Tributes to Cheddi Jagan - Remembering CJ
by Premchand Dass(Comdade Dass worked at the CJRC for many years. He wrote the summaries for most of Dr. Jagan's articles found in the archives )
DR. CHEDDI Jagan was an extraordinary embodiment of a revolutionary and statesman who served the finest and noblest cause of man – the cause for freedom and national liberation. He laboured tirelessly for what he believed in and without torturing regrets for the well-being of all Guyanese especially and working people, the world over.
This essay by no means details the role played by Dr. Jagan in Guyana and internationally to make the world a better place. It is a mere glance at his attitude in the struggle for independence and, after independence, his continued commitment and dedication for almost three decades for the restoration of democracy. Particular attention is devoted to Dr. Jagan’s political activism in the decade of the 70’s (1970-1979).
The decade of the 1970s saw Dr. Jagan with a renewed spirit/enthusiasm and resolve to continue the struggle against the anti-working class PNC regime (local reaction) and imperialism. It characterized him as the outstanding and hard worker, full-fledged humanitarian he has always been and a world leader to a sworn cause – that of replacing the virtual neo-fascist PNC minority political dictatorship by a socialist–oriented, revolutionary people’s democracy for a socialist Guyana. Dr. Jagan always viewed situations from a dialectical materialist outlook within the context of a process of development and, with optimism.
The infamous – highly flawed, rigged and fraudulent 1973 general elections and the hijacking of ballot boxes by the Guyana Defence Force at the end of polling led to the martyrdom of two PYO members, Jagan Ramessar and Bholanauth Parmanand as they attempted to follow and protect the boxes to the counting place.
The PNC allotted itself a two-thirds majority of the votes in that crooked election. The PPP boycotted the National Assembly for over a year, in keeping with the mood of the popular masses in protest against the massive fraud.
The PPP declared a day of national boycott, civil disobedience and peaceful resistance to highlight also the wrath of the cheated populace. It announced a campaign of civil resistance and non-cooperation.
The PNC proclaimed it was the Bolshevik, Marxist–Leninist Party and the PPP, the Menshevik minority Party. Dr. Jagan vehemently exposed that falsehood and reaffirmed the true nature of the PPP as the only genuine party of the Guyanese masses to build socialism in Guyana.
However, in the face of certain positive pro-socialist political and economic postures by the PNC regime and the imperialist inspired border threat from Venezuela, Dr. Jagan advanced his most principled and scientific programme of “critical support”. The intent was to support all positive initiatives in favour of progress to forge national unity and isolate imperialism in the cause for socialism. Dr. Jagan committed his PPP to countrywide meetings to explain “critical support”. He gave profound insights which were likely to create the fundamental prerequisites for a National Patriotic Front and National Patriotic Front Government if it was implemented. “Critical Support” was intended to confront imperialism and simultaneously rescue Guyana from the economic, political and social morass, which the people had endured under nine years of the PNC authoritarian regime.
While some criticized Dr. Jagan and the PPP for giving “critical support” to the PNC regime, others felt it should have been unconditional support. Dr. Jagan stoutly exposed the shortsightedness of both positions.
His depth of political knowledge brought to the fore the uniqueness and class in him as a genuine political leader of the working class and all exploited peoples everywhere.
The PNC rejected Dr. Jagan’s proposals and deemed him an opportunist, wanting a share in government. The WPA was in favour of the PPP programme, but not to include the PNC in any political alliance or alliance government.
The PNC’s non-acceptance of critical support and proposals for a National Patriotic Front and National Front Government in 1975 and 1977 respectively, led to the postponement of the 1978 General Elections, followed by a Referendum in 1978.
Although 70% of the electorate answered the boycott call by Dr. Jagan, the PNC claimed a 75% turn out and gave itself a 97% victory in that fairy tale Referendum. It hurriedly drafted a new constitution during 1978-1979 and enabled its approval by the bogus two-thirds majority in the National Assembly.
In all of those complex and dynamic situations, Dr. Jagan never pandered. He confronted and fought all right and left wing manifestations and tendencies at the inner and intra party levels. He was never in doubt and readily adopted corresponding strategies and tactics to advance the struggle.
Dr. Jagan intensified the struggle on various fronts for the release of political activist Arnold Rampersaud, who was on a trumped up murder charge, but acquitted after the unprecedented three trials from 1975-1977. A genuine leader, Dr. Jagan always identified himself with his comrades.
After nearly three decades of agitation and major struggles, sugar workers under the guidance of Dr. Jagan, won recognition for GAWU, the union of their choice, in 1975, thus replacing the former company union, the MPCA.
He gave invaluable experience and leadership to the GAWU and was elected its First Honorary President from 1976 until October 1992 when he relinquished that position upon his election to the office of Executive President of Guyana.
The infamous 1973 Elections episode followed by the spectre of the 1978 Referendum, strengthened the will, confidence, determination and commitment of Dr. Jagan to a new and heightened activism for the entire 1970-1979 period. Characteristic of Dr. Cheddi Jagan, was his encyclopedic, institutional knowledge and in-depth /profound analyses which gave him the axiomatic guidance to always find new ways/approaches to conducting the political struggles in the intense decade of the 1970’s.
His lifelong interpretation of events internationally and locally and political involvement was no different.
Dr. Jagan’s abiding faith in the downtrodden and exploited never failed him. All his exhortations – so many in the 1970’s, were readily answered and he was never at a loss.
Dr. Jagan always involved his party membership and supporters at the broad mass levels, the Party Groups, Districts, Regional Bodies, Central Committee, Executive Committee, and Secretariat, the PYO and WPO as well as religious leaders and farmers, etc as developments dictated.
That way, Cheddi Jagan came out right. That rare distinction benchmarked his entire political life, which made him singularly most outstanding, not only in Guyana, but also in the Caribbean, as a political leader and patriot par excellence.
The 1970’s, as indeed his entire life, proved Dr. Jagan’s disinterest for personal power, self interest and aggrandizement. Most important for him was a Guyana for all Guyanese, for socialism and World Peace.
His acute political activism of 1970-1979, reflected in his writings and party life, a most exemplary people’s man. Dr. Jagan had an insatiable and voracious appetite for reading, collecting, researching and debating to arrive at the best options to conduct political struggle.
He wrote profusely and extensively on the PPP, Guyana’s dilemma: Cause and Cure and the downtrodden masses. Dr. Jagan fearlessly accused and exposed imperialism and its intrigues in Guyana and elsewhere.
His writings have become vital sources for research by university students, historians, economists, politicians, trade unionists, journalists etc.
Dr. Jagan’s works during that period dealt most incisively with Guyana and the international situation, World Peace, National Liberation Movements and Socialism.
Numerous articles on local and international issues, press releases, letters, addresses, books and booklets, as well as major papers and interviews, etc reveal the story of a truly real man – an outstanding world leader, always at work.
In that period too, Dr. Jagan wrote 271 articles of national and international significance/importance, of which, 102 were his Straight Talks for the Weekend Mirror Newspaper and 39 extraordinary letters. He gave 27 feature addresses at the local and international forums, wrote eight booklets, including the revision of the West on Trial (1972 and 1975), 44 major papers and numerous notes for his speeches to Parliament, for unity Talks, Public meetings, etc.
Dr. Cheddi Jagan’s imprint as a Great soul – a Mahatma, is attributed also to the way he took to Party assignments and fulfilled them, both as a member and leader. He continued his twice-yearly visits and more to the three counties during the 1970’s. He addressed mass public meetings, met with businessmen, interest groups, individuals and farmers. As always, he kept his people in focus. Dr. Cheddi Jagan learnt and always led by example. The 1940s and after the decade of the 1970’s and onwards were no exception.
