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Early Articles by Cheddi Jagan - 1942-1956

Dr Jagan’s letter written in 1942 to his friend, Dr Orrin Dummett

Edward Sanatorium
Telephone Cottage
Naperville, Illinois

 Sep 4th, 1942

 My Dear Orrin,

Very good news indeed to hear that you are getting along well in Nashville.  I am sure that as you get more adjusted to the environment you will like it all the more. As usual, I am feeling fine, so much so that I am beginning to feel skeptical of the diagnosis.

Next week I am going to ask for a stomach-lavage smear test, because so far all my spectrum test were negative. At the same time I am going to take a look at the three x-rays. At present, I am brushing up on a book on Pulmonary Tuberculosis.

I agree with you that the South and its prejudices will have to go. Now is the time for the Negro population to demand equality, and to see that the Atlantic Charter materialize and bear fruit at home.  After the war I’m afraid, when there is no more international quarrel and common enemy, all nations will drift back to internal social and economic conflicts. Now is the time for all suppressed and minority groups to demand not only theoretical but also practical equality, so that the common foe will be revisited by all on an equal footing. It is only in this light can the civil disobedience campaign of Gandhi be viewed. How can a country or a people be asked to fight for something they do not possess? To ask the Indians, or for that matter anyone else, to fight for the Four Freedoms*, when those principles of the Atlantic Charter are denied them is morally invalid. Britain is fighting to liberate Poles, Czechs, Greeks and what not but liberation of countries under its own clutches is out of the question. I suppose you have read of the labour troubles and riots that occurred in Jamaica.  Yes my friend, war is murderous and bloody, but at the same time it initiates changes - changes which are necessary for us. Clifton Close said that no matter who wins in the Orient, for the Orient itself there has been a Renaissance. History is in the making, whether anyone likes or not. There has been an awakening - the status quo that was is gone. Yes, now is the time for us to organize, to lobby, to make propaganda and demands, for now changes can be most rapid and to our benefit.

I am very sorry that we drifted apart when in Chicago for the past four years. Now that I look back and reflect, I feel rather guilty, and ashamed of myself. My economic status in my environment was perhaps to be blamed for my attitude and actions. They were all very emotional and superficial. To be poor is a crime, but to be poor and ambitious is a sin. You have to do things which you otherwise do not care to do. Finance - social and economic status - has influenced me so much, that were I to write an autobiography, I would perhaps call it “The Struggle of Complaisances.” It would really be a psychological expose. Unknowingly, - now that I look back – I must have hurt your feelings. If I did, I wish you place yourself in my position and then perhaps you will forgive me my superficial attitudes.

I am very grateful for you offer of help. At the present time, I am happy to say I am adequately supplied. Please convey my regards to Lois. Good luck and cherrio

Cheddi

 I have really said a mouthful, haven’t I?

*   Four Freedoms

  Freedom of Speech & Expression, Freedom to Worship God, Freedom from Wealth,  Freedom from Fear,  President Rooseveldt

Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000

 

The Right To Vote

by C. B. Jagan B.Sc. D. D. S.

Printed in The Labour Advocate, Georgetown. B G. Sunday August 6, 1944

Today, in the midst of a great struggle, man longingly looks forward to a tomorrow,- to a new order of things when, men will not be partly free and partly fettered.

He is looking forward for what an idealistic American calls " The Century of the Common Man, " He does not envisage the " New Order " of the totalitarians where bullets are substituted for ballots. His " New Order" will be a true democracy - a process whereby he will be able to effectuate a peaceful transfer of power from one group to another representing different goals and objectives. This process implies that the minority of today has a chance to become the majority of tomorrow. Democracy may be said to be most fully realised when the largest possible number of persons share directly or indirectly in the determination of public policy. True democracy depends upon a broader universal suffrage.

YESTERDAY AND-TODAY

Voting is a device used from very early times in the early Roman and Greek City states, the right to vote was regarded as attitude to citizenship. During the Middle Ages, however, property qualification began to appear. Voting came to be considered a privilege associated with the individual's status in society and more, particularly, ownership if, property. This situation continued in English history from the Norman Conquest in 1006 down to the first Reform Bill of 1832. In British Guiana, this situation continues to the present day. To qualify as, a voter, an adult, of 21 years, besides being sane and able to read and write in some language, has to satisfy at least one property qualification, This takes the form of either landed property, land tenure, - rent or income. It can safely be said that a large percentage of our population, especially in the country districts. although literate, cannot meet this property qualification, and consequently are disqualified from voting. Are we still living in the Middle Ages? We hear the familiar cry of conservatives " we are not " yet ready How can the people be ready when their economic status is so low - when they cannot muster an income of $300 per year ? How many married couples in rural districts receive an annual income of $600 enabling both to vote?

WEALTH IS NO PROOF OF MORAL CHARACTER

Our leaders remind us of the U. S. Poll Tax. Let it be remembered that this tax ,exists only in a few Southern States and even now there is an anti poll Tax Bill in the U. S. Congressional Committee The poll tax is a $200 tax attempting to disfranchise the low income African population. Most enlightened Americans decry this obnoxious tax. Let us not look to the progress of our country by thinking backwards of reactionary measures such as these, but look forward to new progressive ideas.

