Soviet Union

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

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.

PressTV Report on Joan Ryan Losing Vote of ‘No Confidence’

Joan Ryan is one of the chairs of Labour Friends of Israel, and a week or so ago lost a vote of ‘No Confidence’ brought by her constituency party because of her continual undermining of her party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and attacks and smears on other Labour activists and members.

Such as her utterly baseless and malicious complaint to the party that Jean Fitzpatrick was an anti-Semite. This was simply because Fitzpatrick had come to her stall at the Labour Party Conference last year, and asked her a question Ryan couldn’t answer. She asked her what Labour Friends of Israel were doing to achieve the two-state solution, and how would this be possible with the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. She also said that she believed the LFI had money and influence, because a friend’s son had got a good job at Oxford Union on the basis of having worked for them.

Ryan, of course, couldn’t give a straight answer, was deeply embarrassed, and then decided that instead of talking about Oxford University, Fitzpatrick had claimed that her friend’s son had got a job in the City of London. Which was anti-Semitic, because anti-Semites believe the Jews dominate banking.

It was all rubbish, and even Ryan and her cohorts at the stall didn’t know whether it was really anti-Semitic. But they decided that as it had made them feel uncomfortable – the delicate snowflakes – then it must be.

After she lost the motion, Ryan reacted with her customary grace and conciliatory attitude. Well, no: she ranted about how it was all down to Trotskyites, Communists, Stalinists and the hard left. And the supporters of Jeremy Corbyn responsible for bringing her down were obviously anti-Semitic, ’cause PressTV was in there filming the proceedings.

PressTV is the Iranian state news agency. The Iranian theocracy is a deeply reactionary, oppressive regime. It has reduced its country’s working people to grinding poverty, denied them union rights and in the camps for the oil workers in Khuzestan reduced them to slave workers, like those in Stalin’s Soviet Union. Women are denied many of the basic rights they enjoy in the West. Gays are given the choice between execution and undergoing sex-change surgery. And the regime is extremely hostile to Israel, and expresses this in deeply unpleasant, genocidal rhetoric. However, Iran’s remaining domestic Jewish population, like the Zoroastrians, are actually treated well.

Below is the PressTV video on the vote by Roshan Muhammed Salih. And unless I’ve missed something, it’s actually reasonably impartial and well balanced. It begins by describing the vote as another incident in the battle for the soul of the Labour party, and states quite rightly that it was brought by supporters of Jeremy Corbyn against her.

It quotes Ryan as saying ‘I love Enfield and the people who live there. There is nowhere else I’d rather live and work’. It also says that she is chair of Labour Friends of Israel, and that before the vote was taken there were speeches both for and against.

Salih stated that one of the speakers on behalf of the motion was a local Jewish woman, who said that all the media had been attacking Corbyn, and she didn’t think it had anything to do with anti-Semitism. She added that Corbyn is critical of Israel oppressing the Palestinians, and that was what Benjamin Netanyahu is scared of: that if a Labour government comes to power, this might force peace on Israel. He goes on to say that another pro-Corbyn speaker spoke against Ryan personally. He asked what had really been sowing division in the party, and concluded that it was Joan Ryan.

He reports that Ryan herself spoke in her own defence, trying to rally support by declaring that Nelson Mandela was a strong influence on her when she was growing up, and quoted him as saying that it was possible to change the world with your own hands. However, this didn’t save her, and there were cheers when the results started coming in. He notes that this meant much to pro-Corbyn members. Her future now hangs in the balance, although she says she won’t resign. The video homes in on her tweet stating that she is ‘Labour through and through’ and stands for ‘Labour values’. He ends by saying that the battle for Labour’s heart is far from over.

In this snippet at least, there’s no loud denunciations of Jews, no anti-Semitism. It quotes the Jewish lady stating that the anti-Semitism accusations against Corbyn are all about Israel and not about anti-Semitism. Which is correct, though a view which is angrily denied and shouted down, again with cries of ‘anti-Semitism!’ from the Israel lobby. But that shows the Israel lobby’s vicious prejudices and biases, not those of the people they accuse.

