Special Feature by Dr. Festus L. Brotherson, Jr.

Mainpage | E-mail Directory | Discussion Forum

"The Political Leadership of Forbes Burnham and Cheddi Jagan"

Posted August 2000

Note: This article begins a series which evaluates the political leadership of Forbes Burnham and Cheddi Jagan in search of goals over specific four-year time spans of their stewardship of Guyana.

Read also The Effective Political Leadership of Cheddi Jagan


After studying the leadership record of Moses, Cyrus, Romulus, Borgia, and many more whom he ranked as the best at their craft, Niccolo Machiavelli concluded: "…there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order…" In other words, there are special dangers in the exercise of political leadership that attempts to establish or found new states. After this exploration of the political leadership of Forbes Burnham and Cheddi Jagan, we might deepen understanding of this Machiavellian paradox that affected both political leaders who dominated Guyana from the late 1940s until their passing in 1985 and 1997 respectively, and whose influence is still apparent.

Population majorities, whose unanimity is based largely, though not exclusively, on ethno-communal pluralism or the politics of race have lauded both Burnham and Jagan as successful or effective "Founders" of the post-colonial Guyana state and society. The race-based acclaim is an unanticipated consequence on their leadership legacy. A political calculus did not deliberately produce it. But how really "effective" were both men as founders? This is usually a difficult question about Third World leaders and responses tend to vary even when the same evidence is evaluated. By "effective" is meant the ability of the political leader to pursue and achieve primary goals for the state and society so that most people benefit more than marginally. But, most importantly, the term also indicates the ability of the leader to make adjustments to primary goals in the context of crises, resources and other competing factors from time to time in a typical labyrinthine Third World environment.

Over many decades, it has been accepted that one valuable measuring device of effectiveness is what happens in the state and society when the Founder dies. Do institutions survive him/her? Were goal pursuits successfully undertaken? Did the prevailing, official, political ideology survive or die with the Founder? In this series, the main focus is on challenges and outcomes of goal pursuits during the first four years of the beginning leadership periods of the two stewards.

Cheddi JaganA brief explanation of why emphasis is on the "first four years," first provided last week, is repeated. Apart from the clear benefit of the early period usually being one of crisis in which we can reasonably expect leadership mettle to be severely tested, the early beginnings also mark: the start of the leader's career as head of government; provides scrutiny of the leader on the basis of newness to the highest leadership post; highlights problems of incipient rule such as significant opposition to ideas and compelling need to perform and deliver on promises; and showcases the leader for the first time concerned with establishing credentials of governance and with effective political leadership on a national coalition-building scale, armed with the reality and responsibility of state power and not just the safety of an opposition base from which to hurl criticism. Paraphrasing Fidel Castro of Cuba, winning power is the easy part while exercising effective governance is infinitely more difficult.

Founders in statecraft are usually charismatic figures and our analytical sojourn along the leadership paths of both Burnham and Jagan will convince of their charismatic qualities during the periods under review. Literally, "charisma" means the "gift of grace" some leaders exude naturally to inspire confidence that they can deliver on major promises to citizens in highly troubled, crisis-ridden, dysfunctional environments where hope of betterment is significantly diminished. Castro of Cuba, Manley (Michael) of Jamaica, Mao of China, Nasser of Egypt, and Nehru of India demonstrated many essential charismatic qualities.

The four-year period for Forbes Burnham is 1964-1968 while for Cheddi Jagan it is 1992-1996. Since Jagan first became premier decades earlier, the latter period needs an explanation. The Jagan years were chosen because of the special nature of the era for Guyana when globalisation imperatives could no longer be ignored by political leaders and policy makers. The impact of globalisation was profound world-wide (still is) and produced a revolution in human thought and behavior behind the rise and spread of advanced technologies. The era also marked Jagan's return to power after a twenty-eight year absence.

Equally challenging was the 1964-1968 period for Burnham. New states were emerging with the grant of political independence by colonizers. Leaders in the Third World were grappling with issues of development and change about which there was great uncertainty along with considerable pressure to "take sides" in the Cold War. A new way of behaving and thinking had to be inculcated in service of forging nationalism, and successfully pursuing development. This was attempted under decolonisation and other programmes.

