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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Democracy on Trial

Democracy on Trial


The advent of the “Labour Party” to office in 1924 was a deep humiliation to every patriotic citizen. At first it seemed almost unbelievable that only five years after the War had ended the Government of this country should be actually in the hands of men who had failed her in her hour of need, some of whom had even given encouragement to the enemy. The author of the articles broadcasted by the Germans on the outbreak of war, the man whom the sailors refused to carry to Russia—now Prime Minister. The “heroic champion of the conscientious objectors”—Chancellor of the Exchequer. The man who misled us as to Germany’s intentions and still proclaimed himself a pro-German—Lord Chancellor. The promoters of the Leeds Conference, of the Council of Action and a host of members of the I.L.P., Union of Democratic Control and other Pacifist organisations raised to posts of honour in the State. To some of us the triumphal march of conquering German legions down Whitehall would have been less bitter. We closed our eyes in shame as we passed the Cenotaph. Was it for this they fought? We remembered the resolution passed at the mass meeting of engineers at Woolwich in 1918:

To hell with Ramsay MacDonald and Philip Snowden … the engineers of Woolwich Arsenal are Englishmen and they demand to be led by men who love their country. God save England.1

But these sentiments were now quite out-of-date. They certainly did not appear to be shared by the Constitutional Press, which broke out into appreciative paragraphs on the very people whose anti-patriotic activities had been the objects of their denunciation throughout, and after, the War.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives prided themselves on accepting their defeat in a thoroughly “sporting” spirit. They were disappointed of course, but not chastened. The great thing was “to go out smiling.” This habit of treating politics as a game in which the rules of sport and not the rules of war must be observed has been peculiar to the Conservative Party during the past twelve years. Largely composed of men brought up at public schools, they have been unable to divest themselves of the idea that Parliament is a prolonged cricket match in which one’s side comes in to bat and, being fairly bowled, goes out again to field with great good humour. And at the end of each innings both elevens shake hands over drinks and smokes in the pavilion.

This might have been comprehensible when the contest lay between Whigs and Tories or Liberals and Unionists, whose opposing political theories were concerned with no fundamental changes in the existing social order. On both sides the cricket spirit could then be maintained with safety.

But with the advent of the “Labour” Party to the field of politics, an entirely different element had been introduced. It was not only a question of the harm they had done in the past, but of the havoc they might work in the future. As Mr. Lloyd George had said, the “peril” was “the phenomenal rise to power of a new party with new purposes of the most subversive character. It calls itself Labour, but it is really Socialist.… Socialism is fighting … to destroy everything that the great prophets and leaders laboured for generations to build up.”

Faced by such a foe as this, politics had ceased to be a game and had become a war in which there could be no fraternising between the trenches if it was to be brought to a successful conclusion. But the Conservatives declined to see it in this light, they declined even to regard it as a sport to be played with all the rigour of the game, for, as Mr. Robert Hichens makes one of his characters say with regard to bridge-playing: “One can’t fight well if one is full of sympathy and consideration for one’s enemies.” In accordance with this spirit, the word of command went out in 1923 that the triumph of the Labour Party was to be marred by no adverse criticism. During one of the periodic reorganisations to which the Conservative Central Office has been subjected in the course of the last few years, it was stated in the Press at that date:

The most striking feature of the suggested reorganisation is that direct attacks on Socialism would cease at once. A forward and positive policy of social reform is suggested instead, and an educative scheme is adumbrated whereby the electorate would be made acquainted with the fact that social reform was originally suggested by the Conservative Party.2

At the same time the Principal Agent, Sir Reginald Hall, announced in a speech to Unionist delegates that nothing was to be said against the leaders of the Labour Government.

So long as he had a voice in affairs at the Central Office nothing should be sent out from there of a nature that should decry the King’s Government. They might severely criticise some of the Government’s measures, but no personalities should ever go out while he was there” [Cheers].3

So at the moment of their most severe reverse, Conservatism was to surrender its strongest weapon. The one fact that had hitherto weighed with the electorate was the war record of the Socialist leaders;4 now these same leaders were to be acclaimed as worthy custodians of the country’s safety.

The idea of the Conservative Party and the Constitutional Press was “to give Labour a chance.” What they succeeded in doing was to give the Labour Party a free advertisement and rehabilitate them in the eyes of the electorate. The only impression the man in the street could gather was that the “Labour” leaders had been cruelly maligned in the past. Moreover, in accepting the term “Labour” as descriptive of the Party that had now taken office, Conservatives were directly aiding them to deceive the electorate. Mr. Dan Griffiths, writing in the Daily Herald after the 1923 election, pointed out that:

Four and a half million workers have voted Labour, whereas nine millions of the workers have voted anti-Labour. In other words, twice as many workers have voted against the Labour Party as have voted for Labour.5

What right, then, had the Party to claim to represent Labour? By this device they have always succeeded in capturing a number of votes that would never have gone to them had they called themselves by their true name, the “Socialist Party.” It was for the Constitutional Press, and above all for the Conservative Party to show them in their true colours, instead of lending themselves to an imposture and allowing them to masquerade as a party genuinely representative of the aspirations of the working-classes.

The Labour Government itself was of course far too adroit to do anything that would frighten the electorate. All their energies were concentrated on proving that the charges hitherto brought against them were unfounded, that far from being revolutionary, they intended to make no drastic changes, that far from being anti-Imperialist, they were the staunchest supporters of the Empire, and that far from being Republicans, they were amongst His Majesty’s most loyal subjects.

It is true that before the Labour Party assumed the reins of office Mr. George Lansbury, in a speech at the Shoreditch Town Hall, startled the public by observing:

One king stood up against the common people and that day he lost his head—lost it really. Later one of his descendants thought he would have a turn; they told him to get out and he went quickly.… George the Fifth would be well advised to keep his finger out of the pie now.

At the great Labour rally which took place at the Albert Hall three days later, Mr. Lansbury had a marvellous reception, the “Red Flag” was sung with enthusiasm and Mr. Robert Smillie declared: “Our little rumble of revolution does not come fully yet, but it is coming! [Applause.] It is already putting the fear of God into the hearts of our opponents!” [Loud applause.]

But the impression created by these threats was quickly obliterated by the speeches that followed after. The honours of the evening went to Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, who assured his enraptured audience that: “We are a party of idealists. We are a party that away in the dreamland of imagination dwells in the social organisation, fairer and more perfect than any organisation that mankind has ever known.” 6

The Labour Party thus appeared to be simply a large missionary society out to regenerate the world by purely spiritual means.

In accordance with this rôle an olive-branch was dispatched to France. Who had dared to say the Labour Party were pro-German? It would now be seen that they were as staunch supporters of the Entente as of the Empire, the Monarchy and the Constitution. It is interesting to compare their utterances before and after their accession to office. Thus, on August 7, 1922, a leading article in the official organ of the Party had observed in connection with the meeting of Allied Prime Ministers in London:

For the good of Europe and of the world, we hope that, at today’s meeting, Mr. Lloyd George will, for once in his career, stand up to Monsieur Poincaré. Too long has the British Premier allowed this country to be dragged, at the bidding of French militarism, along the road that inevitably leads to world chaos.… Let Mr. Lloyd George today take the necessary steps to curb France. Cause has been given over and over again, and by her decision to act alone in the attempt to make Germany a vassal State, France has broken the Entente.

But now the Labour Party were in office, it seemed that nothing lay nearer to their hearts than the maintenance of the Entente, and Mr. MacDonald, only four days after his accession to office, hastened to write a personal letter expressed in the most friendly terms to Monsieur Poincaré himself. Indeed, it appears that hitherto it had not been the Labour Party, but the people of England who had attributed militarist intentions to France. “Thus,” wrote Mr. MacDonald in a subsequent letter to Monsieur Poincaré, on February 21, “it has come about that the people in this country regard with anxiety what appears to them to be the determination of France to ruin Germany and to dominate the Continent … that they feel apprehensive of the large military and aerial establishments maintained, not only in Eastern, but in Western France,” etc.7

The organ of Mr. MacDonald’s own Party had certainly done nothing to allay these apprehensions which were nowhere observable in the minds of the general public. It was not “the people” who had forgotten the War!

Monsieur Poincaré, whilst “much touched” by Mr. MacDonald’s new-found affection for France, replied with his habitual firmness, and accepted Mr. MacDonald’s assurances on the aberrations of the British public. “Those of your countrymen,” he wrote on February 25, “who believe that France dreams, or has dreamt, of the political or economic annihilation of Germany are mistaken.” As to French militarism he added: “Are there really Englishmen who suppose that France would be capable of making fratricidal preparations against their country? Our military and aerial establishments are exclusively designed to defend us against attempted German revenge.” 8

All then appeared to be harmony between the two countries, and the real effect of a British Labour Government on France was not seen until its repercussion took place in the form of the Cartel des Gauches—or Coalition of Radicals and Socialists—under Monsieur Herriot, which came into power on May 11 of that year and removed Monsieur Poincaré from office. The recall of the French Ambassador in Great Britain, the Comte de Saint-Aulaire, known to be friendly towards the Conservative Party, the recognition of Russia by France on October 16, and the elaboration of the “Geneva Protocol” were further sequels to this event.

The last point takes us back to the question of Germany which we left at the moment when, just before the fall of the Conservative Government, the Germans appealed to the Reparations Commission for an investigation of the whole matter by experts.

As a result of this, the Reparations Commission appointed two committees of experts: (1) The Dawes Committee, with General Charles G. Dawes as chairman, to investigate the German budget and currency, and (2) “Committee No. 2,” with Sir R. McKenna as chairman, to investigate the amount of exported German capital and “encourage its return.” (!)

The reports of both Committees were published on April 9, 1924, and that of the former put forward what became known as the “Dawes Plan,” which was immediately accepted both by Germany and the Reparations Commission. France, still under Monsieur Poincaré, gave no decision, but on the accession of the “Cartel” in the following month the situation changed. At the London Conference of Allied Powers (July 16–August 16) the Dawes Report was accepted and came into force on September 1. An office for Reparation payments was then established in Berlin. The problem of Reparations was now believed to be finally settled.

At this moment the League of Nations held its Fifth Assembly in Geneva, attended by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald and Monsieur Herriot. The outcome of their co-operation was the famous “Geneva Protocol” officially described as the “Arbitration and Sanctions Protocol.” The object of this scheme was compulsory arbitration by which all international disputes would be submitted to the League and the country which refused to abide by its decisions would have “Sanctions” applied to it by the other nations composing the League. These Sanctions might be confined to economic pressure, but might also take the form of naval or military operations. As a result of this arrangement, any Power that did not go to the rescue of the Power designated by the League would be coerced, if necessary, by the British Navy, which would lead to the latter being at the disposal of the League of Nations for its purposes. This plan, supported by most of the Labour Party and which Mr. Ramsay MacDonald declared would “bring an inexhaustible harvest of blessing to Europe,” met with strong disapproval in Great Britain and the Dominions. The fall of the Labour Government prevented its realisation.

