Articles by Janet Jagan 1961-1964
(Article by Janet Jagan in 1961, first published in Thunder, tells of some of the forces who opposed independence for Guyana.)
During the Independence debate in the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Burnham spent some time on the question of guarantees and the liberties of the people. What guarantees, he wanted to know, will there be for the rights of the individuals, after independence ?
He was then reminded that at the initiative of the Majority Party, the Constitutional Committee had unanimously agreed that the new constitution should have a Bill of Rights providing for freedom of the individual as set out in the thirty articles of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
But that did not please Mr. Burnham. Any government in power, he stressed, could change the constitution and take away from the individual the rights he enjoyed under the constitution. It must be made difficult to amend the constitution and urged that amendment must be by a two-thirds majority of the House.
Then Mr. Burnham was reminded that this very matter came before the Constitution Committee but his members voted against it. The voting on the motion that power to amend the constitution be vested in the Legislative by a two-thirds majority of those present was as follows:
How They Voted
FOR :Mr. Hubbard, Mr. Fredericks, Mr. Davis, Mr. Jai Narine Singh, Mr. Ajodha Singh, Mr. Saffee, Mr. Rai, Mrs. Jagan and Mr. Benn.
AGAINST: Mr. Tasker, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Kendall.
DID NOT VOTE: Mr. Bowman.
What better guarantees are wanted? In the existing Legislative Assembly there are 35 seats of which the Majority Party with twenty seats do not have the majority of representatives on the Constitution Committee. [The weakness of the members] of the Opposition is that their arguments are based on the wrong premises. They assume that the PPP, which is apparently the winning political party in BG (having won now three consecutive elections) will take away from people their liberties.
The shoe is really on the other foot, for it is the PPP which is the only political force in British Guiana which has consistently fought for the rights and liberties of the people. The PPP opposed the Emergency Laws, the legislation restricting the importation of literature, the bans preventing persons from entering the country, the detention without trial of persons.
More important than all, the PPP has fought fearlessly for independence which is the liberty of the nation to rule itself, which is really the basic human right.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009
Ishmael Always Sags and Flops
by Janet Jagan
(Thunder, 11 November 1961)
It seems that the only time Mr. Richard Ishmael of the MPCA comes out of his cocoon of complacency is when his members start kicking up their heels, as they have been doing with greater and greater frequency of late. One is by now getting a bit bored with the hopelessly puerile demonstrations of solidarity with him and his union, by him and his crew.
I can recall the genuinely spontaneous demonstrations of opposition to his poorly bargained Pension Scheme of a few months ago. Mr. Ishmael, who plays the ferocious tiger in the newspapers and over the radio, always sags and flops when the real challenge is put to him.
I put the challenge during our discussions on the Sugar Pension Scheme and dared him to go to the estates and hold public meetings with his members and determine their views on his scheme. This challenge scrupulously avoided. I notice now that Ajodha Singh has also put the same challenge to him, which he is brushing aside with haughty laughter.
Of course, one should never have to challenge a trade a union leader about testing his support with the members of his union, to whom, under normal circumstances, he owes his position of authority and responsibility. But one must never forget that the MPCA is rather unique in its own little way.
To begin with, it has the largest number of members on paper, but it also has the least support from its members.
Its President, Mr. Ishmael lost his deposit when he fought a Legislative seat in a sugar constituency in the 1953 elections. Its President again contested a seat in the August 1961 elections, again in a sugar constituency, but when he saw the handwriting on the wall – a second loss of deposit – he hastily withdrew.
One also cannot forget that the check-off system, which under normal trade union conditions is a good thing, in the hands of a company union, is a means of company support to build membership and collect dues.
Ask any ten workers on a sugar estate if they agree to being members of the MPCA or if they allow deductions because of fear of victimisation by the management. The answer would not be bard to find, and I can safely predict that fear of victimisation as the reason why the MPCA shows such a high enrolment and collects so much in union dues.
Another vital point to keep in mind is the fact that democracy just does not exist in the MPCA. Some people quarrel about a new union in the sugar industry, a “rival union, and say that that is wrong. But the simple question is — can the MPCA leadership be changed democratically? The answer is clearly — no.
When Ishmael’s leadership was challenged in 1957, it was quickly arranged that he be sealed into office for four years, shamelessly violating the constitution which called for annual elections — which is common practice in the trade union world.
As soon as his four years were up this year, it was again arranged for him to be, in a rigged set-up, cemented into office for a period of three years, again carefully avoiding annual elections and normal trade union practice.
