Lead book review

Kim Philby got away with it because he was posh

A review of A Spy Among Friends, by Ben Macintyre. The double agent's victims, unlike his family, were not the sort of people one bumped into at White's

8 March 2014

9:00 AM

8 March 2014

9:00 AM

A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal Ben Macintyre

Bloomsbury, pp.368, £20, ISBN: 9781408851722

The story of Kim Philby is, of course, like so many English stories, really one of social class. He was one of the most scandalous traitors in history, and from within the security services sent specific information to the Soviets during the early years of the Cold War that resulted directly in the deaths of thousands of men and women. Among them were the Albanian guerrillas, hoping to liberate their country, who found Soviet-sponsored troops waiting at their landing places to shoot them. A list of non-communist opposers to the Nazis in Germany was passed on to the Russians who, advancing into Germany in the last years of the war, summarily executed 5,000 named people.

Philby worked for the British security services for years, almost all the time passing significant information to our country’s enemies. He was closely associated with those other traitors, Burgess and Maclean, and clearly helped them to escape. Despite very substantial evidence against Philby, he was allowed to retire from the service and left unprosecuted. MI6 seems to have protected and defended him; MI5 wanted to bring a case, but was rebuffed.

Much later, working in Beirut as a journalist for the Observer and the Economist, Philby was recruited once again by the security services. He was only finally unmasked when a woman he had attempted to recruit in the 1930s came forward with undeniable evidence. Philby’s old friend, Nicholas Elliott, a senior figure in the service who had protected him for years, went out to Beirut to interrogate him, and seems to have allowed him to escape to Moscow, like Burgess and Maclean before him. Elliott’s much later attempts to justify himself, in conversations with John le Carré, provide  an afterword to Ben Macintyre’s book, written by the novelist.

How did Philby get away with it, and how, at the last, confronted with indisputable evidence of his treachery in his exile in Beirut, was he allowed to flee to Moscow? The answer, according to Macintyre, is the British class system, and in particular the loyalty felt on account of social standing by two men, Nicholas Elliott and James Jesus Angleton of the CIA. Angleton seems to have handed over the details of every one of those Albanian landings during immensely long boozy lunches in Washington. What was Elliott’s responsibility? Why did he allow Philby to slip through his fingers at the end? They are questions which still can’t be answered.

The atmosphere of those years, and the ways in which social connections consistently trumped any secure procedures, are nicely caught in dozens of small details. This is an interrogation of Elliott by a local head of security in Istanbul. ‘Does your wife know what you do?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘How did that come about?’ ‘She was my secretary for two years and I think the penny must have dropped.’ ‘Quite so. What about your mother?’ ‘She thinks I’m in something called SIS, which she believes stands for the Secret Intelligence Service.’ ‘Good God! How did she come to know that?’ ‘A member of the War Cabinet told her at a cocktail party.’ ‘Then what about your father?’ ‘He thinks I’m a spy.’ ‘Why should he think you’re a spy?’ ‘Because the Chief told him in the bar at White’s.’

Though some of these details have a comic aspect, the consequences of this snobbish vagueness were appalling. A Russian potential defector, Konstantin Volkov, held out the possibility of providing the names of hundreds of Soviet agents, including one who, he said explicitly, was the ‘head of a section of the British counter-espionage service in London’. The head of MI6 idiotically summoned the head of Soviet counter-espionage, who happened to be Kim Philby, and told him to deal with it. Philby delayed and delayed, and in the meantime let the Soviets know what was up. Volkov was tortured and executed, along with his wife. Even then, nobody in MI6 seems to have wondered how the information leaked out, despite the specificity of Volkov’s information. Philby was just too much the right sort of chap. And you were never going to bump into Volkov’s father at White’s, after all.

