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By James Smith

Britain's household intelligence businesses maintained mystery documents on many left-wing writers after the 1st international conflict. Drawing on lately declassified fabric from 1930 to 1960, this revealing examine examines how top figures in Britain's literary scene fell less than MI5 and unique department surveillance, and the brilliant quantity to which writers turned prepared members on this planet of covert intelligence and propaganda. Chapters dedicated to W. H. Auden and his affiliates, theatre pioneers Ewan MacColl and Joan Littlewood, George Orwell, and others describe equipment utilized by MI5 to assemble details via and concerning the cultural international. The publication additionally investigates how those covert organisations assessed the political effect of such writers, delivering students and scholars of twentieth-century British literature an extraordinary account of clandestine operations in pop culture.

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50 Of course, the files maintained on actual Party Intellectual and Intelligence Contexts 15 members were only the tip of the surveillance iceberg: Many individuals or organisations, giving ‘any reason whatever’ to make MI5 suspect they were engaged in revolutionary activity, were subject to reports and investigations while MI5 clarified their status. Thus, even when someone was ascertained not to be a communist, a lengthy file would typically remain in place showing how MI5 had pursued the trail to arrive at its conclusions, ready for review if any new queries were raised.

Most obviously, there were the other intelligence organisations. SIS provided information on international political activity and movement of individuals, and Special Branch provided information gained from its on-the-ground surveillance of meetings of political groups. But MI5 also maintained close liaison with other areas of the British state that occupied less secretive public roles. Key sources were the Chief Constables of the provincial police forces, from whom MI5 would routinely receive information concerning suspect individuals and activity in their jurisdictions.

84 In contrast, many of those who had genuinely left the Party were unaware of the nature of the records already acquired on them for a decade and mysteriously found their applications for employment in government, military, or media positions delayed or refused. Day-Lewis, Lehmann, and Littlewood were just some of those initially rebuffed on security grounds when they applied for wartime work. However, the British secret state was far from a monolithic whole, and MI5 made up only one part. If entrenched views amongst the British security–intelligence establishment often only saw the left-wing intelligentsia in terms of a risk to be measured and assessed, there were newer but increasingly influential agencies that viewed some of these individuals in a different light.

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