In sum, the Burnham period was in the middle of the Cold War and anti-colonial struggles. The Jagan period was in the post Cold war era and amidst the turmoil of globalisation. These contexts are crucial to grasp because they were epochal-changing in nature, contained unique challenges and forever reshaped the goal-setting strategies, tactics, accomplishments and setbacks of both Guyanese leaders as well as those in the wider Third World.


Note: This work makes no moral judgments as to the "good" or "bad" political leadership provided. Such opinions are for readers to form and debate. I examine whether leadership was "effective" in the sense of speeches and actions by the leader, in pursuit of goals, being congruent with tactics and the dominant state of order and disorder in the environment, and bringing about intended results. What elites do in state and society provide only one of several ways in which insights into realities are deepened. No claim is made here that the results tell the whole story of political developments.

Primary goals are crucial to the sustenance of a political system and enhanced legitimacy of the government of the day. They tend to be calculable and challenging with limited, more immediate results in mind, e.g., power enhancement, political order, water supply, housing schemes. Secondary goals are broader ones, e.g., end all poverty, to be pursued once the primary ones are on track. Secondary goals might have been set earlier and might even have been pursued, but primary ones take precedence given perpetual crisis conditions and other coterminous factors in Third World states such as dominant and changing values and, especially, unmet urgent needs of the masses.

The operational definition of political leadership in this work conceives of the phenomenon as the ability of the leader to attain and use political power in service of societal and personal (survival) goals, and to command the loyalty of others in pursuit and attainment of those goals, cognisant all the while of the needs and values of followers to be satisfied. And a key indicator of leadership effectiveness is the demonstrated ability of the political leader to set, adjust, and achieve primary goals, by means of clear and varied tactics, in times of crisis. See article of Sunday, July 30, 2000. Forbes Burnham

Forbes Burnham came to power in December 1964 in the wake of a protracted, divisive, and violent political struggle with hard racial overtones. He was aided by the United States and Britain and by the formation of a coalition government with the orthodox conservative United Force (UF). For both the British-American alliance and the UF, the appeal of Burnham was him being the viable alternative to Dr. Cheddi Jagan, who led a majority Marxist-Leninist party, the People's Progressive Party (PPP), and had signaled his intention to move the not-yet-independent British Guiana closer to the Soviet Union. While, almost exclusively, the majority East Indian population backed Jagan's party, Burnham's People's National Congress (PNC) drew near total support from black citizens. Blacks were the second largest group of citizens. The UF, on the other hand, attracted the Portuguese and other races as well as business interests. Burnham thus owed political favours to both domestic and external allies in a racially fragmented society - his black constituency, the United Force, and the British-American alliance.

A socialist-oriented leader, Burnham's primary goals during the first four years of his stewardship did not include socialism. That objective would not be pursued with any vigour until 1970. The new premier did have an energised sense of nationalism and his own preferences about ideological emphasis and economic development in Guyana. And given the crisis he faced upon gaining office, and the debts he owed, he set specific primary goals. These were CONSOLIDATION OF HIS POWER and the WINNING OF POLITICAL INDEPENDENCE. With the latter accomplished in May 1966, he adjusted his goals to include the ATTAINMENT OF PERSONAL DOMINANCE and, by that means, DOMINANCE ALSO BY THE PNC, and the MINIATURISING OF OTHER POLITICAL PARTIES. These new primary goals would complement consolidation of power which had been partly achieved.

During the period December 1964 and May 1966, the tactics used in service of these early goal pursuits included constant tapping of the values of MODERATION AND NATIONAL UNITY. Thereafter, they were adjusted to RADICALISM CUM MODERATION AND INCREASED EMPHASIS ON PERFORMANCE in order to accommodate and sustain personal and PNC dominance. This overall strategy required sustenance of ideological elasticity which had won Burnham the kind of multifaceted backing that had gained him office.

Consolidation of power was a primary goal for many reasons. First, Burnham needed to develop a credible national constituency by demonstrating he could win significant East Indian support. Given Jagan's popular appeal among this majority group, and given their clout in the vital sugar and rice industries, the new premier needed Indian support simply to ensure that Guyana functioned at all economically and politically under his leadership. To the extent that he could draw such backing in significant numbers, he would gain on Jagan in popular appeal and buttress his own legitimacy.

