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Articles by Cheddi Jagan - In Office - 1957-1961

Election Victory Speech Broadcasted on Radio on August 14, 1957


 by Cheddi Jagan

The elections are over. The heat of the battle has subsided and tempers are cooling down. This is as it should be.

Now a great task faces us. We are prepared to assume the responsibilities of forming the government. We do so knowing fully well the difficulties confronting us. The legacy of backwardness we have inherited, the limited constitutional framework under which we have to work, and the many opponents and critics whose only aim is our destruction.

In spite of these difficulties I have every confidence that Guiana will move ahead. But I want to make it clear that this cannot be achieved by one party or one faction alone. Now is the time for national unity.

I appeal to all sections of the Guianese people, Party and non-party, those who voted for us and those who opposed us, to rally around us in our country’s hour of need. Let us cast off lethargy; let us put aside inertia. Our future is at stake. Much would depend on how unitedly we are able to pull through this difficult period.

Let us prove to the world that we can do it.

Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000


Letter in Service of Struggle for Freedom

by Cheddi Jagan

(The following is the text of Dr. Cheddi Jagan’s letter to leaders of political parties, trade unions and various organisations all over the world. This letter solicited support for and solidarity with Guyana’s fight for independence,. It was printed in Thunder, February 6, 1960).


30th December, 1959

Dear Sir,

We have watched with great interest, sympathy, and understanding the growing national liberation movements in all colonial and semi‑colonial countries throughout the world. Whenever and wherever the opportunity arose, we have added our small voice in the cause of freedom for all oppressed peoples.

To use the words of His Excellency, W. S. Tubman, President of Liberia, "We insist upon the inherent and natural rights of all men to be free. We insist that the process should be speeded up and that the time will come, and not too far distant, when all nations shall gear themselves to the proposition that each is the other's brother without regard to geographical locality, racial affinity or religious concepts."

In our country, the People's Progressive Party (PPP) from its inception in 1950 has been in the forefront of the struggle for political freedom and democratic rights. Every method has been used to destroy this Party: from the show of brute force to open terror; from the destruction of the popularly elected constitutional government in 1953 to the detention and imprisonment of its leaders; from victimisation and intimidation of its militants to national bribery at the masses.

Following their traditional practice of divide and rule, forces hostile to our national movement succeeded in splitting our Party in 1955. They even gerrymandered constituency boundaries when constitutional life was restored in 1957. These tricks and stratagems greatly weakened our movement, but it did not succeed in destroying it. At the 1957 election, we won 9 out of the 14 elected seats. Today we are in the government ( a "forced‑marriage" alliance with the Colonial Office), in office but not in power!

We are about to go to London for constitutional talks. We are demanding that our country should become an independent sovereign state. We are prepared to maintain our link with the British Commonwealth, and for the next four years to share responsibility with the British Government on matters relating to defence and foreign affairs.

But today, when colonialism is a dying creed, when imperialism is on the defensive, the reactionary forces are bent on devising new chains - constitutional - to keep us in political and economic thraldom. These forces, aided and abetted by the imperialists, wish to keep our country within the colonialist fold. They are limiting their demands to internal self‑government only. They are proposing a constitutional structure with certain innovations, the chief aim of which is the defeat of the national liberation movement and the creation of a weak and ineffectual government subject to obstruction and delay.

We have noted with pleasure the resolutions passed at the Sixth World Congress of the ICFTU at Brussels in December 1959:

"That affiliates shall press for cooperation with Government's economic policy to defeat and wipe out poverty in territories and in the world."

"That affiliates shall strive to remove every obstacle in the pathway to economic and political independence."

Knowing of the great role you and your movement have played in your country, and the keen interest and sympathy which you have shown in the freedom struggles of others, I take the liberty of soliciting from you a Declaration of Solidarity with our cause. If it becomes necessary for us to approach the United Nations, we shall be very grateful for whatever assistance you and your Organisation can render us.

Sincerely yours,

Cheddi Jagan

Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000


Rumblings in Latin America

by Cheddi Jagan

(Thunder, 4 June 1960)

Latin America is famous for its revolutions. Simon Bolivar, the great Liberator first removed this area from Spanish colonial rule. Colonialism came to an end. This was the first era.

But soon afterwards followed a new era of imperialism. The big landlords and the reactionaries joined forces and assumed power. In most Latin American countries, these forces collaborated with foreign imperialism.

A feudalistic, imperialistic system developed, with the local "caudillos" becoming the junior partners sharing the spoils with foreign imperialism.

Two Tactics

Foreign imperialism, to gain an ally and thus to stabilise itself, did two things. (1) It made t he local reactionaries perpetuate their feudal – large land holdings and land idleness – hold on the masses; and (2) it used them as its local agents.

This situation created not only grave social and economic problems. It also created jealousies. The result was revolution. But the character of these revolutions has been different. Not to note this is to fall into a grave error.

For instance, Mexican revolution, with people like Villa, Juarez, Zapata, were based on the people for definite objectives – social and economic changes like land reform, nationalisation, etc. And then there were the "palace" revolutions – revolutions caused by personal jealousies among the local ruling classes for prestige and money.


Venezuela is a case in point. In 1948, the Betancourt-Gallegos government was overthrown by force. The big oil interests played a big part. These big interests did the same in Iran with the overthrow of the Mossadeq Government in 1951, the PPP Government in 1953, and the Arbenz Government in Guatemala in 1954.

For ten long years the people of Venezuela suffered under the heel of the hated dictatorship of Perez Jimenez . Jail, terror and torture were the order of the day, while the oil companies made millions of dollars in profits.

The end came in 1957. The people rose in their wrath, took guns in their hands, and threw out Jimenez and his gang.

