Secret Services

Robert Cecil

  • The Soviet Union and Terrorism by Roberta Goren
    Allen and Unwin, 232 pp, £17.50, November 1984, ISBN 0 04 327073 5
  • The Great Purges by Isaac Deutscher and David King
    Blackwell, 176 pp, £12.50, November 1984, ISBN 0 631 13923 0
  • SOE: The Special Operations Executive 1940-46 by M.R.D. Foot
    BBC, 280 pp, £8.50, October 1984, ISBN 0 563 20193 2
  • A History of the SAS Regiment by John Strawson
    Secker, 292 pp, £12.95, November 1984, ISBN 0 436 49992 4

Roberta Goren’s book should be compulsory reading in every course of peace studies. It explains in great detail how the USSR after Stalin’s death adapted to the nuclear age its strategy for achieving hegemony in a world dominated by the mass media and by weapons of mass destruction. It was a dual strategy, with an upper and a lower face. The brightly-lit upper face comprised the campaign for peace and disarmament, promoted by Communist ‘front’ organisations; the darkened, lower face involved the use of very different means to achieve the same end without provoking nuclear war. One of these means was the employment of surrogate forces to support movements of so-called ‘national liberation’ without the direct involvement of the Red Army. Thus in Africa Cuban intervention was subsidised – with East European satellites, chiefly East Germany and Czechoslovakia, providing arms and advisers. Meanwhile, at a subterranean level and through devious channels, the USSR was cautiously trying out the usefulness of what Dr Goren calls ‘sub-revolutionary’ forces, which did not aim in the immediate future to overthrow the state, but could be employed to destabilise it. The IRA, the Basque ETA, the Italian Red Brigade and the Baader-Meinhof gang are examples of this activity.

In the 1960s, this clandestine strategy began to be applied with new force and subtlety. Between 1965 and 1982 14 Heads of State or prime ministers were assassinated; all represented pillars of stability or of Western influence in the countries concerned. Between 1968 and 1980 the number of recorded incidents of terrorism increased fourfold: out of 6,714 such incidents no less than 5,034 took place in Western Europe, Latin America and the Middle East (in that order). Only 62 occurred in the USSR and Eastern Europe; most of these involved attempts to escape – for example, by hijacking aircraft. These attempts are not regarded in the USSR as terrorist, but are attributed to ‘habitual criminals’. This distinction is made partly in order to facilitate extradition, but partly because Marxism-Leninism defines ‘terrorism’ as violence evoked by capitalist, imperialist or other reactionary regimes: it follows, according to Soviet ideology, that terrorism cannot arise within the frontiers of Communist countries, unless it is imported by the CIA. It also follows that, if acts of terrorism are promoted in non-Communist countries, these heighten the perception that the rulers of these countries are oppressing ‘the workers’. Such a perception is stimulated by Qaddafi’s recent allusions to the ‘imprisonment and starvation’ of thousands of striking miners in Britain.

All violence directed against the forces of law and order in non-Communist countries is regarded by Marxist-Leninists as deserving encouragement as a first step towards ‘liberation’. Lenin himself drew an important distinction between ‘revolutionary terrorism’, undertaken by trained professionals for clear ideological ends, and ‘individual terrorism’, which was anarchical in character and, unless directed into approved channels, could prove counter-productive. Much of the history of post-war Soviet involvement in terrorism, as narrated by Dr Goren, consists of Soviet efforts to bring random terror under central control. From the Czech defector, Jan Sejna, we learnt that in 1964 the Soviet Politburo approved a massive increase in ‘spending for terrorist enterprises’. From Penkovsky came confirmation that the KGB’s Fifth Directorate was concerned with terrorism, sabotage and ‘black’ propaganda. In 1967 Andropov, then chairman of the KGB, was made a candidate member of the Politburo, thus illustrating the KGB’s enhanced role in planning and strategy.

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