Russia
After the gesture to France came the pact of friendship with Russia. This question had been one of the first to occupy the attention of the “Labour” Government and only nine days after his accession to office Mr. Ramsay MacDonald hastened to fulfil his election pledge by abjuring what he termed “the pompous folly of holding aloof from recognition of the Soviet Government.”

The death of Lenin had occurred on January 21, and his place was taken by Rykov, but the real rulers of Russia from this moment were the Triumvirate of Zinoviev, Kamenev and Stalin. The first of these was the most important from the point of view of Great Britain.

Zinoviev, alias Ovsei-Gershon Aronovich Radomyslsky, whose real name was Hirsch Apfelbaum, the son of a Jewish trader in Novomirgorod, born in 1883, was not only a member of the Triumvirate, but also President of the Third International, at the Congresses of which he distinguished himself by his diatribes against Capitalist States and particularly against the British Empire. As Lord Emmott, in an excellent speech in the House of Lords on March 26, 1924, pointed out:

The Communist International exists, as your Lordships know, to propagate Bolshevism, to bring about Bolshevist revolutions everywhere, to discredit Parliamentary institutions, to suppress the Capitalist and to confiscate capital. Zinoviev, its head, has in recent months, day alter day, week after week, been denouncing in most violent language foreign capitalists and foreign bourgeois and explaining with the utmost cynicism the sinister methods employed by the Communist International to stir up revolution in other countries.

It was with the Government of which Zinoviev was one of the three rulers in chief that the Labour Party now entered into negotiations, and on February 1 Mr. Ramsay MacDonald dispatched a Note to Moscow recognising the U.S.S.R. (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) as the “de jure rulers of those territories of the old Russian Empire which acknowledged their authority.” It should be noted that amongst these territories was included the Socialist Republic of Georgia, which had never acknowledged the authority of the Soviet Government, but had been reduced to submission by force of arms accompanied by the utmost brutality.

On April 9 a Russian delegation arrived in London and Rakovsky, the Soviet representative in England, took his place at its head, at the same time assuming the status of chargé d’affaires pending the appointment of an ambassador. The Conference, summoned to discuss terms of recognition, met on April 14, and continued its sittings until August when, after several hitches and even a rupture on August 5, a draft Treaty with Russia was signed on August 8 by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald and Mr. Ponsonby on one hand and Rakovsky, Joffe, Scheinmann, Radchenko and Tomsky on the other. The terms of this “fantastic treaty,” as Mr. Mowat points out, were inexplicable. The heading ran: “General Treaty between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.” “The title of the King was omitted as a concession, presumably, to Soviet feelings.” Whilst recognising claims of British loan-holders the Government of Great Britain also admitted Soviet counter-claims for British intervention in Russia after the Bolshevist revolution. Further, the members of the Russian Trade Delegation were to be counted as members of the Union Embassy and were to enjoy full diplomatic privileges and immunities.9

This was, of course, to open the door to unlimited intrigue on the part of Soviet agents whose correspondence with Moscow was no longer to be subject to supervision. Needless to say, the diplomatic bag of the Soviet representatives swelled to far larger proportions than that of any foreign Embassy in London. The crowning folly of the document was the proposal to raise a loan for Russia in order to enable her to trade with Great Britain. This was too much even for Mr. Lloyd George, who now summoned the Liberals to protest against the Treaty, and continued up to the eve of the General Election in October to ridicule the idea of the Soviet loan. “Mr. MacDonald said the Soviet loan was part of his remedy for unemployment. We should lend £30,000,000 to Russia and the Russians would buy £20,000,000 worth of goods from us. Well, the man who runs a business like that is not fit to run a coffee-stall.” 10 The Soviet leaders had good reason to congratulate themselves on the bargain they had made, as Kamenev showed in his speech to the Moscow Party Functionaries on August 22, 1924. In answering the questions “What does the Treaty give us? And what do we give England?” Kamenev replied:

This document is not merely an act of recognition. It contains the pledge on the part of the English Government to guarantee a loan to be granted to our Republic. This guarantee means that if the Soviet Government after the conclusion of a loan treaty, should, for any reason, refuse payment of this loan, then the English Government is pledged to pay the same instead of the Soviet Government. Thus the English Government guarantees the stability of the Soviet power, etc.

Kamenev then went on to explain in answer to the second question, “What do we give to England?” that they had agreed to satisfy the claims of English subjects against them, but their counter-claims for damage done by British intervention in Russia would far exceed these. And anyhow the Soviet Government was committed to nothing:

We have undertaken no concrete obligations expressed in definite figures. We have only undertaken to continue negotiations. On the other hand the English Government has undertaken in the event of a favourable conclusion to these negotiations … to guarantee our loan.11

Clearly it was a case of “heads we win, tails you lose” for the Bolsheviks! The obvious use to which money supplied to Russia would be put was the financing of propaganda against Great Britain.

Mr. MacDonald himself was well aware of the anti-British sentiments openly expressed by the Soviet leaders. At the first meeting of the Conference in April he had referred to the violent diatribes recently uttered by Zinoviev, and these had not been mitigated by the conciliatory attitude of the British Government. On the contrary, the Soviet Foreign Commissariat issued a communication indignantly denying reports published in the foreign Press, to the effect that the Soviet Government intended to placate Great Britain by closing the school for anti-British propaganda at Tashkent and declaring that “there had not been and there could not be the slightest retreat in the policy of the Soviet Government towards the oppressed Eastern peoples now struggling for full independence.” 12

At the Congress of the Third International in July practical methods were discussed for mobilising Asia’s millions. “The official spokesman, Manuilsky, asked the Congress to consider ‘whether it is possible to shatter Britain’s might without mobilising these Colonial masses.’ … Zinoviev repeated the time-worn phrase—first coined by Lenin—‘that temporarily it was necessary to support MacDonald’s counter-revolutionary Government as a rope supports a hanging man.’”

In the course of his five-hour speech Zinoviev related how Newbold (the late Communist Member for Motherwell) had worried him and Bukharin to death for a whole evening by asking whether he might, in exceptional circumstances, speak against the Parliamentary Labour Party. “We told him: Yes. That is what you are there for!’”

And Zinoviev went on to observe:

We must adopt catchwords easily understood by the masses. That of “a Labour Government” is the most alluring and popular formula for enlisting the masses in favour of a dictatorship of the proletariat.

The Labour Party was thus to be made to pave the way for its own destruction:

The workers [Zinoviev continued] are still attached to MacDonald, they are still full of illusions.… Our party in England must fight MacDonald in order that the working-classes, when they realise his meanness, should understand that we, the Communists, were the first to estimate him at his true value.13

The Labour Party received these insults with the utmost meekness. Mr. Arthur Ponsonby, the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who had been mainly instrumental in carrying out negotiations, said, in supporting the Treaty with the Soviet Government, in the House of Commons on August 6: “Recognition is the right move—not to give the flabby handshake of patronage, but the firm grasp of friendship.” 14

Lord Parmoor, who defended the cause of the Bolsheviks in the House of Lords, fared no better at their hands:

“Lord Parmoor,” the Pravda (organ of the Russian Communist Party) observed, “is a typical Quaker, a reformist, a sugar-mouthed humanitarian Peer of the Realm, who during the War worked hard to convert the anti-militarist elements of the Labour movement into despicable Socialist Pacifists.”

This paragraph was quoted with great effect by Lord Curzon (of Kedleston) in the course of a forcible and witty speech during the debate on Russia of March 26.15 He described with great eloquence the activities of the Soviet Government to stir up rebellion in Ireland in the past, and in India, South Africa and Persia at the present moment.

“Is there any cessation in the active and pestilent propaganda against British institutions, British influence and the British Empire, which has been going on unremittingly for years, and which was in full blast when I left the Foreign Office between two and three months ago?” And after referring to the fate of the independent States of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Daghestan, etc., which had been absorbed by Soviet Russia, Lord Curzon declared that “the democracy of England, which thinks in holding out the hand of friendship to Russia it is clasping hands with a democratic Government, is in reality only exchanging courtesies with the most terrible and grinding of despotisms that has been known in modern times.”

Five months later, when the Treaty with Russia was about to be signed, Lord Curzon returned again to the charge and ridiculed the whole proceedings in his finest vein of sarcasm. Even Mr. Lloyd George, he pointed out, who for the last six years had been “a passionate advocate of an agreement with the Bolsheviks” and who, since his first attempt at Prinkipo in 1919, had held repeated Conferences in order “to conclude some sort of agreement with these people,” even Mr. Lloyd George, “the real parent of these efforts,” was aghast at the terms of the Treaty.

Lord Parmoor had announced that the Government had extracted a promise from the representatives of Russia to refrain from anti-British propaganda in any part of the Empire; Lord Curzon reminded the House that just the same guarantees had been given at the time of the Trade Agreement (in 1921) and had been secured by him only eighteen months earlier—“therefore when the noble and learned Lord [Lord Parmoor] in the innocence of his heart comes here and tells us he has extracted this declaration and that His Majesty’s Government confidently look forward to its scrupulous fulfilment, those assurances go off my back like water off”—Lord Curzon had nearly said “a duck’s back,” but skilfully saved the situation by saying “like water off a surface of marble.”

If only warnings had not glided off that same marble surface in the early days of Bolshevism! If only, when the first reports came in of the Soviet Government’s plans for the destruction of the British Empire, Lord Curzon, then in control of the Foreign Office, had urged the carrying out of that campaign which was to prevent the spread of the infection of these shores! If only he had realised during his own spell of power the futility of extracting promises from the sworn enemies of England who made no secret of their determination to undermine her power at every point of the Empire! If, as he now said, their anti-British propaganda was still in full blast when he left the Foreign Office, how was it that the Annual Register for 1923 could state that during his term of office “Anglo-Russian relations were left on a firmer basis than before”?16

We may marvel at the meekness with which the Labour Party have always accepted the sneers and insults of the Soviet Government; as members of the Second International founded on Marxian doctrines, it is only natural that they should feel some sympathy with a Government that has attempted to carry those doctrines into practice. The difference between the Second and Third International is after all only one of method. The really amazing thing is that Liberals and Conservatives who have never entertained a belief in Marxism should, when in office, have been willing to parley with the avowed enemies of the existing social order. Whilst forming the Opposition they might expostulate, denounce, employ all the oratory at their command, but when in power they seemed as afraid to take action as the Socialists themselves. Before the Bolshevist menace, statesmen of all parties and of all countries appear to have been frozen into immobility and incapable of resistance “as before the Gorgon’s Head.”

