SPY@20 – “The Spy of the Century” – Curators Alexis and Andrew on Kim Philby
Andrew Hammond: Hi, and welcome to "SpyCast." I'm your host, Dr. Andrew Hammond, historian and curator here at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. "SpyCast's" sole purpose is to educate our listeners about the past, present and future of intelligence and espionage. Every week, through engaging conversations, we explore some aspect of a vast ecosystem that looms beneath the surface of everyday life. We talk to spies, operators, mole hunters, defectors, analysts and authors to explore the stories and secrets, tradecraft and technology of the secret world. We are "SpyCast." Now sit back, relax and enjoy the show.
Andrew Hammond: This week's episode coincides with the 20th anniversary of the International Spy Museum. And we celebrate it in our new purpose-built home that surveys the city, a global epicenter of intelligence and espionage. Of course, a building is only part of the story and not even the most important part. The collection is of immense importance, our artifacts that make up the world's preeminent collection of intelligence- and espionage-related objects. But the people are what makes the place what it is. They're what bring it into being and populate it with their vision and creativity.
Andrew Hammond: It's quite fitting, then, that in this week's episode I speak to Alexis Albion. Alexis was involved in every exhibit, wrote the master script and has been with the museum on and off for a long time, helping to shape its creative direction. For this week's episode, we dug out some artifacts from our collection that are not on public display and use them as prompts to explore the life and legacy of someone Alexis has long been fascinated by - a member of the Cambridge Five, one-time MI6 officer and the so-called Spy of the Century, Harold Kim Philby. Listen to two curators discuss his life utilizing some of his personal belongings. Happy birthday, Spy. See you in 20 years for the 40th.
Andrew Hammond: I'm so excited that we've eventually got the time to make this happen. So I just wanted to start off - there's so many things that are interesting about Philby, but he's quite often referred to as the Spy of the Century. So for our listeners, why do you think he's given that title, the Spy of the Century? What's meant by that?
Alexis Albion: It's a great question because - and I think it's what drew me to being interested in him, which is - I mean, I grew up in England. Everybody's heard of Kim Philby. If you say, you know, name a famous real spy, probably someone's going to say Kim Philby. And what fascinated me was I thought - I realized that if you kind of stop the man on the street - name a spy. Kim Philby. What did he do? What did he do? What secret did he betray? Why was he such a notorious traitor? Why was he the Spy of the Century? Most people can't answer that question. But if you said, why was he such a terrible - why was he such a traitor, they say well, you know, he betrayed his country. He's an Englishman. He betrayed his country and his class, and he ended up defecting to the Soviet Union, obviously the enemy in the Cold War.
Alexis Albion: And that spy of the century - it's almost connected more with this emotion, this sense of betrayal of country, of class, of what it is to be an Englishman rather than any particular set of information. If you say Julius Rosenberg, nuclear secrets - there's a whole discussion to be had about that, actually - he can be connected with something specific - let's say with the Manhattan Project. But for most people, they don't know enough details about Philby to just say, let's say, oh, he betrayed the Albanian mission, for example, which we could talk about as historians. But it's more this sense of him betraying a sense of identity, of class and country. And I found that completely fascinating.
Alexis Albion: So why is he the spy of the century? I mean, maybe, in a way, that fact that he's not identified with any particular event or set of information or intelligence but he's identified with this idea of betraying his Englishness is perhaps why he's been such a lasting figure because he almost is a touch point for the sort of history of the 20th century and England - Great Britain's kind of demise as a great power. That's how I see it. So the big, big things to talk about here, big questions - and that's really, I think, why he's been such an interesting figure and has written himself into fiction, of course, some wonderful, great works of fiction that have had great lasting power - above all, John le Carre. And so I think that's why I would call him the spy of the century.
Andrew Hammond: With le Carre, we're talking about "Tinker Tailor," right?
