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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 25. No. 11. 1962

Communism and Security

page 8

Communism and Security

Security Chief Warns Students

I would think that radical political activity in university circles today is at a very low ebb compared with certain times in the past, in particular the late thirties and the forties when impetus was given to radical political thought by the depression and the Soviet achievements during the War.

I recall hearing of an October Group at Victoria which copied the name of a Communist group at Oxford, a name presumably relating to the October Revolution in Russia. I recall also that a VUC Branch formed part of the Wellington District organisation of the Communist Party. These Communist groups are long since defunct, and I do not know of any counterparts in existence now. An awareness of Communist influence is indicated by the manner in which the student body has steered clear of affiliation with the Communist front organisation known as the International Union of Students.

As a New Zealander I regard Communism as evil and subversive. A New Zealand Communist by conscious act when he joins the Party abandons his Loyalty to God and country and gives allegiance to an atheistic and materialistic movement operated in the interests of and directed by a foreign power. In the international field the proven duplicities of the Communist bloc countries are legion. One grim example was last year's Soviet resumption of nuclear tests at the very time that Soviet negotiators were sitting at the disarmament conference in Geneva. The Chinese seizure of inoffensive Tibet is another. We in New Zealand are geographically remote from those parts of the world where the "Cold War" is of immediate reality. This remoteness inclines us to a detachment—a tendency to equate the Western and the Communist positions, to blind ourselves to the essentially aggressive motives of the Communist, bloc and to overlook the inherently immoral character of Communism.

Brigadier H. E. Gilbert.

Who wrote this article exclusively for Salient, has been Director of Security in Wellington since 1956.

The Brigadier was educated at Wanganui Collegiate School and the Royal Military College at Duntroon. He was an officer in the New Zealand Regiment between 1937 and 1957, and served with distinction in Italy and North Africa during World War II. He was awarded the D.S.O. in 1943 and the O.B.E. in 1945. After the War he was Director of Plans at N.Z. Army Headquarters and subsequently Commander of the Southern Military District and Army Liaison Officer in London.

Brigadier Gilbert is married and has three children. His home is in Heretaunga.


Some of my readers will no doubt have read books such as Neal Wood's Communism and British Intellectual and Koestler's The God That Failed (about which there was an interesting series of radio programmes on the YC Stations recently). These books tell of the disillusionment which, progressively overcame Communist intellectuals in the Western World and which led nearly all of them to break with the Party. Here in New Zealand something similar happened. The intellectual element of the Communist Party was strongest in the late thirties and the forties. Disillusionment increased as the years went by. The final shocks were given by the events in Hungary and by Krushchev's de-Stalinisation speech at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1956. No less a Communis leader than its General-Secretary, S. W. Scott, defected from the Party this time, and has told his story In his book Rebel in a Wrong Cause. Following the defection of its intellectual wing the Party has tended to isolate itself under the cloak of "proletarianism." By and large it is the emphasis on proletarianism which makes it such a small factor in New Zealand political life today. But the very fact that the Communists are able to capture the hearts and minds of only a small number of New Zealanders induces an attitude that Communism in New Zealand can safely be ignored. This attitude is akin to that of the ostrich which buries its head in the sand. The Party membership includes a number, increasing year by year, of "comrades" who have visited the Soviet Union and China on courses of training. The present District Secretary of the Party in Wellington, a paid functionary, is a case in point. The Soviet and Chinese authorities must think that their liberality in financing these visits will pay a dividend

Party Line

Some of the Party's intellectual members made their break decisively and publicly proclaimed their stand, but a larger number merely allowed themselves to drift out of Party Membership. They do not appear to have done much more than that. Communism has made its mark indelibly on their minds and personalities. They still value highly the human relationships they built up during their Party life and remain fascinated by the conspiratorial nature of their Party activities. Some continue to support the Party line on specific issues. For example, current Communist propaganda themes include recognition of the Chinese People's Government and its admission to the United Nations, withdrawal from Seato and Anzus. trade with the Communist Bloc, and support for the Soviet position on disarmament. The former Party intellectuals continue to support these Party themes particularly in the so-called "front" organisations

These Communist "front" organisations call for special mention. It is as well to be aware that they are not of spontaneous growth but are established internationally in accordance with directives from none other than Lenin and Stalin themselves who saw the need for developing Communist propaganda organisations separate from the Communist Party, which would attract support from a wider cross-section of the community than would the Communist Party itself. Typical examples are the Peace Council, affiliated with the World Peace Council, and the NZ/USSR Society, affiliated with a Soviet counterpart.

