Articles by Cheddi Jagan - Opposition Leader (1964-1992)
Speech by Cheddi Jagan on receipt of Order of Friendship at the Kremlin on December 20, 1978
(On March 22, 1978 Dr. Jagan was awarded the Order of Friendship with the Peoples by the Soviet Union on the occasion of his 60th birthday. On December 20, 1978 he was presented with this Order at the Kremlin.)
I wish on behalf of the People’s Progressive Party and myself to express our deep gratitude for the Award of Friendship with the Peoples, which has been conferred on me by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.
We deeply appreciate this high honour. 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.
We deeply cherish our friendship with the Soviet Union. The Great October Socialist Revolution paved the way for ending exploitation of man by man; for eliminating national and cultural oppression; and for building a secure future.
Based on friendship and humanism, the first acts of the young Soviet states were the freeing of the nationalities, oppressed and dehumanized by exploitation and tyranny; the proclamation of the Peace Decree for an end to militarism and war and for an era of peace; the adumbration of a policy of peaceful coexistence and proletarian internationalism. A hand of friendship was extended to the workers of the world who were exploited by capitalism, and to the oppressed peoples who were suppressed by imperialist colonialism.
For us, friendship with the Soviet Union has a deep emotive content based on realism: the heroism and sacrifice of the great Soviet people – their defeat of the interventionists and the counter-revolutionaries who wanted to turn back the clock of history; their rescue of the peoples of the world from the jaws of Hitlerite fascism; their generous disinterested assistance to all those struggling for national and social liberation.
We are aware that in many vital areas – the Far East, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Caribbean – successes would not have been achieved without the sacrifice and help of the Soviet people. We vividly recall the dark days of the early 1960’s when valuable Soviet assistance was rendered to the Guyanese people in the face of Anglo-American aggression and CIA intervention in our domestic affairs.
For us in the PPP and the vast majority of the Guyanese people, friendship with the Soviet Union has been and will continue to be a cornerstone of our policy. We deeply treasure our friendship with the Soviet people.
It is a happy coincidence that on the same date I am receiving this high honour, Comrade Leonid Brezhnev has been awarded the Order of Lenin and the Gold Medal of the Hero of the Soviet Union.
Permit me to take this opportunity to wish him a happy birthday, good health and long life so that he can continue his able leadership of the CPSU and the Soviet nation.
Long live the Friendship of the Peoples of the World!
Long live Friendship between the Peoples of Guyana and the Soviet Union!
Long live Peace and International Solidarity!
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000
by Cheddi Jagan
How sincere is the West, particularly the United States on its pronouncements about democracy and freedom? Is the U.S. sincerely interested in world peace? Those who have, followed events in my small country have expressed grave reservations.
In early 1962 , after his interview with the Editor of 'Izvestia' President Kennedy attacked the communists for subversion and condemned Dr, Fidel Castro for denying freedom and not holding elections, In the same interview he said: "…. the United States supports the idea that ever people should have the right to make a free choice of the kind of Government they want. Mr. Jagan who was recently elected Prime Minister in British Guiana is a Marxist, but the United States doesn’t object because that choice was made by honest election, which he won."
Despite these oft-expressed sentiments, the United States has twice, in a little more than a decade, sabotaged democracy in British Guiana. Somehow deeds do not square up with words.
In 1953, my popularly elected Government became one of the early victims of the Cold War. Since 1962 U.S. agencies and top-ranking officials, by words and deeds, deliberately worked to remove my Government from office. President Kennedy, according to U.S. columnist Drew Pearson put pressure on the British Government to withhold Independence. A top-ranking State Department official, Mr. William Tyler, speaking before a Congressional sub-Committee, said that the U.S. Government was out of sympathy with my Government and would like to see it out of office. Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, was reported to have urged the Macmillan Government to suspend our constitution or to hold a referendum on a new system of voting demanded by the opposition.
The imposition of proportional representation, deemed by Mr. Harold Wilson in July 1964, when, he was Leader of the Opposition, as a "fiddled constitutional arrangement", led to the removal of my party from the Government, nearly a year before the expiry of my constitutional term of office. The December 7 elections, conducted by the British Government with the aid of a hostile local administrative machine, were far from free and fair. Electoral procedures and irregularities aimed at helping the opposition were indulged in. U.S. money, advisers and propagandists poured in. Yet my party, the People's Progressive Party, topped the polls with 46% of the votes, increased its total by 3.3% as compared with a drop of .4% for the People's National Congress (P.N.C,) and 4% for the United Force (U. F.).
