On the the 100th Birth Centenary of the late Dr Cheddi Jagan it is opportune to reflect on the life and work of this outstanding son of the soil who is regarded by many as the Father of this Nation.
Once in a lifetime history throws up leaders who possesses that unique ability to understand the historical moment of their time and on the basis of that understanding articulate and represent the issues of the moment in order to transform society. Their mission was not simply to interpret the society in which they lived but to change it in positive ways.
Dr Jagan was one such person. He was able to view things holistically and dialectically. He saw for instance, the interconnection between poverty and the capitalistic mode of production and distribution where the fruits of human labour were not equitably distributed, but were siphoned off by a handful of people who owned the means of production. Poverty for him was structural and resulted from a production mode in which profits were placed ahead of people and their basic economic and cultural needs.
From the very inception of his insertion into the landscape of Guyana’s politics he recognized and passionately advocated the need for a new political and economic architecture, where the commanding heights of the economy, in particular sugar and bauxite, should be socialised. The true benefits of economic socialisation could only be realized under a working-class government. In other words, there must be a convergence of the economic base and the political superstructure, failing which there could be all manner of aberrations such as parasitic state capitalism, which is what in fact took place during the early stages of nationalisation under the ‘socialist’ PNC regime.
Dr Jagan was, in a nutshell, an advocate for the poor and the downtrodden not only in Guyana, but in the world at large. This found expression in his strong advocacy for a New Global Human Order which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.
Dr Jagan has left a legacy of struggle that is second to none among Caribbean and other world leaders. It is for us now to embrace his call for national unity and for a society in which every Guyanese, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or creed is provided with an opportunity to develop his or her potential to the fullest.