So while the Iranian regime is deeply unpleasant and hostile to Israel, their coverage of the ‘No Confidence’ vote looks very much like proper, impartial journalism. It’s the kind of journalism that is conspicuous lacking in the lamestream media, and which we could do with more of. Despite the howls of outrage and anger by Ryan and those like her.

‘I’ Newspaper: ‘Have I Got News For You More Trusted than News’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 22/09/2018 - 8:58pm in

Yesterday, Friday 21st September 2018, the I carried a story by Adam Sherwin, which reported that according to its two stars, Paul Merton and Ian Hislop, people see the satirical panel game as more reliable than the news itself. The article said

Have I Got News For You is a more trusted source of news for viewers than official bulletins, the show’s stars have claimed.

Team captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton said the long-running satirical series now plays a vital role in challenging “fake news”.

Hislop said: “One of the most cheering things about Have I Got News For You is quite a lot of people get their information from us, which should be terrifying in a properly functioning society.

“I walked in through the door of this hotel today and a man came up and said, ‘I absolutely love Have I Got News For You’ and I said, ‘That’s really nice of you’. He said, ‘I’m from Israel… It’s the only sensible news we get’. And you just think, ‘Oh’.

The Private Eye editor added: “We’ve a very big fan base among immigrants and people from backgrounds where they can’t believe you’re allowed to be this rude, which is a thrill compared to the countries they come from.”

Meron said: “That’s certainly part of the element of its longevity is thatpeople come to it for the news.” (p. 5).

Now I prefer to watch Have I Got News For You rather than the news because I get so irritated with the Beeb and its very strong bias against the Labour party and particularly Jeremy Corbyn. And Hislop’s right that in a properly functioning society it would be alarming that more people are tuning into a comedy show for the news rather than the news itself.

But we don’t live in a properly functioning society. We live in a society dominated by very right-wing politics, almost uniformly promoted by the media. And it’s very much because of this that alternative news sources, particularly on the internet, have been growing at the expense of the mainstream broadcasters and print publishers.

But Private Eye and Have I Got News For You have also not been averse to spreading ‘fake news’. I stopped watching Have I Got News For You and reading the Eye a little while ago because I got sick and tired of their anti-Labour, anti-Corbyn bias and their promotion of the lies justifying current British foreign policy: that Putin is going to take over the whole of Ukraine and is a threat to NATO, and that we should stand solidly behind the rebels in Syria. Even though those same rebels are Islamists, of the same stripe that launched 9/11 and have been campaigning against every secular, nationalist or socialist regimes in the Middle East. And have been aided in this by the West, which saw them as a useful force against Communism and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. And now that they’ve shown themselves to be a real threat to peace in the region, they’re being supported again for simple reasons of global geopolitics and the greed of western multinationals and the oil industry.

But you don’t read about this in Private Eye, or see it on Have I Got News For You.

I’ve gone back to reading the Eye and watching HIGNFY, because they’re funny, interesting and do provide an oppositional voice. But they are still themselves unreliable, and have their own, hidden biases, which need to be guarded against. This goes beyond the simple attitude that HIGNFY is a comedy show, and so shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Both the show and the Eye are still part of the media establishment, and so share some of their assumptions and prejudices.

Private Eye on the Spectator’s Support for Hungary’s Viktor Orban

Viktor Orban is the president of Hungary and the leader of the Fidesz party, a far right, ultra-nationalist outfit which is deeply anti-Semitic. One of the Jewish bloggers put up a list of the regime’s comments about the Jews. They’re deeply, viciously anti-Semitic and could have come straight from the Nazis during the Third Reich. But, like Poland’s Law and Justice Party, the Israel lobby claims they’re not anti-Semitic, because they’ve bought a lot of Israel armaments. And so Israel and its satellite organisations in this country defend deeply racist regimes, which really do appear to present a real existential threat to their countries’ Jewish populations.

