Biography of Dr. Cheddi Jagan
The PPP in a statement published in Thunder, the Partys official organ, warned that electoral rigging would take place in the 1968 elections. It said that the PNC regime was giving Guyanese residents overseas the right to vote and anticipated that some 42,000 would be given the right to vote. The PPP also charged that proxy voting would be used to rig the elections and that the PNC was in control of the election machinery. The Party deemed these acts "the final assault on democratic principles and the parliamentary process."
Dr. Cheddi Jagan, this year, wrote and published "Anatomy of Poverty in Guyana" which advocated that Guyanas future depended on simultaneous agricultural and industrial development. He pointed out that Latin America was a perfect example of world poverty and food shortages. Food shortages, he said come from feudal land ownership coupled with capitalistic ejection of farmers from occupied lands and dumping them into the growing labour market.
PPP Leader Dr. Cheddi Jagan led a protest march to protest the many irregularities in the National Registration for voters which denied thousands of their right to vote. Units of the Police and Army were called out to stem the protests.
The December 16, 1968 elections, were, as predicted, rigged. The PNC which by this time had dumped its coalition partner the United Force, claimed 55.%, the PPP 30% and the UF 7%. The 1964 elections had given the PPP 46%, the PNC 40% and the UF 12%.
Dr. Jagan in an article in Thunder said that extensive fraud, including fabricated padded voters lists, extensive proxy voting, fake votes and ballot box tampering led to the fraudulent elections.
He referred to the exposure of fraudulent overseas voting by the British Grenada Television Company entitled "The Trail of the Vanishing Votes" which disclosed that in a sample of 551 voters registered in London, there were only 117 genuine names and in another sample in Manchester of 346 registered, only 19 were genuine.
In a second programme entitled "The Making of a Prime Minister" Grenada Television reported that only 4,700 of the 11,750 registered voters in USA were genuine and 13,050 of the 44,300 registered in UK were genuine.
And Peter DAguiar, United Force leader stated: "to call it an election is to give it a name it does not deserve; it was a seizure of power by fraud, not elections."
Dr. Jagan urged the PPP to "carry out a policy of unity and struggle struggle against those who vacillate and support imperialism and with those who will fight in defence of democracy, freedom and socialism.
The two decades of the 70's and 80's were years of purposeful struggle to bring to a close the repeated electoral fraud and the illegitimate government of the PNC.
Civil rights were repeatedly violated. Cheddi Jagan exposed the assaults on freedom of the press, academic freedom, widespread discrimination, especially in employment, the denial of Amerindian rights and women's rights, the questionable administration of justice, the right to freedom of movement.
During this period the PNC and IMF policies brought fear and anguish to the Guyanese people who shouldered heavier burdens as well as the draconian restrictions on essential goods, mainly foodstuff. Widespread shortages of foods, soap, and gasoline made life difficult, with thousands running away to other countries. All of this led to a deepening of the social crisis. These serious problems were addressed by Cheddi Jagan and his PPP.
Cheddi Jagan and the PPP always stood up against colonialism, neo-colonialism, imperialism, militarism and apartheid, by supporting national liberation movements and all democratic forces, as he did against the war in Vietnam. He identified with all freedom fighters around the world and embraced their individual causes as his own.
In July 1969 the PPP was accepted into the World Communist Movement. The PPP began transforming itself into a Marxist-Leninist party. As part of the organizational change, the leader of the Party, Dr. Jagan was elected General Secretary of the PPP.
Dr. Jagan pursued a philosophy of internationalism with great passion. He did so ever since he plunged into the political arena in the 1940s when in his early writings he supported the independence movement in India and the activities of Gandhi in pursuing peaceful resistance. This belief in peaceful resistance he maintained throughout his entire life. In the 1970s and 1980s when the struggle for democracy was intensifying, there were some in the struggle outside of the PPP who criticized him for not advocating non-peaceful resistance and sneeringly referred to him as Guyana's Gandhi.
Dr. Jagan wrote incessantly in local and foreign journals on politics, ideology and economics. During the period from the late 60’s to the late 80’s he established himself as one of the leading spokespersons from the Third World on the causes and elimination of poverty. His writings from the 70’s on these topics include “Poverty Cause and Cure in Developing Countries”, The Trade Unions and National Liberation”, “A West Indian State: Pro-Imperialist or Anti-Imperialist”, and “Non-Alignment as a Viable Alternative for Regional Cooperation” to name a few.
