In the British politics of decolonization, the Labour Party and the various anticolonial organizations were forced to craft their political strategies ever mindful of the uneasiness that the decolonization process engendered among the British electorate. (1) The most effective anticolonial organization was the Movement for Colonial Freedom (MCF), founded by Fenner Brockway in 1954. While actively applying pressure both on and within the British government, the MCF was simultaneously fighting a rear-guard campaign against the constant threat of infiltration into the organization from the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), a Party urgently trying to play a meaningful role in anticolonial politics. It was politically vital for the MCF to maintain a public distance between itself and the CPGB due primarily to the threat of proscription from the Labour Party, which would have doomed the MCF to isolation outside the political mainstream. Out of this same political logic, the Labour Party leadership sought to distance itselfpublicly from the MCF, as the MCF's real and imagined links with subversive elements, including foreign and domestic communists, at times proved embarrassing for a Labour Party keen to win the confidence of the British electorate. The three-way relationship between the Labour Party, the MCF, and the CPGB brings to light these organizations' independent struggles to achieve mainstream respectability in the delicate politics of anticolonialism, and reveals a broad process of strategic associations and disassociations. These associative shifts were political projections on the part of these organizations towards broader public appeal and, for the Labour Party and the MCF, away from more embar
rassing ideological cousins whose taint could adversely affect their long-term political goals.
Yet as Shaw's Dora Delaney rhetorically queried, can you blame them? These political projections by the Labour Party, the MCF, and the CPGB expose the strong tension between what was considered by most on the British Left as the right of colonial peoples to be free, pulling hard on one side and, pulling on the other, the strong feeling of the wider British public that its leaders not surrender Britain's global power and prestige. (2) This process should in addition be viewed against the backdrop of the Labour Party's thirteen-year exclusion from power, and its attempt to prove its dependability and trustworthiness as a potential Party in power. A perceived vulnerability to charges of radicalism informed the Party's relationship with the MCF, and also the MCF's relationship with the CPGB. As historian Nicholas Owen writes, "For the critics of Empire to be politically effective, they had not merely to develop an ideological critique of imperialism, but also to harness their cause to the party system. This could only be done at the cost of bending and reshaping anti-imperialism in the interests of party unity and electoral appeal." (3) Accordingly, the MCF was at times forced to modify its radical anticolonial agenda for pragmatic political reasons. And through fits and starts, the opposition Labour Party cautiously came to support many of the MCF's colonial policies, even while occasionally pressuring the MCF to dampen down some of its more controversial positions until public opinion could be coaxed into tow. (4)
The MCF's trajectory of power paralleled the trajectory of decolonization. It peaked at the time of the most intense activity of decolonization in the late 1950s and early 1960s and declined after it became apparent to all but the most obdurate imperialists that the Empire was dissolving. By the end of the 1950s, the MCF had come to supplant the Fabian Colonial Bureau as the primary policymaking organization driving Labour's colonial policies. (5) Even though the MCF came to be the dominant anticolonial organization with a significant impact on Labour's colonial policies, (6) it was the Conservative Party that was in power during the period of the most rapid decolonization. The MCF's impact on the opposition Labour Party must therefore be seen from this perspective: as an outside force exerting influence on an outside party. (7) As this article will show, despite the MCF actively resisting Communist infiltration during the first decade of its existence, by the late 1960s the MCF had effectively become a Communist front organization. While there was never any organizational affiliation between the MCF and the CPGB, the leadership of the MCF, at both the national and local levels, was by the late 1960s dominated by CPGB members and served as a mouthpiece for the Communist line on both international and domestic issues. This was not an inevitable or seamless transition, however. Communist influence in the MCF spread unevenly and it was strongly resisted, and by the time the MCF came under strong Communist influence, political decolonization was largely completed, and with it the MCF's original raison d'etre.
As with other anticolonial organizations, the MCF was most effective at harnessing public outrage by exposing specific abuses and highlighting Imperial excesses, but not in gathering political support for a generalized attack on the entire Imperial foundation. (8) As a rule, the wider the zoom of any anticolonial critique, the narrower the popular support for it. As Owen explains, this vital appeal to the center of British politics meant that critics of the Empire had to attack it obliquely so as to not offend the mass of the electorate. (9) Indeed, the Conservative governments never portrayed their policy of decolonization as a general repudiation of Empire, but as its fulfillment, and its dissolution was not because it was morally flawed, but because, as previously constituted, the postwar Empire was practically untenable and needed to be changed to fit modern times. In the end, this proved to be the only justification for decolonization that was acceptable to the wider British public. Out of necessity, anticolonial politics were thereby channeled within a narrow band of acceptability, with organizations containing any taint of subversivenessmarginalized and. excluded from effective participation. The three-way relationship between the Labour Party, the MCF, and the CPGB examined in this article illustrates the perceived importance for these organizations of achieving, or retaining, mainstream respectability in the delicate politics of decolonization, and elaborates on the negotiation between ideological anticolonialism and pragmatic anticommunism.
The Labour Party was out of government from 1951 to 1964, the most active period of British decolonization. With Labour in opposition, the Conservatives' colonial policies under the Conservative Party leadership were legitimate targets for attack, and many Labour MPs and Labour-affiliated anticolonial organizations actively challenged these policies. Some members of the Labour Party's left wing, with Fenner Brockway as the most vocal representative, actively opposed all forms of British colonialism and called for a complete liquidation of the
Empire. (10) Yet there was never any unanimity within the Labour Party regarding colonial matters, and its anticolonial record reflects this ambivalence. (11) Brockway and the left wing's radical colonial positions clashed with those of the Party's right wing, exemplified most by Labour Party leader Hugh Gaitskill, and his spokesman on colonial affairs James Callaghan. One reason for this dissension within the Labour camp was that by the early 1960s the Labour Party was suffering from a crisis of confidence after losing three consecutive elections. (12) The Conservatives, in leading the way towards decolonization, had also stolen the thunder from the Labour Opposition by preempting a whole range of anticolonial attacks. (13) In so doing, the Conservatives effectively framed the boundaries of politically acceptable debate on colonial issues, with those advocating for more radical positions characterized as being irresponsible, unpatriotic, or possibly even subversive. As a result of this peculiar situation, the Labour Party leadership in Opposition witnessed the liquidation of the Empire from outside government, tentative and reactive, never sure of its proper footing. (14)
Labour had always suffered from a perception that it was perennially and perhaps naturally the party of opposition, too radical and naive to take over the full reins of government. (15) Among the Labour Party's leadership, there was also a fear that they would lose their working class base if there was the perception that Labour was being unpatriotic in surrendering parts of the Empire. (16) Clement Attlee's postwar Labour government constantly faced accusations from Winston Churchill and other Conservative critics that they had "scuttled" the South Asian Empire. (17) Fear of looking like "scuttlers" led Attlee and successive governments of both parties to struggle to appear in control of decolonization, guiding the process, as opposed to being pushed along by global events. (18) By the early 1960s, after being out of power for so long, the Labour Party continued to remain cautious in its approach towards decolonization, careful to display its distance from the more radical activists on the anticolonial Left. Thus, Labour always walked a fine line, between maintaining its leftist anticolonial credentials--as the party of the little man--and offending the patriotic mass of the electorate. This line was further complicated by Cold War politics, and by the fear that, if the British withdrew from their Imperial possessions, former colonies would become satellites of the Soviet Union or Communist China. (19)
The Labour Party had long been hostile to domestic communism, and officially proscribed all organizations affiliated with, or under the influence of, the CPGB. (20) For organizations, proscription from the Labour Party meant that it was forbidden for Labour Party members to join them or even speak on the same platforms. This cordon sanitaire between Labour and the CPGB was due to the very real suspicions many Labour members had of Communists' true intentions, but it was also in part an effort to assuage the British public's fears about communism and achieve electoral respectability. As early as the 1930s, Attlee explained that any Labour association with communism would, among other things, "obviously put off everybody else." (21) Despite this enforced distance, politicians on the Right still challenged Labour about its links with radicals and perceived naivety regarding foreign policy, and exploited these vulnerabilities with some success. This insecurity would continually inform Labour's anticolonialism.
