Soviet and other Communist front organisations

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Communists and suspected Communists

(KV 2/1525-1584)

Arthur Horner

(KV 2/1525-1529)

Horner (1894-1968) was a founder member of the Communist Party in Britain in the 1920s, and served the party in many senior positions. He was also an active trade unionist, and was General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, 1946-1959. These reconstituted files reveal some of the tensions Horner felt between his roles in the Party and the Union. A biography of Horner is currently being written by Dr Nina Fishman of the University of Westminster.

Horner was first placed under Security Service surveillance in 1921 when he appeared on a list of suspected British communists. KV 2/1525 covers this initial supervision up to 1935. The file contains copies of Home Office warrants to monitor his correspondence at addresses in Mardy and later Llanelli, South Wales, and the summary product of that surveillance. Horner stood as the Communist candidate at the elections for Rhondda East in 1931 and again in 1933, and was arrested in December 1931 for riotous assembly at Mardy during a union protest. The watch on Horner's contacts continued while he was in Cardiff prison, and the Security Service investigated some of those who campaigned against his imprisonment (which resulted in the Home Secretary granting 3 months of remission to his 15 month sentence). The file includes a copy of Horner's 1933 election pamphlet, and a photograph of Horner.

The first indications of tension between Horner in his role as president of the South Wales Miners' Federation and the Communist Party appear in KV 2/1526 (1935-1947), which contains a Metropolitan Police report of October 1938 stating that "The former [the Communist Party] fear that they are losing their grip on Horner." The file includes further product of the surveillance on his phone and written communications, reports of mineworkers' meetings, and includes a history summary sheet with photographs of Horner. It covers the period of his election as General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (August 1946). The file includes a copy of his pamphlet "The Communist Party and the Coal Crisis" of 1945.

The close watch of Horner continues in KV 2/1527 (1947-1950), which includes the suggestion, made by Krivitsky, that Horner acted as a recruiting agent for the Communists - there was no previous hint of this activity on the file.

In KV 2/1528 (1950-1952) the reports of tensions between Horner and the Communists increase (a Metropolitan Police report for instance refers to Horner's "disgrace" in the Party), and KV 2/1529 (1953-1934) encompasses the period where his dilemma led Horner to heavy drinking as he considered a possible defection from the Party. One report from an unnamed source (folio 304) describes how "...far from thinking it over, he is just drinking it over."

Arthur Reade

(KV 2/1540-1541)

Reade was a Communist barrister and journalist involved in the 1920s in distributing propaganda leaflets to the army with Douglas Springhall. He later rejected Communism and stood as a Labour candidate in national elections. During the Second World War he several times sought employment in various branches of the intelligence services, but was consistently blocked by The Security Service, until he was eventually accepted by the Special Operations Executive. His SOE service file (HS 9/1237/3) has been transferred to The National Archives and is available to researchers.

KV 2/1540 (1921-1940) follows Reade from an early Home Office Warrant kept on his correspondence and includes the product of that warrant. Following the outbreak of war, Reade tried to gain entry to the intelligence services and enlisted the support of several influential figures to vouch for him. There is a letter on file, for example, from Harold Stannard of the Royal Institute for International Affairs, enclosing one from Reade, to Kell, stating that Reade was "completely cured" of Communism and supporting his appointment. Reade was repeatedly turned down (eventually enlisting Harold Nicholson MP to speak for him), and the file conveys the unease the Service felt about continuing to reject his applications when he had so many of the great and good siding with him.

The story continues on KV 2/1541 (1940-1951). Reade was eventually transferred to the Intelligence Corps, and from there was recruited to SOE where his Balkan experience was seen as being of value. However, when he was sent home with adverse reports by SOE in 1944, he again found his applications (this time to the Political Warfare Executive) being blocked. He eventually returned to the Intelligence Corps in July 1944, and at the end of the war moved on to the Judge Advocate General's department. The file contains extracts from his army service record, further high-placed testimonials in Reade's favour, and when post-war complaints about his treatment came to be considered, an intensive Security Service review of the case which admitted that the continual blocking of his requests may not have been justified, but noting that given his Communist past, it was hard for any other course to have been followed. The file contains some startling photographs of Reade wearing different styles of facial hair.

Felicia Brown

(KV 2/1560)

The British Communist sculptress Felicia Browne was holidaying in Spain when the Civil War broke out in 1936. She joined the militia and was killed in action at Aragon in 1936 while part of a group attempting to dynamite a railway station. This file however commences when she first came to the notice of the Security Service. In 1933, while a patient at Guy's Hospital, she distributed leaflets and attempted to convert some of the nurses to communism. As a result, a watch was established on her post, and it became clear that her addresses, in Bessborough Gardens and then Guilford Street, London, were being used as cover addresses for foreign mail being sent to Communists in the UK. The file includes copies of much of the intercepted mail, including some of Brown's own letters adorned with line drawings. She was a one of a number of British nationals who refused to leave Spain when the war broke out, and the file ends with records relating to her short military career. The file includes a photograph of Brown.

Sylvia Pankhurst

(KV 2/1570)

Pankhurst (1882-1960) achieved fame in the Suffragette movement before the First World War, but was later associated with communist, anti-fascist and anti-war causes. She was involved in support for the Abyssinian cause after the Italian invasion of 1936, founding and editing the New Times and Ethiopia News. She emigrated to Ethiopia in 1944, where she became a friend and adviser to the Emperor Haile Selassie, and maintained a steadfast anti-British outlook.

This reconstituted file chiefly concerns her post-Suffragette activities, though there are summaries of her activities, and those of the publication The Workers' Dreadnought and the Workers' Suffrage Federation from 1914. The main body of the file follows Pankhurst from the launch of the New Times and Ethiopian News in 1936, from which time there are reports of meetings addressed by Pankhurst, notes of interviews with her and the product of a watch maintained on her correspondence. In 1940 she wrote to Viscount Swinton in his capacity as head of a committee investigating fifth column activities, and provided him with a list of Fascists at large and conducting propaganda, and of anti-Fascists who had been interned. The copy, which is on file having been passed on by Swinton, is annotated in Swinton's hand "I should think a most doubtful source of information."

The file concludes that Pankhurst's information most probably came from her long-term Italian partner, Silvo Corio. After the liberation of Ethiopia, the file follows her activities there, where she was a strong supporter of a union of Ethiopia with ex-Italian Somaliland. The file considered in 1948 various strategies for "muzzling the tiresome Miss Sylvia Pankhurst."