[Marxism] Robert Conquest

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Dec 31 19:00:06 MST 2017

Spent most of the day reading about Holodomor scholarship and Robert 
Conquest's name kept coming up because he wrote the first book on the 
subject in 1986. Out of curiosity, I checked Wiki on him and discovered 
that he has quite a checkered past:

Conquest was educated at Winchester College, the University of Grenoble, 
and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was an exhibitioner in modern 
history and took his bachelor's and master's degrees in Philosophy, 
Politics and Economics, and his doctorate in Soviet history.[citation 
needed] In 1937, after studying at the University of Grenoble, Conquest 
went up to Oxford, joining both the Carlton Club and, as an "open" 
member, the Communist Party of Great Britain. Fellow members included 
Denis Healey and Philip Toynbee.

In Lisbon on an American passport at the outbreak of the Second World 
War, he returned to England. As the Communist party in Britain denounced 
the Second World War in 1939 as imperialist and capitalist, Conquest 
broke with it and enlisted in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light 
Infantry, serving with the regiment from 1939 to 1946. In 1942, he 
married Joan Watkins, with whom he had two sons. In 1943, he was posted 
to the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, which is today part 
of University College London, to study Bulgarian. In 1944, Conquest was 
posted to Bulgaria as a liaison officer to the Bulgarian forces fighting 
under Soviet command, attached to the Third Ukrainian Front, and then to 
the Allied Control Commission. There, he met Tatiana Mihailova, who 
later became his second wife.

In 1948 Conquest joined the Foreign Office's Information Research 
Department (IRD), a "propaganda counter-offensive" unit created by the 
Labour Attlee government in order to "collect and summarize reliable 
information about Soviet and communist misdoings, to disseminate it to 
friendly journalists, politicians, and trade unionists, and to support, 
financially and otherwise, anticommunist publications." The IRD was also 
engaged in manipulating public opinion.

Conquest at the IRD was remembered as a "brilliant, arrogant" figure who 
had 10 people reporting to him. He continued to work at the Foreign 
Office until 1956, becoming increasingly involved in the intellectual 
counter-offensive against communism.

In 1949 Conquest’s assistant, Celia Kirwan (later Celia Goodman), 
approached George Orwell for information to help identify Soviet 
sympathisers. Orwell's list, discovered after her death in 2002, 
included Guardian and Observer journalists, as well as E. H. Carr and 
Charlie Chaplin. Conquest, like Orwell, fell for the beautiful Celia 
Kirwan, who inspired him to write several poems. One of his foreign 
office colleagues was Alan Maclean, brother of Donald Maclean, one of 
the Philby spy ring, who fled to Russia with Guy Burgess in 1951. When 
his brother defected, Alan resigned, and went to Macmillan and published 
a book of Conquest's poems.

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