And the Tories also support them. Last week the EU was going to pass an official motion censuring Hungary for its racism, which is also directed towards Muslims and immigrants. The Tories in the European parliament voted against it and blocked the motion. Tweezer has tried to excuse herself from this support of Fascism by claiming that she didn’t know which way they were going to vote. This is a likely story. Dave Cameron, her predecessor, took the Tories out of the main bloc of centre-right European parties in the EU parliament, and instead put them alongside the far right with ultra-nationalist and far right parties like the Sweden Democrats and the True Finns.

She could also have had an idea which way the EU Tories were going to vote by reading the Spectator. Their columnists were similarly deeply impressed by Orban and his storm troopers. And according to Private Eye for 4-17 May 2018, this attitude within the Tory rag had spread to its wine column. The Eye wrote

The last Eye noted the enthusiasm of some bigwigs at the Spectator for Viktor Orban, the nationalist prime minister of Hungary, despite a leader in the magazine criticizing Orban’s crackdown on press freedom. Now the Spectator turf war has spread to… the wine column.

Bruce Anderson wrote last week that he had been invited to the Hungarian embassy to taste some sweet Tokaji wine, courtesy of the ambassador, “a good friend of President Orban’s”. Anderson opined: “Mr Orban is much demonized… [he]is a patriot and a Christian: how deeply unfashionable. He believes Hungary should control its own borders: how un-European…Having escaped Soviet rule, he is not interested in being told what to do by the Germans. How absurd: does he not realise that it is more than 70 years since the Germans tried to exterminate anyone?”

Meanwhile, one of Hungary’s most popular newspapers, belonging to a tycoon who recently broke faith with Orban, has just closed after 80 years, as has a radio station with the same owner. Still, some bottles must be troken in the name of producing a nice Tokaji! (p. 9).

Anderson neglects to mention in his piece that it wasn’t just the Germans, who were responsible for the mass murder of Hungary’s Jews. It was the Hungarian regime, led by Admiral Horthy, that was responsible for allying the country with Nazi Germany and allowing the Nazis and the SS to operate within its borders to deport Jewish Hungarians to the death camps.

Alsom you can see, there’s absolutely no mention of Orban’s anti-Semitism or islamophobia, or his party’s deep hatred of Gypsies as well as immigrants. The Eye’s article just mentions the regime’s threat to the freedom of the press, as though this was only thing that Orban’s regime threatened.

Mike and David Rosenberg have also written pieces criticizing Tweezer and the Tories for supporting Hungary in the EU. Mike’s article is at:
https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/09/13/after-the-fake-labour-anti-semitism-row-theresa-may-whips-her-mps-to-support-genuine-anti-semites/
David Rosenberg’s article can be found at
https://rebellion602.wordpress.com/2018/09/14/dont-be-disappointed-get-angry/

Rosenberg’s article is particularly interesting, as he states that it was because one member of the Board of Deputies of British Jews expressed mild displeasure at Cameron throwing the Tories in with the Polish Law and Justice Party that led to the creation of the Jewish Leadership Council.

A previous slightly left-leaning president of the Board of Deputies, Vivian Wineman, expressed concern in 2010 about David Cameron’s decision to link with the Polish Law and Justice Party in founding the Tories’ current Euro Parliament group. Unfortunately that seems to have been the very last time the Board commented negatively on Tory behaviour and alliances in Europe. There is really no excuse for the Board of Deputies’ shameful silence that has persisted until this week’s events. And there are certainly no excuses now, having expressed concern, for the Board of Deputies not to demand some action by the Tories now that the vote has taken place .

It was discontent with the Board having the temerity to speak out in 2010 that led a group of Jewish businessmen and professionals to announce the formation of the (unelected) Jewish Leadership Council as a rival source of authority in the Jewish community. That Jewish Leadership Council, the Campaign Against Antisemitism, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who all enthusiastically waded into rows over Jeremy Corbyn and alleged antisemitism have been strangely quiet since the Tories lined up with some of the ugliest right-wing forces in Wednesday’s vote in the European Parliament. Maybe it has been a Jewish holiday that I didn’t know about where you are not allowed to criticise Tories – or maybe it is just the case that their concern about antisemitism is more politically selective, and they certainly haven’t wanted to upset either the Tory Party or their friend Benjamin Netanyahu.