The election results were a clear indication of a vote of confidence in my party and Government. Despite this, the British Labour Government amended the constitution to force my Government out of office and to install the P.N.C., which polled only 40°% of the votes, This procedure was in marked contrast with recent events in Canada, Venezuela and the United Kingdom.
In the recent Venezuelan election, the Accion Democratica, in spite of the fact that its total percentage of votes dropped from 49% in 1958 to 32% in 1964, formed the Government. Its poll was the highest for any single party.
In Canada, Prime Minister Lester Pearson's Liberal Party failed to get an absolute majority. Yet it formed a minority Government, having won the largest number of seats for any single party.
In the United Kingdom, the Labour Government was formed in spite of the fact that the Labour Party polled only 44% of the total vote.
It would appear that yardsticks principles and conventions applied elsewhere are not to be applicable to this colonial outpost on the South American inland. Western democracy is not for export here. In 1962, the late President Kennedy could write President Betaneourt and say that "the preservation and strengthening of freely effected constitutional Government is the aspiration of all the people of the Americas" and give support to his regime. But in British Guiana, my democratic regime was sabotaged and ejected from office,.
As regards the peaceful intentions of the United States of America, President Johnson recently said :
"We live in a turbulent world. But amid conflict and confusion, the United States holds firm to its primary goal .. a world of stability, freedom and peace where independent nations can enjoy the benefits of modern knowledge. Here is our difference with the Communists - and our strength. They would use their skills to forge new chains of tyranny. We would use ours to free men from the bonds of the past."
In similar vein the late President Kennedy, in his remarkable address at Washington University, remarked that "World peace like community peace does no require that each man love his neighbour - it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance submitting their disputes to just and peaceful settlement."
But what was our experience? Here in this small colonial outpost, the microcosm of today's world problems, U.S. Citizens and agencies had been busily engaged in undermining parliamentary democracy, by the use of force and violence. The Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.), the Washington-based Institute for Free Labour Development, the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade fomented disturbances, which gave the British Government the excuse for withholding independence and imposing the rigged electoral system of proportional representation, long rejected by both the U.S./ British Governments. Despite what the policy makers may say, the "big stick" seems to be still the major instrument of U.S. foreign policy. And there can be no genuine and lasting peace so long as force and fraud are used to store up puppets and a decaying Old Order.
Some have seen U.S. accommodation with the U.S.S.R. as evidence of its peaceful intentions. But it must not be forgotten that in seeking this accommodation the U.S. was facing reality. After all, the policy of cordon sanitaire (encirclement of Communism) and liberation of captive States (Eastern Europe) had failed. Besides, it was necessary to carry out a policy of appeasement at home - to calm jittery nerves frayed by threat of a thermo- nuclear holocaust and of cancer from nuclear fallout.
It is perhaps more realistic to observe that behind the silken glove of accommodation was the iron hand of ruthlessness. One sees evidence of this everywhere in the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa and Asia. In the name of anti-communism, democratic regimes are being undermined and removed from office by force and fraud.
In the Caribbean and Latin America, Pan-Americanism and the Monroe doctrine are invoked to maintain the status quo. Using its traditional anti-colonialism as a shield, the U.S. employed the Monroe doctrine in the early period of its expansionism to keep European colonial powers away from its special preserve in the Western hemisphere. Today anti-communism is made a bogey and the triarchy - the high church, the landlords and the military - are kept in power by whatever means available. And the Monroe doctrine is so used as to be a shield against any new ideas. Those like Quodros, Arosomena, Bosch and Goulart, who attempt to solve growing problems and difficulties - balance of payments, falling prices, loss of markets, declining economic growth rate, inflation, lowered living standards, etc., by exploring new ways and by seeking new contacts with non-traditional sources, are forcibly removed from office.
U.S. philosophy seems to be "if you are not with us, you are against us." Those whom the State Department does not like are uprooted. Some are not allowed to take their seats even after winning at elections. Announced elections are cancelled as in Guatemala, when it is feared that left-wing candidates will win. And those who manage to win are pressed not to fulfil their electoral promises.
