Posts Tagged ‘Ian Mikardo’

Private Eye on Sunday Times’ Smear of Michael Foot as KGB Agent

October 3, 2018

The media this week has been full of the news about a book about the KGB defector, Oleg Gordievsky. Gordievsky was a high-ranking KGB officer, whose father was also a KGB officer, and who had been slated to be the next chief of the Soviet spy agency and secret police. When he defected, Gordievsky brought with him whole dossiers of KGB records, which were invaluable for ending the Cold War. However, Gordievsky himself was a self-admitted liar. And one of those lies was that the former leader of the Labour party, Michael Foot, was a KGB agent codenamed ‘Comrade Boot’.

This falsehood was published in 1995 by the Times, and was promptly answered by a libel action by Foot and a cover by Private Eye sending the whole thing up. Foot won the case, and the Eye also published an article taking apart the whole story and exposing the Times’ article for the libel it was.

Now with the publication of the new biography, the Sunday Times has decided to repeat the libel again. And Private Eye has responded again with another article effectively demolishing this sorry piece of gutter journalism. The piece was published in last fortnight’s Eye for the 21 September to 4 October 2018, and entitled ‘Shooting Yourself in the Foot’, and runs

<strong>”MI6 believed Michael Foot was paid Soviet informant,” a Times front-page headline announced last Saturday. “Truth about former Labour leader emerges 23 years after he sued Sunday Times for libel.” The editor of the Times, John Witherow, also published the Sunday Times story about the former Labour leader in 1995 – and is clearly still sore about the embarrassment and ridicule it earned him.

It’s not only the editor, it’s the same story-based entirely on a claim by former double agent Oleg Gordievsky that he once saw a KGB file marked “Agent Boot”, which apparently referred to Michael Foot. The only difference is that the previous version was taken from Gordievsky’s memoirs while the latest one comes from a new biography of the spy.

According to the Times, The book “presents the first corroboration by MI6 officers of the allegations made by the Soviet defector”. No it doesn’t, at least not in the normal meaning of corroboration, ie additional proof or confirmation. In 1995 the Sunday Times reported Gordievsky’s allegation that the KGB regarded Foot as an agent of influence; now the Times says some people in MI6 thought the Russians regarded him as an agent of influence. And why did they think that? Because, er, Gordievsky had told them so. In short, not a smidgin of supporting evidence has “emerged” since Witherow last ran the story.

At the time of the earlier farrago, the Sunday Times claimed that it was “based on interviews with Gordievsky and six other former KGB officers”. But it omitted to add that only Gordievsky believed in “Agent Boot”. Although the paper claimed that the London-based KGB colonel Mikhail Lyubimov had recruited Foot, Lyubimov himself promptly denied it.

So the allegations were not made by “the KGB”, as Witherow told his readers 23 years ago and again last Saturday. They came solely from a single ex-KGB man, Gordievsky – whose unreliability was officially confirmed in May 1995, just three months after the Sunday Times splash, by the then solicitor-general Sir Derek Spencer. Speaking on behalf of the government during an appeal by Michael Smith, who had been convicted of spying for the Russians, Spencer told the Lord Chief Justice that some boasts made by Gordievsky in his memoirs were “not correct”. He described one of Gordievsky’s claims, about identifying undercover KGB agents to his British controllers, as “another exaggeration”. As the judge observed: “He must have lied to everybody at one time or another.”

With just one witness to rely one, it’s no surprise that Witherow and the Sunday Times couldn’t defend a libel action against Foot. More surprising is that the editor is now repeating even the most egregious howlers from his previous debacle. According to the 1995 story, for instance, Foot regarded Moscow as “a beacon of world peace” until 1968, when the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia brought him “down to earth with a bump” and he ceased to be a fellow-traveler. Exactly the same narrative appeared in last Saturday’s Times. From the 1940s to the 1960s, it claimed, Foot was an “agent of influence” who could be “fed pro-Soviet ideas and reproduce them in articles and speeches” – but in 1968 he became “intensely critical of Moscow in the wake of the Prague Spring”. After that, his “enthusiasm for the Soviet Union appears to have waned”.

