Downfall

The author of Downfall, Alan McCombes had been a leading member of the Scottish Socialist Party for several years, and the editor of the Scottish Socialist Voice until 2003.

Together with Sheridan, a fellow member of Militant, McCombes had played a leading role in the anti-poll tax movement. His 1988 pamphlet, How To Beat The Poll Tax, advocated a mass non-payment campaign. With Tommy Sheridan, he was also author of Imagine: A Socialist Vision for the 21st Century [Canongate Books 2000]

In 1992 McCombes was a leading figure in persuading Militant in Scotland to organize openly independently of the Labour Party resulting in the creation of Scottish Militant Labour. Throughout the 1990s, he challenged the traditional “British Road to Socialism”, arguing for the left to champion the idea of an independent Scottish socialist republic.  In 1995, he promoted a Scottish Socialist Alliance to unite the left that laid the basis for the emergence of the SSP in which McCombes held the position of policy co-ordinator.

The events recalled in Alan McCombes’ Downfall seem both sadly realistic and depressingly common. Published in 2011, it is an intensely individual story, obviously partisan in the telling, and immensely political in its message. One can read it as a narrative of a flawed individual who made some bad decisions, but it is not a morality tale; it is more a statement of record of a contested account that split the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) over Tommy Sheridan’s defamation action against the News International.

The background

The Scottish Socialist Party was formed in 1998 to contest the first elections of Scotland’s new parliament.

It was created after a number of left-wing organisations which made up the Scottish Socialist Alliance aligned to form a single party which allowed various fractions or platforms to operate within it. Former Militant members – organized as International Socialist Movement – were the largest group but the Alliance contained other representatives from the Trotskyist Left as well as non-aligned Scottish socialist members.

The roots of this development lay organisationally in the break-up of the entryist Trotskyist organisation Committee for a Workers’ International better known south of the border for the Militant Tendency organised within the British Labour Party. [Read more about the origins of the Militant tendency in Ted Grant’s opinionated account  History of British Trotskyism.]

There had been the sanctioned division of the CWI’s British section into two organisational units in the mid-1990s. In England and Wales, following a series of exclusions from the Labour Party, Militant Labour changed its name to the Socialist Party after a somewhat fraught internal debate during 1996-97. In Scotland, the organisation retained the name, Scottish Militant Labour. It advocated a broader socialist alignment in the Scottish Socialist Alliance. Their English-based comrades disagreed.

Between them was a bitter row over the transformation of the Scottish Socialist Alliance into the Scottish Socialist Party in September 1998. In 2001, the International Socialist Movement – formerly Scottish Militant Labour – finally completed its break.

The SSP advocated proportional representation, abolition of the monarchy and an end to the union through the creation of an independent, Scottish republic.

The SSP achieved electoral success almost instantly when one of its founders, Tommy Sheridan, was elected to Holyrood as a list MSP for Glasgow in 1999. Tommy Sheridan was central to the initial success of the party.

He had been the face and the voice of the anti-poll tax demonstrations in Scotland in the 1980s, and was jailed three times over protests against warrant sales, poindings and nuclear weapons. And he was more media savvy than most.

And at the end of 2000 the party’s campaign to have warrant sales and poindings abolished paid off when Mr Sheridan’s members’ bill made it through parliament.

The SSP leader caused a stir in parliament from the start, when he swore the oath of allegiance to the Queen with a clenched fist raised to signal his protest. He was in parliament for four years before being joined by five of his party colleagues in 2003 – making the SSP the largest left-wing party in Scotland. At its height, as well as six MSPs, the SSP boasted 3,000 members, scores of branches and the support of important trade union organisations. In 2003, at its annual delegate conference, the Labour-affiliated Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) trade union voted to allow its branches to affiliate to the SSP. It secured more than 245,000 votes across the country.

Six MSPs were elected on the regional list: Carolyne Leckie in Central, Colin Fox in the Lothians, Frances Curran in the West of Scotland seat, Rosemary Byrne in the South of Scotland and Tommy Sheridan and Rosie Kane in Glasgow.

The facts

In November 2004 the News of the World ran a series of stories, smutty allegations and innuendoes claiming a married MSP had visited a swingers’ club and had committed adultery.

Shortly afterwards, Tommy Sheridan resigned as convener of the SSP, citing personal reasons, and announced his intention to sue. When Sheridan stated he was going to sue the newspapers over the allegations, SSP MP Caroline Leckie said: “There is no official backing behind any legal challenge.” Alan McCombes, the SSP’s policy coordinator and one-time close friend of Sheridan’s, casually said: “The executive committee does not want to go down a road where we are helping Tommy Sheridan build a tower of lies.”

The Workers’ Weekly, a reporting source for any confrontation within the British Left (while continuing to relentlessly criticise their failings) stated it understood that

“the executive committee of the SSP urged Sheridan not to fight the thing out in the courts. It voted unanimously to tell him to fight using other, political, methods. Events so far have tended to indicate this would have been the best course.” 

Weekly Worker Issue 628 07.06.2006   Defend SSP’s Alan McCombes

Scottish Socialist Party official Alan McCombes was jailed for refusing to hand over party documents to the Court. The now-closed News of the World had requested the internal minutes, which it claims would help defend a defamation case brought by former SSP leader .  McCombes was jailed for 12 days after he ignored a deadline to release the papers. SSP offices and comrades’ homes were search in a vain attempt to find the required document, minutes of the November 9 2004 SSP executive meeting which forced Tommy Sheridan to resign as convenor.

Four SSP MSPs gave evidence against their former leader during his legal action against the newspaper, which Sheridan won in 2006, along with £200,000 in damages.

He was later retried and found guilty of perjury, and was jailed for three years in 2011. The investigation and subsequent perjury trial were estimated to have cost £4 million to £5 million, which shows the State has deep pockets when its interests are involved.

His former comrades said while this outcome had vindicated them, the socialist movement in Scotland had been very badly damaged in the process. In the midst of the saga, in the 2007 Scottish elections, the SSP’s vote slumped and the party lost all its MSPs.

Sheridan left the SSP after he won the first court case and formed another party, Solidarity. He failed in his bid to return to Holyrood as a Solidarity MSP in 2007. The group failed to make any progress and in 2020, he joined Alex Salmond’s Alba Party.

Accusation & charges

Throughout the whole episode the reporting on the Left was posturing and the sectarian left’s condemnatory vocabulary was given full expression. The political analysis shaped by an understanding of what caused the internal crisis within the SSP. Beside political disagreements, hostile to the “opportunistic and abject surrender to nationalism” of the SSP, there were differences as to where the emphasis was placed: the central issue being mistakenly presented as Sheridan’s alleged personal behaviour or the News International’s attacks on a leading socialist.

After the first court case, Sheridan described his former colleagues as “scabs” in a tabloid interview, and those who had given evidence against him reportedly faced threats and attacks by his supporters. Sheridan did not explain he had wanted the Executive Committee for political expediency to lie in defence of his personal interests. The first case saw him victorious, awarded a cash settlement.

In the second case he was later found guilty of perjury, and was jailed for three years at the start of 2011. Sheridan spent a year in prison.

A false argument was raised that the conviction of Tommy Sheridan for perjury was the result of a political vendetta, waged by Rupert Murdoch’s News International in a de facto alliance with the Lothian and Borders Police and the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP). However, McCombes did observe that “Like Jeffrey Archer and Jonathan Aitken, two top Tory politicians who served lengthy jail sentences for their actions, Tommy Sheridan took out a libel action based on a fraud: at least some of the material published in the trashy tabloid News of the World was substantially true.”

Sheridan’s former comrades had said while this outcome had vindicated them, however their movement in Scotland had been very badly damaged in the process.

Far from joining forces with The News of the World in bringing Sheridan down as critics claim, McCombes’ explanation is the more believable:

He declared himself a hostile witness, describing the case as a “squalid little squabble” but was ordered to answer questions by the judge. He said: “I am here under the strongest possible protest. […] Your client, I have to say, the News of the World, symbolises everything that as a socialist I have stood against my whole adult life. […] It should have been settled by one of both parties before innocent people were dragged into this bizarre pantomime.”

McCombes published account does provide a detailed, convincing rationale for why the SSP members who testified ‘against’ Sheridan did what they did. On 7 July 2006, McCombes gave evidence in the defamation proceedings launched by Tommy Sheridan against the News of the World stating that Sheridan had admitted to him that he had visited swingers clubs. His version of events was supported by ten other people who were present at the meeting and matched the minutes of the meeting presented in court, though these were naturally disputed during the court case.

August 2006, in the aftermath of the Sheridan defamation case, McCombes publicly released an all-members bulletin addressed to SSP membership, entitled “The Fight for the Truth” in which he said Tommy Sheridan’s libel victory over the News of the World “could set back the cause of socialism by years if not decades” because of the divisions that had occurred within the party and went on to give his view of the events leading  up to the trial. 

Downfall reads well, with a few jarring exceptions and Tommy Sheridan’s implosion recounted with insider perspective could not resist a few incidental snipes about Sheridan, understandable given the personal enmity, and consequences of the anger at the selfish actions of the man who wrought destruction on the SSP. Some might describe Downfall as a forensic indictment of a man who sold out his comrades for ego. Along the way is an insight to a fraying strand of early 21st century Scottish political radicalism.  Tommy Sheridan should be commended for his anti poll tax stance, but like so many others somewhere along the way he was twisted by his fame; Yes victimised by the press, but also losing traction with the political service as too often the Left lauds the individual rather than the movement and its aims.

In August 2022 the disgraced former MSP Tommy Sheridan was declared bankrupt over an £82,000 legal bill after his failed bid to prove he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

When McCombes left the SSP employment he moved to central Scotland to work engaged in environmental activity. With Roz Paterson, he co-authoured the 2014 publication, Restless Land: A Radical Journey Through Scotland’s History. Glasgow: Calton Books.


Alan McCombes, Downfall. Glasgow: Birlinn Ltd

186. The November 8th Publishing House | v 2.0

Established in Canada in 2021, this site provides access to English-language pdfs of anti-revisionist literature and the name should sound familiar. The original “8 Nëntori” Publishing House, literally meaning “8 November” in Albanian, honours the founding of the Party of Labour of Albania on November 8th, 1941. It published Enver Hoxha’s Selected Works, his Reflections, his many theoretical works, his memoirs, historical notes, and more.

The new incarnation, while republishing material from the Hoxha’s canon, aims “to promote discussion among Marxist-Leninists, even reprinting controversial figures and literature. In this work, we should note that reprinting does not mean we endorse the content — nor does it necessarily represent our views — it only means that we acknowledge that there may be some value in studying it.” Amongst its existing list are titles from the usual suspects, Lenin, Stalin, Dimitrov, Zhdanov, Ramiz Alia , Nexhmije Hoxha,  and Wang Ming and Kim Il Sung. Being based near Ottawa (formerly at Toronto), there are some specifically Canadian communist literature reprinted.

Amongst its publications is a new collection Congress of Betrayal – The November 8th Publishing House (wordpress.com) partially of previous untranslated comments from Enver’s Diary and other more familiar material. This selection covers the decade 1955-1966, covering such events as the 20th Congress and the denunciation of Stalin, including his epochal 1960 Moscow Meeting speech, the Hungarian counter-revolution and its source, the “anti-party” plot of Molotov et al., to the break of diplomatic relations by the Soviets in 1961, and the removal of Khrushchev and the 23rd Brezhnev Congress in 1964-66.

seek truth to serve the people

What it illustrates is the argumentation forcibly and persistently offered in the through-going contradictions with the revisionist developments under Khrushchev. Far from being a pawn in the Sino-Soviet split, as if Albania was a side show in the anti-revisionist struggle, it highlights the contribution made sincerely and independently in that anti-revisionist struggle. Having read Albania Challenges Khrushchev Revisionism (New York 1976) or The Party of Labor of Albania in Battle with Modern Revisionism (Tirana 1972) you will know what to expect, and the speech delivered at the meeting of 81 Communist and Workers’ parties in Moscow (November 16, 1960) is included in the collection. That self-reverential sense that “we have done our sacred duty to Marxism-Leninism” still pervades the selection but then again, reality proved the life-and-death class struggle they were engaged in. The disruption of the international movement and eventual disintegration did see the attempted formation and reorganisation of anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninist forces. Something the Albanian party did pay close attention too.

Any evaluation of the struggle experienced by the Party of Labour of Albania led by Enver Hoxha should acknowledge it opened up the gates for the formation of the new Marxist-Leninist parties and the end of the old “fossilized and demobilized” Communist parties in the early stages of that struggle. The subsequent stance raises other questions which seems to have influenced some of the selected inclusions in the collection, before Hoxhaism was clearly delineated from Maoism,to reinforce the (contested) position that the PLA were the only forces to assess every deviationist move of the USSR correctly from the very beginning.

Congress of Betrayal | CONTENTS

KHRUSHCHEV ANNULS THE INFORMBUREAU DECISION (May 23, 1955)

WE ARE ALONE AGAINST TITO (May 25, 1955)

DITYRAMBS FROM TITO TO KHRUSHCHEV (February 18, 1956)

ON KHRUSHCHEV’S SECRET SPEECH (February 26, 1956)

THE AMERICAN IMPERIALISTS CAN NEVER CHANGE THEIR ESSENCE (March 8, 1956)

THE “ITALIAN WAY TOWARDS SOCIALISM” (March 18, 1956)

THE TRAITORS REHABILIATED UNDER THE PRETEXT OF THE “CULT OF THE INDIVIDUAL” (March 30, 1956)

A REVISIONIST PLOT AGAINST THE PARTY (April 16, 1956)

THE LESSONS WE SHOULD DRAW FROM THE PARTY CONFERENCE OF THE CITY OF TIRANA (April 21,1956)

THE 20th CONGRESS DID NOT PUT MATTERS RIGHT (May 26, 1956)

MOLOTOV HAS BEEN SACRIFICED FOR TITO (June 4, 1956)

KHRUSHCHEV SUGGESTS TO USE THE EXPERIENCE OF HITLER (June 23, 1956)

ANOTHER SLANDER LAID ON STALIN (July 2, 1956)

THE FOREIGN PRESS SALIVATES OVER THE MANOEVRE OF KHRUSHCHEV (July 3, 1956)

THE CHINESE ARE FOLLOWING THE ROAD OF THE SOVIETS (September 17, 1956)

IN NO WAY WILL WE MAKE CONCESSIONS ON PRINCIPLES (November 13, 1956)

TITO ATTACKS SOCIALISM, KHRUSHCHEV APPEASES (November 22, 1956)

TO KEEP OUR UNITY STRONG FOR IT IS VITAL (January 3, 1957)

WHAT ARE RAKOSI’S MISTAKES? (January 8, 1957)

THE THESES OF THE 20th CONGRESS HAVE CREATED A DANGEROUS SITUATION (February 13, 1957)

ON THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION AND THE TASKS OF THE PARTY (February 13, 1957)

EPITHETS AGAINST OUR PARTY AND PEOPLE (April 11, 1957)

ECONOMIC COOPERATION WITH THE AMERICAN IMPERIALISTS (May 28, 1957)

AN “ANTI-PARTY GROUP”? (July 4, 1957)

THE YUGOSLAV AGENT PANAJOT PLAKU SENDS A LETTER TO KHRUSHCHEV (July 22, 1957)

KHRUSCHEV “DEFENDS” US BEAUTIFULLY (August 5, 1957)

ZHUKOV DOES NOT AGREE WITH KHRUSHCHEV (October 17, 1957)

ZHUKOV DISMISSED FROM ABROAD (October 25, 1957)

A DECLARATION THE ULTRA-REVISIONISTS OPPOSE (November 16, 1957)

TOGLIATTI’S “POLYCENTRISM” IN EMBRYO (November 19, 1957)

THE MORE THE SOVIETS CONCEED, THE MORE THE SITUATIONS WORSEN (January 9, 1958)

KHRUSHCHEV’S “COEXISTENCE” (March 12, 1958)

KHRUSHCHEV MEETS WITH ALL THE BOURGEOIS (March 24, 1958)

THE SOVIETS DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE BETRAYAL OF THE TITOITES (April 9, 1958)

COMECON CONSULTATION WORK STARTED (May 20, 1958)

MEETING OF THE POLITICAL CONSULTATIVE COUNCIL OF THE WARSAW PACT (May 24, 1958)

MODERN REVISIONISM MUST BE FOUGHT MERCILESSLY UNTIL ITS COMPLETE THEORETICAL AND POLITICAL DESTRUCTION (June 22, 1958)

LENIN’S BOOK ON THE STRUGGLE AGAINST REVISIONISM CAME OUT (July 4, 1958)

KHRUSHCHEV SETS CONDITIONS FOR HIS ARRIVAL IN ALBANIA (May 19, 1959)

THE VISIT THROUGH OUR COUNTRY BEGAN (May 27, 1959)

KHRUSHCHEV CONTINUES HIS VISIT TO THE SOUTH (June 2, 1959)

FROM KHRUSHCHEV’S STAY IN ALBANIA (June 3, 1959)

SOME MATTERS FROM THE TALKS WITH KHRUSHCHEV WHICH AROUSE DOUBT (June 6, 1959)

POLICY OF SOFTNESS, COMPROMISES AND CONCESSIONS TOWARDS AMERICAN IMPERIALISM (March 25, 1960)

OUR SUSPICIONS ABOUT THE IMPROPER WORK OF THE SOVIET GEOLOGISTS ARE CONFIRMED (March 30, 1960)

OPPOSING VIEWS WITH THE SOVIET AMBASSADOR (May 16, 1960)

KHRUSHCHEV’S SECOND LETTER — WHAT IS HIDDEN BEHIND HIS ACTIONS (June 8, 1960)

A MEETING WHICH IS TURNING INTO A PLOT (June 21, 1960)

KHRUSHCHEV WILL NEVER DECEIVE THE PARTY OF LABOUR OF ALBANIA (June 22, 1960)

WE SHOULD NOT SUBMIT TO ANY PRESSURE (June 24, 1960)

OUR STRUGGLE AGAINST THE NEW, DISGUISED REVISIONISTS HAS BEGUN (July 27, 1960)

THEY SUMMON US TO MOSCOW TO FORCE US TO CAPITULATE (August 16, 960)

KHRUSHCHEV AND HIS COLLEAGUES INCREASE THE PRESSURE ON US (September 10, 1960)

RADIOGRAM TO COMRADE HYSNI KAPO IN MOSCOW (October 1, 1960)

WE ARE NOT FOR SERENADE NOCTURNE (October 7, 1960)

A DISHONOURABLE AND ANTI-MARXIST ACT BY KHRUSHCHEV (November 8, 1960)

SPEECH DELIVERED AT THE MEETING OF 81 COMMUNIST AND WORKERS’ PARTIES IN MOSCOW ON BEHALF OF THE CC OF THE PLA (November 16, 1960)

WE HAVE DONE OUR SACRED DUTY TO MARXISMLENINISM (November 16, 1960)

RADIOGRAM TO COMRADE HYSNI KAPO IN MOSCOW (November 30, 1960)

ON THE MEETING OF THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE COMMUNIST AND WORKERS’ PARTIES WHICH WAS HELD IN MOSCOW IN NOVEMBER 1960 (December 19, 1960)

THE PRINCIPLED AND CONSISTENT STRUGGLE AGAINST IMPERIALISM AND REVISIONISM HAS BEEN AND REMAINS THE ROAD OF OUR PARTY (December 20, 1960)

SLANDERS AND PRESSURE DO NOT FRIGHTEN US —WE DO NOT FALL ON OUR KNEES (February 201961)

FLAGRANT TROTSKYITE VIOLATION OF EVERY NORM OF MARXISM AND EQUALITY (August 4, 1961

THE POLITICAL BUREAU APPROVES THE STATEMENT AGAINST THE MODERN REVISIONISTS’ ATTACKS (October 20, 1961)

TWENTY YEARS OF THE PARTY OF LABOUR OF ALBANIA (November 7, 1961)

THEY TRY TO INTIMIDATE US, WE TERRIFY THEM (November 25, 1961

THE SOVIET GOVERNMENT HAS BROKEN OFF DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS WITH US (December 3,1961)

PANORAMA OF THE YEAR 1961 (December 31, 1961).