Alexis Albion: Yeah. I mean, definitely there, yes. But I think his ghost has been the background in - for much of le Carre and other figures, as well - Graham Greene, obviously, who knew Philby. And we could talk about that relationship. And he's in the background there for some of Greene's great works, as well. And we see TV shows, movies, anything, I think, where you've really got the Cold War spies or especially British Cold War spies and betrayers, he is there in the background.
Andrew Hammond: And just for our listeners, your parents are not English. Aren't they not?
Alexis Albion: No, and I'm not English.
Andrew Hammond: (Laughter).
Alexis Albion: I just happen - I'm an American, happened to grow up in England and caught the Philby bug.
Andrew Hammond: And do you think that part of why Philby holds such a fascination, as - for me, it depends on the book that you read, but trying to establish the causality of, who was the first member of the Cambridge Five? Or who is the most important? Or how did X get Y involved? Or was it something else going on? And from the threads that I can discern, it seems like Philby is definitely central to the Cambridge Five, as well. So do you think that that's part of it?
Alexis Albion: Oh, sure, definitely. I mean, yes. We've talked about Philby for Philby. You can't really talk about his story without talking about - in the Cambridge Five, that whole circle of other betrayers, all of whom knew each other or who were at university together in Cambridge. And, of course, that's how I got drawn into this, as well, by following those trials, trying to put the pieces together. Was there - obviously, were there more than five? Was there a sixth? Was there a seventh? So I think yes, that's all fascinating. And yeah, Philby does seem to be a seminal figure in the center of this.
Alexis Albion: When I was starting to get interested in all this in the mid-, late '90s, just at that time as well, the Soviet archives were opening up. And I remember when the Mitrokhin Archive was published by Chris Andrew. And this published in a great, big, thick tome, a lot of information that had come out of the Soviet archives, smuggled out of the Soviet Union by Mitrokhin, who was an archivist with - for the Soviet archives. And if you look through that, there are little fascinating bits of information about the Cambridge Five and about Philby, which has helped shape the story, you know, that the Soviets didn't entirely trust Philby and others who had defected to the Soviet Union, kept them at arm's length. All that kind of thing helps fill out that whole story. It just - you know, it makes you question everything, which is a part of this story. What's true? What isn't?
Alexis Albion: But I do - but it does seem clear that Philby is at the center of this and probably is the most able of any of them, does have the most distinguished career in British intelligence, is the one who ends up, well, living a long life in exile as a defector in the Soviet Union, dying right before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. And so he - his life - we get to see him only within that context of the Cold War and only imagine what he might have thought about the collapse of the system to which he devoted his entire life. There are just so many fascinating things about him as a person, as a spy, as a betrayer, as a member of the circle, as well.
Andrew Hammond: And just really briefly for our listeners, the Cambridge Five - we're talking about five students at the University of Cambridge in England in the 1930s. And just some historical context - this is a time of great industrial unrest in Britain, of great political and international upheaval. We're talking about the interwar period. And the Spanish Civil War happens in the '30s. And many people, many young intellectuals, many young undergraduates - they see this as the way of the future, that capitalism's inherently unstable, and the forces of fascism are growing. So for many people, this is seen as a solution to the considerable problems that the world is facing at that point, right?
Alexis Albion: Oh, absolutely. I mean, young intellectuals around the world, actually, and certainly in places like Oxford and Cambridge - flirting with communism was very common and makes a lot of sense, if you think about it. Capitalism - it didn't look like it was doing too well. The Great Depression - and, of course, fascism is the other direction to go in. And for people like Philby and his colleagues, the embracing of communism was really a reaction to fascism to a great extent. So, you know, what is the third path here? And it was communism. And so that's fairly common. And we see a lot of that. But what isn't so common is that adherence to that ideology for so long past World War II and into Stalinism after World War II. And, of course, when so much information comes out about Stalin and about the great political upheaval and oppression in the Soviet Union, and it's - it is people like Philby and some of his - and his colleagues who continue to embrace communism as the way of the future. And that is where the betrayal comes, and that part's fairly unusual.