He was a fervent supporter of the Non-Aligned Movement and of all national liberation movements. He launched an international crusade against imperialism, and for peace, national liberation and social development. His firm belief in internationalism was expressed in his fight for world peace. He was always opposed to nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction. His contribution to the world-wide struggle for peace brought him international recognition and the position of a Vice-President of the World Peace Council, and President of the Guyana Peace Council.
On February 23, 1970, Guyana became a Co-operative Republic and Dr. Jagan wrote: “The slogan ‘co-operative’ republic is a hoax, a fraud, to lull the Guyanese people into a false sense of security. It is the device to cloak, to hide the reality of a neo-colonialist, capitalist-imperialist republic.”
Dr. Jagan's international work carried him to most parts of the world and established him as an authoritative spokes-person on issues affecting the Third World. He visited Vietnam in August 1971 and also visited India and the refugee camps of East Pakistan.
The July 1973 general elections became notorious, not only by the extensive rigging, but with the use of the military to take over the ballot boxes which were held for lengthy periods at army headquarters. The PNC gave itself a two-thirds majority. Dr. Jagan wrote two articles about this election. He wrote: “What was witnessed on July 16 was not an election but a virtual army coup. The police and army seized and impounded and tampered with the ballot boxes.” Janet Jagan also spoke at meetings and used her pen to expose the PNC government. Her book on the 1973 rigged elections is still one of the best expose of violence perpetrated on the Guyanese people by the PNC. In the opening sentence she stated frankly and dramatically, "in Guyana the word "elections" has become synonymous with "fraud."
This infamous – highly flawed, rigged and fraudulent 1973 general elections and the hijacking of ballot boxes at the close of polls led to the martyrdom of PYO members, Jagan Ramessar and Bholanauth Parmanand.
The PPP boycotted the National Assembly for over a year in protest. The PNC began proclaiming itself as a Marxist-Leninist party.
Cheddi Jagan on July 11, 1973 wrote: "How can you preach in Sunday school and elsewhere: 'thou shall not steal,' when stealing at the top has become the high road to ‘success;’ when the weapon of extortion is used to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars from businessmen; when a whole government is stolen by rigged election; when the dead, the underaged and the non-existent vote at elections; when persons including pensioners, government employees, those in receipt of social assistance, and so on, are coerced into signing application forms for proxy and postal voting; when names are forged for proxy and postal voting, thus denying persons their right to vote; when the powers of the Elections Commission are eroded, the law requiring the publication of the list of proxies is broken, and ballot boxes are tampered with?"
Police raided Dr. Jagan’s home in September 1974 and took away parts of a revolver, eventually charging him with illegal possession. He was arrested, fined $25.00 and was released after a huge crowd of his supporters appeared at the Court House.
Sugar workers only got recognition, or rather a poll to determine which union they should have, towards the end of 1975 because of a 13 week strike in the Sugar Industry. Workers struck for seven weeks in the sugar industry in the first crop and they didn't get it; and six weeks in the second crop then the Government was forced to hold a poll. That was how the Guyana Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) was recognised. Cheddi Jagan wrote: “In the complex Guyana situation, the trade union movement must operate on the basis of unity and struggle or alliance and struggle. It must unite or allay itself with all those who are fighting for progressive and revolutionary positions, and at the same time struggle against all backward, reactionary, racist and anti-working class positions.”
Dr. Jagan always saw the need for a political solution in Guyana which would eliminate the problem of ethnic insecurity and lead to a restoration of democracy. While fighting rigged elections and authoritarian rule, he never lost the opportunity to undertake discussions with the People’s National Congress (PNC) or its leader Prime Minister and later President Forbes Burnham, in which he saw no contradiction since he relied on the principle of unity and struggle.
In August 1975 in light of the border threat from Venezuela and certain pro-socialist political and economic moves by the PNC regime, the PPP offered "critical support" to the PNC regime. The PPP was criticized by some for giving this support while some others condemned it for not giving total support. A few leading members from the latter group, including leading PPP members Ranji Chandisingh and Vincent Teekah, defected to the PNC. These defectors claimed that the PPP was too diverse and liberal in its philosophy, while the PNC was grounded solidly in Marxism-Leninism. During this period Dr. Jagan led the PPP in talks with Burnham at the latter’s invitation. However, these talks failed after Burnham demanded the retraction of a critical editorial in the “Mirror”.
