Gene Chaikin Letter to Jim Jones


I know that some will feel that I split because I was afraid of dying in the situation – or for my children to do so. While the latter is somewhat true my main motivation was not that at all. I always expected that this particular aspect  the immediate threat of arrest of John and/or yourself would be resolved. I left because I am no longer willing to live in a situation of weekly or biweekly crisis, and the atmosphere of anxiety, hysteria and depression that exist with it.

I am unwilling to live in that sort of environment for several reasons: 1) my nerves just won’t take it now – I am too beat; 2) It is impossible to build anything in that sort of atmosphere because building requires lots of planning and continuity of effort and application – the continuity is destroyed by the crisis mentality; 3) because I feel that the crisis environment is to some extent created and maintained by your state of mind and methodology – though I know, of course, that the problems we have faced, and continue to face, are very real.

One of your messages indicated tat you have known for some time that I think you are crazy. Not so. What I think is that you suffer from a lack of balance – both of perspective and behavior. I expect that the etiology is a combination of metabolic conditions, fatigue and reactiveness to years of punishment. Still, from my viewpoint it exists and has severe ramifications.

Throughout the years, in the U.S.A., it was necessary, at least to some extent, to create and maintain an [a] conspiratorial atmosphere and the impression among the people that we were under attack almost continually in order to motivate them to work at adequate levels and maintain some organizational cohesiveness.

I think that both of these factors have tended toward a pattern of overreaction or perhaps overemphasis is a better word, which in recent months has gotten out of hand and can have some serious ramifications – not the lease of which is simply the continuity of “stop and start” development.

The situation with John is an illustration. I readilly [readily] agree that it was both most serious and painfull [painful] to you (and also others like Maria K. who are most attached to the child). You had assurances from Dr. Reid on the matter. He sent his personal deputy. We have always heard and experienced that he is a man of his word. So far, so good. He and Fred Will were out of the country for the signing of the new Panama Treaty. One of the new judges signed some dumb, illegal orders. There was cooperation on some levels by Government – some police, process servers, G.D.F. plane. Obviously Reid was not in control of the situation altogether at that moment. Without doubt, from the perspective of an [a] Head of State, plagued with strikes and internal party dissention [dissension] and disloyalty, yours was not a major problem, but one that would be taken care of in time – in true Guyanese fashion. You could have waited till one of them got back and straightened out the mess because it would have been damn hard to arrest you out in the bush. Or you could have had Luckhoo arrange for surrender and bail, spend 15-20 minutes in custody, put up some small money and let Luckhoo fight it out in court for months while you went about your business – giving Reid time to do his work. Either of these things could have been done without disruption of the program or alarming large numbers of people. However the whole thing immediately rose to the level of hysteria. Countless calls on the radio, obviously hysterical, countless calls to Garry culminating in a futile and totally unnecessary trip to Chicago – under a threat of some sort of mass suicide or other kind of blood bath. (Incidentally, he told me on the phone, and contrary to your message, that he thought your strategy “dumb, stupid shit”; had lived through a 24 hour nightmare; and felt your behavior to be totally unleaderlike; – he thought my decision to split and return to the states was wise – that maybe it would bring you to your senses). Charles is a good man – lots of problems, sure. I’m not in love with him, but he is the best man we can get for our job there, and I am sure, now, that he has lost tremendous respect for you. Marcelline [Marceline] freaked out, which she does frequently, but she did not need the extra anxiety with her health. Officials all over the U.S. and Georgetown were importuned; our private affairs broadcast, “ultimatums” were presented to government which can only serve to make us look hysterical and immature to government, causing diminished respect and therefore diminished power and influence here; work – the whole project stopped both in U.S. and here all plans halted with resulting lack of time[,] momentum and money, and in great frustration. And what happened? They came back on their schedule and are taking care of the matter on their schedule in the normal course of their business. All of the above totally unnecessary and highly wastefull [wasteful] and destructive. A relatively modest and ultimately controllable incident was made, by you, into a catastrophy [catastrophe] of major proportions involving the full expenditure of such goodwill and energies as we have available. Hindsight? I don’t think so, just reasonable analysis. The whole thing has been handled in an hysterical and destructive fashion.