We can no longer be fooled by such antics of Ishmael as now calling for increased benefits to workers because of the higher price being paid for sugar in the USA. We know that he knows that the majority Party was making official inquiries into the increased prices being paid by the US. He got the tip-off and immediately, anticipating something militant from those genuinely interested in the sugar workers, started to jump on that band-wagon.
Is it any wonder that the trade union movement in BG comes in for scathing criticism, both locally and internationally? It is time that there is a clean-up, and the workers are properly led and militancy developed.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009
by Janet Jagan
(This article, reprinted in Thunder 10 February 1962, was originally published in the Canadian newspaper, the Tribune. Here Mrs. Janet Jagan, who at the time was visiting Canada in her capacity as a Minister, outlined to Canadian readers the struggle of the PPP on behalf of the Guyanese people for full independence.)
The big question facing British Guiana this year is - will we be independent in 1962? For twelve years, the People’s Progressive Party has carried on a steady struggle for the national independence of the country. That it has the people behind this struggle is apparent from the election results during these years. The People’s Progressive Party has headed the polls in the three elections held under universal adult suffrage in 1953, in 1957 and in 1961.
The results of the 1953 elections will always remain as a black mark against British rule in British Guiana. After elections held under British colonial administration, at which the PPP won a convincing majority, British gunboats overthrew the elected Government and introduced an undemocratic dictatorial regime until 1957. This has forced us to the belief that while Britain talks of democracy at home, it does not believe in its practice in its colonies.
The PPP formed the Government in 1957 and its five elected Ministers under the leadership of Dr. Cheddi Jagan worked within the framework of a colonial constitution. The four-year term of office produced more results than the British could claim in their many years of colonial administration in the country. More positive results were achieved in the fields of health, agricultural development, trade, labour legislation, etc., than ever before.
In one year alone, 1959 to 1960, production went up 15 percent. Over 90,000 acres of land were opened for landless farmers to earn a living. We were successful in bringing in aid and technical assistance from the United Nations to solve some of our many and neglected problems. In 1961, we increased our primary school accommodation by 15,000 new places.
Our export trade increased by 1960 to 120 million dollars (BWI). The savings in our commercial banks increased from 171/2 million dollars in 1957 to 221/2 million dollars in 1960 and in the Post Office Savings Bank from 19 million dollars in 1957 to 22 million dollars in 1960.
We built a network of health centres and cottage hospitals in the countryside and greatly increased the number of clinics for infant and maternal care, thereby reducing our mortality figures.
We introduced the first major steps for the Guianisation of the civil service and during our term of office many Guianese became heads of departments formerly directed by overseas officers. We ran a clean, effective Government - as effective as it can be when all the power was not in the hands of the elected majority. So, by their own terms, we have proved that we are ready for independence.
It is interesting to note that independence has been granted to African territories not as politically advanced as British Guiana.
A brief look at Sierra Leone and comparing it to developments in British Guiana gives a good example of the double standard of the Colonial Office. Have the Prime Minister of Sierra Leone and his party won a majority at its two elections during 1951 and 1957? I am not even certain if the Prime Minister has a constituency. Yet, the Premier of British Guiana won more votes in his own constituency in 1957 than did all the five opposition legislators. In the 1961 elections he won his seat by a landslide victory.
In December last, Dr, Jagan met the Colonial Secretary, Mr. Maudling, and asked for a date to be fixed for independence discussions. But Mr. Maudling was unable to fix a date at that time. (Now it is understood that May 15 is to be the start of these talks - Editor.)
On November 3 the Legislative Assembly passed the following resolution moved by the Government Party: “Resolved that this Assembly requests Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for the Colonies to fix a date during 1962 when this country should become fully independent within the Commonwealth of Nations. This resolution was also supported by Mr. Burnham’s opposition party.
The only group not supporting the call for independence was Mr. D’Aguiar’s right wing party which won four of the 35 seats in the 1961 elections.
The march of the people for heir rights and privileges cannot be held back. Pressures must be put on the Colonial Office by Members of Parliament, leaders of the trade unions and co-operatives and women’s movements to see that the countries still held under colonial rule be allowed to become independent.
Tribune Jan. 19, 1962
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009
by Janet Jagan
Mr D’Aguiar has been trying to excuse the violence which he precipitated in February by saying that we started picketing and demonstrations in British Guiana.
At a meeting he held on Sunday last he is quoted in the Chronicle as saying that “in 1951 the PPP picketed and demonstrated against the McDavid budget. Mrs Jagan had led the demonstration. But the imperialists, said to have been in power then did not proclaim the area. The Governor who was President of the Legislative Council and Mr McDavid, Financial Secretary, were booed on their way to the Public Buildings.
“He recalled that Dr Jagan had said in the Council that what had occurred was a `symptom of public opinion’ against the budget.
