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Counter-Propaganda: A Basic Analysis

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Copy No. ____      


No. PR 89/45 G


Counter-Propaganda: A Basic Analysis

Extracts from a lecture on counter-propaganda given by the
Head of Information Research Department in a secret series
of lectures on Communism


[Note. — The material contained in this print will be used in recognisable form in certain types of Information Research Department's output. The text of this print should therefore not be shown to anyone but British officials.]


I appreciate very much your invitation to speak to-day on the subject of Counter-Propaganda. I must say frankly that I was alarmed at the title allotted to my talk. If asked to select the phrase most beset with ambiguity, misunder­standing and confusion of thought and terminology, I for one should be hard put to it to improve on "Counter-Propaganda." Does it mean countering enemy propa­ganda in our own territory? Or elsewhere? By propaganda methods, or other types of action? Does it mean paying him back in his own coin in his own territory? Who is "the enemy" and who are "we"? And if it comes to that, what is propaganda and what is meant by countering it?

We have to face the fact that the process of scrutinising the terms we are using, and examining the questions which they raise, leads us straight back to the fundamental propositions of politics, morals and metaphysics, including, ultimately, the nature and the purpose of man himself. I hasten to say that I have not the qualifications or the presumption, even if time permitted, to embark on any such task. I mention the point, however, partly to illustrate how counter-propaganda cannot be regarded as a superficial matter, or as a straightforward political or administrative problem; and partly to emphasize that many of the points at issue between the protagonists are unreal unless we recognise that the divergence between them is about fundamentals.


Who are the Protagonists?

Of the questions I have just posed, the one which goes to the root of the matter is "Who is 'the enemy'," and "Who are 'we'." There are two separate and distinct ways of answering this question, derived from two contrasting view­points about the nature of the problem. The first of these viewpoints might be called the conventional. According to this, "the enemy," if this is the right term in this context, is the Soviet Union; but the Soviet Union is merely one of a number of important powers, whose interests always conflict in some degree. At the moment the differences between the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom are acute, and the publicity machinery controlled by the Soviet Government is therefore engaged in embarrassing British policy wherever in the world it has a chance to do so. On this theory the difference between Soviet activities and those, say, of the U.S.A. or France is one of degree, the clash of interests being more intense and the publicity machinery available to the Soviet Government being vastly more extensive, but the conflict itself basically a straightforward matter of power politics. The British Government, it is argued, has accordingly to take counter measures. Anti-Soviet and anti-Communist propaganda material has to be disseminated, and the Soviet falsehoods exposed. The virtues of the British way of life must be publicised as an alternative to Communism, and full publicity must be given to all information creditable to British democracy or discreditable to the Soviet Union. According to this theory, therefore, countering Soviet propaganda is a straight information job, to be entrusted to Information Secretaries and their staffs, the concern of Government officials.

Nevertheless it is important, according to this theory, not to go too far. During her periods of relative strength Russia has always intimidated Eastern Europe. What happens inside Russia, disagreeable as it may be, is no concern of anyone but Russians. The Russians are always unpredictable, and may well suddenly decide to do a deal with the West, and we must not prejudice the chance of a settlement by appearing to be too critical of Russia. Live and Let Live should be our aim, and we may then revert to the relative harmony of the 1930s, and the days of Litvinov.

I call this the conventional viewpoint, because it probably approximates to the general attitude of most of the world in so far as they have given these matters any thought. We can only deal in trends of opinion and generalisations about popular beliefs and convictions. I hope, however, that the account I have given of the "conventional" viewpoint fairly summarises the salient features of one pole of opinion. I will not for the moment offer any comments upon it, but analyse the other, contrasting viewpoint, which might perhaps be called the fundamental approach.

