Jim Jones and Tim Stoen, 1975 phone conversation

[Document starts with conversation underway; pages could be missing]

[Jones:] In view of the opposition (the only thing I thought about is if the government wants to save face and save the agricultural mission, we put them in a hell of a spot there.)

Stoen: Why don’t we just have Paula [Adams] ask for an honest statement from the government?

Jones: We won’t know that until Thursday. But if Thursday, it is no, we have been thrown out of the country. I’m afraid that when you get all the information that I’ve had and reviewed all these tapes here, you would come up with the same conclusion that I had that we are in a bedevilment. Say, of course, upon the urging of the people and the government we would reconsider. That puts the government and the spot of having to (unintelligible). That’s what I was trying to do is get people. Of course, upon request of the people, the government and their people, if it’s the government and the people’s wishes we continue in any role, define that role, write us. Can it be something like that? Define the role you would like us to work in– or no role. We would be glad to turn over the many acres that we have already planted and resign our– you know, we can do them something there. We don’t have to promise them that much, we can say we will even help an ecumenical group do it. It doesn’t make any difference to us. Our purpose is to get a job done. No way we will do anything and clearly, clearly indicate that we have no desire to enhance our position. And certainly no thought of gaining any acreage. It has been a very arduous task for us. A task we have enjoyed, but it requires our constant work from sun up to sun down, developing a wide variety of crops that are growing. I don’t know what, I think there are 30 crops, but say a numerous many crops, many different crops that are growing successfully, crops that have never grown in this part of the world. And give some quote about us feeding and say our purpose. Certainly we love the multiethnic society that you have here. The multiethnic society. And some of our people were considering living here. We would be glad to take a polygraph test to show our motive.

Stoen: That commits you, though. I’d stay away from that.

Jones: We’re willing to go to any length to prove or to get a job done and if we are a source of contention as a church, or our leader, or any of our ministers, we will gladly send aid to some other group trying to achieve it, continue it from abroad or continue from within, but other than unless we are urged. We have in no way been asked to give up our agricultural mission by anyone. But we feel that all things work together for good (that’s a pat and stupid phrase. They are so damned religious down there.) For them that love God that we will find a purpose unless out of this entire experience having done no wrong, attempted to do so much good, we cannot understand what the problem is. If we had been a (illegible) group coming in, taking one penny of Guyanese money, we could easily understand if we were trying to dominate (unintelligible) or control land. The government had made it very clear that Guyanese (that will get the government’s face too) Nationals must control the corporation.

Stoen: That way we’re giving them the ball game. Is there any chance that they would come out with an affirmative statement on Thursday?

Jones: I doubt it. They own the paper. They own the Guyana Graphic. You can ask [Eugene] Chaikin– If you sue the paper, it means suing the government. Well, this is not a problem between you and the government, it’s between you and the churches, and you work that out. Or something to that effect, you resolve it. In the first place, they’re scared to death of the churches, they’re mean as hell. I’d hate to think if we had preached what we really believe about humanist theology and fundamentalist theology, we would have been up the proverbial creek. We preached a gentle sermon about this wonderful Catholic Church opening their doors and the ecumenical spirit, we wanted to help all churches. I couldn’t have been more modest. And they are mean as hell. I ate humble pie. Gave glory to Christ. Nothing I do. In a way we’re safe there bring out all those thousands of people. These people are threatened, mean as hell that we’d get 70 people in their meeting and I brought the masses out. As one person said, Chaikin will know, he has a persuasive ability to influence the masses. Some comment about me bringing in– I’d have them follow me. It may be that they’re scared to death of that. I had told them that we are democratic. It may be that– I’m afraid of what to say to these people now. We could say some praise of– Chaikin could say some praise, but we can’t talk about these posters they have in the buses, the government-owned buses. Places, well, I don’t know– underground. Make it clear that we are closer to their philosophies– I don’t know how we can make it more supportive to these people. They don’t trust us.

Stoen: I think we’ve tried. I think we’ve done everything and if we did anymore within a possibilities in respect to the opposing regime if and when it gets in.

Jones: I was thinking privately to do this, privately.

