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Paul Rigby
03-27-2010, 09:15 PM
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/mar/27/world-never-was-alex-butterworth

The World That Never Was: A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists and Secret Agents by Alex Butterworth (384pp, Bodley Head, 25)

Stuart Christie learns that secret police tactics have changed little in a century

The Guardian, Review, Saturday, 27 March 2010, p.9


Appearing in the wake of allegations of assassination by Israel's Mossad and the British secret services' involvement in torture, the publication of Alex Butterworth's compelling and insightful book is well timed. Woven into the book's backdrop are the lives of some of the notable late-19th-century European revolutionaries radicalised by poverty, injustice, tsarist tyranny and the bloody suppression of the Paris commune of 1871. These were men and women who believed, in William Morris's words, that "No man is good enough to be another man's master", and who shared a vision of the world as it might one day be a cooperative commonwealth rid of exploitation, oppression and conflict.

The main story, however, is of the penetration of these groups of often naive utopians by the sinister functionaries of the secret state whose job it was to protect the status quo: the policemen and spymasters who lurked in the shadows seeding uncertainty and dissent, cultivating tensions, beguiling with deceits, and luring credulous and impressionable idealists into committing crimes they may never have otherwise conceived.

All this has particular resonance for me as I've recently been attempting to identify some of the Franco regime's agents who infiltrated the clandestine Spanish anarchist organisations in exile during the last years of the dictatorship. Butterworth's exciting book illustrates how little the practices of this demi-monde have changed in the century and a half since the time of the book's leading protagonists: Colonel Wilhelm Stieber (1842-1882), secret counsellor to Bismarck's government, head of military intelligence for the North German confederation, and adviser to the tsar's infamous "Third Section"; Peter Rachkovsky (1881-1910), inheritor of Stieber's mantle as head of Russia's foreign Okhrana; Allan Pinkerton (1849-1880), Glaswegian Chartist turncoat, strike-breaker, anti-labour organiser and founder of the US Secret Service; and last, but far from least, Chief Inspector William Melville (1883-1917), superintendent of the Metropolitan Police Special Branch and later head of the Secret Service Bureau.

The criminal intrigues and conspiracies of these men were legion, including Rachkovsky's sponsorship of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and his role in establishing the fateful Franco-Russian alliance with its tragic consequences in the summer of 1914.

In radical and revolutionary politics, whose end is the destruction of domination itself, the ruthlessness of power elites presents a perennial problem. Anarchists and other opponents of tyranny place absolute faith in individual conscience, allowing validity to every "honestly held opinion", rejecting coercion, centralised power, and the concept of the "greater good"; but the corollary of this, as Butterworth points out, is that the movement is left "defenceless, almost on principle, against malicious infiltration and co-option [by those seeking to use] political idealism as a cover for criminal intent".

Butterworth describes how, in 1892, the spymaster William Melville exploited this naivety to engineer the so-called "Walsall Bomb plot" to frame six anarchists, four of whom were jailed. Melville's undercover operative was Auguste Coulon, a half-French, half-Irish, deep-entry agent and spy, who was also closely involved with Henry Samuels, another of Melville and Rachkovsky's creatures responsible for the 1894 Greenwich Park explosion that provided the plot for Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent.

The Walsall plot was part of a Europe-wide strategy to discredit anarchists and Russian dissidents. David Nichol, one of the foremost defenders of the Walsall anarchists, recorded the human cost of such tactics with great pathos: "Romance and novelty there are," he wrote of the anarchists' life, "though sometimes the delightful vision comes to an abrupt termination, changing suddenly, like a lovely face into an opium vision of something horrible and devilish."

The World That Never Was is a compelling narrative history both of a generation of demonised and battered but optimistic revolutionaries involved in a Manichean struggle for progress and social justice, and of the political police forces ranged against them, serving the geopolitical and domestic political interests of tyrants, despots and privileged elites from St Petersburg to San Francisco. And protecting reputations isn't limited to safeguarding that of the current head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, against accusations of complicity in torture. For years the Metropolitan Police Special Branch fought tenaciously to prevent access to their files for the 1890s, the period of Melville's ascendancy. When Butterworth asked initially for them under a Freedom of Information application, he was told the files had been lost, pulped in the war effort, or destroyed by a bomb. Then, in 2001, they mysteriously reappeared, having been used as the basis for a doctoral thesis by a serving Special Branch officer. Following a ruling in his favour by the information commissioner and a reprimand for the Metropolitan Police's handling of the case, Butterworth finally received the 120-year-old files. All the names had been redacted.

Stuart Christie is the editor of The Chronicles of Farquhar McHarg: Pistoleros! 1:1918 (ChristieBooks).

Peter Presland
03-28-2010, 07:17 AM
Plus ca change eh?

But these sort of things could never happen in our enlightened times of course.

I still find it incredible the way that the public swallows the whole war on terrorism - and much else besides - narrative(s) hook line and sinker. Nods are made in the direction of alleged Security/SIS incompetence, bad luck, 'bravery in foiling the wicked terrorists in the nick of time' etc etc. But the core issues of a totally unaccountable 'Secret State' it's functionaries, agencies and hidden manipulative agendas simply do not exist - except in fairy tales, horror fiction plus suitably sanitised and co opted Hollywood spectaculars.

Paul Rigby
03-28-2010, 08:01 AM
Plus ca change eh?

But these sort of things could never happen in our enlightened times of course.

