Zinoviev Letter

   On 8 October 1924, the British Labour Party lost a vote of confidence in the House of Commons. On 25 October a letter reportedly from Grigori Zinoviev, the head of the Comintern, to the British Communist Party was published in the Daily Mail, encouraging the British party to prepare for class war. Four days later, Labour lost a general election and the Conservatives returned to power. Moscow always denied that the Comintern had sent such a letter, but for 75 years a debate continued about the provenance of the letter. There are several mysteries in the brief outline of the story: was such a letter sent by the Comintern; what was the role of the OGPU; was it part of a plot by the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) to destroy the Labour Party; did the Conservative Party deliberately use a forged document to bring down Labour?
   In 1998 a British historian was given access to British, Russian, and American archives. She found that the Zinoviev letter was a forgery— possibly created by White Russian émigrés. The OGPU had no role in a plot against the Crown. The letter was obtained by SIS officers, who believed the information was accurate, and passed to the Foreign Office, who accepted the bona fides of the information. There is no firm evidence that the Conservative Party used the letter in the election, although two of the men responsible for leaking it did belong to the Conservative Central Office.
   While the evidence of Moscow’s innocence in the case is proven, the Comintern did in fact seek a more militant British Communist Party. A letter from Christian Rakovsky, a senior Comintern official, to British comrades in 1924 stated: “real, objective, conditions are being created for a real revolutionary mass communist party in Great Britain.” Clearly the Whitehall civil servants were not able to understand Marxist rhetoric or differentiate between forgeries and real documents.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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