Scholars have studied Jonestown in the past from an empirical or pragmatic method. They write their analyses based on a superficial understanding of political and social events going on at the time. Quite a few add religious subterfuge in the mix. In addition, numerous former members have a conception of Jim Jones that involves both good and evil. But none of them ever gets beyond this point. Moral condemnation even of a holocaust does not explain complex political issues that led up to it.
There are objective historical processes that created the social reality of Jim Jones and his movement. His politics were based on the greatest historical lie of the 20th century. Jones identified Stalinism with communism.
* * * * *
The Russian revolution that occurred in October 1917 was a qualitative leap for the international working class. The Bolshevik party, under the leadership of V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky, took power by smashing the capitalist private property relations in Russia. They achieved this goal through the soviets (organs of workers power), and nationalized the productive forces and land. They also controlled a monopoly when it came to foreign commerce. It made the new regime the greatest historical, social transformation the world has ever seen.[i]
But the Soviet Union still remained a backward, semi-feudal country with limited resources. Both Lenin and Trotsky understood that a nationally contained-state in the Soviet Union was unattainable. The revolution in Russia could be seen only as the beginning of the world socialist revolution.
The Soviet Union needed allies in highly industrialized countries to supply the technology, economic and military aid necessary for the country to survive. Trotsky made this clear in his theory of Permanent Revolution: “First, that despite the historical backwardness of Russia, the revolution can transfer the power into the hands of the Russian proletariat before the proletariat of the advanced countries can obtain it. Secondly, the way out of the contradictions which will befall the proletarian dictatorship in a backward country, surrounded by a world of capitalist enemies, will be found the arena of the world revolution.”[ii]
But the civil war that ensued after the revolution drained the limited resources of the country even further. The Russian working class felt fatigue. The defeats of revolutions in Europe – most of all, in Germany in 1919 and 1923 – deepened the isolation of the Soviet Union. There was also in the 1920s a limited stability that took place in the world capitalist system.
This all contributed to a nationalist within the Soviet Union and its ruling organization. Definite material interest of a bureaucracy started to take hold and they became the arbitrators and administrated the economic social inequality which persisted due to the continuous isolation of the first worker’s state.
Joseph Stalin was a third rate Bolshevik leader during the Russian revolution. But his personal character, including a supreme expression of mediocrity, exemplified the aspirations of the bureaucratic apparatus. Trotsky said this about Stalin: “In Stalin each (Soviet bureaucrat) easily finds himself. But Stalin also finds in each one a small part of his own spirit. Stalin is the personification of the bureaucracy. That is the substance of his political personality.” This is how a moronic individual, who had complete contempt for ideas and the masses, rose to the heights of a Byzantine dictator over the entire Soviet Union.
As Stalin consolidated power, the young Communist parties throughout the world were forced to adapt themselves to liberal or progressive governments or organizations. His theory of “socialism in one country” meant a status quo or peaceful co?existence with imperialist countries could be obtained.
This policy under Stalin’s leadership led to historic defeats of the working class. The influence of Stalinism in the English trade unions led to the political destruction of the British General Strike of 1926. Stalin’s alliance with Chiang Kai-shek (in 1926-1927) led to the defeat of the first Chinese revolution and a bloody holocaust that killed 20,000 workers at Shanghai in April of 1927.[iii]
The greatest defeat for the international working class occurred in Germany in 1933. Stalin’s theory of “social fascism” claimed the Social Democratic Party (SPD), which had millions of workers, was identical to the Nazi Party. In the German Communist Party (KPD), which was the other great mass workers party, the rank and file still identified the party with the great traditions of Bolshevism. But Stalin’s theory split the German working class from being mobilized against fascists bands which gained control of the streets in Germany. Trotsky called for a “United Front” to unify millions of workers, of both parties, against the fascist threat. He said: “The program of action, must be strictly practical, strictly objective, to the point, without any of the artificial ‘claims’ without any reservations, so that every average Social Democratic worker can say to himself what the communists propose is completely indispensable for the struggle against fascism. On this basis, we must pull the Social Democratic workers along with us by example, and criticize their leaders who will inevitably serve as a check and break” (“The Workers United Front Against Fascism” 1931). However, Hitler managed to take power in mid-1933. The Comintern (Stalin) said in its aftermath: “After the future collapse of the Hitler government it will be our turn.” On the basis of this great historical tragedy, Trotsky said the Stalinized parties were completely reactionary and could not be reformed. Trotsky called for the founding of the Fourth International which held its first congress in 1938. Trotsky said: “An organization which was not roused by the thunder of fascism and which submits docilely to such outrageous acts of the bureaucracy demonstrates thereby it is dead and nothing can ever revive it. In subsequent work it’s necessary to take at our point of departure the historical collapse of the official Communist International.”
