‘Comrade Corbyn’ and the communist spies

Enemy hands: A Czechoslovak secret service paper recording a meeting with Jeremy Corbyn.

Is it morally repellent to defend communism? Newly published secret records show that Jeremy Corbyn may have been a paid informant for the Czech communist government in the 1980s.

Corbyn, Jeremy. Codename: COB. Place of employment: House of Commons. ”Owns dogs and fish. Behaviour is reserved and courteous, however, occasionally explosive (when speaking in defence of human rights), though the performance is calm and collected.”

These are the scribbled notes of an agent in the secret service of Czechoslovakia. They come from secret documents obtained by The Sun last week, which suggest that the current Labour leader warned the Czechoslovaks about British intelligence activity at the climax of the cold war.

The papers say that Corbyn met a Czech agent at least three times. Two meetings took place in the House of Commons. A Labour spokesman denied he had met a spy and insisted he liaised with a diplomat instead.

According to former Czechoslovak spy Jan Sarkocy, hard-Left politicians were “great sources” in the 1980s. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell and former mayor of London Ken Livingstone have both denied that they passed information to the Czechoslovak secret service.

So was the favourite to become the next prime minister really a spy for a communist police state that imprisoned dissidents?

We cannot be sure. Communist spies regularly used the cover of a “diplomat” during the Cold War, and as Dan Lomas writes in The Conversation, “Corbyn provided little information that couldn’t have been obtained elsewhere.”

Yet this is not the first time Corbyn has been associated with repressive, anti-Western regimes. He praised former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro as a “champion of social justice” despite his “flaws”.

Communism has not suffered nearly the same collapse in its reputation as fascism. There are communist societies at many universities. More young British people identify with socialism than with capitalism.

Writing in The Sunday Times, Dominic Lawson said: “If a British politician argued: ‘Say what you like about Hitler, but he put the German people to work and built a great motorway system,’ he would rightly be dismissed as an offensive idiot.”

Is this a reasonable comparison to make?

Red scare

Absolutely, say some. Communism was the most deadly ideology of the 20th century. Around 65 million in China, 20 million in Russia, more every day in North Korea. It was a useless, cruel ideology. Almost no-one who lived under communism wants it back, and it is a travesty that its many shortcomings are ignored.

They are not comparable, reply others. Communism, for all its faults, was founded on good principles: equality and opposition to aristocratic hegemony. There is a reason the Allies sided with the USSR against Germany. What is more, these accusations remain very dubious. Invoking Hitler blows it out of all proportion.

You Decide

  1. Would you change your view of Corbyn if the allegations were confirmed to be true?
  2. Is communism the moral equivalent of fascism?

Activities

  1. Split into groups. Research one country during its communist days and create a fact-file about what life was like.
  2. An idea called the “Horseshoe theory” states that the far-right and the far-left closely resemble one another, much like the ends of a horseshoe. Write 500 words on whether you agree with this theory.

Some People Say...

“Communism is not love. Communism is a hammer which we use to crush the enemy.”

Mao Zedong

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
We know that documents from the Czechoslovak secret service indicate that Jeremy Corbyn, as well as several other figures on the left of the Labour Party, met with spies during the late 1980s, while the Cold War was still ongoing. Corbyn, who identifies himself as a socialist, has frequently been associated with anti-Western regimes, both in the Middle East and in the former communist empire.
What do we not know?
Whether Corbyn really did think that the men he was meeting were simply diplomats. If he was ignorant, he was certainly not the only MP, civil servant, businessman and ordinary person to fall foul of Eastern bloc spying methods. For example In 1956, the KGB gave former prime minister, Harold Wilson, the codename OLDING, opening a file, in the hope of recruiting him.

Word Watch

Secret service
Known as the StB (Státní bezpečnost - meaning State Security), this was the Czechoslovak equivalent of the KGB. From 1945 until 1990 it served as an intelligence agency, dealing with any activity that could possibly be considered anti-state or western influence.
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia split into Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.
Jan Sarkocy
Sarkocy was posted to Britain as a diplomat under a fake identity - Jan Dymic. He told The Sunday Telegraph that he had met Corbyn “at least ten times”.
Dissidents
In Prague, dissidents are commemorated with a line of bronze statues which appear to fade away as they disappear into the horizon. The memorial tallies the victims: 205,486 arrested, 4,500 died in prison, 248 executed.
Young British people
According to a 2016 YouGov poll, 36% of young people favour socialism over capitalism, with 32% choosing capitalism.
Hegemony
Cultural and political dominance of one group over another.

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.