Philby’s treachery might have been helped, too, by the evident stupidity of large parts of the security services, crisply described by him in despatches to his Soviet masters. Felix Russi was ‘an almost total moron’. Tim Milne, nephew of A.A. Milne, was ‘inclined towards inertia’. Desmond Bristow was ‘the weak link…owing to immaturity and an inferior brain’. Sir Stewart Menzies, head of MI6, had ‘an intellectual equipment [that] was unimpressive’. (Nicholas Elliott thought that he had a ‘true sense of values’, which probably meant the same thing). These judgments are backed up by other sources. Hugh Trevor-Roper said they were ‘by and large pretty stupid, some of them very stupid’. Certainly the stupidity came to the fore when, years after the mark against Philby’s name was as black as could be, Elliott arranged for him to start work again for MI6 as an agent in Beirut.

Why did they stand by him? Insanely, the head of MI6, even after very serious doubts had been raised about Philby’s loyalty, wrote in a memo that ‘it is entirely contrary to the English tradition for a man to have to prove his innocence’. In a court of law, perhaps, but surely not in the case of such an important figure in the security services? Hilariously, one of Philby’s main concerns at the height of his treachery was to get his sons into as expensive a school as he could. ‘Eton and Westminster were beyond his budget, but Elliott came up with the solution.’ It might be that Philby was maintaining a useful front, but it is hard to see from his biography that this devoted communist ever spent a voluntary moment with a single horny-handed son of toil.

Elliott said about Harold Shergold, controller of MI6’s Soviet operations, that he ‘knew [Oleg Penkovsky, a Soviet double agent] was all right. Shergy had the nose.’ In fact, ‘having the nose’ was exactly the sort of thing that Elliott and his like put too much faith in, and let Philby escape for years — the sort of chap who didn’t ring alarm bells by his deportment, shoes, accent or behaviour. Years after the Philby catastrophe, Elliott didn’t seem to have learnt anything. When le Carré asked him, ‘What about the ultimate sanction, then — forgive me — could you have had Philby killed, liquidated?’, Elliott replied, aghast: ‘My dear chap. One of us.’ That, alas, was entirely the problem.

Macintyre warns, quite rightly, that old spies have a habit of rewriting the past, and he mostly does a good job of examining their later claims. A good, though trivial, example of history rewritten comes in Elliott’s conversations with le Carré in the afterword, when he says, regarding Hugh Trevor-Roper: ‘I laughed my head off when he took a dive on those Hitler diaries. The whole service knew they were fake.’

In fact, nobody in the intelligence service could have had any views about the diaries. As readers of Robert Harris’s book on the subject will remember, they were effectively written to commission by a forger and handed directly to Stern, who kept them under lock and key until they were shown to Trevor-Roper. But neither le Carré nor Macintyre challenges Elliott’s claim, and perhaps more scepticism should have been expressed about other suggestions voiced by players in this drama.

Nevertheless, Ben Macintyre has written an engaging book on a tantalising and ultimately tragic subject. If it starts as a study of friendship, it ends as an indictment. James Jesus Angleton was sent mad by the Philby case; Nicholas Elliott is treated tactfully, but is severely censured. It could hardly have been otherwise.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

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  • ianess

    Angleton became mad for many reasons; including his rampant alcoholism; his getting lost in his own ‘wilderness of mirrors’; his paranoia regarding Communist infiltration of the Western spy services and, finally, his key role in the creation of the Oswald ‘legend’ and the assassination of JFK.

    • “Angleton became mad for many reasons; including…his paranoia regarding Communist infiltration of the Western spy services”


      “In February 1962, in an isolated and heavy-guarded CIA compound overlooking the Choptank River in Talbot County, Maryland, he began an extensive debriefing. To the amazement of his debriefers, he not only revealed knowledge of a wide range of secret NATO documents — but he identified them by their code numbers. He explained that for convenience the KGB used the NATO numbering system to request specific documents, which would than arrive from its source in France in 72 hours.

      President John F. Kennedy, apprized of the Golitsyn revelations, then dispatched a personal courier to Paris, with an “eyes only” letter for President Charles De Gaulle. In it, he warned that the KGB had penetrated French intelligence.