The CPGB was forever locked out of direct access to much of its natural unionbased labour constituency because of Labour's hostility. (22) As a result, it sought to exert influence indirectly through membership in issue-based organizations not affiliated with the Labour Party, particularly those involving colonial issues that provided forums in which it could present its views to a wide audience. (23) Prior to World War II, the CPGB's International Department devoted most of its limited resources to forming ties with revolutionaries and nationalists in Britain's Asian possessions and to participating in the League Against Imperialism (LAI). Despite being a proscribed organization, the LAI initially attraeted a wide range of leftists, including Independent Labour Party member Fenner Brockway, who was its chairman briefly in 1927. In 1928, all noncommunist members of the LAI were purged, and it became a Communist front organization, before fully dissolving in 1937. After the brief wartime truce with the imperial powers, the CPGB resumed its colonial agitations. By the mid 1950s, though, the CPGB leadership began to grow increasingly frustrated about being shut out from the mainstream political process at a critical time for the Empire, and viewed it as a political priority that the CPGB be perceived as involved and out front on anticolonial politics.
None of the existing organizations before the MCF's founding provided a multi-regional and multi-issue forum for the CPGB to use as a vehicle to present its views. More importantly, the organizations that did exist before 1954, such as the Congress of Peoples Against Imperialism (COPAI), the Seretse Khama Committee, and the Kenya Provisional Committee, rejected any CPGB involvement at all, largely because of the efforts of Fenner Brockway. (24) Brockway's intransigence frustrated the CPGB leadership to the point that his rejections were listed highest among the International Department's "Main Problems" in 1953. (25) The International Department reported: "Every possible step has, and is, being taken to secure the cooperation of Brockway and COPAI ... even to the point of making big concessions. But experience has shown that Brockway refuses to cooperate with any committee or movement which includes Communists." (26) Particularly galling to the CPGB was the fact that when delegations from all parts of Africa visited London, they approached Brockway and his COPAI, though they were politically "incline[d] to the CP." (27) Unless an anticolonial organization could be formed with CPGB involvement, "a free field is left to Brockway, Racial Unity, and all kinds of dubious organizations to confuse the real issues." (28) The CPGB report called for the creation of a wide-ranging "African Affairs Committee" that would provide the broad forum that Brockway denied them in existing organizations. (29) It concluded that access to a broad anticolonial coalition would remedy these ills by providing an access point for Communist Party contact with colonials abroad and recent immigrants, as well as giving the CPGB a wide-reaching public forum to express its political beliefs. The formation of the MCF in 1954 seemed to provide the sort of broad-based leftist coalition the CPGB was envisioning a year prior, and it was particularly attractive because it included a wide spectrum of groups that lent the new organization a legitimacy and respectability that the CPGB desperately sought. (30)
The founder of the MCF, Fenner Brockway, was an indefatigable anticolonial campaigner, and was so both before and after the brief time in which anticolonialism was a popular political movement. (31) To accomplish the goal of colonial freedom, Brockway was initially willing to ally with communists. Before the war he was deeply involved with the LAI, despite the threat of expulsion from the Labour Party, as the LAI was then a proscribed organization. Brockway continued to work closely with the LAI, but it was that organization's purge of noncommunists, which convinced him that the CPGB was more concerned with bolstering the Soviet Union's foreign policy than promoting decolonization as an end in itself. This deep reluctance to work with communists after his LAI experiences would later .inform Brockway's future policies towards communist participation in both COPAI and later the MCF. (32) Brockway formed COPAI in 1948 as a second attempt at an international anticolonial organization, and all national communist parties were immediately excluded from affiliation. (33) He soon came to find that this and the other anticolonial groups were still insufficient to make decolonization a reality, and in 1954 a group of British MPs, led by Brockway, formed the Movement for Colonial Freedom. (34)
The MCF was to be a broad-based organization with no party affiliations. Instead, it was to affiliate with trade unions, student groups, and individual pressure groups on diverse colonial issues, and was to take on individual members, including Labour MPs, who would form area councils across Great Britain. At its peak, the MCF could count thirty-eight Constituent Labour Parties, and also had a considerable number of Labour MP sponsors, including future Prime Minister Harold Wilson, future Colonial Secretary Anthony Greenwood, and Barbara Castle, in addition to Fenner Brockway and Tony Benn. The MCF was connected to some of the largest and most influential political organizations of the British LaboUr movement, as well as having significant contact, largely through students, with colonial subjects. (35) This broad base, combined with its Parliamentary connections, made the MCF a major political force in the field of anticolonial politics. Its most effective form of influence was in its creation and distribution of questions to be presented in Parliament and in the MCF's back
bench members pushing debates on colonial issues, which had the effect of shifting the parameters of many of the Parliamentary debates on colonial issues. (36)
The MCF was always more radical than the Labour Party leadership or the gradualist Fabian Colonial Bureau. While the Fabians advocated an extended period of nation building to precede political independence, the MCF called for a faster pace. (37) The MCF, unlike the Fabians, claimed not to be concerned with the successor governments or foreign alignments of the former colonies after independence, even if they were communist and anti-Western. (38) This freed the MCF to call for more speedy timetables for colonial independence, especially since what lay over the cliff politically for the former colonies was deemed a domestic question, and not a Whitehall matter. Even though its colonial line was more radical than the Labour Party's leadership, the MCF's strength among backbenchers and some rank-and-file members made the Party leadership respect and, on occasion, support these views. (39) Examples abound, but one noteworthy case is the 1956 Suez Crisis, in which the MCF immediately opposed the British intervention, while Gaitskell and the Labour Party leadership initially supported Anthony Eden's government. Only later did Labour's leadership accept the MCF's view of the Suez Crisis, and on one notable occasion even asked the MCF to transfer its Trafalgar Square protest over to Labour Party control, which the MCF gladly agreed to do. (40) These instances of leading on progressive issues gave the MCF the reputation of being on the correct side of history, adding to its appeal and prestige. (41)
The MCF was never officially affiliated with any political party, including Labour. This gave them a degree of policy independence, as well as the opportunity to recruit non-Labour members, since there was a Labour Party requirement that any affiliated organization must include only Party members. While officially independent of Labour, the MCF relied heavily upon Labour's support in parliament and was anxious not to run too far afoul of Labour policy. The proscription ban held by the Labour Party over the MCF was a powerful threat that in many ways shaped their relationship and kept the MCF from drifting too far from Labour policy, especially as it pertained to communism.
