Brian Crozier, who has died on his 94th birthday, was the founder director of the Institute for the Study of Conflict and claimed to be the KGB’s “public enemy number one”.
5:52PM BST 08 Aug 2012
A cold warrior of hard-line convictions, he recognised earlier than most the odious nature of the Soviet regime, and exposed the crimes of Lenin and Stalin long before the release of Soviet archives convinced other historians that he was right. From the 1950s onwards Crozier set about exposing the true character of Left-wing dictatorships and challenged the illusions of their Western apologists . By arguing that the West must stand up to communism , he helped provide the intellectual underpinning for the robust defence strategy championed by President Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.
But Crozier never got the credit he considered he deserved, mainly because, as his career progressed, he appeared to become increasingly cranky , exaggerating both the effectiveness of Soviet subversion in the West and the importance of his own campaign against it. While he succeeded in gaining an audience at the highest levels (in 1988 he entered The Guinness Book of Records as the writer who had interviewed the most heads of state and government ), it was seldom long before Crozier’s fellow cold warriors found it prudent to keep a polite distance. As a result, his career was marked by a series of rebuffs which he, naturally, blamed on the KGB or the CIA, or possibly the British Foreign Office.
Crozier summarised his views in Strategy for Survival (1978), in which he argued that, far from promoting peace, the West’s policy of détente was undermining its own stability and claimed that ever since the Second World War another war had been in progress — a “unilateral war of aggression, expansion and attrition waged solely on the Soviet and communist side”.
This “Third World War” had been abetted by Western politicians who failed to understand that expansion was the raison d’être of Soviet communism. Crozier concluded that détente that did not extend to ideology was meaningless. He suggested that the West should respond with a massive educational campaign to counteract communist propaganda, and the cessation of export credits to prevent the Soviet Union benefiting from economic ties with the West.
His obsession with communist infiltration dated back to the 1950s, when, as a Reuters correspondent in South East Asia, he began to compile a card index of the world’s extremist organisations. In 1971 he decided to set up a new institute to study revolutionary violence more systematically.
The Institute for the Study of Conflict collated information on extremist movements across the world, attracting attention and sometimes notoriety by, for example, publishing a report on Left-wing infiltration into higher education. But its briefings were studied carefully by Western opinion formers .
Crozier’s work brought him to the attention of Mrs Thatcher, whom he first met in 1976 when she was Leader of the Opposition. She was impressed by his account of Soviet penetration of the trade unions and the Labour Party, and agreed that he should set up a secret advisory committee to brief her on subversion.
But although, initially, Mrs Thatcher seemed receptive , her colleague on the committee, Lord Carrington, was “systematically hostile”. In 1978 Carrington vetoed Crozier’s proposal that an incoming Conservative government should establish a new “Counter Subversion Executive” to oppose anti-British subversive activity around the world by “all clandestine means”.
Crozier dreamed of becoming a close adviser to Mrs Thatcher after the election and conceived his role as running far wider than advising on security: “I considered it one of my own prime tasks to strengthen her self-confidence and to suggest ways in which to cultivate and consolidate a public image of clearheadedness and resolution.”
After the 1979 election, however, things did not go according to plan. Crozier was upset not to have been given a peerage and wrote to the new Prime Minister to ask what had happened, but received a reply which “did not clarify the issue”. At a lunch to which he was invited at Chequers , Mrs Thatcher told him he could call her Margaret, but the message, “unspoken but clear”, was “thanks but no thanks”.
It was not the first time that Crozier had found himself rebuffed by people he had considered ideological allies. He himself had appointed the mainly Right-wing former diplomats, academics and soldiers who made up the board of the Institute for the Study of Conflict, but even they found themselves embarrassed by Crozier’s more eccentric views. Of one paper he championed, the historian Max Beloff, hardly a pillar of liberalism, had exploded: “We can’t possibly be associated with extreme views like this!”
They also found it hard to rebut allegations that Crozier was a frontman for the CIA, a charge he denied, but which drew strength from his enthusiasm for Right-wing dictatorships as well as his former incarnation as the head of the CIA-funded news agency Forum World Features.
One day in 1979, Crozier turned up at his office to find the locks had been changed and picked up a note informing him he was no longer director. A man who had spent his life studying conspiracy had become the victim of one.
The son of a mining engineer, Brian Rossiter Crozier was born in Queensland, Australia, on August 4 1918 and educated in Europe at the Lycée in Montpellier, then at Peterborough College in Harrow, and Trinity College of Music, London. He began as a music and art critic, then became a reporter on local newspapers. After wartime service in aeronautical inspection, from 1944 to 1948 he worked on the News Chronicle.
In 1948 he returned to Australia to work on the Sydney Morning Herald, and in 1951 became a Reuters correspondent in the Far East. Subsequently he worked for The Straits Times in Singapore, and, from 1954 to 1964, as a leader writer and editor of the Economist Foreign Report and as a correspondent for the BBC’s overseas services. From 1965 to 1974 he was chairman of the Forum World Features news agency.
Rebels (1960) was the first of a series of studies of insurrectionary movements in the developing world. He expanded the themes of nationalism and communist insurgency in The Morning After (1963), Neo-colonialism (1964), South East Asia in Turmoil (1965) and The Struggle for the Third World (1966). In The Masters of Power (1969) he analysed the exercise of power in the modern world.
In 1973, as director of the Institute for Conflict Studies, Crozier oversaw the publication of the Annual of Power Conflict 1972-73, a worldwide survey of political violence. The next year, in A Theory of Conflict, he argued that the state is a necessity but rebellion against it inevitable.
Yet Crozier differentiated between totalitarianism and authoritarianism and found much to praise in totalitarian regimes which permitted economic freedom. His biography Franco (1967) was an unashamedly partisan account, and Crozier would later argue that Franco’s Spain had been a remarkably free country — better governed than the democratic Spain which followed. While acknowledging that the Indonesian dictator General Suharto had massacred half a million people , Crozier praised him as “a man of cool nerve, caution, and natural political skill”, though he was less charitable to Chiang Kai-shek, whose biography, The Man who Lost China, he published in 1977. Such was Crozier’s admiration for Right-wing military leaders that in his memoirs, published in 1993, he admitted to having flirted during the 1970s with the idea of a military intervention if Britain were taken over by Left-wing extremists.
In The Minimum State (1979) he advocated the replacement of the British political system based on parties with a professional cadre composed of graduates in political and social sciences, economists, professional journalists of at least five years experience and ex-officers of the armed forces. These people would stand at elections, two to each constituency, with the winners forming the government side and the losers the opposition.
In reviewing the book, Enoch Powell said that he had “considered very anxiously whether The Minimum State is not a solemn leg pull devised to trap the imprudent reviewer who took it seriously. Sadly I have concluded otherwise.”
In 1977 Crozier and some colleagues had set up their own intelligence service, the “61” (6th International) to wage war against Soviet subversion. The organisation succeeded, so Crozier claimed, in infiltrating the Militant Tendency and CND, but otherwise its activities verged on the ineffectual.
Among many other books, Crozier wrote The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Empire (1999), and a somewhat hostile two-volume biography of General de Gaulle. In Free Agent: the unseen war 1941-1991 (1993), billed as the “memoir Number 10 tried to stop”, Crozier portrayed himself as a lone fighter against the forces of communist darkness. His last book was Political Victory: The Elusive Prize of Military Wars (2005).
Brian Crozier married, in 1940, Mary Samuel, who died in 1993. He is survived by his second wife, Jacqueline, whom he married in 1999, and a son and three daughters of his first marriage.
Brian Crozier, born August 4 1918, died August 4 2012