Jim, what are you going to do when they try again – when Grace comes and they file for custody on the line? Are you going to demand that she be summarily evicted from the country and pound on the Prime Minister[‘]s door to try and get it done? I am not being sarcastic – but realistic. The game is likely not played out, and having escalated to this level over a modest attack[,] what are you going to do when they make a full scale attack for the boy? Do you believe that the Guyanese government can afford to deny a U.S. citizen access to the country and judicial systems for the redress of grievances? There are over 500,000 Guyanese living in the U.S. – all have family and friends here – what if the U.S. should reciprocate and treat Guyanese that way! Undoubtedly she would ultimately lose in court, politically arranged, but there must be the impression of fairness and of access to the judicial process. Would you go through the months of litigation in the faith that Guyana wants us and would ultimately protect us[,] or will you again send out emergency life-or-death calls to Angela [Davis], Huey [Newton] etc. to find another country? Do you really expect that in the last resort we would have a better position here, or be treated more favorably, than an esteemed Guyanese citizen? Could they afford to put us (Yankee foreigners) in a special class of elite – even if they wanted to? Reid has already supported us – but in indirect ways, never out front because he could not afford it politically – and still can’t. Out front demands on him must create problems for him. Obviously there are those among his camp who support us, and those who don’t, and he has to live with all of them. Forcing him to take increasing public positions for us also serves to polarize the opposition against us. As you know, these positions among the younger ministers can be critical to our future. Were all of these points considered? I doubt it. Not because I wasn’t there to raise them – they are all fairly obvious and I am not that bright one [illegible word], especially right now. I think your immediate reflexive response was to call out all of the “troops” at once – a sort of “if you give an inch they’ll take a yard” philosophy.

I did appreciate talking with Mike and Joyce, and the message you sent. I believe, sincerely, that you do care about me, and, to some extent your belief that my thinking now is affected by my health is correct. However your attempt at self-justification over how this most recent affair was handled left me very cold because it tells me that you are really not willing, or able, to see how badly you have acted. The “see, it worked” commentary was hardly appropriate. It was not the polemics, threats, or the importuning that worked – rather, it was that they do want us here because we are an inspiration for an emerging Socialist nation.

Beyond my current fatigue, etc. I have substantially lost confidence in your leadership, because of this type of thing. [inserted note] It is, as I see it, a strong pattern or operational methodology of yours. I do not feel it is bad – did good with Kinsolving, for example, but I feel that you no longer use it selectively. [end of insert] I question wether [whether] you have the openness and insight to see the pattern in yourself and correct it. If you don’t, you will ultimately alienate all of your friends and tear the organization and people apart. This is the point I wished to make and could not make strongly enough to be heard except by doing what I have done. It could not be done in a tête-à-tête because if I were to demand a private conversation anyone could; it could not be done in a counsel because I would not care to be so frankly critical and also because you would at once be defended by a claque of “yes people” because they would feel it their duty to protect and defend you. At least this way I know you will read this with some concern.

I hate to write – seems as how the ideas never get fully expressed or organized the way I mean them to be – fully expressive of my thoughts. Talking to you would be worse. You could sell snowballs to the eskimoes. Best talker I ever met. I’m tired of being “sold,” Jim. You say what you feel you have to in order to keep somebody in, I know that – it is an organizational necessity. I do not wish to be subjected to it just now.

This was written between 5 and 8 AM Tuesday morning. I’ll re-read it, annotate and correct later… I am sure I left out half of what I wanted to say.


I re-read these notes. There is nothing I wish to change. In summary: I think you have gotten so “uptight” that you use bullets to kill bumblebees, but that you only have so many in your pocket and when the tigers come[,] you will have non [none] left to fire at them. I think this has become reactive on your part.

I know that your blood pressure gets out of control, you have insulin problems, you suffer from chronic excess fatigue. What I feel you are not sufficiently aware of is how much all of this effects [affects] your judgement and actions. Since you seem not to take the medically-indicated steps to alleviate the condition (due to problems to be delt [dealt] with) this also becomes a question of your judgement. Your leadership ability – when functioning well – is by far the greatest asset the group has. When you impare [impair] it (and it is impared [impaired]) in the problem solving you ultimate create more serious problems for the group in the future.

