Hands up all those who had a feeling of déjà vu when reading Wayne Brown’s ‘In the Obama era’ feature of Sunday, March 15. I plead guilty.
President Obama is proving to be a forthright, hands-on president. He does the job himself. His aim is to restore “socioeconomic fairness and decency to the workplace.” He seems determined to see that workers preserve their self-respect and dignity. Naturally, the blue collar workers will support him wholeheartedly; the rich and powerful would not take kindly to their economic and social status being threatened, their lifestyle compromised. They are “now ranging up against him.”
All this reminded me of the late Cheddi B Jagan, roughly 50 years ago. Barack Obama’s support “lies outside of Washington”; Cheddi Jagan’s lay mainly on the sugar estates. Both men saw with their own eyes the tough existence of the working class; both became determined to seek a better deal for the lower socioeconomic group.
In the Legislative Council, Dr Jagan was given a very hard time. I faintly recall the matter of some houses being built in the vicinity of the Agriculture Department in Vlissengen Road, to accommodate UK expatriates, around the early 1950s. The quote for each building was something in the region of BG$24,000, the equivalent of roughly £5,000. That sum, at that time, could purchase a substantial property in a residential area in the UK, and in the Legislative Council, Dr Jagan objected to the sum quoted, because he felt it was far too high. He was out-voted, and the OK was given for the work to proceed. Afterwards, in private, a legislator, who happened to be a hardware merchant, is reported to have said that he agreed the sum was over the top, but because the objection had come from Cheddi Jagan, he decided to vote with the others! Come to think of it, Forbes Burnham, arguably a ‘mild’ socialist, as a member of the city council, objected to money being spent on decorations for the Town Hall when a visit by the Queen was mooted. But, typically, he had a humorous take on it. About the decorations, he said: “Balloons, bunting, fairy lights? What, she is Christmas?”
So, President Obama may well experience the same sort of attitude from American plutocrats and the GOP fraternity. However, his leadership may be protected by the very strong, loyal support of the blue collar brigade, with their “wrath… of revolutionary proportions.” Removing him might cause severe unrest − chaos in the streets. With Dr Jagan, I have often felt that, given his popularity and influence on the sugar estates and the effect his ‘removal’ would have had on vested interests, he was safeguarded from “extreme prejudice.”
With Barack Obama at the helm, as leader of the free world, there is the prospect of huge global upheaval and transformation. Fortu-nately, he seems to have the full support of a capable, intelligent, equally dedicated wife.