I first read Dr Cheddi Jagan’s, “ West on Trial,” when I was 14 years old and I was somewhat puzzled by Dr Jagan’s boast that he had put a shovel man named Fred Bowman to run against Dr Jangh Bahadur Singh in the 1953 elections and that Bowman had defeated Dr J B Singh. It was not until I read Dr Mohan Ragheer’s, “The Indelible Red Stain,” that I understood Dr Jagan’s motive. In an interview with Dr Ragheer in 1950 for Queens College’s Lictor newspaper, Dr Jagan still felt slighted by his first Georgetown host in mid 1930’s for making him cut grass for the goats, his second host for making him sleep on the floor, and resentment for Capt Nobbs, the QC Principal for placing him in First Form. It looked like Dr Jagan was prone to hold grudges, even imaginary ones, and he might have had one against Dr J B Singh.
Dr J B Singh had in early 1948 imparted some advice to the two youngest Indian politicians, Dr Jagan and Jainarain Singh. As regarded the electoral prospects, Dr J B Singh had this to say, “The biggest danger now is for Indians to push too hard, before the Blacks can be conditioned to accept an Indian victory in any future election.
Anyone who can command the Indian vote when universal suffrage comes…anyone who gets the rural Indians to vote for him will win the next elections. It’s simple arithmetic. But you must get the Negro vote too, including their middle class; good politicians learn to put pragmatism over more intellectualisms.”
Dr J B Singh on race relations, “So go easy; we can bring the Negroes to our side if we act smart..we have four maybe five years to bring them to our side; to do that we have to work smart, have the right platform to grab both Indians and Blacks so that they don’t fight one another, there’s enough in this land for everyone; let’s tell them that, and show them that; show them that we can be ourselves, keep our cultures, yet work and grow together, just as we play cricket together, compete, win and lose and yet have a drink afterwards.”
Dr J B Singh on courting the masses only, “True, the masses will make you win. But they won’t make you govern, not if you want to run a successful and prosperous country in which they too can have a fair chance to reach for the top.
You need the educated, the men and women with brains and money, thinkers, planners, professionals, men of business…This country is too small to afford to lose even one good brain. So we need all talent on our side. We have to choose our language and ideology accordingly in order to get all races on our side; we must get the Negroes, at least half of them.”
Dr J B Singh had some caustic words for Dr Jagan, “I know you left our Association in a huff, but that is your weakness, not the Association’s; the Association is people, many with conflicting views, all legitimate; that’s democracy. It is possible to influence views and direction but you wished to do that by diktat, not reason and discourse; you wanted to manoeuvre a bulldozer as if it is a motorcycle; you wished us to accept overnight your blind belief that Communism answers all questions, and that alignment with Stalin who gets his way by murdering his opponents and dissenters will be superior to dealing democratically with the world. How naïve you are; no wonder thinking people feel you are a mere pawn in somebody else’s chess game!”
Dr J B Singh was not done yet,” You’re are fond of using words like ‘imperialism’ ‘reactionary’, ‘struggle’, ‘militant’, ‘dialectic’ and so on , as if you invented them and the rest of us are ignorant. Think of them closely. Life is a series of compromises and adjustments that can go in any direction; so is politics…If we rush to overthrow and radicalize – to use Communist rhetoric- we will win quick in the short term with communist promises of everything for free but that would be a disaster, because we don’t have the money to do that, not unless your superiors in Moscow pay you big to give them a footing here. But you must know that the Brits and Yanks will not tolerate a Communist state here.”
I guess Dr Jagan did get his revenge in 1953 when the shovel man defeated the Indian doyen of British Guiana politics but history had proven that Dr J B Singh was absolutely correct and that Dr Cheddi Jagan was dead wrong in his communist mantras and at what devastating consequences for Guyana even seventy five years later.
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