If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
(Note: This tape was one of the 53 tapes initially withheld from public disclosure.)
(Note: This tape was transcribed by Michael Bellefountaine. The editors gratefully acknowledge his invaluable assistance. The editors also thank Matthew Carey for his assistance in dating this tape.)
Male voice: One two three four, test, test one two three.
Hue Fortson: My name is Hue Fortson, and I am a member of this beautiful family of Peoples Temple, and we have been discussing all evening (pause) a major decision that we have came to. Seeing as that Peoples Temple as led by pastor Jim Jones had been involved in almost every liberation stand or movement in- in the United States and without of the United States, we have supported many causes, we supported many people where nobody else would stand up for them we set an example in the work that we did – the humanitarian work that we did – we got people out of jails, we brought people from prisons, we brought people out of hospitals, convalescent homes, from the ghettos, you name it, Peoples Temple has done it, despite what the newspapers has said about it. So we have all come to the conclusion, with the defectors that have went out and lied upon the good works that Jim Jones has showed, the examples that he showed for each and every one of us, and even some of us that aren’t even here and even the defectors that are out the examples that he showed which they cannot deny in the back of their minds, we’ve come to a decision that we would rather die than to live on this earth because there is nowhere else we can go. There is nowhere else that would suit the purposes of the beautiful teachings and the life that we have that we built here in Jonestown. So we would rather commit a revolutionary suicide, and if the world’s in question about why we took our lives or why we took our babies’ or our seniors’ lives, this is why we don’t want to be involved with the mess that’s going on in this world and the wh- mess that’s going to keep on going in this world.
Larry Schacht: My name is Larry Schacht, and I’m glad to be here in Jonestown. We’ve come to a decision, a decision that’s based on- based on obstacles we have had to confront on several occasions. We’ve had to face the threat of being taken over by fascists and not being able to live our humanitarian lifestyle where we have eliminated ageism and sexism. We’ve had no- We’ve had no alternative, because defectors have gone out and traitors have continually poured out lies against us, tried to make us look- tried to make us look bad when everything we do is good, because everything our leader has done is good. And we’ve decided to take our lives, and I’ve decided to take my life, because we can’t- we can’t give to the world what we really want to give. We really want to give what we are, the way we work here together, the cooperative Marxist-Leninist communist lifestyle we live and uphold, we can’t give it. We can’t even- We can’t even give free medical care to the people in the community because people in this- certain people in this government don’t want us to do it. We feel that we’re not appreciated, (pause) and we feel that we owe it to other liberation movements throughout the world to be an example and hope that we can inspire them by our commitment.
Etta Thompson: My name is Etta Thompson, and I am a member of Peoples Temple. Jim Jones is our leader. I am a Marxist-Leninist, and I’m not ashamed of it and that’s what the thir- world don’t like, because we are of the Third World people, we’re fighting for the rights of the underdog, of the people- of the underprivileged people of the world, and we’ve had some defectors to go out from this group, and they have gotten with the wrong people, and they have lied on us, and we have been downtrodden by the press and every living human in the United States who don’t believe in right have tried to break us down. But- and we’d rather die knowing who we are and what we are and we are- we are living a clean life for the world, but-
Jones: Comrade, uh, could you tell me why we don’t uh, why is it we decided not to uh, engage in some uh, act of uh, revolutionary violence like the Red Brigade?
Thompson: Because we want- we wanted to- to try to do something for the world in a more substantial way, in a way that would help the world, and thought that the nations of the world would appreciate us. We didn’t want to do things like that, like to go about it in that way, we wanted to do it in a cleaner way.
Jones: Thank you. Uh, why, young lady, have you chosen? Next? Why have you chosen this uh, this way which is difficult, I’m sure for the world to understand, for many of our comrades to understand, outside of our own communist commune.
Christa Amos: Because- because I think that um, it- it would be- it would be hard to leave- to leave um, like- like some of the Guyanese children that we have taken care of for- for a while and- and they would have to stay here and um- and like they’ve gotten attached to some of us and um- (pause) and like- and like, it would be hard for us to have to separate, and you know, for living toget- together for a long time, it would be hard to have to separate and go different ways and- and stuff like that.
Jones: Do you think that um- What would be the problem of us going to Cuba? How old are you, and what is your name?
Christa Amos: My name is Christa Amos, and I am eleven years old.
Jones: What about us going to another communist nation like uh, Cuba or the Soviet Union?
Christa Amos: Okay, it might- all right, um- (pause) it, it might be a problem for- for some of us to adjust to other- other nations like you know they might not be able to understand our- our um, our- our ways of our life and- and um, it would- it would just be hard for us- for me to separate from- from um, from this group.
Jones: Well, perhaps they would take us in as a group but that’s one factor. We could not illegally remove anyone- we couldn’t remove anyone that was uh, Guyanese that we didn’t have guardianship on, we couldn’t remove youth who are from the States who have been given guardianship only to live in Guyana. Do you- do you see um, any chances to do something about that? Do you think that um, we could af- could we afford to ask to Cuba to break those laws um, which might give her difficulty with the Third World, for us as a people? Been a lot of background as, of course, people can imagine, we’ve been discussing this for a long time. Do you think that they would be able to- that it would be too heavy a burden? Do you think that’d be too heavy burden to put on Cuba?
Christa Amos: Yes, because that might cause trouble for them, and um, and like, it’s- it’s- um, you know, families and stuff that have taken care of- of the Guyan- of our Guyanese children and they’ve got really attached to them and like, what, you know, the children that wouldn’t be able to go with us that have came from United States, they wouldn’t have no- no- we wouldn’t have nowhere to no nothing to do with them. They wouldn’t have nowhere to go, and they would just be left with nothing.
Jones: Thank you, thank you, Christa. Next please.
