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C. P. Scott: A dissenting view

Paul Rigby

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Was C.P. Scott, the Guardian’s legendary editor, quite the paragon of virtue portrayed in John Simkin’s online biography? To the contrary, I would suggest, Scott was responsible for at least the continuance, and quite possibly the establishment, of a Guardian tradition that betrayed any good he might have done in the rest of his life and work; and continues to this day. The tradition to which I refer is directly related to the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy – media collusion with the intelligence services.

The practice of combining espionage with journalism is as old as newspapers. In May 1923, it was the subject of a withering editorial in a major British daily. The occasion was the cheery confession of Marguerite Harrison, a recently released American spook, upon arrival in Riga from imprisonment by the Cheka:

“Mrs. Harrison went to Russia in 1920 in a dual capacity. She was described as the correspondent of the Baltimore Sun. She was, in fact, also a secret agent of the American Military Intelligence Department. When the latter part of her purpose in Russia became known to the Soviet Government, she purchased her liberty, according to her own account, by bluffing that Government into believing that she would act as their agent…

We think…that any ugly blow at that honesty and independence in journalism which the public can ill afford to see tampered with, was struck by the combination of secret agent and special correspondent which some ill-advised American authorities evolved…The main thing is that the light thrown on this case should make the vicious experiment impossible of repetition” (1).

The British newspaper responsible for this grotesque piece of cant? Yes, the good old Manchester Guardian.

To appreciate the extent of the editorialist’s hypocrisy, we must jump forward to 1987, and the 70th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution, as commemorated in the pages of…The Guardian. In a piece entitled, “The MG and 1917,” the paper’s Richard Gott (2) examined “the way the Manchester Guardian dealt with the upheavals of a dramatic period” (3):

“At the time of the October Revolution, the Guardian had two correspondents in Russia. One, Philips Price (who later became a Labour MP), expressed growing enthusiasm for the Bolsheviks. The other, David Soskice (the father of a future Labour MP), was solid with the provisional government of Kerensky – and was most indignant when it was overthrown.

In keeping with a long Guardian tradition, the first correspondent had not been told of the existence of the second. Philips Price later recalled how, in about the middle of June 1917, ‘a Mr. David Soskice arrived from England and asked me to come and see him at his hotel. I went at once and found that Scott had appointed him to act as Manchester Guardian correspondent, not to replace me but to write in addition to me. I realised that Scott must be under some pressure to get opinions expressed in the paper different to mine and, no doubt, the Foreign Office must have used its influence in this sense…I found that he [soskice – PR] had been appointed one of Prime Minister Kerensky’s secretaries, so that he was well placed to get inside information” (4).

The Guardian lied to its readers about Soskice’s true role in the Winter Palace with Kerensky. As Gott noted the following day, as he detailed Soskice’s flight from Russia and major account of the fall of Kerensky:

“Soskice’s detailed account of the uprising…was not actually published until December 27, 1917. The Guardian was clearly somewhat embarrassed at this stage by Soskice’s association with Kerensky, and the sub-editorial introduction suggests (incorrectly) that his period as a special correspondent has not overlapped with his time in the employ of the Russian prime minister”(5).”

Price Philips’ enthusiastic championship of the Bolshevik revolution inevitably drew the attention of both the British censor, and, upon his return to Britain, “the head of CID at Scotland Yard, who kept C.P. Scott…informed of his activities” (6). As Gott went on to note, Philips Price “came from an old Liberal Manchester family, and indeed his great grandfather had been one of the Manchester cotton merchants who had helped set up the Manchester Guardian in the first place” – a fact which did not prevent Scott from dispensing with his services (7).

The man who replaced Price Philips, Arthur Ransome, also worked for MI6 (8).

So much for the claim, advanced in David Ayerst’s hagiographic work on Scott and the paper, that "from Peterloo to Suez the Scott family throughout…endeavoured to speak plainly and truthfully” (9).

