Echoes of A New Tomorrow: Life after Revolution in the Commonwealth of Britain

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Finally read the update. An impressive amount of skullduggery and I am mildly surprised anyone cared enough to rig the election. But then these things are about symbolism and diplomatic power-plays rather than any actual rational assessment of the issues aren't they? It does seem unfortunate for Ghana to be trapped between two awful options while having the world's powers impose some miserable class/race based division on them, but then things went pretty badly for them in OTL under Burnham's rule so it's not like things will be much worse for them.

By the early 1960s, Alliance member nations experienced annual growth rates of up to 5.5 per-cent, and collectively between 1957–67 the United States spent $2 billion per year on aid to South America. Despite these figures, the influx of American money had little effect combating poverty in South America; the dollars were thrown at bolstering the continent’s flagging exports, rarely if ever reaching the poorest strata of society. Estimates suggest that as little as two per-cent of aid-related prosperity reached the poorest 20 per-cent of the population.
From Healey's desperation to damn the scheme I am forced to conclude that the 'Alliance for Peace' was a roaring success. I've no doubt he got Laski (or one of his students) to do some policy based fact making on that "The answer is that this scheme doesn't work because I dislike the ideology behind it, now go make up some estimates to prove that."
 
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DensleyBlair

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Finally read the update. An impressive amount of skullduggery and I am mildly surprised anyone cared enough to rig the election. But then these things are about symbolism and diplomatic power-plays rather than any actual rational assessment of the issues aren't they?
Quite so. Rational thought is altogether quite absent at the present stage in the Cold War.

It does seem unfortunate for Ghana to be trapped between two awful options while having the world's powers impose some miserable class/race based division on them, but then things went pretty badly for them in OTL under Burnham's rule so it's not like things will be much worse for them.
I think it is fair to say you cannot be in the best place as a country if the CIA decide the time is right for a bit of shadowy scheming. And the worst, predictably, is yet to come.

From Healey's desperation to damn the scheme I am forced to conclude that the 'Alliance for Peace' was a roaring success. I've no doubt he got Laski (or one of his students) to do some policy based fact making on that "The answer is that this scheme doesn't work because I dislike the ideology behind it, now go make up some estimates to prove that."
On this front, I defer to my trusted colleague KH. All figures I sourced from his earlier Walter LaFeber update, so at worst Healey here is only parroting American revisionism.
 
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99KingHigh

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Quite so. Rational thought is altogether quite absent at the present stage in the Cold War.


I think it is fair to say you cannot be in the best place as a country if the CIA decide the time is right for a bit of shadowy scheming. And the worst, predictably, is yet to come.


On this front, I defer to my trusted colleague KH. All figures I sourced from his earlier Walter LaFeber update, so at worst Healey here is only parroting American revisionism.
Yes, I was about to say. Certainly an effective program for economic expansion in the Whig mindset of Washington's developmentalists, though not necessarily a successful one for freedom, democracy, equality, or (in this case) peace, as hinted in the earlier update.
 
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THE LABOUR YEARS, 1924–1928
PART TWO
Up to here.
The time-lag between the acceptance of new thinking, or even of new facts, is indeed disturbing in an age when facts continue to move so much faster than the minds of men.
This is a good turn of phrase: yours or Mosley’s? Rather evergreen - at least until this latest post-fact age.

later we were joined by the young William Benn
Ah, I feel the thin end of the wedge and some outrageously Bennite solution coming on!

Mosley continues to ooze self-aggrandising but plausible moral and intellectual superiority.
 
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Up to here.
Great to hear your thoughts on another chapter, Bullfilter!

This is a good turn of phrase: yours or Mosley’s? Rather evergreen - at least until this latest post-fact age.
I can’t remember, but unfortunately I’d sooner suspect it is Mosley’s. You’re right, though. It does feel quite evergreen.

Ah, I feel the thin end of the wedge and some outrageously Bennite solution coming on!
This particular end of the Bennite wedge is, alas, fairly thin indeed. ;)

Mosley continues to ooze self-aggrandising but plausible moral and intellectual superiority.
In classic fascist style, a massive part of Mosley’s calculated appeal is to make you feel clever for supporting him. And people really did buy it. All sorts still happily claim, with absolutely no historical evidence whatsoever either way, that he was the best economic mind of his generation. Just goes to show how much people are willing to excuse in the name of ‘intelligent policy’ :eek:
 
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Hello! I've recently finished reading through the whole thread and I must say that I am awestruck by the work you did to keep such an attention to detail.

I would also like to make a suggestion. It would be interesting to hear what happened to the nation of Greece, as it historically had a very turbulent political situation during the Cold War, that could have been potentially greatly changed by the changes in this timeline. Interesting events included a civil war between communists and monarchist, as well as a military junta since 1967.

It would also be interesting to learn what happened in other minor nations, as well as what's going on in the rest of Eurosyn.
 
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Hello! I've recently finished reading through the whole thread and I must say that I am awestruck by the work you did to keep such an attention to detail.
Hey there! Thank you for reading and great to hear from you, iratus1234. Welcome to the thread! You're very kind – I'm glad you enjoyed the read. :)

I would also like to make a suggestion. It would be interesting to hear what happened to the nation of Greece, as it historically had a very turbulent political situation during the Cold War, that could have been potentially greatly changed by the changes in this timeline. Interesting events included a civil war between communists and monarchist, as well as a military junta since 1967.
Greece is in the back of my mind as something to think about (particularly with all of this non-stop coverage about on the death of a certain old Greek man…). I'll make a note to give it some consideration during vol 2.

If ever I finish this and can think about a redux, there's a whole load of things from the first half of the timeline I'd like to refresh/explore a bit further – mostly in foreign affairs. Greece and the Balkans would definitely be one of them.

It would also be interesting to learn what happened in other minor nations, as well as what's going on in the rest of Eurosyn.
Are there any particular minor nations you have in mind? KH and I will be getting the world map sorted during the entr'acte between the volumes, so it would be an easy enough job to give a little bit more focus to particular places if there's curiosity. As it stands, our main focuses will be the Middle East and South America.

On Eurosyn, we'll be learning a bit more about what the fraternal syndicates are up to going into the next decade. Also we'll be taking a look at the inevitable debates over what Eurosyn actually is for as its global/regional role increases in importance. I believe KH is currently working on something about the French role in Vietnam, so hopefully that will be of interest, and Spain's role in Cuba is on the cards for a full-on miniseries at this point. Italy will actually get a little look in in the next chapter, so good timing there! :D
 
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Thank you for your comprehensive response. It will be very interesting to see what you have prepared for the next chapter.

Are there any particular minor nations you have in mind?
I was thinking that it would be nice to know what is going on closer to Britain. As far as I know Ireland was mentioned very sparingly in this AAR. As a nation that's very close to Britain and the rest of Eurosyn it would be very interesting to know what its relations are with Britain as well as the USA.
 
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Thank you for your comprehensive response. It will be very interesting to see what you have prepared for the next chapter.
No problem, always glad to answer questions. I've had to split the update in two (again) so the European stuff will get pushed back a week, but the u[shot is it's now more detailed. So hopefully that's something to look forward to. :)

I was thinking that it would be nice to know what is going on closer to Britain. As far as I know Ireland was mentioned very sparingly in this AAR. As a nation that's very close to Britain and the rest of Eurosyn it would be very interesting to know what its relations are with Britain as well as the USA.
Ireland we can definitely cover. The known details as it stands are that Ireland has been united since 1929, which probably means emigration of unionists to Britain or (more realistic perhaps) Canada. Britain going Red possibly works hard to smooth over sectarianism here, seeing as London just 'giving back' Ulster obviously doesn't imply painlessness. By the 1960's is that Ireland is neutral but inclined towards Washington, maybe looking to join the European dollar area even if not the ECZ. Internally I'm less eager to comment, just because Irish politics is one of my blindspots. In my head I'm imaging vague anti-communism interacting with residual sectarianism – whatever that produces. Me and KH can have a think about its position going into the '70s.

I can say that there'll be a bit of Irish talk when I get around to writing a chapter on pop music in a little while. There will be some cultural exchange across the Irish Sea.
 