WHY HAS GROMYKO GONE TO VISIT TITO? (April 17, 1962)

A NEW AGREEMENT WHICH WILL SERVE THE ARMING AND THE WARMONGERING PLOTS OF THE USA AND THE USSR (May 25, 1962)

THE KHRUSHCHEVITES ARE COWARDS, COMPROMISERS AND TRAITORS (October 23, 1962)

KENNEDY REVEALS KHRUSHCHEV’S COURSE OF BETRAYAL (June 12, 1963)

MODERN REVISIONISM IN THE SERVICE OF AMERICAN IMPERIALISM (June 14, 1963)

THE MODERN REVISIONISTS ON THE WAY TO DEGENERATING INTO SOCIAL-DEMOCRATS AND TO FUSING WITH SOCIAL-DEMOCRACY (April 7, 1964)

AN OPEN LETTER (October 5, 1964)

THE FALL OF THE TRAITOR NIKITA KHRUSHCHEV (October 17, 1964)

THE FALL OF KHRUSHCHEV DOES NOT PUT AN END TO KHRUSHCHEVITE REVISIONISM (November 1, 1964)

 THE CHINESE WANT TO IMPOSE THEIR OPINIONS ON US (November 3, 1964)

BREZHNEV IS TRYING TO FOOL THE CHINESE FIRST OF ALL (November 7, 1964)

TOGLIATTI’S “TESTAMENT,” THE CRISIS OF MODERN REVISIONISM AND THE STRUGGLE OF THE MARXIST-LENINISTS (November 13, 1964)

TWENTY YEARS OF SOCIALIST ALBANIA (November 28, 1964)

MODERN REVISIONISM — THE MAIN DANGER AND ENEMY IN THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNIST AND WORKERS’ MOVEMENT (October 6, 1965)

ON BREZHNEV’S REPORT TO THE 23rd CONGRESS OF THE CPSU (March 30, 1966)

THE OFFICIAL PROCLAMATION OF REVISIONISM …… The Khrushchevites, Tirana 1984, pp. 183-202, 2nd Eng.


Other sources of anti-revisionist material from Albania

Representative Anti-Revisionist Materials from Albania (marxists.org)

Banned or suppressed news in or about Albania (bannedthought.net)

Enver Hoxha Archive – English (250x.com)

Enver Hoxha Internet Archive – Marxists

https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hoxha/works-index.htm

Enver Hoxha – Selected Works – Left side of the road

Hoxha Works – Marxist Leninist Books

https://marxistleninistbooks.blogspot.com/2022/06/hoxha-works.html


Enver Hoxha – Enver Hoxha’s Books in English

http://www.enverhoxha.info/english/books.php

Who were the splitters.

The enhanced republication by the Foreign Language Press of the second volume of the Documents of the CPC – The Great Debate covers the period from the first exchange of letters between the CPC and the CPSU regarding the general line of the International Communist Movement (February-March 1963) to Khrushchev’s dismissal in October 1964

Included in the volume are the open letters that were distributed as anti-revisionist contributions to the theoretical debate, and intra-party letters that were not supposed to be publicly spread, containing criticisms regarding the way the debate was being conducted. The CPC made the letters public in May 1964, after the CPSU began quoting parts of them out of context in articles in Pravda to discredit the CPC. The intra-party letters, adding the date they were written, are included in this volume. The primary material is sourced from the political weekly Peking Review, allowing for the reader’s interpretation and analysis of the argument present.

There is much to consider in the arguments presented at the time, and re-reading them again after 40-odd years when they were first approached, the strength and clarity of the anti-revisionist position remains persuasive. This body of work remains foundational for any understanding of the struggle against modern revisionism. Among these comprehensive repudiation of revisionist positions, this appreciation seeks to signpost and focus on one of the text,  the editorial of the People’s Daily and the Red Flag from February 4, 1964, The Leaders of the CPSU Are the Greatest Splitters of Our Times.

“the greatest splitters in the international communist movement”

A modern myth on the left has developed that the division in the international communist movement was the fault of Mao Zedong. This was reflected and dramatically expressed by a small oppositionist group to the Eurocommunist CPGB

“There can be no question that the Chinese Communist Party committed a terrible crime against humanity when it separated China from the Socialist Camp and the World Communist Movement, and immediately launched a campaign to split both.”

[The Appeal Group, Behind The Revolutionary Mask (1974) 23.]

There has emerged an attitude (and argument) that all that has past no longer matter, that such political divisions were no longer relevant for the Marxist left today, that the choices taken then should not have consequences now. In fact, unity is all. The demarcation drawn at the time involved, not just essential issues of principles and analysis; it had consequences for policies and actions. Nor was it initiated by criticism of the Soviet leadership but by the actions to supress the concerns raised by revolutionaries.

It is fundamentally flawed to frame the Great Debate in terms of a Chinese-led march away from a healthy communist movement. By the early sixties it was pregnant with antagonistic contradictions reflecting differing worldviews that could not coexist in a unitary structure.  As noted in the publishers’ note to the first of the planned trilogy of volumes, they “show that the core of the Great Debate was not the struggle between the two Parties in two different countries; it was actually between the path to socialism upheld by Marxists-Leninists, and the path toward the restoration of capitalism upheld by modern revisionists.”

The Chinese editorial looked at the struggle between Marxism-Leninism and opportunism and between the forces defending unity and those creating splits runs through the history of the development of the communist movement.

A topic returned to in Lenin’s Fight Against Revisionism and Opportunism, compiled by Cheng Yen-shih, (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1965)

What was drawn from that history was that like everything else, the international working-class movement tends to divide itself into two. The class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is reflected in the communist ranks. It identified opportunism and revisionism as the political and ideological roots of splittism.

The position of the Communist Party of China was that;

“Between the 20th and 22nd Congresses of the CPSU, the leaders of the CPSU developed a rounded system of revisionism. They put forward a revisionist line which contravenes the proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat, a line which consists of “peaceful coexistence,” “peaceful competition,” “peaceful transition,” “a state of the whole people” and “a party of the entire people.” They have tried to impose this revisionist line on all fraternal parties as a substitute for the common line of the international communist movement which was laid down at the meetings of fraternal parties in 1957 and 1960.”

Whereas one can question whether the compromise resolution of either of those meetings could actual sustain unity within the international communist movement, they were platforms to build an understanding of the dangers of revisionism within the movement. However, the basis for correction and consolidation was undermined. The Soviet leadership were accused of having

“violated the principles guiding relations among fraternal countries as laid down in the Declaration and the Statement, pursued a policy of great-power chauvinism and national egoism towards fraternal socialist countries and thus disrupted the unity of the socialist camp.

It was easy to point to Albania (then the treatment of the People’s Republic of China) as an example of the political, economic and even military pressure to bear on fraternal countries, and evidence of the leaders of the CPSU having completely ignored the declared principle of achieving unanimity through consultation among fraternal parties and habitually make dictatorial decisions and order others about. They have recklessly torn up joint agreements with fraternal parties, taken arbitrary decisions, engaged in public attacks

Yet the public relations offensive from Moscow ascribe criticisms and opposition to their revisionist and divisive line to a desire to “seize the leadership.” Citing the dissolution of the Comintern, the Chinese communist party reiterated that it

“this resolution corresponded to reality and was correct. In the present international communist movement, the question of who has the right to lead whom simply does not arise.” And in its subsequent behaviour, there was no attempt to establish a Comintern structure based in Beijing. Whereas what was observed was that,

“Apparently, the leaders of the CPSU consider themselves the natural leaders who can lord it over all fraternal parties. According to their logic, their program, resolutions and statements are all infallible laws. Every remark and every word of Khrushchev’s are imperial edicts, however wrong or absurd they may be. All fraternal parties must submissively hear and obey and are absolutely forbidden to criticize or oppose them. This is outright tyranny. It is the ideology of feudal autocrats, pure and simple”

The charge rejected in the article is that of supporting the Anti-Party groups in fraternal parties describing “groups of defectors, which oppose the communist parties of the United States, Brazil, Italy, Belgium, Australia and India.”; there is a counter-accusation that

“The leaders of the CPSU have stirred up trouble and created splits in many communist parties by encouraging the followers of their revisionist line in these parties to attack the leadership, or usurp leading positions, persecute Marxist-Leninists and even expel them from the Party”

Within the Communist Party of Great Britain, as elsewhere, those who raised question of line were silenced and expelled. Administrative measures were the response of the party leadership to the arguments raised by anti-revisionist members. The Central Organisation Department in March 1964 identified those “giving complete support to the general line of the Communist Party of China “and had resigned (or in some cases were expelled) from the Party. They presented the situation as one where they had “embarked on a course of deliberately building up all breakaway splinter groups.

Inner party disenchantment with aspects of the party’s line had been simmering for years; the avenues to challenge and engage in “any real discussion of core policies was blocked”. Similarly with the Great Debate the scope and extent of participation saw the leadership steadily refuse to become involved in the political questions which arise in the Chinese-Soviet documents. Party experts were giving the lead on the issues in which they echoed the Soviet leadership’s main positions. A limited right to reply was exercised but no extensive investigation undertaken by party members that would involve questioning organisational loyalty.

There was the recollection that : “although we managed to get some resolutions passed in our own branch for London District and National Congresses in 1957 and 1959, they were swallowed up in the Black Hole of merged resolutions and disappeared forever.” Administrative measures neutered the possibility of an internal criticism of what was seen as the opportunism of the leadership and the incorrect policies, the status quo was protected by the position whereby critical members distinguished the organisation itself, the instrument for the emancipation of the working class, from the individuals making it up. As inter-Branch communication was against the rules, any attempt to communicate with others to mount a challenge was seen as factionalism and grounds for expulsion. So inner-party critics had very little room to manoeuvre with the application of centralism rather than democratic centralist principles and practices.

An example of what was presented as the activities of anti-party splitters was recalled by Muriel Seltman, expelled from the CPGB with her husband Peter in 1963:

“…. we distributed a copy of an article produced by the Chinese Party to Party members at a London District Meeting of the Communist Party. In this way, we violated Branch boundaries—you were not allowed to take any action except through your Branch. We did this because the London District Secretary, John Mahon, had made a speech criticising the Chinese for “racism” on account of their special references to “Asia, Africa and Latin America.” We decided to “defend” the reputation of the CCP and distributed the alleged offending speech which had been given by the Chinese delegate at the World Congress of Women to show the Party members that the speech was not racist. We knew perfectly well what we were doing, although we asserted we had not really broken Party rules as we had not gone outside the Party, and in any case, the material we distributed was written by a “fraternal” Party. After various letters between the London District Committee and Peter and me, we were expelled.”

Everyone who tried to change the line of the CPGB at local or national level quickly discovered that the Party and its organs were completely and bureaucratically controlled by a clique of full-time revisionist officials. There could be no open discussion, criticism or revolutionary activity within the Party.

In the autumn of 1963 an “Appeal to All Communists” was made in the name of The Committee to Defeat Revisionism, for Communist Unity (CDRCU) led by Michael McCreery, and public meetings organised, calling for a complete ideological and organisational break with revisionism and for setting up an organisation to work for the building of a Marxist-Leninist Party to replace the revisionist dominated CPGB.

McCreery’s contribution in “The Way Forward” analysed the ideological and organisational revisionisms of the CPGB and urged the need to build a new party based on Marxist-Leninist ideology and politics.  Circumstances had “compelled all those who remain loyal to the 1960 Statement of the international Communist movement to expose him [Khrushchev], and his followers throughout the world, and struggle actively to safeguard the Communist movement from their anti-Leninist ideas.”

To quote at length the example of the Belgian party, the editorial of the People’s Daily and the Red Flag argues:

Differences have existed inside the Belgian Communist Party for a long time. The struggle within the Party has become increasingly acute as the original leading group has sunk deeper and deeper into the quagmire of revisionism and abandoned Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism.

During the counter-revolutionary rebellion in Hungary, the revisionist group in the Belgian Communist Party went so far as to issue a statement condemning the Soviet Union for helping the Hungarian working people to put down the rebellion.

This revisionist group opposed the Congolese people’s armed resistance to the bloody repression of the Belgian colonialists and supported the US imperialists’ utilization of the United Nations to interfere in and suppress the movement for national independence in the Congo. It shamelessly prided itself on being the first to appeal to the United Nations, “desiring the rapid and integral application of the UN decisions.”349

It praised the Tito clique’s revisionist program, saying that it “contains ideas which enrich Marxism-Leninism.”350

 It denigrated the 1960 Statement, saying that its contents were all mixed up and that “in every twenty lines there is a phrase contradicting the general line of the Statement.”351

During the great strike of the Belgian workers towards the end of 1960 and at the beginning of 1961, this revisionist group undermined the workers will to fight by denouncing their resistance to suppression by the police and gendarmes as “rash and irresponsible actions.”352

 In the face of these betrayals of the interests of the Belgian working class and the international proletariat, it is only natural that Belgian Marxist-Leninists headed by Comrade Jacques Grippa earnestly struggled against this revisionist group. They have exposed and repudiated the errors of the revisionist group inside the Party and have firmly resisted and opposed its revisionist line.

Thus it is clear that the struggle inside the Belgian Communist Party is a struggle between the Marxist-Leninist and the revisionist line.

 How has the revisionist group in the Belgian Communist Party handled this inner-party struggle? They have pursued a sectarian and divisive policy and used illegitimate means to attack and ostracize those Communists who have persevered in a principled Marxist-Leninist stand. At the 14th Congress of the Belgian Communist Party they refused to allow Jacques Grippa and other comrades to speak and, disregarding the widespread opposition of the membership, illegitimately declared them expelled from the Party.

It is in these circumstances that Belgian Marxist-Leninists headed by Comrade Jacques Grippa, upholding the revolutionary line, have firmly combated the revisionist and divisive line pursued by the original leading group and fought to rebuild the Belgian Communist Party. Are not their actions absolutely correct and above reproach?

In openly supporting the revisionist group in the Belgian Party and encouraging it to attack and ostracize Belgian Marxist-Leninists, the leaders of the CPSU have simply exposed themselves as creators of splits in fraternal parties

349 Ernest Burnelle, Interview with a Correspondent of l’Humanité on the Congolese Question, Le Drapeau Rouge (organ of the Belgian Communist Party), July 26, 1960.

350 “The Belgian Communist Party and the Congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia,” Le Drapeau Rouge, April 22, 1958.

351 Jean Blume, Speech at the Federal Congress of Brussels, on December 3, 1961, cited by Jacques Grippa in “For the Marxist-Leninist Unity of the Party and for the Marxist-Leninist Unity of the International Communist Movement,” Le Drapeau Rouge, February 22, 1962.

 352 Jean Blume, “For a Complete and Quick Victory: Two Communist Proposals,” Le Drapeau Rouge, December 29, 1960.

Documents of the CPC – The Great Debate Volume 2 1963-64 .FLP 2022:265-267

Belgium was the first Western European country to develop a significant anti-revisionist communist party, and to closely align itself with China and its polemics against “modern revisionism”.

In 1963, Jacques Grippa, a prominent leader in the pro-Soviet Communist Party of Belgium, was expelled from the Party for his anti-revisionism. Grippa had been active in the Party since the 1930’s, was a hero of the World War II Belgian resistence movement, and had headed its Brussels Federal Committee. In 1964,  Jacques Grippa and a significant number of his supporters founded an alternative Communist Party of Belgium (PCB) and published La Voix du Peuple (The Voice of the People). He addressed the Higher Party School for the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on June 10, 1964. It was subsequently published as Theory and Practice of the Modern Revisionists, (Peking: FLP, 1965).

With Chinese support, both ideological and financial, Grippa helped organize pro-Chinese anti-revisionist groups in other European countries. This activity proved to be a source of contention and confusion domestically and internationally. With the outbreak of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, however, the PCB underwent a split as supporters of the Cultural Revolution clashed with Grippa and his supporters. Many left the PCB to form several new Maoist parties – the Walloon Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) and the Communist Party Marxist-Leninist of Belgium. In 1968, Grippa came out openly in support of Liu Shao-chi, the former Chairman of the People’s Republic of China, a main capitalist-roader target deposed during the Cultural Revolution. 

Another early supporter who was to sever relations with the  Chinese party was the Danish group, the Communist Working Circle (CWC) “Kommunistisk Arbejdskreds”, (KAK) formed in 1963, headed by Gotfred Appel, publicly proclaimed its profound disagreement with the Chinese evaluation of what they termed “an unpredecentedly gigantic revolutionary mass movement” amongst the workers of Western Europe and North America during 1968.

In 1968 China Pictorial at the height of the student agitation in France had reported it in terms of a “surging tide of revolution; the progressive student movement and the workers’ movement, which support and inspire each other, have combined to form a revolutionary torrent charging violently at the reactionary rule of the French monopoly capitalist class and shaking the whole capitalist world”.

Whereas, about the Moscow supporting PCF, it reported:

“The traitorous activities of the French revisionist leading clique have had the active support and close co-ordination of the Soviet revisionist leading clique. Gnashing their teeth, the Soviet revisionists viciously attacked the French student movement as the “mutinous activities” of “leftists” and “adventurists”

Of the political militancy, the revisionist PCF’s newspaper L’Humanite, published an extremely critical article that described the young militants as members of “certain groups (anarchists, Trotskyists, Maoists etc) composed in general of sons of the big bourgeoisie and directed by the German anarchist, Daniel Cohn-Bendit. One might expect a supposed revolutionary party to support a potentially revolutionary situation but the revisionist PCF  was hostile  to the students’ actions. In China they were lauded. That difference reflected the practical choices that were available in The Great Debate.

“deepest condolences on the passing of Chairman Mao”

IN September 1976 around eighty Marxist-Leninist organisations sent messages or letters expressing deepest condolences on the passing of Chairman Mao Zedong (old style: Tsetung).

Reproduced in the political weekly, Peking Review, from the Red Banner of Dominica to the East London Marxist-Leninist Association and the Marxist-Leninist Organization of the Faroe Islands, organisations large and small, there were common themes and sentiments expressed that reflected the assessment (at that time) of Mao’s political legacy within the anti-revisionist movement.

  • the passing of Chairman Mao Tsetung, they say, was a great loss beyond measure not only to the Chinese people but also to the revolutionary people of the world. they point out that Chairman Mao was the greatest Marxist of the contemporary era and the great teacher of the proletariat and the oppressed people of the whole world
  • the messages and letters highly praise Chairman Mao for inheriting, defending and developing Marxism-Leninism.
  • that the magnificent contributions he made to the Chinese revolution and the world revolution are indelible.
  • Mao’s leadership of the anti-revisionist struggle, not surprisingly featured in the various evaluation. Inspiration from that rupture and the antidote of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, had seen the creation and revitalisation of revolutionary struggles throughout the world.
  • many organizations express determination to turn their grief into strength, study and disseminate Mao Tsetung Thought more assiduously and carry the cause of the proletarian revolution through to the end.

What was recognised was the practical Mao “masterly leadership” that acted upon the ideas and analysis – to apply the universal truth of the doctrine of the proletariat to the practice of the Chinese revolution.

