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October 28, 2004

When intelligent people work for the enemy - Christopher Hill, John Roper and Robin Pearson

Posted by Anthony Glees

In November the SAU will be publishing Spinning The Spies: Intelligence, Open Government and the Hutton Inquiry by Anthony Glees and Philip H. J. Davies. Prof. Anthony Glees is Director of the Brunel Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies and is one of the founding figures of the academic study of intelligence and security issues in the UK. He is the author of The Stasi Files: East Germany's Secret Operations Against Britain. Earlier this month, Prof. Glees gave a paper to a joint SAU/New Criterion conference on When Intelligent People Work for the Enemy - Christopher Hill, John Roper and Robin Pearson.

Contemporary history has taught us much about subversive organisations whether Islamist, Fascist or Communist. We know, for example, that we must differentiate between two distinct sorts of subversives. There are those who are invariably naive, often uneducated and usually so poor that they have little to lose by signing up to fight in what is sold to them as a war for their own "liberation".

Much more dangerous are those who lead them, also obsessed with their political cause but very clever, and almost always moneyed or well-educated. Theirs is not the desperate life of the downtrodden.

Christopher Hill
Perhaps the best example of this is the leading British Marxist historian, Christopher Hill. In 1985 Hill had learned he might be identified as a Communist mole, working in the British Foreign Office during the Second World War, in a book I was writing on MI5 and Communist subversion. In return for agreeing not to publish this fact during his lifetime, he confirmed to me that he had been a Communist agent of the NKVD/KGB. Hill, the son of a York solicitor, had won a scholarship to Balliol and then a fellowship at All Souls. In 1934 he went to the Soviet Union for a year. Whilst some of his friends knew he was a Marxist, and perhaps a Communist (a supporter or member of the Communist Party), none of them knew if he was just a sympathiser or formal member (the two functions were very different). Hill himself said about this only that he had left the Party after 1957.

The Russia Hill visited was a country reeling under the effects of Stalin's forced collectivisation which had already led to the deaths - by starvation - of millions of ordinary Russians. In December 1934, S M Kirov, the Leningrad Party boss, was assassinated, triggering Stalin's murderous purges. Hill cannot have been oblivious to what was going on before his eyes (and freely reported in the Russian press) – and he plainly approved, as his subsequent writings extolling Stalin prove. It was during this appalling time that Hill was almost certainly recruited as a secret Communist party member, and received instruction in clandestine intelligence work.

On the outbreak of war in 1939, Hill speedily found employment in British intelligence (when Hitler and Stalin were still allies). Working first for SOE, Hill was trained to be dropped by parachute behind Soviet lines in the Baltic States to start a revolution there against Stalin. In July 1941 he moved into the Foreign Office where he soon became its Soviet expert, and was able to work hard for Stalin. As head of the Russian Desk in the Northern Department of the Foreign Office he was the "alongsider" to Peter Smollett, in charge of the Ministry of Information's Russian section. Smollett, whose real name was Smolka, had a past as an Austrian Communist. He was also a close friend of Kim Philby. By 1943 Hill had become one of the best placed Communist moles in Britain. To maximise Communist input into policy making, he devised an original way of promoting Soviet interests in Britain without too much notice, using a Committee which he ran to bypass his Foreign Office colleagues, on to which he invited men like Maurice Dobb (the Cambridge Marxist) and Smollett himself. It was Smollett who attempted, with initial success, to stop the publication of George Orwell's Animal Farm. After the war Smollett disappeared behind the Iron Curtain.

One of Hill's unsavoury measures (showing his interest in Britain’s academic culture) was his proposal to dismiss "for political reasons" (Hill's own words) all White Russian university teachers in the UK and replace them by Soviet citizens to be nominated by the Russians themselves (that little phrase, "for political reasons" is chilling). Hill wanted Churchill and Stalin to agree to this at the Potsdam Conference in 1945. Luckily, Lord Cherwell refused to put it to the Heads of Government, noting his:

surprise that the Foreign Office wants to put so small a matter on the agenda.
It is also possible, given his role, that he arranged for a Soviet diplomat in London, called Grigori Saksin, to be sent back to Russia because he was revealing too much about Stalin's plans for a Communist post-war Europe.

