Articles by Cheddi Jagan - Opposition Leader (1964-1992)
On December 9, you will be exercising your right to vote – a right which was won for you by the PPP in the early 1950s.
One of the first battles we fought was for the right of every Guyanese to vote. Universal adult suffrage was and is for us a fundamental question. Without that, there can be no democracy. And without democracy, there can be no progress.
The right to vote should permit you to elect the government of your choice. But for some time now it has been seriously imperilled and has resulted in a skewed, truncated system, what some call an administrative dictatorship. Consequently, you are excluded from meaningful involvement in the process of decision-making and nation-building.
Lack of democracy has taken its toll. Coupled with incorrect economic planning strategy, wrong priorities, political and racial discrimination, extravagance end corruption, it has put a brake, on production and productivity. That’s why production of our main exports is stagnating even below levels reached two decades ago.
With real people’s democracy, our country would have been producing about three times what is being done now. That would have given the government more money, and so enable it to pay decent wages and salaries, maintain subsidies and improve social services.
Increased exports would have earned more foreign currency to import goods for production and consumption, including wheaten flour, split peas, and so on.
And the small man would have become the real man, and the nation would have been fed, clothed and housed as the PNC had proclaimed in 1972. Indeed, our country would have become the Caribbean bread-basket and showpiece.
Therefore, we must struggle for democracy. It will not come as a gift. At the social level, we must fight for the genuine organisations of the people to be recognised and respected by the state; at the industrial level, for bona-fide trade unions to have a real voice in management and decision-making; and at the political level, for representative national, regional, district and municipal governments. Local elections, overdue since 1970, were probably not held now because they would have necessitated counting at the place of poll, and this would have applied also for the regional and national elections.
We make no apologies for calling on you to engage in all peaceful forms of struggle for free and fair elections and a political solution. The constitution guarantees peaceful methods such as strikes, demonstrations, marches, vigils and picketing. Those who distort our call for such methods of struggle as advocacy of violence seem bent on army intervention, hijacking of, and tampering with, ballot boxes.
So far, you, fellow Guyanese, have scored a partial victory. You have got postal voting abolished and overseas and proxy voting restricted. You have to continue your fight for an independent election machinery, non-involvement of the army, clean voters’ lists and counting of the ballots at the place of poll.
President Hoyte has said that opposition parties’ agents would be allowed to accompany the ballot boxes. This must be fulfilled in a meaningful way. We must be able to keep our eyes constantly on the ballot boxes from the beginning of voting to the beginning of counting.
We must fight for this because in the past leading PPP members like Ram Karran, Isahak Basir, Gail Teixeira and others had been prevented at gun point from accompanying and observing the ballot boxes. There was no question of shortage of personnel to accompany the boxes.
The PPP is committed to free and fair elections, democracy and a plural political system. We feel that these must be coupled with a socialist-oriented programme and a broad-based National Patriotic Front Government of all left and democratic forces.
To achieve development, racial and cultural cohesion and national defence, such a government is absolutely necessary. Further, we say, give the genuine organisations of workers, farmers, businessmen, professional and religious people a voice in parliament.
This is in line with the PPP’s democratic tradition, its national-patriotic position and winner-does-not-take-all politics. Often, we have stated, that even though we can win a free and fair election, we alone will not form the government; we will include other progressive forces.
In the early 1960’s, we had offered the PNC half of the government. If they had accepted, you won’t be experiencing hardships and difficulties now.
Again an opportunity came to the PNC in 1976-77 when the economy was going into a serious crisis. But, instead of heeding the call of the TUC and others for a broad-based government and implementing the very favourable agreement made in April 1978 with the Soviet Union, it postponed the elections and embraced the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
We warned them against the IMF. But they praised it and rammed down your throats its prescriptions.
The IMF medicine has been bitter for you and our nation. You have been brought to a point of desperation through IMF impositions — devaluation, wage freeze and wage restraint, dismissals, cuts in social services, removal of price controls, removal of subsidies on food, cuts in imports leading to shortages, and black-market prices.
Incidentally, had the Guyana-Soviet agreement been implemented, the 1,700 bauxite workers, nearly a third of the work force, would probably not have been dismissed.
Our country has also been bankrupted, the good name of our nation sullied, and our people insulted and humiliated wherever they go.
Our warnings have proved correct. By 1982, even the PNC became critical of the IMF. Its new prescriptions, including a 66 to 100 percent devaluation, were described by the late President Burnham as “a recipe to riot”.
But now, the dominant conservative section of the PNC sees a new deal with the IMF as the only way to maintain positions and privileges. This new deal is likely to mean another devaluation of our dollar by about 25 per cent. How are you going to exist with such a devaluation in the face of a miserly wage increase of 4 percent or 5 percent.
All Guyanese want a change. The present hybrid system of bureaucratic-state and parasitic capitalism, which is masquerading as socialism, has proven a failure.
