426. Airgram A–316 From the Embassy in Jamaica to the Department of State1 2

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  • Likely Attitudes of the People’s National Party if Elected


  • Kingston A–218 of September 19, 1971


We are reasonably sure that we understand the attitudes of the Jamaica Labor Party and its orientation as a government party. Not long ago during a political campaign rally, Prime Minister Shearer announced that the attitude of the Jamaica Labor Party during the campaign and as government, should it be reelected, would be the same as in the past.

However, little is known about the attitudes of the People’s National Party on specific issues. Although we have had extensive discussions with all of the leaders of the PNP, up to the present time we have never had a basic outline in writing of the PNP’s orientation. The enclosure to this airgram fills that gap. End Summary.

The attached document is the complete text of a PNP position paper on all major issues. Many of these are of only minor interest to the United States Government, but some are indeed significant. It was provided to the reporting officer by the PNP on a confidential basis. The document has been approved by the PNP’s National Executive Council and the Shadow Cabinet, and is [Page 2] closely held within the PNP.

The PNP has entrusted the Embassy with a copy of this manifesto on the understanding that it would not be revealed to the JLP lest some of the ideas be poached, as has happened in the past.

While much of it is propagandistic, as one must expect, the document does give us some important insight into the PNP’s attitudes and thinking. The very fact that the PNP has hammered out this document (much of which will be made public during the forthcoming campaign) is itself of interest.

The principles set forth in the party manifesto were arrived at not only following meetings of the Party itself but with the assistance of many PNP adherents during the past year in industry, commerce, education, etc. Of course, one must realize that should the PNP come to power, the realities of the hard world of responsibility will limit what can be accomplished, and glowing hopes may fade when exposed to the harsh light of limited resources and extensive enthusiasm. However, this document of 59 pages does give us an important outline of the PNP’s very likely attitude on parliamentary reform, population and physical resources, infrastructure, industrial and commercial planning, education, youth, sports and community development, agricultural price control, labor legislation, reform of the electoral system, tourism, foreign investments, taxation, tax incentives to industry, foreign policy, Caribbean integration, Jamaican migration, health care, nutrition, rural and urban housing, legal and court reform, etc.


How are the two parties different and how are they similar? Partly because they are both based on rival trade unions, there has been a tendency in the past to oversimplify and conclude that there is little difference between them. On closer examination, their philosophies and orientations are different.

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The philosophy of the People’s National Party, as expressed by its Party Chairman and theoretician, and its President, is one of forward thinking, planning, and deeper ideological involvement than is that of the Jamaica Labor Party. When founded, the PNP had close ties with the British Labor Party and espoused a socialist doctrine. The PNP Chairman characterizes the JLP as a fundamentally conservative protector of the status quo and responsive only slowly to the wishes and trends which the JLP believes exist within the bulk of Jamaican society.

The JLP concedes that it does not have a political philosophy as such, but claims to be pragmatic, responding to each issue as it arises. There is no long-range program or ideology in the JLP, and the JLP finds it easier to operate without fixed planks in its platform.

The value of the study groups which helped to prepared the attached manifesto demonstrates an encouraging new trend in Jamaican politics of taking some issues away from the rhetoric on the floor of Parliament and permitting citizens to participate in study and analysis. It is important to note, however, that many study committees have existed in Jamaica, and like yesterday’s lover, were soon forgotten.

The PNP is making progress in dismantling its image of Fabian-socialism, misguided and encumbered by impractical theoretical programs. A new, pragmatic image is forming. The two parties have thus drawn ideologically closer under political leadership which has moved from the cousins Bustamante and the late Norman Manley to the young and vigorous cousins Shearer and Michael Manley.


The official attitude of the PNP toward foreign investment in general is that Jamaica should be more selective and careful in the introduction of foreign capital. The party feels that Jamaica is no longer at the low level of economic development at which it was in the past, when heavy concessional opportunities were considered necessary in order to attract investors.

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On the other hand, the PNP asserts that once having gained entry and concessions, these should not be later altered by pressure tactics (as undertaken by the JLP Government) to squeeze extra benefits from the resident entrepreneurs or to harass foreign companies by stimulating public hostility in order to force additional concessions such as jobs and kickbacks or forced sales.

Leader of the Opposition Michael Manley has called for regional cooperation in the bauxite/alumina industry, and this theme has been picked up and expanded by Forbes Burnham, Prime Minister of Guyana. Burnham apparently has been moving too quickly for Jamaican taste, and the latter has disassociated itself from Burnham’s proposals on nationalization. Certainly both parties will be very cautious with Caribbean cooperation, even in the trade union field, until after the election. Witness their lack of interest in the recent effort to form a new political entity in the Eastern Caribbean (the “Grenada Declaration”). In a recent speech in Bermuda, Manley stated that there are areas for increased cooperation but “political federation is not for our generation.”


Should the Opposition become the government in power, we should not expect any particular disadvantage in the short run for the United States. However, it should not be overlooked that the PNP has attracted considerable support of leftists. Some feel it is better to have leftists inside a fairly formal party structure, where they are subject to discipline and control and where they can make a contribution, than “outside”, where more mischief can be done. (Top PNP leaders have informed the reporting officer that they would prefer that their candidate for Southern St. Andrew lose, because he is so difficult to control and will not be disciplined.) The Embassy has very good rapport with the Opposition—in fact, except for one or two key JLP Cabinet officers, our personal relations would be better than those we have with many of the Cabinet officers in the current JLP Government.

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The PNP has a number of moderates, even a few conservatives, as well as some socialist-oriented figures and some radicals and eccentrics. We think we know the personal attitudes and philosophies of many of the Opposition leaders, but as a practical matter, what one says before one has access to power can contrast to what one does afterwards.

What changes can we expect? The risk of diplomatic recognition of Cuba will be higher with a PNP government, as reported in Kingston A–150 of June 13, 1971. In the short term, we can expect more honesty in government under the PNP. The orientation of a PNP government would be somewhat more toward the United States than toward Great Britain, particularly in commercial dealings. The attitude toward foreign investment in Jamaica would probably be slightly different from what it is now under the Jamaica Labor Party government. However, this matter will not be solely determined by what happens inside Jamaica but will also be influenced by what happens elsewhere in the world. Events in Guyana and western South American will have a bearing on this. Generally stated, the U.S. should not find any particularly significant disadvantage with a PNP government. The tone of present-day PNP leaders is more akin to that of Rooseveltian liberals than to Fabian socialists. However, U.S. interests will require close monitoring of PNP attitudes and continuing dialogue.

de Roulet
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 12 JAM. Secret; Limdis. Drafted on November 9 by Kenneth Rogers; approved by DCM Roberts; and signed by Ambassador de Roulet. Attached but not published is the enclosed PNP Election Program. Stamped notations on the Airgram indicate that it was received at the Department of State at 8:20 a.m. on November 19 and at the RS/AN Analysis Branch.
  2. The Embassy analyzed the coming Jamaican national elections and speculated on what it would mean for U.S. relations with Jamaica if the opposition should win.