In this strategy of courting Indian support to help consolidate power, Burnham had to consider the debt he owed his black constituency. It was partly his own rigid position in not making peace with Jagan that had precipitated racial turmoil. As premier, he now had to rise above the politics of race and govern in the interest of the entire splintered society. How to do this while rewarding his black constituency for their loyalty, and without alienating them by appearing to be too appeasing to Indians, was the dilemma he faced.

Consolidation of power was again necessary because it was unrealistic to think that the debt Burnham owed the UF could be satisfied simply by that party being given token ministerial positions in the coalition government. The coalition had engendered more complex nuances having to do with the UF's own ambitions and the perceived weakness of the PNC in view of, ironically, the ruling party's same ideological elasticity. Not only did Burnham have to deal with these factors, he also found himself leading a society in which there was open competition for ideological credibility and dominance among the three main political parties - the PPP, the PNC, and the UF.

Burnham also had to consolidate power by developing a special kind of relationship with his international backers. It had to be one which would reassure them of his non-communist intentions, and prod them into making significant amounts of aid available to the colony. The latter was important because the new premier placed heavy emphasis on attracting foreign aid to boost Guyana's development. The relationship he had to cultivate could not be so binding that Guyana's pursuit and attainment of independence would appear compromised even before it was won. On the other hand, it could not be lukewarm or hostile given the clout of the British-American alliance. Again, ideological flexibility or pragmatism would help.

In a speech declaring open a diplomatic training course on January 3, 1966, Burnham put it this way: "...though principles and ideologies are the broad bases of behaviour and conduct, the world is run by individuals who have to be persuaded, who have to be influenced, and who sometimes have to be made into active allies or proponents of a particular cause."

Finally, consolidation of power as a primary objective was dictated both by Burnham's need to out-manoeuvre and out-perform Cheddi Jagan, and by the force of the new premier's own authoritarian impulses. In the latter case, the premier often demonstrated that he would settle for no less than near absolute control over the coercive and persuasive institutions of the state. In a searing, now out-of-print pamphlet, "Beware My Brother Forbes," Burnham's estranged sister, Jesse, provided a useful personality profile of her brother that highlighted authoritarian traits and bent. Others, including this writer, have chronicled elsewhere Burnham's authoritarian characteristics and methods.


THE NEW leader's commitment to winning political independence for Guyana was genuine. It was a goal in which he and all major opposition forces believed, largely because of their hostility to colonialism.

The new leader offered passionate comments on the subject in December 1964: "Anyone, who by word or deed, contributes towards the delay of independence for even one day, is an ally of those who would enslave us."

But it was not always this way. In an interview with this writer that was published on January 9, 2000 in the Sunday Chronicle, former President, Mrs. Janet Jagan, recounted a violent outburst towards her by female PNC loyalists carrying an anti-Independence line.

It was clear, too, that by this time the majority of people of colonised Guiana supported political independence. It was a goal whose realisation was thought to be the highest demonstration of victory ver colonialism. Some evidence of this mass support was seen as early as 1953 when the united forces of Burnham and Jagan had swept the polls in elections for limited self-government.

"From Colonialism to Cooperative Republic," by Professor Harold Lutchman is a useful source.

In all of the above, it should be noted that the two primary goals - consolidate power and win political independence - were interrelated objectives.

The evidence that moderation and national unity served as tactics to advance primary goal pursuits and achievements from December 1964 through May 1966 is considerable, and is found in speeches of Burnham and deeds of the new government.

For example, in announcing the formation of a coalition government with the UF, and consistently thereafter, Burnham spoke to his several constituencies, giving each expected reassurances. He attacked the previous "seven years of mismanagement and misrule" of the PPP government. But this was done so strongly over the next two years that, for a while, he appeared unstatesmanlike to many. He apparently was continuing his feud with Jagan while trying to win over the PPP leader's supporters. Also, he sought to generate goodwill towards his leadership. This contradictory posture begs closer examination.

Attacking Jagan with such stridency as Burnham did throughout the 1964 - 1966 period, sent a reassuring message of moderate leadership intentions to the British-American interests as well as to the UF and their supporters. Put differently, Burnham was affirming his hostility to communism. Thus, in engaging Jagan and the PPP, the new premier all but accused them of treason in frustrating the primary objective of political independence which most Guyanese cherished as a manifestation of a cardinal value - freedom.

Moreover, charged Burnham, the PPP were hoping to delay this acrosanct objective "until such time as they were able at the bidding and under the tutelage of their foreign totalitarian masters to introduce the form of tyranny and slavery which is their conception of freedom."