Stalin staged his infamous Moscow purge trials between 1936 to 1938. He wanted to show his reliability to the world bourgeois. In three enormous show trials, he put nearly the entire Bolshevik leadership on trial. Old prominent Bolsheviks, like Grigors Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev, were accused of sabotage and wanting to destroy the Soviet Union. Ultimately hundreds of thousands of communists were falsely accused of political crimes, such as espionage, fascism, representing a “Trotskyite wrecking crew on the Soviet Union,” and conspiracies to prepare uprisings and coups. Most were either sent to a gulag or a bullet was sent to their brains. This was after short and summary trials. [iv]
If Peoples Temple had come to fruition in the 1930’s, it’s quite possible that the GPU (Stalin’s secret police, later called the KGB) could have used an educated gangster like Jim Jones in their service. The GPU already had a multitude of sociopathic thugs who killed thousands of Trotskyists and other opponents of Stalinism around the world. One of them, Ramon Mercador, infiltrated Trotsky’s household in Coyocan, Mexico. He gave Trotsky a mortal blow by striking a pick axe to the back of his brain. The Spanish Stalinist assassinated the greatest Marxist theoretician of the 20th Century.
And Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones would likely have volunteered his services to the GPU. After all, it was Stalin whom Jones admired. In Journey to Nowhere, his book about Jonestown, Shiva Naipaul goes back to Jones’ days in 1950’s Indianapolis for some of his earliest known quotes about the Soviet leader: “I loved Stalin. I never could have accepted that Stalin was all that bad as he was portrayed. I don’t switch in the middle of the stream. Stalin, who I read and heard reports of, that stood on the outskirts of Moscow, who lived in humble surroundings. Purged, yeah, sure he purged. The goddamned allies had infiltrated his high command, enough to drive anyone insane. And all of a sudden comes Khrushchev, and Stalin is a son of a bitch. I couldn’t accept what the hell they would want to discredit Marshall Stalin for.”[v]
Jones especially admired Stalin’s role during World War II. On June 22, 1941, Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the code name for the invasion of the Soviet Union. The next several months saw the German military machine entrap entire Red armies by and destroy major cities en route to Moscow and Leningrad.
One reason for Hitler’s success was that Stalin had weakened the defense of his country, especially when he beheaded the entire Army general staff in the purge trials. He sincerely believed in the Hitler/Stalin pact. Hitler rewarded him by throwing three quarters of Germany’s 400 divisions at the Red Army.
The USSR prevailed despite – not because of – Stalin. It was the superiority of the planned and nationalized economy, and the determination of the Soviet working class to keep the social gains made from the October Revolution, that defeated the Nazi empire during World War II.
* * * * *
After World War II, the reestablishment of capitalism was made possible by betrayals of Stalinism in France and other European countries, and the strength of the American economy. Europe and Japan laid in ruins while the American economic and military might remained intact. This was reflected in the Bretton Woods agreement in 1944. It was a system of firmly-positioned exchange rates and designed to bear the weight of any country that ran into balance of payments trouble. The global hegemony of the U.S. occurred through the American dollar becoming a de facto world currency. This was achieved by tying the American dollar to gold at $35 an ounce.
