New Forest East



By Philip Johnston

Sunday Telegraph – 25 September 1999

[This article, though not involving Julian directly, is included because of its historic relevance to the anti-nuclear campaign.]

A former chairman of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament claims that she was driven close to a nervous breakdown by efforts of communists in the organisation to undermine her. But Marjorie Thompson said the communist wing could never get the upper hand, despite recent allegations that at least one executive member, Vic Allen, was working for the East German secret service, the Stasi. When she was chairman from 1990 to 1993, CND was run by the general secretary Gary Lefley, a former national organiser of the British Peace Assembly, an offshoot of the World Peace Council.

Miss Thompson said if she made any criticism of the Soviet possession of nuclear weapons or its intentions, she would find herself demoralised by Mr Lefley's supporters. Although he was not a communist, Miss Thompson also believed that Bruce Kent, the former general secretary and chairman of CND, had been "incredibly naive" in his attitude towards the pro-Soviet faction.

At one time, she claimed, he proposed helping the movement out of a financial crisis by borrowing from the Communist Party of Great Britain. Mr Kent emphatically denies this. There was a further dispute with Mr Lefley when an essay he wrote was found on a photocopier. It argued a case for the North Koreans to have nuclear weapons as a bulwark against imperialist America.

She said:

"I said he must be told to resign. If there is one thing that defines membership of CND, it is that you do not advocate the maintenance of nuclear weapons by any country."

However, at an executive meeting

"the main argument was over whether the document had been stolen rather than whether he should have put such views on paper".

She claimed the communists rallied round and Mr Lefley said he would only go "if I take her down with me". Miss Thompson, who was ill at the time, resigned shortly afterwards and Mr Lefley left about a year later. Martin Jones, the campaigns manager for CND, remembers the incident differently. He said:

"Gary Lefley never wanted to publish the article and we would not have let him anyway.

"He was exploring certain ideas in relation to nuclear weapons and power blocs and he described it as a personal piece of work. When we knew he was working on it we took the view that it was not appropriate and he stopped. Provided you were against nuclear weapons you were welcomed in CND whatever your political views. There were a few pro-Soviets on the executive and Gary was certainly one of them."

Although there is no suggestion that Mr Lefley was an agent of the KGB or Stasi, he was in a more influential position in the CND than Mr Allen, a retired Leeds University economics professor, who was allegedly recruited by the East Germans.

But Mr Jones said Mr Lefley was in no position to influence the organisation in the way that Mr Kent had when he was general secretary, as the post by then was less important. Frank Parker, who was CND treasurer, said of the communist wing:

"It was almost a daily battle with them on the executive. But I think I can say they never got the upper hand."

Air Cdr Alistair Mackie, a former vice-chairman of CND, said:

"The overwhelming majority in the movement were absolutely straight. The communists clamped on to anything and no doubt some ended up in CND. But I was not conscious of anything more than a certain unease about the reliability and sincerity of some members."

Mr Kent agreed:

"There were people in CND – a small majority – whom we rather rudely called Tankies. These were the sort of people who would have justified the invasion of Czechoslovakia. Gary Lefley's role was very different from mine. He was an administrator and did not have a political role."

There was also never any question of CND receiving money from the Soviet Union, its proxies or its agencies, Mr Kent insisted. He was flabbergasted by the suggestion that he proposed borrowing from the Communist Party. He said:

"That is absolute rubbish. Why would I want to borrow from the Communist Party? I am not so stupid. I may have once said that as we were looking for accommodation there was a room to rent in the headquarters of the Democratic Left but in the end that was not needed."

The Stasi held a file on Mr Kent, one of thousands uncovered by Dr Anthony Glees, a Brunel University German expert who has co-operated with the BBC series “The Spying Game”.

"The Stasi was interested in CND and it is clear that they saw Bruce Kent as what Lenin called 'a useful idiot',"

said Dr Glees. However, after Mr Kent wrote to the Daily Telegraph criticising Soviet missile deployment, the Stasi mistrusted him.

But about one thing Mr Kent is adamant. He said:

"I was not a communist. I am a Christian. I don't have a guilty conscience about any of that."

Mr Lefley could not be contacted for comment.

[NOTE: For background information on the Lefley affair, click here.]