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Sugar has allowed them merely allays discontent but does not touch its origin.
In a letter to the New Statesman and Nation at the time of the suspension of the constitution, Mr. Campbell wrote that 'the wonder is not that life in British Guiana is not Utopian, but that life and production can exist there at all'. In reply to this and other remarks of Mr. Campbell's similar to those I
have just outlined the New Statesman said that 'self-government means nothing if it does not mean freedom for elected governments to determine their own economic policy', and went on to suggest that the colonial system today was still based on the idea of capitalist exploitation: the Guiana sugar estates should be owned by the Guianese. There would have been no cause for discontent on that score if, when the plantations were going for peppercorn sums, the ex-slaves had bought them all up, instead of a few, and gained control of Sugar, but this did not happen for economic reasons it could not happen-and they are owned by a public British company. Mr. Campbell
East Indian woman
agreed that the system was imperfect but asked what better alternative, at the present time, existed. ‘A dynamic process has been started', he wrote, ... the question is have Europeans still got sufficient influence-they certainly have not controlover the process to guide it in the right direction for colonial peoples? What is the right direction? And how to attain it?'
There is a passage in Mr. Campbell's Chairman's Statement at the 1954 Annual General Meeting of Booker Bros., McConnell & Co. Ltd. which is important enough to quote in full:
'It must not be thought that we fear Guianese nationalism. We want
Here and towards the end of his Cambridge lecture Mr. Campbell touches on one of the main problems in British Guiana and in all colonial territories-the question of the part the Guianese can play in managing the country. 'It is a great disservice', he says, 'to colonial peoples to expect them at once to be able to manage their own affairs in the sort of world of which Europeans have generations of experience, but which
is comparatively new to them.' He is convinced that the backward territories will need European capital and skills for many years if they are to develop economically and improve their living standards. In answer to the accusations of colonial exploitation he says that in recent years far more money has been put into the colonies by business firms than has been taken out by them. He continues by expressing some distrust of a too rigid 'Western' standard in the colonies. In such countries 'parliamentary democracy can go disastrously wrong, leading to anarchy and the abuse of power and to the vicious suppression of minorities.' In summing up, Mr. Campbell insists that it is not only on moral grounds that Britain must solve the problems of her colonial relationships. He points out that we in Britain cannot live without the products and the markets of the Commonwealth and that old Western civilization cannot survive without the help and strength and the growing vigour of her young peoples.
Mr. Campbell's colonial credo is honest, broadly simple and humane; above all it is realistic and makes no promises of improvement which are unjustifiable in the light of the economic situation of Sugar in British Guiana. Recently Bookers have introduced a 'Cadet Scheme' by which Guianese may compete by examination to be given a thorough training which will enable them to rise in the Booker hierarchy to positions which formerly would only have been given to Europeans. It was unfortunate that not one of the candidates who entered for the <first examination reached the required standard. When this was announced there was an outcry in Georgetown that the whole thing was a pious fraud. The Scheme could have been introduced with greater tact, but it has not been abandoned and cadets of the right calibre will be found.1
Everywhere in British Guiana one is liable to hear attacks on Bookers, and its staff are sensitive about the unpopularity of the organization. But such unpopularity is inevitable when one firm has a monopolistic control of the country's main product and can be held as scapegoat for all shortcomings in the Guianese standard of living. Almost every attack on Bookers which I heard from Guianese was an emotional one;
1 Candidates of a higher standard came forward at a second examination, held in December, 1955, and four cadets were appointed.
the criticisms may frequently have been justified, but at their root lay a reluctance to reason or to accept the causes of distress as coming from any source other than the wicked exploitation by Sugar, and the 'sugar-coated Government', as Dr. Cheddi Jagan wittily describes it.
The case against Sugar is put by Dr. Jagan in his little book, Forbidden Freedom,' in which he gives an original view of the economic history of British Guiana. He denies that the Colony's difficulties arise from the problems of its geography. This is an excuse invented by imperialists to explain why they have not made a greater success of the Colony. The difficulties 'are man-made, and made by alien control'. He says that concentration on Sugar has prevented a balanced economy. ‘Expansion and diversification of agricultural production', say the authors of the World Bank Report, ‘are essential to the further growth and progress of the economy.' But whereas the British Guiana Government is-far too slowly-reclaiming land at three points which will eventually add nearly 25 per cent to the cultivated land area of the coast, Dr. Jagan's answer is ruthlessly to destroy the power of 'King Sugar'. He was himself born and brought up on a sugar plantation, Port Mourant, and his political principles are guided by a violent hatred of the sugar interests. In general sugar-workers' sons who have emancipated themselves into the professional or educated classes are more virulent in their hatred of Sugar than those who have remained estate employees; and Dr. Jagan is no exception. Generally a courteous and pleasant man in conversation he will become excited, indignant and lose all powers of proper reasoning when the subject of Sugar is discussed. I will summarize his attack on Sugar and make a few incidental comments.
The representatives of Sugar, he claims, have always been among the real rulers of the Colony; when they have been defeated in elections they have become nominated members of the Legislative or Executive Councils. Sugar representatives have appeared on various official boards and committees. "This political power', he says, 'permits the sugar planters to determine major questions of policy involving their own interests. ... In British Guiana the civil servants have sense enough to know that if they are to get promotion they cannot "buck" 1 Lawrence & Wishart, 1954.
against King Sugar.' It seems to me that in a Colony where Sugar is so important it is inevitable that its representatives should be found in positions of authority. If all such positions were filled by the courtiers of King Sugar it would not be healthy for the Colony, but this is not so and never has been so. King Sugar has lain in dust at the foot of his throne for such long periods at a time that to suggest there has been collusion between Sugar and the Government to exploit the Colony is too simple a statement, disregarding the fact that if there were too much disharmony between the Government and Sugar the people of British Guiana would suffer. The accusation that the administration must toe the line to Sugar needs far more definition before it can be taken seriously.
The main theme of Dr. Jagan's attack is, in a word, that the industry has needed cheap labour and has therefore created a labour force permanently larger than its needs. He is so certain of the cynicism of Government and Sugar that he claims that the campaign to end malaria had no humanitarian basis. 'If the sugar-workers', he wrote, 'were to remain alive-dead men produce no profits-some means had to be found to wipe out malaria.' He says that large areas of cultivable land are kept idle by the sugar estates because they will not hand it over to peasant farmers and thus reduce their labour surplus. The sugar planters, he says, control 170,000 acres and their tax returns [for 1950] showed that 50 per cent of their land holdings were uncultivated. These are vital statistics, but Dr. Jagan has not played fair. The figures given in the World Bank Report present the situation without emotional bias. The estates, says the Report, cover 155,000 acres; cane cultivation accounts for 72,000 acres, 15,000 acres lie under flood fallow each year, canals and trenches account for 24,000 acres, pasture 25,000, and the rest is given over to rice fields, ground provisions and dwelling areas. Seen in this way it is reasonable that less than 50 per cent should be under cane.
Moreover, Bookers are embarking on an experiment in peasant cane-farming. About 800 acres of planted cane land at Plantation Wales are to be divided into areas of about fifteen acres each and leased to selected individuals. Bookers will perform certain services for the tenants and buy their cane for processing. The experiment is under the supervision of a