The Communist Party directs these "fronts" usually through the device of having a trusted Communist Party member as the Secretary— for example, the National Secretary of the NZ/USSR Society in Wellington is a member of the national committee of the Communist Parts and through "fractions" of Parts members who existence is kept secret from the rank and file membership and who function as " ginger groups "

A "front" organisation advocating peace, disarmament and friendship with the Soviet Union, and professing (albeit Falsely) to be non-political, has undoubtedly an appeal to persons of goodwill. But, if I may offer a word of caution—be sure, if you are approached to join such a group that you are fully satisfied about the loyalty and bona fide of its executives.

There are only a few intellectuals still remaining in the Party. They are to be found as a small leavening in the leaching profession and among doctors, lawyers and accountants. A few are in the Public Service. I repeat that they are but a small leavening but as they are there they cannot, in my view, fail to exert their influences, for example, I do not believe that a Communist university lecturer or ' schoolteacher will not endeavour to influence his students in accordance with his Communist beliefs.


It is in the nature of things for a Communist to be a fanatic. The Party functions on a clandestine and conspiratorial basis. It conceals its membership and its finances. Because experiences, some of them dramatic, have demon stated that many Communists tend to be disloyal and untrustworthy, it has been Government policy here and in other countries for a number of years now to exclude Communists from certain more sensitive aspects of Government work, particularly work concerned with defence and foreign relations. In a small and relatively homogeneous community such as ours, where so many people take so much interest in their neighbours' affairs, it is sometimes said that the Communists in our midst inevitably become labelled and publicly known. Experience shows that this is unfortunately not the case. The problem of identifying Communists is by no means easy. An even greater problem is the identification and assessment of persons with past records of Communist associations who retain some degree of sympathy for Communism. The answer to the question—"Are there or are there not reasonable grounds for supposing that a particular individual has or has recently had Communist sympathies or associations of such a type as to raise legitimate doubts about his reliability?" must be of particular concern to the employing authorities of the Government and, at the same time, is frequently most difficult to answer.

Professor's Comments

Professor J. M. Bertram, who spent several years in the Far East as a correspondent and Press Attache, had this to say about Security.

"People accept the fact that there are intelligence services under present world conditions. The question is: are they operated responsibly? In wartime they are, but in peacetime sometimes not."

He explained that the chief concern is a wartime system carried on into peacetime. Files exist, he said, compiled during wartime from very many and varied sources. A military or Department chief in wartime will generally handle them with sense and care, always checking on information. But in peace when these files may be handled by a busy or careless bureaucrat under various political pressures, there is risk and danger and the system can be abused.

The Professor thought that McCarthyism in America was an example of this, He said that charges made by an irresponsible demagogue could wreck the careers of men like Owen Lattimore and John Service, and that McCarthyism was far from dead today. Its effects on the U. S. Sate deportment and foreign were still obvious, he said.

Professor Bertram explained that any foreign national had dealings with the Security police of the country where he was working, and they in turn knew about him. He felt it a pity that Security police did not always inspire confidence, It seems to him a risk that wartime flies are accessible to peace time allies. This situation, he stated, can cause concern.

"In the present state of world affairs, we can't do entirely without the Security police'," said Professor R. H. Brookes, of the Political Science department. "How ever, it there are to be Security police, their investigations should be intelligent, rather then indiscriminate."

The professor said that the work of the Security police was extremely difficult, as inquiries had to be conducted "in the dark", without the knowledge of the public

Communism: The Phobia

New Zealand's biggest spy-scare story has once again brought the country's Security organization into the papers. Security, at least among the public dailies, is more or less tabu as a talking-point. Brigadier Gilbert's speech to the R.S.A., published a short time after the expulsion of the two Russian diplomats, is probably a unique instance of publicity for this rather faceless organization. Salient is fortunate in getting Brigadier Gilbert to write an exclusive article.