The early MCF leadership attempted to keep Communists at arms length for three reasons, in ascending order of importance: ideological differences, the leadership's personal experiences, and a mixture of strategic and pragmatic political concerns. Several ideological streams fed the MCF at the rime of its founding, the most significant of which were the radical socialist tradition and the more mainstream Labour tradition, both of which were ideologically hostile to communism. (42) Many early MCF members were also personally offended by the Communist-inspired infighting in the Spanish Civil War, had witnessed the purging of the LAI and the destruction of the anti-Fascist fronts, and were horrified by the Soviet show trials. As a result of these personal experiences, many MCF members viewed the Soviet Union, and communism in general, with great apprehension. (43) The most important reasons for the public distance, however, were pragmatic and strategic political concerns. In addition to the threat of Labour Party proscription, there was the general anticommunist political atmosphere in Britain in the mid-to-late 1950s and early 1960s. The Cold War foreign policy alignment was made palpable by the recent Korean War and the ongoing guerrilla war in Malaya, and for the much of the British public, communism was a short jump from treason. The MCF was constantly under attack from the Fabians, the Conservatives, and right-wing Labour members for being tools of communists, and any open collaboration with the CPGB would give substance to these accusations. (44) The MCF's broad-based structure, supported as they were by labour unions, religious groups, and other mainstream affiliates who tended to be anticommunist, made the MCF directly responsible to some sectors of the British public. Any discovery of the MCF's close involvement with communists in Britain, or with communists in the colonies themselves, gave credence to the arguments often made by critics of decolonization that Britain was being bamboozled into handing over its colonies to Reds. These direct effects pressured the MCF against openly displaying any subversive connections that could potentially cut into its broad base.
The founding Constitution of the MCF stated that national organizations seeking affiliation with the MCF must meet three requirements, the most significant being that "the affiliation of the organization would not be prejudicial to the work of the MCF." (45) Because of the obviously prejudicial impact of a Labour Party proscription and the inevitable public image harm that would result from a CPGB affiliation, the CPGB was denied national association with the MCF in 1954. (46) This provision provided the legalistic rationale for the ban, but its true origins emanated from the highest levels of the MCF. The national leadership was very aware of the CPGB's efforts to infiltrate their organization,'and openly discussed the undesirability of any communist links in both their Executive and General Meetings throughout the first decade of its existence. (47)
Immediately upon the MCF's founding, the CPGB realized its implications for the anticolonial movement, and the organization was a frequent topic of discussion at CPGB meetings. (48) Though the CPGB was rejected for national affiliation in 1954, it did not give up its efforts to gain a foothold on this new and important organization. In a 1956 report, Rajani Palme Dutt of the CPGB wrote: "In the practical field the underestimation [of the importance of colonial questions] has been shown in the neglect of the splendid opportunities opened out for positive work within the MCF and its relation to the aims of the united front." (49) Dutt recommended: "[a] weekend national meeting of leading District cadres; the subject matter to include discussion on our approach to the MCF." (50) Even before Dutt's call for CPGB cadres to join the MCF, the MCF was gaining Communist members, and this steady trend continued. The London Area Council, the largest of the MCF, had gained a significant Communist presence by as early as the late 1950s. Yet despite these significant inroads, decolonization was outpacing communist involvement in the anticolonial movement, and the specter of this greatest of missed opportunities haunted the CPGB. In a 1960 report, the CPGB's International Department stated that its primary focus was on the "struggles in the colonies and the newly-independent nations, and the effort to integrate the issues arising with the struggle taking place in Britain." (51) To accomplish these tasks, the CPGB reported that it was pursuing "activity within the [MCF] and other broad organizations" and recommended "getting the biggest possible mobilization of progressive delegates for the  Annual Conference of the MCF ... and to follow this up to secure more effective Party activity within the MCF." (52) Under "Main Problems Arising," the report stated:
In the course of stimulating a broad movement on these issues there is a dual problem arising. First, to get more active partic ipation in the MCF outside London. The response in London is extremely good, and close relations exist with the MCF in all phases of the activity. But outside London it is clear there is little or no contact with the MCF ... the problem arises of the Party being "freezed out" from political recognition as an important political force in all these broad campaigns. This not only raises the tactical question of pressing for Communist speakers on broad platforms (bearing in mind the existing bans and proscriptions) but also of the CP itself organizing public meetings and rallies on these issues, with its own platform. (53)
The tone was one of barely concealed desperation. The broad-based coalition dreamed of by the CPGB in 1953 was a reality, but in 1960 the MCF was still proving just as cold to communist influence as had earlier Brockway-led organizations.
Contemporaneously with these internecine anticolonial struggles in London between the CPGB and the MCF, the British were brutally bringing to a close the protracted Mau Mau Emergency in Kenya and, at the same time, fighting a vicious war against communist insurgents in the Malayan Federation. (54) The MCF and its predecessor COPAI had always been extremely critical of British policy in Kenya. (55) Brockway and many others in the anticolonial movement perceived the Mau Mau Revolt, which continued from 1952 until 1960, as a colonial liberation movement, and deemed its harsh suppression by the British as morally indefensible. As early as 1953, Brockway, then still the head of COPAI, published "Why Mau Mau? An Analysis and a Remedy," which was an anticolonial critique of British policy in Kenya. (56) Three years later, the MCF sponsored the publication of "The Truth about Kenya: An Eyewitness Account," by Eileen Fletcher, a former officer in Kenyan Mau Mau camps. (57) "The Truth About Kenya" was an expose of the brutality of the Mau Mau detention camps that preceded by two years the revelations of the infamous 1958 Hola Camp episode, in which eleven detainees were beaten to death. (58) Stan Newens has claimed it was largely through the work of the MCF that the Hola Camp beatings were fully brought out in the open, as it was an active MCF member, Barbara Castle, who first introduced the Hola Camp incident to Parliament. (59) In 1959, the Labour Party leadership, so often tentative on colonial matters, attacked the Conservatives in Parliament for essentially condoning "lynch law" in Africa by refusing to accept responsibility for the Hola Camp beatings. (60) Outrage over the Hola Camp beatings drew a great deal of popular support and thoroughly embarrassed the Conservative government. The sustained political uproar over the Hola Camp affair highlighted what the MCF was most effective at, which was exposing specific colonial abuses of power that could be picked up by politicians and campaigners regardless of what their overall views were on the complete liquidation of the Empire. Where the Hola Camp beatings served as a successful example of the MCF galvanizing public indignation for political ends, the simultaneous Malayan letter affair revealed the MCF's limitations in this realm, especially as it involved directly crossing the Labour Party leadership.
The origins of the Malayan Emergency, which began in 1948 and was finally declared over only in 1960, concerned the Malayan Communist Party's decision to take up arms against the newly formed Malayan Federation, then still under British control. In 1957, the Federation of Malaya gained its independence under Tunku Abdul Rahman, making the ongoing war no longer one that could be legitimately portrayed as a war of colonial liberation. Nonetheless, the war continued for three years after independence with the Malayan government still utilizing British and Commonwealth military help in finally defeating the communist insurgency. Among other things, the Emergency created a dangerous split between the Labour Party leadership, who supported the Conservative government's counter-insurgency policy, and the MCF leadership, who consistently viewed the struggle in an anticolonial frame, a split which very nearly resulted in the MCF being declared a proscribed organization.
