The Clandestine Caucus
The Clandestine Caucus was written in the late 1990s by Lobster editor Robin Ramsay and was an early attempt to understand the significance of a nexus of intelligence connected groups which covertly influenced the political landscape of the post-war UK including the Economic League
A surprising number of Labour Party members believethat it was once a socialist party, began as a socialist party, and was then seduced from the golden pathway. This engenders the language of betrayal and sell-out which is so familiar and depressing a part of life in the Labour Party and on the British Left in general.(1) But the view of the Labour Party as originally socialist is just wrong. The history of Britain's union and labour movement is one of continuous conflict between socialist and anti-socialist wings; and within that conflict the bit of the story that is usually not told is that describing the relationship between the anti-socialist section of the labour movement and British and US capital and their states.
The conflict between the anti- and pro-socialist wings of the labour movement sharpened markedly after the 1918 Bolshevik revolution and the subsequent formation of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Although wehave surprisingly little information on the turbulent years between 1918 and 1926, and, in particular, on the British Right's preparation to meet the Bolshevik 'threat',(2) we know that much of the early effort was put into groups aimed at the exploitation of so-called 'patriotic labour', such as the British Workers League.(3)
World War 1 produced the modern British state - the Cabinet Office etc. - and mobilisation: things wererun from the centre and new relationships were formed.
- 'By the end of 1919, a new form of political activity was growing up, as yet only half understood, but
radically different from the pre-war system ..... but there now existed formal, powerful, employers' institutions, a fully fledged Ministry of Labour, and a TUC Trades Union Congress increasingly accustomed to dealing in the political arena, wedded to a major political party which, almost alone in Europe, encompassed the majority of the non-Conservative working class. At the same time, the government's apparatus for manipulating public opinion had grown inordinately, enabling it - on its own estimate - to confront the spectre of Bolshevism and survive. Lloyd George himself, searching always for a middle way in politics, had shifted away from Liberal radicalism towards a corporatism best described as the creation in Parliamentary politics of a staatspartei, composed of Liberals and mainstream Conservatives (leaving a fringe right wing and a much larger, but powerless Labour Left); complemented in industrial politics by a triangular collaboration in which employers' organisations and TUC should make them-selves representative of their members and in return receive recognition as estates by government.'(4)
The British Commonwealth Union, the FBI (Federation of British Industries, precursor of today's CBI) and the other predominantly Midlands manufacturing group, the National Union of Manufacturers, were set up during the first World War and they mark the origins of the British corporate movement.(5) One of the leading figures of the group, Sir Dudley Docker, envisaged
- 'a completely integrated society and economy in which industry would have its organisation of workers and
management, the two sets of organisations united by peak federations and all finally capped by a great national forum of workers and managers and employers, embraced by the protection of an Imperial Tariff.'(6)
Another of the corporatist groups financed by Midlands industrialists, the British Commonwealth Union (BCU), led by the Birmingham MP, Sir Patrick Hannon, began funding MPs to form an Industrial Group in Parliament. The first 11 candidates were subsidised by the BCU in the 1918 election: by 1924 the group in parliament consisted of 105 (mostly Tory) members. Hannon's Industrial Group chiefly wanted government protection of British industry against foreign competition, but, to quote Hannon, they also 'wanted the largest measure of freedom in the relationship between capital and labour and the least state intervention possible.'(7)
These early corporatist dreams failed for a number of reasons. Employer organisations were none too happy at the idea of the trade unions as some kind of partners.(8) And vice versa. Too much was being expected; it was too big a change, happening too quickly. In any case, the corporatists among the members of the Federation of British Industries (FBI) were a minority strand in the thinking of the Tory Party and British industrial capital; and even among the corporatists there were divisions.(9)
Frank Longstreth called this network of BCU, Industrial Group, FBI and other employer propaganda groups of the period, such as the Economic League, the Preference Imperialists, and noted their links to the earlier Midlands manufacturing-based Tariff Reform League.(10)As Longstreth suggested, it is possible to view the British economy since 1900 as a protracted struggle between British manufacturing (domestic capital) and the City of London (international finance capital), with the City in control for most of the century.(11) Oswald Mosley's movement in the 1930s was
- 'in effect, the perverted continuation of the social imperialism of an earlier generation of industrialists, supporting imperial autarchy, social reform, conversion from a bankers' to a producers' economy, protectionism, public control of credit, and the suppression of the class struggle through the state'.(12)
Although the great schemes of corporatism failed, the cooperation between the state and the trade unions which began during the First World War, continued after the General Strike and was deepened by the first two Labour governments.(13) Peter Weiler quotes Ernest Bevin's view in the 1930s that that the TUC had 'virtually become an integral part of the State, its views and voice upon every subject, international and domestic, heard and heeded.'(14) This statement of Bevin's is an exaggeration: no doubt the TUC's views were heard; but heeded?
The powers-that-be set about educating and socialising these new leaders. In 1938, for example, one of the most important of the trade union leaders, Ernest Bevin, with his wife, was taken off on a tour of the empire, at the behest of the Royal Institute of International Affairs.(15) Trade union leaders they might be, seeking justice and a better deal for the British worker, but they remained patriots and imperialists for the most part, and not socialists. The gentlemen (mostly men) of the TUC did not dream - publicly or secretly - of taking over British capitalism, or of destroying the British empire. The institutional links with the British state begun before World War 2 were solidified enormously by the war. The trade unions were in the national coalition government, and some of their leaders were Ministers of the Crown - very important people.
After the war In the immediate post-war period the TUC was dominated by what Lewis Minkin called a 'praetorian guard' against the left; Arthur Deakin of the Transport Workers, Will Lawther of the Mineworkers and Tom Williamson of the General and Municipal. Minkin describes in detail how this trio ran the what he calls 'an unprecedented period of "platform" dominance at Party conference';(16) but noted that this alliance was defensive in nature and saw a communist conspiracy behind all criticism.
The political beliefs of the leaders of trade unions in this period was mixed. Some were supporters of Moral Rearmament (MRA). At the 1947 MRA World Assembly at Caux-sur-Martreux in France, delegates from Britain included E.G. Gooch MP, President of the Agricultural Workers. An MRA press release on October 15, 1947 noted that signatories to a message of support for the Caux assembly included trade union leaders Andrew Naesmith, (General Secretary of the Amalgamated Weavers' Association), G. H. Bagnall (TUC General Council representative; former General Secretary of the National Union of Dyers, Bleachers and Textile Workers), George Chester (General Secretary of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives), W. B. Beard and J. W. Stephenson (Chair of Building Trade Operatives).Some trade union leaders supported campaigns by avowedly anti-socialist groups such as Aims of Industry and the Economic League. In 1952 the New Statesman reported that recent Aims of Industry literature had included essays by - or under the name of, perhaps - Florence Hancock of the TUC General Council and Bob Edwards, the General Secretary of the Chemical Workers' Union, who was later to be found on the Advisory Council of the anti-communist organisation, Common Cause.(17)
The Trades Union Congress and the state Bevin's 'integration' into the British state meant a role for the TUC in the overseas state, the empire, as well as in Britain itself; and before and during the war the TUC began working with the Foreign and Colonial offices - a relationship about which few trade unionists knew - or know - anything at all.(18) As one of the Colonial Office officials quoted by Weiler said, with the clarity of simpler times, the TUC could be relied upon to guide young trade unions in the empire into becoming
'trades unions which the employers in the colony would feel they could respect and trust and which could be relied upon loyally to keep an agreement.'(19)
In 1948, a member of the US State Department, Third Secretary at the London Embassy, Herbert E. Weiner, reported from London on 'Attitude of Trades Union Congress Towards World Federation of Trade Unions and American International Trade Union Leaders', and wrote:
'When asked how the Trades Union Congress hoped to prevent the Communists from using the technique of bona fide forms of trade union action in order to infiltrate unions in Germany and in "undeveloped" (colonial) areas, my informant said ........:in areas where trade unionism is undeveloped e.g. colonial areas, the Trades Union Congress through the British Labour Attaches keeps in close touch with Communist union activities'.(20)
In the 1970s the TUC seconded two of its international staff to the Foreign Office. This caused a minor furore when it was brought to the attention of the TUC members.(21) Alan Hargreaves, TUC International Secretary in the 1970s, came to the TUC from the Foreign Office and refused to discuss his Foreign Office work.(22)
Attacked by the socialists - and communists - on the left at home, and working against the left abroad with the Colonial and Foreign Offices, little wonder that the TUC slipped so comfortably into the Cold War role allotted to it.
Notes Please note: details of the books and articles cited in these footnotes are in the bibliography at the end of the essay, indexed by author's surname.
1. There is wide-spread confusion about whether or not to capitalise the 'L' in left or the 'R' in right. I will try to stick to this rule: capital letters only when proper nouns; thus British Left and the left. 2. Or am I being naive to be surprised that the one period in British twentieth history when there may have been something like a pre-revolutionary climate seems under researched? Stephen White, in 1975, offered a glimpse of a dense hinterland of largely short-lived parties and groups forming on the right in Britain in this period. Stephen White, 'Ideological Hegemony and Political Control: the sociology of anti-Bolshevism 1918-1920' in Scottish Labour History Society Journal, No. 98, June 1975. See also Webber 1987, and John Hope's 'Fascism, the Security Service and the Curious Career of Maxwell Knight and James McGuirk Hughes' in Lobster 22. 3. See, for example. 'In The Excess of Their Patriotism: the National Party and Threats of Subversion' by Chris Wrigley in Wrigley (ed.). Of the groups which appeared in this period only the Economic League survived into Mrs Thatcher's era. 4. Middlemas p. 151. 5. This mirrored what was happening elsewhere in Europe, notably Germany and Italy. See, for example, Scott Newton's 'The economic background to appeasement and the search for Anglo-German detente before and during World War 2', in Lobster 20. 6. Blank p. 14 7. Farr, thesis, p. 179. See also Wrigley, 'In The Excess' pp. 108 and 9, and 'Sir Allan Smith, the Industrial Group and the Politics of Unemployment 1919-24' by Terence Rodgers, in Davenport-Hines (ed.). 8. Ibid. pp. 222-5 9. Patrick Hannon's abortive attempt to create an Industrial Group of MPs and union leaders using the British Commonwealth Union is in Barbara Lee Farr's thesis. Her information came from the Hannon papers in the House of Lords. I was alerted to this remarkable piece of work by John Hope.
Rodgers, in note 7, does not cite Farr's work and gives slightly different figures for the size of the Industrial Group of MP's, while quoting the same source, namely the Hannon papers. See his footnotes 13 and 16. Hannon's obituary appeared in The Times, 11 January 1963. 10. Frank Longstreth, 'The City, Industry and the State' in Crouch (ed.). 11. See, for example, Newton and Porter. 12. Longstreth, ibid. p. 171. 13. This is a major theme of the Alan Bulloch biography of Ernest Bevin, for example. 14. Weiler p. 19 15. I discussed this in Lobster 28, p. 11. 16. Minkin, Contentious Alliance, p. 83 17. New Statesman, 12 January 1952. See also H.H. Wilson, 'Techniques of Pressure - Anti-Nationalisation Propaganda' in Public Opinion Quarterly, Summer 1951. Edwards' obituary in The Independent, 25 June 1990 noted that he had been a member of the ILP and was an enemy of the Communist Party. His was thus an improbable name on the list of labour movement figures who had allegedly helped the KGB supplied by former KGB officer Oleg Gordievsky. See Gordievsky pp. 286 and 7. 18. 'At least since the foundation of the International Affairs Department, TUC staff have kept close contact with the Foreign Office, a practice which persists to the present day.' Harrod p. 105. The study by Marjorie Nicholson of this subject does not mention the International Affairs Department, though as Anthony Carew pointed out, this may tell us nothing as she worked in the Colonial/Commonwealth Department. For a more critical view see Peter Weiler, chapter 1. 19. Ibid. p. 29 20. My thanks to John Booth for this document. On the origins of this see Majorie Nicholson, chapter 6, especially pp. 209-11, and Weiler chapter 1. 21. See Thompson and Larson pp. 27-8, and New Statesman, 16 November, 1979, 'FO reinforces TUC links', for two examples. I do not know if this practice pre-dates the 1970s. 22. See the New Statesman, 20 April 1979 for the TUC's response, and 'TUC's foreign policy' by Patrick Wintour, New Statesman, 2 March 1979.
U.S. influence after the war I do not want to re-run the long debate about the origins of the Cold War or - in particular - the causes of the break-up of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) in 1949, except to say that it is pretty clear now, with this much hindsight, that by then the British trade union leaders were determined to break the WFTU - whatever the Soviet bloc had done - and this would have been pushed through, supported by the Americans.(23) As Dennis MacShane MP demonstrates in his book,(24) the European social democratic trade union movement was not going to coexist with the Soviet bloc, either. If the USA leaned on the door, as Peter Weiler and what might loosely be called 'the left' believe, it was half open already - and was never going to shut again. Into this domestic anti-communist climate came the USA's loans - and the people and ideas, the strings attached to the money.
From the first request from Churchill for clandestine assistance before America had officially entered the war, the US 'aid' had come with strings attached. Despite his famous remark that he had not taken office to oversee the destruction of His Majesty's empire, Churchill had actually done precisely that to pay for the war: and the process continued after it. It was left to some of the Tory Right and some of the Labour Left - the same groups that are still sceptical of the European Union - to oppose the acceptance of the conditions attached to the post-war US loans.
The Council on Foreign Relations Planning for the US takeover of the countries of non-communist Europe was done, during the war, in the Council on Foreign Relations, the informal, semi-secret, think tank-cum-social club of the East Coast elite - the bankers, the lawyers and managers of US international capital.(25) But when the war ended the details had not been worked out, and there was significant domestic opposition to be taken into consideration. The result was that in the chaos of the post-war years the American 'interventionists', as Pisani calls them, had to improvise.(26) The 'coordination of public and private efforts was achieved by using the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) as a clearing house for projects'.(27) It was CFR personnel, for example, who raised money to intervene in the Italian elections of 1947.(28) And in the immediate post-war years the political interventionist picture is complicated: there was nothing like the clear-cut overt/covert dichotomy which we think characterised US foreign policy when things settled down into the State Department/ CIA mix perceived after the sixties.(29)
The Economic Cooperation Agency At the most overt level, there was the Economic Cooperation Agency (ECA) which doled out the dollars in support of what is known as multilateral trade: that is, the ECA sought to break down barriers against American goods. A former acting head of the ECA said that:
'In everything we did we sought to change or to strengthen opinions - opinions about how to build free world strength, about America's role, cooperative effort by Europeans, investment, productivity, fiscal stability, trade measurement, industrial competition, free labour unions etc.'(30)
But ECA also had what we would call a covert arm and ran psychological warfare operations.(31) In France,
'The ECA mission chief wore two hats. He was the conduit for economic assistance and defense mobilisation, as well as for psychological and economic warfare components provided by the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC).'(32)
As part of that psychological warfare programme, for example, the ECA persuaded the British TUC to produce - a least put its name to - a report on productivity subsequently used all over Europe. 'The ECA mission in London distributed a large number of copies abroad, urged its translation into foreign languages and prepared numerous press releases and feature articles for planting in the British and foreign press.' The US London Embassy's Labour Information Officer William Gausmann reported that 'from a trade union point of view, this is the most valuable document that has been produced under ECA auspices to date.'(33)
The Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) The OPC, the first of the euphemistic cover names of US covert action agencies in the post-war era, was formed in 1948, staffed and run by the newly created CIA but nominally under the control of the State Department. In effect the CIA's covert arm, by 1952 the OPC had forty-seven stations, 2,812 staff and a budget of $84 million.(34) Much of this growth had been funded by money from the Marshall Plan.(35) What we now think of as the CIA, that is the covert operation, intervention arm of US multi-national capital - the post-war bogey man supreme for the left - began as the enforcement arm of the Marshall Plan, engaged in operations against the left and the trade unions of Europe, communist or non-communist. The OPC was the US administration's recognition that the ECA alone couldn't 'get the job done'.(36)
Labour Attaches Another weapon in the post-war US armoury was the Labour Attache programme which was established towards the end of the war. In the words of one its creators, Philip Kaiser, 'the labor attache is expected to develop contacts with key leaders in the trade union movement, and to influence their thinking and decisions in directions compatible with American goals....' (Emphasis added)(37) The first Labour Attache in London was Sam Berger, who, in the words of Denis Healey,
'By developing good personal relations with many key figures in the British Labour movement at the end of the war, including Sam Watson and Hugh Gaitskell, exerted an enduring influence on British foreign policy.'(38)
Philip Kaiser commented that Berger
'had extraordinary access to many members of the [Attlee] cabinet, including the prime minister. It was universally recognised that he was the key member of our embassy.'(39)(emphasis added)
There were also 'Labour Information Officers' attached to the Marshall Plan staff in the US Embassy in London. One such, William Gausman,
'in May 1950 began discussions with a section of the leadership of the Clerical and Allied Workers Union on how to eliminate communists from the union.....
'cultivated the leadership of the Birmingham Labour Party, whose journal, The Town Crier, closely supported Atlanticism and American foreign policy objectives in general.....
'convened a group in South Wales....to launch a Labour-oriented newspaper, The Democrat....
'worked unofficially on Socialist Commentary"' .....and became a founder member of its offshoot, the Socialist Union, 'which served as a think tank for the emerging Gaitskellite wing of the Labour Party.....
