Saturday 15 September 2018

Smearing Michael Foot

Michael Foot was a paid Soviet informant! so reports The Times this morning. Any impartial observer of the political scene might have thought the Russian money regularly deposited in Tory party coffers right now would be more newsworthy, but okay. According to their front page splash (to promote interest in Ben MacIntyre's The Spy and the Traitor), the former Labour leader received cash and, apparently, had a 400 page file on him back in Moscow. What's new - Foot successfully sued The Times in 1995 over these allegations - is that the spooks at MI6 concluded he was a security risk and were prepared to warn the Queen that he was a suspected KGB agent in the event of his becoming Prime Minister.

What to make of this? As Andrew Neil was a load of crock. And a clear-headed reading of the article shows there's little of substance to the story, and that certainly no new evidence implicating Foot as an agent of Moscow's has come to light.

The substance of the claim is famed Soviet defector Oleg Gordievsky fed British intelligence a number of lines about Michael Foot - the publication of which was the subject of the successful libel action - and that MI6 wrote it up, saying he wasn't a "conscious agent" but had disseminated disinformation on the KGB's behalf in return for money. What does this even mean? That Foot was hoodwinked into putting out pro-Moscow propaganda, and still got £34k from his Soviet handlers for his trouble? Come on. If he was an unwitting dupe of murky doings, I'm sure Sergei from Odessa insisting on making substantial payments to him might have raised his suspicions.

In truth, it sounds like a right load of rubbish. Because it is. This might come as a shock to some readers, but the intelligence services are not a politically neutral arm of the state. Their job is to defend that state as is, with all its inequalities and privileges, and therefore selects for personnel for whom 'queen and country' is understood in narrow, conservative and often deeply reactionary terms. They also have an interest in talking up threats to justify their existence. In the case of Foot, for instance, obviously this was a man whose politics were far beyond the pale as far as most MI6 personnel were concerned (remember, even Harold Wilson was dangerously communistic for these fools). No doubt they thought he was a bad 'un because he was on the left, but designating him a dupe or useful idiot for the USSR had the happy consequence of generating a file and creating work for an agent or two to keep tabs on him. And they are always alive to make-work opportunities - I know a few anti-fascists who were approached by Special Branch with the offer of "protection" lest their activism against the BNP and EDL made them a target. In other words, Gordievsky's allegations were blown up by the work culture of MI6.

And then there is a wider political point as well. All throughout this summer and, well, consistently over the last three years The Times, like the rest of the right wing press, have had Jeremy Corbyn in their sights. Raising a discredited and irrelevant story about a politician who's not been dead for almost a decade keeps certain associations alive in the minds of their readerships. Suggestions like when Corbyn was smeared as an agent for Czechoslovak intelligence, and that there is something anti-British and traitorous about Labour and left wing politics generally. Their game is to delegitimise and damage our movement through the relay of rumour and innuendo to a mass audience. Unfortunately for them, it appeals to the already convinced while reminding the millions politicised by Corbynism that there are no tricks too dirty as far as the establishment is concerned.


Tmb said...

May I add, that the oh so left wing Guardian were constantly attacking Corbyn, too. I see the Guardian and the Daily Mail, economically speaking as the same kinds of papers. Culturally, that's where they are different. It's ironic that there is so much polarisation in the UK politically and in so many other ways, when we have had the same neoliberal economic system for nearly 40 years. The two sides, Tories and 'left liberals' are merely two sides of the same coin, privileged politicos playing games whilst ensuring that they and the establishment they support remain wealthy and having the best jobs, and making things worse for the rest of us, imposing austerity, ZHCs, a propaganda media biased towards a hard right wing economy, and focussing constantly on distractions and identity politics. We need affordable housing, a better minimum wage, higher taxes for those who are richer and higher corporation taxes, proper funding for the NHS and necessary industries nationalised. Personally, I couldn't give a toss about the politics or ideologies, I just want more of the wealth spread around the nation, and not accumulating to the already wealthy and the offshore tax haven brigade.

And before any tedious dullard says 'what magic money tree will pay for this?', the same magic money tree that gives money to the royal family and six and seven digit salaries to all kinds of top bosses, politicians, 'public' servants, 'charity' CEOs, top cops, top churchmen, the vast subsidies given to 'privatised' rail and bus companies, the massive arts grants given to middle class arty types in London, the subsidies given to London transport to keep bus fares low, that keeps wealthy Tory councils and shires nice and comfy, that concluded a £100billion arms deal between the Tory government and Saudi Arabia, and that gives huge tax breaks to the already greedy bast... sorry wealthy and tax breaks to big business and big corporations.... THAT MAGIC MONEY TREE!!!! Time those of us who believed in a redistribution of wealth from the already too wealthy to the poorer of us, stood up and be counted.

Boffy said...