Sharon Amos: My name is Sharon Amos, and I wanted to say this decision has been a verylong process because we are not a death-oriented group. This group has existed for over 25 years and tried to involve ourselves in all aspects of life. In every aspects of life, the Marxist-Leninist view of- of total wh- equality of women and men, no ageism, no sexism in our community here. The means of production have been- has been put in the hands of the people to develop the community and to try to be an example of that kind of community, but even when we try to work through the democratic process to bring some kind of justice and the concern about fascism, we are in a socialist country and we found inconsistencies where we are told to compromise our principles, not to feed people, not to advertise or in some instan- instances give medical care and so, uh, the only way we felt that we could uh, live as, as a- in practicing our Marxist-Leninist views, were- was to take our own lives and- and even uh, to separate children was not possible. Also we wanted to be willing to fight in a liberation struggle, but Jim Jones brought in seniors that we could not uh, involve in that kind of thing, and young children.
Jones: All right, y-yes young man? Did you wish to say something about this enormousdecision?
Martin Amos: Yes, um, I’m Martin Amos, I’m ten years old, and I have been in this cause all my life, and every time um, something um, (unintelligible, sounds like “tried to cover for the lies”) that the um, the s- our- um, tell about us, we try to um, take in- take in people, you know, feed them and we um, help the people with their medical problems, and still they lie and they even try to say um, make it so um- They make it hard for us and they- People leave our cause, and they tell lies on us, and it’s just- I think it is just- (sighs)
Jones: You think that they’re going to tell do many lies on us, that we won’t be able to continue to function, is that what you mean?
Martin: Yes. And I think it should be done in this way so that it could leave an imprint on the people in Guyana, because their- their national hero did it this way.
Jones: I see. You think it’s a way to die, because the national hero of Guyana took his life rather than be subjected to slavery or his limitations on his freedom?
Jones: Thank you, son. Do you want to say anything else?
Jones: All right.
Helen Swinney: I am Helen Swinney, uh- We’ve debated this uh, um, uh, suicide for many, many hours here tonight and I have made up my mind that this is the way I prefer going, because I have been in this group for uh, almost twenty years now and I have never uh, uh- and we finally came to this country, hoping that uh- we’d have a beautiful life for our children and- and- and our seniors, and our relatives will not leave us alone, and I am sick and tired of it. I- I- I just I- I think this is the best way to go. We have a wonderful leader uh, and they won’t leave him alone, he doesn’t get sleep day or night and I- I- I think that this is the best way, and I want the world to know, that this is the best group I have ever seen in the twenty years, the best group I have ever heard of in the past twenty years that I have been in it.
Lisa Layton: I am Lisa Layton. I was born in Germany, and I left Germany because I’m Jewish and came to the United States, thinking that I might find freedom. However, I realize that there were not many places where there was freedom, and I found Peoples Temple and for the first time in my life felt that this was a group fighting for the freedom of its people. And we moved to Guyana to Jonestown, and here I have seen socialism and Marxist-Leninism at work. People are free, the children are getting a good education. I do not want to leave Jonestown under any circumstances. I personally feel that I want to die here in this place and no other place.
Edith Roller: I am Edith Roller, and uh, I have had a very varied life. And I’ve always been distressed by the poverty and the uh, discrimination especially against uh, people in the uh, under-developed areas of the world, and among the black people of our own nation and other minorities. It seemed to me when I joined Peoples Temple uh, it was a- an ideal society of egalitarian justice and love. And I still feel that we shall go down in history as an inspiration to the world as to how a socialist society should operate. But we have been impeded, I think, by the powerful capitalist society around us, and uh, I want particularly to mention the press which never gives us our uh- uh- s- uh- our words are not heard. I pray and hope that this tape will at least survive in portions so that they can know what we stood for. I’m glad that my death will mean something. I hope it will be an inspiration to all people that fight for freedom all over the world.
Kay Nelson: (Reading a statement?) My name is Kay Nelson. I have been a member of Peoples Temple for over six years. I searched for many years before I found a place of peace, a place that showed concern for people. I would prefer to have laid down my life fighting for liberation on some battlefield. However, due to the teachings of our leader who taught us love and care and concern for people, that, it seems, will not be possible, because there are people who have gone out who- all the love has been shown to them- have lied, distorted the truth, and now it’s just getting too much for- I cannot stand it. I think that I would rather lay down my life than go on with this struggle that is not being actually understood by most people. I hope my death will be of some use to- (voice trails off)
Jones: Can I interfere, comrade, to say- to interrupt you by saying that I want you to be sure your decision is based on what I am saying. In my opinion – and this has been I think the opinion of many we have heard here tonight, as we have made this decision unanimously – that we would be of little help to a liberation struggle, in that we have so many seniors and so many children. We do not see ourselves engaging with black soldiers in a situation that seems rather strange and contradictory. There are good- There are good socialists that we have had difficulty in being able to find how to work according to our sensitivity. We want to be sure that when we engage in struggle by violence, that it would achieve something. We are not against violence in defense of one’s liberty. We are against senseless violence, however. We do not see how we could possible serve in this area, and I just wanted to make that clear, by any kind of revolutionary act. We have made feelers to other countries that have not um, according to different ones of the secretaries here have not been responded to. I didn’t personally write them. We have had certain empathy for that. We understand. We are told it’ll take some months if we were to get any sanctuary in other socialist countries, and we’ve debated, as the youngsters have said, what kind of burden that would create upon them in light of their relations with this country that has good socialists in both parties, but we are greatly restricted in the terms of what we can do. It is not conceivable for us to fail to advertise our free medical services in the community. It isn’t acceptable to us that we can live where there is still deprivation and not share our food. So that is what I meant by- personally I don’t know what other mean- other people mean, I’m- I am no longer just a pacifist totally. I once was, and I would like to be, but I don’t see how the Union of South Africa is going to be liberated without violent struggle, I don’t recognize how Zimbabwe could be liberated by any other measure. Yet, in its delicate handling of third world situations, I don’t want to put a burden on our brothers and sisters in such nations as Cuba and the USSR that are working so effectively towards liberation of the Third World. And we have harassment inside this community, from without. We have had thefts. We have had shootings at us. We are tired. We have successfully been able to overcome that fatigue, but now with defectors going out and telling such lies that we are an armed camp getting ready to attack, we are fearful that this will cause people to react to us in an improper fashion, and then we would be forced to defend ourselves, and we have never had any intention to do anything but to build peacefully. However, if there were some nation that would have received us as we have tried through these weeks, we would uh, have gone I’m sure. Other than for the factor that we felt, it would be a burden on the liberation struggle in such places as E- Ethiopia or Zimbabwe, what would they do with us, the seniors and so many children, we’re polarized at both ends. I hope you understood what I was saying.