According to this analysis, the enemy is the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, or, to be more precise, the few thousands or even hundreds who assist in the world-wide strategic planning of the Politburo, and the comparatively small number of persons of other nationalities who assist to carry out its policy. The antagonist of the Politburo is, whether they realise it or not, the rest of the inhabitants of the world, Russian and non-Russian alike. The conflict is a struggle to maintain the power and authority of a dictatorship in Russia by the use of force and the control of all sources of knowledge and opinion inside the Soviet Union, and a struggle to impose similar systems on other nations, all subordinated to the Russian dictatorship, until the whole world is governed on the Russian model. According to this interpretation, the fact that the dogmatic power-group opposing us happens to be in possession of the formal diplomatic and adminis­trative machinery of the Soviet Government is an accident of history, the main consequence of which is that other governments, as well as individual persons, become protagonists in the conflict. But the conflict between governments is secondary to the main conflict. This conflict is fundamental, because it is not primarily about rival political systems but about the nature of man and the purpose of his presence on earth. The struggle between the Politburo and the rest of the world is the practical, political manifestation of the true, fundamental conflict. The point at issue is simple, though many attempts have been made to confuse it. It is whether man is to be free to choose between positive alternatives or not: whether human problems are to be dealt with on their merits or according to allegedly infallible dogma; whether the decisions governing human life are to be arrived at publicly and carried out by common agreement, or secretly and forcibly imposed by the will of a small group. This is a conflict between absolutes, between Yes and No, and admits of no compromise whatsoever. The political point at issue that derives from this question of principle is whether the Soviet system of government is going to be extended to the whole world, or whether it is to be eradicated even in Russia. On this plan also there is no possibility of compromise, but because it is a question of politics the time factor comes into it, and the period which may elapse before a clear-cut decision is reached one way or the other may be indefinitely prolonged. The two concise ways of stating the political point are first, that there is no possibility of a settlement with a Communist government in Russia, or, secondly, that any settlement reached by the Soviet Government with the Governments of the free world would be a tactical manoeuvre designed to further the long-term aim of world domination.

Here, again, I hope I have done justice in this very short summary to the second approach to the questions "Who is the 'enemy'?" and "Who are 'we'?." I do not have to point out the enormous distance separating the two starting points, nor does time permit me to elaborate the reasons why the first approach seems to me to be mistaken. It should be sufficient for the moment to say that the "conventional" viewpoint leaves out of account a number of moral, political and historical factors which have to be reckoned with, and that it is only from the fundamental or comprehensive viewpoint that Russian policy can become com­prehensible and the right counter-measures can be prepared. I must however also emphasise that a good deal of counter-action is necessary on either hypothesis, and that part of this action is the same in either case. If this viewpoint is correct, it may be summed up thus: The protagonists are, first, the Politburo and their associates, and second, the rest of the world. The contest is fundamental, and admits of no compromise. It involves governments, and it involves individuals. Therefore both governments and individuals have to take part in the operations which are necessary if the Soviet aim is to be frustrated.


The Nature of the Contest

(i) The Russian Protagonist

The proposition that the contest is between the Politburo and the rest of the world raises a number of issues. In the first place, there are obvious differences between the protagonists. On the one side is a completely unscrupulous dictator­ship exempt from all moral law, maintaining itself in power primarily by the control of the armed forces and internal security apparatus, and by controlling all sources of knowledge and opinion of its subject peoples. This dictatorship has a clear-cut long-term aim—world domination; a detailed strategic plan and elaborately worked-out tactical methods for carrying it out. Originating as an international working-class movement with a strong idealistic element in its inspira­tion, it has for nearly thirty years identified itself with Russian nationalism and imperialism. While it retains the traditional geographical interests of Russia— and principally the maintenance of friendly governments in the states on the western borders of Russia—its ambitions and interests are world-wide. It is merely an anachronism to speak of Soviet interests in geographical terms. And here I wish to emphasize one point which I will elaborate later. There is nothing whatsoever that is different in kind, or even novel, in the Russian dictatorship. There is not an essential feature in its aims or methods, in its strategy, tactics, its arguments or its acts which has not already manifested itself at some point or another in human history. What is new in it is the application to government by dictatorship of various phenomena of modern life and technical development, which has had the following consequences: —

