The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB

By Christopher Andrew; Vasili Mitrokhin | Go to book overview
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SEVENTEEN
THE KGB AND WESTERN COMMUNIST PARTIES

The KGB and Western Communist Parties Throughout the Cold War, Communist parties around the world dismissed claims that they were involved in Soviet espionage as crude McCarthyite slander. KGB files, however, give the lie to most of their denials. From the 1920s onwards Western Communists were regularly asked for help in intelligence operations, which they usually considered their fraternal duty to provide. Most leaders of even the largest Western parties equally considered it the fraternal duty of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union ( CPSU ) to provide, via the KGB, annual subsidies whose existence they indignantly denied. Knowledge of the KGB connection in the fields of both espionage and finance was the preserve of small and secretive inner circles within each Party leadership.

In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, the most active assistance in Soviet agent recruitment came from four Communist Parties which were briefly included in coalition governments: the French Parti Communiste Français ( PCF), the Italian Partito Comunista Italiano ( PCI), the Austrian Kommunistische Partei Österreichs (KPÖ) and the Finnish Suomen Kommunistinen Puolue (SKP).

AS SHOWN IN chapter 9, the PCF assisted after the Liberation in a major penetration of the French intelligence community which continued for at least a quarter of a century. From July 1, 1946 to June 30, 1947 the Paris residency forwarded to the Centre a total of 1,289 French intelligence documents.1 By the early 1950s the KGB's chief collaborator inside the PCF was Gaston Plissonnier (codenamed LANG), a life-long Soviet loyalist who had established himself by 1970 as second- in-command to the Party leader.2 Though little known to the French public and a poor public speaker with a thick regional accent, Plissonnier was a master in the arcane procedures of "democratic centralism" by which the Party leadership imposed its policies on its members.3 As well as providing inside information on the PCF, he essisted the KGB in identifying potential agents and other intelligence operations.4 During the later 1970s Plissonnier also passed on reports from an agent in the entourage of President Boumedienne of Algeria.5

IN ITALY, AS in France, Communist ministers sat in post-war coalition governments until the spring of 1947. At the end of 1945 the PCI had 1,760,000 members--twice

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