The formal name of Guyana is "Co-operative Republic of Guyana". What does co-operative republic mean and how is it different from normal republics?



Guyana's predominant ethnic groups are Indians and Africans. It became independent of the Commonwealth and its first president steered it towards socialism, hence the slogan (and later name) including cooperatives. One of the reasons was also to "shift attention away" from racial tensions.


Milne wrote in 1975 (1) on p. 352 footnote 2:

The term, "Co-operative Republic", came into prominence after the PNC achieved an absolute majority in Parliament after the 1968 election. As early as 1961 it had used the phrase "co-operative socialism" (Forbes Burnham, "A Vision of the Co-operative Republic", Co-op Republic: Guyana 1970 (Georgetown, 1970), p. 11)

and further in the text on p. 352

Yet the term, Co-operative Republic is important because it represents an attempt to grapple with the dominant problem which faces the PNC, a mainly African party, in governing a society in which Africans are a minority, constituting, even on broad definition, only about forty per cent of the electors. The term, Co-operative Republic stood for much more than just government encouragement of co-operatives, although this was indeed an important element. It represented, among other things, an attempt to shift the emphasis away from race as determining political attitudes and party support.

Merrill notes (2):

After the 1968 elections, Burnham's policies became more leftist as he announced he would lead Guyana to socialism.

Some background from the Encyclopedia Britannica (3):

Guyana’s populace is mainly of colonial origin, although Indians are scattered throughout the forested interior. The more numerous coastal peoples are chiefly descendants of slaves from Africa and indentured workers from India, who were originally transported to work the coastal sugarcane plantations. Ethnic problems between the last two groups have played a disruptive role in Guyanese society.


Politically, however, Guyana moved on a steady course toward communism from the time of independence until the death of the first prime minister, Forbes Burnham, in 1985, [...].

(1) R. S. Milne, GUYANA'S CO-OPERATIVE REPUBLIC, Parliamentary Affairs, Volume 28, Issue 1975jun, June 1975, Pages 352–367, https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.pa.a051721

(2) Tim Merrill, ed. Guyana: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1992. Chapter The Cooperative Republic.

(3) Jack K. Menke, Bonham C. Richardson: Guyana. Encyclopedia Britannica.


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