Leonard Schapiro

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“I have never changed my opinions about the evils of mass society, the merits of an elite... with aristocratic standards, or on the need for order above all” – Leonard Schapiro [1]

Leonard Bertram Schapiro (born 22 April 1908, Glasgow, died 2 November 1983, London) was a British academic, scholar of Russian politics and right wing operative. He taught for many years at the London School of Economics, where he was Professor of Political Science with Special Reference to Russian Studies.

Schapiro's most famous book was The Communist Party of the Soviet Union, first published in 1960 with a revised and expanded edition in 1970. After his death, some of his scattered articles were collected in the volume Russian Studies (1987).

Biography

Early life and education

Schapiro was born in Glasgow on 22 April 1908, the elder son and second of three children of Max Schapiro and his wife, Leah Levine. His father, educated at the universities of Riga and Glasgow, was the son of a wealthy sawmill owner at Bolderaa, near Riga, Latvia. His mother was the daughter of a rabbi and cantor of the Garnethill synagogue in Glasgow. From 1912 the family resided in Riga, moving in 1915 to Petrograd in wartime conditions and remaining there until 1921, when the father's newly acquired citizenship of Latvia, which became independent of Russia in 1918, enabled them to leave and settle in London. He attended the prestigious London public school St Paul’s School, and then studied law at University College, London. [2]

At the Bar and in intelligence

Schapiro wrote in 1980: “the first twenty of the fifty adult years of my life were spent either in practice at the Bar, or in military intelligence” [3] He was called to the Bar in 1932 and worked on the London and Western Circuit until the outbreak of the Second World War. In 1940 he joined BBC Monitoring Service for two years before being recruited to work in intelligence for the War Office. After the war he worked for the Intelligence Division of the German Control Commn 1945–46, [4] where he says he was "involved with assettment of the Soviet Union's military strength and achievement." This he says provided him "with some kind of introduction to the study of the Soviet Union to which, after the mid-fifties, I was to devote most of my time." [5] Schapiro returned to law until 1955, when his first book, The Origin of the Communist Autocracy, was published.

Sovietology

The Washington Times identified Schapiro as one of the four founders of Sovietology, along with Philip Moseley of Columbia, Merle Fainsod of Harvard and a non-academic, Bertram Wolfe. "Their books, monographs and articles," according to The Washington Times, "formed the basis for a continuing academic analysis of Soviet affairs." [6]

Schapiro's biographical entry in Who's Who records no academic qualifications beyond a law degree, and his status as a Russian expert was due to his authorship of The Origin of the Communist Autocracy.

In that book Schapiro argued: "that it was Lenin who created the instruments which Stalin put to even more terrible use". [7] The book was part of the Bellman Books series, published by the MI6/Information Research Department front group Ampersand.

The book was well received and Schapiro was offered a lectureship at the Department of Politics at the London School of Economic, where he worked until 1975. [8]

Institute for the Study of Conflict

In 1970 Schapiro co-founded the Institute for the Study of Conflict with journalist and right-wing activist Brian Crozier and at the instigation and with funding from the CIA. Schapiro became Chairman and Crozier the Director. [9] Schapiro chaired the Institute until his death.

Adviser to Margaret Thatcher

In early 1980 Schapiro was invited by Margaret Thatcher to lunch at Chequers. Thatcher had been advised by the Foreign Office that the Soviet Union did not pose a serious military threat, so she invited Schapiro and other right-wing experts to take part in a committee offering 'independent' advice. Michael Howard, who was also invited, recalls the following in his memoirs:

In the USA a group of hawks formed a well funded Committee on the Present Danger, consisting largely of pupils and associates of Albert Wohlstetter, who urged the breaking off of arms-control negotiations and massive rearmament. Mrs Thatcher was temperamentally inclined to agree with them. The Foreign Office was not. Not surprisingly, the Prime Minister sought further options... She asked Hugh [Thomas] to set up a small committee to draft independent recommendations for the conduct of British foreign policy consisting of myself, Leonard Schapiro and Elie Kedourie. Leonard was a leading expert on the Soviet Union, Elie on the Middle East. Both were deeply pessimistic. The Soviets were on the march, thought Leonard, and as determined as ever on world conquest... They believed that the recently concluding Helsinki Accords had been a defeat for the West by 'legitimizing' the Soviet control of Eastern Europe... We put together a totally incoherent document which deserved to go straight into the waste paper basket and probably did.[10]

Affiliations

Notes

  1. Leoard Schapiro, ‘My Fifty Years of Social Science’, Government and Opposition Volume 15 Issue 3-4, Pages 486 – 496
  2. Harold Shukman, ‘Schapiro, Leonard Bertram (1908–1983)’, rev., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford University Press, 2004)
  3. Leoard Schapiro, ‘My Fifty Years of Social Science’, Government and Opposition Volume 15 Issue 3-4, Pages 486 – 496
  4. ‘SCHAPIRO, Prof. Leonard Bertram’, Who Was Who, A & C Black, 1920–2007; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007
  5. Leoard Schapiro, ‘My Fifty Years of Social Science’, Government and Opposition Volume 15 Issue 3-4, Pages 486 – 496
  6. Arnold Beichman, 'Peer review for shortcomings of Sovietology', The Washington Times, 9 November 1992
  7. Leoard Schapiro, ‘My Fifty Years of Social Science’, Government and Opposition Volume 15 Issue 3-4, Pages 486 – 496
  8. ‘SCHAPIRO, Prof. Leonard Bertram’, Who Was Who, A & C Black, 1920–2007; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007
  9. Institute for the Study of Conflict, Company Accounts made up to 30 June 1971
  10. Michael Howard, Captain Professor The Memoirs of Sir Michael Howard (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006) pp.192-3
  11. John Jenks British Propaganda And News Media in the Cold War, Edinburgh:EUP, 2006, p.70