In 1947 in Marseilles the dockers went out on strike and were quickly followed by other workers around the country coming out in solidarity. The newly formed CIA, eager to take advantage of the vacuums of authority that had been left around the world in the aftermath of WWII, sent a Psychological Operations team out to France to crush any and all socialist dissent. Undercover agents of the state began arming, training, funding and guiding Corsican drug-traffickers and The Socialist Party to help them do this.
Neither Marseilles nor Europe were a peculiarity in the policies of the CIA at that time. In 1947 similar actions were being taken in Mexico, and in Asia along the Chinese Burma border. In fact, it was part of a quite openly discussed foreign policy position, which to put it bluntly, is probably best described as an influence/power-grab over the regional territories held during the 19th century by the newly chastened European imperialist powers. And as much as certain institutions would like to airbrush these events from history, the evidence is still largely available.
In 1948 the State Department planner George Kennan wrote a top secret memo to the Secretary and Under-Secretary of State which has since been declassified. The memo was a review of US foreign policy around the world, with a good deal of attention paid to the Marshall Plan (ERP – European Recovery Programme) and the US response to communism which would later be called the Truman Doctrine. Chomsky has made many references to the Kennan memo, and equally many of his detractors have attacked his use of it. On the section covering Asia, Kennan is quite clear about what he felt were the priorities moving forward.
The full paragraph reads – “Furthermore, we have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population. This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction.”
A year later the Deputy Under Secretary of State Dean Rusk made the case, in one of his lesser repeated quotes, that US. foreign policy should be applied as the situation required it, “arms here, opium there, bribery and propaganda in the third place”. If one is in any doubt of how this strategy played out in Asia, take a moment to remember the seventy years that have passed since then, in Korea, Burma, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. There has been little sentimentality and arguably no altruism whatsoever.
What struck me recently though, and made me think about this aspect of US foreign policy, is the hysterical fanaticism of the current crop of spooks-for-hire, mercenaries, tame-academics and establishment-churnalists all fighting to maintain the wealth disparity across Europe when faced with a growth in socialism, in its many guises. In a series of reports leading up the 2019 general election in the UK several reports began appearing outlining how military and intelligence assets were waging a covert psychological war against socialism and all things socialist.
Global research reported that from the moment Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party, UK and US intelligence assets and agents have been waging a Psy-Ops campaign, citing research carried out by The Gray Zone on the Integrity Initiative and it’s strange relationship with the super-shady Institute of Statecraft. There is also the Matt Kennard article for the Daily Maverick which states that there had been at least 34 stories published in the mainstream media which presented Corbyn as a threat to national security based on briefings by current and ex- senior military, intelligence or civil service personnel.
And this is by no means the first time in recent years that unelected groups from within government institutions have worked together to wage psychological warfare against the very populations that they are sworn to protect. One of the principle accusations levelled at the Reagan administration in the mid-eighties in relation to the Contras was that when public opinion shifted against supporting the Contras, Psy-Ops experts from the CIA, Department of Defence, National Security Council and Military Intelligence, under the management of Colonel Oliver North, worked together to wage the kind of propaganda campaign against the US population and the non-executive branches of the US government that had supposedly been previously reserved for enemies during wartime.
But it doesn’t stop with propaganda. We now know that the various police forces around the UK have been running undercover officers in many progressive and radical political groups and organisations. For instance, we know that there has been undercover agents of the state working in the Communication Workers Union, Fire Brigades Union, the National Union of Students, the National Union of Teachers, Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians, and Unison.
We know that undercover agents of the state have infiltrated the Active Resistance to the Roots of War (ARROW), Anti-Apartheid Movement, Anti-Poll Tax Campaign, CND, Freedom Press, Globalise Resistance, Greenham Common Womens Camp, Cowley Club, Housemans Bookshop, Independent Labour Party, International Solidarity Movement, London Greenpeace, Reclaim the Streets, and of course Uist Hedgehog Rescue. Yes that really did happen.
But perhaps the cruellest undercover work that we have recently become aware of is that which has been employed against the families of the victims of police action and/or inaction, like the families of Stephen Lawrence, Blair Peach, Roger Sylvester, Brian Douglas, Colin Roach, Ricky Reel, Rolan Adams, John Charles de Menezes and the families working together through the Broadwater Farm Defence Campaign.
While the list seems to go on forever, some organisations like the Socialist Workers Party appear to have had so many undercover police working inside it that it would have been very difficult for them to have found an actual civilian to arrest in the event of a revolution. But it doesn’t end there. We know from the reports coming from whistle-blowers like David Shayler, and the subsequent analysis of his disclosures by those targeted, that MI5 and MI6 have also been running undercover agents targeting domestic dissent.
The fact is that the State, in its role as facilitator of the exploitation, sees any dissent as a threat to the economic and power disparity of the current socio-political model. When a few people start congregating to discuss the form of their own exploitation and oppression, with the intention of attempting to develop solutions to put an end to it, the State will send agents in undercover in order to undermine, destabilise and eventually break it up. That is one of their key roles.
As you read this, with overwhelming likelihood, there are now undercover agents of the state within the socialist group within the Labour party, Momentum, the Morning Star, the Canary, Stop the War, Extinction Rebellion, and all of the major trade unions … in fact pretty much any space where dissenting voices come together in any kind of significant numbers.
Finding out who these individuals are while it is actually going on will always be very difficult. However setting up processes and systems to stop them from being able to undermine the organisations and actions will be far easier. For them to be effective they need power and decision making to concentrate in to ever narrower spaces, where it is easier to co-opt or silence. Conversely, the wider the decision making processes are, the more difficult it becomes for those trying to destroy it.
Just as equalising responsibility and power horizontally across groups is one of the quickest and most effective ways to hinder this type of infiltration, widening it out across multiple groups and communities counters the next level of this same process. Narrowly focussing on specific inequalities or exploitations within small groups, rather than fighting for absolute equality across shared spaces, is yet another example of this process at work.
In its most extreme form this manifests as concentrating power and authority on an individual within the group. This allows the entire group to be undermined by destroying the individual. A good example of this is the growth of socialism in the UK over the last five years. Much of the left wing dissent in the UK has been actively herded into the Labour party behind Corbyn. So once Corbyn had become the symbol of socialism in the UK, it simply became a question of attacking him in order to destroy the concept.
So rather than debate the economic impact of progressive taxation we are asked to question his patriotism, rather than discuss the logic of a nuclear deterrent we are told that he is a security risk, rather than discuss illegal occupations around the world we are told that he is racist, and perhaps most importantly rather than discuss how to bring about an egalitarian model of society we instead get to listen to discussions about his unelectability.
A very similar thing is currently happening in the States.
Expecting the systems that were designed to stifle demands for radical change to bring about an egalitarian model of society, is simply unrealistic. The model of government under which we live was designed to maintain inequality, and it does this through coercion and oppression. The only way that this works, is because those of us that stand up to the 1%, allow ourselves to be divided from one another, we allow others to speak for us, we trust others to be honest about their intentions, and worst of all we forget that the state sees us as enemies.
At the end of February I wrote an article discussing the increasing trend of blaming the global poor in the climate crisis while at the same time offering more of the same as a solution to it. The full article was called Victim blaming and misdirection in the climate debate, and the shorter Morning Star version was called Nuke spin vs oil spin – or no spin at all?.