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York: The Special Branch

Vladimir Andrle

The following anecdote is from the web site of Vladimir Andrle – who, following secret police attention in Czechoslovakia, obtained political asylum in Britain in 1967. The full article can be found at Vladimir's home page.

[ On becoming an undergraduate at York University ]

I received helpful advice from David Floyd, the Daily Telegraph communist affairs correspondent, and Peter Sedgwick, a leading intellectual of International Socialism (the predecessor to today's Socialist Workers' Party). Peter worked as a psychologist in Oxford prison, but was just about to become Lecturer in Politics at the University of York….

[At York]

My friendship with Peter Sedgwick did exert its influence.. in that he introduced me to New Left critiques of Russian revolution and the Soviet Union, which constituted a good part of my extra-curricular reading..

[In 1974]

I also got my British citizenship in that year. The naturalisation process sprung a little surprise just before its conclusion, when two secret policemen interviewed me. They had a file on me from my undergraduate days in York! It was admittedly only thin, and as far as I could tell from their line of questioning, my friendship with Peter Sedgwick was the sole item on it. I had to assure my interrogators that I was not a Socialist Workers' Party member. As we travelled down in the lift afterwards, they were somewhat apologetic about their interrogation: "we just had to make sure that you were not someone holding a hammer over the Queen's head", one of them said. I could understand that, but the evident fact that the British intelligence service kept tabs on Peter surprised me, although it probably should not have done.