“After the meeting, Mr D’Aguiar continued, Dr Jagan was loudly cheered and the Governor and Mr McDavid were booed when they left the Public Buildings.
“Mr D’Aguiar referred to the event as similar to what happened last February, the difference being that Dr Jagan, instead of leaving the front entrance sneaked out through the back door, when the area round the Public Buildings was proclaimed.”
Mr D’Aguiar distorts history when he says that the only difference between the 1951 picketing of the Legislative Buildings and the February demonstrations around the Public Buildings was that Dr Jagan left by the back entrance. Some people have short memories indeed!
The great differences between the picketing and demonstrations which we participated in during 1951 and those of D’Aguiar in February 1962 are these:
1. The PPP was demonstrating against colonialism and a budget which did not tax the rich. The PPP was demonstrating against continuance of rule by the Big Business interests which were then in control.
In February last, the demonstrations against a popularly and democratically elected government led by Big Business interests who feared to lose their profits, Mr D’Aguiar being one. The presence of trade unionists and workers did not mean that it was a popular revolt because poor and corrupt leadership carried misguided and misinformed people into the demonstrations.
Also, many of the demonstrators were forced into participation by their employers, who threatened dismissal if they refused. Proof of this is abundant.
It must not be forgotten that the Government in 1951 was not democratically elected, having a suffrage based on ownership of property and income qualifications.
The Legislature was presided over by the governor and there were elected, nominated and official members sitting in the Council chambers. How different that was today.
2. The picketing and the demonstrations we engaged in then and all during the years of the PPP were never violent. Our people did not carry weapons, they did not carry stones and bottles and sticks. They did not use stones and bottles and sticks and guns. They did not injure anyone. They did not burn buildings. They did not kill policemen. They did not shout at McDavid and the Governor - “We are going to kill you. We are going to burn you down.”
No, our people had leadership, good, sound leadership. What our people said then and say today is that we will end colonialism. We will end the day of the rich exploiting the poor. We will be independent.
None of the PPP picketing of demonstrations ever got out of hand. Sure, the Governor was booed. But his person was not touched. We don’t mind boos. But we do mind when our leader is personally attacked and injured at the Public Buildings.
These, Mr D’Aguiar are the differences between all the picketing and all the demonstrations in which the PPP (myself included) participated from 1950 to the present. And from all of them there was not one building burned, not one person injured, not one person threatened with loss of life and property.
Tear gas too
I am sure that Mr D’Aguiar will add this. He will undoubtedly say - But the Government provoked the people by the Proclamation, by the use of tear gas, by the presence of troops. My answer is simple. We had tear gas thrown at us in 1953 and 1954. I was at our Party Headquarters on Regent Street when we were tear-gassed. We didn't’t then call on our people to rise and attack, burn down Government House and all business houses.
We had Proclamations then, but they did not incite us to violence. Dr Jagan broke one of the Proclamations. He went to jail for it, but he did not utilize the opportunity to lead his followers into riots. He could have. Make no mistake about it! But he didn't’t, because he was and is a responsible leader. We had troops here then. They did not provoke us to burn down buildings and loot. Those things could have been organized if we thought in those directions. But our minds were directed in different paths.
We led the struggle by educating the people of the ills of colonialism and the need for unity to end the exploitation of this country by the dominant clique that wanted only power and profits - profits and power. We attained power by the valid ballot and proved our worth by winning in three successive elections - without benefit of a daily press or foreign finances. We did not attempt to grab power by bloodshed.
That, Mr D’Aguiar, is the difference.
(Thunder, April 14, 1962)
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009
By Janet Jagan (Thunder 29 September 1962)
Mao Tse Tung, leader of the Chinese people and architect of their new democracy, is known affectionately as “Chairman Mao.” I had not anticipated, while in China, of having, the opportunity to meet such a great person. To begin with, he is very busy and has many responsibilities. Also, it is known that he does not meet many visitors from outside the country.
During the last week of my trip to China, I was visiting a women’s hospital in Peking. I was to be shown the operating room and was putting on the required garments to protect the operating wing from infection— not only a gown, cap and mask, but also canvas overshoes.
These, I had just put on and was proceeding to leave when my interpreter came and told me that “Chairman Mao would see me at 4.10 p.m.” It was then 3.50 p.m. and I had to quickly remove all the hospital garments and leave for this appointment.
Meeting Chairman Mao was memorable experience. He is as he looks in the photos one sees. He is a quiet-spoken, calm and patient man. He is a thinker and a poet as well as a great leader. When the visitor to China sees some of the recent achievements, like the massive bridge at Wu-Han, one is always proudly shown the monument to commemorate this achievement. And more often than not, painted or engraved on this monument is a poem from Chairman Mao, composed for the occasion.