In marches, picketing demonstrations and rallies, etc, he was shoulder to shoulder with his comrades and ranks of supporters.
Dr. Jagan attended and gave leadership to the PPP’s Congresses, Central and Executive Committee meetings. He was a regular lecturer to the PPP’s Ideological School, Accabre College. Dr. Jagan is reputed to have lectured the most, as a visiting lecturer abroad. The 70’s too were no exception.
He visited and kept PPP Support Groups abroad abreast with developments in Guyana regularly.
Mosques, Mandirs, Churches and other religious gatherings he never failed to address on invitation, locally.
The blatant disregard for Human Rights and Democracy in the 1970’s in Guyana witnessed Dr. Jagan reaching out to opposition political parties to hammer out and forge a common understanding to confront the hated, unpopular PNC minority government.
Complex as it was with the multi-faceted terror, poverty, hardships, destroyed social and economic conditions and US imperialism’s support for the PNC government, Dr. Jagan spared no ground to represent/address the issues which affected individuals, or groups and the nation as a whole.
Be it in Parliament, the press, street corners or public meetings, the people’s welfare and nation’s interests were championed by Dr. Jagan.
Apart from GAWU’s long struggle for union recognition, Dr. Jagan readily gave leadership/advice/guidance to the RPA, GAPA and other farmers’ organizations and progressive trade unions.
Still, Dr. Jagan found time for his PPP’s Freedom House, to attend to Party matters and delegations, daily.
Weekends found him on Party outreach activities in the counties or the interior.
The demands of the 1970’s dictated the necessity for a true national leader and Dr. Jagan never failed to rally to that which paved the long and arduous political path to which history was being made and destined to absolve him. He was the tireless and indefatigable fighter for a change and restoration of democratic rule in 1992.
Dr. Jagan’s political activism in the 1970’s has been the most central feature to fight neo-fascism, indignity, imperialist intrigues and local reaction.
Dr. Jagan’s lifelong struggles for national unity and a prosperous Guyana for all made him the people’s Teacher, Leader and Father of the Nation.
by Nadira Jagan-Brancier
March is a month that brings back many happy memories – of celebrating my father’s birthday on March 22. But March is also a month that holds my saddest memories – my father’s illness and finally his death on March 6, 1997.
As we remember my father this month, I would like us not to dwell on his death, but to remember and celebrate his birth and his life and how this has impacted on our own lives.
In Guyana, on March 5, 2000, we will commemorate his 3rd death anniversary with special tributes at Babu John – the site where he was cremated, and on March 22, 2000, we will celebrate his life, teachings and struggles when we finally open up the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre.
The Cheddi Jagan Research Centre will be located temporarily at Red House in Georgetown, Guyana – his residence from 1961-1964 while he was Premier of British Guiana. The Centre will house his archives - his writings and speeches; there will also be a photographic exhibition of his life and his role in the struggle for Independence and the restoration of democracy in Guyana.
Young and old will have a chance to become better acquainted with his work, his ideals, his life and the man he was by viewing videos on his life, reading his articles, listening to taped speeches delivered at various forum in and out of Guyana, during the over 50 year period of his political life. Because Cheddi Jagan made such an impact on every phase of our history, the photographic exhibition will not only allow the viewer a closer look at his life, but also the history of Guyana.
I am very proud to have had such a wonderful father. He was a warm and loving, kind and sometimes stern parent. Although he was a very busy person, he made time to spend quality time with us. He was not the kind of father that would sit around with you for hours and chat or watch TV –unless it was about the news or politics, but whenever I was home, especially at night, while he was working (he always worked late into the night), he would stop, and I would sit by his side and talk about all kinds of things. If I had a problem, he would always come up with all sorts of solutions. Some of the best times spent with my father were those evening talks, just us, alone together.
When I think of my father (and that’s allot of the time), I always remember his happy and cheerful face, with that wonderful and beautiful smile. As you know that smile was not only for his family, but for the world. He had a great sense of humour and loved a good clean joke.
As I look back on my life, I wish I had listened to most of my father’s suggestions and advice, but like most other children, I did not. I am sure that many of you also wish now, that you had listened to some of his advice, and followed them.
Its my hope that many more people will learn about my father’s life in the near future. Here in Canada, you will of course not have access to the Centre, but there are several other ways to read and learn about his work. There are now available for sale, six publications of his written works – Forbidden Freedom; The West on Trial; Selected Speeches; My Fight for Guyana’s Freedom; The USA in South America and A New Global Human Order. Once the Centre is up and running we hope to publish several more publications on his writings and speeches.
I also run a web site on the Internet – Cheddi Jagan Guyana’s Hero which I update every two weeks (time permitting). I try to offer a close up view of the work that he did over the period of his entire life, by allowing you insight into many articles and speeches never before published. I also try to use many of his photographs. You will also have a chance to listen to him speak on different issues as I continue to develop the web site.
Those of you who are not too familiar with who he was, will find the section on Tributes most revealing, for they are viewpoints from all sections of the population – from his supporters to non-supporters, from the man in the street to heads of governments – and they express many of his noble qualities like his honesty, his integrity and his dedication to make the world better for all. And I quote him: "By people, we mean ALL the people of this country across the barriers of race/ethnicity, religion, gender, political affiliation; whether they live in the hinterland or on the coast; whether they are able-bodied or handicapped; rich or poor."
There is also a section that deals with his published works, reviews on most of the publications and how to order these books. Last but not least is a section on my mother –Janet Jagan. You may not know it, but without her help and support throughout all those years, my father may not have been able to accomplish all that he did.
Please join me this March in remembering my father by finding out more about his life and struggles. With this in mind I invite you to visit my father’s web site and send me feedback on your thoughts. I also urge you to purchase his books, for there is much to learn about Guyana’s history and also your heritage, if you are Guyanese, in them. I would also ask you at this time to go to the libraries in your areas and request books by Cheddi Jagan, give them my name and number ( 905 –876-4367) so they can obtain them for your reading pleasure. Also visit book stores in you areas and request that they sell his books, and again give them my name and number, or contact me by phone or on the web site to buy directly from me.
It is my hope that through all these methods – the Centre, the web site, reading his books, etc. - more people the world over, will come to know about this great but humble man, who has made such an impact on our lives. In Guyana and the Caribbean his contributions have been recognized and I think appreciated.
But I have always felt that because he came from a small country, his contributions to world peace and his fight not only to overcome poverty and hunger in Guyana, but the world at large, have not been fully acknowledged by the world. I am sure that one day in the near future he will be fully recognized, and will take his rightful place in world history, alongside Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.
My father said in 1995 and I quote: "I don’t think I have reached the pinnacle of my life, for the Presidency is only a means to an end, to attain the end is to attain a sane and safe world, to bring an end to exploitation, suffering and misery, to construct a New Global Human Order. The struggle will continue."
My father has left a great mark on world history – his call for a New Global Human Order is gaining support everyday around the globe.
by Chamanlall Naipaul (March 23, 2003)
HAD he been alive, he would have been 85 years old. It was so unfortunate and sad that he had to depart so quickly, because his charisma, wisdom, humility, incorruptibility and indomitable spirit are surely missed by a society plagued with increasing human problems.
However, we have one consolation in that even though, Cheddi Jagan departed physically, his teachings, principles, practices, morality, sacrifices, and voluminous and relentless struggles against injustice of the poor and down-trodden are indelibly written in the annals of our history.
Guyana is so fortunate to have had a father figure like him, if only it could follow in his footsteps.
I fondly recall his last visit to the Rupununi in September 1996, on which I was fortunate to be and was his roommate for one night in a simple Amerindian hut. This was indeed a true demonstration of his humility and simplicity - a President sleeping in such humble quarters. But that was the humility of the man Cheddi Jagan - a man of the people.
