Monday, March 13, 2017

He joined the wrong army (1957)

From the May 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

No medals, glory, and a brilliant army career for poor George Christopher Grice (26), of Acton—be joined the wrong army. He was once a member of the Irish Republican Army, and for harbouring some ammunition in his room he was recently sentenced at Middlesex Sessions to twelve months' incarceration in one of Her Majesty’s prisons (Manchester Guardian, 15/3/57).

This unfortunate erstwhile (irregular) soldier was obviously unaware of the benefits of being a member of the (Regular) British Army, whose manifold attractions are amply depicted in a splendid full-page advertisement in the Manchester Guardian, (26/2/57). A list of these attractions (including a good salary and prospects, plenty of travel, and opportunities for sport—blood sports, no doubt) are suitably embellished by an enormous picture of an exploding atom bomb to stress the peaceful nature of army life. Had Mr. Grice seen this advert his future career might have taken a more profitable turn: for instance, the advert, assures us that if be were exceptional (doubtful, we fear, in view of bis inability to conceal a paltry collection of bullets successfully) there would be nothing between him and a Field Marshal’s baton. Furthermore, as a subaltern in his first regimental duty, be would "probably be in charge of 40 men and some thousands of pounds worth of equipment." This makes the grenade and the box containing 26 rounds of .32 ammunition that were found in his room look pretty small-time.

But Mr. Grice does not seem to have been a very steel-hearted soldier—he left the I.RA in January, 1955, because, according to the Manchester Guardian, "he did not agree with the violent side of I.R.A. activities." Mr. Cassell (the prosecuting counsel) was quick to comment on this pacifist (and if we may say so, typically Irish) attitude to army life by asking Mr. Grice, “There is no point in having an army unless it is going to fight, is there?" Perhaps Mr. Cassell had also missed the army advert (It is headed PLAY A LEADING PART IN KEEPING WORLD PEACE) which states that if you join the Regular Army “you are declaring that you are prepared actively to help maintain peace." In other words, the army will ensure peace even if it has to use the H-bomb in the process. Clear? Pursuing this peaceful theme, the advert declares that the armed forces of the Western nations form "a weighty stabilising influence in a world disturbed by -isms and -ologies" (capitalism and theology, for instance?), and if you join the British Army "you work for the continued existence of the British way of life." We would add that with explosives such as are depicted in the advert., you would also contribute notably to the British way of death.

Mr. Grice’s unfortunate choice of armies was further highlighted by the chairman of the magistrates who presided over his trial. Had he joined the British Army, Mr. Grice would have had access to all kinds of beautiful weapons (the advert mentions guided missiles); but he chose a less well organised outfit, whose relations with the British Government, moreover, are strained to say the least. Hence the chairman told Mr. Grice “bullets are for killing, and the one thing we have got to ensure in this country is that bullets are not obtained. People are dying daily because misguided young men like you collect bullets I and let them off." In case any reader gets the impression that the chairman’s statement is a piece of strong pacifist propaganda, we would hazard that it is mainly directed against people in those organisations which oppose the British state machine (the Cypriot "terrorists," Mau Mau, for example): For, under different circumstances, did not the British government arrange for arms and ammunition to be parachuted to the Maquis and other resistance groups during the late war to encourage their guerrilla struggles against enemy forces? It all depends on which side you’re on, and poor Mr. Grice backed a loser.

But perhaps there are drawbacks to joining any army. As Mr. Cassell said, there is no point in having an army unless it’s going to fight, and Mr. Grice’s father said in the witness-box: “I put down this lad’s downfall to the war, when I was away."