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In the course of writing the next chapter, I've made some fairly significant revisions to the character of Enoch Powell, who (spoiler alert) will be featuring. I'll explain the changes more fully alongside the update itself, but for now I would just like to highlight (by way of a sort of teaser, I suppose) this change to the Malaysian chapter, which now ends like this:

More immediately, one can only imagine the sense of foreboding that may have washed over Bevan’s cabinet on June 3 1966, when Enoch Powell attacked the government’s foreign policy in an editorial for the New Spectator. ‘In our imagination,’ wrote Powell,

the vanishing last vestiges ... of Britain's once vast Indian Empire have transformed themselves into a peacekeeping role on which the sun never sets. Under the good providence of the Red Flag and in partnership with the fraternal republics, we keep the peace of the world and rush hither and thither containing Capitalism, putting out brush fires and coping with subversion.

To the unsympathetic, his final judgment of this ‘dream’ could serve as an epitaph for the entire Bevanite foreign policy:

It is difficult to describe, without using terms derived from psychiatry, a notion having so few points of contact with reality.

As originally written, diligent readers may recall that Powell was in agreement with the Malaysian adventure. I will leave it to your own imaginations to decide what the implications of this reversal may be.
 
Transatlantic Blues: The Guyanese Emergency, 1966

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ECHOES%20HEADER.jpg



EYE OF THE STORM
A HISTORY OF THE COLD WAR IN THE BEVAN YEARS

DENIS HEALEY 1976



Part Four

Transatlantic Blues: The Guyanese Emergency, 1966


Washington could have well cut its losses and ran after Forbes Burnham was ejected from power in spite of the best efforts of the CIA. The cards having fallen unfavourably, there would have been little shame in walking away, bested but not too badly wounded. But Guyana was not the sole defeat by which America was confronted in 1966: too great an attachment to meddling in South East Asian affairs was producing grave consequences in both Vietnam and Indonesia, and the bravado that had fuelled success in Cuba and Germany had evaporated. In its place was a desperate, misplaced overconfidence, the Kennedy administration now drunk on the necessity of its world mission: to stamp out communism wherever it was to be found. What proved to be the fatal flaw of this mission was a total indifference towards what replaced communism, caring only that it be replaced at all. To this end, otherwise sober minds – some of the most eminent thinkers in the history of American foreign policy – found themselves unable to extricate themselves from ruinous and ill-thought-out positions around the globe. The results would spark the undoing of a president whose rise to power had promised so much for a new, optimistic era of American politics. And for the rest of the world, in Europe, Asia and Latin America, the legacy of this undoing offered little but more trouble.

At the same time, Britain’s own Cold War leaders were facing an identity crisis. Having set out at the start of the decade to cleave to a path of startling idealism in pursuing its foreign policy, Bevan’s government approached its fifth anniversary wandering astray, progressing down a road of stony-faced pragmatism and dirty-handed interventionism. Successive crises in Cuba, Germany, Malaysia and now Guyana, not to mention the peripheral Eurosyndicalist presence in Vietnam, had weakened the government’s resolve to continue along its new course with any great enthusiasm, and by 1966 the cumulative effect of five frenetic years was beginning to show. In a word, the government was tired: led by men born in the previous century, often scrambling for ideas to suit the modern world. Almost alone in possessing anything like the fortitude required to meet the present moment was Bob Boothby, but at sixty-six years of age even he could only do so much to stem the tide. Thus the final international crisis of the Bevan era approached two sets of exhausted actors: the first burnt out like a fire, brief and bright; the second, slowly losing life like dying embers in a grate. The question was no longer so much who would win, but who would hold out to see the other expire.



1966 BEVAN.jpg

Aneurin Bevan, chief of the old guard.


In Guyana, the political class was less wanting for drive and determination. The contrast between Georgetown and London was on full display in April, when Cheddi Jagan was welcomed to the Commonwealth for the first time as Guyanese premier. To Jagan, Bevan was a revolutionary hero – a figure who had loomed large in his youthful understanding of socialism, typifying a robustly democratic socialism that included within its scope a concern for personal freedom and parliamentary government. As a young man he had been fully enthused by Jane Jagan’s old Socialist Youth idealism, and meeting Bevan for the first time he was keen to impress upon the British premier the extent of his belief in this particular creed of British socialism. Bevan, something of a romantic where parliamentary opposition was concerned, took to these affirmations with great eagerness, and before long he decided that Britain had made the right choice in backing Jagan over Burnham. Here was a man who conformed exactly to the exemplar of the fraternal post-colony leader: energetic, democratic, and above all hopeful for the future. It was almost poignant the extent to which Jagan’s visit so keenly presented the British leaders in this way with a mirror to their own deficiencies.

Jagan’s meeting with Boothby was not quite so effusive. While the new Guyanese premier made a good impression upon the foreign minister in his personal manner, Boothby could not shake the impression that he was ‘woolly’. Seeing in his unbridled idealism the seeds for great disappointment, he worried that Jagan was setting himself up for a grand undoing, and put it to Bevan that, although the new premier would doubtless prove a firmer ally than Burnham, the government should similarly expect that he would ‘cause more trouble’. By this Boothby meant that the Americans remained doggedly determined to bring Guyana into their sphere, hence Britain would now need to commit a second time to ensure that Jagan could not be unseated as easily as Burnham had been.



1966 JFK DULLES.jpg

JFK and Allen Dulles.


The White House had already given consideration to what lay ahead for them if Burnham lost the election, although no one involved in the election plot had believed that such contingencies would have to be activated. Nevertheless, the gambit had failed. The dire warnings of McGeorge Bundy had come true, and both Kennedy and Allen Dulles were forced to confront the fact that the CIA was not all-powerful. In spite of their vigorous attempts to bolster Burnham’s support, his appeal had failed to penetrate beyond the Afro-Guyanese community whose affections he courted so singularly. The difference between victory and defeat – a formidable 4.5 per-cent – was scarcely ten thousand votes in real terms, which the American faction may have collected had they not invested so much time and money into the stillborn ethnic parties, and also had they not completely ignored the Amerindian constituency, which proved decisive in resolving the post-election deadlock. As in Indonesia, Washington had been stung by too close an association with forces of power set upon ethnic supremacy, and if they were to make any headway in the multi-ethnic post-colonial world it seemed that the American Cold Warriors would have to learn to accommodate a pluralistic approach. (This was, admittedly, something alien to the nature of the American elite.)

In the event, the plan for doing away with Jagan had little to say to pluralism. Indeed, the American contingency plan involved stoking the question of race further, hoping to inspire a fatal antipathy towards Jagan through provocation of the Black Guyanese population. What was presently failing in Indonesia, Kennedy was now attempting in vastly different circumstances in Guyana. The difference in this case was that, instead of relying upon the intervention of a powerful military, which was absent from the Guyanese political hierarchy, the Americans proposed to work through the trade unions, which had a considerable presence in the former British colony, if only a nominal power by 1966 after years of irrelevance under Burnham. The irony here, of using the tactics of militant syndicalism to unseat a syndicalist-aligned regime, is self-evident, but the pragmatist Kennedy would have hardly been interested; the enemy’s methods were perfectly acceptable to the American palate when used against the enemy himself. The trade unions in Guyana were dominated by ethnic African workers, and represented by the Afro-Guyanese Richard Ishmael, general secretary of the Guyanese Trades Union Council (GTUC). Ishmael was a close ally of Burnham’s, a key member of the Guyanese People’s Congress in his own right, and from his position leading the GTUC he posed perhaps the biggest threat to Jagan’s young and fragile coalition – particularly after Burnham’s somewhat hasty flight to Canadian Barbados in the aftermath of the election, fearing for his safety. Ishmael was quite prepared to leverage this position to bring down his benefactor’s arch rival; all that he required was an opportunity to act.



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Cheddi Jagan.


In May, Jagan’s government delivered its first statement on economic planning. The state of the Guyanese economy at the start of 1966 was not overly healthy. With the eager encouragement of the Mosley regime in London, the long Burnham years had seen the development of the country’s primary industry to the exclusion of any sustained attempt at industrialisation. This was not unusual in itself, nor was it especially ill-advised as a general policy, but the unevenness with which development was pursued had brought the republic’s economy to the edge of standstill by the time the Jagan cabinet took office. In line with Mosleyite developmentalist orthodoxy, which was fundamentally an uncritical continuation of pre-revolutionary colonial-economic relations, Burnham was encouraged in his efforts to spur on Guyana’s export economy, with a general bias towards primary industry. By 1966, primary industry – which is to say, mining, agriculture, forestry and fishing – comprised two-fifths of the national economy. Secondary industrial activity – production of consumer goods – received investment only in limited and sporadic cases, although it still made up 30 per-cent of all economic activity. For the most part, Guyana was not encouraged to develop its own manufacturing base, instead groomed as an input to the British homegrown industrial network.

