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Konni Zilliacus

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Konni Zilliacus (13 September 1894 – 6 July 1967) was a left-wing Labour Party politician in the United Kingdom. Of Finnish and American parentage, he spoke nine languages fluently; international issues were to absorb much of his energy, both as an official of the League of Nations between the wars, and as a Labour member of the House of Commons in the post-War period. Zilliacus's extensive contacts with figures in Eastern Europe during the Cold War era, together with his frequent support for positions promoted by the Soviet Union, periodically brought him into conflict with the Labour Party leadership and in 1949 led to his expulsion from the party. In 1950 he lost his seat in parliament, was re-admitted by Labour in 1952, and returned to the Commons in 1955. He was often considered a fellow traveller, although he was not a Communist Party member, and occasionally adopted positions opposed to Moscow's line, for example during Stalin's conflict with Tito.

Early life

Zilliacus was born in Kobe, Japan, the son of exiled Finnish-nationalist Konrad Viktor (Konni) Zilliacus (1855–1924) and American-born Lilian McLaurin Grafe (1873–1938). He travelled the world with his parents until 1909, when they settled in England. Zilliacus then attended Bedales School in Hampshire, where he became friends with Josiah Clement Wedgwood's sons. He attended Yale University in the US, graduating first in his class in 1915.[1]

During World War I, he applied to the British Royal Flying Corps but was denied for physical reasons. Instead, he found work as an orderly for a French medical unit near the front lines. Soon invalided out of the medical corps with diphtheria, Zilliacus returned to Britain and joined the Union of Democratic Control and worked for the Liberal Party MPs Noel Buxton and Norman Angell. He travelled with Wedgwood to Russia, where he developed a sympathy for the October Revolution, and leaked details of Britain's counter-revolutionary activities to the press.[2] In 1919, newly married to Eugenia Nowicka and with a recently-born daughter, Stella Zilliacus, he joined the British Labour Party.

League of Nations Secretariat

Being multilingual, he found work as the British envoy to the League of Nations alongside Philip Noel-Baker.[3] In 1931 during the Manchurian Crisis he wrote speeches for the League's committee for Cooperation with China along with Alfred Sze, Koo, and Quo Tai-Chi.[4] He was Geneva's official interpreter for visiting Russians. Writing as "C. Howard-Ellis", he wrote the text book for the League: Origins, Structure, and Working of the League of Nations.[5]

Zilliacus maintained a correspondence with C. P. Scott of The Manchester Guardian, which in 1935 helped generate popular support within Britain for sanctions against Italy should it attempt to conquer Ethiopia, an invasion which was launched later in the year.[6] He wrote many articles and letters on international affairs on a pro bono basis, usually under pen names such as Vigilantes.[7]

Zilliacus was a firm believer in the power of multinational organizations to prevent war, but he could not lead British foreign policy to work through the League. He worked diligently for the League of Nations until the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia, when he resigned from the Secretariat of the League of Nations.[8]

War work and election to Parliament

In World War II, Zilliacus worked for the Ministry of Information and joined the 1941 Committee. He was elected as MP for Gateshead in 1945 and became known as a left-wing critic of government foreign policy.[9]

International policy

Zilliacus was frequently accused of being a communist because he was sympathetic to Soviet policies and frequently contributed articles to liberal British publications, but he was not affiliated with the Communist Party of Great Britain. In 1949, he voted against joining NATO and remained an open critic of Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin and his anti-Soviet policies. In 1949, he was expelled from the party, along with Leslie Solley.[10] To compensate, he helped found the Labour Independent Group, although he would later leave the group when it supported Joseph Stalin over Josip Broz Tito. He sought re-election in the 1950 general election, but he lost his seat to Labour Party candidate Arthur Moody. Zilliacus was also sympathetic to Communist Yugoslavia.[11] During the show-trial of Rudolf Slánský in Czechoslovakia in 1952, Slánský was forced to confess that he had given information to Zilliacus while "planning the restoration of capitalism in Czechoslovakia"; Zilliacus dismissed the accusation as "quite fantastic".[11][12]

Return to parliament

In 1952, he was readmitted to the Labour Party, and he took Manchester Gorton district in the 1955 general election. He held the seat until his death, on 6 July 1967.[13] He became a founder member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and in 1961 was suspended from the party for several months for writing an article for a Czech magazine. Zilliacus was a prominent pacifist, pushing for less spending on arms and nuclear testing during the 1950s and opposing the Vietnam War during the 1960s.[14] He died of leukaemia, aged 72.[15] According to one historian, Zilliacus died "an unrepentant admirer of both Harold Wilson and N. S. Khrushchev".[11]

Personal life

Zilliacus married, in 1919, Eugenia Nowicka,[16] a 19-year-old Polish woman revolutionary whom he had met while in Siberia. She took the name Eugenia Nowicka Zilliacus.

Zilliacus never married his arguably more important or better-known "wife", Jan Trimble, daughter of Laurence Trimble, an American film director of the silent screen era, though she took the name Zilliacus and had a daughter by him in 1945.[17] The Zilliacus family (she had other children) lived from the 1940s onward in the St. John's Wood and nearby Maida Vale areas of London, where she was a London Zoo volunteer and, until her death in 1999, a stalwart of the local (Paddington) Constituency Labour Party.


Zilliacus wrote under several pseudonyms, as given here.