Amid this welter of contradictions, the Socialist message stands out clearly. Grice and millions of other young men of the working-class throughout the world are wasting their time and causing themselves untold suffering by supporting their various capitalist groups however attractively the different military needs are cloaked in propaganda to pander to nationalist prejudices. We urge the Grices of the world to give earnest consideration to the case for Socialism the only hope for world peace and the future of mankind.
Michael La Touche




Chatham House and spies (2000)

From the December 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard
According to the Times (16 September), a spy working for the East German intelligence agency Staatssicherheitdienst (Stasi), operating under the code-name Eckart, infiltrated the Royal Institute of International Affairs, generally known as Chatham House, for at least six years during the 1980s. He allegedly supplied the Stasi's foreign intelligence division, the Hauptverwaltung Aufklarung (HVA), through East Germany's London embassy, with reports stolen from Chatham House on Royal Navy manoeuvres, NATO management problems, British government evaluation of the Falklands conflict and, what may appear surprising at first, the Social Democratic Party, which had just been formed by the "Gang of Four", splitting the Labour Party. Also on 10 March 1983, Eckart sent a Chatham House report "on the Trotskyists in the United Kingdom" to his controllers in the HVA.
The Royal Institute of International Affairs conducts research projects which, over many years, have influenced British government policy-making. It has been a think-tank where the "great and the good" of British capitalism have briefed academics, civil servants and selected journalists; where they considered, under "Chatham House rules", that their remarks and statements would not be identified. From 1945 to around 1975 particularly, Chatham House became "almost the club of the foreign policy establishment", where ambassadors and diplomats "could get prior intelligence of what advice government ministers were being given". It also set up an American link through the Chatham House Foundation. John Dickie, in his Inside the Foreign Office, comments:
"Outside Parliament there are several prestigious institutions where seminars, lectures, and discussion groups produce ideas and proposals which carry considerable weight among opinion-formers . . . Senior members of the Foreign Office often attend lectures and discussion groups.""By far the most influential of all the outside organizations is the Royal Institute of international Affairs. Chatham House, as it is known from its location, was founded in 1920 to bring together people from government, politics, industry, finance, the academic world and the media, from Britain and many other countries, to examine and develop the ideas which shape policy."
Ten years ago, the Institute's research project income was around £1m, of which £50,000 a year came from the Foreign Office. In 1991, it had a membership of almost 3,500 of whom 26, including the Foreign Office, were major corporate members paying an annual subscription of £3,000. Corporate membership is also held by 230 other companies and organisations.
The "Great and the Good"
Just after the end of the Second World War, Denis Healey, the then International Secretary of the Labour Party and, in his own words a "Cold War warrior", joined the Chatham House Council, and remained an active member until he became a government minister in 1964. Said Healey in his autobiography, The Time of My Life:

