East German agent with the perfect pedigree

PROFESSOR VIC ALLEN is a classic man of the British left. He was an influential figure in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and a passionate supporter of the 1984-85 miners' strike.

He was a friend of Arthur Scargill and, from the early 1970s, a committed member of the Communist Party.

But now the Leeds University lecturer has been accused of going several steps further and working as an "agent of influence" for the Stasi, the East German secret police.

Last night he was totally unrepentant about his role. He claimed that, as an avowed Communist, he was doing no more than obeying his conscience in providing information on the political scene in Britain to his comrades in East Germany.

Professor Allen is not accused of passing on state secrets in the classic spy manner but rather of being an "agent of influence".

By this the East Germans and the Russians meant someone they believed to have the ability to influence events in Britain in a manner beneficial to them.

In the 1960s and 1970s Allen was an influential figure in the powerful trade union movement. His area of academic expertise was Labour and union history, and his passion was the miners. It was no surprise that he was to become a friend and confidant of the young Arthur Scargill, then himself a member of the Communist Party.

There is little doubt that he was a highly respected figure on the left, boasting working-class origins and academic pedigree. Later in life he even returned to his bricklaying origins, taking up dry-stone-walling as a hobby.

Professor Allen was born in 1923 in Wales. He left school at 15 to train as a bricklayer, served with the RAF during the war and, in 1946, went to the London School of Economics, where he eventually gained a PhD. In 1959 he was given a lectureship at Leeds University and he became a professor in 1973.

He was involved with the CND from its earliest stages, taking part in the first Aldermaston march, in 1958. He was firmly in the unilateralist camp, which believed that Britain should abandon its own nuclear deterrent, whatever the stance of the Soviet bloc.

In one of the more bizarre episodes of his life, he was arrested in Nigeria in 1964 and accused of plotting to overthrow the government. During his third visit to the country he was arrested in Lagos, the capital, and charged with "managing an unlawful society for the purpose of overthrowing the government by military means" - a charge that carried a seven-year jail sentence. His arrest took place during the height of a nationwide strike over the government's rejection of demands for wage increases. He had visited the country on a sabbatical from Leeds University and was ostensibly gathering material for a book on trade unionism.

Professor Allen subsequently went on hunger strike for eight days, complaining about his treatment in custody, where he was detained in solitary confinement. The charge was later downgraded to sedition and conspiracy involving the circulation of a document urging Nigerian Marxists to "prepare for revolution".

After being granted bail, Professor Allen was caught trying to escape from Nigeria, wearing a turban in an attempt to disguise himself as a local tribesman. He was reportedly exposed when the turban slipped off his head, revealing his white skin. He was eventually sentenced to one year in prison with hard labour but served only four months.

In the aftermath of the miners' strike, it emerged that Professor Allen had travelled to Eastern Europe and had helped raise money in the Soviet Union, East Germany and Hungary for the benefit of the miners. He came close to leading CND when, in 1985, he lost to Joan Ruddock in the battle for the chair of the movement. In 1987 he published The Russians are Coming, which looked at Western attitudes to Russia, then in its glasnost period.

FOCUS, PAGE 19

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power