      A few weeks later, six French intelligence officers, handpicked by De Gaulle, arrived in Washington. They carried with them specially-devised ciphers that by passed the normal channels of French intelligence, and kept their very presence in the United States a secret from even their own embassy. Their tape-recorded interrogation of Golitsyn, who they code-named Martel, took 14 days, and left them in a paralyzing quandary.

      The French intelligence secrets Golitsyn had provided came from the highest echelon of the French government. When the list of those having access to them was narrowed down, suspicion was focused on both the head of French counterintelligence and De Gaulle’s personal intelligence advisor.

      Golitsyn then dropped another bombshell. He told of a KGB plan he had help draft in Moscow to use the French intelligence service to spy on missile sites in the American Midwest. French intelligence officers would be ordered by Paris to use their contacts to gather data — for the benefit of Moscow.

      De Vosjoli initially was openly incredulous of this allegation. It not only implied that the KGB controlled French intelligence, but that it would blatantly use its officers to spy on the United States. His first reaction was that Golitsyn was a “plant”, dispatched by the KGB for the express purpose of disrupting US-French relations. Several months later, however, he had to abandon this theory. He received an order from Paris to begin organizing French spy networks in the United States. The mission would be to ferret out secret data about American missile bases. De Vosjoli could not believe his eyes: it was the very order that Golitsyn claimed he had seen a year earlier in Moscow. Since he knew that France itself had no need for such information about US bases, he queried Paris for further clarification. The answer instructed him to implement the plan without further delay– or questions.

      At this point, he realized that Golitsyn’s assertion , as implausible as it first seemed, was correct. The KGB had penetrated French intelligence. He refused the order. In Paris, a top official, who was identified through Golitsyn’s leads as a member of a spy ring, code-named Sapphire, was thrown from a window– and died. When well-connected friends in Paris then informed de Vosjoli that this was done on orders of French intelligence to protect others in the ring. He then attempted going out of his normal reporting channels to General De Gaulle himself, but to no avail. By November 1963, he realized his own life was in jeopardy and he sought the protection of the CIA.”


      “While this elicitation was proceeding, Angleton moved to plug the putative leak in the Soviet Russia Division. Golitsyn had insisted that it had to come from more than a single agent, and used the analogy of a growing “cancer” that the patient refused to recognize — or cut out. With the assistance of the CIA’s Office of Security, which has responsibility for ferreting out moles, he arranged a series of “marked cards” for the Soviet Russia Division. These were selected bits of information about planned CIA operations passed out, one at a time, to different units of the Division to see which, if any, leak to the enemy. The “marked card” in the initial test revealed that an effort would be made to recruit a particular Soviet diplomat in Canada. The Office of Security agents, watching the diplomat from a discreet distance, then observed the KGB putting its own survelliance on him on the day of the planned contact, realized that the “marked card” had gotten to the KGB. This test confirmed Golitsyn’s suspicion that the mole was still active.

      Through a process of elimination, subsequent marked cards narrowed down the leak to the unit directly involved with recruiting REDTOPS. Since more than one individual was exposed to this marked information, and there was no way of knowing if there was more than one leak in that unit, the investigation could not weed out the mole (or moles) from the roster of suspects. Instead, beginning in 1966, the entire unit was cut off from sensitive cases until its personnel could be reshuffled. Murphy, Bagley and a dozen other officers were re-posted to Europe, Africa and Asia. This “prophylactic”, as Angleton called it accounted for what appeared to the uninitiate be a “purge” over the Nosenko case. In any case, after the transfers, additional “marked cards” indicated that the penetration had been remedied.” — http://www.edwardjayepstein.com/archived/looking2.htm

      KGB defector Major Anatoliy Golitsyn is the only Soviet era defector to the West to (1) still be under protective custody (when all other such “defectors” are out and about, unconcerned for their safety, making money off the useless information they gave the West); and (2) to provide the West with the most exacting and correct counterintelligence warnings and predictive revelations on Communist strategy.