But what the IMF, the imperialists and their local agents want is even worse. Look at Latin America. There, the free enterprise, dependent/distorted system of capitalism led to a sea of problems for the people and to revolutionary upheavals, as in Cuba and Nicaragua in the past, and in El Salvador today.
Jamaica is a good example of the bankruptcy of this type of capitalism. A rapid decline in living standards led to spontaneous demonstrations, riots and barricades; eleven persons were killed by the Jamaican military in February this year.
Yes, we must have change, but not just any change. We want to get out of the PNC frying pan, but not to fall into the imperialist/rightist fire.
Guyana needs real, meaningful change: change to the left, in a democratic and socialist oriented direction, as in some non-aligned countries. This is the only way forward. This is the PPP way to real peace and social progress.
On December 9, vote PPP. Vote for the Cup.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000
Permit me to thank you for joining me on this special celebration marking my 40th Anniversary as a parliamentarian.
This aspect of my life was both challenging and exhilarating. During these years, at all times, I never lost sight of the fact that my presence in Parliament was due to the Guyanese people who reposed confidence in me and the Party I head – the People’s Progressive Party. In successive elections since 1947, they elected me to serve in Parliament and for this I want to sincerely thank them. In turn, I feel satisfied that at no time did I even contemplate betraying that confidence or do anything contrary to their interests and well-being.
The past four decades can truly be said to have been the best period of my life. It is one filled with significant successes and, of course, not without setbacks. In my opinion, this was a period of trials and upheavals as well as of major changes which had an impact, in one way or another, on our people and country.
In these 40 years, whatever I have achieved can be credited firstly to my parents and my wife, secondly to all those selfless and heroic comrades of my Party who stood and still stand by me; thirdly to our heroes, named and unnamed; and fourthly to the American and Russian revolutions and to those outstanding world figures Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
My parents made the necessary sacrifices for my formal education. My wife insisted that though bread was important, man does not live by bread alone, that life is not just two cars in every garage and two chicken in every pot. Karl Marx made me understand what makes the world go round. And our heroes and Lenin, Gandhi and King taught me how to change Guyana and inspired me to struggle. My comrades’ steadfastness gave me the strength to continue, especially in times of adversity.
Other factors: Country and town; East and West; US education which is more democratic as compared with British. I feel particularly pleased with the knowledge that I have contributed to uniting the working people, winning adult suffrage and independence, eliminating some of the inequalities brought about by the divide-and-rule tactics and wiping out some of the vestiges of colonialism. May I also take the opportunity of this occasion to underline the singular importance of the formation of the PPP which in a myriad of positive ways have been playing a major role in our nation life. In government; In opposition.
I want to assure you that I will continue to work as a Guyanese and as a member of the PPP for working class and racial unity, for national and social liberation, for economic justice and social progress and prosperity for our people and country.
In this task I am strengthened by the fact that what I stand for is winning out. During the past forty years socialism has become a world system, the communist and working class and national liberation movements have become a powerful force, colonialism has been virtually obliterated, the peace movement has grown, disarmament for development is on the current agenda, and democratisation of international political life is gaining momentum.
All of these developments serve to strengthen my resolve, raise my hopes and sustain my optimism that successes and final victory in our struggles in Guyana may not be too distant. My confidence is as strong as every that our people will unite and will carry out united struggles to put Guyana in the mainstream of world history.
I will continue to make my contributions to such ends and, I believe, if we all act together, we will see that new day dawn, sooner, rather than later.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000
Speech by Dr Cheddi Jagan, General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party at an International Scientific Seminar on “The Revolutionary Thinking of Commandante Che Guevara” in Buenos Aires, Argentina, June 8-11, 1988.
Very few persons became legends in their lifetime. Che Guevara was one of them.
That Che was a giant, few can deny. He was a man of extraordinary qualities.
Regis Debray in his analysis of Che’s military failure and tragic death in Bolivia quoted from Bernard of Clairvauz who in the year 1200 said these words: “We are dwarfs perching on the shoulder of giants. We can see better and further than they can, not because our sight is keener or our height greater, but because they are carrying us, raising us to their gigantic level.”
We’re all dwarfs when it comes to measuring a man of Commandante Che Guevara’s stature. We can ask this question - which many have pondered - how is it that after 20 years Che continues to attract the same veneration and devotion that he did when he was alive?
Che was a man of many parts, a complex man. Among his many attributes, he was a person of unusual courage. His military exploits are renowned and revered. According to Fidel Castro, “Che was an incomparable soldier. Che was an incomparable leader. Che was, from a military point of view, an extraordinarily capable man, extraordinarily courageous, extraordinarily aggressive. If, as a guerrilla, he had his Achilles’ heel, it was this excessively aggressive quality, his absolute contempt for danger.”
Che fits our vision of a perfect “new man” of the future - physically and morally strong. With incredible strength, he overcame a serious ailment. And to have practiced what he preached - a stern and sterling character, what the indomitable Vietnamese communist leader, Ho Chi Minh, described as revolutionary morality.
