An otherwise low-key figure, Reuben Falber’s claim to notoriety arises from the 1991 revelations by the Sunday Times that the Communist Party of the Soviet Union had supplied secret funds, amounting to £100, 000 a year to the Communist Party of Great Britain. As the Assistant General Secretary of the CPGB from 1968-79, Falber was instrumental in the transactions.
Falber liaised with KGB officials from the Soviet Embassy in Kensington, who would rendezvous with him at Hampstead Heath or Barons Court Tube station, where they would hand him bundles of used sterling notes in shopping bags. Falber would wait, a car would draw up to the kerb and its window lowered. A KGB man would hand out a parcel containing cash in British currency. The cash, sums ranging from £10,000 to £50,000, would be stashed in the loft of Falber’s bungalow in Golders Green. Only three people knew of this: these were Falber, the general secretary of the CP, John Gollan, and someone from the Morning Star.
MI5 was seemingly quite aware of who the conduit to Moscow was and allowed the money to continue. Peter Wright claimed that as far back as 1956, as the result of MI5 penetration of the CPGB, that the British Security Service was well aware of the Soviet Union’s covertly funding of the British Party.
Payments from Moscow to the Communist Party began in 1958 after the invasion of Hungary caused a crisis in membership and finances. By the mid-1960s the subsidies amounted to as much as £100,000 a year. A former Soviet agent has claimed that Falber had made his last approach in 1978, saying he needed money for the party’s retired former officials who were on only the state pension.
Gordon McLennan has claimed that, when he was elected General Secretary in 1975, he was told of this activity by his predecessor, John Gollan and asked that it be stopped. McLennan said that he assumed his wishes had been secured but, in fact, it carried on for another four years. Asked why he never checked, McLennan said that he “wanted no involvement, all I wanted was it stopped". Yet Falber, who was the party functionary in charge of finance claims that there was at leastone discussion between himself and McLennan.
It is likely that Falber was in charge of the Party’s secret but quite proper, legitimate sources of money from the 1930s. Secret since the funds came from the discreet `Commercial Branch’, a group of about 50 businessmen, mostly Jewish and some quite wealthy, who were Communist Party members.
Falber’s other claim to fame is his `The 1968 Czechoslovak Crisis: Inside The British Communist Party’, an attempt to disclose the previously internally reserved details of the CPGB’s response to those events. [See: http://www.socialisthistorysociety.co.uk/falber.htm]
Born on October 14th 1914, the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants, Reuben Falber was severely myopic from an early age. He largely overcame being disadvantaged at birth, although always had to wear oddly and heavily frosted spectacles and lost nearly all his sight in later life. Falber left school at 14 to become a hairdresser and, after serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps, joined the Communist Party and worked for it full time. He became Yorkshire District Secretary during the war years, before becoming National Election Agent. Elected to the Party’s executive committee in 1965, he became assistant secretary three years later.
A man of retiring disposition, Falber nonetheless became a prolific fund-raiser. It may be assumed that his finance-handling talents were widely used in his earlier role as Election Agent and much of Falber’s published Party pamphlets relate to election work and include:
`Beware sharks : Tory rent and housing policy exposed’ (1960)
`How will you vote?’ (1964)
`The rates explosion: how to defuse it’ (1975)
`Britain needs Socialism’ (1976)
He was married to Helen Goldman in the early 1940s, and their childless partnership lasted more than six decades. Reuben Falber died in 2006 aged 92, having become almost completely blind in old age as a result of his deteriorated childhood condition. He died on April 29, 2006, aged 91.