Hill's commitment to Stalinism does not simply jump out of the Foreign Office papers. In 1945, under a pseudonym (K E Holme – Holm is the Russian for hill) he wrote a book called The Soviets and Ourselves: Two Commonwealths. The publication of the book was organised for Hill by Smollett. In it, Hill extolled "Lenin's genius". Significantly, Hill tried to convince his readers (as he had convinced his colleagues in the Foreign Office) that after defeating Hitler, Stalin would not under any circumstances try to export Communism in 1945. In Soviet Russia, Hill said, there were direct and secret elections adding that:

the vote was enjoyed by all Soviet citizens.
Stalin's treason trials – we read - were:
non-violent [and] similar to the Chartist movement. [The punishments] were deserved.
Hill concluded:
British subjects speak of GPU (KGB) surveillance, of the one-party system…Yet the Soviet system is not a denial of parliamentary democracy…it is not a mere party dictatorship imposed from on top. It is an attempt to skip the liberal stage in politics…
Stalin's Russia, Hill went on – and he was not trying to be funny – was:
run like an Oxford college which prefers unanimity to a majority decision.
In 1953 Hill wrote that Stalin was:
a very great and penetrating thinker…[and that] humanity would always be deeply in his debt.

The Stasi in Britain
Others have, arguably inadvertently, found themselves following in Christopher Hill's footsteps. These include two men who are still active in public life: onetime Member of Parliament and then Chatham House foreign policy expert, John Roper, now Professor the Lord Roper; and senior academic Robin Pearson. They both worked for the Stasi, East German intelligence, each in their own rather different ways and for apparently quite different reasons. The Stasi and the KGB (the former was often the latter's surrogate) were highly professional and self-avowed fanatical conspiracies, dedicated to upholding the murderous practices of Felix Dzerzhinsky and the Chekist principles of:

aggression through conspiracy for the protection of the Communist cause.
What this meant was that at home the Stasi attacked and persecuted all internal opposition to Communism, often displaying great cruelty and genuine sadism. Abroad, they collected intelligence as a means of bolstering the police state at home. The Stasi called itself, and it was, "the sword and the shield" of East German Communism. Everyone who worked for it, in whatever capacity, was an accomplice to its odious work.

East German intelligence was a unitary body, comprising both a security service and a secret foreign intelligence service called the HVA (Hauptverwaltung Aufklaerung or Main Directorate Intelligence). By 1989 the service consisted of over 90,000 official personnel and as many as 150,000 – 170,000 agents, who came to be known as informelle Mitarbeiter, IMs, informal collaborators or, as British intelligence terms them, "co-opted workers" which most accurately describes their true role in the UK in particular. The HVA was the largest single unit within the Stasi and worked almost exclusively in the West. It had 3,819 officers, led until 1986 by Markus Wolf and then by Werner Grossmann. In addition, the Stasi (like any intelligence service) could rely on its contacts, or persons of trust – who, in the case of Britain, were British. In 1999 the then Home Secretary, Jack Straw, stated some 100 Stasi agents had operated in Britain.

John Roper
John Roper was considered a prime Stasi asset from 1983 to 1989. He was, without doubt, deemed its best agent of influence. Roper states that he was never a spy and that the more the Stasi knew about British security policy, the better. In this sense, he maintains, he was acting on behalf of the British Government. After an early career on the far left, organising the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament at Oxford, he became a lecturer, then a Labour MP, joining the breakaway SDP before losing his seat in Parliament and joining Chatham House, the foreign affairs think tank largely funded by the British taxpayer. Roper knowingly cooperated with East German intelligence officers, including them in meetings designed to help dissidents from which the Stasi was supposed to be excluded. This effectively turned these meetings into intelligence gathering opportunities for the East Germans. He even invited an East German intelligence officer to dinner with Bill Rodgers of the SDP and his Polish-born wife, Silvia. In June 1989, without the knowledge of his superior at Chatham House, Sir James Eberle, still less MI5, Roper produced a plan to enable East German intelligence officers to make contact with what the Stasi called:

leading figures in certain British scientific institutions and in the security policy and military spheres.
The Stasi judged this:
an exceptionally effective measure in support of foreign information gathering [which] strengthened their contact to people.
Roper also appointed a Stasi spy H. H. Kasper to a research fellowship at Chatham House. Roper has stated he did not know about Kasper's Stasi provenance, and accepts that he ought to have checked his CV before hiring him. Kasper, however, who was operating as a spy in London from 1983 to1986, prior to his Chatham House appointment, claims today that he knew Roper well at this time.

