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Cheddi Jagan and the Politics of Power

British Guiana's Struggle for Independence

Colin A. Palmer

Publication Year: 2010

Informed by the first use of many British, U.S., and Guyanese archival sources, Palmer's work details Jagan's rise and fall, from his initial electoral victory in the spring of 1953 to the aftermath of the British-orchestrated coup d'état that led to the suspension of the constitution and the removal of Jagan's independence-minded administration. Jagan's political odyssey continued--he was reelected to the premiership in 1957--but in 1964 he fell out of power again under intense pressure from Guianese, British, and U.S. officials suspicious of Marxist influences on the People's Progressive Party, the popular nationalist party founded in 1950 by Jagan and his activist wife, Janet Rosenberg. But Jagan's political life was not over--after decades in the opposition, he became Guyana's president in 1992.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Series: H. Eugene and Lillian Youngs Lehman Series

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-viii

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pp. ix-x

I owe a debt of gratitude to the staffs of the various archives who aided me in my research. They include the fine public servants at the Public Record Office, London; the National Archives at College Park, Maryland; the Walter Rodney National Archives in Georgetown, Guyana; and the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre, also in Georgetown. ...

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pp. 3-12

“I does watchman at Clarke and Merton by night and I does get a small piece.” Thus began the statement that the frightened young man gave to the police in Georgetown on the afternoon of August 9, 1964. Emanuel Fairbain, alias Batson, had been picked up by members of the Crime Squad allegedly for bombing Freedom House, ...

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1. The Imperial Coup d'Etat

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pp. 13-62

There was the eerie suspicion, even a perverse expectation, that something unusual was in the air, but the day itself was ordinary, warm, and sunny. Georgetown was rife with rumors but no one knew how the day would end. The ministers of government were said to be in their offices hurriedly retrieving their papers and destroying some of them. ...

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2. Containing Cheddi and Scapegoating Savage

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pp. 63-94

Prime Minister Winston Churchill was intrigued by a news report he had just read in the London Times. Dated August 11, 1954, the article said that Dr. J. Lachmansingh, the minister of health and housing in the deposed PPP government, had chosen to go to jail following his conviction for having “subversive” literature in his possession. ...

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3. Taking Stock

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pp. 95-134

The charge was simple enough, but the task it set its recipients was both daunting and complex. Fresh from its successful coup in October, the British government was now ready to examine the circumstances for its unprecedented action in British Guiana and chart a new direction for the colony. ...

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4. Imagining and Constructing a New Guiana

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pp. 135-156

In the report of its findings, the Robertson Commission was pessimistic about British Guiana’s potential for economic change. “We do not believe that there can ever be built up in British Guiana the El Dorado which the masses seem to believe can easily be obtained by a re-distribution of wealth: ...

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5. Searching for Cheddi and the PPP

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pp. 157-190

The premier was on his way to Government House to bid farewell to the departing governor, Sir Ralph Grey. As he left the Public Buildings (the name given to the government’s offices) on that March morning in 1964, a schoolgirl booed and lifted her skirt at him, one of the most humiliating forms of insult to anyone, much less a head of government. ...

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6. The Politics and Trauma of Race

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pp. 191-240

The leader of the opposition was obviously in a reflective mood. Cheddi Jagan had lost the election the previous December and the politics of race had played the principal role in the voting. Writing in the World Marxism Review in October 1965, Jagan admitted there was a “tendency of anti-African racism” in the People’s Progressive Party that he led. ...

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7. The Politics of Power

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pp. 241-292

Cheddi Jagan’s defeat in December 1964 represented the triumph of Anglo-American policy in British Guiana. Forbes Burnham became the new premier and the head of a coalition government, subsequently leading his country to independence in 1966. ...

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8. Fairbain Redux

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pp. 293-308

The summer of 1964 was not a pleasant one for the people of British Guiana. The society was still experiencing aftershocks from the accumulated violence of the preceding months. Although the disorder abated by August, peace had not been restored. Emanuel Fairbain’s arrest and the horrible aftermath had divided Georgetown and the rest of the colony. ...

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pp. 309-314

Writing in 1596, George Chapman, the English playwright and poet, celebrated Sir Walter Raleigh’s encounter with Guiana in his quest for the fabled El Dorado. This ode to the new promised land reflected the optic of the colonizer and his bizarre fantasies about the colonized peoples’ submission and acquiescence to the domination of outsiders. ...

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pp. 315-316

Guyana is a country of enormous economic promise and blessed with enterprising citizens. But it is also a land with a racially divided polity and a history of internecine conflicts largely created and manipulated by some unscrupulous leaders. Forbes Burnham’s assumption of the premiership in December 1964 began his two-decade domination of the political life ...

Appendix 1: Memorandum Issued by the Advisory Committee Appointed by the Governor under the Emergency Order, 1953

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pp. 317-318

Appendix 2: Allegations against Sydney King and His Response

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pp. 319-324


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pp. 325-346


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pp. 347-350


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pp. 351-363

E-ISBN-13: 9781469603919
E-ISBN-10: 1469603918
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807834169
Print-ISBN-10: 0807834165

Page Count: 376
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: H. Eugene and Lillian Youngs Lehman Series