Security Service release: Communists and suspected Communists
Seditious Literature in the UK Armed Forces (KV 4/435) 1926-1938
The material in this file relates chiefly to consideration of possible prosecutions relating to specimens of seditious literature being distributed to members of the armed forces. The file contains numerous copies of the pamphlets being considered - generally poor quality, hand illustrated output with titles such as 'The Soldiers Voice', 'The Red Signal', and the curiously named 'Sailors Look Out for the Right Road'. The file includes correspondence with the Director of Public Prosecutions about the likelihood of securing a successful prosecution - the main obstacle to building a case appeared to be the failure to apprehend the producers of such material in the act of distributing it. As the Director is quoted as saying (minute 19, 29 January 1932): "The people he really wished to prosecute were those who were working for the Communist Party and not some down-and-out tramp who had been given a bundle of pamphlets and a few shillings to throw them about." The literature included in the file offers some interesting insights to the work of the Communist propagandists in this period. Firstly, the quality of the productions gradually improves over time - for instance, by the 'Guide to Armageddon' (serial 81b, 1937), pamphlets were being produced with black and white photographs, compared to the amateurish cartoons of earlier output. The leaflet headed 'We Must Not Murder the Workers and Peasants of India' (serial 3b, 1930) is interesting in itself, but the means of concealing it for distribution was to fold it in a brown envelope printed up as 'Lee's Tip for The Derby' (copy included).
Mai Zetterling (KV 2/2994) 1952-1958
The noted Swedish actress, Mai Zetterling, first came to the attention of the Security Service in 1952 through her association with the Discussion Group run by Duncan MacDonald. It is noted in this file that at this time Zetterling was said to be "increasing her interest in Communism". This slim file contains the occasional traces of Zetterling's activities and opinions gathered by the Security Service over the next six years, during which time, it is recorded, she was the mistress of Herbert Lom and then Tyrone Power. The file notes that Lom had been reported as a Communist in 1941, and hence had been of interest to the Security Service ever since. In November 1956, Zetterling was reported as being "upset emotionally by reports from Hungary, but too busy to weigh up her position". Given this, it is not surprising that her case was not allotted much importance by the Service and the file ends with her marriage in 1958 to David Hughes. The file includes a copy of Zetterling's aliens registration card, and the original photograph associated with it.
This release also includes one organisation file on the MacDonald Group (KV 5/80), for the years 1951-1953. It was concluded that although the group had strong associations with known communists, it was not subversive, and study of the group was therefore ended (though an interest was maintained in its members).
Lee Miller (KV 6/82) 1940-1958
The celebrated Vogue photographer Lee Miller worked as a photographer in Britain during the Second World War. As recorded in this slim file, her Communist sympathies were reported by an unnamed colleague at Vogue in 1941 ("a strong Communist…Keeps a very open house and has a very wide circle of friends." Serial 7a). She had, however, already come to the attention of the Security Service through her association with Wilfred MacCartney, a Communist previously sentenced to ten years imprisonment as a Soviet spy. The file reports that Miller's communist beliefs were idealistic rather than subversive, and it is clear that, while a watch was kept on her activities, there were no real concerns that Miller posed a threat. The file includes some details about her marriage to left-wing artist Ronald Penrose, including a watch on correspondence at their London home in 1946 and details of their management of Farley Farm in Chiddingly, East Sussex (where she died in 1977). Miller's employer at publishers Condé Nast, Mr Yoxall, is reported as noting (serial 12a) that Miller is "eccentric and indulges in queer foods and queer clothes etc". The file includes partial lists of alien holders of sketching and photography permits during the war.
Malcolm MacEwen (KV 2/2985-2989) 1938-1958
MacEwen was the son of the leading Scottish Nationalist Sir Alexander MacEwen, but his path through political life took a very different route from his father. These files detail the close interest that the Security Service took in MacEwen's career from the first time he came to their attention. This was in 1938, when he was noted as a passenger on a ship taking visitors from London to Leningrad for a month's visit (in KV 2/2985, 1938-1945). At this time MacEwen was still a Labour Party member, and had gained election as a councilor in Banff, but he resigned from the party in protest at its attitude towards the Soviet Union. While the Soviets were at peace with Germany, MacEwen followed a strongly anti-war line, and stood as a Communist at the Dumbartonshire by-election in 1941 on this basis (a copy of his election pamphlet is at serial 13a). Serial 12a in this piece contains a lengthy analysis of his attacks on the Labour Party, reflecting his changed allegiance.
MacEwen became legal adviser to the Scottish Daily Worker and soon transferred to the Daily Worker in London, where he became parliamentary correspondent in 1943, and later news editor (KV 2/2986, 1945-1951). This file shows how information on MacEwen's activities passed through the hands of Kim Philby at the Secret Intelligence Service (e.g. serial 62x). MacEwen's stint as news editor caused considerable unrest at the Daily Worker, and there is much analysis of his management in the file (e.g. at serial 128z: "The trouble is that MacEwen not only sends his reporters on so many unnecessary jobs that he tires them out for nothing. He has antagonised so many that he had only a few left he could rely on." The dénouement, with MacEwen being disciplined and moved to the post of features editor, is carefully recorded in KV 2/2987 (1951-1956). By November 1956, MacEwen's loyalty to the party seems to have been fast draining away, and the file records how by this time, "MacEwen's political views are apparently on the wobble." The file includes a lengthy analysis of Communist "inner party democracy" in an essay written after Kruschev's secret speech (serial 181b).
MacEwen resigned from the Daily Worker in November 1956 (KV 2/2988, 1956-1958), and the file contains intercepted correspondence and conversations which detail the intense debate this move caused among Party circles. MacEwen was at last expelled from the Communist Party in 1958 (KV 2/2989, 1958), though he resisted the move. This file includes photographs of MacEwen, and a copy of his 1948 passport application form. Through all these files, MacEwen's steady stream of correspondence was intercepted and recorded, and the results give an insight into the changing opinions of Communist Party members through the Second World War and beyond, up to the disillusion brought on by the invasion of Hungary.