It is now beyond reasonable doubt that Litvinenko, the ex-KGB defector from Moscow, was murdered. Perhaps assassinated would be a better word for what was surely a political killing. This dreadful event is about to be forgotten by most of the Media and buried by the authorities in the UK (see Footnote 1 below).
Litvinenko was an embarrassment to the ex-KGB boss, Vladimir Putin, for he possessed much inside information about current Russian secret police activities and was eager to tell the world from the ‘safety’ of London. His most serious allegation against Mr. Putin and his associates was that a series of explosions in several Moscow apartment blocks were carried out by the secret police just before elections and blamed on Chechen terrorists. The alleged motive was to get Putin re-elected as a strongman who would crack down on terrorism.
When good policemen uncover and prosecute organized crime or terrorist groups, they often have the problem that all their witnesses are tainted. Most of the émigrés and fugitives from modern Russia are similarly tainted, including the late Mr. Litvinenko and his circle of contacts and friends. They include a number of Russian Jews who made quick and enormous fortunes out of privatization deals in the Yeltsin era and then evaded the Putin crackdown by getting to the West with the proceeds.
It may never be clear who was crooked in the privatizations and who ripped off whom. Between Putin and the so-called ‘oligarchs’ it is difficult to decide who might be the worst villains, but it is quite possible that Litvinenko himself was a genuine whistle blower with good motives.
London seems to have become a sinkhole for rich and poor crooks from around the world, including Russia. With its lawlessness and Balkanization by countless minorities, many of them ‘illegals’, London has become a magnet for undesirables and it is presided over by a mayor who is without shame or principle. Nevertheless, London is still ostensibly a part of the UK and its capital city. There have been several reactions by commentators to the Litvinenko assassination and all miss the point.
There are those commentators who are driven by anti-Semitism. They see Putin and the Russian people as victims of international Jewry. Some claim to see the Jews once again making fortunes in a period of turmoil and see Litvinenko as a pawn caught up in a Jewish crooks’ game and then being eliminated. Others see the hand of the US Jewish neo-Cons in all this in an attempt to isolate or bring down the nationalist Putin. Somewhere I read the suggestion that the Jewish George Soros was behind the death of Litvinenko. When reason is overwhelmed by emotions, it is a short walk into fantasy!
There are those who say that the UK (and by implication, the West in general) should settle for realpolotik and play down Litvinenko’s death. Their argument is that Russia has gas and oil that the UK needs and that Putin can be an ally in the war against Islamic Imperialism. Thus, they argue, the UK should close its eyes when he settles scores with fellow-countrymen, especially as they are all a bunch of crooks anyway!
Finally, there are those who incline towards letting the UK police investigate until the Russian Government makes that a farce by obstruction, as it will surely do. The UK government probably favors this strategy. Given time, the whole thing can be conveniently forgotten.
This brings me to Hugh Gaitskell, whose mysterious death in 1963 has been largely forgotten over the years. It is time to resurrect it, for it should remind the West that the methods of Russian rulers rarely change.
Gaitskell became the leader of a Labour Party that was feeling the strains of the Cold War. Under the leadership of Clement Atlee, Herbert Morrison and Ernest Bevin the Labour Party had continued its wartime policy of co-operation with the US and the free world, but embedded in the Party were a number of Soviet agents, and many Leftists who were pro-Soviet.
From the 1950’s onwards, Soviet foreign policy included financing mass movements in the West to demand nuclear disarmament. Local communists were ordered to work with and direct ‘Peace” groups, using the usual array of willing fools and socialist fellow travellers. The Aldermaston Easter march by these Soviet dupes and their communist string pullers became an annual event (a sort of Leftist pilgrimage) in the UK, and was approvingly covered by the media. The most prominent marchers leading the tens of thousands were Labour Party notables from the Leftist Tribune Group and included Michael Foote and Tony Benn. Harold Wilson was also a member of the Tribune Group of MP’s. Thus the Labour Party was characterized by a struggle between pro-Soviet (unilateral disarmers) and pro-Atlantic Alliance wings. The struggle was a bitter and lengthy one and the Trade Unions experienced the same divisions. Since it was a Left versus Right cleavage, all other issues became embroiled in the struggle, including the Clause 4 of the party Constitution (committing the party to comprehensive nationalization of all major economic activities). Only the nuclear disarmament issue need interest us here, for it was the one issue of utmost importance to the Soviet Union.
When Gaitskell called for the Party to reject UK nuclear disarmament, he enraged the Party’s Leftists and almost certainly greatly alarmed Moscow. Gaitskell was widely predicted to soon become the Prime Minister at the next election. He was a fit man and relatively young for the job of Prime Minister. He was influential in the Party, popular in the country and prepared to fight the Leftists in his Party He was taken ill after a visit to the Russian Embassy and died within two weeks despite receiving the best medical care available. His fatal illness was put down to lupus but actually baffled his doctors. His successor was Harold Wilson!
We now know that Moscow was busy assassinating people in other countries and it had been doing so since the killing of Trotsky in Mexico in the late 1930’s.
In the light of the Litvinenko poisoning, the death of Gaitskell should be re-opened as a debate by conservatives. Hollywood directors are not going to be revisiting this piece of history with its drama and mystery and the Media Class in general will certainly not do so. Nor will the many intellectuals who hounded Pinochet and love Castro.
What is missing in the commentary about the assassination of Litvinenko is a recognition of the enormity of a foreign government reaching into the UK to kill. If Litvinenko had been killed in Russia there might be an argument for saying it is simply a Russian business, but a government willing to kill in someone else’s country is very dangerous. If Putin did organize or initiate the poisoning of his Russian enemy in the UK, why would he refrain from eliminating non-Russians? The mysterious death of Hugh Gaitskell all those years ago should be a terrible warning that UK and US citizens who pose a threat to Russian interests could be in danger of a painful and lingering death.
Footnote 1 – The Polonium 210 that slowly and painfully killed Litvinenko is presumably a recent and sophisticated development of polonium, an element discovered and named by Marie Curie in the early 1900’s, when she was an émigré from Poland (hence the name of the element). She and her husband also discovered radium around the same time and were the first people to use the term ‘radioactivity’. Ironically, Pierre Curie suffered from radiation sickness before his accidental death and Marie died of leukemia in 1934, so this element has a gruesome history and an East European connection. Threads to the past are sometimes illuminating!