Andrew Hammond: I find that really fascinating, the way that you can tie an individual's life like Kim Philby to - basically, we're talking about the history of ideas, right? We're talking about the history of political ideas in the 20th century. And even - you hinted towards it there, but even within communism, you had the Russian Revolution. You had Trotskyism, Leninism, Stalinism. And then there was the Soviet brand of communism, the Chinese brand of communism. You've got communist parties in Germany and Italy and so forth, and they've got a different view on it. So there's just this whole intellectual ferment. But you're right. To me, it seems fascinating the way that Philby was captured so completely and so thoroughly and always tried to walk that line between - not actually walk a line, but he was always an English gentleman who was really wedded to these ideas, which I just find really interesting.
Alexis Albion: And, of course, he did not think of himself as betraying his country - right? - because he thought of himself as an Englishman to the end. And his life in Moscow is very poignant, is quite sad. He lives as this sort of Englishman in the '70s and into the '80s - right? - in Moscow, increasingly with little to actually do. He really - he wanted the KGB to make use of him. And they do a little bit but sort of really on the edges, maybe, you know, making some speeches, talking to some trainees. But he doesn't have enough to do. And he is, you know, still getting The Times of London, doing The Times crossword puzzle.
Andrew Hammond: Listening to the cricket scores.
Alexis Albion: Right, listening to cricket scores, asking his KGB handlers to smuggle in in the diplomatic pouch jars of marmalade, you know, which he can't get. It's so poignant. And we can just paint this - close my eyes and see this picture of this aging Englishman in his tweed jacket and tie, smoking his pipe, which we have, and doing the crossword puzzle, drinking heavily, thinking about England. And going back to that this idea of betrayal, which is - and again, it's an intellectual engagement with this idea of betrayal. And Philby himself, who writes his own memoir quite soon after defecting, which is, of course, a huge exercise in propaganda in telling his own story in the way that he wanted to, says he never betrayed the essential England - right? - the England that he believed in, that England betrayed him. And I think it is this - you're right. It is really a story about intellectual history. And I think it's why, again, we're so fascinated by history.
Alexis Albion: And then there are sort of - there are Philby fans. There are people who have sympathy for this man who was very intelligent, educated and was able to express his ideology eloquently in his memoirs, for example. Graham Greene, a colleague of his at one point, a friend, went to visit him in Moscow and ended up actually writing the introduction to Philby's memoir. And I'm just going to grab a copy of it right here. And in the introduction to Philby's memoir has this wonderful line - you know, 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? In Philby's own eyes, he was working for a shape of things to come from which his country would benefit. You know, that line is - it caused a furor and a huge discussion about what loyalty and betrayal are, the sense of country. What was England in 1968? What kind of country was it? What was there to be loyal to? This is getting into all kinds of wonderful discussions all around this figure of Philby.
Andrew Hammond: He's so interesting. And I think for me, like, I'm not a fan of what he did or the people that died as a result of Kim Philby and so forth. But I almost find him fascinating as a character in, like, a Shakespeare play. He's this Englishman who becomes wedded to this cause and ends up living in this country, which means that he's very much a fish out of water in terms of his cultural persona. But ideologically, he feels himself at home. And it's almost just this tragic, fascinating, very complicated figure that is almost impossible to get to the bottom of, which I think leads to the fascination for many people.
Alexis Albion: Yeah, you're right. I don't want to sound as if I have sympathy for somebody whose actions led to the death of certainly scores of people. I think we can pretty definitively see that cause and effect, specifically this Albanian operation in the late 1940s, where Philby basically tipped off the Soviets about Albanians who had left Albania and were being put back into Albania in order to try and overthrow the government, start a revolution - this on the part of the CIA and British intelligence and Philby tipped off the Albanian communists there, who basically picked up these men on the beaches and slaughtered them. We can link his actions to that one, perhaps others as well. He was certainly responsible for people's deaths and never seemed to have regretted it for one day. He was a fascinating figure because there are all these different sort of connotations, these different directions we can go in and look at him.