In March 1958, in response to what the MCF regarded as human rights violations committed by the Malayan government against communist insurgents, Brockway drafted an open letter from the MCF that was signed by thirty-four Labour MPs, and sent it to the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, with copies going to the Prime Minister of the newly independent Federation of Malaya and the press. The letter called for the end of the hostilities in Malaya through negotiation, and the immediate withdrawal of British troops from the region. A similar letter had been sent by the MCF two years earlier in November 1956. The 1956 letter had angered the Malayan Chief Minister, causing Labour MP Aneurin Bevan to soothe matters over by insisting that Labour Party policy remained unchanged and that the MCF did not speak for Labour. Brockway's second letter caused an even greater furor than the first, as it not only embarrassed the opposition Labour Party and undercut the British government's war policy, but also offended the new Malayan government. Coming as it did a year after Malayan independence, the 1958 open letter seemed to many, especially the Malayan government, to be an overreach by the MCF into the sovereign affairs of an independent country, ironically an act imbued with colonial paternalism. (61)
As with the 1956 letter, it was again claimed that the presence of so many Labour MPs' signatures made it appear as though the letter was an expression of official Labour Party policy, causing Labour MPs Griffiths and Callaghan to write to the Malayan High Commissioner assuring him that the letter represented the views only of the MCF, and not official Labour Party policy. (62) Immediately after the publication of the letter, the Labour leadership summoned Brockway and convinced him to send another letter to the High Commissioner stressing that the MCF did not speak on behalf of the Labour Party. (63) In May, both Lim Yew Hock, Singapore's Chief Minister, and Lee Kuan Yew, later to be Singapore's first Prime Minister, complained that, "the actions of the MCF were gravely undermining their attempt to withstand Communist attacks in Singapore." (64) Meanwhile, the domestic political fallout continued. The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations published an open letter to Brockway on 1 April, which defended British policy in Malaya. (65) The letter ended sardonically, "Since your letter has apparently come into the hands of the press, I am also releasing my reply to them." (66)
The real bomb exploded when, in a July 1958 editorial in the Fabian journal Venture, entitled "Freedom for What?," the MCF was publicly lambasted. (67) The editorial argued: "nothing could have more completely played into the hands of the Malayan Communists [than Brockway's 1958 open letter]." (68) The article concluded that the MCF was effectively controlled by "a group of Malayans in London" who have "for years been the helpers and trailblazers of the Malayan Communist Party." (69) It was clear to those familiar with the MCF, that the Venture article referred most specifically to MCF member John Eber. Eber was a leading Malayan Democratic Union member in Singapore before the Emergency who, prior to moving to London, was imprisoned by the British for communist activities. In the MCF, Eber was active on the South-East Asia Committee, and he was deeply involved in Malayan political activities both inside and outside of the MCF. In response to the Venture article, both Eber and Brockway wrote letters to the editor, denying that the MCF was controlled by a clique of Malayan Communists. Brockway wrote that Venture's assertion that the MCF was, "unduly influenced by certain members of the S-E Asian Committee, and that they are 'trailblazers of the MCP' is untrue on both respects. The Committee contains wide-awake Labour MPs who are actively opposed to Communism." (70) He defended Eber as well: "You do not name the alleged supporters of the CP on our S-E Asian Committee, but it would appear that among others you refer to Mr. John Eber. Mr. Eber has made a detailed personal statement to our Executive, and we have come unanimously to the conclusion that the allegations against him are untrue." (71) In his letter, Eber stated: "I am not, nor ever have been, a Communist or 'fellow-traveler,' or any other of the epithets in the wide vocabulary of the witch-hunt." (72) Later in July, a further effort was made by the MCF to contain this political damage by sending out a circular defending both Brockway's original letter and Eber. It concluded, "There is no question of our policy being under suspicion that it is the sinister work of "fellow-travelers." (73)
Despite the MCF's best efforts, the scandal refused to die. Shortly after the Venture article, the Labour Party formed a secret subcommittee to investigate the MCF. The report, entitled "Movement for Colonial Freedom, Private and Confidential," was a scathing indictment of the organization. It opened with the public embarrassment brought upon the Labour Party as a result of the two MCF letters in 1956 and 1958. The result of these letters, the report argues, was an undermining of the Labour Party's foreign policy which confused its international allies and provided ammunition for opponents at home. (74) The report went on to say: "It seems to be conclusively established from experience that [the] actions of the MCF overseas ... involve the reputation of the Labour Movement," and because of the significant Labour Party membership in the MCF, its actions were misinterpreted as "official Labour Party policy." It concluded: "Since the previous representations made to the offices of the MCF have not prevented them from continuing to make public pronouncements for overseas consumption, it is clear that unless some further action is taken by the Party such incidents, involving the official movement here, can be expected to recur." (75) With this report, the MCF was teetering on the edge of proscription.
To mend the MCF's relationship with the Labour leadership, Brockway took a more contrite approach. In August, he wrote the Labour General Secretary, Morgan Phillips, once again to defend his organization, and to propose a meeting. (76) The Labour leadership held the proposed meeting with the MCF representatives, after which Brockway wrote: "We realize that the greatest hope of Britain contributing towards the freedom of the colonial peoples lies in the return of a Labour government which will implement the policies adopted by the Party. Our Executive and Central Council have decided that the MCF should concentrate between now and the General Election on extending support for these policies among not only our affiliated members but the general public." (77) Most significantly, Brockway also offered in the letter to "consult with your Commonwealth Department before issuing any public statements. The only qualification we would make is that these consultations should not involve an unreasonable delay ... We should in these consultations seek to reach agreement on any statement proposed ... [and our officers are to be given authority] to accept amendments suggested by you." (78) Brockway then pleadingly wrote: "We believe you will appreciate that it is difficult for an independent organization to go further than this." (79) On behalf of the Labour Party, Phillips agreed to this new arrangement. (80) Only thus did the MCF escape proscription.
The new checks on their power agreed upon by Brockway and Phillips must have been humbling to the MCF's leadership. John Eber, at the core of the original conflict, was elected the General Secretary of the MCF in March 1959, and that summer acted in accordance with the Brockway-Phillips agreement by submitting a proposed statement on Malaya marking the eleventh anniversary of the Emergency to the Labour Party. The Labour Party concluded that the statement was too radical and threw it out. (81) Throughout that summer, Labour and the MCF exchanged heated letters until finally the party agreed to meet with the MCF leadership to inform them explicitly of its policy regarding the Malayan Emergency. After that, and until the Labour victory in 1964, the MCF ceased . antagonizing the Labour Party as openly as it had over Malaya, though deep disagreements remained.
The conflicts between the MCF and the Labour Party during the late 1950s over the former's communist influences predictably had a chilling effect on the CPGB's opportunities for a closer relationship with the MCF. Just as the CPGB was rejected for national affiliation, on the local level the MCF likewise refused affiliation with local CPGB branches. The MCF did hot, however, have any ban on CPGB members' individual membership in the MCF. (82) As the CPGB realized relatively early on that organizational cooperation would be impossible, the Communists' focus turned inevitably from organizational affiliation to membership infiltration. This was most pronounced in the London Area Council, but influence grew throughout the organization's lower structures. But while Communists made inroads in the lower strata of the organization, the leadership of the MCF on both the national and Area Council levels remained overwhelmingly noncommunist. (83)
Stan Newens, a former Labour MP and the Chairman of the MCF/Liberation following Brockway's retirement in 1967, said in an interview that the MCF was, "uncomfortable with any [MCF] committee dominated by the Communist Party," and as a result, "the committee chairs were made to be Labour MPs, never Communist Party members." (84) This ceiling blocked the advancement of Communist Party members within the MCF on all levels. In 1963, the national leadership of the MCF forced the Wirral Area Council to overturn the election of a known Communist as Deputy Secretary. (85) A letter from the General Secretary, John Eber, stated, "it is quite undesirable for a well-known Communist to hold office in an MCF Area Council." (86) Eber went so far as to ask in the letter for the Area Council Secretary to "send me without delay a list of the six people who were present at the [meeting that elected the deputy secretary] with an indication of the political party to which each belongs." (87) As a result of Eber's pressure, the CPGB member resigned his post, and a noncommunist member took his seat.
