December 19, 2012
LeftCentral Book Review
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