Brigadier Gilbert's article is mainly concerned with the reasons for security measures against Communists in 'security-sensitive" government positions. This is not to say that there are no active Communists in government in this country; public servants say quite openly that in "non-sensitive" departments Communists are not confined to the clerical level—some achieve quite important position.

New Zealand's attitude to these is considerably more tolerant than in Home other countries. The United States is a good example of anti-Communism reaching the point of a phobia.

Recently a lot of publicity has been given to the extreme right-wing factions in American politics. All over the country people are talking about the John Birch Society, We, the People!, and the. Christian Anti-Communist Crusade —three of a host of movements of varying size and noise.

John Birch

These organisations differ widely in form, but they all agree that the Communist menace is mainly internal. John Birchers say that the frustrations in such places as Cuba, Berlin and Laos are caused by a Communist plot that involves "subversives" in all areas of American life. For example, a private letter circulated widely by Robert Welch, founder of the John Birchers, labelled former U.S. President Eisenhower as a "dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy." Other people implicated in the "conspiracy" by this Bircher's Bible are Chief Justice Earl Warren, ex-presidents Roosevelt and Truman, former C.I.A. head Allen Dulles, and, believe it or not, his brother the late John Foster.

Some students of the movement say that it can be traced back to traditional anti-European isolationism and ethnic prejudices—a favourite trick of segregationists is to call such Negro organisations as the National Association for the Advancements of Coloured People "Communist-influenced" or "Communist-directed". A psychologist's analysis would be that it is a classic case of substitution; we can't ever hit at the Russians directly, so we invent a dummy we can beat regularly. It is impossible for the Birchers to conceive that the immense wealth and great traditions of America could ever be overcome by any intrinsic Russian superiority, say, in cold-war tactics, or education, or organisation.

Professor A. W. Westin has argued that it is a grass-roots movement, part of a natural American bent for political fundamentalism. The John Birchers started and are strongest in the fundamentalist Baptist churches of the South—which are also segregation's stronghold.


However basic the movement may be, it has not taken such an extreme hold on America as many people think. For one thing it lacks a leader. Responsible conservatives such as Barry Goldwater and Strom Thurmond will have nothing to do with it—their policy is to fight the cold war on an international front. Welch is apparently an ineffectual speaker. Welch and others have a lot less influence than Senator Joseph McCarthy's crusade of the early fifties. For one thing, McCarthy had his position in the Senate and particularly on the Un-American Activities Committee to use in his campaign. For another, he had a genius for publicity, an ability to raise enough dust to keep the newspapers interested in him and at the same time maintain his gigantic bluff.

The Communist phobia in the United States was greatest in the early fifties when Lattimore. Oppenheimer and the Hollywood Ten lost their jobs. Since then the security frenzy has died down considerably, and the new witch-huntera have neither the power nor the skill to wreak any real havoc—for the present.

Civil Rights

But Communists are progressively losing their rights as American citizens. It was only in 1954 that the Senate narrowly rejected a bill for five-year sentences for any known members of the Communist party, supported incidentally, by Senator John F. Kennedy. Within the last year the Supreme Court has decided that the Internal Security Act is broadly constitutional: this act makes it illegal for American Communists to even request a passport for overseas travel or apply for a government job. Any Communist mail must be labelled, both on the material and the envelope as "Issued by the Communist Party of the United States, a Communist Organization", The F.B.I, maintains a regular coterie of spies within the Party, or what's left of it.

What does this mean for New Zealand? The Evening Post suggested rather succinctly that the very reason we laugh about spy Stories makes us a useful weak link in the chain of international security. But the ostrich act is only one end of the spectrum. At the other there are the rumours that there may be a New Zealand branch of the John Birch Society. Whether or not this is true, it is still reasonable to ask if it is necessary, as both extreme left and right wing will say, to choose one or the other or whether we can, for the sake dignity and tolerance, strike some happy medium which remains aware of the perils but avoids the Inquisitions.

Printed by A. B. D. Calrk. Ltd., 10s Luxford Street, Wellington, for the Victoria University of Students' Association. Wellington.