'liaised, advised, wrote, lectured, published - and helped IRD [the Information Research Department] with the distribution of one of their early publications, The Curtain Falls.'(40)
The US post-war penetration of the British Labour Party and wider trade union movement climaxes with Joe Godson, who was Labour Attache in London from 1953-59. Godson became very close to the Labour Party leader Hugh Gaitskell - to the point where Gaitskell and Godson were writing Labour Party policies and planning campaigns against their enemy, Aneuran Bevan. For example, after a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party to discuss the expulsion of Bevan, Gaitskell recorded how he 'drove to the Russell Hotel, where I saw Sam Watson with Joe Godson, the Labour Attache at the American Embassy.'(41)
The leader of the Labour Party is discussing Executive Committee tactics with the US Labour Attache! This is one of the dividing lines of this essay. You either think is this unexceptional, uninteresting - even a good thing - or you do not. I do not. I think it is rather shocking; and I think that would have been the reaction of most of the Executive Committee at the time had they been made aware of it. In a footnote on p. 384 of the Gaitskell Diaries, editor Philip Williams writes,
'Godson, Sam Watson's close friend....thanks to his trade union post was, like many labour attaches, seen as representing his country's workers rather than its government. But Gaitskell came in time to feel that he was involving himself too deeply in Labour Party affairs.'(42)
It may even be more complex than this for there is evidence that the Labour Attache posts have been used as cover by the CIA. Jonathan Kwitney of the Wall Street Journal tracked down one Paul Sakwa, who told him that he had been the case officer for Irving Brown, the most important CIA agent in the labour movement in Europe, handling Brown's budget of between $150,000 and $300,000 a year, between 1952 and 1954. From being Brown's case officer in Washington, Sakwa went on to a post under cover as the Assistant Labour Attache at the US embassy in Brussels.(43)
It was about the CIA - but not just them. The CIA was only one of many agencies working in Britain in the post-war years. Labour Attaches reported, formally anyway, to the State Department. In the end, would it make any difference to know that Joe Godson had really been a genuine employee of the State Department, and not CIA under cover as we might have once suspected?
23. This thesis has been most convincingly articulated by Peter Weiler. 24. International Labour and the Origins of the Cold War, Clarendon, Oxford, 1992 25. See Shoup and Minter. 26. I guess 'interventionist' is less offensive to the American academic ear than imperialist. 'The determination to intervene in Europe between 1945 and 1948 was fragmented, uncoordinated.' Pisani pp. 40 and 41. 27. Ibid. p 4. 28. 'James Forrestal raised private money for the Italian elections of 1947. His initiative 'signalled an end to the notion that redemocratizing European countries could be accomplished simply by regenerating their economies'. Ibid. p. 67. 29. I put it as 'think' because the reality was never that neat and tidy 30. Cited in Carew p. 84 31. Pisani p. 91 32. Ibid. p. 96. ECA 'does engage in some gray and black propaganda' but 'the programmes represent a very small percentage of the total effort and are coordinated with the CIA' Ibid . p. 12 33. Carew p. 153 34. Ranelagh p. 135 35. 'From its creation in 1948 until 1952 when the Marshall Plan was terminated, the OPC operated as the plan's complement.' Pisani p. 70. 36. Ibid. p. 67 37. Kaiser p. 113 'The labor attache...had...an unusual opportunity to enhance American influence among individuals and institutions that historically have no contact with U.S. diplomatic missions'. Ibid. p. 119 38. Denis Healey p. 113. Berger has two innocuous entries in the Gaitskell Diaries, and the footnote from the editor, Philip Williams, on p. 120 that he was 'first secretary at the U.S. Embassy'. 39. Kaiser p.120 40. Carew pp. 128 and 9 41. Godson obituary in The Times, 6 September 1986. See Gaitskell Diary ed. Philip Williams, pp. 339-41. Carew p. 129 notes that there was some conflict between Gausmann and Joseph Godson, apparently reflecting divisions within the US labour movement. He discusses these differences on pp. 84-5. 42. Godson's son, Roy, who appears on the same trade union/spook circuit in the 1970s, married Sam Watson's daughter. Watson was one of the most important trade union leaders in the post-war period, chairman of the National Executive Committee's International Committee and a 'liaison officer' between the Parliamentary Labour Party and the major unions. 43. Kwitney pp. 334-5
Post-war: private sector propaganda begins to regroup As the war ended domestic politics returned to normal. The propaganda organisations of domestic capital restarted, though without the frenzy which had marked the post 1918 period. Their big issue was the threat of nationalisation of companies. The so-called Mr Cube Campaign of 1949/50, against the possibility of the nationalisation of the sugar industry, spent an estimated �250,000 in that year.(44) The campaign had been jointly organised by the sugar company, Tate and Lyle, and Aims of Industry, an anti-socialist pressure group formed in 1942 by a group of well known British industrialists. The Aims original Council had representatives from Fords, English Electric, Austin, Rank, British Aircraft, Macdougall's and Firestone Tyres.(45) There were also smaller campaigns by the Cement Makers Federation, the Iron and Steel Federation and by the insurance companies represented by the British Insurance Association.(46) The Road Haulage Association sponsored anti-nationalisation campaigns by the British Housewives' League, led by Dorothy Crisp.(47)
By 1949 Aims of Industry had 'twelve area offices blanketing the industrial sections of Britain. For the fiscal year 1949-50 expenditures were budgeted for an an additional anticipated income of �260,000'.(48) The pre-war tradition, discussed below, of newspapers reprinting anti-left briefings from Conservative Party groups or fronts, continued with Aims of Industry. Aims estimated that they had gained 93,178 column-inches of editorial space in 1949, worth over �1,800,000.(49) In the first six months of 1949 Aims claims to have had 41 radio broadcasts on the Home or Light programmes of the BBC; and just before the election of 1950 in January, 362 magazines and newspapers gave 11,269 column inches to Aims-inspired stories. Aims magazine, The Voice of Industry, thanked the British press for their 'impartial partnership', in March 1950, noting that 'News about the achievements of private enterprise and the failures of nationalisation and state control has been of sufficient value to editors for them to have given it space in their columns free.'(50)
The Economic League survived the war. In 1951 it claimed to have held 20,058 meetings and 57,505 group talks in the previous year; distributed 18 million leaflets, and obtained 31,064 column inches of press publicity; it employed 50 full-time speakers, 27 part-time speakers and 37 leaflet distributors; had a full-time staff of 135, owned 43 vehicles etc.(51) These figures apparently describing massive campaigns by Aims and the League have to be treated with caution. They might well be exaggerated and it is not clear how successful they were. For all this anti-Labour propaganda, Labour's total vote went up in the 1951 General Election.
The Information Research Department In the labour movement the Trades Union Congress was working with the newly-formed, Foreign Office-based, political warfare executive, operating under cover as the Information Research Department (IRD), in an anti-communist drive. IRD was not an innovation. British politics since World War 1 is studded with clandestine propaganda operations involving the mass media of the day. The claims of massive post-World War 2 media penetration by Aims of Industry and the Economic League are reminiscent of the operations of the post World War 1 propaganda network operated by Sydney Walton, described in Keith Middlemas' wonderful book about British political history.(52) In the great Bolshevik panic following the First World War, funded by the industrial sources like the Engineering Employers' Federation, Sydney Walton
'took the main propaganda role from a variety of front organisations, set up during the war, such as the British Empire League, the British Workers' League, the National Democratic and Labour Party, and the National Unity Movement, all of whom had been in receipt of industrial subscriptions'.
With a budget of �100,000 a year - about what, �20 million in today's money? - Walton's 'information service' was supplied with information by the Special Branch and the intelligence services of the day. Walton eventually claimed to be able to put 'authoritative signed articles' in over 1,200 newspapers.(53) Parallel to the Walton network, another group of major employers formed National Propaganda,(54) which evolved into the Economic League.(55) McIvor tells us that the League by 1926 had formed an Information and Research Department,(56) was organising in 'cells',(57) and was forming 1000 study groups a year.(58)
The state followed suit. In 1919 it formed the Supply and Transport Committee and prepared to run two separate propaganda organisations in an emergency, headed by..... Admiral Blinker Hall of National Propaganda and Sydney Walton.(59) After 1922, this network had largely been abandoned, and Middlemas makes the point that while Walton spent over �25,000 in the first six months of the 1926 General Strike, this was spent on publicity, advertising and speakers - not on the bribing of journalists and his earlier techniques.(60) Out of this milieu - and the changes in tactics it went through - emerged the Economic League.
The Conservative Party had also been busy between the wars developing propaganda systems through which it issued, sometimes under its own name, sometimes under cover of fronts, pro-Conservative material to the newspapers for them to 'top and tail' and present as normal, internally-generated copy.(61)
These examples of how to manipulate the media had been learned by others in the British state system and a few years later Neville Chamberlain and other supporters of the appeasement policy secretly bought and ran the weekly newspaper Truth. This was largely an operation run by the former MI5 officer and eminence grise of the time, Sir Joseph Ball. Ball used the official government information machine to push the Chamberlain line, formed the National Publicity Bureau to do the same and, in 1937, through a frontman, Lord Luke of Pavenham, bought Truth, and proceeded to use it to denigrate the opponents of Chamberlain and appeasement.(62)
IRD's genesis Former Labour Minister Christopher Mayhew still thinks he was responsible for the creation of IRD.(63) In fact its origins are a good deal earlier. In March 1946 Frank Roberts in the British Embassy in Moscow began sending telegrams to London warning of Soviet imperialism and aggression.(64) In April the Russia Committee of the Foreign Office was formed. In its second meeting on May 7 1946, the Committee decided to set up a propaganda organisation.(65) It was then just a question of getting the Labour Cabinet to approve the proposal. On the way junior Foreign Office Minister, Christopher Mayhew, proposed such a propaganda offensive in October 1947, and the combination of deteriorating political circumstances and a proposal from within the Party itself swung the day and the Cabinet approved the formation of this outfit in January 1948. In the second volume of his Diaries, Robert Bruce-Lockhart, who had been a part of the war-time clandestine propaganda system, records on 4 February 1948 that he dined with Christopher Warner who had just become the Assistant Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office in charge of 'our Information Services'. Warner offered a new version of the origins of IRD, telling Lockhart that 'As a result of a paper put up by the Imperial Defence College, F.O. [Foreign Office] have decided to renew political warfare on a limited scale.' (emphasis added)(66)
In Foreign Secretary Bevin's presentation to the Cabinet he spoke of Britain as a 'third force', who would 'give a lead in the spiritual, moral and political sphere to all democratic elements in Western Europe'. The line was to be neither Washington nor Moscow, apparently.(67) How seriously Bevin intended this we do not know. But however nicely it was being dressed up, this was pretty clearly part of the developing anti-communist struggle. Mayhew said so in a memo to Bevin. In any case, why would propaganda in favour of social democracy have to be hidden?(68)
IRD was in a kind of management limbo between MI6, who supplied it with some of its information and tasks, and the Foreign Office, whose budget concealed it. IRD was, very clearly, simply the Political Warfare Executive (PWE) reborn - another example of the ability of intelligence agencies, once established, to survive the vagaries of their nominal masters in the political system.
IRD was a triple layer. On the surface was its formal cover within the Foreign Office as an information and research department. Beneath that was IRD's role as a propaganda organisation, dispensing white (true) and grey (half true) propaganda in briefings to journalists and politicians. But beneath that was the third layer, the 'black' or psychological warfare (psywar) tier. This third tier is hinted at in the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices recently published history of IRD's origins . On p. 7 it notes that in September 1948 - i.e. almost immediately - 'part of the costs of the unit [were] transferred to the secret vote......the move would.....avoid the unwelcome scrutiny of operations which might require covert or semi-covert means of execution.'(69)
There is little evidence of Bevin's 'third force' notions in IRD's work once the politicians' backs were turned and they had moved on to another item on the agenda. The minutes of a 1950 meeting between IRD officials and their U.S. counterparts show no evidence at all such concepts. Christopher Warner, one of the 'fathers' of IRD, talks exclusively of anti-communist activities.(70)
IRD eventually had representatives in all British Embassies abroad. In the recollection of a former MI6 officer of the period, IRD was involved in 'some of the more dubious intelligence operations which characterised the early years of the cold war.'(71) Former Ambassador Hilary King was told by a former SIS officer who had worked in Germany after the war trying to estimate Soviet bloc tank strength, that IRD circulated a paper on the subject over-estimating that strength by a factor of 40.(72) When the SIS officer complained about the inaccuracy of the estimate he was told by an IRD official 'what does it matter old boy as long as the Labour government [i.e. of Attlee] push through rearmament.' At home, in its second level role, IRD wrote papers and briefing notes, and planted stories in the media. Mayhew remembers that 'at home, our service was offered to and accepted by, large numbers of selected MP's, journalists, trade union leaders, and others, and was often used by BBC's External Services. We also developed close links with a syndication agency and various publishers.'(73) The 1950 minutes of the IRD-US talks include Ralph Murray's comment that 'Trade Union organisations and various groups are used to place articles under the by-line of well known writers.'(74) Among individuals who received IRD material were Percy Cudlipp of the Co-operative Movement, Herbert Tracey, pub-licity director of the TUC and the Labour Party, and Denis Healey, then the Party's International Secretary.(75)
The Freedom and Democracy Trust
Part of this anti-communist programme was the creation of 'an influential group, including several members of the [TUC] General Council, which was determined to root out the communists.'(76) Among the group were George Chester (General Secretary of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives), George Gibson (former TUC chair), Lincoln Evans (General Secretary of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation [ISTC]) Andrew Naesmith (General Secretary of the Amalgamated Weavers' Association), Alf Roberts (General Secretary of the National Association of Card, Blowing and Ring Room Operatives, later on the Board of the Bank of England), G. H. Bagnall (TUC General Council representative; General Secretary in 1939 of National Union of Dyers, Bleachers and Textile Workers), John Brown (ISTC) and Tom O'Brien (Kine Employees).(77) In April 1948 this group became the Freedom and Democracy Trust, and began publishing a periodical called Freedom First. with the help of IRD.(78)
Unfortunately for all concerned, mixing with the founders of the Trust was an American businessman called Sydney Stanley, and the whole enterprise was 'blown' when Stanley became the centrepiece of the infamous Lansky Tribunal hearings into civil service corruption during the winter of 1948. Not only did Stanley have many pre-war contacts with the U.S unions, he adopted the robust American attitude to officialdom: bribe it when you have to. But he got caught.
44. Finer p. 94 45. See H.H. Wilson for an account of the Mr Cube campaign. Aims Council personnel is from Kisch p. 28. 46. See Crofts, chapter 14 for these examples. 47. See ibid. pp. 99-109, especially p. 106 where the League's funding by the Road Haulage Association, then distantly threatened with nationalisation, is discussed. Best account is Hinton's. Dorothy Crisp is the historical figure who most resembles Margaret Thatcher. 48. H.H. Wilson p. 228 49. Crofts p. 216. For more details of alleged activities, see also the pamphlet The FBI, (Federation of British Industry) Labour Research Department, 1949. 50. H.H. Wilson pp. 229 and 238. Kisch p. 37 claims that by the late 1950s Aims 'controlled no less than twenty-six monthly, weekly and quarterly publications [and] edited and produced forty-five house magazines for the Tate and Lyle organisation, the Express Dairy and other organisations as well as the house magazines of most of the leading members of the 4,000 or so companies who constituted its chief supporters'. 51. Labour Research, July 1952. As late as 1981 it had 130 full-time employees. See the Daily Telegraph, 26 January 1981. 52. Politics in Industrial Society, Andre Deutsch, 1979 53. Ibid. pp. 131/2. 54. Ibid. 55. See, for example, McIvor's essays. 56. Echoed - intentionally? - twenty years later by the state's IRD. 57. McIvor 'A Crusade...' p. 641 58. Ibid p. 646 59. Middlemas pp. 153/4 60. Ibid p. 354 61. See 'The Party, Publicity and the Media' by Richard Cockett in Seldon and Ball (eds.), especially pp. 550-553. 62. Cockett pp. 9-12 63. Mayhew p.107 where he cites the memo he wrote in late 1947 to Bevin. Philip M. Taylor in his 'The Projection of Britain Abroad, 1945-51', writes that 'The IRD was formed at the Foreign Office as a direct response to increasingly hostile Soviet propaganda in the wake of the communist coup in Prague, the escalating blockade of West Berlin and mounting pressure on Finland.' Taylor in Michael Dockrill and John W. Young (eds.) 1989 64. See, for example, Ray Merrick; and, more recently, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's own publication, IRD: Origins and Establishment of the Foreign Office Research Department 1946-48, (History Notes, August 1995) 65. Ibid. p. 458 This is before the Cominform rejection of the Marshall Plan, for example, over a year away in 1947; before even the March arrest of Dr Allan Nunn May and the revelation of the Canadian-based Soviet spy ring; and before Churchill's American speech in which he first used the term 'Iron Curtain'. 66. Kenneth Young (ed.) p. 648 67. Merrick p. 465 68. Best account of IRD's early years is in Lucas and Morris. 69. See note 21 above. 70. Notes on a meeting between Christopher Warner and Edward Barnett, in London, Saturday May 20, 1950, in Foreign Relations of the United States, Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1977, pp. 1641-6 71. Verrier, Looking Glass, p. 52 . Someone might usefully re-examine all the forgeries in the first phase of the Cold War and what influence - if any - they had on policy-making. Two examples are discussed in Sulzberger pp. 345-7. In 1948, having discovered that something called 'Protocol M', alleging secret Comintern instructions to the West German communists was a forgery, a month late he is offered another one in Italy, 'Plan K', plans for an alleged communist insurgency. He comments that there is 'a network of forgers and falsifiers ...busily peddling allegedly secret documents to embassies, intelli-gence officers, ministries and correspondents'. (p. 346) 'Protocol M' is reproduced in Appendix II of Heilbrunn. 72. Telephone conversation with author, June 27, 1987. 73. Mayhew p. 111. There are some details of this in the FCO publication in footnote 64 above. 74. Foreign Relations op. cit. 75. Weiler p. 216 76. Ibid. p. 217 citing The Times, February 10, 1948. 77. Weiler op. cit. fn 184, p. 369 78. Ibid. fn 189 citing The Times, 2 December 1948.
