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Walter Rodney

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Submitted By dimpz22
Words 3256
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Abstract This is a project in the form of an essay which focuses on the life of Walter A. Rodney. This essay includes Walter A. Rodney historical background, major ideas, his contribution to the Caribbean development, his impact on world affairs and his weaknesses.

Content Page
Introduction ………………………………………………………………………….. 3
Historical Background……………………………………………………………….. 4
Major Ideas…………………………………………………………………………… 5
Contribution to Caribbean Development……………………………………………. 8
Impact on World Affairs…………………………………………………………….. 9
Weakness……………………………………………………………………………. 10
Reference……………………………………………………………………………. 12

Introduction “For the only great men among the unfree and the oppressed are those who struggle to destroy the oppressor” (The Grounding With My Brothers, pg. 131). Walter A. Rodney otherwise known as 'Brother Wally' was a charismatic Caribbean intellectual. Rodney’s humanity poured out of his personality with a profound sense of the personal. He was articulate and well-spoken, well-educated and informed, a personable listener and one who was in tune with the 'grassroots'. He was able to fuse his knowledge of history, especially African history, with liberation politics. Many of his talks can be found in his book "The Groundings with My Brothers," however a brief portrait does no justice to the heritage he left. Walter A. Rodney was a revolutionary and scholar that combined his scholarship with activism and became a voice for the under-represented and disenfranchised and this of course distinguished him from his academic colleagues. Rodney’s duality as an intellectual and an activist, caused him to challenge the prevailing assumptions about African history and put forth his own ideas and models for analyzing the history of oppressed peoples. Influenced by the Black Power Movement in the U.S., third world revolutionaries and Marxist theory, Rodney began to actively challenge the status quo. Prior to writing this essay I had to read Rodney’s bold, clear and rich writings and sections of his books. Rodney’s book provided inspiration, invigoration, sustenance; more, though, it outlined the historical frameworks of violence and domination through which contemporary maldevelopment, domination and plunder unfold. His work and commitment to ‘bread and justice’ inspired my budding examinations of the material and lived consequences of structural violence. Therefore this essay piece will help to advance the readers knowledge about the legacy of Walter Rodney as I seek to delve and explore into his life and works. This will take the structure of analyzing his historical background, understanding his major ideas, looking at his contribution to Caribbean development, his impact on world affairs and lastly his weaknesses as an individual. Walter Rodney was born in Georgetown, Guyana on March 23, 1942. His was from a working class family-his father was a tailor and his mother a seamstress. After attending primary school, Rodney won an open exhibition scholarship to attend Queens College as one of the early working-class beneficiaries of concessions made in the field of education by the ruling class in Guyana to the new nationalism that gripped the country in the early 1950s. While at Queens College young Rodney excelled academically, as well as in the fields of athletics and debating. In 1960, he won an open scholarship to further his studies at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. He graduated with a first-class honors degree in history in 1963 and he won an open scholarship to the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. As a student in Jamaica and England, Walter Rodney was active in student politics and participated in discussion circles, spoke at the famous Hyde Park and, participated in a symposium on Guyana in 1965. In 1966, at the age of 24 he was awarded a Ph.D. with honors in African History. His doctoral research on slavery on the Upper Guinea Coast was the result of long meticulous work on the records of Portuguese merchants both in England and in Portugal. In the process he learned Portuguese and Spanish which along with the French he had learned at Queens College made him somewhat of a linguist. Therefore it is no doubt that Walter Rodney life was filled with academic achievements and honorary awards, he was a Rhode Scholar.