This collusion between Guardian and spook endured long after Scott. The Cold War saw only one change of note, and that was for the worse. In addition to the usual welter of British Intelligence officers and assets - by the mid-1950s, the paper was little more than a front for the infamous Information Research Department (10) - the Guardian increasingly acted as the CIA's primary vehicle for channelling harmlessly the Non-Communist Left in Britain. The Agency's involvement was characteristically brazen. As with Encounter, it took the form of subsidy by subscription (11). Thus by August 1952, no less than nine percent of the paper's circulation of 127,000 made its way, ostensibly at least, to the US (12). The appeal to American readers - all 12,000-plus of them - was obvious: the paper still carried adverts on its front-page, and continued to be published in Manchester, the very heart of state power in highly decentralised fifties Britain. By the late 1960s, The Guardian was the recycler of much material from a series of CIA fronts, most obviously the news services of Kern House Enterprises Inc., a typical Delaware-registered scam (13). Any wonder, then, that the paper should have proved such a stalwart supporter of the Warren Report? (14).

The Guardian moved to London from Manchester in 1961. Commenting on the move, Arthur Christiansen, the legendary editor of the Daily Express, and Beaverbrook’s favourite editor-harlot, expressed the view that the paper was now set to become a "third force" - next to the Times and the Daily Telegraph - in British journalism (15). Whether inadvertent or mischievous, the phrase was inspired: By 1961, the phrase was routinely used in America to denote the CIA (16). Amusingly, the Guardian's pride in its "exceptionalism" - that the paper is uniquely independent and virtuous (by virtue of its ownership by a Trust) - replicates precisely a core belief of the American right, which ordinarily sees a rather more divine source for the blessing (17).

And who exactly financed that move from Manchester to London?

John Simkin, in compiling his profile of C.P. Scott, might usefully have asked precisely that question with regard to Scott’s acquisition of the Guardian in 1904. I don’t know the answer, but I’d be willing to bet a tidy sum that the money men were not a million miles away from Rhodes’ heirs in the Round Table.

To be continued…

(1) George Seldes. Tell the Truth and Run: My 44 Year Fight for a Free Press (New York: Greenberg, 1953), pp.122-123.

(2) In December 1994, Gott was charged by The Spectator, the right-wing weekly with positively organic ties to the Anglo-American spook empire, with being a KGB "agent-of-influence." He subsequently confessed to having accepted free trips from the Cheka. This was obviously not the full story.

(3) Richard Gott, “The MG and 1917,” The Guardian, 2 November 1987, p.18.

(4) Richard Gott, “Giving a voice in the paper to both reform and revolution,” The Guardian, 3 November 1987, p.26.

(5) Ibid.

(6) Ibid.

(7) Ibid.

(8) “Swallow, Amazons, and secret agents, “ The Observer, 21 July 2002:


(9)"All the views fit to print," The Guardian, 23 September 1992.

(10) For a list, by no means exhaustive, of Guardian editorialists, columnists and reporters working with and for the IRD, see Paul Lashmar & James Oliver. Britain's Secret Propaganda War, 1948-1977 (Stroud, Gloucester: Sutton Publishing Ltd., 1998): John Midgely (p.118); Guy Wint (p.121); Victor Zorza (pp.120-121); and Darcy Gillie (p.97). Gillie was commended to IRD by Orwell (p.97). Zorza, the paper's resident Sovietologist, was later to earn a reputation as a critic of the CIA line on détente. Wint wrote editorials. Midgeley had earlier worked for The Economist, "many" of whose staff, according to the same authors, "were very close to the intelligence establishment" (p.118).

(11) Frances Stonor Saunders. Who paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War (London: Granta Books, 1999), p.186.

(12) "The Press: A radical change," Time (Atlantic Edition), 25 August 1952, p.41.

(13) Paul Lashmar & James Oliver. Britain's Secret Propaganda War, 1948-1977 (Stroud, Gloucester: Sutton Publishing Ltd., 1998), p.138.

