04 February 2006

Dick Geldhart, Jean Geldhart & Sid French

I was surprised to see a comment made about me in the Mitrokhin Archive book, attributed to an article by John Steele ‘25 Years for the Spy Who Stayed in the Cold’ (Daily Telegraph, 18 November 1993). Regarding the references to my own case, it appears that Professor Christopher Andrew did not do his own research, but instead relied on second-hand sources; this might have been alright if the references were accurate, but in many cases they were not.

The Mitrokhin Archive gives 13 endnote references to my case, and Professor Andrew clearly relies on 3 main sources for his assertions: 5 references to the “Mitrokhin Archive”, volume 7, ch 14 (items 12 and 14); 6 references to the Security Commission’s report Cm2930; 7 references to newspaper articles. As the Security Commission’s report was a summary of material from various sources, and the newspaper articles contained many errors and even fabricated material, it would appear that Professor Christopher Andrew was not fussy about the quality of his sources. For a work that purports to be an academic study, it seems Professor Andrew is happy to include newspaper articles, and other such sources, than going back to original documents and witnesses.

Returning to that article by John Steele, it is quoted in the Mitrokhin Archive as: “The secretary of the Surrey Communist Party in the early 1970s, Richard Geldhart, recalls Smith as an ‘out-and-out Tankie’ - a hardline supporter of the crushing of the Prague Spring by Soviet tanks: ‘Not to put too fine a point on it, he was the total nerd. There was socialising going on, but he was not part of it’.”

This opinion of Dick Geldhart was continued in The Sun newspaper of 19 November 1993, in an article by Simon Hughes: “Ex-colleague Richard Geldhart recalled: ‘He was incredibly intense and boring and ludicrously pro-Soviet’.”

These statements attributed to Richard Geldhart, about my character, are not credible. Mr Geldhart was not a close associate of mine and I seldom met him. Being moderate in my own beliefs, I was rather intimidated by Mr Geldhart’s forceful manner, and I expressed few of my own views to him, and so it would be impossible that he gained an impression that I was an “out-and-out Tankie”. Either Mr Geldhart has mistaken me for somebody else, or he is deliberately creating a false opinion about me for his own reasons.

Dick Geldhart was a prominent member of the Surrey District Young Communist League (YCL), and he was a protégé of Sid French, who was a die-hard pro-Soviet crusader. Sid French and Dick Geldhart were two of the most well-known members of the Surrey District of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) in the 1970s, and nobody would be in any doubt that Dick Geldhart was a “tankie”, and one of the most pro-Soviet people in the Surrey area.

Richard Geldhart earned something of a reputation for his radical and active promotion of pro-Soviet policies, and over a period of about three years, at several public and private meetings, I heard Mr Geldhart proclaim just the sort of views he now attributes to me. Therefore, rather than appertaining to me, Mr Geldhart’s statements really apply to his own pro-Soviet sympathies. I must assume that Mr Geldhart is now embarrassed about his past stance and is trying to divert attention from himself.

It is also false that Mr Geldhart claims I did not socialise, as I attended many social gatherings and parties, but I rarely met Geldhart at any of these events, and so that may be the reason for his opinion that I did not socialise. As I did not have a car, and Richard Geldhart lived near Wimbledon, I spent most of my time socialising in the Kingston upon Thames area.

As I recollect, I only visited Dick Geldhart’s house on one occasion when he gave me a lift in his car. Richard’s wife, Jean Geldhart, was and probably still is the more well-known of the pair, being an official with the union UNISON - her name can be found mentioned on various websites.

As an indication that Richard Geldhart is the “tankie”, and not me, I managed to find a website where he was mentioned, and it just confirms what I said above:

Subject: ‘Stalinist’: an insult or a diagnosis?
Date: 25 Sep 96

I have described the NCP as Stalinist. It is possible that your party has changed greatly since I encountered it. They used to be called, as I am sure you know, the 'tankies' in consequence of the support expressed by their founders for the military interventions by the USSR against Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The tanky I knew best was one Richard Geldhart, who was active in the same union branch as myself. Didn't he edit the 'New Worker' for a time? It’s a long time back. He was vociferously in favour of sending in the tanks against what he saw as these counterrevolutionary movements. He once argued against me in a NALGO meeting, claiming that there were no socialist dissidents in the USSR, and that the people I was seeking information about (Klebanov et al) from a high level NALGO deputation to Moscow were mentally ill and receiving the best possible treatment. So you can see, I hope, why I don't take a very positive view of your party.