The consequence of this slapdash approach to industrial development was that an incredible list of tasks awaited attention from the Jagan cabinet upon its election. Jagan knew that to face every one would be unthinkable, but the reality was that parsing the economic situation into discrete problems revealed only the extent to which Guyana’s problems were interrelated. A move away from mining and farming and towards manufacturing would solve the problem of exports, but without a solid agricultural and infrastructural base already in place, such a move would leave the whole project vulnerable to collapse. Addressing everything at once would require massive investment, in the order of perhaps £500 million. Patently, this would not be forthcoming – not from London, and certainly not from Washington. The question was therefore which elements of the puzzle to tackle first so as to ensure the best chance of positive results.


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Guyanese rice fields, 1960s.


In Jagan’s mind, the imperative thing was to address the questions of agriculture and infrastructure. This would stand any future industrialisation programmes in good stead, and also had the potential to diversify exports at the same time as protecting food production. Guyana had exported rice to the West Indies in small quantities since the 1910s, and more recently also supplied Castro’s government in Cuba, but questions had always lingered over the quality of the crop. Guyanese farmers typically grew one of two hardy rice variants – BG79 and D110 – imported from India at the start of the 20th century and well-suited to traditional Guyanese farming methods. Neither BG79 nor D110 are high-yield rice variants, and furthermore they are not considered attractive on the global market as an export crop, which tends to prefer a longer grain. For these and other reasons, including complaints about colour, bad odour and broken grains in shipments made to Jamaica and Trinidad, rice production in Guyana remained small-scale. Farming was done in rural communities, with very limited mechanisation and without sophisticated water control, and roads connecting the fields to mills and storage stations were poor. Any attempt to turn Guyana into an exporter of the grain would have to overcome all of these challenges.

The Progressive Front devised a two-pronged plan, which would overhaul rural infrastructure and farming practice on the one hand, and seek to develop a more sophisticated rice crop on the other. The cost of this programme was estimated to sit at about £25 million, to be raised through aid money and low-interest, long-term loans from Britain. (Britain would also recoup a large portion of this injected capital through subsequent exports of agricultural machinery, and plant for new infrastructural projects.) The government planned to use the money for six main ends. First, the rice farming villages would receive modern systems of irrigation and water control, allowing for the cultivation of more ‘sophisticated’ rice variants which might be exported to Europe. (Modern systems of water control were hardly present in Guyana even by 1966, except in the sugar fields which had been converted to modern practice by the British corporations which owned the factories during the colonial era.) Second, three modern storage and drying stations would be constructed along the coast, with a mind to increasing the quality of exports. Third, money would be put towards the metalling of roads used to transport rice crops from the farmland to the coast. Fourth, the government would provide a subsidy to the rice farmers to cover the costs of travel (in some cases £1.00 per bag transported) between the fields and the mills. Fifth, further subsidies would be allotted for the purchase of modern agricultural machinery. Sixth, the government would invest in a new agronomy research centre in Georgetown, to work on developing a new rice variant to match the programme’s aspirations. To this end, Guyana received assistance from scientists working under the umbrella of the South Asian Community of Nations, who had been making great strides in rice development since the start of the decade. Together, this comprised the main body of the PF plan for a Guyanese agricultural revolution.



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The Ferguson FE35 tractor, developed in 1956 and built in Britain until 1964.
Simple to operate and highly reliable, the FE35 was a favourite of famers in countries with a developing system of mechanised agricultural production. The model was succeeded by the FE135 in the middle of the decade, but continued to be manufactured under license in Africa and Asia well beyond the 1960s. Surplus FE35s were to be shipped from Britain to Guyana in the early summer as part of a trade deal intended to spur on Jagan's 'green revolution'.


Wholesale reform of agricultural practice overnight, historically speaking, is notoriously difficult. Guyana was no exception, and the government plan was remarkable in its ambition. A number of systemic obstacles would have to be navigated even before the success or failure of the programme’s specific provisions might be judged. For one thing, Guyana’s farming communities remained governed by the logic of subsistence methods, whereby farmers would work other jobs so as to ensure a stable source of income should the year’s crop fail – not an impossibility without water control systems. Often, farmers would not even consider themselves as ‘farmers’; rather, farming was simply something one did among one’s various responsibilities. Needless to say, cultivation was also small-scale; although in some cases villages worked their multiple smallholdings along co-operative lines, fields themselves were small and land reform would be necessary before mechanisation could take place effectively. A tractor and combine harvester are little use if they do not have room to manoeuvre effectively. Jagan was well aware of both of these limitations, and his government’s programme of subsidy was in part intended to pick up the ‘safety net’ function that working multiple jobs provided to farming families. At the same time, land reform was a key phrase on the lips of the government throughout spring 1966, doing little to assuage outside fears from neighbouring market liberals that Jagan’s idealism was communistic in character after all.

In addition to these practical and cultural concerns, the programme of agricultural reform had to contend with one final complication, somewhat unique to the Guyanese situation but glaringly significant in the wider history of the Jagan government. This was the racial element, which was as highly pronounced in agriculture as it was, seemingly, in every aspect of Guyanese political life by the mid-1960s. Overwhelmingly, the rural rice farming communities that Jagan and his government now courted were Indo-Guyanese: descendants of indentured servants brought to work on the sugar plantations beginning in the 19th century. It was the Indian migrants who had brought rice to Guyana in the first instance, and it was they who continued to farm it into the 1960s. Ethnic African farmers were not rare, but they worked more often in sugar cultivation, which remained the country’s chief cash crop even after the demise of the plantation system. Black Guyanese worked in the rice industry, such as it existed, but they were employed in secondary roles, whether as clerks and stevedores at the storage stations and mills, or as ‘graders’ employed to regulate the quality of the crop produced and delivered for export. Even before the proposed reforms of the Jagan government, race had led to conflict where Indian farmers complained of being ‘cheated’ by African graders who would not accept crops for seemingly arbitrary reasons. Like this, the Progressive government, almost totally without the support of the Black population, had to navigate the Afro-Guyanese presence in following through with its proposed reforms, knowing that any confrontation would be eagerly seized by the GPC as grounds for the revival of extra-parliamentary opposition.



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Afro-Guyanese protest Jagan's government.


As might have been reasonably predicted by any informed observer, Richard Ishmael was quick to decry the proposed economic plan as being prejudiced against the Black population, accusing Jagan of ‘bribing’ his supporters by subsidising rice farming so heavily while offering little to nothing for the Afro-Guyanese sectors. Of immediate concern, and most injurious in Ishmael’s eyes, was the government’s stated intention to recover the profits of the rice exports for the farmers’ associations themselves – which is to say the rural East Indian communities. While it may seem like reasonable syndicalist orthodoxy to suggest that the fruits of labour should be rendered unto the labourers, the implication of this policy was that it would ignore the predominately Afro-Guyanese secondary workers, who would see little to nothing of the projected benefits of a growth to rice production and exportation. Worse, the grand costs of the agricultural and infrastructural development programme meant that the government proposed to cut the wages of ‘middlemen’ in the rice production chain. Not without justification, Ishmael claimed that this represented an attempt by the government to ‘rake off’ money created by Black workers for Indian communities. Jagan countered that he was merely ensuring that the farmers received their due, and that Burnham had allowed middleman wages to rise too high in the first place. He also gave assurances that the agricultural plan was merely the first phase in his government’s industrialisation programme, and that future benefits would fall in favour of the Afro-Guyanese. The GTUC would not hear it, and on May 17 Ishmael issued Jagan with an ultimatum: either his government withdrew its plan, or he would call out his workers on a general strike.


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JFK meets with the leadership of the AFL-CIO in the Oval Office, 1966.