Several Attempts

Several attempts have been made since 1957 to overthrow the forces of democracy. The latest attempt took place in April last at the time when the Second Inter-American Congress for Democracy and Freedom was meeting in Venezuela.

The leader of this "golpe", (revolt, or coup d’etat) was Castro Leon, formerly an air force leader in the Jimenez regime. His attempt started with an attack on San Cristobal, a city near to the Colombian border.

Support Expected

It was felt in some quarters that this revolt would not have started without the expectation of support from certain sections of the armed forces. In fact, the communists had apparently warned the Government before of this impending attack. At the same time they pointed out that certain sections of the armed forces who were in command during the regime of Jimenez dictatorship were disloyal to the Government.

On the first day of the revolt, the city of Caracas was tense. No one was sure what the forces would do. But the workers, youths and students made sure that they behaved in the right way. They all came out on strike. The hotel where the Congress guests were staying was deserted – even the clerical desk workers left.

People Controlled

This action by the students, youth, farmers, and working class demonstrated the stage of political consciousness, understanding and development. They barricaded the streets; they directed traffic. They took over all the radio stations and newspapers. The Confederation of Trade Unions ran the only newspaper Ceteve printed in the crisis period. No one could speak over the private radio and television networks unless the workers agreed.

Political Strike

Our TUC should note well. The workers were not striking for immediate personal gains – wages and working conditions. This was a political strike.

They were striking to demonstrate to the armed forces and the reactionary elements in and out of the country that (1) they were prepared to fight to preserve democracy, and (2) that the reactionaries and the armed forces must be prepared for civil war if they support the "golpe" of Castro Leon. This is evidence of the political maturity of the people.

There is no doubt that the revolt failed because of this great solidarity of the people – workers, students, youths, farmers, national capitalists – in defence of democracy.

Incidentally, the military failed the Arbenz regime in Guatemala in 1954. This is why Fidel Castro has disbanded the regular army in Cuba. In its place Castro has his rebel army, backed by the people’s militia – armed workers and farmers.

Economic Freedom

The struggle is now joined. 1960 is said to be Africa’s year – the year of political freedom for Africa. This is also freedom year for Latin America with emphasis not on political but economic. Castro has set the pace for economic freedom.

From now on no doubt we will hear many more revolutionary rumblings in Latin America – not the "palace" affairs we are accustomed to in the past, but genuine people’s revolutions a la Castro.

Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000


26th July Movement - Camaguey Indoctrination

by Cheddi Jagan

As every man born by the only fact of birth, he has the right to live. A millionaire’s son and a beggar’s son have the same right of living. What is the right of living? It is to have the right the right to breathe the air, get warm under the rays of the sun, it is the right to eat, and as all nourishment directly or indirectly forms the earth, every man has a right to a piece of land to nourish himself.”

Believe it or not. The above quotation I copied from a huge sign-board at Camaguey Airport. Camaguey is a province in Cuba and it was one of the key sectors of the revolutionary movement. Incidentally, listening to all the propaganda today in the American press about communism in Cuba, one would think that the above quotation is from Lenin or Krushchev. No, it isn’t. It is from Henry George, an American.

I spent the whole day in Camaguey province leaving Havana early in the morning. The movement placed at my disposal a brand new, well furnished small twin-engine plane. The flight was nearly two and a half hours before we landed at Camaguey Airport. It gave me a wonderful opportunity to have a good look at the countryside. I could see new roads, new houses and new cultivation areas. A vast swamp is to be reclaimed. The following day I went by car to another province called Matanzas.

All this work is being undertaken by the Institute for Agrarian Reform (INRA). In Havana I had an hour and a half interview with the Director and his staff. Later one evening from 9.00 to 10.30 I entered round table discussion with the industrial planning team – economists, technicians, all young and eager from all over Latin America.

I saw huge cooperatives; there were 18 rice cooperatives alone in Camaguey province. Incidentally, the technicians in charge of rice told me that they have found the vector for Hoja Blanca, the white-leaf disease which nearly destroyed the rice crop in Venezuela. They are willing to give us any advice our Department of Agriculture may need.

Some of the cooperatives specialise in tomato, peanut, etc. Many of these cooperatives are producing crops for the first time. These lands were kept idle for the most part in large estates held by big absentee and local landlords. Under the Land Reform Law, land holding is now limited. An individual or a company can no longer hold more than 1,000 acres. The land in excess of the legal limit is being taken over by the INRA, and compensation is paid in interest (4½ percent) bearing bonds maturing in 20 years. The sugar plantations have been broken up and the land in excess of the maximum limit has been distributed among the workers. The intention is to establish about 700 cooperatives with an average holding of about 3,300 acres. The Government plans to separate cane-growing from factory operations.

Formerly the capitalists owned all the factories, and produced about 40 percent of the cane. Now the intention is to limit the capitalist to factory ownership and operation. If he owns land he cannot own the factory. Incidentally, about one-third of the area in each sugar cooperative must be devoted to food crop – rice, tomatoes, peas, etc. – and pasture.

The face of the countryside is being changed. New houses for the workers and farmers are going up everywhere. The Government intends to level out the vast disparity between town and countryside. Havana was the skyscraper show city, one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. But the countryside was still in the feudal age with grass huts.

There is no doubt about it. The Revolutionary Government has the full backing of the people. For the first time the people feel a sense of social justice. I talked to people in all walks of life. Reading the US papers, one will believe that Caracas and Cuba were an arsenal with a reign of terror everywhere. There could be nothing further from the truth. The atmosphere in Cuba is no different from what one experienced in Venezuela or, for that matter, in Guiana.

 Printed in Thunder, 30 April 1960

  Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000