Adam Morris at The Believer:
Though obscure in popular memory, the “cause” advocated by the Peoples Temple was nothing less than total revolution: the Jonestown agricultural settlement was intended as a utopian social experiment in communism. Jones adapted the notion of “revolutionary suicide” from Huey Newton’s autobiographical account of the early days of the Black Panther Party and his personal crusade against American imperialism and racism. The young Reverend Jones may have started out preaching in the McCarthy-era Midwest, but he claimed to have held socialist and communist convictions ever since he was a child. He was a notorious liar, but if this was one of Jones’s overstatements, it was only a slight one: his wife, Marceline, recalled that her husband had privately expressed his admiration for Mao Zedong just after they were married, in 1949, when Jones was only eighteen years old.
Peoples Temple was nominally a church that originated with a core of Pentecostal followers in Indianapolis. But the Temple’s classification as a religious organization overdetermined its representation in the American media in the 1970s. Indeed, the conservative media watchdog Accuracy in Media complained that the group’s radical Marxist objectives were mostly lost in the general confusion surrounding the Jonestown massacre.