Manley and Russia (part 2)

Edward Seaga

Sunday, March 24, 2019

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The following is a transcript prepared by a former Soviet foreign ministry official who defected in July 1980 from his post as second secretary at the Soviet Embassy in Kingston.


Musin wanted to see Jamaica added to the Soviet's list of socialist-oriented countries which are accorded preferential economic treatment, but he understood that the decision to do this could only be made at Central Committee or politburo level. He nevertheless pursued the idea that Jamaica should get some favoured treatment, commenting among the embassy staff that the Soviets should not try to make money on Jamaica.

He was distressed that the USSR had not purchased pimento from Jamaica in 1979 — although it had traditionally done so, buying that year from Mexico instead. Musin pressured the Soviet trade representative and the economic counsellor in Kingston to do something to help the Manley Government, but both said they could take no action without direction from Moscow.

“Source” observes that the USSR is, as a matter of general practice, unwilling to provide the sort of financial aid and cash loans that Jamaica needs, and has so far been unwilling to accord to Jamaica the kind of preferential treatment in trade that it gives to more socialist-oriented countries.

There are uncertainties in Moscow about Manley's ability to do the things he says he wants to do in Jamaica. Moscow sees him as a democratic socialist in a country which has a two-party system. The Soviets favour giving economic and financial assistance to governments that are more reliable and revolutionary in their handling of internal affairs than is Jamaica. Further, in “source's” view, the Soviet decision-makers' understanding of international affairs is such that they do not think that economic assistance will work miracles. They believe in taking power by force/revolution.

In “source's” view, Ambassador Musin was always quick to advise Moscow of any pro-socialist and anti-US statements which Manley made and to defend him when he made remarks which appeared to be too pro-US. “Source” recalled, for example, that sometime in the fall of 1979 Musin had a talk with Manley's Minister of State Arnold Bertram concerning Jamaica's reaction to the US decision to strengthen its military posture in the Caribbean in the wake of the problem of the Soviet brigade in Cuba.

Bertram told Musin that when Manley heard of President Carter's decision, he flew into rage and vowed to block the president. “Source” observes that Manley tried to engineer a collective condemnation of the US decision but succeeded in getting just a few countries on board (Guyana, Grenada, and St Lucia). Ambassador Musin promptly reported all this to Moscow.

In October 1979, Manley visited Iraq and Libya, stopping off in the US on his return home. Ambassador Musin's subsequent assessment of the trip cabled to Moscow commented on the Arab visits, but was geared primarily to explaining away the warm remarks toward the US which Manley made while in New York. Musin reported that Manley was seeking credits from Iraq and Libya and offered increased cooperation with progressive non-aligned states.

He went on to tell Moscow that Manley's contradictory statements in the US were simply tactical — designed to assuage US concern that Jamaica was going communist and to assure the continuance of US investment and tourism in Jamaica, the importance of which Musin pointed out to Moscow.

Acting on instructions from Moscow, Musin met Manley in early January 1980 to complain about the Jamaican Government's public statement criticising Soviet actions in Afghanistan. Manley apologised and said that he and the majority of his Cabinet opposed the Jamaican position and were really on the Soviet's side. But that they were under severe pressure from the US, the IMF, and the Jamaican Opposition.

Musin subsequently received a personal letter from an official of the Caribbean section of CC CPSU — “source” thinks it was Mostovets again — expressing his disappointment that Manley had not been able to support the Soviet position in Afghanistan. Musin commented to his staff that he had informed Moscow several times of the serious Jamaican financial situation and asked for economic assistance for Jamaica, implying that if Soviet financial assistance had been forthcoming Jamaica might have supported the Soviet stand in Afghanistan.

Later in January, “source recalls”, Musin had a meeting with the top Jamaican sports official Hugh Small. Small told Musin that Manley had received a letter from President Carter asking him to boycott the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. He said that Manley had instructed him to tell the Soviets that he, Manley, was going to tell the president privately, as well as officially, that Jamaica would not boycott the Olympics. Moreover, Small conveyed from Manley, Jamaica would do its best to keep other Caribbean and Latin American countries from boycotting the games.

In the spring of 1980 when a Grenadian delegation to Moscow stopped in Kingston on route to the USSR, a meeting was held involving the Cuban ambassador to Jamaica, Ambassador Musin, the Jamaican minister of national security, and the Grenadian. All expressed concern about the internal situation, in Jamaica and agreed that if Manley loses the election it will be a severe blow to progressive developments in Jamaica and the whole Caribbean. Musin commented to the group that Grenada is watching developments in Jamaica closely.

“Source” is aware of no Soviet or Cuban plans to take any sort of political action to help prevent a Manley election defeat or otherwise influence the Jamaican election (other than, presumably, routine open propaganda). He is similarly aware of no plans by Manley or the PNP to tinker with the elections outside of Jamaican law.

“Source” summarises Ambassador Musin's view of Manley and Jamaica as follows: “Jamaica is very important in the Caribbean. It is English-speaking, one of the largest countries in the area and has extensive influence in the region. The PNP is progressive, socialist-minded. Government policy is anti-imperialist, anti-US, and progressive. Manley is popular in the Third World and enjoys authority among leaders of the NAM (non-aligned movement). Manley and Fidel Castro are very close. Manley is progressive and sincere. He is genuinely on the socialist road, while manoeuvring with the Americans to get US economic assistance.

“The Soviets should give economic assistance to the PNP Government in order to help it stay in power and keep out of office the Opposition JLP, which is absolutely reactionary, exclusively pro-American, imperialist, anti-Soviet, and anti-communist. “Source” notes that Musin often complained that Moscow did not understand the situation in Jamaica. Musin did not know why, although he realised that the USSR was involved in many far-flung problems and countries. After the Afghanistan action began he commented among his staff that embassy proposals would certainly fail now. 'Jamaica is far away and very small'.”

