Sunday, 20 April 2014

Bandits of Cheetham Hill

Class at Temple school, Cheetham
 There is a Greenhill never far away in my imagination. It was the the cinema on Cheetham Hill Road where on Saturday nights with ice cream we lapped up the exploits of Burt Lancaster, Humphrey Bogart and Alan Ladd. If you’d wanted to know what had been showing that week at the Greenhill, the Temple or the Cheetham Hill Odeon, you need only have looked into our junior school playground.

Older boys might affect a John Wayne swagger, or strut like Jimmy Cagney. For us, what mattered was content. But we followed certain conventions. Handkerchiefs fluttering from behind schoolcaps made them the kepis of the French Foreign Legion. Raincoats buttoned at the neck but thrown over the shoulders of a running figure meant the Caped Crusader, Superman, was in town; although if the kids thus attired were essaying some nifty fencing, they’d seen the Count of Monte Christo. Jackets buttoned back-to-front however were supposed to mean the Three Musketeers. If the ghost of Black Frenchman Alexandre Dumas is around, that’s two sets of spiritual royalties we owe.

The film that made the deepest impression on me was none of these. I’ve never heard it talked about, nor seen it on TV. Only recently have I managed to reassure myself by discovering it mentioned, under a different title, in a film reference work. It was a black-and-white B-feature called Bandit General which I saw one winter weeknight, sitting with my Mum. It opened inauspiciously, to the eyes of a restless nine year old, with someone on nightshift in a glassworks, blowing a glass bubble. What a swiz, I grumbled, the title had bespoken a gunplaying Western and here was a boring documentary! But with a sharp bang, the bubble burst. Suddenly we were outside the town, where an army of Mexicans in sombreros, bandolier-clad, rifles at the ready, advanced to the rap of side drums and the light of flaming torches. This was more like it!

It turned out to be unlike any film I’d seen before, or many that I’ve seen since. After taking the town, and carousing with the locals, the rebels set up a tribunal before which in the morning’s bright sunlight they summoned the mayor, rich landowners and state officials to answer charges of oppressing the poor. What happened in the end, I forget. There are limits to what a peasant army can achieve, and this lot had done well enough getting past Hays Office, the British Board of Film Censors, and the commercial distributors.

‘Schooldays are your happiest days’, we were repeatedly assured by parents.
If we had believed them, we’d have dreaded what adulthood must bring. A classroom of youngsters bent over their desks, scratching away with cheap school pens dipped in blue-black Stygean corporation ink. trying to learn handwriting. Along the stone-floored, tile-walled corridor can be heard a steel-tipped tread.  Above the glass partition gleams the top of his shiny bald head: our headmaster Mr Driver,  js paying a visit. Fearing to make a smudge or blot, my shaky, perspiring. hand does just that as he stands over me.  Stammering apologies. I'm hauled out before the class and ordered to put out my hand for the strap. After the stroke. from a black leather tause with three flailing tails,  an extra touch.

'Your hand is wet', he complains, ‘you’ve got it on my strap, I'll wipe it on your jacket.' Some kids giggle, others just gawp.  I'm wearing a new light-grey flannel windcheater my parents bought me, first day I've worn it to school and proud with it. Driver wipes his strap on my shoulder and chest, beaming with pleasure at his little joke

In the playground afterwards a kid called Laurence looks around cautiously before whispering his dark discovery: ‘Driver is an antisemit’. (He mispronounces it as the first syllables of antisemitism). He starts explaining that it‘s ‘a Jewish word meaning...’ ‘Oh, you mean a Yidenfeint’ I shrug.

Actually, our headmaster was quite liberal in his prejudices, having a broad range of targets. The school’s catchment area ranged from working-class Hightown through to some of the more prosperous parts of Prestwich. A friend sent to Driver’s study on an errand one morning had to wait while the head was examining parents’ notes excusing their children’s absences from school. One note, perhaps scrawled hurriedly by a busy working mum between giving the kids breakfast and running for her bus to work, was a little grubby compared to the nicely-written note on quality white paper which Driver held up. ‘Look at this, Miss Butler,’ he smirked to his deputy. ‘You can always tell the difference between a Hightown child and a Prestwich child!’ My friend thinks the Hightown child and the Prestwich child were still there. Mr Driver and Miss Butler both lived in the leafier part of Prestwieh.

Another morning, as children were filing into the hall for assembly, Driver focused his angry glare at one who, fresh from a frosty schoolyard, had - horror of horrors - forgotten to remove his headgear. No mere schoolcap this, mind, but an impressive Continental-looking helmet with earflaps that fastened under his chin. "Take yer hat off, Rudi’, our educator roared, ‘Yer look like a flipping refugee!’

A few of the more sycophantic children may have tittered to show appreciation of the headmaster’s witty sally. Among the big boys on the back row, glances were exchanged, teeth gritted, fists clenched at sides. Rudi wasn’t a special mate of ours, or anything. But he was a refugee. At least, his parents were. We had some idea of what that meant. So, we presumed, did Driver.

Health and sickness are the joker in history’s pack. The Black Death brought conditions for the peasants’ revolt, and sped the downfall of feudalism in England. A spell in hospital for sinus treatment postponed my entry to the files of radical terrorism. Feeling against the headmaster and particular teachers had been seething, and it was the season of madcap mischief and hooligan incendiarism leading up to Bonfire Night. On my first day back at school I was confronted by a reproachful Geoffrey Solomons.'We needed you,’ he said.‘We had a plan. We were all going to run down the corridor, and chuck bangers into Driver’s study and the staff room before we ran out of school. We wanted you to lead the charge!’

Touched by the honour my classmates had wished to bestow, I apologised, regretting the missed opportunity for glory. Had Rebbe Dora, my cheder teacher been right, telling my mother I was ‘a born leader’? (‘Sure she didn’t say “folorn bleeder”?’ was my Dad’s comment.) Or maybe Miss Huddlestone at school, who’d amiably asked my parents whether they’d thought of having me certified? (This puzzled me for some time. I knew people got certificates for good things, my cousin had just got his swimming certificate, and I didn’t think Miss Huddlestone liked me.)

A kid called Stanley Greenberg became the hero of our school, although he hadn’t been there long. One week, he wasn’t around. Word spread through the playground of his remarkable act of lone defiance. Ordered to Driver’s study for some misdemeanour, and told to put out his hand for the strap, Stan said with simple eloquence: ‘Fuck off, Driver!’, and walked out of school. What happened to him, or where he is now I’ve no idea. I hope he prospered, and wish him happiness, for the joy he brought us.

As we neared our last year, over which that all-important eleven-plus loomed, we witnessed another side to Mr Driver. Strolling into the classroom in casual mode, he would cheerfully raise the issue of social differences, by conducting a little survey How many of you have televisions at home?' ‘How many of your parent own a motor car?  'Now, hands up all those children who don’t have television or a motor car'; and up would go his hand with ours. We smiled. Some kids laughed; maybe they didn’t believe him.

1 thought it was an untypically nice gesture from our headmaster,  to identify with the less affluent among us. My friend Dave shook his head at my naivety. ‘Don’t you see?", he enlightened me. ‘Driver asks these questions to find out whose parents have got money Then when they're asking about little Johnny's progress, he can suggest they might like to help their child by paying for some private coaching.’ Such cynicism in one so young! Dave became a teacher.

Years later, when Patels and Mohammeds were replacing Cohens and Levys on the school honours board, Mr Driver’s retirement was reported. Distance lends enchantment, they say, and social mobility can play tricks with some people’s memories. A local Jewish paper gave this ‘well-loved figure’s retirement front-page prominence, an ambitious sub even working ‘Goodbye Mr Chips!’ into the headline. Full of praise and nostalgia, former pupils and parents had reportedly showered our old tormentor with gifts. ‘I know what I’d like to have given the old git!’ said my friend Barry, before downing his pint.

He was a quiet studious type - even grown-ups called him ‘the shtiller’ -seldom in fights or trouble except through my influence. He has a good job now, and has almost paid his mortgage.

I confessed how long after leaving I’d dreamt of going back to our old school, and beating up our headmaster in front of the pupils; or maybe going round to Driver’s house and smashing the place up. ‘Let’s go and do it now!’ said Barry, with enthusiasm. With some difficulty, and not without reluctance, I managed to persuade him that it wasn’t such a good idea.

We did have our little intifada at school however. One morning, Mr Driver announced that Ministry inspectors were coming, and would be in our school for a month. ‘And if any of you  misbehave while they' re here, you’ll wish you’d never been born!’

During the month the inspectors were there, however, we soon realised nobody was getting the strap.

We began to push back the borders of what was pennissible, picking and choosing where we sat, and what we ate at school dinners. Kids gave 'cheek' and variously 'misbehaved'. Some lessons even became enjoyable, so that besides talking among ourselves and practising our repartee on teachers, in between fencing with rulers, we actually learned something.

On the first morning after the inspectors had gone back to London,  monitors were sent to each classroom. 'Will the following boys report to Mr Driver’s study...’ As the monitor was leaving, passing Barry’s desk, he let out a yelp of pain. Left off the list, Barry had thumped him in the ribs. ‘Right!’ said the teacher, ‘You can go too!’ Barry’s honour was satisfied.

Outside the headmaster’s study, stretching along the corridor and around the corner, the growing queue for punishment had a festive air. Kids were talking, laughing, calling to new arrivals, waving to friends, and larking about. A teacher popped out of the staff room to call for quiet, with little success. We knew what we were there for, and we didn’t give a damn.

As for me, I was quiet for a moment. Quietly exultant. The times I’d had to stand in the corner facing the classroom wall, or wait in the corridor outside the headmaster’s office, had trained my imagination. Now, staring out of the window across our playground and over the grey slate rooftops of Cheetham, I could hear the rattle of approaching drums, see the columns of marching men, with rifles, bandoliers, and sombreros. The Mexicans, my Mexicans, were marching down Cheetham Hill Road!