Columbian Marxist-Leninists pointed out a common observation, that he led his Party in the armed struggle of peasants and the people in a prolonged and great revolutionary war and seized victory of the new-democratic revolution for the working class and the Chinese, people, thereby pointing out a brilliant road of victory for the revolution of colonial and semi-colonial countries. The identification of the success of the Chinese Revolution with Mao was a shared perspective of the Party he led, and those who studied its history. Hence, the magnificent contributions he made to the Chinese revolution and the world revolution are indelible.

The eulogies that poured forth from the international communist movement were on the positive side, noting his achievements, in a precise emphatic manner.  Afterall, Argentina communists noted:

With his experience in leading the Chinese revolution, he has contributed to the development of the revolution of the oppressed countries and peoples. The exposure before the whole world of the counter-revolutionary role played by imperialism and social-imperialism is another contribution made by the Chinese revolution led by Chairman Mao.

Mao would have been remembered for the revolutionary victory of 1949 alone. It was a world shaping event that has had reverberations ever since – the liberation of a third of the earth’s population should never be put into the shadows. Yet the subsequent contribution to the international communist movement in leading the anti-revisionist struggle (at home and abroad) was an action of equally significance.

Chilean communists noted,

Comrade Mao Tsetung made manifold contributions to the development of the Marxist-Leninist theories and enriched the theory of class struggle during the period of the socialist revolution and socialist construction and during the period of consolidating and developing the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was a manifestation of this theory.

Although with hindsight the Cultural revolution proved to be a failed practice as it did not prevent the restoration of capitalism in China after Mao’s death, at the time, the Brazilian letter echoed many when it said, Mao

exposed the counter revolutionary essence of revisionism and pointed out that its principal representatives are members of the Soviet clique which is today “headed by the renegade Leonid Brezhnev. He stressed that under this new, tendency, the Soviet Union has turned from a ‘socialist’ country into a social-imperialist state.

The transition (that not all could make) from anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninists to a more fully developed Maoist theory and practice involved a critical participation in the revolutionary struggle rather than a nostalgia for certainties and a vicarious historic past.

His thought has become Marxism-Leninism of our epoch

There was a recognition that his thought transcended what had gone before e.g. the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Honduras reaffirms that the theoretical basis guiding its activity is Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought, under the victorious banner of which, our Party is carrying out its present political tasks and directing the struggle of the Honduran people for democratic rights, the achievement of national independence in opposition to U.S. imperialism, the elimination of feudal remnants and the building in future of a socialist society in Honduras.”

Maoism was not in the lexicon of its practioners. The continuity of the anti-revisionist movement had encompassed those who remained at the position associated with Enver Hoxha, the Albanian leader and those who embraced the developments and innovations of the Cultural Revolution period in going beyond the defensive anti-revisionism of the mid-fifties. That contradiction did not last and the emphasis given in the condolences letters sent provide some evidence of the fault lines within the international movement at Mao’s death. Whereas others would referred to Marxism-Leninism, parties like the Philippine party, engaged in substantial armed struggle, refounded in 1968, would openly proclaim, hold high the invincible banner of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought.

There has been a consistency in the evaluation offered on the legacy of Mao. The Letter from Central Committee of Communist Party of the Philippines [on the death of Mao] stated:

Comrade Mao Tsetung was the most outstanding Marxist-Leninist of our time. In the course of more than 50 years of revolutionary practice, Comrade Mao Tsetung made immortal new contributions in every field of Marxist science. He propounded comprehensively the theory of the new-democratic revolution, the concept of protracted people’s war and the strategy of encircling the cities from the countryside, all of which have enormously enriched the Marxist theory of revolution in colonies and semi-colonies. In the course of socialist revolution, Comrade Mao Tsetung systematically summed up the historical experience of ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat, analysed and. drew lessons from the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union, unequivocally pointed out for the first time in history that classes and class struggle still exist in socialist society after the socialist transformation of the ownership of the means of production has in the main been completed and that the bourgeoisie is right, in the Communist Party and put forth, the brilliant theory of continuing the revolution, under the dictatorship of the proletariat. In the course of unremitting struggle against the Right and “Left” opportunist lines and counter-revolutionary revisionist lines within the Party at various stages of the revolution, Comrade Mao Tsetung developed a series of principles which are of extreme, importance in the building of a correct Marxist-Leninist Party of the proletariat. By exposing and opposing the betrayal of communism, by the Khrushchev-Brezhnev revisionist renegade clique, Comrade Mao Tsetung developed greatly the Marxist-Leninist cause of uncompromising struggle against opportunism and revisionism.

The idea that Mao’s contributions were a qualitative development was clearly expressed in the contributions that came from the international communist movement; that this was not formally and substantially codified as ‘Maoism’ until two decades later should not detract from the recognition given at the time of Mao’s death. His inspirational practice and ideas stood out as a departure from the revision-riddled Soviet dominated movement which it criticised and challenged. Chairman Mao Tsetung inherited, defended and developed Marxism-Leninism. This shared judgement lay the foundation for recognition of the universality that was part of Mao’s legacy, in the words of Sri Lankan Marxist-Leninists that “The beacon of Mao Tsetung Thought will shine for ever more brilliantly and continue to inspire and guide all mankind”.

Whilst (Spanish Marxists-Leninists were) proclaiming, “His teachings and all his writings are of immense benefit to us Communists and a genuine guide to our revolutionary action”, within a few years they had totally reversed their evaluation under Albanian prompting.

Just as the pre-existing divisions surfaced in the late 1970s, echoed the content and emphasis in the letters of condolence sent from the variety of organisations and groups, self-defining Maoists have marked out their trenches today  reflecting the diversity in today’s movement. Adherents of Maoism remain world wide in scope and variable in number. There are competing claims to authenticity and legacy of Mao’s teachings even when wanting Maoists to unite. 

* * *

THE memorial meeting in Melbourne on September 19 was attended by more than 700 workers, farmers, students and personages from other circles. Speaking at the meeting, E.F. Hill, Chairman pf the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist)’ recounted Chairman Mao’s exploits in leading the Chinese revolution and in the struggles against modern revisionism and the bourgeoisie within the Party. He said that Chairman Mao “was an outstanding teacher of the working class, working and oppressed people — a great proletarian internationalist just as he was a great patriot of China — the greatest Marxist-Leninist of our time.”

THE Belgium-China Association held a memorial meeting in Brussels on September 25. It was attended by about 1,000 people. A huge portrait of Chairman Mao hung in the centre of the rostrum and a streamer below the portrait read: “Mao Tsetung Thought is invincible.”

MORE than 10,000 Parisians staged a march and rally on September 11 in the deepest mourning for Chairman Mao-Tsetung. At 3 p.m., “workers, peasants, students, teachers and other working people, many of them women, began marching slowly and silently from The Republic Square. A big wreath at the head of the procession bore the inscription: “To Comrade Mao Tsetung, the greatest Marxist-Leninist.” Big streamers read: “Eternal glory to Comrade Mao Tsetung, the great teacher of the international proletariat!” “Long live socialist China!” “Long live Mao Tsetung Thought — Marxism-Leninism of our time!”

A MEMORIAL meeting held in Duesseldorf on September 18 by the Germany-China Friendship Society was attended by more than 3,500 people including the organization’s activists from more than 30 cities. The meeting heard addresses by Lois Snow, widow of American friend Mr. Edgar Snow, and other foreign friends who once worked in Yenan in the years of the War of Resistance Against Japan and during the Chinese Liberation War. … Similar memorial meetings were held in more than 20 other West German cities on September 14 and 15. West German Marxist-Leninist organizations in Frankfurt, Hamburg, Mannheim, Koeln, Munich, Hanover, Stuttgart and other cities held, torchlight marches or memorial meetings on September 16 and 17 in tribute to the memory, of Chairman Mao.

OVER 10,000 Italian people, carrying a portrait of Chairman Mao and torches, staged a solemn march in Rome on the evening of September 18 to express their deep mourning for Chairman Mao Tsetung.

OVER 2,300 people staged a torch march in Oslo on the evening of September 17 to deeply mourn Chairman Mao Tsetung. The march was sponsored by the National Norway-China Friendship Association. On the same evening, the Oslo branch of the National Norway-China Friendship Association held a memorial meeting attended by about 1,200 people.

SOME 1,200 members of the Swedish Communist Party and other Swedish people took part in a inarch and a memorial meeting in Stockholm on September 17.

Link to relevant pdf copies sourced from massline.org

Eternal Glory  [ Peking Review #38 September 13 1976  Announces the death of Mao Zedong.]

Peking Review #39 September 24 1976  mass memorial meeting in Beijing (undoctored photos)

Peking Review #40 September 30 1976

Peking Review #41 October 8 1976

Peking Review #42 October 15 1976

Peking Review #43 October 22 1976

Peking Review #44 October 29th 1976

Peking Review # 45 November 5th 1976

China Pictorial #11  November 1976 Memorial issue after the death of Mao Tsetung. (doctored photos)

Considering Intrigue, a Cold war tale

Looking at the Aginter Press, and the attempted intrigue and neo-fascist contamination by the Far Right, which with Portuguese sponsorship, reached into the anti-revisionist movement involves a transnational look at Switzerland and beyond. The contradictions and weakness of the first Swiss anti-revisionist organisation, the Swiss Communist Party, led by Gerald Bulliard, secretary general of the party, provided an avenue for attempts from the Far Right to infiltrate those international forces engaged in anti-colonial armed struggle in Africa through maoist solidarity activity based in Switzerland. This preliminary attempt to unpick the various strands that are woven into a narrative of far right intrigue draws upon the existing literature in the absence of archival evidence or known Marxist-Leninist analysis.


The French leftist daily Liberation reported disturbing allegations that Portuguese documents reveal journalistic cover of the European press service, “Aginter Press” for an international fascist group. Evidence pointed to Aginter director Yves Guillou, alias Guerin Seracy and another Frenchman, Robert Leroy, as being the principle organizers of many of the bomb explosions in Italy associated with a “strategy of tension” including the one in December 1969 at a Milan bank, leaving sixteen people dead and over one hundred wounded. Several leftists are arrested and charged with the bombings and jail on false convictions.

According to Italian police report, Aginter Press served as a cover for an international fascist organization responsible for the planning and execution of many fascist attacks throughout Europe in the late 1960 early 1970s.

It also link group to bombings and counter insurgency and arms traffic. Liberation reported, an investigation by officers of the Portuguese Armed Forces Movement (MFA) that overthrew the Portuguese dictatorship in April 1974, corroborated the findings of the Italian investigation.

On the night of May 2l, 1974, the questioning of one PIDE agent revealed that the Lisbon-based Aginter Press Agency had served as a base of support for PIDE, and as a center for the coordination of the activities of related fascist organizations in other countries.”

 A searched of the deserted offices of Aginter Press, revealed information and archives on the activities of the agency, as well as facilities for the manufacture of false documents. This archive provided the main source for the prime exploration, the French-language study by Frederick Laurent,  L ‘ Orchestre Noir   published in 1978 in Paris.


Propaganda and Intrigue

Swiss Maoism was one of the stories Julia Lovell’s interesting global history of Maoism choose not to dwell on.[i] Certainly it was of negligible effect upon Swiss society but there was a disproportionate interest in the early days of the anti-revisionist movement there, not least due to the presence of, what was thought to be, the centre of China’s propaganda effort based in Switzerland, which aroused the interest of state agencies domestically and externally.

Switzerland, in January 1950, was one of the first Western nations to recognize the People’s Republic of China. Switzerland soon became a hub for the PRC’s diplomatic and trade activities throughout Western Europe, and was regarded as the centre of their propaganda effort in Western Europe. [ii]

The Chinese embassies were often the first call for the curious and did have a supportive role in developing friendship diplomacy, answering queries and supplying material on China such as pamphlets and Chinese magazines (and later the Little Red Book) on request. Adverse comments on the implication of Chinese authorities in the functioning of the friendship associations, proved more speculation than evidence about the role of the Chinese Embassy in Switzerland.

In the early 1960s Switzerland had two large Chinese diplomatic establishments – in Berne and Geneva – as well as the offices of Hsinhua (Xinhua News Agency / New China News Agency). The Berne-based staff in the embassy was larger than that in London, and only the Americans and Soviet embassy staffing was larger. Although Knüsel (2020) notes the Chinese staff included its catering and support staff unlike other embassies which used local services. Sections of the Swiss establishment took the view (shared by intelligent agencies) that Switzerland had been selected to play an important role in China’s strategy on the European continent – a position weakened when the Chinese embassy in Paris was established in 1964. By August 1967, as China withdrew its diplomatic staff worldwide, there were only 37 Chinese diplomats and officials left in Switzerland

A domestic factor was the anti-communist hysteria of the time that had shaped Swiss politics reflected in local media comment on the activities of the Chinese embassy. The Zurich weekly, Schweizer Illustrierte alleged

“It is beyond all question that not only is there gross overstaffing in it, but for years subversive and secret service activities have been organised there for a substantial portion of Europe.” (February 17th 1967)

Commenting on the atmosphere of the time, one journalist observed

“Political and cultural life in Switzerland in the 1950s was characterized by a particularly fervent anti-Communism. This position was sustained by Swiss authorities as they promoted “spiritual national defense,” a policy that consisted—in the struggle against Soviet influence—of subsidies for patriotic works of art or essays and the covert prosecution of citizens (in particular, intellectuals and artists) suspected of having Communist sympathies.” [iii]

The “Schweizerische Aufklärungsdienst” (Swiss Enlightenment Service, known by its initials SAD), founded in 1947 as the private successor to a state propaganda organisation, was a key player. SAD members sought to explain the dangers of Communism at lectures and conferences across the country, often with state financing. Only made legal in 1945 the Swiss Labour Party (Partei der Arbeit, or PdA) was mocked as the “Party of Foreigners” (Partei des Auslands) and its members were declared to be the enemy within. Their premises were attacked, several were fired from their jobs, and others were physically assaulted. [iv]

The Berne office of the New China News Agency provided reports, or propaganda as western commentators inevitably described them, for other pro-Chinese publications and interested parties. In 1963 it was commonly referred to as “a centre for the distribution throughout western Europe of Sino-Albanian propaganda”. The local Swiss media would inform its readers:

“This work, which is conducted by international agents for the cause of Mao Tse-Tung, is naturally supplemented in Western Europe by a heavy interlarding of suitable propaganda materials from the translator’s offices of the Chinese missions. But now everybody knows there are only three of them in Western Europe, namely in London, in Brussels, and in Bern.”[v]

The commercial distribution of magazine like Peking Review[vi] lay with local subscriptions agents often associated with the local communist party thus there was some diversification of suppliers to various non-revisionist groups. In Switzerland Nils Andersson, of a small progressive publishing house in Lausanne, played a part in the distribution of Chinese produced pamphlets stating its anti-revisionist case as well as Pekin Information. Andersson had published books censored in France in the midst of the Algerian war, followed by the publication of Mao Tse-tung’s works in French. Accused of subversion, in1967, the Federal Council voted for his expulsion for “endangering the internal and external security of Switzerland”.

The local Swiss media alleged that another group led by Gerard Bulliard had received large subsidies from the Chinese Embassy in Bern for their publication L’Etincelle over a period of fourteen months.[vii] The Zurich weekly Schwezer Illustrierte claimed Bulliard himself had received about £23,800 (286,000 francs), payment ending when he “lost favour” and the Chinese began supporting Nils Andersson.[viii] The Chinese authorities subscribed to hundreds of copies of Andersson’s Octobre publication through the state bookstore for foreign languages. This import of foreign books and periodicals did help to finance the emerging pro-Chinese movement in Switzerland and elsewhere. The Swiss Federal police had intercepted the order from China in its monitoring of the organisation.

Drawing upon Albanian archives Elidor Mehilli made the observation that in the early 1960s

“Albania’s party devised a special hard currency solidarity fund to assist Marxist-Leninists groups around the world. Initially it consisted of 700,000 US dollars. China issued half a million, and the rest came from internal funds. Here was the ruling party of a country that still struggled to feed its inhabitants, projecting itself as a source of revolutionary activism in the Third World and in Western Europe. In 1964, the party Secretariat disbursed money to marginalized Polish Marxist-Leninists; the Belgian Communist Party; the Communist Party of Brazil; the Communist Party of Peru; the Italian Marxist-Leninist paper Nuova Unita; and groups in Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, and Columbia. Activists in Australia and Ceylon were hired as foreign correspondents for the party daily. Small sums also went to a coterie of Marxist-Leninist characters in Paris and London (the short lived Committee to Defeat Revisionism, for Communist Unity), as well as in Vienna. The United States-based Hammer and Steel received modest contributions as well.”[ix]

The visits of foreign Marxist-Leninist to Albania were noted by the security forces:  approximately one trip to Albania each year by Swiss Maoists in the period of 1964-1970 and 974-77. These contacts, note Cordoba and Liu, aroused the curiosity of the police and led to a lot of speculation about possible subversion and guerrilla and espionage training camps.[x]

By late 1966, Knüsel (2020) calculates about 50 pro-Chinese organisations were thought to exist in Western Europe. The Embassy in Bern was regarded as been the hub for contact with these organisations, and the Swiss government suspected that the Embassy assisted these groups financially. Chinese officials also collected information about left-wing organisations and their publications.[xi]

Swiss media carried red-scare reports that the Swiss police had proved that the Chinese Embassy in Berne had promoted and supported subversive ventures through Europe. Schweizer Illustrierte alleged that 18 pro-Chinese Austrian communists had been on unspecified training course at the embassy and half a dozen pro-Chinese French communist had been given money and material by the Chinese embassy to split the much larger Moscow-orientated Parti Communiste Français, PCF. (February 17th 1967)

Whereas, unlike the courses provided for some by China’s military training at the Nanjing military academy [see Lovell, Maoism: A Global History] , the Swiss activists annual political pilgrimages to Albania mainly coincided with significant  state and party anniversaries and had the character of political tourism with a more familiar itinerary of factories, schools, cultural events and historical monuments. Other visitors, like the Spanish MLs, had a different itinerary and agenda in Albania.

Politicised friendship as expressed in friendship associations saw the creation of pro-regime groupings throughout Europe, often energised by maoist activists but not always controlled by them. Cyril Cordoba and Liu Kaixuan, building upon dissertation work entitled “Beyond the Bamboo Curtain: Sino-Swiss cultural relations and political friendships (1949-1989)”, discusses the implication of Chinese influence in the functioning of the friendship associations, especially the role of the Chinese Embassy in Switzerland. This was never crudely directive rather a more self-correcting mechanism by members seeking “friendship with China”.

The Associations suisses d’amitié avec la Chine in Switzerland which spread “friendship with China”, were unofficial regarded as part of the global Chinese “foreign affairs [waishi]” system that has attracted academic interest in recent years. The friendship associations throughout the world received material from the Chinese export company Guozi Shudian for distribution at generous discounts, if not free and they could use the benefits of the sales and magazines subscriptions as an important source of income. The role of such associations were part of the people-to-people tier of Chinese foreign diplomacy and while reflecting Chinese foreign policy priorities, they were not lobbying or influencers on their local state although occasional strayed into the realm of foreign diplomacy.

An uncritical allegiance to whatever was coming out of China was a characteristic of most of the friendship organisations that reflected the orthodoxy of supportive analysis whether it was from Maoist activists, young radical academics or old cultural friends of China. No Swiss city had a Chinatown or a district with a form of residential concentration, as one can find in Paris or London. Until the 1970s, the Chinese in Switzerland were few and highly qualified, often diplomats, international civil servants or people from wealthy families.