It is in this context and against this background that the British Guiana situation must be viewed and understood. My party won in spite of gerrymandering of constituencies and other manoeuvres at three consecutive general elections since 1953. My first Government, elected on an overwhelmingly popular vote, lasted in 1953 for only 133 days when British gun boats removed it from office. An engineered split in my party failed to defeat it at the 1957 elections. Despite promises made and commitments given by the British Government and local opposition, independence was denied after our 1961 electoral victory. Even though I was prepared to make all the concessions necessary to allay deliberately engineered fears and apprehension at home and abroad, all my proposals - consultative machinery, civil United Nations presence, guarantees of fundamental rights, independent judiciary, treaty of neutrality as in Austria - were cast aside.
Even my offer of a coalition Government of the P. P. P. and the P.N.C. based on parity in the Council of Ministers and a negotiated settlement on the premiership, was rejected. The latter would have had the effect not only of uniting the working class but also of healing the communal breach between the two major ethnic groups in the country.
It is common knowledge here that the P.N.C. rejected my offer of a coalition because of U.S. pressure, This, of course, is understandable. U.S. policy has not materially changed since the start of the Cold War when united front governments embracing socialists, communists and resistance fighters were destroyed in Belgium, France and Italy as a pre-condition to the receipt of Marshall Aid. The last thing the U.S. wants is a strong government which will pursue a policy of non-alignment, anti-imperialism and friendship with Cuba in foreign affairs and pro-working class socialist-oriented democratic reforms in its domestic policy. No wonder a U.P.I. dispatch of December 6, reported that: "in London and Washington the idea of Jagan leading the colony to independence is anathema."
Although the vast majority (86% - P. P. P.= 46% ; P.N.C. = 40%) of the Guianese people voted for democracy and socialism, (the P.N.C, leadership demagogically claimed that its policies will be democratic, socialist and non-aligned) they now have foisted upon them a P.N.C- U.F,. coalition Government, the policy of which will be the policy of the ultra reactionary United Force (U.F.). This party of big business is the main beneficiary of the P.R. elections, and will be the real power behind the throne.
The P.N.C - U.F, alliance is a sell-out to colonialism and imperialism; a betrayal of the interest of the Guianese people. In 1962, when a Commonwealth Commission in the disturbances of February, 1962, came to this country, they wrote that the P.N.C.'s policy was "vague and amorphous", while "the policy of the U.F is more clear and categoric. Mr. d’Aguiar was espousing the cause of businessman and the upper middle class. He himself had an important stake in the country and his politics were therefore not quite free from personal motives."
Already it is becoming clear that the policy of the alliance will be the policy of Big Business. Mr., d’Aguiar, the new Finance Minister has converted a previous compulsory savings scheme into a voluntary one, at the same time doubling the rate of interest and making it tax free! He has warned that it is not his conception of Government that it should compete with private enterprise in business and industry. And the P.N.C leader, no doubt at the behest of his U.S. backers, has dropped reference to democratic socialism, which he demagogically used before and during the election campaign. He now uses glib Madison Avenue slick phrases, like consultative democracy, peace, freedom and equality of opportunity.
There is genuine fear that this country is heading for a Latin American Caudillo-type of rightwing dictatorship. The new regime, having been installed by force and fraud, is likely to perpetuate itself by the same means, especially when disillusionment and disenchantment, particularly of the supporters of the P.N.C, come about. Already the U.S. - financed press is calling for rule by the iron hand and ruthless suppression of those who may oppose this puppet regime. Fearing the denial of the civil liberties and the abrogation of constitutional guarantees, the P. P. P. , at mass rallies held throughout the country put forward the following five-point demands:
(1) End of rule by emergency and release of all detainees.
(2) Correction of ethnic imbalance in Police and Security Forces, so that they reflect a broad cross –section of the country.
(3) New constitutional arrangements.
(4) New elections under changed electoral system:
(5) Voting at 18.
(6) Removal of the Governor.