But the equilibrium the American dollar played in the capitalist system had changed by the 1960’s. The US currency was becoming destabilized. There was a run on the dollar and a tremendous balance of payments problem. On August 15,1971, President Richard Nixon responded to the crisis of the international monetary system by canceling the convertibility of the dollar to gold. Thus, the US broke up the economic basis for the entire post World War Il economic boom.
The crisis has been facilitated by a revolutionary offensive in the western industrialized countries. In May-June of 1968, a general strike involved millions of students and workers. It eventually led to the down fall of the De Gaulle government. In the following year, a general strike occurred in Italy. In England, the Miners Strike of 1974, helped to bring the Tory government of Ted Heath down. He was forced to resign. In trying to curtail the trade unions, the prime minister was confronted by greatest strike wave since the 1920s.
There had also been a rise of the masses in semi-colonial countries that were taking revolutionary offensives against imperialism. The American ruling class wanted to draw a line against the decolonialization process going on in the world. Vietnam was the result. It ultimately resulted in the deaths of more than 50,000 American soldiers, another 300,000 crippled, two million Vietnamese people dead, and hundreds of billions of American dollars squandered on this debacle for American imperialism.[vi]
The savagery in Vietnam committed by the American military going on in the 1960’s and 1970’s enraged the world. In the U.S., millions of students, sizable sections of the middle and working classes, even a multitude of soldiers, were mobilized into the struggle against the war.[vii] It was the largest opposition to a colonial war of any modern capitalist country in history. There was a connection not only with the Vietnam revolution, but with other protest movements going on at the same time.
Martin Luther King led a large movement to uproot segregation in the South and defend civil liberties of blacks and other minorities throughout the country. Black workers and youth rose up in insurrections across the United States challenging the basic social structure of American society. Beginning in 1964 in Harlem, and later in Watts, Detroit, and dozens of other cities, they exposed the lies of President Johnson’s new “Great Society” programs for the poor.
Millions of union workers went on strike – both in the social service and the industrial sections of the working class – in the mid 1960’s. They were fighting back against the government’s anti-strike laws, wage/price guidelines, and the attempt to make the working class pay for inflation.
The American ruling class was frightened that these mass social movements could coalesce in such a way that could lead to revolution. They knew that Stalinism was too well known in the world for its numerous betrayals of revolutions. The Stalinist Communist Party USA could not do the job alone. So they pushed forward another party: the government-controlled, revisionist, false Trotskyist organization called the Socialist Workers Party. The job of both parties – CPUSA and SWP – was to control the mass movement of the protesters, channeling their immense anger and rebellion into the safety valve of the liberal bourgeois in the Democratic Party and thereby preventing any possibility of an insurrection occurring in the United States. Other organizations, including the Black Panther Party, American Indian Movement, and the Students for a Democratic Society, joined the SWP and CPUSA in a massive coalition which preached liberal reformism or bourgeois nationalist politics to the masses. Together, these parties blocked and completely denied the objective historical need for the political independence of the working class. These revisionist parties were not grounded in a real international socialist program.
Substituting for a revolutionary perspective was a potpourri of radical political stew. Women’s Liberations, Gay Liberation, syndicalism, fragments of Marxism, black nationalism, and spiritualism, were some of the pragmatic nostrums that politically disoriented millions of people.
Jones and Peoples Temple were quite comfortable within the social milieu which existed in the late 1960’s and 1970’s. The bombastic, former Pentecostal preacher from Indiana could call himself a “radical marxist” or “revolutionary” and pull it off. After all, he had thousands of members who adhered to his ideas. The large radical parties who were leading this vast anti-establishment coalition could not challenge him on a principled basis. This is because they all shared the same opportunistic politics.
The prophet preached from the pulpit as a humanist and used his great oratorical ability to appeal to his audiences in helping the poor and homeless. His more negative characteristics – hidden from public view – were well exposed in the Temple’s private inner sanctum. Completely unprincipled, he conned and manipulated large groups of people in other political organizations.[viii] The capitalist politicians he was trying to impress were completely oblivious to the increasing cultish atmosphere that existed in Peoples Temple.
