The Kiwi Spy Who Penetrated Moscow

An extract from the Bernard Moran/Trevor Loudon article in the latest Investigate magazine.

It looks at John Van de Ven, a Wellington oil tanker driver who infiltrated New Zealand’s pro Soviet communists-the Socialist Unity Party in the late 70s.

John Van de Ven was studying in Moscow when the Soviets were developing anti nuclear policies for New Zealand application in 1983/84.

As Moran and Loudon tell the story;

“We now come to the previously untold story of how the SUP was itself infiltrated by a humble truck-driver, who was later selected to attend a specialist course at the Lenin Institute in Moscow.

John Van de Ven, a Dutch immigrant, resembled the mythical tugboat captain: stocky, powerfully built and full of restless energy. He chainsmoked thin cigars.

In the late-1970s, Van de Ven worked as a tanker-driver for Mobil and belonged to the Wellington Drivers’ Union run by Ken Douglas. Van de Ven raced through his delivery rounds and received several warnings that his speed was upsetting the union’s workplace rules. Undeterred, he raced on until called into the union office and forthrightly informed that, if he didn’t play by the rules, he would lose his union card and not drive trucks in Wellington again.

I was mad at being treated like this,” Van de Ven told the authors of this article. “So I decided to get even. I had no firm plans, but I knew the union was run by the SUP and so I thought that if I can get in–then sometime down the track I’ll get even. It was as simple as that.”

Van de Ven went to the union and performed obeisance. He apologised for his misdemeanours and offered to assist with menial tasks, even hand out copies of the SUP newspaper, Tribune. After a year’s probationary period as a model unionist, his talents were recognised. Drivers’ Union official and senior SUP member, Richie Gillespie, took him aside and said the union had big things planned for him, if he could prove himself.

Fortuitously, in 1977, Van de Ven discovered a legitimate grievance over tyre-safety issues on the tankers. When the company refused to make the changes, he led a prolonged strike that paralysed petrol supplies for weeks around the lower half of the North Island. Finally Mobil capitulated and conceded that the Drivers’ Union, not the company, must have the final say on safety issues.

Ken Douglas

Ken Douglas, impressed with Van de Ven’s leadership, personally invited him to join the SUP. In 1978, he joined the Porirua branch and studied Marxist-Leninist theory under a secret member (who was later appointed to senior positions in business). Within two years he took over the Porirua branch chairmanship and, in 1981, was the SUP candidate for Porirua at the general election.

Still on course to get even, Van de Ven contacted NZ’s Security Intelligence Service (SIS), who asked him to stay in place. He was put on the payroll, assigned a handler and given the code-name “Joe Martin“.

Van de Ven’s common sense and “street smart” talents were recognised with selection for further training in Moscow from 29 October 1983 to February 12 1984. He went with three other SUP members, and one month later they were joined by Bill
Andersen, George Jackson and Marilyn Tucker (all SUP central committee members).

Former SUP President, the late George Jackson, second from left, the late Bill Andersen, second from right, Moscow, date unknown

The Moscow course had been shortened because of the developing situation in New Zealand. Van de Ven noted that his and his fellow-delegates’ passports had to be surrendered and were not stamped, so as to leave no record of their having been in the USSR. He recalled:

On arrival in Moscow, we were quarantined for medical checks over four days and given new identities. I became John Van, Jim Thompson became Jimmy Brown, Allan Ware–Allan Wolf, Peter Devlin–Peter Jay.

“This took place in an old mansion near Moscow. The ten acres of woodland was [sic] surrounded by high walls, so that nobody could look in or out. After that, we were transported in a mini-bus with black-curtained windows to the Lenin Institute for Higher Learning in Prospect Leningradski, across the road from Metro Aeroport,an underground station.

“There were 3,500 communists from all over the world, being trained five and half days a week, according to the requirements of their home country. We were assigned three tutors who were specialists on New Zealand. They were a (first name unknown) Venediev, who lectured on the National Question (racial manipulation) and trade unions. He was also a staff member of the World Marxist Review. Other tutors included Bella Vorontsova (doctorate in history) and Eduard Nukhovich (doctorate in economics), both of whom visited New Zealand to liaise with SUP branches.

“Peace was high on the agenda. As one tutor told us: ‘We have many clever people in the Soviet Union, but no one has even been able to come up with a weapon potentially as powerful as the peace movement.‘ “

Van de Ven was told that the reason for the “condensed” 13-week course was that Soviet leader (and former KGB chief) Yuri Andropov had initiated a strategy for taking a social democratic country out of the Western alliance, by utilising the “correlation of forces” provided by the peace movement.

New Zealand was given a high priority by the Soviets, for its strategic propaganda potential. The Soviets prioritised countries according to their strategic interest. The United Kingdom, Chile, Argentina and South Africa were Category One. Tiny New Zealand was in Category Two–alongside the then Soviet client-state, India.

The particular circumstances of New Zealand, with a national election in late 1984, was seen as providing a suitable testing ground for this strategy. If it worked as intended, then the concept could be applied to countries such as Denmark.