Here, Burnham was at once exploiting and assuaging the fears of the Americans, the British, the United Force, and the business classes about Soviet communism to which Jagan was then wedded.

Reinforcing the point and drawing significant contrast with himself, the new premier announced, "my purpose is to establish a consultative democracy;" a pledge which, in an extensive interview with this writer on March 30, 1987, Jagan dismissed as mere sloganeering. However, this was a theme which Burnham stressed (verbally if not always by actions)throughout the December 1964 - May 1966 period.

Having for years propagandised that Cheddi Jagan would compromise Guyana's independence and efforts at building national unity by playing subservient politics to the USSR, Burnham was addressing a particular need level of the citizenry. He was seeking to build self-esteem, national pride, public confidence, and a sense of efficacy in a Guyana under his stewardship.

Importantly, a setting of fair play was important.

Thus, Burnham also assured, "my goal is to establish a political and social democracy."

The seemingly contradictory tactic of emphasising national unity through attacks on Jagan for among other things, introducing "racial cleavage and racial antagonism," also allowed Forbes Burnham to use state power in a Declaration of Emergency against opponents whose activities he deemed inimical to the restoration of peace and calm - urgent needs in the society for stability and power enhancement.

Burnham missed few opportunities to tap national unity and other values within its ambit (such as patriotism) in service of political independence. He publicly rebuked some local leaders for making "representations to the British Government about Guyanese affairs." The implication was that they were signaling Guyana's inability to administer its affairs and thus its unsuitability for political independence.

He assured: "I will talk with Maha Sabha, United Sad'r Islamic Anjuman, ASCRIA, the Chinese Association, Archbishop of the West Indies, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Georgetown....." The intended message was that Forbes Burnham will be pursuing national unity by the practice of `consultative democracy'. He would seek to understand and meet the wishes of all groups in the society.

The irony that Burnham himself had made "representations" overseas, so much so that he owed favors to a powerful British-American alliance, was not lost on his hearers.

And how did Burnham meet the wishes of his black constituents? According to Dr. Jagan (during the 1987 interview), his main accomplishment was that he broke the racial barriers that had prevented black people from obtaining certain jobs in the civil service and

other sectors. However, the PPP leader qualified this praise because, he said, Burnham then began to oversee a government that discriminated against Indians - a view hotly disputed by Burnham and his backers, but commonly held by many Indo-Guyanese.

Very early in his term as premier, Burnham heaped heavy praise on the foreign bauxite company, Demba.

Not only was Demba the greatest earner of foreign exchange for Guyana, but also it was, from a leftist point of view, representative of exploitation of Guyana's resources by a foreign power. And for some time, it was alleged that Jagan and the PPP had eyed the company for nationalisation once political independence were achieved.

Thus, when Burnham declared in his 1965 New Year Message, "I thank Demba.

History has reserved a page for them," he was again on behalf of his peculiar mix of domestic and foreign constituencies scoring points against the PPP and at the same time trying to consolidate power. And, since the workers at Demba were predominantly black, Burnham could count on their support also during this early phase of his leadership. A few years later, he nationalised Demba. Such were the vicissitudes of politics in the splintered society.

According to the constituency being addressed, what their needs were, and what had to be emphasised, the moderation and national unity tactics in service of consolidation of power and political independence were varied. This too was effective political leadership even if controversial on moral grounds.

Thus, Burnham, among other things, courted Amerindian support, put emphasis on his government performing well, undertook economic development measures while formulating a development plan that was never fully drawn out beyond draft form, and criss-crossed the country several times on meet-the-people tours. As he reported to the nation in mid-1965 on the latter point, "I myself, instead of hastening abroad as others had done in the past and still others, naive and well-meaning, would have me do, to go a-begging, undertook to tour the country to meet the people, to learn of their grievances, their difficulties, their hopes and their aspirations."

In other words, he consolidated power while attempting to forge national unity. In point of fact, Burnham's overseas travels during the period under review were considerable. The list (courtesy of Messrs. Pryor Jones and Errol Tiwari of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) included Venezuela, England (twice), Barbados and Suriname.

Initially, the Guyanese premier revealed a consistency of endeavour on behalf of the Amerindian community. He scored a number of firsts having to do with brainstorming conferences and suchlike which addressed the question of how to bring the original inhabitants of Guyana into mainstream societal functioning.