Nelson: Yes- Yes. I understand, and since it seems that that is unlikely and almost impossible, I feel that the best choice I have to take my life and end the struggle.
Jones: How many in this uh, assembly feel this by saying, and there’s about a thousand people, how many here feel it by the sounding of a yea?
Crowd: Yeah (Extended and loud)
Jones: Peace, peace, peace. How many feel it by nay?
Crowd: Brief silence.
Jones: You’re free- most free to have second- we’ve gone through this- we’ve heard dissenters on that- how to do this and what different approaches to take. And we’ve heard a lot of things suggested that would have caused, we feel, not the best image for socialism, and this way we will no longer create a problem, and we will have peace and togetherness. We lived and shared peacefully, and we were not in isolation from our fellow Guyanese, there are Guyanese in our community, but we have been informed once that we cannot leave this country. We were informed by the foreign ministry through the- I believe Mrs. Amos and through Mrs. uh, Carter to uh- Mr.- Mr. Carter [either Tim or Michael Carter] and through different ones on the delegations that met that Debbie Touchette – Mrs. Touchette – that we would not be able to leave this country together. So that creates a barrier for us, and we understand that it’s not easy for a third world nation either, living under the obvious shadow of US what we feel to be imperialism, and so we do not want to create a further burden, we don’t want to cause anything that would harm the struggle in USA. We can not get out of here. We are isolated. We can’t even get reservations on planes, and it’s already been reported that we are intending to do actions that we have never intended to do here or back in the United States, so we have made this decision through much thinking, that revolutionary suicide would be the best service we should render the cause of the international Marxist-Leninist struggle. Would you care uh, next to speak?
Richard Tropp: My name is (clears throat) Richard Tropp, and I want to share some reflections. First of all I would say, for those of you listening to this tape, to listen very, very carefully to the words of Jim Jones. Because here tonight, even at the hour of decision for a revolutionary suicide, in the words of Jim Jones, you will find, if you listen, the key to the survival of humanity. We are very weary people. In this room there are a thousand people. If you were to combine all the years of toil and slavish labor of the older people here, it would go to many thousands of years all combined. If you were to combine all of the miles that the people here have traveled, weary people who have gone – each of them – many, many thousands of miles, it would come to millions of miles. A very, very long road and we’ve come to this place to make a new life. And as you listened to many of the people who spoke before me and to Reverend Jim Jones, you’ve heard the reasons why it is very, very difficult, and now we see it as an imp- a practical impossibility to continue that life. The world today is at a crossroads. The whole world is under the threat of death of impending nuclear death, and what will it be for? It will be for greed and for selfishness, for a unwillingness to share, to cooperate, to understand that we must love one another. And here in this community, we have tried to make an example of that. Jim Jones has given his entire life to that work, and as we have made collectively and individually a decision to terminate this work, we hope that it will serve as a symbol to the people of the world, that if you don’t live a cooperative life, there is no life at all. Thank you.
Lemuel Thomas Grubbs: I am Lemuel Thomas Grubbs the second, and I am of free mind, a free spirit, and free volition do sacrifice my life in protest of injustice, protest to racism, chauvinism, sexism. In this community, we have the highest standard of ethical morality that I have ever conceived, beyond what I could have conceived without the example that we’ve had here. And yet we’re beset by frustration and being thwarted at every turn by traitors who have misinterpreted, that twisted it- they twisted and lied and beset us with more problems. And I wish to make this protest that, what has been misunderstood and misrepresented, that I believe in it, and I hope that by sacrificing my life, that I can demonstrate my belief in it.
Dianne Wilkinson: My name Dianne Wilkinson. I am twenty-eight years old. And first of all, I would like to let the world know, that to live in America is a curse and especially if you’re black. And the only place that I have found that freedom and opportunity to become somebody in my life is in Peoples Temple, and meeting Jim Jones and his character and how he loved and took in animals and how he cared for each senior and child. Yes, we love our children, we love our seniors, but everybody here has made up their own individual decision. I have made my decision, that I don’t want to live one minute. I’d rather have my dignity, than have to be on my knees begging for my freedom. And I’d rather take my own life. Thank you.
Valerie Jones: My name is Valerie Jones, and I will die because of the lack of concern of other countries, of people, and of relatives and people who left- who left this cause for liberation and justice that has been (unintelligible) for years have no concern at all. I will die because there is no concern in the world.
Jones: I would like to correct this vote, if I may. I feel that there is concern , in the world, young lady. If you’re making a decision based on the lack of concern on the whole world, I can’t feel that would be- you’re- you’re entitled to your opinion, but I’d like to in- impose a thought or at least introduce the thought that, obviously people are caring in the world, by the struggles they’re doing and bringing about in Africa and have brought about in Southeast Asia. My decision has been based with great conflict. I am not sure how history will interpret. It’s the best I can do. I don’t want to be involved with some of the schemes that have been thought of by those who went out to try to involve us in violence and now are trying to provoke us to violence by their own admission. I do not believe that those kind of terrorist tactics achieve anything. We have debated various points of view here of how we could serve. We can resist when people would come again to attack us, but we do not want to engage in a war with black people. We do not see that would be any purpose. Many of them would be black conscientious socialists, who would not know if they were being manipulated against us based on false information. But I don’t think that we would want to leave any mistaken interpretation. There are people who care. Maybe there isn’t the level of tolerance that whi- we would like to see towards um, those of different sexual orientation or the attitude that is so healthy here towards male and female. Though we’ve heard of progress – and considerable progress – taking place in Cuba where roles are changing, where men and women engage together in domestic work and the responsibility for rearing the child and doing the same kinds of work. But it- it does- it does seem that we as a people can not offer anything to that struggle but impose more burden upon it by going to those countries, if we can even get there, which we have debated whether we have any means of getting out of here at all. But I just wanted you to reflect on that. Maybe you didn’t mean it the way you said it, and you are entitled if you feel that is the way, that no one cares, um, I think it is a little early. We’ve made appeals to some countries, and it has been some months indeed, but uh, I would like to just interject my thought there. Do you have anything you might want to- want to say to that?