During that rigorous trip at age 78, he travelled more than 300 miles in south Rupununi to more than 10 villages, each scores of miles apart, across creeks and bumpy trails, holding public meetings in each village and speaking for over two hours at each meeting, after which he listened to villagers’ problems with utmost patience - like the true father figure he was. And he did that for seven consecutive days, amidst the broiling temperatures of the Rupununi.
But unlike most, he was propelled by a sincerity of purpose and a genuine and burning desire to alleviate the suffering of the poor and down-trodden, rather than self -aggrandisement.
Growing up in the logies on the sugar plantation at Port Mourant, and studying in America in the 1940s when the contradictions of the uneven distribution of wealth were very evident, were significant factors that shaped his political outlook. In addition, he was very much influenced by the struggle in India for independence, which at the time was at its peak under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.
On his return to Guyana, he immediately began to pay an interest in local politics, even though, he was a practicing Dental Surgeon, a lucrative profession. He even got into conflict with the local dental association who complained that his fees were too low. But he argued that he did not see why he should charge poor people exorbitant fees.
However, one tragic episode in Guyana’s political and industrial history detonated his inner burning desire to end injustice and exploitation of man by man. And that episode was the shooting to death by colonial police of five sugar workers at Enmore who were protesting against the poor working and living conditions in the sugar industry.
In his autobiography, `The West On Trial’ he wrote, “At their graveside, with great effort I restrained my tears, and there and then I made a silent pledge that I will dedicate my entire life to the struggle against injustice and bondage.”
Professor James Rose, reflecting on the life of Dr. Jagan said: “On careful reflection, it can be said that the political career of Dr. Jagan spanned three distinct periods. Firstly, from the 1940s to 1964, when he was a fearless anti-colonial firebrand, nationalist, and liberator. Secondly, the period between 1964 and 1992, when he struggled against the notorious tyranny of the PNC dictatorship, attempting time and again to mould a truly broad-based opposition against the precursor of all forms of democratic manifestations at home. And finally, the all too brief post 1992 period when, having triumphed over the mindless tyranny of the PNC, he began the process of community and healing and national reconstruction.”
However, over the five decades of political life, he remained committed to the search for national unity and was relentless in this respect because he always believed that national unity was the prerequisite to Guyana achieving peace, progress and prosperity.
It is for this reason that he never became associated with any race-based political groupings when he returned from the US, and throughout his political career - at the time the two major groupings being the League of Coloured Peoples and the British Guiana East Indian Association each representing the interests of the main ethnic groups. Instead, he formed the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) which reflected a wide cross-section of the society and was the forerunner to the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) which was formed in 1950 with Forbes Burnham eventually becoming Chairman of the party. Founder member Ashton Chase should have become Chairman, but he gave way to Burnham. Many have contended that had Chase accepted the Chairmanship of the party, the political history of Guyana perhaps would have been different. But that is all history now.
Unfortunately, after having led the PPP to victory in 1953 under the first elections held under Universal Adult Suffrage, which he almost single handedly struggled for, his government lasted only 133 days in office. The British government sent troops and gunboats to forcibly remove his government and replacing it with an interim one.
In subsequent elections in 1957 and 1961, the PPP emerged victorious. However, between 1953 and 1957 the political and racial unity that was forged was fractured due to opportunism at the local level combined with Cold War machinations by the British and Americans who perceived the PPP to be a threat to their interests in this hemisphere, because of its leftist orientation.
This fracture, perhaps, was the greatest political setback to beset Guyana, having deep and far-reaching consequences on national unity and political stability.
But this did not deter Cheddi Jagan, in fact, it gave him greater resolve to continue the quest for national unity.
He exerted great care in ensuring that protests remained peaceful, because of his recognition that should they get out of hand it can jeopardise the quest for national unity. Many critics even accused him of not wanting to confront the dictatorial PNC. What they did not understand was that he had a revulsion for violence and bloodshed, which only result in the loss of innocent lives. At the same time, he recognised that such a situation would have ripped this country apart, maybe permanently. And so, in reference to the many provocations by the PNC, he used to remark, “Many times we have had to watch the situation and bite our lips.” This was, of course, one of his remarkable characteristics, having seemingly infinite patience.
In the end, his patience and determination triumphed, with many persons who used to say that Cheddi Jagan would never return to government, accepting they were wrong in their assessment.
Political Adviser to US President John F. Kennedy in 1961, Arthur Schlesinger publicly apologised for his role in ousting Cheddi Jagan from government. He had advised the then US President John F. Kennedy to support Burnham, whom he described as “the lesser of the two evils.” After which British and American intelligence worked collaboratively to undermine and remove the PPP government.
In 1992, when Cheddi Jagan was elected President, Schlesinger, remarked, “I am sorry for the grave injustice I did to Dr. Jagan and the Guyanese people.”
During his unfortunate shortened term as President, he worked tirelessly to rebuild the physical and social infrastructure of a society that was battered by 28 years of dictatorship and economic mismanagement. One of his first declarations was “no retribution, no witch hunting” characteristic of his abhorrence of victimisation and hatred for his fellow human beings.
But apart from working to restore the fundamentals of existence, he became immersed in the broader issues of society. He used his birthdays as occasions for fund-raisers for uplifting the welfare of the children of the deprived sections of society and began articulating his international struggle for a New Human Global Order.
He always firmly believed that there is a “dialectical interconnection between the international and local struggles.”
In one of his speeches which he did not deliver, he said: “While all our countries are individually searching for more aggressive and innovative ways to cope with the growing inter-dependence and globalisation taking place, there are fundamental issues which can be addressed only by new global initiatives. It is clear that if present worldwide trends continue, tensions, conflicts and disorders of potentially disastrous consequences could become the order of the day.”
Visionary words, indeed. He added: “We also need to establish new global institutions to respond to the global dimension of the existing human society. The UN itself has to play a more central role in global economic management and should have access to larger financial resources - the possible source of which we have already identified. The Bretton Woods Institutions - the World Bank and the IMF-have moved away from their original mandate and have to be brought back to doing what was originally intended. They need to concentrate on human development as distinct from means of development. They have to be more concerned with social and human factors than with statistics of growth. We need structural adjustment with a human face.”
It is not surprising that his proposed New Human Global Order became a focus of discussions at the UN and other international fora.”
Perhaps, his widow and former President, Mrs. Janet Jagan best sums up the five decades of an illustrious political career, during one of her speeches on the life of Cheddi Jagan.
She said: “Cheddi’s long march from Port Mourant, a small rural village in the eastern part of Guyana, to become the first freely elected President of Guyana, until his return to Port Mourant, where he was cremated, spanned half of a century. During that time, he did what few men have done in a lifetime: he committed himself to a single goal of freedom for his country and people and never, even for once, wavered. In many ways, his struggles and his accomplishments are so intertwined with the history of this country that sometimes it is difficult to study one without the other. Having dominated so much of Guyana’s post World War 11 history, he perhaps contradicted his own view that history is not made by individuals but by the people.”
But after such an illustrious contribution to this country, what has he left with us? He has left “the only recipe for survival and progress” former Minister of Information Moses Nagamootoo says and adds that this recipe is reflected in one of Cheddi Jagan’s parting speeches in which he said, “…Let us not refresh our spirit with hatred, but with one heart, let us unite Guyana. Let us join hands across the land and reach out to those in the deep past who helped to mould this great El Dorado.
Let us stand strong as Mount Roraima and powerful as the majestic Kaieteur.
