Articles by Cheddi Jagan - Opposition Leader (1964-1992)
Speech by Dr. Cheddi Jagan in the National Assembly on May 26, 1966 (Independence Day)
Your Royal Highnesses, Mr. Speaker, the severing of the British colonial tie in Guyana, and the attainment of political Independence are welcome features of the struggle of this country and its people for a better life. These features in today's context, do not, however, guarantee the realization of the better life we all seek. They merely represent a further stage, an advancement in the continuing struggle.
I wish to thank their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Kent, as representatives of Her Majesty the Queen, for their presence in this House to hand over the new Constitutional Instruments.
But lest our position at this historic ceremony be misunderstood, it is necessary for me to observe that the people whom my party represents hold considerable reservations.
The form of the Constitution being handed down at this time is one which perpetuates divisions in our society, and entrenches minority rule. The Constitution has failed to lay the foundation for national unity. The fundamental rights which the Constitution seeks to safeguard are, in a great measure non-existent, and the government has provided evidence in great abundance of its intention to render all safeguards nugatory.
Detention without trial has plagued the country since July, 1964, when, by a constitutional Amendment, the United Kingdom government gave to the Governor, acting without advice, powers to detain without trial. This power was made to appear, by the world press and radio, to have been exercised by the Government, of which I was the head. The powers were, in fact, arbitrarily exercised by the Governor, to the detriment of the members and supporters of the People's Progressive Party. Abuses of these powers, now transferred to the government, and the extension of the State of Emergency, beyond the date of the attainment of Independence, have generated fear in our land and have frustrated the efforts of many of our people in their struggle for peace and security.
As Leader of the Opposition, I have accepted invitations to consult with the Honourable Prime Minister, on the making of appointments to those important public offices, which form the pillars of Constitutional Government, but I regret to say that on no occasion, has there been any measure of agreement. The result is that those people, whom my Party represents, are denied any participation in the governmental process. Consultation has amounted, in practice, to no more than an intimation, on every occasion, of the names of persons whom the inflexible Government wished to prefer to high office in this land.
Besides, political independence has been attained under the continuation and consolidation of foreign economic control and the maintenance of the Colonial type of economy, based on primary production and extraction. This has already detracted from the living standards of the working people.
Debt burdens are already increasing with the resulting pressure on the economy. The annually recurring budgetary deficits will inevitably mean dependence on other Governments for budgetary support.
In these circumstances, there is no prospect for real Independence in external affairs and the protestations of the Government, of pursuing a neutral policy, are illusory.
The People's Progressive Party has been the victim of repeated constitutional manipulations designed to keep it out of office.
We are nonetheless confident that, despite these manipulations, the People's Progressive Party can be triumphant at future elections, if they are fairly held. Parliamentary democracy has an important place in this country, and a heavy onus lies on all of us, but more particularly on the Government, to see that it works.
The People's Progressive Party, the vanguard of Guyana's struggle for national liberation, is convinced that liberty is achieved only when it has been struggled for and won. It cannot be a gift of charity. For the people of Guyana, real freedom is still a prize to be won, and win it we will - as a re-united free people.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000
by Cheddi Jagan
Mankind witnessed the horrors of the two world wars in the space of twenty-five years. World War II was a "war to end all wars" and "a war to make the world safe for democracy."
But soon after hostilities ended, those forces, unwilling to see humanity advance and to let science and technology be used to the service of man began the cold-war. Contrary to the terms of the Potsdam Treaty, Germany was re-armed. The main wartime aggressors, Germany and Japan, were built up militarily and economically in support of the policy of "containment of communism."
Some even advocated a pre-emptive strike against the Soviet Union with Atomic bombs, arguing that would settle once and for all in this so-called problems of the socialism and national liberation. It was in this atmosphere that the World Peace Movement was born. Great scientists and humanitarians who were associated with its birth, were unwilling to see science perverted. They lent their names and prestige to our great movement in the quest for world peace.