(14) Visit the Guardian’s newly unveiled digital archive and see for yourself: http://archive.guardian.co.uk/Default/Skin...W=1195511464477

(15) "Journalistic shot in the arm," The Guardian, 1 August 1961, as reprinted in The Guardian Century, Part Seven: 1960-69, p.5, as issued free with the edition of Saturday, 20 November 1999.

(16) Richard & Gladys Harkness, "The Mysterious Doings of CIA," Saturday Evening Post, (227), 6 November 1954, p.66: "Besides its spy network, and the open CIA function of research, the agency operates a superclandestine third force…"; Harry Howe Ransom. Central Intelligence and National Security (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1958), pp.203-204: "The CIA: A Third Force?: Quite possibly the ascendancy of CIA to prominence and power in national policy making represents the growth of a third force…"; Richard Starnes, "Arrogant CIA Disobeys Orders in Viet Nam," The Washington Daily News, 2 October 1963, p.3: "Unquestionably Mr. McNamara and General Taylor both got an earful from people who are beginning to fear the CIA is becoming a Third Force co-equal with President Diem's regime and the US Government - and answerable to neither."

(17) Polly Toynbee, "Guarding the Guardian," The Guardian, 10 September 1999, p.21: "The Guardian is not like any other national newspaper…" Quite so. No other British national so routinely bothers to masquerade as independent of intelligence service control.

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Paul, thank you posting this. I will add a link to this thread from my page on C. P. Scott. Of course, C.P. Scott was a liberal and not a revolutionary. He campaigned against the Boer War and would have done the same with the First World War if it had not been for his close relationship with David Lloyd George, who had said he would resign from the government if war was declared.

Of course the Manchester Guardian ended up being hostile to the Russian Revolution. In fact, even the Tory newspaper supported the February Revolution as it gave the impression that Russians were imitating the changes that had been made in countries in Western Europe. The actions of the Bolsheviks later that year changed all that. In fact, large number of Marxists in Russia and all over Europe disagreed with the idea of an armed uprising. Read for example Rosa Luxemburg's writings during this period. She rightly argued that according to Marx, communist revolutions will only be successful if it has the support of the masses. Otherwise, the revolution will end up as a dictatorship. (How right she was.)

Nor was Morgan Philips Price a revolutionary. In 1906 Price inherited a 2000-acre estate. A member of the Liberal Party, Price was prospective party candidate for Gloucester (1911-14) before the outbreak of the First World War, Price became a founder member of the Union of Democratic Control, the most important of all the anti-war organizations in Britain. This is why he was initially supportive of Lenin because he believed it would bring an end to the war. This is all recorded in his book, My Reminiscences of the Russian Revolution (1921).

Are you sure he was sacked by Scott. Price worked for the Daily Herald from 1919. This was a paper that supported the Labour Party (Price was now Labour Party, rather than the Liberal candidate in Gloucester). The evidence suggests that he was just as opposed to the communist dictatorship in the Soviet Union as other socialists were in the 1920s.


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I would add this: If Superman can pose as a newspaper reporter without condemnation, why not James Bond? If intelligence operations are necessary for a society, so is cover. Moreover, presumably a spook as a journalist is normally nothing but an intelligence-gatherer rather than a covert operator.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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I would add this: If Superman can pose as a newspaper reporter without condemnation, why not James Bond?


If you want to live in a democracy, you need reliable information: spook control of the press is the enemy of reliable, unmanipulated information.

If intelligence operations are necessary for a society, so is cover.

But are they? Is it really so self-evident that covert intelligence gathering produces better decision making than contested open sources? Iraq? The Falklands War? If MI6 was measured by results, it would no longer exist; and a number of its most senior figures would be in prison or unemployed.

Moreover, presumably a spook as a journalist is normally nothing but an intelligence-gatherer rather than a covert operator.

Big and, frankly, unjustified assumption: He - or she - could equally have played a role in the planting of a bomb, or the assassination of a politician adjudged disposable. It would be interesting to see a decent study, for example, of why Nkrumah expelled a bunch of British correspondents in the wake of an assassination attempt against him in 1962. Were they merely gathering intel, or active members of the assassination plot?