Let us move together and steadfastly as the mighty Essequibo River.
by Prem Misir (March 31, 2003)
"THE `laws' of the market, Mill pointed out in 1848 in his PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY, are simply statements of how things will be if we let the market operate unchecked; but there is no necessity for us to let it operate that way...The market is only one system among many...and if its results do not bring happiness, then we are free to modify it or to try another system" (Collins and Makowsky, 1993, p. 84).
Six years ago on March 6, President Cheddi Jagan died, leaving a variety of legacies as instruments to fulfil the dreams of the Guyanese people.
His lifelong concern was to bring happiness to the working class, using clear and concise convictions with an eye for philosophical adjustments, wherever necessary, and which was evidenced numerous times in his political life.
The People's Progressive Party's (PPP) 28 years of persisting opposition required as a pre-condition for survival, the capability of activating credible and substantial adjustments amid intensified and mature oligarchic conditions, orchestrated by the People's National Congress (PNC).
This political persistence in the wilderness years the PPP embellished with great success, for inability to make needed adjustments would have meant failure in opposition.
THE NEW GLOBAL HUMAN ORDER
In effect, if one system does not work, it may be time, as Mill put it, to modify it or seek an alternative. Jagan's mature resiliency to adjust his ideological thinking persuaded him to comply with what can be called Mill's maxim.
This thinking has, today, become the foundation for his enduring legacy, the idea to advance the cause and better the conditions of the working class. This legacy is the idea of the New Global Human Order or the global village that President Cheddi Jagan boldly initiated in 1996.
The view of the global village is remarkable, and is aimed at revitalising poor developing nations with an unexploitative moral involvement from the developed world.
Jagan, for the first time since 1992, clearly, outlined his philosophic vision for Guyana in a speech in 1996 to the International Conference on the Global Human Order. What he presented was quite provocative for the squeamish but practical, and requires endorsement and implementation.
In the Epilogue to the last Edition of The West On Trial, Jagan explained why a new global human order was necessary and where anything less was insufficient, thus: "Market-driven economic globalisation and unbridled modernization, coupled with inhumane and ill-designed structural adjustment programs, are leading to a spiral of marginalization and exclusion. The gap in living standards between the rich and the poor in both the North and the South is getting wider: the rich, "the included", "the Haves" are getting richer at the expense of the poor, the 'excluded", the "Have-nots"."
The social and economic discrepancies between the advantaged and the disadvantaged found nationally, also are located internationally. In effect, the fight to eliminate poverty and restore human dignity has to be waged across national borders.
Jagan knew all along that the fight for Guyana's freedom was intertwined in the fight for world freedom, and so he took his battle to the international fora.
His formal call to wage war for the restoration of human dignity worldwide started with his address to the United Nations in 1993, and since then, there has been no turning back.
The following developments attest to Jagan's resilience and fortitude in his aggressive promotion of the New Global Human Order: appeal to world leaders in 1994; paper presented for the UN-sponsored World Hearings on Development, 1994; paper presented to the European Commission, 1994; address to the Commonwealth Heads of Government in New Zealand, 1995; letter to the President of the World Bank, 1996; paper presented at the Global Development Initiative Advisory Group at the Carter Centre, 1996; address to the World Food Summit in Rome, 1996; Memorandum disseminated at the hemispheric Summit on Sustainable Development in Bolivia, 1996.
The Guyana Parliament in 1994 approved a resolution on the New Global Human Order.
In 1996, an international conference on the New Global Human Order took place, culminating in its participants endorsing the proposed new order.
Then in 1977, CARICOM, The Group of 77 and China (G 77), and the UN General Assembly, endorsed the New Global Human Order.
The UN General Assembly has now scheduled this new order proposal for debate at its next meeting.
Let's examine some of his ideological thrusts.
Jagan recommended the need for an appropriate theoretical perspective, a viewpoint that not only considers capital accumulation, but also the workers' relations and their conflicts at the workplace.
All the more reason we need to remind ourselves that capital accumulation, private ownership of the means of production, self-interest and the profit motive, and free competition are important components of capitalism. The unifying feature is individual competition.
This is fine if everyone starts on a level playing field. However, this is not the case in a market economy. Jagan expresses support for these capitalistic elements.
However, he quite rightly argues that capitalism or the market economy by itself, is not sufficient to produce the desired development for Guyana. Some adjustment is needed where capitalism can take on a human face.
Jagan believes that the developmental strategy also should focus on the relationship of the worker to the products of his labour and on the process of producing that product. The worker's lack of control of his own product can result in feelings of helplessness (alienation).
Alienation occurs in the context of an imbalanced relationship between the worker and the capitalist, and operating to the advantage of the capitalist and to the disadvantage of the worker.
In effect, the capitalist's needs dominate over the needs of the worker.
What Jagan proposed was for the worker to experience creative and purposeful activity through work in a society in which material needs are balanced with cultured needs. Balancing material with cultured needs will promote the development of a society in which a stability is struck between individual needs and social cooperation.
People should have the opportunity to fulfil their individual needs, but at the same time, they should not be effected at the expense of society's needs.
The capitalist's needs are, generally, pursued at the cost of societal needs.
Jagan wanted to correct this discrepancy through the global village where both worker and capitalist can operate through a framework of promotive interdependence. In this situation, both receive mutual rewards.
Capitalism is driven by the pursuit of individual interests; this approach could be of great satisfaction to a large number of people, except for the presence of gross structured inequalities that help some persons and obstruct others from advancing to higher levels in life.
Through no fault of their own, many of those prevented from reaching their potential, may never fulfil even some basic needs, due to large-scale institutionalised inequalities and discrimination in the society.
Jagan's advocacy for a complementary relationship between capitalism and socialism is well taken, and could represent an enduring legacy.
Establishing such a system is long overdue. An alternative to this mixed strategy is impoverishment and disparities in wealth and income.
Obviously, the absence of a mixed economic system comprising capitalism and socialism can hardly promote moral development, as espoused by Jagan's global village. Jagan's prescription endorses this joint philosophical approach.
Jagan's vision of blending the market economy with governmental interventions for nation building purposes is on target and must be vigorously pursued.
ELIMINATING UNEVEN AND UNBALANCED DEVELOPMENT
The foundation of President Jagan's global vision is a bona fide relationship between developed and developing nations, a relationship based on democracy, mutual trust and benefit, and interdependence. The playing field between these parties at the present time is uneven and unbalanced, making it difficult for developing societies to receive essential benefits.
The advanced nations participate in a global village. But this village is driven, determined, and dictated aggressively by the pursuit of profit, and not by moral and ethical development.
Further, this global village or global economy is controlled by developed nations. Any interference with this global economy resulting in loss of profit or a loss of comparative international trade advantage, may not be tolerated by these centre nations.
The moral outlook of Jagan's global village is completely opposed to the uneven and unbalanced development internationally. Jagan's global proposal should not be discarded. The best days ahead for it has to be in Guyana, and indeed, the Caribbean.
The global village would become more of a reality in an economic system driven by a mix between capitalist and socialist principles, rather than be solely applied within a capitalist economic system. This mix is scarce on the international scene.
Therefore, a useful starting point for activating the global village concept, has to be initially rooted nationally. Guyana can be the cradle for this experiment.
Jagan's political struggles and achievements should be motivators for promoting the idea of the global village.
Democracy wilts under the poverty of inhumane capitalism with its accompanying poverty and human indignity.
Many developed nations are beginning to understand the contradictions of this inhumane capitalism, particularly, in the area of retardation of human development. They see this contradiction as gradually inducing a decline in people's democracy and human development.
Jagan's New Global Human Order proposes to inject a new humanity into a country's economic and social system, a humanity aimed at restoring human dignity and peace in the world.
by Dr Frank C.S. Anthony
(A tribute to Dr Cheddi Jagan on the sixth anniversary of his death)
SIX YEARS after his passing we still cannot sculpt the letters to make a word, which make sentences to accurately summarize Cheddi Jagan, and indeed we never will. For none can ever compress into a single word or a single idea the multitudes of excellent qualities and virtues that were embodied in him.