If Other Nations Mourned Like the U.S.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 19/09/2018 - 4:00pm in

What if other countries mourned their national tragedies the way we do? The United States reads off the names of the dead during annual commemoration ceremonies and builds walls with names. Other countries have far bigger death counts, often due to us, but the scale of the carnage makes it impossible for them to wallow in such niceties.

Dimbleby Resigns as BBC Propagandist on Question Time

Yesterday, Mike put up a piece commenting on the resignation of former Bullingdon boy David Dimbleby as the host of Question Time. The man Private Eye dubbed ‘Dimblebore’ has been presenting the show for 25 years, and now considers it the right moment to leave. Dimbleby is another BBC presenter, who is very biased towards the Conservatives. Mike’s photograph of him accompanying his piece shows him raising two fingers, with the comment that it’s probably to a Socialist. Mike also cautions against feeling too good about Dimblebore’s resignation, as we don’t know what monster’s going to replace. He wonders whether the secret of human cloning has been found, and whether the next biased presenter of the programme will be Josef Goebbels.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/06/17/if-david-dimbleby-is-leaving-the-bbcs-question-time-what-horror-will-replace-him/

Last week Dimblebore was off in Russia, presenting a documentary about the country under Putin ahead of the footie there. He wasn’t the only, or even the first person to go. The comedian Frankie Boyle got there over a week earlier, presenting a two-part show about the country, it’s people and football on Sunday evening. Dimblebore was rather more serious in tone, presenting Russia as a country in the grip of a repressive autocrat, and mired in corruption which was strangling the economy.

Dimbleby first explained that Putin was most popular with young people, the generation that everywhere else is rebelling against autocrats, dictators and tyrants. He puts this down to Russians’ experience of economic collapse under Yeltsin. Yeltsin ended communism and dismembered the economy of the Soviet Union, privatising whatever he could. The result was chaos, and massive employment. At one point it got so bad that some factories were paying their workers in the goods they produced. Putin has restored order and economic stability to the country, and so has the support of the younger generation.

He spoke to a great of young professionals, an advertising branding team who were supporters of Putin, working to promote him through images and slogans. He stated that most of the media was controlled by the Russian president, with a few exceptions. He then went to speak to someone from RT’s Moscow branch. Dimbleby explained that some of the staff were British, and asked one of the Brits there whether he was presenting propaganda. The man denied it, said that there was no one watching over him, telling him what to do, and that his conscience was clear. Dimblebore then gave a knowing smirk into the camera.

He then talked to a female presenter on one of the few dissident broadcasters Putin had allowed to remain open. She said that she had not received any threats, but she knew that she could be killed for what she did. But she was still determined to carry on.

He then talked about how those, who criticised the government were arrested and jailed, interviewing a human rights lawyer, who defended them. When asked what people could be arrested and jailed for, the lawyer explained that it could be criticism of the government, or a non-traditional understanding of the Second World War. The other year Putin passed a law criminalising the view that Stalin was partly responsible for the Nazi invasion of eastern Europe and Russia through the Nazi-Soviet pact. From what I remember, I think you can also be arrested for promoting gay rights.

He then spoke to a woman, who was protesting her treatment by the state. She had already been jailed for criticising Putin, but was determined to do so again. She had not been able to get a permit to organise a protest, and so held her own, one-woman demonstration outside the court. This is permitted under Russian law. If you can’t get a permit for a demonstration, you can still protest, so long as there is only one person involved. As she stood with her placard, she was joined by an increasing number of counter-protesters determined to disrupt her protest, and possibly send her to jail. They moved closer to her, and she moved away, telling them to keep their distance. They kept coming, and their numbers kept increasing. Then the cops turned up, and started filming things as they’d been told foreigners were involved. And someone else from one of the TV companies materialised to film the protest as well. Eventually it all ended, and the police and counter-protesters disappeared.

Dimbleby then did a piece about the police’s brutal suppression of dissent, complete with footage of the cops beating what looked like a feminist protester from Pussy Riot.

He also touched on gender roles. He talked to a hairdresser, while having his haircut, who told him that Russia still had very traditional gender roles, in which women wanted a strong man to provide for them.