Common Cause and IRIS
The failure of the Freedom and Democracy Trust seems to have deterred the TUC members from creating another body so directly linked to the TUC General Council.(79) Instead, some individual members of the General Council, who had been involved in the Freedom and Democracy Trust fiasco, joined a private group with the same anti-communist aims. This was Common Cause, whose origins are to be found in the merging of two quite distinct political strands.
The AEU's 'Club'
One strand was the clandestine anti-communist (and anti-socialist) organisation in British trade unions, of which the best example is to found within the Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU). Within the AEU,
'An anti-Communist organisation was established at meetings of the fifty-two-member national committee, their ruling body in 1943 and 1944, and was followed a few years later by a loose national organisation, working in secret and known as "the side" or the "antis" which succeeded in removing a good many communists from office.'(80)
This was the organisation which later came to be known as 'the Club' or 'the Group', and 'defined its purpose in terms of preventing a Communist takeover of the union'.(81)
'In the mid 1950s ..... the Right-wing members of the Executive Council began attending the factional meeting. In this period also a National Committee "Club" organiser was discreetly appointed from amongst the regular delegates to tighten the organisation of the Right-wing faction(82)....At all National Committee meetings during the period from 1956 to 1970 the right-wing controlled all places on the Standing Orders Committee, and J. Ramsden, organiser of the National Committee "Club" for nine years, was also Chairman of its Standing Orders Committee for seven of them. With [President] Carron in the Chair at the National Committee and the union Secretaryship also held by a "Club" member for the whole of the period, procedural control by the Right was overwhelming.'(83)
The late Ernie Roberts MP quotes from a report of a 1951 meeting of 'the Club' (infiltrated by a member of the left in the union), and notes that the principal figure was Cecil Hallett, then AEU General Secretary.(84)
This clandestine trade union anti-socialism joined up with an Anglo-American anti-communist group called Common Cause. The American group was formed in January 1947 as Common Cause Incorporated, by Mrs Natalie Wales Latham (nee Paine). Among the great and the good on its letterhead National Council were Adolph Berle Jnr, Max Eastman, Sumner Welles and Hodding Carter. Another well-known member was Clare Booth Luce, wife of the owner of Time, Henry Luce, and later US Ambassador to Italy. In his biography of Mrs Luce, Alden Hatch notes that as early as 1946, before its official launch, Common Cause had established liaison with the anti-Soviet group, Russian Solidarists, better known as NTS, and that John Foster Dulles was the organisation's 'unofficial adviser'.(85) Hatch also notes that Mrs Wales Latham became Lady Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton - the only link I am aware of between the US and UK groups. For when the British Common Cause was formally launched in 1952, its first joint chairs were John Brown, ex General Secretary of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation and member of the TUC General Council and the self-same Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton MP.(86)
The British Common Cause, however, had been in existence for some years before its official launch, originally very much as the vehicle of Dr. C. A. Smith, one of the more interesting mavericks of the British Left in the 20th century. Smith met Trotsky in the 1933, was Chairman of the Independent Labour Party from 39-41, quit and joined Common Wealth as its Research Officer in 1941. When some of the Common Wealth party left to join the Labour Party, Smith became Chair of Common Wealth. As the nature of the Stalinist takeover of Eastern Europe became clear in 1947, Smith tried to take Common Wealth with him in his increasingly anti-Soviet stance. They baulked and eventually Smith left the party and joined or formed - which is not clear - Common Cause in Easter 1948.(87)
The British League for European Freedom
Whatever the British Common Cause amounted to in 1948, four years before its official launch, it had joined forces with the British League for European Freedom (BLEF), the first organisation formed in this country in direct response to the Soviet Union's takeover in Eastern Europe. The BLEF had been initiated in 1944 by a quartet of Tory MP's, including Victor Raikes, a pre-war member of the Imperial Policy Group.(88) Despite the dominance of Tory MPs, the BLEF attracted a trio of Labour MPs: Ivor Thomas (who defected to the Tories in 1950 after the publication of his book The Socialist Tragedy); George Dallas, former TUC General Council member and Labour MP, Chair of the Labour Party's International Committee during the war; and Richard Stokes MP. Stokes was a 'socialist' of the most idiosyncratic kind, having been a member of the anti-Semitic Right Club before the war.(89) Although information on these groups in this period is very thin, it is clear that Common Cause and the BLEF were very close. In 1950, for example, Common Cause published a pamphlet, Communism and Democracy, by Smith, in which he said he was writing as a member of the BLEF. The two groups shared an office in Elizabeth Street in London donated by the wealthy Duke of Westminster.(90)
The Duchess of Atholl, one of the founders of the BLEF, notes in her autobiography that the decline in the BLEF's 'political work' was attributable to the arrival of Common Cause, and from then on the BLEF 'concentrated its efforts on bringing home to people the unhappy plight of the many Displaced Persons still in Germany.'(91) This is something of a euphemism for the BLEF's role as support group for Eastern European exile groups such as the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations (ABN) then being run by the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). The BLEF produced an offshoot, the Scottish League for European Freedom, headed by Victor Raikes' colleague in the Imperial Policy Group, the Earl of Mansfield. In 1950 the Scottish League organised a conference in Edinburgh for Eastern European exiles, many of them Nazi war criminals and collaborators, who had been recruited by SIS. They had been moved to the UK during the scramble at the end of World War 2 by the British and American governments for good, reliable, anti-Soviet 'assets'. (92)
Common Cause USA
In the USA the fledgling CIA had sponsored a front organisation, the National Committee for a Free Europe (NCFE). NCFE's 'sister organisation' was Common Cause Inc., which included among its personnel 'many of the men - Adolf Berle, Arthur Bliss Lane, and Eugene Lyons, among others - who simultaneously led CIA-financed groups such as the NCFE and, later, the American Committee for Liberation from Bolshevism.'(93) Christopher Simpson notes that it was Common Cause Inc. which, in 1948, sponsored the NTS founder on a tour of the United States. (94) Just as the British League for European Freedom became the sponsor for the British exile groups in the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations (ABN), Christopher Emmet, Chairman of the American Common Cause Inc, turns up later as head of the American Friends of the Captive Nations, the domestic support group for the CIA-sponsored Assembly of Captive Nations (ACEN).(95)
The BLEF's George Dallas was one of those who stayed close to American interests. He became preoccupied with the danger of a communist take-over in China, and formed the Friends of Free China Association, with himself as chair and the Duchess of Atholl as president. Dallas eventually attended the 1958 foundation meeting of what became the the World Anti-Communist League. The one time socialist farm labourer had come a long way. With him at that meeting were Marvin Liebman, one of the key members of the US 'China Lobby', the late Yaroslav Stetsko, Ukranian collaborator with the Germans and head of the ABN, and Charles Edison of the John Birch Society.(96)
Common Cause UK
The official, 1952-launched Common Cause was apparently founded by Neil Elles, Peter Crane (on both of whom, more below) and C.A. Smith. Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton, then a Scottish Tory MP, and John Brown were joint chairs. Brown had been the Treasurer of the Freedom and Democracy Trust which had tried to launch Freedom First five years before. It set up a national structure with local branches - in 1954 there were 14 - published a monthly Bulletin, and distributed many of the standard anti-communist texts of the time, for example Tufton Beamish's Must Night Fall?; some, such as the 'Background Books' series, published and/or subsidised by IRD; and leaflets from the CIA labour front in Europe, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).(97)
In 1955 Common Cause's 'Advisory Council' included:
- Tom O'Brien and Florence Hancock, both past TUC
- Bob Edwards, General Secretary of the Chemical
Workers Union, 1947-51;(99)
- Cecil Hallett, Assistant General Secretary of the
AEU 1948-57; General Secretary 1957-64;
- Philip Fothergill, ex President of the Liberal
- Admiral Lord Cunningham;(100)
- a coterie of other retired senior military, the
Duchess of Atholl and Lord Ammon.
Such 'advisory bodies' may mean very little: this might just be a notepaper job. Nonetheless, some of the 'advisory body' were people with rather specialised interests. For example, at one point the name of General Leslie Hollis appeared on it. Hollis had been the Secretary of the Chiefs of Staff committee which 'considered, with Sir Stewart Menzies, the head of MI6, and Warner [of IRD] and William Hayter of the Foreign Office, what form of organisation was required to establish a satisfactory link between the Chiefs of Staff and Foreign Office on matters connected with the day-to-day conduct of anti-Communist propaganda overseas.'(101)
In the Autumn of 1955 the Common Cause Bulletin reported that there had been moves at the Labour Party conference that year to get it proscribed - but the motion to that effect 'was among the many crowded out from discussion'.(102)
The Labour Party's intelligence-gathering Common Cause was one of the sources of information used by the Labour Party in its anti-communist activities in the 1950s. While no central unit was ever formally established 'for collecting information or monitoring the activities of communist-inspired or pro-Soviet groups', in practice the National Agent's Department at Labour headquarters, Transport House, did the job, using as sources the publications of proscribed organisations, regional organisers' reports, 'Foreign Office' material - i.e. IRD - and Common Cause.(103) The National Agent's Department [NAD] had 'lay responsibility for compiling the [proscription] list'. Shaw notes that in 1953 the proscription list was expanded by the addition of eighteen fresh groups.
'What happened was rather unusual. Without consulting the NAD the International Department had submitted a report to the Overseas Subcommittee on "peace" and "friendship" societies. In response the Subcommittee recommended that they all be proscribed. NAD officials were never told the source of the International Department's information though they assumed it to be the Foreign Office [i.e. IRD] and Special Branch.'(104)
A glimpse of the content of the NAD's intelligence-gathering has been provided by the late Ian Mikardo MP, who saw 'dossiers' in the possession of National Agent Sarah Barker At a meeting of a subcommittee of the NEC in 1955, Sara Barker objected to Konni Zilliacus and Ernie Roberts as prospective Parliamentary candidates. When Barker began quoting derogatory comments from files she had in her possession, Mikardo demanded to see the files.
'They were an eye-opener. No MI5, no Special Branch, no George Smiley could have compiled more comprehensive dossiers. Not just press-cuttings, photographs and document references but also notes by watchers and eavesdroppers, and all sorts of tittle-tattle. I'm convinced that there was input into them from government sources and from at least a couple of Labour Attaches at the United States embassy who were close to some of our trade union leaders, notably Sam Watson.'(105)
Common Cause splits - IRIS is formed
The pretty unstable-looking mixture of admirals, generals and trade union leaders that was Common Cause, disintegrated in 1956. C.A.Smith resigned along with Advisory Council members Fothergill, Edwards, Ammon, Professor Arthur Newell and Sydney Walton.(106) This group complained that the organisation had become 'reactionary' and that the promised democratic structure had never materialised. In August 1956 Common Cause Ltd was registered, owned and controlled by the 'reactionary' faction.
The original directors of Common Cause Ltd were:
- the new chair, Peter Crane, the director of a number
of British subsidiaries of American companies, including Collins Radio of England, whose American headquarters had connections with the CIA.(107)
- David Pelham James - Conservative MP, and Director
of the Catholic publishing house, Hollis and Carter. There were a number of Catholics prominent in the Common Cause network, including the man who ran IRIS for any years, Andy McKeown. This is discussed below.
- Neil Elles, barrister and later a member of the
European-wide anti-subversion outfit, INTERDOC.(108)
- Christopher Blackett - a Scottish landowner and
farmer and, I presume, but cannot prove, a relative of Frances Blackett, the original secretary of the British League for European Freedom, discussed above.(109)
IRIS More or less in parallel with the formation of Common Cause Ltd., an industrial wing, Industrial Research and Information Services (IRIS) Ltd. was formed and set up in the headquarters of the National Union of Seamen, Maritime House. Initially, IRIS Ltd listed three directors:
- Jack Tanner, the recently retired President of the
- William McLaine, General Secretary of the AEU from
- and Charles Sonnex, the Secretary and Managing
Director, and the link with the parent body Common Cause.(110) Also it had a manager, James L. Nash.(111) According to Labour Research (January 1961), Nash left to join the CIA labour front, the ICFTU.
In an interview with Richard Fletcher in 1979, C. A. Smith, attributed the formation of IRIS to Common Cause's discovery of just how careful they had to be about interfering in union affairs.(112) Another proximate cause for the formation of IRIS is suggested by the comment from the Common Cause Bulletin of January 1956 (pp. 4/5) that 'only a near-miracle can prevent the Executive of the AEU from passing under communist control during 1956.....already there are clear signs of an all-out Communist effort to put Reg Birch in this top trade union job'.
However, another interpretation of the Common Cause split and the formation of IRIS is possible. In April 1955 SIS (MI6) were forced to acknowledge that their networks of 'agents' inside the Soviet Union had all been penetrated. Worse, the Soviets had been running a deception operation with uncomfortable parallels with the 'Trust' deception in the 1920s in which the Soviet intelligence service created and ran a fake resistance group to which the British government gave a lot of money.(113) SIS had been using agents from Bandera's OUN in Ukraine and from NTS.(114) Some time later that year, SIS gave up all its emigre groups and in February 1956 SIS handed over control of NTS to the CIA.(115) What follows is what I surmise happened but for which I have no evidence. Having taken control of the British networks, new people were put in to run things. The NTS support group in the United States was Common Cause Inc. - with its British counterpart. In London, the limited company Common Cause was formed and all the trappings of members and branches were dumped; a CIA officer or agent, under cover, the cut-out to the Agency, was installed. (If this sounds banal, it has to be remembered that in 1956 none of this had ever been made public and there was no reason for them to be anything but banal.) The American assessment of the group's activities was that its most important work had been, and should continue to be, in the British trade union movement. The previous year's attempt to have Common Cause put on the Labour Party's proscription list was noted and a spin-off, trade union subsidiary, was formed. Common Cause would fund it - and act as another layer of insulation between it and the Agency.
IRIS activities to 1963 IRIS published a newsletter and a variety of pamphlets. They formed 'cells' - their word - to combat communists in the trade unions. How many cells, we do not know; nor in how many unions other than the AEU. They intervened in union elections. A member of ASSET, (which became ASTMS and is currently a part of MSF) sued IRIS and won in 1958 after IRIS News called him a communist. In the report of the TUC annual conference in 1960, delegates describe IRIS personnel intervening in the Association of Engineering and Shipbuilding Draughtsmen (AESD) and the Association of Supervisory Staff and Technicians (ASSET). The delegate of the latter describes IRIS News publishing the allegation that a candidate in a union election was a communist. Labour Research alleged an IRIS role in the National Union of Mineworkers and the Foundry Workers (as well as AESD and ASSET).(116) Reporting these events, Labour Research commented on IRIS News that 'the main feature in the paper however is and always has been news and advice about union elections. In most cases the paper reports that certain candidates are "receiving communist support" '. It seems reasonably certain - though unproven - the IRIS was receiving some of its information from IRD.
