Konni Zilliacus, was born on 13th September 1894. His father, Konni
Zilliacus Senior, had been involved in the struggle to obtain the
and was at the time living in exile in
mother, Lilian Grafe, was from the
Zilliacus attended schools in
and the United States.
In January 1909 the family moved to
Konni and his brother Laurin were sent to Beadles School near Petersfield.
While at school Zilliacus became friends with the sons of
Wedgwood. He spent several vacations at the Wedgwood home and it was
here that he first developed an interest in politics.
1912 Zilliacus entered
where he studied science, social science and history. As soon as he
graduated in 1915 he returned to England in order to take part in the
First World War.
He tried to join the
Royal Flying Corps
rejected because he was a Finnish citizen. He therefore enlisted as a
medical orderly and served in a military hospital in
a year he was taken ill with diphtheria and was forced to return home.
Shocked by what he had seen on the
Zilliacus joined the
Democratic Control. He also worked as an aide to
becoming private secretary to
Zilliacus also wrote articles on foreign affairs for
Siberia. Wedgwood took Zilliacus with him as he could speak French,
German, Italian, Swedish and Russian. When General
Vladivostok he appointed Zilliacus as his intelligence officer. Zilliacus
disapproved of British intervention in the
Russian Revolution and when
Churchill lied in the
House of Commons
about what was going on in Siberia, he leaked information to
C. P. Scott
Manchester Guardian and
his return to
London in December 1918, Zilliacus joined the
"because it was fighting intervention in Russia and stood for a sane peace
settlement and a strong League of Nations." The following year he joined the
Nations as a member of the Information Section of the League Secretariat.
The League had no armed forces and had to rely on boycotts (sanctions) to
control the behaviour of member states. In January 1923
occupied the Ruhr.
Six months later
Italy bombed the Greek island of Corfu. When the League of Nations
discussed these events, the governments of France and Italy threatened to
withdraw from the organization. As a result, the League of Nations decided
not to take any action. Zilliacus wrote to his friend
"I feel depressed and fed up. Who could have imagined things would turn out
as badly as this?"
1924 the League
of Nations was given a boost when
Herriot, leading politicians in Britain and France, visited Geneva in
Dalton, wrote enthusiastically, "The League seemed to have come to life
again, and to have gained a new significance."
The League of Nations also had success in adverting wars in the border
disputes between Bulgaria-Greece (1925), Iraq-Turkey (1925-26) and
Poland-Lithuania (1927). It also had noticable success in the areas of drugs
control, refugee work and famine relief.
Snowden, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, suggested that the Labour
government should introduce new measures to balance the budget. This
included a reduction in unemployment pay. Several ministers, including
George Lansbury and
refused to accept the cuts in benefits and resigned from office.
MacDonald was angry that his Cabinet had voted against him and decided
to resign. When he saw
that night, he was persuaded to head a new coalition government that would
leaders as well as
ministers. Most of the Labour Cabinet totally rejected the idea and only
Philip Snowden and
agreed to join the new government.
Ramsay MacDonald called an election. The
Election was a disaster for the
with only 46 members winning their seats. Zilliacus was completely opposed
to the National Government. He was especially opposed to its foreign policy
and argued "that they are not only making the next war inevitable, but
losing it before it has begun."
The League of Nations faced a fresh crisis in September 1931 when the
occupied large areas of
a province of China. The Chinese government appealed to the League of
Nations under Article 11 of the Covenant. China also appealed to the
United States as
a signatory of the
Eventually it was agreed that the League of Nations would establish a
commission of inquiry under the chairmanship of Lord Lytton.
The Lytton Report was published in October 1932. The report acknowledged
that Japan had
legitimate grievances against the Chinese Government. However, the report
condemned the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and refused to recognise
Manchukao as an independent state. When the League adopted the report Japan
resigned from the organization.
Zilliacus continued to campaign in the
for the League of Nations. He became a close advisor to
and helped to
influence the views of
Citrine. Zilliacus, along with
Noel-Baker, also helped Henderson write the book
Labour's Way to Peace (1934) and the
foreign policy section of Labour's 1935 election manifesto
For Socialism and Peace.