The beginning was not easy. The strident voice of anti-communism was a powerful weapon.
In the then British Guiana, for instance, the British Guiana Peace committee was singled out for attack soon after its formation. In the British White Paper on the suspension of the British Guiana Constitution and in forcible removal of the popularly elected (18 out of 24 seats) People’s Progressive Party (PPP) from the government in October, 1953, the British Guiana Peace Committee was cited, along with other international organizations.
The White Paper, inter alia stated:
"Meanwhile, the leaders have strengthened their links with Moscow and have boasted of their preference for the Russian way of life. Mrs. Jagan, who is Secretary of the party was a member of the Young communist League when in America, attended the third world congress of the Women’s International Democratic Federation (Communist) in Copenhagen in June, and later visited Rumania. Mr. Rory Westmaas is vice-president of the PPP and organizer of the local ‘peace committee’ and the Pioneer Youth League. He has recently been to a Communist organized international youth conference in Bucharest. Dr Jagan visited Berlin to attend an international youth conference, which was held under communist auspices in 1951. Three members of the party will attend the October meeting of the World Federation of Trade Unions in Vienna. "Mr. Sydney King another Minister, visited the WFTU, Vienna and Hungary in February, 1953."
In my book Forbidden Freedom (Lawrence and Wishart, 1954), referring to the spurious in British charges, I wrote:
"Reference is made in the White Paper to the visit of Mr. Sydney King and Mr. R.O. Westmaas to the World Peace Congress. The PPP does not regard membership of the World Peace Movement as a communist monopoly; many non-communist the world over belong to their organization.
As colonials we realize that unless new development schemes are embarked upon our standards of living will continue to be very low. Vast sums of money are being spent on armaments and war preparations. If only a fraction of this wealth could be used for construction projects in backward territories like British Guiana, the lives of the people there could quickly be changed.
We see nothing wrong with the Peace Appeal of the last World peace Congress, which said:
- ‘A great hope has been born. Everybody new sees that agreement is possible. The slaughter can be ended. The cold war can be stopped.
- ‘In this hour we solemnly call upon the peoples to demand of their governments that they negotiate and agree.
- ‘It is for us to support every move - from whatever government it may come - to solve disputes by peaceful means. It is for us all to frustrate the efforts of those who prevent or delay agreement.
‘Peace is within our reach. It is for us to win it."
Soon after the military destruction of the PPP government, the British Guiana Peace Committee was banned; among others, it was declared a subversive organization.
Two of our colleagues, Fred Bowman and Nasrudden, were charged with sedition. The famous peace fighter, D.N. Pitt came to defend them and fortunately secured their releases. To fight against colonialism then, was to fight against neo-colonialism today, was/is seditious and treasonable.
Peace was then regarded as subversive, and peaceful coexistence, the cornerstone of the World Peace Council, as the "Trojan horse" of international communism to lull the "vigilance" of capitalist states.
Later opposition came from the "ultra-leftist" and the "left" revisionists, who charged the WPC for pacifism, for "selling out". Peaceful co-existence they said, meant "reconciliation" with imperialism. This view I found prevalent in Canadian universities in 1968. Patiently, and I must admit in some cases unsuccessfully, I related my experience of the heated encounter between the Soviet and Chinese delegations on the questions of peaceful coexistence at the Tricontinental Conference in Havana in 1965. The Soviet delegation had pointed out that it was suicidal in this era of mass weapons - nuclear, chemical and bacteriological - of destruction to think of war for the settlement of disputes between the socialist and the capitalist states. For them, the Soviet delegations said, peaceful co-existence meant struggle, not war but peaceful competition. That did not imply, however, that there was to be no class struggle, no liberation struggle. The Soviet Union, he reiterated, would continue to aid all those who were fighting against class exploitation and national oppression.
