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Russia and the British voter: the 'Zinoviev Letter', 'Red Scare' and 1924 general election

1924 general election leafletThe first Labour government was formed in January 1924, following the general election of 6 December 1923. James Ramsay Macdonald served as both Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary. One of the Labour government's key foreign policy initiatives was to attempt to normalise relations with Soviet Russia through two Anglo-Russian treaties. The treaties were intended to settle outstanding points of dispute between the two countries and lay the grounds for a resumption of trade.

Accusations that the Labour Party was a 'Red' organisation, controlled by the Communist Party, contributed to the downfall of the minority government. In August 1924, the government dropped the prosecution of the Communist newspaper editor J.R. Campbell under the Incitement to Mutiny Act (for calling on members of the armed forces to refuse certain orders); Conservative and Liberal Members of Parliament then combined to pass a motion of no confidence in the Labour government and a new general election was called for 29 October 1924. Shortly before the day of the election, the Daily Mail published a letter alleged to be from Grigory Zinoviev, head of the Communist International, which it argued revealed "a great Bolshevik plot to paralyse the British Army and Navy and to plunge the country into civil war", and the Communist Party as "masters of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald's Government". The letter was later confirmed as a forgery. The Labour Party lost the 1924 general election, the Conservatives returned to government and the draft treaties with Russia were taken no further.

The documents in this section look at the 1924 general election (including publicity material which promoted the Anglo-Russian treaties), investigations into the authenticity of the 'Zinoviev Letter', and the fear of 'Reds' in the labour movement.

The general election of October 1924

Investigating the 'Zinoviev Letter'

'Reds' and 'Red Plots'