While active and having membership of the wider association, overall their political importance was peripheral – perhaps offering an introduction to the radical left party, and with the debate over three world theory, an audience and outlet for analysis and a substitute for a more overtly political commitment, they were never simply controlled or run by the Maoist organisations.

The Swiss friendship association took on a different character, suffering a severe reduction in membership after the death of Mao due to political disillusionment. Cordoba and Liu (2018) looking at the cooperation and contradictions between local Maoist parties, friendship associations and Chinese authorities conclude that they finally began to depoliticise – although supporting the post-Mao regime – and professionalise themselves from the 1980s , establishing a travel agency in 1983 and engaging in twinning agreements between Swiss  and Chinese cities. The association failed to survive the negative influence of the 1989 Tiananmen Square repressions, and officially dissolved in 1992.


[i] Lovell, Julia (2019) Maoism: A Global History. London:Bodley Head

[ii] Ariane Knüsel (2020) ‘White on the outside but red on the inside’: Switzerland and Chinese intelligence networks during the Cold War, Cold War History, 20:1, 77-94, DOI:10.1080/14682745.2019.1575368

[iii] David Eugster (2019) How the Swiss viewed Communism in the Cold War years swissinfo.ch  October 2, 2019

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/switzerland-and-the-cold-war_anti-communism–fighting-the-devil-from-the-east/45267504

[iv] In fact, the extent to which the secret services and police tried to document and monitor supposed political infiltration only became clear at the end of the Cold War. The so-called Secret Files Scandal of 1989 revealed that notes had been made on the politically suspicious behaviour of almost 700,000 people. The focus was not just on communists but on anyone who criticised mainstream society: those with any sort of left-wing tendencies, Greens, alternative thinkers, Third World activists, or feminists. Eugster (2019) How the Swiss viewed Communism in the Cold War years

[v] The Pro-Chinese Communists in Switzerland. Neue Zuercher Zeitung , Foreign Edition #306 (Zurich) November 7th 1963 p13

[vi] The English edition of Peking Review/ now Beijing Review was launched on March 4, 1958. Bi-weekly editions in French and Spanish began fortnighly in March 1963, then Pekin Informa became a weekly from January 1964. (The Spanish edition was discontinued around 2004.) A weekly German edition (called Peking Rundschau) began on Sept. 22, 1964. English language archive at http://www.massline.org/PekingReview/

[vii] The Swiss organisation was not amongst the Marxist-Leninist groups recorded as having sent greetings to the fifth congress of the Party of Labor of Albania held in Tirana early November 1966, and published in a 212 paged booklet from the <Naim Frasheri> Publishing House.

[viii] Schwezer Illustrierte February 17 1967

[ix]From Stalin to Mao, Albania and the Socialist World”. Cornel University Press 2017 p218. Activity explored when the Albanian archives opened up to western academics such as the aforementioned Elidor Mehilli and see Nicolas Miletitch, ‘Revelations des archives de Tirana’, Cashiers d’histoire sociale #6 (Spring /summer 1996) pp 83-96

[x] Cyril Cordoba and Liu Kaixuan, Unconditional Followers of the PRC? Friendship Associations with China in France and Switzerland, 1950s–1980s in: Europe and China in the Cold War  Exchanges beyond the Bloc Logic and the Sino-Soviet Split. Brill 2018 Series: New Perspectives on the Cold War, Volume: 6  p101

[xi] Ariane Knüsel (2020) ‘White on the outside but red on the inside’: Switzerland and Chinese intelligence networks during the Cold War, Cold War History, 20:1, 77-94


Intrigues amongst the Comrades

The fractious origins of the anti-revisionist movement in Europe was reflected in some of the relationship between comrades ostensibly on the same side of the ideological barricades which led, regardless of the subjective calls for unity,  to complications in attempts to consolidate the anti-revisionists into an effective expression of international co-operation .

There were multitudes of conflicting relations between  ML groups, domestic rivals (as in Switzerland) and internationally as illustrated in July 1975  when Austrian MLs related to the MLPO Marxist-Leninist Party of Austria,  raise public criticism of the KPD / ML regarding the distribution in West Germany of “Selected Programs of Radio Tirana”  a booklet published by the MLSK-Vienna” .It was available in West Berlin at “practically at all ‘left’ book stores, except the ‘Roter Morgen bookstore’ because the KPD / ML leadership “openly boycott the publication despite a shared allegiance to Albania but part of a wider dispute between the groups.

A decade earlier, in March 1965 L’Etincelle of the Swiss Communist Party stoked up an internecine discord amongst anti-revisionist groups aboard when its supplement announced,

“the Revolutionary and Marxist-Leninist Spanish Communist party (PCERML) had been officially created “by demand of several hundreds of Spanish workers throughout Switzerland, Belgium, France and England… and with the accord of Communists in Spain.”

At the time of the formation of the Communist Party of Spain (Marxist-Leninist) in the autumn of 1964, the PSC had called “our Spanish comrades” not to adhere to these new groups which pretend to represent them. (L’Etincelle September 1964). The communique issued on behalf of the PCERML stated that the fault lay with Andersson and the Lenin Centre. L’Etincelle (September 1964) warned against “the sweet words and promises of the Centre Lenine.”

“We announced that in October 1964 the soi-disant Communist Party of Spain (Marxist-Leninist) was created in Geneva…Unfortunately, yet another time some adventurers with a large number of Asiatic credits wanted to deceive and throw powder in the eyes of those who closely follow the situation in Spain, and attempted in this way to harvest funds, of which the receivers would never be Spanish.”

Allegations continued claiming the first pro-Chinese Spanish communist party had been a dismal failure,

“Fortunately, thanks to the vigilance of true Spanish Marxists, the false politicians have been unmasked and will be judged as is necessary by the world’s revolutionaries. A page is turned on this sad event, and the Grippa group, falling apart and in flight, will not disappear from the scene more pitifully than it would have lived with foreign funds.”

L’Etincelle also suggested that a second Marxist-Leninist grouping had arisen in Belgium to challenge the Jacques Grippa-led Communist party.

“A delegation of the Swiss Communist Party, led by our comrade Gerald Bulliard, secretary general of the party, recently visited Brussels” The March edition of L’Etincelle reported, “In our next issue, we will publish the joint declaration drawn up between the leaders of the MOVEMENT OF PROGRESSIVE WORKERS OF BELIGUM (Marxist-Leninists) and our leaders. This meeting was fruitful and contributed to the reinforcing of the fraternal understanding between Belgium and Swiss Marxist-Leninists”

The Swiss Communist Party led by Gerard Bulliard  reporting on the creation of an International Revolutionary Front that both the Soviet and Chinese Communist Parties were more concerned with “its own national prestige” than defending the world revolution. Expressing sympathy for both Fidel Castro and Enver Hoxha the PSC sought to “join forces with the comrades of several countries and professing different ideologies but sharing identical goals” in the CFIR – Committee for an International Revolutionary Front – founded in Paris in November 1965. [L’Etincelle No,16 January 1966]

There was a swipe at parties who labelled others “as American agents, an expression quite popular these days and the obsession of the gangster Grippa, in Brussels.”

A known incident of infiltration of the anti-revisionist movement concerns Richard Gibson, the Black American journalist, formerly secretary of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in the United States.   Besides being responsible for the English-language edition of Revolution associated with Jacques Vergès, Gibson was active as an informer and spy for the CIA.[i]

Such activity to establish an ideal vehicle of infiltration was repeated after Bulliard’s explusion from the SCP and under the name of the PPS Parti Populaire Suisse, Italian investigators named Bulliard as an informer for the Servizio Informazioni Difesa (SID) Italian Secret Service when investigating right-wing terrorism around the Galido phenomenon in 1996.[ii]

 “GERARD BULLIARD, former secretary of the pro-Chinese Swiss Communist Party, in contact with the SID from March 1967 to July of that same year, he proposed itself to provide the Service with news on the activities of the pro- Chinese parties in Switzerland and in other European countries, with particular reference to ITALY…. had attended the planning meeting for the foundation on 22-10-1967 in TURIN of the Clandestine Marxist Leninist Revolutionary Front.” [iii]

Busky notes that hopes of forming a “Revolutionary International” had resulted in the establishment of the less ambitious Committee for an International Revolutionary Front, with Bulliard as its secretary.[iv]

The ambition of Bulliard to solidify a network of international groups on the basis of factional activity and without the political support of agreement from China was farcical –Bulliard had complained that “the comrades in Peking would think twice before following certain recommendations by their delegates in luxurious European embassies” – the PSC could not expect recognition or publicity to endorse their actions.

Grippa also complained of China’s lack of distinction between authentic and imposter Marxist-Leninist groups, others were also suspicious of their international colleagues. The British-based activist, William Ash (writing in his 1978 published memoirs) raised the thought that one-time leading European Maoist and veteran communist, Jacques Grippa

“ was quite possibly a Russian agent pretending to be Peking-orientated in order both to mislead…and to render an account to the Kremlin of who the main dissidents were.” [v]

The Belgian party led by Grippa was active in interventions in the arguments of other parties, raising criticism of surrounding revisionist parties in the pages of La Voix du Peuple of the Dutch (March 27 1964) and French (April 10 1964). Attention was also given to the emerging ML groups and judgement was unsparing on the Swiss activities, Grippa complaint to the Albanian authorities of the lack of scrutiny for ideological trustworthiness and proper ML credentials.  The Lenin Centre, whose credentials were impressive, countered the slanders from Bulliard published in L’Etincelle (The Spark), dismissing them as:

“..low provocateurs without any liaison either with the Marxist-Leninist International movement or the militant Swiss workers.” [vi]

Building an international network saw pole of attraction move from Brussels, from Switzerland to Paris with the editorial board of the slickly produced pro-Chinese journal, Revolution but eventually falter on the disengagement in such a project from China, Grippa noted ‘in dealing with us, China’s representatives in Europe were not ideological comrades, but bureaucrats, who feared the consequences of contacting with us’. [vii] 

Accusations and mistrust in pro-China anti-revisionism in Britain was also evident with the Marxist-Leninist Organisation of Britain (who eventually came out in support of Liu Shao-chi rather than Mao) explaining events through a conspiracy prism as a result of intrigues against them and in favour of all the elements supposedly seeking to disrupt the developing Marxist-Leninist Organisation. As far as this minor English group were concerned, they saw themselves as the victims of “the Foreign Ministry and diplomatic service of the People’s Republic of China [that] were already dominated by counter-revolutionary agents of the Chinese capitalist class long before the “cultural revolution” began.” [viii]

Visitors would come for badges and copies of Mao’s Quotations – the Little Red Book- and talks with Chinese officials. Gaining “recognition” was a time-consuming vanity project for some activists seduced by the euphoria of revolutionary opposition. Good relationships with the office of the Charge d’Affaires and the Hsinhua News provided access to material, prestige and a reflective political vindication. There was another side to the relationship as Muriel Seltman’s memoirs observed:

Like others in the so-called Anti-Revisionist Movement, we regularly visited the Chinese Legation for talks on the progress of the ‘struggle’ in England. There was an element of competitiveness in this, each small group vying for the honour of ‘recognition.’ Again, we did not realise that the personnel at the legation were using us for their own advancement and their political fortunes and jobs depended upon the degree to which they could convince their superiors they were recruiting support in England for the Chinese Party. They were probably assessing the likeliest “winners” in the stakes for a new Communist Party. Everybody behaved correctly, of course, but at this time we had no idea that claiming support from abroad was part of the power struggle in China.” [ix]

There was no mention made in the ‘publication of recognition’, the daily bulletins of the Hsinhua News Agency, of the Conference of Marxist-Leninist Unity held in September 1967, nor of the Marxist-Leninist Organisation of Britain set up by that Conference! Except on one occasion, no invitations to receptions and film-shows at the Office of the Chinese Charge d’Affaires were extended to leading members of the group, and people who had long been on the official invitation list of the Chinese Charge d’Affaires office were dropped from it as soon as their membership in the M.L.O.B. became known.

 “It is clearly no accident” claimed the MLOB that an expelled member was closely associated with “the representatives of the People’s Republic of China in London”. Furthermore, “Certain diplomatic representatives of the People’s Republic of China in London went so far as to disseminate verbally slanderous attacks against certain of the leading members of the A.C.M.L.U. and later of the M.L.O.B…. In general, the office of the Charge d’Affaires and the Hsinhua News Agency gave support and publicity respectively to “broad organisations” of friendship with China, such as the “Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding, Ltd.” and the “Friends of China”…. an organisation of friendship with China as one to foster support for the faction headed by Mao Tse-tung; it functions, therefore, as a propaganda arm of the Chinese capitalist class in Britain, and also, through its “leftist”, “revolutionary” pronouncements, as a net to catch anti-revisionists and divert them from the developing Marxist-Leninist Organisation of Britain.” [x]

These feuds and clashes attributed to the rough-and-tumble of politics were, setting aside the conspiracy prism, understandable phenomena but in Switzerland (and as disclosed years later, in the case of the Marxistisch-Leninistische Partij Nederland or MLPN) there were more sinister aspects to the intrigue.


[i] https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/switzerland/notes-revolution.pdf

[ii] Daniele Ganser (2004) NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe. London: Routledge

[iii] SPECIAL CARABINIERI OPERATIONAL GROUPING Criminal proceedings against Rognoni Giancarlo and others. Rome, July 23, 1996

[iv] Busky (2002) Communism in History and Theory: the European experience. Westport: Praeger Publishers. A report by Italian Special Carabinieri Operational Grouping notes the planning meeting for “the foundation of the Clandestine Marxist Leninist Revolutionary Front” on October 22nd1967 in Turin. At the meeting was also present the Swiss Maoist, and source for SID Italian intelligence service, Gerard Bulliard.

[v].Ash, W (1978) A Red Square. London: Howard Baker.

[vi] State spying on dissident groups have a long recorded history, see note xx[vi]

[vii] Marku, Yibel (2017) Sino-Albanian relations during the Cold War, 1949-1978: An Albanian perspective (Doctor’s thesis, Lingnan University, Hong Kong). Retrieved from http://commons.ln.edu.hk/his_etd/11/

[viii] See: Report of the Central Committee of the M.L.O.B. On the Situation in the People’s Republic of China. London: Red Front Special edition, January 1968

[ix] Seltman, Muriel (2010)  What’s Left? What’s Right?  Dorrance Publishing Company, Inc.

[x] MLOB – Red Front, January 1968


Provocations & Infiltration

‘Red China’s Far Right Friends’ makes for an eye-catching headline, peppered with references to interference from its secretive embassies sponsoring far left activities and you have a classic conspiracy scenario.

The attempt to infiltrate the movement in those moments of factional fighting within it during the earlier stages of its history were real, and in perspective, temporarily successful in the case of the use of the PSC.  The argument becomes unstainable, over-extended when construct an interlocking network of relationships to taint a single movement with extensive speculation. There is a picture painted of Far Right infiltration, citing their own publications and using a few examples of actual attempts, as if the exception was the rule.

Flirting with the Left is treated at face value rather than taken as the attempted intoxication and manipulation it tactically represents for the far right activists. A flirtation assumed to be reciprocal, and accepts as factual the Far Right testimony offered, without challenging their printed analysis as an actual reflection of what was happening. As if the ideas expressed by these neo-fascist provocateurs and infiltrators were not questioned, challenged and rejected by the Maoist left at the time. The mainstream interpretations of the relations between Maoists and the Western far right was one of hostile opposition, anti-fascism being one of the active platforms that Maoist militants throughout Europe were engaged evident in any reading of the publications of the time.

An objective presentation of the existing documents and materials, based on the testimonies of the participants and secondary sources is seldom achieved when exploring such topics. A review of the literature has the few examples overstated and repeatedly drawn upon the same source material with a journalistic approach that conditions the narrative.

There is a narrative of a supposed marriage of convenience that side-lines important considerations, and builds upon exceptional incidents to draw a broad conclusion resting on the filmiest of accounts, decontextualized selectivity of the evidence, and subjective desires, their own version of the truth which is not compatible with the others. Compelling evidence is absent, and given the furtive nature of subject unlikely to found.

The use of PSC & the enigma of Bulliard

Gérard Bulliard, expelled from the PvD, as secretary general was the public face of the Swiss Communist Party – PCS created in September 1963.

He had a militant background in Vevey of the Workers Party and Popular Vaudois, section of the Swiss Labor Party, PvD. He had visited Albania in the summer of 1963 before breaking away to establish the PCS. Bulliard had a chequer career in the anti-revisionist movement. Within three months of its founding former members were establishing an alternative, and more successful grouping in the Lenin centre publishing Octobre, and a few months after that Bulliard adopts anti-Chinese positions (whilst remaining anti- CPSU) because of Chinese support for that alternative grouping around the journal Octobre. Described as “Megalomaniac and mythomaniac”, Gérard Bulliard never succeeded in developing his small group, from which he was himself expelled by an “Extraordinary Congress” on May 29, 1967.

The temperamental Bulliard most constant factor, according to the CIA-funded Radio Free Europe, was “a visceral anti-Semitism” speculating which may have eased infiltration by fascists agents. [i]

The subsequent behaviour and politics of Bulliard would suggest a rapid move to the right after his expulsion from the PCS.   He therefore continued his activities, from September 9, 1967, in a group called Parti Populaire Suisse – PPS, led by Marc Chantre, and, under the influence of a former French SS, Robert Leroy, will make the PPS an anti-Semitic organization serving as a cover to far-right that would last until media exposure at the end of August 1969.

The PPS publication retained the name of that founded by Gérard Bulliard who had published 29 issues of l’Etincelle, and of which this new number was presented as the continuator.  An editorial by Bulliard, which specifies that his new party remains pro-Chinese but that “the most concrete example for us as regards the creation of our socialist society is the German Democratic Republic” where Bulliard has just made, in August, a study trip. This stance should raise questions about his anti-revisionist credentials. The paper also publishes several articles, in particular on” the Angolan revolution “, by Jean-Marie Laurent, presented as an” excellent comrade “and who was in fact a former member of the OAS, working with Robert Leroy in Africa then in Italy.

What was disclosed by research following the 1974 Carnation Revolution was that a Lisbon-based “news agency” Aginter Presse had initiated a series of operations aimed at weakening and destroying guerrilla groups fighting for national liberation in Portuguese Africa. These activities were undertaken at the behest and with the direct assistance of the PIDE/DGS which began in 1966. It was argued that “the infiltration of pro-Chinese [Maoist] organizations and the use of this [leftist] cover was one of the great specialties of Aginter”.[ii]

 Aginter Presse correspondents reported

“Pro-Chinese circles, characterised by their own impatience and zeal, are right for infiltration. Our activity must be to destroy the structure of the democratic State under the cover of communist and pro-Chinese activities; we have already infiltrated some of our people into these groups.”[iii]

Aginter found the vehicle to use, an ostensibly Maoist organization headed by Gerard Bulliard. The Aginter man responsible for arranging this was Robert Leroy. It is alleged that with support from the Chinese embassy in Berne, which was believed to be the Chinese overseas intelligence agency’s main headquarters in Europe, Bulliard was persuaded to hire Robert Leroy and other Aginter personnel as correspondents for L ’Etincelle.

Armed with these credentials, Leroy and Jean-Marie Laurent were able to penetrate “liberated territory”in Angola, Guinea-Bissau, and Mozambique in order to “interview” several African guerrilla leaders. After doing so, they engaged in intoxication operations to provoke dissension within the resistance movements, and Robert Leroy later exercised his talents in Italy.