Later, unfortunately, this same attitude on the part of China was to hamstring the work of the World Peace Council. But the world has travelled a long way. Today, China too accepts the principle of peaceful co-existence although regrettably she considers the Soviet Union as enemy Number One.
And peace is no longer regarded as a communist monopoly. Evidence of this was the historic congress of Peace Forces, held in Moscow in October 1973; which brought together from 144 countries more than 3,000 delegates of all walks of life - believers and non-believers, militants and pacifists, academic and laymen.
Credit for this great achievement must go to the World peace Council and its indefatigable General Secretary, Romesh Chandra, also to the peace programme and policies of the socialist states, particularly the Soviet Union.
The World Peace Council can look back with pride at 25 years of real service to mankind. Because of its unrelenting activity, coupled with the growing economic and military strength of the socialist world, many cold warriors have been forced to abandon their dreams of "containment," and their idea of bargaining from "position of strength". They have been compelled to accept the idea of peaceful co-existence.
But peace fighters must not be lulled into false sense of security. Imperialism has not given up its strategic aim of world domination. New methods are being devised to realize its objectives - "non military confrontation", "limited revelry", "partnership", ideological warfare and social strategy to combat national liberation.
The fourteen topics discussed at the World peace Congress of Peace Forces show that although much has been gained, there is still a great deal to be done.
A glorious perspective is opening up for the cause of world peace, on this its 25th Anniversary, the World Peace Council must redouble its efforts and strengthen world unity of all anti-imperialist forces – the Socialist World, the national liberation movements and the progressive working class and peace fighter of the Capitalist world.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000
(The following is a Straight Talk article written by Dr, Jagan in 1967, which was later published in a booklet "The Role of the CIA in Guyana and its Activities Throughout the World")
The response to Thomas Braden's apologia of the CIA in which he said he gave money to Irving Brown, Walter and Victor Reuther, the Top Brass of the American trade union movement, was sharp.
George Meany, the head of the AFL-CIO blasted Braden's story as "a damm lie... Not one penny of CIA money has even come in to the AFL or AFL-CIO to my knowledge over the last twenty years."
One has to take this statement with a grain of salt. Remember Richard Ishmael's denial of any CIA connection with the 1963 strike when the CIA plot was exposed by the New York Times in February. Note too that according to the National Guardian, Ishmael and Meany held discussions at the Commodore Hotel in New York soon after the 1961 elections when help was asked to stop the "Cubanization of strategic British Guiana".
According to Newsweek, US magazine (May 22) "Only Walter Reuther, of all the principles involved, admitted knowingly taking CIA money - and then only once, in an emergency situation, to his subsequent regret. Reuther added his one postscript - that Braden had tried recruiting brother Victor as a CIA agent and that Victor had emphatically rejected the bid. Braden denied that."
One is more likely to believe Braden in this sordid affair.
Walter Reuther has always posed as a progressive liberal. Recently, after the expose of the CIA plot, but before Braden's defence of it, Walter Reuther and three of his lieutenants resigned from the AFL-CIO. But Reuther's past is no less that of a cold warrior than George Meany's.
Walter Reuther's influence in past -1947 was largely behind the expulsion not only of the democratically-elected communists and militants from unions, but also of unions, such as the United Electrical, from the Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO). The difference between Reuther and Meany is a matter of degree, the same as between Harold Wilson and George Brown.
According to Victor Riesel, witch-hunting labour journalist, as reported by Workers World, March 17, 1967), the feud between George Meany and Walter Reuther started when Meany blocked him from getting $2 million CIA money in 1962.
"Reuther, said Riesel, asked for $2 million of CIA money in 1962 to finance an amalgamation of pro-Communist and anti-Communist unions in Italy. Reuther contacted Robert Kennedy, then Attorney General, who had connections with Reuther as well as the CIA. Kennedy was interested in the deal, called in Gen. Maxwell Taylor and others to confer with Reuther on it."