But when he took office in December 1964, the UF was the party with close ties among the Amerindians. The junior partner in the coalition government was peeved at this "encroachment" on their base but they could do nothing save be supportive; for, in appealing to Amerindians, Burnham was fulfilling his expected role as a national leader and not just the head of a particular party or ethnic group - or so it seemed. He was taking steps to ensure that Amerindians "who have been neglected in the past" benefited by resource distribution - a natural major concern of a leader building national unity.

A standard tactic was Burnham's repeated references to the young coalition government as "my government" in almost every major speech.

The leader of the UF, Peter D'Aguiar, was hardly ever mentioned.

The tactic helped certify, image-wise, that Burnham was fully in charge and had the dominant leadership role. By dwarfing his helpers in this way, he ensured that all praise for the government's accomplishments devolved on himself.

Moreover, when used with another performance tactic of himself exhaustively detailing the young government's accomplishments by listing tractors obtained, peace restored, surveys begun, etc., etc., this instant identification of the premier with gains and benefits, real and embellished, and with values and resources being distributed in the society, was effective, crafty politics to consolidate power.

The speech of July 12, 1965 in which Burnham reported to the nation on the government's first six months in office is a useful indicator of how the tactics worked separately and in complement of each other.

At times, the need to chronicle results and show the new government performing well and producing laudable outcomes, launched Forbes Burnham into the realm of fatuous comment and unrealistic expectation.

An example is the premier's declaration, "We shall soon become a banana producing country without the disadvantages which flow from being a banana republic."

Masses of Guyanese, unschooled in the complexities of international political economy, gobbled up this patriotic fare, not knowing that it was impossible for any Caribbean and Latin American to become banana producing while avoiding the "disadvantages." Guyana never became a banana exporting country.

That moderation was the spirit which informed Burnham's tactics is perhaps most clearly seen in the early approach to development before the formulation of the controversial draft of the 1966 - 1972 Development Plan, and during the implementation of it. The approach and the plan were roundly criticised by Dr. Jagan. In retrospect, it seems that Burnham's development strategy was chosen because it facilitated the playing of skillful politics with his constituencies and advanced the goals of consolidating power and winning political independence. Beyond that, he was also influenced by ideas about development which were in vogue at that time within the Third World.

Simply outlined, Burnham's tactic was to appeal vigorously for Western aid while he urged Guyanese not to be too dependent on such aid but to become self-reliant. Self-reliance was an important value the new premier promoted tirelessly through aided self-help projects and other moderate non-controversial measures designed to inculcate a sense of independence among the citizenry in a wider drive for decolonisation.

It was also a tactic which promoted national unity by emphasising nationalism; that Guyanese, working together, could accomplish significant tasks. Burnham's rationale was that aid was a short-term necessity to spur development. He hoped that the positive results of self-help would be substantial, and would trigger sustained national development to such an extent that foreign aid requirements would diminish.

One use of the approach was that it allowed the premier to involve the Americans, the British, the UF and the business classes in the affairs of Guyana in a manner that yielded benefits to the country, and allowed these important constituents to bask in the after-glow of their decision to back Burnham over Jagan.

This kind of efficacious participation in Burnham's consultative democracy also eased their fears about communism. Of note, too, is the wider support derived from the immediately apparent benefits of aid-funded self-help projects including housing, health centres, drainage, roads, and suchlike.

From one level of consideration, therefore, the moderate tactic of courting massive foreign aid from the West while attempting to promote self-reliance among Guyanese, though contradictory, was rather resourceful. According to Dr. Jagan, however, Forbes Burnham "saw aid as development and not as a supplement to development."

This suggests that the premier was wedded to the school of thought which held that infra-structural works such as roadways, sea-defence, potable water supply, and electrification were best undertaken by government while it would be left to private enterprise, by investing in banking, trade and other traditional areas of wealth, to generate development and prosperity. This outlook perhaps explains why the premier took no radical steps to re-organise the local economy.

In fact, private enterprise was left completely alone during this phase. And towards the end of 1965, Burnham was so confident that his aid and development tactics were consolidating his power and would win political independence that he playfully rebuked the press in London for asking about Guyana's prospects for obtaining independence. In his words, "what might be more important is what assistance we may be able to get for our development programme."