In his reporting to Moscow, Musin expressed in substance the same views of Manley that he voiced to the embassy staff. He always emphasised the seriousness of Jamaica's economic problems. He blamed the pro-American reactionary opposition, but never Manley himself, for Manley's shortcoming. He also blamed Manley's economic problems — as did Manley — on the world situation and in particular on increased oil prices. Musin never took the position taken by Trevor Munroe, leader of the Workers' Party of Jamaica (WPJ) that Manley had failed to use strong socialist/revolutionary methods. He never mentioned local polls which showed Manley would be defeated in the elections.

“Source” was aware, from his personal observations in the embassy and miscellaneous casual remarks by various people in the embassy, of regular and close cooperation and relations between the several KGB officers at the embassy and “leftist” ministers in the Jamaican Government. He did not know what specifically they were doing, moreover, keeping in mind that the Soviet Embassy staff was small and that each of the KGB officers had a diplomatic cover position and job. He was not in a position to know to what extent any of these contacts may have concerned legitimate diplomatic business as opposed to KGB affairs.

This much said, one or another of the KGB officers had close relations with Arnold Bertram, Minister of Security Dudley Thompson, Derek Heaven, Hugh Small, general secretary of the PNP Youth Organisation Sheldon MacDonald, Parliamentary Secretary Donald Davidson, and chairman of the PNP/YO Paul Burke, as well as Trevor Munroe. “Source” was not aware of any contacts between DK Duncan and the KGB, although he considered it logical that there would be. “Source” was not aware of any change in the frequency of KGB contacts with Jamaican leftists during the period he served in Kingston.

“Source” speculates that it was probably at least in part because the KGB people at the embassy had close contacts with the more leftist forces in Jamaica that they tended to hold the same views that these forces held of the Jamaican scene. “Source” thought that Klimentov's views, for example, reflected those of Munroe.

In contrast to the view that Musin held of Manley as a “true socialist”, the KGB people looked upon him as a social democrat and thought his behaviour was simply in line with his background. This is not to say that they disliked or disapproved of him; this was not an issue. In practical terms, they didn't see any alternative for the time being. At this stage of the game, they thought he was useful because he encouraged socialism and had a good foreign policy.

Musin, and source believes — based on conversations with working- level foreign ministry and party contacts when he was on leave in Moscow — the Moscow in general viewed the very leftist elements in the PNP — Bertram, Duncan, Small, Heaven, and Davidson — as pro-Soviet, sharing the Soviet approach to socialist development, and working for the socialist future of Jamaica.

(“Source” does not recall hearing any remarks on this subject from Mostovets or any other central committee official). Musin considered Duncan to be almost a communist and evaluated him highly for his organisational ability and willingness to take action. Musin regarded Manley's wife, Beverley, as very progressive and influential with Manley.

Musin also rated Munroe highly as a man of action, although he criticised him — privately among the Embassy staff — for his statement in May or June 1979 that the WPJ and PNP candidates should be entered as a bloc in the next election and that he was ready to enter into a close union with the PNP. Musin commented to his staff that Munroe's statements were unwise and foolish and gave credibility to JLP criticism that Manley was in bed with Munroe. “Source” never heard KGB people criticise Munroe, however.

Soviet Embassy policy was to minimise contacts with Christopher Lawrence and the Communist Party of Jamaica where possible. Klimentov was especially cool toward Lawrence and always tried to avoid him. According to Musin, Moscow's position was to cooperate with one communist party and it preferred Munroe and the WPJ.

“Source” recalled that Lawrence had earlier established close relations with trade union and peace committee elements in Moscow, which he maintained. But in general, the embassy — both Musin and Klimentov — thought they should leave Lawrence alone and his party would “die on its own roots”.

This insightful document unfolds the workings of the secret inner conclaves at which plans are made which revealed truths without fears of public exposure. Full intentions can be expressed in secret which could not be discussed publicly. Taken together with the other exposé contained in the frank interview with Soviet journalist V Veraikov on February 3, 1977, both revelations conclusively establish that Manley was programming Jamaica to be positioned in the Soviet-Cuban axis with far-reaching consequences for the system of governance of the country and attendant crippling economic and social outcomes.

There can be no more delusion about this nor any credible attempt to soften the extreme impact on the society of such an attempt at revolutionary transformation. Steeped in the pretentious power of Third World politics Manley would have underestimated the cataclysmic international and national consequences which any such plan would have evoked, if ever he had been given the opportunity to implement his sinister convictions. As fate would have it, the opportunity was not given to him by the people of Jamaica.

After the change of Government in 1980, Jamaica's relationship with the Soviet Union was cordial and business-like. Commercial transactions previously agreed with the Manley Government were pursued with a view to continuity. So too was the commitment to buy Lada motor vehicles to whatever extent the market allowed. Having stripped away the ideology from the previous relationship, the Soviet Union became a trading partner of value to the new JLP Government. This relationship was sustained until the break-up of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1990 under internal transformation unleashed by glasnost and perestroika initiated by General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev.

The fall of the Berlin Wall (October 3, 1990) dividing socialist East Germany from its link to West Germany brought a dramatic end to socialism, which reverberated throughout the world leaving only a few hard-line nations still clinging to the virtually moribund socialist system. Most of these remaining countries began to introduce State-controlled capitalism operating with market systems (notably China and Cuba), indicating that socialism was indeed dead. It was as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union that it became apparent that Manley and the PNP could no longer follow a socialist path.

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