Although the Americans were not involved in threatening strike action, certainly they had been optimistic that some sort of industrial dispute might prove advantageous in moving against Jagan and his government. Whether or not Richard Ishmael was linked to the CIA prior to the general strike is unknown, but it seems likely that he was acquainted with their agents in Guyana at least by the summer of 1966. In the White House, Kennedy pounced upon Jagan’s comprehensive programme of land reform and agricultural modernisation as proof of his communist credentials, and informed Allen Dulles that the time had come for decisive action. Dulles engaged the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD), a subsidiary organisation of the AFL-CIO with strong agency links (by some accounts, a CIA front) whose purpose was to undermine radical unions outside of the United States. At the end of May, the AIFLD issued a statement in support of the GTUC’s call for strike action. Shortly afterwards, Richard Ishmael flew to Barbados, where he met with AIFLD operatives who offered him various forms of assistance. Most significant was the promise of substantial monetary support for any strike effort. Jagan’s government was operating on the assumption that any general strike would fail after a week or so as the GTUC exhausted their strike funds. What the government could perhaps not have anticipated was that the Americans were willing to spend $10,000 per day in support of the strike effort. With that sort of financial power behind him, Ishmael knew that he was virtually untouchable, and on June 1, following repeated refusals from Jagan to back down, Afro-Guyanese workers downed tools en masse and began strike action.


The Emergency Begins

With labour militancy engulfing the young commonwealth, the threat of renewed racial tensions heavy in the air and widespread violence seemingly inevitable, Cheddi Jagan endeavoured to carry on governing as best as he possibly could. Most of all, he was committed to seeing through his government’s agricultural programme. On June 2, Jagan spoke to Bob Boothby over the telephone, reiterating his confidence in surviving the strike and requesting that the agreed shipments of goods from Britain continue as timetabled. The first shipment, containing among other goods several dozen 1964 Ferguson FE35 tractors and FE30 combines, was scheduled to leave from the Port of London on the Spanish ship MV Isabel-Flores on June 16. The ship was ultimately bound for Santiago de Cuba, including alongside the British cargo a cache of goods and food for the socialists in the civil war. Before reaching Santiago, the Isabel-Flores would stop over in Georgetown to deliver the British goods to Jagan’s government. She was due at the Guyanese capital on July 4.

By departure day, it was fully apparent that the Guyanese general strike would be no simple affair. From Cairncross, Boothby was able to appreciate that the GTUC were well supported, and estimates from the Georgetown FORIN station gave the government 6-8 weeks before it ran into serious difficulty. Anticipating that Jagan might soon be calling London with urgent requests for assistance beyond economic aid, Boothby had the cargo of the Isabel-Flores supplemented with a modest stockpile of food. Cairncross also instructed FORIN stations in Jamaica and Trinidad to be on hand to mobilise the export of supplies from Guyana’s regional neighbours should the call come, recognising that Britain alone would be unable to keep up the effective relief of an embattled ally on the other side of the Atlantic. With plans and contingency plans thus in place, the British bedded in for a hard fight against the American-backed unions.



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The wreck of the Isabel-Flores.


Almost immediately, British planning was totally overturned. The Isabel-Flores left port at Gravesend as scheduled on June 16, steaming down the Thames towards the North Sea. At the same time, the Dutch freighter Pegasus was making its way up-river towards Woolwich Docks. Just off the Hoo Peninsula at Cliffe Fort, the Pegasus collided with the Isabel-Flores, hitting her starboard side near the wheelhouse. The Isabel-Flores was badly holed, beginning to heel over to one side before beaching at Hope Point. Fortunately, of the 54 crew only two were injured, and another thrown into the Thames was quickly recovered. The cargo, however, was not so lucky, and both the machinery and the food supplies were claimed by the river – about £500,000 worth of losses, and untold damage in unrecoverable aid. The Port of London Authority described the collision as the worst in living memory, and expressed fears about the difficulty in both moving the wreck and salvaging the written-off cargo. The Isabel-Flores weighed over 9,000 tonnes, and any clean-up operation would be extremely complicated. Several attempts at salvage failed before the vessel was righted and removed to Tilbury dock to undergo repair work in April 1967. In the meantime, the British government were left to sort through the political fallout.


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The Isabel-Flores is raised, April 1967.


Immediately, suspicion fell upon the Americans. Given the hostility between Washington and London, Georgetown and Havana, there were any number of reasons to have supposed that the United States would have stood to gain the most from an assurance that the Isabel-Flores would never reach the Caribbean. The American muckraker journalist Jack Anderson published documents alleging CIA involvement in the incident in 1972, but in summer 1966 any explanation remained unforthcoming. Boothby telephoned Anthony Crosland on June 17 to gauge the mood in Washington. He asked the ambassador whether the sinking of the Isabel-Flores was ‘an omen’ relating to the broader situation in the western hemisphere. Crosland said drily that he did not believe in omens as a basis for foreign policy, but added: “I am, however, as superstitious as the next man.”

Meanwhile, the CIA campaign on the ground in Guyana was well underway. Boothby rendered an account of the situation to the rest of the cabinet on June 20, describing the fraught state of affairs in Georgetown and repeating the belief of the British consulate in Guyana that the strike showed no sign of faltering. Morale remained high among the picketing workers, and industries dominated by Afro-Guyanese remained shuttered. More troubling, as had been predicted the industrial unrest had reignited the racial conflict, and riots among both African and Indian populations were frequent in Georgetown and New Amsterdam. The GPC opposition maintained a paramilitary group, likely supplied with weapons by the CIA, and common tactics included shootings, bombings and arson. By the middle of July, violence was proceeding at a truly frightening rate, with houses being torched ‘at a rate of five or more per day’. Initially, attacks tended mostly to be by Black militants against Indian targets, but as the situation spiralled beyond the control of any single organisation or institution, retaliatory violence by Indians against Africans became more and more common. Effective control of the strike eluded the Jagan government for certain, which by August had given up on its attempts at land reform and was instead wholly preoccupied by the task of keeping Guyana from collapse, but also full control of events escaped the GPC, who – inevitably – struggled to fit the genie back in the battle. In total, the summer’s confrontations brought over two hundred murders, and another thousand persons were wounded in rioting and reciprocal attacks. The situation was unquestionably bleak, and it seemed uncertain that even Jagan’s removal would solve much beyond appeasing the GPC and the GTUC. Once again, Kennedy’s grim fixation on ‘getting the job done’ had embroiled the United States in a hell of its own making. The question remained how it planned to extricate itself.



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Forbes Burnham.


On August 19, in a desperate attempt to bring some sort of calm that might allow resolution, Forbes Burnham returned to Guyana from Barbados. He arrived in Georgetown late at night, and the following morning made a public appearance where he received a rapturous welcome from his supporters and made an appeal for calm. British observers feared that Burnham’s return signalled an imminent coup attempt, but none seemed to be forthcoming. Indeed, Burnham had by all appearances returned from Barbados a changed man; he spoke about the necessity of respecting the democratic process, and called for an end to racial violence. No doubt his CIA connections had given him a new taste for the trappings of American liberal democracy, which he would happily adopt as his own so long as they placed him back in power. By the end of summer, this seemed an inevitability; even if it retained its slim parliamentary majority, the government had lost its credibility, and Stephen Campbell’s favour as kingmaker was no longer guaranteed for the Progressive Front. Although he was by no means prepared to jump into bed with the Afrocentrists, Campbell had met with Jagan on multiple occasions over the summer to express his extreme disappointment in the PF’s inability to regain the initiative, threatening to withdraw the Popular Union from the coalition if some compromise could not be reached. The GPC were certainly aware of the growing friction between the PF and the PUP, and Burnham knew that his best shot at power would come in the event of a split in the government. By re-positioning himself as a conciliator, he hoped to lay the foundations for a bid for the premiership, promising now to lend his government a new multi-ethnic flavour.

But the violence was not yet over. Burnham’s appeals for calm went some way towards stilling the rioting crowds of Afro-Guyanese in Georgetown, but, like Jagan, Kennedy and every other actor in the drama, he was not omnipotent. On August 24, Jane Jagan was targeted in a car-bombing that killed two security guards outside the House of Assembly. The subsequent police report named both Richard Ishmael and Ptolemy Reid, Burnham’s lieutenant in the GPC, as having been involved. Reid was a former veterinary surgeon who prior to autonomy had also worked as a manager in the British-owned sugar companies – the first Afro-Guyanese to do so. While Burnham was out of the country, he had taken over as leader of the legislative opposition and rumours swirled that the Americans now preferred him to Burnham as their candidate for premier in a post-Jagan government. With his lower profile and strong corporate links, he would be an ideal candidate to bring Guyana firmly into the American sphere. For now, however, he was nothing but loyal to his party leader, and both he and Burnham were united by a desire to see the Jagan ministry overthrown.