With the ushering in of the democratic forms of government, property qualifications begun to disappear. As one of the early American, democratic thinkers, Thomas Paine, once said , "' Wealth is no proof of moral character. nor poverty the want of it. On the contrary wealth is often the presumptive evidence of dishonesty." All men came to be regarded as being free and equal and possessing certain natural rights, among which was the right to vote. The French Declaration of the Rights of Man stated," The law is the expression of the general will. All citizens have the right of concurring personally or by representation in its formation."

ILLITERACY ON THE SUGAR PLANTATIONS

We are all familiar with the background of the labouring people of this country. The Indians and Africans came here as cheap labour to produce sugar. Their wages are the minimum - barely possible for existence. They spent their days working to earn enough to live. There was little time or opportunity for education. Their children were forced, because of the low wages, to follow the same pattern. One can still see the vestiges of child labour in the Creole gangs of the sugar estates. The economic situation did not change. The money of the colony is still in the hands of the same people. The condition of the labourers, particularly on the sugar plantations, has improved but little since the first indentured workers arrived in the colony. What chance had they to become literate? It is only the present generation that is becoming literate, but how many of them in their present economic status can meet the property qualification necessary for voting ?

HOW DOES THE COMMON MAN STAND ?

The common man is today fighting on many fronts to prevent government by coercion and retain government by consent. To him the right to vote becomes a natural right. He does not regard it as a mere privilege to be granted or denied by the moneyed interests, There is no doubt that moneyed interests here are afraid to franchise the people. To them it would mean the ultimate ruination of their power. Could they maintain their power with the labouring man, the majority passing the laws ? Public policy will then no longer favour only them but will be directed with the view towards the greatest good for the greatest number. Only then a true democratic Government is likely to endure …

The rest of this paper is missing

Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000

 

The Need For Consumers’ Cooperatives ( Contd )

           by C.B. JAGAN   BSc., D.D.S                         

 (Published in The Indian Opinion, Saturday June 2, 1945)

Within the frame work of capitalism, man to promote his welfare has adopted the cooperative movement so that

 (1). Consumers will buy only those things which have definite use value. They will not purchase fraudulent articles - patient medicines, adulterated foods etc. By so doing consumers will ultimately be able to take away control of production from those who today, under the capitalistic system, produce chiefly those goods which yield maximum profit rather than maximum group welfare. Consumers cooperatives will force production of “plenty” as against the capitalistic production of “plenty” as against the capitalistic production of scarcity. Surplus coffee and oranges will not be dumpted into the sea; excess pigs will not be slaughtered and buried so as to uphold the economic theory of value that prices that will be higher as supply diminishes.

 (2). Advertising that is useless will be greatly eliminated. In buying soap, a cooperative consumer will not want to support a model who has demonstrated her beautiful face in the soap advertisement. He will want to know whether he is buying the face or the soap. He will desire factual advertising such as, kind of fat used, percentage of fat used, what colouring        matter if any, type of base used, etc.  In buying a toothpaste or powder, he will not like to know, that his meager income is helping to pay a movie star several thousand dollars a week, of interest to him would be whether the product is accepted by the Bureau of Standards or the Dental Association.  He will like to know what are the ingredients, how coarse the grit, etc. 

 (3). The real income of low income groups will be greatly increased. This is of great importance to labour organizations, which are always interested in collective bargaining through which better wages, shorter hours and better working conditions might be secured.  These labour organizations usually associate an increase in wages with increased buying power. This however is not entirely true. A small increase in wages does not increase the real income of the individual if there is an equal or greater rise in prices. These organizations, therefore should protect and augment the worker’s small increase in wages by teaching them to become intelligent consumers against modern advertising and high pressure salesmanship and to form consumers cooperatives whereby profits or dividends will be returned to them on basis of goods purchased. Suppose a sugar estate worker was receiving a prewar salary of $3.00 per week. The labour unions may have been successful in securing for him an additional 10-20% increase in wages during the war. It is doubtful however, whether this has really increased his standard of living or his buying power because of the rise in cost of consumed goods. Add to this disadvantage also the practice of black marketing. Recently the control price of peas was 9-11 cents per pint whereas the sugar estate consumer had to pay about 17-18 cents. How can this small increase in salary compensate for the great loss in purchasing consumer goods?  It can be achieved in labour organizations urging their members to augment their wages by forming consumer and producer cooperatives.  

 (4). Consumers will become better citizens.  The very act of being a member in consumer’s cooperatives in an education in business an appreciation of the value of group welfare as against rugged individual welfare; a beginning of real democracy, both political and economic.

 One or more consumer cooperatives can be organized in every village and sugar estate.  Fifty, one hundred or more members can get together and collect shares for membership of $5.00 or $10.00 per shares. Those person having more money to invest can buy several shares keeping in mind however, that no matter how many shares held they will have only one vote per member. These shares will yield a fixed rate of interest but will not share in dividends. A member will receive profits only on the basis of his purchases from the store.  This will necessitate an efficient book keeping system with regular reports to members.  There may be some person who are willing to become members but do not have the necessary amount to purchase a share. This can be overcome by letting the dividends of those persons accumulate until the necessary amount is reached. Credit, if needed, can be obtained by cooperative, credit banks or unions.