First, the growing complexity of modern society has vastly increased the importance of economics in political affairs. This has greatly confused the political issues involved, such as the concept of freedom, and has even led to the delusion that political questions are subservient to economics, instead of the other way round. This confusion has produced a number of new arguments to justify tyrannical acts. Secondly, the magnitude of the ambition (in geographical terms) is probably without precedent. Thirdly, modern scientific and technical develop­ment has made it much easier for a dictator to seize and retain control of large masses of people. Fourthly, it is doubtful whether there has ever before been such a scientific, systematic or detailed study by politicians and their officials of the tech­nique of seizing and retaining power or of the art of aggression without resort to war. One consequence of this blending of theory and practice (which is perhaps the nearest formal approach we have seen to the concept of the philosopher-king!) is that the dictatorial system has become depersonalised, so that it is tempting although not entirely accurate to say that the dictator is not a person but a doctrine. But even this development merely means that the political testament of one dictator was adopted, with important modifications, by his successor, and for this too there are precedents. But none of these things is a novelty, and the differences are differences of degree. And I suggest that all that is apparently new and seductive in Communism is merely an adaptation and a blending of doctrines and methods that are very ancient indeed.

This of course does not mean, and I would not for a moment wish to suggest, that Communism does not appear attractive, or novel; that its appeal is not wide­spread, or that we need not take it seriously. We certainly should, for its material inducements—peace, united world, social justice, material plenty, have won Soviet Russia a number of loyal adherents, despite the fundamental fallacies on which they are based. Moreover the Russian dictatorship has been very successful in exploiting the age-old trick of appealing to idealism by the manipulation of facts, in which it has been greatly assisted by the role in modern thought of the work of Karl Marx, but above all by its total control of travel into and within the Soviet Union itself. We have certainly to take Communism, as an aid to dictatorship, very seriously indeed. But it is not the enemy, though its adherents are so closely linked to Soviet aims and methods that Communists, a more accurate phrase than Communism in this context, have to be included in the ranks of the enemy.

The allies of the Russian dictatorship are: —

(i) The Soviet Army and Security Forces, including police.

(ii) The senior Soviet bureaucracy, especially those administering Justice, Trade Unions, Education, Publishing, the Press and Censorship.

(iii) A small privileged class, or corps d'élite, consisting of highly paid scientists, technicians, &c., with a vested interest in the survival of the regime.

(iv) A large, and under present conditions, overwhelming, proportion of the inhabitants of the Soviet Union. Their support is mainly passive.

(v) Certain allied governments—China, and the East European satellites, all dependent in varying manners and degrees upon the Soviet Government.

(vi) Most members of Communist parties abroad (i.e., in the free world).

(vii) A number of non-Communists in the free world, who sympathise with Soviet aims and ignore or condone its methods.

(viii) An indefinite number of persons who may be well-informed or even specialists in their own sphere, but who, through abysmal ignorance of world politics and Soviet policies, readily serve as unwitting agents of Soviet policy.

These eight categories of ally are skilfully manipulated to serve Soviet policy throughout the world, under close control by the Politburo. I need not trouble you now with the familiar links in the chain from the Kremlin to the man in the street, beyond emphasising that Soviet policy is only partly concerned with relations with other governments and very much concerned with relations with the peoples behind the backs of their governments. This of course stresses the fact that the enemy in this context is the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, operating through the two parallel but interlinked channels of (a) the adminis­trative machinery (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Soviet Missions abroad, Tass and the state broadcasting system), and (b) the ostensibly non-official network spread out through the Soviet-controlled International Organisations (W.F.T.U., World Peace Movement, &c.) and national Communist parties. Both channels are used for giving effect to Party policy, and of the two the official administrative machinery is probably the less important. At any rate, in the work of Soviet missions abroad the normal manifestations of official policy—the diplomatic notes, interviews and negotiations, are subsidiary to the task of co-operation with local non-governmental agencies, especially Communist parties, intelligence gathering, and some propaganda work.

So much then for the nature of the Russian dictatorship, the first protagonist. What is it trying to do?

The long-term aim is the incorporation and absorption of more and more countries in the Soviet system, until it embraces the whole world. This aim would require many decades to achieve and as part of the long-term plan the Soviet dictatorship has certain definite objectives, as follows:—

First, it has to remain in power. There seems every prospect of it doing so, as long [as] it can seal off the Russian people from any alternative viewpoint to its own and keep them reasonably contented, and has the strength to retain its satellites and China in a position of enforced or voluntary dependence, and as long as the free world takes no effective measures against it.