      It was Golitsyn who warned the West, thirty years before it occurred, that the USSR and East Bloc nations would initiate a fake “liberalizations”; that the Berlin Wall would come toppling down as a part of the fake “liberalization” in the East Bloc; and that Czechoslovakia’s Alexander Dubček would return to power, which he did!

      ‘”Liberalization” in Eastern Europe would probably involve the
      return to power in Czechoslovakia of Dubcek and his associates. If it
      should be extended to East Germany, demolition of the Berlin Wall
      might even be contemplated.” — New Lies for Old”, p. 340, 1984.


      Why didn’t you read “New Lies for Old”? If you had read “New Lies for Old”, then you would have looked for signs and indications that the “collapse” of the USSR and East Bloc was a ruse. And guess what? You’d have found the proofs that the “collapses” were fake. pure imagery, as in the following proofs…

      Take a look at these pictures out of Russia…




      Then for Russian Naval vessels (take a look at what’s still appended to the bows)…


      Those pictures were taken in 2009, 2004 and 2013, respectively, not before the “collapse” of the USSR. As you can see, the distinct Soviet era nationality emblem of the Communist Party…the distinct-designed Red Star… is still present. That political symbol of the Soviet government would have been immediately removed in early 1992 if the “collapse” of the USSR were genuine. As the legal emblem of the USSR and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the distinctive Red Star nationality emblem can only be present if Communists are still in power in Russia and the other 14 republics that made up the USSR.

      Now, the distinct Soviet roundel (a roundel is the nationality emblem on military aircraft that identifies the nation the aircraft belongs to) is a five-pointed Red Star with a white border area and an outer thin red line, as the link immediately below shows…


      Now, take a look at the Soviet nationality roundel on a Russian military aircraft in 2009:


      Take a look at what’s still on Aeroflot aircraft…


      Note the Soviet emblem of the hammer & sickle stenciled on the Aeroflot aircraft’s fuselage!

      Now, for the main paper of the Russian Ministry of Defense…


      “Krasnaya Zvezda” is Russian (no kidding!) for “Red Star”, the official newspaper of Soviet and later Russian Ministry of Defense. The paper’s official designation is, “Central Organ of the Russian Ministry of Defense.” Note the four Soviet emblems next to the still existing Soviet era masthead, one of which pictures Lenin’s head, the man who removed the independent Russian nation from the map, supplanting it within the new nation called the USSR (the USSR being the nation that was to one day include all the nations of the Earth, incorporation taking place either by violent revolution or deception)! Those Soviet emblems and Lenin’s head can’t still be next to the masthead of the Russian Ministry of Defense’s newspaper due to their association with the Soviet Union and its ideals of world revolution.

      The fraudulent “collapse” of the USSR (and East Bloc) couldn’t have been pulled off until both political parties in the United States (and political parties elsewhere in the West) were co-opted by Moscow & Allies, which explains why verification of the “collapse” was never undertaken by the West, such verification being (1) a natural administrative procedure (since the USSR wasn’t occupied by Western military forces); and (2) necessary for the survival of the West. Recall President Reagan’s favorite phrase, “Trust, but verify”. Notice that not one political party in the West demanded verification, and the media failed to alert your attention to this fact, including the “alternative” media. When determining whether the “former” USSR is complying with arms control treaties, what does the United States do to confirm compliance? Right, the United States sends into the “former” USSR investigative teams to VERIFY compliance, yet when it’s the fate of the West that’s at stake should the collapse of the USSR be a ruse, what does the United States do to confirm the collapse? Nothing!

