HIGHLY active debris from the Aldermaston explosion continued to rain down for many days. As a Guardian1 editorial put it: 'The Spies for Peace … have succeeded in annoying a lot of people'.
Some of those most annoyed were the image makers of Fleet Street. 'TOP SECRETS GIVEN OUT BY POST';2 'HUGE SPY HUNT IS ON — Find the fanatic who stole H-war secrets';3 'YARD HUNT FOR BAN-BOMB SPY'.4
The pamphlet successfully showed up the conditioned thinking of the traditional organs of 'discussion' in our sham democracy. The Press, Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, the Tribunite Labour 'lefts' and the Communist Party all reacted with the predictable attitudes of defenders of the status quo or something very like it. All have an interest in preserving the existence and authority of the State since all (except the Press) compete for its administration. A direct challenge to the State was, however indirectly, a challenge to them all.
The Home Secretary gave the cue: 'This is the work of a traitor. What has been published is undoubtedly a breach of the Official Secrets Act … It is a matter of deep concern'.5
From then on traitors, sabotage and subversive elements covered the pages of the Fleet Street exhibitionists. However as the dust settled it became clear that the action of the Spies had done more damage to the image of the State than to its safety from outside attack. A change of line was needed. Mr. Macmillan gave the signal for the Telegraph6 to lead the faithful along the new course. 'The disclosure was not seriously damaging to the national interests'. It 'had little resemblance to espionage where vital secrets are involved'.
The hacks then set about playing down the real issues. They started writing articles about the anarchists, the Special Branch and other subversive groups. Meanwhile, public spirits and confidence in the institutions of the State and in its organs of repression had to be bolstered up. Times were hard. So little squeaks of confidence had to be sounded every so often. 'One or more arrests may be made soon'.7 'The inquiries … may possibly result in criminal proceedings', etc., etc.8 Pieces of inside information kept us enthralled as to the brilliance of our security services. According to the Daily Sketch9 'Security officers … were working on two theories: one, that the publication was issued to coincide with the Aldermaston March, and two, that the information could have been divulged by a person who took part in a big Civil Defence exercise last year'. Someone's due for promotion soon in the 'theoretical' section!
The press reaction to the subtle blackmail of the D notices proved an eye-opener for millions. The nature of the D notice as a form of censorship was clearly presented by the press itself. This was implicit in what it said and even more in what it didn't say! The reaction was predictable enough. Still smarting at the arrest of journalists (for refusal to divulge sources which did not exist) the press took to ridiculing the same authorities which they lacked the guts to disobey.
'The authorities are so perturbed by the scattering of thousands of the illegal pamphlets that even now they warn newspapers not to print what they contain — a case of being late in locking the stable door if ever there was one' grumbled the Herald.10
The D notice apparently also covered photographs of the demonstration at RSG 6. 'Any picture which might identify the centre must not be published in newspapers' came the official instruction. Some news agencies refused to issue pictures of the scenes. Others printed partial pictures. 'Why all the flapdoodle? queried the People11 expressing its annoyed obedience.
With classic smugness the Daily Express12 summed up the situation: 'Mr. Macmillan pays tribute to the press for "loyally" accepting the D notice … But of course the newspapers have an exemplary record for co-operating with the government in security matters. They have always acted with a sense of responsibility. There is not one instance of a newspaper ignoring a D notice on a major issue. The newspapers are as anxious as the government to preserve the safety of the nation'. Yes, and of the class which rules it.
So much for the silent 'heroes' of Fleet Street and their little trip to gaol.
One or two papers seem to have got the message that there was more to the 'Spies' action than just a few Official Secrets. The Timesl3 pontificated:
'… There is a third group within the unilateralist movement which deserves more attention than the other two. It consists of those who are resolved to use this urgent flood of protest to serve their political aims — aims which in many cases would most effectively be achieved by a breakdown of law and order in Britain … The matter of immediate concern is that a clandestine organization, in order to advance its own political cause has not hesitated to publish information which might help an enemy. This is a logical development of this form of political activity … The violent clashes with the police in London, attempts to encourage contempt for the Official Secrets Acts; and the appearance of unilateralist emblems at almost any manifestation of civil disobedience on whatever pretext, are matters of the most serious moment.'
The Telegraph14 also saw this particular writing on the wall:
'… Civil disobedience has grown in the shadow of CND. Spying and sabotage are now growing in the shadow of civil disobedience'.
The 'left' press fared little better. Their reactions were automatically, almost mechanically, predictable. As the struggle against the State develops the utterances of these 'lefts' remind one of a record stuck in a groove, again and again giving all the same old, wrong answers to new problems.