Stoen: My feeling is–

Jones: I played it very, very safe and very much conservative, like I am. I praised America, not praised America, but I just didn’t speak against my country, and I said I’m a Democrat. Which may not be (unintelligible) enough for them. They’re very chummy with some other group. But they are definitely anti-Soviet. Supposed to be. Well, I don’t know, maybe they are all a bunch of communists together under the rug. What do you think of privately saying, well, if a person is ambitious. I don’t think we should get in that ball game, you can’t get it over the phone in the first place. Somebody is going to have to go down there and finally you’ll end up consulting back and forth. If you can get in that ball game I don’t believe that anybody can impute into another person who’s not in themselves. So, I’m there to help those people help our people. They’re not going to see that and they are going to see me as maybe a CIA emissary. Who knows what the hell they see. We shouldn’t have been in a public damned meeting. However, I think we would have run into this damned– I never saw such a nasty nationalism. And some of these things surfaced, and we didn’t know anything about a Baptist thrown out because he wouldn’t criticize the Reynolds [Aluminum]– didn’t say anything in favor of Reynolds being taken over by the government. They just threw him out. I think we were playing a risky game. Down the road we run into trouble with these nationalists. I think that the world is developing a sense of nationalism and that nobody is going to fit in unless they are born in that country. That’s what I’m rudely awakening to.

Stoen: Well, you may be right. This may be the lesson that we needed because we’ve been (unintelligible).

Jones: But I think it’s obvious that all that flak that’s come in, Yankee cartoons and nonsense, there is a latent hostility to Yankees in that land, yet they speak well of America, but somebody is trying to turn them against America. It’s contradictory. They used to a year ago not say anything against America. The people are pro-America in their conversation. They’re pro, and the government has turned against, and they feel that with all internal difficulties–

Stoen: Well, I guess what my lawyer instincts say to me, before we burn the bridge, we ought to try and do everything behind the scenes the best way we can there.

Jones: Well, I have done that. We have [Guyanese lawyer Clarence] Hughes but I don’t know that he is the best.

Stoen: Well, I think we ought to ask for the best, but I don’t like the idea of Chaikin talking to an ant [?] because he alienates people more than he helps them. He alienates everybody. I don’t trust Chaikin talking to people and leaving them with a favorable impression or what he represents.

Jones: What are you going to do? You better go then.

Stoen: Well, I kind of feel I should.

Jones: Well then, I better go ahead and talk to Hallihan [Vincent Hallinan, SF attorney sometimes used by Peoples Temple], but I don’t know what kind of questions to ask Hallihan. Did you make an appointment with him.

Stoen: Well, I called the secretary today and said I would call back later today after he comes in to set a time.

Jones: The only thing I think is hours is all we have.

Stoen: I would like some time to–

Jones: We haven’t got that much time. That’s the problem. You’re waiting for time you haven’t got. Thursday we are going to get the news. And the logical way is that we will get bad news. A government that cannot stop its own paper–

Stoen: Will we get this ad in the press on Wednesday?

Jones: Yes.

Stoen: How much lead time do they need?

Jones: The day before.

Stoen: I would like tonight to work on it is what I’m saying. Jean [Brown] asked me to set up a situation whereby Paula calls every morning at 9:00 and every evening at 6:00 by code.

Jones: Yes, but tell them not to change because I told them to call at 2:00 our time Thursday morning. Tell them to be sure and call at 2:00 our time Thursday morning. It would be 6:00 their time. Church service will be over then Wednesday night in other words. Wait, it won’t do any good to call Wednesday, they won’t know until Thursday. Just tell them to follow the code. United States.

Stoen: On this ad, you want me to give it back again or do you want me to edit it or what do you want me to do?

Jones:  Edit it only where I think we agreed. Were editing saying that we have decided. Our bishop left it up to the trustees. And the trustee board decided. Our bishops said that the trustees should decide. The trustees decided. Of course we don’t want to cause any difficulties with the beautiful people of Guyana or if you wish us to continue to serve in any way, please let us know. That sort of thing.