In putting out information - its monthly magazine and pamphlets - and telling its readers who to vote for and not vote for in union elections, IRIS behaved as an exact mirror image of the groups on the left: start a paper and put out a 'line'. The late Ernie Roberts MP, for many years the only left-winger in the senior ranks of the AEU - the union from whence came two of the IRIS directors in 1956 - describes how the left in the union and IRIS/and 'the Club' spent their time infiltrating and reporting on each other's meetings.(117)
In February 1966 the left-wing magazine Voice of the Unions, part of the opposition to IRIS within the AEU, asked where the IRIS money was coming from and commented, 'At one time we are told IRIS employed an office staff of six to ten.' Almost thirty years later we learned that some of the money had come from the British government after Lord Shawcross had contacted Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and asked for funding for IRIS.(118)
Shawcross had approached Macmillan at the right time, for 'Supermac' had become infected with the fear of the 'communist threat'. The Radcliffe Tribunal had reported in 1962, devoting a whole section to the Civil Service staff associations and trade unions, expressing concern at the number of communists and communist sympathisers holding positions in the unions;(119) and his administration was being afflicted by the espionage scandals of George Blake and Vassell - and the Profumo Affair which Macmillan apparently believed was part of a communist conspiracy the bring him down.(120)
Catholic Action? There is a distinct Catholic tinge to Common Cause and IRIS. Hollis and Carter, the company which published the Common Cause Bulletin, was a Catholic publishing house. Catholics among the leading figures in Common Cause included chairs David Pelham James(121) and Peter Crane, Brigadier George Taylor, a director of Common Cause circa 1958,(122) and Sir Tom O'Brien. Catholics among the AEU/IRIS network include AEU President Bill Carron and Jim Conway, IRIS's Cecil Hallett, and the man who ran IRIS for nearly twenty years, Andy McKeown.(123) So was there, as some on the British Left believed,(124) a national Catholic Action organisation operating in Britain, as it had in other countries, such as Australia? Joan Keating investigated this belief in the course of her doctoral thesis, and though she found quite a thriving Association of Catholic Trade unionists - the Catholic Worker was selling 25,000 copies in 1956 - she found no evidence at all of any national, co-ordinated organisation.(125)
79. Though there is a hint that such activities may have been continued abroad. In Coleman's book on the Congress for Cultural Freedom (discussed below) there is a reference to an Indian anti-communist politician, Minoo Misani, who in the early post-war years, founded the Democratic Research Service and published a magazine called..... Freedom First. Coleman p. 150. 80. Wigham, p. 128 81. Minkin p. 180 82. Ibid. 83. Ibid. 84. Roberts pp. 124/5 85. Hatch, p. 187 86. The Times 25 February, 1952 87. Details on Smith from J.C. Banks, Editor of the Common Wealth Journal. In the obituary of Smith in the The Libertarian, the Common Wealth journal, no. 25, Summer 1985, Smith is said to have formed Common Cause. I believe this to be mistaken. 88. The Imperial Policy Group was largely the work of Kenneth de Courcy. De Courcy edited and published the Review of World Affairs during the Second World War. The IPG and de Courcy in particular were much disliked by the Soviet government of the time. Since then de Courcy has published the newsletters Intelligence Digest and Special Office Brief. De Courcy had some influence on the right of the Tory Party into the 1960s. See index references in Highams on De Courcy. 89. This information from John Hope who has had access to the Right Club's membership list. It is possible Stokes had joined for reasons other than agreement with the Club's aims. 90. Duchess of Atholl p. 252 91. Ibid. 92. Loftus p. 204 93. Simpson p. 222 94. Ibid p. 223 95. Ibid. p. 222. 'Christopher Emmet is a classic example of those who ran the British Intelligence fronts before and during World War II and who, having proven themselves faithful and competent, went on to run the CIA/MI6 fronts of the Cold War.' Mahl, thesis, p. 198. 96. Details of the WACL meeting is in Charles Goldman's 'World Anti-Communist League', adapted from Under Dackke, ed. Frik Krensen and Petter Sommerfelt (Demos, Copenhagen, 1978). I am unsure of the source of this Goldman article but it appears to be an early edition of Counterspy. Dallas' career, with some of the later associations glossed over, is described by his son in the Dictionary of Labour Biography eds. Saville and Bellamy, vol. 4 1977. 97. On ICFTU and the CIA see the comments of former CIA officers Joseph Smith (p. 138) and Philip Agee (CIA Diary) (p. 611). For a more general discussion see Winslow Peck. The rival but much less significant World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) was, of course, funded and run by the Soviet Union. 98. Hancock had been Chief Woman Officer of the TUC. 99. Edwards had been chair of the ILP. During 1948 the Chemical Workers Union had been involved in protracted proceedings over alleged forged ballot papers by communists. 100. In 1945, as Chief of the Defence Staff he had threatened Attlee with resignation over proposed defence cuts. 101. Scott Lucas and Morris p. 101. 102. For which, perhaps, read 'our friends fixed the agenda'. 103. Shaw p. 58 104. Ibid. pp. 58 and 9 Shaw notes in footnote 44 p. 314 that 'at least one NAD official was approached by a member of the Special Branch [and brother of a future International Secretary] offering "assistance".' 105. Mikardo p. 131. 106. The Times, April 6, 1957 107. Collins Radio was first linked with CIA operations by Peter Dale Scott in his unpublished manuscript, The Dallas Conspiracy, ch. 11 p. 3. More recently, 'Collins Radio' by Bill Kelly, in Back Channels, (USA) Vol. 1, Number 4, lists a number of links between the company and the CIA-controlled anti-Castro milieu of the early 1960s 108. On INTERDOC see Crozier pp. 49 and 81. 109. Frances Blackett in Duchess of Atholl, p. 250. 110. The Times, 6 April 1957 111. IRIS News, vol. 1, no 1, 1956. According to Anthony Carew, Nash was also a member of the AEU. 112. Fletcher's notes of the conversation say that that 'wealthy people got at [Common Cause executive member Charles] Sonnex (without telling CAS) asked him to lead IRIS. S.[onnex] remained on CC exec. Rich people attached more importance to IRIS.' 113. See Tom Bower's Red Web on the SIS post-war operations and chapter 8, in particular, on the dawning realisation that they had been taken for a ride - again. On 'the Trust' see Andrew, Secret Service pp. 445-8 114. Ibid p. 165 115. Yakovlev p. 105. Soviet publications in this field are not famously accurate, but this account has since been confirmed by Tom Bower's biography of SIS chief Dick White The Perfect English Spy, pp. 206 and 7. Yakovlev quotes from what purports to be an SIS document, 'A Proposed Statement to the NTS Leadership', which, presuming it to be genuine, may have been given to the Soviets by Kim Philby or George Blake. Bower quotes a brief section from the same document. 116. Labour Research, January 1961, p. 10 117. See Roberts pp. 101, 122-4, 131 157, 203. The left-wing Engineering Voice, Christmas 1966, reported having received 'an anonymous and undated document purporting to describe the proceedings of a secret meeting recently convened by supporters of the present leadership of the AEU.' The document referred to a 'National Group meeting' and said attending it had been fourteen full-time officers of the AEU. 118. Guardian, 2 January 1995, based on papers released under the 30 year rule. See also 'Anti-red and alive' in New Statesman, 10 February 1995. 119. Pincher, Inside Story p. 335 120. On Macmillan's paranoia about the 'communist conspiracy' see Bower, Perfect English Spy pp. 308-9. 121. A director of Hollis and Carter 122. Keating, PhD thesis, p. 350 123. Ferris, p. 85. Engineering Voice, March 1969, reported a two-day conference of the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists, at which were H.E. Matthews, a director of Cable and Wireless and some time director of IRIS, and Andy McKeown of IRIS. Keating quotes McKeown as suggesting that originally IRIS was anti-Catholic because 'Freemasonry' had a 'strong hold' on the organisation, and claiming that the man who initially ran IRIS, Charles Sonnex, was a Mason! 124. One of those who believes there was a national Catholic Action is former President of the Trades Union Congress, Clive Jenkins. Conversation with the author, 1995. 125. Keating thesis, p. 335.
The Congress for Cultural Freedom, the Campaign for Democratic Socialism and the CIA As well as the programmes to inculcate American notions of free market economics and union-management relations - and good feelings about America - there were operations aimed at the wider public and the Labour Party. Large numbers of Labour MPs and trade unionists were paid to visit the United States. Among the Gaitskellite grouping in the Parliamentary party, Gaitskell, George Brown, Anthony Crosland and Douglas Jay all made visits.(1) Under the umbrella of just one minor aspect of the Marshall Plan, the Anglo-American Council on Productivity, 900 people from Britain - management and unions - went on trips to the United States to see the equivalent of 'Potemkin villages'.(2) Hundreds of trade unions officers went on paid visits to the US in the fifties under the auspices of the European Productivity Agency and groups of British union leaders were sent on three month trade union programme run twice yearly by the Harvard Business School.(3)
The Congress for Cultural Freedom There was a European-wide - and world-wide - programme to boost the social democratic wings of socialist parties and movements.
'At Thomas Braden's suggestion and with the support of Allen Dulles and Frank Wisner [then head of the Office of Policy Coordination], the CIA began its covert support of the non-Communist political left around the world - trade unions, political parties and international organisations of students and journalists.'(4)
The biggest of these programs that we are aware of was the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF from here on), which began in 1950 with a large conference in the US zone in Berlin, a demonstration of the strength of anti-Soviet feeling among some of the West's intellectuals and a response to the Soviet 'Peace offensive' then underway.(5) At the time funds for these gatherings were said to have come from the American Federation of Labour, via Jay Lovestone - a story offered up again recently by CCF apologist Peter Coleman in his The Liberal Conspiracy. In fact they came from the CIA, something alleged by the Soviet bloc's media at the time but not believed.(6) The one thing the Congress for Cultural Freedom's paymasters were not interested in was cultural freedom. Peter Coleman does his best. Of the first big 1950 jamboree he writes,
'almost all the participants were liberals or social democrats, critical of capitalism and opposed to colonialism, imperialism, nationalism, racism and dictatorship'.
If the British delegation is anything to go by, this is not true. Of the four British delegates named by Coleman, one was Christopher Hollis, a right-wing Catholic and some time Tory MP, (7) and another was Julian Amery, one of the Tory Party's leading imperialists! In any case 'cultural freedom' was a euphemism for 'American capitalism'.
Encounter The CCF began publishing journals - in Britain, Encounter, which first appeared in 1953. Encounter became a major outlet for the 'revisionist' - i.e. anti-socialist, anti-nationalist - thinking of the younger intellectuals around Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell, such as Peter Jay, Patrick Gordon-Walker, Roy Jenkins and Anthony Crosland, all of whom were in Harold Wilson's first cabinet in 1964. The 1955 CCF conference in Milan, 'The Future of Freedom', was attended by Crosland, Richard Crossman, Denis Healey, Roy Jenkins and W. Arthur Lewis MP.(8) Anthony Crosland was a member of the International Council of the CCF: his role, said the CIA officer who was running CCF, was 'encouraging sympathetic people' to attend CCF conferences.(9) There is no evidence that Crosland was witting of the CIA connection. (And none that he was wasn't, either.) Peter Coleman(10) lists Gaitskell, Jenkins, Crosland, Rita Hinden, Patrick Gordon-Walker, John Strachey, Dennis Healey and Roderick Macfarquhar as Labour writers published in Encounter. In 1960 editor Melvin Lasky wrote to fellow CCF officer, John Hunt, referring to 'an enormous friendly feeling for Encounter' in the centre and right wing of the Labour Party.(11)
The revisionist wing of the Labour Party also had Forward, the less glamorous (and poorer) Labour weekly, set up to combat the influence of Tribune. Money for Forward came from Alan Sainsbury, Chairman of the retailers Sainsbury (whose son was to fund the Social Democratic Party in the early 1980s), Henry Walston, the land-owner, and the restaurateur, Charles Forte.(12) There was also the $3000 'expenses' paid made to Hugh Gaitskell for a talk to the Jewish Labour Committee in the USA.(13)
Socialist Commentary As well as Encounter and Forward there was the monthly Socialist Commentary as a vehicle for the anti-socialists in the Labour Party. Socialist Commentary began life as a journal of an obscure revisionist group of German refugees but by the early 1950s it had been absorbed by the revisionist wing of the Labour Party. In 1953 a 'Friends of Socialist Commentary' group was set up with Gaitskell as Treasurer.(14) 'Socialist Commentary and the Socialist Union were plugged in direct to the USA's Marshall Plan operation in Britain by virtue of the fact that William Gausmann, Labour Information Officer in the London mission, was a member of the journal's editorial board.'(15)
The dominant figure in Socialist Commentary was its editor for 20 years, Rita Hinden, who had been co-founder of the Fabian Colonial Bureau in 1940. The Bureau, and Hinden in particular, became an important influence on the thinking of the Labour Party - and, to some extent of the British state - on post-war management of the empire.(16) Hinden was also a participant in CCF functions, wrote for Encounter, and was described by the CIA officer in charge of CCF, Michael Josselson, as 'a good friend of ours', on whose advice the CIA 'relied heavily ...for our African operations.'(17) On her death Denis Healey, who had written widely for Socialist Commentary's American counterpart, New Leader, said that 'Only Sol Levitas of the American New Leader had a comparable capacity for exercising a wide political influence with negligible material resources.' But as Richard Fletcher commented, 'He [Healey] obviously hadn't paid a visit to Companies House whose register shows that in recent years Socialist Commentary has been drawing on a capital reserve of over �75.000.'(18) (Healey was apparently also unaware that Sol Levitas was also taking the CIA shilling.)
Socialist Commentary has got to be CIA but there is not a shred of direct evidence that I am aware of.
The social democratic network By the mid 1950s there was a palpable social democratic network operating in and around the Labour Party in Britain and reaching out into the British and American states, both overt and covert. The career of Saul Rose in this period illustrates this. After wartime service in Army Intelligence, Rose was a lecturer at Aberdeen University, before becoming the Labour Party's International Secretary for three years. He then moved to the then recently established St Antony's College at Oxford, one of two British institutions which sponsored Congress of Cultural Freedom seminars in the UK. The other was Ditchley Manor, Oxford. Both were outposts of the Foreign Office/MI6 network.(19) (Former MP Dick Taverne, mentioned recently that as as young man he went to a Young Fabian conference at the other major Foreign Office country retreat, Wilton Park....(20))
The same elements are visible in the contributors to the short-lived Fabian International Review, begun in 1953. In its three years its contributors included two academics from St Antony's, Gausmann, the Labour Information Officer at the US embassy in London, Douglas Jay, William Rodgers, and Mary Benson of the Africa Bureau.(21)
It is easy at this distance to be indignant about Labour politicians hobnobbing with the CIA. But in 1955, say, when Saul Rose left his job as Labour's International Secretary, the media simply did not discuss the Anglo-American intelligence and security services. There were Americans with money scattered about the higher reaches of the Labour movement in Britain; but Americans with money had been scattered about Britain since the war years, they had been Britain's allies only a few years before, they were anti-Stalinist - and some of them, the labour officers in one guise or another, were originally from the US labour movement.(22) I think it likely that in the 1950s the Labour revisionists, the Hindens and Croslands, believed they were taking part in a 'liberal conspiracy'(23) against the Soviet Union, with progressive, democratic forces - people they perceived to be like themselves. But from the CIA's point of view, they were being run in one of the most successful psy-war operations of the Cold War. This operation had as one of its aims the struggle against Stalinism; but the Americans sponsored and funded the European social democrats not because they were social democrats, but because social democracy was the best ideological vehicle for the major aim of the programme: to ensure that the governments of Europe continued to allow American capital into their economies with the minimum of restrictions. This aim the revisionists in the Labour Party chose not to look at. As the history of US imperialism since the war shows, the US is basically uninterested in the ideology of host governments, and has supported everything from social democrats to the most feral, military dictatorships in South and Central America. But its other aims went largely unrecognised. (This, perhaps, is a tribute to the skill of the US personnel running the operations.) Looking at the networking of the social democrats in the these post-war years, the intimacy between US labour attache, Joe Godson, and Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell, which once looked so extraordinary, now looks less some awful aberration - and triumph for Godson - than business as usual.
The end-of-ideology ideology The strategically important thing for the United States about the revisionist's version of socialism was its central conclusion that ownership of economic assets was no longer of paramount importance. (In the USA, sociologist Daniel Bell was arguing the same thesis, sponsored by the same people, under the rubric of 'the end of ideology'.) This was obviously the key line for US capital which wanted to penetrate the world's markets and was meeting resistance from people who called them imperialists. Officially the US was also opposed to colonialism - especially British and French; imperialism - especially British; totalitarianism (except where dictators were the best allies US business could find) and nationalism - except Americanism, which was a universal creed of such perspicacity and moral purity as to be beyond objection. The one to take seriously among that quartet is nationalism. In democratic Europe the CIA chiefly funded those who were not nationalists. To US capital, socialism was functionally simply a form of exclusionary, anti-American, economic nationalism: communism the most extreme of all.(24) The internationalists in democratic Europe in the immediate post-war years were, mostly, on the liberal or centre left; the European right was, mostly, nationalist. In France De Gaulle opposed US capital. (And the CIA was to help finance the OAS against him.) In Britain it was the nationalist Tories and some of the socialist left who voted against the Marshall Plan in the House of Commons. The US government only had one operating criterion where a foreign government was concerned: is it willing to allow US capital in or not? It was called anti-communism, but it was also anti-nationalism. Yes, it was precisely 'Taking the teeth out of British socialism', as Richard Fletcher put it in his seminal piece in 1977;(25) but it could just as accurately have been called 'Taking the teeth out of British economic nationalism'.
The US-supported drive by the revisionists in the Labour Party had its first major set-back with the rise of CND, climaxing with the famous narrow majority in favour of unilateral nuclear disarmament at the party conference in 1960. To the Gaitskellites in the Labour Party it was little more than another communist conspiracy. Gaitskell's leadership of the party had largely been defined by the struggle with the left (real and imaginary), and he believed the CPGB had infiltrated the Labour Party, and was manipulating the apparently Labour Left gathered round the newspaper Tribune.(26) The Gaitskellites' response to the 1960 resolution had three dimensions: the formation of a party faction, the Campaign for Democratic Socialism (CDS); in the unions, the work of IRIS cells and other anti-communist groups; and the use of the party machine itself.
