Cheddi Jagan Research Centre
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Early Articles by Cheddi Jagan - 1942-1956

Letter to the Labour Research Board

Dear Sir,

 I have just received for the first time a copy of “Labour Research” through Cultural Books.  I note with interest one of your columns “Ask the L.R.D.” I therefore take this opportunity in making the following enquiries.  I have been elected as a Member of the British Guiana Legislative Council since November 1947.  This is the highest legislative body in this colony.  The term of office is for a period of five years.  Last year we have had a 4 month strike on several sugar estates which culminated in the shooting of workers by police at Plantation Enmore.  During the strike, which was unauthorized, six of us who assisted were given trespass notices.  These notices were temporarily suspended and later re-imposed.

A few weeks ago, one of the six, the President of a Trade Union unrecognized by the Sugar Producers Association was brought before the court on a charge of trespassing with $1000 damages; and a temporary injunction order has been made against him.  The trial is still pending.  A similar charge has now been brought against me.  Actually I was only on the roadway in the estate talking to a few workers.  The whole object of the charge is to prevent us from organizing the sugar plantation workers.  I have now got myself elected to the Executive of one of the two unions, which is recognized by the Sugar Producers Association, and notice of this is to be forwarded to them.  This will no doubt create an interesting situation, and that is, would the Sugar proprietors still persist in keeping me out of the estates?  Nevertheless the charge instituted against me is for an alleged trespass before my election.

I shall be pleased to know whether trade union leaders, and Legislative Council members (the latter equivalent to an MP) have the right to visit, despite trespass notices, plantations and settlements, which are private…( a portion of paper had been destroyed ) resident thereon.  No doubt similar situations may have arisen in the history of the trade union movement in Great Britain.

I shall be grateful for an early air-mailed reply stating full details.  Kindly let me know also of your charges.

Thanking you,       

Sincerely

Cheddi Jagan  

Incidentally, the alleged trespass occurred not in my constituency.  But at the same time, I am a member is Central Board of Health, Medical Advisory Committee, Education Advisory Committee, Agriculture and Fisheries Advisory Committee and Food Production Committee.

Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000

 

Fascist Tyranny Enters B.G.

Printed in “THUNDER”     Vol 4 – No. 6   March     1953         

EDITOR    Janet Jagan                

Making an historic and heroic one-man stand against fascist infiltration, Hon. Cheddi Jagan spoke for six hours in the Legislative Council on Feb. 27th in an attempt to fillibuster and delay the passage of the “subversive literature” Bill.  In one of the longest sessions of the Legislative Council lasting from 2 p.m. to 11.15 p.m. a depleted House passed the second and third readings of a Bill prohibiting the importation of undesirable publications.  Conspicuous by their absence were National Democratic Council Party Legislators J.A. Nicholson and John Carter, U.G.P. Claude Vibart Wight, Farmers Workers Party “leader” Daniel Debidin, and Dr. Gonsalves & Pat Ferriera.

For two days People’s Progressive Party members picketed the Public Buildings carrying placards protesting against the Bill – “Ban War not Books”.  “Is the Banning of Books Part of the Declaration of Human Rights”, “Oppose Fascist Bill to suppress the People’s Rights”, etc.  Reactionary legislators, officials and the Governor were booed by the large crowds which waited in the rain until near midnight on Friday the 27th to hear the result of the debate.

 ANALYSIS

The Governor-in-Council can issue orders making it illegal to bring into the Colony any publications, recordings, films, dies, tools and postal packets.  Under Clause 3 of the Bill any person who imports, publishes, sells, offers for sale, distributes or reproduces any publication, engraving or importation of which has been prohibited, can be charged, and if found guilty be subject to a fine not exceeding $500 and or to imprisonment not exceeding 12 months.  In addition, the Government can seize all these prohibited articles.  Another section of the Bill states that any one who without lawful excuse has in his possession any publication, engraving or die, the importation of which has been prohibited, shall be subject to a fine of $250 and/or imprisonment not exceeding six months.  Any such article can also be confiscated.

During the debate of the Bill the Hon. Cheddi Jagan moved an amendment that anything published or recorded or filmed in the United Kingdom or allowed to be distributed in the U.K. should be allowed entry into the colony and should not be banned.  When put to the vote this amendment was lost.  The Hon. Theo Lee moved another amendment that anything printed or produced in the United Kingdom should not be banned from the colony.  This also suffered defeat.