At the time of his passing, many of us tried to birth feeling into words to explain the irreparable loss of our friend and comrade. Today several years later, as we sit to think and perhaps to write about Cheddi Jagan, there is still sadness that would creep up inside of us like a stillness of the hallows of an empty cathedral.
It is still difficult to remember Cheddi Jagan for all that he was, and not remain passionate to his memory. In the poem ‘Epitaph’, I wrote;
Born are we to die,
And in that span between birth and death,
We must fill this gap
With a monument of achievements,
By which to be remembered
Symbolically March the month chosen to honour his memory, is the month of his birth and his death. The diverse activities that will celebrate the life of this great man, in the various communities of our country are testimonies to Cheddi Jagan’s rich legacy.
His monuments of achievements are not only the physical and palpable changes that he brought to this country, but the indomitable spirit that he cultivated in his people, which is why different people would describe him differently. He was the workers champion, the freedom fighter, the writer, and the internationalist. These diverse nouns, independent of each other only describe one aspect of Cheddi. To create the true picture we must like an artist paint unto a single canvass the various colors, and then step back and admire this masterpiece.
Cheddi Jagan was indeed a masterpiece, an exemplar, a model, a teacher and an excellent leader. In a tribute the Director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Mr. Larry Birns wrote, "The death of Cheddi Jagan is not just a grievous personal loss to myself and colleagues. It also will leave particularly a void in the ranks of world-class leadership among the English speaking CARICOM nations, as well as the rest of the hemisphere. In the category of Latin American presidents, he was an indisputable giant among pigmies. In fact his presidency was guided by pragmatism, melded with humanness, and helped preserve a vital germ plasma for future flowering of a uniquely Latin American form of government aimed at serving all its population - not a small minority of well to do. Perhaps, the single most noteworthy aspect of his personality was that he was free of any meanness or narrowness of vision."
In 1999, well known Caribbean journalist Earl Bousquet said he was "a visionary, whether at home or abroad. And that he was considered by many the world over to be a man ahead of his time". And indeed he must have been, because six years after his passing from this dynamic world, his ideas refuse to be made redundant.
Cheddi as Earl puts it was always "the consummate teacher, he always provided the historical and other data to support his analyses and conclusions".
Tim Hector a regional politician recollects, "the painstaking analysis of American policy starting from the Marshall Plan, the Good Neighbour Policy, the Alliance for progress down to Caribbean Basin Initiative and up to NAFTA, with reference to large policy and minor detail".
Dr Jagan was indeed an educator; he was able to break down the complexities of the modern world to simple language for the grassroots supporters to understand. In the early days it was not unusual for him to make bar charts and graphs to graphically represent some complicated problem that was contained in the budget. The charts were then used as teaching aids to explain the concepts. No bottom house or street corner was exempted, if there were a few comrades to meet and to discuss these issues. Some of the comrades that work with him can testify, how he had them holding teaching aids while he explained the issue at hand.
This was the Jagan that we grew up to know, always practical, always pragmatic and as much as he would teach, he was always willing to listen and help the ordinary people find solutions to their problems.
I would imagine that for anyone to amass the broad spectrum of knowledge that Cheddi had certainly had to be an avid reader and a profound thinker. In an article by Cde. Janet Jagan, titled ‘Cheddi Jagan - the years 1943 to 1948’ she wrote, "Also emerging as his character was further developing, was an aspect of what was to become a life-long love and commitment - studying, reading and writing. He read extensively. He enjoyed reading and then discussing, arguing, persuading and the general cut and thrust of debate with friends and opponents alike".
Teaching was important to develop the party cadres, and to depend upon mass education was not enough. It meant that more leaders had to be groomed who understood the tenets, the objectives and the ideology of the party. For this to happen a party school was established and was named Accrabre after one of the leaders of the 1763 Slave Rebellion. Soon the enrolment to the school was higher than what they could accommodate and a correspondence course was developed. This allowed the party to educate larger and larger percentages of the population about their conditions and how to organize and mobilize for their rights.
To complement the education work, study circles were established in all the villages. These were small groups that met regularly to discuss ideas and concepts that the party leadership had identified. At these discussions party leaders would make time to be present to guide the discussions or to clarify issues.
This kind of work was further complemented with the various publications from the PAC Bulletin, to the analytical political magazine ‘Thunder’, to the daily ‘Mirror’ and the numerous articles that was written by Dr Jagan and others. Pamphlets, booklets and books were published and effectively used to educate and awaken the people’s collective conscience. Among the books that he published were ‘Forbidden Freedom’, ‘The West on Trial’, ‘The Caribbean Revolution’, ‘The Caribbean - Whose backyard’ and ‘Selected Speeches 1992 - 1994’. It was a battle of ideas for the hearts and minds of the people. Dr Jagan for his persistent effort was able to school most of his contemporaries both nationally and regionally in political activism.
That is why those of us who entertain ambitions in the realm of historic greatness must take a pause to examine this paragon and ask ourselves why the people of this country have given him the title "Father of the Nation".
Such an accolade is not a propagandist coup, but a people’s recognition of his steadfast contributions and a simple way to express heartfelt thanks. When Cheddi died, the day was black with mourning; the Guyana diversity was unified in their loss. People sought each other, to comfort and console and the colours became blurred not by tears, but because deep down in our hearts we somehow felt a personal loss.
The personal loss, that despair was felt because an institution that went public in the mid-1940s was suddenly gone.
The dentist that became an educator/activist to propagate ideas to stimulate his people to dare to think outside the confinement of colonial shackles and dream of freedom was gone.
Cheddi Jagan did not only educate his people politically but also set out to ensure that they had access to primary, secondary, and tertiary education. In 1963 he established the University of Guyana, as evening classes at Queen’s College. His detractors then were totally against it and made many disparaging remarks about the university. It was then dubbed as "Jagan Nite School". Today the University of Guyana is 40 years old and has expanded to Berbice, the birthplace of Dr Jagan and is able to afford many Guyanese an opportunity to access tertiary education.
In the month of celebrating the life of Dr. Jagan let us look back and articulate a vision for our party and our country. As Jonathan Swift puts it, "vision is the art of seeing things invisible". We as leaders must be able to create, embody and communicate our vision. We must provide the context, give the purpose and establish the meaning. This is what would inspire people to mobilize, to act and to move as a united organization and ultimately as a united country. Vision is the fabric that must clothe us with our common identity.
This lesson from Dr. Jagan must not be lost, we must continue to advocate the vision, and must continually advocate that the future can be better than the past. We must restore that luxury to hope, that luxury to dream of better life in our country.
A good example of this is Dr Cheddi Jagan’s New Global Human Order; this concept is still not outdated. Inherent in this concept is recognition of the predicament of the socio-economic conditions in the world and in particularly the developing countries.
Where the gaps between the haves and the have-not have been increasing. It would seem that the prescriptions by many of the Multilateral Financial Institutions have not been working and indeed in some cases many of the countries that have followed the rigid recommendations of the structural adjustment programs have not eradicated poverty but in some cases have exacerbated poverty.
Let there be no doubt, that these indomitable ideas that struggle to bring relief the human condition from suffering would forever beckon like an eternal flame, lighting a path to the future.
As Etienne de Grellet, once said
I shall pass through this world but once,
Any good therefore,
That I can do,
Or any kindness that I can show to any human being,
Let’s do it now, let me not defer or neglect it,
For I shall not pass this way again.
