'WHEN IS A SMEAR NOT A SMEAR?'

By Julian Lewis

Salisbury Review – October 1984

Several years ago the political analyst, S. E. Finer, wrote a book about pressure groups, concluding that the more noise an organisation makes publicly, the more this indicates its lack of real influence in the corridors of power. People shouting on the streets are usually obliged to do so because of their failure to influence the policy process.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has, in its time, managed to rustle up more shouters on the streets than most: it turned out about 150,000 and 100,000 in 1981 and 1982 respectively, and characteristically claimed a quarter of a million on each occasion. In order to frustrate yet another such cavalier exaggeration in October 1983, the Coalition for Peace Through Security commissioned an expert photographic analysis which showed the true figure on that occasion to be approximately 98,000 for march and rally combined. So as to show 'progress' on their own grossly inflated estimates for the previous two years, the CND had felt obliged to claim 400,000 – a total ruled out as absolutely impossible by our aerial survey. Yet, when our findings were made known to the media, the very first question asked by a radio interviewer was: "Isn't this an attempt by the CPS to smear the CND?" No matter that the accuracy of our survey and the inaccuracy of the CND 'guesstimate' were beyond question; it was just 'bad form' to criticise the Holy Movement – irrespective of the validity of the criticism.

The late Senator Joseph McCarthy certainly has a lot to answer for: his campaign of wild and often unsubstantiated allegations of Communist activity has almost succeeded in giving anti-Communism in general a bad name. There is today a great propensity for 'reverse McCarthyism', a willingness to dismiss any charge of far Left misbehaviour, however accurate, as just 'Reds-under-the-Bed’ – even when the Reds are no longer under the bed, but in it. Have you noticed, for example, how the allies of the Militant Tendency (in what currently passes for the Labour Party) continually refer to the feeble attempts being made to keep these revolutionary Trotskyists in check as a 'witch-hunt'? Now, the whole point about a witch-hunt is that it was always unjust, because witches were non-existent and the poor wretches accused and killed for sorcery were totally innocent of any crime. Had they really possessed evil supernatural powers, the injustice of hunting for witches would have been far from self-evident.

So it is with the 'smearing' of the CND by its opponents. Basically, this organisation sails under false colours. It claims to be a 'broadly-based movement', even going to the trouble of setting up and administering a miniscule sub-group of 'Tories Against Cruise and Trident', whose members need not belong to the Tory Party and whose supporters are openly admitted to include people who do not even vote Conservative.

The CND is not only one-sided in its disarmament recommendations, it is also grossly one-sided in its political affiliations. Of course significant numbers of ordinary apolitical folk, worried (and who isn't?) about the potential horror of a nuclear war, exist in the CND at grass-roots level; but this is most definitely not reflected anywhere near the top of the hierarchy. Even the traditional, ever-present strand of British pacifism which does so much to give CND a veneer of respectability in the country at large, is heavily outnumbered by the ideologically committed in the leadership clique.

Take the December 1983 Annual Conference elections, for example, when the six CND officers and 20 CND Council members were chosen. Here is a breakdown of the officers:

Chair: [sic] Joan Ruddock – a committed Left-wing Labourite who has repeatedly belittled the existence of a Soviet threat, advocates a neutral Britain out of NATO, and recently admitted: "My life has become one of greater and greater commitment to Socialism." (City Limits, 2 March 1984)

Vice-Chair: (i) Professor Michael Pentz – former Communist Party local government candidate, now (like so many other ex-CP members) on the hard Left of the Labour Party. Has been involved with the Soviet front body, the World Federation of Scientific Workers, as well as the British arm of the Kremlin-backed World Peace Council.

(ii) Joy Hurcombe – like Ruddock, a former Labour Parliamentary candidate on the Left of the Party. Deeply involved in the controversial, Trotskyist-dominated Labour CND group.

(iii) Roger Spiller – a full-time trade union official and Labour activist, on the Tribune wing of the Party. Delegated as an 'Observer' representing the CND at the World Peace Council's phony Prague Peace Assembly in 1983.

(iv) Meg Beresford – who has described herself as a 'Socialist Feminist'.

Treasurer: Mick Elliott – delegate in 1980 to the World Peace Council's so-called World Parliament [!] of Peoples for Peace in Bulgaria, which according to Vladimir Bukovsky unanimously voted to endorse the puppet régime in Afghanistan, installed by Soviet tanks the previous December. Which way did Elliott vote? Elliott was also 'Parliamentary Adviser' to Richard Caborn, a pro-Soviet World Peace Council member – and the MP installed by the hard Left after a constituency coup in Sheffield led to the ousting as Labour candidate of the former Secretary of State for Defence Fred Mulley.