Americans who cherish freedom and love democracy cannot but be alarmed at the trend of events at home and abroad where principle is being sacrificed at the altar of expediency. That their country is abandoning its traditional policy of anti-colonialism is increasingly being recognised far and wide. Even a former Tory Secretary of State for the Colonies Mr. Iain McLeod in a recent debate in the House of Commons could say that "there is an irony we all recognise in the fact of America urging us all over the world towards colonial freedom except where it approaches their own doorstep. I believe their fears are exaggerated. I do not think Dr. Jagan is a Communist. The American attitude seems dangerous because in my experience if you put off independence because you fear you may get a left-wing government, the most likely thing to happen is that you will get a government even further to the left". And the famous historians Mr. Arnold Toynbee could remark that, "today America is no longer the inspirer and leader of the World revolution ... by contrast America is today the leader of the world-wide anti-revolutionary movement in defence of vested interests. She now stands for what Rome stood for".
British Guiana is the acid test. As the late Anourin Bevan put it in 1953 after the gunboat removal of my Government from office, Western democracy and freedom mean "you are free to have the government you want so long as it is the kind of government we like". There will be no freedom, there will be no peace, until the U.S. abandons the ‘big stick’ as the instrument of its foreign policy.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000
DR. CHEDDI JAGAN’S OPEN LETTER TO ANTHONY GREENWOOD, SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
[30 April 1965]
Dr. Jagan answers Colonial Secretary’s allegations in the London Tribune
I would like to reply to certain allegations which you made in reply to a question from the Tribune
The main allegations are:
That the Coalition in British Guiana is representative of the majority of the population.
That the Coalition has worked well.
That Burnham is a socialist.
The electoral system
In what can only be described as a castrated attempt to justify your acceptance of the electoral system, you said that my Government did not enjoy the support of the majority of the Guianese people.
If I am to accept serious1y the logic of your contention then you are in fact negating the right of the Labour Party to govern, since it does not enjoy the majority support of the British electorate.
It is patently dishonest to apply this yardstick to British Guiana when you have refused to apply it in your own country. Electoral reform, like charity, must begin at home.
I may point out that there have been several colonial territories where multi-parties systems exist; and where the ruling party does not enjoy the support of the majority of the electorate. Yet in none of these countries did the British Government impose the system of Proportional Representation (PR). Surely, what is applicable to one should be equally applicable to all. The excuse or rationale is a transparent one.
You seem to have forgotten that Mr. Harold Wilson described the imposition of PR as a “fiddled constitutional arrangement” and Mr. H. Bottomley said that it was “riddled with disadvantages and which is quite unknown in any other Commonwealth country. Those who supported him (Sandys) have done so not because they think this will reduce racialism but because they think it will put someone in power whom they prefer to Dr. Jagan.”
Was the world not told by the Western press in the language of the Financial Times of December 15, 1964 that “PR has served its purpose in defeating Jagan’s People’s Progressive Party?
You asserted that the coalition government enjoys the support of the majority of the population. This is definitely not true. It can be established at any time. Nearly 30,000 voters were not enrolled because of the change in the method of registration. Besides, large numbers of people are disenfranchised. More than half of the Guianese people, almost 57 percent, are below the voting age of 21 as compared with only 29 percent in the United Kingdom. A large majority of these are PPP supporters. This is the explanation for the rejection by the Tory government of the demand by Dr. Jagan for voting at 18.
Ideologically, the coalition does not reflect the wishes of the electorate. Both the PPP and PNC declared at the elections in favour of independence and socialism, the latter albeit demagogically. The United Force made its position quite clear as an anti-socialist, pro-big-business party.
The people voted overwhelmingly (PPP 46 percent and PNC 40 percent) for socialism and independence. Clearly, they rejected the views of the United Force whose percentage of vote declined from 16 to 12.
There is no doubt that had the coalition between the PNC and UF become an election issue, the voting strength of these parties would have been substantially reduced.
The present Premier and several of his party spokesmen had rejected any suggestion of forming a coalition with the United Force, while the United Force had told its supporters that it was quite capable of forming a government without the support of any other political party.
The Guianese electorate at the time of voting had therefore no indication of the coalition that was to be foisted upon them.
Vote of confidence
The December 1964 election results were a vote of confidence in my party and my government. My party increased its percentage of vote by 3.3 percent as against a drop by the PNC of 0.4 percent and the UF of 4 percent. And we demonstrated that had the elections been conducted under our traditional first-past-the-post basis we would have won in the same 20 constituencies out of 35 which we won in 1961. These facts cannot be glossed over by spurious arguments and rationalisations.
I cannot understand the logic which accepts the principle of a coalition yet permits the formation of a government which excludes the largest popular movement.