Cheddi Jagan did his part, it is time we do ours.
by Dale A. Bisnauth
It is the measure of a person’s worth that his/her contemporaries can scarcely be written or spoken about, except in comparison with, or contrast to, that person. It is a measure of a person’s achievements that his/her words and work provide the material that the less endowed or the less recognized can only write about. It is the measure of a person’s greatness that even after his/her demise, his/her stature and accomplishments remain the canon by which other persons’ achievements and worth are judged. Such a person of worth, achievement and stature was the late great President Cheddi Jagan - the man, the politician the Head of State.
Anyone who is moderately literate in historiography knows that an ongoing preoccupation of those who set themselves the task of rewriting history, is to seek to change the significance of the facts of the past, by reconstructing the contexts in which events occurred, or by re-introducing lesser actors in the original set, with significantly enhanced roles. This process is known as revisionism. Ostensibly, the objective is to put a correct perspective on things of the past, the motivation - which is never without bias - is to put a new perspective on past events, in keeping with what is believed to be a more acceptable contemporary world-view. Remember that the motivation has its own inbuilt prejudice, however much the revisionist may scream that it is not so.
Actually, it is also the measure of a person’s influence that the revisionist would seek to discredit a person’s worth in order to reduce that person’s influence on the present generation. American history, which I taught for a brief period at UG, is replete with revisionism. Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and even Martin Luther King, Jr., are a few icons on which revisionists have been chiselling away. It is as if mediocrity cannot live with greatness unless it reduces it to its own size: mediocrity. They have done it toMuhammad. Maybe, this is the estimation of our generation: that we cannot live with greatness and are therefore condemned to bicker about in mediocrity. Except that one notes that a new saint has emerged: the so-called “free” media.
According to their acolytes, the press and its workers are sacrosanct, that is, most sacred; its sacrosancity must not be violated. Who says so? And who will impose sanctions on the violators? It seems to me that only yesterday one used to hear about the “yellow press” and about their measly-mouthed contributors. Is that tribe extinct? I suspect not. And if the media were so sacrosanct in the sense of “sacred”, why is there a need at all to have them adhere to a code of conduct? I suspect that it is because they cannot be trusted among themselves, by themselves, having long corrupted truth into propaganda, that they need something beyond their individual selves to help them to toe some line, and some cant about their sacrosancity to make them feel omnipotent. I believe in the free press in the sense of the availability of as many as possible sources of information and analyses.
Readers themselves will judge as to the truth of what they hear and see. And the people will decide, when they feel compelled to do so on something significant to them. Otherwise, the people can afford to use the media as they see fit.
What significance is there about who introduced Cheddi Jagan to whom, or what? The greatness of a man or woman is not in his/her roots, but in his/her fruits; not in his/her pedigree, but in what he/she has become, sometimes in spite of that pedigree. And in this plural society of ours, not in his/her commitment to pursue the interests of his/her racial/ethnic segment, but in the commitment to growth and development of the total society. That was the genius and greatness of Cheddi Jagan. Isn’t it ironical that politicians of both sides of the ethnic/racial divide criticize him? On this side they criticize him for abandoning the interests of “Indians”, because he was not culturally Indian enough; on the other side, they criticize him for advocating “apan jaat” politics. This, in itself, is testimony to the greatness of the man; meaner men cannot understand his complexity.
A lasting testimony of the man, Cheddi Jagan, was the tribute paid to him on the occasion of his death, by the tens of thousands many of whom had not heard or read his The West On Trial or had come in direct contact with him. His critics may question even the genuineness of his humility, or aver that he often spoke scathingly about many people, but the people turned out in their thousands to pay homage to him and to shed a silent tear on his demise. From every walk of life, from every region in this country, from overseas, from every race and religion, from every age group except perhaps, babies, from every political party and persuasion, they came by foot and by every available means, to say thank you to Cheddi Jagan, to honour the best, and to signal that they, instinctively, recognize the best in themselves that, at a time like that they could rise to admire. The people spoke.
There were the silent thousands in Georgetown who patiently snailed their way to view the body in the casket. Who can forget the thousands who lined the route on the East Coast of Demerara and the West Coast of Berbice. There was not a single village where there were not people, the old, the young, the middle-aged and children. They waved their flags, many black, they waved their fare-wells, some wept openly. And, at Albion, a whole night, the whole of the next day and into another night, they came in never-ending, patient, often silent queues to pay tribute to and to honour Cheddi Jagan.
Such was the measure of the man. Rabindranath Tagore says it best for us: “Yours is the heaven that lies in the common dust, and you are there for me, and you are there for all.” Peace!
by Hugo Brently
The establishment of the University of Guyana in 1963, and now its extension-the Berbice Campus-will go down as quite outstanding contributions to the Nation's development. No less in importance has been the People's Progressive Party's contribution to agriculture through its activities in distribution of land for agriculture, and for housing. What is interesting about those two programmes is that they have been pushed through in the face of the most intensive opposition in the 1960s and as the new Millennium dawned.
In the run up to the establishment of the University of Guyana, the PNC and other opposition elements declared that Guyana should continue its relationship with UWI and not establish its own University. As anyone who observes the strategies of the PNC, will realise, every obstacle, and argument which was available to that group was thrown into action. It was no wonder then that they and the United Force went to the extent to claiming that the University was being set up with Cuban money, and that the foreign tutors and distinguished Dr Lancelot Hogben were communist fellow travellers. The University was dubbed "Jagan night school."
Today Guyanese in general are proud of the institution, and many PNC leaders have been students, as well as tutors there. Another massive opposition protest then, which to some extent, continues today is the PPP's land distribution for agriculture and for housing. It should not have been any thing strange to them. Cheddi Jagan, since His entry into politics and in Parliament in 1947, was the lone voice pleading and demanding for drainage and irrigation and land to the tiller. And his demand did not exclude the Amerindians, who today, seem to be getting a lot of new friends.
Dr Jagan's name must be associated with all the drainage and irrigation schemes - with the establishment of the Black Bush Polder, the Tapacuma, the Boeraserie, the Mahaica/Mahaicony and the greater Canje drainage and irrigation project, which opened millions of acres for agriculture including pasturage and for settlement. His pressures also caused the Colonial Government to purchase Mara Ma Retraite in the Berbice River and garden of Eden on the Demerara. Thousands of people have been settled on these lands. Thousands have been able to grow from fifteen-acre farmers to wealthy persons.The Government of the PPP rooted in its devotion to the peoples' interest will continue its tasks despite every opposition.
by Ramdath Jagessar
Most of those paying tribute to the late Cheddi Jagan will focus on his huge achievement as a statesman, an anti-colonialist leader, and political survivor.
And they will be right. Cheddi was a legendary revolutionary leader and charismatic figure who endured 28 years in the wilderness before making a triumphant comeback in 1992.
Not too many will know that Cheddi's greatest creation was not himself, but the political machine that dominated Guyana's politics from 1950 to the present day. The People's Progressive Party (PPP) was, and is, a marvel to behold.
During two visits to Guyana in the early 1970s I had the chance to take a good look at the PPP, which has had only Cheddi as its leader these past 47 years. He stood at the top of the pinnacle, but below was a mighty and most impressive structure.
For a start, the PPP had a structure. There was a youth wing called the Progressive Youth Organization, with branches everywhere. Full time youth organizers with motorbikes or bicycles fanned out to keep the youth movement going.
The party had a women's league, organized in the same way as the youth, and working on the principle of equality for women. Regular PPP party branches lived in almost every village in Guyana, and even in the jungles where the Amerindians lived.
There was a group of parliamentarians and municipal politicians, and at the top the party executive, headed by Cheddi himself. To operate in this party you had to work your way up and prove yourself at the lower ranks. There was no way you could jump into this party as a novice, and get to the top ranks.
