246. Message From Foreign Secretary Home to Secretary of State Rusk1

Dear Dean, Thank you for your message of the 11th of August2 about the elections which are to be held in British Guiana next Monday. Your people and ours have looked very carefully into the possibilities of taking action to influence the results of the election. You may recall that your Ambassador went over the whole ground with Fraser not long ago. I am convinced that there is nothing practical i.e., safe and effective that we could do in this regard and that if we tried anything of this kind, we should only make matters worse. In any case, there would not now be enough time at our disposal.

I can well understand your concern and the situation has its difficulties for us as well. Basically, and this is true over the wide field of our Colonial responsibilities, we have had to move faster than we would have liked, but now the choice before us in situations like this is either to allow the normal process of democracy and progress towards self government to go ahead and do our best to win the confidence of the elected leaders, and to wean them away from any dangerous tendencies, or else to revert to what we call Crown Colony rule.” It is practical politics to take the latter course only when it is quite clear that a territory is heading for disaster. We have done this once already in British Guianain 1953. But since the restoration of the democratic process in 1957, the elected government has behaved reasonably well and we have had no grounds which would justify a second attempt to put the clock back. If we do have grounds in future, and they would have to be really serious if we were to have any possibility of justifying our action to world opinion, we have full power under the new constitutional arrangements to suspend the new constitution. We have also incorporated in the new constitution a number of checks and balances which limit the freedom of action of British Guiana Ministers, and we have, of course, reserved to the Governor responsibility for defence and external affairs.

No one can say for certain how Jagan will behave if he is returned to power. He is a confused thinker and his mind is clogged with ill-digested dogma derived from Marxist literature. But he has learnt a good deal in the last eight years; he has not, since 1957, proved as difficult to deal with as he was earlier. It is true that he has during the election campaign made it clear that he expects to strengthen his relations with Cuba, and he has at [Page 522]times shown an interest in the possibilities of both trade and aid with the Soviet bloc. But he has also, during the election, promised to seek further aid from the United States; and, if we in the West show a real willingness to try to help, we think it by no means impossible that British Guiana may end up in a position not very different from that of India.

This situation will not be without its anxieties and embarrassments, but we are convinced that the only possible policy we can follow, and the most fruitful one, is to treat British Guiana like any other dependency and to try to educate” its elected leaders unless and until we have clear justification for doing otherwise. It would be of the greatest possible help to us if we could have your support in this policy. I realise the difficulties that you face; if there is anything we can do to help you overcome those difficulties, you know that we should be very ready to do what we can.

Yours ever,

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana, May 19-Aug. 23, 1961. Secret.
  2. See Document 245.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.