Stoen: That’s better, I’m more happy with that because it gets them off the hook a little.

Jones: It also keeps us from being thrown out of the country. Say we want to serve in any capacity. We are deeply committed in the states to feeding, clothing, housing people and equally so here. But we want a job done, we are not seeking any glory. We were informed of your rule about Guyanese control of all properties here. Something vague. They’re saying we are trying to take over land. Or we could say we are on a lease hold out there. Nobody has given us any (that would show that we’re trying to save the government). We were informed that Guyanese – before any ruckus started – that does essentially say the same thing. I don’t think it makes any difference whether the Guyanese are in control or not. We can probably, ain’t nobody that work it. If they let us work it and it’s under Guyanese control– set up some of those little houses there, we could use them for temporary measure for some of our people. Then keep the hope up in our people. Tell them whatever they do– Jean Brown let this out no further than she, Maria [Katsaris], you, and [Jim] Randolph and [Mike] Prokes are in it. And Deanna Mertle.

Stoen: Why the hell– Well, it’s my fault.

Jones: Well, tell her that there is still some prospect. We have it and– she don’t want to go anyway, I can tell she don’t want to go. So Father’s mind not to go. But don’t take that hope away from the people. We will still use it as an outstation for poor people who cannot– you know, not poor people but people that would be socially handicapped in a metropolitan or technological nation like this. Even if we use it to work under Guyanese supervision. Tell her it means essentially no difference. Probably it will be run just the same. There will be just some paper somewhere that it belongs to the Guyanese. We just aren’t going to put much more in it, that’s all. And they were to find that out in two weeks. You know, enough to maintain their living.

Stoen: So I do say, I put in the ad then that the trustees have decided to withdraw unless there’s an affirmative, unless were asked to stay.

Jones: That’s being too legal. Put it in the gentle. Unless it is found by the government that we will serve some purpose by staying. We are willing to turn it over to some other ecumenical group, not have it connected with our denomination at all. Thousands of dollars of planting and crops of all kinds of varieties, even crops that don’t customarily grow there. Crops– I think it should be said we served so many people a very lovely feast – most of the residents of the Northwest District such a lovely feast over Christmas holidays – from our ground. Don’t say all the feast, but make it sound like many crops which we used to serve the large feast in the schools there. Don’t say the school, that make up the school in trouble. In a– a large feast for all the residents of the District there, the Guyanese residents. And say the thousands of dollars of labor and all the acres that have been cleared away and planted and the several miles of road deep in the jungle. Don’t forget our equipment. I’d like to get something like that out of there.

Stoen: The possibility to mention it?

Jones: I wouldn’t mention it.

Stoen: ‘Cause the ad has it in.

Jones: What did it say?

Stoen: It said provided we get our equipment back or something.

Jones: Just fix it so we don’t give the indication that we would turn it over. Maybe we shouldn’t put it in there. Maybe these damned fanatics will want to take that too. And make more trouble for the government if they wouldn’t let us get. For the work that we have now done. Some way toward it without saying what we want back. You think we got enough on this thing now that were modifying it?

Stoen: Yeah, right.

Jones: But don’t say unless we get affirmative action. They’ll come up with in a legal jargon which is your tendency as lawyers. But isn’t your tendency in [cut off]. But Chaikin has got that totally, he has never lost that legal– something loving, encouraging. I had to send you down when it may be pointless. You ought to say that Chaikin ought not to go anywhere without Paula. To talk to anyone without Paula. She’ll modify him. She’s gentler. Tell him to be (illegible). Tell him exactly what you wanted. And both of them– all of them – say all of them – say you’ve got to come off gentle yet firm, where there needs to be firmness. Tell him where to be firm. You’ll have to tell him that exactly. I do think something ought to be done to proceed on this case with–

Stoen: The priest–

Jones: Thank you, you are on the ball. And there ought to be– the newspaper ought not to get the idea that we are going to walk out of there without defending ourselves. And say something that if this continues– we have a good name in the states. We have people from all– we have provided testimonies in these very newspapers of leaders of all types of denominations and governmental positions in the United States. And if it continues, we will defend ourselves and the courts– or something. I don’t– the way they’re wording it, why, it’s blind man’s bluff. With all the information they think they have, I think they are careful trying to avoid a suit, wouldn’t you say?