First published in Casablanca magazine   Issue 3, February 1993

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Alive and Kicking

we follow the trail of some old but still active Nazis


In January, 1985, Boris Weisfeiler disappeared on a hiking trip in southern Chile. His rucksack, clothes, shoes, credit card and return air ticket were found by the river Nuble. Chilean police said the maths professor must have drowned trying to swim the river. Professor Weisfciler’s colleagues at Penn State University didn’t accept this story. Chileans who knew the river said it would be far too full and fast at that time of the year for anyone to try it. In 1986 the Washington Post reported that the US State Department had asked Chilean authorities for information on Professor Weisfeiler’s whereabouts.

Weisfeiler, a Russian-born Jew, had disappeared not far from a mysterious German settlement called Colonia Dignidad, founded by an old Nazi. On June 30 last year the Department declassified 250 official documents relating to the Weisfeiler case. These show that two or three weeks after the professor disappeared, a person called the American embassy in Santiago and told them the professor was alive. In 1987 the embassy heard that Weisfeiler had been arrested and taken to Colonia Dignidad where he was being held in inhuman conditions, and tortured. Another report said he had been killed.

All this information remained locked up in secret government files while Boris Weisfeiler’s family were trying to find out what had happened to him. The Committee of Concerned Scientists, of which he was a member, set up a legal fund for an investigation. Last year, Chilean courts agreed to re-open the case - one of many concerning disappearances under General Pinochet’s 17-year dictatorship. On 11th October last year police raided the offices of Colonia Dignidad.

US State Department documents obtained by the Weisfeilers lawyers describe Colonia Dignidad as ‘a religious sect led by a charismatic leader similar to Jim Jones in the Jonestown (Guyana) disaster’. Schaefer, an SS veteran and army doctor, became a preacher in post-war Germany, but fled abroad to avoid charges of whipping and molesting children at an orphanage near Bonn. Some of his flock were already in Chile and others followed. They set up Colonia Dignidad on remote land in the Andean foothills 200 miles south of Santiago in 1961. The 32,000-acre farm, shielded behind high barbed wire fences, was watched over night and day by armed guards with attack dogs. Visitors were not encouraged, and residents were not permitted to leave. A German government investigation reported that the sexes were segregated, and children separated from their parents. People caught trying to leave were subjected to psychological and physical punishment, such as being held for long periods in solitary cages, beaten, and injected with drugs. Wolfgang Mueller, who did escape, claimed that as a young boy he had been sexually abused by Schaefer. Others told of sexual assaults and forced labour. Schaefer has been on the run since paedophile charges were brought against him four years ago.

Two visitors who were welcomed at Schaefer’s colony were General Pinochet, and his security chief General Manuel Contreras. Pinochet’s secret police, DINA, enlisted a former SS man. Colonel Walter Rauff, as an adviser. In 1941, as head of the technical division at Reich Security Head Office, RSHA, Rauff decided to ease the work of German forces on the eastern front, by having some 20 heavy trucks converted into mobile gas chambers, and dispatched to the einsatzgmppen (extermination squads). 'So far as the extermination of Jews in Russia is concerned, I know that gas vans were used. Did I think twice about employing the gas vans? I couldn’t say. At the time the most important consideration for me was the psychological stress felt by the men involved in the shootings. This problem was overcome by the use of gas vans.’ An estimated 200,000 people were killed in these vans.

In 1943 Rauff became SS commander in northern Italy. Captured by the Allies, he escaped a prisoner of war camp in 1946, and hid in an Italian monastery, before travelling to South America. A West German extradition request in 1963 was rejected because the crimes of which Rauff was accused were beyond Chile’s statute of limitations. The SS colonel was able to resume his career under General Pinochet. Retiring in comfort, he died in 1983 of natural causes.

Pinochet’s persecution of opponents was not confined to Chilean borders. The CIA and FBI supplied DINA with intelligence reports on Chilean exiles, and Colonia Dignidad helped it ‘draw on national and international contacts’, a declassified CIA report says. In April 1974 two Italian fascists, Prince Luis Borghese and Stefano delle Chiae, arrived in Chile and met Pinochet. Like Walter Rauff, Borghese had served in northern Italy. Captured by partisans, who might have executed summary justice for his crimes against them, he was spared on the insistence of US intelligence officer James Jesus Angleton. Della Chiaie was a younger fascist, a street-fighter who gloried in violence and was implicated in bombings in Italian cities aimed at terrorising people into submission to a right-wing dictatorship. In December 1970, after attempting a fascist coup, the `Black Prince' fled attempting a fascist coup, the 'Black Prince’ fled with his street thug protege to Spain, where Borghese’s wartime comrade in arms, SS Colonel Otto Skorzeny welcomed them.

Set loose in Latin America, the Italian fascist Delle Chiaie ranged from Argentina to El Salvador, helping DINA hunt dorm Chilean exiles, and assisting right-wing death squads. After Chile’s former ambassador in Washington, Orlando Letelier, was blown up on Embassy Row, together with a young American aide, Ronnie Moffat, on 21st September 1976, there was an outcry which eventually led to the conviction of DINA chief and CIA liaison Contreras. By then the Argentine military had emulated Pinochet, and launched its ‘dirty war’ to wipe out ‘subversives’. Then in July 1980, Delle Chiaie’s masterpiece coup in Bolivia brought to power a barbaric military regime which brutalised, tortured and murdered 1,000 people in its first week.

For one resident, it brought comfort and joy. Klaus Barbie, the wartime Gestapo butcher of Lyons, recruited after the war by US army intelligence to spy on left-wing trade unionists in Europe, had been given an assisted passage to South America when French prosecutors first got on his trail. In La Paz he made himself known to the military as representative for the German arms company Merex. Arms dealers can go where diplomats fear to tread. In 1978, after Amnesty International reported what had gone on at Colonia Dignidad, Merex boss, Gerhart Mertens, also linked with intelligence services, was prominent in a ‘Circle of Friends’ of the German settlement. Skorzeny was a Merex director.

Barbie had done well in Bolivia, organising torture and death squads for the right-wing military dictator Hugo Banzer, and financing them through the cocaine trade and money laundering. He even set up Transmaritima Boliviana, buying boats for a landlocked country. Then in June 1980, Bolivia's elections put a reforming coalition led by Herman Siles'Suazo into office, pledged to clean up corruption. The new government accused Barbie of massive fraud, and looked set to deport him. But on 18th July the military seized power, under Luis Garcia Meza, and Barbie could breath freely. Trade unions were abolished, newspapers closed, curfews imposed, and thousands of people arrested, tortured and killed. The Butcher of Lyons was back in business for a few years more, with the butchers of La Paz. Reports used to distinguish between ‘neo-Nazis’ or ‘neo-fascists’ and old ones, but here we see the continuity at work between them.


After the defeat of Hitler’s Third Reich, a handful of senior Nazi war criminals were tried and executed at Nuremburg, The will to prosecute Germany’s bankers and industrialists was blunted by their links with American and British business. The onset of the Cold War against the Soviet Union and communism meant Hitler’s generals and their allies were perceived as NATO assets. As is now well-known, leftovers from the Ukrainian SS Galicia division and Latvian units were shipped to Britain, whence some were despatched on ill-fated missions to infiltrate the USSR. Other Nazis and fascists were assisted by various routes (Madrid and the Vatican were favourite rest stops) to warmer climes, where they formed a network available for skulduggery while awaiting their return to power -the so-called Fourth Reich. This was a hidden counterforce against peoples who aspired to raise themselves, between two world power blocs, as a ThirdWorld.

Otto Skorzeny, the commando whom Hitler sent to rescue Mussolini, and entrusted with organising Werewolf resistance to the Allies, was acquitted at Nuremburg on charges concerning his actions in the Ardennes, where unarmed US prisoners were massacred at Malmedy. His subsequant ‘escape’ from an internment camp in 1948, just ahead of an extradition demand from Czechoslovakia, was probably arranged by his American captors, so that Skorzeny could recruit fellow-Nazis to a ‘stay behind’ network to stop communism. But he was involved in a parallel network, a later favourite of thriller and movie writers, the Organisation of Former SS members known by its German initials as ODESSA. Some reports spoke of die Spinne - the spider’s web.

Living on a farm in Bavaria rented by Countess Use Luthje, niece of the Nazi finance minister, and banker Hjalmar Schacht, Skorzeny contacted General Reinhard Gehlen, the wartime intelligence officer with whom he had set up underground units in Russia and eastern Europe. Gehlen’s post-war American-backed spy organisation, based at Pullach, just outside Munich, became the official Federal German intelligence service, the BND, in 1955. By then, Skorzeny had married Use Luthje and moved to Madrid, where he became an arms dealer. With help and advice from Uncle Hjalmar, the Skorzenys amassed a fortune and a host of useful connections. Among those who had found the climate in Franco’s Spain better for their health in post-war years was Leon Degrelle, commander of the SS Walonie Division on the eastern front. Sentenced to death in absentia by his native Belgium, Degrelle entertained fascists from all over Europe at his luxurious seaside apartment in Malaga, and considered Skorzeny a ‘great friend’.

Skorzeny’s links with Schacht and General Gehlen (and through Gehlen with the CIA) brought valuable business assignments from foreign governments such as Argentina and Egypt, who wanted arms, investment and expertise from wherever they came. Much of the Nazis’ looted gold had been shipped to Argentina after the Vatican and the British government took their cut, and a former Nazi agent in Spain, Horst Fuldner, helped General Peron recruit German scientists and technicians. Through his connections, Nazis like Adolf Eichman found employment in Argentina. Croatia’s wartime dictator Ante Pavelic even set up a ‘government in exile’ in Buenos Aires.

