I came across this story by chance whilst reading a book by Rory Clements. It’s another example of how events that we think are unique challenges of our times have happened before.
Since 2016 authorities, intelligence agencies and the media have been exploring the allegations that Russia meddled in the 2016 US Presidential Elections and influenced the results. Much evidence has already been uncovered and investigations continue.
It’s not the first time though that alleged Russian involvement in an election has influenced the outcome. In 1923 the Labour Party was elected to power in the UK for the first time. It was a minority Government led by Ramsey MacDonald which meant that they could lose power if the other two main opposition parties, the Conservatives and Liberals came together.
The world in the 1920s was experiencing great political and social change. The first World War had not long ended and there was a change in the old established class order. The rise of Socialism following the Russian Revolution was also causing great concern in Western Democracies that something similar could happen in their countries.
On October 8, 1924 the Government lost a motion of no confidence following its decision to drop the prosecution, under the Incitement to Mutiny Act 1797, of the communist Editor of the Worker’s Weekly. The Editor, John Ross Campbell had written an article calling on soldiers to “let it be known that, neither in the class war nor in a military war, will you turn your guns on your fellow workers.” A General Election as called for the 29, October 1924.
4 days before the election The Daily Mail published a letter purporting to be from the Head (Grigory Zinoviev) and the Secretary (Otto Wille Kuusinen) of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, (known as the Comintern) to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). According to Wikipedia one of the most damning parts of the letter was
“A settlement of relations between the two countries will assist in the revolutionising of the international and British proletariat not less than a successful rising in any of the working districts of England, as the establishment of close contact between the British and Russian proletariat, the exchange of delegations and workers, etc. will make it possible for us to extend and develop the propaganda of ideas of Leninism in England and the Colonies.”
Zinoviev, the Soviet Government and the Comintern all strongly denied that they had written the letter. Despite these denials and those of the Labour Party and CPGB the letter and the Daily Mail article caused a media storm.
Whoever did write it, the result was that in the election, the Conservatives benefitted from an 8.8% swing in the vote giving them an extra 154 seats in the House of Commons and a landslide victory allowing them to form a strong majority government.
A Government enquiry carried out in November 1924 concluded that it was unlikely the document was genuine. Subsequent investigations have found no conclusive proof of who may have written the letter.
Sources: Rory Clements, Corpus