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Jagan's Fourth Government, 1992-1997

Over time, Jagan’s (rhymes with Reagan) pragmatism and administrative skills would mature into a more cohesive and praxis-based analysis. His book “The West on Trial: My Fight for Guyana’s Freedom” is a fine example. Yet, for years, colonial overlords of Guyana and Western journalists were bent on portraying Cheddi Jagan as a communist. Jagan’s popular support was owed much less to his Marxist pronouncements than his personal leadership on behalf of working and poor people, especially, sugar workers. Jagan’s naivety and also his deep loyalty to the principle of political freedom made him reluctant to disavow his sympathies with communism and communist organizers globally. Eventually, he had grown tired of the countless attacks in the media, splits in the party and imperial hostility by the West. He began focusing more on a cross-class nationalist message. Critics of Jagan either saw him as a dogmatic Marxist or one who rejected the label for political opportunity.

Unlike most of the leaders of the Caribbean Left, Jagan long described himself as a Marxist and his ideologies grew with time: “As a passionate anticolonialist, I am interested in the independence of my country – political independence; as an anti-imperialist, I am interested in the end to the domination and subjection of the economy of my country; as a Democrat, I am interested in preserving liberties and freedom of all the people – not only in preserving but in enlarging them; as a Socialist, I am interested in the creation of a new society which will lay the basis for the end of exploitation.”

Walter Rodney represented the voice of a younger generation frustrated with the racial bitterness. He said: “…more than one political party has been responsible for the crisis of race relations on this country. I think our leadership has failed us on that score. I think external intervention was important in bringing the races against each other from the 50’s and particularly in the early 1960’s. But I am concerned with the present. If we made that mistake once, we cannot afford to be misled on that score today. No ordinary Afro-Guyanese no ordinary Indo Guyanese can today afford to be misled by the myth of race. Time and time again it has been our undoing.”

Jagan’s political life, which began in 1946, reached its peak in 1992 when he was elected President of Guyana. Cheddi Jagan should occupy a special place in Caribbean politics - students of political science should study his achievements and weaknesses; Caribbean daughters and sons should respect his commitment and humility in public life. His political story is one of a dentist trained in the United States of America and developing an aggressive approach to social change compared to the gradualist Fabian Socialist and UK trained regional counterparts of the time. He was always committed to the working people of Guyana and the poor; his vision for a “New Human Order” was one of those big ideas to give him policy space for a people-centred path to development. He was a thinking man; a man in love with long notes, statistics and the peace of mind he had at his desk. He endured nearly three decades in the shadows of government in opposition and never developed authoritarian tendencies and revenge when he returned to the top at 74 years old.

George Lamming remembers him best: “There is no Caribbean leader who has been so frequently cheated of office; none who has been so grossly misrepresented; and no one who, in spite of such adversity, was his equal in certainty of purpose and the capacity to go on and on until his time had come to take leave of us...”

In March President Cheddi Jagan of the Peoples' Progressive Party (PPP), who had been elected in 1992 in the first democratic election since 1965, died suddenly. He had been complaining of poor health and excessive fatigue since at least September 1964. Cheddi Jagan suffered a heart attack on February 14, 1997 but despite treatment at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC, he died there on March 6, 1997. He was survived by his wife, Janet and their son and daughter). Prime Minister Samuel Hinds was sworn in as President that month in an orderly and peaceful transition. On December 15, citizens voted in free, fair, and nonviolent national elections. The PPP won a parliamentary majority, and PPP candidate Janet Jagan, widow of the late president, was sworn in as President on December 19.

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Page last modified: 14-05-2017 18:32:53 ZULU