When the infamous ‘Angel of Death’, Josef Mengele slipped away to Argentina, he was helped by Hitler’s ace pilot, Colonel Hans-Ulrich Rudel, who was involved in Argentina’s plane industry. Although Mengele retreated to Paraguay, Rudel continued in business and Nazi politics, starting a Nazi paper and returning to Germany to launch the neo-Nazi Deutsche Reichspartei. In March 1962, meeting in Venice with Italian and French fascists, the Belgian Jean Thiriart and Britain’s Oswald Mosley, Rudel helped form a European National Party. Among the 2,000 people who flocked to Rudel’s funeral in December 1982 was David Irving. Two jets of the modern Luftwaffe flew over and dipped their wings in salute to the dead Nazi hero. German Defence Minister Manfred Worner, a future NATO secretary-general, claimed he knew nothing of Rudel’s politics, but respected his ‘achievements as a soldier'.


After the defeat of the 1936-39 Palestinian revolt, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el Husseini, allied himself with Hitler, hoping Nazi victory would help rid Palestine of both the British and the Jews. (The right-wing Zionist Stern group to which future Israeli premier Yitzhak Shamir belonged, also naively sought an alliance with the devil, albeit with less success.) After the war, the Mufti took up residence in Egypt. Many Germans made their way where Nazi influence had gone before, as mercenaries, businessmen or technicians.

For nationalist army officers and  parties who had fought ‘democratic’ colonial powers, and found state intervention necessary to their country’s development, words like ‘national socialism’ had an appeal. So did anti-Jewish conspiracy theory (suitably adopted, to appeal to people who were also ‘Semites’), when they tried to understand why the West and the Soviet Union had backed partition in Palestine and helped bring about the Naqba (catastrophe).

But insofar as there was a marriage between European Nazism and Arab nationalism, it was an arranged one, and America’s CIA was the shadchan (matchmaker). US policy in these Cold War years was not averse to seeing British, French or other allies (and business competitors) eased out of their colonial fiefdoms, so long as Soviet influence was kept out, and social revolution did not threaten US interests.

In Egypt the Free Officers movement overthrew the corrupt King Farouk in 1952, and two years later Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser became top leader. Striking textile workers at Alexandria were ruthlessly crushed, and militants executed. Communist Party leaders were thrown in jail. The CIA wanted to help the new regime, but without being seen to dirty its hands. So it donned German gloves. Or as Miles Copeland, the CIA’s man in Cairo in the 1950s, put it, the Agency ‘had on its     hands a number of Germans who were not - or in some cases not quite - war criminals’. Seeking jobs  for them, it decided in 1953 that Egypt’s intelligence and security services needed help. In talks with CIA director Allan Dulles, General Reinhard Gehlen said the best man to take charge of the job would be Otto Skorzeny With a little persuasion, and promised the CIA would top up whatever Nasser paid, Skorzeny agreed, and began recruiting his team. His old friend Hartmann Lauterbacher was in touch with the Mufti, and became the BND’s station head in Cairo.

Among those arriving in Egypt was SS Major Leopold Gleim, who had been Gestapo officer   responsible for Jewish affairs in Poland. SS General Oskar Dirlewanger, who had commanded a penal brigade, took charge of training Nasser’s guards, assisted by SS Major Eugen Eichberger, who had participated in Nazi extermination squads in the Ukraine. Recommended by the Mufti, Johannes Von Leers, who had worked with Goebbels, took the Muslim name ‘Omar Amin’ and a post in Egypt’s Information Ministry, with special responsibility for ‘Jewish Questions’. Louis Heiden, alias Louis al-Hadj, translated Mein Kampf into Arabic, and the Egyptian government also published an .Arabic version of the notorious Czarist secret police forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Franz Bunsche, another ex-Goebbels hack with Skorzeny’s team, might have had a better-seller with his work, The Sexual Habits of Jews, if he’d turned it into a series of postcards.

For Egyptian Jews and Communists (many' of whom were also Jews), falling into the hands of Gestapo-trained torturers was not so amusing. An Israeli campaign of sabotage and provocations, misusing idealist young Egyptian Jews, did not exactly help the Jewish community. Whether Nasser believed the nonsense produced by Nazi propagandists, or merely thought it would impress people in the West, is unclear. In the period before Suez the Egyptian leader did consider clandestine peace contacts, some via the British Jewish Labour MP Maurice Orbach. But the Protocols continued to circulate, and their influence can be seen in some supposedly Islamic material. Antisemitic and racist groups have been funded by some Arab states, including Saudi Arabia. In 1962 Egypt’s military attache in London entertained the British Nazi Colin Jordan. Ill-advised as such dalliances are from an Arab standpoint, it has suited both Western imperialists and Arab reactionaries to exaggerate the power of the ‘Jewish lobby’,rather than see anger directed at the West and its interests.

US policy received a couple of blows in 1955 when, stung by heavy Israeli ‘reprisal’ raids for fedayeen action, Egypt turned to the Soviet bloc for arms and aid. Nasser went to the Bandung conference of‘non-aligned’ nations, and recognised the People’s Republic of China. Egypt emerged from the 1956 Anglo-French-Israeli invasion shambles holding its canal, international status, and courtship from both superpowers. German companies like Krupp and Siemens invested in Egypt’s development, while Gehlen’s Org, now the official West German intelligence service, BND, expanded through the Middle East. Alois Brunner, wanted for war crimes including deportation of Jewish children to Auschwitz, moved from Cairo to become BND station chief in Syria. The US had hoped Egypt would join the pro-Western Baghdad Pact, but the 1957 Iraqi Revolution tore Baghdad out of the Pact. Egypt and Syria formed the United Arab Republic in 1958, but Iraq’s General Kassem obstinately pursued his own policies, even letting Iraqi Communists out of prison and into his coalition.

In 1963, Kassem was overthrown in a CIA-supported coup by Ba’athists allied to Nasser. Egypt’s Nazi-trained and officered secret service played its part in the coup and the bloody massacre of thousands of Iraqi workers and leftists, which foreshadowed the even bigger slaughter in Indonesia two years later, and the Pinochet coup in Chile in 1973. Among Iraqi officers whose careers were advanced by the CIA coup was Saddam Hussein.


Israeli propaganda naturally made much of the Nazi presence in the Middle East, as though it explained Arab hostility, rather than merely exploiting it. The capture of Adolf Eichman in Argentina in 1960, and his trial in Jerusalem, highlighted Israel’s claim to defend Jewish people and bring retribution upon our enemies. But as relations with West Germany improved, Israeli agents were told to lay off fugitive Nazis. Reports on Mengele’s whereabouts were filed away for no action. Mossad was concerned about German scientists and engineers developing Egypt’s weapons technology and sent ex-Sternist Yitzhak Shamir to Paris to organise a two-pronged campaign. Scientists and their families received threats and parcel-bombs, newspapers received sensational articles about a Nazi plot to wipe out the Jewish state with new fiendish weapons of mass destruction.

After each world war defeat, Germany’s military-industrial complex took itself abroad to work its way around restrictions on rearmament. But in response to Israel’s concerns, Gehlen’s BND helped an Israeli agent, Wolfgang Lotz, infiltrate German circles in Egypt, where he spied on the government and waged cloak and dagger war on the weapons scientists. In 1963, Israeli agents met Otto Skorzeny in Spain, and enlisted his help. This liaison may have been facilitated by the BND’s Gehlen, or the CIA’s James Angleton, who handled links with foreign services, and managed good relations with assorted Nazis, fascists and Zionists. A German rocket scientist visiting Skorzeny was told the two inquisitive gentlemen with him were ‘NATO officers’.

By the 1970s, Israel itself grew big in the defence and security business. Military exports overtook diamonds, textiles and citrus as earners, and retired or serving Israeli officers turned up in numerous countries, among them Argentina. During the junta’s ‘dirty war’ when at least 11,000 people were ‘disappeared’ by the military, it is estimated that at least 5% of victims were Jewish, although Jews only constituted 1% of the population. This might partly be explained by the targeting of left-wing intellectuals and professional people, but there is other evidence that Nazi training had left its mark on the Argentine officer class and its outlook. Former prisoner Nora Strejilevich recalls: ‘They assured me that the “problem of subversion" was the one concerning them most but the “Jewish problem" ranked second and they were collecting information.’ During raids on homes the security forces became especially vicious if they found a family was Jewish. In prison Jews were made to crawl on their knees, as Jacobo Timerman recounts, humiliated and tortured. Amnesty International reported that torture centres were decorated with swastikas and portraits of Hitler. The military saw nothing incongruous about condemning Timerman as, among other things, a ‘Zionist’, and doing business with the Zionists in Israel.

Israel was selling arms to Argentina. What else was it selling? A 1976 CIA report said officers from an Israeli intelligence centre in Rio de Janeiro had ‘gone to Buenos Aires to give training to the Argentines. In the course of these contacts the Israelis recommended greater involvement in joint anti-terrorist operations.’ The junta, of course, claimed Its ‘dirty war ‘ was a war against terrorism. A report into the ‘dirty war’ commissioned by Argentina's Jewish representative institution, the DAIA, says Jews were interrogated about alleged ‘Jewish campaigns’ and about the community, its institutions, buildings, staff and ideologies. ‘The victims state that torturers evidenced a surprisingly accurate knowledge on some of such issues, and some of them even spoke Hebrew or Yiddish.’

Where US operations or direct arms exports were restricted by Congress, Israel was ready to fill the gap. After Bolivia’s 1980 coup, and brutal repression, the US government, followed by Britain and other European Union countries, and several in Latin America, broke off diplomatic and trade relations, and the IMF refused to renew loans. Israel, together with South Africa, Argentina, Paraguay, Egypt and the USSR, maintained relations, and went further, offering arms and military aid to the brutal dictatorship that was shielding Klaus Barbie. That the ‘butcher of Lyons’ was brought to justice three years later owed nothing to Israel. ‘We must be guided in our relationships by the one criterion that has guided governments of Israel since the establishment of the state, namely: “Is it good for the Jews?”’, wrote former military intelligence Brigadier Haim Vivien Herzog, before becoming president of Israel. Perhaps he even believed it.