An article in the Italian weekly news magazine ‘L’Europeo’ (November 1974) on the activities of Aginter Press noted that in Africa it planted people inside the national liberation movements. There is a lengthy document, in the records accessed at Caxias prison, setting out the attempt to spring from a Kinshasa jail one Aginter-Press agent arrested “for Maoist propaganda”. [iv]

Laurent, suggests that in addition to their African ventures, Aginter “correspondents” also infiltrated the Portuguese opposition in Western Europe by posing as Maoist journalists. [v]

The work [vi] of Jeffrey Bale challenges what is a complex narrative which, in one line, is that Bulliard’s party was a genuine Maoist organization which was manipulated by Leroy into providing Aginter operatives with legitimate left-wing credentials. This is what Bulliard himself claimed after the activities of Aginter were exposed in revelations after the Carnation Revolution of 1974.[vii]

However American academic Dr Bale disagrees and suggested that Bulliard was himself a neo-fascist provocateur who had consciously established a phony Maoist party which could be used as a cover by the far right.[viii]

That would raise questions about Bulliard’s previous involvement and commitment in the PvdA: was the PSC an existing agent moving into a potentially more radical stream rather than a duped, and increasingly reactionary personality alien to the maoist movement? Is Bale wrong in his assessment?

Bales draws upon a Swiss source to add to the charge with evidence that Bulliard was working as a paid informant for Marc-Edmond Chantre’s virulently anti-Communist Aktion freier Staatsburger organization in 1964, the very same year he formed the PCS.[ix]  Chantre, a former member of the Action Nationale, and his post-war group, (like the Economic League in Britain) compiled a large archive of files on suspected leftists in Switzerland prior to its dissolution. [x]

Furthermore, Bulliard was said to be in contact with Manuel Coelho da Silva (alias “Manuel Rios”), a PIDE/DGS informant within the major anti-Salazarist opposition group, the Comite Portugal Libre in Paris. Adding to the prosecution’s case was that Italian investigators named Bulliard as an informer for the Servizio Informazioni Difesa (SID) Italian Secret Service when investigating right-wing terrorism around the Galido phenomenon in 1996.[xi]

 In other words, Bulliard was undoubtedly for Bale a “player” rather than a dupe. At the time the question of whether Bulliard was a deceived naive or an agent of the extreme right from 1963 was not settled.  Is this web of connections strong enough to support a judgement either way? The argument that there is evidence that as leader of the PCS, Gérard Bulliard, was in fact a neofascist provocateur, and his party a phony organization brings forth a Scottish judgement of unproven. It may well be that Bulliard was reflecting in his eclectic political practice a cultural legacy of the predominate imperialist social democratic ideology of Swiss society.


[i] Kevin Devlin, ‘New Left’ opposition to Swiss CP. Radio Free Europe Release 0317 October 7, 1969

[ii] Laurent, Frederick (1978) L ‘ Orchestre Noir  Paris: Stock. p148. (Unseen)

[iii] Quoted in many accounts including Stuart Christie (1984) Stefano Dell Chiale: portrait of a black terrorist. Refract publication

[iv] https://christiebooks.co.uk/2019/03/aginter-press-and-the-strategy-of-tension-translated-by-paul-sharkey/

[v] Laurent, Frederick (1978) L ‘ Orchestre Noir  Paris: Stock, pp. 148-9, 151

[vi] Bale, J.M. (1994)   The “Black” Terrorist International: Neo-Fascist Paramilitary Networks and the “Strategy of Tension” in Italy, 1968-1974. Doctorate Thesis University of California at Berkeley

[vii] See his letter to the post-coup Portuguese authorities in Laurent, Orchestre noir, pp. 148-51; Bale recommends that for the Bulliard affair, see the 11 April 1975 letter from the SDCI investigators at Caxias to the Portuguese consulate in Paris, plus appended documents in Laurent pp. 148-51.

[viii] See Jeffrey M. Bale, “Right-Wing Terrorists and the Extraparliamentary Left in Post-World War II Europe: Collusion or Manipulation?”. Lobster #18 October 1982:2-18 note 108.

[ix] Citing Claude Cantini, Les ultras: Extreme droite et droite extreme en Suisse. Les mouvements et la presse de 1921 a 1991 (Lausanne: En Bas, 1992), p. 161, note 136. (unseen)

[x] ibid, pp. 89-91;

[xi]   Daniele Ganser (2004) NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe. London: Routledge


Aginter Press

The tangled web of accusation and conspiracy around the exposed intrigue of fascist infiltration and manipulation to achieve their goals in Switzerland that centres on the activities of Aginter Press are based on facts. Aginter Press did attempt to successfully infiltrate via the Parti Communiste Suisse, which was subject to monitoring by Swiss domestic state services. Was the CIA and KGB twiddling their thumbs? Willy Wottreng, a former leading member of the KPS/ML, informed Ariane Knüsel (2020) that when China opened an embassy in Rome, the Swiss Marxist-Leninist Party (KPS/ML) suspected that the Chinese missions in Switzerland were under surveillance and usually travelled to Rome instead of Bern or Geneva whenever they wanted to meet Chinese diplomats.)

Aginter Press (aka “Central Order and Tradition”) was a pseudo press agency set up in Lisbon, Portugal in September 1966, under Salazar’s dictatorship (so-called Estado Novo). Directed by Captain Yves Guérin-Sérac, a Catholic anti-communist activist who had taken part in the foundation of the OAS in Madrid, a far-right terrorist group which struggled for “French Algeria” during the Algerian War (1954-1962), Aginter Press was in reality an anti-communist mercenary organisation. The news agency, simply a cover to allow Aginter’s operatives to travel freely. Besides its journalistic cover, it trained its members in covert action techniques amounting to terrorism, including bombings, silent assassinations, subversion techniques, clandestine communication and infiltration and counter-insurgency.

An internal document summed up Aginter’s key beliefs:

The first phase of political activity ought to be to create the conditions favoring the installation of chaos. [ . . . ] In our view, the first move we should make is to destroy the structure of the democratic state under the cover of communist and pro-Chinese activities. [ . . . ] Moreover, we have people who have infiltrated these groups and obviously we will have to tailor our actions to the ethos of the milieu—propaganda and action of a sort which will seem to have emanated from our communist adversaries.

After 1969, Aginter shifted its focus from Africa to Europe. In this second phase, which lasted from 1969 until Aginter’s formal dissolution in 1974, agency personnel offered their specialized guerre revolutionaries training to a number of authoritarian regimes in Latin America, and were in fact hired to provide it in Guatemala and post-Allende Chile.


For Aginter Press, Robert Leroy was responsible for this “collaboration” who specialized in obtaining information on the left acting on the cover of journalism.  Robert Leroy, imprisoned in France for collaboration from 1945 to 1955, worked for an alleged press agency, Aginter Press, created to promote the infiltration of pro-Chinese organizations in order to use them as cover to approach and liquidate guerrilla leaders in the Portuguese colonies in Africa, installing provocateurs there, creating false resistance groups and infiltrating the Portuguese opposition in exile.

From 1968 to 1970, according to his own admission, Leroy collaborated with Guillou at Aginter until his left-wing cover was “burned” by various journalists and he lost his ability to continue conducting “infiltration and intoxication” operations although disputed sources raise implications in assassination – no proof in the normal corridor of mirrors that speculation leads you down.

 The narrative moves to Italy

The exposure of the contamination in Switzerland is followed up by looking at the activity of Aginter Press elsewhere, specifically its activists in Italy. Here again what came to light followed investigation and exposure of a vast conspiracy by the right wing, in concert with state actors, to use the Left.

The conspiracy narrative ties in the action of Aginter Press and others with the wider existence of the anti-communist Gladio project[i] the Western European network of equipped and trained resistance “Stay Behind” groups to fight a Soviet invasion disclosed in November 1990. Supposedly to thwart future Soviet invasions or influence in Italy and Western Europe, in fact, implicated in a strategy of tension, a campaign of false flag bombings and attempted coup d’état organised by the Italian neo-fascists with support from Masonic Lodge Propaganda Due (P2) and Gladio, NATO’s stay-behind anti-communist networks during the Cold War. The objective of this ‘strategy of tension” was to ensure that leftists and Communists could not come to power in Italy by creating a psychosis of fear of the left among ordinary Italians and a desire for strong, authoritarian government.

The “Strategy of Tension” itself was outlined in a document which came to light in October 1974. Dated November 1969 it was one of a number of dispatches sent to Lisbon by Aginter’s Italian correspondents. The document is entitled “Our Political Activity” which it explains thus:[ii]

“Our belief is that the first phase of political activity ought to be to create the conditions favouring the installation of chaos in all of the regime’s structures. This should necessarily begin with the undermining of the state economy so as to arrive at confusion throughout the whole legal apparatus. This leads on to a situation of strong political tension, fear in the world of industry and hostility towards the government and the political parties… In our view the first move we should make is to destroy the structure of the democratic state, under the cover of communist and pro-Chinese activities. Moreover, we have people who have infiltrated these groups and obviously we will have to tailor our actions to the ethos of the milieu – propaganda and action of a sort which will seem to have emanated from our communist adversaries and pressure brought to bear on people in whom power is invested at every level. That will create a feeling of hostility towards those who threaten the peace of each and every nation, and at the same time we must raise up a defender of the citizenry [sic] against the disintegration brought about by terrorism and subversion… “

The report goes on to describe the political situation in Italy and the emergence of the extra-parliamentary left: “Outside the present contingencies these people are possessed of a new enthusiasm and huge impatience. This fact should be carefully considered. The introduction of provocateur elements into the circles of the revolutionary left is merely a reflection of the wish to push this unstable situation to breaking point and create a climate of chaos…” The unknown author concludes: “Pro-Chinese circles, characterised by their own impatience and zeal, are right for infiltration… Our activity must be to destroy the structure of the democratic State under the cover of communist and pro- Chinese activities; we have already infiltrated some of our people into these groups…”

 According to the Italian Senate report on Gladio and on the strategy of tension, headed by Senator Giovanni Pellegrino, the CIA has supported Aginter Press in Portugal. The Commission stated that:

“Aginter Press was in reality, according to the last obtained documents acquired by the criminal investigation, an information centre directly linked to the CIA and the Portuguese secret service that specialized in provocative operations.”

In the televised testimony of unrepentant neo-fascist bomber Vincent Vinciguerra, he described the international co-ordination by European and American intelligences agencies – referred to as the Berne Club – which had been active during the Cold war period in the internal Italian political battles because of the initial fear of possible PCI involvement in national government.[iii]

Italian magistrate Guido Salvini, in charge of the investigations concerning the 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing, explained to the Italian senators that:

“In these investigations data has emerged which confirmed the links between Aginter Press, Ordine Nuovo and Avanguardia Nazionale… It has emerged that Guido Giannettini [one of the neo-fascist responsible of the bombing] had contacts with Guérin-Sérac in Portugal ever since 1964. It has emerged that instructors of Aginter Press. .. came to Rome between 1967 and 1968 and instructed the militant members of Avanguardia Nazionale in the use of explosives.”


[i] Ganser, Daniele (2004) NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe. London:Routledge

[ii] https://christiebooks.co.uk/2019/03/aginter-press-and-the-strategy-of-tension-translated-by-paul-sharkey/

[iii] Quoted in BBC2 TV three-part Time Watch documentary on Gladio – available on YouTube – broadcast June 1992.


False Flag Operations

This has been built upon and widen to encompass the involvement of far-right terrorist actions in Italy, and Aginter Press played an important role in implementing its “tension strategy” in Italy, and some researchers of the deep state have constructed what they characterise as a  “Nazi-Maoist” operation. This ideological incoherent position is built upon reasoning that it would be in the interest of the CIA to deepen the communist fracture of the Sino-Soviet split therefore its agents strengthen and develop the “Maoist Left”, a senario where, specifically, CIA agents were responsible for encouraging the spread of that ideology (Maoism).

There are example of a phoney left being used to disrupt and disintegrate groups by Dutch and American security forces [i] that saw disruption of a small number of activists, far from the scope of the Western “tension” strategists, and there is nothing novel to suggest that the state infiltrated agents to spy on radical and progressive campaigns but seriously to develop a left, especially Maoist, in opposition to pro-Soviet communism.

It is easy to stray from a focus on the limited extent the Far Right did actually infiltrate Left wing, specifically maoist groups in the 1960s and 1970s into the intoxicating intrigues and manoeuvres that occurred during the covert Cold war period. The extent of material available on the internet is phenomenal as the dimpliest search would demonstrate . Most conspiracy theories (apart from David Ickes and his Alien Reptilian Legacy) tend to be a mixture of facts and imagination. Historical facts provide some scaffolding for other speculations, sometimes plausible with amusing leaps of speculation raising a large number of interesting possibilities, and chiselled details which supports the unfolding narrative included. The narrative such work creates offers the untold account through assertion, assumption and alternatives of evidently undiscovered connections underpinned by deductive reconstruction.

 Like a series of interlocking wheels constructing an intricate mechanism that when critically engaged there are sharply differing assessments by readers. Believability in the story-teller can create the spell of confidence and conviction that purports to provide a sensational account of history, however carefully crafted, but goes against every known piece of public information and revelations from the archives, but still finds ideological partisan support for the conspiracy paradigm.

False flag operations now familiar tools of counter-insurgency strategy, undertaken by the state and its NGO allies, succeeded to discredit, disrupt and destroy progressive and radicals’ movements. Even the accusations raised can have a disproportionate effect as with the characterisation of nazi-maoist stream, in Italy the neo-fascist terrorism associated with Franco Freda. One of the representatives of the sematic oxymoron nazi-maoism was Enzo Maria Dantini, one of the many neo-fascists who were “recruited” in the Gladio network, whose motivation was neither based on materialist doctrines nor to serve the people. 

Not so much as infiltration as contamination was the strategy behind the so-called “nazi-maoist” Franco Freda and Giovanni Ventura, responsible for the bomb attacks at the Milan Trade fair and railway station in April 1969 and Plaza Fontana, Milan on December 12 1969, with blame deflected onto anarchist circles by the far right. Over 150 Italian anarchists were brought in for questioning by Inspector Luigi Calabresi, acting head of the Milan political police squad. One of these anarchists, Giuseppe Pinelli, was thrown from Calabresi’s fourth floor office window to his death in the yard below, or perhaps he was dead prior to the fall.

The fascist movement Avanguardia Nazionale, the organization of the terrorists Stefano delle Chiaie and Mario Merlino, was used for this. Avanguardia neo-fascists “disguised” themselves as “Maoists” promoting the use of Maoist propaganda with posters throughout Italy.  They were never accepted as part of the vibrant Maoist movement in Italy or able to infiltrate and direct the politics of the Maoists regardless of the language they tried to use. There was never a dialogue with the left.

The campaign occurred in 1972 the far right AN “were given the task of putting up maoist posters. This was, in effect, an attempt to create an ‘ultra-left’ even more extreme that the [PCI] communist party” drawing militant support away from them. [ii]

This strategy was seen in operation in Italy where in 1968 a young Italian fascist, Mario Merlino , member of the Avanguardia Nationale (AN)  made attempts to approach Maoist groups boasting of having contacts with the Swiss journal, L’Etincelle. After rebutted after approaching Avanguardia Proletaria, Merlino tried Linea Rossa where he was unknown but exposed when his name appeared in the press in connection with a fascist attack on the PCI headquarters in Rome. He re-emerged in May 1969 when Merlino approached a militant of the Unione del Communisti Italiani (which he tried to join) to hold some material for him. It was fuse wire and detonators. This was shortly after the Palace of Justice had been bombed. A police raid on the militants’ home two days later found nothing, he had previously disposed of the material and Merlino was finished trying to use Italian Maoists.

When the Italy-China Friendship Society was established in Ferrara in 1972 as a vehicle to infiltrate the ML environment, the official Italy-China Society denounced its activities as provocateurs. The exposure and rejection of such approaches from known Far Right activists was the common response from the pro-China groups. Other identified right-wing infiltrators include Domenico Poili (of Ordine Nuovo) and Alfredo Sestili (of AN) who joined the PCI/ML and created confusion before being identified as provocateur. Claudio Mutti, an Italian protégé of Thiriat and associate of the terrorist Stefano delle Chiaie, adopted the name Lotta di Popolo for his involvement with the Italian-Libyan Friendship Society and a pro-Chinese student group.

Relationships of Thieuart

While some on the right advocated working in left groups, the idea that an ideological alliance between such groups never had any traction in the Marxist-Leninist movement. Research into far right conspiracies has unveiled real actual attempts to manipulated and divert groups in Italy but when the likes of Freda, and the Belgian Jean-Francois Thiriart loom large in the narrative of right wing infiltration, they are not surprisingly on the margins of post 1945  mainstream European fascism, and of zero influence on the Left. Immersion in the intricacies of that covert political world and a critique of its methodology and with a critical appreciation of its findings narrows the perspective. The right’s flirting in a one-sided courtship of the Left is taken at face value rather than treated as the attempted intoxication and manipulation it tactically represents for the far right activists.

Among those recycled as evidence is the activity of Jeune Europe a far-right organization on the margin of the fringe Right, it was never engaged with left-wing parties of any political allegiance. It was a failed enterprise. The claim it “sought a rapprochement with Maoist China in order to oust the Americans from Europe” says nothing about Chinese intentions and actions with regard to the group.[iii] Thiriart attempted in vain to obtain Chinese support for Jeune Europe reflects more upon his geo-political ideas, expressed in Empire de 400 million, than a cultivation by the Chinese. Paeans to communist China appeared with increasing frequency in the pages of JE’s publications. See, for example, die 15 October 1964 issue of Jeune Europe: Organisation Europeenne pour la Formation d’un Cadre Politique—the internal bulletin of JE which was sent exclusively to the organization’s militants—which attacked the idea of an “Atlantic Europe” and argued that Europe had to support Chinese imperialism against Russian and American imperialism. In the 27 October 1964 issue of the same bulletin, he went so far as to praise the development of an atomic bomb by China, presumably as a counterweight to the nuclear monopoly of the United States and the Soviet Union.

Pan Europeanism on the far right had been promoted post-war by marginal failures, the likes of the wash-up British fascist, Oswald Mosley and by Jean Thiriart in Belgium. In October 1965, Thiriart dissolved JE and incorporated the rest of his loyal followers into a new organization, the Parti Communautaire Europeen (PCE). Its’ cocktail of conflicting ideological positions and appearance reflected an eclectic and self-declared “national communism” on the artificial construct of racist-based European identity.

Thiriart had planned strategy on a globe: his 1964 blueprint, Europe – An Empire of 400 Million Men’ saw China as a tactical ally as a means of unsettling the Soviet Union. He Argues that neo-Nazis had a “China Option”, the fantasy sketched out by Thiriat is of Chinese financial assistance so that he could organise anti-American attacks in Europe, with China providing finance and sanctuary for his “guerrilla bands”.  However after setting up this straw man argument, adopted the slogan “Neither Moscow nor Washington” calling for a united European homeland: “The Fourth Reich will be Europe, the Reich of the people from Brest to Bucharest”.

Thiriart had said to develop a relationship with Ceausescu’s Romania, being an admirer of its “national communism”.

His attempted cooperation was at a ‘strategic level’ rather than an approach to the domestic anti-Soviet left. Such musings would have been lost and forgotten if were not for a story repeated by commentators on the extreme right.

MEETING CHOU EN-LAI IN BURCHAREST?

“In its initial phase,” Thiriart recounted, “my conversation with Chou En Lai was but an exchange of anecdotes and memories. At this stage all went well. Chou En-Lai was interested in my studies in Chinese writing and I in his stay in France, which represented for him an enjoyable time of his youth. The conversation then moved to popular armies — a subject that interested both of us. Things started to go downhill when we got to concrete issues. I had to sit through a true Marxist-Leninist catechism class. Chou followed with an inventory of the serious psychological errors committed by the Soviet Union.”