Putin has also succeeded in reversing the declining Russian birthrate. Instead of falling, it is now rising, with medals and benefits given to couples who have large families. He showed one woman and her husband, who were being presented a medal by Putin for having ten children.

He also went off to talk to a youth organisation, that was set up to get children, including boys of junior school age, interested in the army. The group’s name translates as ‘Net’, and is run by army officers. The children there wear combat uniforms and learn to shoot using air rifles, which they are also taught how to strip down. They were shown blazing away at targets, and competing with each other over who could reassemble a gun while blindfolded the quickest, with Dimblebore cheering the winner. And it wasn’t all boys. One of the youngster there looked like a girl. Dimblebore asked them if they wanted to join the army, to which they gave a very enthusiastic ‘Yes’.

He then went off to speak to a prelate from the Russian Orthodox Church about its support for Putin, where he described Putin as an autocrat attacking human rights and threatening peace in Europe. The prelate responded by saying that there were those, who did not agree with his view. And that was that.

He then went off to discuss the massive corruption in Russia, and how this was undermining the economy as more and more investors and companies left the country because of it. Russia has 144 million people, but it’s economy is 2/3s that of Britain, or about the size of Italy’s, and is declining.

Now all of this is factually true. John Kampfner, in his book Freedom For Sale discusses Russia as another state, where the population has made a deal with its leader. They have absolute power, in return for which they give their people prosperity. Except that, according to Dimbleby, living standards and wages are declining. Putin has passed laws against the promotion of homosexuality, there are massive human rights violations, including the jailing of the type of people, who would have been called dissidents under Communism. Journalists, who haven’t toed the Archiplut’s line have been beaten and killed.

Other aspects of the Russian state, as revealed by this programme, would have been immediately recognisable to the generation raised by Communism. Like the corruption. It was rife under Communism. The Bulgarian journalist, Arkady Vaksberg, wrote a book about it, The Soviet Mafia. And Gogol took a shot at official corruption under the Tsars back in the 19th century in his play, The Government Inspector. So no change there.

As for the Russian Orthodox Church supporting Putin, it was always the state church under the tsars, to which it gave absolute support. The watchword of the tsarist regime was ‘Autocracy, Orthodoxy and the People’. And its support of autocratic leadership didn’t begin under Putin. After the restrictions on religion were lifted in the 1990s, the BBC journalists interviewed some of its clergy on their shows. And the clergy had the same preference for absolute state power and total obedience from the people. Putin made the relationship between the Church and his government closer by granting them a sizable share of Russia’s oil.

The youth groups designed to get children interested in joining the army are also little different from what already went on under the Soviet system. Secondary schoolchildren did ‘military-patriotic training’ to prepare them for national service as part of the school curriculum. It was led by retired army officers, who were often the butt of schoolboy jokes. They were taught to handle weapons, complete with competitions for throwing grenades the furthest.

And let’s face it, it also isn’t much different from what used to go on over here. I’ve known young people, who were in the army and naval cadets. And the public schools used to have the CCF – the Combined Cadet Force – which the Tories would dearly love to bring back. And boys, and some girls, do like playing at ‘War’, so I’ve no doubt that if something like the Russian group was set up in this country, there would be many lads and girls wanting to join it.

Russia has also too been a very masculine society with very traditional ideas about gender and masculinity, despite the fact that most engineers were women, who also worked as construction workers and many other, traditionally masculine areas. One of the complaints of Russian women was that the men didn’t do their fair share of standing in queues waiting to get whatever groceries were in store.

And the medals and rewards to the women, who gave birth to the largest number of children is just another form of the Heroic Mother Awards under the Soviet Union. Putin’s Russia continues many of the same aspects of the country’s society from the age of the tsars and Communism, although Dimblebore said the country was going backward.

I’ve no doubt it is, but the programme annoyed me.

What irritated me was Dimblebore’s knowing smirk to camera when the guy from RT denied that he broadcast propaganda. Now I’m sure that RT does. There’s videos I’ve seen on YouTube from RTUK, which could fairly be described as pro-Russian propaganda.