Neither can I understand the logic by .which you arrived at the conclusion that the present coalition enjoys the confidence of the Guyanese people. Perhaps you used the primitive mathematical argument that 40 percent plus 12 percent makes up majority support.
Other simple logical contentions can be proposed to show that two minority parties cannot ipso facto make a majority.
Political concepts such as the “popular consensus” and the “national will” cannot be reduced to these naive mathematical formulations. They must be measured not only in quantitative but also in qualitative terms.
You implied that the coalition had restored peace. If by peace you mean absence of violence, I would agree. The reason is simple. There is no violence because the authors of violence are now in positions of authority.
Surely, you have not forgotten the two secret reports of August and September 1963 of the Security Branch of the Police which I handed you in November 1964, headed “PNC Terrorist Organisation” outlining the activities of what the Commissioner of Police later called “an organised thuggery” which is centrally directed, in which leading members of the PNC were cited for being responsible for the bombing of government and other buildings, arson and general intimidation and terror.
I showed you that in the second report, 25 of the persons named in the first report were recommended for prosecution and pointed out that because of the complicity of the British and American governments in the disturbances in 1962 and 1963, (Drew Pearson, US journalist wrote on March 22, 1964 that the strike was inspired by a combination of US Central Intelligence Agency money and British Intelligence. It gave London the excuse it wanted) no action was taken and, besides, the reports were withheld from me and thus not made available for the October 1963 Constitutional Conference in London.
I suggested to you that had they been available, the outcome of the Conference would perhaps have been different. I requested you to postpone the elections and re-examine the whole situation by appointing a Commonwealth Commission as Mr. Wilson had proposed in June, 1964. You brushed aside my request.
You now say that it would have been a breach of faith to have delayed the elections and it might have led to violence and bloodshed. How could there have been a breach of faith when my government’s normal term of office was not to expire until August 1965? It was indeed a breach of faith that it was being terminated at premature elections in December 1964 under a rigged constitutional arrangement.
Collaboration with US
You seek to justify your and your government’s collaboration with American imperialism by referring to the document which I signed giving your predecessor the right to decide. You must not try to throw dust in the eyes of the British public and particularly the Labour Movement.
I signed because of pledges given and commitments made by the British government at the 1960 constitutional conference. At that time when proportional representation was demanded by the opposition but rejected by the British Government, the latter in a White Paper said that all matters of substance save that of independence had been settled and that when another conference was called, the question of independence was to be the main issue.
This is how paragraph 59 of the Command Paper puts it:
“The revision in 1961, resulting from the deliberation of the Conference formed, in the views of Her Majesty’s Government, a comprehensive and carefully balanced whole, naturally leading to the expectation that when another Conference between Her Majesty’s Government and a Delegation from British Guiana was held, there should be no question of substance for discussion save that of independence, the principle of which has been accepted in the terms of the formula set out in paragraph 12 of this Report.”
The Sandys imposition exceeded even the wildest expectations of the opposition. It placed a premium on bombings, arson, looting and murder.
If by peace you imply a confidence in the new government, you are sorely misinformed. I may point out the rate of emigration still continues at an undoubted pace; there is a current run on bank deposits; there is depression in the rice industry; there has been wholesale victimisation of civil servants; there have been attempts to tamper with the judicial system; there are strong rumours of the new Detention Bill: there is talk of partition throughout the land; there is industrial unrest and fears of inflation.
Shadow of detention
These are the material symbols of the achievements the new government. You who live in the comfortable remoteness of Whitehall may well pontificate on theories of peace and confidence. But my supporters who live under the ever present shadow of the Mazaruni Detention Camp and who have experienced the bombs and bullets of the government’s “centrally organised thuggery” know the stark reality of fear.
You try to justify your betrayal of the cause of socialism by referring to Burnham as a socialist. Anyone can claim to be a socialist; demagogy is very cheap. Socialism is an outlook and a way of life. Burnham is not a socialist but a demagogue. This has been recognised by many independent observers.
As long ago as 1954, Mr. Gordon Walker, after a visit to British Guiana, said that Mr. Burnham had opportunistic tendencies and would “tack and turn” as the situation demanded.
The Robertson Commission of 1954 described him as “ambiguous”. And the Commonwealth Commission into the Disturbances of 1962 described his attitude as “callous and remorseless” and his party’s professions as “somewhat vague and amorphous. There was a tendency to give a racial tinge to its policy.”