The PPP owned a department store, which stocked items imported from socialist countries, and a chain of bookstores. There was also a daily newspaper, which like the other businesses, employed party people.
The PPP owned vehicles, buildings, and ran an intricate system of communication and training.
They had their groups to organize demonstrations, to mobilize the Amerindians, singers and entertainers, security people, and a massive web of international connections. The annual party convention I attended had delegates from countries all over the world and messages from many more.
What blew me away was their ideological college. It trained members in the party's policies, published a monthly magazine and interpreted international and local events for the party. The PPP ideology was a clearly defined Marxism-Leninism, with its policies on philosophy, organization, art, and everything else.
When I saw it the PPP had been out of power for nearly ten years, had suffered grievous persecution from Forbes Burnham and damaging defections. But it operated almost like a government and continued in that way for another 20 years.
Cheddi continued to be the most visible face of the party, making his wonderful speeches and travelling thre world. He could only do so because of the solid work done by the party.
When he was thrown out of power by the combined forces of the British, Americans, and Forbes Burnham, the PPP did not immediate begin to fall apart. It carried on operating and pressuring the Burnham government that had all the resources.
It survived the race war that tore the country apart. And for 28 years the PPP continued to replace lost leaders, recruit new members, and deliver votes in one rigged election after another.
Burnham hated and envied the PPP. Not even his most vicious pressure and intimidation could break the party. He tried to build his PNC into a competitor, but not even the public treasury could make his party into a real rival of the PPP.
Look at what has happened to the PNC in the five short years since they lost power. It is a pathetic shell with little reason for existence, carrying on mostly as an election party. It will be a miracle if the PNC survives another five years in the wilderness.
Those of us who come from Trinidad cannot begin to understand what kind of structure Cheddi and those early leaders laid down for the PPP. The parties we know are hastily assembled by ambitious people with the main aim of winning seats in elections and little else.
In Trinidad, the People's National Movement has no more of an ideology than delivering power to its supporters, and it barely sustains a structure and administration. The old Democratic Labour Party and its successor United National Congress are also basically election parties that fall flat between polls.
Organization at the grassroots level is primitive or absent. There is no system of political training, or any serious way of grooming party people through the ranks. Youth league, women's leagues and the like may exist, but they are paper-thin contraptions.
Rank greenhorns jump into the party, are nominated to contest elections and sometime make it to high office. If the party does not win political power, the structure melts like butter in the sun.
That's the kind of political party we know in Trinidad, and in most other Caribbean countries. And those are the "good" ones. Others flare briefly only at elections and then are seen no more, while yet more struggle vainly in the background and then fade away.
Cheddi's PPP stands like a colossus in comparison to those puny creatures. It has survived nearly half a century of glorious high points and crippling low ones, and will continue despite the death of its founder. To me, that is Cheddi's real legacy for Guyana beyond what he achieved as an individual.
by Odeen Ishmael
Six years ago, all of Guyana followed very closely the news reports of President Cheddi Jagans final days as he waged his final valiant battle at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. I recall those eventful days following his heart attack on February 14, 1997 when all of us hoped, despite the physical odds, that he would pull through. That was not to be, and twenty-one days later, in the early cold morning hours of March 6, Cheddi Jagan slipped away into the arms of history.
During those final three weeks, I spent much of my time at the Walter Reed hospital and got to know Dr. Jagan's attending physicians very well. As his physical strength waned, they could not help admiring the fighting qualities of our legendary leader - qualities that his political friends and foes alike can attest to. I can well recall that after March 4 when all hope had faded, he still refused to buckle under, which caused one of the medical specialists to say to me: "President Jagan is defying the laws of medical science." Looking back at those final days, I can say that he died as he lived - fighting all the way to the end.
It was the nature of the man. During those final days, his wife and life partner, Mrs. Janet Jagan, told me of an incident that gave a vivid illustration of his sense of dedication and determination. In the early 1960s when he was Premier, the two of them were spending a short vacation in Trinidad at a house on the bank of a river. The owner of the house gave them a boat outfitted with a little outboard engine if ever they wished to explore the river. One day they finally used the boat but somehow ended up in the stormy ocean. Then the engine stopped. Dr. Jagan tugged at the starting cord, but it would not restart. By this time, high waves were driving them toward huge outcrops of rocks near to shore, and while Mrs. Jagan was in a panic and fearing for their lives, he patiently and seemingly without any sign of worry, calmly continued trying to restart the engine. The little boat was almost about to be smashed on the rocks when the engine finally burst into life. He had tried more than thirty times, but finally got it working, and they were able to escape danger in the nick of time. Such was the determination of Cheddi Jagan - a quality which he displayed throughout, even up to the day he died.
Even from his early days as a politician he displayed this fierce, determined spirit. Some years ago an elderly Enmore gentleman told me that during the 1948 sugar strike, the expatriate owners of Enmore estate instructed the police to arrest Cheddi Jagan if he should ever "set foot" on their property. Of course this threat did not deter the Guyanese leader; he turned up on the public road, placed a small wooden crate on the roadside, and addressed the striking workers. The police could not arrest him for "trespassing" because he had not "set foot" on the estates private property!
It was Cheddi Jagan who started the fight for the political independence of the colonial territories in the Caribbean. From the time he climbed into the political arena in 1946 he listed independence for Guyana on his political agenda. He was the flame that lit the torch of freedom and democracy in Guyana. It must not be forgotten that it was his party that won universal adult suffrage for the Guyanese people, which gave them the right to vote to elect a government of their choice. His epic struggle against the might of the British Empire is legendary and he was glorified by anti-colonialists and freedom fighters all over the world.
His political struggle, based on his socialist principles, was inextricably linked with his struggle to improve the social and economic conditions of the Guyanese people. During the 1957-64 period when he led the PPP Governments, effective land distribution programmes boosted agricultural production and a massive education drive was put into effect. It was through his initiative, despite some strong opposition from those who felt that university education should not be within the reach of all Guyanese, the University of Guyana was established in 1963.
Dr. Jagan led his party to election victories in 1953, 1957 and 1961 and won the highest number of votes in 1964. The undemocratic machinations which led to his removal from the Government in 1964 have been revealed by US State Department documents from the Kennedy era, released by the United States Government in 1996. Those who were saying that Dr. Jagan was making unfounded allegations that he was removed by overt and covert action, local and international, now only have to read these documents to see how always right he was.
It is unfortunate that Dr. Jagan had to spend 28 years of his life fighting for the restoration of democracy in Guyana. Imagine the heights Guyana would have achieved if his innovative talents, ideas and leadership were applied to Guyana, if democracy were allowed to flourish unbound during all those years!
After those 28 years of struggle for democracy, Dr. Jagan won the Presidency in October 1992. But he did not simply sit back and bask in his glorious victory, for it was not for himself that he fought. It was for Guyana. Among his many successes he achieved while in office for just four short years was to assure the children of Guyana a better future than the generation before them. In 1992 he came to power in a country whose schools and health centres, like so many other institutions, were in a state of utter disrepair. This was not the environment this President wished his young people to grow up in, and so a massive social rehabilitation program began.
In his four years as President, many achievements were recorded. These included a massive water rehabilitation program and doubling the electricity output of the country from 1992 and the significant improvement in agricultural production. Amerindian villages which were totally neglected by our previous administrations were provided with brand-new schools and health centres.
Throughout Berbice, Demerara and Essequibo many villages, including those with residents generally not supporters of Dr. Jagans political party, were provided with roads, new water systems, new schools and new health centres. Dr. Jagan made sure these were provided to guarantee the well being of the young. He showed his care for all the people of Guyana by ensuring that they have these amenities in all areas regardless of their political leanings or ethnic makeup of the people who live there. And this all was done as Guyana was enjoying one of the highest economic growth rates in all of the Western Hemisphere.