Valerie: I believe that people do care, as the fighting goes on in Angola and South Africa, people rebellion. But what I was just saying is that the lack of concern that we’ve been here- you know, we’ve been here for some time, and we stand for justice and humanity, and we’re uh- been helping people here and no one seems to pu- no one seems to offer any help so far, no one has come to our aid, and that’s why I have made my decision to die.
Jones: Thank you. We’ve had some help, but even those- some of those in the government have said they’re not sure how stable the course of socialism will be in this country. Go ahead.
Liane Harris: My name is Liane Harris, and I feel I want to die, because I came from a society where there was just one big asphalt jungle where children were spit upon, stomped on, they starved in the streets, mugged, raped.
Jones: Children starved in the streets?
Harris: Yes, I’ve seen them- I have- as I walked down the street I have seen children that didn’t even have any food, used to beg and steal just to get something to eat.
Jones: I see, I see.
Harris: And he-
Jones: I was- I know that there’s terrible deprivation in- in capitalism. I know that, but I was just wanting to see that you’re being objective. Incidentally, I made a statement that I think that should be given more documentation. A very sensitive member of the government, the highest level of government stated, I believe, to you, Comrade [Mike] Prokes and um, Comrade Amos and my wife [Marceline Jones], is it not that the- that the statement I made earlier- I am referring to the statement, you may have forgotten, but the statement that he was worried about a right wing takeover in the country and was not sure of the future of socialism here?
Michael Prokes: Yes, he said that he didn’t know where socialism was going.
Jones: What- how do you remember it, uh, Mrs. Amos?
Sharon Amos: He said that uh, it could go- the country could go to the right, and he wasn’t sure of his own position even in government, that he- his job might not be secure, because hewas a socialist.
Jones: Did he not tell us that we would have to compromise our feelings about life and sensitivity of sharing and other things that we feel that communists must do, humanitarian aid, did he not tell us that this was essential that we would have to make these compromises?
Amos: Yes, he- he’s told that on- to us on several occasions, and he said he’s learned to make compromises, that once when he was- that uh, he was able to stand strong, and now he has to compromise his views.
Jones: I see. Thank you. I did- I don’t want anyone to refer to anything that might identify the person. All right. Because these are difficult times for people who take their belief. Well, I- I just wanted to be sure you’re objective. Do you have anything else that you wanted to say, young lady?
Liane Harris: Yes, I wanted to say that if I can’t participate in this liberation struggle here in Guyana, where um- where all- where all the people here in Jonestown are free, they have lots of food, the housing, everyone has housing, the children are blooming and growing with a- a education where they are learning everything they can. This is the only place where I found freedom, and if I can’t have it here, I’d rather be dead.
Bill Oliver: (Reads) My name is Bill Oliver, and I am a Marxist-Leninist. I made the decision to commit revolutionary suicide. My decision has been well thought-out. I’ve been a member of Peoples Temple for seven years, and I know of the goodness. And in my death, I hope that people- it would be used as a instrument to further liberation. Thank you.
Michael Prokes: (Reads) My name is Mike Prokes. I came to Peoples Temple almost six years ago to do a documentary for television on Jim Jones and his movement. I resigned my job as a news bureau chief and joined Peoples Temple, because I saw it was the greatest cause for social justice I had ever encountered. And it what- was led by the most principled and compassionate human being – Jim Jones – that I had ever met. I know this, because I have worked closely with Jim and seen him work all hours of the day and night, often going dayson end without sleep with the most severe physical pain and mental anguish caused by the harassment of others and the problems that they brought to our organization. But he did it simply, because he cares for people, more than any one I know. We left the United States, because we were not permitted to live by our communist principles. To live as a communist in a capitalist society automatically targets you for destruction. Because we stood up for every political prisoner in the liberation of black and oppressed peoples, we have- were harassed continuously. Our buildings were burned down, our animals were tortured, our phones were tapped, our people were harassed and threatened every day. Because we saw the impossibility of changing the basic structure of monopoly capitalism which favors the rich and which is protected by a huge corporate military industrial complex, we collectively made the decision to leave the United States, rather than be destroyed by a conspiracy. We’ve built the most advanced and productive cooperative community in the world here in Guyana, in my opinion, but the conspiracy against us has been carried from the United States to Guyana and has been a continuous disruption of our lives. I’ve traveled all over the world, and I’ve never found a community like this, where there is no racism and no human exploitation. But because the conspiracy will not leave us alone to build, to serve and to live in peace, I have decided to commit revolutionary suicide, because I see no other vi- viable alternative. This decision was not made compulsively, but only after listening to hundreds of hours of discussion and participating in that discussion. If there was any way we could live as a group without harassment under this most advanced community– under this most advanced communist lifestyle, we would do it. But I feel like we are a people out of place and out of time, and so I choose to die proudly here in the- the place that we’ve built, the most beautiful place in the world.
Jones: Thank you.