Zilliacus believed that
the greatest threat to world peace. He argued for the creation of an "inner
ring" of states within the
Nations, led by
France and the
He also proposed the election by proportional representation of a new
international debating chamber of the League. His views influenced some
leading British politicians such as
but the idea was rejected by the government led by
sent in General
Badoglio and the
The League of Nations condemned Italy's aggression and in November imposed
sanctions. This included an attempt to ban countries from selling arms,
rubber and some metals to Italy. Some political leaders in
opposed sanctions arguing that it might persuade Mussolini to form an
Adolf Hitler and
Over 400,000 Italian troops fought in
The poorly armed Ethiopians were no match for Italy's modern tanks and
aeroplanes. The Italians even used
on the home
forces and were able to capture Addis Ababa, the capital of the country, in
May 1936, forcing Emperor Haile Selassie to flee to
Zilliacus was devastated by the League's failure to prevent Italy conquering
Ethiopia. He was also angry about the League's failure to influence events
Civil War. Zilliacus personally supported the right of the
Government to purchase arms in defence of the open intervention of
Italy in the
conflict, arguing that the struggle was "a further development of the
international fascist offensive against socialism and democracy."
the 1930s Zilliacus wrote a series of books and pamphlets about foreign
affairs. As he was an official of the
Nations he wrote under the pen-name Vigilantes. This included
The Dying Peace (1933),
Inquest on Peace (1935) and
The Road to War
(1937). The last two books were published by
and his Left Book Club.
Chamberlain, the British prime minister, met
at his home in Berchtesgaden. Hitler threatened to invade
Britain supported Germany's plans to takeover the
Sudetenland. After discussing the issue with the
Daladier (France) and
(Czechoslovakia), Chamberlain informed Hitler that his proposals were
Mussolini suggested to
that one way of solving this issue was to hold a four-power conference of
Germany, Britain, France and Italy. This would exclude both Czechoslovakia
and the Soviet
Union, and therefore increasing the possibility of reaching an agreement
and undermine the solidarity that was developing against Germany.
The meeting took place in Munich on 29th September, 1938. Desperate to avoid
war, and anxious to avoid an alliance with
and the Soviet Union,
Daladier agreed that Germany could have the Sudetenland. In return,
Hitler promised not to make any further territorial demands in Europe.
Mussolini now signed the
Agreement which transferred the
Sudetenland to Germany.
The League of
Nations remained silent on the invasion of
Zilliacus now resigned from the Secretariat in protest against the way the
matter had been dealt withby the League. He wrote at the time that "the
League was dead and the fight was now at home. I knew there was no hope any
longer, that no power on earth could avert war." Over the next few months
Zilliacus wrote two pamphlets about the crisis in Europe,
Why the League Has Failed
Why We Are Losing the Peace
(1938). He also
Neville Chamberlain and his foreign policy in
Appeasement and Armageddon (1939).
During the Second
World War Zilliacus worked in the censorship division of the Ministry of
Information. His main responsibility was to censor the reports written by
Swedish journalists based in Britain. After the
entered the war on the side of the Allies he also worked for the Ministry of
Information's Soviet Relations Department. Zilliacus was also a member of
London and a regular contributor to
Zilliacus was also a member of the
One of its members,
later claimed that the motive force behind the organization was the belief
that if the Second
World War was to be won "a much more coordinated effort would be needed,
with stricter planning of the economy and greater use of scientific know-how,
particularly in the field of war production." Other members of the group
included J. B.
Edward G. Hulton,
Violet Bonham Carter,
and David Low.
Zilliacus stood as the
candidate in Gateshead in the
Election. He won 36,736 votes and had a majority of 17,719 majority over
Thomas Magnay (National Liberal). In the
House of Commons
Zilliacus was a great supporter of the
and urged it to get involved in settling the political disputes in Cyprus,
India, Indonesia, and Iran.
the House of
Commons Zilliacus associated with a group of left-wing members that
D. N. Pritt,
Zilliacus continued to write articles on foreign affairs for a variety of
radical newspapers and magazines including
Zilliacus was highly critical
Britain's foreign minister: In a speech in March 1946 he criticized the
decision to spend one third of the national budget on defence. He then went
on to point out: "Since the general election there has been no sign of any
realistic insight into what is happening in the world, no sober appraisal of
our own position or the limitations of our power ... We have sunk into
ancient ruts, running back to the nineteenth century, and punctuated by two
world wars. We are trying to make the ghost of Palmerston walk again."
