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Monday, June 5, 2023

Dr. Cheddi Jagan, Guyana, Marxism, Race, Politics and the USA (Part 2)

(…continued from Part 1)

Dr. Mohan Ragbeer continued:

“This irritated the State Department/CIA, but they remained ignorant, despite corrections, and so anti-communist (the Cold War had settled in, Castro had bared himself, and humiliated the US at the Bay of Pigs) that the CIA funded the destabilisation of BG.

Dr. Cheddi Jagan (CJ) was targeted, but his life spared. The rightist United Force and leftist PNC were funded by the CIA, and combined to depose Jagan with strikes, riots, violence and murders that polarised the major races. The US threatened British Guiana (BG) with the Monroe doctrine, but did not obstruct Castro’s aid to Jagan during the 80-day strike in 1963 against a Labour Relations Bill that almost toppled the government.

Jagan bungled the independence conference of 1963, frowned on Guianese financial help to avoid bankruptcy, refused to consider a partition plan, neglected to demand CDW funds already agreed, pooh-poohed the news re probable oil in BG, and left the decision re PR to Duncan Sandys. That began Jagan’s disgrace, except it established his “martyrdom” in the eyes of acolytes. The fall of Communism was a concealed shock.”

Dr. Tulsi Singh said:

“My contribution to the discussion was based primarily on my friendship with Dr. Jagan during the last four years of his life. During that time, he visited my home in Midland, Texas; he invited me several times to his office in Guyana; we spent two days together as dignitaries in Houston, Texas; we exchanged many cards, faxes and other correspondence; I became one of his medical advisers; and I was his last house guest. I figure that I knew him well in his last few years. He was my friend. I am among those who see him as the Father of the Nation.

I first met Dr. Jagan In 1961 when he was campaigning in my village at a roadside rally. He, to quote Dr. Ragbeer, “spoke with sincerity and passion, sympathized with their plight and promised to fight for their rights, and to bring relief from the misery and squalor of their lives, the poor conditions of rural and city workers, and the many injustices to which they were daily subjugated”. The “they” and “their” that Dr. Ragbeer wrote about were the people around me. I liked Dr. Jagan immediately and immensely. I wanted him to succeed. He won the elections that year but for a number of reasons, delineated in “The Indelible Red Stain, Books 1 and 2” by Dr. Ragbeer, his political star faded, and by 1964, he was in the political wilderness.

But Dr. Jagan, with persistence and perseverance stayed in the political fray and in 1992, with free and fair elections in Guyana, itself reflecting the involvement of former US President Jimmy Carter, became President of Guyana. By then, the Cold War had ended, Marxism and its accompanying rhetoric had diminished, Guyana was in ruins, and it’s most valuable asset became a rapidly expanding diaspora as more and more Guyanese sought safety, security and prosperity abroad.

Dr. Ragbeer attributes much of what went wrong in Guyana, in the fifties and sixties to Dr. Jagan and his personal traits. He knew Dr. Jagan back then. I had met Dr. Jagan only once during that time. I am not a political scholar or historian but I believe that there were many trip-wires, invisible to most, that complicated the choices that poor and tiny countries had to navigate between the heavy hands hammered out by the combatants of the Cold War.

I am of the Guyanese diaspora, an American citizen now, and happily and thankfully so, fully acculturated in its capitalist economy, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am grateful that my Indian great grandparents left Uttar Pradesh and Bihar a hundred and fifty years ago. They didn’t know much about where they were going and how long they would be staying there, or if they would ever return to their native land. I cannot blame Dr. Jagan for what might have been. I am glad for where I am now and I thank Dr. Jagan for his friendship and the indelible impact his humanity has made on me.”

Ramnarine Sahadeo said:

“I was invited on this panel to discuss Cheddi Jaganand to review The Indelible Red Stain. Those who were of the view that this was solely to discuss Jagan ignores the book and its many other themes. In fact, there are many other books on Cheddi, including a special one with articles on his life in which my views can be found.

Since I learned the others would concentrate on Cheddi, I told them I would refer to the cultural aspects of the Red Stain of 1400 pages in the 12 minutes allowed.  This is what I have always done since I first opened the book and could not put it down until two weeks later.”

(To be continued…)

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Dr. Kumar Mahabir
Dr. Kumar Mahabir
Dr. Kumar Mahabir, Assistant Professor University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) Chairman, Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd. (ICC) E-mail: [email protected]


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