Robin Pearson
Robin Pearson was recruited by the Stasi whilst a visiting student at Leipzig University in 1978 as a long term penetration agent (codenamed Armin), one of only two Britons whose full case histories survived the shredders (the other was Fiona Houlding – Diana – recruited in 1988). Pearson began his career for the Stasi by spying on his fellow British students in East Germany (most notably Graham Watson, currently a leading Member of the European Parliament). Back in Britain, he spied on numerous British academics at Leeds and many other universities (especially where they had links to East European dissidents as in the case of Zygmunt Baumann), including his supervisors Professor Maurice Beresford and Clive Trebilcock of Cambridge but also on Brian Hook, the Vice Chancellor of Leeds who, Pearson claimed, had links to the British Government. He also spied on fellow students at Leeds (including one who had taken up a post at the MoD), on numerous Chinese students visiting the University, on Amnesty International, and on various university departments of German in the UK. Moving to York University, Pearson offered the Stasi a safe house there and at Hull developed a plan for sending Hull students to East Germany where they might be recruited as he had been. His worst single act of spying took place in 1988 whilst on Hull's payroll when he doggedly tracked an MoD weapons expert of Polish extraction, known simply as Toni, using his mother-in-law, Joanna Kalinowska of Ealing, to draw close to him. Pearson suspected Toni of being a leading Solidarity supporter.

Everyone who worked for the Communists in this way became an accomplice to subversion - and to the domestic terror to which the KGB and the Stasi subscribed, however far they felt they were removed from the actual terror itself. They stuck with their masters with a fervour that was, in an English sort of way, nothing short of fanatical. Yet none of the three men whose cases are discussed here were uncovered at the time or has suffered in any way for their actions. In Roper's case, his supporters have rallied around him, with letters to the national press, threats to newspaper editors (gamely resisted by The Guardian, who were not sued) and the placing of vindictive and hostile reviews, most notably by Roger Morgan, a close friend, in International Affairs, the house journal of Chatham House. Pearson was asked to accept a small reduction in teaching income from 1999-2002 (on the grounds that he should have told this cohort of students he had been a Stasi spy).

Today Pearson has been promoted and his research is funded by a taxpayer funded grant. He is said to ostentatiously enjoy the patronage of a senior Hull professor who sees nothing wrong in his work for the Stasi. All of this, it should be added, horrifies some at Hull but they fear dismissal if they speak out.

Neither Hill, Roper nor Pearson suffered for having been knowing participants in a secret war against Britain. Hill was regarded as a doughty and committed Marxist intellectual in politics, Roper praised as an outstanding diplomat of détente, and Pearson valued as a highly-gifted researcher.

Whether they themselves wanted Britain to be a Communist state is irrelevant. They helped those who wished Communism to prosper everywhere. Hill, Roper and Pearson used the opportunities provided by liberal society to effectively undermine liberal thinking and behaviour, whether behind the Iron Curtain or in Britain, in the latter not least by example. If they could get away with it, so can others. They demanded their behaviour be totally accepted whilst they themselves worked hard for those who were intolerant of any dissent. Whilst the KGB/NKVD was not the Gestapo in that they did not sustain the war against the Jews, they resembled it in virtually every other way. What would we say about British academics who had worked for the Gestapo?

Professor Anthony Glees is Director of the Brunel Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies and co-author of Spinning The Spies: Intelligence, Open Government and the Hutton Inquiry.

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"They helped those who wished Communism to prosper everywhere. Hill, Roper and Pearson used the opportunities provided by liberal society to effectively undermine liberal thinking and behaviour, whether behind the Iron Curtain or in Britain, in the latter not least by example."

They don't seem to have been very effective, do they? Characteristic of British dons.

Now let's have an expose connected with a live issue. Who, for instance, are Israel's agents of influence and sayanim in the academic world in Britain and the USA?

Posted by: DoviD at October 31, 2004 12:01 AM

"Not very effective", well, I suppose those who were persecuted and/or executed as a result of their actions might have disagreed, but probably they are no longer capable of doing so on their own behalf. Let's call for "social justice" in these cases, show trials (but based on real evidence for a change), forced confessions, followed by executions. In the interests of humanity we can forgo the torture.

Posted by: Ed Snack at October 31, 2004 09:20 PM

The difference between the rightful scorn pored upon supporters of Nazi or Fascist ideas and the indulgence we show to supporters of communism is a disgrace.

Communism killed 100 Million people in the last century and we continue to treat marxists as misinformed but well intentioned.

Whilst a Catholic was rejected for a post of EU commissioner based on his religous beliefs, former members of communist governments are going to be nodded into theirs.

DoviD's comparison with Israel, A DEMOCRATIC country, whose prime intelligence task is to fight terrorism, is totally inappropriate. Also his idea that the deaths of innocent people can be irrelevant because the crimes were perpetrated some time ago (let's have an expose connected with a live issue) is an interesting socialist idea that they fail to extend to old Nazis.

Anyone who supports those who spied for the agents of the Red Terror is an accessory to their many murders.

Posted by: EU Serf at November 1, 2004 03:04 PM
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