In a similar incident in 1964, Sam Kahn, a well-known South African Communist Party member, was elected Secretary of the London Area Council. This sparked a firestorm in the MCF's National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, where both Eber and Brockway opposed the election. (88) Eber stated that Kahn's election was a matter of concern in view of "the already substantial number of British Communist Party members on the London Area EC." (89) In the meeting, Eber said that "nobody who supported MCF's aims was barred from any position in MCF, but the cry of 'witch-hunt' should not be raised to silence those who were warning of the danger to MCF of any particular party or group exercising an undue influence over its affairs." (90) Brockway agreed with Eber that Kahn should vacate his post. In the meeting, Jack Woddis, head of the CPGB's International Department and the MCF's first open Communist member on the NEC, spoke to defend Kahn's appointment and denied that the London Area Council was already swamped with "an excessive number of CP members." (91) It was finally agreed that Brockway would meet with London Area Council members to discuss the matter, but ultimately Kahn's election was validated.
A curious incident occurred in 1963 concerning the Bristol Area Council, the origins of which may in fact have had little to do with communism, but the way it played out sheds light upon how seriously the national leadership, and Eber in particular, viewed the threat of communist infiltration. In late 1962 and through early 1963, Eber had received several reports that the Bristol Area Council Secretary, Sean McConville, was incompetent, and one letter even claimed that he was an outright con man. (92) In early 1963, Eber met with several members of the Bristol Area Council to discuss what to do about McConville. (93) Soon after this meeting, Eber called for McConville's immediate removal: "I am now convinced that he is acting purely under CP instructions to make Bristol MCF [an] instrument of the CP." (94) Following this, Eber and McConville had a face-to-face meeting and obviously discussed McConville's political affiliations, and probably also his ethical practices. Eber most likely concluded that McConville was hOt a Communist Party agent as he was allowed to stay on at his position, but the clear message of the meeting did not miss McConville, as evidenced by his controversial decision to refuse CPGB members a place on the MCF platform during a rally against the Colour bar a month later. (95)
As the last round of decolonization proceeded apace following Ghana's independence in 1957 under the Conservative Party's leadership, the MCF's political role became more ambiguous. In an MCF circular dated from September 1959, Brockway wrote:
The political issue is largely won, if I may say so, in part to the work of the MCF. But the sternest issues remain--Southern Rhodesia, South Africa, South East Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and race relations in 'our own country and elsewhere. Military and economic imperialism remains.... Should we-close down? NO! NO! NO! We are still the background group on all imperialist issues. There are still 30 British Colonial possessions. There are in addition to the issues mentioned above, the bigger remaining issues of neocolonialism, which dominates so much of world politics. (96)
This statement by Brockway is interesting in many ways. Its early date suggests how soon Brockway realized that the founding purpose of the MCF, political decolonization, was largely being achieved, and that a newer purpose needed to be created while there was still some anticolonial momentum. Of the "sternest issues" that Brockway referred to, only Southern Rhodesia concerned political decolonization at all. This broader vision presaged the new direction that the MCF would follow by the mid-1960s. But the statement also betrayed a fear that with the movement's early successes, complacency would settle in before these newer, more abstract, and more controversial issues could be addressed. And even with this statement by Brockway outlining how the MCF could remain relevant in a postcolonial world, his fears about the complacency of the movement after political decolonization proved prophetic.
As Stan Newens acknowledged in an interview, a sense of apathy did permeate into much of the MCF rank and file by the mid 1960s. (97) This flagging of interest in the work of the MCF was in large part due to the fact that by then all but a few minor colonial possessions had achieved political independence. Trade union support dropped, as did support from more moderate members. (98) The MCF was losing affiliations, and its membership dropped precipitously. The Chief of the Fire Brigades Union captured the mood of many members when he asked Newens: "Why go on? The work is done. There are no more colonies." (99) The noncommunist Left and youth likewise grew disinterested in the work of the MCF, and they began to leave for newer, more relevant leftist organizations. (100) Moreover, after the 1964 election of Harold Wilson's government, many Labour Party members did not want to antagonize the Labour government too harshly for fear of either weakening the government or destroying their links to it. Many believed that bolstering Labour's power was more important in the long term than confronting the new government over controversial neocolonial issues. With the MCF being drained from all sides, Barbara Haq, who succeeded John Eber as General Secretary in 1966, spent a large share of her term attempting to convince members and affiliates to stay on, trying to woo back members whose memberships had lapsed, or defending the stances and purpose of the MCF to members. (101)
The new postcolonial purpose for the MCF, envisioned early on by Brockway, began to be fully incorporated after Jack Woddis's joint publication of "What is Neocolonialism" in 1961. (102) This theory postulated that although the ex-colonies were quickly gaining their political freedom, the imperial powers maintained effective control through their economic and military ties. (103) The new focus on neocolonialism began to be accepted widely by the MCF leadership throughout the 1960s, and in 1967, the MCF officially decided to change its name to "Liberation," reflecting this new emphasis. (104) Brockway explained the name change in 1970: "We must recognize that our image has lost public support because of our contribution towards ending.political dependence. Even friends query our name--the Middle East, the Nigeria/Biafra war, Latin America, Racial Discrimination, World Poverty are not obviously covered by the name MCF." (105)
There was a slow rise in the influence of the CPGB over the MCF, both nationally and locally, from the mid 1960s. This was not, however, a result of a dramatic rise in new communist members. Newens explained in an interview that the number of communists in the MCF remained roughly constant, but as moderates, unions, the youth, and the noncommunist Left all fled in droves, the core communist members grew proportionately more powerful. (106) But even while noncommunist numbers dropped out and the remaining CPGB core became more powerful within the emaciating MCF, there were still efforts by some of the old guard in the MCF to keep the communist influence to a minimum.
After being rebuffed at every early attempt at infiltration, the CPGB came to exert an increasing influence over the MCF from the mid- 1960s onwards. (107) The political shift in the MCF that allowed greater CPGB influence was due to three factors: the aforementioned drain from the MCF of noncommunists; a general lessening of Cold War tensions; and significant personnel changes within the MCF leadership. The most important of these were the MCF personnel changes. John Eber, the organization's General Secretary from March 1959 to December 1965, was the most vigorous opponent of the rise in communist influence within the MCF. He and his wife, Lian Eber, the Area Organizer in charge of most activities concerning the local Area Councils, were the most aggressively anticommunist. Eber, as General Secretary, was responsible for most of the correspondence between the national MCF and outside organizations, the local Area Councils, and individual members. He set the agenda for all national meetings, organizing which topics were discussed and for how long, subject only to the wishes of the Chairman, Brockway. He also worked closely with and had the ear of Brockway, who in the MCF carried a great deal of Weight. The General Secretary was the second most powerful position in the MCF, and Eber effectively used his position to forestall communist advancement in the organization.