As time went on – as Peoples Temple became associated with more and more leftist causes – Jones’ passion to convince leaders in the radical movement that the Temple was a militant and revolutionary group burned with greater and greater fervor. His efforts to take every opportunity to burnish his credentials is illustrated in his political affiliation with Laura Allende, the sister of Salvador Allende who was elected president of Chile by a democratic vote in 1970. Jones deeply admired the radical politician who claimed there was a “peaceful road to socialism,” but he wasn’t the only one. Stalinists in both China and the Soviet Union supported Allende’s popular front government.[ix] Fidel Castro called him a “revolutionary socialist” and said his policies were paving the way for other countries in South America.[x]
President Nixon and his chief foreign affairs advisor, Henry Kissinger, heard the same message and wasted no time in plotting the overthrow of his government. Shortly after his election there began a number of economic provocations by American imperialism which sharply increased class tensions in Chile. It led up to the military coup of September 11, 1973.
One of Salvador Allende’s last acts before the CIA overthrew him was to tell the Chilean workers not to arm themselves, that the military would support the constitution. More than 20,000 workers were killed by General Pinochet’s fascist regime as a result of Allende’s betrayal.[xi]
Jones also understood that the most tried and true way to garner respect dealing with opportunist organizations is generous cash donations in the coffers of their political parties. Dennis Banks was the largest beneficiary of Peoples Temple political and financial generosity. Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement, received $20,000 to bail out his wife and daughter from a Northwest state jail. Soon afterwards, Jones learned that California Democratic Governor Jerry Brown was about to sign an extradition order that would send Banks back to South Dakota to face a weapons charge. It was the Temple that organized the campaign to prevent this from occurring.
Peoples Temple also developed a political connection with the Black Muslims in San Francisco. They held a joint meeting called a “Spiritual Jubilee” in which top Democratic Party officials in California also came.
Jones had the ability to dispatch hundreds or even thousands of his followers within a short amount of time to events affecting large groups of people, as the following examples illustrate:
• A large corporation called the Four Seasons wanted to demolish the International Hotel in San Francisco for profitable redevelopment reasons. The effort to prevent evictions of the largely poor and disenfranchised group of tenants at the International Hotel involved more than 2000 Temple members.
• Jones sent a delegation of Peoples Temple members to picket and support the “Fresno Four,” a group of Fresno Bee newspaper reporters jailed for their refusal to reveal their sources for a series of articles involving a California secret grand jury.
• Forever the opportunist, Jones also sent hundreds of his followers to canvass for the election of Democrat George Moscone as mayor of San Francisco.
It’s no wonder that the Concerned Relatives trying to expose the violence, fraud, slavery, and other human rights travesties in Jonestown had such a tough time convincing politicians to investigate Jones.[xii] He had already paid them off.
Governor Brown had no reservations about attending a packed Peoples Temple meeting in San Francisco, even though the church had armed guards and secured doors. Rosalynn Carter, wife of then-presidential candidate Jimmy Carter on the Democratic Party ticket, personally called Jones in the fall of 1976 to thank him for everything he was doing; she likely didn’t know that the Temple taped the call. Walter Mondale, Carter’s vice presidential candidate, had a special private meeting with Jones. He knew that Jones had the ability to send entire families, consisting of hundreds of people, many of them elderly and children, to Democratic Party functions. That made Jones a valuable asset, especially considering the party’s outlook at the time. Their policies were helping to slash millions of jobs and eliminating the ability of working class families to make a living.
The Carter administration lasted from 1977 to 1981. In 1979, President Carter appointed Paul Volcker to become chief of the Federal Reserve, and Volcker presided over the biggest run-ups of interest rates in American history. The American ruling elite, as part of a corporate offensive, wanted to bring down the living standards of working people. Vast sections of the auto and steel industries, wasting away because they no longer could compete with European and Asian companies, were shut down. During the Carter government and continuing into the Reagan administration, millions of industrial workers lost their jobs.