That accounts for the apt description of him as a capable and efficient administrator. From November 1959, he served as Director of the National Bank of Cuba. In 1961, he was appointed as Minister of Industry. He was also Chief of the Industrial department of the Director of the National Bank of Cuba. In 1961, he was appointed as Minister of Industry. He was also Chief of the Industrial Department of the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INRA).
As minister of Industry, he had to correct earlier mistakes, which had been made in the immediate period of euphoria after the overthrow of Batista. In the zeal to move away from Cuba’s one-crop economy, a policy of wide-ranging industrialization had been pursued. A lot of industrial machinery was still in crates on the wharfs. With the blockade, Cuba now realised that raw materials for industry could not be imported without serious problems. As he told comrade Janet Jagan - “build your industries around your raw materials and waste by-products.” Wise advice.
Pointing out his qualities in the industrial field, a Soviet writer noted: “He held a guiding hand over the socialist transformation of industry for a period of four years. During this period private ownership of the means of production in Cuba was completely ended. Exploitation of the working people was halted. The country moved towards a planned economy. Chronic unemployment, the whip held over the working people in pre-Revolutionary Cuba, was now eliminated. The level of consciousness of the working people grew. Thousands of workers upgraded their skills, boosted production and joined in socialist emulation. American imperialism hoped for a collapse of the Cuban ‘experiment’ …Cuban workers disappointed their hopes…Much of the credit for this belongs to the Communist Party of Cuba and to Che in particular, under whose leadership the complex and difficult transition from the rails of capitalist production to those of socialist production was effected.”
But above all Che was a humanitarian, a revolutionary intellectual and fighter and an ardent internationalist.
As a doctor, Che was not content simply to practice his profession, cure sick individuals and live a comfortable middle-class life. His was a broader vision: national and social liberation; the curing of the ills of society through the elimination of imperialism and oligarchic domination, exploitation and oppression. Towards this objective, he dedicated his life. His humanity was expressed in the love for people - ordinary people for whom he was always prepared to risk his life.
In this regard, Che gave us some valuable lessons. In his book “Socialism and Man”, he stated:
At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality. Perhaps it is one of the great dramas of the leader that he must combine a passionate spirit with a cold intelligence and make painful decisions without contracting a muscle. Our vanguard revolutionaries must idealize this love of the people, the most sacred causes and make it one and indivisible. They cannot descent to the level of the ordinary man’s daily expenditure of sentimentality…one must have a great deal of humanity and a strong sense of justice and truth in order not to fall into extreme degradation and cold scholasticism, into isolation from the masses.
Che was a perpetual student, always studying always learning. At one time, he even mastered linear mathematics for the more effective functioning of his responsibilities as a Minister.
But his was not the position of a classroom intellectual, and theory and practice, thought and action; revolutionary intellectual and fighter were embodied in his personality as a single stream.
He applied the Marxist classics in a thoroughly practical manner. His theory guided him at all times, as for example when he made the simple but profound analysis that national sovereignty was unthinkable without economic independence. According to the editor of Che’s “Episodes of the Revolutionary war”, he is described as a “fully endowed revolutionary man, in whom the guerrilla strategist and fighter embodied a Marxist outlook. He left many writings, which show his eager search for fresh theoretical insights over a broad range of interest. His was a revolutionary, a Marxist mind, over critical and open, aware that new revolutionaries always present new qualities and new problems.”
Che showed excellent qualities as a writer. His highly esteemed classic on Guerrilla Warfare is a bible for revolutionaries.
I had the privilege of having several discussions with Che both as head of government and as leader of the opposition in the National Assembly. Those talks were wide-ranging and immensely illuminating. I could not help perceiving him as an intellectual and a visionary, one who was anxious to reshape the world, particularly the third world.
His internationalism and humanitarianism were especially evident in the sympathy and support towards our struggle in the then British Guiana. No doubt, this was in part influenced by the unreserved support given to revolutionary Cuba by the People’s Progressive Party and government which I had the honour of leading.
The agreements I concluded with Che were far-reaching and demonstrated the internationalism of revolutionary hydro-electric project; a wood-pulp factory; a rice agreement and a timber railway ties for cement barter deal; a Cuban Trade mission in British Guiana; a cultural exchange.
The rice deal with Cuba was deemed “blood money” by the opposition United Force, meaning the payment for the rice was coming from the suffering and blood of the Cuban people!
The hydro-electric project had been recommended by British consultants after we (the PPP government) had nationalized the Canadian-owned Demerara Electric Company. It was a tri-state (Guyana-Cuba-USSR) cooperation venture. Its implementation would have prevented the recurrent blackouts of many years and the huge bill for fuel imports.