"It became a major source of my education in world affairs, since it enabled me to meet people with a knowledge and experience far removed from what was available to me in my work for the Labour Party."
During the latter part of the last century, a number of prominent politicians, including Presidents Havel of Czechoslovakia and Gorbachev of the Soviet Union, addressed invited audiences at Chatham House, as did Presidents Reagan and Clinton from the United States. When Margaret Thatcher first became leader of the Conservative party when in Opposition, she tended to accept the views, and writings, of Brian Crozier and his right-wing Institute for the Study of Conflict, as well as other right-wingers such as Airey Neave, Norris McWhirter and Robert Moss. But by 1984, when she had been Prime Minister for five years, and when Sir Charles Powell became her Private Secretary for Overseas Affairs, their influence had waned somewhat; and he "gave her digests of lectures delivered to the Royal Institute of International Affairs. She lapped up everything he sent her on defence and the maintenance of a balance of arms". (John Dickie). Nevertheless, Chatham House seems to have had less influence on government during Thatcher's Premiership than with previous governments.
Brian Crozier worked for the Institute for "eleven active years" between 1954 and 1965, of which four had been under the directorship of the Hon Christopher Montague Woodhouse who, in 1953, had been MI6 head of station in Teheran responsible for the MI6/CIA coup d'etat which overthrew the Mossadeq government in Iran. In 1965, Crozier's South-East Asia in Turmoil was published which, according to the author in his Free Agent: The Unseen War 1941-1991, "became required reading for all personnel of the South-East Asia Organisation (SEATO)". But its publication, and his controversies with Kenneth Younger, a former Labour Minister of State and the then Director of Chatham House, marked his "definitive break with the liberal Establishment" and his resignation from the Royal Institute of International Affairs.
One of the most important, and influential, researchers associated with the Institute during this period was Andrew Shonfield. Issued under the auspices of the Institute in 1965, was his Modern Capitalism: The Changing Balance of Public and Private Power; he was assisted by a number of researchers from Chatham House and by its Research Committee.
In his first chapter, "The Signs of Change", he asks:
"What was it that converted capitalism from the cataclysmic failure which it appeared to be in the 1930s into the great engine of prosperity of the postwar Western world?"
He argued that "the performance of capitalism since the end of the Second World War has been so unexpectedly dazzling". In the early post-war period we were inclined to dismiss the high rates of economic growth in Western Europe as evidence of reconstruction which was bound to end, wrote Shonfield. Then there was the Korean war boom in 1951, followed by a recession a year after. Things seemed to be moving back into a familiar pattern. However, the second part of the 1950s produced a further sharp increase in Western European output. For Shonfield, except for minor variations, capitalism in Western Europe, but not in the United States, was a story largely of success up to 1965. What he and his Chatham House "experts" would have said about European, American and world capitalism thirty-five years later, however, may have been a different story.
During the last decade, Chatham House has had a staff of around 35 academics, including researchers from China, Germany, Japan and Korea.
Social Democratic Party
As we now know, the Royal Institute of International Affairs was not the only organisation interested in the formation and policies of the British Social Democratic Party, in 1981, and the following years. The East German intelligence agency, the Stasi, as was the Soviet Union's KGB. According to Oleg Gordievsky, the KGB/MI6 double agent, writing in KGB: The Inside Story of its Foreign Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev (together with Christopher Andrew), the KGB resident chief in the early 1980s, Arkadi Guk, "devised a conspiracy theory to explain . . . the founding and initial success of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). It had been created, Guk argued, with the help of the CIA and the US embassy in order to split the Labour Party and keep the Conservatives in power". But was this in fact just a conspiracy theory?

By 1980, the Labour Party, then in opposition, had become unilateralist, was strongly influenced by CND and wanted British capitalism to be independent of both the United States and the Soviet Union. This did not suit a pro-Atlanticist faction in the leadership of the Labour Party, led by such people as Roy Jenkins, who had become a Commissioner of the European Community in Brussels, Shirley Williams, William Rogers and David Owen, the "Gang of Four". They were pro-Common Market, pro-NATO and opposed to unilateral disarmament. They were supported by a number of lesser-known, and somewhat shadowy figures, such as Douglas Eden, Stephen Haseler, Brian Walden, Robert Maclennan, William Goodhart, Alan Lee Williams—and Joseph and Roy Godson.
Douglas Eden, an American, and Stephen Haseler, whose wife was American, were co-founders of the Social Democratic Alliance. Haseler was an academic, and a member of the Washington-based think-tank, the Heritage Foundation, who helped set up the London Institute for European Defence and Strategic Studies. Both Eden and Haseler had been associated with Brian Crozier's National Association for Freedom. Crozier claimed to have assisted the Social Democratic Alliance "on a small scale", but did not, he wrote (in his Free Agent), mention his "CIA and SIS (MI6) connections".
Haseler was a close friend of Roy Godson, who was also closely associated with President Reagan's CIA chief, Bill Casey. His father, Joseph godson, was for many years the labor attaché at the United States embassy in London. After retirement, he set up with money from NATO the Labour Committee for Transatlantic Understanding. He was involved with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which partly funded Shirley Williams's sojourn in America. Joseph Godson was associated with another founder-member of the SDP, Alan Lee Williams MP, a former Labour defence expert who was also treasurer, from 1972 to 1979, of the English Speaking Union, and chair of Godson's Trade Union Press Service. Of Joseph Godson, Eric Hammond, then general secretary of the Electrical, Electronic, Tele-communication & Plumbing Union (EETPU), commented in his book, Maverick: "I could never prove it, of course, but Joe always seemed to me to be some kind of spook". He was.
The draft constitution of the SDP was written up, in the United States, by Robert Maclennan and William Goodhart.
And the Trotskyists?
At first sight, it would seem strange that Chatham House, the East Germany Stasi, or anyone else would be interested in British Trotskyists. Yet the Security Service (MI5) has monitored, and has heavily infiltrated Trotskyist organisations in this country, since 1943. (See The Security Service 1908-1945: The Official History, compiled by John Curry, Public Record Office.)

