28 July 2004


As an example of how Vanessa Redgrave and the Workers Revolutionary Party repaid Saddam Hussein's generosity (see below), here is a piece from the WRP daily News Line in 1980, which was reproduced in a pamphlet. (I have a lot more of this rubbish but am republishing this just to give a taste.) Incidentally, just to show that I have no axe to grind, Ms Redgrave said in her letter to the Sunday Telegraph that "the WRP totally and publicly opposed Saddam Hussein's regime from September 1980". She might just be right. This fawning report dates from late August of the same year.

Alan Bott, from Iraq: Under the Leadership of the Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party, News Line special report 1980

The crucial importance of revolutionary leadership has been expressed in Iraq most strongly during the celebrations to mark the 12th anniversary of the July 1968 Revolution.

The occasion also marked the first anniversary of Saddam Hussein's assumption of national leadership.

Everywhere in Baghdad, his portrait was alongside that of his predecessor, Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr, and coinciding with the celebrations of the Revolution were special exhibitions - one of books by President Hussein and another documenting his life and political struggles, in contemporary photographs and documents.

It is a story which has been dramatised in a semi-fictional form, first in a two-volume novel The Long Days by Abdul Ameer Mu'alla, and a film of the same name, by the Egyptian director Tawfiq Saleh.

Both accounts present in an exciting and popular way the true story of Saddam Hussein's flight from Bagh dad into Syria after an unsuccessful attempt on the life of Abdul Kerim Qassim in 1959.

The photo-documentary exhibition of the President's life is in the attentive care of Hamid Matbei at the Baghdad Museum of Modern Art. He explains the story with genuine pride - as a part of his own past.

Saddam Hussein was born into a poor family in the spring of 1937, about 120 kilometres from Tikrit, in a village called Al Awja. His father died before ever seeing his son Saddam and the task of bringing up the future President fell to an uncle who was then an officer in the Iraqi army.

From the age of three he was looked after at the home of another uncle, Haj Ibrahim al-Hassan, who lived just south of Tikrit. The family moved when Saddam Hussein was only six and at his new home in the al-Hawaja area, he was to learn first-hand the struggle of farm life.

Another move in 1947 took the family to the Nineveh area and soon after Saddam Hussein began his formal education at schools in Tikrit and then Baghdad.

He developed political convictions which led to his taking part in the 1956 demonstrations over Allied aggression in Egypt. This was to be the turning point in his life, at the age of 19.

After the July revolution of 1958. Saddam Hussein and several of his comrades were briefly jailed along with other militants and on his release he continued both with his studies and with clandestine political work.

Abdul Kerim Qassim’s regime brought a new reign of terror in Iraq, after abandoning its original revolutionary line. Protest soon became confrontation with Qassim's government and police and it was at this point that the secret Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party Command aid plans for an attempt on
his life.

Saddam Hussein was one of seven party members selected for the mission - a daring attack on Qassim's car as it was driven along the old Rasheed Street in Baghdad city centre.

His task was to cover and protect those carrying out the attack. One comrade was killed and another badly wounded in the shooting.

It was while Saddam Hussein was carrying the wounded comrade that he was hit in the leg by a shot from a security policeman working undercover as a local greengrocer.

After making their escape from the scene, they hid for days, shattered by the news that Qassim had survived with only slight wounds.

Saddam Hussein's comrades, unable to obtain the services of a doctor, were forced to remove the bullet from his leg using a razor blade, sterilised in a flame.

His later escape from Baghdad, while police carried out continuous raids in the hunt for the attackers, is recorded in detail in the documentary exhibition and is the main subject matter of the film “The Long Days”.

On horseback, on foot, by motorcycle and donkey, he travelled the 1,000 kilometres into Syria, across the desert, in spite of his painful wound.

The photographs of those who helped him on his way are the rugged faces of Iraqi peasants, his brother in Tikrit, and other Ba'athist sympathisers.

After three months in relative safety with Ba'athists in Syria, he travelled to Nasser's Egypt, where he studied law at Cairo.

After the Ba'athist Revolution of 1963 in Iraq he returned to Baghdad, only to discover after six months of the new regime that the leadership had adopted policies to serve their own interests.