      Now read these two revealing quotes from Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and former Soviet minister of foreign affairs Eduard Shevardnadze, and what they have in mind for Europe in the near future:

      “Editor’s Note: The phrases ‘From the Atlantic to the Urals’, ‘From the Atlantic to Vladivostok’ and ‘From Vancouver to Vladivostok’ are interchangeable in the strategists’ lexicon. In the course of his Nobel Peace Prize Lecture, delivered in Oslo in June 1992, Gorbachev said: ‘Our [sic] vision of the European space from the Atlantic to the Urals is not that of a closed system. Since it includes the Soviet Union [sic], which reaches to the shores of the Pacific, it goes beyond nominal geographical boundaries’. Note that Gorbachev, who had been out of office for six months, referred to the Soviet Union, not Russia. In an interview on Moscow Television on 19 November 1991, Eduard Shevardnadze continued speaking as though he was still Soviet Foreign Minister: ‘I think that the idea of a Common European Home, the building of a united Europe, and I would like to underline today, of great Europe, the building of Great Europe, great, united Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals, from the Atlantic to Vladivostok, including all our territory, most probably a European-Asian space, this project is inevitable. I am sure that we will come to building a united military space as well. To say more precisely: we will build a united Europe, whose security will be based on the principles of collective security. Precisely, collective security’. These statements by key implementers of the strategy reflect the central strategic objective of asserting ‘irreversible’ Russian/Soviet hegemony over Eurasia, thus establishing the primary geographical component of the intended World Government.” — ‘The Perestroika Deception’, by KGB defector Major Anatoliy Golitsyn.


      and here’s more on the upcoming “Atlantic to Vladivostok” union…


      When the new “Atlantic to Vladivostok” union materializes, Communist strategists will have achieved two goals, (1) the further isolation of the United States in the world; and (2) the disbanding of NATO.

      For those unfamiliar with this subject, the “collapse” of the USSR in 1991 was a strategic ruse under the “Long-Range Policy” (LRP). What is the LRP, you ask? The LRP is the “new” strategy all Communist nations signed onto in 1960 to defeat the West with. The last major disinformation operation under the LRP was the “collapse” of the USSR in 1991.

      The next major disinformation operation under the LRP will be the fraudulent collapse of the Chinese Communist government. When that occurs, Taiwan will be stymied from not joining the mainland. This is why China is buying up gold all over the word. It is believed that China currently has 3,000 [metric] tonnes of gold. When China has 6,000 [metric] tonnes it will have the minimum gold reserves necessary for its currency, the yuan, to replace the United States’ dollar as the world’s reserve currency, that is after the fraudulent collapse of the Chinese Communist government (the United States gold reserves is approximately 8,133.5 [metric] tonnes).

      • ianess

        Where did I state his paranoia had no basis in fact? However, it certainly spiralled out of control in the latter part of his career.

        • Look up the word paranoia pertinent to what you say Angleton suffered from:

          “Suspicion and mistrust of people or their actions without evidence or justification” —


          In the case of Angleton, he had a mountain’s worth evidence and justification for penetration of the CIA by Moscow & Allies, hence your use of the word paranoia is misplaced in the extreme.

          In fact, we know that the CIA today is nothing more than an appendage of the KGB, due to the agency’s traitorous silence on the fraudulent collapse of the USSR.

          • ianess

            Having read some of your other paranoid, McCarthyite comments (‘Time magazine is a front for Cominform’), you’re clearly as nuts as Angleton, most assuredly, became.

          • “Having read some of your other paranoid, McCarthyite comments”

            As I addressed above in an earlier comment to you, you don’t know what the definition of “paranoid” is, and my comments on this thread PROVED that the collapse of the USSR was a strategic ruse, you’re simply too dense to comprehend this obvious fact.

            One more time for those slow on the pickup:


            “Krasnaya Zvezda” is Russian (no kidding!) for “Red Star”, the official newspaper of Soviet and later Russian Ministry of Defense. The paper’s official designation is, “Central Organ of the Russian Ministry of Defense.” Note the four Soviet emblems next to the still existing Soviet era masthead, one of which pictures Lenin’s head, the man who removed the independent Russian nation from the map, supplanting it within the new nation called the USSR (the USSR being the nation that was to one day include all the nations of the Earth, incorporation taking place either by violent revolution or deception)! Those Soviet emblems and Lenin’s head can’t still be next to the masthead of the Russian Ministry of Defense’s newspaper due to their association with the Soviet Union and its ideals of world revolution.