The US$10 million loan at a low 2 per cent interest rate for a wood-pulp project, to be paid for in supplies of pulp, would have been the impetus for a huge timber development. At first, Cuba had shown an interest in the development of the project through a lease of forest land, as was the practice in colonial times. But Che told me that smacked too much of imperialist exploitation.
On the rice deal, when I asked why he was paying us 2 cents a pound more than we were getting from the west Indies, he said: put that to the solidarity of the Cuban Revolution to the Guyanese peasants.
The trade and cultural exchanges were opening the way for a better relationship and understanding between the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking Caribbean peoples.
Washington was no doubt angry with us that we broke the blockade against Cuba. The CIA conspired with the then reactionary political opposition parties and trade union leaders, and fomented and financed strike, strife, arson and terrorist bombings.
The Cuban cement was inferior, the propagandists asserted; the building and hydro-dam would collapse.
And the Governor reserved the agreements I concluded for consideration by the -----Foreign Office, where -----they were stalled and killed, no doubt on advice from the US State Department.
Further, during the shipping airlines blockade and fuel cut-off from neighbouring Trinidad, when Cuba responded with two ships - one with fuel, another with food -- terroristic violence was resorted to on a wide scale.
In his address to the United Nations, Che gave us firm political support, alerting the international community to the intrigues of imperialism to destabilize our government.
His authentic internationalism was shown in his decision in setting aside family, fame and fortune to continue the war of liberation in Africa and Latin America. Having reached the pinnacle of success – the number two position in the Cuban leadership; the love and loyalty of the Cuban people - only a true revolutionary and internationalist would have taken the course he adopted: to start from the bottom again with gun in hand.
From the late 1960s when Che fought in Bolivia, the crisis has deepened.
The plunder of Latin America and the Caribbean by imperialism which in the 1981-85 period caused a net outflow of US$36 billion annually, has caused increasing misery for the toiling masses. The evidence has been compiled, analysed and published in many countries and by many contributions, including the UN Economic commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), since Che was ambushed and killed in the jungles of Bolivia and all the evidence goes to validate Che’s uncompromising stand throughout his short but glorious life in defence of the people.
On this his 60th Birthday Anniversary, the best tribute we can pay to the heroic Che is to continue the struggle with the same dedication and zeal he demonstrated. Let us pledge to finish the job he started.
In the words of his epitaph:
“Wherever death may surprise us, it will be welcome provided that this, our battle cry, reaches some receptive ear, that another hand stretches out to take up weapons and that other men come forward to intone our funeral dirge with the staccato of machine guns and new cries of battle and victory.
Each and everyone of us will pay on demand his own sacrifice…knowing that all together we are getting ever closer to the new man, whose figure is beginning to appear.” Venceremos -- Che.
© Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000
Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Brothers and Sisters
I extend to you, comrades, brothers and sisters, warmest fraternal greetings. Today, working people all over the world set aside their differences and join together to reflect on the present and set a course for the future.
Our trade union movement faces May Day 1990 divided. This regrettable fact nearly prevented me from being here today, especially as I was warned that I might be attacked. But neither my resolution to fight has been diminished nor my boldness has been tempered. So here I am with you as we have always stood, uncompromisingly struggling against oppression and for social and economic justice. On this May Day, we re-affirm our unconditional solidarity with the working people of Guyana and assure you that, as in the past, we will remain your solid ally and true friend and brother.
More than a decade ago, I had warned about the anti-national and anti-working class IMF road and its conditionalities - wage freeze, removal of subsidies and price controls, cuts in allocations for social services, and devaluation. I had said it would lead to disaster. And it has.
Successive devaluation have brought our nation to its knees and our people to the brink of desperation and hopelessness.
Relative to 1970, real wages by April 1990 had declined by 272 percent. In view of this, FITUG described the abominable 7% wage increase this year as "not only ridiculous but bordering on an absurdity." And the TUC has said that the 7% pittance is grossly inadequate and can't work, that the minimum wage of less than one US dollar should be at least $100 Guyana dollars.
The quality of life has seriously deteriorated. Over the past twenty years, living standards have declined an estimated 75%. At present, over 60% of the population live below the poverty line.
Today's minimum wage cannot buy a pound of chicken. Hunger, malnutrition and infant mortality stalk our dear land. Crime, delinquency and prostitution are rampant. Bribery and corruption are endemic. And the brain drain trek has become a flood.
One British journalist who, in the early 1970's had high hopes, recently described Guyana as a "country that is bleeding to death."
We cannot be happy with the fact that our people are maltreated and hounded overseas, wherever they seek to better their fortunes.
These trying times calls not only for national dialogue, but also for abandonment of self interest. Self interest must give way to patriotic commitment.
We must take all the appropriate steps and make the necessary sacrifices to raise the status of our nation and people at least to the No. 2 position in the Caribbean which it attained when I had the honour of being Premier.