"Meany got wind of what was going on, went to John F. Kennedy, the President, and killed the plan on the basis that "boring from within" a Communist-led union by anti-communists was lightly to create more Communists rather than less."
This explains why I never succeeded in talking to Reuther. Someone has suggested that I should talk top him about AFL-CIO involvement and tie-up with the CIA in its activities in Guyana. Well, I said, arrange it. Nothing came through, however; Reuther was too busy, I was told.
Later I was introduced to him rather casually in the lobby of the United Nations headquarters in New York. "I would like to have a chat with you at some time convenient to you", I said. "I would let you know later." was his reply. I heard nothing.
No doubt, I didn't get a reply because the AFL-CIO had already plotted behind the scenes to get rid of the PPP. Recall the AFL-CIO support for Burnham as was clearly pointed out by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in his book "A Thousand Days". This is how Schlesinger put it: "Thus far our policy had been based on the assumption that Forbes Burnham was, as the British described him an opportunist, racist and demagogue, intent only on personal power. One wondered about this though, because the AFL-CIO people in Guyana thought well of him." It was the same AFL and CIO which engineered the split in the World Federation of Trade Union (WFTU) in 1949 and set up the CIA-backed International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). And through ICFTU and its regional organizations the Inter-American Regional Organisation of Workers (ORIT) and Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL), the shipping and air-blockade was imposed on Guyana during the 80-day strike in 1963.
Elsewhere, Meany and his lieutenants did the same. In Africa, they attempted through the African-American Labor Center to sabotage the attempts of Dr. Nkrumah and others to set up the All-African Trade Union Federation. the aim of which was freedom from cold-war influences. Jay Lovestone considered Nkrumah's brand of neutralism as "aide-de-camp" of communism.
In the Latin American area, Meany's foreign relations manipulator, Jay Lovestone, renege of the Communist Party, was the principle link in the business of espionage, infiltration and subversion abroad. According to the New York Post of February 16 "One of Lovestone's 'institutes' actively helped top train Brazilian unionists here to participate in the military coup against Goulart's Brazilian regime,... an alleged leftist but constitutional government... replaced by an oppressive tyranny of the right."
The New York Post also charged that money from the CIA had been paid regularly to AFL-CIO agents and that an inquiry would show "innumerable instances" in which AFL-CIO agents "collaborated with CIA cloak and dagger men" in various coups and undercover intrigues.
In the Dominican Republic, the late Fred A. Somerford, US Labor Attache, was the guiding light of CONATRAL which ran an advertisement in the newspapers calling on the people to put their faith not in the regime of the elected President Juan Bosch, but in the " armed forces". An obituary on Somerford, a year after Bosch's downfall said "George Meany wrote a personal letter of commendation to the deceased for his outstanding contribution to the Democratic Labour Movement of the Dominican Republic.
Farther back in 1951, George boasted about AFL achievements on the world front. "Primarily due to our effort," he said, "there has been established ... the Force Ouvriere." In Germany it "was the AFL which broke the Communist stranglehold on the trade unions." "Our European representative, Irving Brown, participated in cleaning the port of Marseilles of Communist control." "We have established numerous contacts with resistance movements behind the iron curtain." "On the China mainland, we are aiding the underground democratic forces."
Neil Sheehan writing in the New York Times on February 21, 1967 in a special article headed "CIA Is Linked to Strikes That Helped Oust Jagan" said that "Operatives of the Central Intelligence Agency working under cover of an American Labour Union, helped organize strikes in British Guiana in 1962 and 1963 against Dr. Cheddi Jagan, a marxist who was Prime Minister there."
The union referred to was the State, Country and Municipal Employees Union, which operated in Guyana through the London based Public Services International.
"The Union used agency (CIA) funds for four and a half-years from 1959 until May 1964 - to finance its overseas activities, mainly in Latin America," said Sheehan.