I would like to tell you why I question you ability to see this condition and correct it. First I think – rather[,] have the impression – that you come from an “I’m O.K. you’re not O.K.” position. Therefore I am afraid that you will read all of this with an eye to understanding Chaikin[‘]s thought so you can best straighten Chaikin out, rather than really considering it application to you on the presumtion [presumption] that my observations about you might have some objective validity. Second, I feel in some way it might interfere with the reassurance you seem to need. (I am not mocking this, everyone needs to give and recieve [receive] reassurances.) Example: your periodic calls for pledges of loyalty from RP. You know that the responses were partly hypocritical. Is it only the psychological mechanism of maintaining attitudes by affirmation? I don’t think so. I think it was, and is, simply need fulfilling. Likewise your “request of the group for you and your son” filled your need for support and approval, and, under more extreem [extreme] circumstances might well have been appropriate – but objectively the position was nowhere near that critical at that time. I think that to some extent you use the “chrisis [crisis] mentality” to get positive reinforcement and approval. If so, then these comments must serve to interfere with that – and will not be well received.

Some general comments:

I detest being lied to and manipulated. You have, over the years[,] done a lot of both. The “great gun theft” is a classic case in point. I am sure that you remember when I left the locker open in my office, Terri took the guns out, I reported them missing – you announced the theft from the pulpit. There have been a score of other such incidents. How would you feel if I had ever (and I never have) knowingly gave false factual reports or false legal opinions to you in order to manipulate your behavior? Would you find that conduct acceptable in me on the grounds that: (1) my goal was pure (2) the ends justified the means (3) I understood the situation better than you? Hell no you wouldn’t – you would be totally pissed when you found out.

Even in the present situation when I asked for the children[,] you lied to me – said you would send them out, but held off till Phyllis could get here so that you would have some basis for hanging on, and I am sure that after she does arrive you will send them out. I would rather be told straight out than “put on.” What I do at this juncture depends to a considerable extent on my belief that you will do what you say – and this does not help.

One final thought and I will stop. I was hesitant to come down this time – I am not sure why. My main purpose in coming was to try to cut through some of the hysteria and get you to see that the situation was not so severe as to warrant your reaction to it. When I arrived and saw that the whole thing had progressed to a point where I couldn’t do anything about it – and felt that there was just nothing I could do to quell that response to this situation, and that there would be nothing I could do in the future to quell that same anticipated response to all the like situations I can forsee [foresee] arizing [arising] in the future – I felt totally helpless to alter the situation – that I left.


One final point: Some of this is predicated upon evaluation of objective circumstances. My evaluation was shared by Clarke, Luckhoo and Garry, to name the first few that come to mind.

Karen made the unqualified commitment to me that (from you) you would send the children out. Mike said the same thing. Just this morning I got your message from Joyce that “If you had known my changed position” you would have put the children on the plane. 3 people, 3 sources all saying they come direct from you. Now the tape denying all of it, saying you will not send them. It seems as I softened my stance in an effort at reason you made yours more rigid. So, in fact, it is all a game on your part, and with that self-righteousness that can admit of no error or mistake.

You so misunderstand me. You think my concern is with a “nuclear family” life. Not so. My concern is with stability that would make development possible on a sane, rational basis, stability that all of the children need, and that depends on the stability of your head. After all, you never saw me, as I have seen you, loose [lose] control of yourself on many occasions and require physical restraint. It is not that I do not understand it, I do, it is that you do not admit it.

You “don’t know why I can’t come in to Jonestown” – when 3 people, at different times[,] tell me that you will send the children – as a message from you – and you deny it, I obviously can’t trust anything you say. You leave me little to have confidence in. Your word is no better than the expedience that motivates you to utter it. Joyce Parks even looked depressed when she gave me the tape, she knew damn well you had contradicted yourself in the same day. I knew what it would be before I played it & essentially told her so.

You leave me very few choices. Phyllis will come in tonight and I suppose we will talk … but I think you and I now have very little to say to each other.