Walter Rodney was not just an ordinary Rhode Scholar but he was on one with a real zeal, vision and a passion for the middle class people and the oppressed. Consequently, this led to the Rodney developing his major ideas that was influenced by politics and his knowledge of African History. Walter Rodney’s major ideas were self-emancipation and people power, no dictator. Walter Rodney was concerned, from the time of his awakening, with the destiny of the poor. His activity off the campus at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica showed this. He was concerned with the deprivation of the oppressed classes inside any given country and also with the oppression of the subject peoples of the earth by oppressing nations. In relation to the fate of the oppressed classes in a given country, he believed that they must discover themselves in order to understand their historic mission in their own oppression. From the outset, Rodney knew that the emancipation of the oppressed could be brought about only by the oppressed themselves. Thus it was useful for those who had knowledge, or were in the course of getting knowledge, which the very institutions of oppression had kept from them to point their vision in the direction of that knowledge and open up their appetite for self-discovery. To this day, the dream of self-emancipation and real independence is still unrealized in every part of the former colonial world. Working people across the world today are further than they have ever been from realizing the dream of economic, political, social, and cultural equality.
Walter Rodney was committed to the political future of the multi-racial masses of Guyana. He was a firm believer that if the mass of working people was armed with the historical and contemporary reasons which create the misery of their lives, they would be able to emancipate themselves. Rodney wanted the working people to emancipate themselves from mental slavery that was brought about by the historical inequality that colonialism created on the continent. Like Guyana, most of the former colonies in Africa, in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean are yet to find solutions to deal with and turn back the historical damage of ethnic and racial divisions that still threaten to consume these societies. Walter’s scholarship calls on people to recognize that the path to resolution of historical wrongs have to arise through the understanding of the past. It was in this context that he wrote the ‘History of the Upper Guinea Coast’, ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’, and the ‘History of the Guianese Working People’. To quote from the introduction by Vincent Harding, Robert Hill and William Strickland in Walter’s ‘How Europe Undeveloped Africa’, his work is ‘imbued with the spirit, the intellect and the commitment of its author...with Rodney the life and work were one’. Nowhere is this impassioned commitment more present, than in his ‘History of the Guianese Working People’. This work, which he completed in the final couple years of his young life, represents in his view, a small contribution to fill a huge gap, the vacuum which exists in the historiography of Guyana and Caribbean, what he identified as the ‘profound underdevelopment’ of the historiography of the region. Having developed on the heels of noted Caribbean nationalist historian, Elsa Goveia, Rodney was passionate about the task that confronted nationalists’ scholars, and new scholars such as him and those to follow. The task as he identified was to create an understanding of how our societies were constructed through an understanding of the real history of the struggles of the working people. He firmly believed and was unwavering in his commitment that history should be told from the standpoint of the people. This commitment to the truth was the hallmark of his scholarship, and this scholarship was interwoven in his activism.
Based on practice in Guyana, Rodney's thought firmly emancipated workers, women's and youth groups and other self organized groups from party control. On general questions Rodney held that people who had not made revolution had no moral ground for criticizing a revolution made by others. He took no part in the conflict between the USSR and China.
Rodneyite doctrine is grounded in self-emancipation of each oppressed group acting together or apart. It did not ideologically dismiss classes, but sought to democratize them, assigning them responsibility for their own spheres for the benefit of the whole society, depriving the predatory classes of power and creating a climate of genuine respect, justice and new rights to the working people, giving them the possibility of pursuing its own emancipation. In the first section of his book How Europe Under Develop Agrica, Rodney explores African cultures prior to European contact (pre-1500 A.D.). During this epoch, Sub-Saharan African societies were arranged largely according to communal models of family relations. Members of extended families were allowed equal access to land, labour and resources as no class system existed. As a result of the lack of competition for resources, little population pressure and the tendency of religion to remain unchanged for long periods of time; as opposed to the religious shifts of feudalist Europe, namely secularization which Rodney argues eased Europe into capitalism; these societies had relatively low technical knowledge or production skills.