Other CIA links with the US trade union movement, in addition to the unions already named, were though the Retail Clerks Union (through which came to Guyana Gerald O'Keefe, one of the 50 persons named in the Security Branch report "A Research Paper in the PNC Terrorist Organisation," which gave the gory details of arson, dynamiting of government buildings, etc.); the International Federation of Food and Drinks Workers and the Newspaper Guild, the union of practising journalists in the United States.
The latter received $1 million (US) of CIA money with which it helped to finance its subversive activities in Latin America through the inter-American Newspapermen's Association. this body was headed by the arch anti-communist, Dubois. And many Guyanese journalists unwittingly took part in conferences in Latin America sponsored by this association in the name of freedom and democracy.
The kind of freedom, which the Guild and its associates were defending was clearly brought out in the case of their attacks against the PPP government. When the government tried to block Gene Meakin's stay in Guyana in 1964, the Reporter blamed me and the PPP for attacking the "free trade union movement" and infringing upon the "freedom of the press."
The US government, the CIA and their stooges and puppets have certainly made a farce of the world "free". They have prostituted it for their sinister purposes.
According to Sidney Lens, (The Nation, July 5, 1965) "What the US government does not do directly, because it would be flagrant meddling with the internal affairs of other nations, and what the CIA cannot do because it is suspect, the AFL-CIO does on their behalf. In ostensibly innocent relationships between unions of one country with another, the AFL-CIO throws its weight toward the making and unmaking of governments, with the purpose of instilling abroad the phobic anti-communism that has become entrenched at home. Jay Lovestone holds no public office, but it would be naive to deny that he influences national policy."
Lens then continued. The Meanyites, working in collaboration with the CIA "can claim credit since 1945: -
1. Helping to split the French and Italian Labour movement.
2. Encouraging the emergence of conservative leaders in many German unions, and keeping them on the narrow cold-war path.
3. Involving themselves -some of them, not all- in the gathering of hard intelligence which has nothing to do with legitimate trade union work.
4. Subsiding questionable elements in Marseilles and other European ports to break dock workers' boycotts of American arms shipments.
5. Giving support to unionists in British Guiana in an effort to depose the elected Jagan government
6. Endorsing right-of-centre labourites in the Dominican Republic who were dissatisfied with Juan Bosch and played a role in his ouster.
7. Training Brazilians who joined the generals in jettisoning the constitutional regime of Goulart.
8. Infiltrating American embassies with many labour attaches who share their views and put them into practice.
9. Defending every military intervention by the United States including, most recently Cuba, Vietnam, the Congo and the Dominican Republic; and condemning nationalist forces, such as those in panama, who oppose U.S. policy.
10. "Educating" literally tens of thousands of unionists in the lovestone brand of anti-communism and setting them loose, with money and inspiration, against unions with left-of-centre leadership."
Clearly "freedom" and "democracy" are convenient works used by the USA to spread US ideology and to cloak the deception of the people.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000
Address by Dr. Cheddi Jagan at the Commemoration of the 52nd Birth Anniversary Of Martin Luther King, Jr.
At Zion Baptist Church, New York, January 15,1981
Dear Friends, Brothers & Sisters:
For me, it is an honour and a privilege to be associated with this beautiful Brent - the commemoration service of the 52nd Birth Anniversary of one of America's most illustrious sons, Martin Luther King, Jr. Byany standards, he must rank with the greats of our time. His contribution was immeasurable, his courage immense. He shouldered his tasks, never flinching, in the noble traditions set by Frederick Douglass, Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson and other fighters for freedom and liberation.
The magnitude at those tasks was well-appreciated by me. As a student at Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1936-38 I had known what was meant by jim-crow and segregation - the facilities from which blacks wore excluded, the partition in the middle of inexpensive cinemas, separating Blacks and Whites; the seating of Blacks in the rear of a street-car as it moved across the state-line from Washington to East Virginia.