As months went by, public opinion hardened against the Socialist Government. Their supporters became impatient at the failure to carry out Socialist measures. The plan of the Capital Levy had been defeated on April 2, the nationalisation of the mines on May 20. The Budget had proved to be merely a Free Trade one—no increase in the income-tax to satisfy those who yearned to search the pockets of the “capitalists,” but the renunciation of all measures for Imperial Preference and the repeal of the McKenna duties which threw numbers of skilled mechanics out of work.

As to unemployment, for which the Labour Party in their “Appeal to the Nation” at the General Election had said they alone had a “positive remedy,” nothing more had been heard about this panacea and the only noteworthy contribution to the Debates that had taken place on the subject was the famous exclamation of Mr. Tom Shaw:

Does anybody think that we can produce schemes like rabbits out of our hat?17

The solution to the problem, then as now, was found in increasing unemployment benefit.

On September 13, 1924, the Morning Post announced that Mr. Ramsay MacDonald had been presented with a motor-car and 30,000 Preference Shares in McVitie & Price’s biscuit factory for its upkeep, by the Chairman of that Company, Sir Alexander Grant, who was presented three months later with a baronetcy in recognition of his public services. No thing of this transpired at the time or indeed until it was revealed by the Morning Post six months later. On March 15, three days after the allotment of the shares, Mr. MacDonald, in addressing the London Press Club, said that when he left office he would have to return to journalism and referred touchingly to the unpaid bills his post would bring.18 That a representative of “Labour” who knew himself to be in safe possession of at least £2,000 a year for life should contemplate financial embarrassments in the future was not calculated to hearten the rank and file of his supporters who were contriving to make ends meet on considerably less than that sum. However little one might doubt Mr. MacDonald’s integrity, it was difficult henceforth to believe in his Socialism. Moreover, had not Socialists always pointed out the iniquity of that “surplus value” which instead of going into the pockets of the workers went to provide profits for the capitalist and the shareholder? Yet here was one of the leading lights of Socialism accepting 30,000 shares made out of profits on the people’s bread and biscuits—for McVitie & Price are amongst the foremost bakers of Edinburgh. What would “Daddy Marx” have said to this transaction? It is true, however, that Marx himself had felt no scruples about accepting surplus value accruing from the cotton industry of his friend Friedrich Engels.

But if Socialists were disappointed at the abandonment of the principles for which the “Labour” Party stood, those Conservatives who had declared that “a Labour Government could do no harm” proved to have been hardly justified in their predictions. The “Labour” Party had certainly repudiated Communism officially by reaffirming at its Annual Conference the decision against affiliation with the C.P.G.B. (Communist Party of Great Britain) and by adding a rule that Communists should not be eligible as Labour candidates. Again as regards the Empire, except in the blow dealt to Imperial Preference and the obstruction of the new naval base at Singapore, the Labour Party had displayed surprising regard for Imperial interests.

But it must be remembered that as a minority Government their only chance of consolidating their position was to “go slow” and win the confidence of the electorate. To display sympathy with agitators at home or abroad, or to pursue a policy whilst in office such as they advocated after leaving it with regard to China, would have been to court immediate disaster. The real policy of “Labour” can only be judged when it has achieved a majority and is able to carry out its schemes without hindrance from the constitutional parties. Until then it is bound to play a double part, on one hand keeping in with the Extremists through whom it has climbed to power, and on the other overcoming the doubts of the electorate as to its “fitness to govern.” Owing to the difficulty of maintaining itself in this precarious position, between the devil of Communism and the deep sea of public opinion, the “Labour” Government of 1924 came to grief in the autumn of the year.

It was the British Communists who brought matters to a head. Had they been content to wait, the Anglo-Russian Treaty might possibly have been carried through in the teeth of opposition and the Labour Party have continued long enough in office to be able to start on what they described at the ensuing General Election as a “forward march to a really Socialist Commonwealth.” The C.P.G.B. spoilt everything by rushing in with an inflammatory Manifesto. This appeared in the organ of the Party, The Workers’ Weekly of July 25, 1924, under the heading of “An Open Letter to the Fighting Forces,” and the following appeal was made to soldiers, sailors and airmen:

The Communist Party calls upon you to begin the task of not only organising passive resistance when war is declared, or when an industrial dispute involves you, but to definitely and categorically let it be known that neither in the class war nor a military war will you turn your guns on your fellow-workers, but instead will line up with your fellow-workers in an attack upon the exploiters and capitalists, and will use your arms on the side of your own class.

Form committees in every barracks, aerodrome and ship. Let this be the nucleus of an organisation that will prepare the whole of the soldiers, sailors and airmen, not merely to refuse to go to war, or to refuse to shoot strikers during industrial conflicts, but will make it possible for the workers, peasants and soldiers, sailors and airmen, to go forward in a common attack upon the capitalists, and smash capitalism forever, and institute the reign of the whole working-class.

Refuse to shoot your fellow-workers.
>Refuse to fight for profit.
>Turn your weapons on your oppressors.

The attention of the public was drawn to this by an article in the Morning Post which urged that action should be taken, and after some days of deliberation the law was put in motion. Detectives visited the headquarters of the Communist Party in King Street, and on August 5 John Ross Campbell, editor of the Workers’ Weekly, was arrested.

Campbell, who was a leading member of the C.P.G.B., had recently been editing The Worker, the British organ of the Red International of Labour Unions (i.e. the Profintern of Moscow) and he was now editing the Workers’ Weekly during the absence through illness of its regular editor, R. Palme-Dutt. As the official organ of the C.P.G.B., the British branch of the Third (Communist) International of Moscow, it was obvious whence the Workers’ Weekly took its orders, and that the real authors of the Manifesto were the Soviet leaders with whom the British Government were signing a Treaty. This naturally placed the Labour Party in an extremely awkward position and the slippery path between the devil and the deep sea became more than ever difficult to tread. As usual they resorted to compromise—ordered Campbell to be arrested on a charge of sedition, then remanded and finally discharged and allowed to leave the Court a free man. This decision was reached under severe pressure, not only from the Communists, but from members of the Labour Party itself. The New Leader, organ of the I.L.P.—to which 26 members of the “Labour” Government at that moment belonged—characterised the arrest of Campbell as “a shocking error of judgment.”

“That any Labour Minister should have dreamed of prosecuting a workers’ paper (!) for calling on the troops to remember their duty to their class if they should be used in labour disputes, would have seemed incredible before we took office. Incredible it is no longer, but it is unpardonable. The Government has acted properly in mending the mischief, but the warning is clear for all of us to read.” 19

Campbell in publishing the appeal to the forces had indeed only acted in accordance with the policy of certain leading I.L.P.ers. R. C. Wallhead, then Chairman of the I.L.P., in his amicable debate with Arthur MacManus, Chairman of the Communist Party, on August 30, 1921, had said:

My friend MacManus talks of revolution. I want to see that revolution brought about.… I am prepared to arm the proletariat when they have got the means of doing it.… The Communist Party … lay it down that you must exercise illegal methods of propaganda; you must use that propaganda to corrupt the Army and Navy. Well, that’s all right.20

The only thing the I.L.P. did not want was to come up against the police. In doing this, Campbell had committed a tactical error—nothing more. It was another illustration of the point that Communists and Socialists differ not at all in aim, but only in method. And of the two the Communists choose the more courageous part.

But this time the Socialists had sailed too near the wind. The presence of Tomsky, Chairman of the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions, at the Hull Conference of the T.U.C. this September, further alarmed public opinion, and when it was perceived how cordially this Soviet emissary was received by organised Labour and the resolution was passed to send a Trade Union delegation to Russia, the growing rapprochement between Left Wing Trade Unionists and the Bolsheviks became still more apparent.

At the annual Conservative Conference in October the Duke of Northumberland once more sounded a call to arms. Mr. Baldwin, however—the Annual Register observes—“hardly rose to the occasion,” and it was left to Mr. Neville Chamberlain at Rugby to take up the challenge and utter an appeal for a strong and stable Government.

On October 8 a vote of censure on the Labour Government for its conduct in the Campbell case was formally moved by Sir Robert Horne in the House of Commons. The Liberals then proposed an amendment in the form of a committee to investigate the affair, and the Conservatives, by agreeing to this measure, ensured Liberal support in bringing about the defeat of the Government. Mr. Ramsay MacDonald asked for a dissolution of Parliament, and a General Election was announced for October 29.

It was at this crisis, when the public were beginning to be thoroughly alarmed with regard to the Communist danger, that, through the agency of the Daily Mail, the bombshell of the famous “Zinoviev Letter” burst upon the country. On October 25, that is to say, four days before the General Election, this document was published in the whole Press, and in the case of the Daily Mail accompanied by the startling headlines:

“MOSCOW ORDERS TO OUR REDS: GREAT PLOT DISCLOSED YESTERDAY; PARALYSE THE ARMY AND NAVY!” etc.

Then followed the text of the letter, headed very secret, and addressed by the “Executive Committee Third International Presidium” on September 15, 1924, to the “Central Committee British Communist Party.” At the foot were the signatures of Zinoviev, President of the Presidium of the I.K.K.I. (Executive Committee of the Communist International), of Kuusinen, secretary, and the name of A. MacManus, Chairman of the C.P.G.B., to whom the letter was sent.

The letter was a call to armed insurrection, less violent than the one that had formed the subject of the Campbell prosecution, and criticising the British Communist Party for its feeble propaganda work in the Army and the Navy. The strongest passage was contained in these words:

The Military Section of the British Communist Party, so far as we are aware, further suffers from a lack of specialists, the future directors of the British Red Army.

It is time you thought of forming such a group, which, together with the leaders, might be, in the event of an outbreak of active strife, the brain of the military organisation of the party.

Go attentively through the lists of the military “cells,” detaching from them the more energetic and capable men, turn attention to the more talented military specialists who have for one reason or another left the Service and hold Socialist views. Attract them into the ranks of the Communist Party if they desire honestly to serve the proletariat and desire in the future to direct not the blind mechanical forces in the service of the bourgeoisie but a national army.

Form a directing operative head of the Military Section.

All this was the habitual verbiage of the Bolsheviks with which everyone who knew their literature had long since become familiar—the same dull and didactic theorisings, the same involved and redundant phrases, that even in Russian give the impression of being translated laboriously from German. Certainly there was nothing here to stir the pulse—the Foreign Office could doubtless have extracted from its pigeon-holes hundreds of documents more lurid than this. As Mr. J. D. Gregory, who played the leading part in the affair at the Foreign Office, wrote afterwards: “People could at any time have had a whole meal off Zinoviev letters if they had wished.” 21

Yet the sensation it provoked was terrific. All over the country people to whom the Bolsheviks were nothing but a name awoke as in a flash to the reality of the Red Peril. For this the headlines were largely responsible—had the same document been printed in small type on a less important page of the paper it would quite possibly have passed unnoticed. But the Daily Mail knew its business and the huge lettering had the desired effect.