The Guyanese people know that Burnham has back-tracked on many of the progressive stands which he took when he was Chairman of the PPP.
Of Burnham was a socialist and was interested in the working class, how is it that he rejected my offer of a PPP-PNC coalition based on parity in the Council of Ministers (Cabinet).
If, as is alleged, he had personal ambitions to become Premier, there could have been accommodation as I had declared publicly that the question of Premiership was negotiable.
By refusing to join us and electing to join the United Force in a coalition government, he has abandoned the road to independence and socialism, for the road to capitalism, imperialism and fascism.
Reactionary nature of the UF
It was the PNC leadership itself, who, prior to the 1961 elections, launched out an attack on the United Force with such epithets as “fascist”. More recently, prior to the 1964 elections, similar juicy plums were hurled pointing out the reactionary nature of the United Force.
How can we continue to use the term socialist to describe Mr. Burnham when his government has made deals concerning our bauxite and oil resources with the foreigners without disclosing the particulars and has repealed or drastically modified the budgetary proposals – capital gains tax, gift tax, turnover tax, property tax, compulsory savings – which were introduced in 1962 based on the recommendations of Mr. Nicholas Kaldor, now adviser the British Government.
At a time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom has seen it fit to increase capital taxes to a 30 percent ceiling, this government has reduced it from 45 percent to the ludicrous level of 10 percent.
At a time when your government has tightened on your entertainment allowances, this government has given businessmen a carte blanche. The net effect of the fiscal policy of this government is to emasculate the taxes on capital and to frustrate the attempts of my party to level off inherited inequalities of wealth and to establish in Guyana a system by which social reward would be based on merit and not on the mere ownership of property.
Is there a single socialist proposal contemplated or executed by the coalition? There is nothing to support this myth except the mercurial utterances of a man distinguished by the fluidity and inconsistency of his political beliefs
Mr Greenwood, you must not talk in demagogic terms about democracy and socialism and shift the burden of your conscience to our shoulders. You say that “so long as the PPP will not take their seats (in the House of Assembly) there is bound to be doubt about their democratic intentions.”
What you have failed to tell the British public is that our refusal to attend was a continuing protest against the fraud perpetrated in Guyana and the continued rule by emergency, suspension of constitutional guarantees and detention. Fourteen of our comrades are still languishing in the fly-infested Mazaruni concentration camp.
In November 1961, addressing the National Press Club in Washington, DC, USA, I said, “It is not our concept of democracy which is on trial, but yours.” This is even more true now.
How can you talk about democracy when you proceeded by constitutional amendment to remove me from office? Why did you not follow British conventions here? If this was done and I was asked to form the government, Mr. Burnham would then have been placed in the position of refusing to join us in a coalition. I could then have continued as a minority government as Mr. Lester Pearson and his predecessor Mr. Diefenbaker had done in Canada. And if my government fell subsequently, I could have gone back to the country. The electorate could then have had a clear view of the issues involved and to vote for the alignments or coalitions which they wished.
Even if you could not have postponed the election, you could have found a solution after polling day. That was your responsibility. But you and your government succumbed to the US pressure.
Today we see the ruthless and predatory actions of US imperialism and the complete subservience of the British Labour government to it in various parts of the world.
Your government’s policy in British Guiana is only part and parcel of the big stick policies now being pursued to maintain the old order. If you still believe in democracy, peace, progress and socialism don’t lecture us; put in practice what you preach. This is your duty to the labour movement which placed its faith in you and voted you into office.
[PPP Publication, May 1965]
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000
by Cheddi Jagan 1967
A FOREIGN anthropologist familiar with Guyana in a letter to me said that he welcomed the recent exposure of the CIA plot to overthrow the People's Progressive Party regime. He did so "because several American anthropologists have harped on our `under-emphasizing' the `hostility' between the Indians and Negroes".
It is understandable why many American anthropologists overemphasized the so-called racial problem. No doubt many who came here were CIA agents and were anxious to present a distorted view of the real struggle in which this country has been engaged particularly for the past two decades.
It should be noted that Professor Ralph L. Beals at the annual anthropologists' meeting last November reported that: "Agents of the intelligence branches of the US Government, particularly the CIA, have posed as Anthropologists" and that "Anthropologists . . . have been full or part-time employees of the US intelligence agencies, including the CIA especially, either directly, or through grants from certain foundations with questionable source of income".