One of the greatest
I spoke to a member of the British diplomatic corps in China, who told me that Mao Tse Tung was possibly one of China’s greatest poets, and he was speaking not of contemporary poets, but of the sum total of the country’s poets.
So, in my brief chat with Chairman Mao, I could not help but being aware that this was a mind, creative in the fullest sense — a great humanitarian.
The Prime Minister
I was doubly honoured while in China of having the opportunity of meeting not only Chairman Mao, but the Prime Minister, Chou-en-lai. I attended a reception given by the Vietnam Ambassador. Present were representatives of all the countries having diplomatic relations with China, as well as the press. I saw there the representatives of Ceylon (whom I had met previously at the United Nations,) India, Ghana, Indonesia, Great Britain, etc. Toasts were made to the anniversary of the Vietnam Republic and it was then that I was introduced to the Prime Minister of China, Chou-en-lai. He greeted me very warmly speaking in English, and expressed his desire to meet me before I left. As he is a very busy man, the appointment was finally fixed for 9 p.m., the night before I departed from China.
Man of action
Mr. Chou-en-lai, as a person, is quite the opposite from Chairman Mao. Although only about five years younger than Chairman Mao, he looks and speaks like a man in his forties. He has a fascinating personality and talks with great charm and ease. He, of course, is more the man of action. He expressed keen interest in the affairs of British Guiana and hoped for our early independence. We chatted for two hours. It was then 11 p.m. and the Prime Minister looked fresh and spirited, although I knew that he had been in conference from early morning.
With such capable and dedicated leaders, and a people devoted to their ideals, I felt that China, with its 700 million people, would, not so far from now, be one of the most prosperous and influential nations of the world.
I had heard that Han Suyin, the noted woman author, was in Peking and I was hoping to see her, but did not have the courage to ask, figuring that she was bothered enough by fans. But then I received word that she would like to meet me, and so, one morning I called at her hotel.
Han Suyin, who is half-Chinese, is the authoress of Love is a Many Splendid Thing, which, as a film, has been very popular. In fact, I think it was again playing in the Georgetown cinemas when I left. She has also written “Destination Chunking” and “And the Rain My Drink.”
Besides being a writer, Han Suyin is a doctor (she studied in London) and up until last year has been practising as well as lecturing (medicine) at a university in Malaya, where she resides.
She was in China, doing research into her own family history, in preparation for a novel or a series of novels showing the various changes in China during the past century. It was an exciting experience meeting her, not because she is famous, but because she is such a wonderful, alive person.
In London, Guiana’s Premier, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, has been having talks with a number of the Commonwealth leaders. Notable among those he has had special meetings with are Archbishop Makarious of Cyprus, Pandit Nehru of India and the Finance Minister of Ghana, Mr. F.K.D. Goka. He has met the Executive Committee of the BG Freedom Association and a social in his honour was given by the Guiana Circle at the Royal Commonwealth Society Hall.
Waiting far the Premier one morning at Marlborough House, I was introduced to Tom Mboya of Kenya, who is also attending the Prime Ministers’ Conference. He told me how happy he was to meet me and expressed his thanks for the interest shown by the PPP in the struggles in Kenya. He referred to a small donation which the PPP had made to the Kenya struggle some time ago and said that the fraternal wishes expressed had made a great impression on his people.
Dr. Jagan also addressed the West Indian Students’ Union.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009
by Janet Jagan
Women of British Guiana like the women of the other West Indian areas have been a little slow to come forward in public life. Yet, while examples of prominent women leaders are not impressive, it does not mean that they have not played their part.
Historically, Guianese women have been on the side of the people's struggle for freedom; for a better way of life. Although the limited accounts of their activities in the explosions against oppression give us little to go on, it is apparent that they backed the famous slave rebellions of the past and the more recent militant action in the well-known sugar estate revolts and strikes. I can recall as if it was yesterday, the four and a half month strike on the sugar estates of the East Coast, Demerara of 1948 which led to the killing of five sugar workers at Enmore, when the police opened fire on t h e strikers.
The women were the backbone of the resistance and manned the soup kitchens which fed the strikers, who, with few resources, fought the sugar kings for the long stretch of four and a half months. They were absolutely magnificent in their solidarity and determination not to give in.
During the long twelve-year struggle that the People's Progressive Party has maintained for the independence of the country, the women have been a stimulating influence. I recall their stamina and courage during the dark, dim days of 1953 to 1957, when the country was ruled by bayonets and emergency law. When the police, in 1953, attacked the PPP Headquarters and tear-gassed the premises, the women laughed and taunted the police. They were not afraid.