Stoen: Well, in British law, you know they have the strict libel law, so that may be.

Jones: Well, tell him to get some research down there to find out.

Stoen: I’ll tell him.

Jones: Obviously it’s more interplay of freedoms of individual freedoms to protect themselves than has been seen. What if we don’t, they’ll ride our ass. Say were hiring a very competent attorney firm here, don’t say who, and they will continue to serve us, and to see that we all are– all we’re asking is that people don’t dirty the efforts of people who have no– don’t, no, that isn’t the word– don’t try to portray a bad image of people – something that is not charged words – portray a bad image to people who will be serving the rest of their lives to do something about the food, hunger of the world, the ecology problem of the world. Something very nice. Something very fair, I think, you know, we might ask them to get off our ass. After– I suppose you can do that without– but I suppose you– but I don’t believe any kind of mercy is going to appeal to these people. I think that they are– I think it’s a dull society in which we’ve given them a heyday. The only good I can see in it now is that we didn’t throw our whole asset into it, because I think sooner or later we’d have been a threat, wouldn’t make no difference if it’s today, or tomorrow. Sooner or later we do have crossed by some stupid ass giving wrong advice, we’d attract far more position than we had, and maybe even been recognized as a district there, we’d have had a member in the Congress. And I think we’d have been a threat. They’d like to have come up and said we were a CIA experiment, probably. There was something in the news a few days ago that I tried, that Chaikin poo-pooed. It was that the CIA– oh no, it was a Brazilian. A man who had to flee to Brazil because he was accused of being a CIA plant because he was going through the district doing some kind of good. I don’t know what it was. So these people may be just going totally against America. And we don’t get into any of that kind of raw game. I’ll tell you, this country has got its faults, but it sure does not by any means hold that (unintelligible). There are some things I did not share with you because–

Stoen: It has not got any health care program.

Jones: These people need a dream. And I knew it didn’t make any difference to you one way or the other so I didn’t bother to tell you. They are talking about going back to Blue Cross-Blue Shield. But what the hell kind of program is not. Those people can’t go near a doctor. They walk around now with disease (unintelligible) sun up to sun down. Didn’t even make a dent. So, I know the devil, and I don’t know any new set of devils

Stoen: I feel comfortable with the decision to keep our strength here.

Jones: I just hope we don’t get any backwash. You see in the other measure we should use? Get the nationals. Get that woman to sign – if they’ve done what they were supposed to do – for that newspaper she have already been signed. We cannot count on– I’d like to tell you to take all night, you write beautifully, you are one of the most beautiful writers, but you take so long to get something off, and if you take all night– the thing that you suffer in with Paula and in Gene is you suffer a procrastination. They’ve lived in Latin America too long. You wouldn’t believe what I had to live with there. Damn near had carry me home on a stretcher. Nobody followed anything I’d do on time. I had a lot of brilliant ideas, which all would have avoided the whole damn meeting. I wanted to cancel the meeting, (illegible). If they had got to the Catholic Church and had made it so I could have saved face, but I had the damn thing in the newspaper, I don’t want to go into that with them now. I don’t want to start that. But just, all this for stuff, you might tell some of our people on this end who are dealing with it though, if anything starts, ‘cause lots start up here like why didn’t Father anticipate this? I did anticipate this. I felt we got ourselves on a lamb, and shouldn’t be there. That probably ought to be said, say that we ought– a message ought to go around to all RV [Redwood Valley] and all the churches that we are still getting a plane, Diane [code word] it’s starting in Los Angeles, in a pilot’s training Monday, and we are going right on because our mission has not been stopped and certainly our program has not been stopped. Because we have other– Father has other plans. You know, to say like not, other great plans for us to serve. So the plans go on. So everybody work. That way we have very well handled that shaking turn in direction. But I think we need done in the background, because it is going to be a let down, here in a little while. An emotional letdown. Thank you. Bye.

Originally posted on February 17th, 2013.

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