In Defence of the Working Class
by C.B.Jagan B.Sc., D.D.S
As a result of my letter appearing in the Daily Chronicle on Sunday July 7, 1946, R.B.H. in the Guiana Graphic of Sunday July 14 countered with an article “A Vote is like a Wage”. To have arrived at those opinions considering the views expressed in my letter, one gets the impression that R.B.H. is either completely devoid of all sense of logical reasoning, in which case he should not be allowed to abuse the freedom of the press, or that he has embarked on an early campaign of smear and slander.
I am being painted as a visionary who will bring the sun and the moon to the people. He would credit me with a campaign slogan, “A car under every house”. It may be useful information that the workers in the U.S.A. at the present time do not look upon the possession of a car as a luxury, but as a necessity. My point of argument was that the acquiring of material wants – cars, radios, houses, electricity, books, pencil, slates, etc. – varies in direct proportion with buying power, which in turn is dependent upon two factors, wages and cost of consumer goods. As long as there is maintained the present condition of high cost for consumer goods and low rates of wages for workers, the working class which includes the estate labourers will never have the buying power to purchase his normal wants of adequate food, clothing and shelter, no matter how lavishly these are displayed.
A careful analysis of the article reveals the sinister hand of reaction trying to divide the working class along racial lines. I am smeared as “a champion of a particular race in the colony.” To me the alignment is clear –exploiter versus exploited, capitalism and profits versus slavery and the misery of the working class. In this I can see no question of race. It is only to be hoped that the workers of British Guiana will recognize the fountainhead of this racial propaganda, and will realize their power in their votes and adopt as their slogan “workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains.”
Why mention the 3½ million dollars already paid this year as wages by the sugar industry, when no mention is made as to the number of workers and actual number of man hours involved? In other words, give us the figure for the miserable wage rate per hour or per day. Why tell us about aggregate wages, and not mention aggregate profits and the various paddings which in truth are profits but are accounted as cost of production. To state that 80% of the 8 million dollars deposited in the Post Office Savings Bank belongs to the East Indians is subtle propaganda showing that their earning power must be high. The fact is that saving is dependent not only on earning power, but also on other factors as thrift and self-sacrifice. Over what period and by how many and what class of depositors was this sum of saving accumulated? One again recognizes in this statement of savings the creative hand of racial antagonism and division, putting forth the case that “wealth is power”.
Fear of insecurity dominates the soul of the working class today. The sugar estate labourer is forever paralyzed with the fear that at any time his family and himself can be evicted from estate property and house. R.B.H. would further prostitute and heighten this fear by rearing the ugly head of unemployment. Mechanization of the sugar industry, he would like to have propagated, would mean mass unemployment. He does not tell us that modern methods of production will decrease the cost of production and therefore, increase the wages of labour, present profits remaining constant. Mechanization need not result in unemployment. The labour force now used can still be employed at prevailing wages but working less hours. He does not want us to know that even if by mismanagement mechanization of the sugar industry result in unemployment, that the unemployment working class would demand and organize for full employment as one of its foremost rights and the Government of British Guiana dare not refuse to find ways and means for employment. It behoves the working class to become alive to this subtle form of propaganda - the fear of insecurity - employed by the capitalist.
Mr. R.B.H. would have psychoanalyzed men who sprang from the masses and who now advocate the cause of the working class. These men do not resent their origin because they are not seeking admission into the fraternity of the “Leisure class”, the capitalistic “Robber Barons”. The fact is that they do not resent, therefore they do not forget. One forgets and represses into the subconscious only the things of which one is ashamed. This is the time not for forgetting, but for remembering the miserable lot of the ordinary exploited worker.
The time is now for the vanguard of the working class to assume leadership and usher in Henry Wallace’s “Century of the Common Man”.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000
69 Main Street
July 6, 1946
The working class will greatly appreciate the fact that you “deplore the low state of living among estate workers”. I doubted very much, however, whether it will accept your very novel way of solving this problem. You are of the opinion that the estate labourer does not have a great desire of material wants and therefore works only two or three days per week. You would stimulate this desire by introducing in the country districts flashy shop windows with various types of consumer goods with the hope that the labourers will work more days and produce more sugar and therefore, more wealth for British Guiana.