Soon he was back at work in secret, frequently disguised, using three names, in hiding and on the move from place to place to evade the police. The exhibition shows one of the best photographs of Saddam Hussein as a “Wanted” poster issued by the authorities.

Arrested, in spite of all his precautions and skill in clandestine operations, he spent two years in various Iraqi jails, before escaping to continue secret work.

Arrested again, he staged another daring escape while under armed escort in 1966, to play his part in rallying the forces for the July 17 Revolution two years later.

On the 11th anniversary of the Revolution, President Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr announced he was stepping down from office, in favour of his second in command. Saddam Hussein - a decision which carried the unanimous approval of the leadership of the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party.

He assumed three posts at once, secretary of the party's Regional Command, chairman of the Revolution Command Council and President of the Republic.

In his speech accepting the responsibilities of leadership, the new President said: “I would never hesiate or delay undertaking the responsibilities of the forward march of the leadership, dealing with patriotic and Pan-Arab tasks on the path of unity, liberty, and socialism, embodying the spirit of revolutionary, initiative required of an official.”

Since taking office and making that pledge to the party and the Iraqi people, he has achieved a reputation as a man of firm action in home affairs, insisting on the highest standards of dedication and integrity of government officials.

He has also become a leading international statesman both on a pan-Arab level and in the movement of non-aligned nations.

He played a leading role at the 10th Arab Summit in Tunis, in making opposition to imperialism and Zionism a central issue, along with policies for economic integration of Arab states.

At the Sixth conference of the Non-Aligned Movement last September in Havana, he stressed a fiercely independent line, again rejecting imperialism and Zionism and exposing fully the treachery of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

Saddam Hussein's drive for modern development in Iraq, the election of a National Assembly in June, the improving of living standards through wage rises and price controls, along with new social welfare provisions, have built up a momentum of achievement which the President and the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party are determined to maintain.

President Hussein told Iraqis in a speech to mark July 17: “When we talk about the future - expressing the conscience and aspirations of the Iraqis - it is now based on increased capability. It is based on our confidence in the possibility of attaining our ambition in an accurate way, in the light of experiences we have gained, the achievements we have accomplished and the competence we have over the past 12 years.”

27 July 2004


Oliver Kamm has poured scorn (click here) on Vanessa Redgrave's letter to the Sunday Telegraph yesterday in which she takes issue with Kevin Myers's assault on her brother Corin, published on July 4, which made this accurate point about him:

"For some 20 years, Redgrave's real day-job was as loyal, undeviating servant of a political movement that, had it been successful, would have turned Britain into a Marxist tyranny and an open-air lunatic asylum. Moreover, his powerful personality and his mastery of Trotskyite doggerel enabled him to become the ideological hatchet man within Equity for the party leader, the despicable and loathsome predator Gerry Healy."

Ms Redgrave's response:

"Mr Myers has every right to express his views, to wit, my brother and I are lunatics baying at the moon, that the WRP (which we left in 1986) was vile, evil, etc. He did not mention that Trotsky exposed to the world all the horrors of Stalin's regime before any writer in the west. I also observe that he does not mention my brother's political support for Gorbachev's Perestroika and Glasnost, which Gerry Healy and I shared.

"We three founded the Marxist Party in 1987 on the basis of this political perspective. Mr Myers repeats an allegation that Corin and I have refuted on many occasions, because it is untrue: that we supported terrorism. Specifically, that the WRP received financial backing from Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gaddafi. The WRP never received financial backing from Saddam Hussein. The WRP totally and publicly opposed Saddam Hussein's regime from September 1980, when he declared war on Iran. Corin and I were appalled by that war, and all the terrible things that followed. You will remember that the US and Israel supported that war. In the case of Libya, Colonel Gaddafi never financed the WRP."

Oh yeah? Below I reproduce two key features from the libertarian socialist journal Solidarity published way back in 1988 that take a rather different line.

