The Zinoviev Letter; published in the London Daily Mail, 25 October, 1924, prior to the British election of that year. Selections and Comments by Peter Myers. Date April 29, 2001; update November 7, 2012.

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Correction December 10, 2007: the Zinoviev Letter was published in the London Daily Mail, not the Times.

The Zinoviev Letter appears to be a letter from Gregory Zinoviev, head of the Comintern, to communists in Britain. The USSR Government claimed that it was forged; a standard "Left" line is that it was produced by British Intelligence (as, they claim, the Protocols was created by the Tsar's intelligence service). Yet, given the deception about the true nature of Bolshevism, authenticity must be considered quite possible.

Below are presented

(1) the Zinoviev letter, (2) Volkogonov's account of Zinoviev's Comintern, (3) Robin Cook's statement, as British Foreign Secretary, of 4 February, 1999.

(1) the Zinoviev letter:

Very Secret

To the Central Committee, British Communist Party

Executive Committee

Third Communist International


Sept. 15, 1924, Moscow

Dear Comrades:

The time is approaching for the Parliament of England to consider the Treaty concluded between the Governments of Great Britain and the U.S.S.R. for the purpose of ratification. The fierce campaign raised by the British bourgeoisie around the question shows the majority the same, together with reactionary circles, as against the treaty for the purpose of breaking off an agreement consolidating the ties between the proletariats of the two countries leading to the restoration of normal relations between England and the U.S.S.R. ...

... Organize a campaign of disclosure of the foreign policy of MacDonald. ...

The IKKI {Executive Committee of the Third Communist International} will willingly place at your disposal the wide material in its possession regarding the activities of British Imperialism in the Middle and Far East. ...

Armed warfare must be preceded by a struggle against the inclinations to compromise which are imbedded among the majority of British workmen, against the ideas of evolution and peaceful extermination of capitalism. Only then will it be possible to count on complete success of an armed insurrection. ...

... It would be desirable to have cells in all the units of the troops, particularly among those quartered in the large centres of the country, and also among the factories working on munitions and at military store depots. ...

In the event of danger of war, ... it is possible to paralyze all military preparations of the bourgeoisie and make a start in turning an imperialist war into a class war. ...

Desiring you all success, both in organization and in your struggle.

With Communist Greetings,

President of the Presidium of the I.K.K.I.


Member of the Presidium


Secretary Kuusinen

(2) Volkogonov's account of Zinoviev's Comintern:

Dmitri Volkogonov, Lenin: Life and Legacy, tr. & edited by Harold Shukman, HarperCollinsPublishers, London 1994, drawing on the archives opened after 1991. In the USSR, Colonel-General Volkogonov was Director of the Institute of Military History.

{p. xxxi} Leninism was not restrained by national limits. With the aid of

{p. xxxii} Comintern, established in Moscow in March 1919 and virtually an international section of the Russian Communist Party, he attempted to initiate revolutions wherever the possibility existed, and sometimes where it did not. In July 1920 he cabled Stalin in Kharkov: 'The situation in Comintern is splendid. Zinoviev, Bukharin and I believe that we ought to encourage revolution in Italy right now. My own opinion is that we need to sovietize Hungary for the purpose, and maybe Czecho[slovakia] and Romania.' Emissaries were sent east and west, and on Lenin's orders the Finance Commissariat made available millions of gold rubles 'for the needs of the world revolution.' Meanwhile Soviet citizens were dying in their hundreds of thousands from famine and disease. For Lenin, the Revolution was everything, and it could not be achieved without countless victims.

{p. 391} ... Zinoviev claimed time and again that the victory of Communist revolution in Europe was guaranteed, and that the Red Flag would soon be flying over all continents. He saw his primary task as helping to ferment armed uprisings wherever 'the revolutionary situation was ripening'. When it proved impossible to do this, however, as for instance in Germany in 1921, when strikes and attempts at armed uprising petered out for lack of effective Communist leadership against a determined government, the putsches and plots ended in complete disaster. While the German police and troops were rounding up scattered conspirators, Zinoviev was in Moscow, shouting from the platform: "Arm yourselves, German proletarians! Wherever you can get hold of a gun, take it! Form soviets! Build a Red Army! Long live the proletarian revolution in Germany and the whole world!' And he was trying to convince the Politburo that 'the leaven of world revolution' was already at work in the main capitalist countries. {end selection}

(3) Robin Cook's statement, as British Foreign Secretary, of 4 February, 1999:

Foreign & Commonwealth Office, London THE ZINOVIEV LETTER: 'THE HIDDEN HAND' Date: 04/02/99


The Zinoviev letter has been shrouded in mystery for three-quarters of a century. Now the archives have been opened to public scrutiny.

