Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
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FBI Catalogue: Jones Speaking
FBI preliminary tape identification note: None
Richard Nixon, former president of the United States
Henry Kissinger, National Security Adviser
Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin)
Martin Niemöller, German pastor, critic of Nazism (by reference)Salvador Allende, President of Chile, deposed in 1973 coup
Victor Jara, Chilean singer
Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Iran
Rolando Carrasaco, author of Chile’s Prisoners of War
Bible verses cited: None
(This tape was transcribed by Sarabeth Trujillo. The editors gratefully acknowledge her invaluable assistance.)
Jim Jones reads two chapters from a memoir of a Chilean citizen imprisoned after the coup of 1973 that resulted in the death of Pres. Salvador Allende and the installation of a military junta as the country’s governing body. Jones begins the tape by saying he will present both “reading and commentary,” and while sometimes it is fairly apparent when the commentary appears – when he speaks about the relationship of the events in Chile to life in Jonestown, or when his voice becomes less theatrical and more conversational, or when he reprises one of his axioms such as the imminence of nuclear war – but oftentimes it is not.
At one point, for example, Jones offers a fairly lengthy aside about the book-burning in Chile and compares it to Nazi Germany’s book-burning. He continues with sentiments and conspiratorial assertions which seems closer to his own – “Germany was tricked into getting into the war” by the leaders of its fascist government – but the language and Jones’ oratory as he pursues the aside are not his standard fare.
There are numerous messages he wants to deliver to the people of Jonestown as he reads the chapters, some inspired by the text, others more spontaneous. As he begins reading, for example, he speaks of the hopelessness he feels of ever being able to teach some of his followers. “It’s important that we feel the spirit of suffering of our comrades,” he says in an early aside, “[but even] if I read and commented and gave my own opinions as I did earlier today for several hours, … some of you would not be educated.” These periodic, free-floating denigrations of some of his followers, and his references to his deteriorating health suggest that the tape was made in Jonestown’s final months.
There is also a bitterness in his remarks, and increasingly hardened political positions, that do not appear with such stridency in Jonestown’s earlier period. The overthrow of Allende demonstrates that meaningful change will only come through violent revolution, as Italy’s Red brigade has shown. “[Y]ou have to have activism, [you] cannot believe in democratic change. Chile proves that you cannot work within the system.… The people supported [Allende]. They tried to bring change by gradualism and democracy, and that is revisionism. It will not work.”
Jones has chosen the book because it shows the harsh brutality of the military junta in the days and weeks following the coup. When the book wanders from the message of oppression and resistance, Jones’ voice becomes tight with disagreement. “You don’t need entertainment,” he interjects while reading about the men in the cellblock organizing to present skits, songs and comedy routines to keep their spirits up. “This is no time for songs, poetry readings, or jokes.” Moments later, after reading descriptions of the skits, he adds, “I can’t relate to this at all. At all. Maybe some of you in Jonestown can. I can’t relate to this at all.” Instead of using laughter as a survival technique, he says, “My hate and talk of hate and planning conceptions to how to get at the enemies who were raping the women and little children being tortured woulda been all that I needed to kept my will and kept it alive.”
Finally, when the author speaks of the need to do what one can to survive, Jones replies with a literal harrumph and adds, “Boy, you see, they lack revolutionary awareness. You shouldn’t want to survive.”
The theme of death infects much of what he passes along in his commentary. Chile had succumbed to the military because its people were not sufficiently revolutionary, he says, especially the women who “should’ve been emancipated from this role of screaming and looking so passive.” He doesn’t want the people of Jonestown to follow that example. Rather, “I want to see every one of you with a plan of what you will do if you face death, and how you will face revolutionary death, and what you will do, if necessary, to die for the revolution.” In critiquing how the prisoners learned to cooperate with each other so that there would be food for all, Jones counters, “You pounce on it like a crowd of hungry animals, with the result that some of you go hungry. That’s why you must be prepared in Jonestown for revolutionary death. … There should no fear of death here, and I am very impatient with you that still fear death, which is the last enemy that we’ve overcome in many White Night.”
His message as he signs off summarizes the bleakness with which the people of Jonestown were becoming increasingly familiar. “The pulse of revolution goes on,” he says, but what that means to them is they must “[i]dentify with the sufferings of our comrades, and know that life is meaningless, no more meaningful than a worm’s existence, or one of these beetles that live only just fourteen to twenty-four hours that you see flying around at this time of the year. Then there’s no meaning outside of communism, but in communism, there becomes revolutionary purpose.”
Date of transcription: 6/7/79
In connection with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation into the assassination of U.S. Congressman LEO J. RYAN at Port Kaituma, Guyana, South America, on November 18, 1978, a tape recording was obtained. This tape recording was located in Jonestown, Guyana, South America, and was turned over to U.S. Officials in Guyana and subsequently transported to the United States.
On May 28, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B70-6. This tape was found to contain the following:
JIM JONES reading and editorializing on Chapter 5 of “Chile’s Prisoners of War” by ROLANDO CORASACO.
At 25 minutes and 50 seconds into the tape JONES said, “You here in Jonestown must be prepared for revolutionary death … I’m very impatient with you who still fear death … which is the last enemy that we’ve overcome in many white nights.”
Differences with FBI Summary:
The summary is accurate and meets the FBI’s purposes.
Tape originally posted December 2009