Tom Burns, Solidarity, issue 16 (new series), spring 1988

Elsewhere in this issue, in a dramatic exclusive, we publish a damning extract from the secret report of an internal inquiry into corruption within the Workers Revolutionary Party. The full report, which has been leaked to us, chronicles an astonishing tale of abject perfidy by leading members of the group. In this article, Tom Burns gives the background and comments on the inquiry's extraordinary findings

We publish this document in the interests of political hygiene. It consists of about half of the con­fidential internal interim report on Gerry Healy's Workers Revolut­ionary Party prepared by a "commission" of the International Committee of the Fourth Inter­national (ICFI). Following his expulsion from the WRP on October 19 1985, Healy and his supporters were expelled from the ICFI in December 1985. This was as a result of allegations of sexual abuse, even rape, of women in the party, physical assault on other members, and the establishment of a "mercenary relationship" with a number of Arab despotisms (see Solidarity issue 11).

The text deals with the WRP's financial and other dealings with their foreign backers. It is large­ly self-explanatory, but a few background details may be helpful. The commission was set up at the insistance of David North, long­time chieftain of the Healyite Workers' League in the United States. North, together with the anti-Healy coalition inside the WRP headed by Michael Banda and Cliff Slaughter, was instrumental in the summer of 1985 in the ousting of Healy.

The ICFI inquiry had the reluctant support of the Banda-Slaughter WRP, who correctly fore­saw that an exposure of the facts could be a means of bringing pres­sure to bear to transfer control of the IC to North. (Indeed, the WRP was suspended by the ICFI on December 16, the day this report was submitted.)

The commission nevertheless had an interest in protecting the reputations of Healy's erstwhile supporters, since they had all been aware (to some extent) of what had been going on. One result of this was that the report as circulated to the WRP's leadership in late 1985 was censored. The names of those who had taken sides against Healy, together with those of Arab politicians and intelligence agents, were suppressed, and the copies of the documents from Healy's files which were attached to the original report as exhibits were removed.

The commission only had access to fragments of the documentary evid­ence. On October 9 1985, when the crisis in the WRP came to a head, Mike Banda and his anti-Healy supporters walked out of the party offices in Clapham. This left Healy's acolytes in control of the premises for about forty-eight hours, during which time they removed large quantities of the most sensitive documents. This report is therefore based on the few documents they overlooked, plus some material from other WRP files and accounts.

Healy of Arabia
Even these remnants disclose pay­ments of over a million pounds to the WRP from Arab regimes and the Palestine Liberation Organisation. The report clearly shows that for nearly a decade the WRP acted, quite literally, as the paid agent of brutal and oppressive foreign powers. This lasted from at least as early as 1975, when the first contact was made with the PLO, until 1983. During this period a series of agreements was concluded with the Libyan regime and the WRP's political perspectives were amended to suit their paymasters.

The document alleges that the WRP acted - through Gerry Healy, Alex Mitchell, Corin and Vanessa Redgrave, and a number of others -as a collector of information for Libyan Intelligence. This function had, as the report puts it, "strongly anti-semitic undertones". Put plainly, they were Jew-spotting in the media, politics and business. The Khomeini revolution and the Iran-Iraq war - in which the WRP's efforts to support both sides soon collapsed - put paid to their employment by the regime of Saddam Hussein. But before this disaster the WRP's connections with Iraq clearly generated more than the £19,697 identified in the report.

The Iraqi connection had sinister aspects. From 1979 on, the WRP provided the Iraqi embassy with intelligence on dissident Iraqis living in Britain. Since Saddam Hussein's dictatorship does not scruple to arrest the relatives of opponents, to use torture on a vast scale, or even to murder children, it seems likely that the WRP were accomplices to murder.

One example of the depths to which these corrupt practices drove the party occurred in March 1979, when with only one dissentient the central committee of the WRP voted to approve the execution (after pro­longed torture) of more than 20 opponents of the Iraqi government. One of the victims, Talib Suwailh, had only five months earlier brought fraternal greetings to the conference of the WRP's own front organisation, the All Trade Union Alliance (see the Slaughter group's News Line, 20 November 1985).

In addition to the £1,075,163 identified by the document as having come from the Middle East and Libya between 1977 and 1983, the report gives, in a section dealing with the WRP's internal finances which we do not print, breakdowns of a further £496,773 received between 1975 and 1985 from other sections of the International Committee, almost entirely from North America, Australia and Germany. This raises further questions about how additional Middle Eastern money may have been recycled to the WRP via other IC sections; it is known, for example, that the Australian section received at least one substantial payment from Libya.

