Article from Class War newspaper about former MI5 officer David Shayler and his dealings with left-wing, anarchist and progressive groups
David Shayler Revisted
The former (?) MI5 officer David Shayler continues his bizarre meanderings across the political fringe. Having been taken to the bosom of the Stop the War Coalition, Shayler denounced them at the 2005 Anarchist bookfair. Shayler gate crashed that event with the so-called 9/11 Truth Movement (alternatively known as the conspiraloons) who have all sorts of bizarre theories about what actually happened in New York in September 2001.
As far back as summer 2000 (issue 79) Class War devoted a whole page to the curious activities of Mr Shayler and his partner, Annie Machon, who was his supervisor at MI5, and is currently Secretary of the British and Irish 9/11 Truth Campaign.
Given the above, it seems timely to republish our 2000 article about David Shayler, which we believe has more than stood the test of time.
David Shayler, His Friends and Class War
Most Class War readers will have heard of David Shayler, the ex-MI5 man currently living in Paris after the French government refused to extradite him to the UK. The government wanted to put him on trial for breaching the Official Secrets Act. Shayler became controversial by writing a series of whistle blowing articles about MI5, most importantly in the Mail on Sunday in 1997 and in his fortnightly column in Mohamed Al Fayed's Punch magazine.
Since 1997 Shayler has been supported by some strange bedfellows including Liberty, Mohammed Al Fayed, Francis Wheen and Mark Thomas of Channel 4 fame. Most recently he appeared on Have I Got News For You.
Mark Thomas, who has done some good work exposing the establishment for what it is, made a serious error of judgement in supporting Shayler in a liberal way. What we mean by this is that Mark approached this as a case without working class history - Mark writes off any anti-working class activity Shayler did before his split from MI5. This includes his connection to Class War.
When MI5 gagged Shayler, he used his girlfriend, another ex-MI5 officer, to speak on his behalf in the Daily Mail. The paragraph reproduced below from 'Defending the Realm - MI5 and the Shayler Affair" by Hollingsworth and Fielding originally appeared in the Mail on Sunday 31/8/97
"the service accepted an offer from an alcoholic, unstable self-proclaimed anarchist to report on his fellow conspirators. He was paid cash in hand, although MI5 knew he had a drink and drugs problem. 'They had a big thing about crusties with dogs who sit around talking about throwing Molotov cocktails' said Shayler. 'They're no threat'.
By late 1991, F Branch still had six officers, five agent-handlers and three managers plus twenty support staff. Their targets were the Communist Party of Britain (an offshoot of the original CPGB) the SWP, the Militant Tendency, the Revolutionary Communist Party, the National Front, the British National Party and assorted anarchists like Class War.
Shayler's responsibility was to analyse and assess information from agent sources and Special Branches across the country. Where necessary, he compiled reports either for MI5 management or for government departments. He also carried out extensive research into the Communist Party of Great Britain and Class War."
At the time Green Anarchist were at Crown Court during the so-called Gandalf trial, a trial with serious implications for the radical media in the UK, and their barristers believed the article could influence jury members against their clients. When challenged the Mail's lawyers replied that the anarchists concerned were not Green Anarchists but Class War, and they even went so far as to name the alleged grass - an Andy Bryant.
Now Andy's membership was nearly a decade ago and he has not been seen since vanishing to Europe with a small amount of the London groups cash - out of order, but was it really part of something more sinister?
Hollingsworth and Fielding have added a small quote from Shayler about crusties etc that was not in the Mail on Sunday piece, but give us little in the way of analysis. Arguably the quote shows us an indication of Shayler's own personal prejudices, something he demonstrated more fully in an article on Class War in Punch magazine in March.
Dogs on String
Mr Shayler is clearly a man who likes to have his pint and drink it (and we're not just referring to his ample waistline) - in one part of his column he is complaining about Tony Blair pandering to the prejudices of Daily Mail readers, in the next he is dragging out all the old clichés about anarchists and dogs on string, threats to public health and so on. No anarchist group has tried harder, rightly or wrongly, to avoid a crustie image than Class War. If the accuracy of Shayler's analysis of Class War is anything to go by we are not surprised MI5 got rid of him!
About Class War Shayler gives away surprisingly little, as somebody who wished to really damage MI5 would surely give details of how the alleged recruitment was made. Was it via another activist? Via the police? And also precise details of any cash or drugs involved. Any such detail is ignored and replaced by his prejudices, to froth any story up for the media.
The period 1997 to date is not the first time Shayler has appeared to be anti-authoritarian. During the miners strike he was involved in the Miners Support Group in Dundee, and as a student journalist he reproduced extracts from "Spycatcher" when it was still banned. These two facts make it odd, if not downright suspicious, that he was subsequently allowed to join MI5.
Larry O'Hara has given a full analysis of why he thinks Shayler should be viewed with the utmost caution in his magazine "Notes from the Borderland". Given the huge amount Shayler does not tell us, and the quality of the little he does, that would appear to be sound advice. That advice was sadly not taken by Liberty, formerly the National Council for Civil Liberties, who have not only been Shayler's staunchest supporters, but have even employed his girlfriend Annie Machon, like Shayler a former member of MI5's counter-subversion department.
As the gist of Shayler's critique of MI5 appears to be that it was not efficient enough - i.e. that it was not good enough at spying on the likes of you and me - what little credibility Liberty have left appears to be crumbling. Class War believes Liberty would be better served attacking the totalitarian agenda of Mr Blair than supporting people who a few years ago were probably spying on Liberty themselves.
Liberty - and for that matter the entire British media - are missing the real story here, and no it is not about Class War. In the 1990s both Green Anarchist and Red Action faced major offensives from the security services that came out at court. In Green Anarchist's case three members were jailed for three years (before getting out on appeal nine months later). In Red Action's case two members got life for Irish terrorist offences, one guilty and one set up by a self-confessed MI5 agent who was paid £250,000 for his trouble. Shayler and Liberty appear strangely quiet about these miscarriages of justice.
In the period Shayler carried out his "extensive research" into Class War we went through some extremely difficult times with splits, lies and nonsense breaking out left, right and centre, problems that really only died out post 1997. Shayler, and for that matter Hollingsworth, Fielding, Mark Thomas and Liberty appear to have nothing to tell us about Red Action and Green Anarchist, and very little about Class War other than cheap jibes. Is this because they are still defending the realm?
This article originally appeared in issue 79 of Class War (Spring 2000)