Anthropologists are not the only people who distort facts and "manage" news. Congressmen Armistead Seldon and William S. Milliard, two members of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee visited Guyana last November as part of a Latin American study mission. In their recently published Congressional Report they say that "Guyana's ability to pursue development scheme and attract international private and public capital will depend in large measure upon resolution of the racial issue which plagues the country", and that Guyana's political problems stemmed from "the manoeuvres of professed Marxist Cheddi Jagan and his wife".
From this report, one would come to the conclusion that we were the fomenters of racialism and were the stumbling blocks to development and progress. The fact is that racism and anti-communism have been the main weapons used by Anglo-American imperialism to "contain" and destroy the Guyana liberation movement.
In 1953, our Constitution was suspended and the PPP government was forcibly expelled from office on the excuse that it was setting up a one-Party, Communist state. Nearly a decade later, at the October 1963 independence conference, Duncan Sandys refused to fix a date for independence and changed our electoral system. He charged that "racialism was the curse to British Guiana today" and attributed blame for the turmoil to "the development of Party politics along racial lines. In the present acute form, this (racialism) can be traced to the split in the country's main political Party in 1955. It was then that the People's Progressive Party, which had previously drawn its support from both the main races, broke into two bitterly opposed political groups, the one predominantly Indian led by Dr. Jagan, and the other, predominantly Africa, led by Mr. Burnham".
What Sandys failed to mention was that the Burnham split of 1955 was engineered by the Churchill-led British Government. And it was the same Burnham who was backed by the US Government after our success at the 1961 elections, which after the "Bay of Pigs" fiasco in Cuba resulted in near hysteria in Washington. Arthur Schlesinger, Jnr., admits in his book A Thousand Days that after a conversation with Burnham in Washington in May 1962, he recommended to the late President Kennedy that the United States should back Burnham and the way to destroy the PPP Government was by the introduction of proportional representation. And Drew Pearson, the American columnist, reported on March 22nd, 1964, that Kennedy made a special trip to London in the summer of 1963 to see Harold Macmillan to pursuade him not to grant independence to Guyana. According to Drew Pearson, the 1963 "strike was secretly inspired by a combination of United States CIA money and British Intelligence" and gave "London the excuse it wanted" for withholding independence and changing our electoral system.
The root cause of our present racial and other problems is thus the Anglo-American cold war conspiracy to destroy the PPP. Today, US-dictated trade, fiscal and economic policies obediently carried out by our puppet government, are the main reasons for the present stagnation, dissatisfaction and unrest.
Labour Party leaders, when in opposition, had taken a strong position. Harold Wilson had declared that the decision to change our electoral system was "a fiddled constitutional arrangement". Arthur Bottomley had described the Sandys proportional representation formula as "riddled with disadvantages . . . quite unknown in any other Commonwealth Colony .... Those who supported him (Sandys) have done so not because they think that it will reduce racial problems but because they think that it will put some one whom they prefer to 'Dr. Jagan".
When I saw Anthony Greenwood at his desk at the Colonial Office I put in his hands the "Research Paper on the PNC (Burnham's Party-Editor) Terrorist Organisation" and gave him a separate memorandum on the conspiracy of the CIA, the political opposition and the Guiana TUC. I suggested that the elections fixed for December 7th be deferred, and that the Commonwealth team suggested by Harold Wilson in the House of Commons in June 1964 be set up to work out a solution. Neither Greenwood nor Wilson agreed with my suggestions.
Why Labour changed
This reversal of Labour's stand was clearly due to pressure from Washington. On October 31st,. 1964 (the same week I conferred with Greenwood and Wilson) the New York Times reported that the British Government "bowing to the US wishes had ruled out early independence for British Guiana" and was going ahead with the PR elections fixed for December 7th. "This development, reported by senior officials tonight" said the newspaper, "came after high level British-American exchanges on how to check the spread of Castroism in the Western Hemisphere .... Foreign Secretary, Patrick Gordon Walker, and Secretary of State. Dean Rusk examined the situation in their talks in Washington this week. Informants said that Mr. Rusk had left Mr. Gordon Walker in no doubt that the United States would resist a rise of British Guiana as an independent Castro-type state".