Clause 5 of the Bill states that any person who may have received from abroad without his knowledge anything which is prohibited should deliver same to the Police as soon as the nature of the contents becomes known to him; and also that anything which may have been imported before it is banned would be delivered to the Police if in the interval the particular item was prohibited.  This in effect means that anyone sending valuable gifts to a person in the Colony before such items are banned can suffer a great financial loss.  It also means that anyone ordering any books, records, films, etc. before they are banned can subsequently find an order issued by the Governor-in-Council prohibiting these items which on arrival have to be delivered up to the Police.

When this particular Clause was being discussed, Dr Jagan moved an amendment which would allow the receiver of gifts or importations to return articles to the sender if they were declared prohibited while en route to the Colony.

Clause 5 (1) C states that any person who has any books or other publications, engravings or die or extract from any banned publication in his possession long before the order is made by the Governor-in-Council shall deliver up to the Police these prohibited articles. Dr Jagan moved the deletion of this clause stating that it was contrary to the principles of law-making and justice to make illegal something that was done legally before.  When put to the vote the clause was passed as printed.  Anyone who contravenes any of the provisions analyzed above in Clause 5 of this Bill is subject to a penalty of $250 and/or to imprisonment not exceeding six months.

 OPENING OF MAIL

The Postmaster General and the Controller of Customs are now empowered by this Bill to detain, open and examine any postal packet, letter, etc. any publication, engraving or die which they may suspect to be prohibited articles.  This gives the Government extraordinary wide powers which are generally only used in times of war.  The Government can now open anybody’s letter in order to spy on the activities of individuals.

In one clause, Clause 7, the Government has tried to make legal something which was done illegally.  They have now made law anything that was done by the Controller of Customs since Feb.1, 1952.  It is to be recalled that the Government seized many books which were imported into the Colony by Dr Jagan on the flimsy excuse that he did not have licences to import these items from England.  When he applied for import licences to re-import these books the applications were held up and he was informed by the Colonial Secretary that these applications would not be granted until the law banning publications was made.  The Attorney General in speaking on Clause 7 of the Bill said that every government validates something which may have been done illegally by the Government, but Dr Jagan pointed out the distinction between validating something which was done illegally but in the interests of the people and conferring rights to people as against validating something done illegally which is intended to take away the rights of individuals.

 DENIAL OF RIGHTS

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the Untied Nations in 1948 (of which Great Britain is a member nation) declared in Article 19 – “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression: this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference & to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. This becomes a lie and a sham with the passing of the undesirable literature bill.

South Africa  has banned not only Rev. Michael Scott, but his worthy publication “ Shadow Over Africa” .  It means that such publications as his and others much read and appreciated by  the Guianese masses, like “Nigeria Why We Fight For Freedom”, “ Terror in Kenya” etc. will surely be banned from B.G.  When Dr Jagan spoke in the Legislative Council last year on Luckhoo’s motion protesting against the treatment of non-Europeans in South Africa, he rightly reminded Luckhoo that while he was objecting to Fascism in South Africa, he was introducing it to B.G.  The battle to oppose this bill which denies the people’s rights has not ended.  It must be taken up in the new House of Assembly.  That is why it is so necessary that the P.P.P. wins a majority of seats on April 27th.  Let us join hands to defeat fascism in our land.

Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000

 

We Harbour no Illusions

(Speech by the Hon. Dr. C. B. Jagan in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, 17th June, 1953.)

This House of Assembly is pleased to record its appreciation of Your Excellency’s address delivered at the State Opening of the present Legislative session.

To the Messages of goodwill from Her Majesty the Queen and Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for the Colonies, the House respectfully requests that you convey to Her Majesty and her Secretary of State for the Colonies grateful appreciation and the assurance that we will strive to the utmost for the happiness and well-being of the people of British Guiana and will remove every obstacle which may be places on the road to peace, progress and prosperity.

The House observes with favour the initiative recently shown by Her Majesty’s Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Sir Winston Churchill in attempting to ease the present tense world situation and hope that the same initiative will be shown in bringing about an end of racial discrimination and ruthless oppression of, and aggression against, colonial and native peoples, particularly in South Africa, Malaya and Kenya. In such efforts he can be assured of the full and enthusiastic support of the peoples whom this House represents.

Your Excellency’s optimistic views about the new Constitution and in particular the State Council have been remarked. We however, harbour no illusions about the nominated State Council which can only serve the purpose of curbing the will of the people – a reactionary and undemocratic purpose.

The presence of three Civil Servants in the House and their control of the three key Ministries in the Government and the Governor’s veto are an anomaly and contrary to the professed democratic principles of Her Majesty’s Government. We shall continue to struggle for a democratic Constitution for British Guiana.

The House notes Your Excellency’s views that the new Government has been handed a fairly good financial position by the old Administration. However, it is fully conscious of the legacy of privation, malnutrition, unemployment and disease which is bequeathed to us by the old order.

