Loose lips sink ships…

Revelations about the infiltration of left(ish) groups by the Police and the Security Service have recently dominated the pages and airwaves of New Zealand’s complacence and lethargic media. However, as Liberation Blog (Bryce Edwards) and Against the Current (Steve Cowan) have pointed out such infiltration should come as no surprise. The police and the SIS in particular have been planting moles and informants in left (and, sometimes, even Right wing) organisations for decades. Rob Gilchrist, the outed police informer/spy, is merely the most recent in a long line of internal Government paid spies that have been inflicted upon various New Zealand activist groups and organisations in this shoddy and shameful practice.

Friends of mine who were involved in the SAL (Socialist Action League) in the 1970s and in CARE, HART and the PYM in the late 60s, 70s and early 1980s were well aware that their groups had been infiltrated. When he was Prime Minister, Muldoon regularly used the police and the SIS to infiltrate “anti government” and “subversive” (his words) groups, organisations, unions and political parties such as the Labour Party, the SUP and, in 1983/4, even the right wing New Zealand Party. Often individuals would appear from nowhere, volunteer to undertake or coordinate various tasks and events and then disappear just as quickly. One such individual was only identified as a member of the police, after he was photographed in the local Nelson newspaper with a number of his police colleagues. This was a year after he had suddenly disappeared from the organisation’s membership.

I recently had the chance to read the SIS files relating to an organisation, of which I am a member. These were obtained under the Official Information Act (this organisation has existed for some time) and most of ‘their’ files are due to be archived. They detail a long sorry list of half truths and outright fabrication which are listed as fact. The alarming thing was the extent to which organisations had been infiltrated by moles. And, even more alarmingly, those people or colleagues who were prepared to pass information and allegations onto the authorities.

I suppose that while it is tremendously demoralising, shocking and upsetting for those people who have come to rely or know people like Mr Gilchrist as friends or colleagues, it is one of the dangers of belonging to an activist group.  It is also important to realise that most people join and actively participate in various groups for the ‘right’ reasons. Those being that they believe in the cause and they wish to help change society or propagate a series of beliefs. This, we are told, is an important part of the democratic process.

In this circumstance, while better judgement may be called for, it is important to realise that not all people are cut from the tawdry cloth from which Rob Gilchrist was.

If we start doubting and suspecting people, then those ‘dark’ agents and agencies behind Mr Gilchrist have truly won.


2 Comments on “Loose lips sink ships…”

  1. John Moore says:

    Hi comrade

    Cool to see you have a blog up and running. I just recently wrote a blog/article on the Rob Gilchrist affair. I used a quote from your above blog where you rightly pointed out that state surveillance of the left is nothing new in New Zealand. See:

    Here I reinforce the point made by both Bryce Edwards and Steven Cowan that the left should really not be surprised or shocked by this incident. Really, this is just a case of the capitalist state doing its job. In my blog I argue:

    The sordid actions of police informant Rob Gilchrist infiltrating New Zealand activist groups is yet another case of the bourgeois state ‘just doing its job’. In this blog post John Moore argues that the left should strongly condemn the police for their actions, yet those that act with howls of surprise and shock show how little understanding they have of the relationship between the state and capitalism in New Zealand. The left needs to start organizing more seriously against the coercive powers of the capitalist state, but at the same time exercising caution rather than paranoia.


    John Moore.

  2. Colin Bruce Milne says:

    One possible lesson is to elect to leadership positions only those who have a minimum 1 year in the organisation.Also to take care of the what are you afraid of argument well we must force all police etc to state their own political party(National etc)memberships.Also that in order to be seen as less conspiratorial all protest groups shall actively recruit from the population-sticking subs forms in the paper,listings in public directories etc.

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