It is perhaps curious that Eber, who had been imprisoned in Malaya for being a communist and who had bristled at being the target of what he referred to as a "witch hunt" during the 1958 letter affair, became the MCF's most vigilant witch hunter. His last major action as General Secretary was to protest in a Central Council meeting that CPGB member Jack Woddis was using his position as the MCF representative to the British Council for Peace in Vietnam (BCPV) to "put forward the views of the CP." (108) Eber stated that because of Woddis's actions, he wished to withdraw from the MCF delegation. (109) In the same meeting, Brockway, who had earlier shared Eber's concerns over Woddis's appointment to the BCPV, defended Woddis's behavior, publicly undercutting Eber. (110) Without the support of his erstwhile ally, Eber could no longer act as an effective check on Woddis's behavior. Eber subsequently resigned from the BCPV delegation and later as the MCF General Secretary, and his wife Lian likewise resigned as the MCF's Area Organizer. (111) After Eber's stormy departure, former CPGB member Barbara Haq took over the General Secretary position in January 1966, despite Woddis's complaint that the open General Secretary position was not adequately advertised in communist periodicals, but instead only in Socialist and Labour Party publications. (112) Nonetheless, despite Woddis's worries, Haq proved to be no barrier whatsoever to the Communists' rise in influence in the MCF. No written correspondence or meeting minutes over Haq's seven-year term ever again discussed communist influence, a topic that dominated so much of Eber's tenure.
Brockway's retirement in 1967, and his replacement by Stan Newens, removed the last personal barrier to communist advancement within the MCF. By 1967, communists already dominated the London Area Council, the MCF's largest Area Council, and it was headed by Secretary Kay Beauchamp, whom Newens described as "a staunch Stalinist." (113) In the thirteen years since the founding of the MCF, the leadership had changed dramatically. By 1967, Leon Szur was the only remaining NEC member from the MCF's founding. The founding leadership in 1954 contained no communists, but by 1970, the MCF leadership included Billy Strachan, Dorothy Kuya, Sam Kahn, Tony Gilbert, Kay Beauchamp, and Jack Woddis, all open communists. This communist presence was significant enough to act as the single most powerful bloc in the MCF/Liberation organization.
The leadership turnover in the MCF manifested itself in concrete policy changes. On colonial issues the CPGB and the MCF's politics were always very close, even during the early years, and the Labour Party often cautiously followed the MCF's lead, albeit always some distance behind. With the Labour Party victory in 1964 it must have appeared as though the MCF's wide-ranging international policies were finally on the brink of being realized by the incoming government. Harold Wilson was an early MCF sponsor, as was his Colonial Secretary Anthony Greenwood, and Tony Benn, who was long active in the MCF leadership, also joined Wilson's cabinet. Despite these strong MCF connections, however, once in power Labour did hOt follow the radical international policies advocated by the MCF. (114) Indeed, with political decolonization by and large completed, and the Labour government not subscribing to the MCF's new controversial focus on neocolonialism, the result was that the CPGB and the shrunken-down MCF marched together away from Labour Party policy. (115) Prior to 1964, the MCF would occasionally challenge Labour, but never too provocatively, especially after the Brockway-Philips agreement. By the mid- 1960s, the MCF aggressively began to confront the Labour leadership for the first time. One example occurred over the government's line against Rhodesia's white settler regime following that country's Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965. Consistent with the views of many Of the newly freed nations in the Commonwealth, the MCF/Liberation thought Wilson was far too soft in his dealings with the rebel regime and called for stronger action to bring the regime to heel. (116) Likewise, regarding British Guiana, the MCF felt betrayed by Labour's actions regarding the proportional election scheme that aimed to lessen the power of the leftist Peoples' Progressive Party, and publicly protested the Labour Party's policy. (117) The MCF also openly challenged the Labour government's policy on the Vietnam War. This new freedom to confront its erstwhile patrons gave the MCF activists wider latitude of action, yet at the same time much less political influence, and any increase in volume and vitriol was mitigated by an ever greater distance from those in power.
Decolonization was an extremely delicate process in Britain, and the postwar governments of both parties were very concerned about the electoral impact that an Imperial retreat would have. Successive British governments were squeezed by new realities that rendered old-style colonialism untenable, and a patriotic British electorate who would seemingly not allow any government to retreat ignominiously from the Empire. Stuart Ward has argued that despite the appearance of a relatively smooth political transition to colonial freedom, "the broad spectrum of public opinion remained constantly at the forefront of government deliberations on imperial and Commonwealth affairs from the 1940s right through to the late 1960s." (118)
For British politicians of both parties, these pressures added a heightened sensitivity to matters relating to colonial independence, especially as there was always the slightest whiff of subversion behind the anticolonial agenda. This political sensitivity regarding colonial issues was even more keenly felt by the Labour Party, which was traditionally more susceptible to charges of gullibility or radicalism in foreign affairs than were the Tories. The fear of any communist taint--of putting off everybody else, as Attlee said--was thought to be so damaging that the Labour Party leadership was very concerned about the MCF's communist links, and the effect that this would have on the British public's perception of Labour. It was because of this political sensitivity that the Labour Party distanced itself from the MCF when public accusations began to be made about the latter's communist links, as exemplified most clearly in the brouhaha surrounding the MCF's open letters on Malaya.
In order to retain its vital links to the Labour Party, and thereby remain relevant, the MCF vigorously closed off all avenues for communist advancement in that organization for the first decade of its history. A result of these political shifts was that British Communists were shut out of mainstream anticolonial politics, and played virtually no role at all in the end of Empire. The MCF's legacy is more mixed. Its rise to prominence in the field of anticolonial politics corresponded with a parallel rise in the fulfillment of its primary and original goal--political decolonization. However, this temporal overlap does not suggest a direct causation, as its influence on the Conservative governments' colonial policies was minimal. (119) Notwithstanding its limited ability to shape colonial policies positively, the MCF was quite effective at focusing directed attacks at specific imperial outrages, such as the Kenyan Hola Camp beatings. It is also uncontestable that it had a strong influence on the Labour Party during those years when Labour was out of power, yet with the resurgence of the Labour Party in 1964, the MCF's power was ironically reduced. (120) Taken all in all, decolonization must be seen as a disappointment to all the organizations of the anticolonial Left. They lost ownership of the cause of political decolonization to more centrist forces, who effectively marginalized them and excluded them from participation in the process. As sold to the British public, decolonization was packaged as the best way to retain British power and influence, and was thereby stripped of much of its moral punch. And even as the more visible cords of political dominance were severed with great pageantry, more stubborn cords remained firmly attached. With this most rapid phase of decolonization over, the anticolonial Left's old cause had disappeared before its eyes, and its newer cause of neocolonialism was too controversial and too abstract to garner widespread interest outside academic circles until many years later. (121)
(1) For a thorough examination of anticolonial politics, see S. Howe, Anticolonialism in BritishPolitics: The Lefi and the End of Empire, 1918-1964 (Oxford, 1993); see also D. Goldsworthy, Colonial Issues in British Politics, 1945-1961 (Oxford, 1971).
(2) loan Davies in a New Left. Review article from 1963 describes "the essence of the Labour Party dilemma" as he viewed it. Labour attempted to reconcile these contrary demands through the concept of a multiracial Commonwealth that was based on cooperation and continued British predominance. In practice this reconciliation was far from coherent. I. Davies, "The Labour Commonwealth," New Left Review, I, 22 (1963).
(3) N. Owen, "Crities of Empire in Britain", in J. Brown, and W. R. Louis (eds), The Oxford History of the British Empire: The Twentieth Century, (Oxford, 1999), p. 191.
