Guyana, Cheddi Jagan & the Cold War – By Rosaliene Bacchus

Three Worlds One Vision

Cheddi and Janet Jagan - Wedding Photo - Chicago USA 1943Cheddi and Janet Jagan – Wedding Photo – Chicago/USA – 1943
Photo Credit: Cheddi Jagan Research Centre

On Saturday, at the People’s Climate Los Angeles – Building Blocks against Climate Change, I had the opportunity to chat with the leader of the small contingent from the Communist Party USA. I learned that he had visited Guyana in 1967.

In the 1960s, in what was then British Guiana, the Catholic Church had drilled the fear of communism into my young impressionable mind. Those were the days of the Cold War. With their dread of the Soviet Union and fear of another Cuba in their backyard, the US government covertly ousted from power Guyana’s populist East Indian leader, the Marxist Cheddi Jagan.

“I met Cheddi Jagan and his wife, Janet,” the white American male said with pride.

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  • Norman Tewarie  On September 21, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    Born in Port Mourant on a sugar plantation
    He daily witnessed Guyana’s exploitation
    He saw hardship and knew there was only one cure
    And Cheddi promised to fight oppression for sure

    He fought against the plantation owners
    Championing the cause of the sugar-workers
    The Gov’t. of the day could not understand
    For he was a force, a tiger in their hand

    In those days Imperialism was in
    And Social Social/Marxism was a sin
    You bow to Uncle Sam and dance to his tune
    Or you’d pass away like the last full moon

    The people came last and politics came first
    But this jingoism didn’t quench his thirst
    He stood up and was counted though he was alone
    In Moscow, his friends had problems of their own

    Guyanese celebrated raising the Indian jhanda
    As he watched, admired and even visited India
    When in 1947 India became independent
    To Nehru and Gandhi good wishes he sent

    Then later Ghana got independence too
    And all Guyanese dressed in every hue
    Joined with their brothers of Ghana
    And celebrated with Kwame Nkrumah

    This did not deter him, he stuck to his belief
    And was forced to be the opposition to a thief
    As bullets replaced ballots in every succession
    As Guyana was repeatedly raped in every election

    All his pleas fell on deaf ears
    Especially to the political seers
    He went to the United Nation and lamented
    But the US backed body was undaunted

    The British changed first past the post
    To prevent the PPP from getting the most
    They did this with the sole devious intention
    By switching to proportional representation

    The result was no party got a majority
    The British way of getting rid of the PPP
    Burnham and D’Aguiar formed a coalition
    Making way for Burnham’s Guyanization

    The registration by the Shoup Company
    Made utter sheer mockery of democracy
    Padded with the dead, hanged, even the fictitious
    Which the same British press called “ridiculous”

    In England the press had a field day
    When Granada TV did their expose`
    Airing ‘”The Trails of the Vanishing Voter”
    And “The Making of a Prime Minister”

    The whole West knew of that widespread scam
    But they prefer to put their money on Burnham
    The Indians overseas were denied their right
    The wholesale rigging was too much to fight

    Rubber bands played a big roll in elections
    They were used in the PNC stronghold sections
    To wrap bundles of votes i.e. the PNC’s share
    And ballot boxes were tampered without fear

    Desmond Hoyt, the architect on the commission
    He became President with Burnham’s extinction
    Since 1992 there was never a fair and free election
    Only fear, fraud, disgust and wholesale corruption

    That was the foundation of the PNC Gov’t. abuse
    What do you expect such garbage would produce?
    For 28 years they ruled with an iron fist
    And did every bleddy thing wrong on the list

    Cheddi Jagan did all he humanly could
    But it was if he was preaching to wood
    They rebuked him and after 28 years
    The good doctor still showed he cares

    Like the others who crossed the floor in stealth
    He could have partook in the country’s wealth
    Call it quits and left like the others
    But he stuck to his guns and his brothers

    But behind every great man
    There is always a good woman
    And we can’t and should never forget
    His strong and faithful wife Janet

    Like Nehru and Gandhi of India
    He also had big dreams for Guyana
    But his reign was aborted by a conspiracy of silence
    Though like Rev. King he too preached non-violence

