Churchill Haters’ Feast of Jagan (Or: The Cheddi Gorge)

Churchill Haters’ Feast of Jagan (Or: The Cheddi Gorge)

Ched­di Jagan?! France’s fore­most Churchill his­to­ri­an, Pro­fes­sor Antoine Capet of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Rouen, sends along a brand new Fake Churchill Calum­ny. (If the FCC didn’t have copy­right, I’d reg­is­ter the initials.)

Here is one from those fair and bal­anced enti­ties, “Crimes of Britain” and the “Mal­colm X Move­ment.” In the back­ground, snide­ly, they play “Land of Hope and Glo­ry.” It takes only 57 sec­onds to recite sev­en* long-dis­proven, shop­worn Churchill sins—plus one new one: “Churchill oust­ed demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly elect­ed Ched­di Jagan in British Guiana, 1953.” Con­grat­u­la­tions. That’s real­ly original!

*See list below.

Who was Cheddi Jagan?

Ched­di Jagan (r.) turned out okay in the end. Here he is meet­ing with act­ing Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Levi Eshkol in Jerusalem, 4 Decem­ber 1961. (© Nation­al Pho­to Col­lec­tion of Israel, Wiki­me­dia Commons)

Ched­di Berret Jagan (1918-1997) was edu­cat­ed at Howard and North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ties in Amer­i­ca. In 1953 he became the first per­son of Hin­du descent to head a gov­ern­ment out­side of South Asia. By 1953, under its new con­sti­tu­tion, he was elect­ed British Guiana’s Chief Min­is­ter.

Jagan orga­nized the People’s Pro­gres­sive Par­ty (PPP), then wide­ly regard­ed as Marx­ist. Those were the days, remem­ber, of “Red Scare” and Com­mies under the bed. In 1953, when dis­or­der broke out after Jagan’s elec­tion, the British gov­ern­ment feared a Marx­ist revolution.

Here is where the truth diverges from the Gospel accord­ing to “Crimes of Britain.” Win­ston Churchill did not “oust” Ched­di Jagan. His Colo­nial Sec­re­tary, Oliv­er Lyt­tle­ton, at request of Gov­er­nor Alfred Sav­age. sus­pend­ed the con­sti­tu­tion and sent troops to George­town. Wide­ly wel­comed by Guyanans, they quick­ly restored order. Lyt­tle­ton also sus­pend­ed the pow­ers of, but did not arrest, Jagan and his ministers.

The buck stops with the Prime Min­is­ter, and Lyt­tle­ton did his duty: He referred his actions to the Cab­i­net. Churchill’s response is instruc­tive of his life­time con­cern with the rights of peo­ples of all col­ors and the rule of law.

“No arrests without charges”

In Cab­i­net on 6 Octo­ber 1953, Churchill raised the mat­ter and gave his opin­ions: (1) The gov­ern­ment should announce “all nec­es­sary steps to restore law and order and pre­vent the estab­lish­ment of a Com­mu­nist regime in the Colony.” (2) Lyt­tle­ton must inform “Com­mon­wealth and inter­est­ed for­eign gov­ern­ments.” (3) The British com­man­der of the West Indies Sta­tion should not have fueled the uproar by sail­ing with the troops. The Cab­i­net endorsed Churchill’s views.

Next, two days lat­er, Churchill said they could not sus­pend the British Guiana con­sti­tu­tion with­out approval of Par­lia­ment. The Cab­i­net said Gov­er­nor Sav­age could not arrest Jagan and his PPP colleagues:

The Prime Min­is­ter said he had no doubt that this was the right course. Removal of the Min­is­ters’ port­fo­lios and sus­pen­sion of the con­sti­tu­tion could be abun­dant­ly jus­ti­fied on the ground that Min­is­ters had been giv­en a fair tri­al [mean­ing “chance”] but had demon­strat­ed their their man­age­ment of the Colony’s affairs could only lead to its ruin. It would, how­ev­er, be very much hard­er to jus­ti­fy arrest­ing and detain­ing men who would of neces­si­ty remain Min­is­ters for the time being if they were not to be charged with any spe­cif­ic offence. [Empha­sis mine.]