Today we are celebrating a remarkable exercise in openness. The Foreign Office is publishing a report on the Zinoviev letter - a 75-year-old mystery that has perplexed generations of historians and fascinated Labour supporters. The report is a first. The historian who compiled the report has had full access to MI5 and MI6 files. She has been given the exceptionally rare permission to quote from those files. Her report puts a huge amount of material into the public domain. The report and its annexes stretch to 126 pages. Archives that had been shut to public gaze for decades have now been exposed to the light.

The story of the letter will already be familiar to many. On October 8, 1924, Britain's first Labour government lost a vote of confidence in the House of Commons. The next day the Foreign Office was sent a copy of a letter, purporting to come from Grigori Zinoviev, the president of Comintern, addressed to the central committee of the Communist Party of Great Britain. The letter urged the party to stir up the British proletariat in preparation for class war.

On October 25 the letter appeared in the Daily Mail. The political and diplomatic repercussions were immense. It was a major embarrassment for Ramsay MacDonald and the Labour Party. The Conservatives won the general election four days later. Relations between Britain and the Soviet Union soured, and Anglo-Soviet treaties were abandoned.

For three-quarters of a century there has been speculation about the letter's source and its timely appearance in the Daily Mail. After all those years, the letter continues to occupy a special place in Labour Party mythology. A year ago, the Lib Dem MP Norman Baker asked me in the House of Commons whether I would be prepared to open the MI6 files relating to the Zinoviev letter. I was not prepared simply to say no. I felt strongly that we ought to say rather more.

So I commissioned the chief historian of the Foreign Office to study every available source about the letter and compile a report for publication.

Her task was to put as much material into the public domain as she could, and to answer as many of the outstanding questions as possible. She has spent the past 12 months going through the archives of the Foreign Office, MI6 and MI5 - and American and Russian records as well. Her conclusions are fascinating.

First, the provenance of the letter. Generations of Labour Party supporters and historians believed it was a forgery. They were right. {But what evidence does Robin Cook present?} We have no conclusive proof who sent it, but we are confident it was not Zinoviev.

Second, the Foreign Office thought it was genuine. The main reason for this is because they got it through MI6 channels - a fact that has not been made public until today. They were also given corroborative proofs by MI6, which have now been shown to be suspect. But there is no evidence that MI6 forged the letter.

Third, there is no evidence of an organised conspiracy against Labour by the intelligence agencies. There is, however, evidence that two of their officers were among those involved in leaking the letter to the press and to Conservative Central Office.

Publishing this report allows us to bring the maximum amount of material into the public domain without betraying the trust of those who help Britain by co-operating with our intelligence agencies. It is a demonstration of our commitment to be as open as possible, and our recognition that being open with the British public is a British national interest.

It has also been a unique exercise in international co-operation. We have had a great deal of help from the Russian Government.

With the help of the Russian ambassador in London, our historian was able to mine an extensive archive in Moscow. And by giving us access to their documents, the Russian Government has allowed us to piece together the story from both sides. Their archives provided valuable collateral for the information in the MI6 archives.

The report does not tie up every loose end. But by putting a huge amount of material into the public domain, it allows people to make up their own minds. Important questions remain, and may always go unanswered - such as who forged the letter {to phrase it that way makes the result a foregone conclusion; if Robin Cook "knows" it was forged, why doesn't he present his evidence?}.

New Labour is determined to end the culture of secrecy in Whitehall. We are moving government from the presumption that the least said the better, to the firm belief that the public has a right to know as much as possible. It is an important democratic principle. And the publication of this report is a celebration of it.

{end of Robin Cook's statement}

The Jewish identities of Lenin and Trotsky: lenin-trotsky.html.

Pitirim Sorokin and Dmitri Volkogonov describe the Kronstadt Massacre and Trotsky's Role: kronstadt.html.

The USSR Constitution of 1924: ussr1924.html.

The early Soviet Union - after Lenin and Trotsky, but before Stalin's ascendancy: soviet-union-early.html.

Write to me at contact.html.