How the Sunday Times censored its magazine
The CIA and the Labour Party - part 2
THE "Sunday Times" has always been equivocal in its attitude towards the CIA. While reporting its cloak-and-dagger exploits the paper has, until recently, seemed reluctant to draw political conclusions from these activities.
This was illustrated in the publication of two articles on "How the CIA got rid of Jagan" in British Guiana (16 and 23 April 1967). The second piece said that Macmillan and Sandys, then Colonial Secretary, had sanctioned the CIA's presence in the colony under cover of certain international trade union organisations.
Sandys was away at the time of publication, but questioned by "Insight" editor Bruce Page shortly after, he refused to comment, saying, "Do you want to make something of it then ?" The "Sunday Times" didn't, and no more was heard of the matter in spite of a non-committal reply by Harold Wilson to a Parliamentary question by Stan Newens, MP, on CIA attempts "to infiltrate and influence organisations which function on British administered territories". Material for the articles had been provided by Richard Fletcher, an independent researcher interested in the international trade union movement, and the "Sunday Times" at that time had on file further information about CIA operations on British territory which it did not use.
One of the key instigators of the trouble in British Guiana was Gene Meakins of the American Newspaper Guild, under cover of the International Federation of Journalists. The stream of anti-Jagan propaganda which, for over a year, he helped to produce, in the Press and through a radio station paid for by the Americans, had a significant effect in "destabilising" the Jagan government. The American Newspaper Guild received nearly one million dollars of CIA money between 1960 and 1964 to finance activities-which included "combating communist newspaper unions - in South America and Asia. It also helped the Asia Foundation, another CIA conduit, organise a three-month seminar for South Vietnamese journalists in 1966, under the auspices of the IFJ. ("New York Times", 18 and 19 Feb., 1967).
It is quite clear from the content of such seminars that their long-term aim was to produce a Press sympathetic to the United States and "free enterprise" and hostile to communism and neutralism and, more importantly, to any form of socialism. To be neutral by their standards was indicative of communist leanings.
These seminars derived their influence in developing countries from providing much-needed technical services in editing, layout and newspaper production, through top-ranking professionals imported as "consultants" from Britain and the United States.
As a student of international trade unionism Fletcher had noticed tell-tale signs of American activity on the British Guiana model in other parts of the world and in the following months he collected enough evidence to show that this was part of a general pattern. In August 1967 he wrote a detailed study of American penetration of the international trade union movement which was bought by the "Sunday Times's-through Stephen Fay, then Industrial Correspondent-for publication immediately before the TUC annual Congress opened at Brighton early in September.
This long article, which was soberly written by "Insight's" "we can now reveal" standards, described how the Cold War had been fought in the unions-the role of Jay Lovestone (once General Secretary of the US Communist Party) and his agents, such as Irving Brown, in subverting the European labour movement after World War II and overthrowing governments in Brazil, British Guiana and many other parts of the world. In particular the working methods of the American Institute for Free Labour Development at its Front Royal, Virginia school were described and those of other CIA front organisations for journalists, electrical, plantation, clerical, petroleum, telephone, retail and other workers. Fay was well satisfied with the piece. It contained a mass of factual information of great public interest which would undoubtedly have an impact at the TUC; it merely needed shortening and tidying up.
However, the Editor took the article out of Fay's hands and assigned it to Insight where Bruce Page gave it to a young reporter recently arrived from Australia. He had little knowledge of trade unions or global politics and by the time he had finished with it the piece was not worth printing.
At the TUC on September 5th, 1967, Jim Mortimer of the Draughtsmen's union (now chairman of the Government's new Conciliation and Arbitration Service) asked the General Council to investigate reports that international organisations to which the TUC and member unions were affiliated were being used by the CIA to "carry out the policies of the American government". George Woodcock rebutted the charges angrily. As far as he knew there was no evidence whatsoever that any such intervention was taking place. Had the "Sunday Times" article appeared the previous Sunday he would have had to reply very differently.
In the spring of 1972 the "Sunday Times" magazine asked Fletcher to write the final episode in their series "Unofficial History of the 20th Century". According to Robert Lacey, assistant editor, they had more than enough material to cover the early part of the century but now needed a major contribution for the period since World War II-how about a piece on CIA attempts to penetrate the Labour Party? Fletcher agreed on condition that he be given adequate support-in back-up research and from overseas correspondents-to make a serious investigation, and that the resulting article would not be over-sensationalised by playing up the CIA's more spectacular escapades at the expense of the political significance of its intervention.
Then followed six weeks of intensive activity. Enquiries around the world showed that leading Labour politicians had been advising and deriving support from organisations subsequently shown to be set up and financed by the CIA. Senior editorial staff on the Magazine were pleased with the 5,000-word piece' whose gist was that the CIA socialists had, since the war, used exactly the same methods of subversion and political manipulation as their enemies the Communists.
After a week of thorough vetting for libel by the "Sunday Times" lawyers, James Evans and his assistant, expensive art-work was prepared and a final draft sent "upstairs" for formal approval by the editor of the paper, Harold Evans.
Evans' immediate reaction was that the article should not be printed. Told that it had been cleared for libel, he said that the piece was unfair and that he was withdrawing it on editorial grounds. "Anyway," he said, "these are the people we support." Having rejected the piece, Evans then asked the lawyers to have another look at it-apparently hoping that his decision might, after all, be legally justified.
Feelings were running high amongst the Magazine editorial staff. Lacey talked of resigning but was dissuaded by colleagues as his wife had just had a baby. Like Francis Wyndham, a writer of some repute and the Magazine's watchdog of literary standards, they felt the piece had merit and should be published. By withdrawing it from the paper without even consulting them about possible changes Evans was, they felt. questioning their professional competence and integrity.
Fletcher tried to see Evans to find out the reasons for the article's exclusion and to tell him of the reaction of the Magazine staff, but he was unsuccessful.
But Stephen Fay had the last word. Told of the episode on returning to Thomson House after two years in the USA for the "Sunday Times", his comment was "It's all true."