Black were regarded and treated as less than human. They were segregated and hammed-in in ghettos. And, as I myself experienced, it was practically the same whether one was in Washington, in Harlem, New York, or in Chicago. My friend and room-mate Dr. Orrin Dummett shared with me a room in the Black district of Washington D.C. surrounding Howard University. But in the near North side of Chicago, we couldn't do so; he secured a room in a Church, but only on condition that he looked after the heating system of the church and presbytery.
Jimcrow and segregation had a deep impact on the Black American psyche - and, let me add, affected students like me, coming from a different, colonial background. A concatenation of circumstances, national and international, worked on and inspired Martin Luther King to answer the call for leadership, to work and to break the chains that imprisoned body, mind and spirit.
These circumstances included the post-war anti-colonial struggle, the struggle for national liberation. In India, it was led by Gandhi's "non-cooperation and civil disobedience". In his college days, Martin Luther King had read much of and about Gandhi, and had heard Dr. Mordecai Johnson, President of Howard University in Washington, D.C., tell how the Mahatma had freed India by non-violent methods. Dr. Johnson was President in my time at Howard too.
Impetus was also given to the Civil Rights Movement in America by the convergence of the liberation struggles in Africa; in Kenya; in Ghana led by Kwame Nkrumah and in Guinea by Sekou Toure. Nkrumah had been associated with Dr. Du Bois in the Pan African movement. Cold war pressures in Egypt, Kenya, Ghana, Guinea and the non-aligned movement were similar to McCarthyite pressures against Paul Robeson and Dr. Du Bois. Those pressures fuelled the urgency for change on the Establishment. Those who wielded power in America began to see that their credentials, sanctified in the American Constitution and symbolized by the Statue of Liberty, were wearing thin in the eyes of the rest of the world and that something had to be done about jim-crow and segregation at home if the USA was to maintain its leadership role in the post-war world.
It was the long, heroic struggle of the bus boycott in Montegomery that plummeted Martin Luther King into the leadership that was to enrich the Civil Rights Movement in later years and carve a niche for him in the history of his country that time can never erase. It also sparked another flame. When a white minister joined Dr. King in travelling up front on a bus after victory had been attained; and they took a ride side by side in Montegomery, it can be said to symbolize what, as the years rolled on, has become a fact of life wherever the struggle for freedom is being waged; that resistance to oppression and injustice removes barriers of race, religion and, increasingly, social background, that believers and non-believer, that Marxists and non-Marxists, Communists and non-communists, can and do work together for a common goal.
Dr. King's was not a mere activist's vision, with blinkers. He did not see Black liberation as black separatism; a posting of Black against White. In the same way that Gandhi sought Hindu-Moslem unity in India,and we in Guyana fought for Indian-African unity, which we attained in the 1950-53 period in the fight against British colonial rule and now is about to be attained against neo-colonial rule under President L.F.S. Burnham. Martin Luther King Jr. saw the necessity for Black-White unity against the monopoly-capitalist power structure. He saw that the attainment of emancipation, full integration and full citizenship which the black people had been struggling for since the Emancipation Proclamation, could come about only with an anti-monopoly alliance of all progressive forces, Black and White.
Like a true revolutionary who sees the broad masses as the locomotive of history, Martin Luther King Jr. not only ministered to the needs of the down-trodden, but also moved to organize them. In the 1960's his Southern Christian Leadership Conference had begun clearing the way for the organization of the oppressed, the deprived and the poor, students and peace – fighters, and progressives of many ideological hues He himself cautioned against philistinism and sectarianism in 1968 in an article honouring Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, Said Dr. King :
"We cannot talk of Dr. Du Bois without recognizing that he was a radical all of his life. Some people would like to ignore the fact that he was a communist in his later years. It is worth noting that Abraham Lincoln warmly welcomed the support of Karl Marx during the Civil War and corresponded with him freely. In contemporary life the English speaking world has no difficulty with the fact that Sean O'Casey was a literary giant of the twentieth century and a communist, or that Pablo Neruda is generally considered the greatest (living) poet, though he also served in the Chilean Senate as a Communist. It is time to cease muting the fact that Dr. Du Bois was a genius and chose to be a Communist. Our irrational obsessive anti-communism has led us into too many quagmires to be retained as if it were a mode of scientific thinking."