December 1964 to May 1966, then, was one of co-operation between the PNC and the UF in a remarkable coalition of convenience that appeared to work reasonably well and to deliver benefits to the would-be-independent nation.

During this time, East Indian support was sought by attempts to de-emphasise the politics of race, stress values of peace and calm(ingredients of national unity), and to discredit Cheddi Jagan by the new government constantly trying to outperform (and in the view of some, actually so doing) the previous administration.

In this setting, the coalition government spoke with a unified voice at the London constitutional talks sponsored by Britain in preparation for the colony's independence. Other values cherished by Guyanese such as self-reliance, democracy and freedom were stressed in daily political life and in official reports to the nation. The need levels of the masses were addressed, and efforts made at better resource distribution.

The reports provided mainly by government spokespersons and by Burnham himself were accurate.

For example, it is clear that during this period there was an uplift in public confidence regarding the economy and the country's future.

Burnham had highlighted this in July 1965, pointing to a record G$10 million debentures programme to fund development projects.

A year later, a respected periodical, Chronicle of the West Indies Committee, affirmed the accuracy of his claim in its May 1966 edition and noted that "Guyanese have become aware of the magnitude of the task ahead and of the sacrifices to be made." The journal did find however, that contrary to what Burnham would have people believe, the Jagan years of 1962 and 1963 had also been positive and had "showed significant large favourable trade balances..."

Burnham's deputy premier, Dr. P.A. Reid, found that in just one year of the PNC-led government, there had been real gains such as an end to racial violence, genuine efforts to restore racial harmony, forward planning for development, and a concerted effort to build confidence in Guyana.

He put it in lofty language to illustrate the point: "Gone is the despair of investors; gone is the hopeless dejection of the people... Instead... there is hope for a bright future..." And at year's end, Burnham himself deemed the period as one "whose after-glow will linger in our memories for many a day."


Emphatically, I reaffirm that Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham was an effective political leader who should be praised for the deft and dexterous manner in which he handled the challenges of stewardship during the period December 1964-1968. Instead, many tend to criticise him unfairly. Thus far, although only the 1964-May 1966 period has been covered in Part Two, already some of Burnham's effectiveness should be obvious to analysts and other observers.

However, if persons have not read the first sections of Part Two carefully, it is likely for there to be misapprehension of context, non-comprehension of the meaning of primary goals and effectiveness, non-clarity about why certain speeches were selected and actions examined, and the essentiality of successful goal adjustments and tactics to complement them in times of crises.

In Part Two, general leadership unfamiliarity with actually governing the extraordinary, labyrinthine conditions in the extraordinary local political environment was an obvious minus for all of the Guiana colony's political leaders. That section of the article also gave the specific primary goals set by Burnham, and details and examines the use of values (beliefs) as selling points to legitimize the goals, win public support for them and achieve them. But, again, if readers focus on what some call "the easier aspects" of Part Two as standing as a set piece of analysis on its own, and without grasping its near complete linkage to and derivation from the methodology outlined in the same essay, it is possible to misconstrue the total picture and prematurely conclude that this series is nothing more than a camouflaged "clever attack on Forbes Burnham." I emphasize: IT IS NOT! Moreover, such premature definitive conclusions might represent a bit of intellectual tightness - the very same dogmatism with which Burnham himself used to be heatedly impatient.

Let me debunk this emotionally-based rather than factually-based assertion about this series being "a clever attack." It is true that in the examples of words and deeds examined, Burnham appears wily and demonstrating a tendency to change his mind about things when necessary, and seeming not to be wedded in a rock-ribbed manner to ideological rigidities of either the capitalist or socialist stripe. Well, that chameleon-like quality is precisely a valuable part of his effectiveness in the brief period examined so far. It is not at all necessarily negative unless one holds to the rather quaint view of politics being a logical process of making "good" or "bad" moral choices. It is that to some extent but many of the most important political decisions are made at cocktail parties, at horse-trading sessions behind the scenes with opposers and, not infrequently, in the bedrooms of power brokers. Most of all, however, politics is about power.

