of the GAWU’s strike were poor workers from Manchester village. Terrorists bombed the lorry carrying workers who were accused of breaking the strike on the Tain public road in the East Berbice-Corentyne Region. The third victim was the son of an estate manager who died when a school bus was bombed on the Lusignan public road in the Demerara-Mahaica Region.

Mr. Granger recalled that the violence was driven by the deployment of a regiment of terrorists − armed with weapons, financed with cash and trained by communist countries. The PPP demonstrated that, from 1954 to 1964, it was ready to sacrifice human safety in order to try to seize control of the entire country by any means necessary. The People’s Progressive Party (PPP), evidently, employed sugar workers in its terrorist campaign, as Professor Seecharan wrote: “…to achieve political objectives which had more to do with [the] control of the state than with their conditions of work.” The PPP, in so doing, fused unionism with terrorism. 󠆳

The PPP’s Hurricane of Protest, plainly, was a terrorist campaign. Its aim was to dissuade Britain from implementing the electoral and constitutional changes imposed at the October 1963 constitutional conference in London. The GAWU strike was the pretext to demand recognition by the British Guiana Sugar Producers’ Association for sugar workers, most of whom already belonged to a rival union — the Man Power Citizens Association. It was wicked that a trade union was wielded as the weapon which wrought widespread wreckage to villages and woe to workers.

The former President asserted that the targets of GAWU’s terrorism were poor villagers and not British colonial officials, British sugar planters, British troops or British enterprises in the colony. Seecharan described GAWU’s violence as “…an orgy of arson, bombing and personal attacks on people who refused to strike”.

This sort of terrorism was without precedent or parallel in unionism. It exemplified, as Seecharan explained, how workers could be encouraged to commit violent acts “…to achieve political objectives which had more to do with [the] control of the state than with their conditions of work.” The ‘Hurricane of Protest’ and the GAWU strike left lasting lesions of the laceration inflicted on this nation by the toxic mixture of terrorism and unionism.