The Campaign for Democratic Socialism (CDS) While the Gaitskellites dominated the PLP leadership, and had the support of the major unions, they had socialist opposition among the party's members. Gaitskell needed a faction. What became the Campaign for Democratic Socialism began before the pro-CND Labour Party conference resolution in February 1960 when William Rodgers, Secretary of the Fabian Society, a part of the social democratic network in the UK, organised a letter of support for Gaitskell from prospective parliamentary candidates. Among the fifteen who raised their heads above the parapets in this way were:
- Maurice Foley, who had been secretary of the British
section of the European Youth Campaign from 1951-59,(27) and later became a Foreign Office Minister and trustee of the Ariel Foundation; (28)
- Ben Hooberman, a lawyer involved in the ETU
- Bryan Magee, who subsequently became a Labour MP and
then joined the SDP;
- Dick Taverne, who later stood against the Labour
Party as 'Democratic Labour' and joined the SDP;
- Shirley Williams, one of the 'Gang of Four', who
founded the SDP;
Shortly after, a steering committee, containing Crosland, Jenkins and Gordon-Walker, was set up with Rodgers as chair. The group began working on a manifesto to be released in the event of Gaitskell's defeat in the forthcoming defence debate at the Party conference. On 24 November 1960, after the narrow defeat for Gaitskell's line at the conference, this group announced itself as the Campaign for Democratic Socialism, with Rodgers as chair.(29) Immediately after the formation of CDS, after his speech at Scarborough Gaitskell 'consulted Sarah Barker [the party's National Agent] who advised him that the Campaign could have his distant blessing'.(30)
It set up permanent headquarters, officially 'financed by contributions from individual members of the Labour Party'. Ever since the Richard Fletcher article on CDS et al in 1977 there have been questions about how this operation was funded. In mid November 1960 - i.e. a fortnight after the launch - Rodgers 'reported to the steering committee that many small donations had been received, together with a large sum from a source who wished to remain anonymous.' As we saw above, Charles Forte donated money to the founders of Forward, and in his autobiography he quotes a letter from Gaitskell, thanking him for his financial generosity. This is undated unfortunately, but from the context it is 1961 or thereabouts.(31)
This donation, whatever it was, enabled CDS to have 'field workers in the constituencies and unions, whom it supported with travelling expenses, literature and organisational back-up, and other publications, plus a regular bulletin campaign, circulated free of charge to a large mailing list within the movement. And all this was produced without a single subscription-paying member.'(32) John Diamond was the CDS fund-raiser.(33)
A 1961 letter in CDS Campaign announced support from 45 MPs including Austen Albu (who wrote for IRIS), Crosland, Diamond (who joined the SDP), Donnelly (Desmond), who resigned in '68; Roy Jenkins (founder and leader of the SDP), Roy Mason, Christopher Mayhew (who joined the Liberals) and Reg Prentice (who joined the Tories).(34) The following year were added new MPs William Rodgers (another of the 'Gang of Four') and Dick Taverne (who defected as a Democratic Labour MP, later SDP) The Gaitskellites' historian, Stephen Haseler noted, 'The whole Central Leadership of the Party in Parliament, with the single exception of Wilson, were Campaign sympathisers.'(35) In the party's grassroots their significance is harder to assess but a 1962 study found that CDS did have some measurable effect in swinging perhaps as many as 1 in 3 of the Constituency Labour Parties in which they were active.(36)
In the unions Working in some of the unions were clandestine anti-communist groupings, the best known of which was the AEU's 'club', and IRIS discussed above.(37) One of the people bridging the gap between the parliamentary and trade union wings of the movement was Charles Pannell, Secretary of the Parliamentary Trade Union Group of MP's and an AEU-sponsored MP.(38) Pannell told the American academic Irving Richter, of his 'close relationship' with the General Secretary of the AEU, Cecil Hallett,(39) and of their combined efforts to defeat the Left in the industrial and political wings of the movement, by building IRIS 'cells'. Pannell told Richter that he, Hallet, and the IRIS cells working inside the AEU, were crucial in overturning the AEU's 1960 vote for CND and so restoring Labour Party's policy to being pro-nuclear, pro-NATO.(40) Birmingham MP Denis Howells 'devoted himself full time from the beginning of the Campaign until his reelection to Parliament and then after that part time to reversing the votes in the Trade Unions....[and] played a very important part.'(41)
After the 1960 Party conference 20 members of the TUC General Council signed a statement supporting NATO. Four of them, James Crawford, Harry Douglass, John Boyd and Sid Greene, were or were to become, officers (on paper, at any rate) of IRIS: a fifth, Sir Tom O'Brien, was still on the notepaper of Common Cause. There were public gestures of support for CDS from messrs Carron, Williamson and Webber, Ron Smith (Post Office Workers), Dame Flora Hancock, Anne Goodwin, W. Tallon and Jim Conway (both AEU), and Joe Godson's friend, the NUM's Sam Watson.(42)
Using the party organisation A committee 'consisting of the Party Leader, the Chief Whip, Bill Rodgers, the secretary of the right-wing ginger group the Campaign for Democratic Socialism, and other influential figures' was formed and met regularly 'to secure the selection of right-wing candidates for winnable constituencies'.(43) Professor George Jones, who had also been in CDS, commented that 'the relationship between CDS and the regional organisers of the Labour Party was very important.'(44) The CDS had the support of at least half of the Regional Organisers, though how many is in dispute. Seyd suggests seven out of the party's twelve. Shaw thinks that Seyd must have got this wrong because one of the seven was left-winger Ron Hayward, who denies it.(45) CDS organiser Bill Rodgers said that the regional organisers
'were fairly well disposed, including the youngest of them who was called Ron Hayward, was very keen to have CDS making a contribution in the areas in which he was responsible..... We believed that the party could be saved from itself and Hugh Gaitskell offered the best prospect of saving it. Once we had established that thought in the minds of the regional organisers, they acquiesced in what we did.'(46)
Partnership of the two wings There are glimpses of the two wings of the labour movement working together. Cecil Hallett described a meeting between IRIS and the Trade Union Group of MPs in 1955 addressed by the CIA's labour man in Europe, Irving Brown.(47) CDS member Bernard Donoughue recalled how
'In the summer of 1964, the MP for Finsbury died and I was telephoned by a friend, a left-wing journalist, and told that I must watch out, that there had been a meeting of key left-wing people and they had decided to capture Finsbury. They had a candidate, they had approached a number of people in the constituency, they had 27 votes, the candidate was going to be Clive Jenkins. I contacted one or two friends and the list of CDS people in Finsbury, including the Post Office and Telegraph Union people and they organised very actively. It emerged that the left, despite its incompetence,(sic) had their candidate and had 27 potential votes. CDS campaigned in the constituency and we won by 31 to 27, that was the summer of 1964.'(48)
In the recollection of the candidate concerned, Clive Jenkins, it was 1963. He was 'approached by a number of trade unions and ward Labour parties to stand for selection'. At the TUC at Blackpool he was tipped off that the General Management Committee of the Shoreditch and Finsbury constituency had been sent a document which described him as, among other things, the 'chief Trotskyist in Great Britain'. This had been given to journalists by none other than Jim Matthews, the national industrial officer of the Municipal and General Workers Union, and an officer of Common Cause. Jenkins sued, collected damages and costs and later speculated about a CIA connection:
'I was told by reliable friends that the anonymous letter, which had been mailed to every member of the selection committee came from a man who was seemingly a member of the CIA and operating under the cover of a petty news agency.'(49)
It is interesting to see Donoughue referring to 'the Post Office and Telegraph Union people'. I presume he means the Union of Post Officer Workers, one of the British unions with which the CIA is known to have worked in the 1960s. In the 1950s Peter D. Newell was an active member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain. He worked as a draughtsman but wanted a change of career. It was suggested to him that he join the Post Office Initially not keen on what he saw it was a downward move, he has recalled how 'quite subtly (I now realise) it was suggested that once in the PO, I would soon be able to write forThe Post , the official fortnightly journal of the UPW [Union of Post Office Workers] - and be paid for it!'(50) He duly joined the Post Office, was contacted by Norman Stagg, the editor of the journal almost immediately, and began writing an anonymous, anti-communist column for it under the by-line of 'Bellman'. For his column Stagg provided source material from the ICFTU, IRIS and the AFL-CIO. At the time the Union of Post Office Workers was a member of the trade union international body Postal, Telegraph and Telephone International. (PTTI) Like many of the these international trade union organisations, the PTTI was penetrated - some would say run - by the CIA.(51) Its president was the late Joe Beirne of the Communication Workers of America. Beirne was also founder and Secretary-Treasurer of American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD), created and run by the CIA.(52) As far as it is possible to be sure of anything in this field without a confession from the man himself or his case officer, Joe Beirne was a major asset of the CIA in the American and world labour movements.(53)
Social democratic centralism What Eric Shaw wittily calls social democratic centralism, the attempt by the right to police the entire Labour Party and trade union membership, peaked in 1962. In March 1961 five MPs, including Michael Foot, were expelled from the Parliamentary party for voting against the Tory government's defence estimates. The Gaitskellites repulsed the unilateralists at the annual conference that year; and in the Labour Party its 'personnel committee', the organisational subcommittee, was dominated by Ray Gunter MP(54) and George Brown, a 'CIA source', and serviced by the Party's National Agent's Department, which received its information from IRD and others. Then things went wrong. Determined upon a final purge of the Parliamentary party, George Brown approached MI5, via the journalist Chapman Pincher, for evidence of Soviet links to Labour MP's believed to be 'fellow travellers'. But MI5 declined, apparently because afraid that to do so would reveal their sources within the PLP;(55) and then, with the Macmillan government in what appeared to be terminal decline, Gaitskell died suddenly and the right in the Parliamentary Party - and the Anglo-American intelligence and security services - saw the party leadership slip from the Gaitskellites' hands as Harold Wilson won the leadership election - and then the general election of 1964.
1. There is no detailed examination of this as far as I know and I am not even sure how many such programmes were run. Roy Hattersley recently commented that his first visit to the US was paid for by 'something which was laughingly called The Young Leaders' Program'. The Guardian, 27 February 1995. In his memoir, A Bag of Boiled Sweets (Faber and Faber, 1995) pp. 77-8, the Conservative MP, Julian Critchley describes how, upon letting the Tory Party Whips know that he had never been to the United States, he was immediately fixed up with a six week freebie courtesy of the US embassy in London. 2. Carew p. 137 3. Ibid. pp.189/90. The British trade union whose leadership responded most enthusiastically to these American overtures was the General and Municipal Workers' Union (GMWU) and it 'provided from among its leading officials half the British participants in the university trade union courses at Harvard and Columbia...' Ibid. p. 191. GMWU General Secretary, Tom Williamson, was one of the participants at the first meeting of the Bilderberg Group in 1954. (Eringer p. 49) Other British participants included Hugh Gaitskell and Dennis Healey, who discusses the Bilderberg meetings in his memoir, The Time of My Life. 4. Smith, OSS p. 368. 5. Lasch p. 332 The 1951 CCF conference in Delhi was explicitly a reply to a 'World Peace Conference' sponsored by the Soviet Union. 6. Dittberner p. 112. Mr Coleman's objectivity on this matter can be seen by his description of CIA officer, Irving Brown, as 'European representative of the AFL', the cover story even the Americans have abandoned. Coleman p. 34. 7. Later a member of the editorial board of the Catholic magazine,The Tablet This is the Hollis family in Hollis and Carter, the Catholic publishers of the Common Cause Bulletin. 8. Coleman p. 110 'Finally, Lasky moved Encounter closer to the Hugh Gaitskell wing of the British Labour Party.... Encounter became one of the principal publications in which C.A.R. Crosland developed his "revisionist" social democratic, Keynesian program'. Coleman p. 185 9. Hirsch and Fletcher pp. 59 and 60. Labour Party leader Hugh Gaitskell attended the conferences in in 1955, 57, 58 and 62. 10. p. 73 11. Coleman p. 185. Roy Jenkins, splendidly insouciant,on Encounter: 'We had all known that it had been heavily subsidised from American sources, and it did not seem to me worse that these should turn out to be a US Government agency than, as I had vaguely understood, a Cincinnati gin distiller.' Jenkins, Life, p. 118 12. Francis Williams p. 309 13. '...which helped him underwrite the costs of Forward.' Carew pp. 129 and 30 14. Haseler, Gaitskellites p. 68 15. Carew p. 245 16. The Bureau 'enjoyed a direct and amiable relationship with the Colonial Office, its advice was always considered if not always followed.' Pugh p. 222. Another commentator's assessment was that 'Officials at the Colonial Office came to respect her knowledge, judgement and persistence.' Labour MP and fellow Bureau member, W. Arthur Lewis, quoted in the entry on Hinden in the Dictionary of Labour Biography, vol. 2, Macmillan 1974. 17. She visited India and Japan on a CCF-sponsored trip after the Suez crisis. Fletcher in Agee, Dirty Work p. 195 18. Hirsch and Fletcher p. 67. This �75,000 must be be 'the small capital grant (a modest bequest) on which it had so far survived' in the account of Desai. Commenting on the closure of Socialist Commentary in 1978, Desai writes (p. 174) that it 'had always operated on a shoestring budget which had to be supplemented by the dedication and persuasive power of Rita Hinden, its editor for most of its life'. �75,000 was a lot of money in the mid 1970s when Fletcher found this out. The accounts of Socialist Commentary were prepared by the accountancy practice of John Diamond MP, one of the leading Gaitskellites, who later joined the SDP and is now in the House of Lords. He was also, for example, the Honorary Treasurer of the Labour Committee for Europe. See Finer, Appendix 2. In this latter role John Campbell in his biography of Roy Jenkins, p. 51, states that Diamond was 'charged with raising money that did not come from the City of London. 19. Coleman p. 260 for the CCF connection. St Antony's, Richard Deacon wrote in his The British Connection, was 'an unofficial annex of MI6 in the fifties.' p. 259 20. Dick Taverne, Institute for Historical Research (IHR) Witness Statement on CDS, 1990, p. 8 21. Of the Africa Bureau, Anthony Verrier wrote: 'liberal, UK-based....on which [Colonial Secretary] Macleod relied greatly for detailed background intelligence on African independence movements. Unlike some liberal organisations, the Africa Bureau was never troubled by the attentions of the security services or the Metropolitan Special Branch.' Verrier, The Road to Zimbabwe, p. 335. From an old SIS hand like AV, this is running up a flag and shouting 'spook'. 22. There had been contacts between the British TUC and the U.S. labour movement ever since the late 19th. century. See Marjorie Nicholson pp. 27 and 28. These contacts were sufficiently intimate for Sir Walter Citrine to work with senior figures from the US AFL in one of the many front groups set up by British intelligence to persuade US public opinion to support the war in Europe. Mahl, thesis, p. 75. 23. The title of Coleman's study of CCF. 24. The best exposition of this thesis is in Fred. L. Block. 25. Richard Fletcher, 'Who Were They Travelling with?' in Hirsch and Fletcher. 26. For this latter belief, to my knowledge, the Gaitskellites produced no evidence. Some of the Labour Right proved incredibly gullible when it came to this 'communist conspiracy', accepting as genuine the most obvious forgeries. See for example pp. 224-6 of Jack and Bessie Braddock's memoir The Braddocks, (Macdonald, London, 1963) for a particularly choice example, passed to them by J. Bernard Hutton, who fronted several such forgeries. Who produced the forgeries? We do not know, but my guess would be IRD. 27. This was funded by the CIA, though Foley has denied knowing this. See Bloch and Fitzgerald p. 106 28. On Ariel see ibid pp. 151-2 and Kisch pp. 67-8. 29. Haseler, Gaitskellites p. 211 30. David Marquand, IHR CDS Witness Statement, 1990, p. 6. At the same seminar Bill Jones noted 'the importance of Philip Williams...Philip had a fantastic network of MPs'. IHR CDS Witness Statement, p. 13 31. Hirsch and Fletcher p. 62. See Forte p. 81 where Gaitskell writes, 'things have gone remarkably well inside the Party. And for this a very large amount of credit must go to our friends in the Campaign for Democratic Socialism, which you have helped so generously.' (emphasis added.) 32. Hirsch and Fletcher p. 62 33. Windlesham p. 107 34. Haseler p. 217 35. Ibid p. 219 36. Driver p. 97 citing Political Quarterly. 37. There are odd traces of such groupings elsewhere: In Labour's Northern Voice in May 1969 Chris Norwood MP reported on the the 'Progressive Labour Group' in the shop-workers' union, USDAW, originally formed to fight communists but still operating and producing lists of approved candidates, the core activity of such a caucus. 38. Windlesham fn 3 p. 82 39. Hallett was on the Common Cause council in the fifties. 40. Richter pp. 144 and 5 41. IHR CDS Witness Statement p. 14 42. Windlesham p. 109 43. Shaw Discipline p. 114 44. IHR CDS Witness Statement p. 24 45. Shaw fn 150, p. 331 46. Rodgers, IHR, CDS Witness Statement p. 25 47. Richter p. 151. George Brown, according to Tom Bower's recent biography of Sir Dick White, was a 'CIA source'. See p. 356 48. Bernard Donoughue, IHR CDS pp. 23/24 49. Jenkins pp. 49-51. I asked Jenkins about this in 1995 but he was unable to remember further details. 50. Letter to author, 25 May 1990. 51. See Agee, CIA Diary p. 618 52. Newell was introduced to Beirne at the UPW conference at Blackpool. Newell wrote of this episode in his life in Freedom, September 25 1976, and more recently in Perspectives number 9, 1995. On the late Joseph Beirne and CIA see Counterspy, February 1974 pp. 42 and 43 and May 1979 p.13, and Agee CIA Dairy, p. 603. 53. On AIFLD see Fred Hirsch 'The Labour Movement: Penetration Point for U.S. Intelligence and Transnationals' in Hirsch and Fletcher, and 'The AFL-CIA' by former US Air Force Intelligence officer Winslow Peck in Frazier (ed.). 54. In 1968 he became a director of IRIS. 55. It also possible, of course, that they declined because they had no such information, either because none existed, or because they were too incompetent to collect it.
The subversion hunters and the social democrats in the 1970s The arrival of Harold Wilson as leader of the Labour Party must have been a serious shock to the Anglo-American intelligence services. One minute the party was in the complete control of a faction which they had been promoting - 'running' would be too strong - since about 1950, and the next the party, and the second most important part of the NATO alliance, is in the hands of someone who has spent the post-war years going to and from Moscow as an East-West trader!
The rise of the left in the Labour Party and trade union movement, symbolised by the ascent of Wilson, was being monitored by IRD and its satellites, the Economic League, IRIS, Common Cause - and by Brian Crozier, who raised the alarm in the 1970 collection he edited, We Will Bury You..(73) Working the same seam - presumably for different sponsors - was former Army officer and Conservative MP, Geoffrey Stewart-Smith. In Stewart-Smith's journal, East-West Digest, in 1972, for example, we find the names who appeared in Crozier's 1970 anthology: Harry Welton of the Economic League, who had been in the anti-left business for 'fifty fighting years', to cite the title of the League's in-house history, and David Williams, the main writer for the Common Cause Bulletin.(74)
The abolition of the proscription list Anxiety among the subversive-watchers heightened throughout the Heath years as the insurrection in Northern Ireland continued and conflict with the labour movement on the mainland UK increased, and leapt enormously with the abolition of the Proscription List of the Labour Party in 1973. Most of the Parliamentary Labour Party at the time seems to have barely noticed its abolition, so insignificant did the event seem. Of the various members of the Wilson governments who have published memoirs or dairies covering this period, only Tony Benn thought it an event worth recording.(75) But to the subversion-watchers it showed the extent of the CPGB's influence in the Labour Party. Chapman Pincher at the Daily Express, for example, one of the outlets for the anti-subversion lobby, wrote nearly twenty years later that 'the left-wing extremists who had infiltrated the National Executive of the Labour Party induced the 1973 Party conference to abolish the Proscribed list.' (emphases added)(76) But to what end? Pincher tells us it 'meant that even MPs could join the World Peace Council, the British-Soviet Friendship Society and other outfits run essentially for the benefit of Moscow.'(77) But these never amounted to much in the 1950s, and meant less than nothing in 1973. It was precisely because those groups meant so little that the list was abolished as an anachronism.(78)
For the subversion hunters the Proscription List disappearing was one more event in a bad year, for 1973 also saw the first assault on IRD by the rest of the more detente-minded Foreign Office.(79) The next year saw the Heath government's defeat at the hands of the National Union of Mineworkers, in some part due to a CPGB sympathiser named Arthur Scargill. By mid 1974 the anti-subversive chorus were all singing from the same page and the theory of Soviet control through the CPGB, through the trade unions, through the Labour Party, was being broadcast by everything from the Tory press to the activists with connections in the intelligence services and the military.(80) This is the background to the cries and alarums of 1974/5, the talk of military coups and the formation of semi-clandestine 'action groups' and militias by, inter alia, former Deputy Chief of SIS, the late George Kennedy Young, and the late David Stirling. The trade unions were at the heart of the subversive-hunters' theory, with the AEU the most important of them. When David Stirling's grandiose Better Britain-GB75 plans were 'blown' prematurely in 1974, he abandoned them and joined forces with TRUEMID, another group of anti-socialist former AEU officials. (TRUEMID is discussed below.)