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Ptolemy Reid.


In the aftermath of the attempt on Jane Jagan, Cheddi Jagan assembled his cabinet to determine how far they were willing to compromise on the economic programme in order to quell the continuing violence. Jagan himself was not convinced that the violence could be fully neutralised, except by resort to equally violent methods of suppression, and he correctly judged that the ultimate goal of the opposition was not to stop economic reform, but more fundamentally to defeat the government. Nevertheless, not to have taken some action would have been profoundly reckless. Exploratory overtures to London requesting policing action, as in Malaysia, had been dismissed by the Bevan government. As in Malaysia, Bevan was unwilling to countenance the use of force against the ‘kith and kin’, and Jagan’s cause was scuppered for lack of enthusiasm in the military itself. Unlike in Malaysia, Britain maintained no forces in the Caribbean, and the logistics of intervention in Guyana would have been tricky to resolve. On a political level, Bevan was also uncomfortable with sanctioning what he believed would have been an ‘unqualified’ imperialist action, and even Boothby was reluctant to take up the mantle on behalf of intervention. Thus, while Jagan could be certain of British material support (so long as the Americans did not interfere) and also had access to the FORIN regional network, any concrete resolution to the crisis would have to come from his government alone.

As could have been anticipated, the Progressives were on the whole unenthusiastic about the prospect of relenting on the programme of agricultural reform, reasoning that political disturbances – however grave – could not be allowed to interfere with what was unquestionably a delicate plan. The obvious counter-argument is that the economic damage from political interference could by no means be as bad as the damage from another three months of violence. Stephen Campbell was the chief defender of this view, and in a cabinet meeting on September 5 he made it clear to Jagan that the PUP’s continued support of the government would rely upon economic concessions. Campbell asked for guarantees that land reform would not impact Amerindian communities, and also requested that the development programme be extended to include the sugar farmers as a matter of priority. When Jagan responded that there was no money to develop both the rice and sugar communities at once, Campbell said that he could easily free up funds by revoking the subsidies paid out to the Indian farmers. This would perhaps go some way towards restoring faith in the government beyond the Indo-Guyanese population, but its effect within that group would be disastrous, and Jagan was by now inextricably caught in a bind. Any hope of multi-ethnic support had been dashed, and the question was now whether he wished to make a gamble in the hopes of recovering some Afro-Guyanese support, or whether he stuck to his original position and kept the Indo-Guyanese on side. Neither was a guarantee of success, and neither was without harmful side effects. But a choice would have to be made.



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Bob Boothby.


From London, Bob Boothby pushed Jagan to attempt a compromise with the Afro-Guyanese opposition. However improbably, Burnham was already positioning himself as a ‘multi-ethnic’ candidate, and it had seldom been so evident that any successful outcome in Guyana would require the sharing of power between the two dominant groups. If Jagan could outmanoeuvre Burnham, his chances of survival would increase inordinately. There was nothing to say that the Afro-Guyanese former premier had any more chance of success in his re-positioning than Jagan would have if he walked back on the extent to which his reforms favoured the Indian farmers. All that he stood to lose was some pride, but this would soon be forgotten in the wake of restored calm within the commonwealth.

His options exhausted, Jagan reluctantly assented to reverse some of the most stridently pro-Indian elements of his programme. On September 14, the premier called Ptolemy Reid to arrange a secret meeting with high-level members of the government and the legislative opposition. Forbes Burnham would also be in attendance. Convening in a meeting room at the Progressive Front headquarters, Freedom House, Jagan outlined his proposed compromise to Burnham and Reid. To ensure a definitive end to violence, including by GPC paramilitary forces, he would halt subsidies to the rice farmers in exchange for an expansion of the development programme to cover sugar farmers. Reid and Burnham seemed receptive, but both pushed for guarantees that the salaries of Black workers employed in the rice industry would not be cut. Without such a guarantee, they said, it was unlikely that Richard Ishmael would call off the GTUC. Although far from the main event by the start of autumn, the strike remained ongoing, and the GPC leaders warned that even their agreement to a compromise would be no assurance of peace. Jagan, quickly tiring, said that the question of salaries was economic and not racial, and noted that Burnham himself had kept pay artificially inflated during his term. He could not realistically make any promises that wages would be maintained but he could make firm proposals on the matter of investment. Apparently satisfied by this, Burnham agreed to call off the paramilitaries in return for a public commitment to implement the new measures as a matter of urgency. Jagan agreed to raise the matter in the Assembly the following day, and political peace seemed to be restored.


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Burnham and Jagan together in happier times.
In the middle is Jagan's son, to whom Burnham was godfather.


Why Burnham was so willing to commit to an agreement with Jagan when it seemed evident that the PF government was on the brink of collapse, it is not possible to say for sure. Doubtless he knew that an agreement would not save Jagan’s government by itself, and surely he will have seen the value to his new ‘conciliator’ image of appearing willing to negotiate. There is also a suggestion that he wished to outflank Reid, who he must have sensed was gaining in his own power. By seeking to stem the violence, even if only temporarily, he would have gained time to re-secure his own standing in Guyanese politics, profiting more at this point from a show of ‘good behaviour’ in the legislature rather than by inciting yet more violence on the streets. Specifically, assenting to the compromise demonstrated to Stephen Campbell that he was not focused on race alone, and the three seats held by Campbell’s PUP remained the key to taking control of the legislature out of Jagan’s hands. Should Campbell exercise his option of leaving the government, Burnham hoped that he would now feel that he could make a fruitful alliance with the GPC.

For the moment, however, peace was restored. Jagan’s compromise programme received the support of the House of Assembly in a special session on September 19, and Burnham leant on Richard Ishmael to declare the strike victorious and direct workers back to their jobs. Jagan thus resumed government as leader of a deeply unsettled country, not out of danger completely but certainly more secure in his position than he had been since May. But the initiative was now on Burnham’s side, and all he had to do was wait for the next crisis. Inevitably, he would not be kept waiting long.



Questions of Confidence

Forbes Burnham’s habit of improvisation did not lend itself well to the prevalent belief among those in Washington that they, and not the collaborators in Georgetown, were running the show. Having switched his allegiances from Mosley to Bevan to Kennedy, Burnham’s independence was well established. Indeed, the Americans did not mind independence; as we have seen, pragmatist Kennedy could tolerate just about all beliefs among those whose company he kept, just so long as their reliability in supporting American policy was guaranteed. But successive bad bets in Vietnam (Diem) and Indonesia (Sukarno) had soured the American willingness to indulge the erratic streak common among autocrats fearing for their positions. The traumatic lessons of the past two years had left Washington skittish and desperate for certainty. Unfortunately, in Burnham they had backed a figure prone to great swings of judgement in his bids for power, and the situation unravelled into a case of the paranoid spooking the paranoid: a fatal ouroboros that could only end in catastrophe.


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Burnham with American allies, 1966.


In showing himself willing to co-operate with Jagan, Burnham was not only hoping to bolster his credentials as a conciliator – the one man capable of ‘healing’ a country riven by years of internecine trauma, much of his own instigation – but also seeking to nip in the bud any question of Ptolemy Reid claiming the leadership of the opposition for himself. By the autumn of 1966, all indications from Washington seemed to suggest that Reid had supplanted Burnham as the object of the Kennedy’s administration’s strongest affections. Kennedy knew well the importance of achieving a genuine settlement between the races in Guyana, and that any question of stable government without it was hopeless. To this end, Reid was preferred to Burnham as an ‘unknown quantity’, and therefore (in theory) a safe pair of hands. At the very least, it was hoped that he would be malleable; happy to impose market liberalism on Guyana so as to allow America the optimal conditions for its programme of capital extraction. Pursuing such a policy under Burnham, indissolubly linked with both Mosleyism and Afrocentrism, was a risk a weary Washington did not wish to take.