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Paul, thank you posting this. I will add a link to this thread from my page on C. P. Scott. Of course, C.P. Scott was a liberal and not a revolutionary. He campaigned against the Boer War and would have done the same with the First World War if it had not been for his close relationship with David Lloyd George, who had said he would resign from the government if war was declared.


This is to ignore the fact that by late 1916, when Lloyd George supplanted Asquith as PM, the former was little more than a front-man for the Round Table (aka the Rhodes-Milner group): “Betrayed in a backroom conspiracy of the Liberal Party, Asquith fell, and on December 7, 1916, David Lloyd George became Prime Minister. Exponents of the Round Table were forthwith raised to several high posts, and the master himself, Milner, was made into the chief strategist of the War Cabinet. Thereupon British troops were embarked for the Middle East to fight the Turks” (1).

And what of Scott and the Manchester Guardian, that brave, honourable paper which had rightly denounced Rhodes’ skulduggery in the Jamieson Raid (2), and, like Lloyd George, courageously opposed the British imperial attack on the agrarian Afrikaners (3)? Had it, too, become little more than a liberal mask for the Round Table?

Not according to Carroll Quigley, the American academic – and Round Table insider – who single-handedly raised the veil on the subject. According to Quigley’s magnum opus, Tragedy and Hope, the major press fronts for this ramified network were, in Britain, The Times; and, in the US, the New York Times, the Herald Tribune, Christian Monitor, The Washington Post and Boston Evening Transcript (4). Quigley’s failure to include the (Manchester) Guardian in his list of Round Table press properties, however, should not be seen as definitive. After all, Quigley remained an establishment loyalist – there is nothing critical, for example, on the Warren Report within Tragedy and Hope – and to have included the paper within the British section of his list might, just conceivably, have provoked a question or two about who – or what – financed the Guardian’s move to London in 1961, a bait first dangled by Round Tablers Lloyd George and Churchill in June 1916 (5).

Contemporaneous evidence, moreover, is conclusive: The Manchester Guardian was part of the Round Table stable of tame press outlets. This was only to be expected, given the context. In the first decade of the twentieth century, the burgeoning of Round Table power and influence made its presence felt in two classic, mutually reinforcing, ways of real power in the Anglosphere: censorship and the sack. Thus in the wake of Rhodes’ death in March 1902, a former MP, Herbert Paul, “who had weathered successive storms in Bouverie Street…was dismissed [from the Liberal Daily News – PR] for having written a vitriolic obituary of Cecil Rhodes.” Who sacked him? George Cadbury, a man not unknown to Scott (6). Real power also tends to be modest, going on reclusive, when it comes to publicity, and none too keen on accurate history, as the improbably named J. Saxon Mills discovered when he “was required to expunge from an article on King’s College, London, any reference to Milner, perhaps its most celebrated living undergraduate” (7).

The Round Table did not invite the Guardian to abandon its public character, merely to put it at the Rhodes-Milner group’s service. In foreign affairs, the Guardian’s semitophile grain – not always evident or consistently applied, contrary to lazy retrospective readings, as the Boer War correspondence of J. A. Hobson attested (8) – was run with by the Round Table to most long-lasting and inhumane effect in the Middle East: “From the Manchester Guardian, in November 1915, recruits of the so-called Kindergarten – Milner's club, also known as the Round Table – intimated 'that “the whole future of the British Empire as a Sea Empire” depended upon Palestine becoming a buffer state inhabited “by an intensely patriotic race”' Indeed, Palestine was 'the key missing link' that joined together the limbs of the British empire in a continuum stretching from the Adriatic to the middle of the Pacific” (9). The Guardian loved the Balfour Declaration.

To this day, the Guardian’s apologists pride themselves on the paper’s unflinching honesty in describing the tragic fate of European Jewry in general, and that of Germany’s in particular. They are silent, as far as I can see, on the limits to the Guardian’s philo-semitism.