Historically the Democratic Party has always represented the financial oligarchy. At the turn to the 20th century, a great social upheaval took place, involving small farmers and middle class people who were fighting foreclosures and depressed prices that the banks and railroads were forcing on them. They founded the Populist Party as a means to unite under a program to nationalize these industries.
In the 1930’s there was a massive labor upsurge in response to the economic depression. It led to the creation of mass trade unions in the country for the first time. The Congress of Industrial Organizations was founded to unite these different groups. Both these social movements were immensely weakened because they never completely broke from the Democratic Party.
In today’s America, the Democratic Party plays the role as the loyal opposition to the Bush administration. The differences between the two big business parties relate only to tactics in achieving the same reactionary goals. They are in complete agreement on advancing the geopolitical interests of the American ruling elite. In other words, to advance and secure the oil interests of companies like Chevron Texaco and Exxon Mobil in the middle east. And to plan and execute even bloodier imperialist wars than the ones presently going on in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Beginning with the Carter Administration, there has been an increasing and staggering economic gap between the rich and the poor in America that is incompatible with the maintenance of bourgeois democracy. Hence, Bush’s so called “war on terror” represents a wide scale attack on the democratic rights of the working class. Since the time of Jim Jones and his movement in the 1970’s, both the Democratic and Republican parties have made a drastic shift to the right in American politics.[xiii]
* * * * *
Jim Jones’ lack of any true understanding of these historical and political perspectives followed him to Jonestown. Both the prophet and the followers were politically disoriented. Yet this is the political glue that held the organization together.
Jones was known the world as a madman who ordered the deaths (both willing and unwilling) of nearly a thousand people. They were trapped in the middle of a Guyana jungle with little political recourse. So why should anyone today care what kind of politics were going on in Jonestown at the time?
It merits interest and discussion because Jonestown did not sit in a historical vacuum. Jim Jones and all his members claimed to be followers of Marx and Lenin. They were building a socialist society and escaping all the poverty and racism that exists in America.
Jones spent hours at Jonestown meetings telling his transfixed followers about the latest developments of the bourgeois nationalist movements going on around the world. To Jones, who used the scientific term of socialism with complete abandon, nationalist organizations like SWAPO (the South West African People Organization) and the “liberation” movement going on in Chad, were paving the way for socialism in the world.
Jones often called himself the world’s only true socialist, and to prove his assertion, claimed that the CIA and FBI were monitoring his movement’s activities. Ironically, the Temple’s patron in Guyana was its prime minister, Forbes Burnham, who was an active CIA agent for many years.
In the early 1960’s, Burnham led CIA-financed strikes against an opponent whom the American government considered too radical. For his efforts, Burnham was installed as prime minister in 1964 by the British Colonial office and the CIA. One of the richest men in country, Burnham was a dictator who suppressed elections and operated a police state to maintain power. By 1970, though, Burnham wanted to establish radical credentials with other third world countries. He started to reach out diplomatically to countries like the Soviet Union and Cuba. It was Burnham inhis new image that Jones met and first discussed establishing his community in the country’s Northwest district.
Jonestown generally had good fraternal relations with the Guyana government. Jones would talk in his community about the “socialist government” he generally admired and the “comrades” in Burnham’s government whom Jonestown had business dealings with.
Jones rarely referred to Leon Trotsky, and when he did, it was to disparage him. On several occasions, Jones charged that his enemies were involved in “Trotskyite violent terrorist plans.” In Journey to Nowhere, Shiva Naipaul described Jonestown’s appeal to Congress in the spring of 1978 this way: “It was a bachameleonic performance, slithering elusively between patriotism, black mail, threats, and sentimentality. They said they were tired of being harassed, and their patience was almost exhausted. Radical Trotskyist elements were accused of orchestrating a campaign of hate against them, because they, Peoples Temple, had refused to countenance their program of violence.”