The Conservatives were quick this time to follow up their advantage and drive the matter home to the Labour Party. The “Red Letter” undoubtedly played a great part in the defeat of the Government and the sweeping victory obtained by the Conservatives at the polls.

In view of the controversy that has raged around this famous document it may be worthwhile to recapitulate briefly the course of events in the light of facts that were only revealed four years later as a sequel to the “Francs Case” in which Mr. J. D. Gregory of the Foreign Office was involved.

On October 8, 1924, a City man, Mr. Conrad im Thurn, received information from a business acquaintance that an extraordinary letter had just been received from Zinoviev by the British Communist Party. By the following day Mr. im Thurn had been able to secure a copy of the document, which he sent on to the Foreign Office. The Foreign Office considered it for four days and, having decided on its authenticity, sent it on to Mr. Ramsay MacDonald in Manchester, who received it on October 16 and returned it the same day to the Foreign Office with instructions to ascertain its authenticity and, in the case of this being established, to draw up a draft letter of protest to the Russian Government to be sent to him for signature. This seemed unnecessary in view of the fact that the experts at the Foreign Office had given lengthy consideration to the matter and had decided that the document was authentic; however they pursued their inquiries further and, these having confirmed their opinion, a draft letter of protest was drawn up, signed by Mr. J. D. Gregory and forwarded by Sir Eyre Crowe to Mr. MacDonald at Aberavon on October 21. Mr. MacDonald made several alterations, strengthening the protest, and returned it in its revised form, but not initialled, to Sir Eyre Crowe on October 24.

Meanwhile, Mr. im Thurn, finding that no publicity had been given to the document, decided to communicate it to the Press in order, as he said, to place “the electorate in possession of the whole of the facts before they supported the policy of lending many millions of tax-payers’ money to a country which was at that very moment engaged in fostering sedition in this country.”

Mr. im Thurn accordingly, through a friend, informed the editor of the Daily Mail, Mr. Thomas Marlowe, that this document was in the possession of the Foreign Office and that the Prime Minister was trying to avoid publication. Mr. Marlowe set to work and succeeded in obtaining two copies of the letter from different sources. At the same time he heard that Mr. MacDonald’s action in returning the letter to Sir Eyre Crowe on October 16 for further evidence of authenticity “was regarded by his officials as an indication that he wished to shelve it, as they were already satisfied that it was authentic, and they would not have wasted his time and their own by putting it before him if they had any doubt on that point.”

Concluding, therefore, that the document was not to be made public by the Foreign Office, Mr. Marlowe resolved to take the law into his own hands and, resisting the temptation to make a scoop for the Daily Mail, had the letter set up in type and copies sent to all the other newspapers on October 24. The news that this had been done having reached the Foreign Office, Sir Eyre Crowe, who had all along advised its publication, sent the letter himself to the Press, with the result that it appeared in every paper on October 25 and 26 (a Sunday) as an official Foreign Office communication.

Rakovsky, the Soviet representative, of course declared the letter to be a forgery. The Labour Party, furious at these disclosures of Bolshevist intrigue at the moment when they were hoping to push through their Draft Treaty with the Soviet Government, took the same line, although the authenticity of the letter had been accepted by their leader, in revising the letter of protest to Rakovsky, and they went on to accuse the Conservatives and the Daily Mail of making the matter public as an election stunt to discredit the Labour Party. With far more justification might it be said that the withholding of the letter from publication was an election ruse to shield the Labour Party. As the editor of the Daily Mail pointed out later:

It was obvious that the official publication had been forced by my action. If it had not been for this, the letter would not have been published until after Mr. Rakovsky had received the Prime Minister’s communication, and possibly not until after the Russian Minister had had time to reply to the Prime Minister. This would have taken a few days, perhaps a week, and by that time the General Election would have been over. Mr. MacDonald would have succeeded in delaying the publication until it could do his Party no harm.22

The Daily Mail had therefore only done its duty to the public, and its action, as Mr. Baldwin said in the House of Commons, “was the action of a patriotic newspaper.”

That Mr. Marlowe was right in his forecast of what would have happened was admitted by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald when he said:

It is now perfectly clear that it was the threat of publication by the Daily Mail which forced the hands of the Foreign Office officials, in my absence, and without my knowledge, in the matter of sending the letter to Rakovsky and publishing it.23

So it appears that but for the Daily Mail not only the public would not have been enlightened, but the letter of protest would not have been sent, although Mr. MacDonald had revised it himself for presentation to the Soviet Minister.

Mr. MacDonald elsewhere explained this point by saying:

I sent it back in an altered form, expecting it to come back to me again with proofs of authenticity, but that night it was published.

But as Mr. MacDonald had already returned it once for further proofs of authenticity and these had been given, it is difficult to see how the Foreign Office officials could know that he “expected” the process to be repeated if he did not say so. Mr. MacDonald himself did not blame them at the time; on the contrary, as he stated four years later, he regarded Sir Eyre Crowe—the official mainly responsible—as “the soul of personal honour and official rectitude.” 24

At the same time he observed:

The fact of the matter is that it is perfectly plain that all the hullabaloo about the Zinoviev letter at the last General Election was a dishonest and discreditable stunt worked up by men who knew it to be such.25

And again:

You remember that terrible week-end when the Zinoviev letter was on, and you remember it was characterised as a fraud. My friends, it is a fraud, it was a fraud.26

As a matter of fact, by this time the revelations that had come to light with regard to the origins of the Zinoviev letter had only served to confirm the opinion of the Foreign Office as to its authenticity. It now transpired that the Foreign Office had not depended only on the copy of the letter procured by Mr. im Thurn, but had been able to secure further copies from sources known to it as reliable, and that its authenticity had been established by no less than four independent sources of information.27

Chicherin was also said to have stated that the original letter sent to the Communist Party of Great Britain had been destroyed by the Secretary of the Party, Albert Inkpin.28 The Evening Standard, thereupon, sent a representative to interview Inkpin at the headquarters of the C.P.G.B. in King Street and Inkpin himself admitted that he had destroyed a document consisting of a speech by Zinoviev to the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party, which MacManus had sent to him from Moscow together with a covering letter marked “Secret” and containing the instructions that the contents were “strictly confidential,” only to be read by members of the Central Committee of the British Communist Party. “But this, of course,” lnkpin added, “had nothing to do with the supposed Zinoviev letter.” 29 The fact then remains that a communication from Zinoviev had been destroyed by the C.P.G.B.

Whether the “Red Letter” was a good election cry is a point on which opinions differed. Mr. Gregory, whom the Labour Party afterwards gratuitously accused of making money by its publication, was shown to have been actually opposed to this step on the score that, as only copies were available, it was liable to be characterised as a forgery. It is, of course, a good rule never to base evidence on any document of which the original cannot be produced, but in this case would the original have carried greater weight? The Bolshevists plan was always to deny everything inconvenient to them, and the actual autograph of Zinoviev would no doubt have been described as a forgery with the same ease as the copied letter, as had been done in the case of the Sisson Report where the original documents were produced.

That documents incriminating the Bolsheviks have been faked from time to time admits, however, of no denial. The Communist publication Anti-Soviet Forgeries, that appeared in 1927, contains a large amount of truth; the pages concerning “the arsenal” of Druzhilovsky, Orloff, Gumanski and Ziverts and their relations with certain anti-Bolshevist circles are well worth noting. The main facts here related received confirmation when these same Berlin forgers were brought to trial two years later. What Anti-Soviet Forgeries does not mention, however, is that one of this gang was an agent of the Cheka whose object was to discredit the anti-Bolshevist cause. There is, of course, no more certain way of weakening a case than by introducing false evidence. The bordereau falsely attributed to Dreyfus did more to exonerate him than all the evidence produced in his defence.

Nothing, then, is more urgent in dealing with Bolshevism than to make absolutely certain that information quoted is correct. The policy of “boring from within,” advocated by Lenin, has been practised with great success by his followers everywhere, and also by other agents of the Hidden Hand. No sooner is a strongly anti-Bolshevist movement set on foot than it is penetrated by influences that render it abortive. Sensational news, capable of refutation, is supplied and really damning evidence kept out. I have seen this process repeated again and again from 1918 up to the present day.

Besides being weakened by deliberate sabotage, the anti-Bolshevist campaign, like every good cause, has attracted into its ranks a number of adventurers who see their chance of self-advancement by exploiting the patriotic feelings of the public. In this way large sums have frequently been collected of which no effectual use has been made.

All such damage to the movement might have been avoided if the advice of the Netherlands Minister, given in the deleted passage of the Foreign Office White Paper before referred to,30 had been followed, and collective action had been taken by all the Powers of Europe to “nip Bolshevism in the bud” at that early date of 1918 and thus prevent its spreading “over Europe and the whole world.” Absolutely reliable centres of information might then have been established in every country, under the control of experts, from which propagandists could have obtained their facts, and no bombshells in the form of Zinoviev Letters would have been needed to awaken the British public to the menace of the Soviet Power. In this case Bolshevism would doubtless long since have ceased to exist.

footnotes
1. The Times, April 4, 1918.

2. Evening Standard, February 14, 1924.

3. Morning Post, February 7, 1924.

4. On this question see Potted Biographies: a Dictionary of Anti-National Biography. (Boswell Printing Company, price 6d.)

