The radical in the legislative assembly in the 1940’s
Guyana has had many persons with claims to be champions of the working class. But there is only one who can lay claim to being the radical of Guyana‘s workers and its supreme working class hero.
Cheddi Jagan is not just the champion of the working class of Guyana; he is the ultimate radical of the western hemisphere. Long before Jacobo Arbenz was removed by a military coup, long before Salvador Allende was toppled in a military coup, long before Fidel Castro led his revolution, Guyana had its own radical, its own champion of the working class. He was named Cheddi Jagan.
He was the ultimate radical. He had no time or stomach for the reformist tendencies which other leaders of the Caribbean were prepared to pursue after the end of the Second World War.
He saw the pitfalls of that approach, pitfalls which were equally known to the leaders of the English speaking Caribbean. But those leaders lacked the courage and radicalism of a Cheddi Jagan and this is what set him apart from everyone else.
He understood the limitations of trying to change the system. Unlike so many of the other leaders of the Caribbean and unlike many local political leaders, he was not prepared to follow an approach that would frustrate him achieving tangible benefits to the working class.
In the 1940’s and 50’s, he took the radicalism from fields and streets into the Legislative Assembly. He, more than anyone else in that Assembly, pressed for independence even when he was fighting a losing battle.
Thus any review of that period and any review of Guyana’s legislative history in its formative years would have to credit Cheddi Jagan for his role in fighting for the political and social liberation of this country.
It does not matter when he is designated Father of the Nation. It does not even matter if Forbes Burnham is given that title over him. They were once pals and their breakup must have bothered them deeply.
It was Cheddi who gave Burnham his political break and Cheddi never envied Burnham for leading Guyana to independence even though Burnham once opposed this happening under Jagan. So if it pleases those he mentored, give Burnham the title of Father of the Nation.
But do not trample upon history by trying to write Cheddi Jagan out of the history books. And do not especially try to write him out of that very period when Burnham was not here and when Cheddi stood head-above everyone else; when he was the ultimate radical of the Region.
You cannot discuss the Legislative Assembly of Guyana after 1940 and not give recognition to Cheddi Jagan. It is unpardonable for anyone to try to diminish Cheddi’s standing in Guyana legislative history. But to write him out of our history with the claim of deconstructing the myth of father of the nation is a slap in the face of history.
Even Desmond Hoyte who when he was President said he was dedicating himself towards ensuring that Cheddi never returned to power was gracious enough to acknowledge that Cheddi’s place in Guyanese history was assured.
There is so much that we can learn from Guyana’s legislative politics after the end of the Second World War. It is therefore highly unfortunate that instead of dealing with the two main threads of political activism that was evident during that period, that so much attention was paid towards arguing that all workers are the fathers and mothers of the nation.
There is a need for the PPP to begin to correct that revisionism which is aimed at erasing the role of Guyana’s radical working class champion during that period.
If every working class person were either a father or mother of the nation, then we had in those days a working class where everyone was a hero or heroine. And by extension therefore it means that all workers were complicit in the split which divided the working class. Even the imperialists did not attempt this sort of revisionism.
So by writing Cheddi out of history we are not celebrating working class glories; we are indicting them for the greatest failure in our country’s history, one which we have not yet overcome.