Leading Article: Should Labour be thankful for Zinoviev?

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The Independent Culture
Should Labour be thankful for Zinoviev?

THE ZINOVIEV affair is about to be laid finally to rest. As we report today, the Foreign Office's chief historian has been granted access to the KGB's files in Russia, which will almost certainly confirm that the letter which helped destroy the first Labour government was cooked up by the British security services.

Generally, of course, mindless partisanship is a bad guide to government policy. But on this occasion Robin Cook can be forgiven for ordering an inquiry. Far more than the oppression of working people or the beastly treatment of trade unionists, the Zinoviev letter has animated the historical sense of grievance which binds the Labour Party together. It is because Labour thinks "we wuz robbed" at the 1924 election that the party so hates the Daily Mail, which published it, and the Tory party, which benefited from it.

But what if...? What if there had been no Zinoviev letter, no headline "Civil War Plot By Socialists' Masters. Moscow Orders To Our Reds"? What if Ramsay MacDonald had won the 1924 election and turned the first, minority Labour government into a majority one? Then there would have been no General Strike. What would have happened in the Recession is anybody's guess, although perhaps MacDonald would not have been panicked into betraying his party and forming the National Government. But then rearmament would have been even longer delayed and Britain would have lost the war.

Perhaps it is better for Labour's pride that the Mail and MI6 did conspire to stop it winning 74 years ago