Let us look at the facts. The majority of sugar estate workers earn between 48c to $1.00 per day. With this low earning power and the present high cost of imported consumer goods, the average worker will never have the buying power even though he worked 16 hours per day and 7 days per week. Telling him to think in terms of radios, motor cars, electric lights, decent houses is only a mockery. His buying power cannot even acquire adequate foods, clothing, pencil, slate and books for his large number of school age children. Can the buying power of domestic servants, Water Street clerks, shirt and tobacco factory workers, and bakery hands ever acquire for them all their necessary wants displayed in the Water Street shop windows? Are they not working 40 to 60 hours per week? Why is it said that many Water Street clerks are living above their means and at the mercy of money lenders? In all these cases it is the same answer: small wages – no buying power.
Internationally, under the capitalistic mode of production and distribution, it is the same lack of buying power which intermittently produces a condition of so called “over production” and resultant depression and chaos.
The present relationship of wages, profits and obsolete method of production will never be able to satisfy the minimal moral wants of the estate labourer. Increased production will not be brought about under the existing wage-slave labour conditions. As long as the labour force is cheaper than modern machinery, our obsolete capitalists will continue to use it, and the conditions of the worker will remain the same. Only the socialized control of the sugar industry – maximum production with the use of the most modern machinery and elimination of profits to absentee capitalists – will increase the standard of living of the sugar worker.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000
by Cheddi B. Jagan B.sc., D.D.S
Printed in New Outlook August 18, 1946
The United States of America is today experiencing another civil war - an almost bloodless clash between the exploited working class and the exploiting capitalist class. The end of the war has seen more than two million workers on strike. They have struck and are striking because there is looming a very grave threat to the high standard of living to which the American worker has become accustomed.
Reconversion of industry from wartime to peace-time economy has caused a severe drop in the contents of the weekly pay envelope. This has been brought about chiefly by loss of overtime pay and unemployment. The worker was no longer receiving an average wage of about $46.00 per week as he did in 1944. Even this figure did not measure up to the $54.00 weekly wage which the Heller Committee found necessary for a man, his wife and two children to live a decent life.
The tremendous capital resources of the N.A.M. (National Association of Manufacturers) are arrayed against the working class. Working capital of U.S. corporations increased from 54 ½ billion dollars in 1939 to 99 billion in 1945. Profits were more than doubled during the war years. After paying taxes, including excess profits tax, Big Business made profits of 9.3 billion dollars in the one year, 1945, as compared to 4.2 billion dollars in the same one year period in 1939. It is not willing to share with workers who really produced these huge profits. Instead, part of these huge profits is spent to bombard America with propaganda, falsehoods and deceits to fool the American people as to the real issues at stake. The N.A.M. is now planning to spend nearly a billion dollars within the next five years to spread free enterprise propaganda through the medium of the press, radio and movies. Another part has been used to elect reactionary Senators and Congressmen who helped anti-labour legislation and pro-N.A.M. tax laws.
The Truman administration has now shown its total inability to solve vital American problems. In the U.S. Steel strike, it showed its weakness by increasing wages at the same time raising the price of steel. This increased price allowed the Morgan Steel Trust not only to pay an increase of 18 ½ c. per hour to workers, but to make a profit of over four million dollars on the deal. This is the reason why the United Automobile Workers at first demanded a 30% increase in wages without increase in prices. In the railroad strike, President Truman showed his firmness - but against labour. He asked for fascistic powers to draft strikers into the army.
On the side of the working class are nearly 12 million trade union members and their families. That a new day has dawned in the American trade movement can be seen from the strike at Yale and Towne Manufacturing Co, in Stanford, The C.I.O and the A.F.L., traditional arch enemies were formed into a united front for strike organization. Evidenced also on the picket line was the new harmony between Negro and White strikers battling for the same cause.
For the first time small businessmen and merchants have allied themselves on the side of the workers. They have come to realize that the well-being of their business depends on the wages the workers receive. The Church also now realises that they cannot have souls of men, women and children with empty stomachs. The working classes should greatly applaud the Catholic priests who took part in the packing house (meat) workers strike in Chicago.
Allied to the side of the workers are various liberal organisations. These have been instrumental in giving not only publicity as to the real business at stake, but also material help in the form of food, warmth and clothing to the strikers and their families.