Andrew Hammond: I mean, one thing that I find interesting about what Graham Greene wrote is that it's not just the case of ideology and country. Philby also betrayed friends, people that he was in a relationship with, colleagues, his institutions that he worked for. I mean, it was much more broad than just England. It was betraying everything and everyone, really. And that's why it was such a shock to so many people.
Alexis Albion: Oh, absolutely. And of course, he was such a charming man, obviously - very bright, very charming, made many friends and of course, most famously, were very good friends with Jesus James Angleton, who became the head of counterintelligence at CIA and I think probably never got over that personal betrayal, that idea that he - that Angleton just hadn't seen it, just hadn't seen it, that this fellow who he lunched with and drank with and socialized with and personally liked was a traitor. That had consequences for Angleton and for the CIA for decades - right? - this idea that there were traitors, there were moles within the agency, within American intelligence, and it certainly stemmed from that personal betrayal from Philby.
Andrew Hammond: And Angleton was - he was an implacable anti-communist as well, wasn't he? He wasn't just, oh, he's a, you know, an agency guy. And he's very genial, and, of course, he loves his country. I mean, this guy was very...
Alexis Albion: ...Angel of Death.
Andrew Hammond: Yeah, a very implacable foe of communism, which made the betrayal all the more profound.
Alexis Albion: Yes, absolutely. So there are certainly ripple effects from Philby's betrayal that go - yeah, that go beyond the personal and into the institutional. Obviously, British intelligence, too, suffered from that for a long time, certainly some of that being their own fault. There were quite a few people who suspected Philby's loyalties, and yet to have acknowledged Philby actually had been a spy would have been far worse than covering that up and trying to shunt that to the side and hope that nobody noticed, which is what happened. But when Philby does defect to the Soviet Union, it's in 1963, I think.
Alexis Albion: And this is the time of investigative journalism. And the British press gets a hold of this story and starts investigating, finds out about these third-man revelations from the 1950s, when the first two of those Cambridge Five that Andrew referred to, Maclean and Burgess, had disappeared and ended up in the Soviet Union. And all fingers point to Philby as being the third man who had tipped him off. Philby very publicly denies this. And then that denial is endorsed in Parliament of all places by Macmillan, who ends up becoming the prime minister in the 1960s when Philby himself defects to the Soviet Union. It's a killer of a story. British press starts to dig into it. And after a couple of years of digging, it's splashed all over the front pages of the newspapers. And the focus is as much on the incompetence of British intelligence as it is on Philby, the superspy.
Andrew Hammond: And just on that question, so Philby - there's this finger of suspicion over him. He's investigated, questioned. There's lots of rumors kicking around and so forth. And his friend Nicholas Elliott goes to confront Philby when he's under enough of a mark of suspicion that they're not going to employ him in MI6 or another intelligence agency. So he's living in Beirut as a journalist, and his friend Nicholas Elliott goes to meet him. And then - and this is, of course, the subject of a great book, "A Spy Amongst Friends" by Ben Macintyre. And then he goes from there to the Soviet Union. And I guess as someone that's dug into the archives and that's thought and researched this quite a lot, what's your view? Do you think the British intelligence more generally or Nicholas Elliott specifically said, I'm going to look the other way and feel free to get out of the back door, or do you think it was incompetence, or do you just think it was a cultural thing, you know? It's fine. He's my chum. He wouldn't do this to me. Like, what's going on? What's your take on Philby leaving on a - I think it's a Soviet container ship...
Alexis Albion: Yeah
Andrew Hammond: ...And ending up in the Soviet Union when a senior MI6 officer's there with practically a bulletproof case that he's the third man?
Alexis Albion: I think what we know is that Elliott was sent to Beirut in order to get Philby's confession. I think that's the reason why he was sent there. And he was a friend of Philby's. And it was thought that it would be easier for him to get that. And they dined together. And my understanding is that Philby did confess. So then what happened is the question. Why were the cuffs not put on right then? He was taken into custody, shipped back to England, put on trial and thrown into prison for the rest of his life. Why did that not happen? Instead, what happened is that they seem to have parted at the end of the evening. Philby went home. Elliott went home. And by the next day, Philby was gone. And then a few days later, he turns up in Moscow. I guess my interpretation is that it would have been extraordinarily embarrassing for the British government and for British intelligence to have had that trial of Philby.