Momentous and dramatic changes are sweeping many parts of the world with many positive effects on the lives of working people. Arbitrary rule and command methods are being challenged and are giving way to democratic solutions. In Brazil, Peru, Chile, Haiti, Nicaragua, governments have changed or are in the process of being changed democratically and peacefully. Above all, the wonderful spectacle of Nelson Mandela walking to freedom is an inspiration to all of us who are struggling against injustice.
Guyana cannot remain as the holdout on democracy in this hemisphere. An end must be put to undemocratic methods and arbitrary practices which have led to economic stagnation and a visibly crumbling society with no hope for the future.
We too must join the freedom train, without this, the Economic Recovery Programme will fail. The reason is obvious. It was designed without consultation with the people, who have lost confidence in the government. The people's perception of the ERP is more suffering. And as always, they are absolutely right.
We are frequently challenged about our alternative. It is this. Guyana needs a new beginning. We need a democratic opening like we need a breath of fresh air. We need a respite from stifling incompetence and pervasive corruption eating away at our society. We need to rescue our country.
Guyana needs a democratic system of election with an independent and a respected Elections Commission, an electoral register made up as in 1964 from house-to-house visits by enumerators under the supervision of the Commission and with party scrutineers in attendance, a preliminary count of the votes at the place of poll, a guaranteed right to accompany the ballot boxes to the final counting place and to have them within vision at all times.
Already, we are told that counting of the votes at the place of poll is out of the question. We had always felt that dialogue means all sides placing their concerns on the table and satisfactory and reasonable compromises devised. If industrial unrest and political instability are to be averted these controversial issues must be placed now as the first question on the agenda for dialogue.
The question of new beginning for Guyana is no longer in dispute. It is the national consensus. It is recognized by all Guyanese, of every political persuasion, that is the only way our country can go forward is to have an administration supported by the people.
I am glad to see that the TUC's position in 1978 that there would be no solution to the economic crisis without a political solution has been taken up by others at home and overseas.
Thirty-four prominent Guyanese, headed by the Anglican and Catholic Bishops and including other religious, trade union and business leaders, academics and professionals in an open letter to the President about a year ago, linked economic recovery and development to political and electoral reforms, including a preliminary count of ballots at the places of poll.
The McIntyre Report made it pellucidly clear that the recovery programme will not succeed without political and public support.
The same British journalist who said that the exodus was hemorrhaging Guyana to death pointed out that "decades of electoral fraud have demoralized the country to the point where society is falling apart." Senator Kennedy in the same tone said: "if Guyana is to get its economy back on track, it must first get its democracy back on track."
President George Bush expressed the hope that elections would be free and fair in keeping with the norms of democracy cherished by the American and Guyanese peoples.
And Ms Sally Cowal, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs made the clear linkage between democracy and development when she said that "economic recovery will be successful when implemented within a process which is democratic. We will continue to say that; we believe that will have an effect."
Elections are not everything, but without them, there is nothing. And they must be certified to be free and fair and free from fear.
With Guyana a member of the Commonwealth and Caricom, the Government in keeping with undertakings given to the BBC and the British Foreign Secretary, must invite the Commonwealth and Caricom to send observers teams to monitor the forthcoming elections. Guyana can do no less than Suriname, St Vincent and Nicaragua to attain international credibility. I urge the Government, which supports hemispheric cooperation and integration, to embrace the tradition of Latin America of a totally independent Electoral Commission, and to follow the example of Nicaragua in inviting observer teams also from the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the Carter Center and the European Parliament, among others. There should be no question of interference if we issue invitations to members of our international family. After all, we are a signatory to the UN Covenant on Political and Civil Rights.
We believe that emerging from any such elections should be a government comprising the major political forces in which all races, classes and ideologies are represented. Our decade-long "winner-will-not-take-all" policy will include our PCD allies and the inclusion as well of the PNC. We feel also that there should be a place in the Cabinet for special interest-business, religion, women, Amerindians. Such a government will have an agreed programme and national appeal and its members will be able to negotiate on Guyana's behalf with heads held high as democratically elected leaders, and not as mendicants begging for aims. With the people behind such a government, internationals would hesitate before foisting unacceptable hardships on our people.
A PPP election victory will not mean that my Party will dominate such a government. This is a time for national unity, not national discord. With this in mind we shall call on patriotic Guyanese whether in Guyana or abroad, who have special skills or experience regardless of their political views or connection, to help in formulating policies for implementation. The theory of "enemies of the state" would have no place in a new Guyana.
There will be no witch hunting or retribution against any person who is or was in the service of the state or any of its agencies because of their political views, affiliations or past or present political activities.
Guyana needs to heal its wounds, not open them further. We have unitedly to demonstrate our intolerance for alienation and underdevelopment, and move forward to solve the pressing problems facing our nation.
My party was, throughout its history and in every major document, stated and re-stated its adherence to democratic principles and periodic free and fair elections.
We believe in a democratic system of government, a free and independent press, respect for human rights, a truly independent judiciary, can creatively functioning Parliament, Independent State Commissions and impartial disciplined forces. In order to entrench a truly democratic environment, a considerable amount of tolerance is needed.