5. Daily Herald, December 27, 1923.

6. Daily Herald, January 9, 1924.

7. Morning Post, March 3, 1924.

8. Morning Post, March 3, 1924.

9. A History of European Diplomacy, 1914–25, pp. 284–6.

10. Speech at Camberwell on October 27, 1924.

11. Inprecorr, September 11, 1924, p. 698.

12. The Times, July 7, 1924.

13. Ibid.

14. Ibid., August 7, 1924.

15. Parliamentary Debates (Lords), vol. lvi, col. 1060.

16. P. 58.

17. Debate of March 10, 1924.

18. The Times, March 17, 1924.

19. New Leader, August 15, 1924.

20. Labour Leader, September 1, 1921.

21. On the Edge of Diplomacy, by J. D. Gregory, p. 216.

22. Letter of Mr. Marlowe to the Observer, March 4, 1928.

23. Daily Herald, March 5, 1928.

24. Daily Herald, February 28, 1928.

25. Ibid.

26. Speech at Briton Ferry on March 2, 1928. Sunday Express, March 3, 1928.

27. Debate in House of Commons, March 26, 1928.

28. Ibid., March 19, 1928.

29. Evening Standard, March 20, 1928.

30. The text of this passage will be found in my Secret Services and Subversive Movements, p. 384.

Democracy on Trial


The advent of the “Labour Party” to office in 1924 was a deep humiliation to every patriotic citizen. At first it seemed almost unbelievable that only five years after the War had ended the Government of this country should be actually in the hands of men who had failed her in her hour of need, some of whom had even given encouragement to the enemy. The author of the articles broadcasted by the Germans on the outbreak of war, the man whom the sailors refused to carry to Russia—now Prime Minister. The “heroic champion of the conscientious objectors”—Chancellor of the Exchequer. The man who misled us as to Germany’s intentions and still proclaimed himself a pro-German—Lord Chancellor. The promoters of the Leeds Conference, of the Council of Action and a host of members of the I.L.P., Union of Democratic Control and other Pacifist organisations raised to posts of honour in the State. To some of us the triumphal march of conquering German legions down Whitehall would have been less bitter. We closed our eyes in shame as we passed the Cenotaph. Was it for this they fought? We remembered the resolution passed at the mass meeting of engineers at Woolwich in 1918:

To hell with Ramsay MacDonald and Philip Snowden … the engineers of Woolwich Arsenal are Englishmen and they demand to be led by men who love their country. God save England.1

But these sentiments were now quite out-of-date. They certainly did not appear to be shared by the Constitutional Press, which broke out into appreciative paragraphs on the very people whose anti-patriotic activities had been the objects of their denunciation throughout, and after, the War.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives prided themselves on accepting their defeat in a thoroughly “sporting” spirit. They were disappointed of course, but not chastened. The great thing was “to go out smiling.” This habit of treating politics as a game in which the rules of sport and not the rules of war must be observed has been peculiar to the Conservative Party during the past twelve years. Largely composed of men brought up at public schools, they have been unable to divest themselves of the idea that Parliament is a prolonged cricket match in which one’s side comes in to bat and, being fairly bowled, goes out again to field with great good humour. And at the end of each innings both elevens shake hands over drinks and smokes in the pavilion.

This might have been comprehensible when the contest lay between Whigs and Tories or Liberals and Unionists, whose opposing political theories were concerned with no fundamental changes in the existing social order. On both sides the cricket spirit could then be maintained with safety.

But with the advent of the “Labour” Party to the field of politics, an entirely different element had been introduced. It was not only a question of the harm they had done in the past, but of the havoc they might work in the future. As Mr. Lloyd George had said, the “peril” was “the phenomenal rise to power of a new party with new purposes of the most subversive character. It calls itself Labour, but it is really Socialist.… Socialism is fighting … to destroy everything that the great prophets and leaders laboured for generations to build up.”

Faced by such a foe as this, politics had ceased to be a game and had become a war in which there could be no fraternising between the trenches if it was to be brought to a successful conclusion. But the Conservatives declined to see it in this light, they declined even to regard it as a sport to be played with all the rigour of the game, for, as Mr. Robert Hichens makes one of his characters say with regard to bridge-playing: “One can’t fight well if one is full of sympathy and consideration for one’s enemies.” In accordance with this spirit, the word of command went out in 1923 that the triumph of the Labour Party was to be marred by no adverse criticism. During one of the periodic reorganisations to which the Conservative Central Office has been subjected in the course of the last few years, it was stated in the Press at that date:

The most striking feature of the suggested reorganisation is that direct attacks on Socialism would cease at once. A forward and positive policy of social reform is suggested instead, and an educative scheme is adumbrated whereby the electorate would be made acquainted with the fact that social reform was originally suggested by the Conservative Party.2

At the same time the Principal Agent, Sir Reginald Hall, announced in a speech to Unionist delegates that nothing was to be said against the leaders of the Labour Government.

So long as he had a voice in affairs at the Central Office nothing should be sent out from there of a nature that should decry the King’s Government. They might severely criticise some of the Government’s measures, but no personalities should ever go out while he was there” [Cheers].3

So at the moment of their most severe reverse, Conservatism was to surrender its strongest weapon. The one fact that had hitherto weighed with the electorate was the war record of the Socialist leaders;4 now these same leaders were to be acclaimed as worthy custodians of the country’s safety.

The idea of the Conservative Party and the Constitutional Press was “to give Labour a chance.” What they succeeded in doing was to give the Labour Party a free advertisement and rehabilitate them in the eyes of the electorate. The only impression the man in the street could gather was that the “Labour” leaders had been cruelly maligned in the past. Moreover, in accepting the term “Labour” as descriptive of the Party that had now taken office, Conservatives were directly aiding them to deceive the electorate. Mr. Dan Griffiths, writing in the Daily Herald after the 1923 election, pointed out that:

Four and a half million workers have voted Labour, whereas nine millions of the workers have voted anti-Labour. In other words, twice as many workers have voted against the Labour Party as have voted for Labour.5

What right, then, had the Party to claim to represent Labour? By this device they have always succeeded in capturing a number of votes that would never have gone to them had they called themselves by their true name, the “Socialist Party.” It was for the Constitutional Press, and above all for the Conservative Party to show them in their true colours, instead of lending themselves to an imposture and allowing them to masquerade as a party genuinely representative of the aspirations of the working-classes.

The Labour Government itself was of course far too adroit to do anything that would frighten the electorate. All their energies were concentrated on proving that the charges hitherto brought against them were unfounded, that far from being revolutionary, they intended to make no drastic changes, that far from being anti-Imperialist, they were the staunchest supporters of the Empire, and that far from being Republicans, they were amongst His Majesty’s most loyal subjects.

It is true that before the Labour Party assumed the reins of office Mr. George Lansbury, in a speech at the Shoreditch Town Hall, startled the public by observing:

One king stood up against the common people and that day he lost his head—lost it really. Later one of his descendants thought he would have a turn; they told him to get out and he went quickly.… George the Fifth would be well advised to keep his finger out of the pie now.

At the great Labour rally which took place at the Albert Hall three days later, Mr. Lansbury had a marvellous reception, the “Red Flag” was sung with enthusiasm and Mr. Robert Smillie declared: “Our little rumble of revolution does not come fully yet, but it is coming! [Applause.] It is already putting the fear of God into the hearts of our opponents!” [Loud applause.]

But the impression created by these threats was quickly obliterated by the speeches that followed after. The honours of the evening went to Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, who assured his enraptured audience that: “We are a party of idealists. We are a party that away in the dreamland of imagination dwells in the social organisation, fairer and more perfect than any organisation that mankind has ever known.” 6

The Labour Party thus appeared to be simply a large missionary society out to regenerate the world by purely spiritual means.

In accordance with this rôle an olive-branch was dispatched to France. Who had dared to say the Labour Party were pro-German? It would now be seen that they were as staunch supporters of the Entente as of the Empire, the Monarchy and the Constitution. It is interesting to compare their utterances before and after their accession to office. Thus, on August 7, 1922, a leading article in the official organ of the Party had observed in connection with the meeting of Allied Prime Ministers in London:

For the good of Europe and of the world, we hope that, at today’s meeting, Mr. Lloyd George will, for once in his career, stand up to Monsieur Poincaré. Too long has the British Premier allowed this country to be dragged, at the bidding of French militarism, along the road that inevitably leads to world chaos.… Let Mr. Lloyd George today take the necessary steps to curb France. Cause has been given over and over again, and by her decision to act alone in the attempt to make Germany a vassal State, France has broken the Entente.

But now the Labour Party were in office, it seemed that nothing lay nearer to their hearts than the maintenance of the Entente, and Mr. MacDonald, only four days after his accession to office, hastened to write a personal letter expressed in the most friendly terms to Monsieur Poincaré himself. Indeed, it appears that hitherto it had not been the Labour Party, but the people of England who had attributed militarist intentions to France. “Thus,” wrote Mr. MacDonald in a subsequent letter to Monsieur Poincaré, on February 21, “it has come about that the people in this country regard with anxiety what appears to them to be the determination of France to ruin Germany and to dominate the Continent … that they feel apprehensive of the large military and aerial establishments maintained, not only in Eastern, but in Western France,” etc.7

The organ of Mr. MacDonald’s own Party had certainly done nothing to allay these apprehensions which were nowhere observable in the minds of the general public. It was not “the people” who had forgotten the War!

Monsieur Poincaré, whilst “much touched” by Mr. MacDonald’s new-found affection for France, replied with his habitual firmness, and accepted Mr. MacDonald’s assurances on the aberrations of the British public. “Those of your countrymen,” he wrote on February 25, “who believe that France dreams, or has dreamt, of the political or economic annihilation of Germany are mistaken.” As to French militarism he added: “Are there really Englishmen who suppose that France would be capable of making fratricidal preparations against their country? Our military and aerial establishments are exclusively designed to defend us against attempted German revenge.” 8

All then appeared to be harmony between the two countries, and the real effect of a British Labour Government on France was not seen until its repercussion took place in the form of the Cartel des Gauches—or Coalition of Radicals and Socialists—under Monsieur Herriot, which came into power on May 11 of that year and removed Monsieur Poincaré from office. The recall of the French Ambassador in Great Britain, the Comte de Saint-Aulaire, known to be friendly towards the Conservative Party, the recognition of Russia by France on October 16, and the elaboration of the “Geneva Protocol” were further sequels to this event.

The last point takes us back to the question of Germany which we left at the moment when, just before the fall of the Conservative Government, the Germans appealed to the Reparations Commission for an investigation of the whole matter by experts.

As a result of this, the Reparations Commission appointed two committees of experts: (1) The Dawes Committee, with General Charles G. Dawes as chairman, to investigate the German budget and currency, and (2) “Committee No. 2,” with Sir R. McKenna as chairman, to investigate the amount of exported German capital and “encourage its return.” (!)

The reports of both Committees were published on April 9, 1924, and that of the former put forward what became known as the “Dawes Plan,” which was immediately accepted both by Germany and the Reparations Commission. France, still under Monsieur Poincaré, gave no decision, but on the accession of the “Cartel” in the following month the situation changed. At the London Conference of Allied Powers (July 16–August 16) the Dawes Report was accepted and came into force on September 1. An office for Reparation payments was then established in Berlin. The problem of Reparations was now believed to be finally settled.

At this moment the League of Nations held its Fifth Assembly in Geneva, attended by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald and Monsieur Herriot. The outcome of their co-operation was the famous “Geneva Protocol” officially described as the “Arbitration and Sanctions Protocol.” The object of this scheme was compulsory arbitration by which all international disputes would be submitted to the League and the country which refused to abide by its decisions would have “Sanctions” applied to it by the other nations composing the League. These Sanctions might be confined to economic pressure, but might also take the form of naval or military operations. As a result of this arrangement, any Power that did not go to the rescue of the Power designated by the League would be coerced, if necessary, by the British Navy, which would lead to the latter being at the disposal of the League of Nations for its purposes. This plan, supported by most of the Labour Party and which Mr. Ramsay MacDonald declared would “bring an inexhaustible harvest of blessing to Europe,” met with strong disapproval in Great Britain and the Dominions. The fall of the Labour Government prevented its realisation.