There were two key aims:

* To get rid of ANZUS;

* For the Labour Government to steer nuclear-free legislation through Parliament.

Van de Ven described the techniques of the strategy as “brilliant“, which, when applied within the trade unions, the peace movement and the Labour Party, worked as intended. He recalled:

“Our role was to influence and steer the peace movement, not by taking the top jobs, but to be done in such a way that the top people in the various peace groups were seen as reasonably responsible by the average New Zealander.

“So our training consisted of being able to train lesser-known communists, secret members, sympathisers and fellow-travellers, to take over these groups, unite them, but never take the leading roles. My own role was as a ‘nuts and bolts’ technician.”

Gennady Yannaev

The overall project director was Gennady Yannaev, an engineer by training and later a leading member of the 1991 coup that overthrew Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Van de Ven got on well with Yannaev, and was several times invited to his home for meals and drinks. He found Yannaev a dedicated and honest communist, who frequently vented his disgust at the corruption within the Nomenklatura. He was informally questioned about the other members of the New Zealand delegation and Bill Andersen and Ken Douglas.”

Read the whole article here.


Author: Admin

Related Articles

19 thoughts on “The Kiwi Spy Who Penetrated Moscow

  1. Buchanan & your comrade relic. Just remember that it was a two way street. Your organizational structure was penetrated to the highest levels. At one time if the agents within the NZ left had departed many of the groups would have folded like cheap umbrellas. No doubt i sat close by and you just thought that I and many like me were just good comrades. If you only you really knew then you would fully realize that your life would seem so pathetic and wasted.

    Keep your friends close BUT KEEP YOUR ENEMIES CLOSER

    It worked like a charm comrade. And continues to work swimmingly.

    1. Well well, just came back here to check on a detail. Snouts like Anon Aug 19 2009 are the reason the director won’t release my file under the 1969 and ammendment Acts because some of these slippery characters are still drawing breath.

      I knew who most of the snitches were anyway in my area and even in Wellington where they had rigorous party security, though as KDs conversion to social democracy and supporting ANZAC frigates and no general strike over ECB shows this security was more to keep left wingers out! KD wins best operative ever prize closely followed by…. D

      There were a couple of tricky ones, but by and large you could tell. Even having a soviet partner did not convince me on one. Another was a real party animal but small things gave him away.

  2. You get things partly right Trevor whatever your sources, (sis/yanks) I assume, but always miss the main point about NZs marxists-they are/were in the vast majority patriots not traitors to their country. Talk about orders from Moscow! It is orders from Washington that give me problems.

    I was an SUP member, rank and filer, so I generally can pick the fact from your fiction.

    There were literally hundreds like me recruited via the excellent trade union work done by party comrades in South and West Auckland, industrial Wellington and SI. Honest working people. Sections of the NZ left hated us more than the boss it seemed at times for the revisionist line of the leadership, and for our effectiveness in organising various struggles and united fronts.

    We were well aware of certain rats on the ship but left them blissfully unaware. Some did eventually draw attention to themselves via their actions for the more politically conscious workers.

    Unfortunately the balance tipped too far towards trade union work and this ultimately paved the way for the partys demise. Its genesis from a CPNZ split lead to a revisionist postition that really doomed the party from the start also looked at from a historic perspective.

    Luckily for you the NZ left from the CP to the tiniest trotskyist sect have thus far come adrift over international matters and alliegences.

    This will change again over time as once the Chinese working class get properly organised there will be nowhere left for the capitalist class to run to (shift production to). The basic analysis of Marx Engels and Lenin holds true today. The capitalist system has been more resilient than early socialists ever imagined but don’t let that cheer you up too much Trevor.

    Smug proclamations of the death of communism don’t seem to have reached the myriad of revolutionary parties the world over. There were a number of failed workers states, this was not communism.

    The objective conditions of the world today still demand socialist revolution and it will happen despite reactionaries such as yourself gossiping away about the left of 20 years ago. You will always be left outside the shop looking in the window

  3. Steve the knobspank from Northland is up to his usual tactic of ad hominem attacks rather than engaging with the reasoned arguments of others.

  4. What alot of fancy bullshit – enough I suppose to have all you halfwits ejaculating wildly so I guess there’s some purpose to it.

    After all.

  5. Liarbour’s disgraceful anti-nuclear grovel of the 1980s was actually a triumph for militant Marxist-Leninism.
    Throughout the Western world, the so-called “peace” movement was always a treasonous hate group founded, funded and directed from Moscow.

    As Dimitri Manuilsky stated in a lecture to the Lenin School on Political Warfare in Moscow 1931:
    “Today, of course, we are not strong enough to attack … To win we shall need the element of surprise. The bourgeoisie will have to be put to sleep. So we shall begin by launching the most spectacular peace movement on record. There will be electrifying overtures and unheard of concessions. The capitalist countries, stupid and decadent, will rejoice to cooperate in their own destruction. They will jump at another chance to be friends. As soon as their guard is down, we shall smash them with our clenched fist.”

    Communists are expert at creating “Popular Fronts” whose apparent purpose attracts the support of the gullible and well meaning, while covertly advancing the Communist agenda.