But what annoyed me was Dimblebore’s hypocrisy about it.

The Beeb and Dimbleby himself has also broadcast it share of propaganda supporting western foreign policy interests, including imperialism. Newsnight has finally got round, after several years, to covering the Fascists running around the Ukraine under the present government. But the Beeb has emphatically not informed the British public how the pro-western regime which was put in power with the Orange Revolution, was created by the US State Department under Obama, and run by Hillary Clinton and Victoria Nuland. Far from being a grassroots movement, the revolution was orchestrated by the National Endowment for Democracy, which has been handling the US state’s foreign coups since they were taken away from the CIA, and one of George Soros’ pro-democracy outfits.

Putin is also presented as the villainous aggressor in the current war in the Ukraine, and some have compared his annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine to the Nazi annexation of the Sudetenland. But Crimea had been a part of Russia before 1951, when Khrushchev, a Ukrainian, gave it to that state. And Putin is not looking to take over the country either. The population of Russia is 144 million. Ukraine’s is a little over a third of that, at 52 million. If Putin really had wanted to annex it, he would have done so by now. And under international law, as I understand it, nations are allowed to intervene in foreign countries militarily to defend members of their ethnic group that are being persecuted. That was the pretext for the Nazi annexation of the Sudetenland, and it’s also the reason why Putin’s invaded eastern Ukraine. But it’s legal under international law. And I don’t doubt for a single minute that Russians, and Russian-speaking Ukrainians, were being persecuted by the new, pro-Western government.

In his documentary, Dimbleby met a very angry, patriotic Russian, who told him that the British had tried to invade Russia three times in the past three centuries. Once in the 19th century during the Crimean War; then in 1922 during the Russian Civil War. And now we were preparing to do the same. He angrily told us to ‘get out!’. Dimbleby looked shocked, and said to him that he couldn’t really believe we were ready to invade.

This was another continuation of the Soviet paranoia and hostility towards the West dating from the Communist period and before. Russia has always felt itself encircled by its enemies since the tsars. But the man has a point. We did invade Russia in 1922 in an effort to overthrow the Communist regime. Pat Mills has talked about this in his presentation on comics he gave to the SWP a few years ago. He tried to get a story about it in Charlie’s War, the anti-war strip he wrote for Battle. This is another piece of history that we aren’t told about.

And when Gorbachev made the treaty with Clinton pledging the withdrawal of Soviet troops from eastern Europe after the collapse of Communism, Clinton in turn agreed that these state would not become members of NATO. He broke his promise. They now all are, and NATO’s borders now extend to Russia. At the same time, western generals and NATO leaders have been predicting a war between Russia and NATO. One even wrote a book about it, 2017: War with Russia. Thankfully, 2017 has been and gone and there has, so far, been no war. But with this in view, I can’t say I blame any Russian, who is afraid that the West might invade at any moment, because it does look to me like a possibility.

And there are other matters that the Beeb and the rest of the lamestream news aren’t telling us about. They’re still repeating the lie that the invasion of Iraq was done for humanitarian reasons, whereas the reality was that western corporations and the neocons wanted to get their hands on Iraqi state industries and privatise the economy. And the American and Saudi oil industry wanted to get their mitts on the country’s oil reserves.

The civil war in Syria is also presented in simplistic terms: Assad as evil tyrant, who must be overthrown, and Putin as his bloodthirsty foreign ally. Assad is a tyrant, and one of the causes of the civil war was his oppression of the Sunni majority. But we are constantly being told that the rebels are ‘moderates’, while the fact is that they still have links to Islamists like the al-Nusra Front, the former Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, and ISIS. Nor have I seen the Beeb tell anyone how the Syrian rebels have also staged false flag chemical weapons attacks against civilians in order to draw the west into the war.

And objective reporting on Israel is hindered by the pro-Israel lobby. Any news item or documentary, which shows Israel’s horrific crimes against Palestinian civilians is immediately greeted with accusations of anti-Semitism from the Israeli state and the Board of Deputies of British Jews. I’ll be fair to the Beeb. Some of their presenters have tried to give an objective reporting of events, like Jeremy Bowen and Orla Guerin. But they’ve been accused of anti-Semitism, as was Dimblebore himself when he tried to defend them. In this instance, the bias isn’t just the fault of the Beeb. But it is there, and newsroom staff have said that they were under pressure from senior management to present a pro-Israel slant.