CIA pays out
In the 1964 elections, the CIA intervened with money. According to the New York Times of April 28th, 1966, the CIA "has poured money into Latin American election campaigns in support of moderate candidates and against leftist leaders such as Cheddi Jagan of British Guiana".
The Sunday Times story of April 23rd, stated that the CIA resorted to corrupt means to split my party. It took out an insurance policy for "one ex-Jagan supporter for 30,000 dollars in 1964". This is in line with a number of trade unionists who received money from the American Institute of Free Labour Development, another CIA backed organisation, which is today in charge of the Critchlow Institute for trade union education.
Little wonder that Guyana is today a land of bribery, corruption, nepotism "squandermania" and racial discrimination. The main motivation is selfishness and get-rich-quick. Anyone willing to maintain the old order no matter how corrupt can climb to the top.
As regards the economic situation, Guyana is in a state of stagnation and near bankruptcy. The Government cannot meet its day-to-day financial obligations. Teachers' salaries are in some cases two months in arrears. One big foreign company has stopped its credit facilities to the Government. And the big business-dominated Georgetown Chamber of Commerce has, a fortnight ago, asked to see the Prime Minister about the non-payment of accounts long overdue. The Government openly admitted that it owed the commercial banks $15 million which should have been paid by December 31st, 1966.
Meanwhile, concessions are made to the rich. Our timber, bauxite and oil resources have been turned over to foreign monopolies. Capital taxes introduced by the PPP Government in 1962 were abolished or drastically modified in 1965 but consumer taxes were imposed in 1966 and 1967.
There has been a general decline in the standard of living. The cost-of-living index figure has jumped by 8 points in 1965 and 1966. This leap is in sharp contrast to the 10 points increase in the previous 8-year period, 1956-1964. This year the increase will be staggering when the full impact is realised of the 1967 Government taxes, which aimed at raising twice as much money as the 1966 taxes. Increased rents have also added to the misery caused by rising prices, growing unemployment and under-employment.
While the cost of living continues to rise, wages and salaries for the - middle and lower categories either remained stagnant or rose moderately. Sawmill, forest and quarry workers, for instance, received during the PPP regime the same minimum wage as Government unskilled workers. Now the Government has fixed only $3.50 and $3.52 per day as compared with $4.00 for Government workers.
Government's trading policies have also contributed to the worsened position of the people. Pressed by the US Government, the coalition has placed restrictions on cheaper imported goods from the socialist countries. This has led to higher prices. By abandoning trade with Cuba, Guyana has lost a valuable and profitable market for our exports of rice and timber. This has in turn affected the position of. rice farmers, loggers, forest, and sawmill workers.
Social Service cuts
Faced with budgetary problems, the Government has also slashed social services - education, health, pensions - and reduced spending for crop purchases, crop bonuses and other form of help to farmers. Farmers have suffered a drop in income as a result of the fall in prices or their crops - rice, plantains, milk, coffee, citrus. The fall in incomes has meant less money in the hands of farmers and workers which has affected business turnover, estimated in 1966 to be 30 per cent less than the average for 1964 and 1965.
That the economy is stagnant has been well summed up in the words of a strong Government supporter, businessman John Fernandes, when he recently lamented: "economically we are in a bad way and no one seems to care".
So long as we are tied to Washington with its bankrupt financial and economic policies, our conditions will inevitably worsen. In 1965, there were over 120 strikes; in 1966, the total was 172 and for this year already 57. The puppet Government's answer to the wave of industrial strikes and political unrest is threats and intimidation. It has already passed a National Security Act, under which anyone can be restricted or detained indefinitely without trial. Now it is proposing to enact anti-strike legislation in the, form of compulsory arbitration.
The British people are today gravely concerned about the army take-over and destruction of democracy in Greece. Similar concern must be demonstrated for Guyana, the Dominican Republic, Aden, Vietnam and other trouble spots. Developments in these countries are not isolated events. They are all rooted in the Truman Doctrine of "containment" of socialism, communism and national liberation, and the Johnson Doctrine of "intervention".
Meanwhile, US Presidents, Cabinet members and Congressmen glibly talk of freedom, democracy an progress, while CIA anthropologists "discover" racial and tribal differences, and economists "see" population explosions and lack of skills as causes for poverty, illiteracy and disease in "third world" countries.
For more information on CIA involvement - read the US Declassified Files on British Guiana.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000