For sheer stodgy lack of political understanding, Tribune15 took the prize. How unaware of the implications of a revolutionary act can Tribune get? Presented with a direct challenge to the capitalist State, 'the paper that leads the anti H-bomb fight' was so devoid of radical instinct that it was incapable of anything better than a Party political broadcast:
'We have little interest in the content of the notorious "Spies for Peace" pamphlet which had done the nuclear disarmament movement a great deal of harm … The organization it describes becomes inevitable once
this country accepted a nuclear strategy … Yet there is a case against official secrecy … Take for instance the Nassau agreement … etc., etc!'
Even Francis Flavius was let loose: 'When I first read about the "Spies for Peace" document I thought it must be the work of an agent provocateur …'
If the workers ever build barricades in Whitehall, Tribune will be out — painting 'Vote Labour' on them.
The 'people's paper', the Daily Worker, was throughout concerned with higher things. It did not even mention the Spies for Peace pamphlet on the Saturday morning, when the rest of the press were doing their nut about it. On Easter Monday, it titled: 'March hands in plea to Queen', while the other papers were still dizzy with excitement about the invasion of RSG 6 on the Saturday morning. For as long as it dared, the Daily Worker ignored the RSG pamphlet altogether. Eventually, in a mealy-mouthed way, it referred to 'activities which to some extent divided the peace movement on the very weekend when the greatest unity was needed'.16 This was its comment on the most radical Aldermaston yet.
Peace Campaign, official organ of the British Peace Committee, went one better. It succeeded in writing an article on Aldermaston 1963 in which no reference whatsoever was made to either 'Spies for Peace' or to the demonstration at RSG 6!
We can understand their discretion in these matters. The Russian rulers, too, have secrets to keep from their own people. They too have probably dug deep bunkers in which they hope to survive while millions around them die. And anyway, bringing the State into ridicule and contempt might prove contagious. So might the example of direct action. So let's hush it all up. The Russian people are perhaps not as convinced that their is a 'workers' state', as some people over here seem to be.
The reaction of the press ('right', 'left', and 'centre') showed how futile the traditional channels of protest have become. When the CND leadership speaks of 'marching into politics', is this the kind of politics they mean? With the publication of the RSG 6 document, a real challenge suddenly confronted people. Yet from the Times to Tribune, from the Daily Mail to the Daily Worker, from the 'leaders' in Westminster to the 'leaders' in Carthusian Street, traditional politics spoke with but a single voice: 'The State is sacred. Down with the Spies'.
* * *
The reactions of a number of well-known political windbags are worth preserving for the record.
MR. PATRICK GORDON WALKER:
'They are spies and must be treated as such'17.
SIR GERALD NABARRO:
'I regard this as a flagrant contravention of the Official Secrets Act and as a matter of the utmost gravity'18.
MR. JO GRIMOND:
'… must not this cause some concern that more damaging infor-mation may indeed leak out'19.
MR. RICHARD MARSH:
'If this is a repeat of the security breaches … then this is an occasion for a full scale inquiry'20.
Vote Labour for bigger and better secrets — for 'socialist' security!
Some interesting differences of opinion were shown over the news of the actual existence of the RSG.s
'Any government … would have a clear duty to prepare for continued administration in the event of nuclear attack'.
—The Times, April 14.
'In making ready to do everything possible to protect the civilian(!) population, ministers have done nothing less than their duty. To have neglected it would have been a betrayal'
—Daily Mail, April 16.
'I recognize one hundred per cent that the government would have been the guilty party if they had not taken proper precautions for setting up an organization …'
EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH The Times, April 24.
'… defence centres would be needed in any future war'.
—Daily Telegraph, April 15.
'One knows that in a nuclear war there would have to be regional headquarters'.
'Of course everyone understands that the government has to make preparations such as this'.
—CANON COLLINS Peace News, April 19.
'God save us from our friends'.
—JAMES CAMERON Daily Herald, April 17.
1. April 15. 2. Daily Sketch, April 13. 3. Sunday Express, April 14.
4. Daily Mirror, April 13. 5. Daily Mail, April 15.
6. Daily Telegraph, April 24. 7. Sunday Times, April 21.
8. Daily Telegraph, April 24. 9. April 13. 10. April 15. 11. April 14.
12. April 24. 13. April 16. 14. April 17. 15. April 19. 16. April 15.
17. Sunday Times, April 21. 18. Evening Standard, April.
19. Times, April 24. 20. Daily Mirror, April 13.