Burnham’s greatest hope of forestalling his demise was to re-establish himself as the unquestioned leader of the opposition bloc in the Assembly, and by extension in the country at large. The latter fact was not in doubt; Reid had nothing like the profile of Burnham, which was of course what made him so appealing to Foggy Bottom. In the Assembly, however, the wilderness period of his summer ‘exile’ in Barbados had cost him dearly, and Reid by now commanded the respect of the GPC as Burnham’s capable lieutenant – and a potential leader in his own right. Had he the time, Burnham could have perhaps overturned this notion, and given a few months it is conceivable that he could have strong-armed the party rank and file into acquiescence. But, as it transpired, time was one thing that Burnham did not have.



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Stephen Campbell.


On November 12, 68-year-old Stephen Campbell, leader of the PUP and Cheddi Jagan’s deputy premier, suffered a fatal heart attack. His death threatened to do what a CIA-funded general strike could not, throwing the question of the government’s survival wide open. The vacant Assembly seat would be filled in a by-election on December 1. As a gesture of unity with the PUP, the Progressive Front announced that they would not field a candidate in the contest. The GPC made no such moves, and a two-way fight ensued. In these circumstances, the PUP were never likely to hold onto the seat; wary of making the same mistake twice, the CIA put all their resources into supporting the GPC, providing the now-familiar parade of election paraphernalia and media coverage, but even this was likely overkill: Jane Phillips-Gay, the GPC candidate, was a popular union organiser and a pioneering leader in the Guyanese women’s movement. She had been defeated earlier on in the year, and as one of his most formidable allies Burnham was eager to have her return to parliament. Trumpeting her credentials as a national figure while making conciliatory expressions of the need for racial cohesion. In the end, the vote was a formality: Phillips-Gay secured two-thirds of the ballots cast, and tipped the Assembly onto the verge of calamity.

With the GPC gaining a seat from the PUP, the coalition majority was reduced to two. This would be enough to give any premier reason for serious concern, but Jagan’s problems did not end here. Without Campbell’s influence, and uneasy about Jagan's radicalism the two surviving PUP Assembly members had little desire to continue to prop up an ailing government. On December 5, they divorced themselves from the coalition. The balance of power now hung on a knife-edge: Jagan commanded 26 out of 53 seats, and he had no hope of recapturing a majority except at the polls. Unwilling to submit his party to another election before the violence of the last contest had faded from memory, Jagan endeavoured to carry on in the minority, hoping that the slim margin might work in his favour to ward off disaster. At the best of times, this would have been an optimistic hope to hold on to. In Guyana at the end of 1966, it is was virtually unwarranted. Ptolemy Reid, seeing his big chance and resolving to grasp it, tabled a motion of no confidence in the Jagan government on December 8. A packed Assembly voted, which of course could only mean one outcome: after a tortuous nine months in power, having waited well over a decade to take over the government of Guyana, the Progressive Front ministry was no more, scuttled by a fatal cocktail of rice, race and rioting.



1966 JPG BURNHAM JAGAN.gif

Jane Phillips-Gay (centre) flanked by Jessica Burnham and Jane Jagan, 1966.
The three women were the first to hold seats in the House of Assembly.


Ptolemy Reid’s route to power was now clear of all obstacles. Jagan had been felled and Burnham had been outmanoeuvred. A form of exile now awaited each man: for Burnham, an appointment to the (ceremonial) presidency of Guyana; for Jagan, a hasty flight to Trinidad and then on to London, not eager to hang around in Georgetown long enough discover for himself whether the opposition had been sincere in their calls for reconciliation. Leadership in Guyana thus passed over to a new generation, divorced from the immediate context of the old struggles between coloniser and colonised, and mired instead in new battles of influence and intrigue. In time, these new battles would prove themselves no less deadly than those they superseded, and Reid’s rise to power by no means settled the question of Guyana’s loyalties. But for now, there seemed little hope of another reversal, and, exhausted, the superpowers withdrew to plot their next moves. Guyana entered 1967 with tentative hopes for a more stable peace. Even if it was not to be the end of the drama, another act in the transatlantic confrontation had come to its conclusion. The question was, where would the actors take up their positions when the action resumed?
 
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To spare you all another 12,000-word slog, I've split this chapter into two. Guyana is resolved above, while the next update will go into the implications for politics back in Britain. Then there'll be one last foreign policy update about Eurosyn, and that will be our lot on my end until vol 2. KH still has some stuff to tie up for the Americans, which should be ready at some point soon.

Enjoy!
 
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Chapters from The Birth of the American Age: United States Foreign Policy at Home and Abroad (1979), written by the American historian Walter LaFeber, one of the first revisionist historians of the Cold War. LaFeber explores the creation of the so-called "American empire" with an economic perspective and famously challenges the "conventional narrative of academic and political American liberalism."

The Birth of the American Age: United States Foreign Policy at Home and Abroad


Chapter 20: That Bitch of a War
Deterioration in Indochina (1965-1967)

Fresh off his triumph in Cuba, President Kennedy was immediately pressed by a cascade of international crises. The most serious conundrums, to little surprise, were in Indochina and Indonesia. McNamara’s rosy predictions for an imminent victory in South Vietnam had proven illusory, and by February 1965 the situation had reached a tipping point. On 10 February communist guerillas killed eleven Americans and wounded over a hundred at a U.S. army base outside the town of Kon Dơng. On the insistence of Secretary McNamara and McGeorge Bundy, Kennedy ordered airstrikes against North Vietnam, and then announced an additional $2 billion aid program to Saigon. Two U.S. combat marine divisions were dispatched over the private protests of President Diem, who continued to premise his regime on its ability to fight the war without direct American involvement. That claim too was turning out to be a fantasy. General Maxwell Taylor even gloated that they had succeeded in “breaking down Diem’s resistance” as escalating troop numbers deepened Washington’s commitment.

jXsNcBC.png
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Secretary of Defense McNamara (right) and National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy (left), the supporting cast in the Indochinese escalation.

Kennedy, meanwhile, concluded that while the Soviets had been taught a lesson during the missile crisis, the Chinese would want to humiliate both powers by gaining control of Indochina. His evident paranoia of a nuclear China, obvious to those in his intimate circle before the missile crisis, became a conspicuous feature of Vietnamese and Indonesian policy afterwards. Quoting Roosevelt, that Americans now lived in the “Pacific era,” Kennedy declared that “over the war resides the deepening shadow of Communist China, which assists the forces of violence in almost every continent.” U.S. fear grew as Chinese scientists exploded a small atomic bomb in 1965 and within three years set off a small hydrogen bomb one hundred times larger than the first. Kennedy also saw links between winning the Southeast Asian wars and implementing the program of the New Frontier. Losing could be disastrous, and the specter of McCarthyism gave Kennedy pause when he contemplated the potential reaction to defeat in Vietnam and Indonesia against the loss of China.

Gh6VGiQ.jpg

Chic-1, the first nuclear test by the PRC, conducted in October 1965.

Against these fears, the President pitted his assumption that the awesome power of the U.S. military could do the job alone. American soldiers, who could be transported with shocking ease across vast distances, would be aided by the genius of American technology. Helicopters, experimented by the French as early as 1914, now gave U.S. soldiers battlefield mobility and enviable protection. The air force and scientists combined to defoliate huge areas of untamed jungle, where the guerillas preferred to hide. Logistical challenges could be overcome by modern techniques of transport and supply. These advantages convinced Kennedy that a slow escalation—unlikely to put stress on the economy—would ensure popular support of his policy. He therefore refused to ask for a congressional declaration of war that could justify a full-sale effort. With good reason, he was certain that Americans would support an assertive president fighting communism. Rusk accordingly quipped that “we did not put on big bond drives or have movie actors going around the country whopping up war-fever because there’s too much power in the world to let the American people become too mad.” The plan, he noted, was “not to let the situation go down the chute—the chute into a larger war.” Kennedy therefore attempted to find a middle ground in Southeast Asia that gained popular support but avoided direct conflict with Moscow and Beijing.

MC0HQKN.jpg

A small fleet of Bell UH-1 Iroquois' in South Vietnam.

Within two years, each of these rationales had collapsed, at least in Vietnam. First, American allies in the region had already begun to doubt U.S. credibility, but not because Kennedy had failed to exhibit his anti-communism. Instead, their concerns grew as the United States poured resources into a bottomless war—in fact, several regional wars as the 1960s progressed—that they did not think could be won by force alone. Diem, in particular, became a point of suspicion for the three Asian Tigers (South Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines). Second, allies and Asian experts were outspoken on how Vietnamese nationalism had been persistently anti-China for a millennia. In fact, the foreign policy mantra of the political leadership in North Vietnam remained “it is better to smell the French dung for a while than eat China’s all our lives.” Furthering this line of reason was the essential fact that Mao’s government had sunk into a bitter infighting followed by a devastating “cultural revolution” that commenced in 1966.