The creation of such a culture is intended to move Guyana forward, not to look backward and be consumed by bitterness and a portioning of blame. There would be no place for undermining of any organization and no intention of destroying anything or anyone. There will be no recrimination about the past rigging of elections. The disciplined forces will be encouraged to play its full role in support of Guyana's independence and sovereignty.
The motive force for Guyana's development will have to come basically from its own people and from policies developed in Guyana by its people in democratic and open debate. No one doubts that we have both the talent and the ingenuity. A new government would ensure minimum civilized conditions for Guyanese citizens such as ensuring an independent and representative trade union movement, the integrity of collective bargaining and decent wages and conditions of work. All efforts will have to be made to get Guyana producing again. This can only happen with a labour movement and workers who see hope ahead and who know that the government is there to protect them and who have reasonable standards at work, at home and in their environment. Guyana must have economic policies suited to its own needs and requirements and not imposed by any outside agency. The Guyanese people must be fully involved in formulating such policies and not be presented with plans and programmes designed in foreign countries.
We see industry as playing a prominent and major role in creating wealth. Every effort will be made to remove the numerous constraints on Guyanese industry and invite them to join in a partnership with the government and people in creating a new and developing country. We will create balanced policies for the development of agriculture, industry, mining and forestry in which Guyanese can play a major and dynamic role by themselves or in partnership with other local and/or foreign investment.
Guyana will need a great deal of foreign assistance in relation to the massive debt burden, our decrepit infrastructure, which is causing so much havoc and losses to our agricultural community will have to be rehabilitated.
Our huge unsustainable foreign debt must be re-negotiated. As I have already said, a new government will be in a better position to re-negotiate because the people behind it will increase production and productivity.
Many people and governments are keenly and anxiously observing developments here. This is not unusual or unnatural. Human rights issues can no longer be contained within national boundaries. With the worldwide democratic sweep, it was to be expected that the cry for freedom of the Guyanese people will receive, sooner or later, a sympathetic international ear. The concerns expressed by foreign governments, organizations and persons do not constitute meddling. They are hearing our pleas, stretching their hands out to us and showing solidarity with our national aspirations for democracy and economic development. But only Guyanese can solve the problems of Guyana. And this is why it is necessary for all of us, whatever our views or status, to make our voices heard for face and fair elections and we must be do now.
Brothers and sisters, the time has come for change. And it is upon us. No one can stop it. But we are not offering change for the sake of change. We are offering an advance from partisan politics to national consensus. We are offering freedom with dignity, we are offering you nothing less than the restoration of our faith in ourselves and our dignity as a fighting people. We are asking for national unity and with it we shall all blaze a trial of glory for Guyana.
Long live May Day
Long live the workers of the world
Long live Guyana.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000
This is an abridged version of a presentation made before the 1992 elections, by Dr Cheddi Jagan as leader of the Opposition during the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference held in Guyana.
Drugs - this is a very big problem. It is big business with hundred of billions of dollars behind it. We have to examine it from two angles: demand and supply. Recently, I heard that Ron Dellums, head of the Black Caucus in America, after a meeting with President Bush said to the Voice of America that we must not only look at the question of law enforcement and education, but we also have to see the social problems of the country unemployment, broken marriages, cuts in welfare, homelessness, and increasing poverty. He insisted that these problems must be tackled or else frustration and hopelessness will lead to continued demands for illicit drugs.
Let us take the supply side. Our hemisphere, Latin America and the Caribbean, has intense poverty. A study done in 1980 showed that 8 per cent of the people at the top took 40 per cent of the national income, whereas 40 per cent of the people at the bottom had only 10 per cent of the national income.
A study of the period 1985-1990 by the UN Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean showed that poverty will increase, unemployment will increase by nearly 50 per cent and the debt problem which was huge - US$368 million in 1985 - will become US$672 million by the end of the decade. More than that, they assumed that dismal prognosis on the basis of the growth rate of 7 per cent but the growth rate has only averaged 1 per cent.
If we take our own region, the Caribbean, a group of "Wise Men" were appointed a few years ago and they said the unemployment level was already 30 per cent and is likely to reach an explosive 40 per cent. We have to do something about it.
At one time in Latin America and the Caribbean- in the early part of this century- we not only produced our own food but we exported food. Now, we are importers of food. Although we are predominantly agricultural, we are importing food! Agriculture was destroyed. We have, for instance, in the CARICOM area, a food import bill of nearly US$l billion a year. Trinidad has exhausted its reserves largely by importing nearly $800 million worth of food every year when that can be grown and produced in the country. And that is what we have to be looking at.