The Social Democratic Alliance (SDA) Within the Labour Party itself there was activity to combat the rise of the left. On the party political axis two latterday Gaitskellites, Stephen Haseler and Douglas Eden, in 1975 formed the Social Democratic Alliance (SDA) and began the struggle with the left in local London politics. (81) Over the next three years the SDA, and Haseler in particular, received much favourable newspaper coverage for their accounts of the subversives' takeover of the Labour Party and trade unions, much of it fanciful in the extreme.(82) For example on the publication of his book, The Death of British Democracy, Haseler wrote in The Times (29 April 1976) that 'we may now be on the verge of an economy which will remove itself from the Western trading system by import controls, strict control of capital movements and eventually non-convertability of the currency. At home this will involve rationing, the direction of capital and labour and the final end of the free trade union movement'; and in 1980, among the Labour MPs Haseler and the SDA proposed to put up candidates against, were those well-known revolutionaries Stan Orme, Clive Soley, Neil Kincock and Geoff Rooker! (83) Among the SDA's early supporters was Peter Stephenson, then the editor of Socialist Commentary.
And the AEU July 1974 saw the formation, with Common Cause funding, of the Trade Union Education Centre for Democratic Socialism (TUECDS), which described itself as 'an independent trade union education body run by politically-moderate trade unionists for politically-moderate trade unionists'.(84) TUECDS was launched in November 1974 with a lecture by the SDA's Dr Stephen Haseler. The personnel involved in the early stages of TUECDS's life were members of the AEU, notably John Weakley, and the building workers' union UCATT. Among those who had been attending the first year's meetings were UCATT officials, AEU officials, David Moller, a journalist from the Readers' Digest, then still one of the most important psy-war outlets for the CIA, the widow of Leslie Cannon, Lord Patrick Gordon-Walker and Kate Losinska, then recently elected president of the civil service union, the CPSA.(85)
More former AEU officials, Ron Nodes, Sid Davies and Ron McLaughlin, were involved in the formation of TRUEMID, (the Movement for True Industrial Democracy or the True Movement for Industrial Democracy, it's been called both), launched in 1975 with finance from a variety of industrial and City enterprises.(86) TRUEMID did was IRIS had done: it tried to influence the election of union officials by putting out information about the supposed left in the union. TRUEMID's activities were chiefly focused on the AEU, the civil service union the CPSA and the electricians union, the EETPU. David Stirling, after the collapse of his GB 75 and Better Britain plans, was recruited onto the TRUEMID council.(87)
Also reappearing in this period was the some time US Labour Attache to Britain, Joseph Godson who, though formally retired, had returned to the UK in 1971 and continued with his labour attache work - pushing out US views and interests among the British trade union movement, and selecting trade unionists for freebies to the US. Godson was a founder member of the Labour Committee for TransAtlantic Understanding (LCTU), the labour section of the British Atlantic Committee, a NATO support group.(88) In May 1976 LCTU began the Labour and Trade Union Press Service (LTUPS). On the LTUPS editorial committee was the ubiquitous Peter Stephenson, editor of the Gaitskellite Socialist Commentary, and one of the early members of the Social Democratic Alliance. Treasurer of the LTUPS was General Secretary of the EEPTU, Frank Chapple, and its chair was Bill Jordan of the AEU.(89)
Europe The social democratic wing of the Labour Party had two key positions: British membership of NATO and retention of British nuclear weapons, and membership of the EEC. After the defeat of CND at the Labour conference of 1961 it was European Economic Community (EEC) membership which became their great cause. With this achieved with the EEC referendum vote 'yes' in 1975, when it came to the ideological struggles within the Labour Party in the mid and late 1970s, in David Marquand's words, 'they lost the battle of ideas with the Left by default ....they really didn't fight the battle of ideas.'
Support for EEC membership within the Labour Party had been formally organised first in 1959 by the Labour Common Market Committee (founders Roy Jenkins, Jack Diamond and Norman Hart), which became the Labour Committee for Europe in the mid 1960s. European unity had been one of the projects favoured by the USA, looking for good anti-Soviet alliances in the early post-war era, and the European Movement had been funded by the Agency.(90) As well as receiving the support of the US, in the 1960s Gaitskellites Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams and William Rodgers were among the regular attenders of the annual Anglo-German Konigswinter conferences.(91) This time the social democrats were being supported by the British Foreign Office, which had decided by then that their future lay in the Common Market.
The CDS, the Gaitskellites, never accepted Wilson as the legitimate leader of the Labour Party and plotted constantly against him. The personnel of the Gaitskellites, the Labour Committee on Europe and the CDS were virtually identical.(92) In the 1960s it was the CDS that Harold Wilson identified as the group working against him.(93) When the group formally broke up it continued as a dining club, the 1963 Club. In the early 1970s Tony Benn identified them as 'the old Campaign for Democratic Socialism-Europe group'.(94)
In 1970 the election of the Heath government meant that another serious effort to get Britain in the EEC would be made and the issue would divide the Labour Party then in opposition. In early 1971 Tony Benn's diary records him talking - with Roy Jenkins - of the Common Market issue splitting the Labour Party.(95) Ten months later, on October 19, after a pro- and anti- clash in the Shadow Cabinet, Benn commented on the emergence of 'a European Social Democrat wing in the Parliamentary Party led by Bill Rodgers.'(96) This group formally announced itself on 28 October 1971 when 69 pro-Market Labour MPs voted with the Conservative government in favour of entry into the EEC in principle. From then on the group operated as a party within a party, with William Rodgers acting as an unofficial whip.(97)
A new social democratic party? The leadership of the Parliamentary Gaitskellite faction had fallen to Roy Jenkins, and as early as 1970 some of that group has begun trying to get him to lead the formation of a new party.(98) After the Europe vote in 1971 Dick Taverne and Bill Rodgers went to Jenkins and told him they should resign and form a new party.(99) Jenkins declined. Taverne's selection for the Lincoln seat had been organised by the pro-CDS, pro-Europe, Labour Party regional organiser for the area, Jim Cattermole.(100) In December 1972 MP Taverne, at odds with his constituency party, and about to be deselected, decided to fight them and suggested again that Jenkins leave and form a new party. Jenkins declined.(101) In 1973, after winning the Lincoln by-election as a Democratic Labour candidate, against the official Labour Party candidate, Taverne formed the Campaign for Social Democracy and sought Jenkins' support. Jenkins declined.(102) That year, however, helped by Sir Fred Hayday, former chair of the TUC, and Alf Allen, future chair of the TUC, Jenkins did 'set up an institutional framework' with moderate trade union leaders - a regular dining group in the Charing Cross Hotel.(103)
In December 1974 the Manifesto Group was formed within the PLP. Described by Barbara Castle as 'a group of middle-of-the-road and right-wing Labour MPs [which] had been meeting to discuss how to counter the growing influence of the left-wing Tribune group of MPs',(104) its chair was Dr Dickson Mabon, its Secretary was John Horam, now (1995) a Tory Minister, and two of its most active members were CDS enthusiasts David Marquand and Brian Walden.(105)
In the third Wilson government, formed in 1974, the Jenkins group in cabinet was down to 'a beleaguered minority of four', to use Jenkins' words, Jenkins, Harold Lever, Shirley Williams and the late Reg Prentice.(106) In his memoir Jenkins describes Prentice as 'a man of flat-footed courage who had emerged in the previous two years [i.e. 1973 and 74] out of the rather stolid centre of the Labour Party into....my most unhesitating ally in the Cabinet.'(107) Throughout 1974-5 Prentice was moving right very quickly and his speeches began to reflect this. In 1975 Prime Minister Wilson took exception to one of them, and 'More out of enlightened self-interest than generosity', as he put it, Jenkins told Wilson that if Prentice was sacked from the cabinet he would also go.(108) Shortly afterwards Wilson called Jenkins' bluff and shifted Prentice to a junior ministry post outside the Cabinet proper. Jenkins resolved to resign, tried to take Shirley Williams and Harold Lever with him in resignation - only to find that while he was ready now, Harold Lever was not.(109)
In Jenkins' memoir there are some wistful remarks on '1975 as a great missed opportunity for Heath and Whitelaw and a whole regiment of discarded Conservative "wets" as much for Shirley Williams and Steel and me.'(110) Jenkins was looking back on the 1975 Common Market referendum campaign during which he found it more congenial working with pro-EEC Tories and Liberals than he did with the left-wing of his own party. It would not be hard to imagine that left-wing Tories like Heath and Whitelaw found Jenkins more congenial than some of the right-wing yahoos then gathering on the Tory Party's fringe;(111)and there is a large hint in Mrs Thatcher's second volume of memoirs, that some kind of realignment was attempted on the back of the referendum.(112)
In December 1976 Prentice was discussing how to bring down the Callaghan government with, inter alia, Tory MPs Julian Amery and Maurice Macmillan, and Gaitskellite Labour MP's Walden and the late John McIntosh.(113) Haseler, whose information on this comes from Prentice's diaries, tells us that, 'For some years past the arguments for a realignment had been taken seriously by a section of the Conservative Party who had been close to Macmillan.'(114) Prentice may have thought he was discussing bringing down the government with Parliamentary colleagues, but in this context they had other, more interesting, connections. Amery was a former SIS officer and a friend of the former Deputy Chief of SIS, the late George Kennedy Young, who was then machinating against the Labour government with his Unison Committee for Action.(115) Maurice Macmillan had been a director of one of the IRD front companies and had also been involved in the attempt in the mid 1974 to launch a government of national unity to prevent the reelection of Harold Wilson. Prentice proposed that Jenkins form a coalition with Margaret Thatcher as leader but, on Prentice's account, haunted by memories of 1931 and the fate of Ramsay MacDonald, not surprisingly, once again Jenkins declined.(116)
When Harold Wilson resigned in 1976, Jenkins stood for leader of the Labour Party, lost, and went off to Brussels as President of the EEC. Jenkins bailed out at a good time, for the pro-Common Market wing of the Labour Party was losing the fight against the left in the Parliamentary Labour Party - while constantly talking about quitting and forming a new party. In 1977 the Campaign for a Labour Victory, 'in many ways a resurrection of the of the Campaign for Democratic Socialism', was launched.(117) William Rodgers' PA was one of the chief organisers and it set up its office in the HQ of the EETPU.(118) Its full-time organiser was Alec McGivan who became the first full-time worker for the SDP, four years later.
Around Jenkins in exile gathered some of the Gaitskellites. Mike Thomas, a Labour and then SDP MP: 'there in fact were a group of people working with Roy Jenkins outside parliament, most of whom were known to many of us, friends of ours, some who were less well known, in the SDA or elsewhere'.(119) In November 1979, after Jenkins' had been given the Dimbleby Lecture on BBC TV in which to more or less announce his intention of forming a social democratic party, businessman Clive Lindley and London Labour Councillor Jim Daley, both of whom had been active in the Campaign for Labour Victory,(120) set up the Radical Centre for Democratic Studies, 'a press cutting and information service on the political scene in Britain' - and a support group for Jenkins.(121)
Finally a group met to discuss forming the new party. From the SDA there was Stephen Haseler; from Roy Jenkins' UK support group, Clive Lindley and Jim Daly; David Marquand, Jenkins' his PA in Brussels, and Lord Harris, who had been Jenkins' PR man in the 1960s.(122) The last stop on their way out of the Labour Party for these social democrats was the formation of the Council for Social Democracy in 1981.
Soon after the Social Democratic Party launch, issue 52 of the now defunct radical magazine The Leveller had as its cover story: 'Exposed:the CIA and the Social Democrats'. The author was Phil Kelly, one of the journalists who had exposed Brian Crozier's Forum/CIA links, who had been the recipient of the leaked documents from inside the Institute for the Study of Conflict, and had led the campaign to prevent the Labour government expelling former CIA officer, Philip Agee. For his temerity Kelly had been labelled a 'KGB man' in briefings given by MI5, one of which was foolishly committed to paper by Searchlight editor Gerry Gable.(123) Kelly's article went over some of the ground covered in this essay, but though the CIA was visible in the connection to the Congress for Cultural Freedom and Forum World Features, the piece otherwise failed to justify its billing.
73. The charge that these groups were IRD 'satellites' is difficult to substantiate. None of their personnel has, to my knowledge, every admitted it. However, all these groups have published material which, in my view, could only have come from the state - and I presume that IRD was the proximate conduit. Take, for example, the Economic League's 'Notes and Comments' series. In No. 895, 'The New Face of Communism', there is material quoted from Yugoslav radio and TV and Radio Moscow. The Economic League, presumably, did not have its own monitoring service. 74. East-West Digest mostly consisted of large chunks of blind (authorless), extremely detailed, apparently pretty accurate material on the British Left: reports on meetings and conferences; documents and journals analysed. 75. Benn entry for 11 June 1973. 76. Pincher 1991 p. 113. 77. Ibid. 78. The important group on that list was the then minute Revolutionary Socialist League which was to spend the next decade penetrating the Labour Party as the Militant Tendency. 79. Crozier calls this 'the IRD massacre', but points out that IRD had grown to become the largest single Foreign Office department. See Crozier pp. 104-8. 80. From the likes of KGB defector Oleg Gordievsky we have learned that the KGB were unaware that they were apparently on the verge of controlling the Labour Party through the trade unions. 81. Patrick Wintour in the New Statesman, 25 July 1980: 'three of [Frank] Chapple's closest union colleagues, including his research assistant, have been active in the Social Democratic Alliance'.
Crozier notes in his memoir that he first met the SDA's Douglas Eden at one of the early sessions of the National Association for Freedom. 'The NAF was supposed to be strictly non-party, and the presence of a long-time Labour man, as Eden was, emphasised this aspect of its work.' p. 147 82. See, for example, Daily Telegraph, 7 July 1977, The Times, 29 April 1976, and Daily Mail, 9 August 1979. 83. See 'Moderates drive to challenge 11 Labour MPs', Daily Telegraph,1 February 1980. 84. This is from the only TUECDS document I have seen, a progress report dated May 12, 1975. 85. TUECDS is discussed by Paul Foot in Socialist Worker, 1 November 1975. 86. Michael Ivens of Aims of Industry claims the credit for introducing Stirling to Ron Nodes. See his obituary notice on Stirling in the Independent, 17 November 1990. Some of the TRUEMID funding is given in 'The bosses' union' in Leveller 17, 1978, and the most detailed account of the organisation is in Hoe ch. 24. 87. See 'The Company They Keep', Monica Brimacombe, in the New Statesman, 9 May 1986. Paul Foot in the piece cited in note 12 states that TRUEMID had six permanent full-time staff and three temporary full-time staff. 88. see also State Research no. 16, pp. 68-74 and no. 17 pp. 95 and 96, and Sunday Times, 17 February 1980. It was later funded by the US government's National Endowment for Democracy. 89. Jordan was later to be among the founders of another 'moderate' caucus in the trade unions in the 1980s, Mainstream. 90. The Movement's youth wing, the European Youth Movement, had as its secretary Maurice Foley, one of the Gaitskellites. See 'The CIA backs the Common Market' by Weissman, Kelly and Hosenball in Agee ed. Dirty Work. pp. 201-3. 91. Bradley p. 52 92. With a number of important qualifications. Hugh Gaitskell, for example, was not pro EEC membership. 93. Dorril and Ramsay p. 188 94. Ibid. 95. Entry for 13 January 1971, pp. 324-5 of Office Without Power 96. Benn ibid. p. 381. Benn also added in that paragraph: 'When I heard Charlie Pannell say that for him Europe was an article of faith, he put it above the Labour Party and above the Labour Movement, I was finally convinced that this was a deep split.'. Pannell was AEU, Common Cause, Catholic. 97. Bradley p. 53 98. 'Dick Taverne recalls a meeting of pro-Marketeers in his flat to discuss tactics as early as June 1970.' Ibid. 99. Ibid. pp. 53/4 100. Shaw, Discipline, p. 108. In the 'witness seminar' on the CDS, p. 24, David Marquand referred to 'the great barony of Jim Cattermole'. 101. Ibid. p. 55 102. Jenkins in his memoir on 1973: 'Excluding the possibility of forming an independent party, which at that stage neither I nor my supporters were remotely prepared for...' p. 360 (emphasis added). 103. Jenkins p. 354. In the CDS 'witness seminar", p. 27, William Rodgers stated that CDS had a 'very close working relationship with Fred Hayday of the General and Municipal Workers'. 104. Castle Diaries p.156 105. Bradley p. 60. With the exception of Giles Radice and George Robertson, both GMWU/GMB-sponsored, the whole of the active leadership of the Manifesto Group subsequently defected to the SDP. 106. Jenkins p. 427 107. Ibid. p. 419 108. Jenkins tells us that he sent this message through the Prime Minister's Principal Private Secretary, Robert Armstrong, thus - deliberately or not - informing the Whitehall establishment. Ibid. p. 420 109. Ibid. p. 422 110. Ibid. pp. 425-6 111. On 14 October 1975 Tony Benn records in his diary: 'Robert Kilroy-Silk, Labour MP for Ormskirk, told me that �2 million had been left unspent by the pro-Market lobby and it was a fund of which the trustees were Heath, Thorpe and Jenkins....the rumour was that if Wilson moved too far to the Left they would use the money to set up a new party.' 112. See The Path to Power, p. 331. 113. Haseler, Battle for Britain, pp. 59 and 60 114. Ibid. 115. The best account of Unison is in Dorril and Ramsay. 116. Prentice thus managed to misunderstand - and insult - both Jenkins and Mrs Thatcher. 117. Bradley p. 59 118. 'How Frank Chapple says on top', New Statesman, 25 July 1980 119. CDS Seminar p. 50 120. Owen p. 457 121. Bradley p. 73 122. Ibid. David Marquand on Haseler; 'Haseler's invective is all working class... He's invented a history of a sort of populist radicalism, Norman Tebbitry in a way, ....I remember being involved in a television thing in the early 1970s on Europe where he opposed it on a sort of proletarian, solidarity, populist-nationalist ground.' Desai pp. 10-11 fn. 11 123. This is the so-called Gable memo, first revealed in the New Statesman, 15 February 1980 and reprinted in full, for the first time, in Lobster 24.
