08 October 2006

Zinoviev Letter in SIS forgery (no) shock

According to today’s Independent a British spy and close friend of Winston Churchill was deeply implicated in the Zinoviev Letter, the most notorious political forgery in British history. The publication of the Zinoviev letter four days before the 1924 general election helped to sweep Britain’s first Labour government from power. The correspondence, which ostensibly mobilized “sympathetic forces" in Labour party, was later found to be a fake.

A new book (Churchill's Man of Mystery: Desmond Morton and the World of Intelligence) , based on access to closed intelligence files, suggests (as has long been suspected) that the document was a "dirty tricks" operation by the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), overseen by Major Desmond Morton. Morton, a First World War hero whom Churchill befriended in the trenches, became an SIS officer on his recommendation and later went on to become the war leader's "spymaster".

It was Morton who first received the letter, purporting to be from Grigori Zinoviev, president of the Comintern, the internal communist organisation, from an agent in Riga, Latvia. It called on British Communists to mobilise the Labour Party to support an Anglo-Soviet treaty. Morton helped to ensure the letter ended up in the Daily Mail, which ran the story under the headline: "Civil war plot by Socialists' masters: Moscow orders to our Reds; great plot disclosed". Ms Bennett, the author of Churchill’s Man of Mystery, found he later covered up evidence that it was a fake. "It might be that since he detested the Bolsheviks and the Labour government, he welcomed the chance to throw a spanner in the works," said Ms Bennett.


Pēteris Cedriņš said...

Very interesting, Jams! Leslie Nicholson (a former senior intelligence officer who wrote as John Whitwell) gives a few juicy tidbits about the Latvian side of the affair in British Agent (a rather entertaining memoir, much of it set in Rīga). According to Nicholson, the head of the Latvian Political Police boasted of having discovered carbon copies of "'the original Zinoviev letter'" in a raid on "the flat of a known ex-British agent." The Latvian official told Nicholson that the letter had been produced on a typewriter in the flat, and that it was certainly a forgery. Nicholson "sent the story back to London but never received any acknowledgment."

jams o donnell said...

Thanks for this Peteris.. I did not know about that. I will see if I can track that book down.

Agnes said...

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jams o donnell said...

LOL Red.. can my bank balance stand it?