Harriet Sarah Tropp: My name is Harriet Tropp. I am 28 years old, and I have been educated at the University of California-Berkeley, and I have also been to law school for three years and have a degree in law, if that means anything, which I don’t think it does, except to show you that I am certainly not anyone that has had my mind made up for me, um, not for many years, and I am uh- I’m a Marxist-Leninist and I believe – and I have listened to discussion here all night and I participated in it – that if it’s my own personal choice as to what I would prefer to do, I emulate and I agree with the tactics of the Red Brigade, and I think there could be nothing better that I could do with my life personally than give it for the cause of communism in that fashion. Um- However I don’t see that as a possible alternative for us. Um, we have many children, many seniors, and I know that it would be impossible for them to participate in such activity, or to be accepted in any society where such activity is- is presently and currently going on. So I feel that our alternatives have been closed off, and we have no other solution but to hope that by our deaths, somewhere somebody sees that we really meant business when we said that we were Marxist-Leninists wanting to live that communist life, and not wanting to be messed with by people who are either capitalists, fascist or pseudo-socialists, which I see a lot of running around. And uh, maybe somebody somewhere will get the message. I don’t know. I- I have my doubts about it, I am cynical about it, I think that probably nobody will listen, but at least I personally will have um, some satisfaction knowing that uh, I didn’t have to continue- continually living in a situation of total compromise all the time, when I would naturally much prefer to uh, to kidnap somebody, as the Red Brigade did, and do something that I consider to be at least an open and completely clear-cut statement against the evil that I see in this world of capitalist- monopoly capitalism and uh, its uh- its arms which extend throughout the country th- and throughout the nations of the world.
Jones: I hope you understand, comrade, that you are not obligated to follow our decision, if you feel that that is the way that your conscience must lead you, you are free to pursue that. I want you to know that there is no- I see in your discussion, that you have views that depart from any that I have heard thus far, and I- I want you to know, I don’t comprehend the- the success of the Red Brigade tactics. I don’t see how we can be involved with any success for the liberation of people and the restoration of egalitarianism where there is corruption and capitalistic greed, but I have seen you give service to people, and I respect you, and I want you to feel no obligation to stand with he- with us here tonight.
Harriet: Well, I- I understand that and I know that uh- that- you know I respect your- your opinion on that, and I know that respect mine. I do disagree with you on- on your concept of the Red Brigade, and I know we discussed it and I- I’ve always had that disagreement withyou. Um, I still feel that that is the best way to spend, to- to spend one’s life. However, I know that, uh, I have spent seven years with this organization, and I’ve lived with this organization, I believe in what it stands for, and I will die with this organization um, because I feel that there is no other alternative for us as a group to stay together, which I think isessential for us to make any point in this world whatsoever about uh, our beliefs in Marxist-Leninism.
James Edwards: My name is James Edwards. I- And I have been with this uh, church, with this movement for seven years and I have lived and seen undesirable and underprivileged areas of cities in the United States how they have been deprived, and with the thought of making a new step in life, with a new uh- in a new country close to our motherland, we come here with the Marxist-Leninist idea uh, in mind to practice here, to perfect it here, and since being here, we have been harassed and not able to carry out the uh- uh- program that was uh- that we are so dedicated and have been taught so firmly uh, by our leader and, rather than to see that as practice go down, I’d rather take my own life, and after giving it s- some real thought, that would be something that the world could see, that we are really sincere in getting Leninism and Marxism on its feet where it should be.
Gene Chaikin: My name is Gene Chaikin. For years now, many of us here, comrades all, have uh, struggled to try and teach and perfect in our own lives the principles that were laid down by Marx and Lenin for the guidance and the perfection of human society. I expect that all of us are somewhat idealists in the sense that, both by uh, example and by an attempted persuasion, we- we’ve dedicated our lives to uh, attempting to uplift humanity around us and ourselves in the process in order to reach those ideals. However, we have come to Guyana, having perhaps narrowly escaped our destruction in the United States, only to discover that uh, conspiracy without and to a certain extent, defectors within have created the situation where we no longer believe that we can carry out those ideals by humane methods of persuasion and example, those that we have chosen by our lifestyle to use, rather than the more violent methods that have been used by others. And rather than see ourselves destroyed, rather than see our movement cut up piecemeal, rather than seeing those goals that we all cherish uh, fall before our eyes, we have - and myself, I have – decided that it would be better for us to take our own lives as an illustration and a- and a thought for others, so that they might now of our commitment and our deep belief in our ideals.
Lee Ingram: I’m Lee- I’m Lee Ingram, and all the while that I have been in Peoples Temple I have always had –
Jones: Wait just a moment for people to shift, (speaks off mike – unintelligible) (Pause) Been engaged in quite a long discussion. And we are as much as possible convinced that this is the right decision, and it’s certainly been brought out of deep conscientious probing. You may be seated.
Ingram: All the while that I have been in Peoples Temple, I’ve always been able to come and go at my own free will, I’ve been able to speak my mind, whether it was popular opinion or dissent if I chose to. And I’m here, because, before I met- before I became a member of Peoples Temple and met Jim Jones, I was of the opinion that the only way to help people or to help feed people was to do it by a militant stand, a violent stand, and upon meeting Jim Jones and Peoples Temple, that was corrected, because I saw that much could be accomplished by a more, not necessarily pacifist but a- but more could be accomplished, more could be gained, by doing it in a peaceful manner, and not necessarily with weapons. Nevertheless, I’m glad that I’m here, because I’ve been able to have to determine my own- my own destiny, and tonight determining that means that I will lay down my life, because there has been no justice that I have seen, there has been just us that have stand more often than none.
Johnny Brown: My name is Johnny Brown, and I have been in the group, in this organization for close to eight years, and all the time that I have been here, Jim Jones has shown me the capabilities and possibilities of the Marxist-Leninist philosophy, and for that, I am very grateful, because my wife and my two children have had a chance to live free to do what we want to do, to help bring about freedom for all people, but I have seen over the past few months, defectors, liars and down right provocateurs create an illusion that what we were about wasn’t real, and because of this, the dream that I had has turned into a nightmare, and I am not willing to let my family or my children [Ava Phenice Jones, wife; Marchelle Jacole Jones and Stephanie Brown, children] or myself be caught up in this anymore and I am willing to lay down my life in a revolutionary suicide to state that fact that it’s been a lie and I won’t stand for it anymore. Thank you.
