British Communists

British Communists

(KV 2/1176-1210)

This release includes files on a large number of British communists and communist sympathisers from the inter-war, wartime and post-war periods (see also George Whomack above). Amongst these are some prominent figures in the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), and some significant regional figures.

Robert Robson

(KV 2/1176-1179)

Robson was a senior member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, acting as London District Organiser, 1927-33, and was the head of the Organisation Department in 1935, in which role he played a leading part in recruiting volunteers for the Spanish Civil War. Though his role in the Party seemed mostly to be with organisation, it was suspected that he was also involved with undercover work. Robson fell ill with tuberculosis during the Second World War, and when his wife turned to religion the Security Service considered approaching him for an interview, but this was never followed up. These files cover the period 1922-43.

KV 2/1176 covers the period 1922-35, and includes documents relating to the general investigations of Robson's activities, such as: copies of circulars he issued as London District CPGB organiser; Passport Office forms listing Robson and Robert Stewart, among others, whose passports should not permit them to travel within the Empire; and intercepted phone conversations. There are Special Branch reports of Robson's arrest and conviction in 1931 in connection with charges of receiving stolen goods, and of his separation from his wife and cohabitation with one Eireen Potter, who was passed off as Mrs Robson.

KV 2/1177-1178 continue the story from 1935 to 1953, with detailed surveillance reports of Robson's activities and phone conversations. KV 2/1178 includes documents noting Robson's illness and his wife's conversion to Christianity (and also Robson's supposed conversion), and speculates (e.g. in the case summary at folio 246a) that he might now be persuaded to 'defect'. There is no evidence on file that this suggestion was ever followed up.

KV 2/1179 consists of detailed reports of intercepted telephone conversations in the period March to August 1942.

Robert ('Bob') Stewart

(KV 2/1180-1183)

Stewart was a founder member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. He joined CPGB following activity as a prohibitionist, and was the British representative on Comintern and a member of its executive. Stewart was in charge of the Party's secret organisation, including members who were passing military intelligence to the Soviet Union, and was its link to the Soviet secret service. He published an account of his work, Breaking the Fetters, in 1967.

KV 2/1180 covers the period 1926 to 1941, and includes history sheets detailing Stewart's activities at this time, with copies of intercepted correspondence. There are reports from an informant in Ireland concerning Stewart's activities to organise the communist party there, including from August 1929 details of contacts between the IRA and the CPGB (folio 23a). There are also numerous surveillance reports, records of Stewart's overseas visits and a copy of Stewart's election address for the October 1931 election in Dundee.

KV 2/1181 covers the period 1941 to 1951, and includes a detailed history sheet of Stewart's observed activities during the period April 1941 to February 1945. There are detailed reports of intercepted phone conversations, including one of December 1943 where Stewart talks disparagingly of a Soviet spy ring for which he had done some work, saying '…the things I've done for that b.! But I might have been caught quite easy because I carried the stuff…bloody lucky we were…' (folio 288). There is also a copy of a letter from Harry Politt to Stewart on the occasion of Stewart's 70th birthday.

KV 2/1182, covering 1927-31, includes correspondence relating to Stewart's contacts with Norwegian and Chinese communists in 1927. The file chiefly concerns correspondence with Norwegian officials and British representatives in Norway about Stewart's visit and his objective in addressing Norwegian union meetings.

KV 2/1183 contains a history sheet and summary of the Security Service's work investigation of Stewart between 1922 and 1929. It includes correspondence between Stewart and Zinoviev relating to Soviet propaganda in the UK and the colonial empire and the funding of CPGB by the Soviet Union (at this time Stewart was secretary of CPGB). There is a copy of a telegram sent from Stewart to the Kuo Min Tang, condemning the massacre at Wahn Sien and pledging British workers' support for revolution in China, and a report of visits made by Stewart to Dublin in 1929 and 1930 to encourage Irish communists. The file includes a photograph of Stewart and examples of his handwriting. It closes with an intercepted telegram reporting that Stewart had been jailed for 30 days for his part in a workers' demonstration in Dundee in 1931.

John Campbell

(KV 2/1186-1189)

Campbell, a journalist, was awarded the Military Medal in the First World War for his service in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. He was also a devoted Communist, a foundation member, and was arrested in the 1926 police raid on Communist Party headquarters. An unsuccessful parliamentary candidate in 1929, 1945, 1950 and 1951, he joined Harry Pollitt in opposing the war against Germany from 1939 until the German invasion of Russia in 1941, and served on the executive committee of the CPGB. He became editor of the Daily Worker in 1949.

KV 2/1186 contains reports of Campbell's activities from 1920-32, including reports of speeches made, cuttings of his journalistic work and general surveillance material. Following his arrest in 1924 there is a copy of a CPGB circular letter to members informing them of the raid on party headquarters and the arrests and a copy of the pamphlet issued by the party detailing his defence in court entitled The Communist Party on Trial - J R Campbell's Defence.

KV 2/1187-1189 continue the story from 1933 to 1953 (the present cut-off date for release of Security Service files). KV 2/1187 includes history sheets for the activities of Campbell's wife, Sarah, and reports on Campbell's arrest for obstruction at a Communist Party meeting in February 1937. There is also a copy of a pamphlet written by Campbell in 1941 entitled Doing Well Out of the War? KV 2/1188 includes Campbell's election address for the election at Greenock in July 1945. KV 2/1189 includes reports from meetings addressed by Campbell, intercepted telegrams, telephone and written communications. It includes speculation that when Campbell was appointed editor of the Daily Worker, a minder, John Gollan, was simultaneously made assistant editor to watch Campbell and make sure that he followed the party line.