The death agony of the WRP
The WRP's fission products included, at last count, six organisations plus a large number of dispersed and semi-detached individuals. On the anti-Healy side, in early 1986 Slaughter's WRP was expelled from North's International Committee; it in turn ejected North's British supporters, led by Dave and Judy Hyland, who then formed the 'International Communist Party1. Mike Banda was also expelled with a more politically disparate group who established a short-lived discussion circle, Communist Forum; Banda himself repudiated Trotskyism completely, and a number of his associates have joined the Communist Party.

In the summer of 1986 the WRP began negotiations with the LIT, Nahuel Moreno's Argentinian-based international apparat, (notable mainly for their enthusiastic support for the Argentine junta's invasion of the Falklands/Malvinas). These talks have, in turn, generated yet another inter­nal opposition (Chris Bailey, Gerry Downing, David Bruce, et al), who face expulsion if the marriage is consummated.

It is certain that the anti-Healy camp know far more about the dirt­ier aspects of the WRP's past than they have so far publically admit­ted. Indeed, their coyness about the past is one of the few things which unites the warring factions. Probably none of them know the full story, but virtually all of them know more than they have revealed so far. These include North, who has resolutely chosen not to make public even the skeletal inform­ation we publish; Cliff Slaughter, who for many years was secretary of the International Committee; and Dot Gibson, who was responsible for running - and falsifying - the accounts of the WRP and its com­panies. Silence denotes consent.

Healy and a number of his supporters are even better placed to be held accountable for the despicable practices which this report alleges. It states, for example, that Alex Mitchell and Corin Redgrave were as deeply involved as Healy himself in the dealings with Arab governments. So was Vanessa Redgrave, whose personal finances are alleged to have merged with the inflowing money.

One part of the document not published here states, "It was learned from cde [name suppressed] that one large IC donation of $140,000 to the party was never recorded. Under instructions from G Healy it was given to Vanessa Redgrave who had run into tax problems."

The pro-Healy WRP which emerged from the October 1985 schism has also had its problems. From the beginning Healy had an uneasy relationship with Sheila Torrance, who ran the organisation and the restarted daily News Line. In the summer of 1986, Mitchell suddenly quit, returning to Australia, and the association between Healy and his showbiz 11 on the one hand and Torrance on the other deterior­ated. The break came in December. Torrance kept a majority of the remaining membership and News Line, which by now had a circulation in the low hundreds.

Healy, the Redgraves, and a small rump, resurfaced in August 1987 as the Marxist Party, which has discovered a new messiah in Gorbachev, apparently due to lead a political revolution in the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, in early 1987 yet another faction, headed by Richard Price, broke away to refound trotskyist orthodoxy as the "Workers International League". Torrance, with what remains of her WRP, is currently embroiled in a tussle with yet another group led by Ray Athow over the party's remaining assets. Tedious, isn't it?

Their morals and ours
One important aspect of the corruption of the WRP not covered by the report is the mercenary relationship it established with certain local authorities. For example, the financially scandal-ridden Lambeth council was effect­ively dominated by a group of councillors who were covert members or supporters of the party (one, at least, received a party salary and car) with all that implies in terms of jobbery and corruption.

The Labour Herald, an important journal of the Labour "left" and formerly co-edited by Ken Livingstone and Ted Knight, was financed and controlled by the WRP. The party also had important influ­ence in, and access to, the highest levels of the GLC. We hope in future issues of Solidarity, with the help of our readers, to explore this further dimension of corruption. Incidentally, the WRP was far from being the sole beneficiary of such influence.

We apologise for what may appear to be an extended detour into political coprophilia. But the example of Healy's WRP raises questions which go far beyond that organisation alone.

What is relevant about this tale is not that the WRP was led by a monster (or monsters) - after all, there are plenty of those around - but that numbers of intelligent, self-sacrificing, and idealistic people (but what ideals?) accepted such a regime for decades. Psych­iatry as well as ideology is needed to explain such a phenomenon. Masochistic party or leader fetish­ism is only one facet of the problem. Another is the amoralism stemming from leninist ideology: the denial of any relationship between means and ends. For us repellent methods have only produced, and will only produce, repellent ends.