Andrew Hammond: Just because of the names that would have came out...
Alexis Albion: The names, yeah.
Andrew Hammond: ...And the people that he'd have embarrassed and so forth.
Alexis Albion: Right. And why had he not been arrested a decade earlier, in the 1950s, after the disappearance of the first two of the Cambridge spies, Burgess and Maclean? When he was asked if he was the third man and lied (laughter) - right? - on - in a press conference and was apparently - that was it. It was believed. OK, you say you're not the third man; I guess you're not. I think it would've been incredibly embarrassing at a time when - and I think that context is really important here - British intelligence had already taken a few blows at this point. They'd had a number of scandals, including, I believe, the Vasyl affair. And of course, Profumo - right? - had happened quite recently.
Alexis Albion: So I think British intelligence was already smarting from a number of blows and certainly didn't need this. They didn't need that public trial. And I think - I'm not sure what directions were given to Elliott, if any, in particular of, like, we know you'll do the right thing, perhaps? But I think it was probably with a great sigh of relief that Elliott informed his superiors the next day that Philby was gone. What do you think, Andrew?
Andrew Hammond: I think that I get the impression that it was - you're going to be allowed to get out of the back door. I don't understand unless it was extraordinary incompetence or bumbling, which of course is never out of the question, that it just happened that the, quote-unquote, "spy of the century" just walked away. So I find that kind of difficult to believe.
Andrew Hammond: But I suppose some of our listeners, they - one of the questions they could ask is, well, what could be more embarrassing than a senior member of the establishment going to the Soviet Union and then for the rest of the Cold War, constantly being a reminder of the incompetence of British intelligence for not finding this guy? Why would they allow the Soviets to have this ongoing, multidecade propaganda tool to use as a stick to beat them with? Why would they allow Philby to - even if he's given them information, he can still communicate that information to more people or in more effective ways. Why would we allow this person to go there and go and train communist Warsaw Pact intelligence officers? Wouldn't it be better just to bury him under the prison and just make it a quick trial and try to send him down? So I suppose that would be the counterargument. Have you got any thoughts on that?
Alexis Albion: Yeah, it's a good question. You know, by this time, Donald Maclean was over there. Guy Burgess was over there. We also had George Blake - right? (laughter) - who was a British spy who'd been caught, arrested, had broken out of prison in the late '50s, right?
Andrew Hammond: That's - talking about breathtaking incompetence, yeah (laughter).
Alexis Albion: Yeah. Yeah, famously broke out of Wormwood Scrubs Prison and is also over there in the Soviet Union. So I guess he would just be one more. I don't know. I'm sure they maybe thought about that calculation. I'm not sure how much trouble those three fellows were causing at that time. And this is all speculation. I have no idea. But I'm guessing that politicians are thinking perhaps short term and (laughter) thinking about the immediate future and how that would reflect on them and their election chances, perhaps, because, you know, it does involve people at the highest level and just thinking that the saving face now by just not having to be confronted with that trial and knowing Philby was going to play that for all it was worth was worth it.
Andrew Hammond: I think that's an important thing to remember just with - from a historical point of view. Like, we may look back on that now and say we're weighing up these two things, and how could people possibly have made that judgment? But one thing that democratic politics is famous for is the limit of the horizon as a four- or five-year cycle. People that were in power then were probably just thinking about their careers, their promotions, the next vote for members of Parliament or so forth. So that time horizon that they would have been thinking about would have been very short term. They wouldn't have been thinking, OK, in the whole scope of the 20th century, you know, what do we want to do vis-a-vis Kim Philby so that historians 70 years from now will judge us in a favorable light? They were just thinking, I want to get my parliamentary seat in the next election.
Alexis Albion: Quite possibly, they thought the story might not come out. It does take about five years, I think, between Philby's disappearance, his defection and when, you know, this story gets splashed over the front pages of the newspapers. It takes a while. Possibly, they thought, we can just cover all this up.
