Joseph Godson

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Labour attache at the US Embassy in London from 1953 to 1959. Later European Co-ordinator for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


Born in Poland on January 15, 1913, he spoke relatively little English when he went to New York at the age of 13, and throughout his life his accent carried a hint of Central Europe behind the warm and urgent American voice.
The same transition from Europe to America, which took him through City College in New York, and then law school at New York University in the 1930s, also helped to shape his ideas about politics.
A Marxist in his early years, he soon decided that Stalin held no attraction for him; but he also rejected the romanticism of the Trotskyists (and was thereby saved from the exaggerated swing to the right which many Trotskyists subsequently went through by way of over-compensation).[1]
"Mr. Godson, a native of Poland, was a 1937 graduate of the College of the City of New York and received a law degree from New York University in 1940.
"In 1950 he joined the Foreign Service and became labor attache at the American Embassy in Ottawa until 1952 and in London from 1953 to 1959. He then went to Belgrade, Yugoslavia, as a first secretary from 1959 to 1961 and to Zagreb as consul general until 1964. He became consul general in Edinburgh in 1968 and remained there until he retired from the service in 1971." [2]

Aneurin Bevan expulsion

Gaitskell held a series of secret meetings at the Russell Hotel, where he planned the expulsion with Sam Watson, the leader of the Durham miners. Also in attendance was the Labour attaché at the American Embassy in London, Joe Godson. One of the most important post-war events in the Labour Party's internal affairs was overseen by an American spook. [3]
A figure of arguably greater importance at the time earns no mention at all in Crewe and King. Joseph Godson, as US labour attaché in London in the Fifties, had played a close supporting role in Gaitskell's battle with the Left. (His son, Roy, a close associate of both Stephen Haseler and former CIA director William Casey, married the daughter of Gaitskell's principal union ally in the same battle, Sam Watson.) Godson Snr. had stayed on in London after retiring from US government service and with money from the US Congress and NATO had set up the Labour Committee for Transatlantic Understanding with which both Rodgers and Owen had been involved, and whose treasurer for many years had been electricians' union(EETPU) leader Frank Chapple. (Chapple was the only prominent trade unionist to sign the fund-raising appeal for the embryonic SDP in the Guardian in February 1981.)
Joseph Godson, in an active retirement, was also organising European initiatives for the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the proselytising think-tank which funded the author of the SDP/Liberals joint policy statement in 1987. He combined that with running US government-funded educational visits for British trade unionists and editing 35 Years of NATO (Dodd, Mead, 1984) a transatlantic symposium on 'the changing political, economic and military setting', funded by Rupert Murdoch's Times and introduced by its then editor Charles Douglas-Home and NATO secretary general Peter Carrington.
Godson's foremost British associate in this CSIS/NATO work was SDP founder member Alan Lee Williams, a former Labour MP and junior defence minister who was treasurer of the European Movement from 1972 and 1979. From his office as director of the English Speaking Union he had chaired Godson's Labour and Trade Union Press Service operation and, with the renewed rise of CND in the late 1970s, had become a central figure in the government-funded Peace Through NATO. [4]

'The Soviet Worker - Illusions and Realities'

In 1981, Godson and Leonard Schapiro co-edited The Soviet Worker - Illusions and Realities. This was described by the Guardian as 'nine essays, an unusual mix of academic studies, journalists' reports and exiles' recollections', which John Torode suggested had been outdated by the rise of Solidarity in Poland that year.[5] In a letter attributed to Godson as European Co-ordinator of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Godson responded:

The facts are that the events in Poland and the reasons for the creation of Solidarity have, if anything, fully confirmed the book's thesis about the so-called Soviet trade unions and their role as mere adjuncts of the state apparatus to carry out the party's plans and policies on the shop-floor level. The Polish workers revolted and seem, so far at least, to have succeeded to establish their own independent unions, and we wish the same were to take place in the Soviet Union.
While the Polish events could have a spill-over effect in the USSR, there appears to be no prospect, at least in the immediate future, for that to happen.
As for Mr Torode's statement that "today even the TUC general council accepts that its Soviet counterpart is packed with hollow men", well, I pray this were true, but where oh where is the evidence?[6]

'Challenges to the Western Alliance'

In December 1984, when The Times produced a volume of essays Challenges to the Western Alliance, Godson acted as a Washington representative of the publishing effort. Along with Times editor Charles Douglas-Home he presented a copy to US President Ronald Reagan. Contributors to the book included Reagan himself, Margaret Thatcher, Mario Soares, Alexander M. Haig Jr., Robert S. Strauss, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Lane Kirkland, head of the AFL-CIO.[7]


  • Edited with Leonard Schapiro, The Soviet Worker - Illusions and Realities, Macmillan 1981.




  1. Obituary of Mr Joseph Godson, Determined champion of Anglo-American relations, The Times, 6 September 1986.
  2. Joseph Godson - The New York Times, September 12, 1986
  3. Smear: Wilson and the Secret State, Stephen Dorril and Robin Ramsay, Fourth Estate Ltd, 1991, p14
  4. By Tom Easton, From Lobster 31, June 1996 Who were they travelling with? Last Accessed 16th June 2007
  5. John Torode, 'Hollow men; THE SOVIET WORKER -- ILLUSIONS AND REALITIES, edited by Leonard Shapiro and Joseph Godson', Guardian Weekly, 6 September 1981.
  6. Joseph Godson, 'Unions in the Eastern Bloc', Guardian Weekly, 27 September 1981.
  7. William E. Farrell and Warren Weaver Jr., 'Reagan the Author', New York Times, 11 December 1984.