Russia
After the gesture to France came the pact of friendship with Russia. This question had been one of the first to occupy the attention of the “Labour” Government and only nine days after his accession to office Mr. Ramsay MacDonald hastened to fulfil his election pledge by abjuring what he termed “the pompous folly of holding aloof from recognition of the Soviet Government.”

The death of Lenin had occurred on January 21, and his place was taken by Rykov, but the real rulers of Russia from this moment were the Triumvirate of Zinoviev, Kamenev and Stalin. The first of these was the most important from the point of view of Great Britain.

Zinoviev, alias Ovsei-Gershon Aronovich Radomyslsky, whose real name was Hirsch Apfelbaum, the son of a Jewish trader in Novomirgorod, born in 1883, was not only a member of the Triumvirate, but also President of the Third International, at the Congresses of which he distinguished himself by his diatribes against Capitalist States and particularly against the British Empire. As Lord Emmott, in an excellent speech in the House of Lords on March 26, 1924, pointed out:

The Communist International exists, as your Lordships know, to propagate Bolshevism, to bring about Bolshevist revolutions everywhere, to discredit Parliamentary institutions, to suppress the Capitalist and to confiscate capital. Zinoviev, its head, has in recent months, day alter day, week after week, been denouncing in most violent language foreign capitalists and foreign bourgeois and explaining with the utmost cynicism the sinister methods employed by the Communist International to stir up revolution in other countries.

It was with the Government of which Zinoviev was one of the three rulers in chief that the Labour Party now entered into negotiations, and on February 1 Mr. Ramsay MacDonald dispatched a Note to Moscow recognising the U.S.S.R. (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) as the “de jure rulers of those territories of the old Russian Empire which acknowledged their authority.” It should be noted that amongst these territories was included the Socialist Republic of Georgia, which had never acknowledged the authority of the Soviet Government, but had been reduced to submission by force of arms accompanied by the utmost brutality.

On April 9 a Russian delegation arrived in London and Rakovsky, the Soviet representative in England, took his place at its head, at the same time assuming the status of chargé d’affaires pending the appointment of an ambassador. The Conference, summoned to discuss terms of recognition, met on April 14, and continued its sittings until August when, after several hitches and even a rupture on August 5, a draft Treaty with Russia was signed on August 8 by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald and Mr. Ponsonby on one hand and Rakovsky, Joffe, Scheinmann, Radchenko and Tomsky on the other. The terms of this “fantastic treaty,” as Mr. Mowat points out, were inexplicable. The heading ran: “General Treaty between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.” “The title of the King was omitted as a concession, presumably, to Soviet feelings.” Whilst recognising claims of British loan-holders the Government of Great Britain also admitted Soviet counter-claims for British intervention in Russia after the Bolshevist revolution. Further, the members of the Russian Trade Delegation were to be counted as members of the Union Embassy and were to enjoy full diplomatic privileges and immunities.9

This was, of course, to open the door to unlimited intrigue on the part of Soviet agents whose correspondence with Moscow was no longer to be subject to supervision. Needless to say, the diplomatic bag of the Soviet representatives swelled to far larger proportions than that of any foreign Embassy in London. The crowning folly of the document was the proposal to raise a loan for Russia in order to enable her to trade with Great Britain. This was too much even for Mr. Lloyd George, who now summoned the Liberals to protest against the Treaty, and continued up to the eve of the General Election in October to ridicule the idea of the Soviet loan. “Mr. MacDonald said the Soviet loan was part of his remedy for unemployment. We should lend £30,000,000 to Russia and the Russians would buy £20,000,000 worth of goods from us. Well, the man who runs a business like that is not fit to run a coffee-stall.” 10 The Soviet leaders had good reason to congratulate themselves on the bargain they had made, as Kamenev showed in his speech to the Moscow Party Functionaries on August 22, 1924. In answering the questions “What does the Treaty give us? And what do we give England?” Kamenev replied:

This document is not merely an act of recognition. It contains the pledge on the part of the English Government to guarantee a loan to be granted to our Republic. This guarantee means that if the Soviet Government after the conclusion of a loan treaty, should, for any reason, refuse payment of this loan, then the English Government is pledged to pay the same instead of the Soviet Government. Thus the English Government guarantees the stability of the Soviet power, etc.

Kamenev then went on to explain in answer to the second question, “What do we give to England?” that they had agreed to satisfy the claims of English subjects against them, but their counter-claims for damage done by British intervention in Russia would far exceed these. And anyhow the Soviet Government was committed to nothing:

We have undertaken no concrete obligations expressed in definite figures. We have only undertaken to continue negotiations. On the other hand the English Government has undertaken in the event of a favourable conclusion to these negotiations … to guarantee our loan.11

Clearly it was a case of “heads we win, tails you lose” for the Bolsheviks! The obvious use to which money supplied to Russia would be put was the financing of propaganda against Great Britain.

Mr. MacDonald himself was well aware of the anti-British sentiments openly expressed by the Soviet leaders. At the first meeting of the Conference in April he had referred to the violent diatribes recently uttered by Zinoviev, and these had not been mitigated by the conciliatory attitude of the British Government. On the contrary, the Soviet Foreign Commissariat issued a communication indignantly denying reports published in the foreign Press, to the effect that the Soviet Government intended to placate Great Britain by closing the school for anti-British propaganda at Tashkent and declaring that “there had not been and there could not be the slightest retreat in the policy of the Soviet Government towards the oppressed Eastern peoples now struggling for full independence.” 12

At the Congress of the Third International in July practical methods were discussed for mobilising Asia’s millions. “The official spokesman, Manuilsky, asked the Congress to consider ‘whether it is possible to shatter Britain’s might without mobilising these Colonial masses.’ … Zinoviev repeated the time-worn phrase—first coined by Lenin—‘that temporarily it was necessary to support MacDonald’s counter-revolutionary Government as a rope supports a hanging man.’”

In the course of his five-hour speech Zinoviev related how Newbold (the late Communist Member for Motherwell) had worried him and Bukharin to death for a whole evening by asking whether he might, in exceptional circumstances, speak against the Parliamentary Labour Party. “We told him: Yes. That is what you are there for!’”

And Zinoviev went on to observe:

We must adopt catchwords easily understood by the masses. That of “a Labour Government” is the most alluring and popular formula for enlisting the masses in favour of a dictatorship of the proletariat.

The Labour Party was thus to be made to pave the way for its own destruction:

The workers [Zinoviev continued] are still attached to MacDonald, they are still full of illusions.… Our party in England must fight MacDonald in order that the working-classes, when they realise his meanness, should understand that we, the Communists, were the first to estimate him at his true value.13

The Labour Party received these insults with the utmost meekness. Mr. Arthur Ponsonby, the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who had been mainly instrumental in carrying out negotiations, said, in supporting the Treaty with the Soviet Government, in the House of Commons on August 6: “Recognition is the right move—not to give the flabby handshake of patronage, but the firm grasp of friendship.” 14

Lord Parmoor, who defended the cause of the Bolsheviks in the House of Lords, fared no better at their hands:

“Lord Parmoor,” the Pravda (organ of the Russian Communist Party) observed, “is a typical Quaker, a reformist, a sugar-mouthed humanitarian Peer of the Realm, who during the War worked hard to convert the anti-militarist elements of the Labour movement into despicable Socialist Pacifists.”

This paragraph was quoted with great effect by Lord Curzon (of Kedleston) in the course of a forcible and witty speech during the debate on Russia of March 26.15 He described with great eloquence the activities of the Soviet Government to stir up rebellion in Ireland in the past, and in India, South Africa and Persia at the present moment.

“Is there any cessation in the active and pestilent propaganda against British institutions, British influence and the British Empire, which has been going on unremittingly for years, and which was in full blast when I left the Foreign Office between two and three months ago?” And after referring to the fate of the independent States of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Daghestan, etc., which had been absorbed by Soviet Russia, Lord Curzon declared that “the democracy of England, which thinks in holding out the hand of friendship to Russia it is clasping hands with a democratic Government, is in reality only exchanging courtesies with the most terrible and grinding of despotisms that has been known in modern times.”

Five months later, when the Treaty with Russia was about to be signed, Lord Curzon returned again to the charge and ridiculed the whole proceedings in his finest vein of sarcasm. Even Mr. Lloyd George, he pointed out, who for the last six years had been “a passionate advocate of an agreement with the Bolsheviks” and who, since his first attempt at Prinkipo in 1919, had held repeated Conferences in order “to conclude some sort of agreement with these people,” even Mr. Lloyd George, “the real parent of these efforts,” was aghast at the terms of the Treaty.

Lord Parmoor had announced that the Government had extracted a promise from the representatives of Russia to refrain from anti-British propaganda in any part of the Empire; Lord Curzon reminded the House that just the same guarantees had been given at the time of the Trade Agreement (in 1921) and had been secured by him only eighteen months earlier—“therefore when the noble and learned Lord [Lord Parmoor] in the innocence of his heart comes here and tells us he has extracted this declaration and that His Majesty’s Government confidently look forward to its scrupulous fulfilment, those assurances go off my back like water off”—Lord Curzon had nearly said “a duck’s back,” but skilfully saved the situation by saying “like water off a surface of marble.”

If only warnings had not glided off that same marble surface in the early days of Bolshevism! If only, when the first reports came in of the Soviet Government’s plans for the destruction of the British Empire, Lord Curzon, then in control of the Foreign Office, had urged the carrying out of that campaign which was to prevent the spread of the infection of these shores! If only he had realised during his own spell of power the futility of extracting promises from the sworn enemies of England who made no secret of their determination to undermine her power at every point of the Empire! If, as he now said, their anti-British propaganda was still in full blast when he left the Foreign Office, how was it that the Annual Register for 1923 could state that during his term of office “Anglo-Russian relations were left on a firmer basis than before”?16

We may marvel at the meekness with which the Labour Party have always accepted the sneers and insults of the Soviet Government; as members of the Second International founded on Marxian doctrines, it is only natural that they should feel some sympathy with a Government that has attempted to carry those doctrines into practice. The difference between the Second and Third International is after all only one of method. The really amazing thing is that Liberals and Conservatives who have never entertained a belief in Marxism should, when in office, have been willing to parley with the avowed enemies of the existing social order. Whilst forming the Opposition they might expostulate, denounce, employ all the oratory at their command, but when in power they seemed as afraid to take action as the Socialists themselves. Before the Bolshevist menace, statesmen of all parties and of all countries appear to have been frozen into immobility and incapable of resistance “as before the Gorgon’s Head.”