Domestically, the Beeb is very biased. I’ve discussed before how Nick Robinson in his report on a speech by Alex Salmond about Scots devolution carefully edited the SNP’s answer, so it falsely appeared that he had been evasive. In fact, Salmond had given a full, straight answer. Salmond’s reply was whittled down further as the day went on, until finally Robinson claimed on the evening news that he hadn’t answered the question.

And numerous left-wing bloggers and commenters, including myself, have complained about the horrendous bias against the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn in the Beeb’s reporting. Dimblebore himself has shown he has a very right-wing bias on Question Time, allowing right-wing guests and audience members to speak, while silencing those on the left. Not that he’s alone here. Andrew Marr has done exactly the same on his programme on Sundays.

Dimblebore is, quite simply, another right-wing propagandist, with the Beeb backing current western imperialism. His smirk at the RT journalist’s denials of doing the same is just gross hypocrisy.

Book Review: Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine by Anne Applebaum

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/05/2018 - 11:37pm in

In Red Famine: Stalin’s War on UkraineAnne Applebaum offers a new comprehensive account of the Holodomor: the famine that led to the deaths of millions of Ukrainians through starvation in the early 1930s. Drawing on archival documents, written and oral testimonies and historical scholarship, this is a valuable addition to our understanding of this devastating and long-neglected event, reccommends Vlad Onaciu. 

If you are interested in this review, you may like to listen to a podcast of Anne Applebaum’s lecture ‘Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine, and Why it Still Matters’, recorded at LSE on 4 October 2017. 

Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine. Anne Applebaum. Penguin. 2017.

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The historiography on Soviet crimes is quite abundant, offering myriad interpretations throughout the Cold War and in the period after it. Anne Applebaum’s Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine is a new addition to this scholarship, focusing on the tragedy which befell the Ukrainian people under Joseph Stalin’s rule: namely, the Holodomor. This term has been used to define the genocide through hunger perpetrated between 1932 and 1933, causing the deaths of anywhere between 2 million and 12 million people. Some scholars have denied this description of the event by arguing that it was part of a wider famine, which hit other regions as well (Kazakhstan and the North Caucasus), although it is difficult to ignore Stalin’s disdain for Ukrainians, as expressed in his letters to Soviet politican Lazar Kaganovich. Anne Applebaum’s book stands as a synthesis of what has so far been researched, in terms of both archival documents and the expert analysis of various historians. As in her previous studies, she has combined this with written and oral testimonies, leading to a vivid account of the Holodomor. She makes an argument for its genocidal character, yet avoids a conclusion when it comes to the number of dead, arguing that the relative bureaucratic chaos of collectivisation and the Holodomor makes such an assessment impossible.

The author’s interest in the communist world is anything but new. Presently a Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics but with a journalist background, Applebaum’s first book was the Pulitzer-winning Gulag: A History, in which she analysed the Soviet system of forced labour camps, drawing upon the accounts of its victims. Another major contribution is The Iron Curtain, an in-depth analysis of how the communist regimes in Eastern and Central Europe not only took over politics, but also society.

In Red Famine, Applebaum analyses the struggle of the Ukrainian diaspora to make known their national tragedy. The subject first came to public awareness with the 1985 Harvest of Despair documentary. A year later, Robert Conquest published the book Harvest of Sorrow, which was based on the research undertaken at the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University, generating debates regarding the ethnicity of the dead and their estimated numbers in the absence of relevant primary sources. In the following decades, the number of academic publications focusing on these crimes increased. Among these, it is particularly worthwhile to mention Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands, Norman Naimark’s Stalin’s Genocides and Terry Martin’s The Affirmative Action Empire. All three emphasise the role that Ukrainian identity played in Stalin’s decisions. Applebaum takes the same approach, focusing on the Bolshevik attitude towards the nationalities drawn together under the Soviet Union, while also explaining how collectivisation became a backdrop to genocide.

