ONE lesson to be drawn from 'Spies for Peace' is the advantage of ad hoc organization, coming rapidly into being and if necessary disappearing with the same speed, but leaving behind innumerable centres of activity, like ripples and eddies in a pond, after a stone has been thrown into it.
Traditional politics (both 'revolutionary' and 'reformist') are based on a central dynamo, with a transmission belt leading outwards. Capture of the dynamo, or its conversion to other purposes, may break
the transmission entirely. 'Spies for Peace' seem to have operated on an entirely different basis. Messages were passed from mouth to mouth along the route, documents from hand to hand. One group passed a secret to a second, which then set about reprinting it. A caravan became the source of a leaflet, a shopping basket a distribution centre. A hundred copies of a pamphlet are distributed in the streets: some are sure to reach people who will reproduce them.
Contacts are built on a face to face basis. One knows the personal limitations of one's comrades. X is an expert at steering a meeting through procedural shoals, but cannot work a duplicator. Y can use a small printing press, but is unable to write a leaflet. Z can express himself in public, but cannot sell pamphlets. Every task elects its own workers, and there is no need for an elaborate show of hands. Seekers of personal power and glory get little thrill from the anonymously and skilfully illegal. The prospect of prison breeds out the leader complex. Every member of a group may be called upon to undertake key tasks. And all-round talent is developed in all. The development of small groups for mutual aid could form a basis for an effective resistance movement.
Tyrannies grow by what they feed on. The power elites of the world maintain themselves in office by pointing to exterior enemies. They grow amid a labyrinth of secrecy and 'security'. How can they effectively be challenged?
There are so many secrets about, and the movement has so many sympathisers in so many unexpected quarters, that what is surprising is that nothing like 'Spies for Peace' happened before Easter 1963. We see in what followed, a preview of new revolutionary techniques, suitable for a highly industrialised, organized and centralised society. The French Revolution intercepted the King's messengers by assassination on lonely heaths: we jam his telephone lines. The Russian revolutionaries scattered their tracts slowly and laboriously: we can send them by express post. They cannot open millions of letters a day. Illegal broadcasting has infinite possibilities. New techniques must constantly be improved and extended.
The Special Branch and M.I.5. are not fools. They have at their disposal one of the most efficient police forces in the world. They use all the modern techniques of scientific detection. The fact that those who produced the pamphlet have not yet been caught suggests certain things to us. Similar thoughts must have occurred to the Special Branch. Or are we over-rating them? We will hazard a few guesses.
A printing press is difficult to conceal and easy to trace. But a reasonably efficient duplicator has no characteristics other than those of the typewriter that cut the stencils. There are a limited number of models available, but tens of thousands of each. Clearly the 'Spies' used a machine that had not previously been used within the movement, and which was either destroyed or well hidden afterwards. The paper was not traced, and so must have been bought in small quantities, over a long period. M.I.5. must have searched for fingerprints. The fact that this didn't help suggests that gloves must have been worn. Accord-ing to the press, envelopes were posted in various parts of London, an obvious precaution. Provided nothing leaked out before publication — and provided all traces were destroyed — the 'Spies' have a clear start.
We are not interested in which the original group was, but we salute their action. There are dozens of other groups all over the country who would have acted as the 'Spies' did if they had got the information first. We would have done so. There seems to have been no organization to be broken up. Distribution seems to have been to known activists in the movement. Reprinting was undertaken by all self-respecting CND and Committee of 100 groups. The story was spread by radio, TV, and Fleet Street itself, itching for a bash at the government, following the imprisonment of the journalists.
There are important conclusions. Revolution does not need conveyor belt organization. It needs hundreds, thousands, and finally millions of people meeting in groups with informal contacts with each other. It needs mass consciousness. If one group takes an initiative that is valuable, others will take it up. The methods must be tailored to the society we live in. The F.L.N. could use armed warfare, for it had hills and thickets to retreat into. We are faced by the overwhelming physical force of a State better organized and better armed than at any time in its history. We must react accordingly. The many internal contradictions of the state must be skilfully exploited. The Dusseldorf authorities were caught in their own regulations, when the disarmers refused to fasten their safety belts. M.I.5. cannot conceive of subversion that it not master-minded by a sinister Communist agent. It is incapable of dealing with a movement where no one takes orders from anyone else. Through action, autonomy and revolutionary initiative will be developed still further. To cope with our activities the apparatus of repression will become even more centralised and even more bureaucratic. This will enhance our opportunities rather than lessen them.
The nuclear disarmament movement in Britain has gone over to the offensive. The days of protest are over. We are beginning to see the basis of a genuine revolutionary mass movement, using tactics and methods appropriate to our society. The movement must encompass all those who are opposed to the present authoritarian and bureaucratic set-up. Various groups in industry and elsewhere must be connected — and seen to be connected. With roots in industry the movement could prove invincible. Revolution once needed bombs and machine guns, Those days may or may not come. For the moment what we need is open eyes, duplicators, initiative, and a will to struggle.