We cannot accept the attitude which says that if it is necessary to support, or keep silent about, the torture and execution of dissidents in order to augment party funds, so be it; or that ordinary people are simply there to be lied to, manipulated, exploited and sacrificed to the interest of the self-styled revolutionary elite; or that only the interests of the party - often embodied in its leader - are relevant. The symptoms presented by the WRP express in an extreme form the basic attitudes of a wide section of the authoritarian "left", and this is true both here and now and in the societies they have brought or might bring into existence.

Extract from the Interim Report of the International Committee Commission, December 16 1985
From Solidarity, issue 16 (new series), spring 1988

Here, published for the first time, we extract four key pages of the 12-page report on corruption in the WRP, prepared by a special commission of the International Committee of the Fourth International

Relations with the colonial bourgeoisie
The Commission was able to secure a section of the correspondence relating to the Middle East from the files in G Healy's former office. The documents examined by the Commission are seven relating to Iraq, four relating to Kuwait and other Gulf states, 23 relating to the PLO and 28 relating to Libya. The following report bases itself mainly on these documents.

From internal evidence in the documents under our control, it is obvious that much more material must exist, which was either taken out of the center when the rump was in control or kept elsewhere. Therefore the actual amount of money received from these relations and the extent of these relations must be considerably bigger than what we are able to prove in this report. The documents at our disposal clearly prove that Healy established a mercenary relation­ship between the WRP and the Arab colonial bourgeoisie, through which the political principles of Trot­skyism and the interests of the working class were betrayed.

In late June 1976, the ICFI was informed for the first time that the WRP had establised official contacts with non-party forces in the Middle East. These contacts were with the PLO, a national liberation movement. However, in April 1976, two months earlier (and more than a year before a public alliance was announced between the WRP and Libya), a secret agreement with the Libyan government was signed by [name suppressed in original] and Corin Redgrave on behalf of the WRP (exhibit no 5). This was never reported to the ICFI. The Commission has not yet established who in the leadership of the WRP, beyond the signatories, knew of the agreement.

This agreement includes providing of intelligence information on the "activities, names and positions held in finance, politics, busi­ness, the communications media and elsewhere" by "Zionists". It has strongly anti-Semitic undertones, as no distinction is made between Jews and Zionists and the term Zionist could actually include every Jew in a leading position. This agreement was connected with a demand for money. The report given by the WRP delegation while staying in Libya included a demand for £50,000 to purchase a web offset press for the daily News Line, which was to be launched in May 1976. The Commission was not able to establish if any of this money was received.

In August 1977, G Healy went himself to Libya and presented a detailed plan for the expansion of News Line to six regional editions, requesting for it £100,000. G Healy also discussed the Euro-marches with the Libyan authorities and responded positively to a prop­osal to have the "Progressive Socialist Parties of the Mediterra­nean" participate in the marches. This would have included PASOK, a bourgeois party in Greece. These plans did not materialise. G Healy reported this in a letter to Al Fatah leader [name suppressed] (exhibit no 6).

This letter and a number of further letters to [name suppress­ed] (exhibit no 14) demonstrate that the relations with the PLO - which according to the claims made by the WRP before the ICFI were supposedly based on the principled resolutions of the Second Congress of the Communist International - were cynically used to make the PLO an instrument for obtaining money from the Arab bourgeoisie, thereby destroying any chance of building a section of the International Committee among the Palestinians.

The complete political opportun­ism of the relations to the Arab colonial bourgeoisie is most clearly revealed in a redraft of the WRP perspectives signed by G. Healy (exhibit no 7). This document was presented to the Libyan authorities during a visit in April 1980. It reconciles the WRP perspectives with the Green Book. Instead of the "working class" we find "the masses" and the Libyan Revolutionary Committees are identified with Soviets. The cri­terion of the class character of the state is completely abolished. Like almost every document found by the Commission relating to the Middle East, it ends with a request for money.

G Healy lined up publicly with the reactionary forces in the Middle East. During a visit to Kuwait, Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai in March-April, 1979, G Healy, V Redgrave, and [name suppressed] met with the Crown Prince of Kuwait, Sheikh Sa-ad, and some of the ruling bourgeois families. When they were invited however to have dinner "with a group of left oppositionists led by the Sultan family"," according to their own report "the delegation declined to accept this invitation as we did not wish to intervene in the polit­ical matters in Kuwait" (exhibit no 8). The sole purpose of this trip was to raise money for the film Occupied Palestine.

