373. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • British Guiana


  • US
    • William R. Tyler, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs
    • William G. Burdett, Deputy Assistant Secretary, EUR
    • Willis C. Armstrong, Director, BNA
    • Thomas N. Judd, BNA
  • UK
    • Patrick Gordon Walker, Labor “Shadow” Foreign Minister

Mr. Tyler asked Mr. Gordon Walker what he thought about British Guiana. Gordon Walker replied that he knew Mr. Tyler was thinking of an article which appeared in The Reporter on February 13 which purported to represent Gordon Walkerʼs views. Since the article had come out, he had been giving considerable thought as to what he had really said to the man who had written the article. To the best of his recollection, he had made the following points which, he emphasized, were his own views which had not been fully checked out with the Labor Party:

It makes the Labor Party uncomfortable not to grant independence to any country when the situation is ripe.
He recognized the primacy of U.S. interests in British Guiana.
Labor believed there would be social revolutions in Latin America. Some of these would be ugly ones which would not fit in with the pattern of the Alliance for Progress. Some Nasser-type governments would undoubtedly emerge.
Labor would like to find a way to give independence to British Guiana without affronting or injuring the U.S. Britain of course cannot afford to appear as an agent of the U.S. The way in which the Douglas-Home government was trying to do this was completely unacceptable to the people of British Guiana because it makes the entire country into one constituency. Some other form of proportional representation2 might well be considered by Labor.

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There was a discussion of the menace represented by Jagan. Mr. Tyler said we were seriously concerned with the way Jagan conducted himself. We could not live with a Castro-type government on the South American continent. Mr. Gordon Walker thought the U.S. exaggerated the menace of Jagan. There was a limit to what he could do, in view of the racial division in British Guiana; for example, he could hardly have complete control in a situation where the capital of the country was against him.

Mr. Tyler added that we were worried about the Castro aspects–that British Guiana would be used as a base for subversion on the continent. Mr. Gordon Walker replied that a bit of this sort of thing was bound to develop in Latin America. However, if a way could be found for the U.S. to put its troops into British Guiana, the Labor Party would not object. Britain did not want to keep its troops there indefinitely. Britain had no real reason of its own to stay. Furthermore, its troops were spread too thin. One battalion now in British Guiana was not enough.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL BR GU. Confidential. Drafted by Thomas M. Judd, Officer-in-Charge of UK Affairs. The meeting was held in Tylerʼs office. The memorandum is part 2 of 2; part 1 was not found.
  2. At a Constitutional Conference in London in October 1963, the major British Guiana party leaders asked British Colonial Secretary Sandys to devise a constitution, “since they were unable to agree among themselves.” Sandys then decreed a new registration and general election under proportional representation for a single house legislature. “Jagan was furious at being outsmarted.” (Memorandum from Cobb to Rusk, September 15, 1965, Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, British Guiana White House Meetings)