And no wonder, for its domination from behind the scenes by the Round Table set profound curbs on the accuracy and purpose of its inter-war journalism. It could tell its readers what was happening Germany, but not who was really responsible: “In 1934 the foreign correspondent of the Manchester Guardian confirmed the widely diffused rumor that the bulk of Nazi funding was foreign in origin: ‘Hitler had large funds at his disposal, not obtained entirely from German sources, He got money from certain capitalist interests in foreign countries, who were attracted by his hostility to Soviet Russia, or by...his policy to increase the demand for armaments...International finance does not seem to be unfavorable to the Nazi regime’” (10). Who were these foreign financiers? As far as I have been able to establish – and this was prior to the recent unveiling of the paper’s archive on the web - the Guardian failed to identify them when it mattered, before the Holocaust began. It could not because they were, in many instances, the cream of British and American banking, finance and industry (11). Communists did much better.

More to the point, Round Table-ism was a profoundly racist creed which embraced philosemitism for purely geopolitical reasons. None of its senior members appear to have lifted a practical finger to save Europe’s Jews.

What is most striking about the Guardian’s treatment of the Round Table and its epoch-making, catastrophic Machiavellianism is the continuity in dishonesty. As recently as May this year, the paper’s Saturday Review section carried a book review by historian Maya Jasanoff of John Darwin's After Tamerlaine: The Global History of Empire (London: Allen Lane, 2007). One particular passage caught my eye:

“But a deeper resonance lies with the work of a scholar of decidedly different stamp: the early 20th-century geographer and ardent imperialist Sir Halford Mackinder. In his pioneering work on geopolitics, Mackinder identified Eurasia as the "heartland" of global empire. "Who rules East Europe rules the Heartland," he wrote in 1919. "Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island: Who rules the World-Island commands the World." Mackinder's opinions were little heeded by the British government, but would find uncanny resonance in the policy of Adolf Hitler, who anchored his visions of world empire in the resource-rich domains of the Soviet Union” (12).

In fact, Mackinder’s thesis was the geopolitical bible of the British elite for nearly half a century (13); and its author so ignored by an ungrateful establishment that it made him High Commissioner of South Russia, 1919-1920, for which service he was knighted in the latter year (14). The conventional version has that Mackinder sought to save the White Guardists. As Preparata demonstrates, the truth was otherwise.

(1) Guido Giacomo Preparata. Conjuring Hitler: How Britain and America made the Third Reich (London: Pluto Press, 2005), p.40.

(2) Stephen Koss. The Rise and Fall of the Political Press in Britain (London: Fontana Press, 1990), pp. 367-8.

(3) Phillip Knightley. The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist, and Myth Maker from the Crimea to Vietnam (London: Andre Deutsch Ltd., 1975), quotes Lloyd George on the Boer War: “the war is an outrage perpetrated in the name of human freedom” (p.72).

(4) Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time (NY: The Macmillan Company, 1966), p.133.

(5) Koss, loc. cit., pp. 732-733: “Churchill and Lloyd George discussed the ‘old theme’ of bringing the Guardian to London, where it might exert a more direct influence. ‘What wd. It cost?’ Lloyd George asked Scott, who ‘said £20,000 a year.’ ‘That’s not much,’ declared Lloyd George. ‘All the same it is,’ Scott reflected silently.” (Memorandum by Scott, 12-17 June 1916, Scott Papers, Add. MSS. 50, 903, fol 53.)

(6) Ibid., pp. 454-5.

(7) Ibid., p.399.

(8) Ibid., p.395: “It ought not to detract from the moral courage of the Manchester Guardian to recall that J.A. Hobson’s dispatches from South Africa were tinged with a virulent anti-semitism.”

(9) Preparata, loc. cit., p.39.

(10) Ibid., pp.198-9

(11) For a very useful list, see George Seldes Facts and Fascism (NY: In Fact, Inc., September 1943).

(12) http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,2077495,00.html

(13) Preparata, loc. cit., pp. 8-15

(14) Blouet, B.W. (1976). Sir Halford Mackinder as British high commissioner to south Russia, 1919-1920. Geographical Journal. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halford_John_Mackinder

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