As months went by, public opinion hardened against the Socialist Government. Their supporters became impatient at the failure to carry out Socialist measures. The plan of the Capital Levy had been defeated on April 2, the nationalisation of the mines on May 20. The Budget had proved to be merely a Free Trade one—no increase in the income-tax to satisfy those who yearned to search the pockets of the “capitalists,” but the renunciation of all measures for Imperial Preference and the repeal of the McKenna duties which threw numbers of skilled mechanics out of work.

As to unemployment, for which the Labour Party in their “Appeal to the Nation” at the General Election had said they alone had a “positive remedy,” nothing more had been heard about this panacea and the only noteworthy contribution to the Debates that had taken place on the subject was the famous exclamation of Mr. Tom Shaw:

Does anybody think that we can produce schemes like rabbits out of our hat?17

The solution to the problem, then as now, was found in increasing unemployment benefit.

On September 13, 1924, the Morning Post announced that Mr. Ramsay MacDonald had been presented with a motor-car and 30,000 Preference Shares in McVitie & Price’s biscuit factory for its upkeep, by the Chairman of that Company, Sir Alexander Grant, who was presented three months later with a baronetcy in recognition of his public services. No thing of this transpired at the time or indeed until it was revealed by the Morning Post six months later. On March 15, three days after the allotment of the shares, Mr. MacDonald, in addressing the London Press Club, said that when he left office he would have to return to journalism and referred touchingly to the unpaid bills his post would bring.18 That a representative of “Labour” who knew himself to be in safe possession of at least £2,000 a year for life should contemplate financial embarrassments in the future was not calculated to hearten the rank and file of his supporters who were contriving to make ends meet on considerably less than that sum. However little one might doubt Mr. MacDonald’s integrity, it was difficult henceforth to believe in his Socialism. Moreover, had not Socialists always pointed out the iniquity of that “surplus value” which instead of going into the pockets of the workers went to provide profits for the capitalist and the shareholder? Yet here was one of the leading lights of Socialism accepting 30,000 shares made out of profits on the people’s bread and biscuits—for McVitie & Price are amongst the foremost bakers of Edinburgh. What would “Daddy Marx” have said to this transaction? It is true, however, that Marx himself had felt no scruples about accepting surplus value accruing from the cotton industry of his friend Friedrich Engels.

But if Socialists were disappointed at the abandonment of the principles for which the “Labour” Party stood, those Conservatives who had declared that “a Labour Government could do no harm” proved to have been hardly justified in their predictions. The “Labour” Party had certainly repudiated Communism officially by reaffirming at its Annual Conference the decision against affiliation with the C.P.G.B. (Communist Party of Great Britain) and by adding a rule that Communists should not be eligible as Labour candidates. Again as regards the Empire, except in the blow dealt to Imperial Preference and the obstruction of the new naval base at Singapore, the Labour Party had displayed surprising regard for Imperial interests.

But it must be remembered that as a minority Government their only chance of consolidating their position was to “go slow” and win the confidence of the electorate. To display sympathy with agitators at home or abroad, or to pursue a policy whilst in office such as they advocated after leaving it with regard to China, would have been to court immediate disaster. The real policy of “Labour” can only be judged when it has achieved a majority and is able to carry out its schemes without hindrance from the constitutional parties. Until then it is bound to play a double part, on one hand keeping in with the Extremists through whom it has climbed to power, and on the other overcoming the doubts of the electorate as to its “fitness to govern.” Owing to the difficulty of maintaining itself in this precarious position, between the devil of Communism and the deep sea of public opinion, the “Labour” Government of 1924 came to grief in the autumn of the year.

It was the British Communists who brought matters to a head. Had they been content to wait, the Anglo-Russian Treaty might possibly have been carried through in the teeth of opposition and the Labour Party have continued long enough in office to be able to start on what they described at the ensuing General Election as a “forward march to a really Socialist Commonwealth.” The C.P.G.B. spoilt everything by rushing in with an inflammatory Manifesto. This appeared in the organ of the Party, The Workers’ Weekly of July 25, 1924, under the heading of “An Open Letter to the Fighting Forces,” and the following appeal was made to soldiers, sailors and airmen:

The Communist Party calls upon you to begin the task of not only organising passive resistance when war is declared, or when an industrial dispute involves you, but to definitely and categorically let it be known that neither in the class war nor a military war will you turn your guns on your fellow-workers, but instead will line up with your fellow-workers in an attack upon the exploiters and capitalists, and will use your arms on the side of your own class.

Form committees in every barracks, aerodrome and ship. Let this be the nucleus of an organisation that will prepare the whole of the soldiers, sailors and airmen, not merely to refuse to go to war, or to refuse to shoot strikers during industrial conflicts, but will make it possible for the workers, peasants and soldiers, sailors and airmen, to go forward in a common attack upon the capitalists, and smash capitalism forever, and institute the reign of the whole working-class.

Refuse to shoot your fellow-workers.
>Refuse to fight for profit.
>Turn your weapons on your oppressors.

The attention of the public was drawn to this by an article in the Morning Post which urged that action should be taken, and after some days of deliberation the law was put in motion. Detectives visited the headquarters of the Communist Party in King Street, and on August 5 John Ross Campbell, editor of the Workers’ Weekly, was arrested.

Campbell, who was a leading member of the C.P.G.B., had recently been editing The Worker, the British organ of the Red International of Labour Unions (i.e. the Profintern of Moscow) and he was now editing the Workers’ Weekly during the absence through illness of its regular editor, R. Palme-Dutt. As the official organ of the C.P.G.B., the British branch of the Third (Communist) International of Moscow, it was obvious whence the Workers’ Weekly took its orders, and that the real authors of the Manifesto were the Soviet leaders with whom the British Government were signing a Treaty. This naturally placed the Labour Party in an extremely awkward position and the slippery path between the devil and the deep sea became more than ever difficult to tread. As usual they resorted to compromise—ordered Campbell to be arrested on a charge of sedition, then remanded and finally discharged and allowed to leave the Court a free man. This decision was reached under severe pressure, not only from the Communists, but from members of the Labour Party itself. The New Leader, organ of the I.L.P.—to which 26 members of the “Labour” Government at that moment belonged—characterised the arrest of Campbell as “a shocking error of judgment.”

“That any Labour Minister should have dreamed of prosecuting a workers’ paper (!) for calling on the troops to remember their duty to their class if they should be used in labour disputes, would have seemed incredible before we took office. Incredible it is no longer, but it is unpardonable. The Government has acted properly in mending the mischief, but the warning is clear for all of us to read.” 19

Campbell in publishing the appeal to the forces had indeed only acted in accordance with the policy of certain leading I.L.P.ers. R. C. Wallhead, then Chairman of the I.L.P., in his amicable debate with Arthur MacManus, Chairman of the Communist Party, on August 30, 1921, had said:

My friend MacManus talks of revolution. I want to see that revolution brought about.… I am prepared to arm the proletariat when they have got the means of doing it.… The Communist Party … lay it down that you must exercise illegal methods of propaganda; you must use that propaganda to corrupt the Army and Navy. Well, that’s all right.20

The only thing the I.L.P. did not want was to come up against the police. In doing this, Campbell had committed a tactical error—nothing more. It was another illustration of the point that Communists and Socialists differ not at all in aim, but only in method. And of the two the Communists choose the more courageous part.

But this time the Socialists had sailed too near the wind. The presence of Tomsky, Chairman of the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions, at the Hull Conference of the T.U.C. this September, further alarmed public opinion, and when it was perceived how cordially this Soviet emissary was received by organised Labour and the resolution was passed to send a Trade Union delegation to Russia, the growing rapprochement between Left Wing Trade Unionists and the Bolsheviks became still more apparent.

At the annual Conservative Conference in October the Duke of Northumberland once more sounded a call to arms. Mr. Baldwin, however—the Annual Register observes—“hardly rose to the occasion,” and it was left to Mr. Neville Chamberlain at Rugby to take up the challenge and utter an appeal for a strong and stable Government.

On October 8 a vote of censure on the Labour Government for its conduct in the Campbell case was formally moved by Sir Robert Horne in the House of Commons. The Liberals then proposed an amendment in the form of a committee to investigate the affair, and the Conservatives, by agreeing to this measure, ensured Liberal support in bringing about the defeat of the Government. Mr. Ramsay MacDonald asked for a dissolution of Parliament, and a General Election was announced for October 29.

It was at this crisis, when the public were beginning to be thoroughly alarmed with regard to the Communist danger, that, through the agency of the Daily Mail, the bombshell of the famous “Zinoviev Letter” burst upon the country. On October 25, that is to say, four days before the General Election, this document was published in the whole Press, and in the case of the Daily Mail accompanied by the startling headlines:

“MOSCOW ORDERS TO OUR REDS: GREAT PLOT DISCLOSED YESTERDAY; PARALYSE THE ARMY AND NAVY!” etc.

Then followed the text of the letter, headed very secret, and addressed by the “Executive Committee Third International Presidium” on September 15, 1924, to the “Central Committee British Communist Party.” At the foot were the signatures of Zinoviev, President of the Presidium of the I.K.K.I. (Executive Committee of the Communist International), of Kuusinen, secretary, and the name of A. MacManus, Chairman of the C.P.G.B., to whom the letter was sent.

The letter was a call to armed insurrection, less violent than the one that had formed the subject of the Campbell prosecution, and criticising the British Communist Party for its feeble propaganda work in the Army and the Navy. The strongest passage was contained in these words:

The Military Section of the British Communist Party, so far as we are aware, further suffers from a lack of specialists, the future directors of the British Red Army.

It is time you thought of forming such a group, which, together with the leaders, might be, in the event of an outbreak of active strife, the brain of the military organisation of the party.

Go attentively through the lists of the military “cells,” detaching from them the more energetic and capable men, turn attention to the more talented military specialists who have for one reason or another left the Service and hold Socialist views. Attract them into the ranks of the Communist Party if they desire honestly to serve the proletariat and desire in the future to direct not the blind mechanical forces in the service of the bourgeoisie but a national army.

Form a directing operative head of the Military Section.

All this was the habitual verbiage of the Bolsheviks with which everyone who knew their literature had long since become familiar—the same dull and didactic theorisings, the same involved and redundant phrases, that even in Russian give the impression of being translated laboriously from German. Certainly there was nothing here to stir the pulse—the Foreign Office could doubtless have extracted from its pigeon-holes hundreds of documents more lurid than this. As Mr. J. D. Gregory, who played the leading part in the affair at the Foreign Office, wrote afterwards: “People could at any time have had a whole meal off Zinoviev letters if they had wished.” 21

Yet the sensation it provoked was terrific. All over the country people to whom the Bolsheviks were nothing but a name awoke as in a flash to the reality of the Red Peril. For this the headlines were largely responsible—had the same document been printed in small type on a less important page of the paper it would quite possibly have passed unnoticed. But the Daily Mail knew its business and the huge lettering had the desired effect.

