The Last English Revolutionary: Tom Wintringham by Hugh Purcell with Phyll Smith: Book Review

Red Lester 

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This biography is an account of the life of a man who now seems to have been forgotten but who lived an eventful and varied life in the first part of the twentieth century. I first came across Tom Wintringham as the inspiration for the character of Spud Wilson in the film The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. Wintringham was the original of this character, a believer in and teacher of ‘ungentlemanly warfare’, but this was just one aspect of this man; a World War 1 veteran, early member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), co-founder of Left Review, International Brigade member, author of anthologised poetry, Picture Post journalist, guerrilla warfare tutor and founder of the Common Wealth political party.  It is a portrait of a man who seemed not to have fitted in. Having been thought to be a bourgeois when a member of the Communist Party, once he had been expelled from the party, he was suspected by the establishment because he had never officially renounced his political loyalties. Read more of this post

Mask: MI5s Penetration of the Communist Party of GB by Nigel West

LeftCentral Book Review 

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This book examines MI5`s 1930s infiltration of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) codenamed operation MASK, which involved the interception of radio communications between members of the CPGB and the Comintern in Moscow then headed by Georgi Dmitrov. Nigel West describes the role played by a range of personalities including Olga Gray codenamed M-12. Gray was recruited by British intelligence in 1931 and she had strong CPGB ties given that she was employed as a secretary to John Strachey. She was later identified as Miss X during the trial of Percy Glading, the CPGB national organiser who MI5 directed Gray to “cultivate”. As Nigel West informs us Glading and Douglas Springhall were imprisoned later as spies. Although Sringhall`s professionalism is doubted by West because he “had not been indoctrinated into the principles of Konspiratsia.” West provides individual chapter`s dealing with Springhall and Bob Stewart – BOB is described as the “Party`s spymaster”.

The book is dominated by two sets of primary sources, the MASK communication traffic pages 41 to 199, and the appendix pages 245 – 313. The appendix concerns an in-depth interview with General Krivitsky (aka Samuel Ginsberg) who visited Britain in 1940 the most compelling part of an absorbing book. West argues that the MASK material proves that the Comintern was an extension of Soviet foreign policy, promoting espionage while encouraging members of the CPGB to “take direction from a potential adversary and conspire to undermine Parliamentary democracy.” West informs us that several Labour MPs were “implicated” and are named. Read more of this post

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