During the 1970s and 80s, the Workers Revolutionary Party was probably the best known Trotskyist organisation in Britain, mainly because of the activities of, and funding by, actress Vanessa Redgrave, and her actor brother, Corin. There was also the Militant Tendency. Militant, first as the so-called Revolutionary Socialist League, had been steadfastly infiltrating the Labour Party since the early 1950s. Entryism was the name of the game.
Although denying that Militant was, in fact, a separate party within the British Labour Party, Peter Taaffe, who ultimately ousted the veteran Militant leader, Ted Grant, has somewhat laboriously chronicled Militant's activities within the Labour Party, in his book, The Rise of Militant: Militant's 30 Years.
By 1976, the "organised supporters" (Taaffe-speak for members) within the Labour Party had reached 1,000. Andy Bevan had become National Youth Officer. In 1978, Militant called for a return of a Labour government and the "defeat of the Tory enemy". But at the 1979 election, Thatcher and the Tories were elected. In 1980 there were riots in Bristol; and in 1981, there were similar riots in Brixton and in Toxteth, in Liverpool. Militant was in the thick of it, playing a "positive role" according to Peter Taaffe. Ever-opportunist, Militant called for the disbanding of the Special Patrol Group and the abolition of the House of Lords. Militant also pledged its support for "the basic socialist [actually state-capitalist] aim of the Labour Party embodied in Clause IV, Part 4 of the constitution". They demanded not the abolition of the wages system but a "living wage for all", whatever that was supposed to be.
In November 1982, the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party decided to bring proceedings for the expulsion of five members of Militant's editorial board. After a court case which resulted in Militant's favour, they were later expelled from the Labour Party. Ultimately, most of Militant's leading members were expelled from the Labour Party as Trotskyists, while at the same time, and later, numbers of former members of the SDP were re-admitted to the Labour Party.
What the researchers of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, or the Stasi spy in Chatham House, made of all this is anyone's guess. Nevertheless, Chatham House exists to provide members of Britain's political and economic élite with information that they feel will be of particular use to them.
Peter E. Newell

Coprophilia (2017)