The trip ended finally by the delegation urging the feudal and bourgeois rulers to censure a journalist of the Gulf Times who had written an article on the real purpose of their visit. The delegation finally received £116,000. In October 1979, Vanessa Redgrave visited Libya and asked for £500,000 for Youth Training (exhibit no 9). As of February 1982 the WRP had received "just over 200,000 pounds" from Libya for Youth Training (exhibit no 10). In addition to this a £100,000 fund was raised in the British working class. While approximately £300,000 was raised for this project, the real cost for the purchase, legal and building expenses for seven Youth Training Centres as of May 21, 1982 was £152,539.

In April 1980 a WRP delegation led by G Healy visited Libya, presenting his redrafted WRP perspective and asking for more money. From March 8 to 17, 1981 G Healy made a further visit to Libya, putting forward demands totalling £800,000. The Commission found a report in Healy's hand­writing of this (exhibit no 11). This report contains the following statements: "In the evening we had a two hour audience with [name suppressed]. We suggested that we should work with Libyan Intellig­ence and this was agreed. ... March 13. The delegation was visited by [name suppressed] from the intelligence". This has a special significance, considering the fact that the Libyan Intelligence has excellent relations with the German Special Branch (BKA).

The Commiss­ion has not been able to establish to whom in the WRP leadership, if anyone, this written report was shown. The same applies to all other written reports and correspondence.
At that point G Healy had considerable difficulty getting all the money he was asking for. The report goes on: "March 15th. We were told that [name suppressed] had promised £100,000 which we said was welcome but inadequate. ...April 9th. Met [name suppressed] for the first time since he returned from Tripoli. He had no news but paid up £26,500 to pay for youth premises already decided. This brings the total to date paid from the promised £500,000 to £176,500. It looks as [if] our visit made no impact whatsoever".

In May 1981, G Healy's letters asking for the money became more and more desperate. On April 15th he writes a letter, marked "confidential", to [name suppress­ed] of the People's Committee in the Libyan People's Bureau (exhibit no 12) urging him to give the money. On May 17, 1981 a "private and confidential" letter is sent to "dear [name suppressed]" (exhibit
no 13) through Alex Mitchell.

On August 25th Alex Mitchell asks PLO representative [name suppress­ed] for an immediate meeting to discuss "the very grave questions which have arisen regarding our revolutionary solidarity work in the Middle East". He informs him that "with the full agreement of the Political Committee, our Party's proposed visit to Beirut and Tripoli has been cancelled".

In a Memo to G Healy, Alex Mitchell reports that [name suppressed] proposed to write a letter to Gaddafi and forward it through [name suppressed] of Libyan Intelligence. On August 28th, G Healy writes a letter to [name suppressed] in the name of the Central Committee of the Workers Revolutionary Party, complaining that he didn't get the money from Tripoli and blaming the Libyans for the price raise in the News Line (exhibit no 14). The same day G Healy writes another "private and confidential" letter to "Brother [name suppressed]" (exhibit no 15).

The last document in the hands of the Control Commission is a letter from G Healy to the secretary of the Libyan People's Bureau, dated February 10th, 1982, under the heading "Re: 1982 Budget" (exhibit no 10).

The Israeli invasion of Lebanon in June 1982 and the right-wing turn of the Arab bourgeoisie led to the drying up of the finances coming in from the Arab colonial bourgeoisie. Only a few documents could be found on the relations with the Iraqi bourgeoisie, although we know that many trips have been made there. The relations came to an abrupt end when the Iran-Iraq war started in 1980. The total amount obtained through these relations, according to the avail­able documents, is listed below.

The Commission has not yet been able to establish all the facts relating in the case of the photographs that were handed over to the Iraqi embassy. We do know the two WRP members were instruct­ed co take photos of demonstrations of opponents of Saddam Hussein. One of the members, Cde. [name suppressed], refused the order. A receipt for £1600 for 16 minutes of documentary footage of a demon­stration is in the possession of the Commission.

Money received from the Middle East
The following report on monies received from the Middle East was put together by the Commission from a careful analysis of many docu­ments and cash books. We were told repeatedly that Healy wanted no formal record kept of the money coming in. A full list and graph of what was found is in exhibit no16.