I still find it incredible the way that the public swallows the whole war on terrorism - and much else besides - narrative(s) hook line and sinker. Nods are made in the direction of alleged Security/SIS incompetence, bad luck, 'bravery in foiling the wicked terrorists in the nick of time' etc etc. But the core issues of a totally unaccountable 'Secret State' it's functionaries, agencies and hidden manipulative agendas simply do not exist - except in fairy tales, horror fiction plus suitably sanitised and co opted Hollywood spectaculars.

Depressing, isn't it, how the same rudimentary techniques work generation after generation? The same transparent measures which made the Gunpowder Plot such a striking success play out in the Lincoln Conspiracy; and prop up much of the nonsense of the Oswald fiction.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that the general public has no reliable institutional memory to which it can turn for precedent and pointers. Relying on the BBC or the Guardian to offer instruction in such matters is, of course, a joke in rather bad taste.

Another hefty part of the answer lies in the total control of the media, as it evolves through successive incarnations: The striking feature of the internet, for example, is how early and successfully the CIA got its nose out in front, and created a series of cutting edge websites and web tools for liberals and the left (Daily Kos, Huffington Post, Google).

What is to be done, as some Russian bloke once famously asked?

Peter Presland
03-28-2010, 09:25 AM
Depressing, isn't it, how the same rudimentary techniques work generation after generation? The same transparent measures which made the Gunpowder Plot such a striking success play out in the Lincoln Conspiracy; and prop up much of the nonsense of the Oswald fiction.

"Deeply depressing" it most surely is.

And agreed - 'The Gunpowder Plot' has represented perhaps THE archetype for Secret policemen and the National Security State ever since - in the English speaking world anyway.

I think it was you who introduced me to John Gerrard's 'What was the Gunpowder Plot'. One of many gems stands out. Update the archaic English and it describes 9/11, 7/7 and much else to a tee.


"...much of what the conspirators are said to have done is well-nigh incredible, while it is utterly impossible that if they really acted in the manner described, the public authorities should not have had full knowledge of their proceedings"Plus ca change indeed.

As to what is to be done. One thing's for sure: start to organise and the moment such organisation is seen as having the remotest possibility of becoming effective, it will be infiltrated and used.

I see no prospect of worthwhile change short of human nature itself changing. Power accrues to the psychopathic personality type - period. All any individual can do is try to act according to his own lights - in concience I suppose, and that will always carry risks.

I was struck by a few things John Young of Cryptome had to say about personal opposition to the 'National Security State' in a recent Siebel Edmonds 'Boiling Frogs podcast (http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2010/03/13/podcast-show-25/). A full transcript would be nice but here are few notes I took:



Expect to be tricked
I can be turned at any time - so can you. Don't trust me.
There are fake whistle-blowers - trying to make you distrust whistle-blowers.
The only answer is to publicise everything - so people can make up their own minds
People in authority are bumbling too.
The most bizarre people in the world are spys. They cook up more 'conspiracy theories' than the rest of the world combined - except for the Catholic Church
Conspiracy theories are the lifeblood of the National Security State.
If you get too close to the truth they will come after you.
They don't mind collateral damage; they expect it - and use it.
Some old salts go off and get a conscience
Most of us are controlled through our money source.
If you want to bury something, set up a commission
The internet is a gigantic spying machine.

I really do rate John Young

Paul Rigby
03-28-2010, 10:09 AM
Peter,

I'm delighted you acquainted yourself with Father G, SJ. His demolition of the official version of the Cecil Gunpowder Plot is not merely a great work of historical research, but a key to understanding the formation of the modern British state, its American successor, and any number of world-historical covert ops. I've often wondered about his life and career, and thought what a good idea it would be to put together a script for a doc on his take on the CGP. Another project for which I lack both time and money.

I like very much Young on the spooks: The terrible truth is that even the most conscientious of us can turn into vehicles of disinfo, for the best possible reasons. The spooks have no such defence, as practically everything they do is in bad faith.

We have several weapons to wield against them. By far the most under-rated is satire. We should also seek to form ad hoc groups to subject as much of their self-serving lies to savage scrutiny as possible. Anglo-American spookery has worked tirelessly to destroy the role of the public intellectual to prevent precisely this kind of organisation, but we can - must - find ways round it. They are morally insane, and if left unchallenged, are guaranteed to wreck our descendants' futures.

Paul

Magda Hassan
03-28-2010, 12:05 PM
We have several weapons to wield against them. By far the most
under-rated is satire.
Absolutely and one of the most powerful too.

Ed Jewett
03-28-2010, 03:49 PM
Oooh, good stuff, people. Thank you, Peter, Paul and Mary (Magda-lene)
(is this a new folk group, the truth-seekers'?)

Paul Rigby
03-30-2010, 07:38 PM
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/mar/27/world-never-was-alex-butterworth

The World That Never Was: A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists and Secret Agents by Alex Butterworth (384pp, Bodley Head, 25)

Stuart Christie learns that secret police tactics have changed little in a century

The Guardian, Review, Saturday, 27 March 2010, p.9


The Walsall plot was part of a Europe-wide strategy to discredit anarchists and Russian dissidents. David Nichol, one of the foremost defenders of the Walsall anarchists, recorded the human cost of such tactics with great pathos: "Romance and novelty there are," he wrote of the anarchists' life, "though sometimes the delightful vision comes to an abrupt termination, changing suddenly, like a lovely face into an opium vision of something horrible and devilish."

Stuart Christie is the editor of The Chronicles of Farquhar McHarg: Pistoleros! 1:1918 (ChristieBooks).

A quick plug for a book which demonstrates how false-flag ops know no borders; and how the war against Irish nationalism was dovetailed by the British securicrats of the late nineteenth century with their broader foreign policy objectives - not least in & against Russia.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fenian-Fire-Government-Assassinate-Victoria/dp/0007104839