MI5 spied on suspected communists & anti-colonial leaders, secret files reveal


Bitish intelligence spied on peculiar residents with left-wing and anti-colonial sympathies throughout the post-war years, in keeping with newly declassified files within the National Archives. Security company MI5 subjected anybody with hyperlinks to the Communist Party to shut surveillance, with spies listening to their phone conversations, opening their letters and even following their actions.

Newly launched paperwork reveal the safety company intently monitored David Ennals, who later served as a cupboard minister beneath Prime Minister Harold Wilson, and writer Doris Lessing due to their communist sympathies. In addition to monitoring left-wing activists, MI5 additionally labored on behalf of the Colonial Office in focusing on pro-independence African leaders resembling Malawi’s first president Hastings Banda.

Recently declassified files show the large scope of British intelligence operations within the post-war period, which focused anybody they thought of communist or anti-colonial. MI5 was evidently a well-resourced authorities division, because the paperwork embrace extracts of intercepted letters and telegrams, detailed transcriptions of phone conversations, newspaper clippings pertaining to the topics and notes on their actions.

Labour MP David Ennals first got here to MI5’s consideration in 1946, shortly earlier than he grew to become secretary for the Council for Education in World Citizenship. The spy company’s files cowl considerations raised by French and American diplomats that Ennals was a safety danger attributable to his communist sympathies and his brother Martin’s work as a human rights activist.

The files additionally reveal a board member of the United National Association requested info on Ennals previous to his appointment as secretary of the group in 1952. Ennals was monitored by MI5 up till 1963, the 12 months earlier than he was elected Labour MP for Dover.

Martin Ennals, who later grew to become secretary common of Amnesty International, was additionally intently adopted by British intelligence for his suspected pro-Russian sympathies.

Nobel Prize successful writer Doris Lessing was monitored for 20 years due to her left-wing, anti-colonial views. Lessing got here to MI5’s consideration whereas in her residence nation of Southern Rhodesia – now Zimbabwe – within the early 1940s.


An MI6 doc handed onto MI5 in 1952 describes the novelist as “actually pro-communist, although it [is] uncertain if she is a member of the Party. Her communist sympathies have been fanned virtually to the purpose of fanaticism owing to her upbringing in Rhodesia, [which] has introduced out in her a deep hatred of the colour bar.

“Colonial exploitation is her pet theme and she now become as irresponsible in her statements as Coppard saying everything black is wonderful and that all men and all things white are vicious.”

The spy company continued to cross on details about Lessing to the South African police even after she broke her ties with the Communist Party following the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956.

MI5 is often regarded as the UK’s home intelligence service, however over the past a long time of Empire the company usually labored overseas within the colonies.

Malawi’s Hastings Banda was focused by MI5 beneath strain from the Colonial Office. The company intercepted his phone conversations, regardless of having doubts about how “subversive” he truly was.

MI5 additionally monitored Kenyan pro-independence chief Oginga Odinga, whose left-wing sympathies made him an object of suspicion amongst his personal countrymen in addition to British intelligence.

According to University of Cambridge historian Professor Christopher Andrew, MI5 handed on info from the surveillance of colonial delegations to British negotiators throughout the “fraught negotiations” which led to the dissolution of the Central African Federation in 1963.

The company clearly performed a vital position within the latter years of the British Empire. Professor Andrew mentioned the newly declassified files are altering the way in which teachers view the historical past of decolonization.

“Until recently, most histories of British decolonization did not even mention the role of MI5. MI5, however, was an imperial as well as a UK security service with intelligence responsibilities for British and Commonwealth territories around the world until the end of the 1960s,” he mentioned in a podcast for the National Archives.

“Officers who joined MI5 after the Second World War could expect to spend a quarter to a third of their careers on overseas postings,” he added.