The most important cog in the Soviet KGB is the 'recruiter,' nearly always a 'sleeper,' i.e. a secret member or at times even only a fellow-traveller of the Communist Party. Whether this recruiting of potential KGB spies was done at the university level, or within the federal civil service, is immaterial. We have several case histories of KGB penetration into both the universities and the civil service which clearly show the results obtained eventually justified the patient and persuasive characteristics of these 'recruiters.' Possibly the two best books dealing with this question are Whittaker Chamber's Witness and Arthur Koestler's Invisible Writing. Also, Eric D. Butler's informative booklet, The Fabian Socialist Contribution to the Commiinist Advance, contains invaluable material which proves how effective pro-Soviet Fabian Socialists became when they were infiltrated into the civil service of Australia, Great Britain, Canada and the USA. We read (p. 42):
‘The Fabian Socialists have not only produced a fertile recruiting ground for the Communists; many of them have actively collaborated with the communists. And when they have not directly collaborated, they have provided an effective smoke-screen for the Marxist-Leninists, both helping to shield Communist activities and to mask the Communist advance.’
It was not surprising, therefore, that the secret Comintern agent, Oscar Skelton, was undoubtedly given instructions to concentrate on recruiting or 'colonizing' the civil service with reliable pro-Soviet Fabian Socialists, most of them recruited from Canadian and British universities. In the May 1981 issue of Saturday Night, I. M. Owen, reviewing Professor J. L. Granatstein's Norman A. Robertson: A Man of Influence, writes, inter alia:
The three stars of Skelton's team (in External Affairs - P. W.) were Hume Wrong, Lester Pearson and Norman Robertson. It was Robertson, the youngest of these, who was Skelton's successor.
It is interesting that Professor Granatstein underlines what he charitably terms 'weaknesses' in Oscar Skelton's career, i.e., the fact that he was an avowed isolationist (it is significant that he opposed Canada's participation in the war against Nazi Germany which was the Communist 'line' during the 1939-41 German-Soviet Pact) and 'a notoriously bad administrator,' and also points out that Norman Robertson, his successor,'was a hopeless administrator.'
Surely a Canadian taxpayer must wonder why these two top mandarins of External Affairs had been able to qualify as federal civil servants! Professor Granatstein seems to think that Skelton's forte was - you guessed it -'his extraordinary skill and success as a recruiter.'
As for Norman Robertson's redeeming 'skill,' Professor Granatstein underlines his capacity to 'influence the course of events.'
According to a newspaper leak in the 'Featherbed File' (from 'birds of a feather') it was ascertained that Norman Robertson joined a Communist cell at the UBC in his student days and later worked under direct KGB instruction in Washington and London in his various External Affairs assignments. Reports from the era when he was in Great Britain as Canada's High Commissioner tend to confirm oft-repeated stories that he preferred the company of known Soviet sympathizers who clustered around Sir Stafford Cripps, the pro-Communist Labour Party Cabinet Minister in the Attlee Government. The Vancouver Province (29 February 1964) mentioned that 'Prime Minister Attlee and Sir Stafford Cripps often used to seek his advice on domestic problems over the bridge table.'
Was it a coincidence that Norman Robertson was recalled from Great Britain at the time of the Suez crisis when Herbert Norman committed suicide in Cairo? It is worth noting (although Professor Granatstein sees no ideological significance in this) that when Robertson (in the spring of 1957) was named Ambassador to Washington he was able to contact friends from his Brookings Institute days, including US Supreme Court Judge Felix Frankfurter (who had recommended Alger Hiss initially) and that top Fabian Socialist journalist, Walter Lippman!
Before we leave the Norman Robertson 'case', it might be of interest to note that this 'hopeless administrator' who entered External Affairs in 1929 at the age of 25 was given full responsibility in all League of Nations matters until the outbreak of the Ethiopian crisis and was assigned to 'United Kingdom and United States commercial relations' and 'general economic and financial questions' (Saturday Night, May 1981, p.54). Was it a mere coincidence that people like Lester Pearson and Norman Robertson became acquainted with individuals in Washington who were later exposed as Soviet spies within the American administration, agents who were being utilized by the Soviet-directed Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR) and its Canadian branch, the Canadian Institute of International Affairs (CIIA) of which both Robertson and Pearson were active members? Professor Granatstein notes:
Thus began a useful tradition of collegiality, whereby the top job in External Affairs could be rotated among the top people without the bruised feelings that had attended Robertson's appointment in 1941.Long-time readers of The Canadian Intelligence Service report will recall its many articles dealing with the IPR-CIIA nexus which ultimately involved the Herbert Norman 'case' and the subsequent move of the IPR from its former American base to the University of British Columbia (see CIS, Vol.11 - No.1). In this report, we read:
From a Canadian viewpoint, we know that Fred Poland, Dr. Raymond Boyer and Herbert Norman were in the leadership of the IPR council in Canada, known as the Canadian Institute of International Affairs (CIIA). At least twenty other Communist intellectuals across Canada have been identified at one time or another with the CIIA organization in Toronto and Vancouver.
The Globe & Mail (13 April 1970, Zena Cherry column) stated that Lester Pearson 'was now the chairman of the advisory board' of the CIIA and that there were 24 Canadian branches with one in New York City [emphasis added - P.W.] with a total of 3,000 members!