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.)

This one is 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 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 wrote Churchill’s Indi­an Sum­mer, 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 in Par­lia­ment, 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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