THE ELECTION CAMPAIGN IN 1953
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During 1952, the PPP continued a country-wide campaign to educate the expanded electorate of its political programme aimed at improving conditions in the country. Simultaneously, the leader of the Party continued his efforts in the Legislative Council to fight for the interests of the workers and farmers in Guyana and of oppressed people in other countries.
The Legislative Council was due to be dissolved on 29 November 1952, but its life was extended to 2 April 1953 by the colonial authorities. The extension was to enable the authorities to put into effect the arrangements of the new Waddington constitution to enable the holding of the new general election.
By the beginning of 1953 political parties were making themselves ready for the election. Only the PPP and the National Democratic Party (NDP), recently formed, were organised on a national basis. The NDP included personalities such as John Carter, Rudy Kendall and J.A. Nicholson, one of the leaders of the League of Coloured People (LCP). It was supported by the capitalist class, and was actively backed by the news media, the LCP, the Man Power Citizens' Association (MPCA) and some other unions generally regarded as "company unions". It was also supported by middle class Africans, but despite its overt appeal to African racism, it also received support from groups of persons from other ethnic groups. Among its members were middle-class East Indians, Lionel Luckhoo and Balram Singh Rai. Even though he was a supporter of Dr. Jagan in 1947, Rai refused to join the PPP after qualifying in England a lawyer, but instead joined the NDP and stood as one of its candidates.
Another party which emerged was the United Workers and Farmers Party (UWFP), formed by Daniel Debedin. It was expected that Debedin would have joined the PPP, but he decided against this because he felt that the Party would not win the election. His party was really a loose group of individuals, and it had no support from workers and farmers. It was supported by the British Guiana East Indian Association (BGEIA), and it claimed to represent the interests of middle class Indians.
Sugar planter interests in Berbice helped to put together the People's National Party (PNP) with the aim of opposing the PPP in that county. Another small grouping which arose called itself the United Guiana Party (UGP). Both of these were splinter groups of individuals with varying interests who broke away from the NDP.
The parties opposing the PPP had no concrete programme to present to the electorate except expressing strong opposition to communism which they claimed to be their platform. They accused the PPP of receiving money from the Soviet Union, and the media, including the weekly newspaper of the MPCA, carried sustained vicious attacks on the PPP and its leaders.
As the election campaign swung into high gear, the Anglican and Catholic Churches came out openly in opposing the PPP. One of their main grouses was that the Party had stated that it intended to end "dual control" of schools. In 1953, there were 297 schools, of which 19 were Government schools, 9 Government-aided, and the remaining 269 under control of Christian denominations, even though almost all were built with Government funds. The Anglican and Catholic Churches, the largest and most influential denominations, felt that if the schools were removed from their management, their influence on the education system would be severely restricted. They were not concerned that nearly half of the population of the country belonged to non-Christian religions.
Interestingly, some sections of the Hindu and Muslim communities also opposed the PPP on the misguided belief that the Party was anti-religion, and they formed a queer alliance with the Anglican and Catholic Churches. These groups included some of the leaders of the Sad'r Islamic Anjuman, the Muslim League, the Maha Sabha and the Pandits' Council.
Racists in the NDP and the LCP also attacked the PPP claiming that Indians dominated it and that Burnham and other African leaders were being used to win African votes. On the other hand, racists in the UFWP and the British Guiana East Indian Association claimed that Dr. Jagan, by having Africans in the PPP, was selling out the interests of the Indians. They added that the PPP, by supporting the proposed West Indian Federation, would open Guyana to a flood of Africans from the West Indian territories. Calling on Indians not to support the PPP, Daniel Debedin of the UFWP urged then to "vote for your own", thus giving origin to the racist Hindi slogan of "Apan Jhaat".
The PPP, with widespread support from workers and farmers of all races, and also from the TUC, presented its election manifesto which outlined its programme. In education, the party called for state-controlled, secular education, and the provision of more secondary and nursery schools. In relation to agriculture, the PPP proposed measures to include land reform, land settlement, security of tenure for farmers and provision for agricultural loans. The implementation of drainage and irrigation schemes was also planned. For housing, the party intended to develop low-rental housing schemes, while for economic growth, it saw the necessity of establishing new manufacturing industries. The first steps towards free health care for the people were also included in the programme. An additional intent of the PPP was to amend all existing laws and regulations which restricted the civil liberties of the people. It also announced that it would democratise all public institutions and would continue to wage the struggle for self-government and independence.
Despite its optimism, the PPP in early 1953 was not sure that it would win a clear majority of the seats. It felt, however, that it would win enough to at least form a strong opposition force in the legislature to enable it to champion the cause of the people. But by mid-April the Party, through its effective house to house campaign, was confident that it would win 17 seats.
There was some cause for concern in March 1953 when signs of division were demonstrated in the PPP ranks. At the third congress of the Party, Forbes Burnham and some of his supporters moved a motion calling for the leader of the Party to be elected by the General Council and not by the delegates to the congress. Burnham felt that his supporters would form the majority in the General Council and they would eventually elect him as leader of the Party. However, the congress rejected the motion and also elected members to the General Council who opposed Burnham's plan.
Nomination day was on 16 April and the PPP named candidates for 22 of the 24 constituencies. It did not contest in two interior areas due to a shortage of funds. The NDP contested in 15 constituencies, the PNP in 8 and the UGP in 4. The UFWP failed to contest as a party, and its leader presented himself as one of the 81 other independent candidates.