Jones: Thank you.
John Harris: My name is John Harris, and I am a proud member of Peoples Temple, and I have been for some eight years, and now I am proud to say that I am a communist. Uh, many years ago I didn’t know what that meant, but now I know what it means, and I am happy to give my life for this idea. The thi- The love and the joy that I have known for the past months uh, being a communist in Peoples Temple has made me realize that all those many years that I was the first- the last hired and the first fired was worth it, and now I’d like for many, many people to realize that there is hope, and the only hope there is, is in communism, so tonight, I am able to choose the time that I will give my life, I’m able to choose where I will give my life. I only wish that I had more to give.
Shanda James: My name is Shanda James, and I would like to say, that at the age of 19, I have chosen to- to commit revolutionary suicide on the basis that we, as Marxist-Leninists, have come from the United States being interrogated and tried to choose a life and live socialism in this country, and they came here and interrogated us also, and I feel that I would rather die than see us divided or torn down, and I would like to show the rest of the world that together is the only way, and I would like to die tonight.
Jones: We have had more of our share of interrogations and inquiries and public visits and uh, being singled out individually by officials of the United States courteously, sometimes, no doubt, in the minds of the people, clandestinely. Some people in the government have told us that we have been visited, certainly by members of the CIA from the USA and then we’ve had strange kind of harassment from agencies here. It’s um- been a long series of interrogations and harassment, there’s no question about that.
Rebecca Beikman: My name is Rebecca Beikman, and I’d gladly die today because I feel that we have done everything within our power to show that socialism is the way. I’ve been with this group for twenty years now and I’ve seen nothing but character demonstrated kindness, love to anybody that might have even tried to be a- befriend us and uh, as far as I’m concerned, this is the only hope, the socialist way, and I’d gladly die.
Teresa King: My name is Teresa King, and I also am voting for revolutionary suicide tonight. I was one of um, capitalism’s casualties, I- When I came here, I was a drug addict, and I was a drug addict because I didn’t have anything to live for, but since I’ve been here, love has given me something to live for, and I’ve seen this happen in the lives of everybody here. I- Also since I’ve been here, I’ve been able to see that communism um, is what is necessary to bring this about. Um- Before I came here, I could only see what was wrong with this society, but I couldn’t see what was necessary to bring about a change. Um, the communal life that I’ve lived here has taught me that basically the problem is economic and the only way we will be able to change anything is through economics, uh-
Jones: Why do you choose uh, revolutionary suicide over, say, going to uh, to communist Cuba?
King: Um, well I feel that um, that in spite of the fact that communism is the answer, that we- that we as a group are kind of premature in that what we have found here is more advanced than what other societies have to offer, and I feel that if we went to another society that um, we would end up being a- another minority group, and I feel that even the um, communist societies that exist have not dealt with racism to the uh, extent that we have, or sexism and I- I- I think that um- I don’t think we would be able to live with it at this point after we have come as far as we have.
Jones: Well, if you would allow me to disagree, I think that racism, as an institution, is dead in Cuba. I feel that um, there might be difficulty in coping with some of our children coming of the ghetto where they’ve been there fortunate enough in the revolutionary society to have grown up free of the tensions of the ghetto. We have overridden most of those problems, but there seems to be some question. The main question whether we could be brought to Cuba as a group, or even if we can be brought there, and if it would be possible put an undue burden upon them, and then it would seem as we’ve heard the consensus tonight, it’s too bad we didn’t tape all of it, but someone thought at the last to tape- It seems that it would be um, difficult for a transition to take place, and there might be some retrogression, regression uh, if our youth were thrown in uh, circumstance where they had to assimilate immediately, we have a language barrier, we have all the problems of inner city living that- from an entirely different culture, and we have wondered about whether we should uh- even youth, so many, many youngsters have spoken tonight, and all ages and every race, of course, we are completely multi-ethnic and multi-racial, and yet we’ve come up with that conclusion, over and again, that it would be uh, undue burden, and someone of course like yourself, I hear now this sentiment and I’ve heard it before, that you feel that we represent an advancement. I had the pleasure to visit Cuba for a time, and I would not want to cast dispersion on others- other nations in their struggle and other groups in their liberation achievements. But I just wanted to interject that and I certainly respect your opinion. Thank you.
King: Thank you.
Pauline Simon: My name is Pauline Simon, and I have become a Marxist-Leninist which I am very proud of, and for this I have committed my life to and dedicated my life to, for the liberation of people everywhere. But it seems as though the world today is not ready to accept this, and I feel as though, if we can’t have liberty everywhere, I would rather have death. So tonight I con- give my life up so that- to let others know that it’s more important to me to see people free everywhere than to live in a life of racism, live in a life of- of cruelty, brutality and violence and inequality and injustices. I’ve had enough and I don’t want anymore. I-
Loretta Coomer: My name is Loretta Coomer. At the age of 40, I look back to- back- 1953 and ’54, when I was with Peoples Temple as a teenager. We moved from one church to the other because of harassment, because of our stand for equality of races, moved from one area of town because of cats being put down outside toilets, to another area of town where dynamite was put on our coal, to another area of town where glass was put in our pastor’s food, to another city from there to another state, from there to another city, and then to another country where we’re trying to find peace. Because of our stand for communism, we have not been accepted anywhere, it seems, in the world, and I feel that I’m tired of running. And myself, I prefer death tonight, being one of the last ones to speak, I would like to be one of the first ones to die. Thank you.
Jones: I see that Brother [Robert] Rankin over here- Do you wish to say something, comrade? That’s all right, you can, they can reach you from there I think.