They went from house to house, from village to village, collecting money to maintain the movement, distributing leaflets and publications, always under the threat of intimidation from the police.
SWAMPED WITH FLOWERS
In the hundreds of demonstrations that have taken place during these years, in the many political meetings which have been held, always one sees a great number of anonymous, but interested women in the forefront. Their loyalty to the cause of independence, to freedom from exploitation has been a vital element in our successful struggle.
During the last election campaign, which resulted again in a PPP victory, the behaviour of the women was a beautiful sight to me. When the PPP was constantly attacked at public meetings by hooligans of the opposition, who tried to bust-up the meetings with stones and eggs, the women responded by showering their leaders and candidates with flowers. In no election campaign had we ever seen this acclaim and gracious behaviour of women in this effort to reassure their leaders that they were with them. Before, at election victory time, we had received the flowers, the garlands, after the battle was over. But this year, they came before, as their gesture to the violent abuse by the opposition.
BELIEF IN OUR STRUGGLE
I can always remember a series of meetings I attended about two weeks before the elections. I had with me a visitor to the country, a Spanish-speaking comrade who did not know a word of English. He went with us to five meetings, one after the other. We were actually swamped with flowers in a spontaneous parade of women before each of the meetings, each carrying her gift of flowers. This burly man cried. I can always remember his tears and the expressions on the faces of these women who believed in our struggle and gave what they could to support it and encourage its leaders.
Because of poverty and poor educational opportunities under colonialism, the women of British Guiana have not yet had the opportunities that other women in other lands have had. Their ascent to leadership and full participation has been retarded by their struggle to work and live and keep their children in food and clothing.
Their day is fast approaching to build a new nation based on freedom and the end of exploitation.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009
(West Indian News, January 1962. Reprinted in Thunder, 10 March 1962)
by Janet Jagan
It would be well for us to examine, the question of Proportional Representation and new elections. Actually, the issue of PR does not arise unless there is a strong case for new elections.
Is the case for new elections very strong?
The argument bandied about by the People’s National Congress and the United Force is that the PPP received less than a majority of the total votes in the 1961 elections and thus cannot speak for the majority of people.
If this argument were to hold water, it would mean that the first-past-the-post system which is inherent in the Western democracies does not work. So it would mean not only the condemnation of our electoral system, but also a complete denial of the use of this system in the countries which use it. Britain and the USA have governments, like ours, in which the ruling party does not necessarily receive the majority of the total votes.
But a stronger argument against new elections is the fact that in 1960 there was a Constitution Conference in Britain which may be regarded as the prelude to independence.
At this conference, the PPP delegation put up a strong case for immediate independence. This was not supported by the PNC, which at that time was riding the Federation issue, and felt that independence would interfere with BG’s entry into the West Indies Federation.
Thus, their cry was “Self-Government, Not Independence.” The PNC brought up the proposition of PR at that time, but it was thrown out and given little serious consideration by the British, who could hardly be expected, in view of their own electoral system and that of the Commonwealth countries, to view it as a workable proposal.
But what is more significant to the question of new elections before independence is the intention behind the introduction of a new constitution which gave internal self-government to BG.
The self-governing constitution, under which we now operate, was discussed at the 1960 London Conference and introduced with the August 1961 elections.
This Constitution stated that elections would take place every four (4) years and put the winning party in office for a four-year period.
This is the significant point for, at that time, arrangements were also made for the next stage to independence.
The British Government, at the 1960 conference, accepted the principle of independence for BG and stated that a conference to discuss the issue would be convened one year after the introduction of the self-governing constitution or after the West Indies Federation obtained its independence, whichever period was shorter,
Therefore, the intention was clear that roughly one year after the introduction of internal self-government, talks would be held for transfer of the remaining power held in the hands of the British over to the Guyanese.
Now, if it was intended that a new elections would be required before the country moved into independence, the self-governing constitution would not have included the clause for elections of a four-year duration, but would have provided for elections after one or two years.
Thus, it is clear that the British Government had not conceived the idea of any new elections when the country became independent. The British Government at the 1962 London Conference had only one role to play, and that was to rule out the contending point of new elections.
And this is where the British Government was dishonest in taking a neutral stand, or no stand, on the so-called deadlock issue.