He certainly laid the foundations of a society free from political oppression and fear. The policies he implemented also gave momentum to the economic recovery program and social sector initiatives to assist the poor. No wonder President Clinton in paying tribute, described President Jagan as "a champion of the poor."
In his short term in office, Dr. Jagan proved to both his political supporters and opponents that it was not politics which he fought for. It was for the sake of all of the Guyanese people. And the Guyanese people showed that they understood this when they came out in unprecedented numbers to pay their respects to their fallen leader. It was a showing unheard of in our history, numbers never before seen in Guyana, some say reaching 100,000, at the cremation alone. They came from all races, religions and political leanings, from the farthest corners of Guyana, and they demonstrated that they knew that he was a man who genuinely loved and cared for all of them.
Dr. Jagan was a President who set the precedence for all future leaders of Guyana. By his actions, he showed that Presidents and other leaders should not be concerned with the ethnic makeup of the popular vote which elected them, but instead should be concerned with the common good of all the peoples of Guyana, regardless of ethnicity and political persuasion.
As all the political parties unanimously agreed when they paid tribute to him in Parliament, this legacy of Dr. Jagan and his dreams for national unity will be wasted if we do not follow his example.
Cheddi Jagan was also very much a statesman of world repute. He believed immensely in regional and hemispheric unity. He saw the necessity for helping the poorer countries of the hemisphere in order to ensure that they cope with the economic fallouts that will result with the advent of free trade. His idea of a Regional Integration Fund, which has been endorsed by countries of CARICOM, and which is now being discussed in the negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas, stands as a testimonial to this great intellectual, thinker, writer, statesman and visionary.
His campaign for debt relief for the poorer countries of the world is legendary and his proposal for a New Global Human Order to fight poverty is winning adherents in various parts of the world. Unselfishly, he thought of other peoples all over the world when he was waging the struggle for the Guyanese people. In recognition of his visionary thinking, the United Nations General Assembly in 2000 and 2002 approved successive resolutions supporting the role of the United Nations in promoting the New Global Human Order.
Cheddi Jagan will forever remain a legend in Caribbean history. There are many who never agreed with his political philosophy, but what can forever be said of him is that he stood up for what he believed in and never at any time surrendered his principles.
During the 19th century, the Scottish writer, Thomas Carlyle, wrote: "No great man lives in vain. The history of the world is but the biography of great men." Cheddi Jagan was surely one of those great men who helped to reshape the history of the developing world in the twentieth century. His ideas will live on, and he will surely be remembered in all the corridors of history. Indeed, he stamped his footprint indelibly on the bedrock of time.
(The writer is Guyana's Ambassador to the United States of America and Permanent Representative to the Organisation of American States.)
23 February 2003
by Ralph Ramkarran
I am honoured to have this opportunity on the Ninth Anniversary of the passing of Cheddi Jagan to share with you some thoughts on his life and legacy.
Cheddi Jagan’s character and ideas are his most cherished legacies. Some of these ideas are inscribed on his humble monument to a man whose defining qualities were his humility, integrity, dedication and respect for his colleagues.
Cheddi Jagan’s consuming passion was the elimination of poverty in Guyana and the world. Everything he did, every view he advocated, every organisation he founded, were all ultimately directed to the achievement of this noble goal.
He believed when he started in politics that this goal could be achieved in his lifetime. In March 1997 he continued to believe that enough wealth existed in the world to eliminate poverty. The obstacle, he felt, was the inequitable distribution of the world’s wealth, a great proportion of which was extracted from poor countries subjected to super exploitation. In these circumstances, he believed that the developed world’s failure to act and its level of tolerance for poverty, this scourge against humanity, was unjust and cruel. He believed that part of his mission was to persuade them that their well being and security were closely bound up with the elimination of poverty. Today, more and more, the developed world is having to grapple with this reality and to devise means to deal with the burning issue of poverty.
He showed us the way and left us the means to accomplish the goal of ending poverty and we must pledge here today that we will not rest until all Guyanese live in peace, security and prosperity.
All of the issues he championed during his lifetime such as free but fair trade, Caricom as a mechanism for free but fair trade and not as a mechanism for foreign penetration, multinational exploitation, aid without strings and many more, which are at the top of the world’s agenda, were directed to the achievement of his goal.
It is Cheddi Jagan’s abhorrence of exploitation, violence and poverty which inspired his pledge at Enmore in 1948 to dedicate his life to the struggle against oppression and which motivated him to work with others for the formation of the People’s Progressive Party in 1950. It was his profound understanding of the nature of our society and his mature conclusion, while still a young man, that a successful political movement to achieve independence and social justice could only be built on the unity of all social and ethnic groups. It is because of this secure foundation that the PPP was able to survive twenty five years of authoritarian rule and suppression and is still here today engaged in daily struggle to protect, defend and advance the work of Cheddi Jagan. It was this same hatred of poverty which inspired him to produce his proposals for a New Human Global Order which has been adopted by the United Nations and which has achieved world recognition.
Today a great battle is being fought to protect our sugar industry even as we are engaged in a massive expansion programme. Cheddi Jagan campaigned tirelessly for the protection of sugar workers, and all other workers, against unfair trading practices, against low commodity prices and for a recognition of the debt due to developing countries from developed countries for centuries of colonial exploitation. While he believed that ultimately the system of production and distribution needed to be made more responsive to the needs of the poor, he nevertheless felt that there was enough to go around for all and that poverty could be dramatically reduced in the short term.
Like all great men, Cheddi Jagan embraced a single cause which he made his life’s work. It is the humanity of the cause, the championship of the defenceless, the echoing of the pain of the hungry, the voicing of the aspirations of those seeking a better life for their children, these were the things around which Cheddi Jagan built a powerful intellectual argument and a passionate human commitment.
There were many who did not accept his views. But there were few who were not moved by the awesome passion of his advocacy and the fierce tenacity of his purpose.
I must not forget the unique blend of humanitarian qualities embellished by the famous Berbician charm and fighting spirit which Cheddi Jagan displayed throughout his life. These enabled him to develop a capacity for intense but patient debate which we all need to try to emulate. He was the ultimate teacher who led by the examples of constant study, writing, lecturing and discussion with those of us who were less endowed. He never showed contempt, conceit, or arrogance in the long years in which he dealt with enormous challenges both within the Party and in the country at large. With endless patience and understanding he sought to persuade us to his view of the world and that is why he deserves our admiration and that of all progressive humanity.
His greatest legacy, the PPP and its unity and integrity must be guarded and defended with all our power. Those who would show contempt for us and who would underestimate the depth and the power of the lessons we have learnt from Cheddi Jagan, and the fighting spirit we have inherited, are making a serious mistake. Cheddi Jagan worked to preserve the unity of the Party and when that was challenged he brought to bear his mighty personality in the fight to preserve its integrity. He is not here today but we will not allow this unity and integrity to be jeopardised or undermined.
At this election time when the Party is faced with all kinds of challenges, particularly the crime wave and the drug trade, which have created great fear and consternation in our country, including Berbice, it is incumbent on the government to find solutions and for all Party members and supporters to support those efforts and to remember the years of rigged elections, hard struggle and suffering that we endured to return Guyana to democracy, the PPP to office and the workers to power.
We must remember the inspiring leadership of Cheddi Jagan which has brought us so far and has enabled us to do so much. A great deal remains to be done but it is only under the leadership of the PPP that we can succeed and so, we must here rededicate ourselves to the goals and tasks he set us.
Long live the memory of Cheddi Jagan.
Long live the PPP.
Port Morant, Corentyne. Berbice.
March 5, 2006.