As we head into the Local Government Elections, the dynamics of our politics have been manifesting themselves. Groups placed in the same environment share a universal tendency to compare themselves against each other. Even uniethnic or other homogenous societies will subdivide themselves using such “neutral” criteria as domicile – “rural-urban”, coastlanders/hinterlanders – and carry out this comparison process.When, as in Guyana, groups with reinforcing cleavages of culture, attitudes, race, religion, etc., are thrown into the same society, comparison is inevitable and inescapable. The intractability of ethnicity lies in this fact: social groups can only be evaluated comparatively. Each category of individuals with similar traits evaluates itself positively and others with dissimilar traits, negatively.Over the course of time, the process results in stereotypical attitudes being formed, as the cultural or physical or other trait is given a social meaning, which is applied to the whole group. This group comparison is of great significance because of its stress on the “worth” of its members to whom this evaluation becomes an integral part of his/her identity and self-esteem. Some individuals may be impoverished but as members of a powerful group, they still have some pride of self-worth Vis a Vis members of less “powerful” groups.At the abolition of slavery, the society was culturally uniform in the anthropological sense, but culturally diverse in the sociological sense, with the Whites, Coloureds and Africans forming distinct social strata in descending order of status, power and economic worth. While, for instance, all accepted the values of Creole culture, the Coloureds had different speech patterns, foods habits, dress, etc. from the African masses and considered the latter their social inferiors. The introduction of Indians into Guyana – with their acceptance of “slave work”, “heathen” religion, unfamiliarity with Creole culture and values – gave the society and especially the Africans, the opportunity to further compare, and afterwards designate a new low man on the totem pole. He was the ‘coolie’, whose typical immigrant’s focus on economic advancement was labelled as “mean and stingy”, and stoic acceptance of hardships in fulfilling his indentured contract, “docile”.The Indian on the other hand, sequestered in the rural plantations came primarily into contact only with rural Africans. The Indians, defensively valuing their culture and heritage highly rejected the “coolie” categorization, and when in social comparison, utilized criteria fostered by the British to stereotype the African. They were lazy (for rejecting their despised “slave’s” work), hedonistic (for his emphasis on fancy clothes and weekend revelry), licentious (for their serial polygamy) and lacking their own culture (for imitating the British).One armament used by some groups in the competition over relative group worth, is the notion of ‘legitimacy’ where one group is convinced that it has a greater right than other groups to the national patrimony. In Guyana, or West Indies as a whole, because of their prior arrival, greater acculturation to White values, earlier entry into governmental services and politics, Africans and Coloureds viewed themselves as having greater claims to legitimacy than Indians, Amerindians and other groups. The latter groups however rejected this claim and countered that their contribution to the development of the country, and the international norms of equality, conferred on them as much rights as other groups to all that the country offered.Africans and Indians had co-existed in Guyana for over one hundred and twenty-four years (1838-1962) without any major confrontation. Groups resorted to violence either when they sought to conquer other groups or they felt threatened by other groups. The British policy of segregating the groups in different ecological and economic niches mitigated competition. In addition, the Indians’ late entry into Creole society until they were in a position of strength economically, when they could compete without being overwhelmed. It was in the latter phase that conflict was engendered.The potential for ethnic conflict in Guyana, or elsewhere, is stimulated therefore, when there are changes that cause one or more ethnic groups in a given society to feel threatened by other groups. Changes that affect the groups’ self-worth, especially if they are structural and thus self-perpetuating and widespread, create the greatest potential for conflict. As in all group activities, the strategies employed by the leaders are key elements in determining the course of the conflict and these should also be examined.Political groups become politically functional only when individuals make them so. Hopefully, the political leaders will keep the temperature down.