Andrew Hammond: And the same thing happens with Anthony Blunt, another member of the Cambridge Five. It's only really in 1979 that the story drops. And Margaret Thatcher is appalled. It's like an all-boys cover-up. And then I believe that John Cairncross as well, that information was kicking around, but it only really becomes public after the Berlin Wall comes down, right?
Alexis Albion: Yeah. Yeah. I think - yeah. So quite possibly they've - and figured they could have control over this and in fact have some influence on the press not to release this information in the name of national security as well.
Andrew Hammond: We'll be right back after this.
Andrew Hammond: There's another couple of things that I just want to touch on before we've got a nice reveal for the audience that we're going to discuss. But just on Philby's - you mentioned his charisma and confidence. One of the things that I find so interesting is when the mark of suspicion is on him - this is the third man, etc., etc. - Philby holds a press conference in his mother's living room. And you can see clips of it on Pathe News on YouTube if any of our listeners want to go there. And Philby is there. He's rubbing his hands. He's grinning like a Cheshire cat. He's working the room. He delivers this performance that the Soviet handler calls breathtaking. You're under suspicion as being the third man. And you hold a press conference, and you don't just hold a press conference and stick your tail between your legs and say, it wasn't me. You know, I never done it. He lights the room up. He has everyone eating out of his hand. It's almost like Daniel Day-Lewis, Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro rolled into one. I mean, that's just so fascinating, the way that he was such a convincing, basically liar.
Alexis Albion: If you're going to tell a lie, tell a big one and tell it to everybody at a press conference where it's going to get on the local - on the nightly news. He just went all out, and it worked. I believe he said he was stepping down from his job at British intelligence, right? And he said the shadow over him wouldn't be right for him to carry on in his job. He fades away into the background, gets secretly hired on a number of years later. But yeah, no, it's an extraordinary performance. And yeah, it's hard not to watch that and recognize why he was such a great spy.
Andrew Hammond: Wow, yeah, it's really fascinating. And the other thing that I wanted to talk about was the American link. So Philby spent some time in D.C. along with Burgess and Maclean and so forth, but Philby spent some time in D.C. He's - you couldn't make this up - he's the liaison between MI6 and American intelligence. James Angleton becomes a friend. He dines with him regularly. So Philby's here, but I want to speak about that and also just the effect that Philby and the other two members that defected in the 1950s, had on the Anglo American intelligence relationship. So during the Second World War, it becomes strong. There's lots of links at the personal level and institutional level. But then the Cambridge Five, I believe, if I remember correctly, there are some suspicions anyway, but the British only know there are people, like, they're solid, they're kosher, everything's fine. And then the Americans feel really burned by this whole experience. Is that right?
Alexis Albion: Yeah, I think it's the Venona cables actually, in which these codenames are identified as being linked with Maclean. I think it's really Maclean whose name comes up there in the Venona decrypts, which were these Soviet diplomatic cables that had been collected in the 1940s but aren't - don't start being decrypted regularly until the '50s. And so it's Maclean name whose came up. I believe it...
Andrew Hammond: Is it Homer?
Alexis Albion: Yes. I think that was his codename. I believe that, you know, amazingly Philby is actually in on these Venona cable decrypts and knows that his friend is in danger, and his codename's come out. And he tips him off. Burgess is a slightly different case. He decides to go along with Maclean. He actually hasn't been identified but thinks that his association with Maclean may come back to bite him. And he's an alcoholic and a homosexual and has quite an outrageous life in D.C. and has already had some warnings against him and his outrageous life. And he tags along with Maclean. I think the Russians think he's a bit of a liability as well. And of course, Philby being connected with both of these men, it's quite obvious that some suspicion would fall upon him. I can't remember your question now.
Andrew Hammond: Yeah, the question was the effect that Philby...
Alexis Albion: Oh, right.
Andrew Hammond: ...And the other members had...
Alexis Albion: Yeah.
Andrew Hammond: ...On the relationship...