Mark Lane[xiv] and Charles Garry, two civil rights attorneys who defended left wing radical clients for many years, also represented Jim Jones. The lawyers understood how conspiracies can execute a social function serving definite material and class interests. But there was no flat out attempt by the American government to destroy Peoples Temple, even though it had launched numerous investigations of Temple activities. The Federal Communications Commission was looking at Jonestown for possible misuse of ham radio transmissions. The Social Security Administration and Internal Revenue Service were investigating fraud allegations in Peoples Temple. Nevertheless, at press conferences and other venues, Lane and Garry never hesitated to say the American government was out to destroy Jonestown. They had no clue that the “conspiracy theories” they were promoting were reinforcing in Jim Jones sick and paranoid mind an idea he had for many years called “revolutionary suicide.” Their efforts nearly cost them their lives.[xv]
There was no record of the CIA or FBI penetrating Jonestown. But security can still become a life and death question for left wing political organizations. Peoples Temple claimed solidarity with the Black Panther Party (BPP). Jones visited Huey Newton, on the run from a felony rap in the United States, in Cuba.
COINTELPRO, short for the FBI Counterintelligence Program, was used against civil rights and left wing parties in the 1960’s. With the BPP, due to its reactionary black nationalist program, it was easy for the FBI to penetrate the organization and destroy it from within. They actually were able to set up and run their own branches of the BPP.
Jones never identified his movement with the Socialist Workers Party. But it’s a prime example of a sinister government infiltration in a radical party. In the early 1960’s, a dozen FBI agents were funneled into leadership positions in the SWP. They were recruited from a small and obscure Minnesota college called Carleton. They run and control the party till this day.
Angela Davis, a leading radical of the Stalinist Communist Party, USA, was another political ally of Jim Jones. On occasion, she would speak through a short wave system hooked up at PT headquarters in San Francisco, and give fraternal party greetings to the Jonestown community. Her party was infiltrated by so many FBI agents in the 1950’s and 1960’s that some government spies believed there were more agents than members in the party.
Regardless of what these parties represent politically, they must always be defended against government infiltration. It represents an attack on the democratic rights of the entire working class.
Millions of people in the 1970’s followed Stalinist parties around the planet. They mistakenly believed that the Stalinist leadership in the Soviet Union represented the continuity of Marxism. In today’s world, after all the historical betrayals, anyone who equates Stalinism with socialism would have to be defined as political illiterates.
Jones used a Stalinist political orientation as a ploy to carry on a continuous discussion with his followers during the last year of Jonestown’s existence It was purportedly to find a country – most often the Soviet Union or Cuba – that the entire community could emigrate to.[xvi] In actuality, Jones was simply biding his time waiting for a catalyst to carry out his ultimate fantasy called “revolutionary suicide.” In Jones’ mind, this meant self-destruction before the enemy attacks. The world found this out on November 18, 1978.
* * * * *
Jim Jones, as well as his hundreds of People Temple members who died in the holocaust, did not live long enough to see the collapse of Stalinism in the Soviet Union in 1991. Within the last few decades, globalization has increasingly integrated the complex capitalist system of production and exchange.[xvii] It has intertwined the national economies through trade, foreign direct investment, and the spread of new technology. The Soviet Union, an isolated autarchy, deformed worker’s state could not stand up to deepening integration of the world’s economy. The country has been plundered and massive sections of the planned economy has auctioned off to the highest bidder. The restoration of capitalism has led to abject poverty to the vast majority of the Russian people. The new captains of industry are gangsters represented by the Vladimir Putin government.
The legacy of Chinese Stalinism has been a horrible historical disaster for Chinese working people. The government started to open up their industries for capitalist penetration in the late 1980’s. The limited social reforms and a modicum of state control over basic industries developed from the Chinese revolution in 1948, but they have disappeared and been replaced by large international capitalist firms running de facto slave labor operations.
Tens of millions of the Chinese proletariat have wages of less than two dollars a day. Substandard housing and long working hours are the social norm. Over 15,000 workers die each year from industrial accidents. The 130 million rural-to-urban immigrants are denied basic social care. In essence, the entire working class is denied democratic rights. The new social order has created a few billionaires and several thousand new millionaires, but the exploitation and suppression of workers’ rights is leading to a tremendous social explosion coming to China.