 True cooperation, whether consumer or producer, can enhance the welfare of the group. It embraces the principle of “live and lets live”. It leads to a fuller and free life.

Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000

 

The Cooperative Way

(The following is an excerpt  of an article which was printed in a publication Indian Opinionin the year 1945. In it, Cheddi Jagan, for the first time, enunciates his concept of a “free and independent Guiana.” )

Our past has been dominated to a great extent by a philosophy of individualism and greed. More and more we are beginning to realize that this acquisitiveness for personal gain has to be supplanted by cooperation for mutual gain. Technocrats tell us that with an adequate labour supply - a few hours per day per individual - using the most modern technological methods at our disposal, we can greatly increase our productive capacity. One has only to think of the tens of millions of dollars spent in war materials during the recent conflict to realize the heights which production can reach. If it can be achieved in wartime, why not in peacetime?

This heightened production in itself does not mean an increase in the standard of living of the average individual. That can come about only when the abundantly produced goods are justly and adequately distributed. Looking over the past few decades, we see the shortcomings in the process of distribution in the capitalist countries. Wealth is becoming more concentrated in the hands of a fewer number of persons. Even in Denmark, one of the most social-minded and progressive of capitalist countries, in 1937: “0.4 per cent of people owned one-fourth of the property. 1.4 per cent owed the next fourth, 4 per cent the third fourth, leaving only the last fourth to be owned by 96 per cent of the people.” A similar situation more or less exists in most capitalist countries. Such a situation cannot be said to be conducive to the well-being, happiness and increased standard of living of all the people.

 In the light of these facts, let us take a look at British Guiana. Our standard of living must be necessarily low because firstly, our productive capacity is restricted either by antiquated methods of production or by the production of only raw materials; and secondly, because distribution is so constituted that the average worker-consumer has to pay large profits to a whole series of middlemen. Not until we embark on a well-planned, collective industrial company can we get “out of the rut.” This of course presupposes control of government machinery of the people, by the people and for the people.

Let us take bauxite for example. Had British Guiana been independent and further had it been federated to Dutch Guiana, we could easily have become a productive centre for finished aluminum and its products. That industry alone could have given adequate employment to Guianese and materially raised the standard of living. Instead, our government is merely content in allowing the Canadians to scratch the surface of the earth with a handful of Guianese labour.

It therefore behoves the working class people to get control of government through their constitutional ballots in our forthcoming elections, with a view towards complete independence. A free and independent Guiana can easily cooperate and eventually federate with her Latin neighbours, especially contiguous Brazil. One finds in these days of planned industrial and agricultural economy that anachronistic boundaries made between various small countries hundreds of years ago are more a hinderance and a cause of friction.

Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000

 

Wanted – A Minimum Wage Law 

by CHEDDI  B. JAGAN BSc. D.D.S

(An Article in THE LABOUR ADVOCATE   Georgetown  Sunday,  June 30, 1946)

The standard of living of the majority of the wages earners of British Guiana is miserably low as compared to most progressive countries.

The present condition of low wages and high cost of living is responsible for many of his ills. In the sugar estates, he lives for the most part in dungeons, ranges and barracks which keep out the light but let in the rain.  Fear of insecurity that he and his family can anytime be kicked out of the rat trap always dominates his soul and has made of him a cowed and servile individual.  It would be far better that his wages were increased to allow him to pay rent or own a house.  In the city the very miserable pittances doled out to factory (shirts, tobacco, etc.) workers and domestic servants force them to live crowded in backyard rooms and hovels.  Census returns will show that large numbers of ten and more persons are huddled in one room.

Body and soul of the wage-earner cannot be expected to kept together under the existing low wages of 4 ½ cts to 7 and 9c per hour.  It is no wonder that he is always having some kind of fever, aches and pains.  The famous estate hospital cure all  - quinine, cough mixture and  salts and all the quack patent medicines – if of any value whatsoever – will be of no use if he is not receiving adequate amounts of all the necessary food values. Why is the tuberculosis rate so high in this country, especially among the lowest paid workers? Incidentally, advanced cases of tuberculosis patients who may require lung surgery by rib resection etc, cannot receive this treatment here.  If he cannot afford to spend an enormous sum to go to Jamaica, he is left to die.  Our government prefers to spend more than $30,000 on free leave passage than to spend the same amount for medical experts.

The Heller Committee for Research on Social Economics at the University of California found that it required about $54,000 per week to provide for “ the standard; health, decency and moral well-being for a man, wife and two children”.  Senator Claude Pepper introduced a resolution in the U. S. Congress to make 65c per hour the minimum wage, saying that any other figure would be “sub-standard”.

Anyone who is familiar with the United States will agree that the cost of living here is not very much lower.  Why then the tremendous difference in wages? The majority of Guianese cannot help but live sub-standard.  Workers and wage-earners unite! Make a concerted drive for a minimum wage law of at least 25c per hour.  Write your Legislative Council representatives to introduce and support such a measure.    

Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000