Consider once again the context of his leadership. The period marked the height of the Cold War during which the USA, having assumed turf control in Latin America and the Caribbean from the Western European powers, had made it clear that socialist ideology outside of Cuba would simply not be allowed even as the Cuban Freedom fighter, Che Guevara, was making the rounds trying to do just that in Latin America. Guyana itself had only a decade earlier suffered through the discombobulating experiences of the British invasion and suspension of the limited self-government constitution because the government had been openly defiant in promoting socialism. The results were political divisiveness and politics of race backed by the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Burnham's new leadership had to squash the possible recurrence of such a development in order to achieve consolidation of power and political independence.

In addition, there were conditions in the local environment that very much limited the kinds of goals to be set and that dictated choice of which ones should be pursued. For example, consolidation of power literally imposed itself as a primary goal in view of the extant, pervasive tension and unsurety about things such as Burnham's newness as head of government and a government itself formed on the basis of a fragile coalition. Similarly, given the high expectations deliberately raised during the electoral campaigns of the PPP, PNC and the UF, obtaining political independence also imposed itself as a primary goal. Its pursuit would facilitate use of powerfully intoxicating values people cherished such as patriotism, anti-colonialism, self-reliance, and, above all, fierce nationalism.

From December 1964 through May 1966, Forbes Burnham was therefore following a pragmatic coping and goal achievement strategy. Fatuous rhetoric still accuses him of having no firm, personal ideological core relating to either capitalism or socialism. But around the emerging Third World, and within the still small group of newly emerging independent states, many leaders who interpreted the times as suited for idealist ideological rigidity lost office; the most notable then being Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana who hewed to socialist line and was ousted in a military coup. Interestingly, Nkrumah had become a sort of mediator in Guyana's politics, respected by both dominant political parties. Further, with the passage of time, we know that ideological hard-headedness served more to make new states mark time or march backwards in search of, ironically, progress and "an end to exploitation of man by man."

Today, most states in the Third World are worse off for those costly experiments. The Burnham citation in Part Two, in which he argued the need to be able to persuade powerful sources in search of limited objectives where it mattered, e.g., for foreign aid, rather than to be doctrinaire for applause from the noisy assemblies of socialism and communism, is strongly indicative of effective political leadership. Some say it is indicative of lack of morality. Pish-posh! I cite Niccolo Machiavelli with whose writings the new premier had more than a passing familiarity. Burnham had learned from him the essentiality of power as the grammar of politics, and what had to de done to win, exercise and keep it while a political leader was on the mission of pursuing primary goals.

Machiavelli had argued that a new leader must be able to disconnect emotionally from his environment in order to make wise, levelheaded decisions in service of goals. He must be able to change his mind when the occasion merits such a move. The leader must seem "merciful, faithful, humane, sincere, and religious and also actually be that way" sometimes. However, he must have "a mind disposed to adapt itself according to the wind, and as the variations of fortune dictate." Burnham, from my familiarity with him, and from the views of others close to him, possessed this asset. In the circumstances of the unsurety of governing a newly emerging state on the hunt for political independence, this capacity was a marker of effective political leadership skills. It explains why Burnham could tighten up ideological elasticity in search of his goals much later and, arguably, be fairly successful at the craft through 1975 with "critical support" from a magnanimous PPP.

In the section covered so far, Forbes Burnham: demonstrated appropriate conservative views about the bauxite plant, Demba; changed his strategy from opposing to supporting independence where self-interest had guided initial hostility to it; fashioned what he called a consultative, political and social democracy; pursued a calculated strategy for economic development that would win favor of overseas backers to whom he owed favours; attacked his opponents in the People's Progressive Party - in particular the former premier Dr. Cheddi Jagan; used awesome state power to detain opposition figures and curtail anti-government activities. Effectively, he was able to satisfy and make more cohesive and supportive that odd variety of constituents to whom he owed political favors and his ascension to political headship- the American-British alliance, black citizens, and the UF.

A good part of Forbes Burnham's effectiveness as a political leader in those rather challenging circumstances had to do with his being charismatic during the period 1964-1968 under review. This will be addressed much later alongside the charisma of Dr. Cheddi Jagan.

(NEXT: Burnham from1966-1968) END NOTE:

Many thanks to the supervisors and staff of the Ministry of Information library, the University of Guyana Library, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who, when this research was done preliminarily some years ago, went the extra mile to provide original documents in complement of excerpts as well as other helpful data and leads.

Dr. Brotherson is a Guyanese professor of political science and corporate risk-assessment consultant who resides in the USA.