In 1992 the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires was bombed, and 29 people killed. Two years later a car bombing at the AMIA, Jewish welfare society premises killed 86 people and wounded hundreds.

It was assumed that Middle Eastern terrorists were responsible for both bombings, and the finger pointed at Iran. But Argentine Jews suspected an Argentine connection. ‘The key question in the case is: who provided local intelligence and support?’ said Horacio Lutzky. ‘That means looking into the Nazi underground, and we all know of the deep influence Nazi ideas have on the Argentine, police, military and security agencies.’

As Argentine democracy attempts to probe the truth about Nazi gold and the ‘dirty wars’, the Far Right lashes out, and new links are revealed. When police investigating the AMIA bombing raided an army barracks at the end of 1995 they uncovered a military coup plot, and found literature produced by the White Aryan Resistance, a US-based Nazi outfit. People remained sceptical, suspecting those arrested, mainly NCOs, were small fry. In 1996 it was revealed that Justice Minister Rodolfo Barra had been a member of a violent Nazi youth movement. On 24th September, 2001, the trial began of 15 former police officers and five civilians charged with supplying the van that was packed with explosive in the AMIA bombing. Who was responsible for the bombing, and why, has yet to be established. Some doubt it ever will.

When I was growing up in the 1950s, adults told me Nazism was past history, and neo-Nazis insignificant, not worth bothering about. Sadly, their optimism has proved mistaken. Starting in Boris Weisfeiler’s ill-fated footsteps, our hike through history to a Buenos Aires courtroom has found hidden connections between yesterday’s horrors and today. The collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War are bringing new contradictions and strange alliances. We will need to confront them with open eyes.

(first published in Jewish Socialist magazine, Spring 2001)

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Last Exit NOT to Brooklyn

During the 1970s and 1980s an international campaign was waged to "free" Soviet Jewry. Although previous campaigns by Jewish students and others had supported the rights of Jews in the Soviet Union to cultural expression and freedom from persecution, the new campaign focused on the right to leave the Soviet Union. Campaigners widely used the Biblical-derived slogan "Let My People Go!", and it became increasingly clear that the Jews who made this Exodus were expected to head for Israel.
Various groups and tactics were engaged in this campaign, from social fundraising, and lobbying political leaders to harassment of Soviet cultural tours and even (in the United States) terrorism. Not all those involved realised let alone questioned the politics in the background.

The campaign did succeed in bringing large numbers of Soviet Jews to Israel, not all of whom bcame willing right-wing settlers, and many of whom though welcoming political freedom found the Zionist state far from being a Land of Milk and Honey, or the standards of welfare and social justice they had hoped for. Others have made it to the traditional 'Goldiner Medina' in the United States, or even settled in, of all places, Berlin.

Meanwhile the campaign also led to such unpleasant sights - insofar as people have able or willing to see them - as Russian Jews being forced on to an Israel-bound plabe at Schipol, Amsterdam, some of them in handcuffs (so much for Zionist freedom); or of Russian-origin neo-Nazi skinheads,their parents having presumably posed as Jews, roaming  streets in Petah Tikvah and other places in Israel, assaulting Jews and Muslims.

The Soviet Jewry campaign has passed into history, and so has the Soviet Union - some like to think their activity in the former contributed to the latter's demise. This article from 1990, critically looking at an aspect of the campaign, is one I am now adding to my collection of Historical Passages.

Towards the end of 1988, it became apparent that the United States government was no longer assuring Soviet Jews refugee status and therefore settlement rights in the US, though it was still pressing the USSR to grant more exit visas. Some officials cited budget difficulties; others pointed to human rights improvements in the USSR to argue there was no longer a "well-founded fear of persecution" .

According to Philip Saperia of the long-established Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (BIAS): 'The policy is causing panic in the Soviet Jewish community here in the US and in the Soviet Union" (Guardian 7 December 1988). The Union of Councils for Soviet Jews claim that ~hundreds of Soviet Jews" had been denied refugee status in the past few months, and threatened that the issue would be an embarrassment for the incoming Bush administration.

In recent months, we have seen a spate of publicity given to Russian antisemitic organisations like Pamyat with its threats of pogroms. Some Jewish publicists affect to see escalating antisemitism even in parts of the Soviet Union where it has never existed,and claim widespread murders of Jews have begun. It would be dangerous to play down the threat of Russian fascism and Black Hundredism - and Jewish Socialist was one of the first publications to expose Pamyat. Of course, even if the threat is as serious as made out or genuinely feared (despite the racists' failure in the last election, though things could look different if the economic depression continues to worsen), our answers might still be different.

Present fundraising efforts emphasise panic and flight - in effect, telling Russian Jews they have no future in the country where they have lived for centuries, and for which they made sacrifices and shed blood, and tapping powerful emotional springs in diaspora Jews, prompting them to help the olim (immigrants to Israel) as refugees.

So what about entry to the United States? On 6 September 1989, the ]erusalem Post reported:

"American Jewish organisations that have been pushing hardest to get more Soviet Jews into the US on refugee status are now ready to accept limits on numbers. They are seeking a compromise with the administration that would channel more US aid to Israel to help it cope with an increased Soviet aliya (immigration to Israel)."

The report quoted Micah Naftalin of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews as saying: "We acknowledge that there are finite limits to how many refugees the US can handle." But Naftalin rejected the policy of giving refugee status only to those with close relatives in the United States.

David Harris of the American Jewish Committee said limitations were inevitable, but the Bush administration was hoping to reach an accord with the Jewish community so as to prevent a fight with Congress, which was considering a bill giving all Soviet Jews automatic refugee status.

HIAS president, Ben-'Zion Leuchner, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that "the majority of federations (Jewish communities in each city) will not fight the government on this because of their own financial problems. Some Jewish communities are nearing the point where they can only fund family reunification cases." However, both Leuchter and Harris said the Jewish community would only support the administration in return for concessions.

Enter Shamir, far right

The Israeli government also had a view on Soviet Jews. Speaking to Likud Party veterans, Shamir declared that mass immigration of Soviet Jews was a "miracle", and that it required Israel to be big as well". They could not think of giving up the Occupied Territories. " We need the space to house all the people," he said, to applause (Jerusalem Post, 14 and l9 January 1990). The call for lebensraum has not gone unnoticed abroad, and not least by the Arabs, of course; but after a period of Intifada, and talk in Israel of a so-called "transfer", a more accurate interpretation might have been that  Shamir's Israel desperately needs more Jews if it is to hold the territories.

Shamir had been pressing the US government for some time to stop Soviet Jews entering, and he also wanted the Soviet authorities to permit direct nights to Israel so that people could not drop out en route.An earlier plan had been to have Soviet Jewish migrants fly to Israel via Bucharest, where Ceausescu might cu-operate in stopping dropouts, but circumstances intervened.

Back in 1982 the Jewish Agency bitterly attacked the Austrian government for placing a Russian language information poster at the Vienna transit centre, telling migrants the addresses of Jewish and non-Jewish organisations which would help them go to destinations other than Israel.'The Israeli ambassador in Vienna persuaded the Austrians to remove the poster. The Agency also sought the collaboration of US Jewish organisations in ensuring that only Soviet Jews with "first degree" relatives in the USA should be helped to go there (Jewish Chronicle, 15 January 1982).

Pressure was put on HIAS. and the Joint Distribution Committee to stop them helping Russian Jews. After attacks from the chair of the Jewish Agency, Arye Dultzin, and Anya director, Raphael Kotlowitz, HIAS, which had earlier claimed it was helping the "drop-outs" only to stop them falling into the clutches of the Satmar Hassidim {ultra orthodox anti-Zionists) or non-Jewish organisations, caved in to a plea from Begin. The board of governors of the American Society agreed by 13-3 to accept that it should help only those with close relatives in the US

(Jewish Chronicle, 9 Oct, 6 Nov, II Dec 1981).

Rich Uncle in the States?

Having said they couldn't afford to fund the settlement of Soviet Jews in America as one reason they backed down from challenging Bush over restrictions, American Jewish leaders are now calling upon their communities to cough up the cost of settling the Jews in Israel.

Likud Knesset member Michael Kleiner, chairman of the Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee, told the Jerusalem Post's Asher Wallflsh on 14 January that Shamir and Pores must go to the US to raise the money for settling Soviet Jews in Israel. Criticising Jewish Agency targets of $1 billion from American Jewry (twice what they'd originally set) as inadequate, Kleiner said Israeli and diaspora Jews should agree to meet the eventual cost, whatever it was. Admitting that it could rise to between $6 and $10 billion, he said that Israel would have to shelve all national and municipal development budgets (hard luck, Hatikvah quarter) and that diaspora Jews must come in 50:50 (Jerusalem Post, 14 Jan 1990) .

At a press conference in New York attended by Natan Sharansky, honouring an announced $20 million housing fund for Soviet Jews in Israel set up by investment banker Joseph Gruss, David Sacks of the United Jewish Appeal said the Appeal might raise its $350 million pledge over one year, instead of three as originally planned. Asked about the overall $500 million, Sacks said: "I can see the possibility of doubling that figure."

Last February the Council of Jewish Federations (CJF), at its General Assembly in Miami, pledged that its members would deliver its financial commitment to Israel "whether or not we are successful in raising the full amount", according to executive director Don Felstein, who explained that if necessary federations would have to borrow the money, or cut other budgets. The U}A had meanwhile upped its target, to raise $420 million in one year (Jerusalem Post, 9 February 1990).

Rescue or aliyah?

According to Felstein, some delegates at the CJF's Assembly were concerned about Shamir's remarks on the need for a big Israel". The leadership had managed to calm their fears, saying that less than 1% of Soviet}ews were settling the West Bank.

Felstein said that what had helped convince delegates of the need to deliver the money was a set of articles in the New York Times about the growth of antisemitism in the Soviet Union. There was a general realisation in Miami that American Jewry has a chance in 1990 to do what it failed to do in 1939 (]erusalem Post, 9 Feb 1990).