We are aware of the pressing needs of the people and agree with Your Excellency that large capital sums will have to be raised for further development for British Guiana. To this end, we will initiate schemes for the re-organisation of the material resources of the county and for raising capital by way of Government loans, both foreign and local.

The House is fully conscious of the roles which private capital is playing and will play in the development of British Guiana. We will take such steps as will encourage and attract private capital for the development of the country and above all, will guarantee that the Government will honour and fulfil all its obligations and undertakings.

The House, like Your Excellency, is anxiously awaiting the report if the World Bank Mission which recently visited British Guiana and trusts that the report will provide a comprehensive and acceptable plan as to the direction in which development should proceed as well as the means by which the programme can be financed.

The House notes Your Excellency’s observations on the need for the development of a spirit of co-operation between ‘capital’ and ‘labour’. The relationship of capital and labour must not be based as hitherto on the whims of the capitalist but on the recognised rights of workers to organise and bargain through the trade unions of their own choice and to take and active part in the running of the industries in which they are engaged.

This Assembly notes with satisfaction Your Excellency’s remarks in the encouragement of ‘self-help’ amount the people of the country assisted by Government grants and loans as being one aspect of development which should be energetically pursued. To this end, it will seek to democratize all organisations touching upon the lives of the people. Finally, the House wishes to join Your Excellency in your plea for internal harmony which is indispensable to progress and assures Your Excellency that all measures conducive to the welfare of the people of the Colony will receive its full support.

Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000

 

Challenge of British Guiana      

[October 1953]

Overseas British naval and military forces have occupied British Guiana. The constitution, only a few months old, has been suspended. My colleague ministers and myself have been dismissed. The House at Assembly in which my party, the People’s Progressive Party held 18 out of the 24 seats after the first election on April 27, based on universal adult suffrage, was prorogued. Meetings have been banned. Not more than five persons can assemble together. Party headquarters and homes of leading party officials have been raided. The Governor is a virtual dictator.

All these extraordinary measures, claims the British Government, have been taken because of a communist plot to cause disorder and overthrow the Government. No clear-cut proof was given of the alleged plot. Instead, a spurious statement, full of misstatements and suppositions, has been put out.

The alleged communist plot is obviously a smokescreen. It is an excuse for destroying the progressive movement and the limited constitution under which we made important political gains. If there is a plot why haven’t charges been brought against us? The British definition of treason and sedition is elastic enough. Clearly there has been no plot. Even the most bitter and. consistent enemy of the PPP, the editor of the Daily Argosy, a wartime security officer, knows “of no organised plan for such a revolt.” He said in an editorial an October 11: “What the PPP loaders were aiming at (and all the evidence points that way) was a political and constitutional crisis, in the hope of going back to the country and returning with a renewed mandate that might, with difficulty, be questioned.”

Long before the elections we criticised the constitution and pointed out its limitations. The Governor and his official advisers knew that we intended to enact a series of progressive but very controversial measures — universal adult suffrage for village and town councils; land law, bringing about land reform and establishing land authorities with powers to tax, acquire, lease and develop large estates held uncultivated by absentee proprietors; abolition of dual control (government and denominational) of primary schools; bulk purchasing of the Colony’s imports; establishment of a State Lottery; compulsory recognition by employers of unions having the support of the majority of workers, as established by the US Wagner Act during the Roosevelt    era; etc.

The Governor and officials knew, as we did, that in due course the Governor and the Governor-nominated Upper Rouse – the State Council – would become exposed in the eyes of the people. The reactionary State Council would have blocked most of the measures as it had already done in the case of the Rice Farmers (Security of Tenure) Amendment Bill. This Bill empowered the Government District Commissioner to undertake works (cleaning and digging of drains and. Canals) which landlords were supposed to do by law but had refused to do. The Governor’s veto would have been used soon enough. It is to forestall these exposures that the Government acted with so much haste and with so much brute force.

Communism has been made the issue by the British Government. But this is nothing new. There is no more evidence of communism now than prior to the elections. Long before and during the election ant-communism was the only plank of our opponents. With one voice from the pulpit, press and radio they said that the PPP was a communist party, that communism was bent upon taking away and destroying the rights of the people. The people voted with their eyes wide open. They voted us into 18 out of the 24 seats.