A list by year shows the following amounts coming in:

1977 £46,208
1978 £47,784
1979 £347,755
1980 £173,671
1981 £185,128
1982 £271,217
1983 £3,400
1984 0
1985 0

TOTAL £1,075,163

Analysed by country, where it is possible to distinguish, the amounts are:
Libya £542,267
Kuwait £156,500
Qatar £50,000
Abu Dhabi £25,000
PLO £19,997
Iraq £19,697
Unidentified or other sources £261,702

TOTAL £1,075,163
The Commission was told by both [name suppressed] and [name suppressed] that frequently cash was brought to the center which would not be immediately banked. Therefore, it was possible for large sums of cash to come and go without ever being recorded.

22 July 2004


Paul Anderson, Tribune column, July 23 2004

It might seem the height of perversity to most readers of Tribune, but in the past few weeks I’ve felt more than the odd pang of sympathy for Tony Blair.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve never been a fan of the man or his politics. Sure, before he became prime minister, I interviewed him a few times for Tribune and the New Statesman, and found him personable and charming. And yes, I voted for him in the 1994 Labour leadership contest.

But I was never a Blairite. I voted for him 10 years ago only because Robin Cook decided not to stand and the other candidates were not credible. My hopes of Blair (electoral success apart) were modest in the extreme — that he’d prove more of a constitutional reformer than he’d indicated previously, and that he’d be consistently pro-European.

From there, it was downhill all the way, even before he got to Number Ten. I found the “New Labour” rebranding of the Labour Party asinine and banal, its culture of spin and intolerance of dissent nauseating. Within a year of his becoming Labour leader, I was appalled by Blair’s extreme caution on everything apart from kow-towing to big business and law-and-order populism.

After 1997, with Labour in government, even my modest hopes evaporated. Far from embracing radical constitutional change, Blair did the bare minimum he could get away with. Devolution to Scotland and Wales and regional government for London went ahead — but reform of the House of Lords stalled after the removal of the hereditary peers, the long-awaited Freedom of Information Act was a damp squib, and the promised referendum on changing the electoral system for the House of Commons was postponed indefinitely.

On Europe, Blair blew his chance of securing early British entry into the euro, then stood in the way of developing a social-democratic bloc in the European Union with France, Germany and Italy by pressing a hard deregulationist position at every opportunity in every EU forum. Long before his capitulation to the Eurosceptics with his promise of a referendum, I’d given up on anything worthwhile coming from Blair’s supposed pro-Europeanism. As for the rest of the government’s record — well, there are certainly plenty of good things about it, including sustained economic growth, low unemployment and, at least in the past few years, serious increases in public spending (particularly on the health service and schools), but, as everyone knows, they have largely been down to Gordon Brown as Chancellor.

On those areas of domestic policy in which Blair has taken the lead — public service reform, crime, asylum — the government’s record has been at best uninspiring and at worst miserably illiberal. On foreign affairs, Blair’s real enthusiasm, his administration started surprisingly well, but since 2001 its unstinting support for the adventurism of George W Bush has been has been dangerously reckless and seriously damaging to Britian’s relations with Europe.

So why, you may well ask, have I started to feel some sympathy for Blair? Believe it or not, it’s because of Iraq. It’s not that I’ve come round to thinking that the war was right after all and that Blair deserves plaudits for his stance. Far from it: the decision to remove Saddam Hussein by force was irresponsibly risky and the US and Britain went ahead without adequate thought for what happened afterwards in both Iraq and the wider Middle East.

But I’m increasingly irked by the way the argument about the war has got stuck in a groove. Ever since Andrew Gilligan’s infamous broadcast more than a year ago, the media and most British opponents of the war have focused obsessively on a single issue — whether Blair lied about the threat of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction in order to bounce parliament and public opinion into backing war.

This is of course an important question. If he did lie — or, rather, if he could be proved to have lied — that would be very serious indeed, and he would be deservedly hounded from office in disgrace. Yet precisely because the consequences of being found out telling such a big lie would be so devastating, it was always implausible that Blair had gambled on any such thing. And with each inquiry and report, culminating in the publication last week of Lord Butler’s findings on the uses of intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war, it has become ever more clear that, whatever else Blair and his circle did wrong, he genuinely believed the intelligence reports that said Iraqi WMD were a threat, and he acted on them, as he put it, “in good faith”.

