1 What Official Secret?

THE Press has told us that traitors are at work in the government's defence councils. Not just ordinary traitors who sell their country's secrets for thirty pieces of silver or are blackmailed because of their sexual nonconformity. Not even traitors who honestly, if misguidedly, believe that Russian ideology is superior to that of the West. The 'Spies for Peace' are none of these things. They are dangerous because they question the basic assumption of all bureaucracies: that the State knows best. Such thinking threatens the Russian rulers as much as it does our own.

We have been comforted to know that all the resources of M.I.5. and of the Special Branch have been working overtime to find the 'Spies'. Phones have been tapped on an unprecedented scale, letters have been opened, homes searched, typewriters and duplicators confiscated, threats and intimidation freely used. Gentlemen wearing regulation Special Branch trilbies have walked the Aldermaston distance several times over, trailing innocent suspects going about their lawful business. Yet there has not been a single arrest. Canons have deprecated, columnists deplored, cabinet ministers dithered, communists denigrated, christians denied, constitutionalists dissociated themselves, and still the copyists distribute.

Gordon Walker has called for exemplary punishment of the traitors; Michael Foot has preached sanctimoniously about 'highest aims and lowest means'; James Cameron has scorned those who abused the Aldermaston March to advertise their treachery (the RSGs, of course, have nothing to do with nuclear weapons, and the Aldermaston March is an unlikely place to find people concerned about the Bomb!); Lord Alexander of Hillsborough expressed his horror, and strongly asserted that Labour shit won't stink.

So when the matter was raised in the Great Democratic Farce called Parliament, we were entitled to expect fireworks. We got a damp squib. There had been plenty of time during the Easter Recess to do a little duck shoving. The Tory Chief Whip directed his MPs to withdraw or amalgamate their awkward questions. When important questions of government policy are asked in the Commons it is usual for the leader of the 'Opposition' to address the Prime Minister. But the 'leader' had been given the confidential assurance that with his co-operation the real Official Secret was still fairly safe. It was left to a Labour backbencher (Mr. Charles Loughlin, of West Gloucestershire) to lead off. Macmillan was at his supercilious best:

Quote:
'There is nothing mysterious or sinister about their (RSG's) existence … It is widely known that our defence plans for any future war, whether nuclear or conventional, include provision for essentially civilian organization (our emphasis) … To prepare them (RSGs) and to link them with the headquarters of the local authorities is an obviously essential precaution'.

(Hansard. 23/4/63).

So there you have it: the RSGs with all their Service brass, police brass, permanent under-secretaries and principal officers from the Civil Service, are essentially civilian organizations. As for the local authorities, there isn't a single alderman, let alone an elected councillor provided for or deemed worthy of survival.
Again Macmillan:

'Although the existence of these headquarters (RSGs) had long been widely known, the exact location and details of their organization have not been publicised … Nevertheless, the deliberate breach of security is in itself both serious and strongly to be condemned. The disclosure of the particular information involved is not seriously damaging to the national interest … There is little resemblance between this affair and cases of espionage …'
It's as simple as that: the secrets are widely known. But to know them is a serious breach of security. And anyhow they don't amount to much.
Once again Macmillan:
'There is no question of building deep air raid shelters. That has long ago been stated to be impossible on a large scale. This is merely an arrangement by which Regional Commissioners will be placed in suitable locations'.

So 'Spies for Peace' have been hoodwinked all along. The RSGs are not hideouts for VIPs: they are only 'suitable locations' for Regional Commissioners.

No wonder patriotic Tories withdrew from the 'Hunt the Spy' contest and less wonder still that the Labour super-patriots then kept quiet in the background. We have it on the authority of the Prime Minister himself that these so-called secrets are concerned with nothing more serious than 'suitable locations' and links with local authorities. So what is all the fuss about? And where exactly does the 'treachery' lie?

You can't build an RSG without employing several hundred workers, anyone of whom is likely to talk, particularly if he is not a traitor. You can't smother the truth by dark hints about Security. We all like to feel important, to be in the possession of information denied to lesser breeds. This ensures that we shall exercise our imaginations — fertilised with beer — in the pub, and exchange spy fiction confidences which no one will believe anyway.