  • Williams, Roth (1923). The League of Nations Today. London: George Allen & Unwin.
  • Williams, Roth (1924). The Technique of the League of Nations. League of Nations Union.
  • Williams, Roth (1925). The League, the Protocol, And The Empire. London: George Allen & Unwin.

This book with the pseudo-name of Howard-Ellis is of particular interest because [Charles Howard Ellis] (Dick Ellis) reported on the League of Nations for the Morning Post. He was also an MI6 agent and later suspected of being a Soviet agent. Thus long before Ellis was suspected of espionage, Zilliacus, a suspected communist who translated for the Soviet delegation writes a book, collects the royalties, using the name of somebody he knows. It does not prove espionage but is VERY difficult to explain.

  • C. Howard-Ellis (1928). The Origin Structure & Working of the League of Nations. London: George Allen & Unwin.
  • Vigilantes (1933). The Dying Peace. London: New Statesman.
  • Vigilantes (1935). Inquest on Peace: An Analysis of the National Government's Foreign Policy. Gollancz.
  • Vigilantes (1935). Abyssinia: The Essential Facts In The Dispute and An Answer To the Question -"Ought We To Support Sanctions?". London: New Statesman and Nation.
  • Covenanter (1936). Labour and war resistance. Fabian Research Series. London: Gollancz.
  • Vigilantes (1938). Why the League Has Failed. Left Book Club. London: Victor Gollancz.
  • Diplomaticus (1938). The Czechs and their Minorities. London: T. Butterworth.
  • Vigilantes (1939). Between Two Wars? The Lessons of the Last World War in Relation to The Preparations for The Next. London: Penguin.
  • Vigilantes (1939). Why We Are Losing the Peace: The National Governments Foreign Policy its Causes Consequences and Cure. London: Victor Gollancz\.
  • K. Zilliacus ("Vigilantes") (1944). The Mirror of the Past - Lest it Reflect the Future. Left Book Club. Victor Gollancz.
  • Diplomaticus (K. Zilliacus) (1945). Can the Tories Win the Peace? And How They Lost the Last One. London: Victor Gollancz.
  • Zulliacus, Konni (1946). Britain, U.S.S.R. and World Peace. London: British-Soviet Society.
  • K. Zilliacus (1947). Mirror of the present : the way the world is going. London: Meridian Books.
  • Zilliacus, K. (1949). I Choose Peace. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
  • K. Zilliacus (1949). Dragon's teeth : the background, contents and consequences of the North Atlantic Pact. London.
  • Zilliacus, Konni (1949). Why I was expelled. London: Collets.
  • K. Zilliacus (1952). Tito of Yugoslavia. London: Mchael Joseph.
  • Zilliacus, Konni (1955). Four Power Talks: For Peace or War?. London: Union of Democratic Control.
  • K.Zillliacus (1957). A New Birth of Freedom? World Communism after Stalin. London: Secker & Warburg.
  • Konni Zilliacus (1960). aNATOmy of a Sacred Cow. Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
  • Zilliacus, Konni (1963). Our Lives and Cuba: What Britain must do to Survive. London: Gladiator.
  • K. Ziliacus (1966). Labour's crisis : its nature, cause and cure.

Parliamentary Succession

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Thomas Magnay
Member of Parliament for Gateshead
Constituency abolished
Preceded by
William Oldfield
Member of Parliament for Manchester Gorton
Succeeded by
Kenneth Marks


External links

  1. ^ Pp. 1-7, Archie Potts 『Zilliacus: A Life for Peace and Socialism』(2002)
  2. ^ Pp. 7-13, Archie Potts 『Zilliacus: A Life for Peace and Socialism』(2002)
  3. ^ P. 17, Archie Potts 『Zilliacus: A Life for Peace and Socialism』(2002)
  4. ^ Chapter 4: Manchurian Crisis. Archie Potts 『Zilliacus: A Life for Peace and Socialism』(2002)
  5. ^ Chapter 3 Geneva, Archie Potts 『Zilliacus: A Life for Peace and Socialism』(2002)
  6. ^ P. 43, Archie Potts 『Zilliacus: A Life for Peace and Socialism』(2002)
  7. ^ P. 16, Archie Potts 『Zilliacus: A Life for Peace and Socialism』(2002)
  8. ^ P. 57, Archie Potts 『Zilliacus: A Life for Peace and Socialism』(2002) (9 August 1938 resignation)
  9. ^ P. 88, Archie Potts 『Zilliacus: A Life for Peace and Socialism』(2002)
  10. ^ P. 141, Archie Potts 『Zilliacus: A Life for Peace and Socialism』(2002)
  11. ^ a b c David Widgery, The Left in Britain, 1956-68, Harmondsworth : Penguin, 1976. ISBN 0140550992 (p. 505).
  12. ^ "Czech Trial "Fantastic" says Zilliacus",The Bulletin and Scots Pictorial, 21 November 1952, (pg. 1)
  13. ^ P. 160 (1955), 169 (1959), 182 (1963), 187 (1967)(elections) Archie Potts 『Zilliacus: A Life for Peace and Socialism』(2002)
  14. ^ Preface p. ix, Archie Potts 『Zilliacus: A Life for Peace and Socialism』(2002)
  15. ^ Simkin, John. "Konni Zilliacus" at, accessed on 10/27/13.
  16. ^ "Eugenia Zilliacus". geni_family_tree. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  17. ^ "Obituary: Jan Zilliacus". The Independent. 1 June 1999. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
This page was last edited on 11 November 2019, at 20:47
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