At the beginning of the 20th century the world was already divided up by imperialist countries. Leon Trotsky, in his theory of Permanent Revolution, said this had completely undermined the nation-state system of the 19th century.
In other words, no bourgeois-nationalist movement could play a progressive role anymore. They would always be under the yoke of world imperialism. The only way out was to unify the international working class through fighting for its political independence. This was the socialist program of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky.
Bourgeois nationalist organizations like SWAPO, the Irish Republican Army, and the African National Congress, to name just a few, could not help advance the conditions of working people in their countries at all. Instead, all they wanted to is enrich themselves at the expense of the same people they were claiming to help. This is why they all made peace with imperialism decades ago. Their organizations effectively blew up into political dust. Like Peoples Temple, they based their politics on the greatest historical falsification of the 20th century.
(For a different perspective on the drama, The People’s Temple, go to Fatal stumble in the jungle, by Richard Adams, World Socialist Website, June 2, 2005.)
[i] Leon Trotsky’s “The History of the Russian Revolution” is a most important source to study on the historical impact the Russian revolution had on the world. It is available on the web at https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1930/hrr/index.htm.
[ii] See “The Third International After Lenin” by Leon Trotsky, at hhttps://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1928/3rd/index.htm.
[iii] See “Problems of the Chinese Revolution,” by Leon Trotsky at https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1932/pcr/index.htm.
[iv] In May 1937, a independent “Commission of Inquiry” was set up to investigate the charges made against Leon Trotsky in the Moscow show trials. The commission was headed by the noted philosopher and educator John Dewey. It was set up by Trotsky’s supporters in the United States. The Dewey Commission, as it was commonly known, published its findings in a 422-page book titled “Not Guilty.” Its conclusions asserted the innocence of all those condemned in the Moscow trials. See the “Stalin School of Falsification” in the Trotsky archive.
[v] Journey to Nowhere, by Shiva Naipaul (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1981), p. 242.
[vi] See Vietnam And The World Revolution: A Trotskyist Analysis, by Martin McLaughlin (Detroit: Labor Publications, 1985).
[vii] According to Garry Lambrev, a former PT member, Jim Jones authorized an anti-Vietnam war peace march which continued as a rally on the footsteps of the Mendocino County court house held on Good Friday, 1966. It was attended by a hundred protesters. In 1967, and possibly in later years, the Temple participated as an organization in large anti-war rallies held in San Francisco.
[viii] Even after the demise of Jonestown, truth continued to fall to the wayside for the federal government, a number of PT members, capitalist politicians, and radical parties. Jim Jones was a multi-millionaire at the end of his life. He had his money stashed in bank accounts all over the world. But wealth was still a secondary matter to him compared to his ability to control and manipulate large groups of people. This was the essence of his sociopath personality.
(1) A U.S. congressional report issued after the Jonestown massacre stated: “That although he [Jones] controlled considerable wealth … he sought out none of the usual trappings of wealth such as fancy cars or expensive houses. In short, he was more interested in ideas than things.”
(2) Michael Prokes was a public relations spokesman for Peoples Temple and escaped the holocaust in Jonestown because Jones send him, along with two others, on an errand in Georgetown to deliver a large cache of money to the Soviet Embassy.
In March of 1979 Prokes held a press conference in Modesto, California motel room. There he read a statement claiming the demise of Georgetown was caused by a government conspiracy, that Congressman Ryan was sent to Guyana as a possible dupe, and that because Jones represented such strong opposition to American capitalism, the organization had to be destroyed. Following the press conference, Prokes retired to the room’s bathroom, and committed suicide. His statement may be found at http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=13683.
(3) The press organ of the Black Panther Party issued a statement after the Jonestown massacre, claiming also it was “government conspiracy.”
(4) Willie Brown, then a Democratic leader of the California State Assembly, and later the mayor of San Francisco, was a close political associate of Jim Jones. After the holocaust, he claimed in a interview that, as far as he was concerned, Jones was “always a genuine Marxist.”