This is important as anti-communist hysteria has become the familiar weapon of the oppressors and reactionaries. In 1953, when the British landed troops in Guyana, overthrew the PPP government, and imprisoned me, they said that we were communists. When Anglo-American imperialism and the CIA joined forces with Burnham and destabilized the PPP government in 1964, they again said Jagan was communist and that we wanted to make Guyana into a second Cuba. When the racist fascists of South Africa imprisoned Nelson Mandela and later the US Cold Warriors persecuted Sister Angela Davis, as they had persecuted Paul Robeson and others, anti-communism was used as a pretext.
I recall my long association with Paul Robeson and being at London Airport to greet him when finally he was allowed to travel abroad. A year earlier when Dr. Du Bois had been prevented from leaving the USA, I had the honour of stepping into his reserved vacant seat from London to Accra for Ghana 'a independence celebrations.
The same cowardly veil of anti-communism has not masked their vile assassination of Lumumba and Cabral, Che Guevera and Allende, and our own beloved Walter Rodney, whose precious life was snuffed out in mid-1980 by the imperialist-backed PNC regime.
Dr. King fought for peace. He applauded when Mohamed Ali rejected his draft call-up, and in 1967 he denounced the war in Vietnam. Of that war he said -
"Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now . . . I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam . . The initiative to atop it must be ours."
On UN Human Rights Day, 1964, in his acceptance statement after receiving the award of the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. King said -
"I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when twenty-one million Negroes of the United States of America are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustices . . .
. . . I accept this award, today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind . . . I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.
I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hall of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality . . . I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits . . . I still believe that WE SHALL OVERCOME."
On April 10, 1968, just sixdays after his assassination, part of the dream Dr. King dreamed came true - the long-delayed Civil Rights Act was passed. A most notable breach in the walls had been achieved. The intervening period - between 1964 and 1968 in America - was indeed one of "domestic fury and fierce civil strife" which was not Dr. King's preference and far from a prescription. But the militancy of the civil right struggle intermingled with the anti-Vietnam War feeling in the country; and fighters for Back liberation were often indistinguishable from or identified with the anti- Vietnam war sentiments of the people.
Vietnam was part of that third world for which Dr. King 's concern was clearly expressed: "Let us be dissatisfied until our brother of the third world - Asia, Africa and Latin America - will no longer be a victim of imperialist exploitation, but will be lifted from the long night of poverty, illiteracy and disease".
Dr. Martin Luther King not only had a dream; he worked towards its realization. As Congressman Ron Dellums beautifully put it: "The man King saw evil and tried to correct it. He saw immorality and tried to right it. He saw suffering and tried to end it. He saw war and tried to stop it . . ."
Dr. King was not only a man of ideas; he was equally a man of action. His commitment to genuine multi-racial unity in America, his steadfastness to the struggle for people's power, his faith in the masses resulted in the military industrial establishment trembling in paranoia convulsions. That is why they killed him. But they cannot kill his ideas. They can never kill what he stood for, which is winning out all over the world: national liberation, self-determination, social justice. It won out in Indochina and in Africa. It is winning out in our America. Revolutionary Cuba, Grenada and Nicaragua are living testimony that the tidal wave of social justice cannot be held back. And like a fire, Dr. King's dream is circling around the globe. It will one day descend also on this land where Dr. King dreamt his dream of a new world of peace and plenty.
Because of a commitment and steadfastness, he was cut down in the prime of his life. They killed him; but in every demand for equality, every demonstration for social justice, peace and freedom, Martin Luther King Jr. lives.
We pledge to struggle in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr. That is the greatest tribute that we in Guyana can pay to his revered memory.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000