Secondly, it is building up the industrial and war potential of the Communist bloc. Here I must emphasise and re-emphasise that we have to think in terms of decades; that we are dealing with a compact land mass extending from Berlin to Vladivostok, whose resources in raw materials are not fully known and whose industrial development is only in its infancy. It is only thirty-five years since the revolution, interrupted by civil war, famine, purges, and a major war. It is very comfortable to measure the current level of Soviet production against that of the free world, but it is incredibly short-sighted. The population of this area is some 700 millions, much of it primitive and backward. It is, however, rapidly becoming literate and partly educated, first-rate scientists, technicians, and engineers are avail­able, large families are encouraged, and military training even for young children is being extensively developed. It seems only prudent to assume that the military and industrial strength of the Soviet bloc will increase very considerably during the next decades. Moreover, even allowing for any hypothetical cleavage between Russia and China, the existing strength of the bloc is considerable. Should Stalin decide that his policy so required, it can be used to attack or threaten directly, without tra­versing any non-Communist territory or any sea passage any one of the following independent Sovereign States: Finland, Norway, West Germany, Austria, Greece, Turkey, Persia and Afghanistan. Taking the Sino-Soviet alliance into account we must add to the list India, Nepal, Burma, Vietnam and South Korea. As the examples of Czechoslovakia and Korea have shown, aggression by war or politics is a normal Stalinist tactic; but if my analysis of long-term aims is correct it seems unlikely that Russia would deliberately hazard a major war now and thus prejudice her long-term aims. Korea we have to explain as a Sino-Soviet miscalculation, while in Persia, for example, circumstances are playing into Stalin's hands so well that anything more than discreet aid and encouragement to the Tudeh party, at any rate at the moment, would be most unwise.

Briefly, therefore, the second task is the consolidation of the Soviet bloc — the "springboard of the revolution."

Thirdly, the Soviet dictatorship has to break up any combination of powers which might either threaten to attack it or to organise an effective resistance to further expansion. The only areas in the vast arc of countries I have enumerated which are covered by any such combination are Norway, West Germany, Austria, Greece, Turkey, Vietnam and South Korea. Of these, the West European countries, and especially West Germany, are of major interest to Russia, since a unified Ger­many under Russian control would swing the balance of power in Europe and isolate the United Kingdom and thus decisively increase Soviet power. But for a number of reasons of geography, history, politics and economics, the principal obstacles to the Soviet aim are Britain and the United States. Both depend to a large extent on the resources of South-East Asia, and while Russia is making every attempt to split them off from each other, weaken them internally, and break up the alliance to which they belong, an important alternative line of attack is to break from them their overseas dependencies. Hence Communist operations in Malaya and Vietnam, and the beginnings of operations in Africa. A further important strategic and economic area is the Middle East, so here, too, Russia is doing what she can to disrupt British and American interests and extend her own influence. So much for the aims of Soviet policy. Some of them, it will be seen, are reactions to measures taken by the non-Communist world; but I would like to enter a caveat against calling them "defensive." If they are defensive, the term is only relative, since it obscures the fact that they are designed to further a funda­mentally offensive policy. This then is the policy. How is the Politburo trying to carry it out?

Soviet methods are based on a not unrealistic assessment of human nature and of the sources of power and action. They are based entirely upon the assump­tion that the arrangement is one-sided: that while the Soviet Government through agencies under its control is free to influence opinion in the free world without serious impediment, no corresponding facilities shall exist to enable the opinions of the Russian people to be thus influenced. This fact has made it possible for the Politburo to build up a vast world-wide network designed to influence public opinion in the desired direction. There are two aspects of the problem, closely inter-connected. First, organisation: the Politburo have had to recruit agents totally subservient to them to form the nucleus of the network. This has been largely though by no means exclusively composed of Communists. Secondly, a message or series of themes has to be propagated in order to obtain the desired reaction in the world. I have pointed out that the official diplomatic prong of Soviet policy is less important than the unofficial prong, the influencing of public opinion. This is because the Politburo rightly calculates that any government, including the Russian, can only do what public opinion allows it to: therefore the obvious way of determining the policy of governments is to influence the public opinion which controls them.