Robert Rankin: Thank you. Yes, uh- I’m glad tonight for the decision that I’ve made to commit revolutionary suicide. I’ve lived in the cities in the ghettos, I’ve been uh, in- in the United States, and they were horrible places. I had often wanted to help, but I didn’t have any- any- any guidance I had no- no know-how how to reach people. I had joined various organizations in- in hoping to do this, but I failed there, and here, when I have come here to this wonderful place, uh, those who were once with us have gone out and tried to destroy- tried to destroy what is good, what is- what is meaningful and purposeful in many people’s lives. Many of our people are seniors, they’re heavy with years and they have labored many years for something meaningful, and these who wish to serve only their own ends have gone out to hurt even the seniors and children who have done nothing that would- that could hurt anybody, they- they only want to make a meaningful life or have a future that- that would be meaningful in- in socialism and communism. And so since those who want to destroy us has- has brought us to this point of desperation, I’d gladly give my life in revolutionary suicide in hopes that other movements will continue the struggle.
Stephan Jones: Uh, my name is Stephan Jones and I’m natural born of my leader and my dad and uh, in my entire eighteen years with him, I’ve uh, been taught, you know, to be nonviolent and to uh- to uh, try to, you know, put across what I know to be right, you know, in a nice way and after being pushed around and pushed around and pushed around and seeing my dad um, degraded and lied on, I became uh, very violent and uh, because of this um, my dad brought me down here to give me some purpose, ’cause I’d lost all purpose, and uh, I found a purpose and I- I came here to build this place in the hope that uh, it would be a place that um, people could come, people that wanted to change, and wanted to see change, because there aren’t very many. And um, I see that that’s not possible because they’re just going to follow us over here, and they’ve already done it, and we had peop- we have people with us that- that uh, are don’t really want to change, they- they’re selfish and they don’t- they don’t give a damn about the people that- that don’t have the ability to make money or don’t have the ability to- to survive in a capitalist society. They- They feel that they can, and that’s all that matters to them. So they run out on us. That’s the only way I can think of putting it. and to justify their doing it- because they know that this is what’s right, and they know it or they wouldn’t have come here and they wouldna stayed so long. They lie on us, and they- they make us look like- like dirty people, people that- that only do wrong to justify their own, you know, their own doings. And I m tired of it, and like I said before, my natural thing would be to fight, but I’ve also found that that doesn’t do any good, and I still have enough of my upbringing to know that it’s- it’s stupid to fight when you don’t do any good. And uh, we thought of every possible way of reintegrating ourselves into different societies, you know, communist societies such as USSR and- and Cuba, but because we’re- we’re in no way nationalistic and, you know- Any way that we could survive and know that our children wouldn’t be- be exploited as all people have been up to now, we- we- we’d find that way, but I’ve come to the conclusion, and I think everybody in this room has, that- that there is no way there’s going to be somebody left behind –
Crowd: Right, that’s right.
Stephan Jones: There is going to be somebody exploited, somebody crushed –
Crowd: That’s right, true, that’s right.
Stephan Jones: And we don’t want that and we won’t have it, and for that reason we’ve chosen to die here tonight in a revolutionary death.
Crowd: Right, right, right.
Phyllis Chaikin: I want to thank this group for the privilege of knowing what a communist community is about. (unintelligible) is about and for the privilege of being under the leadership of Jim Jones. When I was a teenager, my dad was- believed in communist principles, was hounded by different committees, anti-communist committees, and eventually became a broken man. This family has- has provided strength for those who believe- those of us who believe in communist principles. It’s- Living in Jonestown for six months has been everything I’ve lived for in my 38 years. And it’s a privilege- it’s a privilege for me to die as a communist and keep my integrity (pause) and to relate to all of my brothers and sisters throughout the world who are fighting for freedom.
Jones: Thank you.
Tish Leroy: I was raised in a society that believed in lying to people. I’m very angry about that, as I think back on it. I’ve- I didn’t- I took a m- a m- they took a mind with me that had a chance of- of at least thinking and it wasn’t until I came to this movement that I started to think, because I was raised in robot fashion, educated in college and put through schools. I was an accountant and did other things, but I listened to the drumbeat and the puppet talk of my generation, and of the people that were conditioning and teaching us to do everything but think, and as a result, the entire world has almost been blown to smithereens and stands now on the verge of totally destroying all humane human life by nuclear disaster, and the world should be very angry at this, every mother on the globe should be very angry at this, that we have permitted in our blind stupidity this thing to occur, and tonight I lay down my life in defiance of the inhumanity that has been allowed to persist at the passivity that would permit millions and millions to die. I remember the Bangladesh issue, when millions of intellectuals and young bright minds were killed, and the whole world turned their back, and I was just beginning to wake up then and- but it wasn’t until I came to this movement that my eyes got open and I quit being a puppet in- in my mind, but my life I’m laying down in defiance of allof this puppet living of the ticky-tacky house and the people that have to have all the materiality instead of the humanity, and I’m grateful and I’m in this last few moments, (tape silence for two seconds) to realize for my children that they have come to a state of humanity instead of having to live in this subhuman world that I grew up in. Thank you.
Jones: I believe she didn’t give her name, but it’s Tish Leroy. Go ahead.
Paula Adams: My name is Paula Adams, and I first met Jim Jones seven- well, let’s see- about ten years ago as a schoolteacher. He was a schoolteacher in a current event class that I took. And I- I didn’t know he was a Marxist then, and I thought he was the most sensitive and humanistic person I’d ever met in my life, and he had opened my eyes o oppression and things that were going on in the world that I didn’t even know were happening, and he made a way for me to work for people, to help people, and I became a communist. I’m proud I’m a communist, and I’m grateful that he led me to become something that can actually help people, ’cause that’s what communism is all about. I came to Guyana with the first group of people that came down over four years ago. And we came with the intention of helping a third world nation, a third world socialist nation build, as well as bringing our people to a place where they could live in peace. I’m sorry things didn’t work out that way, but the imperialistic forces of the United States have reached down here and put pressure on this country so that they can not uphold what they see is right, and everyone here has said- that I’ve met in Guyana has said, that we are a model socialist community, and that we are a perfect collective in the socialist sense, and tonight I am proud to die as a Marxist-Leninist with this collective, and I am proud to die with Jim Jones.
