Tag Archives: British Guiana’s Struggle for Independence

Cheddi Jagan and the Politics of Power… – Book review

Cheddi Jagan and the Politics of Power: British Guiana’s Struggle for Independence – Book Review

By Colin A Palmer – Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina Press, 2010

André Gide when asked who was the greatest French poet replied, “Victor Hugo, alas.” Is this the best book on the political disasters in British Guiana between 1953 and 1964? Yes, alas.

Colin Palmer’s book tells a familiar story: the rise of the People’s Progressive Party, its landslide victory in the first elections with universal adult suffrage, the virulent opposition to it in power, the mistakes of its ministers and the suspension of the constitution. Then came the split between Burnham and Jagan and the racialization of Guyanese politics. Local and US anti-communism stoked the flames and the two became antagonists. Palmer is especially good on the psychological effects of colonialism and the hypocrisy and racist disdain of the USA (as if its anti-communism was not enough); he lays to rest the belief (much cherished by Cheddi Jagan) that the Americans had been responsible for the 1953 suspension of the constitution – that was a British affair. By 1960 the Americans were taking the lead, financing local opposition to Jagan and his party. He fails to point out that in backing Burnham they had absolutely no idea of his politics. Continue reading