THE POLITICAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
Ever since Dr. Jagan resigned from the MPCA in 1945, he, more than anyone else, saw the need for a political organisation to represent the interests of the workers. As a result, he and his wife along with Ashton Chase and Jocelyn Hubbard decided to establish the Political Affairs Committee on the 6 November 1946.
The formation of the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) ushered in a new and dynamic period in the history of Guyana. It marked the beginning of the intense struggle against British colonialism and for the establishment of programmes to improve the economic, social and political conditions of the people of Guyana.
The leaders of the PAC had already acquired some experience in the areas of trade union and political activities. Dr. Jagan had gained trade union experience and his writings in local journals on political and Caribbean issues were already well known in Guyana and the English-speaking Caribbean. Ashton Chase was Secretary of the British Guiana Labour Union (BGLU), Hubbard was General Secretary of the Trades Union Council (TUC), and Janet Jagan, while involved in co-ordinating political research with Dr. Jagan, had already established herself as a leader of the Women's Political and Economic Organisation (WPEO).
Up to the period of the formation of this small political organisation, the great majority of the people of Guyana, comprising mainly of workers and poor farmers, had no political leadership to champion their cause and to demand better living conditions from the colonial Government which represented the interests of the big-business community. The main established trade unions such as the British Guiana Labour Union (BGLU) and the Man Power Citizens' Association (MPCA) had a limited amount of political clout, and thus, they themselves could do very little to bring better benefits for the workers they represented. Further, since the suffrage was limited to those who owned property or income above a certain amount, the great majority of the people could not participate in choosing a Government to represent their interest. Even among people who were interested to maintain the status quo, small political groupings sprang up just before elections to represent various business or property interests, but they dissolved as soon as the elections were over.
In this second half of the 1940s the people of the world were still rejoicing over the defeat of Hitlerite fascism. The defeat of this ideology of suppression gave encouragement to anti-colonial movements particularly in Asia and Africa to step up their struggle for self-government and political power. Young members of the intelligentsia in colonial territories began to demand that the principles of self-determination as set out in the Atlantic Charter signed in 1941 by Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt should apply to their countries also. The successes of the struggle in India provided a big morale booster for the anti-colonial struggle and helped in greatly influencing the eventual formation of the PAC in Guyana.
In the first issue of the mimeographed PAC Bulletin of the 6 November 1946, the Committee stated that it aimed "to assist the growth and development of labour and progressive movements of British Guiana to the end of establishing a strong, disciplined and enlightened Party, equipped with the theory of scientific socialism". It also announced that it intended "to provide information and to present scientific political analyses on current affairs both local and international" and to "foster and assist discussion groups through the circulation of bulletins, booklets, and other printed matter".
Only 60 copies of this first issue of the PAC Bulletin were printed, and they were distributed to a small group of prominent persons who, however, were not very influential politically. Many of these persons were attracted to the socialist ideology which, in the 1940s, was very popular among workers and the middle class. This was no doubt due to the war-time alliance between the Soviet Union and the USA and Great Britain. Even some leading Christian priests were openly advocating socialism and closer relations with the Soviet Union.
The PAC immediately commenced its task of educating the Guyanese people about the existing political, economic and social issues in the country. At first, the original leaders of the PAC organised discussion groups of young members of the intelligentsia in Georgetown, and soon some of the country's most brilliant intellectuals became members of this small but increasingly popular organisation.
With the expansion of the circulation to workers in Georgetown and the sugar estates of the now much-demanded PAC Bulletin which analysed many pressing issues, a number of trade union leaders and rank-and-file workers also were attracted to the PAC and became involved in its agitation activities. The PAC, in the course of its public education work, distributed tens of thousands of booklets which it received as donation from political parties and various progressive groups all over the world. Leading personalities who became members included Ram Karran, Sydney King, Brindley Benn, Rory Westmaas and Martin Carter.
The PAC made full use of the Moyne Commission Report of 1939, which described the atrocious economic and social conditions in Guyana, to propagate its demands for change. It proposed that conditions could only improve with the "establishment of a well-planned collective industrial economy" to replace the colonialist-imposed capitalist economy which was providing "a very low standard of living for the majority of the inhabitants of British Guiana".
The PAC also began the demand for the participation of all the people in the choice of the Government and urged the speedy implementation of universal adult suffrage without literacy qualifications, and for the establishment of self-government for Guyana.
The PAC analyses and programmes from the beginning were attractive to workers of all ethnic groups; hence working people, and also members of the young intelligentsia, of all ethnic groups, were attracted to the organisation.
By the time the PAC was just a year old, its influence was already being feared by the ruling class, and in an effort to undermine the support this revolutionary organisation was attracting, the pro-colonialist press began to label it as a "communist" front, and translated the acronym "PAC" to mean "Push All Communism".