Consequently, nationalist movements across the third world expelled or even killed pro-Chinese Communist factions within their movements as the CCP’s revolutionary fervor irritated cooperating movements. On the other hand, Mao did move 100,000 men into North Vietnam, partly to operate base complexes but also to warn Kennedy against an invasion of the north. Kennedy admitted that U.S. power, if not limited, would induce Chinese intervention. The President therefore discovered that while Chinese threats were being alleviated across the globe, in North Vietnam they effectively contained U.S. power. Third, the New Frontier sank as war expenses rose. It proved impossible for the United States to produce “both guns and butter” without imposing new taxes or weakening the economy. War costs climbed from $8 billion in 1966 to $17 billion in 1967. Dollars poured out of the U.S. to pay for both the war and for growing American private investments abroad (which doubled between 1960 and 1968). The nation’s export trade could not reclaim those dollars as producers struggled to compete with Japanese and German products. Confidence in the dollar buckled, and the long economic boom that had marked the 1960s as the pinnacle of American capitalism turned into a slide, greased by the costs of Indochina and Indonesia.

Fifth, the power of American technology failed not only to overawe the extensive French armament campaign of North Vietnam but also to weaken the willingness of the North Vietnamese to perish for their cause. As Kennedy sent more troops, Ho moved about 1,000 of his soldiers into the South each month in 1964. By 1966 that number was 5,000 per month. Secretary Fulbright, increasingly disillusioned with the war, noted years later that although the Communists had lost over 500,000 men (the equivalent at the time of killing about 8,000,000 Americans), they nevertheless “continued to come.” Journalist Walter Lippmann condemned Kennedy for “conducting the war like a gambler who, when he loses one round, doubles his bet in the hope of recovering what he has lost.” McNamara’s faith in statistics was undercut by figures that were misleading or cooked up to please Washington’s officials. They became so prevalent that American troops called them MEGs or “mostly exaggerated guesses.” American ignorance of Vietnamese history and practices seemed so limitless that it could not be compensated by U.S. technology. For example, when the Communists destroyed much of the South’s rice harvest, the United States rushed in California and Louisiana rice, only to find the Vietnamese hated it so much they used it instead of dirt to fill their sandbags.


SzoJUob.jpg

French tanks in North Vietnam. Between 1965 and 1968, the French pursued a vigorous deployment of armaments and advisers to the North Vietnamese Army. Three thousand French soldiers were killed during the Vietnam War, particularly in its final and decisive months.

If there was one obstruction that Kennedy could confidently claim to have skirted, it was on presidential war powers. In 1966, columnist James Reston marveled at Kennedy’s incredible authority: not even Khruschev “enjoyed such freedom of action in foreign affairs.” Power over Asian policy was centralized in a Wednesday dinner group that included the President, Fulbright (until his 1966 resignation and replacement by Dean Rusk), McNamara, and NSC director Rostow, and which famously “began with a prayer and ended with selecting bombing targets.” When Congress complained that the Constitution gave it, not the President, the authority to declare war, Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach told his congressional interrograts that the constitutional clause was an “outmoded phraseology.” Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy, stunned, muttered that “was the wildest testimony I have ever heard. There is no limit to what he says the President could do.” As a result of this exchange, McCarthy would go on to challenge Kennedy for the 1968 presidential nomination, running against the wars in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Indonesia.

tuDa5zs.jpg

USAF bombers strike guerilla positions outside Da Nang.

McCarthy was not alone in his bewilderment. An anti-war movement in colleges was soon marked by “teach-ins” conducted by outside lecturers and faculty. A “new Left” bloomed, differing from the “old Left” of the 1930s by its relative indifference towards ideology and economics and its concern for community, social changes, and opposition to the war. A counterculture appeared that cared more about political activism and music than about clean attire and etiquette. These groups thought critically about subjects long criticized by most of American society. A landmark was Stanley Kramer's 1967 satirical-tragedy, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, in which a retired northern general played by Spencer Tracy refuses to countenance the marriage of his daughter to a Negro doctor, played by Sidney Poitier and denies them their love. In the film, American society, racial prejudice, and the military are made to appear as pigheaded as a Maoist. All sources of authority seemed open to interrogation and challenge.

TtWNHHm.png

In the final scene, General Drayton celebrates his victory over his daughter and Dr. Prentice with a scoop of pink ice cream.

Kennedy, who had once courted college students, could no longer safely visit campuses and some cities. “To him,” one aide said, these students "appeared to be extraterrestrial invaders—not only non-American but nonearthly.” Some 400 students from twenty-five medical schools signed a pledge that they would not serve in Vietnam or Indonesia. The protests gained a new dimension when students joined forces with the increasingly radicalized civil-rights demonstrators to obtain civil rights and end the stain of segregation. Kennedy had worked diligently for civil rights, but now it was too late. Urban riots began in mid-1965 and proceeded for the next three years. In October 1966, riots scorched through Los Angeles, killing thirty-four people. Disobedience escalated into one of the greatest disasters in American history, the so-called Hot Summer of 1967, in which nearly a thousand Americans were killed by a massive wave of urban riots that burned through Tampa, Newark, Cincinnati, Atlanta, and (most infamously) Detroit, after the attempted assassination of Malcolm X by John Dean, the son of a southern judge and an avowed segregationist. The war had come home. U.S. military vehicles patrolled Washington D.C, protecting governmental leaders from the violence.

IrWA2nR.jpg

Detroit burns in August 1967 amid mass riots after the failed assassination of Malcolm X.

Violence bred more violence. From July 1965 to December 1967, U.S. planes dropped more bombs on Vietnam and Indonesia than they had on Japan during the entire Pacific War. More than 300,000 of Ho’s forces were killed in these months, but with French assistance, their strength actually rose from 190,000 to 270,000. The war’s frustrations, especially the inability to tell a Vietnamese or Indonesian peasant from a deadly Communist enemy, led to wholesale destruction. After the village of Ben Tre was burned, a U.S. officer declared, “it became necessary to destroy the town in order to save it.” The war abroad and at home then linked up when veterans began to return home. One medical aide succinctly put it, “It’s not at all like a John Wayne movie. When you see a fella without a leg or an arm,” Leaders such as George Kennan and the “great defector,” Kennedy’s own Secretary of State, James Fulbright, spearheaded ‘expert’ opposition to the war. So did retired military leaders such as General Matthew Ridgway (hero of the Korean War) and David Shoup (former Marine Corps commandant). Kennedy grew furious at allied leaders who took advantage of visits of the United States to condemn the conflict. When Canadian prime minister Lester Pearson did so in 1965, Kennedy complained that he had “pissed on my rug.” But the attacks continued, especially after Diem obviously rigged the August 1967 national elections and set in motion the slow collapse of his government.

fDagDbL.jpg

U.S. troops wade through enemy-controlled territory on patrol with helicopter support (1967).

As a result of the electoral malfeasance, South Vietnam was wracked by renewed social unrest. Powerful Buddhist leaders started to protest the war as well as Diem’s government. Diem’s army then fired into a crowd of Buddhists who were defying a government ban in parading religious banners. Riots inevitably followed, climaxing in Buddhist monks burning themselves to death while U.S. color television cameras rolled. Americans and South Vietnamese were shocked when Diem’s sister-in-law, Madame Nhu, described the scene as a “barbecue show.” This was typical for a family-regime of profound traditionalists who regarded opposition as treason, showed disdain for the institutions of western democracy, and aimed to restore the ancient Annamese morality. His redemptive achievements—cleaning up Saigon, bringing about a measure of economic growth and social improvement, and a self-conscious purpose of devotion and incorruptibility—were no longer adequate. His authoritarianism, which increasingly involved manhunts, political re-education camps, and the ‘regroupment’ of the population, would necessarily elicit a spreading resistance. In Saigon itself there was increasing dissatisfaction with Diem, his government and the conduct of the war. Resistance spread from the Vietnamese intellectual community and the Buddhist population to the Vietnamese Army. American training had given the younger officers a sense of modern methods, and they regarded Diem’s old-fashioned absolutism with growing resentment. Trusting no one, he based himself more and more narrowly on his family, especially on his aggressive younger brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu. On the whole, Diem and his family seemed unwilling or unable to undertake programs for greater rural reform, and the whole conception of seeking ‘popular support’ seemed to him one of those western delusions with no relevance to life in Asia. In his view it was the moral obligation of the people to respect their government.

ylGTaa6.jpg

"While Thích Quảng Đức burns, Madame Nhu barbecues."