The claim that Foot was a pro-Soviet mouthpiece until 1968 is easily disproved. As long ago as 1946, a Labour MP wrote to Tribune complaining of the “jaundiced prejudice against Russia” in Foot’s articles. In 1948, soon after becoming Tribune’s editor, he published a leader attacking left-wingers who “are still gulled by the monstrous delusion that the Russians are the friends, not the enemies, of democratic socialism”. During the Soviet blockade of Berlin, he urged the West to “drive a land passage through the Russian zone against Russian resistance and if necessary by force of arms”.

When Ian Mikardo MP resigned from Tribune’s board of directors in protest at the editor’s anti-Soviet stance, Foot was unapologetic. “The Soviet leaders … believe as a matter of theory that the end of establishing Soviet Communism wherever they can justifies any means for its attainment,” he wrote. “They believe also as a matter of theory in secrecy, censorship, dictatorship and the ruthless annihilation of the rights of individuals.” And so it went on. When the Russian tanks crushed the Hungarian uprising in 1956, Foot was quick to condemn this “hideous outrage”.

Odd behavior for a man who, the Times alleges, wa sbeing paid to publicise “pro-Soviet ideas”. Why didn’t they ask for their money back. (p. 10).

Foot was right: the Soviet Union and the Communists were always hostile to democratic socialism, though Stalin used the existence of democratic socialist parties and other left-wing organisations to provide a spurious democratic justification for his transformation of their countries into Soviet satellites after the end of the Second World War. Stalin would amalgamate the Communist parties of the various countries the USSR had liberated with the largest left-wing party. This was usually the mainstream, democratic socialist under the pretext of reuniting the two forms of Socialism. Before the First World War in Germany and Italy, for example, there was only one socialist party, which included not only democratic socialists – reformists – but also radical Marxist revolutionaries. After the First World War, the radical Marxists split away from the reformist majority parties to form their countries’ Communist parties. In countries where the socialism was weak, Stalin amalgamated the Communists with the largest and most popular left-wing party, such as the various Peasants’ Parties. The new, umbrella Socialist party would then make a statement adopting Marxism-Leninism – the Communism of the Soviet Union – their official ideology, and the democratic socialists would find themselves purged and either executed or sent to the Gulags.

In the West there were some mainstream socialists, who really did believe that Stalin represented Socialism, such as the Fabians. But Foot, to his immense credit, clearly wasn’t one of them.

However, Maggie Thatcher hated socialism, because it came from the same ideological roots as Communism, and the Tory press in the 1980s was very quick to smear any Labour politician or activist as a potential traitor or agent of Moscow. Foot came in for particular abuse because of his support for CND and unilateral nuclear disarmament. It was therefore inevitable that one of the Tory papers would eventually smear him as a KGB agent.

As it stands, the Sunday Times has form on libeling people. As well as smearing Foot, it also libeled Mike as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. Since that article came out, the Sunset Times has repeated the smear and tried to back it up, and the Eye has published yet another tearing it to shreds.

The satirical rag has done an excellent job attacking the lies and falsehoods against Foot. Too bad that it also seems to have swallowed the lies and falsehoods about Jeremy Corbyn.

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Vox Political and Jonathan Rosenhead on the Politicised Nature of the Anti-Semitism Smears

October 17, 2016

Today the Home Affairs Select Committee has endorsed the anti-Semitism smears, repeating the accusation, based on a very selective reading of the evidence, that anti-Semitism is rife in the Labour party has been for years. This accusation has been refuted time and again, but the establishment is determined to repeat due to their fears of Jeremy Corbyn and a properly socialist Labour party getting into power and actually doing something for the working class and reversing the wholesale looting of this country by the elite under Thatcherite neoliberal economics. Mike’s already put up an article this morning attacking the Committee and refuting their allegations.

But before this latest repetition of these baseless accusations, Mike had already put up an excellent piece on Saturday, commenting on and reblogging an extract of a piece on the Open Democracy site by Jonathan Rosenhead demolishing the anti-Semitism allegations and pointing the finger at exactly who is really responsible for them, and why. As has been pointed out countless times before, this is the Israel lobby, comprising Jeremy Newmark, now the chief prosecutor in this inquisition, the Jewish Labour Movement, the Israeli ambassador, Mark Regev, and Ella Rose, who gave up her job as the Israeli embassy’s public affairs officer to become the Director of the JLM. Mr Rosenhead notes that organisation the JLM is at least in an informal partnership with the Labour Friends of Israel and the Blairites in a coalition to remove Tony Blair.

