‘Dutch secret service ran three pro-China organizations’

A story from 2004, retrieved by the Wayback Machine

by security and defense specialist Hans de Vreij
4 December 2004

From the late 1960s until well into the 1980s, the Dutch secret service BVD ran three cover organizations which targeted communist China. This year, a former Dutch intelligence officer revealed that the ‘Marxist-Leninist Party of the Netherlands’ (Marxistisch-Leninistische Partij Nederland) had been used as a cover for the secret service, now known as the AIVD.

It appears that two pressure groups – the Netherlands-Albania and the Netherlands-Kampuchea foundations – were also BVD covers, created in order for the Dutch intelligence service BVD and the American CIA to obtain information about China’s influence inside Western Europe. In the Netherlands this intelligence project, which remained secret for a long time, was known as ‘Operation Mongol’, while it reportedly went under the name of ‘Operation Red Herring‘ within the CIA. 

One of the few ‘genuine’ members of these three organizations has now given an interview. From 1969 to 1981, Paul Wartena (61), once a committed Maoist, played an active role in the three groups, only to discover in September of this year that the secret service had been using him all along as part of the camouflage for their activities. This discovery followed publication of the memoirs of former BVD staffer Frits Hoekstra, who made the first disclosures about ‘Operation Mongol’. 

In the interview he gave to Radio Netherlands Paul Wartena explained how, as a young man, he joined the Communist Party of the Netherlands (CPN), then began to develop more sympathy for the Chinese version of communism after the famous ideological split between Moscow and Beijing. He eventually laid eyes on his first copy of ‘The Communist’, a newspaper published by the Marxist-Leninist Party of the Netherlands. What he didn’t know was that this paper was written and published by the BVD secret service. He wrote a letter asking to join the organization, and subsequently met the ‘secretary-general’ of the MLPN, a man who called himself Chris Petersen, but who was in fact Peter Bouvé, a BVD operative. 

Paul Wartena joined one of the party’s ‘cells’, and – as he says himself – became one of the MLPN’s most fanatical activists. Not once once did he suspect nor notice any involvement by the secret service, and only now has he discovered that the ‘party’ never had more than between five and ten real members. The remainder of the MLPN was made up of intelligence officers and operatives working for the BVD. 

Speaking to Radio Netherlands, Mr Wartena said the party never actually did very much. According to him, party meetings were held on either a weekly or monthly basis, and occasionally they would distribute leaflets. However, on one occasion in 1974 he and fellow ‘party member’ Chris Petersen did pay an official visit to Beijing. Later on, he and ‘Petersen’ both joined two other organizations with a pro-China line; both of them actually BVD cover operations. “I was on the board of the Netherlands-Albania foundation for a while, and I visited Albania together with Chris Petersen. We stood on the same podium as dictator Enver Hoxha at the country’s May Day celebrations, and I also translated his books from English to Dutch. I don’t think anybody ever read them.” 

Murder is not part of communism’
Mr Wartena also told Radio Netherlands about the contacts between the Maoist organisations and the radical Marxist ‘Red Youth’ movement, which was pushing the idea of a more violent ‘class war’ in the Netherlands. “There was even talk of murdering certain individuals in the Netherlands, and I always strongly opposed that. I was always against violence, and I even said at the time that it wasn’t Communist, it was Fascist.” 

His version of events is backed up by earlier revelations by former BVD staffer Frits Hoekstra, who said the ‘Red Youth’ had also been infiltrated by the BVD. At one point, the intelligence service even supplied the group with weapons for an attack in order to maintain the credibility of its own ‘plant’ inside the movement. Of course, the attack – or attacks – never materialized. 

‘Chris Petersen’ (the cover name of Peter Bouvé) meets Albanian communist dictator Enver Hoxha

In the second half of the 1970s, the BVD used ‘Chris Petersen’ to set up a new organization, the ‘Netherlands-Kampuchea foundation’, in which Paul Wartena also was to play an active part. This group toed the Chinese Communist Party line in backing Cambodia’s then dictator Pol Pot. In late 1978, Vietnamese troops invaded ‘Democratic Kampuchea’ and ended the Pol Pot regime, although Pol Pot himself did not officially give up his position until 1985. In 1981, the many reports about the ‘Killing Fields’, the mass murders committed by the Pol Pot regime, caused Paul Wartena to end his membership of the foundation: “I was principally opposed to violence and, after all the reports about the mass murders, I quit, completely turning my back on politics.” 

Paul Wartena began to study religion and psychology, became an assistant at the University of Utrecht, and currently gives lectures on subjects such as the future of religion and the relationship between culture and how people experience happiness. 

Shocked 
In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, former BVD member Peter Bouvé described Paul Wartena as ‘an idiot’. Despite all the other revelations, Paul Wartena – a mild-mannered man with a remarkable political past – is still quite shocked by that description. During the 12 years which they were in contact, Mr Petersen became a good friend, and he even spoke at Wartena’s wedding. “I am not bothered at all about the way things went back then. Even I went from being a Communist to being an anti-Communist. But the fact that Peter Bouvé has said that now, that simply shocks me as a human being.” 

Paul Wartena would like to get back the money he contributed to the ‘party’ over a period of twelve years. “I gave a considerable part of my meagre income to the party”. In September of this year it became clear that this money went straight to the Dutch secret service. Not only that, but his contribution was a mere drop in the ocean compared to the amounts which the authorities in China and Albania gave to ‘Marxist-Leninist Party of the Netherlands’ – whereby the two Communist nations were unwittingly subsidizing one of the West’s most successful intelligence campaigns, of which they were the main targets.

(First published by Radio Netherlands, 4 December 2004)

Over Hans de Vreij

Dutch journalist. Former correspondent in Brussels, Geneva, Prague, East Berlin.
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