In this battle the capitalist class in fully armed and the balance of power is definitely in its favour. By the very nature of its system, however, it increases year by year the strength of its opposition, the working class. One can only look forward to the time when this strength will permit the working class to become the only true masters in the production and distribution of all wealth.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000
Printed in The Indian Opinion September 7, 1946
The government of most countries have their legislators and public official elected by the majority will of the people. As a general rule, most of these officials are recruited from the middle and upper classes. As soon as they are elected, quite a few of them begin to represent their own class interests, with the result that the working classes soon loose faith in them. The working classes are therefore insisting upon their rights to oust elected persons at will or to pass judgment upon their continuance in authority at any time during their terms of service. This device is known as the Recall. The principle upon which it is based is that elected officials are merely the agents of the majority will of the people and that the voters should have at all times an opportunity to pass upon their conduct of their representatives. The British Guiana Trade Union Council is to be congratulated for sponsoring the Recall to be used if necessary against elected members of the Legislative Council.
It is being said that this provision does not apply in Great Britain, U.S.A. and Russia. This is not wholly true. In applying any yard-sick in British Guiana, we must be careful in taking into consideration the constitutional developments and background of various countries as compared to British Guiana.
The Soviet Constitution has provision for recall. In Great Britain, the Cabinet system of government fixes responsibility on the party in power. There is more or less strict party discipline. Under these conditions, there is no actual need for recall. The vote of no confidence in the Governments is to the cabinet party system what the recall is to the no party system of independent members.
In the U.S.A. there is no cabinet party system in the strict sense of the English type. Responsibility is more diffuse. It goes beyond party lines, and is shared by the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. Party discipline is not very strict. In fact one finds that on many important measures members of Congress will vote outside of parties. In these cases, voting usually takes place along lines of interests - liberals of both parties together in one camp the reactionaries in another. In such an American governmental background, recall should be an absolutely necessary provision. It should be incorporated into the federal constitution. The reality of present day American politics, however, will not admit of any such reform. Legislators of the type Bilbo and Rankin who will filibuster in congress even against the abolition of the poll-tax, will prefer to start another civil war than see the introduction of the popular democratic Initiative, Referendum and recall. Despite the fact that recall is not a federal provision, American reformers have made its introduction possible in over a thousand municipalities and in twelve of the progressive state legislatures.
The situation in British Guiana is different from any of the three countries mentioned. There is an income qualification of $100 per month or property qualification of $1000 of immovable property for candidates seeking election to the Legislative Council. At such, many working class candidates will be debarred. Middle class and upper class prospective candidates will appear with glittering promises before the electorate, the majority of whom will be working class people. There being no system of party politics, there can be no strict party discipline. Those elected will be free to carry out individual lines of action for a too long period of five years. Being governed under such a set-up the working classes of B.G. have every right to insist that the provision of Recall of legislative members be incorporated into the constitutions of British Guiana.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000
by Cheddi B. Jagan
July 3, 1947
The vested interest with the help of their so-called freedom of the press are once again fanning the flames of another world conflagration. The “Guiana Graphic” speaking of strike action says “the time is surely approaching when the Government of British Guiana may be forced to step in and outlaw such action. To corroborate this opinion, we are told such is also the “wise” opinion of Mr. Alfred Edwards, who is a Socialist M.P. of East Middlebrough, and therefore a champion of the people. It is hardly necessary to point out that Mussolini started out as a socialist, that Hitler started out with National Socialism, and that both of them, having secured power, first began their attack against the trade union movement, an attack which finally ended in war. Mr. Edwards, an employer of labour is only one of the many Labour Party men of Great Britain who today frankly preach socialism, but actually practice capitalism and imperialism.
The usual argument is that strikes hold up production and therefore, as long as production is low our standard of living will necessarily be low. This is, however, an insignificant part of the whole truth. It is relevant that during the war, strikes in the U.S. although apparently numerous, were responsible for a very small percentage of decrease of war output, whereas Big Business through their cartel agreements with Germany and Japan sabotaged the early war effort. By misrepresenting the true economic situation and exaggerating the actual harm done by strikes, Big Business was successful in passing the anti-labour Hartley-Taft Bill, which CIO President, Phillip Murray, calls “the real step to fascism in this country.” It abolished the closed shop. The union shop, under which employees are required to join a union after a specified time of employment is only permitted if the employer desires it. Industry-wide bargaining is out-lawed, negotiations are only permitted on a company and plant basis; anti-strike injunctions are to be given freely; employers can sue unions for damages.