Mr Rosenhead is a member of a group, Free Speech on Israel, which coalesced out of a gathering of Jewish Labour party supporters. At their inaugural meeting, the group found that, although they had over 1000 years of experience as Labour members, they could not think of a single instance where they had experienced anti-Semitism within the Labour party, and only a handful of times they had experienced it in their lives.

He also attacks the whole notion that there has been a spike in anti-Semitism in Britain. He notes that while the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Britain increased by 15% in the first months of this year over those in 2015, they are still below the number recorded in 2014 during the Gaza Crisis. So, he concludes, no upsurge.

He also observes that the explanations for this non-existent massive culture of anti-Semitism in the Labour party is either explained by it being endemic on the Left, or that it is somehow due to the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader, are mutually contradictory. He states that in a previous discussion of this topic in another Open Democracy article, it had been shown that the comments and tweets that were treated as anti-Semitic and the basis for suspension were not about Jews, but about Israel and Zionism. He makes it clear that this is an invented crisis, and is about criminalising innocent behaviour. This is deliberately redefining criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism, in order to justify the territorial expansion of Israel and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians on one side and to leave the party securely in the hands of the Blairites on the other.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/10/15/how-allegations-of-left-anti-semitism-have-been-weaponised-against-jeremy-corbyn/

Jonathan Rosenhead himself is Emeritus Professor of Operational Research at the LSE, and Chair of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine. As with Tony Greenstein and the signatories of the letter to the Guardian protesting against Jackie Walker’s suspension, Prof Rosenhead is clearly extremely well-informed about these issues, and his original article contains much more highly relevant information.

He notes that while Holocaust Memorial Day is supposed to mark all the genocides that have occurred from the Shoah onwards, in practice it concentrates very much on the Jewish experience. It does not commemorate the 500,000 Roma (Gypsies) and the 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, who were also murdered by the Nazis. And in his words, it only pays lip-service to the genocide in Rwanda.
He also notes how convenient the cut-off date for the commemoration of genocides is for Britain and America. The Americans might be sensitive about their role in the slave trade and the ethnic cleansing of the Amerindians in the 18th and 19th centuries, just as Britain was also responsible for its role in the slave trade and the genocide of Aboriginal Australians. He states:

The absence from Holocaust Memorial Day of the millions of slaves who died on the Atlantic crossing and then through the brutal conditions of slave labour is no accident, no act of God. And it is no sacrilege for Jackie Walker to point up this glaring omission.

He also points out that Jackie Walker was, contra the impression you’re given by the mainstream media, quite correct in questioning the definition of anti-Semitism used by Mike Katz and the JLM, who were organising the training day at which Mrs Walker made the comments that have been used to suspend her as vice-chair of Momentum. Katz declared that the definition used was that of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, which had been taken over by the European Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Committee, which were both Zionist organisations. The main author of the EUMC definition was Kenneth Stern, an attorney, who was the American Jewish Committee’s expert on anti-Semitism and extremism. And his definition of anti-Semitism included anti-Zionism, because of Israel’s nature as a Jewish state. The result was a lengthy document of 500 words intended to criminalise criticism of Israel, produced not by the EU, but by an American Zionist organisation. Brian Klug, an Oxford academic specialising in the study of anti-Semitism, just sums it up in 21. This simply defines it as a hatred of Jews as Jews, in which they are seen as something they are not.

In fact, the EUMC definition of anti-Semitism has never been officially endorsed by the EU. The EU itself closed the EUMC down in 2007 and transferred its power to the Fundamental Rights Agency, which refused to endorse the definition and took it off its website.

The definition was taken up in 2006 by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Semitism under its chair, Denis MacShane. But nine years later in 2015, the Group brought out another report under its new chair, John Mann, which did not use the definition. It commission another, sub-report, from Prof David Feldman, which used that of Brian Klug. Prof. Rosenhead also states that his own union, the UCU, resolved not to use the EUMC definition in 2011, and that in 2013 the BBC Trust declared that the EUMC definition had no standing.