The Soviet network therefore covers all those sections of opinion which can exercise an important influence in a state either through their numerical strength and organisation (e.g., organised labour) or through being in a key position (e.g., scientists and teachers). The precise story being propagated depends on the type of recipient, but the basis of all Communist propaganda is to select some universal emotion or trait of human nature and provide arguments to play upon it. Broadly speaking the emotions are: —

(i) Fear. — The armed strength of the Soviet Union is publicised, the size of the Soviet bloc, the inevitability of its ultimate triumph.

(ii) Love of Peace. — Soviet policy is portrayed as peace-loving, and all attempts to oppose it condemned as war-mongering and aggressiveness.

(iii) Love of Unity and Size, and the Cult of Power.

(iv) Love of Social Justice and Equality of Opportunity. — By giving a dis­torted version of Soviet society and by exploiting the acknowledged injustices in the non-Communist world, an easy appeal is provided to all with a tender social conscience or a sense of personal grievance.

(v) Perverted Christianity and Humanitarianism. — Here a judicious selection of facts and arguments is sufficient to exploit all those whose goodness of heart is scarcely matched by soundness of head.

This list could probably be extended, but the basic picture is of a Soviet paradise which will inevitably triumph over a corrupt, decaying and doomed capitalist world. Much play is made of such phrases as progress, and the idealism, particularly among the working classes, which traditionally surrounds the Russian revolution is skilfully exploited. There is no hesitation to pervert the meaning of words, to employ downright falsehoods and every trick known to persuade, mislead, confuse and throw into doubt and despair.

In its detailed execution, the policy is to employ scientists to persuade scientists and to exercise a pseudo-scientific influence on laymen, for industrial workers to agitate among industrial workers, and so on. It is important that non-Communists should be induced to do as much of the persuading as possible, but where the work has to be done by Communists it is best if they appear not as Communists but as good-hearted men with the interests of their own community at heart.

This is only a brief survey of the mass of Communist tactical literature and factual evidence. I hope it will be apparent that there is nothing whatever new in it, except the scale on which it is being done, and the very close control which enables each section of this network to reflect faithfully each shift and tactical turn of Soviet policy. I should complete this section by emphasising the rigid discipline and the fanatical self-dedication of the hard core which operates the network. The psychological ingredients of this fanaticism are complex and the motives which lead individuals down this path are various. I think it is fair to say that many young people flirt with the Communist creed, but the flirtation only turns into something more serious if there is something basically wrong with them in the first place. Moreover, once they have adopted the creed most elaborate procedures have to be gone through, in Russia as much as anywhere else, to keep up their enthusiasm. It is thus a highly unnatural and unattractive mode of life although the difficulties of escaping from it are evidently formidable.

I realise that I have left a great deal unsaid, but I hope that this sketch will describe sufficiently for our purposes the first protagonist.


The Nature of the Contest

(ii) The other Protagonist

I have said earlier on that the antagonist of the Politburo is the rest of the inhabitants of the world, Russian and non-Russian alike, and I added the safe­guarding clause "whether they realise it or not" For when we consider the other protagonist, what do we find? Briefly we find some 50 or so independent Sovereign States, some of them old-established democracies, others only just fitted, if at all, for statehood; some authoritarian regimes reflecting in a humble manner many of the disagreeable aspects of the Soviet regime; immense power concentrated in the State and considerable power wielded by a handful of others; a group of nations covering the Atlantic and North American areas bound together in defen­sive alliance to defend that particular geographical area; a very loosely knit British Commonwealth of Nations, strengthened in some ways and weakened in others by the accession of India, Pakistan and Ceylon, and gravely embarrassed by the activi­ties of the South African Government; a world torn by commercial and political rivalries and by the birth of nationalism in many areas of the world; weakened by poverty and over-population over much of its surface, and lacking any effective international system of control due to the deliberate sabotage by the Soviet Union of the Charter of the United Nations. These nations are for the most part governed by Ministers elected for three, four or five years at most, dependent upon funds voted annually by their parliaments, continuously answerable to public opinion for their actions. Broadly speaking, they are elected to serve their national interests only, and to consider the interests of the world as a whole only in so far as national interests demand or permit. The greater part of the strength and resources of the free world is in the hands of these nations in which public opinion exercises the closest control over its government—the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Western Europe; and this public opinion has for the most part little inclination to give serious study even to domestic, let alone world, politics. It does not require or expect a knowledge of world affairs in the representatives it elects to parliament, and the greater part of its interests are in the strict sense parochial. Its opinions are derived from the press, broadcasting, and in greater detail from a comparatively small number of natural leaders in the community, whose opinion for one reason or another it respects. It is, however, for the most part, healthily suspicious of any official or other organised attempt to influence its opinions by a selection of facts or the doctoring of truth, and any such attempt normally produces a result exactly contrary to what is intended. And above all it has a deep seated and unshakeable instinct for freedom. This fundamental instinct is universal, and explains why any Communist regime has to be held together by force. It is the ultimate obstacle to Communism; but it is only an instinct, and by itself is quite inadequate, for an instinct unaided by knowledge and organisation has little value for defence and still less for attack.