The Conservatives were quick this time to follow up their advantage and drive the matter home to the Labour Party. The “Red Letter” undoubtedly played a great part in the defeat of the Government and the sweeping victory obtained by the Conservatives at the polls.

In view of the controversy that has raged around this famous document it may be worthwhile to recapitulate briefly the course of events in the light of facts that were only revealed four years later as a sequel to the “Francs Case” in which Mr. J. D. Gregory of the Foreign Office was involved.

On October 8, 1924, a City man, Mr. Conrad im Thurn, received information from a business acquaintance that an extraordinary letter had just been received from Zinoviev by the British Communist Party. By the following day Mr. im Thurn had been able to secure a copy of the document, which he sent on to the Foreign Office. The Foreign Office considered it for four days and, having decided on its authenticity, sent it on to Mr. Ramsay MacDonald in Manchester, who received it on October 16 and returned it the same day to the Foreign Office with instructions to ascertain its authenticity and, in the case of this being established, to draw up a draft letter of protest to the Russian Government to be sent to him for signature. This seemed unnecessary in view of the fact that the experts at the Foreign Office had given lengthy consideration to the matter and had decided that the document was authentic; however they pursued their inquiries further and, these having confirmed their opinion, a draft letter of protest was drawn up, signed by Mr. J. D. Gregory and forwarded by Sir Eyre Crowe to Mr. MacDonald at Aberavon on October 21. Mr. MacDonald made several alterations, strengthening the protest, and returned it in its revised form, but not initialled, to Sir Eyre Crowe on October 24.

Meanwhile, Mr. im Thurn, finding that no publicity had been given to the document, decided to communicate it to the Press in order, as he said, to place “the electorate in possession of the whole of the facts before they supported the policy of lending many millions of tax-payers’ money to a country which was at that very moment engaged in fostering sedition in this country.”

Mr. im Thurn accordingly, through a friend, informed the editor of the Daily Mail, Mr. Thomas Marlowe, that this document was in the possession of the Foreign Office and that the Prime Minister was trying to avoid publication. Mr. Marlowe set to work and succeeded in obtaining two copies of the letter from different sources. At the same time he heard that Mr. MacDonald’s action in returning the letter to Sir Eyre Crowe on October 16 for further evidence of authenticity “was regarded by his officials as an indication that he wished to shelve it, as they were already satisfied that it was authentic, and they would not have wasted his time and their own by putting it before him if they had any doubt on that point.”

Concluding, therefore, that the document was not to be made public by the Foreign Office, Mr. Marlowe resolved to take the law into his own hands and, resisting the temptation to make a scoop for the Daily Mail, had the letter set up in type and copies sent to all the other newspapers on October 24. The news that this had been done having reached the Foreign Office, Sir Eyre Crowe, who had all along advised its publication, sent the letter himself to the Press, with the result that it appeared in every paper on October 25 and 26 (a Sunday) as an official Foreign Office communication.

Rakovsky, the Soviet representative, of course declared the letter to be a forgery. The Labour Party, furious at these disclosures of Bolshevist intrigue at the moment when they were hoping to push through their Draft Treaty with the Soviet Government, took the same line, although the authenticity of the letter had been accepted by their leader, in revising the letter of protest to Rakovsky, and they went on to accuse the Conservatives and the Daily Mail of making the matter public as an election stunt to discredit the Labour Party. With far more justification might it be said that the withholding of the letter from publication was an election ruse to shield the Labour Party. As the editor of the Daily Mail pointed out later:

It was obvious that the official publication had been forced by my action. If it had not been for this, the letter would not have been published until after Mr. Rakovsky had received the Prime Minister’s communication, and possibly not until after the Russian Minister had had time to reply to the Prime Minister. This would have taken a few days, perhaps a week, and by that time the General Election would have been over. Mr. MacDonald would have succeeded in delaying the publication until it could do his Party no harm.22

The Daily Mail had therefore only done its duty to the public, and its action, as Mr. Baldwin said in the House of Commons, “was the action of a patriotic newspaper.”

That Mr. Marlowe was right in his forecast of what would have happened was admitted by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald when he said:

It is now perfectly clear that it was the threat of publication by the Daily Mail which forced the hands of the Foreign Office officials, in my absence, and without my knowledge, in the matter of sending the letter to Rakovsky and publishing it.23

So it appears that but for the Daily Mail not only the public would not have been enlightened, but the letter of protest would not have been sent, although Mr. MacDonald had revised it himself for presentation to the Soviet Minister.

Mr. MacDonald elsewhere explained this point by saying:

I sent it back in an altered form, expecting it to come back to me again with proofs of authenticity, but that night it was published.

But as Mr. MacDonald had already returned it once for further proofs of authenticity and these had been given, it is difficult to see how the Foreign Office officials could know that he “expected” the process to be repeated if he did not say so. Mr. MacDonald himself did not blame them at the time; on the contrary, as he stated four years later, he regarded Sir Eyre Crowe—the official mainly responsible—as “the soul of personal honour and official rectitude.” 24

At the same time he observed:

The fact of the matter is that it is perfectly plain that all the hullabaloo about the Zinoviev letter at the last General Election was a dishonest and discreditable stunt worked up by men who knew it to be such.25

And again:

You remember that terrible week-end when the Zinoviev letter was on, and you remember it was characterised as a fraud. My friends, it is a fraud, it was a fraud.26

As a matter of fact, by this time the revelations that had come to light with regard to the origins of the Zinoviev letter had only served to confirm the opinion of the Foreign Office as to its authenticity. It now transpired that the Foreign Office had not depended only on the copy of the letter procured by Mr. im Thurn, but had been able to secure further copies from sources known to it as reliable, and that its authenticity had been established by no less than four independent sources of information.27

Chicherin was also said to have stated that the original letter sent to the Communist Party of Great Britain had been destroyed by the Secretary of the Party, Albert Inkpin.28 The Evening Standard, thereupon, sent a representative to interview Inkpin at the headquarters of the C.P.G.B. in King Street and Inkpin himself admitted that he had destroyed a document consisting of a speech by Zinoviev to the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party, which MacManus had sent to him from Moscow together with a covering letter marked “Secret” and containing the instructions that the contents were “strictly confidential,” only to be read by members of the Central Committee of the British Communist Party. “But this, of course,” lnkpin added, “had nothing to do with the supposed Zinoviev letter.” 29 The fact then remains that a communication from Zinoviev had been destroyed by the C.P.G.B.

Whether the “Red Letter” was a good election cry is a point on which opinions differed. Mr. Gregory, whom the Labour Party afterwards gratuitously accused of making money by its publication, was shown to have been actually opposed to this step on the score that, as only copies were available, it was liable to be characterised as a forgery. It is, of course, a good rule never to base evidence on any document of which the original cannot be produced, but in this case would the original have carried greater weight? The Bolshevists plan was always to deny everything inconvenient to them, and the actual autograph of Zinoviev would no doubt have been described as a forgery with the same ease as the copied letter, as had been done in the case of the Sisson Report where the original documents were produced.

That documents incriminating the Bolsheviks have been faked from time to time admits, however, of no denial. The Communist publication Anti-Soviet Forgeries, that appeared in 1927, contains a large amount of truth; the pages concerning “the arsenal” of Druzhilovsky, Orloff, Gumanski and Ziverts and their relations with certain anti-Bolshevist circles are well worth noting. The main facts here related received confirmation when these same Berlin forgers were brought to trial two years later. What Anti-Soviet Forgeries does not mention, however, is that one of this gang was an agent of the Cheka whose object was to discredit the anti-Bolshevist cause. There is, of course, no more certain way of weakening a case than by introducing false evidence. The bordereau falsely attributed to Dreyfus did more to exonerate him than all the evidence produced in his defence.

Nothing, then, is more urgent in dealing with Bolshevism than to make absolutely certain that information quoted is correct. The policy of “boring from within,” advocated by Lenin, has been practised with great success by his followers everywhere, and also by other agents of the Hidden Hand. No sooner is a strongly anti-Bolshevist movement set on foot than it is penetrated by influences that render it abortive. Sensational news, capable of refutation, is supplied and really damning evidence kept out. I have seen this process repeated again and again from 1918 up to the present day.

Besides being weakened by deliberate sabotage, the anti-Bolshevist campaign, like every good cause, has attracted into its ranks a number of adventurers who see their chance of self-advancement by exploiting the patriotic feelings of the public. In this way large sums have frequently been collected of which no effectual use has been made.

All such damage to the movement might have been avoided if the advice of the Netherlands Minister, given in the deleted passage of the Foreign Office White Paper before referred to,30 had been followed, and collective action had been taken by all the Powers of Europe to “nip Bolshevism in the bud” at that early date of 1918 and thus prevent its spreading “over Europe and the whole world.” Absolutely reliable centres of information might then have been established in every country, under the control of experts, from which propagandists could have obtained their facts, and no bombshells in the form of Zinoviev Letters would have been needed to awaken the British public to the menace of the Soviet Power. In this case Bolshevism would doubtless long since have ceased to exist.

footnotes
1. The Times, April 4, 1918.

2. Evening Standard, February 14, 1924.

3. Morning Post, February 7, 1924.

4. On this question see Potted Biographies: a Dictionary of Anti-National Biography. (Boswell Printing Company, price 6d.)

5. Daily Herald, December 27, 1923.

6. Daily Herald, January 9, 1924.

7. Morning Post, March 3, 1924.

8. Morning Post, March 3, 1924.

9. A History of European Diplomacy, 1914–25, pp. 284–6.

10. Speech at Camberwell on October 27, 1924.

11. Inprecorr, September 11, 1924, p. 698.

12. The Times, July 7, 1924.

13. Ibid.

14. Ibid., August 7, 1924.

15. Parliamentary Debates (Lords), vol. lvi, col. 1060.

16. P. 58.

17. Debate of March 10, 1924.

18. The Times, March 17, 1924.

19. New Leader, August 15, 1924.

20. Labour Leader, September 1, 1921.

21. On the Edge of Diplomacy, by J. D. Gregory, p. 216.

22. Letter of Mr. Marlowe to the Observer, March 4, 1928.

23. Daily Herald, March 5, 1928.

24. Daily Herald, February 28, 1928.

25. Ibid.

26. Speech at Briton Ferry on March 2, 1928. Sunday Express, March 3, 1928.

27. Debate in House of Commons, March 26, 1928.

28. Ibid., March 19, 1928.

29. Evening Standard, March 20, 1928.

30. The text of this passage will be found in my Secret Services and Subversive Movements, p. 384.