Jones: Perhaps it can be possible that a couple of the guest books that have recorded the literally hundreds that have been through this community, that they can read, maybe can be sent, expressions of people who were government officials in capitalist countries as well as government officials of the socialist bloc, representatives of the press from the socialists parts of the world and as well visitors, families, relatives, some who never been inside our church, never knew of me until they came here to visit their relatives. Perhaps they can read some of these statements and people who are concerned can see what we really were trying to bring about. Thank you.
Earnest Jones: My name is Earnest Jones, and I was born and raised in USA, and I didn’t think there was anyplace that you could find anyone that was doing anything to help poor people, until I met Jim Jones. When I met Jim Jones, he taught me something that I never knew before. And after being the type of man that he was, I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to talk against him, especially go out and lie on him. People that has been in this movement has went out and told lies that no one would believe that had common sense, but to me, tonight is the only thing that I feel that I could do to prove myself, and that is commit revolutionary suicide, and I’ll gladly do that tonight to prove to everyone that I laid my life down for something worthwhile. Thank you.
Jones: Tell me, comrade, is your wife of the same opinion you are?
Jessie Weana Jones: Yes, Dad.
Earnest Jones: Yes, she is, Jim.
Jessie Weana Jones: Yes, I am, Jim.
Jones: You feel- you feel that this is the best thing we can do. Is that correct?
Jessie Weana Jones: Yes, I do.
Jones: Thank you so much.
Jessie Weana Jones: Thank you.
Jones: Next please.
Jeff Carey: My name is Jeff Carey and uh- I am a Marxist-Leninist and I’m proud to be this. What I am impressed with in Peoples Temple is that the absolute emptiness of the capitalist system, the children go to school there and only get an education through competition. There is absolutely no care. When people get old you die in a uh- in a convalescent hospital or worse, in the streets, uh, drug addicts, and alcoholics and there’s no con- concern for anything besides the- the dollar and the profit motive. Monopoly capitalism is the scourge of the world. Everything I know about Marxist-Leninism and socialism I have learned in Peoples Temple. Maybe I would like to give my life in- in another way, let’s say, in a violent struggle somewhere or- or in uh, being able to take some enemies with me, but I really don’t feel that this is feasible, I think that- think that- um, I’ve lived with this group and I’ve- was brought out of the capitalist system by this group and by the principle and example of Jim Jones, and I’m going to die with this group. And I voted here tonight to undergo revolutionary suicide with everybody else and I’m proud to do it.
Jones: Next comrade.
Donald Jackson: My name is Donald Jackson. I’ve been in Peoples Temple for ten years. Uh, what I first noticed when I came to Jonestown, was that- how much people had changed from what they were when they were in the United States. I saw people become more sensitive and caring. People were learning how to love, and the world is certainly dying for need of love. I saw senior citizens who were brainwashed by (pause) uh- uh- plastic uh- insensitive system begin to think and educate themselves and begin to articulate and learn about what’s going on in the world. (Pause) This contrast is so striking, and it’s so obvious that his community had affected them in such a positive way. And when I look around I- I- I see what it- what it is that there are some of the things that- that- that has made such a- a beautiful change in me. When I saw the free medical care and a doctor who really sincerely cared about people’s illnesses and took special care to make sure they had everything they needed, and a school for the children where the teachers cared and put forth an extra effort to make sure that they got- got the kind of education that uh, made them more sensitive and caring people. Thank you.
Jack Barron: My name is Jack Barron. I have been in Peoples Temple for seven years, and I did come out of the Christian religious background and definitely the competitive capitalist background. All the years I was in the uh, Christian background I kept losing ground, because I could not find what was needed in the way of fraternity and equality among men. In the capitalist background, I kept losing ground there also, because there was no equality there, there was no friendship there, nobody looked to help you out, they all looked to cut your throat at the best. Now, under Jim Jones, I have learned to place all the things in the world that are best in relationship to all men, all women and children, the consideration of all people equal. I have learned what peace is, and freedom is based upon the equality of all people. I am willing to die for this point. I’m willing to die tonight for revolutionary suicide. Thank you.
Jones: Are you- Do you feel that this is the best course? I see you say you are willing to die, I want to know what do you feel, deep down in your gut. I have not heard you before as we’ve heard everyone in this audience, so it’s been a long time, but I- you said you were willing- Um- How do you feel personally about it?
Barron: I would rather die under this organization than live anywhere else at any time or any place in the world.
Jones: Do you feel that there is anything else we can do to avoid it?
Barron: No, I do not.
Jones: I see. Thank you.
Penny Dupont: My name is Penny Kerns Dupont, and I want to say that I came from a working class background, and before I came to Peoples Temple, I had a very sick alcoholic past. And I want to say to the workers of the world that it’s- you have to have more than just a union, you have to- you have to own the means of production, and the only way that you are going to survive in this world is through pure communism, as is practiced here in Jonestown. And there is a heaven on earth, and it’s here. It’s a wonderful collective in Guyana and um, I just wanted to say that I ho- I am- have chosen to uh, die a revolutionary suicide, and I’m very happy to do it, and I just want to appeal to the workers of the world to arise.
Jones: Thank you.
Marthea Hicks: (Voice rises throughout) My name is Marthea Hicks, and for several reasons tonight I commit revolutionary suicide. For one reason, I refuse to live in a world full of confusion. I refuse to see my child in a school filled with police and reading books that he will never understand and things that will never do him any good. I refuse to watch children take pills every day at twelve o’clock noon, just to settle them down. I refuse to smell the stench of a goddamned ghetto. I refuse to live in this type of society one more day. When I came to Peoples Temple. I found the right way. I found a way that I could live and a way that people came together. It’s remarkable to see people of- people of all colors and people from all walks of life who have come together for one purpose, and this damned society won’t allow us to do what we want to do, and that is to live and to express what is right,communalism, to share together, and they have followed us all the way over here to Guyana to destroy our lives, so tonight we say, and I say, just damn the whole thing and I will commit suicide tonight.
Crowd: Right, that’s right.
End of tape
Tape originally posted April 2004