The action of the British Government, therefore, is in effect a challenge to the very right of the exercise of a free vote – the basis of democracy. The PPP is a broad democratic alliance of all classes struggling for the right to self-determination. Must the people be told – yes you can vote, but you hare no right to vote for a left-wing party or the left-wing element in a party? This is the fundamental question which all democratic freedom-loving people must ask themselves. Once the right to vote is restricted then the foundation of democracy will always be on shifting ground. Neither communism nor the PPP is on trial today. Democracy itself is on trial. Western democracy will stand or fall to the extent that it faces up to the challenge that it faces up to the challenge that is British Guiana’s. All liberal-minded people must accept this challenge and rally to the support of the progressive movement in British Guiana and for the preservation of democracy and civilisation.

 

[Editor’s note: This article was written in mid-October 1953.]

Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000

 

Western Democracy Is On Trial

by Dr. CHEDDI JAGAN

 (Published in CARIBBEAN NEWS   November 1953  

JAGAN SMASHES THE TORY LIE

Deposed Premier: Western Democracy Is On Trial                                   

I want to answer in this article some of the charges made against the Government of British Guiana, and points in the British Government’s White Paper.

We are accused in the White Paper of hindering the good government of the colony and of fomenting strikes for political ends.

We had established a trade union by legal action.  For four years our union had tried to get recognition, but for years the employers did not meet this union.  Since 1949 I had been proposing in the Legislative Council the Bill we introduced.  The Bill is uncontroversial.  It has been taken out of the American Statue Book of Roosevelt’s era. Of course Roosevelt is a “Communist” now.

From 1949 we were asking the sugar employers for recognition.  What was left for us to do?  In our election manifesto we told the people: when you put us in power we shall introduce legislation to give your trade union power to bargain with the employers.  This is the “violence” and the “plot” in British Guiana.

The Governor was opposed to it, all the officials in the cabinet were prepared to vote against it, the State Council was prepared to vote against.  We were prepared to ask the Governor to use his constitutional power in case the Upper House delayed the Bill.

The Manpower Citizens Association has, they say, a large following and our union a small following only.  But it is significant that our union closed down all sugar estates for a strike a few weeks ago.

Another charge: Removal of the ban on entry of West Indian communists.  I was banned from entering Trinidad, my friends were banned from British Guiana.  When we were coming to London, Trinidad and Barbados told us that we would not be allowed to pass through their airports.

A few months back, Richard Hart, Quintin O’Connor,  ? Rose, Ferdinand Smith, Joshua and I met in Barbados.  Richard Hart was not allowed to pass through Trinidad, and another comrade was told that he would not be allowed to land in Barbados.  They said that we met in order to conspire.

When we went to Barbados, Smith was to put a proposition to Grantley Adams.

In the West Indies the Labour Movement was divided officially, some unions joining the International Confederation of Trade Unionists led by Grantley Adams and Manley, other unions being affiliated to the World Federation of Trade Unionists from its earlier days.  We wanted to create unity of the West Indian labour movement, if there was to be a division simply because of different affiliations, it did not help the labour movement. 

Richard Hart said that Smith was prepared to tell the W.F.T.U. that a Caribbean body should be formed and that we were prepared to support it equally with the I.C.F.T.U.  We want unity in the labour movement of the West Indies, and support it equally financially.  West Indian people have very low wages, the labour movement is financially very insecure.

Mr. Lyttelton has said that we all gathered in Barbados for a Communist plot to destroy the democratic government in the West Indies.

The moment you begin to fight for the oppressed, every obstruction is put in your way.  In my own constituency at the last election, trespass notices were issued.  I went to speak to my constituents and was charged before the court for trespassing.  That is the freedom in British Guiana and the West Indies.

So we said, the first thing we will do is to remove bans on all West Indians leaders.  That was nothing new, it was part of the election campaign like many other things.

 Another charge was that we were “Repealing the Act forbidding undesirable publications.”

Who has the Declaration of Human Rights?  All countries, yet we have the farce that you may hold opinions, but when you want to put them into practice in the colonies, you cannot do so.  The “Undesirable Publications Bill” gave the Governor power to declare any publication undesirable, and gave the Post Master General the right to open all letters.

The White Paper seeks to build up the accusation of Communism.  Since the election a plot has been growing, but all activities were going on long before the election.  All the opposition to the P.P.P. from press and pulpit said that they were Communists.  Two Sundays before the election a supplement appeared in three newspapers saying the P.P.P. was a Communist Party and so forth. Not only through the press, but also from the pulpits.  This charge of communism is not new, it was an election issue.  But we cannot understand why it is put across now.

 “Right of appointments.”  Anything the Government wanted was passed through the legislature in the past Government   Boards and committees were packed by us, said the Governor.  Why, it was they who did that before.  We always made it clear that the P.P.P. was a workers’ party.  We put workers in committees and see nothing wrong with it. 