Or if we are ordinarily gullible, we can believe the official handout. Everybody knows that all government departments are barmy; so if the Home Office chooses to build an underground factory in the woods behind Warren Row which can't manufacture anything, it's unlikely to raise a single eyebrow. In this age of shop stewards and 'overpowerful trade unions', it might have caused a strike if the real fact had emerged that what was being built was a 'suitable location' for a Regional Commissioner. That would never be tolerated today when the Queen is just like your missus (God help you!) when workers demand cars and washing machines, and when Oxbridge accepts students from State Grammar Schools.
We still have not discovered what the Official Secret was. All that the 'Spies' seem to have done was to collect the available information which is widely known to many thousands, and collate it under a single heading. It is only then that the real Official Secret becomes clear. Like everything else, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Of course we all know that one 50-megaton bomb will wipe out the whole of London. Half-a-dozen will put paid to the rest of the country. CND shows 'Children of Hiroshima', and Bertrand Russell argues indefatigably about the inevitability of nuclear war. But governments are only acceptable institutions because their abstract primary function is to protect the individual from the hazards entailed in a society based on nation states. Individually, we cannot stop the Russians — or the Americans — from marching in. At the moment many people ['s belief] in the government's ability to 'protect' them leads naturally to the assumption that 'it can't happen here'. They concede that steps have been taken to make defence realistic. But as it can't happen here, why listen to cranks who use logical argument to show that it probably will? What has logical probability to do with it, when millions of us expect each week to win £100,000 for a few coppers?

So after we have discarded the unexciting details of the RSG pamphlet — we all knew (after the event) that this sort of thing went on anyway — didn't we? — what do we find? We find that the government takes the probabilities of nuclear war so seriously that real, live, breathing Top Brass is already appointed to survey in lone and splendid grandeur the horrific devastation which will follow a quite moderate nuclear attack on this island. We find that exercises are carried out to 'test' the RSGs capabilities, and that they prove conclusively that there is no defence. This is the real Official Secret from which you must be protected at all costs: the government cannot protect society. You can be Tory or Labour, Communist or Empire Loyalist, Christian or Atheist, genius or moron, tear arse or layabout, capitalist or worker, prostitute or Duchess of Argyll, pimp, bastard, or bugger-boy, copper's nark or pacifist fruit-juicer, it doesn't matter who or what. Your future is to be equally radioactive and you are all to be equally dead. The only survivors will be a few Top Bureaucrats, with of course one month's supply of uncontaminated food and water at their disposal. We need a Kafka to write a novel about the last days in the Bunkers for Bureaucrats.

No longer can we delude ourselves with easy thoughts that it can't happen here. The government — and it matters not one tittle whether it be Tory or Labour — has reached the same conclusion as Bertrand Russell: it probably will happen here. And when it does, the government can do nothing about it except provide 'suitable locations' for Top Bureaucrats. To keep your minds off that dangerous thought, the Press has spent acres of space on 'spy' scares and on talk of 'treachery'. It has been duly commended for its loyalty by the Great Deceiver himself. If the real secret is still to be kept, all our modern marvels of security consciousness follow quite naturally: spy phobia, screening, security checks, D notices, reticence in the public interest, informing, phone tapping, agent provocateurs, 'snooping on subversive' organizations, 'interrogations' to 'assist' the police, and any other means which bureaucrats can devise to bamboozle, bully, bluff, browbeat or brainwash the public.

Of course you haven't been consulted. What need is there to consult you? You are one of the millions who have been written off. Anyhow, it's an Official Secret, which you might very well reject if you were consulted. 'Better dead than Red' may be a comforting thought to armchair heroes, dying gloriously in the act of saving their daughters from being raped by Russian mujiks. Unfortunately, they won't even have the satisfaction of a posthumous George Cross.

The Official Secret is simply that any government which accepts the theory of the Great Deterrent knows that the probabilities of its failure are high, high enough to amount to virtual certainty — and that they can do fornicating zero about it. The time has come for us to ask ourselves what we are going to do about it. The safety of the people is often thought the prime duty of government. The Official Secret does not merely emphasise the failure of government to perform this duty; it is a calculated admission that this is impossible in the nuclear age. Bureaucrats must be removed from the realm of decision-taking. It is up to us to make our own decisions. What is at stake is nothing less than our lives.