There have been two letters recently in both independent dailies: one in brief reference to the sixties, the other on the nature of Dr. Jagan’s politics. Both analyses repeated long held mythologies about the sixties and Dr. Jagan, and both eschewed the application of the revisionist methodology. The first one is by a competent economist Mr. Sasenarine Singh. He has been doing excellent work recently in dissecting the fiction of economic growth in Mr. Jagdeo’s reign. When he ventures outside of economics into the realm of history, Mr. Singh’s commentary leaves him open to torrid debates.
The story of the wrongs done to Premier Cheddi Jagan in the sixties became famous in and out of Guyana for two reasons. One is that Guyanese Indians embosomed it the way the Jews did the Holocaust and then passed it on to subsequent generations. This memory was kept alive by the second reason – Mr. Burnham who confronted Dr. Jagan in the sixties and wrested power from him did not endear himself to Indians who saw his government as racially biased and to crown it all, Mr. Burnham and his government turned out to be more dictatorial and less democratic.
The scholarly approach to the contents of the sixties is another story altogether. Historical investigation gives no recognition and puts no value on ethnicity, emotions and anger. The revisionist interpretation of the sixties brings into play material that East Indian intellectuals have to factor into their analysis of that period.
Let’s quote from Mr. Singh; “The facts are that the PNC and UF had very few attributes in common, save and except, they were anti-Jaganite parties.” I don’t see what is wrong with such a coalition. It has been part of modern politics and the latest example of it is the coalition government in the UK between the left-leaning Liberals and ultra-right wing Conservatives. The PNC and UF did what any sane organization would have done – grasp the opportunity to be in power. In 1992, Dr. Jagan did the same with a group of anti-socialist individuals he called the Civic Component.
Mr. Singh went on, “Mr. Burnham never believed in any coalition in any form unless it served his and only his exclusive purposes.” This was the culture not only of Mr. Burnham, but all of those from those days, including Dr. Jagan. Forget about personality, Mr. Singh, and focus on political culture. Jagan and Burnham practiced the same style of politics – Jagan in the sixties, Burnham in the seventies then Jagan again.
Surely, Mr. Singh, by now Dr. Henry Jeffrey’s words must have echoed in your ear when he wrote that Dr Jagan did not take too keenly at the prospect of the individual Civics forming themselves into an living organization. Dr. Hughley Hanoman said that long before Jeffrey made that statement. So much for coalition history.
Before we stay on course with Dr. Jagan and who he was, suffice it to say that the good guys versus bad guys tale of the sixties should be dead by now. This was a fiction worth burying and I think revisionist history has done just that.
The other letter is by Mr. Jang Singh. He wrote “The PPP does not have to engage in strenuous intellectual efforts to reinvent himself – it simply has to go back to where Dr. Jagan left it.” I would like to ask Mr. Singh, where did Jagan leave it? I will answer my own question. He and Mrs Jagan left it right where it is at the moment. Mr. Singh has to understand that with each passing day the legacy of Dr. Jagan is fading, because more and more is being written. Space would not allow me to name the last three books on him written by people who are not in the least anti-Jagan, anti-Indian, anti-PPP, pro-PNC, pro-African, but serious scholars. The latest work on Jagan is to be released in October by one of the Caribbean’s leading historians, Professor Colin Palmer (“Cheddi Jagan and the Politics of Power”). We will see what Palmer has to say.
The mythology and myths of Dr. Jagan could not have survived the fascist exercise of power under his party after 1992. As things get worse and worse, Dr. Jagan’s legacy will be on display. He cannot escape blame for the horrible mess his party is swimming in. Why? Because his political culture was, perhaps, even worse than Burnham’s. I say this because Burnham was assured and self-confident, Jagan was not.
Is Mr. Singh serious in telling us that Jagan was not happy with party paramountcy, party incestuousness, jobs for the boys?
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