    This enables a relative handful of Communists to multiply their effectiveness many times, while sitting back and laughing while those whom Lenin once referred to as “useful idiots” do their dirty work for them.

    The essential goal of a Communist Front is always hidden behind an ostensible purpose of wide popular appeal. Its Communist puppeteers are well aware of the true agenda, while most Front members see only the smokescreen.

    A permanent Communist objective was always to tilt the balance of world military power in favor of Communist military strength. Wherever possible, they created a dialectical conflict between “warmongers” and “peaceniks” to achieve this purpose.

    However, to loudly proclaim the real objective of weakening militarily all those countries opposed to Communism would recruit few supporters in those countries. The “peace movement” therefore needed an announced objective that would accomplish the same purpose, but present itself in a totally different guise.

    The apparent purpose of the “peace” movement therefore became the preservation of peace in the face of the possible horrors of a nuclear war. Its Communist directors described the demands for disarmament which were to be made to Communist and non-Communist countries alike.

    They failed to point out that these demands would have no effect in the Communist Bloc because there was no public opinion there that they could influence: the people of the Communist countries couldn’t even find out about these demands unless the Communist Party decided to tell them.

    The hidden purpose of the “peace” movement was to influence public opinion in free countries whose governments were elected and controlled by the people. The “useful idiots,” satisfied when these demands are nominally extended to all countries, were sold on this magnificent idea and enlisted in the cause.

    The ultimate goal of those directing the “peace” movement was always to leave the Soviet Union as the world’s only nuclear power. After all, if one side has all the nukes, they can simply go to the other side with the proposition: “Accept our rule or we’ll fry your asses!”

    To return to our local example, all talk of the Pacific Ocean being a “US Nuclear Lake” failed to point out that the Soviet Union maintained at Cam Ranh Bay, North Vietnam, a far larger flotilla of nuclear powered and nuclear armed ships than the US Sixth Fleet ever was.

    The “anti-nuclear policy” that removed NZ from ANZUS was indeed a massive triumph for militant Marxist-Leninism, and for our local embedded Commies with the Liarbour Party.

  6. Anon-No the Alan Ware who went to Moscow now works for the PSA in Wellington.

    Alyn Ware is also a highly dogy fellow, but never (as far as I know) in the SUP.

  7. Are crass jokey putdowns really a substitute for factual rebuttal? Only in the eyes of those who’ve long lost the ability to distinguish insinuation from actuality.Also note that the more crass and jokey,the more likely to have been penned by Anonymous.

  8. Trevor – could the “Allan Ware” mentioned a few paragraphs below the picture of Bill Andersen et al in Moscow be Alyn Ware from the Peace Foundation? Seems likely.

  9. you can add me to that list and the venezuelan ambassador that visited from australia and the crowds that went to all of his talks


  10. Here you are Trev some more reds for you to profile.

    David Cooper -of Cooper Photography Aucland

    Sebastian Henschel-Dominion Post Photographer Wellington

    Jesse Hinchey

    Hannah Newport Watson.

    These people are all cohorts of Valerie Morse

  11. “Tens of thousands of Soviet-supporting Marxists and fellow travellers moved into CND…”

    Tens of thousands? Wow, where were they all hiding? Must have been some big beds in them days.

    “Saying the communists were there as individuals..”

    Who said that?

    Hey Trev, a while ago you said “The correct response to evil is ostracism, not engagement” which was a reasonable comment. So what will you do about your boss Rodney Hide backing a Free Trade Agreement with China?


  12. So the SIS knew ahead of time that these dastardly commies were trying this on and they were powerless to stop them. Good to see even back then my txes were being used to good effect….


  13. Of course Moscow influenced the peace movement. Tens of thousands of Soviet-supporting Marxists and fellow travellers moved into CND and other parts of the peace movement. They weren’t there for the physical exercise.

    Saying the communists were there as individuals is like saying Jesuit missionaries actd for their own individual conscience totally separate from Rome.

  14. Funny sort of article. After a whole lot of claims that anti-nuke activists told lies (with no instances actually being cited) there’s a long ramble about the pro-Moscow SUP controlling trade unions, and the trade unions controlling the Labour party.

    The same Labour Party that was elected in 1984 and promptly instituted neo-liberalism (Moscow obviously moves in mysterious ways).

    Next we have lots of stuff about a guy getting trained in Moscow in 1983/4 in order to influence the anti-nuke movement – which was leaving everything a bit late as the movement had by then already established its agenda and methodologies, so its all a bit of a red herring (possibly a pickled red herring given this is Russia. The SUP did once admit to receiving free vodka from the Russian embassy, so perhaps the reds were too pickled to be influential).

    Then the article completely pulls a rug out from under itself by asserting the ban on nuclear warships came about because of Labour party internal wrangles (with no sign of Marxist influences playing a role) and Lange’s inability to set the political direction of the party.

    I’m sure Moscow would have liked to have influenced the anti-nuke movement, same as I’d like to influence the policies of the US government, but that’s a bit different from actually having done so.


    Sam Buchanan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *