H.N. Critchlow in Guyana’s history
Other People’s Powerful views
Yes, I’m quite aware that I often bore certain listeners and readers, when I repeat that “I’ve never attended any high school or university”. (Actually, I do it to many audiences really to inspire the needy, the deprived, the “unqualified” and unlettered, not to be hamstrung or defeated by the lack (of tertiary education. If they can’t still pursue that still valuable objective, there are so many positive alternatives, so much to contribute with the talents and skills they do have.)
Our Premier National hero Kofi, who led the Region’s first major Slave Rebellion – Berbice, 1763 – hardly had the opportunity to attend any school. Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow, surely another National Hero of this Nation, was also not a High School/University educated leader. Educated!?
(Go consider, most carefully, what a (good) “education” is) and it’s H.N. Critchlow I wish to dwell on, just a bit, today.
Because an acquaintance, knowing I’m somewhat “crazy ‘bout Critchlow”, directed me to read one of Kaieteur News’ Panel of Peeping Toms’ pieces. That reasonably well-put together column explored the role of both Critchlow and the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), even in its earliest manifestation as the Public Affairs Committee (PAC), in securing adult suffrage for the Guyanese m asses between the twenties and fifties. Yes, there had to be a well-led struggle for the “ordinary” Guyanese to get the vote.
So whilst I’ll never dispute that particular Peeper’s account of the sterling role of the PAC/PPP in winning the vote for the working-class, I regret the tone-even subliminal intent – in terms of the Peepman’s putting down of the role of H.N. Critchlow in that particular struggle (for the right to vote.) Why, the Ghost Columnist even subtly calls into question Critchlow’s seminal role in the socio-political history of this country. Let me contribute to the issue. For, according to Swami Aksharananda, too often some individuals seek to deconstruct other people’s heroes.
Advocate and “Black Crosby”
I now restrain pen and computer because Frankly Speaking, any proper account of the life and work of HN Critchlow would take a full book. I merely remind interested readers of the following: This South Georgetown dockworker, rising to the top of local trade union leadership from 1906, introduced the first registered and recognized trade union in these parts. Convened here, and attended far overseas, high profile labour conferences which promoted regional and international working-class trade-union solidarity; confronted the colonial planter class and British representatives; entered the legislature to continue working-class representation, just before the indefatigable efforts of Cheddi Jagan himself.
When the earlier descendants of the first coolie indentured immigrants were being mistreated and assumed a most aggressively responsive stance for basic worker rights, those Indo-Guyanese sought solace and advice from Critchlow. Those Indo-labourers christened him the “Black Crosby” after the European Immigration-Agent General whose mandate was to protect the legal rights of the Indo-Estate-Workers. Critchlow was there in April 1924, twelve sugar workers were gunned down by the colonial police.
And Historian Hazel Woolford would remind us – that “the BGLU and more specifically Hubert Critchlow, recognized that unless all ethnic groups respected themselves, their contribution to the development of the colonial Guianese society would be very limited and could have discouraged positive race relations. The effectiveness of the Union’s approach to handling the race issue was ultimately established by Critchlow’s ability to bring Guianese workers under the umbrella of the Labour Union and it was not surprising that East Indian workers conferred on him the title of ‘Black Crosby’. This was the most appropriate accolade that descendants of Indian immigrants could have bestowed on this trade unionist because ‘White Crosby’, or James Crosby, the Immigration Agent General, had been considered the only friend of the East Indian labourers.”
Careful about the vote
Which brings me to Critchlow and the vote. His (reversed) position on Adult Suffrage – for the salt of the earth to exercise their franchise without owning property or European/commercial/colonial status.
Yes, in the context of the self-determination he and Caribbean leaders were promoting from the thirties and forties, he was wrong to change his mind about giving the votes to the East Indians in the new electorate. This Peeping Tom comes off a lot like former Attorney-General Charles Ramson who first “enlightened” me about my Hero Critchlow’s “unpatriotic”, seemingly anti-Indian position then. The unnecessarily harsh language to describe Critchlow’s “adult-suffrage reversal (KN May 19, 2012) is unfortunate and partially informed, however.
For though on principle, “Skibby” Critchlow was wrong, some more research would indicate that he was concerned that the new Indo-voters, being isolated on the estates, being illiterate and vulnerable to rampant exploitation, could be easy prey to fake political leaders of those forties. His choice was poor. Such is the nature of human frailty.
But none must seek to detract from Critchlow’s role as representative of Guiana’s colonial masses. Yes, even Cheddi Jagan did pay him tribute when he was virtually abandoned by “his own” before he passed on. So Peep with an historian’s objectivity, Tom…
Some interesting views…
Not at all my suspected laziness. I just found these views riveting.
A Justin DeFreitas was on form lately.
“These are good people who acknowledge their suffering, but please don’t insult them (columnist Samaroo) by telling us that such harshness is a blessing”. Right on Justin, let’s not romanticise a daily, cruel existence as any “blessing.” Just let’s migrate (?).
DeFreitas also went to town, on the biological status of same-sex folks, marriage and society. “Matthew – Jesus acknowledged that some people are just born different… “ He then invoked Lady Gaga -“ Born this Way”. Also, “To be clear, the authority to marry people rests with man, not any God…” The blessings would be welcome though. Not so?
And poor GRA’s Khurshid Sattaur. As the scams unfold amongst his own staff, he took time out to explain how “avaricious businessmen are responsible for the high price of goods”. This made compelling reading. Now let the post clearance audit unit reveal some scams and names with respect to those business people who prey on the consumer-poor.
*1) Time for a Guyana Hall of Heroes!
*2) No Pan Africanist Group invited to Arrival Day events? No Indo-organisation saying Goodbye to Philip Moore?
*3) Read A.A. Fenty’s piece on Herman “Paul Adams” Ferguson launching his book in the USA.
`Til next week.