(4) Howe convincingly argues that the Labour Party very often came to follow the MCF's lead on colonial matters. See generally, Howe, Anticolonialism.
(5) See generally, Owen, Critics.
(6) Owen, Critics, p. 206.
(7) For a detailed analysis of the Labour movement's role in the end of Empire, see: P. S. Gupta, Imperialism and the British Labour Movement. 1914-1964 (New York, 1975).
(8) Owen, Critics, pp. 209-10.
(9) Owen, Critics, p. 209.
(10) See generally MCF/Liberation literature, including: S. Newens, "A History of Struggle: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Liberation, Formerly the Movement for Colonial Freedom" (unpublished pamphlet, 2004).
(11) See generally, J. Darwin, The End of the British Empire: The Historical Debate (Oxford, 1991).
(12) M. Donnelly, Sixties Britain (Harlow, United Kingdom, 2005).
(13) As Davies noted in 1963, "... it was certainly difficult for Labour that MacMillan appeared to be developing Creech Jones' own colonial policy." Davies, "The Labour Commonwealth," p. 8.
(14) The Labour Party typically desired to avoid controversial colonial issues and instead focus primarily on domestic politics when out of power. For a good overview of Post-War Labour politics see: P. Dorey, British Politics Since 1945 (Oxford, 1995).
(15) Kevin Jefferys wrote: "lt was widely agreed that after the heady days of the Attlee government, the Labour Party had consigned itself to opposition--perhaps permanently...." Kevin Jefferys, "'Labour in Opposition, 1951-1964", in Peter Dorey (ed.), The Labour Governments 1964-1970 (London, 2006), p. 12.
(16) See generally: Darwin, The End of the British Empire.
(17) W.M. Roger Lewis, "The Dissolution of the British Empire", in J. Brown, and W. R. Louis (eds), The Oxford History of the British Empire: The Twentieth Century (Oxford, 1999), p. 339.
(18) Roger Lewis, "The Dissolution of the British Empire," p. 329.
(19) p. Murphy, Party Politics and Decolonization: The Conservative Party and British Colonial Policy in Tropical Africa, 1951-1964 (Oxford, 1995), pp. 33-34.
(20) D. Childs, Britain since 1945: A Political History (London, 1979), pp. 14-16.
(21) Quoted in J. Swift, Labour in Crisis: Clement Attlee and the Labour Party in Opposition, 1931-1940 (New York, 2001), p. 144.
(22) j. Callaghan, Cold War, Crisis and Conflict: The CPGB 1951-68 (London, 2003); and N. Branson, History of the CPGB, 1941-1951 (London, 1997).
(23) Sec generally: Callaghan, Cold War; Crisis and Conflict.
(24) Labour History Archive and Study Center, Peoples' History Museum, Manchester, UK [hereafter cited as LHA], CPGB papers, CP/CENT/INT/66/01 International Dept. "Report to Political Committee," 25 June 1953.
(25) LHA, CPGB papers, Report, 25 June 1953.
(30) Callaghan, Cold War, Crisis and Conflict, p. 138.
(31) Brockway was the author of numerous books on colonialism and other topics, including his own long and interesting political career. See also: "Fenner: His Work Lives On," (Unpublished Pamphlet, 1988).
(32) Interview with Stan Newens, former Chairman of the MCF/Liberation, [hereafter Newens interview] 6 August 2004, Harlow, United Kingdom.
(33) For a detailed examination of the origins of the MCF, see: Howe, Anticolonialism.
(34) Gupta claimed that the MCF emerged partially from the crisis in the Labour Party between the Right and the Left over British Guiana, with the MCF forming a radical counterweight to the more conservative Fabians. Gupta, Imperialism and the British Labour Movement, p. 360.
(35) S. Newens, "A History of Struggle: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Liberation, Formerly the Movement for Colonial Freedom" (Unpublished Pamphlet, 2004); see also: "The Work of Liberation (formerly MCE Movement for Colonial Freedom) over 50 Years, 1954-2004 & the Cause of the People of the Third World," a talk given by Stan Newens at Conway Hall, London, 22 May, 2004.
(36) Howe, Anticolonialism, pp.254-55. Murphy, however, questions the real influence of parliamentarians in decolonization, as he argues that the most important decisions happened outside of public view. Murphy, Party Politics and Decolonization. p. 23.
(37) Gupta, lmperialism and the British Labour Movement, p. 361.
(38) Ibid., pp. 361-62.
(39) See generally: Howe, Anticolonialism.
(40) Newens interview, 6 August 2004.
(41) Davies wrote in 1963 that, "Although [the MCF] produces many pamphlets and information sheets on colonialism, its work has been more in public presentation of bare facts than in sustained analysis." Davies, "The Labour Commonwealth," p. 10.
(42) For an interesting study of the ideological influences of the early MCF, see: Howe, Anticolonialism.
(43) Newens interview, 6 August 2004.
(44) Newens interview, 6 August 2004. See also for example: H. Soref and I. Greig, The Puppeteers (London, 1965). This association with subversive doctrines made the MCF very vulnerable to attack. Davies observed in 1963 that the MCF "is probably the only group affiliated to the Labour Party which has a specifically Marxist tone about it." Davies, "The Labour Commonwealth," p. 10.
(45) Liberation/MCF Archives, School of Oriental and African Studies Library, London, UK [hereafter cited as SOAS/MCF], 1959/60 MCF Constitution, Section (3), subsection 3.
(46) Benn Papers, MCF CC minutes, 27 Nov. 1954. Cited in Howe, Anticolonialism, p. 264.
(47) The weight of the archival and oral evidence that indicates the degree to which Communist infiltration was of concern to the MCF leadership for the first decade of its existence, especially as it related to the threat of Labour Party proscription, stands in contrast to the recollection of the MCF's long-time Treasurer, Tony Benn. Benn, who was active in the early MCF leadership and was no doubt present at many meetings in which Communism was discussed, claimed in 2004, a week after the MCF/Liberation's 50th Anniversary Party, that he could noL "recall the matter [of the CPGB's attempts at infiltration into the MCF ever] being discussed.'" E-mail exchanges with Tony Benn; 3 June 2004 and 4 June 2004.
(48) LHA, CPGB papers, CP/CENT/1NT/66/01, CPGB International Department "Report and Proposais to the IAC," May, 1956. "Subjects taken between 23rd and 24th Congress."
(49) LHA, CPGB papers, CP/CENT/PC/02/33, "Draft Report to NEC," 10-11 November, 1956.
(51) LHA, CPGB papers, CP/CENT/INT/66/01 "Report on the Work of the International Department," 2 March, 1960.
(54) For an interesting take on the early internal politics of the Malayan conflict, including the involvement of John Eber, see: B. K. Cheah, The Masked Comrades: A Study of the Communist United Front in Malaya, 1945-48 (Singapore, 1979).
(55) B.A. Ogot, "Review Article: Britain's Gulag: Histories of the Hanged: Britain's Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire, by David Anderson, Britain's Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya, by Carolyn Elkins," The Journal of African History, 46 (2005), pp. 493-505.
(56) F. Brockway, "Why Mau Mau? An Analysis and a Remedy," (COPAI Pamphlet, London, 1953).
(57) E. Fletcher, "The Truth About Kenya: An Eyewitness Account," Peace News, (London, 1956).