Rodney also discusses several examples of African pre-European civilization including the Fatimid Dynasty in Egypt, the Kingdom of Axum in Ethiopia, the Nubians of Sudan and the Amazighs of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia; societies which were influenced by contact with foreign peoples, had developed advanced systems of production which included the Nubian ironing and smelting, who also had extensive knowledge of ecology. As livestock and resources became unevenly distributed, complex systems of social stratification emerged, often involving large servant and slave classes. In summary, the Rodney way was an answer to the disenchantment of the neocolonial regime, in which indigenous leaders have replaced foreign authority and resort to every means and measure to repress or divide so as to maintain usually undemocratic power—rather than seeking a respectful dialogue with real social forces in the face of real pressures to conform by world capital in various guises. The other major ideology that Walter Rodney sought to bring about was the need for people power and the eradication of dictatorship. Rodney’s people power is a major legacy that he left in Latin America. Walter anticipated the movements that are now flowering all over Latin America, the fusion of the struggles for collective land rights with the struggle for women's equality and human rights. This is represented by the horizontal and unemployed workers movement in Argentina; the he struggles of indigenous and black people, landless workers and trade union movements in Brazil; the indigenous Amerindian and water justice movements in Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru; the Zapatistas of Mexico; and of course Chavez's Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela. These movements, like Rodney's, are a rejection of the traditional party politics which have failed the peoples of the region. Instead, people are moving to take power into their own hands.
Walter Rodney's "People's Power" slogan was at the core of his vision for a new Guyana. If he were alive in 2007 I believe he would smile to see what had happened across Latin America. Especially in Venezuela where Hugo Chavez was championing the idea of popular power and campaigning for its implementation not only there, but throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
Walter Rodney influences is not constricted to just Guyana but more so he had influential impact on the Caribbean. Walter Rodney claimed developing countries were heirs to uneven development and ethnic disequilibrium, including continued forms of oppression from the capitalist countries and their own leaders. In Guyana, ethnic chauvinism persisted before and after independence from Britain. Rodney was disturbed by the inability of intellectuals to share common cause with the masses, thus ensuring that they would be unable to contribute to uplifting their talents or participate in the growth of the nation. Guyana and the Caribbean were subject to sugar and slave traffic that constituted cheap labor for the plantations and buttressed the capitalist-industrial system. A significant byproduct of that system was the master-slave relationship; a no-less iniquitous consequence was an active racism. Thus, social inequality became the heritage of Guyanese and Caribbean history. These social evils have influenced all of the social, economic, and political institutions in the Caribbean. Race, class, and color became the determinants of social value and how the various racial groups responded to them is both the triumph and the tragedy of the Caribbean. Rodney belongs in that pantheon of philosophers whose names adorn the history of the Caribbean and elsewhere. He has sought to lift the Caribbean people from the victimization of history and the poverty of material circumstance.
Like his influence in Guyana and the Caribbean Walter Rodney’s impact on world affairs in significant. Today more than at any time, the political insight and scholarship of Walter Rodney remains timely and relevant. For those with an interest in nation building, Walter pointed out that the issue of equality of access to resources and to power in society has to be addressed as a stepping stone to peoples' democracy and peoples' power. In his view, political democracy or in western terminology 'majority rule', must go hand in hand with economic democracy. Equal access to the ballot must be followed by equal access to economic resources. As a call to action, Rodney’s appeal was wide. It encouraged and insisted that scholars, activists, and the working people in all oppressed parts of the world have a common duty and responsibility to engage in the struggle to change the world and to establish a new world order. Wherever he went in the world he imbued his audience with the necessity of this challenge. It was the resonance of this message of change in the universities and in the communities alike which made him persona-non-gratia by the Jamaican Government in 1968 and which led the Guyana Government to rescind his appointment as Chair of the History Department at the University of Guyana. The impact of Rodney in world affairs was seen mostly in him being actively involved in the Pan-African movement; it was here that he explained the ideology of struggle. The main feature of the Pan-African synthesis that Walter Rodney attained was the fusion of his penetrating