Dr. Jagan's restless pursuit of unity resulted in several years of collaboration with opposition political parties generally and on specific issues. In 1977 the PPP issued its proposals for a National Patriotic Front Government. The PNC rejected the proposals outright. The newly formed Working People's Alliance (WPA) expressed limited support saying that it was not supportive of the PNC being included.
Major events that Cheddi Jagan was involved in the 70s were the struggle for the freedom of Arnold Rampersaud - a PPP activist on a fraudulent charge of murder between 1975 and 1977, who was acquitted after an unprecedented three trials; and the struggle against the Referendum Bill in 1978 which was designed to postpone the General Elections due in 1978.
In July 1978 the PNC postponed the general elections and called a referendum to vote for a constitutional change to allow the National Assembly to make future changes to the constitution. The PPP led a boycott, and over 70 percent of the voters stayed away. However, the PNC rigged this referendum in July 1978 to give itself over 97 of the votes agreeing to its proposal. It also declared that over 75 percent of the people turned out to vote!
The infamous Jonestown massacre, which took place in 1978, was a result of the deliberate policy of the PNC regime to turn its face away from the sinister developments in Jonestown.
Dr. Jagan received the Order of Friendship at the Kremlin (Moscow, USSR) on December 20, 1978. He said: “I wish on behalf of the PPP and myself to express our deep gratitude for the award of friendship which has been conferred on me by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. And we gladly accept it as recognition of the role we have played in developing friendship with the land of Lenin and the heroic Soviet people, and also with the peoples of the whole world.”
His acute political activism of 1970-1979, reflected in his writings and party life, a most exemplary people’s man. Dr. Jagan had an insatiable and voracious appetite for reading, collecting and researching.
He wrote profusely and extensively on the PPP, Guyana’s dilemma' he fearlessly accused and exposed imperialism and its intrigues in Guyana and elsewhere.
His writings have become vital sources for research by University students, historians, economists, politicians, trade unionists, journalists etc.
Dr. Jagan’s works during that period, dealt most incisively with Guyana and the international situations, World Peace, National Liberation Movements and Socialism. Numerous articles on local and international issues, press releases, letters, addresses, books and booklets, major papers and interviews, etc reveal the story of a truly real man – an outstanding world leader.
In that period too, Dr. Jagan wrote 271 Articles of national and international significance/importance, of which, 102 were his Straight Talks for the Weekend Mirror Newspaper and 39 extraordinary letters. He gave 27 feature addresses at the local and international forums, 8 booklets, including the revision of the West on Trial (1972 and 1975), 44 major papers and numerous notes for his speeches to Parliament for unity Talks, Public meetings etc.
He continued his twice-yearly visits and more to the 3 counties during the 1970’s. He addressed mass public meetings, with businessmen, interest groups, individuals and farmers. As always he kept his people in focus. Dr. Cheddi Jagan learnt and always led by example. In Marches, picketing demonstration and Rallies, etc, he was shoulder to shoulder with his comrades and ranks of supporters.
Dr. Jagan attended and gave leadership to the PPP’s Congresses, Central and Executive Committee meetings. He was a regular lecturer to the PPP’s Ideological School, Accabre College. Dr. Jagan is reputed to have lectured the most, as a visiting lecturer abroad. The 70’s were no exception. He visited and kept PPP Support Groups abroad, abreast with development in Guyana regularly.
He addressed on invitations Mosques, Mandirs, Churches and other religious gatherings, locally. Weekends found him on outreach Party activities in the counties or interior. Still, Dr. Jagan found time for PPP’s Freedom House, to attend to Party matters and delegations, daily.
Apart from the GAWU long struggle for union recognition, Dr. Jagan readily gave leadership/advise/guidance to the RPA, GAPA and other farmers organizations and progressive trade unions. Be it in Parliament, the Press, Street Corners or public meetings, the people’s welfare and nation’s interests were championed by Dr. Jagan.
The blatant disregard for Human Rights and Democracy in the 1970’s in Guyana, witnessed Dr. Jagan reaching out to opposition political parties to hammer out and forge a common understanding and to confront the hated, unpopular PNC minority government.
The demands of the 1970’s dictated the necessity for a true national leader and Dr. Jagan never failed to rally to that which paved the long and arduous political path to which history was being made and destined to absolve him.