[ix] In the Marxist lexicon, a popular front is where a group of liberal bourgeois parties form a coalition government to rule and suppress the real social and political needs of the working class. Trotsky called such governments “a society for insuring radical bankrupts at the expense of the capital of the working class organizations.”
[x] There are a number of new radical governments that have taken power the last several years in South American countries. Two of them are Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil and Evo Morales of Bolivia. But the most famous is Hugo Chavez of Venezuela (Jonestown was only 10 miles from the Venezuelan border). The former Army paratrooper struts in the world political arena as an arch opponent of American imperialism. Radical parties are enamored with his politics. If Jim Jones were alive today, he could easily hop on the political bandwagon. But Venezuela still has close economic relations with the United States. Like Salvador Allende, Chavez is a bourgeois nationalist and organically incapable of instituting a socialist program and abolishing the capitalist property relations in his country. If this does not occur, eventually the ruling class will gather the strength and overthrow his regime, and install a military dictatorship. In the last 50 years of the 20th century, it was generally with the help of the CIA that new fascist governments were installed in South American countries. One attempted military coup against the Chavez regime has already occurred in April 2004. The Chavez regime survived that one by the skin of its teeth. It was only the intervention of the Venezuelan working class that saved the country from a bloody military dictatorship.
[xi] The capitalist press has always stated the body count as a result of the Chilean coup was around 3,000. But as the years went by, thousands of more tortured and killed political victims were found and accounted for. It raised the body count up to over 30,000 victims from Augusto Pinochet’s military coup.
[xii] Deanna and Elmer Mertle were former leading members of Peoples Temple who broke with Jim Jones in 1976 after spending six years in the cult. Changing their names to Jeannie and Al Mills, they formed an organization called “Concerned Relatives” in 1977. In April 1978, 54 parents and friends of Temple members in Guyana signed a Concerned Relatives-sponsored petition to the federal government, calling for an investigation into the plight of the Jonestown residents being held in forced captivity. Jim Jones’ homicidal instincts would often come to the fore in discussing the Concerned Relatives group at Jonestown meetings. The Mills’ and other leading members of Concerned Relatives knew what was in store for them if they ever got within the Jones’ grasp. After the Jonestown holocaust, Jeannie Mills wrote Six Years with God (New York: A&W Publishers, Inc., 1979), a penetrating look at the inner workings of Peoples Temple. Al and Jeannie Mills were murdered in February 1980, in their Berkeley, California home, along with their 15-year-old daughter, Daphene. No one has ever been held accountable for the crime.
[xiii] For a Marxist analysis on world events and the real role the two parties (Democrats and Republicans) play in American politics today, see the World Socialist Web Site (http://www.wsws.org).
[xiv] Mark Lane is a noted writer who was involved in radical politics for several decades. His first book Rush to Judgment challenged the Warren Commission’s report on the JFK assassination. In 1968, he ran as a vice presidential candidate under Dick Gregory on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket. Later he wrote a book along with Dick Gregory called Code Name Zero – later renamed Murder in Memphis – which dealt with the American government spying on Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement.
Lane served as legal counsel for Jones only the last several months of Jonestown’s existence. The first time Lane was in Jonestown in August 1978, he delighted Jones with evidence that the CIA was spying on Jonestown, describing the government’s dirty tricks as comparable to what occurred to Martin Luther King.
[xv] An excellent reference for Jim Jones complex relationship with his lawyers is Raven: The Untold Story Of Reverend Jim Jones And His People, by Tim Reiterman and John Jacobs (New York: E.P. Dutton, Inc., 1982). The Strongest Poison (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1980), a self-serving and opportunist book by Mark Lane concerning his relationship with the Peoples Temple does give a vivid and detailed description of his (and Charles Garry) escape from the Jonestown holocaust into the jungle and its aftermath. Both lawyers considered Jim Jones to be a Marxist until the end of his life.
[xvi] Guyana authorities found hundreds of Stalinist tomes littering Jonestown after the holocaust.
[xvii] See “The Significance and Implications of Globalisation: A Marxist Assessment” by Nick Beams at https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/1998/01/glob-j04.html.