(Thunder, 24 November 1962)
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009
British Guiana wants INDEPENDENCE IN 1962
The title ‘government minister’ as a rule induces a healthy respect on the part of the interviewer. But when Mrs. Janet Jagan, former Minister of Social Welfare and at present General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party of British Guiana,(the government party of the country) calmly carried my typewriter into her tiny hotel sitting room and smilingly urged me to take a comfortable seat, I couldn’t have felt more at ease. Conversation came easily, effortlessly. Her informal and unaffected manner belied the difficult and often severe struggle that she, together with her husband Dr. Cheddi Jagan, premier of Br. Guiana, have led and are leading for their nation’s independence. They met as student, have gone through thick and thin together – including gaol, and have remained undaunted and confident in their nation’s future.
Below are the questions put to Mrs. Jagan by our correspondent J. M. Kohoutova, and her replies:
WHAT ARE THE MAIN PROBLEMS BRITISH GUIANA FACES AT THE MOMENT? HOW, IN YOUR OPINION, CAN THEY BE RESOLVED?
Our main problem is attaining independence in 1962. But the British are using delaying tactics. My husband who is the leader of the People’s Progressive Party and Premier of British Guiana had talks with British Colonial Secretary Maudling in December and asked him to fix a date for independence. Maudling was unable to do so. Jagan then referred the matter to the United Nations but the British claim that relations with British Guiana are their internal business. We are now trying to mobilise public opinion to put more pressure on Britain to grant us our independence.
British policy on independence is inconsistent. They say the country has to prove its ability to govern itself. But we have done that. We ran the government from ‘57 to 61’ – and at the beginning of 61 again won the elections. We have won three consecutive elections (in ‘53 as well – Ed.). We have a mandate from the people, they want us. From ‘57 to 61’ when we ran the government we did so far more efficiently and better than the British. We have shown our ability to govern ourselves.
Britain has had to grant independence to other nations. Yet they are using our lack of experience as the reason for delay. More likely it has to do with the fact that Britain doesn’t like our politics, which is why she is holding back.
The first thing we want to do after independence is to solve our economic problems. The country’s development has been retarded by colonialism. What we need is rapid industrialization and the fullest utilization of our natural resources. Further, we want our resources to be developed by the state and not by private capital. Our party, the PPP, is a socialist party and our programme calls for all industry that will developed in future to be state-owned.
Our country is rich in natural resources; we have bauxite, manganese, timber, gold, diamonds, uranium, and doubtlessly many other undiscovered minerals. We have a huge, as yet unexploited, hydro-electrical power potential. That should be one of our first big development projects.
In agriculture – under our party’s leadership – we have opened up 90,000 acres of land and settled people on it. Agriculturally, we have mostly been a monoculture – sugar cane. The peasants also grow rice, our main staple – and we’ve exported some of that to Cuba and the British West Indies. After independence we intend to diversify our agriculture, increase our cattle rearing, and grow coconuts – we are not yet self sufficient in coconut oil – and urge farmers to grow cocoa.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE EFFECT OR INFLUENCE OF THE CUBAN REVOLUTION ON BRITISH GUIANA?
The PPP, which is the strongest political party in Br. Guiana, has given a great deal of support to the Cuban Revolution. We protested vehemently against the invasion of Cuba, our youth section picketed the America legation. The Cuban Revolution has inspired our young people and fired their imagination showing them what a small country can do to rid itself of oppression.
I visited Cuba for May Day, 1960, and was really impressed with what they have accomplished. They have done remarkably well in solving they land problem and in improving social conditions in the country.
Cuba is different from Br. Guiana we obtained our majority through elections. For the Cubans, the Revolution itself was a form of democratic elections.
WHERE DOES BRITISH GUIANA FIT INTO THE PICTURE OF LATIN AMERICA?
We have been isolated from the continental picture for many years. We feel that we are part of the continent, intend to participate in South American matters and hope to maintain friendly and close relations with all Latin American countries. One of our very few forms of contact at present is through the Economic Commission for Latin America (a UN agency) which we joined. By isolation I mean that there are few possibilities for physical contact with our neighbours – due to lack of communications, roads, etc. Under British rule contacts between us and neighbouring countries were not welcomed and our first official contact was made when premier Jagan led a trade delegation to Venezuela. A road to Brazil is now under construction.
DOES YOUR ORGANISATION WORK FOR THE INTEGRATION OF THE THREE GUIANAS – OR IS IT INTERESTED IN A FEDERATION ALONG THE LINES OF THE WEST INDIAN FEDERATION?
As far as I can judge, there is no keen interest in linking up the Guianas – except as friendly neighbours. There is some trade and interchange of people. After all we have somewhat the same racial structure – indigenous Indians, Negroes, East Indians, Chinese and in Surinam there are also Indonesians.
The British have urged Federation on us for some time. Our Party, the People’s Progressive Party, has always maintained that Br. Guiana would not consider entering any federation or alliance until it obtained Dominion status and until all the units in such a proposed Federation were independent.