The Crozier operations Running through much of this activity in the 1970s was Brian Crozier who had been warning about the rise of the British Left since the late 1960s. Crozier takes us back to the CIA operation the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) discussed in chapter five. The CIA control of the CCF and the magazine Encounter began to be threatened with exposure in 1963 when, reviewing an anthology from the magazine, Conor Cruise O'Brien wrote that 'Encounter's first loyalty is to America'; and an editorial in the Sunday Telegraph referred to a secret and regular subvention to Encounter from 'the Foreign Office'.(124) The next year, after a US congressional inquiry into private foundations found that some had received donations from the CIA, the New York Times set journalists to work on the story. From that point on exposure of the CIA fronts, which were funded by some of these private foundations, was inevitable.
Forum World Features Faced with this impending exposure, the CCF/CIA began to take action. The Congress's press agency was detached, reorganised and renamed Forum World Features, and Crozier was appointed its director in 1965.(125) Crozier claims that 'In 1968 the KGB made a first attempt to wreck Forum';(126) and perhaps in anticipation of the day when Forum was 'blown', with other personnel from the IRD network Crozier set up the Institute for the Study of Conflict (ISC) between 1968 and 1970.(127)
ISC The first funding came from Shell and BP but then, as Crozier puts it, 'the Agency [CIA] now came up with something bigger', and put him in contact with the American multi-millionaire, anti-communist Richard Mellon Scaife, who duly came up $100,000 p.a. for ISC.(128)
ISC commissioned and published reports and began briefing the UK military and police establishments on the Crozier view of the Soviet threat to Britain.(129) Crozier became a founder member of the National Association for Freedom (NAFF), whose launch was timed to coincide with publication of the dystopian disinformation in The Collapse of Democracy by his ally and colleague at ISC, Robert Moss. The unfortunately acronymed NAFF was a gathering of the anti-subversive and pro-capital propaganda groups such as Aims of Industry, and, almost immediately became the major focus of the British Right. It absorbed the remnants of the 1974/5 civilian militias, and began series of psy-war projects against the left and the unions which prefigured much of what was to come in the Thatcher government.(130)
Shield and the Pinay Circle At the same, Crozier's voice was being heard in Shield, a committee of former intelligence officers and bankers, who, in the absence of IRD, prepared briefings on the alleged communist threat for the then leader of the Tory Party, Mrs Thatcher.(131)Crozier was also a member of the transnational psy-war outfit, the Pinay Circle, working alongside senior intelligence, military and political figures from the NATO countries,(132) was working with US Senate Subcommittee on International Terrorism,(133) and launched the apparently still-born US Institute for the Study of Conflict.(134)
The Wilson plots Because hard information on the covert operations of this period came first from Colin Wallace, a member of the British Army's psychological warfare unit in Northern Ireland, in whose narrative the 'bad guys' were MI5, and from Peter Wright, who had been an MI5 officer, those of us who began researching this period in 1986 and after began by looking for MI5 operations.(135) In fact three British intelligence agencies had an iron in the fire of the mid 1970s crisis. There was a group of MI5 officers, led by Peter Wright, who were plotting against the Wilson government and, for example, trying to use the Information Policy Unit in Northern Ireland to spread disinformation about Wilson and other British politicians whom MI5 regarded as 'unsound';(136) there was also a group of ex SIS and former military officers, led by former SIS number two, the late George Kennedy Young, operating as the Unison Committee for Action;(137) and there was the Crozier-IRD subversion-watcher network.
The detente with the Soviet Union was the background. In the UK it provided the context for IRD to be reigned back. In the US, in the wake of Watergate and the subsequent revelations of CIA activities in the US and abroad, and the election of Jimmy Carter in 1976, there was a purge in the CIA. To Crozier and others of his ilk detente was a farce - a Soviet deception operation - and these intelligence cuts a catastrophe. (In their worst imaginings they were the result of Soviet operations.)
Private sector intelligence agencies? Into the breach stepped Crozier and a group which included ex SIS officer Nicholas Elliot and US General Vernon Walters. They created 'a Private Sector Operational Intelligence agency' and named it 6I - the Sixth International(138) - and found funding in the US Heritage Foundation. Crozier began publishing newsletters, Transnational Security, and British Briefing, his own version of the IRD briefings on British subversion which had been curtailed in 1974 upon the election of the Labour government. British Briefing was financed by the Industrial Trust, edited by Charles Elwell, 'soon after retiring from MI5', and published by IRIS.(139)
What had begun a quarter of a century before as an anti-communist caucus among the AUEW's senior officers, had ended up fronting for Britain's leading anti-socialist psychological warfare expert. I do not know when British Briefing was first published, but the issue which began to circulate on the left in the early 1990s, number 12, was published in 1989, at which time IRIS's directors included Sir John Boyd CBE, General Secretary of the AEU 1975-82, Lord (Harold) Collinson CBE, General Secretary of the National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers from 1953-69, and W. (Bill) Sirs, General Secretary of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation from 1975-85.(140)
The union leaders and the spooks The IRIS-Crozier-British Briefing set-up sums up much of what I have been trying to tease out. Three anti-socialist, senior trade union leaders fronted the clandestine production of an anti-socialist bulletin, written and edited by former intelligence officers, financed by British capital.(141) This anti-socialist mechanism also involved the connivance of the Charity Commission which allowed the Industrial Trust to operate in a breach of the charity laws,(142) another, non-charitable trust, the Kennington Industrial Company, and personnel from large numbers of British companies which funded it. (The money went to the Industrial Trust which passed it on to Kennington, which passed it on to IRIS; thus enabling the Industrial Trust to cling on to its charitable - and tax deductible - status.)
If this was still being funded in 1989, after 15 years of Thatcherism and the fall of the Soviet Empire, how big was this anti-socialist structure in, say, 1975? Or 1965? Our knowledge of the whole operation while greater now than ever, is still pretty limited, despite the revelations about the Economic League in the past ten years. For example, Aims of Industry is thought of as simply a propaganda organisation. But it is not so; at least it was not always so. In 1990 the Aims Director, Michael Ivens, wrote:
Once, when Aims of Industry was rather more flexible than it is now, we put a member of our staff into a factory, at the request of the management, to prevent a far-left take over.' (143)
Another part of this anti-socialist network is British United Industrialists (BUI), one of the funnels through which British companies pour money into the Conservative Party and other groups on the right. In 1985 BUI's then director, Captain Briggs, told a researcher I know who wishes to remain anonymous, who was posing as a right-winger, that BUI were then funding the Solidarity group of Labour MPs, the Union of Democratic Mineworkers and the right-wing faction in the Civil and Public Servants Association (CPSA).(144)
The Labour Left has never really grasped just how central, how commonplace a function of British capitalism it has been to fund its opponents. This knowledge has remained largely confined to Labour Research and pockets within individual unions. (It is hardly surprising that the Labour Party has never shown much interest in this as it would have embarrassed some of its biggest supporters in the trade unions.)
By 1980 Crozier seems to have gone some way towards replacing IRD's anti-subversive role by his own efforts; and, with the election of Mrs Thatcher, he and Robert Moss abandoned the National Association for Freedom (by then renamed the Freedom Association) and concentrated on the USA and the wider Soviet 'threat'.
It is impossible to evaluate the significance of psychological warfare projects. Was the barrage of anti-union propaganda put out by the subversion-watchers in the period 1972-79 as significant as the so-called Winter of Discontent in its effect on public opinion in Britain? How effective Crozier was, I don't know. He seems to think he had quite a hand in the election of Mrs Thatcher in 1979. In one of the planning papers written by Crozier for his 'transnational security organisation', he wrote:
'Specific Aims within this framework are to affect a change of government in
(a) the United Kingdom - accomplished......'(145)
Grandiose nonsense? Perhaps. Crozier has never been taken as seriously in this country by the London media-political establishment as he has has been abroad, and his memoir was hammered by most of its reviewers.(146) But this, for example, was the view of a German intelligence officer, the source of the Der Spiegel pieces, of Crozier in November 1979.
'The militant conservative London publicist, Brian Crozier, Director of the famous Institute for the Study of Conflict up to September 1979, has been working with his diverse circle of friends in international politics to build an anonymous action group(147) "transnational security organisation", and to widen its field of operations. Crozier has worked with the CIA for years. One has to assume, therefore that they are fully aware of his activities....'
124. Coleman p. 186. In this context 'the Foreign Office' is a euphemism for MI6. 125. In his 1993 memoir Crozier acknowledges the CIA connection. See pp. 63-5. But he had denied it as late as 1990, in his review of Coleman's history of the CCF. See 'A noble mess' in The Salisbury Review, December 1990. 126. Crozier p. 75 127. With a Council including Max Beloff, Major-General Clutterbuck, Sir Robert Thompson and Hugh Seton-Watson. 128. Crozier p. 90. 129. See the documents leaked - or stolen - from ISC published in Searchlight 18, 1976, and Crozier pp. 121 and 2 130. Crozier acknowledged the psy-war role in his memoir. See page 118. 131. Shield employed as its researchers Peter Shipley, who ended up in the Conservative Party Central Office in time for the 1987 election, and Douglas Eden, co-founder of the Social Democratic Alliance. But Stephen Hastings has a slightly different version from Crozier. See Hastings p. 236. 132. On Pinay see David Teacher's pieces in Lobsters 17 and 18. Crozier more or less gave a nod of approval to these accounts by citing them, without criticism, in his memoir. See note 3 facing p. 194. Among the Pinay personnel were ex CIA director Colby, ex-SIS officers Julian Amery and Nicholas Elliot, and Edwin Feulner from the Heritage Foundation. 133. Crozier pp. 123-4 134. US ISC is missing from his memoirs. It was formally launched in 1975, chaired by George Ball, with a line-up which included Richard Pipes and Kermit Roosevelt. See Document 3 in Searchlight 18. 135. Hence Lobster 11, 'Wilson, MI5 and the Rise of Thatcher'. 136. This is discussed at length in Foot, Who Framed ... 137. It was Young and Unison, for example, who initiated General Sir Walter Walker's Civil Assistance. 138. Crozier pp. 134-6. Six 'I', says Crozier, because there had already been 5 'internationals'. 'The fourth International was the Trotskyist one, and when it split, this meant that on paper, there were five Internationals.' p. 136 139. On the Industrial Trust see Black Flag, 15 August 1988 which reproduced the Trust's accounts for 1986/7; and on the IRIS connection to British Briefing, and Elwell's role, see the Observer, 16 December 1990, 'Top companies funded smears through charity', and 23 December 1990 140. Although IRIS was still publishing its little newsletter, IRIS News, in 1989, compared to British Briefing it was so piffling as to be little more than a cover story. Collinson and Boyd are dead and Sirs did not respond to my questions 141. In 1986/7 twenty eight British companies gave money to the Industrial Trust, including BP, Bass, Unilever, ICI, Cadbury Schweppes and Grand Metropolitan. Industrial Trust accounts filed with Charity Commissioners were reproduced in Black Flag, 15 August 1988. 142. See 'Breach of charity rules justified' in the Guardian,7 February 1991. 143. Sunday Telegraph (Appointments) 4 February 1990 144. I reported this first in footnote 93 on p. 43 of Lobster 12 in 1986. I received no reaction to what I thought was a rather explosive allegation. Kevin McNamara MP, when I told him of this, replied that the UDM hardly needed money as they had inherited the considerable wealth of the old 'Spencer' union formed in the 1920s. 145. Originally published in Der Spiegel no 37, 1982, this was translated by David Teacher and reproduced in Lobster 17, p. 14. 146. The best review was by Bernard Porter in Intelligence and National Security, vol. 9, No. 4. Most of Crozier's projects, says Porter, were 'pointless.' 147. 'Action group', is one of the key terms used in this field. G.K. Young's Unison was the Unison Committee for Action, a clear hint to the intelligence insider as to its intentions.
Was there a 'communist threat'? The term 'communist' was always flexibly applied by the anti-socialist groups. The Common Cause and IRIS reports, for example, went much wider to actually mean the left, i.e. socialists; and sometimes simply anyone who opposed those in positions of power.(148) Nonetheless in a thesis about the political uses of anti-communism we have to consider whether there was anything to the 'communist threat', or if it was simply a red herring dragged across the trail of British politics.
On the British Left the question which heads this chapter would provoke laughter, derision or anger from many. For some, since 1956 the CPGB has been a declining, bureaucratic relic, hardly a 'threat' to anybody.(149) For others merely asking the question gives credibility to disinformation from the right. But the fact remains that significant sections of the British Right, in the propaganda organisations of capital, the state and the Conservative Party, believed that the CPGB was part of a global conspiracy, directed and financed by Moscow, which was working in the union movement and wider society to undermine capitalist democracy in Britain. And it is no longer self-evident that this was complete nonsense.
Orders from Moscow? We now know that the CPGB actually was being directed, to some extent, from Moscow after the war. Bob Darke was a member of the Party's National Industrial Policy Committee from the end of the war until 1951, when he left the Party. He described that committee as 'a Cominform puppet', receiving instructions, via visiting French communists, from the Cominform.(150) In the year Darke quit the Party, 1951, the CPGB published a landmark policy statement, 'The British Road to Socialism'. This announced a major shift in policy in which the British CPGB ceased to base itself on the Soviet model and would henceforth pursue a peculiarly British, 'parliamentary road to socialism'.(151) But in 1991 former CPGB assistant general secretary, George Matthews, admitted that much - though precisely how much is still not clear to me - of the programme contained in the 'British Road to Socialism' had been written by the Soviet Politburo and approved by Stalin himself.(152)
Moscow gold? There was 'Moscow gold' - bags of used notes, as well as the subsidy by virtue of the Soviet Union's bulk order of copies of the Daily Worker/Morning Star. The 'Moscow gold' claim was regarded as absurd, a state smear, by most on the British Left, not least by CPGB members, subjected to endless fund-raising appeals and newspaper selling, and CPGB employees surviving on the terrible wages the Party paid its staff.(153) But now we know that the Soviet Union began sending money to the British Party after the Hungarian revolt was put down - apparently to compensate the British Party for the loss of its membership (and hence membership fees) incurred by the Party's refusal to condemn the Soviet invasion. Senior CPGB person, Reuben Falber, would meet the man from the Soviet Embassy and take delivery of the bags of used notes. These would be stored in the loft of Falber's house and then laundered through the Party's accounts as 'anonymous donations' and the like. It was as amateurish as that.
The Moscow money seems to have been used chiefly to fund the Party's full-time staff. In the 1960s, despite constantly falling membership, the party employed a lot of people, 70 according to one source, including the industrial network,(154) what 1980s CPGB member Sarah Benton described as 'until the late 1970s, the privileged section of the party'. (The Moscow subsidy ended in 1979.)(155)
Secret Party members? There were also secret Party members, though how many there were and what they did is unclear. The existence of 'secret members', a staple on the right since the war, appeared most strikingly in Spycatcher in which Peter Wright recounts how MI5 had found the CPGB membership files stashed in a rich member's flat and photographed the whole lot - 55,000 files - in one weekend, 'with a Polaroid camera'.(156) Wright claimed that these files also 'contained the files of covert members of the CPGB..... people who had gone underground largely as a result of the new vetting procedures brought in by the Attlee Government'.(157) Wright's claims were denied by George Matthews, who had been editor of the Daily Worker and assistant general secretary of the Party.(158) However Bob Darke described members, who for 'Personal Security', were allowed not to reveal themselves as members when the Party decreed that all members should 'come out' as CPGB members in the other organisations to which they belonged.(159) It may be that Wright simply remembered it wrongly: it was not members who went underground but who stayed underground. Further, Francis Beckett reveals (though without a source) the existence of a hitherto secret section of the Party, the Commercial Branch, consisting of 'rich members, often Jews... secret members... important industrialists' (emphasis added), set up by Reuben Falber in the 1930s, which apparently survived into the mid 1950s.(160) It appears that it was partly the loss of the income from this group after the revelations of anti-semitism in the Soviet Union and the invasion of Hungary which forced the Party to go to Moscow for money.(161)
But some money and instructions from Moscow, though a striking confirmation in part of the right's theories, do not in themselves tell us anything about the influence of the CPGB.(162) (Conspiracies may be small and ineffectual but nonetheless conspiracies.) And measuring the influence of an activity with clandestine aspects, which both the Party and its opponents have had good reasons to exaggerate, will be very imprecise at best.
Initially, post-war, the major focus of the state's anti-communists seems to have been on the Soviet front groups - the friendship societies etc. Eric Shaw mentions that in 1953 the Labour Party's Proscription List suddenly expanded with information about these groups assumed to come from 'the Foreign Office [i.e. IRD] and Special Branch' run through the International Department of the Party.(163) This focus on the CPGB front groups seems to be attributable to two things. If Bower's recent biography of MI5 head Dick White is accurate, one is the inadequacies of MI5 in the post-war years.(164) The second is the the locus of IRD within the Foreign Office network, where, engaged in a propaganda struggle with the Soviet bloc overseas, it was thus more interested in pro-Soviet groups than in activities on the shop-floor.
