first_imgAt Babu Jaan, as the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) commemorates the death of their founder Dr Cheddi Jagan, there are lessons to be gleaned from his experience that can serve Guyana in the present. And this is as it should be. We inevitably look back at history to seek answers to questions posed in our present from the experience of those who preceded us. The answers may not be identical to those that were proffered in the past, but at least they may suggest a particular approach to be taken.When Jagan was born in 1918 after WWI, Indian immigration has just been discontinued but it would be another two years that the last indentured contracts would expire. Both his parents had arrived as “child immigrants” and for his father to have risen to the position of “head driver” by the time he sent Cheddi to study at Queens College in Georgetown, he must have been an incredibly resourceful individual who would have had a great influence on his oldest son. Even though he was tied to a sugar plantation on the periphery of Georgetown, this did not prevent him from perceiving that education was the way up and out from that “total institution”. And that he chose the very best of what was available at the time – where the sons of the elite were groomed for leadership, meant he did not accept his humble beginnings disqualified his offspring from aspiring to that status.Today, the sugar industry is in ruins, brought there through a combination of the evolution of global production and trade and by the machinations of vicious politicians in Guyana. The People’s National Congress (PNC) in 1964 saw the sugar workers who supported the PPP and Jagan, as a force that must be destroyed so they would be unchallenged in the political realm. The levy that was imposed on the sugar industry, which was soon nationalised, sucked all profits out so that the necessary modernisation to reduce the cost of production was never even attempted.But the lesson of Jagan’s life is now even more relevant: the children of sugar workers must seek to become educated for the new economy that the discovery of oil could make possible. But just as those who reaped the profits of sugar – first Bookers and then the PNC – never used it to develop the rural sugar-based communities, it has now become clear this new PNC-led Government will continue in the same mode. The mass firing of thousands is only the beginning: the aim is to ensure those communities remain as hewers of wood and drawers of water. Over the last two and a half years one has to only look at who have been selected for scholarships; internships and fellowships to take over the mantle of leadership.So like Jagan – senior and junior – the sugar workers and their children will have to achieve by their own efforts. Jagan returned from his studies as a professional – a dentist – and was therefore able to remain independent to chart his own destiny. And not so incidentally to also dedicate himself to right the wrongs that were so obvious all around him. So it was then and so it will have to be again. And maybe it is for the best: they will not be at the mercy of the PNC as they were during its first incarnation when it nationalised 80 per cent of the economy.The PPP at Babu Jaan will have to enunciate a vision that takes the above into focus. The struggle ahead is not just “political” in the narrow sense it has come to be understood but “political” in the fundamental sense of appreciating that all relations are “political” in the apprehension of its unequal distribution and the need for justice to be done.The struggle ahead therefore must be waged on all fronts: in the words of Antonio Gramsci, a war of position and a war of manoeuvre must be conducted simultaneously.last_img

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