Daily Telegraph – 21 September 1999
A decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is easy to dismiss the exposure of former KGB and Stasi agents as a pointless exercise, serving no purpose other than to humiliate Left-wing academics and journalists, most of them now elderly and infirm. We are even less inclined to be vindictive towards those who had been Soviet "agents of influence" during the Cold War than we were after 1945 towards those, such as P G Wodehouse, who had been useful to the Germans.
Yet, such charity must not be allowed to obscure the historical truth. Not every indiscretion is treachery, but there is no other word for the systematic collusion of Britons with hostile intelligence services which – whatever its subjective motive – objectively helped to undermine the defence of democracy and disseminate lies.
The last serious threat to Nato from such subversion came in the early 1980s under the guise of the "peace movement". The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament sought to mobilise opinion against the deployment of cruise missiles in Britain. The missiles were a vital part of Nato's modernisation, which itself became a symbol of Western defiance under Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. The peace movement was, for a time, very successful, though it did most damage to Left-wing governments; indeed, in Germany it contributed largely to the replacement of Helmut Schmidt by Helmut Kohl. Much of the literature and art of the period is suffused with an apocalyptic expectation of nuclear war, as CND marches and the Greenham Common "peace camp" fed the mass hysteria. Tony Blair was among the thousands who joined CND. The Prime Minister and his apologists have claimed that "everybody" joined. But the fact that membership was seen as obligatory for aspiring Labour politicians in the Foot and early Kinnock era is a reminder of CND's power.
Several leaders of CND, such as the late E P Thompson, were well-known former communists, but it is now alleged that at least one senior figure, Professor Vic Allen, was working for the Stasi. When Thompson and others formed a breakaway group, European Nuclear Disarmament (END), which called on the Warsaw Pact as well as Nato to disarm, the rest of CND (and the Labour Party) remained unilateralist. It now appears that Prof Allen was among those working behind the scenes to isolate END. There can no longer be much doubt that CND was infiltrated; that it was, at least to some extent, a front. Those such as Dr Julian Lewis, who all along denounced CND as an instrument of Soviet policy, and were vilified for their pains, should consider themselves vindicated.
There is indignation from some quarters at the mere suggestion that surveillance of the Left by MI5 might, after all, have been justified. Writing in Tribune just before its editor of 21 years, Dick Clements, was named as a KGB agent, the Guardian journalist Ian Aitken blames MI5 for failing to spot the spy Melita Norwood because it was "far too busy bugging 'subversive' organisations such as CND". But when it mattered, CND was potentially subversive, in much the same way that Mosley's British Union of Fascists had been potentially subversive in 1940. The Cold War may not have cost many British lives, but winning it was no less vital to our survival than our victory in the two world wars. Only now that the peace movement's manipulation by the Soviet war machine has become clear can we see how much was at stake in its defeat.
[For background information on the exposure of British Stasi spies, click here.]