The Cab­i­net fur­ther agreed that, with order restored, no more troops should be sent.

“Freedom, prosperity and happiness”

On Octo­ber 10th, Churchill made his famous “come­back” speech to the Con­ser­v­a­tive Par­ty Con­fer­ence at Mar­gate. Every­one won­dered if he had recov­ered from his sum­mer stroke. He had. British Guiana was his first subject:

I am sure you are all relieved by the news from British Guiana…. It is always a dif­fi­cult prob­lem to decide at what point Com­mu­nist intrigues men­ace the nor­mal free­dom of a com­mu­ni­ty, but it is bet­ter to be in good time than too late…. We shall cer­tain­ly seek oppor­tu­ni­ties in both Hous­es to present to them the case as we see it and to invite their approval of what we have done. (All quo­ta­tions from The Churchill Doc­u­ments, Vol. 23, Hills­dale Col­lege Press, 2019.)

Not as good a socialist as they thought

Sir Antho­ny Seldon’s Churchill’s Indi­an Sum­mer was the first study of Churchill’s 1951-55 admin­is­tra­tion. It was the most author­i­ta­tive account until Bar­bara Leaming’s Churchill Defi­ant and Andrew Roberts’ Walk­ing with Des­tinyOf the agi­tat­ed Labour opposition’s demand for a full debate on British Guiana, Sel­don wrote (376-77):

Labour over­re­act­ed with­out being in full pos­ses­sion of the facts, but their fury grad­u­al­ly petered out as it became clear that the Gov­ern­ment of Dr. Ched­di Jagan had been nei­ther as good social­ists nor as respon­si­ble as they were led to believe. Lyt­tel­ton pub­lished a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of the Government’s action in a White Paper on 20th Octo­ber. A com­mis­sion was lat­er appoint­ed under Sir James Robert­son, whose report, pub­lished in Octo­ber 1954, ful­ly jus­ti­fied Lyttelton’s action.

For the record, the oth­er Churchill sins list­ed by “Crimes of Britain” are:

“Over 4 mil­lion peo­ple starved to death in Ben­gal on Churchill’s orders.” Wrong. See Arthur Her­man, “Absent Churchill, the Ben­gal Famine would have been worse.”

“The Black & Tans were Churchill’s brain­child.” Wrong. See Paul Addi­son, Churchill on the Home Front: “Churchill seems to have played no part in the ini­tial [1919] deci­sion to recruit them.”

“Churchill bankrolled Ibn Saud & helped foist Wah­habism on the region.” Wrong. Ibn Saud bankrolled and foist­ed Wah­habism with his boun­ti­ful oil revenues.

“Churchill ordered the Brit Army to fire on anti-Nazi pro­tes­tors in Greece 1944.” Wrong. Churchill bro­kered peace between anti-Nazi roy­al­ists and com­mu­nists, while order­ing the Army to defend itself. See Andrew Roberts on The Churchill Doc­u­ments, Nor­mandy and Beyond.

“In 1953, Churchill led the coup d’etat that over­threw democ­ra­cy in Iran.” Wrong. Churchill approved, but was main­ly a bystander. See Mar­tin Gilbert, Win­ston S. Churchill, Volume 8.

“1.5 mil­lion went to camps/detention vil­lages in Kenya on Churchill’s orders.” Wrong. Churchill spoke only twice in Cab­i­net of Kenya unrest: Once to express con­cern over loss of life. Once to warn against “mass exe­cu­tions.” See “Def­con 1: The Bat­tle for Churchill’s Memory.”

“Ardent sup­port­er of the Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion, Churchill facil­i­tat­ed Zion­ism in Pales­tine.” Right. Stand up! Is this real­ly still debatable?

“He plant­ed the seed to strip vot­ing rights from black peo­ple in South Africa.” Wrong. He waged an uphill bat­tle with Boers and Britons for native rights in South Africa. See “The Art of the Pos­si­ble: Churchill, South Africa and Apartheid,” Part 1 and Part 2.

Until next time: game, set and match

”For want of me the world’s course will not fail.

When all its work is done the lie shall rot.

The Truth is great and shall prevail,

When none cares whether it pre­vail or not.”

—Coven­try Pat­more (1823-1896)

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