Cheddi Jagan and Michael Manley--two political leaders of oppressed Caribbean nations--died March 6. Both were noted for being reform-minded progressives whose governments Washington targeted for destabilization.
Guyana President Cheddi Jagan died in a Washington hospital following heart surgery. He was 78 years old.
Former Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley, who was 72, died at home outside Kingston, the Jamaican capital, after a long battle against prostate cancer.
These two leaders were different politically. Manley was a social democrat who often went to great lengths to explain he was not a communist. For decades, Jagan was more openly identified with Marxism at a time when anti-Communist hysteria was running rampant.
Manley and Jagan both represented oppressed countries scarred by British colonialism and struggling to develop independently with the neocolonial boot of U.S. imperialism on their backs.
Neither advocated revolutionary armed struggle--the road followed by the Cuban revolutionaries and the only one that succeeded in liberating that nation from the imperialist yoke. But when Jagan and Manley even declared socialism a worthy goal they became marked as enemies by imperialism and the local capitalist class.
Jagan and Manley were both elected with overwhelming popular support, running under the banners of the Peoples Progressive Party and the Peoples National Party, respectively.
Jagan's party, based among sugar-cane workers, won three national elections from from 1957 to 1964. The country was set to become independent in 1966. Fearing that Jagan would help Guyana become a "second Cuba," U.S. President John Kennedy and British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan met in May 1963 and agreed that Britain would delay the colony's independence until they could push Jagan out of office.
The imperialists unleashed a campaign of "popular protests" to destabilize the Jagan government, which had championed many progressive measures affecting the poor and working class. Using the demonstrations as a pretext, Britain suspended the constitution.
Jagan was dismissed. British warships sailed into the area laden with occupation troops.
According to a report from the Center for National Security Studies (cited in R. McGehee's "Deadly Deceits"), the "CIA funded strikes and riots that crippled Guyana in 1962 and 1963 and led to pushing out Jagan's governing People's Progressive Party in the December 1964 elections. The CIA funneled its secret payments that placed Forbes Burnham in power through the AFL-CIO and AFSCME."
In that period, the top leadership of the AFL-CIO worked hand-in-hand with Washington's anti-Communist crusade.
Jagan was of Indian descent, as was a large part of the population of British Guiana. The CIA had successfully exploited the contradictions between Black and Indian workers there as it openly backed opposition figure Burnham, who was of African descent.
Michael Manley was the Jamaican prime minister from 1972 to 1980. Vowing to take a "non-capitalist"--though not Marxist-Leninist--path to development, his administration ushered in domestic and foreign policy changes that angered rich Jamaicans and the White House.
Progressive laws affecting labor, women and children were passed. His government took measures to create jobs and improve education, health care, housing and agriculture.
Much to the alarm of the Nixon and Ford administrations, the Jamaican government raised its share of royalties on the export of bauxite, the ore from which aluminum is made.
Manley's foreign policy supported Puerto Rico's independence from the United States. He backed the African National Congress in South Africa and other liberation movements.
Jamaica's relations with Cuba grew closer, and Manley visited Cuba in 1976. The next year, when Cuban President Fidel Castro visited Jamaica, swarms of people lined the roads to greet him.
The imperialists felt their interests threatened by these measures. Just as with Guyana, Washington targeted Manley's government. Besides "putting the squeeze on the economy," as Manley himself described it, a Washington-backed campaign of CIA terror left over 750 people, mostly young, dead.
With the country gripped by economic instability and violence, Manley lost the 1980 election to Edward Seaga, head of the conservative, right-wing Jamaica Labor Party.
Manley and Jagan both won their offices not through revolutionary struggle, but through elections. But because they had progressive programs that showed sympathy for socialism, they were targeted and ousted after violent imperialist destabilization.
Both leaders later returned to office, Manley in 1989 and Jagan in 1992. But their political programs had changed and their governments were under severe restrictions from U.S.- controlled financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
While their programs proved inadequate to liberate the workers and farmers of Guyana or Jamaica, both leaders reflected the burning desire of the masses of the people of their countries to take a socialist path to liberation from British and U.S. imperialism.
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