I hope this is not an unfair thumb-nail sketch of the free world as we have to see it. But let us consider for a moment the consequences of these facts and the contrast thus offered with the other protagonist. In the first place it is very hard under present conditions to undertake long-term planning, even on a national scale. The principle of annual budgets, to say nothing of four- or five-yearly elections, makes such planning precarious. Finally, it is doubtful whether any government has seriously contemplated what a 10- or 20- or 50-year plan for the world as a whole should be, even if it were possible to draw one up and act upon it. But perhaps the largest single obstacle to such a project would be that it pre­supposes too much imagination, on the part of too many people, for far too long a time.

Briefly, therefore, we have to state that of the two protagonists the Politburo has a long-term plan, the power at home to carry it out, an organisation abroad to assist it, an ideological driving force to sustain the effort and a well worked out strategy and tactics. The other protagonist, namely the governments and peoples of the non-Communist world with many of the peoples of the Communist world, can, from its very nature, have none of these things.

This analysis, on the face of it, points to the discouraging conclusion that the Soviet thesis is right and that in a matter of half a century the strength of the Communist bloc will have grown so predominant that the free world will have only the choice of military defeat or political surrender. I hope I can show, however, that this is very far from being the case provided, and only provided, that a reasonable amount of courage and initiative is shown in the appropriate places, because the picture I have just painted is a materialistic one which leaves out of account a number of hidden resources in the free world, and ignores much that is being done and much more that can be done to defend ourselves and counter­attack.



From the nature of the protagonists certain consequences seem inevitable.

First, we have to face the fact that ultimately, in the very long run, this is a struggle to the end. The Politburo will either triumph or go under, and if we sincerely believe that a genuine compromise is possible, then it is we that shall go down. By that I mean, the Politburo will either be swept away in a counter-revolution, or be forced so to modify its structure and policy owing to human pressures within and without that it loses all its present characteristics. I further mean that appease­ment, Christian charity, and a desire to improve Politburo policy by setting virtuous examples in such matters as disarmament could guarantee not the ultimate modifica­tion but the ultimate triumph of the Politburo. Politically it will fatally weaken the opposition to the Politburo if we delude world opinion into thinking that this is a question of traditional power politics, and that disarmament, security, and plenty are just round the corner. But how many people in the free world under­stand this, and in how many countries is it expedient or within the moral capacity of politicians to say so? Yet this seems to me to be the very first requirement; that the responsible leaders of opinion, particularly non-governmental, throughout the free world should understand the true nature of the conflict and its long-term implications, and influence its servant, namely the government, to base its policy, consistently and coherently, upon the long-term facts.

Secondly, we must accept, and be thankful for, the fact that the free world can never have its Politburo, with all the administrative conveniences that would ensue. However, there are in fact only two governments which are making any systematic attempt, on a world-wide scale, to defeat Soviet policy, namely those of Britain and the United States. This is a great advantage, and we should discreetly encourage acceptance of our leadership in this matter.

Thirdly, we have to accept and encourage the idea that resistance to Soviet policy is a universal interest, not an interest of one government or a group of governments. We have therefore to act not on behalf of British interests but of the free world as a whole, and to establish the fact that anti-Soviet activity in Syria or Indonesia is not a British or American interest but a Syrian or an Indonesian interest.

