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SRB: Three Decades of Slander Continue

SRB Picks of the Week June 7

By Jeremy Rose for the Scoop Review of Books

The slander continues. That an historian, economist and writer of W B Sutch's standing is best remembered for a botched attempt by the "Security Intelligence Service" to have him convicted of treason is a tragedy. Sutch's SIS file released last week is interesting both for what's included and what's not. The spooks noted that his nickname was "Greasy" during his teaching years - but were unable to establish with certainty that his eyes were brown.

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Nor were they able to confirm that he had gone on the BBC in 1937 and criticised the Labour Government's socialisation programme. So it seems the spies that were prepared to break the law to get a glimpse of Sutch's diary didn't have the nouse to check his passport records for eye colour or contact the BBC's archives.

The numerous references to Sutch's love of tramping - including his extraordinary crossing of the Soviet Union on foot - and the speed at which he walked suggests that the spies not only had difficulty keeping up with the author intellectually but on foot as well.

That Sutch posed a threat to much of what the spooks and other members of the establishment held dear is clear from the numerous references to his political beliefs. The report's summary of those beliefs give a hint of just how dangerous he was:


As anyone who has read any of his many books will know, the guy was an economic nationalist and patriot.

Brian Easton has written extensively on Sutch and does a good job of demolishing the idea that he was a puppet of the Communist Party in this piece he prepared for the Stout Centre. Sutch's ideas, according to Easton, owed more to Methodism than Marx.

There's nothing in the file that would lead one to think otherwise and its release should have put the idea that Sutch was a life-long spy for the Soviets to bed once and for all. But no. The SIS - which couldn't even determine the eye colour of one of the country's most prominent public figures - now tells us has documents from an overseas agency - unnamed - that record a "long-standing association between the KGB and a New Zealand civil servant who very precisely (and uniquely) fitted Dr Sutch’s background and profile"

It's scungy, desperate stuff and smacks of the SIS trying to divert attention from its incompetence and pettiness. What possible security risk could historical information about Sutch's alleged connections to the KGB have twenty years after the end of the Cold War.

Easton's Dictionary of Biography piece on Sutch includes a link to a five minute interview with Sutch recorded in the early 1970s which is well worth listening to. His description of GNP has "gross national pollution" anticipates the arguments of many contemporary critics of the economics profession.

Here's hoping the splurge of publicity around Sutch's non-spying will see a renewed interest in some of his ideas. (TradeMe has a number of his books listed - including Colony or Nation.)

Amitav Ghosh latest work also deals with the transition from colony to nation. Sea of Poppies was recently released in Britain and India. Ghosh was interviewed by The Hindu.

I've mentioned Benny Morris's recent book 1948 before and this week it was reviewed in the Guardian by Avi Schlaim - author of the brilliant history of Israel The Iron Wall.

It's hard to imagine either Helen Clark or John Key agreeing to a leading satirist accompanying them on them on their upcoming election campaigns. But that's just what Nicholas Sarkozy did when he agreed to playwright Yasmina Reza writing a book on him. The New York Times reviews the resulting book, DAWN, DUSK OR NIGHT: A Year With Nicolas Sarkozy.


Treasures of the Tchakat Henu
Manu Moriori: Human and Bird Carvings on Live Kopi Trees on the Chatham Islands by Rhys Richards
Paremata Press, Wellington, 2007. Reviewed by SCOTT HAMILTON
Last year Television New Zealand won plaudits for broadcasting The Big Picture, Hamish Keith’s documentary series about the history of visual art in this country. One of the outstanding features of The Big Picture was its careful presentation of Maori as well as Pakeha art traditions. Keith began the first episode in his series in one of the painted caves of central Otago, and noted the influence of Maori rock art on twentieth century Pakeha artists and writers like Theo Schoon, ARD Fairburn, and Tony Fomison.

Insight into an Outstanding Journalist
Louise Nicholas: My Story, by Louise Nicholas and Philip Kitchin
Auckland: Random House, 2007, $37, Reviewed by JAMES HOLLINGS
The Louise Nicholas case has probably generated more gossip, discussion and talkback vitriol than just about any other court case in the past 15 years. The harrowing saga of abuse of a teenage girl by a ring of serving police officers seems to have polarised people into the ‘she was a victim’ and the ‘she could have said no’ camps and will probably become one of those seminal stories—such as that which led to the 1987 cervical cancer inquiry—that makes us question values we as a country hold dear.
What Publishers Want

An Intro to Different Views of Journalism
Intro: A Beginners Guide to Professional News Gathering Edited by Jim Tully
NZ Journalists Training Organisation, $94. Reviewed by Karl du Fresne (with a response by Martin Hirst)
Newspaper columnist, former Dominion editor and author Karl du Fresne recently published a highly critical review of the NZ Journalist Training Organisation’s updated Intro - the defacto textbook for most of the nation’s trainee journalists - on his new blog. That review sparked a long and thoughtful response from AUT associate professor of journalism Martin Hirst on his blog. Karl du Fresne and Martin Hirst have kindly given the SRB permission to re-publish their posts.

Poem of the Week: Painting the Fall
From: small humours of DAYLIGHT by Tom Weston
Steele Roberts, $20

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