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: Miscellaneous
FBI preliminary tape identification note: One Tracs 60/ unmarked
Date cues on tape: Probably late fall 1977 (after long White Night)
Mao Tse-Tung, leader of People’s Republic of China
Vladimir Ilich Lenin, revolutionary leader
Karl Marx, German economist, father of communism
Former President Richard Nixon
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Elaine Brown, member of Black Panther Party in Oakland
Chief Joseph, 19th century Native American chief
General George Armstrong Custer
Jonestown residents, full name unknown:
Robert [probably Johnson] (speaks)
Larry [probably Tupper] (speaks)
Barry Lewis (speaks)
Alfred March (speaks)
Bible verses cited: None (Child’s reference to Adam and Eve)
(Note: This tape was one of the 53 tapes initially withheld from public disclosure.)
In this tape, an undetermined number — probably a half dozen — of mostly unidentified junior high-aged children have a free-wheeling, high-spirited debate about the advantages of socialism vs. capitalism, although the conversation ranges all over the political and social map, with youthful commentary on such diverse issues as Vietnam, nuclear weapons, women’s rights, the environment, racism, genocide of the American Indian, unemployment, and child labor.
There does seem to be an unidentified adult present at least periodically during the tape, but she is powerless to control or even direct the conversation. There are two sides of the main debate — capitalism vs. socialism — but kids sometimes argue against their own cause, they end a statement with the acknowledgement that they have just jumped to the other camp, and when all else fails, they reduce the debate to the back-and-forth banter, name-calling, and scatological references of a playground. The children argue with non-sequitors, they stray from the subject — and if anyone does the roping in, it’s the other kids in the debate — they seem to create their own facts, and they definitely adopt the personae of the roles they play (sometimes in such an exaggerated form as to be cartoonish). When someone refers to General George Armstrong Custer as “General Custard, made out of mustard,” he reveals more than anything else that he is a young teenager.
In general, though, the debate is full of laughter, of excited voices, of raspberries, and of the quick repartee of children that age. In the midst of a side colloquy over skin color, one boy shoots at another, “What about you? You’re light-skinned. You said, white is beautiful.” Just as quickly, the other fires back, “I got a tan.” The skirmish ends in raspberries and laughter.
Nevertheless, they seem to take their assignment seriously. When one boy challenges another with, “I think capitalism is full of shit,” another replies — even as he is surrounded with laughs — “No, no, no. I don’t agree.”
Indeed, at times, the children sound older than their years. Near the beginning of the hour-long tape — which includes neither the beginning nor the end of the debate — one boy says, “In socialism, it is better than capitalism, ‘cause we think about the children and the seniors, and what we’d do if there’s a revolution. We fight and stand up for our rights.” Within minutes, another youth attacks capitalism by saying, “your whole system is based on money, and our system is based on the people, so you’re all worried about getting all your money, and we’re all worried about making it better for the people.”
There are also indications of where these children came from. When the “capitalist” says, he can buy a pair of shoes whenever he wants, a “socialist” replies, “when you walk down the street [with your new shoes], you’re afraid, ‘cause you might get shot out by a bunch of gangs that always go around… but in socialism, we can walk down the street at night, real late at night, and we won’t even be worried.” As do other colloquies, though, this ends with a raspberry.
The children delight in turning something someone just said back on them. A capitalist defends the care his system gives to seniors by saying, “When they’re 65, they can go home, relax, and get money from the government.” A socialist retorts, the capitalist system throws its seniors away, putting them out to pasture at such a young age, whereas his society provides jobs for them to work until they’re 80. “You make your seniors work? You make ‘em work when they’re 80?” the capitalist says. “They want to work. They’re so faithful in socialist countries, that they love work. Work is their life,” the socialist replies. “I’ve heard of child brutality,” the capitalist concludes sardonically, “but senior brutality is something else.”
Still, when someone is backed into a rhetorical corner, the easiest way out is to change the subject. A discussion about whose satellites are falling out of space, and who on earth is in danger of being killed, ends abruptly when another child pipes in with, “How many Vietnamese have you killed? How many Chinese have you killed?” Sometimes, one of the children — usually the one prevailing in the just-interrupted debate — will try to drag the conversation back, or chastise someone that they haven’t answered the question, but the success rate is low.
Midway through the first side of the tape – beginning about 12 minutes in – is a portion of a previously-recorded monologue on incarceration and revolutionary praxis. The speaker is not Jim Jones. The tape appears to be adapted from the prison letters of George Jackson, which were published in 1970 in a collection entitled Soledad Brother. Some portions are a direct quote, as when the readers says:
I have surrendered all hope of happiness for myself in this life to the prospect of effecting some improvement in our circumstances as a whole. I have a plan, I will give, and give, and give of myself until it proves our making or my end.
At other points, it does not appear to contain a direct reading from the text, but a sampling of its highlights. For example, at one point, the reader says:
The turning point in my life came when I met Marx, Mao, and Lenin, and they redeemed me. What I saw and what I wanted, the central passion of my life, was war.
The text itself reads:
I was 18 years old. I’ve been here ever since. I met Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Engels, and Mao when I entered prison and they redeemed me. For the first four years I studied nothing but economics and military ideas.
The full text of Soledad Brother is here. We are indebted to Dominique Cyprès for his assistance in identifying this work.
Date of transcription: 3/14/79
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 March 1, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B47 #112. This tape was found to contain the following:
Side A & B: Contains an apparent political discussion by a group of children on the subject of socialism and capitalism.
Nothing was contained thereon which was considered to be of evidentiary nature or beneficial to the investigation of Congressman RYAN.
Differences with FBI Summary:
The summary is accurate and meets the FBI’s purposes.
Tape originally posted September 2003