            The fraudulent “collapse” of the USSR (and East Bloc) couldn’t have been pulled off until both political parties in the United States (and political parties elsewhere in the West) were co-opted by Moscow & Allies, which explains why verification of the “collapse” was never undertaken by the West, such verification being (1) a natural administrative procedure (since the USSR wasn’t occupied by Western military forces); and (2) necessary for the survival of the West. Recall President Reagan’s favorite phrase, “Trust, but verify”. Notice that not one political party in the West demanded verification, and the media failed to alert your attention to this fact, including the “alternative” media. When determining whether the “former” USSR is complying with arms control treaties, what does the United States do to confirm compliance? Right, the United States sends into the “former” USSR investigative teams to VERIFY compliance, yet when it’s the fate of the West that’s at stake should the collapse of the USSR be a ruse, what does the United States do to confirm the collapse? Nothing!

            “‘Time magazine is a front for Cominform'”

            On March 4 Time published an article showing elements of the Ukraine’s 204th Tactical Aviation Brigade marching back towards their base at Belbek. The article reported, “…the brigade’s current colours are still the Soviet regimental colours.” When I pointed out to readers in the comment section that the only way a Ukrainian military unit would still be flying the Soviet standard as its official standard is if the collapse of the USSR was a fraud, overnight on the 5th the article was rewritten to exclude the admission that the brigade’s colours were Soviet, but a “relic” of Soviet times, and included the new text to the article, as stated by Colonel Yuli Mamchur and relayed by Shuster, “Any soldier born in the Soviet Union [sic] would have heard the stories of its legendary pilots…[and] reckoned that no soldier with any respect for the heroes of the Soviet Union would shoot at a column carrying that banner.” — http://time.com/12563/belbek-crimea-ukraine-russia/

            Note that in the re-write Colonel Yuli Mamchur trips over his concocted story by inadvertently admitting that the USSR still exists, which it does, of course!

            See my comments to the Time article for more on this hilarious turn of events.

          • Part II

            As for Senator Joseph McCarthy and his chief council (Roy Cohn) on the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, who do you think they were working for? Moscow. A flagrant homosexual like Cohn, who was referred to McCarthy by the homosexual director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, means Cohn was long co-opted by Soviet intelligence before he came into contact with McCarthy, which explains how a similarly co-opted Hoover came to recommend Cohn for the position of chief council.

            The KGB ‘McCarthy operation’ was meant to derail real investigations and identification of Communist agents within the Federal government who were sabotaging United States national security by (1) dismantling Europe’s Western-civilizing colonial possessions; and (2) allowing Communist nations to come into existence.

          • ianess

            McCarthy and Cohn ‘working for Moscow’. Truly hilarious, though demented.

          • “McCarthy and Cohn ‘working for Moscow’. Truly hilarious..”

            Why exactly would it be “Truly hilarious”. Explain why Soviet Bloc intelligence didn’t co-opt J. Edgar Hoove, assuming there was an actual need to co-opt.