This last remark is significant. We all know of the Jews who were turned away from America's shores in 1939 and after. In 1981 a commission was set up to examine the way American Jewish organisations had behaved during the years of Nazi mass extermination of the Jews of Europe. Among the questions posed was whether these organisations might not have saved thousands of lives if they had put pressure on the Roosevelt administration. The commission broke up in disarray at the end of 1982 without completing its work (Daily Telegraph, 5 }an 1983).

However, a privately circulated interim report stated: "In retrospect, one incontrovertible fact stands out above all others: in the face of Hitler's total war of extermination against the Jews of Europe, the Jewish leadership in America at no stage decided to proclaim total mobilisation for rescue" (New York Herald Tribune, 5 }an 1983) .

Whether pressure on Roosevelt might have worked, we can only guess. The American Jewish community did not feel so confident then. There was fear that America's own antisemites would use the prospect of mass Jewish immigration to stir up hatred against those already there. Later, American Jews would vent their feelings on Britain for restricting entry to Palestine. Leon Uris could write Exodus and Hollywood make the movie.

One can understand the remark about not repeating 1939, but have Don Felstein or the Jewish Federation read the history properly? Weren't guilt pangs over bowing down to the antisemites during the War assuaged by listening to other arguments?

"If Jews will have to choose between the refugees, saving Jews from concentration camps and assisting a national museum in Palestine, mercy will have the upper hand and the whole energy of the people will be channeled into saving Jews from various countries. Zionism will be struck off the agenda . . . If we allow a separation between the refugee problem and the Palestine problem we are risking the existence of Zionism," wrote David Ben Gurion in a letter to  the Zionist Executive in  1938, concerned lest other territories be found to take Jewish refugees (The Other Israel by Arie Bober, published by Matzpen).

The Goldberg commission's report noted that established Zionist organisations were "riveted to post-war plans" for a Jewish state and this was another reason not to demand entry for Jews to America. And today?

"Could Israel morally survive the appearance of 500,000 Jewish refugees heading for another galut(diaspora) were the gates of the USSR opened?" asked Mikhail Agursky and Alexander Libin, in the ]erusalem Post (6 October 1982). "The drop out phenomenon corrupted and demoralised Soviet Jewry", they claimed. The Zionist writers rejected any move to grant refugee status to Soviet Jews wishing to enter America.

More recently, Isi Leibler, vice-president of the World Jewish Congress and a leading Zionist figure in Australia (doubtless another over-populated little country that couldn't possibly find room for more }ews), said; 'The Soviet Jewry movement is not a travel agency, and transfer of one diaspora to another, even from a Communist society to a democracy, is not a pressing national Jewish objective. This is especially true if the overwhelming majority of Jews wanting to leave - currently over 90% - do not want to go to Israel."

Double bind

One problem with these arguments is that the Soviet Union today, whatever it is, is not Germany in 1939.Far from having been systematically persecuted and driven from public life as German  Jews were by state policy from 1933 on (and more especially from 1938), Soviet Jews are enjoying a new flowering of cultural and political freedom. The antisemites are menacing, but not yet much  more. There is violence, but not much greater than in, say, the United States (or, in a different way, in Israel). The Russian Nazi groups'votes were derisory.

This  is not to recommend complacency but to suggest that antisemitism in Russia can be fought and beaten. But in order to squeeze huge sums out of Jewish communities already facing cash  problems, the Zionist movement has had to hype up the Russian situation to make it sound as though Auschwitz is round the comer. "Shadow Of The New Nazis" screamed the headline to an article by Jane Moonman of BIPAC (Jewish Chronicle, 9 Dec 1988). "Never Again 1939" is the kind of sentiment being tapped into in the States.

The snag is, if people really believe it's that bad, mightn't they decide that what's needed is rescue rather than aliyah to Israel? Mightn't they press for open doors and refugee status?

On 15 February, Israel's Absorption Minister, Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz, shocked Zionist opinion by naively declaring; "Should the escape route of the Soviet Jews lead them to Western Europe or the United States, this is better than they they should stay in the Soviet Union." (Peretz is a member of the non Zionist orthodox Shas Party.) Shamir promptly told the Israeli press: 'There is no need to take note of the remarks made by Absorption Minister Yitzhak Peretz" (Ha'areiz, 16 Jan 1990).

Michael Kleiner, of the Knesset' s Immigration and Absorption Committee, complained that Peretz's remarks would be used by "HIAS officials, who don't care about the well-being of the Jews", but merely wish to keep going as an organisation by "disseminating untruthful propaganda about Israel and about the condition of Soviet Jewry . Kleiner went on to claim the Absorption Minister had "fallen victim to the propaganda and fear-spreading campaign conducted by vested interests who are striving to reopen the gates of the United States to Jewish immigrants" (Ha'aretz, 15 Feb 1990).

Jewish Agency chairman, Simha Dinitz, had revealed on 11 February that the Agency had approached American Jewish leaders some weeks before to ask them to stop HIAS opening an office in Moscow which might help Jews going to America and "sabotage immigration to Israel".

On 18 February, Michael Kleiner proclaimed; 'This cancerous growth called HIAS must be totally eradicated." Claiming that HIAS lobbying had persuaded the US government to grant 8,000 more refugee-entry permits to Soviet Jews, Kleiner accused the Jewish organisation of doing this just to maintain 'bloated bureaucracy and corrupt officials".

Furthermore, he accused; 'HIAS is preparing the ground for an upsurge of antisemitism in the United States," because, by "luring Jews who really want to settle in Israel to go to America instead," it was leading to the day when American Jewry would be accused of stealing the places of others" (]erusalem Post, 19 Feb 1990).

So how did the American Jews respond to this belligerent language and the threatening suggestion that Jews are to blame for a rise in antisemitism? Ben Zion Leuchner of HIAS denied that his organisation had asked the US to increase its ceiling on Jewish refugees. He pointed out that HIAS was actually reducing staff. He denied that it sought to persuade anyone to go to America: "To the contrary, our staff members are instructed to tell the relatives of Soviet Jews that the quickest way for their family to be resettled in freedom is to go to Israel" (]erusalem Post, 4 March 1990).

Martin Kraar, of the North American Council of Jewish Federations, reassured Kleiner that the 8,000 Jews who were being assisted had already been allowed for in October and that there was no intention of increasing the entry quota further. He further assured Kleiner that his Council would be keeping an eye on HIAS to "ensure it didn' t divert Soviet Jews to any other destination save Israel."

So once again language that would be rightly denounced as antisemitic on the lips of others is considered acceptable from Israeli leaders. And once again diaspora Jewish leaders kowtow to Israeli leaders, protesting their innocence of any charge that they are making demands on their own government to assist fellow Jews find freedom! No longer are they demanding: "Let My People Go," but: "Don't Let My People In"!

A useful memorandum on Soviet Jewish migration has
been produced by the Committee to Open Borders. Send a
large sae to Jewish Socialist, BM3725, London WCIN
3XX, for a copy.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

How King Street Kept an Eye on the Left 2

right: CND's PEGGY DUFF.  CP department was informed on
her daughter's wedding.
left: HARRY CONSTABLE addressing dockers during 1950 strike.
After he left CP because of its failure to support the strike, 
Party snoops  kept tabs on him and other dockers.

On the National Status Cornrnittee in the Manchester area were Trevor Park, Ted
Morris from Wythenshawe, and Frank Hallas from Salford. Leeson claimed Park
"obligingly gave me all the details of Morris's and Hallas disruptive activity in
the Chemical Workers Union and TGWU.

Hallas admitted (or rather boasted) that during an election in the Chemical Workers
Union the Trotskyists "forged 2000 votes in order to stop the Communist candidates
being elected..'26

On 7 October 1954, Monty ]ohnstone produced another report, based on
conversations with his informer: so-and-so was 'back with the Trotskyists ; CLR
James was back in Britain;there was "quite a nest of Trotskyists in Richmond and
Barnes . . . C.van Gelderen who spoke on the colonies at the LP conference -reported
in the DW - is one of them; .Phil Sheridan, Lawrence group member in Clapton LLOY,
has recently married Kath - . . daughter of Peggy Duff, business manager of Tribune.
Michael Foot gnd others attended the wedding and gave presents, ."27

}ohnstone also noted: "Harry Constable, London docker, former Oehlerite, is one of
the most out-and-out Trotskyists in Healey's (sic) group.

"Birkenhead Unofficial Port Workers Committee apparently affiliated en bloc to the Fourth InternationaI and were represented (their representative differed from meeting to meeting) on the national conunittee of the British section when it was united."28

Hoping to get into the good books of the Transport and General Workers Union (which had a ban on Communists holding office), the Communist Party leadership viewed with anxiety the growing unofficial movement, and talk among dockers of switching to the National Amalgamated Stevedores and Dockers(NASD) or "Blue . Union" (from the colour of its membership card, mt its politics!)

A report dated 15 September 1954 listed as "Active among Hull dockers for the
Transfer to NASD":

"MURPHY. Known Trotskyite. Runs a small business, believed to be a poultry

SHAW. A member of USDAW from London. Expelled from the Party in
Yorkshire for Trotskyism.Spent his holiday in Hull.

JOHNSON. Engaged in Trotskyist activity among the dockers in Birkenhead.

PENNINGTON. A Trotskyite from Leeds.

BRANDON. from Birkenhead. A docker dismissed from the industry some time ago, known to be in contact with the Trotskyists."29

It was not only Trotskyists who were watched. A report  at this time from"Dennis G." (Goodwin?)named a Blue union officer called Newman "said to h ave T connections". and several London dockworkers, including:

"Daniels - Party member, clerk, Transport and General. Disrupter in Poplar Party3 or 4 years ago. Probably up tor expulsion. Should be watched.

Dennis O'Hearn - Party member. Close to Daniels. Stepney. Was Party councillor in Stepney.