The Pathfinders column from the March 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
Which of these news stories is true: The Queen threatened to abdicate if the Brexit vote won; the Pope supported Donald Trump for president; Hillary Clinton sold guns to ISIS; the Pope called fake news purveyors 'coprophages' (shit-eaters)?
Just the last one is true. And you can't blame the Pope for swearing in Greek. Actor Denzel Washington was also incandescent with rage after a fake news story identifying him as a Trump supporter went viral. Fake news is big news since the US presidential elections were riddled with it, not least because many of the hoax items (aka blatant lies) seemed to stem from the Trump camp itself. When a quasi-secret meeting of senior Facebook executives suggested that Facebook, also riddled with fake news, had influenced public perceptions to the extent of altering the outcome of the elections, CEO Mark Zuckerberg ridiculed the idea, only to change his mind a few days later and agree to new measures to start flagging suspect stories. When confronted with the same question regarding Google's inadvertent promotion of fake news influencing the election result, its CEO responded simply "Sure", and agreed immediately to work on ways to block them.
The nub of the matter is that where once you could tell a satire from a genuine story if only because the satirists did not have the means to make their products look authentic, now anyone can create a genuine-looking website. If you are tempted to cite a news story from the National Report, Boston Tribune, Denver Guardian, Empire Herald, News Buzz Daily or United Media Publishing, you have been conned because they are all fake news sites, and there are hundreds more.
Journalists aren't immune either. In a rush to get stories out, or to follow the day's fastest bandwagons, journalists often publish first and check later, thus contributing to the fake virology. A study of US TV stations revealed that up to a third of their news reports contained unchecked information culled from social media sources which turned out to be false ('The rise and rise of fake news', BBC Online, 6 November) .
So, what's the deal with fake news? Money, in a word. There are towns in Macedonia and other poor countries where fake news generation is the main industry and source of employment (Wired Online, 8 December). The BBC article above cites a prominent shit-eater talking about the advertising revenue derived from so-called click-bait designed to pander to prejudices: "We've had stories that have made $10,000. We're constantly trying to tune into feelings that we think that people already have or want to have. Recently we did a story about Hillary Clinton being fed the answers prior to the debate. It was all fake - but that sort of headline gets into the right wing bubble and they run with it." An independent researcher agrees: "There's a lot of confirmation bias. A lot of people want proof that their world view is the accurate and appropriate one."              
But not just any people, conservatives in particular. One faker claims to have helped get Trump elected: "My sites were picked up by Trump supporters all the time… His followers don’t fact-check anything – they’ll post everything, believe anything" (New Scientist, 7 December). Another complained that liberals are harder to dupe: "We've tried to do [fake news with] liberals. It just has never worked, it never takes off. You'll get debunked within the first two comments and then the whole thing just kind of fizzles out" (Washington Post, 7 December). A recent UCLA study has indeed concluded that conservatives are more likely to believe fake news if it is in the form of a threat which rings true in their world view (http://tinyurl.com/hyvrpnr).
It's not just about the money. Wired Magazine points out that the past 30 years has seen a complete capsizing of news media. Where once a few big news broadcasters churned out a bland and monotonous news agenda designed not to appeal but to avoid offence, now in the 'post-truth era' a plethora of small agencies are actively hunting audiences by targeting passionately-held niche opinions. Moreover the power to propagate stories has passed from news editors to readers, and one study suggests that anger is the key motivating factor in spreading stories - the more angry the reader is about a story, the more likely they will share it. "Reasonableness gets you no points," says one former Facebook VP (Wired, 14 February).
So on this argument the people most likely to share fake news are angry right-wingers with no great interest in objective reality. Not surprisingly, some commentators fear that democracy is suffocating in a steam of rage-fuelled stupidity. It's as if someone has turned the gas stove up, and now everybody's boiling. No wonder politics seems to be going through a phase change. The lukewarm centrism of the past few decades is fast giving way to aggressive and polarised extremes that must seem unprecedented to anyone under the age of 40.
Would it therefore be perverse to suggest that fake news is a good thing? After all there is a sense in which most of the news is fake anyway, if one considers how 'real' stories about the number of infant deaths from preventable disease or hunger, or the number of people living on the street or in tents, virtually never appear in the news, which is instead obsessed with celeb gossip and party political trivia.
The capitalist class as a whole used to control workers by withholding information wherever possible. Now there's too much information and misinformation, and workers will either sink or learn to swim. In all the fakery this one fact must stand out as obvious, even to the most fact-averse conservative.
If you had to 'sell' the idea of capitalism to people on a socialist planet they'd laugh at you. There'd be nothing in it for them except misery and slavery. Most people don't support capitalism because they think it is perfect or even particularly pleasant. They support it because they think they've got no choice, and they think that because they are hypnotised by its bogus ideology, its bogus values and its bogus leaders. Capitalism is adaptive and very clever at whitewashing itself. Our hope is that, in a new climate of radical scepticism which even conservatives can't be immune to, perhaps the whitewash won't wash for much longer.
PJS