    To clean up the corruption and debt is a huge task
    To do it overnight in a few years we can never ask
    Wholesale nepotism and corruption ‘PNC made’
    To wipe off the stench it would take a decade

    But there is a cool new breeze blowing
    With many changes for better forthcoming
    The winds of change are here at last
    But we should never forget the past

    We have to put our shoulders to the wheel
    We have to work like one people with one keel
    Let no divide and rule come between us again
    Strive for real independence, let sanity reign

    Jagan never succumbed or relent
    Even with his life almost spent
    He fought his foes with his bare hands
    And never groveled to their demands

    He’s no ordinary man, he dreamt in his own way
    Like the Rev.Martin Luther King, he hoped one day
    The people of Guyana would rise up peacefully
    Become one people, one nation, with one destiny.

    1 This poem was written in 1990 and was autographed by Dr. Cheddi Jagan on the January 19, 1992. Autographed copies are available upon request via my e-mail. It was published in my second book called “Drink From My Calabash.”

  • Cyril balkaran  On September 23, 2014 at 12:18 am

    it would take years or two more decades before sanity could come to the present crop of GUYanese leaders. THey are all insane and cannot breathe the free air of freedom. THey have disappointed the Political pholosophy of what the JAGANS stood and fought for When will the silent revolution come. if it does not happen now when will it happen. ramotar is a disappointment. Jagdeo was a sell out and let down to the politics of Guyana. who is the saviour

  • N Narain  On September 23, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    Absolutely true, he stuck it out until the end. Regardless of mistakes made in the past, he was a great leader.

  • Carol  On September 24, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    Oh so captivatingly nostalgic but the honest truth is, Cheddi Jagan was no Nehru, Gandhi or Martin Luther King. Simply put, Jaganism is a cultural divide. You also have made this the core point of your argument; when you cited in your text.

    “the Indians overseas were denied their rights”.

    What rights are you talking about? Well my friend, I also live overseas and was not granted the privilege to vote, so I am also disappointed in the election process. I do have assets in Guyana and pay my due taxes so why should these elections be only about some Guyanese?

    Interestingly, this argument should also include the great American President, Abraham Lincoln, who reminded the American people in one of his addresses and especially those in the bigoted South.

    “Majority rule had to be restrained with the constitutional checks and limitations.”
    Like him, the British wanted an end to the dynastic legacy governed by rule of decree. Sadly, this was true of India and the Nehru dynasty, which ruled India from 1947 to 1964. THIS WAS EXACTLY WHAT GREAT BRITAIN WANTED TO PREVENT IN HANDING POWER OVER OF ITS OTHER TERRITORIES AROUND THE GLOBE.

    Also, you must be reminded that to associate Nehru, Gandhi and Martin Luther king to Jagan is to simplify the lives of these great men. First, Gandhi and .Martin Luther King fought for the dignity and respect of their people. Gandhi fought to keep India and Pakistan as one country but was killed because someone thought otherwise. Martin Luther King fought for the rights of Blacks to VOTE, the desegregation of schools in America, a decent living wage for the working class and the list goes on. Second, these men served times in prison and after long struggles to win freedom from Britain and a better life for Blacks in America, they were both assassinated. Nehru on the other hand, had created a dynasty but shared the same non-violent vision as Gandhi to gain india’s freedom from Britain.

    So, to put these men in the same category as Mr. Jagan is taking history in the wrong direction.

    PS The insanity we see in the Middle East today, can be Guyana tomorrow. Sadly, when we allow those with political ambitions to manipulate the political system, then like the Nehrus of India, the Saudis of Saudi Arabia, The Bahrainis, the Bandaranaike of Ceylon and Sri Lanka Dynasties will live on forever.

  • Thinker  On September 25, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    Jagan was true to his vision of the world. He was no mere communal leader and it is a disservice to his memory to imply that he was such. He understood how imperialism acted in its own interests and was determined to educate the masses in the struggle against it. Truly a prophet that should be honoured in his own country. No one is infallible and neither was he.

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