Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The West on Trial - autobiography of Cheddi Jagan

I read most of this book during the long trip to Guyana last month and I have just completed it.
Cheddi Jagan was Guyana's most important freedom fighter. Born in a modest peasant family, Jagan went to study medicine in USA. During the stay there, he had done all kinds of odd jobs to sustain himself. After his return, he plunged into politics in Guyana. He started defending workers' rights and joined the trade union movement and then joined full time politics working for the independence from Britain.He won the elections in the pre-independance period. But the British conspired to keep him out of power. Firstly, they used their standard divide and rule policy by encouraging divisions and rivalries between the Afro-Guyanese and the Indo-Guyanese. Secondly they branded him as a communist threat to Guyana and the region. This way they got the support of the Americans to prevent communism taking hold in the region particularly after the experience of Cuba. The British and Americans imposed a proportional representation system on Guyana to prevent Jagan and his party from getting majority. Jagan asked them why did they not have the same system if it was good for Guyana.
Eventually Jagan managed to overcome all the internal and external challenges and become the President of Guyana in 1992 for five years till his death in 1997.

Jagan's struggle is similiar in many ways to the Indian struggle for independence from the same British. The only difference was that Guyana being a smaller and weaker country, suffered more.

It is true, Jagan was a fellow traveller. But anyone in his position had to be one, given the Guyanese situation. Most of the Guyanese were poor and exploited under the colonial rule. The population of Guyana consists of AfroGuyanese who were former slaves and the indians who were former bonded labourers. With this kind of electorate, it was logical to seek social justice through leftist path.On top of it, Guyana's natural and mineral resources and the sugar and mining industry were controlled by British, American and foreign companies for whom their profit was more important than Guyanese development.It was the job of the political leaders to demand a fair share of their earnings. Even today, Guyana remains as one of the poorest countries in the region, despite vast land, water, natural and mineral resources.

Janet Jagan, the American wife of Cheddi Jagan had also worked shoulder to shoulder at all levels of Guyanese politics. She shared the same ideology and commitment of her husband to the upliftment of the Guyanese.

Jagan has published other books covering regional and global issues.

But the title of this autobiography " The west on trial" does not seem to be appropriate. It was the west which put him on trial. But at the bottom of the cover page it is written " My fight for Guyana's freedom" . This should have been the title.

While Jagan has been understandably extra critical of his political opponents, his book gives a vivid account of the struggle of Guyana and the manipulation of the external forces.


atulg said...

Dear Sir,
The blog gives valuable insights about the freedom struggle of Guyana.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting to note this romanticising ofthe late communist bogeyman Dr. Cheddi Jagan but he gave so called 'critiucal support' to the very Forbes Burnham regime he supposedly opposed.

Dr. Jagan like Forbes Burnham and his American wench were responsible for the destroyed lives and shattered dreams of hundreds of thousands of Guyanese whose daily struggle involved lining up for basic foof stuff sold by state run neighbourhood co-operatives.

Likewise, he stayed mum as the local media was censored, schools were taken over by the state Cuban trained ideologues starting the brutal process of indoctrination, the savage beatings of Jesuit priests and rape of several nuns. He provided comfort and countenance to the Forbes Burnham regime as it ruthlessly banned the importation of lentils, channa and wheaten flour which form the staple of the average Indo-Guyanese diet.

Dr. Jagan was certainly no Gandhi, Nehru or Subash Chandra Bose but a spohisticated political manipulator and a paid agent of the KGB. Please ask the Government of Guyana to come clean with the ruling party's role in the bombing of the home of the Abrams family and the bombing of the ferryboat - 'M/V SunChapman' during the mid 1960s.