WHAT IS THE PRESENT STATE OF EDUCATION AND IN PARTICULAR HIGHER EDUCATION IN GUYANA AND WHAT TASKS HAS YOUR ORGANISATION SET ITSELF IN THIS SHHERE ON ATTAINING INDEPENDENCE?
We have an archaic system of education built on the old British pattern which offers largely academic schooling but doesn’t prepare the child to face modern life.
Primary education is compulsory - we have only a minute illiteracy problem – but the system itself is outmoded and we are now in the process of changing it, i.e. The methods, curriculum, textbooks. Take the textbooks for example – the latter are entirely Anglicised. They don’t teach a child the history of this country but rather that of British royalty and the innumerable wars the British have fought. Theses textbooks talk about snow (and there is no snow in our country), about “mother going to market to buy certain fruits and vegetables” which are completely unknown in our country. The whole educational system is not orientated to making a person think about Guiana, its needs, of being a patriotic Guianese, etc.
The reason for anarchy in our education system is that it is divided between government- run schools (state schools) and private institutions, most of them led by different denominations of the Church. This means no uniformity in teaching. In the Church schools, although by law they are state supported (and the salaries of teachers of all primary schools are paid for out of the government budget) the Church decides who will teach in its schools, who will be promoted, who will be laid off, etc. In other words there is dual control and this is harmful. Our Party, which is leading the government, wants to end this dual control but has had to go about it more slowly than it wished.
It is not that we object to Church – run schools but we do object to having the government pay for their upkeep and maintenance. If they want to run private schools that’s their business. The government should support only government - run schools.
There are few government- run secondary schools – in fact three in all. The others that do exist are privately run. We have tried to introduce some form of vocational education or polytechnical education in secondary schools. There is one technical school which turns out mechanics and technical middle cadres. Incidentally, secondary education is neither obligatory nor free. The government has given some aid to secondary schools so that they can pay the teachers better and thereby hire trained teachers, and is also trying to induce these schools to introduce science and technology courses, etc. Our aim, on attaining independence will be to make secondary education compulsory for all.
There is no institution of high, education in British Guiana. For some time we have contributed to the University College of the West Indies but are thinking of setting up a higher school of our own. Discussions have already begun but as far as I know no plans have as yet been worked out.
We don’t want to establish an institution along stilted, academic lines. This higher educational school should prepare young people for life, for field work – turned out engineers, architects, veterinarians, agronomists, etc. At present our University students are mostly in England, the US, Canada and Jamaica (UC of the West Indies). We should like to have a university that combines work and study.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009
by Janet Jagan
When we examine Claude Christian’s life and his contribution to our movement, we see it as a guide to our members, for in few others do we find such qualities.
Comrade Christian wanted nothing for himself – neither position, money, power. When he worked – and few have ever worked as hard – he worked for the Party, not for himself. We who have worked with him at Freedom House knew him to work at times from 6 a.m. to midnight, with a bun and sweet drink his only food for the day. When he went on money raising tours throughout the countryside, he was prodigious in his physical endurance. He would drive others to work as hard as him, to be as disciplined and selfless as himself.
He demanded a lot from others, but he did not sit at a desk and make the demands; he showed them how to work and always set the pace. He made our comrades give of their best. I can remember one occasion when there were a lot of items to be removed from Freedom House – heavy items like benches and tables. Some of our comrades at Freedom House, who were responsible for this activity, sat around and left the moving to others. Claude was furious at their laziness or refusal to do manual work. He quarrelled with them, then took off his shirt and began hauling the benches on his back. They soon were ashamed and helped in the work. This is one of the lessons he taught us all – no one is too high and mighty to do any work, no matter what it may be.
Self discipline and discipline for others was his belief and those with whom he worked had to learn discipline. No more coming to work when one pleased, no more half measures in doing a task, no more forgetting assignments or responsibilities. During the two periods of Comrade Christian’s management of Freedom House, he established a high standard of efficiency and dedication to work.
As the Party Chairman said, “Claude shaped the Party’s finances.” This is very true, for it is to Claude that the Party can be grateful for its buoyant financial position. Prior to his management, funds were so scarce that normal payments could hot be met. But with his tremendous drive and his wealth of ideas, he soon lifted the financial gloom. Fund raising drives which at one time flopped, under his management brought surprising results. Dances, barbecues, fairs, were not only fun for everyone, but were smashing financial successes. His contribution to our Congress meetings, our educational seminars, our women’s congresses, etc., was sweat and good organisation. He could never be persuaded to receive the thanks, the garlands, the bouquets – he wanted none of that. He was pleased and happy when things went smoothly and his reward was to see that there were no complaints, no criticisms and that everyone was satisfied with how things went.