Timothy - Who tore up his Party card.   Only joined Party6 months ago. Very anti..Party.
Probably quite genuine."31

A report on the docks from Phil Stevens in December 1954 gave brief notes on over a
dozen workers, e.g.:

"Sandy Powell MRA Chairman Peace Committee, exec.dockers section NASDU,
Reads DW (Most MRA boys do), gets some Party support . . .Possible source of leakage
to the Press.

Fred Martel,ILP .Sec. port workers cornmittee, very anfi-Party, sells Socialist Leader.

Bert Aylward, Trot. ex-CP, Surrey Docks, exec NASTU Ships Clerks Liaison Committee, speaks at meetings . . .Charlie his brother.

Bill Johnson from Birkenfiead, . . .lead men into Blue Union . . . .John Cavener, suspect Trot, . . .PortWorkers Commfttee . . Harold Bartholomew, suspect Trot., NASTU, . . ex-
CP. ."31

During the 1955 "Blue Union" strike the Communist Party opposed recognition of the NAS&D in the northern ports, but ordinary TGWU members, including Communist Party dockers,would not cross picket lines. However, the "Blue Union" was forced to retreat by TUC pressure, invoking the Bridlington agreement .32

It seems no tit-bit was too small for the net. From Surrey, Syd French (later to be a founder of the "tankie" New Communist Party) wrote in a note about the Labour Party agent in Merton being a former Trotskyist.33

When a local newspaper in Enfield reported in September l954 that a Labour councillor,
a railway clerk,was moving to Lincolnshire, the clipping found its way to Betty Reid's
desk, and she alerted the secretary of the CP East Midlands District Committee:.

"Dear Mick,

You may be interested to know that a man called Edmund Mardell who has been a
Labour councillor in Enfield has been transferred to become the station master at
Appleby.You might watch out for his name in the Labour movement because he is one
of the Trotskyists who has been active there"34

The attitude of Communist Party members asked to report on fellow-workers varied.
The terse replies given by some seasoned militants suggest they had better things to
do. Others were more dedicated, or found it a lark. On 26 August, 1954, Michael Foot
spoke at a London meeting protesting the Labour Party's ban on Socialist Outlook,
Taking notes for the Communist Party ("Loudest applause of allfor Foot, basically
because he was the best turn")was someone who signed him or herself "JT",35 and was
at it again later that year.


During the course of a very short visit to Liverpool on Od.27 /28 l learnt in course of
conversation with Les Partington, bookshop manager, that REVOLT is being pushed
by two ex-p.m., Eric Heffer, a "Welwyn" character, and LP.Hughes (? left or expelled in the 1930s.) They are connected with McShane. The "progressive" opposition to Bessie Braddock in the Exchange Division is made up of Trots.

Syd A. had the shock of his Life when he innocently entered the shop to buy lit. and
found agent J.T. sitting there gazing at him reproachfully. He said he had sworn to let
Betty have ALL by Thursday morning (4th Nov,) "36

"Agent"at"large" JT reported what he had learnt hom a contact on the fringe of the
Socialist Outlook split, concerning share buying and proxy votes rather than the
political issues. His report the following month was headed:


On the occasion of the 37th.anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, 1
engaged personally in light conversation MR.JACK STANLEY. I elicited from him
the following .

Stanley was battling with Labour Party secretary Morgan Philipps to establish that
the proscription against Socialist Outlook did not cover membership of the Labouf
Publishing Society,as it was not mentioned by name. "Anyway there is no money to
pay out, so the members can't get rid of their shares."

There was trouble over the libel action brought by Godfrey Philipps, the tobacco firm, over an article in Socialist Outlook. The paper had been due to print an apology but had ceased publication. The only people who could be pursued for money were the printers, J..Stafford Thomas. Mrs,Stanley had lent them money for machinery.

"We are making plans to bring out something to replace SO," Stanley had told him. He was less forthcoming, or knowledgeable, about the reasons for the split in the editorial board.

JT concluded his report: "I hope HP passing by noticed that I was ON THE }OB". We
might guess this referred to HarryPolitt.37

Unlike the agents of MIS, or the KGB, the people who gathered information for the
Communist Party were amateurs. They did their intelligence work as communists defending the working class, and the cause of peace and socialism, from agents of  The Great Conspiracy-38

Not only did their vigilance fail to protect the Party from real agents (one of whom, Betty Gordon, was befriended by Betty Reid, according to Rupert Allason),39 but intelligence concerning Tmtskyists etc.,was passed to Labour Party officialdom, and used by right-wingers who really were in touch with the intelligence services and the CIA.40.

Stalinism, as a bureaucratic apparatus symbolised by the Wall, has collapsed, its heirs as fragmented as their left-wing opponents. Hopefully this article, besides offering a sidelight on the British labour
movement during the Cold War 1950s, may prompt former Communist Party members who have been examinfng their past (including some to whom we have referred) to tell us more. In the same spirit of glasnost, others may come forward with a tale to tell. for we needn't suppose the contagion of snoopery remained confined to Labour and the CP- If the left is to put its house in order. we must clear out the dirt from under all our carpets.


1- letter 19.' 1.51.

2. Quatcd Stewart Steven Operation Splinter Factor". see also Robin Black -Stalinism in Britain          (1970), David Caute. "-"The FellowTravellers- (1973). Zilliacus' books included -I Choose Peace- (1951), Tito of Yugoslavia.. (1952).

3, Challenge, 30 January 1953. quoted Black,p 250

4. Letter to Central Organisation Dept.,7 }uly 1953

5. Special Bulletin for meeting, 30 January 1953 

6. Letter, 24 March 1953

7. Hand-written report with covering letter from Bill Alexander, 26 February 1954, with reply from Betty Reid, thanking district, 1.March 1954.

8. Letter, 24 March 1954

9.  "Information Statement", dated 6 May 1954- Dick Beech and Bob Edwards were leaders in the
Chemical Workers Union. Beech, a former "Wobbly , and member of the CP".-led Minority
Movement, had quit the CP for the ILP in 1943. Edwards had fought in Spain with tfie ILP
contingent, became ILP national chair 1948, but was elected Labour MP for Bilston in 1955,

10.Socialist Outlook was not purely Trotskyist. The report mentions Reg Birch of the AEU taking part in the meeting. Birch left the CP in the early 1960s to form a Maoist group.

11.Drawn from "A Lifelong Apprenticeship", by Bill Hunter, due out this Autumn (1996) from Index/Porcupine. Hunter was expelled from Islington Labour Party in 1954. The Bevanite Left opposed expulsions, but some union delegates under CP influence stayed away from the meeting so the right-wing narrowly got its way.

12."Report on Trots to 1/5154", handwritten, signed "ED". dated 1/5/54. Jock Haston had obtained
1,782 votes for the Revolutionary Communist Party in the Neath byelection. 1945.
13. Letter, undated, probably June 1954.

14. Memo from Reid to Peter Kerrigan

15. Memofrom Reid,4 June 1954. Note from J.Evans.

16  Dennis Goodwin, letter 18 June 1954. Harry Constable, arrested by the Atdee government
under wartime Order 1305, for leading London dockstrike, expelled by the Transport and General
Workers Union in 1949, but remained a respected figure among dockers. See Bill Hunter, 'They
Knew Why They Fought" (1994),

17,  Bert Pearce, Birmingham, letter to Mick Bonnet 16 June 1954,with report attaefied.

18. Betty Reid,.letter of thanks to Bert Pearce, Midlands District Committee, 25, June 1954.

19. lnternal Bulletin,BritishSection,20 February l954

20."Report of meeting called by John Lawrence, of about 50 London supporters, October 2nd 1954'
Lawrence achieved fame as a Labour councillor hoisting the Red Flag on St. Pancras town hall.
On 23 November 1958 the DailyWorker reported that he had joined the Communist Party. Later he
became more of an anarchist, and was active in the London May Day Committee.

21. Report on Trotskyist activity,typewritten 7 pages, Monty Johnstone 31 August 1954.

22. Report of Discussions with John Gaffe.

23.Ras Makonnen, b. George Thomas Nathaniel Griffith, in Guyana, adopted his name and Pan
African views after Italian invasion of Ethiopia. During World War II he opened club in Manchester,
catered for black GIs. Africans and West Indians Financed political and legal defence work, helped
1945 Pan African Congress, close to Nkrumah and Kenyatta. Wrote .'Pan Africanism from the Inside"
(1973). (See Peter Fryer, .Staying Power.., 19ff'f).

.24.Frank Allaun,then a Daily Herald journafist, wrote an introduction to Bill Tyler's"Letters from Korea".,published by `Socialist Oudook, Lnce.Cp. Tyler, a Salford man, had been killed in a war he opposed. Allsun became a well-liked left-wing Labour MP, for Salford East. I worked in his 1959 election campaign during my school holidays. Frank Allaun had helped organise first Aldermaston march, and remained active in CND.

25. Some information on Trotskyist activities, 1949-1953,  typewritte four pages by Bob Leeson.

26.On Chemical Workers Union, see Shirley Lerner, "Breakaway Unions and the Small Trades Union" (1961), The ballot-rigging story, ironically three years before the ETU case, seems to have been just gossip.

27. Peggy Duff, whose journalist husband had been killed reporting a wartime bombing raid, brought
up three children, served as aSt.Pancras councillor.and became secretary of CND. A J Davies, "To Build a New Jerusalem", (1992), Duff, "Left, Left, Left.' (1971).

28.Trotskyists.Monty Johnstone 7 Oct. 1954. See also notes 16 and 36.

29.Notes on Docks situation personalities, Dennis G. Sept. 1954.

30. Dated 15 September 1954, no name. Hull dockers had come out in August over antiquated and
dangerous working conditions. On 22 August, dissatisfied over lack of TGWU support,they voted
at a mass meeting to apply for membership of the NASD.