“Spreading of racial hatred”.  This is the biggest joke of all.  If there is one thing the British Government regrets in British Guiana it is the unity of all races.  The old policy of divide and rule has no place there. 

Political movements were once led by two organizations, East Indians and Negro.  But we were able to bring the races together.  We have in our party all races, people who are prepared to fight against vested interests.

“Plot to secularise schools.”  This was done after the French Revolution, and is an old practice.

The Governor did not tell me that the Ministers neglected their duties.  While I was a dentist and a lone voice crying in the wilderness, I never worked so hard as these last few months.  Four months we were in office and in possession of all the files; now we are told we neglected our duties. 

“Undermining of the loyalty of police.”  This is the first time that a reactionary government has been afraid of the police in any country.  Police are recruited from people who cannot find other jobs.  They are displaced workers.  We told them we sympathized with their cause.  

I had asked before in the House why they had such bad jobs.  We were fighting for the policemen and they were in sympathy with the P.P.P.  Police in the past had to obeyed instructions of white officers.  I am not talking about racial hatred, but the planter class and the sugar-bosses.

When it come to strikes or quelling disturbances the police are sent not because of law and order, but to carry out commands of officers who are sympathetic to reaction.

A great deal has been said about a statement of mine torn out of context: That the police were used before to shoot workers.  They shot at workers who tried to run away.  We don’t want police like that.  When I speak of “people’s police” I mean police that will not act in that way.  But my remark was torn out of context.

I don’t want to go into the charges in detail because they have no foundation and it is a pity I was not able to speak in the House of Commons to refute them.  My colleagues and I want to take this matter to the British people, because we know that the Tory Government does not speak for the British people.

Let me give you some examples from our legislation.

When tenants did not cultivate their land properly, it could be taken away from them.  But the old Bill had forgotten the landlord who was not obliged to provide proper drainage and irrigation.  I introduced an amendment that if the landlord does not do this he will be given time to do it, then the Government will do it and collect the money from him.

This Bill was passed through the House, but the State Council called it terrorism, and the Bill was rejected.

I wanted to introduce universal adult suffrage for town and village councils which are partly nominated and partly elected on a property basis.  That is democracy in British Guiana.  In our election manifesto we said: universal adult suffrage in voting for the House.  When we brought it in, the Governor said we must consult the people.  We said the people had already voted on it and given us victory. 

We went to local authorities and told them what we wanted to do; but the opposition voices were heard in all newspapers.  Local elections were to be held in November this year.  We wanted the Bill to be passed in time for the elections and asked the Governor to use his powers to bring both Houses together in one session.

The Attorney General delayed the Bill.  They knew that, having won the general elections, with proper election we would sweep the country and win the councils too.

When the Constitution was written, I was in London.  They mentioned my trip to the East; but not that I spoke on Labour platforms.  I held press conferences, exposing the Constitution and pointing out its limitations.  The State Council would have the power to veto legislation for one year.

The Constitution makers were very clever; these checks were to be used in the last resort.  But their timetable was upset because we won 18 seats from 24 and controlled the executive council.  As we were bent on carrying out the election pledges, it was only a matter of months before the Government and the Upper House were exposed to the people: that is why they have acted as they did.  This is not a Communist plot.  The P.P.P. is a broad movement, to fight for the oppressed people of British Guiana.  They did not sell out.

All so-called leaders in the West Indies have betrayed their movement, but we intend to carry this fight to the finish.  The people’s movement has been destroyed by force.  They tell us that only Communists rule by force, but here is their democracy ruling by force.

Not Communism but western democracy is on trial.  I appeal to the British people.  I know that you have fought many battles for freedom, and won them.  And you will support us in our hour of need

Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000

 

Death to Imperialism

Dr. Jagan wrote this poem "Death to Imperialism" in 1954, while in prison.  This is the only poem he ever wrote. Read Biography - Iron Rule and Treachery - to find out more about this period of his life.

Today we strive to end our humanity's pains,
To extract your oppression's painful tooth,
To cut your vicious circle of our lives,
No work, no land, crime, punishment, crime –
But you tread with savage fascist steps,
With quislings and hired mercenaries
Willing and unwilling slaves and sharers of your loot,
You keep your bayonets at our throats and shout,
Law and Order must prevail,
Don't read that!
Don't do that!
Don't go there!
Our beautiful country a vast prison you have made
And fences built to wrench us from our beloved -
Our homes
Our children
Our Comrades -
You beat us on our heads in the name of peace.
While in cleric robes you call for peace.
For you, peace is our grave and life hereafter
For us peace is joy and life and laughter
For this we march tomorrow
We march to extract your oppression’s painful tooth
To end our humanity's pains.

Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000