Thiriart tried to persuade Chou En-lai that Europe could be an important partner in a united struggle waged by all the world’s anti-American forces, but he made little headway. He then asked the Chinese foreign minister for financial assistance so that he could establish a revolutionary army to carry out anti-American attacks in Europe. An elite military apparatus of this sort also needed a base outside Europe, and Thiriart hoped that China would provide sanctuary for his guerrilla brigades. A sceptical Chou referred Thiriart to contacts in the Chinese secret service, but these never bore fruit.[iv]

The Russian author Anton Shekhovtsov, in Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir, retells the tale of Thiriart that “despite the rupture with the Chinese” – but his previous sentence says “the collaboration with the Chinese apparently never materialised”, so what was the rupture , a non-existent relationship ? But ignore this contradiction because –  the author asserts , “the PCE and European branches of Jeune Europe collaborated with the Maoists at the end of the 1960s.”  [v]

“Thiriart acted as a liaison between the Chinese Embassy, the Parti communiste Suisse/marxiste-leniniste (Swiss Communist Party/ Marxist-Leninist (PSC/ML)) and the Portugal-based Aginter Press.”

However Bulliard’s organisation was the PSC, its newspaper L’Etincelle; he continued publishing it, from September 9, 1967, under the imprint of Parti Populaire Suisse – PPS. It was not until 1972 that the organisation associated with Nils Andersson, the Organization of Communists of Switzerland, adopted the title Parti Communiste Suisse/Marxistes-Léninistes. (Something is a wry)

Returning to the subject of alleged Chinese assignation with the outer fringes of European neo-fascism, Bale asserts that,

 “In 1966, after making contact with the Beijing government through the intermediary of the Rumanian Departmentul de Informatii Externe (DIE: External Intelligence Department), Thiriart traveled to Bucharest to meet with Zhou Enlai. Shortly thereafter, he allegedly began exchanging information about the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers Europe (SHARPE), and NATO installations in Belgium with Yang Xiaonong, chief of the Parisian bureau of the Xinhua news agency, and Wang Yujiang in Brussels, both of whom were operatives of the Chinese secret service”

Note the use of the adjective: “he allegedly”.  [vi]  In 1962, Yang Xiaonong had became the official Xinhua correspondent in Geneva, causing him to often travel between Paris, Geneva, and Bern, thereby identified as the conduit between the missions in Switzerland and the Embassy in Paris after diplomatic relations between France and China were established in 1964.

Shekhovtsov’s account[vii]  has Thiriart breaking off the collaboration.

The story gets repeated[viii] but no researcher on the Far Right has evidence that tangible cooperation was established; what they have is a story that originates with Thiriat himself,  quoted in De Jeune Europe aux Brigades rouges: anti-americanisme et logique de l’engagement revolutionnaire (Nantes: Ars, 1986 and other editions).

How reliable a creditable witness is he in the absence of collaborating evidence or verifiable details? We know Chou Enlai was on a state visit to Bucharest in 1966 but the rest is speculation and supposition.

In late 1968 the PCE was officially dissolved, after which Thiriart seems to have withdrawn from politics altogether for a number of years, resurfacing with another “ideological transformation” (?) in the 1980s praising the Soviet Union right up to his death in late 1992.

To present the existence of some kind of Thirirat “maoist” movement is gross disinformation and deception. While Thiriart would say  Fidel Castro and Che Guevara were heroes neither Castro nor Che themselves should be blamed : The Left bears no responsibility for the misinterpretations and presentations from the political right as with Franco Freda and other neo-fascist activists in Italy during the late 1960s and the early 1970s of their politics whereas the so-called “nazi-maoists”—assuming that they were not mere provocateurs attempting to disrupt and discredit genuine Maoists with slogans such as “Hitler and Mao united in the struggle”— appropriated symbols and slogans from the radical left, appreciated Mao for what they called his advocacy of an alleged “ascetic warrior mystique”.

There is neither the scope nor focus to delve into the interminable doctrinal disputes amongst, what passes for, fascist intellectuals, advocating an operational alliance. In reality the right-wing activists FAILED to exert any significant influence on the ideas or behaviour of left-wing revolutionaries.[ix]


[i] eg BVD ran the phony Marxist-Leninist Party of the Netherlands, its own newspaper, De Kommunist, written and edited by the secret service. To add authenticity, the party let a handful of other true believers join its otherwise non-existent ranks, telling them that they were part of a network of underground cells. Chinese diplomats in Holland invited the man they knew as Chris Petersen to their mission in The Hague and gave money to help finance a Maoist newspaper secretly edited by the BVD. He was invited for visits to Beijing.

There are US examples: the Ad-Hoc Committee for a Marxist-Leninist Party, the work in Heavy Radicals: The FBI’s Secret War on America’s Maoists (Zero Books, 2015), and A Threat of the First Magnitude—FBI Counterintelligence & Infiltration: From the Communist Party to the Revolutionary Union—1962-1974 (Repeater Books, UK, January 2018). And in Britain, Donal O’Driscoll of the Undercover Research Group writes of the Police Infiltrated of the anti-revisionist Irish National Liberation Solidarity Front (INLSF).

[ii] BBC2 TV three-part TimeWatch documentary on Operation Gladio , part of a post-World War II “Stay Behind” program set up by the CIA and NATO.

[iii] If , or when, access to the relevant Chinese archives are available that judgement could be subject to modification, but in practice there is very little evidence of such intentions (or capabilities) at the time.

[iv] Shekhovtsov (2018) Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir. Abingdon:  Routledge p28

[v]  Ibid Shekhovtsov (2018)

[vi] Bale J.M. (2017) The Darkest Sides of Politics, I : Postwar Fascism, Covert Operations and Terrorism. London: Routledge.

[vii] Sourced to Patrice Chairoff, Dossier néo-nazisme (Paris: Ramsay, 1977), p. 445. (Unseen)

[viii] i.e. Anton Shekhovtsov (2018) Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir. Abingdon:  Routledge and Martin Lee (1997) The Beast Reawakens: Fascism’s Resurgence from Hitler’s Spymasters to Today’s Neo-Nazi Groups and Right-Wing Extremists. London: Little, Brown and Company pp.168- 175.

 In his retelling of the tale, The Beast Reawakens, investigative journalist Martin A. Lee also sources “Right-wing view on foreign affairs,” Patterns of Prejudice, May-June 1967 and C. C. Aronsfeld, “Right-wing flirtation with a Chinese alliance,” Patterns of Prejudice, July-August 1969; “Right-wing over the East,” Patterns of Prejudice. September-October 1968. (Unseen)

[ix] The very opposite consequences occurred with the political defection to the left casually the impression of a web of influence and causality in the connections is created. So referring to Claudio Mutti, a leading figure in Giovane Europa, the Italian branch of the Jeune Europe, as a member of the ‘nazi-maoist’ Organizzazione Lotta di Popolo (Organisation of People’s Struggle) established in 1969 by Serafina Di Luia, a member of the Avanguardia Nazionale connected to the Aginter Press and influenced by Thiriart’s ideas, tries to build an alliance of collaboration in the mind of the reader.

Whereas the consequences was that for some individuals there may have been transformation in their thinking; this in 1971 a founding member of Giovane Europa, Claudio Orsoni would create the Centre for the Study and Application of Maoist Thought. Was that part of the deception? Fascist journalist, Pino Bolzano went onto lead the daily paper of the extreme Left group Lotta Continua. Former associate of Thiriart would join the Marxist-Leninist Italian Communist Party before going on to found the Red Brigades radical leftist organization which was active in the 70s and 80s in Italy. The forementioned Claudio Mutti would form the Italian-Libyan Friendship Organization after Muammar Gaddafi took power in Libya, and later meet Russian demagogue Aleksandr Dugin in the1990s before arranging for Thiriart to visit Russia.


Main Readings

Main sources drawn upon the French-language work of Laurent Frederick (1978) L ‘ Orchestre Noir Paris: Stock. Work based primarily on documents discovered at PIDE and AP headquarters by leftist officers of the MFA Movimento des Forcas Armadas and the Aginter-Press archives then held in Caxias prison.

Bale J.M. (1994) The “Black” Terrorist International: Neo-Fascist Paramilitary Networks and the “Strategy of Tension” in Italy, 1968-1974. Thesis University of California at Berkeley

Bale J.M. (1989) Right-wing terrorists and the Extraparliamentary Left in post-world war Two Europe: Collusion or manipulation. Lobster #18 October 1982:2-18

Christie, Stuart (1984) Stefano Dell Chiale: portrait of a black terrorist. Refract Publication

Ganser, Daniele (2004) NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe. London: Routledge

Lovell, Julia (2019) Maoism: A Global History. London: Bodley Head

Lee, Martin (1997) The Beast Reawakens: Fascism’s Resurgence from Hitler’s Spymasters to Today’s Neo-Nazi Groups and Right-Wing Extremists. London: Little, Brown and Company

Richards, Sam (n.d.) Against Lies, Provocations & Infiltration. Unpublished MS

Shekhovtsov, Anton (2018) Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir. London: Routledge

Special Carabinieri Operational Grouping – Eversion Department

Criminal proceedings against Rognoni Giancarlo and others . Annotation on psychological and unorthodox warfare activities,(psychological and low density warfare ) carried out in Italy between 1969 and 1974 through the “AGINTER PRESSE” . Rome: July 23, 1996.

[Original : RAGGRUPPAMENTO OPERATIVO SPECIALE CARABINIERI – Reparto Eversione –

Procedimento penale nei confronti di ROGNONI Giancarlo ed altri.

Procedimento penale sulla Strage di Piazza della Loggia – Nuovo Rito.

Annotazione sulle attività di guerra psicologica e non ortodossa, (psychological and low density warfare) compiute in Italia tra il 1969 e il 1974 attraverso l’ “AGINTER PRESSE”.


As reported by the American alternative news service,  LIBERATION News Service (#677) February 12, 1975

The Formation of Aginter Press

But the Portuguese documents tell a different story. According to them, Aginter was formed in 1962 largely by former members of the German Gestapo and the French Secret Army Organization (OAS). With strong links to PIDE, Aginter quickly offered its agents courses in sabotage, espionage and terrorism. These “skills” were learned primarily from their experience in the OAS during the war for Algerian independence in the late fifties and early sixties.

After 1965, with the help of PIDE funding, the agency began a coordinated effort to infiltrate European left and extreme left movements.

At the time, their activities were concentrated in Italy, France, Switzerland and Germany.

According to the archives in Lisbon, Aginter also developed into a recruitment and training program for rightist terrorists and mercenaries operating throughout the world. The documents say Aginter provided lessons in sabotage and counterinsurgency programs, as well as a manual of instructions on how to resist interrogation.

Aginter was involved, as well, in counterrevolutionary activities in the 1960s in many African countries such as Guinea-Bissau, the Congo (now independent Zaire), Gabon, Senegal and Angola.

The documents also link the former press agency to a network of European neo-Nazi organizations currently active throughout Europe such as Europe Action, the Black Order (an Italian organization with suspected involvement in a recent conspiracy for an ultra-rightist takeover of the Italian government), and the New European Order.

And the archives are said to name several high ranking political figures in France and Germany as involved in these organizations.

In the most recent development, dozens of rightists met in Lyons, France, December 27, 28 and 29, 1974, at a quiet congress of the “New European Order.” They represented fascist organizations in France, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Denmark and Latin America. The meeting also included Czechoslovakian and Yugoslavian exiles, according to the New York Times report.

Among the participants was Yves Guillou, former director of Aginter Press.

“New European Order” was founded in 1951 by former Nazis who escaped execution at the end of World War II. Its founders still head the organization. They are Gaston Amaudruz, former Gestapo agent now living in Lausanne, Switzerland, a Swedish Nazi named Per Engdahl, and Maurice Bardeche from France.

A declaration issued after the congress demanded the immediate release of Nazi war criminal Rudolf Hess, still in jail in West Germany. The Order says Hess has been “imprisoned for more than thirty years for having wanted to re-establish peace, along with numerous comrades who fought for Europe.”

Among others mentioned by the Order’s declaration was Jacques Vasseur who, according to Le Monde, was well known to the French resistance as a collaborator with the Gestapo in France.

Following the conference came a report from Italian magistrates revealing a heavy arms traffic from Marseille to Africa, controlled by “MGM,” an Italy-based import-export agency, controlled by European fascists.

Formed in the early ’70s, its alleged purpose is “the acquistion and sale of all commercial products,” but the organization, it has been revealed, is mainly involved in buying heavy military equipment including tanks, bomber planes, missiles and submachine guns. The Italian investigation has linked several Italian participants at the fascist congress in Lyons with MGM.

MGM apparently buys arms from French, Swiss and Belgian manufacturers, through two middlemen, Gilbert Lapeyrie, a former Gestapo agent, and Cesar Dauwe. The arms, then, have been primarily sold in Africa. Dauwe was arrested and temporarily freed when his involvement with an arms shipment bound for Ghana was discovered.

“What is particularly disturbing in this affair,” wrote the French paper, Liberation, recently, “is that fascists can control a flow of arms of such importance and particularly to Africa. You can count those who are capable of selling these kinds of weapons on the fingers of one hand. And when you understand the French and American interests in this area, it’s clear that this traffic couldn’t take place without their knowledge.”


Just read……thoughts of Dr. Li

Reading a memoir such as this is revealing about what matters to the author as these thoughts of Li recalls his time when the served as personal physician to the Chinese leader, Mao Zedong.

Li claimed that as he served as Mao’s personal physician for the last 22 years of the chairman’s life, that during this time he became a close confidant, although there is a dispute about when he was his personal physician and what kind of access that gave him. His book The Private Life Of Chairman Mao was published in 1994, almost twenty years after Mao died. Its reception into the arsenal of ideological denegation of the Chinese revolutionary experience, typified by the headline impression from the New York Times review, ‘The Tyrant Mao, as Told by His Doctor”, was  characteristic of the tone and stance of the majority of press reviews given to the book.

The book was controversial, in part because of just how salacious it is. Dr Li describes an opulent elite lifestyle, diverse details of Mao’s personality, sexual proclivities, party politics and personal habits were included in an account, which according to him, Mao’s private life saw him spend his time  conspiring, reading and being sexually promiscuous .

Based on his recollection of journals he had kept, then he had burned during the Cultural Revolution, and a decade later Li began in 1977 to write intermittingly, reconstructed his notes from memory, producing more than 20 volumes of notes.  These new notebooks help him write his memoir. Dr Li, who lived in the USA from 1988, had his manuscript made into a book for Random House. Along with the Random House publication, a Chinese language edition was released by the Chinese Times Publishing Company of Taipei.

Hong Yung Lee ‘s critical reading of  Dr Li’s book expressed some of the concerns that comes with any critical reading of an account that claims to be privy to Mao at his most unguarded moments. [i]

Li Zhisui claimed he still remembers verbatim conversations with Mao almost 20 years later “(b)ecause Mao’s language was so colorful and vivid and deeply etched in my brain” and, “My survival and that of my family had always depended on Mao’s words; I could not forget them.” [ii]

Hong joins others doubtful of such recollection perfectly-recreated dialogue particularly as he relied on his seventy-something year-old memory for events that happened 20-30 years previously. It just defies belief: what conversations were you having in 1999?

“Li’s source materials, his diaries, were burned in 1966, yet he asks the reader to accept verbatim dialogues as well as minutely observed details of events he could not have personally witnessed.”  Hong Yung Lee advises, “Nor can Li qualify as an unbiased observer when it is obvious that he allowed few standards, political or ethical, to interfere with his role as Mao’s physician, confidante, and servant.”

The New York Times reviewer Richard Bernstein judged it presented few new revelations about the political or diplomatic history of Maoist China and observed there may never be absolute corroboration of the book’s intimate, candid account and its many anecdotes.

Evidently China specialists like Professor Andrew J. Nathan (author of the controversial  The Tiananmen Papers, and other works) and Anne Thurston, who is a very well-known China academic, had no issue with relying on Dr Li’s book obviously believes that the sources are good and questioned validity misplaced enquiries. Still reliance, particularly when it comes to quoting Mao, is problematic as suggested in a generally positive review when the American Foreign Affairs Magazine[iii], it cautions against using the personal details of the book to draw general lessons on the nation and revolution.

The readability of the story is said to owe much to the editing process overseen by Dr Thurston, yet this story-telling with unsourced quotes and a style and tone that seemed clouded and determined by a growing dislike of the subject in the book’s repetitive emphasis on Mao’s personal habits .The general tenor of an unflattering picture of the Chinese leader, as well as the infighting and internal politics of the CCP, are seen as strengthens in other reviews. Whereas critical engagement may see a diminishing compelling reading as the narrative progresses.

Although according to the Christian Science Monitor contributor and there is no hidden agenda here,

“As Mao Zedong’s personal physician, Dr. Li Zhisui had a uniquely privileged view of the chairman and his often cruel and barbarous government. Dr. Zhisui exposes Mao’s personal flaws and oddities, as well as the true dynamics of his Communist party, which was often divided.”

This reader’s impression is that one learns more about the author than the subject. Individual dairies are the recorded subjective perceptions that provide an angle on events that tells us more about the author then really alters the record of history. Memoirs can be useful in conjunction with other culminated evidence but that requires a far more rigorous approach than employed in the production of Li’s account. He had set out to “rewrite his life story” when he embarked upon and favourable western reviewers thought his book represents a reasonable effort to record his experiences. Given the nature of the book is memoir rather than history, it should be addressed as partial and contested. Clearly that required objectivity to allow some reliability in the account is lacking.

How trustworthy is the colour and details he provides when much of the commentary is not with Mao’s “private life” at all, but rather deals with the situation in China as a whole and its effect on Dr. Li. In offering a portray of life in the elite atmosphere of Group One and Mao’s household, Li ‘s insider view is partial and tempered by his actual role.

Dr Li needed to be reminded of the Hippocratic Oath. His ‘‘back office’ account filled with far from exemplary examples of his own behaviour.  The oath is the earliest expression of medical ethics in the Western world, establishing several principles of medical ethics which remain of paramount significance today. In writing his book, he failed to apply the injunction that “I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know.”

 Li made for a poor communist. His own account conforms to the evidence of policy differences evolving into two-line struggle within the Party and his responses reliably marks him out as ‘a capitalist roader’ that Mao had warned against, seeing socialism as a means to a limited end: making China rich and powerful (p377). Nor was Li an honest communist, by his own account disillusioned from 1960 onwards, he poses as a confidant of Mao, and amid the political struggles Li’s guiding light seems to have been: “I had to survive, and self-interest required me to remain silent.” (p405) [iv]

With excuse, excuse, justification, excuse, rationalization and half-hearted self-criticism. The overwhelming takeaway is a sense of Dr. Li’s timidity and conventionality:

“”I never said anything roughly or straightforwardly,” Dr. Li continued. ”In other words, if you worked for Mao, you had to disobey your own conscience. You can never say anything as you think it. You have, first of all, to think what Mao will say.”

More than once, the author states,

I had tried to escape from Mao’s circle so many times, and always Mao had pulled me back. Now I was trapped, with no hope of leaving. 

However the reality was that staff turn-over over the twenty two years of his service saw others go on to other prestigious posts elsewhere. The reader realises that “so many” escape attempts were really just him asking a superior to transfer him to another post.

His account contains a portrayal of intimacy and engagement that attempts to build the story of someone who, as they say, was inside the room. The narrative of events in Chinese politics offered in the book by and large confirms what has already been known. The author tells his story as if he was an “eyewitness” to many important political events as his personal memories are interwoven with public knowledge.