31. Report from Phil Stevens on Docks, handwritten, 4 sheets. Bert Aylward,a Blue Union rnilitant since the 1920s, with Constable in 1305 battle and after. Left the CP because it opposed 1945 dock strke.See Hunter(ibid), Keith Sinclair, .How the Blue Union came to Hull Docks.. (Hull 1995), John
Mcllroy, `The First Great Battle.., in Revolutionary History, Vol 6, no. 213. (Summer 1996],

32. Hunter (ibid).

33. Report from Sid French, September 1954.

34. Note (23 September) from Enfield with news clipping, letter from Central Organisa6on Dept to
E. Midlands District Committee, marked "by hand", 5 October 1954.

35. "Withdraw the Ban on Socialist Outlook!", Protest Meeting Holborn Hall.WCI, Thurs. 26 Aug 1954, signed "JT". Mfchael Foot was editor of Tribune.

36. Report from JT, 31 October 1954. A conference in Liverpool on 17-18 July had established a
Federatfon of Marxist Groups, and adopted .Revolt" as its organ. Labour's Merseyside Voice
("Marxists meet in Liverpool"), August 1954, mentions  FA Ridley,EricHeffer,HanyMcShane,
and Joe Thomas (London Workers Group) as speakers. Heffer,expelled from Communist Party
in Welwyn Garden City. had taken up the ideas of Hugo Oehler, a pre-war heretic opposed to
Trotsky's tactic of entry into reformist parties. Oehlerites came to believe Russia's bureaucratic
degenera6on began with Trotsky, rather than Stalin.
Harry McShane,veteran of pee-war unemployed struggles, and Daily Worker Scottish
correspondent. During the Korean war the CP leadership condemned his Gorbals branch as
'adventurisf".After a row with the leadership,McShane resigned,saying the Party had become reformist.(London meeting 1955, reported by AEH for the
Communist Parfy)-

37. The Better the Day. the Better the Deed; report from IT dated November 1954.

38. The Great Conspiracy Against Russia.`,byMichael Sayers and Albert E. Kahn (New York 1946), a classic of Stalinist conspiracy theory,stillcirculates among Old Believers - a Bengali edition was
published in 1986

39. Nigel West,..Mf5 1945 72.`,p.62,

40. Dorril and Ramsay, .Smear!" (1991),pp. 13 16.

This article first appeared in Stephen Dorril's Lobster magazine, issue 31, 1996.

How King Street Kept An Eye on Left 1




In the 1950s, a network of dedicated informers secretly kept tabs on the Left in Britain. They weren't working for the Special Branch, MI5 or the CIA. Their instructions came from the Central Organisation Department of the British Communist Party. 

KONNI ZILLIACUS. Gateshead MP expelled by Labour as "fellow traveller", denounced in Prague as "British imperialist agent". Zilliacus, later MP for Manchester, Gorton, had upset Stalinists by siding with Tito in opposition to Moscow line.

In 1951 a young man called lan, from Wavertree in Liverpool,wrote to a comrade called Vic about the Labour League of Youth(LLY) on Merseyside: "I am now on a personal friendly basis with members of the LLY from at least five different branches on Merseyside . you know, to the extent that I am going round to the sec. of one of the branches next Tuesday for tea and we are then having (at his request) a long talk about the past and present policies of the CP, . .'

"Of these branches,Birkenhead and Walton are completely dominated by the Trotsky organisation together with unorganised Titoist elements.While Bootle,Princes Park are run by Catholic Action and the Trotskyite groupings are confined to only one or two members,Wavertree LLY is run by the very reactionary Labour constituency partyand it is very difficult to carry on discussions.'

Ian estimated that Birkenhead,Walton and Bootle had up to 28 members apiece, He described their"pseudo-Marxist education' and activities, and named names. On Bootle; 'The Trotskyite responsible for the Trotskyite fraction for work in this branch is Bill Fletcher,who is I believe incidentally a renegade from the YCL . 'TheTrotskyite group controls the "Rally' the organ of Birkenhiead LLY having at least four out the seven members of the editorial board - those members being .(gives names) ... The editor Alan Giles is however not I think a Trotskyist but is a Titoist who gets most of his line from Yugoslav Fortnightly and the Anglo- Yugoslav Friendship. 1

"Titoism" was a serious charge. Laszlo Rajk, Hungarian Communist Party leader and Spanish Civil War veteran, had been executed as a "Titoist' in 1949. The British Communist Party published ".Tito's Plot Against Europe' (1950), by Derek Kartun, and lames Klugman's "From Trotsky to Tito" (1951), Konni Zilliacus, MP, expelled by Labour as a "fellow-traveller", had written for  R.Palme-Dutt's Labour Monthly, and his book Dragon' s Teeth was recommended by it in July 1949. In the December 1949 issue Ivor Montagu attacked Zilliacus for siding with the Yugoslavs, and during the 1952 Prague trials the Gateshead MP was denounced as an "imperialist agent", "one of the most experienced agents in British intelligence".2

Czech CP general secretary Rudolf Slansky and his co defendants were "found guilty of spying and sabotage for the US and its satellites,' wrote Monty Johnstone in the Young Communist League's monthly, Challenge. "Many were shown to have  "acted as spies in the labour movement since the pre war days. . , Such activities can and must be rooted out in this as in other countries . . .'3

The Trotskyists and "Titoites" of Merseyside weren't the only cause for concern. In 1953 the Teeside district secretary reported coming across an organisation called Common Cause in West Hartlepool.4 He enclosed a duplicated bulletin it had produced for a meeting on "Stalin' s fascist imperialism", denouncing the Communist Party as "a treacherous conspiracy", Advertised speakers included Rupert Speir, the Tory MP for Hexham, and "C .A .Smith, MA, PhD, BSc (Econ.)",whom it mentioned had been 'Dux prizewinner at the local secondary school', rowed for King's College, Newcastle, graduated in philosophy, become national chairman of the ILP, and was now general secretary of Common Cause, "the new non-party anti- Communist organisation.'5

 "There is nothing very much for us to add. .', the Central Organisation Department (aka Betty Reid) replied,"C.A. Smith has a long record of Trotskyist activities and is a bitter anti.Soviet propagandist. . .'6

On 1 January 1954 the Holiday Friendship Service advertised in "Tribune offering trips in Bulgaria and the Russian zone of Austria.  Communist Party members were asked to look into this. One of them dutifully attended a meeting in Swansea, where "a young woman called Miss Smith,age about 25, a most unnatural manner," "come hither" " eyes' answered questions and discussed arrangements for holidays in Bulgaria. The report was forwarded to headquarters by Bill Alexander, of the Welsh district committee, which was thanked for being first to respond to the Party's request.7

Phil Piratin, former Communist MP for Mile End, wrote to Peter Kerrigan (CP industrial organiser) about a man called C.Ford who was working for the Amalgamated Engineering Union: "At a talk he gave to an organisation recently where he expressed quite reactionary views, he also mentioned that he had contacts in countries like Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. He said that he was arranging a holiday visit to Bulgaria this year. That is all the information I have,It maybe that he is connected with one of the friendship organisations, in which case the sooner they get to know about him the better.

On ll April l954 the Movement for Colonial Freedom was formed. A five page report for the Communist Party detailed its aims, officers, and sponsors, who included Tony Benn, Sir Richard Acland, Walter Padley MP, Reverend Donald Soper, Cannon Collins, Dame Sybil Thomdyke,and among union leaders, Bob Edwards, Jack Stanley and Jim Mortimer. Fenner Brockway was elected chairman. and the council included Jennie Lee, Leslie Plummer, Tony Benn and Canon Collins.

Claiming the support for the colonial peoples was "a tribute to the stimulating effect of the Daily Worker and the activity of the Communist Party, ' the report adds:
"However,this new movement has no clear policy on the nature of the common fight with the colonial peoples, and there are extremely dubious elements in the leadership,"9

This sour note may have been induced by the prominence of former ILP members like Brockway, Bob Edwards, Walter Padley and Dick Beech.JackStanley,leader of the Constructional Engineering Union, was working with the Trotskyists on the editorial board of "Socialist Outlook". A
"Socialist Outlook" meeting at Holborn Hall on Sunday19 October 1952, at which the main speakers were editor John Lawrence and Gerry Healy, was the subject of a detailed report..l0

In April 1954 the Communist Party's"World News and Views' ran two articles by someone called Barry McKaig on "Trotskyism in the Labour Party'. Basing himself on the Moscow Trials and the
thoughts of Comrade Stalin, the writer declared: "ContemporaryTrotskyism is not a political tendency in the working class, but an unprincipled band of wreckers.... in the hire of intelligence service organs of foreign States".

After this,he got down to his real business; naming names, of people associated with "Socialist Outlook" who were former members of the Revolutionary Communist Party. " Mr Healy is, of course, one of the best known of post-war Trotskyists...Mr.C. Van Gelderen, a South African, has featured in Socialist Outlook ...was a member of the Executive Committee of the Revolutionary Socialist League and youth organiser, Another contributor to Socialist Outlook is Mr. W. Hunter. who was a contributor to Socialist Appeal and a London Divisional Organiser of the ILP in 1944. (He was ILP Industrial Organiser in London).

Labour's National Executive Committee took up the chase in a circular to Labour Party members; While prominent members of the Labour Party have contributed to this journal (Socialist
Outlook) a number of its regular contributors are known for their previous association with the Trotskyist Revolutionary Communist Party. The Revolutionary Comrnunist Party dissolved
in 1949 and advised its members to join the Labour Party and fight for their policy within its ranks'.