Prof Rosenhead then goes on to discuss the history of the Jewish Labour Movement. This was formerly Poale Zion, which originated in the early 20th century amongst Jewish/Zionist and Marxist workers, and has been affiliated to the Labour party since 1920. After the colonisation of Israel, it suffered a series of splits and mergers in that country to produce two of that nation’s main parties, MAPAI and MAPAM. In the 1930s and 1940s Poale Zion in the UK had members and supporters such as Harold Laski, Ian Mikardo and Sidney Silverman. In 1946 it had 2000 members. However, over the last 50 years the organisation has shrunk immensely as Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians alienated many on the Left and, indeed, the Centre of British politics. In 2004 the organisation rebranded itself as the Jewish Labour Movement, and is also affiliated to the Israeli Labour party and the World Zionist Organisation. Its website remained inactive up to 2015, though it may have had an active email list. That year its chair, Louise Ellman, stepped down, as was replaced by Jeremy Newmark, who began a new, more aggressive phase of the organisation. There is no evidence from whence the JLM gets its funding, which is obviously very generous. As well as a member of his local Labour party, Newmark is executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, and has been Communications Director for the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sachs.

Prof Rosenhead also describes how Newmark presented evidence against the University and College Union before an Employment Tribunal in 2013, in which he accused it of anti-Semitic behaviour. The Tribunal utterly dismissed the claim, declaring

“We greatly regret that the case was ever brought. At heart, it represents an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means.”

The panel also described one of his claims as ‘preposterous’ and found that one of his other statements, that ‘the union was no longer a fit arena for free speech’ was one “which we found not only extraordinarily arrogant but also disturbing.”

Prof. Rosenhead final section, Making Unbelieve, concludes

The whole operation has been breath-takingly successful for the last 8 months. And it is not over. JLM, for example, is pressing for a change in the Labour Party’s constitution that would make it (even) easier to exclude people on suspicion of harbouring antisemitic tendencies. It has influence at the highest levels in the Labour Party. The very training session run by JLM that led to Jackie Walker’s second suspension was set up by the Labour Party bureaucracy in direct contradiction of the Chakrabarti inquiry. Their report recommended against such targeted training, and in favour of broader anti-racist education. But, hey, who’s counting? Not the Labour Party apparatus.

Free Speech on Israel aims to expose this soufflé of a Ponzi scheme. It rests on the shifting sands of unreliable evidence, and on assertions that contradict our (Jewish and non-Jewish) everyday experience. Not least, the claims about a Jewish community united in its alignment behind Israel is yet more make believe. The best survey evidence we have is that 31% of UK Jews describe themselves as ‘No, not Zionist’; and many of the remainder are deeply concerned over Israel’s policies.

We should suspend our belief.

This not just confirms and shows in greater detail the highly political nature of the allegations, but also the extremely tenuous existence of one of the organisation behind them. The Jewish Labour Movement was virtually moribund until it was taken over by Newmark. Like the Blairite group, ‘Labour Future’, it is well-funded, but the origins of its money is shrouded in mystery. It also appears to have very few members. It’s clearly an example of a numerically insignificant organisation trying to throw its weight around as if it were a mass-movement with undisputed authority, rather than the opposite.

This follows the pattern that Prof Finkelstein and others in the anti-Zionist movement in the US have observed about the Zionist movement in their country: that support for Israel amongst American Jews is waning. As the years pass, Israel may soon become completely irrelevant to young American Jews’ construction of their identities. Prof Rosenhead in this article points out that 31% of Jewish Brits say that they’re not Zionists, and many others are ambivalent or opposed to aspects of the regime and its policy towards the Palestinians. The British press, by contrast, has maintained that 75 per cent of British Jews state that Israel is ‘very important’ to their sense of identity. That was the claim repeated in the I, but as this paper is consistently anti-Corbyn, I take its claim here with more than a pinch of salt.

The Blairites and the Israel Lobby are both in a severe crisis, and are trying to hang on to power through the libelling of decent people, like Jackie Walker, who make perfectly reasonable comments. It is people like Newmark, who are trying to stifle democratic debate. We should not let them. The smearing should stop immediately. Those who have been vilified should be directly reinstated, including Jackie Walker as Momentum’s Vice-Chair.

And where it can be shown that those making the accusations have libelled their victims, they should be prosecuted and forced to pay for their malicious crimes.