Of the combined total of 26 CND officers and Council members elected at the 1983 Annual Conference, at least 20 are committed Communists, Labourites or 'Socialists' of one description or another. Of the 20 Council members chosen, a summary can be given as follows:

Four open members of the British Communist Party – (i) Professor Vic Allen – Arthur Scargill's eminence grise and a leading member of the British-Soviet Friendship Society. Now serving on the CND's International Committee, which organises delegations to the so-called Soviet Peace Committee and other World Peace Council fronts, (ii) Jon Bloomfield – the CND's other 'Observer' at the Prague Peace Assembly, (iii) Mary Brennan – who calls herself a 'Catholic, Communist, Doctor', (iv) lan Davison – Secretary of Scottish CND and a senior figure in the CND 'establishment’.

Nine known Labourites – (i) & (ii) the Trotskyists Dick Withecombe and Judith Bonner. The latter wrote in her CND election manifesto: "our allies are not NATO generals and the likes of Mountbatten who support the butchering of liberation movements in Central America and Northern Ireland". (iii) & (iv) Two defeated Left-wing Labour MPs, Joan Lestor and Bob Cryer. (v), (vi) & (vii) Labour activists Walter Wolfgang, Penny Auty and the unspeakable Helen John – the last of whom is a close political ally of Ken Livingstone, is a veteran Greenham Common camper, and had her fares paid to the 1983 Prague Peace Assembly by the Women's International Democratic Federation, a notorious Soviet front organisation. (viii) Candy Atherton – a leading light in the 1982 anti-Falklands Task Force agitation within the CND and the Labour Party. Finally, (ix) Jenny Edwards – a full-time employee at CND Head Office until late 1983, when Labour's Camden Council took her on with a five-figure salary at the ratepayers' expense as a full-time 'Peace Officer' for the Borough.

One 'unaffiliated Socialist' – James Hinton – of the far Left persuasion.

Even of the remaining six, (i) & (ii) Annajoy David and Dan Plesch appear to stand well to the Left of Centre; (iii) Paul Johns (of Christian CND) was happy to write an article for the Communist Morning Star newspaper in January 1984, and (iv) Giles Perritt (formerly of Schools Against the Bomb) described himself as a 'Labour supporter' at a conference in the spring of 1983.

Nor should we forget the (non-elected) Vice-Presidents of the CND, 11 in all, including Labour Leftists Lord (Hugh) Jenkins, Ron Todd (Transport & General Workers Union), Frank Allaun (of the pro-Soviet British Peace Assembly, and Labour Action for Peace), and Jo Richardson; ex-Communist Party members E. P. Thompson and Phil Bolsover; and, last but not least, Dr John Cox who was elected to the Executive Committee of the British Communist Party at its 38th Congress in November 1983. This was, of course, the memorable assembly when CND General Secretary Bruce Kent referred to the Communists as "partners in the cause for peace in this world", and praised the nauseatingly pro-Moscow paper, the Morning Star, for its "steady, honest and generous coverage of the whole disarmament case". (A measure of its honesty, and of its conception of 'Peace', can be gauged from its banner headline on the death of Andropov, just three months later. "MAN OF PEACE DIES", it said of the butcher of the Hungarians, the architect of Soviet psychiatric abuse of dissidents, and the ruthless former head of the KGB.)

The notion of 'smearing' is that of making broad, unspecific and untrue allegations. The person-by-person analysis just set out is as specific as can be. Furthermore, it is accurate – Bruce Kent's response to a similar account published in the Daily Telegraph mainly being to assert that the CND Council would also include many more delegates from the regions, and that the "entire Council then forms its Executive". What he failed to predict was that of the 25 places on the CND Executive, more than half were to be filled from the 26 individuals elected by the Annual Conference, who in December 1983 constituted almost a clean sweep for the Left, as we have seen.

In any case several of the other Executive Members turned out to exhibit exactly the same sort of Leftist orientation, including Labourites Jane Mayes and Jane Oberman, and Communists Paul Nicholls and Alan McKinnon. Such are the convolutions of the CND's internal 'democratic' procedures, that the first three of these – all of whom were rejected by the Annual Conference as ordinary Council members – nevertheless have managed to find their way indirectly, not only onto the Council after all, but also onto the national CND Executive as well...

However, let me leave the last word on whether or not it is a 'smear' to denounce the CND as a Left-wing front, to the National Election Agent of the Communist Party of Great Britain, John Peck. According to the January 1984 issue of World Marxist Review, Peck gave the following reassurance to yet another Kremlin-backed 'Peace' symposium in Prague: "some participants in the campaign [for nuclear disarmament] tend to equate the Soviet Union with the United States as being equally responsible for the arms race. But these are in a minority. The national leadership of the CND see the main threat as emanating from the United States." [My emphasis]

A smear is not a smear, it seems, when it comes from the mouth of a Communist.

[This article also appeared in The Defence Campaigner, Summer 1984]