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Every Citizen a Soldier: The Guyana People’s Militia, 1976–1985

Moe Taylor


In December 1976, Prime Minister Forbes Burnham of Guyana and the ruling People’s National Congress launched the Guyana People’s Militia. The militia combined the pragmatic goals of national defense, internal security, and economic development with a political goal of uprooting the psychological effects of colonialism and building a new socialist society. Modeled on a similar institution in Yugoslavia, the Guyana People’s Militia reflected the era’s Third Worldist spirit of transnational cooperation and experimentation among the more radical member states of the Non-Aligned Movement. This article examines the historical genesis of a people’s militia as a politico-military concept and outlines how the goals of the Guyana People’s Militia were frustrated by the country’s divisions along ethnic, regional and political lines. In doing so, it addresses broader questions about the proliferation of people’s militias among the socialist and socialist-oriented governments of the Global South in the Cold War era.

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Published by the University of Florida Press on behalf of the Association of Global South Studies.