scholarly insights in the field of historical research with a deep and profound commitment, as a matter of principle, to participation in concrete movement of the people. When he was asked about the reason for his return to the West Indies in 1967-68, he explained that "I understood it to be my role to return to the University of the West Indies (from Dares Salaam) and to relate to our people on the African question. The dynamics of "the African question" in his understanding, however, was never abstract or romantic; instead, he sought to define concretely the nature of the predicament of African peoples through a rigorous examination of African history, on the one hand, while he tested it against the capacity of the people to carry forward their own struggle for liberation . At the forefront of his analysis was always the concern to eschew labels and dogma of any kind and his search for a resolution of problems in actual practice. By his own testimony, it was only by "looking at our predicament" and by "recognizing the essentials of the predicament" that he felt convinced that we could "chart the major lines, not the details, of the paths of emancipation. The death of Walter Rodney is one that has echoed and reechoed throughout the Pan-African world like few other events of recent decades. That is ample testimony, if such were really needed, of the popular affection that he attained in the hearts and minds of countless numbers of people. He was a Pan-African thinker and political activist in the fullest sense. Like any other human being Walter A. Rodney had his weaknesses. After probing in the events that lead to the death of Walter Rodney and the actual death itself I sought to discover his weakness. Walter Rodney was on a mission, a mission that was uplift the oppress people, and while doing so he developed some enemies, which were the oppressors. Despite the constant arrest and threat directed at Rodney life he was the least bothered and took it likely. Walter Rodney weakness was his selflessness towards his working people or the oppress people. This selflessness was what caused Rodney to die. Rodney would welcome everybody was a brother with open arms; it was Walter Rodney's tireless opposition to this betrayal of a people which finally cost him his life. Walter Rodney was murdered by the Burnham regime on 13 October, 1980. He was trapped, in the course of his revolutionary activities, by a member of Guyana’s army, into handling a device which exploded and killed him. In my opinion this was a highly charged political event for three main reasons, Walter was an internationally respected and admired Marxist historian active in the revolutionary movement in Guyana and the Caribbean; he was viewed by the people of Guyana, the Caribbean and the black world as the alternative to the bankrupt, political leaders in the region; and find finally, the Caribbean itself had been simmering since 1968 with revolutionary upheavals and social revolt. In summary, Rodney combined scholarship with activism and became a voice for the oppressed. His interest in the struggles of the working class began at a young age with an introduction to politics by his father, and continued with his involvement in debating and study groups throughout his student years. Influenced by the Black Power movement in the US, by Third World revolutionaries and Marxist theory, Rodney actively challenged the status quo. His voice was not confined to Africa and the Caribbean, but was also heard in the US, Canada and Europe. His reputation as a historian is indisputable. He was a rare combination of academic scholar, Pan Africanist, Marxist, activist and a voice for working peoples globally.

Reference
Bibliography
Alpers, Edward. "The Weapon of History in the Struggle for African Liberation: The Work of Walter Rodney." In Walter Rodney, Revolutionary and Scholar: A Tribute, edited by Edward Alpers and Pierre-Michel Fontaine. Los Angeles: Center for Afro-American Studies and African Studies Center, University of California, 1982.
Dodson, Howard, and Robert Hill. Walter Rodney Speaks: The Making of an African Intellectual. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1990.
Lewis, Rupert Charles. Walter Rodney's Intellectual and Political Thought. Kingston, Jamaica: The Press, University of the West Indies; Detroit, Mich.: Wayne State University Press, 1998.
George Padmore, Pan Africanism or Communism? The coming Struggle for Africa (New York, 1972)
Rodney, Walter. The Groundings with My Brothers. London: Bogle L'Ouverture, 1969.
Rodney, Walter. A History of the Guyanese Working People, 1881–1905. Baltimore, Md., and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981.
Works Cited
Mohamed, W. (2007, june 13). guyanacaribbeanpolitics. Retrieved from www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.com: http://www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.com/wpa/rodney_wazirmohamed.html
Mohamed, W. (2010, June 10). Pambazuka News. Retrieved from www.pambazuka.ne: http://www.pambazuka.net/en/category/features/65084
Sacks, J. (2014, November 27). Amandla. Retrieved from www.amandla.org.za: http://www.amandla.org.za/amandla-magazine/current-issue/1764-who-was-walter-rodney- walterrodneyfoundation. (2017, September 26). Retrieved from http://www.walterrodneyfoundation.org: http://www.walterrodneyfoundation.org/biography/…...

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