In a Sunday newspaper article defending the refusal of political asylum to an American professor, Dr. Cort, Home Secretary Herbert Morrison remarked that Labour had refused to admit Leon Trotsky
in l930,out of consideration for its relations with the Soviet Government.Michael Foot, writing in Tribune, asked: What in heaven's name is the National Executive trying to achieve by this rigmarole? Are they attempting to appease the NKVD and the Un-American Activities Committee by the same single act? . 11

On May Day 1954 someone sat down to pen a "Report on Trots' quoting an interview with Ron Halverson, in Enfield, and information from "Doug M.' in south London,, and "Mac' in north-west London. Dealing with various AEU stewards and Labour councillors associated with "Socialist Outlook", it also noted in passing:"The congress delegate from Neath who was put up by a friend of Doug's alleged that Homer was losing influence among miners because of his drinking and private life. Should be noted that there are Trots in Neath."12 [Arthur Homer(1894-1968), a founder member of the CP, was elected South Wales miners' president in 1936, and became general secretary of the
National Union of Mineworkers in 1946. he was a likable character, with friends who had little sympathy with his communist views'(Chambers Biographical Dictionary). Some miners didn't like
Horner's suport for productivity drives.

In response to a note from Reid, Eddie Marsden, a Party member in the Constructional Engineering Union,said he and someone called Bobby had had a chat with Jack Stanley. "We are not properly
aware, other than the article in WN, as to what is thought of SO and its E. board, but JS did tell me they had made a number of changes . . .' Marsden thought Stanley was not politically sophisticated," he might be fooled' by the Trotskyites "and this is probably what is taking place."13

Betty Reid commented "I was a little disturbed by this note about Stanley. In the first place I should have thought the two articles were quite clear (if I may say so) and explicit on the character of the Editorial board. Moreover since they were written the shift of emphasis has been to a quite open and explicit and very unpleasant Trotskyist line which is not in any way concealed, and therefore now there is much less justification than before for being taken in."14

When a group called the Workers League advertised a meeting in the Socialist Leader, the names involved had to be checked out.

On 4 June 1954,Reid asked BettyMatthews of London District Committee: "Will you check for me what is known about a man called Fred Garnsey who was a bricklayer and a member in Battersea. Could the Battersea comrades be asked why he left the Party and anything they may know about him and his personal contacts."

J. Evans of Battersea responded tersely:
"Garnsey is over 70 years of age, secretary of AUBTW branch. All his contacts are r wing and Trotskyite sympathisers like ex- CP Alf  Loughton (Trot),JFLane jar,Trot or Trot sympathy, J.Wix Trot. Don't even know he was ever in Party."15

Dennis Goodwin reported on a worker called Brace:

"Dear Betty,

Regarding Brace, according to our comrades this man was associated for a considerable period with the Anarchists and was a member of the Central No.1 branch of the ETU.

He is now said to be working in the Docks having left the electrical industry and is working as a docker and is in touch with and probably working with Constable. He is said to have contact with our lads on the various contracting jobs when he was in the electrical work and was always prepared to have a go with us but always expressed a narking criticism of the Party."16

On 16 June Bert Pearce of the CP's Birmingham city committee wrote to Mick Bennett at King Street, forwarding a three-page report on the stormy "Socialist Outlook' shareholders" meeting which had taken place in London a few weeks previously. Someone had pulled a knife on John Lawrence before the meeting started, and speakers bad been barracked. Gerry Healy's supporters, described as "the Trotskyite elements", had battled John Lawrence s faction for control of the paper, The informant,a Birmingham Labour Party member, described background conflict in the labour movement in Birmingham.17

The "Central Organisation Department" (i.e. Betty Reid) thanked cde. Pearce for his report - "very helpful indeed and fuller than the other points we bad on the same affair" - and said any further material he could send would be welcome.

"I think there is just one point on the report which you should bear in rnind, she added. "The battle is not one between Trotskyists and non-Trotskyists, but between two separate sections equally suspect, one of whom bas a more subtle and "non-sectarian" line than the other. We should not have any illusions about the former Editor and his supporters . . ."18

Trotsky's Fourth International, deprived of its founder and many leading cadres,was unsure what to make of the post.war world, and the Cold War. Lawrence had become the leading British advocate for
Michael Raptis (Pablo)'s view; that confronted with imperialist war preparations, and under mass pressure, the Soviet bureaucracy could reform itself, and the Cominform become a revolutionary
leadership., The job of Trotskyists, it followed,was to get closer to their erstwhile Stalinist opponents, and provide an ideological shove.

The British Communist Party leadership had obtained Trotskyist internal documents, including resolutions from Latin America accusing Pablo opponents,particularly the veteran US Trotskyist James Cannon, of "Stalinophobia", desertion in the face of Yankee imperialism~, and acting as "left spokesman of the anti-communist campaign led by the State Department"19

The Brazilians concluded their resolution (January 1954} with a resounding "Long Live the Fourth International! Long Live Trotskyism!", But at a meeting on 2 October 1954, attended by a delegate from the American Socialist Union (formed by Pabloites expelled from Cannon s SWP), Lawrence declared (according to a report for the CP) that Trotskyism was "dead as a doornail".20

Proposals were made to break with the Fourth International, remain in the Labour Party,but work  with the Communist Party, with the perspective of  a united front between Labour's Bevanites and the CP; to support the peace movement and friendship with the Soviet Union" The Lawrence group would meet again in November to decide on these proposals, and dissolve itself .

The Communist Party's information came via several routes. At the end of August 1954, Monty ]ohnstone reported on discussions with Ron Shaw, a member of the Labour League of Youth in Clapton, east London . "He is anxious to join the Party and YCL and says that bis last differences with us have now been cleared up. From our discussion which included the Moscow Trials and Trotsky's links with the Fascists, on which he was previously not convinced) this seems in general to be true I promised him Stalin's 1937 report on Trotskyism,"

Shaw had just won his case against expulsion from the Labour Party, and another Communist Party member had urged him to stay in for the moment, and help build opposition to German re-
armament, with Labour's annual conference coming up. Johnstone agreed."I raised in this connection the question of his supplying us with information on Trotskyist activities." Although Shaw was
reluctant to engage in "spying", he agreed to pass on anything he heard.

Johnstone reported what he had gleaned about'.the Group' and its leaders, the split, and who was with whom. His report also dealt with the people publishing "Rally" in Liverpool, mentioning that Paddy Wall was a member according to Shaw, and that they were associated with Ted Grant (whom he mistakenly thought  was running New Park Publications, in fact run by Healy),. One recent development noted in the report: "About seven weeks ago the Lawrence Group was expelled from the
Fourth International, of which -up till then -they were the official British section. Shaw does not know the reasons."21

Shaw said Pablo had boasted on a visit to England that his supporters were gaining important positions in the Communist Parties in France and Italy, and in the West German Social Democrats. Lawrence had told Shaw there were no Trotskyists in the British Communist Party, but his group would not oppose individuals joining

Shaw estimated that of 150 delegates attending the Labour League of Youth Easter conference, nearly 17 were in one or other Trotskyite faction.When Transport House threatened to disband the LLOY if certain resolutions were passed, there had been an "emergency' meeting of groups, leading to a decision to withdraw the resolutions, but keep up some liaison in future.

"When I  see Shaw next l shall have extracted names of LLOY members from conference
reports etc. and will ask him which are in Trotskyist groups,'Johnstone promised.

Another Communist Party member reported that he had been discussing with John Goffe "for the last two years" . Goffe, a Trotsk yist since pre-war days, and supporter of Lawrence's tendency, had become a Labour councillor in Camberwell, and was active in the shopworkers' union, USDAW.
"We reached agreement on policy points for the annual gathering, dealing with wages, trade union organisation and the decline of membership, colonial questions and foreign policy in general, .
We also reached agreement on the panel of names to submit for the Labour Party conference and the TUC, as well as the women's sections .his willingness to hold discussions with us, the information he is prepared to give us and the fight that he puts up on policy questions inside the union are developments worth noting." 22

A report "On Trotskyism and Tmtskyists in Lancs. and Cheshire' by the CP District
Committeefor the region,marked "Private and Highly Confidential', dated October 1954, reviewed Trotskyist activity from 1944, mentioning strikes in Barrow and Salford,and noting "efforts to win influence amongst the Colonial people particularly in the Moss Side area of Manchester and the Exchange division of  Liverpool,"

It said the Trotskyists "were able to cause some confusion, especially amongst the
African workers, A Manchester Cale proprietor, a Nigerian with considerable
wealth, Mr. Mcconnan, was and still is the  leading light in this connection. The
difficulties created for us on the occasion of Robeson's last visit was without a doubt
due to the work of the RCP and this man Mcconnan."23

OPENING Working Class Movement Library in 1987, popular former Salford MP Frank Allaun.   CP report on "Trotskyists" in 1954 voiced "strong suspicions" about him. (Photo from Frank Allaun 1913-2002, a tribute by Hyman Davies, published by Working Class Movement Library). 

The report voiced "strong suspicions that Frank Allsun,an ex-member of the Party in
Manchester, at one time Secretary of the Openshaw branch was very closely
connected with the RCP and a strong advocate of the line of working in the
Labour Party. He was however very careful of direct public association."24

An appendix listed known or suspected Trotskyists, with their addresses,
occupations, and brief notes. Joe Pawsey, of Smedley Road, Cheetham "has contacts
with the Labour Party in Salford through a ward secretary with Trotskyist views, a
Mr.D.Carping , who we are at present checking up on' . The report said enquiries
were continuing into some people. "Bob Leeson may be able to throw some light' on
the Penfolds, a Longsight couple.

Bob Leeson, who had joined the CP in 1950, said Bert Penfold and his wife had been
active in Wandsworth before coming to Manchester, where they organised
Ardwick LLOY on a "purely social" basis with 150 members. "Penfold and his wife
seemed to want to give the impression that their 'Trotskyist days were past.'

Leeson had attended the l949 Labour youth rally at Filey as a delegate from Northwich,
in Cheshire. A campaign had been launched for LP youth sections to have national
status. He had told Trevor Park, a Bury delegate, that if this failed he intended
quitting Labour for the Communist Party. Several people tried to dissuade him.
"Banda's wife told me that after she left the Communist Party in 1947 on political
grounds she was "shadowed by the Party Security Department for six  months".25

This is first part of article published in Stephen Dorril's Lobster magazine, No.31, in 1996.