Frederick Teiwes, an American academic wrote that despite Li’s extensive claims regarding the politics behind the Cultural Revolution, he was actually “on the fringe” of the events taking place in the Chinese government. He went on to criticise the book as being overtly and polemically “anti-Mao”, being “uncritical” in its outlook and being “dependent on the official sources” to create a picture of the revolution. He characterised Li’s book as offering nothing new but “recycling widely available information and interpretations”. [v]

His court history with rival secretaries and officials vying for influence is reminiscent of Robert Graves’ I, Claudius & Claudius the God, an entertainment using a historical backstory. The unfortunate back-cover endorsements are of Li as “Mao’s Boswell”[vi] from The Irish Times, and “as the Tacitus of Modern China”[vii] in the judgement of the eminent historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, aka Lord Dacre, who initially authenticated the faked volumes of The Hitler Dairies for the Sunday Times.[viii]

There is no scholarly foundation or structure for Li’s account. He writes without acknowledgement to source when apparently using official published documents in his account. Dr. Li’s credibility is damaged by the way he narrates certain events, when he is relaying second hand conversation where he was not present. Unsourced use of innumerable quotations, some of which are from Chinese official documents means the distinction is blurred between his own experiences and what became known later or modified in the editorial process, but serves to enhance his political acumen. The notes provided by China scholar, Anne F. Thurston, supplement, rather than substantiate assertions made in the text. There is no bibliography of material that may have been consulted in the reconstruction of the memoirs of the physician.

The narrative provides Li’s political analysis with accompanying insight to personal motivation and Olympian character judgements on those around him. Schizophrenia crops up as a diagnosis for people he does not like among the many rocky relationships he reports upon. Yet how reliable  can Li’s personal assessments of how Mao handled the personalities and disputes of the party members that surrounded him and Li relationships with those he easily describes as the hypochondriac Jiang Qing,  and the physically (and possibly mentally) unstable Lin Biao?

If Mao repeatedly tells you to read an article and pay attention to important national issues it is hardly an endorsement of your political acumen and far from being an endorsement of being a trusted confident, especially when Li states more than once that, “Mao never really trusted me again.” After Mao discovered he was being secretly recorded in his household, and was hence wary of the loyalty of his personal staff according to Li. However that staff were not replaced enmasse. Would Mao really repeatedly ask his doctor to take on the responsibilities of political secretary? I don’t know, but why would he trust Li’s political nonce? There are incidents recalled by Li that suggests his own unwitting agency in China’s national politics such as the recommendation of a Peking Opera to Mao that inadvertently sparks the involvement of Jiang Qing in cultural politics (p402). The narrative is peppered with such self-aggrandisements

A view from his literary collaborator is that, 

“Dr Li was not an easy subject. In my experience, older Chinese men rarely are. Their sense of status gets in the way, and the quality of self-reflection somehow shuts off. He was not a storyteller. He was discursive, rambling, self-pitying, often refusing, whether deliberately or stubbornly, to understand the thrust of my questions. He was not greatly concerned with accuracy, insisting that this was his book, based on his memories. Leave it to the historians to correct, he said. He was contemptuous of American China scholars, whom he claimed never to have read. They do not understand China, he said. Nor, he alleged, did most Chinese. The monopoly on truth was Li’s. “ (Thurston) Hong Yung Lee observed, ”His accounts are conspicuous for their absence of meaningful self-criticism. Sure he occasionally says he should have done something differently, but he doesn’t ever seem sincere.  “

Li Zhisui’s memoirs are an act of revenge. He despises the others in Mao’s personal staff, code named Group One, ‘uneducated peasants’ who had served Mao so well, and he is determined to expose their guilt. Yet Li served Mao no less well and was often guilty of the same offences of which he accused them, the gifts, the specially arranged shopping sprees in the midst of a nationwide depression, the elaborate banquets in the midst of famine commented Dr.Thurston. While attributing motive and positions to people, there is no discussion of the clash of ideals, the policy differences and the disagreements over national priorities that are often assumed to have shaped the contours of Chinese politics. Instead there is the lazy meme of the Imperial Court, Mao reduced to the figure of emperor surrounded by nothing more than selfish personal ambitions and lust for political power. Li’s place of boundless decadence, licentiousness, selfishness, relentless toadying and cutthroat political intrigue is familiar in classical and imperial literature. Subsumed in that general picture are the good deeds done without fanfare, that other accounts may highlight: aspects of Mao’s private life that includes use of his own wealth to build a swimming pool, financial gifts to other people’, refusal of family privileges,  a sceptical reception of official reports, embarking upon study and fact-finding tours, all these pepper the text.

Others who worked with Mao and numerous academics have contradicted these mostly negative depictions of Mao. Many consider Mao was a more complicated persona and the book as lacking context, picking and choosing quotes, disregarding contrary evidence, and being otherwise incessantly biased towards depicting Mao in a bad light.

Mao-and-Zhang-Yufeng

Those who for the most part wanted to believe the worst about Mao’s private life, may uncritically accept this depiction of Mao although numerous people who also worked in proximity to Mao have written challenging Li’s story stating that the book was anything from an exaggeration to simply being false, rebuttals in which they believe that much of it was fabricated by Li himself and by his English language translators.

The original manuscript was written by Li, translated from his native Chinese into English by Professor Tai Hung-chao, and then edited by China scholar Dr Anne F. Thurston. She was well suited [ix]to the collaboration and wrote of her engagement with the project focusing, not uncritically, on Li as “a retainer in Mao’s court”. [x]

The disputes and criticism of the publication process, the alterations to the Chinese version of the book, are covered by Q.M. DeBorja and Xu L. Dong rebuttal to Random House’s 1994 biography of Chairman Mao. On the matter of translating, one instance, in the English edition, Li is recorded as saying “During our talk in Chengdu…” whereas in the Chinese edition, the literal translation is “Mao stated in his speech at the Chengdu meeting…” obviously these statements actually have different meanings.

Publication of his account provoked indignation in Chinese language responses that did not circulate as widely in the English speaking world. It did not produce the academic attention of the 2005 biography Mao: The Unknown Story written by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday [xi]. There was Manufacturing History – Sex, Lies and Random House’s Memoirs of Mao’s Physician by Q.M. DeBorja and Xu L. Dong [xii]. This shreds Li’s account, challenged on many of the allusions and details he produces. It raises criticism of the discrepancies between the different languages editions produced (with some episodes excluded from the Chinese language edition published in Taiwan excused on the grounds of cultural and political sensitivities).

Also challenging Li’s account, a Chinese language book published in Hong Kong, Lishi de Zhenshi: Mao Zedong Shenbian Gongzuo Renyuan de Zhengyan (The Truth of History: Testimony of the personnel who had worked with Mao Zedong), were people who had known Mao personally: his personal secretary Lin Ke, his personal doctor from 1953 to 1957, Xu Tao and his chief nurse from 1953 to 1974, Wu Xujun. As set out in detail on Wikepedia, they argued that Li did not only not know Mao very well, but that he presented an inaccurate picture of him in his book. Several people have questioned the authenticity of the book. A statement protesting that many of the claims made in Li’s book were false was issued soon after its publication, signed by 150 people who had personally known or worked with Mao. They were not as easily believed as Dr. Li.

Overall, repetitive in salacious detail, it becomes something of a slog to finish Li’s tale. Now read once, returned to the bookshelves to remain untouched.


[i] The Los Angeles Times (February 19, 1995

[ii] The Private Life of Chairman Mao. Arrow Books 1986 p.xvii

[iii] Published By: Council on Foreign Relations. Vol. 73, No. 6 (Nov. – Dec., 1994), pp. 150-154

[iv] Even his literary collaborator Anne F. Thurston entitled an article on the subject “The Politics of Survival: Li Zhisui and the Inner Court “. The China Journal, No. 35 (Jan., 1996), pp. 97-105

[v] The Tragedy of Lin Biao: Riding the Tiger during the Cultural Revolution 1966-1971 (1996) 179-180 cited on Wikepedia.

[vi] Referencing  James Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson

[vii] Referencing the classical study Histories by the barrister-historian Tacitus, writing some thirty years after the events he describes.

[viii] He had second thoughts before publication, the concerns of eminent historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, aka Lord Dacre, about the diaries’ authenticity were over-ridden by newspaper owner Rupert Murdoch with the immortal words: “Fuck Dacre. Publish”. Trevor-Roper did not keep quiet about his doubts. “I regret that the normal method of historical verification has been sacrificed to the perhaps necessary requirements of a journalistic scoop,” he said. When the forgery was exposed, proprietor Rupert Murdoch is supposed to have shrugged, “We’re in the entertainment business”.  The Sunday Times retained 20,000 of the 60,000 new readers it acquired when it published its “scoop”.

See https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/diary-of-the-hitler-diary-hoax

[ix] Focused on political reform in China, Dr Thurston was the author of “a study of the Cultural Revolution based on interviews with people who had been its victims. The book that resulted—Enemies of the People: The Ordeal of China’s Intellectuals during the Great Cultural Revolution—is still my favorite.”

Other works include

  • A Chinese Odyssey: The Life and Times of a Chinese Dissident (1991)
  • Don’t Force Us to Lie: The Struggle of Chinese Journalists in the Reform Era
  • China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC
  • Enemies of the People: The Ordeal of the Intellectuals in China’s Great Cultural Revolution, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987
  • with Gyalo Thondup, The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong: The Untold Story of My Struggle for Tibet (2015)

I often describe myself as the China counterpart to the narrator in Iris Murdoch’s novel, The Philosopher’s Pupil, who says “my role in life is listening to people’s stories.” My role in life is to listen to Chinese people tell their stories—and then to relate those stories here in the West in a way that makes sense to both us and the storytellers themselves.

  • From her 2005 CV while Associate Professor on the China Studies Program, The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies

[x] The Politics of Survival: Li Zhisui and the Inner Court, The China Journal Volume 35 Jan.1996

[xi]  Was Mao Really a Monster: The Academic Response to Chang and Halliday’s “Mao: The Unknown Story” (London: Routledge 2010) 

[xii] Published by China Study group in New York in 1996 and available  from https://archive.org/details/manufacturing-history-xulin-dong

Ian Greig (1924-1995)

Died aged 70 at Chichester, West Sussex on October 12, 1995.

Long gone, Gerald Ian Greig has faded in the consciousness of many but he played his part in maintaining an obsessive rabid anti-communism that poisoned political life in Britain. A sympathetic obituary noted, “Greig was identified by those unsympathetic to his views as a fully paid up member of the ”reds under the bed” school of thought.”  His professional life ending as Deputy Director of the Foreign Affairs Research Institute, a right-wing “think tank” policy group that focused on the communist threat, and his written output would only substantiate that characterisation.

Born in West London, October 26, 1924, he travelled the route of public school, army, and political journalism familiar in many upper middle class life stories. [i]

In 1942, upon leaving the incubator of Chandos House at Stowe independent school in Buckingham, Greig was commissioned at the age of 18 in a cavalry regiment seeing service in Holland after the D-Day landings. He remained in the Army after the war and time spent in Palestine was said to have stimulated “his lifelong fascination with terrorism and its methods.”

 After a spell as a Conservative constituency, he went into journalism. His informal political contacts were on the right of Britain’s political right. Much of his written output under the name ‘Ian Greig’ had sources  drawn from a reading of public documents and statements published by communists, what is described as “official reports of western Governments” (including the briefing reports of the  small circulation newsletters) and “the statements of defectors who actually took part in the events described”.

In 1961 he was a founding organiser of the Monday Club, a hard right pressure group, separate organisational from the Conservative Party but populated with its members, and others from the Far Right. The thirty-six year old Greig served as Membership Secretary until 1969.

The Monday Club was a reaction (and reactionary), dubious about the rapid decolonisation of Africa foreshadowed in Macmillan’s ”wind of change” speech to the South African Parliament, which illiberal Tories saw as the last straw. The club stated that Macmillan had “turned the Party Left” and attracted Conservatives who looked for leadership to the Marquis of Salisbury.

 They were in that racist colonialist way disparaging about the former colonies’ ability to rule themselves satisfactorily and worried about the opportunities this offered the communists to further their strategic aims.  Ian Greig’s Monday club opposed what it described as the “premature” independence of Kenya, and the breakup of the Central African Federation, which was the subject of its first major public meeting in September 1961. It was fundamentally opposed to decolonisation, and defended white minority rule in South Africa and Rhodesia. Or as the obit in the Glasgow Herald politely put it: The group published papers on South Africa and Rhodesia and remained well disposed to the Smith regime after it declared UDI in 1965.

The soft-pedalling of Greig’s opinions continued with a reference that:

Certainly he shared the views of those like retired General Sir Frank Kitson that more should be done to prepare the armed forces to cope with terrorism.

In fact Ian Greig was a former Senior Executive of the Institute for the Study of Conflict,[ii]  a right-wing propaganda group established by Brian Crozier in 1970. It ran until 1989 and produced a series of reports on terrorism, guerrilla war, union activism and other topics. Institute offered professional and authoritative-sounding analyses, both for the general public and for more specialised audiences of academics, policy makers, police officials, and military commanders. It provided respectability to right-wing and repressive policies, primarily through its dissemination of academic presented studies.[iii] It also developed connections with other right-wing organisations and offered training on ‘subversives’ to police and the military.

 His life was spent around the networks of power, lobbying, public relations and the communications activities that operate as keyboard warriors in the shadows, away from accountability the various “think tanks” of AIMS and Common Cause and others were outlets for his work. Greig’s prolific published themes reflected the anxieties of a section of the western political class as seen in an incomplete bibliography of books and briefings compiled from Foreign Affairs Publishing – postal address one-time above the shops at Arrow house, 27-31 Whitehall, SW1A 2BY. These were reviewed in foreign affairs journals, bought by the university’s libraries (see Trinity College Library Dublin) and included on undergraduate reading lists even today, and of course, digitalised.

The first to gain attention was The Assault on The West published in 1968 / 14 editions published between 1968 and 1974 in English and Chinese (Taipei: Youth Cultural Enterprise (1974))

Greig’s book The Assault on the West (1968) spelled out the dangers which he believed insufficiently alert western democracies faced from expansionist Communism aided by those engaged on internal subversion. It carried an approving preface by a close friend of Sir Alec Douglas-Home who shared his political views on the dangers of Communist expansion.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home (1903 -1995), served as Foreign Secretary then Prime Minister from October 1963 to October 1964. Narrowly defeated in the 1964 UK general election, Douglas-Home resigned the party leadership in July 1965. Noted for his forcefully expressed anti-communist beliefs, Home’s description of it as “a careful and detailed analysis of the multifarious ways in which they deal in subversion” reflects the cold war mentality that there was only one side as the problem. The focus on a grand narrative of expansion and subversion discounted western policies, the rhetoric of roll back and containment, and actions that created conditions for international mistrust and tension. The imperialist self-interest in his anti-communist crusading was subtly acknowledged:

The advertised aim of this “study of communist political warfare techniques [was] to present a general survey of the strategy and tactics employed by International Communism in its bid for world domination…..The main thrust of the communist offensive is now being centred upon attempts to gain control or influence over the developing countries of Asia, Africa and South America in which areas of the world the West’s vital sources of raw material lie.”

Work that followed reflected the angst of the age when resistance and liberation at home and abroad threatened the status quo, when linking arms and running down the Strand was an act of sedition.


Today’s Revolutionaries: a study of some prominent revolutionary movements and methods of sedition in Europe and the United States

14 editions published between 1970 and 1971 in 3 languages

Subversion: Propaganda, Agitation and the Spread of People’s War (1973)

5 editions published in 1973 

The Communist Challenge to Africa: an Analysis of Contemporary Soviet, Chinese and Cuban Policies (1977) Foreign Affairs Publishing now Richmond, Surrey based. 26 editions published in 1977 

Lord Chalfont’s endorsement in the book reflects part of the nexus of interlocking like=minded people and groups on the anti-communist landscape that sought to bolster and underpin the ideological authority that defended the West by attacking the East. He agrees that “many Western observers have come to the conclusion, reached some time ago by Chinese foreign policy experts, that the Soviet Union is engaged upon a programme of global expansion – that the Russians are, in effect, the new imperialists.” [A topic for a different posting]

According to the distorted and selective worldview  of people like Greig, the West’s rush to decolonize left an open door for the world’s new colonizing super-power – Russia. When Russia and, to a lesser extent China, moved through that door, the stage was set for the chaos and bloodshed that has become part and parcel of life on the continent. Written to make it plain that “foreign Communism is using the “liberation” of Africa as a stepping stone to its self-proclaimed goal of world domination.” South Africa, South West Africa and Rhodesia are clearly obstacles on the way to this goal – obstacles that Moscow would very much like removed – which was why, in the face of the national liberation armed struggle such racist white minority rule was defended by so many in Greig’s Monday Club and beyond.

Greig’s dire warning continued in numerous articles, through the Foreign Affairs Research Institute newsletter and in East-West Digest, of the threat to the West. Throughout 1977 churning out

  • East-West Digest: ‘Some recent developments affecting the defence of the Cape route’
  • Foreign Affairs Research Institute paper: ‘Moscow’s control over Mozambique and Angola’.
  • Foreign Affairs Research Institute paper: ‘Barbarism and communist intervention in the Horn of Africa’ by Ian Greig.
  • Foreign Affairs Research Institute paper and East-West Digest: ‘The need to safeguard NATO’s strategic raw materials from Africa’.
  • Foreign Affairs Research Institute paper: ‘The escalating Soviet and Cuban involvement in Africa’ by Ian Greig.

Africa: Soviet Action and Western Inaction (1978)

Iran and the lengthening Soviet shadow (1978)

The Ultra-Left Offensive Against Multinational Companies: Moscow’s Call for World Trade Union Unity (1979) 9 editions published between 1978 and 1980

The continuing crisis in Iran (1979) with James Philips

The security of Gulf oil (1980)

The need to respond to Soviet military pressure in the Third World (1980)

Soviet bloc activities in Africa (1980)

The emerging nature of the Soviet grand design (1980)

A new shadow falls on the Gulf (1981)

They mean what they say : a compilation of Soviet statements on ideology, foreign policy and the use of military force (1981) 7 editions published in 1981 

East Germany’s continuing offensive in the third world (1982)

The extent of Soviet support for African “liberation movements” revealed: report to the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, 1982.

Soviet global power projection at the third world (1982)

The police under attack (1986) published by AIMs for Industry , an anti-trade union group , associated with Michael Ivens, in defence of free enterprise and freedom, publishers of the red scare material like  Reds under the Bed, Aims of Industry (January 1974)

Terrorism: a brief survey of the extent and nature of the threat from terrorist groups in Europe [and] in the Middle East (1987) published by Common Cause

The Second World War and Northern Ireland (1990)  published by Friends of the Union founded in 1986 by 16 Tory MPs and eight peers to maintain the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The organisation was wound up in 2006

Greig’s career across the gamut of right-wing causes marks him out as yesteryear’s shadow warrior upholding the Unionist cause, he wrote several pamphlets on Northern Ireland, some dealing with the influence of ultra-left groups.


[i] ) Ian Greig (Obituary), Glasgow Herald 4 November 1995. 

[ii]) Its history and operations quite exposed, and studied eg Michaels, J. H. (2014). The Heyday of Britain’s Cold War Think Tank: Brian Crozier and the Institute for the Study of Conflict, 1970–79. In Transnational Anti-Communism and the Cold War (pp. 146-160). Palgrave Macmillan

iii)  Including Bertil Haggman’s 1975, Sweden’s Maoist “subversives”: a case study. Conflict studies, no. 58

Red and Green , an Irish Maoist Bloom?

