The Cold War’s Operation Splinter Factor was a properly organized conspiracy, of the more common type: an intelligence sting. As explained here, it involved the U.S. using Noel Field, a well-known Communist mole of the Alger Hiss generation, to wreak havoc within the Eastern Bloc ranks by seeding distrust and paranoia.
Communist authorities arrested Field in Prague in May of 1949 and sent him to Budapest to aid in the investigations and trials there. While in custody, he was repeatedly interrogated and tortured. His wife, son and adopted daughter all faced the same fate when they came looking for him in Prague after his disappearance.
Any communist Field mentioned having any contact with became a suspect and was subject to arrest, trial and torture. Anyone named by those arrested, in turn, suffered the same fate — setting up a chain reaction of arrests, show trials and executions.
Dulles and Swiatło’s plan was working, and eventually outgrew their oversight and control. The purges that began with Operation Splinter Factor spread across the Eastern Bloc.
In all, hundreds of thousands of members of the Communist Party and others were arrested in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary and Poland. In Czechoslovakia alone 169,000 members of the Communist Party were arrested, compromising 10 percent of the party’s membership in that country, according to Blum.
The communists executed hundreds in the purge, and thousands more died in prisons.
The thing is, there are many not so clear-cut cases, where you don’t really know whether you are dealing with a conspiracy, or a rebellion against an attempt to conspire, or something in the middle. Recently, we’ve had this case where executives of the U.S. bank Wells Fargo harassed rank-and-file employees with impossible client acquisition targets. The employees’ response was to set up two million of fake bank accounts to meet the targets, as beautifully explained here by a former Bloomberg News colleague. I wonder, is this a case of a rebellion that was really a conspiracy? Is it a rebellion if, in the end, you act as intended by those triggering the uprising?
Levine’s conclusion is:
But obviously no one in senior management wanted this. Signing customers up for online banking without telling them about it doesn’t help Wells Fargo at all. No one feels extra loyalty because they have a banking product that they don’t use or know about. Even signing them up for a credit card without telling them about it generally doesn’t help Wells Fargo, because people don’t use credit cards that they don’t know about. Cards with an annual fee are a different story — at least you can charge them the fee! — but it seems like customers weren’t signed up for many of those. This isn’t a case of management pushing for something profitable and getting what they asked for, albeit in a regrettable and illegal way. This is a case of management pushing for something profitable but difficult, and the workers pushing back with something worthless but easy.
I’m not so sure that “no one in senior management wanted this.”