Fourthly, we have to dispel any idea that the fundamental issues, and the action that flows from them, are simply the business of governments and government-controlled agencies. Government-sponsored information, tendentious hand-outs, statements of opinion and all obvious attempts to influence free opinion are worse than useless, or should be. The idea has to be established that the defeat (and I repeat, the defeat) of Soviet principles is the moral duty, and ultimately the interest, of any person in his capacity of human being.

This is a far cry from what is perhaps suggested by counter-propaganda, but it is in fact the counter to Russian propaganda. The question arises how, if at all, a government department can properly assist to establish these principles; or indeed who is to establish them. Here I must point out that the doctrines I have enunciated are the result of the impact of hard fact upon a certain moral outlook. This outlook is not exclusively Christian: it is in fact the outlook of every human being, except those who are deluded into thinking that the ant-heap is the highest form of society, or that the deficiencies of the ant-heap are a necessary prelude to a certain earthly paradise. And their belief, I insist, is an abnormal and artificially sustained aberration. Therefore anyone who has the integrity, and the courage, and the facts, is a potential ally. No government department can distribute integrity and courage, even if they have them to purvey, but we can at least look for those who possess them and give them the facts.

This then is the basic aim of Information Research Department, to collect the facts about Soviet policy and long-term aims; about its practical application inside Russia and its satellites; the true nature of its foreign policy and methods by which that policy is executed in the free world. This is a straightforward intelligence-gathering job, which has to be done on a world-wide scale and demands the highest standards of accuracy and assessment. This material has then to be cast in the form most useful to those who are likely to make the best use of it. These persons are the natural leaders, the corps d'élite if you like, the moulders of opinion in every community; the ministers and politicians, churchmen, trade union leaders, journalists, youth leaders, and so on. And our long-term ideal if we could ever attain it, is that the facts we possess, and our deductions from them should be in the hands of all the real leaders in the free world.

Our principal agents in this task are of course Her Majesty's Missions abroad and it has been made clear to them that this is not a propaganda operation, that it is not an exclusively publicity job or the sole responsibility of the Information Secretary and that it is part of the duty of the mission as a whole to see that our material is put to widespread and effective use.

Naturally we have to make concessions to human frailty and political realities. Ideally, those for whom we provide the facts should adapt them for use in their own way. In practice we have to do some spoon-feeding by providing ready written articles which can be published as they stand. These are our only product which we should describe as propagandist in the contemporary sense, but here, too, accuracy of fact and fairness of deduction are essential and the tendentiousness should lie only in the style.

So much for our general strategy and methods. Tactics can only be decided by the Mission on the spot; but in general the first requirement is an appreciation of the local situation—the structure of the community, the real springs of power, the size and activities of the Communist Party and the non-Communist agencies through which they operate. It is in most cases a waste of time and effort to make a frontal attack on Communist Parties. The chances of disrupting them are slight, and ex-Communists are a doubtful asset as allies. If such a chance came, we should seize it; but it is far more rewarding to seal off the Communist Parties from the general public by attacking the transmission belts through which, according to classical doctrine, they have to operate. The staple method of doing this is to demonstrate to non-Communists by evidence, both of doctrine and of fact, how they are deliberately being used to serve Soviet aims, and the consequences of those aims being realised. A final point is the delicate question of co-operation with the local government in anti-Communist work. This can only be decided in the light of local conditions, the ideal to be aimed at being that they should regard it as a combined operation in which Her Majesty's Missions are giving what help they can in a common cause. I doubt whether it is possible to lay down any more precise procedures than this, their adoption being a matter for initiative and resourcefulness by all concerned.

This concludes the survey of the general principles which govern our current operations. In many cases there is inevitably a wide gap between theory and practice, due to variations in local conditions, resources available at home and abroad, and other factors. This does not alter the fact that unless we have an overall analysis and long-term strategy of our own, it is not possible to make a systematic counter-attack upon Soviet political warfare or overcome the obstacles to our own more efficient operation.


September 1952.

[Source: TNA FCO 141/7460, transcribed by]



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