There has been a red thread running through modern revolutionary nationalism that traces its legacy to James Connolly. The latest incarnation , operating mainly through Anti Imperialist Action Ireland , Irish Socialist Republicans draw consciously upon the Irish revolutionary tradition seeking first to complete the unfinished revolutionary tasks of 1916.

It is the perspective proclaimed by James Connolly

“If you remove the English Army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle., unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts will be in vain. England will still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs”

     For National Liberation & Socialist Revolution

Anti Imperialist Action Ireland describes itself as an all Ireland Socialist Republican mass organisation.

Our position is that Ireland is both a colony and a semi-colony. It is a colony in that the British government forcibly occupy six counties of Ireland while maintaining indirect control of the remaining 26 counties.”

Adhering to the position made popular since the Belfast Agreement of April 1998, that “The British have worked for decades to move Republicans to a constitutional rather than a Revolutionary position.”

Operating at the margins of the broader republican nationalist continuum, the Irish Socialist Republicans maintain a minority left communist maximalist position echoing intransigent pronouncements expressed in the Republican movement in the past.

Reformism, Revisionism and Electoralism are the tools of our enemies to keep our class exploited and oppressed and must be rejected….The only dealings Revolutionary Irish Republicans should have with the British government is to dictate terms of a British withdrawal.”. 

As a class-based organisation, AIA is looking to build upon that Irish revolutionary tradition based on working class militancy and the perspective of what William Morris saw as “when class-robbery is abolished, every man will reap the fruits of his labour.” (forgive the aged gender pronoun) That overtly socialist foundation to its republican politics distinguishes the AIA current from the reformist and bourgeois elements in the nationalist continuum.

Play your part in finishing the business of 1916.

AIA, formed winter 2017, argues the issues directly facing the Irish working class flow from partition and British imperialist occupation, this the primary contradiction in Ireland and dictates the struggle for national liberation (the end to partition of the Six Counties) and Socialist Revolution is primary.

 We build on the revolutionary tradition and ideology of Irish Socialist Republicanism, first laid down by James Connolly, as the inextinguishable lamp to guide the feet of the Irish Workers to victory. With Connolly, we follow the Irish Citizen Army and uphold the idea that the Working Class must have our own fighting and political organisations. Like the Citizen Army we hold that there is ‘but one ideal – an Ireland ruled, and owned, by Irish men and women, sovereign and independent from the centre to the sea, and flying its own flag outward over all the oceans.’   

What began as a small organisation with a core of experienced activists has developed, in that short space of time, into an All Ireland Socialist Republican Mass Organisation, with a growing membership of Revolutionary Youth across the country. [Macradh- ISR Youth established at Easter 2019] A new generation born after the Good Friday surrender learning the ‘Fenian Faith’ from veterans of the struggle.

ISR boasts having an organised presence in every city in the Occupied Six Counties…. As Irish Socialist Republicans, as Irish Marxist Revolutionaries, for ultimate victory over British imperialism we understand that it is necessary to continue to engage our forces within the class struggle and we must see this struggle to its bitter end. 

To smash the class system we need to build a united broad front of militant left republicans, socialists and solid community activists, we continue to unite with those progressives and the masses who have committed to fight imperialism. 

Key priorities for Irish Socialist Republicans

The organisation identifies three sectors to concentrate work on:

  1. Irish Socialist Republicans reiterate our commitment to waging the class struggle and combating and resisting the enemies of the working class, be it the exploitative employers, landlords, or imperialist vultures that prey on our communities.  Throughout the course of 2021 we will step up our activism to resist evictions, build revolutionary trade unions and fight for Public Housing.
  2. Our activists played a leading role in the fight against Britain’s Far Right in Ireland and their efforts to gain a foothold for fascism in our Country…..extend solidarity to all who mobilised under the leadership of Anti Fascist Action Ireland and we look forward to standing beside you….. uphold the tried and tested policy of no platform. ……
  3. ISR are working for an Anti Imperialist Broad Front to lead the struggle for Nationalist Liberation and Socialist Revolution…..All Ireland Anti Fascist Resistance

It has begun to spread its message in social media with postings as
Marxism-Leninism-Maoism Ireland on Facebook, and traditional print medium through stickers and production of the bi-lingual magazine The Socialist Republican. This aims to encourage discussion and debate among the Republican Base and to act as a resource for Revolutionary theory and practice. The first edition of a self-advertised MLM Theoretical Journal , An Ghrian Dhearg appeared in 2020  with a main feature on “Lessons from Loughgall”.[i]

The organisation acknowledges its engagement in public activity such as

  • Symbolic actions…

To mark the 40th Anniversary of the launch of the 1980 Hunger Strike, Anti Imperialist Action renamed Merrion Road in Dublin that houses the UK Embassy, as Bóthar Breandan MacAodha/ Brendan Hughes Road, and the annual ongoing Poppy Watch Patrols whereby Anti Imperialist Action members confiscated “Brit Imperialist Poppy Wreaths”, as in Bray, County Wicklow, and burned them.

  • Campaigning on working class issues …

Anti Imperialist Action in Dublin have launched a new Revolutionary Housing Action Campaign and like the Land League of old, we are fighting for the 3F’s: Fair Rents 2. Fuck Evictions and 3. Funding Public Housing

  • And for political rights….

Stop the Extradition of Liam Campbell Campaign. In May 2009, he was arrested following the issue of a European Arrest Warrant at the behest of the Lithuanian authorities, where he was wanted in connection with a gun running plot which saw his brother Michael arrested. Campbell remained in prison for four years and was released in 2013 following the decision of Belfast Recorders Court to deny Campbell’s extradition to Lithuania. 

  • Commemorating Ireland’s rich revolutionary history with

Pickets honouring Ireland’s patriotic dead e.g.  Annual candlelit vigil for Vol. Kevin Barry at the GPO, grave-side commemorations and remembrance for former patriotic fighters for Ireland. It planning includes this year’s 40th anniversary of the Hunger Strike campaign.

Static demonstration solidarity with Pickets in support of Irish and International Political Prisoners, take solidarity action on the streets on campaigns highlighted by Maoists worldwide: release of Comrade Amhad Sa’adat, the imprisoned General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, of Chairman Gonzalo, the leader of the Communist Party of Peru (PCP) of Leonard Peltier of the American Indian Movement and of Georges Abdallah, the Lebanese Communist. [ii]

Leaning to Maoism

Their publications and social media utterances are peppered with maoist terminology and references and more overt advocacy that identifies a current of thinking with militant republican  nationalism last seen in Cork in the 1960s.[iii]

For ultimate victory against our enemies we have initiated the correct policies and have put in place well planned militant Marxism – Leninism – Maoism as our scientific revolutionary ideology that has proven correct in many parts of the world.[iv]

Connections to developing MLM resources e.g.  Its activities and statements reproduced on Maoist website like the news site, Redspark [v] and the related publishing house, Foreign Language Press produced a collection of speeches “Revolutionary Writings” by Seamus Costello, the INLA Chief of Staff assassinated October 1977 by the Official IRA, in its “Colorful Classics” Collection.[vi] 

AIA reciprocates the signs of solidarity reproducing statements and reports from the Maoist environs on its website, such as the 2020 international 1st of May declaration “Proletarians of all countries, unite! Cast away the illusions and launch into fight!”, published on a German Gonzaloist site.  This call to arms aimed squarely at the Maoist milieu.[vii] Furthermore its public association tends to be linking to the more Gonzaloist tendencies articles e,g the MLM internet review, Communist International.


[i]   Available to purchase from  An Culturlann 216 Falls Rd, Belfast BT12 6AH Price: £2.50

[ii] Irish Socialist Republican New Year Statement 2021. https://anti-imperialist-action-ireland.com/blog/2021/01/01/irish-socialist-republican-new-year-statement-2021/

[iii] https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ireland/index.htm

[iv] Liam Jordan . ‘Revolutionary Strength derives from Socialist Republican Struggle’  https://anti-imperialist-action-ireland.com/blog/2020/05/01/class-struggle/

[v] Redspark has articles archived at https://www.redspark.nu/en/tag/anti-imperialist-action-ireland/

[vi] https://woodsmokeblog.wordpress.com/tag/seamus-costello/

[vii] https://demvolkedienen.org/index.php/en/t-dokumente-en/3923-cast-away-the-illusions-and-launch-into-fight

Swept under the carpet

The Catholic church and sexual abuses was the subject of a previous post discussed in relation to the film Spotlight and activities of Father Geoghan. The focus here is on the inactivity of the church in England and Wales which was subject to a major report issued in November 2020.

The extent of institutional failings by the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales to protect children from sexual abuse was the subject of an investigation report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. https://www.iicsa.org.uk/ [i]

It drew on the Inquiry’s three case studies on Ampleforth and Downside Abbeys and their respective schools, Ealing Abbey and St Benedict’s School, and the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

Between 1970 and 2015, the Catholic Church in England received more than 900 complaints involving over 3,000 instances of child sexual abuse against more than 900 individuals connected to the Church, including priests, monks and volunteers. In the same period, there were 177 prosecutions resulting in 133 convictions.

It is not just a historical problem. Since 2016, there have been more than 100 reported allegations each year. Across the entire period of nearly 50 years covered by this Inquiry, the true scale of sexual abuse of children is likely to have been much higher.

Its moral purpose was betrayed over decades by those in the Church who perpetrated this abuse and those who turned a blind eye to it. The Church’s neglect of the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of children and young people in favour of protecting its reputation was in conflict with its mission of love and care for the innocent and vulnerable.

The sexual offending involved acts of masturbation, oral sex, vaginal rape and anal rape. On occasions, it was accompanied by sadistic beatings driven by sexual gratification, and often involved deeply manipulative behaviour by those in positions of trust, who were respected by parents and children alike.

The failure to act decisively when the allegations were first raised consigned other children to the same fate. It permeated the responses of the Catholic Church with little accountability and sometimes active cover-up, until the Nolan report in 2001.

However little progress has been made to ensure that victims and survivors have access to the pastoral and therapeutic support, as the Church’s contact with some victims was characterised by a lack of empathy and compassion. Common to the American experience (and elsewhere) victims were met with grudging and unsympathetic attitude, suspects were moved from one institution to another – from parish to parish, abbey to abbey – with the receiving body not informed of the dangers posed by the individual being sent to them. Child abusers like Father James Robinson, Father David Pearce and Father Samuel Penney – had repeated accusations of having sexually abused children disregarded.

Some institutions and individuals in the Church failed to report allegations and concerns to police and statutory authorities as required. There were failures to consider the risks posed to children by perpetrators who were seen as colleagues, brethren and friends and not as sexual abusers of children.

In May 2019, Cardinal Vincent Nichols said: “We humbly ask forgiveness … for our slowness and defensiveness and for our neglect of both preventative and restorative actions”. During the final public hearing in November 2018, he apologised for the Church’s failings, noting that this was a source of “great sorrow and shame for me and, indeed I know, for the Catholic Church”. But there was no acknowledgement of any personal responsibility to lead or influence change preferring to protect the reputation of the Catholic Church.

This attitude transcend national boundaries as the report noted commenting on the lack of support and information when requested of the Papacy in Rome:

“The Holy See’s limited response on this matter manifestly did not demonstrate a commitment to taking action. Their lack of cooperation passes understanding.”

In its final review of the church, the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA) 162-page report said “the church’s neglect of the physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of children and young people in favour of protecting its reputation was in conflict with its mission of love and care for the innocent and vulnerable.”[ii]

Of Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Catholic church in England and Wales: “There was no acknowledgment of any personal responsibility to lead or influence change. Nor did he demonstrate compassion towards victims in the recent cases which we examined.”

Members of the survivors group White Flowers Alba in the wake of the publication of the report called upon Cardinal Nichols and the present papal nuncio, Archbishop Adams, to “resign immediately… he has lost all moral authority and must go … This report once again demonstrates that the Catholic church is not a safe place for children.”

Not  just abuse of authority, crimes were committed

The sexual abuse of children involved instances of “masturbation, oral sex, vaginal rape and anal rape”. On occasions, the inquiry says, it was accompanied by “sadistic beatings driven by sexual gratification” as well as “deeply manipulative behaviour by those in positions of trust”.

One child estimated that between the ages of 11 and 15 he had been abused hundreds of times by a priest. “After each incident he was required to make confession, and the priest concerned made it plain that his sister’s place at a local convent school depended on his compliance,” the report says.

When complaints were made, the church invariably failed to support victims and survivors but took action to protect alleged perpetrators by moving them to a different parish. “Child sexual abuse,” the report says, “was swept under the carpet.”

“The fact is Nichols is a serial protector of paedophiles and he is the person that you should least expect it from. The head of a church should have the greatest morals of all but instead they were sending paedophiles to other areas of the country – and America – in an attempt to cover the abuse up.”

Prof Alexis Jay, the chair of the inquiry, said: “For decades, the Catholic church’s failure to tackle child sexual abuse consigned many more children to the same fate. It is clear that the church’s reputation was valued above the welfare of victims, with allegations ignored and perpetrators protected. Even today, the responses of the Holy See appear at odds with the pope’s promise to take action on this hugely important problem.” [iii]

Responding to calls for Nichols’ departure, a church spokesperson said the cardinal would not be resigning following the inquiry’s criticisms because he was “determined to put it right”. In accordance with Vatican rules, Nichols wrote to the Holy See in the run-up to his 75th birthday, to offer his resignation. Pope Francis had asked him to continue as a cardinal, the spokesperson said.

Pope Francis has made a number of public statements condemning the scourge of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church worldwide. Given the supernatural moral claims and celibacy myths of the church, the main canonical crime in child sexual abuse cases should not be expressed as crime of adultery but as a crime against the child.

Independent of the report from Britain’s  Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, the Vatican took the extraordinary step of publishing its two-year investigation into the disgraced American ex-Cardinal McCarrick, who was defrocked in 2019 after the Vatican determined that years of rumours that he was a sexual predator were true. He was the first cardinal to resign from the College of Cardinals because of claims of sexual abuse.

McCarrick had a “proclivity for young boys”

McCarrick, 90, was defrocked by Francis last year after decades of allegations that the Church’s envoy had sexually molested adults as well as children. McCarrick is said to have ‘shared a bed with young adult men in the Bishop’s residence in Metuchen and Newark’ and ‘shared a bed with adult seminarians at this beach house on the New Jersey shore’

  • One alleged victim describes how McCarrick ‘told me how everyone knows him and how powerful he was’. He said: ‘The archbishop kept saying ‘Pray for your poor uncle.” 
  • A former altar boy came forward in 2017 alleging that McCarrick groped him when he was a teenager during preparations for Christmas Mass in 1971 and 1972 in New York.

Pope John Paul II, who was named a saint in 2014, knew of the extensive sex abuse allegations against American cardinal Theodore McCarrick, but still promoted him to archbishop in Washington DC, a Vatican investigation has found. American bishops sanitized reports of what they knew and all but ensured that warnings would arrive at the Vatican unsubstantiated or dismissible.  Pope Benedict XVI was portrayed as trying to handle the cardinal quietly and out of the public spotlight, and Pope Francis as assuming that his successors had made the right judgments.

The Washington Post observed:

The Vatican’s report amounts to a stunning play-by-play of the kind of systemic failure that the Catholic Church normally keeps under wraps, describing how McCarrick amassed power and prestige in the face of rumors, and sometimes written evidence, about his sexual misconduct with seminarians, priests and teenage boys.”[iv]

With such news there are those who are shocked, saddened and angered, by the disclosures but it is harder to be scandalized by what has been an all too frequent revelation that in terms of organised religion, it is the organisation that retains the precedence. Worldwide responses to disclosures about sexual abuse have been characterised by a failure to support victims and survivors in stark contrast to the positive action taken to protect alleged perpetrators and the reputation of the Church.


[i]  An equally scathing report had been published , The Anglican Church ;Safeguarding in the Church of England and the Church in Wales in October 2020.

[ii] Owen Bowcott and Harriet Sherwood, Child sexual abuse in Catholic church ‘swept under the carpet’, inquiry finds Leader of church in England and Wales refusing to resign despite damning IICSA report. The Guardian Online 10 Nov 2020 

[iii] – Owen Bowcott and Harriet Sherwood 2020

[iv] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/vatican-mccarrick-sexual-abuse/2020/11/10/c92de382-2045-11eb-ad53-4c1fda49907d_story.html

Bank Holiday Fun

The photograph is of a man in mid-flight from a chasing policeman. This is his tale of being arrested.

tron-grim-April 6, 1968ogrim

Flanked by a younger Tron and detail from the cover of Tron Øgrim the revolutionary fireworks by Bo Brekke, Tron Øgrim runs from a policeman during an illegal demonstration against the Vietnam War in April 1968.

Tron Orgrim’s reminiscence are taken from a posting made in February 2004. Enough time has passed to safely transgress the reticence of disclosure particularly as it contains no revelations, no implications of damaging reputation or betrayal of trust. It is a familiar activists’ memory, a minor element in a mosaic of a revolutionary life lived reproduced out of fond memory and respect for the man from the north who, in equal measure, enlightened and entertained and infuriated an audience of “leftist trainspotters” before his untimely death in 2007.

If you live in a glass house
You shouldn’t throw napalm!

We were about 10, all from the (then Maoist) SUF youth union of the SF party (about to break with it 45 years ago in March 1969) and the SOLIDARITETSKOMITEEN FOR VIETNAM (SOLKOM) the absolutely dominating solidarity movement in Norway which we lead from about 1967.

On the other side of the street (to the left in the picture, you don’t see it) it’s the park of the royal castle. We came down the street on the backside of the royal castle, and our predetermined tactic when the small police guard would follow us after the attack, was to divide our forces in every side-street in order to give the police as few to follow as possible.

We ran forward and threw our stones {at Oslo’s American embassy]. Some windows shattered (I have never been a good thrower and I gotta admit that I probably smashed nothing…)

  • Hey! Shouted the police (they were possibly only 3, maybe 4).

The first side-street was downtown from the enemy and away from the town. I was in the group running away from the town.

A girl I knew ran towards the town. A thin, long-legged comrade (later for many years RV parliamentarian in the county of Nordland) ran past her, as she had rather short legs… when a policeman ran past her too, following in his heels, she understood she could slow down.

For us running away from the town centre, there was immediately a side-street, straight ahead and to the left.

Some comrades ran straight on, as I was behind them, it was my task to run to the left. At this time together with one comrade – as he had diabetes he was of course called “melis” (icing sugar).

Two policemen behind us and we being (at the time) young and fleet, we ran away from him. Then came a bloody traitor of a taxi driver and picked him up.

Next side-street, straight ahead on the street on the back of the royal castle or to the left. “Melis” took the left side, and I ran straight on.

One of the policemen jumped out and followed “Melis” running.

The policeman in the taxi followed only me, and got me after 20 metres.

Having arrested me, he waited for his colleagues, who had followed “Melis” into a building of flats. (As the outer entrance of Oslo apartment houses were usually not locked at this time, this was open).

We waited for a long time, and then he came back: “I followed that guy into the backyard. As he wasn’t there I ran up all the stairs but couldn’t find him. I really don’t know where he has disappeared.”

“Melis” at the time was in a trash can in the back yard, having pulled the cover over his head. So he got away too.

So I was the only one arrested that night.

And got a month. Had my day in court too, political defence and some funny details. That’s another story.

Still feel well about the whole thing, including out running that cop, and mildly irritated about the stupid reactionary taxi guy.

And of course, NOW the US imperialists got their OWN armed guards in the embassy – armoured glass in the windows – and are putting up a HUGE BERLIN WALL around their fortress – and even the TORIES in Oslo dislike them openly:

We got them on the run comrades!