A look at the books Claude had in his library reveals the man. He believed in socialism. He read books on the subject and although he never considered himself very learned on the subject, he quietly read and quietly digested what he read. He was an anti-imperialist to the bone. No one was more disappointed than Claude when the London conference last year failed to set a date for the country’s independence.
One of Claude’s failings was his utter disregard for himself. When his health started failing about three years ago, he had to be forced to visit a doctor. When the doctor advised hospitalisation, he refused, and again pressure had to be put on him to enter a hospital. Even on the last occasion, when he was lying weak in his bed, he insisted that he would leave the hospital in a few days.
While some were fighting to be candidates at elections, officers of the party or to achieve ministerial rank, Claude spurned these honours. He flatly refused to be a candidate at the last general elections and firmly stated that he would make a better contribution to the Party by remaining as office manager.
At the last Party elections he declined nomination to one of the officers’ posts. He had to be virtually forced to become a Minister, always declaring that he wanted no honours – he just wanted to keep the Party organisation and finances in good shape. Money, too, had no real attractions for Claude. Whatever the Party could afford to pay was satisfactory to him.
As a human being, a comrade, a friend, Comrade Claude was all things to all men. Few could dislike this full-blooded, warm-hearted, fun-loving giant of a man who endeared himself to all those with whom he worked, even those who did not agree with his politics. He was a great success as a Minister. When the Leader of the Opposition at the London Conference, 1962, made a scurrilous remark about the type of Ministers the PPP was choosing, and referred directly to Claude, a high Government official curtly remarked that the Minister of Home Affairs was by far one of the most capable men he had known.
Claude was rough and tough when his orders were not obeyed or when he felt an injustice was being done. He could shout and curse with the best, but when he was finished, he carried no malice to the wrong-doer, the incompetent or the one who miscarried his directions. He was a humble man, and knew no false pride. If he was wrong, he admitted it; he was not afraid of criticism, nor was he afraid to criticise the highest if it was necessary.
In short, Comrade Christian brought discipline, efficiency and organisation to the Party He personally set a high standard by his own devotion to duty, respect for his seniors, absolute honesty, and his love of Party and country. He was a reliable and trusted comrade, a man of good humour and amazing generosity. He set the pace for many to follow. We need more men of Claude Christian’s calibre in the movement. His contribution will never be forgotten.
(Thunder, June 1963)
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009
Tribute by Janet Jagan, PPP General Secretary (Thunder, September 1963)
Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois, one of America’s foremost scholars, died in Ghana at the age of 96. Dr. Du Bois, author of over 15 books, is known widely for his classics – The Souls of Black Folk, Black Reconstruction and The World of Africa. In academic circles he is renowned for his work in historical, anthropological and sociological research.
Dr. Du Bois joined the Communist Party in the latter part of his life and departed for Ghana where he was invited by Dr. Nkrumah to direct the compilation of an Encyclopaedia Africana. His life was devoted to the emancipation of the colonial and oppressed people. He fought for the rights of the Negro people in the United States arid was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured Peoples and was the first editor of its fighting organ, The Crisis.
Pan African Movement
Dr. Du Bois was a pioneer of the Pan African Movement and was the secretary of the first Pan African Congress held in London in 1909. In 1919 he organised another Pan African ran Congress in Paris. The fifth Pan African Congress held in 1945 in Manchester organised by Dr. Nkrumah and George Padmore, was chaired by Dr. Du Bois.
In a tribute to Dr. Du Blois, the President of Ghana said: “The essential quality of Du Bois’ life and achievement can be summed up in a single phrase: intellectual honesty and integrity.” Referring to his work with Dr. Du Bois in the 1945 Pan African Congress, Dr. Nkrumah said, “It was at this Congress in Manchester that I was drawn to him. Since then he has been personally a real friend and father to me.
Support for Guyana’s Independence
Dr. Jagan met Du Bois and his wife Shirley Graham in New York shortly before their departure for Ghana. He offered his wholehearted moral support for the Guianese struggle for independence and discussed with Dr. Jagan many of the problems facing leaders of colonial territories.
Dr. Du Bois was happy in having as his wife a woman as equally distinguished as himself in the field of letters. Shirley Graham is the distinguished author of There was Once a Slave – The Heroic Story of Frederick Douglass, Dr. George Washington Carver, Scientist, and Paul Robeson, Citizen of the World.
The People’s Progressive Party sent a cable of condolence to Shirley Graham on the death of her beloved and distinguished husband.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009