We, therefore, have to seriously study our food policy - mainly the agricultural sector. In the north, agriculture benefits from science and technology are highly subsidized, whereas in our countries agricultural tools are mainly files, cutlasses and forks. Our people do not have the means. And now we are compounding that problem because we have to pay so much debt. We are borrowing money to pay debts, and because we don't have foreign exchange~ we cannot bring the things which are necessary- spare parts for agricultural machinery or new equipment and therefore we are resorting to food aid from outside. That also helps to destroy agriculture because when you produce inefficiently at home, with cheap imports coming in, even the little agriculture that is there is being destroyed. So what is the result? The people start growing marijuana in Guyana. Today it is being grown everywhere because the overall policy is not conducive to developing agriculture, especially rice and sugar, our main crops.
I mentioned that in the North, agriculture is being subsidized. In our country more pressure is being put on farmers. In this year's budget there is a levy. This shows that we have our priorities wrong. We have to deal with these fundamental issues in a serious way and not look at them superficially.
How do I see a solution to this problem? As I said, we don't have the foreign exchange; we don't have the money to buy the spare parts, the machinery, the fertilizers, etc., and we are borrowing money to pay debts. We have to link this question to a better way of development and link it to the unprecedented arms race.
The debt problem is now such a huge problem that it is sometimes referred to as a time bomb which is likely to explode, bringing down the whole structure which ties up the north and south. To give some figures: the total third world debt is over US$1,000 billion; for Latin America and the Caribbean it is $415 billion; for the Caribbean alone it is roughly US$10 billion.
It was suggested that if the arms expenditure of the world is cut by 12 per cent there can be enough money to pay the banks we owe. We should also link the debt issue with making our region, especially the Caribbean, a zone of peace. If that is done, we will start with a clean slate and have the money, (the foreign exchange especially, which is now going to pay debts), to modernize agriculture, to develop the economy, provide employment and give our people better social services - health, education, etc. We should stop taxing agriculture. In fact we should subsidize agriculture and let the sector grow so that we can stop importing all this food from abroad.
We have a big tourist industry in the Caribbean, but 75 per cent of the tourist dollar goes back outside to bring food to the Caribbean. We have to put a stop to all of that. Merchants are importing food when they should be importing other things which are necessary for the development of the economy.
We have to see the debt problem in a very comprehensive way in that it is both simultaneously the effect and the cause of the crisis which is facing the Third World. The effect: due to incorrect economic development strategies which had been imposed on the Third World. After the cold war started, the Puerto Rican model of development was proposed. That formed the basis for our first development plan from 1966-1972. That meant concentrating on infrastructure and creating an investment climate for foreigners to invest and bring about so-called "development". What we had therefore, was money borrowed and spent on infrastructure to be paid in 15-20 years. We did not have a favorable capital output ratio, that is, the recovery of that money from infrastructure to pay back loans. Meanwhile, the foreigners who came wanted; recover their money in one to three years and so we have investment of one dollar taking out from these countries roughly three to four dollars annually.
The net annual outflow from Latin America and the Caribbean, in the period 1981 to 1985, was $36 billion in interest, principal and profits. Last year alone it was $29 billion. We are in the unfortunate situation in the Third World now where we are borrowing, not for development, but to pay back interest. Meanwhile the principal keeps growing. And so we get into what is called 'a debt trap' where the aid donors, through their instruments, like the I.M.F and the World Bank, impose conditions, first economic and then political, ideological, cultural etc and even military. That is the problem.
The payment of the debt also becomes a cause of the crisis. For instance, in Guyana, by 1984 we were paying more in debt payments than the total revenue of the country. In that year, it exceeded the revenue. Therefore, what we had to do: we borrowed internally to meet expenditure and this meant that we had to pay interest on that and that created a budgetary problem. Thus the deficit keeps growing. And the adjustments, strategy imposed by the I.M.F dictates that you have to solve the budget crisis by cutting spending on social services, wage freeze wage restrains and cuts in subsidies, etc.
Therefore, what is the answer? I remember in 1979 when the government refused to pay a $14 a day minimum wage which they had agreed to with the TUC, based on the three year agreement. Our party then said: suspend the debt payments or pay only a part. The debt payment in that year was $225 million and the payment of the $14 minimum wage would have meant $85 million. We paid the $225 million and denied $85 million to the workers. And thus the people who are the main factor in development become dissatisfied; they become alienated. They cannot live because the cost of living keeps going up through taxation, more and more borrowing and devaluation, which is part of the strategy which is imposed by the IMF. For instance in Guyana, the wage now with a 20 per cent increase is about roughly $30 a day. A medium size loaf of bread costs $30. A pint of cooking oil is $30, one pound of chicken or beef is around $50 to $60, how can people live? If people cannot live, they cannot produce.
The problems have to be solved in a radical, revolutionary way. So I would suggest that as a first step we must look at our development strategy. This is important because even if the debt is written off and we start with a clean slate, the absence of a proper development strategy will again get us into trouble. As the saying goes in out hemisphere "when the United States sneezes, Latin America and the Caribbean get pneumonia" This is true because of our dependent economy, depending on a few products.