(58) The Hola Camp beatings continue to hold a place in the British Left's imagination. Recent events in the War on Terror were claimed to evoke the Hola Camp beatings in several provocative articles. Sec for example, M. Bunting, "Is This Our Hola Camp?" The Guardian, 15 March 2004.
(59) Newens made this claim forcefully at a speech at the "Labour Heritage" Annual General Meeting, March 2004.
(60) "Shame the Devlin," Time Magazine, 10 August 1959.
(61) This affair also exposes the hollowness of the MCF's repeated claim of neutrality as to the post-independence political alignment of the former British colonies.
(62) Labour History Archive and Study Center, Peoples' History Museum, Manchester, UK [here after cited as LHA], Labour Party papers, Commonwealth sub-committee of the NEC, "Movement for Colonial Freedom, Private and Confidential," July 1958.
(65) LHA, Labour Party papers, Lord Home to Brockway, 1 April 1958.
(67) Editorial, "Freedom From What?," Venture, July 1958.
(70) LHA, Labour Party papers, Brockway to Venture, n.d., 1958.
(71) LHA, Labour Party papers, Brockway to Venture, 1958.
(72) LHA, Labour Party papers, Eber to Venture, 16 July 1958.
(73) LHA, Labour Party papers, Barnstable to MCF affiliates, July 1958.
(74) LHA, Labour Party papers, "Private and Confidential," July 1958.
(76) LHA, Labour Party papers, Brockway to Phillips, 19 August 1958.
(77) LHA, Labour Party papers, Brockway to Phillips, 27 October 1958.
(80) LHA, Labour Party papers, Phillips to Brockway, 3 December 1958.
(81) LHA, Labour Party papers, Eber to Hatch, 12 August 1959.
(82) SOAS/MCF, Lian Eber to McAuley, 8 December 1964.
(83) Newens interview, 6 August 2004.
(85) SOAS/MCF, John Eber to McAuley, 16 April 1963.
(88) SOAS/MCF, NEC minutes, 15 August 1964.
(92) SOAS/MCF, brother of alleged victim to Eber, n.d., early 1960s.
(93) SOAS/MCF, Daphne Morgan to Eber, 19 January 1963.
(94) SOAS/MCF, Eber to Henry Hardcastle, 16 April 1963.
(95) SOAS/MCF, Morgan to McConville, 11 May 1963.
(96) MCF circular authored by Brockway, 5 September 1959. Quoted in MCF/Liberation history web site: www.liberationorg.co.uk. This website has been taken offline as of 2007.
(97) Newens interview, 6 August 2004.
(100) One member wrote, "The real impetus of the anti-imperialist campaign has now passed to the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign ... all the MCF can now usefully do is dissolve itself in to the VSC." SOAS/MCF, lan Birdall to Haq, Dec. 1968. Eber lamented the lack of appeal that the MCF had for young people, and even went so far as to suggest a more hip sounding name change for the MCF: the "Socialist Alliance with Under-Developed Territories--SALUTE." SOAS/MCF, NEC minutes, 27 October 1960.
(101) SOAS/MCF, Haq letters to members and affiliates generally from 1966 to 1973.
(102) On the cusp of the MCF's political turn, Davies noted that "the policies of MCF are still couched in terms of a moral campaign when the real issues more than ever concern the specific content of political decisions in the new countries and the complex issues of re-grouped power-relations." Davies went on to conclude that "moral crusades may have its advantages in limited strategy, today it soon exhausts its force." Davies, "The Labour Commonwealth," p. 10.
(103) Neocolonial theory holds that there occurred a shift in world power dynamics from de jure political empires to de facto economic and military empires after decolonization. While its origins can be traced to the early 1960s, neocolonialism had been almost exclusively of academic interest for the first thirty years of its existence. This theory has had a remarkable popular resurgence with the anti-globalization movement and their critiques of the international economic institutions of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and the World Trade Organization from the mid-1990s. Ironically, and again as with political decolonization, despite MCF/Liberation being out front on these multi-faceted neocolonial issues almost from the beginning, younger, more aggressive groups have far surpassed Liberation in popularity, which has again failed to take ownership of an issue in which they were the early pioneers.
(104) SOAS/MCF, Eber to potential member, 16 March, 1965: SOAS/MCF, ADC "Tasks Ahead," 1967.
(105) MCF Extraordinary National Delegate Conference, London, 10 October 1970. Minutes, quoted in J. Percy, "The Liberation Archives at the WCML," on the Working Class Movement Library web site: www.wcml.org.uk
(106) Newens adamantly denied that the MCF/Liberation ever became a Communist Front. Newens interview, 6 August 2004.
(107) How this process came to be has been largely overlooked by historians. Stephen Howe's book, Anticolonialism in British Politics: The Left and the End of Empire, 1918-1964, examines the early MCF/Labour Party dynamic that influenced the MCF's relationship with Communists up to 1964, but as his temporal scope ended before the dramatic political shift in the MCF in the mid1960s, he portrayed a relationship that was static and unchanging. John Callaghan briefly discusses the changed relationship between the MCF and the CPGB after the mid 1960s, which ended with a strong Communist influence on the MCF, in his book, Cold War, Crisis and Conflict: The CPGB 1951-68, but did not describe in any detail how this change came to be. No other work has offered anything more than an oblique reference to this important shift in the MCF. Howe, Anticolonialism, pp. 260-67; and Callaghan, Cold War, Crisis and Conflict, pp. 136-41.
(108) SOAS/MCF, CC minutes, 4 Nov. 1965.
(111) SOAS/MCF, Special CC minutes, 25 Nov. 1965.
(113) Newens interview, 6 August 2004.
(114) Dorey, British Politics Since 1945, p. 146.
(115) In addition to its new focus on neocolonialism, the MCF/Liberation and the CPGB from the late 1960s became involved in general anti-racism and immigration-related campaigns along with other campaigns that strayed far from their original mandate.
(116) MCF/Liberation's web site: http://www.liberationorg.co.uk/ Liberations%20History%20%20Zimbabwe.htm
(117) MCF/Liberation's web site. http://www.liberationorg.co.uk/ Liberations%20History%20%20British%20Guiana.htm
(118) Stuart Ward (ed.), British Culture and the End of Empire (Manchester, 2001), p. 6.
(119) Regarding the ultimate influence of the more "strident anticolonialism" that began to emerge in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Darwin concludes that, at most, radical anticolonial groups "may have modified the political climate in which colonial policy was made to some extent," yet even this "should not be exaggerated." Darwin, The End of the British Empire. p. 9.
(120) See generally: Owen, Critics; and Howe, Anticolonialism.
(121) On 22 May 2004, Liberation marked its fiftieth anniversary with a celebration that filled Conway Hall in London with a grey-haired crowd of old campaigners. Several hundred ticket-holders were in attendance, the author of this article among them--though notably without grey hair as yet. Celebrants heard speeches by Tony Benn, Stan Newens, Jeremy Corbyn, and others, recalling the glory days of the MCF, and discussing the future of British socialism in the wake of the Afghan and Iraq Wars. For a description of the evening's events see the pamphlet entitled "Liberation at 50--An Evening of Celebration," 22 May 2004, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London, United Kingdom.
Josiah Brownell is a PhD candidate in History at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, United Kingdom. His research focuses on the role racial demographics played in the final years of settler rule in Rhodesia. Mr. Brownell has taught classes in modern and colonial African history, as well as modern world history, at several colleges in and around New York City. He wishes to thank his wife, Bethany, for her untiring support, her patient car, and especially her critical red pen.…