Image Credit: ‘The Memory Candle’ monument to victims of the Holodomor, Kiev, Ukraine (Jarosław Góralczyk CC BY SA 4.0)

Applebaum’s analysis of Ukrainian identity starts from the time of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the sixteenth century and the Tsarist Empire (from as early as the ninth century, starting with the Kievan Rus, up to 1917). She argues that in both Polish and Russian, Ukrainian means ‘borderland’: this came to illustrate the future downplay of the distinctiveness of the Ukrainian nation. Moving forward in time to the first years of the Soviet Union, she attempts to explain the paradoxical Bolshevik attitude towards this part of their new empire. Firstly, the experience of the Civil War came to shape the Soviet view of both external and hidden internal enemies. This was a time marked by extreme unrest and division in Ukraine as three big armies fought with little regard for the population. This led to an obvious lack of trust between the emerging national movement (mostly a peasant movement, including the ill-fated 1917-21 Ukrainian People’s Republic) and the Moscow-led Communists. Yet it was something of an ambivalent attitude, as Bolshevik ideology also supported autonomy for the Soviet republics, and for almost a decade there was an effort made towards developing Ukrainian culture and identity.

But, by the end of the 1920s, there were clear signs that the central authorities were planning to close this down. While the ‘Shakhty Trial’ has become the preferred example for Soviet show trials against supposed saboteurs, little attention has been given to the trial of the ‘Spilka Vyzvolenia Ukrainy’ (SVO – Union for the Liberation of Ukraine). This saw around 30,000 people placed under arrest (mostly members of the elite), and marked the beginning of the attack on Ukrainian nationalism and its leadership. In the book, Applebaum manages to illustrate the difference between official discourse and Stalin’s actual paranoia-driven intentions towards internal enemies.

Here, we arrive at the second defining element of the book’s interpretation: collectivisation as the background to the genocide. There has been a tendency in some parts of the historiography (especially in Russia) to explain at least some aspects of the famine through the policies of collectivisation, in a sense making it an unwanted or ignored consequence. While Applebaum accepts that this did in fact worsen the situation of the peasantry, she argues that there was more to the policy. As the food shortages increased, people began reacting in a hostile manner towards the regime, but they were in an already-weakened state due to the annihilation of the elites in the SVU trial. This led to arrests and deportations, while peasants fled to cities.

It is here that collectivisation in Ukraine took a genocidal turn according to Applebaum, as in 1932 Stalin installed a repressive system involving the harsh requisitioning of food, the blacklisting of individuals and the closing down of borders. She ties these efforts of the regime into a double-faceted phenomenon. On the one hand, the regime aimed at breaking any remaining resistance, something which was achieved. On the other, blocking migration was an attempt at hiding the scale of the Ukrainian tragedy to protect the official image of economic and social progress. In reality, as acknowledged in the introduction, Stalin’s policies in Ukraine left millions dead, and the survivors traumatised.

There is little criticism that can be brought to the approach of Red Famine. One issue that could have been better explored is the Polish element to Stalin’s paranoia. While it is mentioned on several occasions, usually in reference to past Ukrainian experience and accounts of the Holodomor, Applebaum does not define it in relation to the regime’s motivations. This aspect is relevant to understanding Stalin’s offensive: there was a genuine fear among the Bolsheviks that Polish national ambitions could pose a threat to the Soviet Union’s territorial integrity. This only served to further increase Stalin’s paranoia with regards to hidden enemies, convincing him that there was a need for a cleansing of Ukraine. Nonetheless, Red Famine is certainly a very useful addition to the existing historiography, offering a gripping account of the disaster befalling the Ukrainian nation in the early 1930s.

Vlad Onaciu is a PhD student in the Faculty of History and Philosophy at Babes-Bolyai University, where he previously finished his BA and MA in contemporary history. His doctoral research focuses on issues regarding the lives of workers in factories during the communist regime in Romania. His academic interests include the history of communism, oral history, international relations (mainly civilisational studies) and nineteenth- and twentieth-century history in general. Read more by Vlad Onaciu.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics.