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The British Secret Service and Anglo-Soviet Relations in the 1920s Part I: From the Trade Negotiations to the Zinoviev Letter*

  • Christopher Andrew (a1)

On the morning of Saturday 25 October 1924 Philip Snowden, the Labour chancellor of the exchequer, was woken by the sound of J. H. Thomas, the colonial secretary, hammering on his bedroom door. ‘Get up, you lazy devil!’ Thomas is reported to have said. ‘We';re bunkered.’ What Thomas really said was probably more vivid but less printable. The cause of his excitement was the publication of the Zinoviev letter, the greatest Red Scare in British political history. Allegedly written by Zinoviev, president of the communist International, to the British Communist party on 15 September 1924. this sinister document instructed British Communists to put pressure on their sympathizers in the Labour party, to ‘strain every nerve’ for the ratification of the recent treaty with the Soviet Union, to intensify ‘agitation-propaganda work in the armed forces’, and generally to prepare for the coming of the British revolution. A copy of the letter was first obtained by the Daily Mail, then circulated by the Mail to the rest of Fleet Street. It was published in the press four days before the general election of 29 October 1924, at a critical moment in the life of the first Labour government. Until its publication Labour leaders felt their election campaign was going well. Afterwards they changed their minds.

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The Historical Journal
  • ISSN: 0018-246X
  • EISSN: 1469-5103
  • URL: /core/journals/historical-journal
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