Tuesday 11 October 2022

Betraying Kim Philby

According to archives just made public, Kim Philby fell in love with Flora Solomon, the daughter of a Jewish-Russian oil and gold tycoon, who had been the lover of Alexander Kerensky, the Russian leader deposed by Lenin. Her family had moved to England in 1914. She told MI5 in 1962 that Philby had tried to recruit her as a Soviet spy in 1937-38.

She described her "personal trinity" as "Russian soul, Jewish heart, British passport". She had supported Stalin until the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Germany but informed on Philby because of articles he published in the Observer criticising Israel.

Graham Greene, also a friend of Philby's, quoted with approval E.M. Forster who said he would rather betray his country than a friend.

"He betrayed his country - yes, perhaps he did, but who among us has not committed treason to something or someone more important than a country?” Greene wrote in his introduction to Philby’s My Silent War. “In Philby's own eyes he was working for a shape of things to come from which his country would benefit.”

I used to agree with the idea that fidelity seemed out of place in espionage when I was 25, but not in my mature years.

Had Flora Solomon exposed him in 1938 thousands of lives would have been saved. Perhaps Albania would have overthrown the Communists and been a free and happy place. Instead Philby informed the Communist government of the place and time that anti-Communist émigrés would land on the coast.

The historian Ben Macintyre called Mrs. Solomon his hero (he meant his heroine, but was writing in the Guardian) because she persuaded Marks & Spencers to treat its workers better and, finally, shopped the master spy, but in the 1930s she sympathised with Stalin, the mortal foe of both her countries, and with Communism, so she is not someone I admire. 

Had she sided with the fascists, Ben Macintyre would probably not admire her either. Why is there a double standard?

Her gravestone reads "Where there is no vision, the people perish". A lot of Albanians perished thanks to Philby.

1 comment:

  1. The secret world of MI6 can be a small one as portrayed by Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce in A spy Amongst Friends about Kim Philby and if you haven’t read it yet, Ben Macintyre will be disappointed!

    As all espionage cognoscenti know, Kim Philby was a member of the infamous Cambridge Five along with Anthony Blunt, Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess and John Cairncross. Philby knew John le Carré (aka David Cornwell) and ended le Carré's career in MI6 by treacherously informing on all his East European secret agents. Philby (and maybe other Famous Five members) also knew Colonel Alan Brooke Pemberton CVO MBE in the fifties when Pemberton was ADC to Field Marshall Sir Gerald Walter Robert Templer and fought in the guerrilla war known as the Malayan Emergency. Philby was sniffing around for information to help the communist Malayan insurgents backed inter alia by the USSR but got little useful data from Templer’s camp and the insurgents (the Malayan National Liberation Army) were eventually defeated by the British.

    In the early seventies Alan Pemberton recruited one Bill Fairclough for MI6 (codename JJ). They worked together on and off for the next twenty years or so. Before 2014 Fairclough’s links with various intelligence agencies became public knowledge and to quash any fake narratives Fairclough set about publishing a series of factual autobiographical novels known as The Burlington Files, only one of which (Beyond Enkription) has been published to date. Given Alan Pemberton (Fairclough's original MI6 handler knew Kim Philby) it is unsurprising that John le Carré turned down Bill Fairclough's offer in 2014 to collaborate on the action packed factual Burlington Files series. David Cornwell responded along the lines of "Why should I? I've got by so far without collaboration so why bother now?" An expected but realistic response from a famous expert in passive fiction who refused to visit theburlingtonfiles.org in case his photo was snatched while on line!

    Do look up the authors or books mentioned on Amazon, Google The Burlington Files or visit https://theburlingtonfiles.org and https://everipedia.org/wiki/lang_en/bill-fairclough and read Beyond Enkription.