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The Curse of Philby

When I was reading the late John Keegan's Intelligence in War  I was surprised that he really downplayed the damage Soviet agent Kim Philby did to the United Kingdom during and after the Second World War. Philby not only headed MI6's anti-Soviet unit, British stupidity meant he was in charge of hunting himself down, but then became the United Kingdom's liaison with the intelligence community in the United States. It would be hard to think of a two jobs in which a Soviet agent could do more harm to his fellow citizens. When a Soviet agent in Turkey tried to defect to the British and expose a number of traitors, his file was turned over to Philby and he had the poor man killed by his buddies from Moscow. But the thing that disturbs me most about Philby was how he joined and then rose through the ranks of MI6. He pretended to be a Fascist. He got his foot firmly on the ladder by filing pro-Fascist pro-Franco stories to The Times during the Spanish Civil War. Now, I would have thought Communists and Fascists would have been equally unwelcome when it came to safeguarding British interests. But apparently not. It was only in the 1950s when rumours surfaced that Philby was not a Fascist but a Communist who had tipped off fellow Soviet traitors Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, and triggered their flight to Moscow, that he was supposedly "let go". Philby, Burgess and Maclean were all privately-educated Cambridge graduates who the English Establishment were confident could be counted as "one of us". So was fourth traitor Sir Anthony Blunt. None of the four was really held to account for betraying us - unless you count Philby, Burgess and Maclean having to live in Communist Russia. This might all be ancient history but for one thing. In the same way that the English Establishment circled the wagons during the economic recession of the 1930s to protect its privilege, many would say it is doing the same again now. The spivs, barrow-boys and chancers of the Blair and Thatcher Years have gone and the "decent chaps" from Eton and good families are back in the driving seat. It would be  interesting to see what would happen if a working class person was ever placed in the position to thoroughly betray their country. Wouldn't that be an interesting experiment? I think that such a person would be watched like a hawk and wouldn't go undetected for anywhere near as someone from the "right" background.


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