The network of pro-Soviet groups is still the focus of the big IRIS pamphlet in 1957, The Communist Solar System; but the 1956 pamphlet by Woodrow Wyatt MP, The Peril in Our Midst was subtitled 'the Communist threat to Britain's trade unions', and since then it has been the Party's industrial wing which has received almost all of the attention - and about which there has been quite wide agreement, across a broadish political spectrum.(165) Wyatt in 1956 claimed that the CPGB controlled the ETU and the Fire Brigades Union, nearly had control of the AEU and had considerable influence in the NUM. In 1962 the Radcliffe Committee, set up by the Macmillan government in the wake of the Vassell spy case, reported on the apparently extensive Party control of the civil service unions; and that year the Conservative MP Aidan Crawley claimed that the CPGB was strongest in the NUM, building workers and the AEU, and claimed they were making inroads into the clerical unions, citing sections of the woodworkers', the plumbers' and the painters' unions as being under CP control.(166) Less ideologically interested,the historian Keith Middlemas saw 'substantial CP influence in the ETU, Foundry Workers, AEU and the NUM, especially in Fife and South Wales';(167)and in his recent history of the Party Francis Beckett claimed that 'the Party practically had full control of the Fire Brigades Union, the Amalgamated Engineering Union, the Foundry Workers and the Electrical Trades Union'.(168) Though not in themselves proof of anything - proof would entail much more detailed analysis of the various unions than I am capable of - the lists are strikingly consistent over the period from 1956 to 1994.
The struggle for the AEU One of the recurring themes in the literature, from the 1950s onwards, is the centrality of the struggle in the AEU. IRIS was formed by AEU members and was most active in that union (discussed above). This concern quickens in the late 1960s and early 1970s as the left, focused round the publications Voice of the Unions and Engineering Voice, began to make progress.(169) It is found, for example, in Brian Crozier's 1970 anthology We Will Bury You, and in the 1972 IRIS pamphlet In Perspective: Concerning the role of the Communist Party and its Effectiveness. In David Stirling's GB75 documents, leaked and printed in Peace News in August 1974, Stirling's opening paragraph, 'The Objective Summarised', is about the lack of a contingency plan to 'weather the crucial first 3 or 4 days of a General Strike or one involving the Amalgamated Engineering Union and the Electrical Trades Union.'(170) Shortly after the leak, i.e. late August 1974, Stirling met Ron McClaughlin and Frank Nodes, both former AEU officials, who were forming TRUEMID, the Movement for True Industrial Democracy. A decade later the AEU was at the centre of former SIS no. 2, G. K. Young's Subversion and the British Riposte.(171)
While CPGB influence in the British unions - and thus in the Labour Party - was a constant refrain on the right, before the hysteria of 1974/5 there were only two occasions in the post-war period when the CPGB was even semi-seriously alleged to be posing a threat to the whole economy. The first was the 1948 dock strike. Charges of communist control were made at the time, and by senior members of the Labour Government,(172) but I have seen no evidence to support this claim and, in its absence, think we can reasonably attribute the claims to cynical manipulation of the 'red card' during a period of intense domestic difficulty for the Attlee government.
'Cynical manipulation of the red card' has often been the description of the second occasion, during the 1966 seamen's strike, when Harold Wilson made his notorious comments in the House of Commons about the role of the CPGB in the strike, and actually named CPGB members said to be active in it. This incident deserves examination.
The 1966 seamen's strike There are two issues here, only one of which, whether Wilson should have said what he did, usually gets discussed. Most people, including most of his colleagues at the time, think it was a tactical mistake, at best. Peter Shore told Tony Benn that he thought Wilson's remarks were 'completely bonkers'; and Benn noted in his diary, 'I think I share this view'.(173) The Labour Left were appalled by Wilson's behaviour; some by his use of what they perceived as the 'red card', and others by his use of clandestine sources of information from MI5 and Special Branch. For some, this was when they first perceived the shifty, careerist Wilson, prepared to even play the anti-communist card, to break the seamen's strike. This view is powerfully expressed by Paul Foot in his 1967 essay 'The Seamen's Struggle'.(174)
In his essay Foot says that the 'basic charge' in Wilson's second statement to the Commons was 'that certain members of the Communist Party had been engaging in a desperate battle to extend the seamen's strike against the will of the NUS members.'(175) In fact what Wilson said was much more complicated - and more reasonable - than this suggests.(176) He began by describing the CP's 'efficient and disciplined industrial apparatus', and continued that 'for some years now the Communist Party has had as one of its objectives the building up of a position of strength not only in the Seamen's Union, but in other unions concerned with docks and transport. It engages in this struggle for power in the Seamen's Union because it recognises..... that democracy is shallow-rooted in the union, not only that grievances and exploitation have festered for many years.' He called it a 'take-over bid'.
Wilson said the objectives of the CPGB in the strike were: 'First, to influence the day-to-day policy of the executive council; secondly, to extend the area of stoppage' [this is the bit emphasised by Foot] and thirdly, 'to use the strike not only to improve the conditions of the seamen - in which I believe them to be genuine - but also to secure what is at present the main political and industrial objective of the Communist Party - the destruction of the government's prices and incomes policy.' Wilson went on to say that he knew that the NUS executive committee was dominated by Joe Kenny and Jim Slater and that, while he knew neither of them were communists, he knew of their meetings with CPGB members in the union and the CPGB's industrial organiser, Bert Ramelson.(177)
But smashing Wilson's pay policy was the aim of the CPGB - and just about everybody else on the British Left and in some of the trade unions. The rest of what he said amounts to little more than an account of the routine activities of all left groups in the labour movement. They try to expand their positions and influence inside every forum. This is what they do. If Bert Ramelson et al were not trying to do these things, CPGB members would be entitled to ask for their subscriptions back. This is what they were employed to do. The young Tony Benn also thought Wilson's statement less than overwhelming. On June 28, after Wilson' s listing of the CPGB members allegedly involved in the strike, Benn wrote in his diary that while the speech made him 'sick' and reminded him of 'McCarthyism', he added: 'In a sense Harold said nothing that was new, since every trade union leader knew it.'
The seamen's strike was a great boost for the CPGB and for Bert Ramelson who had only taken over as the Party's chief industrial organiser from Peter Kerrigan earlier that year. Under Ramelson the Party began classical 'broad left' campaigns in many of the unions, run by Party-controlled 'advisory committees'. Willie Thompson, himself a member of the CPGB, derides the idea that these committees had any power.
'The CP advisory committees...were credited by an alarmist press with being an organisational framework through which a tight stranglehold was maintained upon the country's economic existence; a network through which flowed intelligence and commands enabling the Kremlin via King Street to direct its thrusts...For better or worse the advisories were just that - advice forums - and their coordinating function even within the individual area each one covered was weak.' (p. 136)
The evidence on this just is not clear: Beckett offers a different account of these committees. However Thompson more or less agrees with Beckett's claims that destruction of the Wilson-Castle trade union reform proposals, in the 'In Place of Strife' document, was 'largely a communist triumph and Wilson knew it';(178) and the latter cites the 1970 dock strike, the postal strike of 1971 and the miners' strikes of 1972 as disputes in which the Party played a significant role.
In the 1970s, the anti-subversion lobby, orbiting around IRD, and presumably informally briefed on the reality of the 'Moscow gold' by MI5, took the picture of real - and arguably, increasing - CPGB influence on the trade unions, and added KGB/ Soviet control.To this theory the Communist Party itself contributed by occasionally boasting of its influence on the Labour Party;(179) with the Labour Party itself unwittingly adding the final touch by abolishing in 1973 the Proscription List of organisations - mostly the 1950s Soviet fronts - that Labour Party members could not join, thus convincing the paranoids on the right that the mice were in pantry. (180) Unaware of the 'Moscow gold' evidence, the left dismissed the right's Soviet angle as manifestly nonsense.
MI5's role Unaware of the evidence: this is the key point. For while the members of the CPGB - and the wider public - knew nothing of the packets of used fivers arriving in London, we know now that MI5 had been aware of the Moscow gold run almost as soon as it was begun. We can start with Peter Wright's memory again.
'Then there was the Falber affair. After the PARTY PIECE operation, MI5 went on the hunt for CPGB files which listed the secret payments made to the Party by the Soviets. We suspected that perhaps they might be held in the flat of Reuben Falber, who had recently been made cashier of the Russian funds.'(181)
MI5 knew about the payments, and knew Falber was in charge of them.(182) All they wanted were the presumed accounts, the books - the evidence. Wright tells us that MI5 planned to burgle Falber's flat but their first plan failed - and leaves it there! To MI5 the proof of the Moscow Gold must have had something of the status of the Holy Grail; and we are to believe that having located it they made only one attempt to get it? Wright really wants us to believe that for 20 years, aware that the CPGB were getting actual Soviet cash money, MI5 were either unable to detect the payoffs in London, or, having made one failed attempt, just gave up? This is simply not credible.
In the USA the FBI famously had so many agents inside the CPUSA as to make the whole enterprise a farce; and J. Edgar Hoover is quoted by a fairly senior ex FBI source as having said, 'If it were not for me, there would not even be a Communist Party of the United States. Because I've financed the Communist Party, in order to know what they are doing.'(183) As far as we know, nothing quite like this happened in the UK. The large transmitter found attached to the bottom of the table in the CPGB's central meetings room, displayed by ex CPGB Central Committee member George Mathews in the Independent (25 November 1989), illustrates Peter Wright's claim that 'By 1955....... the CPGB was thoroughly penetrated at almost every level by technical surveillance or informants'; and with the spreading disillusion in the 1950s, climaxed by Hungary, MI5 can have had no trouble recruiting active and former party members, like the late Harry Newton, to inform on the British comrades.
I do not want to argue that MI5 were running the CPGB.
But it did allow the CPGB to run.(184)
Had the existence of the 'Moscow gold' been revealed in 1958 or 9, coming after the Soviet invasion of Hungary, the CPGB would have been terminally damaged. But for MI5 the 'communist threat' - and the link to the Soviet Union - was simply too useful a stick with which to beat the much more important wider labour movement and Labour Party to be surrendered. The Soviet connection with the CPGB enabled the Security Service to portray both unions and the left of the Labour Party, some of whom worked with the CPGB, as subversives; and with a subversive minority in its midst, this enabled the Labour Party as a whole to be portrayed as a threat to the well-being of the nation,(185) and thus a legitimate target for MI5. Reviewing Willie Thompson's history of the Party, social democrat John Torode (whose father had been a significant pre-war member of the Party) charged that:
'The [CPGB's] constant encouragement of strikes in support of unrealistic wage demands, the destruction of Barbara Castle's union reforms and the coordinated attempts to capture positions of power in order to influence Labour Party policy, did much to destroy the credibility of that party.'(186)
In one sense Torode is merely saying that the CPGB tried to use such influence as it had in the trade unions to frustrate social democratic policies and build up its own position. Is this not what Communist Parties always did? But in another way Torode has missed the point. For the link with the CPGB discredited the Labour Party because of the CPGB's perceived connection to Moscow. If Torode's charge is true - and I think it is to some extent - it was only possible because MI5 had concealed the Moscow financial connection and preserved the CPGB as a significant force on the British Left.
Since so much of the British Left came either from, or in opposition to, the CPGB, it is impossible to even speculate convincingly how the the British Left - or British Politics - would have developed if the Moscow gold had been exposed in the late fifties. But it certainly is possible that the anti-union hysteria of the late 1970s, leading to the catastrophe of Thatcherism - and the subsequent collapse of the Labour Party - could have been avoided.
148. In 1964, for example, Common Cause issued a pamphlet naming 180 people in Britain with 'Communist connections', including Bertrand Russell, Lord Boyd Orr and the painter Ruskin Spear! See the Sunday Times, 31 May 1964. 'Big Jim' Matthews of the GMWU was one of the Common Cause directors who approved the publication 149. For this view see the memoir by Des Warren, The Key to My Cell, New Park, London, 1982. One of the so-called Shrewsbury pickets, imprisoned in 1972, Warren had been a member of the CPGB, became disillusioned and joined the Workers' Revolutionary Party. 150. Darke pp. 59 and 60 151. A CPGB activist at the time, Harry McShane describes in his memoir how 'overnight we all became democratic and amazingly interested in Acts of Parliament.....the idea was that, whereas the old Industrial Department was concerned with industrial action, the Labour Movement Department would influence the Labour Party and the trade unions and change the character of those bodies....'. McShane p. 246. 152. See Guardian, September 14 1991 and the discussion in Labour History Review, Vol. 57, no. 3, pp. 33-5. 153. My parents were both in the CPGB in the 1945-56 period and talked of the burden of trying to sell Party literature. On the Party's low wages see, for example, the letter from former Party employee Bill Brooks in Guardian, 21 November 1991. 154. Independent, 15 November 1991 155. The people I knew of in the CPGB were, on the whole, well intentioned left democrats who, almost to a man and woman, became Euro-communists in the 70s and 80s. The impact on the Party of the revelation of Soviet funding is discussed in detail in Mosbacher. 156. Think of the logistics of this: assuming only one page per file, for 48 hours, using 1955 technology, and without disturbing the other tenants in the block of flats? It seems unlikely to me. 157. Wright, Spycatcher p. 55 158. Beckett p. 138 repeats the denials of Matthews, attributing it to 'CP officials'. 159. Darke p. 86. On this 'coming out' of concealed CP members, see the conference report in Labour History Review, vol. 57, No. 3 Winter 1992, p. 29. 160. Beckett pp. 147-8 161. Evidence of secret CP members also comes from another Communist Party. In her 1990 autobiography the Australian feminist, poet and Communist Party activist, Dorothy Hughes wrote of the period just after World War 2, when the ACP was under pressure from the state: 'Peter Thomas, Joan's former husband, writes leaders for the West Australian and is an undercover member of the State Committee of the Party.' (emphasis added) Dorothy Hughes, Wild Card, Virago, London, p. 122. 162. Other left-wing parties in Britain have received foreign funding without amounting to anything. The Workers' Revolutionary Party for example. 163. Shaw, Discipline, p. 59 164. See Bower, The Perfect English Spy, chapter 4 165. The Peril In Our Midst, Phoenix House, London, 1956. 166. The Hidden Face of British Communism, Aidan Crawley, Sunday Times, October 28 1962, reprinted as a pamphlet. 167. Middlemas, footnote on p. 414 168. Beckett p. 109. Like the rest of Beckett's book, this is unsourced but presumably the estimate is from CPGB members or former members. 169. See Roberts pp. 210-216. IRIS discussed 'Voice' newspapers in their pamphlet The British 'Left', August 1970, pp. 18 and 19. The scare quotes round 'Left' are IRIS's. 170. Peace News, special issue, 23 August, 1974. 171. Ossian, Glasgow, no date but circa 1984. 172. This is still believed on the right. See for example in the obituary of the London CPGB dockers' leader, Jack Dash, in the Daily Telegraph June 9, 1989. The various dock strikes and the alleged 'communist threat' are discussed in Jim Phillips. 173. Pimlott p. 407 174. In Blackburn and Cockburn (eds.). In that, and in his book The Politics of Harold Wilson, Foot traces the origins of the strike back to the smaller 1960 strike and the formation of the National Seamen's Reform Movement. I discussed Foot's highly selective account of the origins of the strike in Lobster 25.
Historian of the CPGB Willie Thompson writes that 'the Prime Minister indicted the CP (quite inaccurately) for fomenting and organising the strike....accusing King Street of having organised it with the deliberate purpose of inflicting damage on the national economy.' (emphasis added) p. 137. Actually Wilson did not accuse the CPGB of deliberately trying to damage the national economy, and Thompson says nothing more about the alleged CPGB influence on the strike. 175. Blackburn and Cockburn (eds.) p. 175 176. His statement is reproduced in his The Labour Government 1964-70 Penguin 1974, pp. 308-11. 177. On this the evidence is incomplete and contradictory. On the one hand Dr Raymond Challinor told me that he discussed this with Jim Slater just before the latter's death, and Slater told him that he had never met Bert Ramelson, that he had told Wilson this, and that Wilson had acknowledged that he had been misinformed. But in his history of the CPGB Beckett tells us that Slater was part of a 'left caucus.... people who had a high regard for [CPGB Industrial Organiser] Ramelson'. Beckett p. 182 178. Beckett p. 175, Willie Thompson pp. 138/9. 179. This is attributed to Ramelson in Seamus Milne's obituary of him in the Guardian, 16 April 1994. 180. Blake Baker, one of the media experts on the CPGB, who wrote for the Daily Telegraph for many years, on p. 96 of his The Far Left wrote of the subsidies from Moscow: 'No one has ever been able to produce evidence, let alone prove it. ... All that would be necessary is a car or a taxicab to collect a suitcase full of money.' Is Baker hinting here that he knew about the cash from Moscow and how it was delivered? 181. Spycatcher p. 175 Falber's account is in Changes, 16-19 November 1991. In it he writes: First, did the authorities know about it [the Moscow money]? I think they did.' 182. This suggests either that the CPGB had a high-level MI5 mole in its ranks who has never been identified, or that SIS had a hitherto unknown agent inside the Soviet intelligence apparatus. 183. Summers, p. 191 184. Something similar happened in the United States where the people who handled the secret Soviet Union donations to the CPUSA, Morris and Jack Childs, were actually FBI agents. Peter Dale Scott, Deep Politics II: Essays on Oswald, Mexico and Cuba (Green Archive Publications, Skokie, Illinois, USA 1995), p. 93, citing David J. Garrow's The FBI and Martin Luther King (Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1981). 185. This was a staple of the subversive-hunters in the mid 1970s. But compare and contrast Geoffrey Stewart-Smith's Not To Be Trusted: Left Wing Extremism in the Labour and Liberal Parties of February 1974, with his 1979 Hidden Face of the Labour Party, 1979. By 1979 he has added Trotskyist groups in the Labour Party to the CPGB as 'the threat'. 186. The Independent, 1 October 1992.
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