In Guyana, as regards the economic model being pursued by the PNC government, we have a hybrid variety - bureaucratic state and parasitic capitalism and I.M.F aid will not help. It will only impose further burdens on the people. The PPP, therefore, has a global outlook and that is why we suggest a radical solution.
I would like to deal with this question by referring to this phrase which says 'politics is concentrated economics'. All of us today are grappling with economic problems. We have to look at this question in an interconnected and interacting way, that is, we have an economic base and we have a political, ideological, institutional and cultural superstructure. There must be a proper interconnection and interaction between the base and the superstructure if we are to make progress. At the political level there has been failure. Witness the Federation of the West Indies. At the economic level, there has also been failure. The Central American Common Market, which was modeled after the EEC has collapsed. The higher hopes of CARICOM have not been realized, and so now we are talking of a Caribbean Parliament.
I think in looking at this we have to see three models of regional integration - the socialist model of COMECON, the EEC model like CARICOM and the ANDEAN PACT. The differences between these are fundamental. COMECON is a socialist and the others are virtually free enterprise. The difference between the CARICOM model and the ANDEAN PACT is that in the first you have an open door to foreign capital, whereas in the ANDEAN PACT the premise was that uncontrolled foreign capital does not necessarily lead to progress and therefore there must be some limits. I think we need to learn lessons from those experiences.
At the ideological level in the Caribbean region we have three socio-economic models socialist as in Cuba; in the P.P.P. government, the Grenada government under Maurice Bishop and the Nicaraguan Government we have a socialist-oriented or revolutionary democratic model. In Trinidad and in Guyana and the rest, I would say there is a free enterprise force although in Trinidad it was somewhat of a hybrid under Dr. Eric Williams' P.N.M Government. His projection was that the model would be neither Puerto Rican nor Cuban, but something in between. In Guyana the PNC baptized its ideology as co-operative socialism.
In this situation, therefore, I think it is necessary for us to have dialogue if we are to realize our aims and objectives. This must start, first and foremost, with the media. The media is not free in our area. Either big business is in control or there is domination from outside, that is, the press agencies from the capitalist world, and in some countries, it is state controlled. I, as I leader of the minority parties, cannot even get a letter published the Guyana Chronicle when attacks are made against me. I cannot get on the state-owned radio. We must free up the media; we must have dialogue on the way forward. Of course, parliament will help in this direction because you will have the opportunity for dialogue, but what kind of parliament will it be? Will it be a parliament of government or a parliament of government and opposition forces? If it is a parliament of governments, like the Non-Aligned movement, for instance, or even the D.N one does not have the advantage of listening to the voice of the people. Governments in the Caribbean meet, along with a few institutions, to discuss important issues, but generally speaking the people are not involved in the process.
The President of Guyana said that Guyana supports the idea of a Caribbean Parliament. I am not opposed to the idea. Let me make my position clear. But I don't know that the President has consulted with the opposition or discussed it in the Guyana Parliament to make that decision.
The PPP has no disagreement with having dialogue at whatever level. We think that the idea of a Caribbean Parliament is good so that the kind of preoccupation with our own insularity can be broken down and we can sit together in a parliament and look at the matter from a regional perspective.
We would hope that this matter is given serious attention. We have to start out from a democratic base which assumes free and open debate. I was not only talking about the commitment of Guyana because we don't have that kind of commitment yet, although the President of Guyana made a statement. Democracy is fundamental to development and we want to know that if Guyana is going to take part in such a Caribbean Parliament that we should have a democratic decision on our participation. Who will participate will depend on the democratic decision of the Guyanese people. Otherwise, for us, it will be a waste of time.
This parliament of Guyana is not reflective of the will of the people and if in a similar way we are going to select who is going to represent Guyana abroad in a Caribbean Parliament, then for us it is just a waste of money. I say that because I have here a clipping from Barbados from the former leader of the opposition Mr. Henry Ford. The headline says: 'Wrong timing for Hoyte's Visit to Barbados' and I quote:
"Perhaps it would have been better if the president had not been invited while things remain as they are in that unfortunate country".
Mr. Chairman, in your opening remarks, you made the point that military dictatorships will not be permitted in the Commonwealth Association. We are all wasting our time here if we cannot speak freely and say what is happening in our countries or in the Region. We are simply wasting time and we will be spending a lot of money and in the end nothing will come out of it. We are not here just to sling mud, but we have to deal with realities. I, personally, am interested in regional integration, whether economic and political. I favor that. I favor, also, complete and open dialogue. That is the point I want to make.
I feel, as parliamentarians, we should be open, we should learn. I referred to three economic models in the region - we should go to those countries; study what they are doing. We should take the best from the socialist countries, third world countries like those in the Andean Pact and what is beneficial from the first world. I believe a Parliament of the Caribbean would be fruitful once it is done in an open way, with complete freedom of dialogue and trying to find the way forward.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2000