My comment on the article Agent Gustav: Geoffrey Goodman, the Fleet Street titan who spied on Harold Wilson by Gabriel Pogrund, Martin Dixon and Tom Calver in The Sunday Times, 13 June 2020. The text includes the comment I made following the June 8, 2019 article by Jake Kerridge in The Telegraph, ‘Why should my family apologise?’ Kim Philby’s granddaughter Charlotte on her new spy novel.
Characteristically, these Communist spy cases are presented in a moral vacuum. There is a man/woman of ideals, there is a foreign power, but there are no victims. The victims have been sanitized out of the picture. There seems to be only one issue, that of loyalty to the state, which the spy is the citizen of.
Victims? They have not hit or murdered anyone personally, they only delivered information, so why talk about victims?
The defense of informer’s family and his sympathizers follows the familiar line “he was a good man”, an idealist or an intellectual, where the “good” extends into many dimensions.
Quote from the article:
Karen Goodman released a joint statement with her brother, saying she was “surprised” by the extent of her father’s involvement with the StB.
“Our father was a lifelong socialist and at the same time deeply patriotic and devoted to creating a better life for everyone. He was a strong internationalist […]”
Apparently, Goodman’s family and I are using different dictionaries. Our understanding of the word “everyone” is different. It is similar to the difference between “people” and “former people” in the Soviet Union. I think the full sentence should rather be “Our father was a lifelong socialist […] and devoted to creating a better life for everyone, with the exception of former people”. The code-word ‘internationalist’ is basically an admission that he viewed Communist supremacy as desirable and was a faithful disciple of the ideology.
Unsurprisingly, in a recent BBC Radio 4 podcast by David Cannadine about Anthony Blunt, the defense of his spying for the Soviet Union used similar arguments: man of ideals, great, great, great many times over. Here spying for the genocidal dictatorship is presented as an issue of ‘intellectual liberty’.
Then we have the case of Kim Philby and his relatives. In an article in The Telegraph on 8 July 2019, on the occasion of the publication of her spy novel, his granddaughter Charlotte does not seem to have any feelings of shame:
I wonder if Charlotte ever worries about having to explain to her own children what their great-grandfather did. “[…] It’s not like he was, I don’t know if I can say this, but it’s not like he was a Nazi apologist. And also they’ve grown up in Hackney, where Communism isn’t necessarily a dirty word.”
Look ma, no victims.
The victims of Communism have been mostly eliminated from the media, from schools, from public consciousness.
Members of my family, Polish citizens, were imprisoned in Communist concentration camps in the Soviet Union after the second World War. Some were tortured. Their lives were destroyed. The Soviet Communists confiscated their farms. They continued to be harassed and spied upon throughout their life.
My wife and I lost our jobs at state institutions in Poland 2015 after a long and brutal campaign aimed at eliminating us from public life. Typical Communist methods were used against us. I worked at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. My wife was employed at the State School of Music in Zielona Góra.
They attacked also our daughter in her elementary school, where the head teacher and my daughter’s main teacher participated in organized provocations.
Philby, Blunt, Goodman, and many others served those henchmen.
Few years ago I read an interview with the daughter of Rudolf Hoess, who was the commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Her father was a warm family man. In her words, “he was the nicest father in the world”. His children had a happy childhood. You can also watch part of the interview online.
I do not blame the children or grandchildren for the deeds of their parents or grandparents. However, I expect them and the newspaper writers to have a genuine awareness of the enormity of the Communist crimes and to call things by their true name. If you worked for the criminal Communist regime, that means you worked for the criminal Communist regime.
My family and I are not faceless numbers. We are real people whose lives were devastated as a result of Communist persecution. This is an ongoing story, not a thing of the past.