The following year Zilliacus joined
Michael Foot and
to produce Keep Left.
In the pamphlet
the authors criticized the
policies of the
United States and urged a closer relationship with Europe in order to
create a "Third Force" in politics. This included the idea of nuclear
disarmament and the formation of a European Security Pact.
Zilliacus travelled widely in Europe and in 1949 met
and Josip Tito.
He disliked the Soviet leader and told his wife: "There is not a scrap of
humanity in Stalin." He got on well with Tito and gave him his full support
in his struggle to obtain the independence of
from the Soviet
petition in support of
and the Italian Socialist Party in its general election campaign. He gained
support from 27 other MPs including Zilliacus. This went against government
policy and Platts-Mills was expelled from the party and Zilliacus was warned
about his future conduct. He was sent a letter by the Labour Party's
National Executive Council listing examples of how his speeches and writings
had included "attacks on the Labour Government's foreign policy." Zilliacus
replied that it was his "prime duty as a Member of Parliament to stick to
the foreign policy statements and pledges on which I fought the general
on 4th April 1949. Zilliacus completely opposed the treaty arguing that it
went against the charter of the
would accelerate the arms race and make it more difficult to achieve a
united Europe. On 12th May, 1949, Zilliacus was only one of only six Labour
MPs to vote against the signing of the NATO treaty. Four days later
Zilliacus, along with
were expelled from the
the Labour Party Annual Conference held in Blackpool the following month,
delegates appealed for the National Executive Council to reverse its
decision on expelling Zilliacus and Solley.
argued that MPs must be allowed to have the freedom to express their true
opinions on political issues.
Silverman added that if the Labour Party expelled Zilliacus and Solley
for "exercising the right of dissent, we shall be doing damage to the cause
of social democracy."
Zilliacus and the other four expelled Labour MPs,
D. N. Pritt
Hutchinson formed the Labour Independent Group. However, Zilliacus broke
with this group in 1949 when they supported
in his criticisms of
and his government in
October 1949 Zilliacus published I Choose Peace.
In the book he traced the history of the
starting with the Allied invasion of
1918. To bring an end to the division in Europe he advocated withdrawal from
negotiations with the
and closer links with other governments in Eastern Europe.
the 1950 General
Election Zilliacus stood as a Labour Independent candidate in Gateshead.
Although people such as
George Bernard Shaw
and J. B.
Priestley campaigned for him, he won only 5,001 votes compared to the
15,249 achieved by Arthur Moody, the official
When the Labour government was defeated in
Election, left-wing critics of Britain's foreign policy were no longer
seen as dangerous political figures. Zilliacus was readmitted to the Labour
Party in February 1952 and soon afterwards he was adopted as the prospective
candidate for Gorton, an industrial suburb of
In the 1955
General Election Zillacus won the seat by 269 votes.
2nd November, 1957, the
Statesman published an article by
Priestley entitled Russia, the Atom and the
West. In the article Priestley attacked the decision by
to abandon his policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament. The article
resulted in a large number of people writing letters to the journal
supporting Priestley's views.
Kingsley Martin, the editor of the
Statesman, organized a meeting of people inspired by Priestley and
as result they formed the
Nuclear Disarmament (CND). Early members of this group included
A. J. P. Taylor,
February 1958 Zilliacus joined
Silverman, to form Victory for Socialism (VFS). Soon afterwards
Zilliacus wrote the VFS its first pamphlet, Policy
for Summit Talks. In the pamphlet Zilliacus argued in favour of
Britain ceasing to be a nuclear power and using its influence to replace
NATO and the
by an all-European security treaty.
Zilliacus continued to upset the
with his political opinions. In February 1961 was suspended for writing an
article for a magazine based in communist controlled
An attempt was made to get Zilliacus reinstated. This was led by
a member of the National Executive Committee, however, his suspension was
not lifted until September 1961.
Zilliacus, like others on the left, was against Britain joining the
Community (EEC). He argued that this the EEC would divide rather than
unite Europe and that it was "part of the cold war policy that had produced
1965 Zilliacus joined
Stan Newens, and
Silverman in protesting against American intervention in
However, Zilliacus and his friends were unable to persuade the Labour prime
Harold Wilson, to condemn US policy on Vietnam.
Konni Zilliacus died of leukemia at St Bartholomew's Hospital on 6th July