          • John Haggerty

            As I said below Mr Jackson, your gigantic conspiracy theory is utter drivel. It is the last refuge of a weak mind. Your grasp of intelligence, and of the CIA in particular, is the stuff of comic books. I am surprised you are not writing for the new Man from U.N.C.L.E. series. You know nothing about the former Soviet Union and its former satellites. Did you ever travel in communist countries during the 1970s or the 80s? Do you have any grasp of what their intractable economic problems were? If you had ever bothered to interview any of the good patriotic Americans whose lives were destroyed during the McCarthy years, you might stop acting like a spoilt little boy who’s determined to foist his little fantasies on the world. McCarthy was a careerist, a liar and a drunk. His heavy drinking alone made him a liability. Alex Kitson, the British trades union leader and Labour Party official, was in the opinion of many a KGB agent. He too was a heavy drinker. He too was a liability. Those who suspected his KGB links tended to avoid saying anything of a sensitive nature in his presence. An annual visitor to the Soviet Union, Kitson was Deputy General Secretary of the TGWU, a long term member of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party and treasurer of the Scottish Trades Union Congress from 1974-1997. A genial and compassionate man, he was nevertheless a rigidly doctrinaire Marxist. Much good it did him in the end. The Blairites succeeded in dominating the scene. As the gifted film director Ken Loach the said, Tony Blair destroyed the Labour Party. Blair getting into bed with your own neo-cons was the most disgusting spectacle I have witnessed in my lifetime.

          • People who use the word “McCarthyite” as an insult should read “Blacklisted By History”.

    • John Haggerty

      Yes, ‘Angleton became unbalanced for many reasons’ : John Le Carre wrote a trenchant essay for The New Yorker a year or two ago which allowed us a brief glimpse into the psychology of intelligence work. The strange nature of the work can create a state of dysfunction in the personality. Inborn fantasists, working within an intelligence community, can cause great damage. But Angelton’s disturbed state of mind sounds to me like a minor aberration compared to the expanding universe of drivel passing itself off as lucid analysis down below. The fraudulent collapse of the Soviet Union? The penetration of the Republican Party by deviant Marxists way back when the odious Nixon doctrine was still a long way into the future? Russian/Soviet hegemony over Eurasia? The ‘KGB-Joe McCarthy operations’ a dastardly smokescreen set up to derail real investigations of Communist agents within Federal government’? Maybe the deep-sleeper Communist agents are all working for Wall Street and the multinationals. Who in turn are controlled by the Illuminati. The weak mind always sees a giant web of conspiracy. It feeds his messianic mission. A conspiracy so vast and subtle is like cocaine to weak mind. The truth is that real communists conspirators had a competency life that passed away with the Popular Front. Doctrinaire minds began to crumble with the appearance of books like Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror, exposing the colossal crimes of Stalin. Hungary left only the loyal remnant of believers. The god had failed, massively so. My generation were more exercised by the crimes of Nixon and Kissinger in Vietnam. Norman Mailer, who fought for his country in the Second World War, visited the Soviet Union in the Eighties. He could not believe what a backward and impoverished country he was seeing. He thought: Was this the powerful enemy Americans had been taught to fear during the long years of the Cold War? Pre-1945, American politicians had to swear an oath of allegiance to the people. During the Cold War, the American people had to swear an oath of allegiance to their leaders. I expect Dean Jackson will discern a Marxist conspiracy in this too. Fascism is a better word.

  • Actually this book is an example of the attitudes that let Kim Philby “get away with it”. Mr Philby was a dedicated and life long socialist (most Westerners who chose to side with the Soviet Union were). But his university socialism (his dropping of it was obviously fake – indeed, when drunk, he often indicated that he remained a socialist) was basically ignored by a service that did not regard political philosophy as that important (neither does this book – instead waffling about “class structure” and giving us babble about a dominating father …..). Actually Kim Philby’s father was also a socialist – had betrayed his instructions in Arabia (helping, against orders, to bring the House of Saud to power thinking they were more in tune with “the masses” – although he later fell out with the House of Saud) and ended his life spinning endless (although normally rather stupid) anti Western plots from his home in the Lebanon. Kim Philiby’s father ended up a bit of a joke – but he was a serious problem in his day. Kim Philby was a far more serious problem – but again his socialism (I repeat his recantation of it was clearly fake – it was common knowledge that he remained opposed to “capitalism”) was basically ignored.

