Interwar Period

The Zinoviev Letter (1924)

Andrew, Christopher. "The British Secret Service and Anglo-Soviet Relations in the 1920s. Part I: From the Trade Negotiations to the Zinoviev Letter." The Historical Journal 20 (Sep. 1977): 673-706.

Bar-Joseph, Uri. Intelligence Intervention in the Politics of Democratic States: The United States, Israel, and Britain. University Park, PA: Penn State Press, 1995.

Clark comment: Bar-Joseph analyzes four case studies of what he designates "intelligence intervention" in politics: the 1961 Bay of Pigs episode; the 1954 Israeli "Unfortunate Business" or "Lavon Affair"; and the 1920 "Henry Wilson" and 1924 "Zinoviev Letter" affairs in Britain. The author's comparative approach may prove to be heavy going for the casual reader, but the politicization issue is certainly one that deserves serious study. However, as Brody, PSQ 111.3, observes, the intervention in the Lavon and Wilson affairs was at least arguably "as much by the military as by intelligence."

According to Wirtz, APSR 90.1, the "tension created by th[e] effort to offer timely estimates while overcoming incentives to pander to policymakers ... serves as a point of departure for Uri Bar-Joseph's comparative study." He "is especially interested in situations in which intelligence agencies spiral out of control and undertake unauthorized activities that overstep policy bounds." The book's "potential contribution ... to developing a theory of civil-intelligence relations, however, is limited by several shortcomings in execution and conception." Nevertheless, this "ambitious book ... does a fine job in identifying several factors which affect the willingness and ability of intelligence officials to place their preferences into the policy arena."

Warren, Surveillant 4.3, declares that "this book is mandatory reading" for serious students of intelligence: "Bar-Joseph sets the stage historically and then fits his argument onto the stage with logic and even wit." Writing in the CIRA Newsletter, Fall 1996, Warren adds that this is "an important contribution to the continuing dialogue on the politicization of intelligence and intelligence organizations." Stafford, I&NS 11.2, judges the book to be "impressively researched and written." The work "is most likely to provoke discussion through its argument that at the root of the abuses [the author] describes lies insufficient separation between intelligence and politics."

For Clutterbuck, Political Studies 44.4, Bar-Joseph "gives an excellent analysis of how these abuses of power occurred and argues that a high degree of professionalism in the intelligence services is as important as effective political control in preventing them." Friedman, Parameters, Summer 1997, finds that "Intelligence Intervention is presented in a detailed but often humorous manner that makes for an entertaining as well as an educational experience."

Bennett, Gill. "A most extraordinary and mysterious business": The Zinoviev Letter of 1924. FCO History Note No. 14. London: FCO, 1999.

Center for the Study of Intelligence Bulletin. Editors. "British Intelligence and the 'Zinoviev Letter.'" 8 (Spring 1998): 3-4.

This article reports the release by British intelligence in August 1997 of documents bearing on the Comintern's aspirations and activities in the United Kingdom in the 1920s. The new documents suggest that the British were getting verbatim transcripts from Soviet Politburo meetings, and that the "letter" was a fabrication by British intelligence based on the actual thrust of Moscow's intentions.

Chester, Lewis, Stephen Fay, and Hugo Young. The Zinoviev Letter. London: Heinemann, 1967. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1968.

Constantinides notes that this version of the "alleged forgery of the Zinoviev Letter is based on the evidence of one witness, the widow of one of the White Russians originally accused by the Soviets.... The authors' attempt to make their points and their case is not fully successful or convincing."

Ferris, John, and Uri Bar-Joseph. "Getting Marlowe to Hold His Tongue: The Conservative Party, the Intelligence Services and the Zinoviev Letter." Intelligence and National Security 8, no. 4 (Oct. 1993): 100-137.

The debate, which began in 1928 of an event in October 1924, goes on, after all these years! "In 1966-67,... Chester,... Fay and ... Young[] concluded that the Zinoviev Letter was a forged document, deliberately leaked to the press in order to destroy the election chances of the Labour Party.... By the mid-1970s, however, some of the relevant government documents were released and this case as a whole was crushed.... Crowe and Christopher Andrew separately refuted every argument used to prove that the Zinoviev Letter was primarily a forgery." This is not the same, however, as saying it has been proved to have been authentic. The article represents a new marshalling of facts, with analysis and speculation.

West, I&NS 9.3/595-596, provides a response to the criticism in this article of the lack of footnoting, etc. in his work: "There is certainly no need for the [speculation], which make[s] the Ferris/Bar-Joseph concoction, with all its absurdities, so unpalatable." Ferris and Bar-Joseph reply in I&NS 9.3/597-602: "Mr. West mistakes abuse for argument, name-dropping for evidence and his own opinion for authority.... [S]erious historians do not take MI5 and MI6 seriously."

French, Patrick. "Red Letter Day." Sunday Times, 10 Aug. 1997, 12.

Reports the release to the British Library by British intelligence in August 1997 of documents bearing on the Comintern's aspirations and activities in the United Kingdom in the early 1920s.

Smith, Michael. "The Forgery, the Election and the MI6 Spy." Telegraph (London), 13 Aug. 1997, 10.

Smith proposes that the British spy within the Soviet Politiburo in the early 1920s was Boris Bajanov, Politiburo secretary in 1923-1924.

Telegraph (London). "Solved: The Greatest Spy Mystery of All." 15 Jan. 1998. [http://www.telegraph.co.uk]

The Zinoviev Letter, "alleged to have been written to the British Communist Party by Grigori Zinoviev, the head of the Comintern" and "leaked by British intelligence to prevent Labour winning the 1924 general election[,] was a forgery commissioned by MI6, according to KGB files released to The Telegraph....

"[L]ast year, the Daily Mail claimed to have found evidence in a British archive which showed that the letter it [originally] published was genuine. That claim is contradicted by the KGB files to be published later this year in The Crown Jewels, a new book by the espionage writer Nigel West and former KGB officer Oleg Tsarev. The documents, held in the KGB archives in Moscow and seen by The Telegraph, include a report on the affair by the Berlin rezident of the OGPU, the forerunner of the KGB.

"The report, which arrived in Moscow on Nov 11, 1924, said the letter was forged in Riga, the Latvian capital, by a Lt Ivan Dmitrevich Pokrovsky who was in touch with British intelligence."

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