Though the Buddhists had suffered legal discrimination in South Vietnam, they had not been actively persecuted. The upheaval, while religious in pretext, was social in origins and soon evolved with a political purpose in its objectives. It went beyond bonzes and students to militant young army officers exasperated by the confusion of the direction of the war. As the protests spread, the Buddhist revolt threatened to subsume all opposition to the regime, including fellow travelers of the Viet Cong. It was at bottom an uprising, wholly unanticipated by American diplomats against the hierarchical structure of Vietnamese society and against the older generation of Vietnamese nationalists who, like Diem and Nhu, were upper-class, Catholic, in favor of a new nationalist generation, drawn largely from the middle and lower classes, anti-western, radical, impassioned: it was, in the words of Arthur Schlesinger Jr, the “angry young men massing to throw out the mandarins.” Diem helped expedite the unrest by refusing gestures of contrition or conciliation lest, as usual, he lose face. Washington instructed the Embassy to bring pressure on him to compose the quarrel with the Buddhists, warning him that if the situation grew worse, the United States might have to disavow his policy publicly. In response, in late August 1967, Diem made a few nominal concessions, though laden with visible resentment. The Nhus, however, kept the initiative; in their estimation the Embassy pressure to “compose” the uprising could not exclude a forcible repression. In the steaming summer this incipient hysteria suddenly boiled over, much to the fear of American diplomats. John Mecklin, the USIA chief, had a nightmare about an American diplomatic mission which gradually discovered it was dealing with a government of madmen, whose words meant nothing, where nothing that was supposed to have happened had actually happened. Kennedy, nevertheless, believed the regime could “reach an agreement on the civil disturbances and also in respect for the rights of others.” In Saigon this last sentence was killed by state censorship.

wcybpDV.jpg

President Diem, depicted above, and his family gradually grew more authoritarian as the war progressed, finding little cause to accommodate the forces of change or insurrection, without discrimination.

Kennedy’s temperate words had little effect. While Diem assured Washington that there would be no more attacks on the Buddhists, the truth was to the contrary. On September 2 Diem’s troops assaulted the pagodas, arresting hundreds of bonzes and seizing the temples of worship in a night of violence and terror. Diem and Nhu proceeded quickly to exploit their victory. There were more arrests, especially among students, thousands of whom were carted off to indoctrination centers. It was, in Mecklin’s words, “a ruthless, comprehensive suppression of the Buddhist movement.” Madame Nhu described it to a reporter as “the happiest day in my life.” Washington was caught completely by surprise, having thought that the South Vietnamese Army was being deployed for an attack on the Viet Cong. “We just didn’t know,” the CIA chief told David Halberstam. It was an act of calculated contempt for the American position—another salvo for the cause of Catholic Vietnamese nationalism. Diem followed this fleeting achievement by publicly reiterating his intention to cap U.S. troop deployments at 350,000 (another 250,000 were already fighting in Indonesia). Washington could not retaliate, it was too paralyzed by its entire messaging of the war. In the public imagination, America had come to sink or swim with Ngo Dinh Diem. The White House sank back into a weak policy of sullen collaboration.

But Kennedy continued to hope. He could be encouraged because, until early 1968, U.S. television largely gave weight to the administration’s view. In January 1968, both Kennedy and his top commander, General William Westmoreland, said with good evidence on their side that the war was being won. Few could have predicted the supreme disaster waiting around the corner.


-

A little overview as we prepare to dive into the concluding fun.
 
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Carol-Niko

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Mixing grand domestic changes with nebulous foreign commitments is a dangerous game for Kennedy. The average American (read: white) will want an end to the urban riots and real victory outside. Fertile grounds for a resurgent Right, or the great lurking monster as LBJ called them.
 
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1) For @DensleyBlair , are you sure that you're not a clone of @El Pip turned into a mirror? Perhaps a foil? Tractors, by Jove! The only thing is that you certainly can weave words into a decisive tapestry, and even though it's long, reads quickly.

2) For @99KingHigh , that was an amazing piece of writing. I certainly wish I still maintained my class folio of one of my college courses, Vietnam: Policy and Proceedure, because I thoroughly enjoyed the class and it would have been epic to see what I could recall from my own coursework (other than that your writing calls forth as "Diem = Moron" and "US = Duped").
 
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DensleyBlair

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Mixing grand domestic changes with nebulous foreign commitments is a dangerous game for Kennedy. The average American (read: white) will want an end to the urban riots and real victory outside. Fertile grounds for a resurgent Right, or the great lurking monster as LBJ called them.
From my point of view, it certainly seems fair to say that we are getting considerable way to understanding why Kennedy is so ill remembered in this world.

1) For @DensleyBlair , are you sure that you're not a clone of @El Pip turned into a mirror? Perhaps a foil? Tractors, by Jove! The only thing is that you certainly can weave words into a decisive tapestry, and even though it's long, reads quickly.
Thank you kindly, Wraith. I’ll take foil any day of the week (mirrored clone would perhaps be a little too uncanny). I’m glad the highly controversial “tractors and rice” subplot has provided some entertainment!

And thanks for the vote of confidence on the chapter reading quickly. Relieved to know it doesn’t get too bogged down!

(other than that your writing calls forth as "Diem = Moron" and "US = Duped").
Would it be unfair to suggest that the US were very happy to be duped so long as they thought they were in for an easy ride? :p
 
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99KingHigh

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Mixing grand domestic changes with nebulous foreign commitments is a dangerous game for Kennedy. The average American (read: white) will want an end to the urban riots and real victory outside. Fertile grounds for a resurgent Right, or the great lurking monster as LBJ called them.

no comment

1) For @DensleyBlair , are you sure that you're not a clone of @El Pip turned into a mirror? Perhaps a foil? Tractors, by Jove! The only thing is that you certainly can weave words into a decisive tapestry, and even though it's long, reads quickly.

2) For @99KingHigh , that was an amazing piece of writing. I certainly wish I still maintained my class folio of one of my college courses, Vietnam: Policy and Proceedure, because I thoroughly enjoyed the class and it would have been epic to see what I could recall from my own coursework (other than that your writing calls forth as "Diem = Moron" and "US = Duped").

I'm glad you enjoyed. In a sense I'm writing very much against the "it all went wrong with Johnson" narrative that lurks around academic halls, longing for the dazzling presidency of Kennedy. The U.S. getting "duped" is very much Kennedy's legacy in both timelines, even if Johnson gets his fair share of culpability in our own history books.

And as we'll see in my next chapter, the other thing we're going to miss about Lyndon Johnson is, you know, getting bills passed.
 
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I'm glad you enjoyed. In a sense I'm writing very much against the "it all went wrong with Johnson" narrative that lurks around academic halls, longing for the dazzling presidency of Kennedy.
How long until someone blasts Jack with the old “You’re no Estes Kefauver”
 
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DensleyBlair

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Now that we're getting right down to the business end of things for Vol1, I've been giving quite a lot of thought to sequencing for the finale, and in particular to what ground I want to cover before the volume ends. Basically I realised that the next (and final) foreign policy chapter very neatly sets up the story arc for the finale, so it occurred to me that there is absolutely no point sacrificing good narrative flow for completism's sake by breaking up political drama with e.g. lengthy digressions on the geographic, aesthetic and philosophical splits in the London folk-rock scene. I'll circle back around to that stuff during the 'interval' before picking up with the main plot line for Vol2, but doing things this way round seems like a better use of my time atm.

As compensation for the extra wait on the 'flavour' chapters, I'll try and make them as meaty as the last few chapters on Guyana and so on. (Which is an odd pledge for a vegetarian to make, but there we go…)

Anyway, this post is partly to let you all know what is and isn't coming up next, and partly because we're perilously close to the bottom of the page and the next chapter is ready to post. I will put it up when circumstances are opportune. :)
 
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Wraith11B

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Certainly, just everyone hold off!
 
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