Of course, the intelligence was dodgy and the weapons have not been found. But that isn’t the point. On the main charge levelled against him, Blair is not guilty, and no amount of invective can secure a conviction. On this, he has been absolutely right to face down the pack that is baying for his blood. There are plenty of reasons he should go — but not for deliberately misleading us about WMD. Like it or not, he didn’t.

20 July 2004


Paul Anderson, review of Stalin’s British Victims by Francis Beckett (Sutton, £20), Tribune, July 9 2004

Harold Evans, the legendary former editor of the Sunday Times and The Times, is famous for many things, but for journalists of my generation he will always be primarily remembered as the author of a series of “how-to” books on the crafts of journalism. I still can’t get out of my head his injunction to would-be reporters (I think adapted from Beaverbrook or Northcliffe): “Always, always, always, tell the story through people.”

I was reminded of it again this week as I read a fascinating book by Francis Beckett, Stalin’s British Victims, which, as the introduction puts it, “tells the stories of four remarkable British women whose lives were scorched by Stalin’s purges”.

Beckett is a veteran left-wing journalist whose by-line will be familiar to Tribune readers, but in recent years he has also carved out something of a niche for himself as a popular historian.

In 1995, he published a marvellously racy account of the rise and fall of the Communist Party of Great Britain, Enemy Within. Four years later came a biography of his father John Beckett, a Left-wing Labour MP in the 1920s who became Oswald Mosley’s propaganda chief and a vocal supporter of Nazism.

Stalin’s British Victims is a by-product of his research for his history of the Communist Party. While writing that book, Beckett came across the cases of Rose Cohen and Rosa Rust. Rose Cohen was a bright young middle-class London Jewish woman who joined the CP at its foundation, married the leading Bolshevik sent by Lenin to sort out the fledgling British party, moved to Moscow and spent more than a decade there as a propagandist for the communist regime before being arrested in 1937 and shot.

Rosa Rust was the daughter of William Rust, a prominent British communist (best known as editor of the Daily Worker, precursor of the Morning Star) who — to cut a very long and complex story short — abandoned her as a girl in the Soviet Union. She nearly died as a slave labourer in wartime Kazakhstan before being rescued and sent back to Britain.

Neither woman’s story was exactly secret. Rose Cohen’s arrest had been reported at the time, and by 1956 it was clear at least to her friends — among them Harry Pollitt, the general secretary of the CP, who had been a long-time admirer — that she had perished. Rosa Rust’s extraordinary tale was also known to the British communist leaders. What Beckett found disturbing and fascinating, however, was the extent to which Pollitt and the rest of the British communist leadership kept completely quiet about what they knew and did their utmost to draw a veil over the women’s stories.

Beckett started digging, tracking down Rosa Rust in Redcar and Rose Cohen’s niece in London and searching through archives in Britain and Russia — and in the process discovered two other extraordinary stories of British women caught up in the madness of the purges, Freda Utley and Pearl Rimel, both of whom “saw their husbands taken away to the gulag and had to spirit their small children out of the country”. Utley, a journalist who became a prominent anti-communist polemicist in cold-war America, told her own story in a memoir published in the late 1940s but long forgotten. Rimel’s harrowing tale was unearthed by her husband’s great-nephew, a Dutch journalist.

The result of Beckett’s efforts is an absolutely riveting book that once and for all scotches the excuse used for years by British communists and fellow-travellers for their failure to speak out about Stalin’s terror — that they didn’t know what was going on until 1956, when Khruschev denounced Stalin in his famous “secret speech”. Pollitt, William Rust et al clearly had at very least a good idea of what Stalin was up to — and they decided to do nothing about it, in part because they felt that speaking out would damage the anti-fascist cause but also because they were intellectually and emotionally incapable of confronting the fact that the revolution in which they had invested all their hopes for the future had brought forth a totalitarian police state.

Beckett’s case studies do not constitute a comprehensive account of Stalin’s British victims — as he makes clear, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of other stories to be told — let alone an overview of the purges and the gulag. But by telling the story through people, he vividly brings home how Stalinism blighted and destroyed people’s lives — and why it still matters today.

The Guardian excerpted Stalin's British Victims a couple of weeks ago: click here