THE PAC AND THE 1947 ELECTIONS
The Bulletin also publicised international issues, among which were the Palestinian problem, racial discrimination in the United States, the Marshall Plan, the West Indies Federation, and the post-war crisis in Great Britain.
In the beginning, the PAC did not have the organizational capacity to reach out to the working class whose cause it was championing. It was based in Georgetown, and its four-page Bulletin — increased later to eight pages — was limited to just a few hundred copies produced on a manual duplicating machine.
But what boosted its image in early 1947 was when leading members of the Government and the big-business community, no doubt irked by articles in the publication, called for the Bulletin to be suppressed. They viewed it as subversive literature, but this only helped to increase its popularity of the PAC among the rest of the population.
With the expansion of the circulation to workers in Georgetown and the sugar estates of the now much-demanded Bulletin, a number of trade union leaders and rank-and-file workers also were attracted to the PAC and became involved in its agitation activities. As more and more persons, including some from rural areas, joined the movement, PAC members began visiting rural villages and the sugar estates to hold political meetings with the residents.
In the course of its public education work, the PAC distributed thousands of booklets which it received as donation from political parties and various progressive groups all over the world.
By this time, there was a clear understanding that general elections would be held towards the end of the year. The PAC therefore increased its political work by urging persons who met the education, property and salary qualifications to register to vote. Dr. Jagan and other members of the PAC also visited rural and urban communities to discuss political and ideological issues with the people.
The PAC felt that the Legislative Council must have genuine representatives to look after the interests of the working class and farmers. As a result, the organization decided that Dr. Jagan, Mrs. Jagan and Jocelyn Hubbard should contest the elections as independent candidates. At that time, the leading political party was the Labour Party which banded together a group of individuals in early 1947 to contest the elections. These individuals had varied interests, but they were not closely linked with the struggles of the working class and farmers.
When Dr. Jagan announced his candidacy, he listed four qualifications which he felt a candidate must possess in order to give proper representation to the electorate. These were: a full awareness of working class conditions and problems; a thorough knowledge of the theory and practice of comparative governments with special emphasis on labour legislation; open and continuous identification with labour's grievances and aspirations; and sincerity and honesty of purpose.
While claiming these qualifications, he also presented a manifesto which dealt with issues affecting constitutional change, agriculture, education, housing, medical service and labour legislation. His position on labour legislation, in particular, was very advanced. He called for a 40-hour week without reduction in pay, a minimum wage law for all working people, two weeks holiday with pay; time and a half for overtime and double time for Sundays and holidays; equal pay for equal work; and improvement of working conditions with regards to health standards. In the course of his campaign he also championed the demand for universal adult suffrage.
In the 1947 elections, a large section of the employed was granted the right to vote on the recommendation of the Moyne Commission that had enquired into the social and economic conditions in the British West Indies following disturbances of the late 1930s. The franchise was still limited to property owners and wage earners, but it was extended to those persons who earned at least $10 per month. However, candidates for elections had to earn at least $100 per month.
To his advantage, Dr. Jagan had his youthful eagerness and optimism as well as a determined group of dedicated campaign assistants, all of whom supported the ideals of the PAC. Among them was Sydney King who helped to organize the house- to-house campaign in Buxton and surrounding villages.
By this time, people had become generally disappointed with many of the legislators since they tended to represent the interests of big business and not those of the ordinary people. Following the end of the Second World War, the colonial Government had promised to implement projects for the development of the social and industrial infrastructure and the expansion of more job opportunities for the people. However, these promises did not materialise, and the legislators in the "Long Parliament" of 1939-1947 did almost nothing to remedy the social and economic problems affecting the people. Some of these legislators did not even bother to attend important sessions of the Legislature. Dr. Jagan was well aware of the people's feelings of disgust with the legislators and he capitalised on this mood among the people in the Central Demerara constituency to win support for his campaign.
He also openly challenged men of influence and power. His opponents were John D'Aguiar, H.L. Palmer and Frank Jacob. D'Aguiar himself was the representative of the district in the Legislative Council. In addition to being a member of the Executive Council (the Governor's "Cabinet") and Chairman of the Rice Marketing Board, he was also a leading member of the big-business community. Further, he was heavily backed by the print media and by the Catholic Church, which at that time was one of the biggest supporters of British colonialism. Palmer and Jacob were relatively popular in the district because of their involvement in local government affairs (in the case of the former) and legal affairs (in the case of the latter). However, Palmer, supported by the League of Coloured People, and the Labour Party candidate Jacob, who was backed by the East Indian Association, did not have the zeal in campaigning among the grassroots as did Cheddi Jagan and his team of purposeful campaign assistants.
Mrs. Jagan contested the Central Georgetown constituency against the incumbent representative Percy Wight, the owner of the Daily Argosy who had served on a number of occasions as mayor of Georgetown. Mrs. Jagan was firmly supported by a number of trade unions including the Transport Workers' Union and the British Guiana Clerks Union of which she was secretary. It was clear very early that her campaign was making inroads and that Wight would lose. As a result, members of the big-business community persuaded John Fernandes, a businessman with close connection to the Catholic Church to enter the race. His campaign, heavily funded by big-business and supported by the Catholic Church, was directed against Mrs. Jagan who was described as a communist threat.
In the North Georgetown constituency, the LCP mounted a very unpleasant racist campaign against Hubbard who was of European descent. His opponent was Dr. J. A. Nicholson, one of the leaders of the LCP.
The elections were held on the 24 November 1947 in the 14 constituencies. Of the 59,193 registered voters, 71 percent went to the polls. In the Central Demerara constituency with 5,454 votes, Dr. Jagan won with 1,592 or 31 percent. D'Aguiar obtained 1,299, Palmer 1,471 and Jacob 802. After the results were announced, Dr. Jagan, in a brief speech, declared, "We, the people have won. Now the struggle will begin."
In the Central Georgetown constituency, Fernandes won with 1,193 votes while Mrs. Jagan came second with 724 votes. It was clear that property and literacy qualifications prevented hundreds of persons in that constituency to vote. This, no doubt, prevented her from winning since most of these persons were PAC supporters.
In the North Georgetown constituency, the racist campaign against Hubbard enabled Nicholson to be elected despite the former's enviable record as General Secretary of the TUC.