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UK waged ‘black propaganda’ campaign against USSR and China – declassified documents – Reuters


London has sought for decades to drive a wedge between Moscow, Beijing, the Arab world and Africa through fake news, researcher says

A secret unit within the British Foreign Office conducted a “black propaganda” campaign against the USSR and China from the 1950s to the 1970s to undermine their global influence, the Guardian reported, citing a researcher who studied a trove of recently declassified intelligence documents. London did not shy away from stoking anti-Semitism, racism and Islamist sentiment to achieve its goals, the academic claims.

“These outings are among the largest of the past two decades. It is very clear now that the UK engaged in more black propaganda than historians assume and that these efforts were more systemic, ambitious and offensive. Rory Cormac, professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, told the Guardian.

According to the newspaper, the documents reveal “hundreds of extensive and costly operations” conducted by the Information Research Department (IRD) – a secret unit originally created by the Labor government after World War II to counter communist propaganda. unit “went far beyond simply exposing Soviet disinformation”, Cormac said, adding that the UK “definitely intended to mislead the public in order to get the message across.”


The IRD had a very secret special editorial unit, in charge of so-called “black propaganda” a special type of fake news designed to look like it’s produced by a nation or organization that the real creator wants to discredit.

Some “reports” sent to Western governments and media included analyzes purported to come from independent institutions, which were secretly run by the IRD, and warned Western nations against alleged “Soviet Subversion. The British unit also falsified at least 11 reports allegedly published by Soviet state news agencies, according to the Guardian.

London particularly sought to drive a wedge between Moscow and its allies in the Arab world by both producing fake news discrediting the Soviet Union in the eyes of Arabs and stoking Islamist sentiment among them, according to the newspaper. One such report, presented as coming from the USSR, castigated Soviet military aid to Egypt during the 1967 Six-Day War with Israel as a “waste.” British agents also forged pro-Islamist literature, including that of the Muslim Brotherhood – a group that had significant influence in the Arab world at this time.

IRD-forged statements saw the Muslim Brotherhood call out the Soviets “dirty-tongued atheists” and accused them of perceiving the Egyptians as “peasants” Following “reactionary Islamic superstitions”. The IRD also went so far as to create an entirely fictitious Islamist group – the League of Believers – which attacked the Soviet Union for its atheism and blamed Arab defeats in wars against Israel on a lack of faith.


British propaganda campaign incited mass massacre of communists in Indonesia in 1960s, declassified newspapers reveal

British unity would not have hesitated to stir up anti-Semitic sentiment as well. One of his leaflets urged Egyptians to attack Israel by asking them: “Why don’t they direct their armies against the Jews?

The IRD was also active in Africa, where it repeatedly sought to convey an image of the Soviet Union viewing Africans as uncivilized. In 1963, the IRD forged a statement from the World Federation of Democratic Youth – an organization linked to the USSR – which called on Africans “primitive.” Other forgeries included statements in which the Soviets denounced “delay” and “political immaturity” of Africa, while criticizing the skills of black African students enrolled in Soviet universities.

Documents declassified in 2021 and seen by the Guardian also showed that the British propaganda campaign played a role in the mass slaughter of Communists in Indonesia in the 1960s. Between 500,000 and three million Communist Party supporters were killed around this time, according to various estimates.

These efforts have received the full support of several consecutive British governments, according to Cormac. In 1964, Conservative Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home ordered the IRD to target Ghana because of its supposed leanings towards Moscow. Months later, Labor Foreign Secretary Patrick Gordon Walker called on the unit to produce black propaganda “from time to time” and particularly fuel racial tensions between Africans and Chinese.


British Cold War-style psyop unit targets Russians – media

Although the unit was officially disbanded in 1977, similar efforts would have continued for almost another decade, according to the Guardian. Today, the British government is still engaged in a “information warfare” according to Cormac.

In February, a few days before the start of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss revealed that the United Kingdom was creating a new unit to fight “disinformation” From Moscow. In March, the Telegraph reported that the unit dubbed the government’s information cell was reaching Russian social media to spread London’s views on the conflict in Ukraine.

“Liz Truss has a ‘Government Information Cell,’ and Defense Intelligence tweets daily about Russian ‘pre-but’ plots and gaining the upper hand in the information war, but for much of the cold war, the UK used much more underhanded means”, the researcher said, adding that the declassified documents are “particularly important as a precursor to more modern efforts to bring intelligence into the public domain.”

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