It will probably come out at some time, so I had better say it now. I have written a lot on this site and in the print media about the linguist and activist Noam Chomsky, and hope at some point to produce a book-length study of his political thought. In that task, I have periodically accepted payment from the US State Department, which has taken an interest in my work. I haven't declared those payments to the editors who have published my articles, because they really have been small sums of money - in effect, just travelling expenses to meet my US contacts and a bit of pocket money. Moreover, accepting the money plainly hasn't compromised my intellectual independence, as I would have written the articles anyway. In fact, I thought the secrecy involved was quite amusing. I'm certain that no fairminded person would conclude that I have been misleading or in any way acted improperly in failing to declare that my political commentaries are subsidised by a foreign government.
The paragraph I have just written is of course nonsense. No such payments have ever been offered, solicited or received. But if that paragraph had been serious, you would have rightly drawn the appropriate conclusions about my reliability and ethics as a commentator on foreign policy. By analogy: the long-defunct magazine Encounter, a mainstay of Cold War liberalism, had its own credibility destroyed when it eventually admitted receiving subventions from the CIA.
Bearing this in mind, consider a review in the latest issue of The New Statesman. The reviewer, Richard Gott, is commenting on a new book by the Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis entitled The Cold War. The book is in my view excellent, summarising for a general audience the fruits of Gaddis's scholarship on this subject over many years and in several volumes. It is a balanced and fair work of popular scholarship, in which Gaddis concludes that, among other things: "There was, to be sure, a great deal to regret about the Cold War: the running of risks with everyone's future; the resources expended for useless armaments; the environmental and health consequences of massive military-industrial complexes; the repression that blighted the lives of entire generations; the loss of life that all too often accompanied it."
Gott believes by contrast - erroneously, and with scant evidence, but as is his reviewer's prerogative - that Gaddis's book "is an unashamedly American and triumphalist version of the long US-Soviet quarrel that broke out after the Second World War". He declares, having presumably consulted one or two of the relevant population: "Few British historians would accept it uncritically." And he depicts three schools of thought regarding the Cold War, of which he places himself in the Via Media: "A third group, to which I have long belonged, thought that the entire contest was a huge mistake, totally misconceived and possibly fabricated, both expensive and dangerous."
And here we return to my initial point. Nowhere in the review do you find the slightest hint or allusion - other than his claim that "the much-derided [Berlin] wall brought a measure of stability to the European scene" - that Gott was scarcely a disinterested party remote from the partisans of both camps. He in fact received covert payments from the KGB. When this was revealed in 1994, Gott resigned as Literary Editor of The Guardian and penned an apologia for the newspaper in which he claimed no harm had come from his activities. It was all a bit of a giggle, in fact: "I enjoyed it."
I would expect nothing less of Richard Gott. But I hope the NS editor, John Kampfner, can be persuaded to state explicitly his reasons for omitting this information (which he certainly knows) from his reviewer's byline.