What we are not told by the “Guiana Graphic” is the fact that strike action is the inevitable weapon which the contradictions of capitalism place in the hands of the working class. It strikes not because it wants to stop production, but rather because it wants full employment, better wages, and an increased standard of living. The wages which it receives cannot purchase all the goods produced, therefore production is curtailed and unemployment results. It is inherent in capitalism that this struggle between the capitalist and the worker must continue. As long as the worker is working to put profits, no matter how small, into the hands of coupon-clipping capitalists, so long will there be strikes. Only under a changed political-economic system, as in socialism, where the means of production are owned by society, where profits for individuals are eliminated, and where there is no contradiction between production and distribution will there be an end to all strikes. If we are to outlaw strikes we must outlaw capitalism first.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000
Friday, 7th MAY, 1948
MINUTES of the Proceedings of the Fourth Legislative Council of the Colony of British Guiana, at its First Session, 1947-1948, held at the Guiana Public Buildings, Georgetown, Demerara, on
FRIDAY, 7TH MAY, 1948 at 2 P.M.
The President His Excellency the Governor, Sir Charles Campbell Woolley, K.C.H.G., O.B.E., H.C.
“ Honourable the Colonial Secretary, Mr. W.L. Heape, C.M.G.
“ “ the Attorney General, Mr. N.M. Duko (ag.)
“ “ the Colonial Treasurer, Mr. E.F. Mc David, C.B.E.
“ “ C.V. Wights, O.B.E. (Western Essequibo)
“ “ F.J. Seaford, C.B.E. (Nominated)
“ “ Dr. J.B. Singh, O.B.E. (Demerara-Essequibo)
“ “ Dr. J.A. Nicholson (Georgetown, North)
“ “ T. Loo (Essequibo River)
“ “ V. Roth (Nominated)
“ “ T.T Thompson (Nominated)
“ “ G.A.C. Farnum (Nominated)
“ “ D.P. Debidin (Eastern Demerara)
“ “ J. Fernandes (Georgetown Central)
“ “ Dr. G.M. Gonsalves (Eastern Berbice)
“ “ Dr. C. Jagan (Central Demerara)
“ “ W.O.R. Kendall (New Amsterdam)
“ “ C.A. McDoom (Nominated)
“ “ A.T. Peters (Western Berbice)
“ “ W.A. Phang (North Western district)
The Clerk read prayers.
The Minutes of the meeting held on Thursday, the 6th of May, 1948, as printed and circulated, were taken as read and confirmed.
Dr. Jagan gave notice of the following motion:-
WHEREAS it is the desire of the United Nation Food and Agricultural Organization that every country should rationalise and re-organise its productive resources in man-power, land and machines towards increased food production so as to alleviate the world food shortage and thereby overcome starvation, misery and death to millions of inhabitants of the world;
AND WHEREAS sugar is an all-important item of food of which world demand is far greater than present world output;
AND WHEREAS the production of sugar in this Colony has been declining and compares most unfavourable with pre-war production;
AND WHEREAS this decline in production has to a great extent resulted from a prolonged strained relationship between the sugar producers and the sugar workers;
AND WHEREAS this strained relationship has been the result of unfavourable wage, working and living conditions generally, and has been responsible for the present strikes at all the sugar estates on the East Coast of Demerara and may be responsible for future strikes throughout the colony;
BE IT RESOLVED that this council strongly recommends a Committee be set up immediately to consider all the factors leading to present and past disputes and an examination of the present cost of production prices and profits to determine whether the sugar industry can afford increased wages and better working and living conditions for sugar workers;
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the aforementioned Committee consider the desirability of abolishing the present plantation system of sugar-cane cultivation and substituting thereof a system of cooperative cane farming, the latter to be accomplished by the acquisition and distribution by Government of estate lands to sugar workers;
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that after the investigation by the Committee the reports be submitted to the Legislative Council for consideration and action.