  • For a proper work on who was pro Soviet (and who was not) in an American context – see “Blacklisted By History” by M. Stanton Evans. No Senator McCarthy was not pro Soviet – and nor was Roy Cohn. However, Mr Cohn’s homosexuality (which was a common knowledge) did cause trouble – for example it turned Senator Flanders (Republican Vermont) against McCarthy (guilt by association – McCarthy was not homosexual himself). Roy Cohn was also careless (as he showed during the army investigation) and Senator McCarthy himself made mistakes (although not nearly as many as his enemies have pretended – most of the things that Joe McCarthy is famous for he never actually did). Senator McCarthy should have appointed the young Bobby Kennedy to the job that (the incompetent) Roy Cohn got (Bobby Kennedy really wanted the job – he made that very clear). That would have given the investigation the protection of the powerful Kennedy family – although even without this Senator John (“Jack”) Kennedy remained, basically, a friend. It should also be remembered that some of the people who disliked McCarthy with not pro Soviet – for example President Eisenhower, who thought that (yes) there had been Marxist infiltration of the American government, but it was all very embarrassing and should be dealt with quietly (not by an Irish American with a loud voice – in open Senate committee). Actually I think that Joe McCarthy was right (that these matters should be publically exposed), but that was very much an minority position in official circles in the 1950s.

  • This whole campaign that the pro Soviet people in the West were not really socialists is stupid. They were socialists (dedicated and sincere socialists). And that is what motivated them. If someone really believed that “the rich” exploit “the poor”, that “big business” exploits “the workers” then it was perfectly logical for such a person to be pro Soviet. Of course not all socialists were pro Soviet (there are those for whom the “democracy” in “Democratic Socialism” was more important than the socialism), but a great many were (far more than books like this admit). Which is why someone who was a socialist (or had been a socialist – and made an unconvincing conversion) should never have been employed in a position of trust.

  • Last comment (I have done more than enough) – but can anyone see Kim Philby reading Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom” or Mises’ “Omnipotent Government” in the 1940s and being convinced by such works? Of course not – people knew that Philby was not that sort of person (not pro private enterprise – although he made noises about being so) . But that was what the Cold War was about – are you in favour of the private ownership (real ownership – not just nominal private ownership as with the “German form of socialism”) of the means of production, distribution and exchange? If the answer is “no” (because you think this “exploits the poor” or whatever) then you should not be in a position of trust in a struggle that is about this basic point. It is that bleeping simple.

    • John Haggerty

      Mrs Thatcher declared Hayek’s flawed ‘Road to Serfdom’ her gnostic bible. Without any real mandate, she proceeded to destroy the working class movement (the trades unions) and the egalitarian welfare state which the 1945 Labour Government created for the generation that had suffered so much during the Hungry Thirties and the Second World War. Her policies devastated communities that relied on the old industries. Those policies created massive unemployment not seen since the 1930s, and the poverty and despair that went with it. In her speeches she exploited the general euphoria brought about by the collapse of totalitarian communism. She identified communism with what she called ‘the mirage’ of democratic socialism. Read the new biography of Aneurin Bevan, (Labour Minister of Health in 1945) by Nicklaus Thomas-Symonds. The road that led to globalisation feels a lot like serfdom to the toiling masses.

  • Michel Claude de Turville

    It was Angleton’s job to be extra wary. The KGB was notorious for the quality of its provocations.

  • Christopher Williams

    ‘Kim Philby got away with it because he was posh’
    Posh is hardly a crime in the annuls of the Spectator or in the concern of its readers. Graham Green in his introduction to Philby ‘My silent war’ is somewhat enamored of the traitor in prose and deed.

  • Bob Conner

    Far from being dim-witted and ineffectual, Nicholas Elliott was the intelligence officer responsible, when working in Istanbul, for the successful defection in early 1944 of Erich Vermehren, which had the effect of destroying the Abwehr German intelligence agency. In other words, he played a singificant role in winning World War II, which I would hazard is a larger accomplishment than anything Mr. Hensher can point to.