Sweetening “Bitter Sugar” : Jock Campbell, the Booker Reformer in British Guiana, 1934 – 1966

Sweetening “Bitter Sugar” : Jock Campbell, the Booker Reformer in British Guiana, 1934 – 1966

By Clem Seecharan
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Book Description

This book is about Jock Campbell’s role in the shaping of British Guiana (Guyana) towards the end of the empire. Campbell, the head of the Booker Company which owned most of the sugar plantations in colonial Guyana, was a reformer whose Fabian socialist beliefs drove him to secure major benefits for sugar workers, in the 1950s-60s.

Clem Seecharan explores the fascinating interplay between Campbell’s

programme of reforms and the doctrinaire Marxism of Guyana’s charismatic politician CheddiJagan. Fed by his notion of ‘bitter sugar’ and an umelenting hostility to Booker,Jagan exploited the loyalty of Indian sugar workers to foment instability on the plantations and thus undermined Campbell’s mission to alleviate the colony’s bitter plantation legacy.Seecharan provides a rigorous analysis of Campbell - a complex, progressive, contradictory and passionate man - and his work in turbulent British Guiana, marked by nationalist stirrings, mobilisation for decolonisation, the fragmenting ofjagan’s nationalist coalition, and descent into racial hatred and violence. This is deftly handled in the context of the rise of Fidel Castro and Kennedy’s Cold War obsessions.

Sweetening ‘Bitter Sugar’ is part biography, part history and politics. It also encompasses ethnicity, trade unionism, agricultural and technological innovation, and health, housing and social welfare reforms. It is anoutstanding, elegantly written study in modem Caribbean historiography.

Table of Contents
  • List of Illustrations
  • Abbreviations
  • Preface
  • Part 1: Forces That Shaped A Radical Temperament
  • Prologue — From Cheddi Jagan’s Bitter Sugar (1953)
  • 1. Sugar in My Blood
  • 2. Sugar in His Blood: Jock Campbell’s Antecedents
  • 3. Campbell’s Boyhood: The Impact of the ‘Other’
  • 4. Beyond the Mould: Down and Up from Oxford
  • Part 2: The Guyanese Sugar Plantation and the Making of a Reformer: 1934-1940
  • 5. Demystifying the Romance of Demerara Sugar: Campbell’s Apprenticeship in British Guiana, 1934-37
  • 6. Trouble on the Plantations, 1935: Workers Demand Change
  • 7. Ayube Edun, The Guiana Review and the Birth of the MPCA, 1936-39: Sugar Workers Find a Voice
  • 8. Campbell, Mild Reforms and the Beginning of the Booker ‘Cause’, 1938-40
  • Part 3: Getting into Stride: The Case for Reform Vindicated, 1941-1949
  • 9. Campbell with Sydney Caine at the Colonial Office: A Model for Reform During the War
  • 10. Governor Lethem and the Plantocracy in British Guiana, 1941-46: Another Model for Campbell
  • 11. Race, Constitutional Change and the PAC: Edun, Lethem and the Making of Jagan’s Marxism, 1944-48
  • 12. ‘Bitter Sugar’ and Unionism: Jagan, the MPCA and the Road to Enmore, 1944-48
  • 13. ‘Bitter Sugar’: The Venn Commission and its Context, 1948-49
  • 14. The Venn Commission Report, 1949: Blueprint for Campbell’s Reforms
  • Part 4: Revolution or Reform?: Jagan’s Marxism v. Campbell’s Reformism
  • 15. ‘Bitter Sugar’: Unearthing the Roots of Jagan’s Marxism
  • 16.Campbell’s Response to Jagan’s Politics: Anti-Communism, 1947-56
  • 17. Belated Ally?: Campbell’s Modus Vivendi with Jagan, 1957-60
  • 18. Jagan (and Burnham) in 1960: Campbell’s Confidential Assessment
  • Part 5: Sweetening ‘Bitter Sugar’ I: Shaping the Instruments for Reform
  • 19. ‘Practical Idealism’: Campbell’s Philosophy on Reform
  • 20. The Commonwealth Sugar Agreement (1951) and British Guiana: The Foundation for Campbell’s Reforms
  • Part 6: Sweetening ‘Bitter Sugar’ II: Modernising Booker, 1950–1951
  • 21. Shaping the New Order: Campbell and the Modernising of Booker, 1950–51
  • 22. Becoming an Efficient Sugar Producer: Mechanisation in Field and Factory
  • 23. Research and Productivity on Booker Sugar Estates: The Work of Dr Harry Evans
  • 24. Building ‘Hedges’: Facing up to the Hazards of Guyanese Politics after 1953
  • Part 7: Sweetening ‘Bitter Sugar’ III: Reforms on the Plantations, 1934-1964
  • 25. Burning the ‘Bridge to the Grave’: Dr George Giglioli and the Eradication of Malaria, 1933–48
  • 26. Health on the Plantations: Research and Preventative Medicine
  • 27. Demolition of the ‘Pig Sties’: Housing Reform on the Plantations
  • 28. Social Welfare on the Plantations, with Special Reference to the Community Centres and Women’s Welfare
  • 29. Wages and Social Amenities in Field and Factory
  • 30. ‘Guianisation’ of Sugar: Placing Guyanese at the Heart of Booker
  • Part 8: Jagan, Campbell and the Politics of Sugar in the Context of the Cold War, 1960-1964
  • 31. Kennedy’s Obsession: Jagan, Castro and the Decolonisation of British Guiana, 1960–63
  • 32. Neither Reform nor Revolution: Jagan, Campbell, the Cold War and the Sugar Industry, 1961–64
  • Conclusion
  • 33. ‘On the Road to Nowhere’: Campbell’s Mission in British Guiana
  • Appendix I : Men Of The Moment: Sixth Generation Reformer [Jock Campbell]
  • Appendix II: Labour’s First Year [1964–65]: A Review Radical’s Comment on the Anniversary
  • Appendix III: Lord Campbell On Norman Manley (1969)
  • Appendix IV: Business Ethics
  • Appendix V : A Journey Back To My Roots: Lord Campbell Of Eskan Explains How He Would Vote If He Were Not Barred From Doing So By Being A Peer
  • The Sugar Plantations in Guyana Today
  • Coastal Villages and Plantations in Demerara and Berbice
  • Sugar Plantations in the Early 1950s
  • Bibliography
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