I've watched various Times journalists appearing on Politics programmes of recent weeks, and they are getting increasingly desperate in the slurs they are throwing at Labour. They don't seem to have recognised that the reason their slurs have been increasingly failing to have any impact on voters, or support for Corbyn, is that the majority of voters see those slurs for what they are.

The more the slurs have no impact, and because the Right and the Blair-rights have no actual political arguments to put up against Corbyn, and even less against those with a more consistent socialist stance than Corbyn, they find themselves becoming increasingly petulant, and simply throwing out even more ridiculous slurs, most of which have already long ago been presented and disposed of, which also just shows how lazy right-wing journalists are.

Probably best to just ignore them, and get on with promoting Labour's positive agenda, rather than being diverted on to things that are obviously ridiculously, and only reflect on those that purvey them.

Lidl_Janus said...

Not sure what the above rant is about - no-one outside the Times has actually gone for this story, not least because it's both old and baseless.

Despite stereotyping from one end of the spectrum and griping from the other, the Guardian has never been a socialist paper, or even a consistently Labour-supporting one (although they did provide a qualified endorsement of Labour in 2017).

Tmb said...

The Guardian are certainly not Labour or socialist, but they heavily give the impression, as do many 'champagne socialists' that they are indeed left wing. They are more like the Whigs of the 18th and 19th century, left of the hard right, liberal rather than left, Fabians rather than real reformers. That, of course, is fine. It's not their actual politics, but their deceptive attitude, not unlike Blairites and other privileged 'lefties' who are not left at all, that I dislike.

If you're going to be partisan, be so. I dislike the Daily Mail, but at least you know where you stand with them. Nobody knows where they stand with sway in the wind wishy washy 'left liberals'. It simply seems to mean whatever the self designated wish it to mean, i.e. anything, everything and nothing, according to their whim. You nail your colours to the mast or you simply become hated and despised by everyone. Get behind a left wing Labour party, even for healthy opposition's sake, or just admit you are a Tory.

Dialectician1 said...

I agree with Tmb above.

The Graun is a duplicitous newspaper/webpage. With a few well known exceptions, its editorial board, writing staff and columnists are well to the right of its readership. It's editorial position these days is a sort of cultural feminism within a neoliberal political economy perspective. The elephant is the room is class but the paper refuses to speak of it, except in cultural terms. You only have to monitor their output about Corbyn/anti-semititism over the summer to see where it stands. There is plenty of bleeding heart stuff about Brexit and Trump and liberal democracy going to the dogs but on the whole it represents a Blairite, meritocratic, eltitist/technocratic 'top down' model of politics, where the well educated, sharp-elbowed middle class rise to the top, but in a stylish sort of way. The Guardian, socialist? You're having a giraffe!

Speedy said...

What Tmb said about the deception of the Guardian, although I doubt very much that they are conscious of the deception themselves. This was embodied by Jon Snow's (C4 the broadcast version) mea culpa post-Grenfell.

But I hate the Mail like I hate Nazis.

Tmb said...

Interesting, and very decent replies. Thanks.

It struck me a while back that the binary 'left and right' in politics is long gone. Also, the working class in the broadest sense of that term, including black and Asian and other minorities, have been abandoned. Nothing has been done for ordinary non professional people for almost two generations. I'd also say that the establishment, and the majority of the media, have been very very carefully sewing division between the majority white working class and poor black people, Asians, Muslims and new immigrants. On the right, there is a hatred for non white people and all immigrants (except for their use as cheap expendable labour), and on the (liberal) left, there is now a hatred for brexit voting, racist, fascist, Nazi, zombiefied (yawn) white working class people, quite conveniently. The right are starting to delve into eugenics against non white people, and you can bet that some of our 'left liberal' friends, with their love for all poor people, but not poor white people, are beginning to delve into eugenics class to justify class discrimination. They are two sides of the same hypocritical coin.

In my view, this is being done absolutely purposely to turn poor communities against each other like in the US. In that case, we are not even talking politics here, we are talking morality. Virulent class discrimination is no different to virulent racism, as in they come from the same place, ignorance, false superiority and hatred. Many of us can see this now, which is why even on the BBC, as fake as they are, they talking about the divisiveness of identity politics. The right are pursuing a hard right economic agenda which places no value on ordinary people but money, and the 'liberal left', the Guardian Lib Dems PLP and others, are pursuing non threatening PC and identity politics, which is ignoring purposely class and racism as underpinned by economic injustice. I dislike the Daily Mail intensely, but I also dislike the Guardian for their middle class insouciance and po faced superiority and their pretend concern for black people, immigrants and others, and their barely concealed hatred for white working class people. We've had a rich man's 'democracy' now we have the middle class version. Neither is healthy. Democracy is compromise between the majority of people, and all groups. That is not happening at all at this time. We are as ever lions led by donkeys.