Alexis Albion: Yeah.
Andrew Hammond: ...Between...
Alexis Albion: Yeah.
Andrew Hammond: ...British and American intelligence.
Alexis Albion: Yeah. I mean, despite Philby's press conference, which seems to win over his British audience, the Americans aren't convinced at all...
Andrew Hammond: They're not having it (laughter).
Alexis Albion: ...Not at all and in fact are very annoyed. And Philby is persona non grata, absolutely gets kicked out of the United States - don't come back. I think it's hard to recognize that relationships were really - between U.S. and British intelligence were quite rocky in the 1950s. And in fact, U.S.-British relations are quite rocky into the 1960s as well.
Andrew Hammond: Suez.
Alexis Albion: Suez, absolutely - these British spy scandals that come out, that certainly makes the Americans quite worried as well about British security, about their ability to secure their intelligence. And, of course, there's such an open relationship between British and American intelligence, between MI6 and CIA, that they are quite concerned about it. So, yeah, there are quite rocky times there - Philby's defection, as we've talked about, Angleton and what - where he goes with that. These are not easy times between the two countries. And yeah, the Philby - the Cambridge Five, actually, you can say that they're at the center of that and sowing the seeds of suspicion that the British can't necessarily be trusted.
Andrew Hammond: And you see this coming up in "Tinker Tailor," right?
Alexis Albion: Yep.
Andrew Hammond: We want the Americans to trust as again. We want to share information with them so that we get some back. There's this trying to rebuild that relationship up that comes across in fiction.
Alexis Albion: Yes, absolutely. Yeah. And I'm sure that le Carre, who was an intelligence officer himself, probably that's coming from his own experiences at - in MI6. I'm sure he probably felt that, that the Americans were always the ones with lots of money, and you needed them, needed their resources desperately. And the Americans always admired the British for their experience in intelligence and their expertise, but when these stories start coming out - wears away at that admiration for British expertise.
Andrew Hammond: I find it really fascinating, the effect that Philby just had on British intelligence separately and American intelligence separately - you know, the relationship for sure. But for British intelligence, one of my favorite books - which is part nonfiction, part fiction - is the book "Spycatcher" by Peter Wright, former senior MI5 officer. And it's so interesting to me because it seems to me that the first half of the book, it's very true to form. It's very tight. He's this brilliant, young, technical intelligence officer for MI5. He tries to bring MI5 into the modern age when a lot of the senior people are these almost figures from a Victorian novel or something like that, with the big moustaches, and they distrust technology. And he's a tech guy. He comes in. He loves the cat-and-mouse game of intelligence and counterintelligence and surveillance and countersurveillance. And it's all really gray.
Andrew Hammond: And then almost, it seems to me - I think it's halfway through the book, he says after Philby defected, it just wasn't funny anymore. You know, I used to love it, but then it was just - who can you trust? The people that you would never suspect, should you suspect them? So it's interesting to me the corrosive effect that that seemed to have on British intelligence almost for the duration of the Cold War because of the Cambridge Five. So you've got the early '50s, Burgess and Maclean. You've got the early '60s, Philby. You've got the late '70s, no less a figure than her majesty the queen's purveyor of pictures, which is - you couldn't make this stuff up.
Alexis Albion: And you shouldn't forget that there was a whole theory about Prime Minister Wilson as well...
Andrew Hammond: In Peter Wright's book...
Alexis Albion: ...Being a communist spy.
Andrew Hammond: Yeah, yeah.
Alexis Albion: ...Which brings us back to - it does get to be pervasive. I think there's this sense that if these people, these trusted people who went to the right schools, who knew the right people, the - have surprised us to such an extent that the communist scourge is more pervasive than we thought. And you do get these incredible conspiracy theories running through everything. And yeah, there's a whole - there are whole books devoted to this end - to this theory that British Prime Minister Wilson was actually a Russian spy. And I don't think that's ever been confirmed. But it is all linked, I think, to the suspicion that comes out of the Cambridge Five, and Philby is at the center of that.
Andrew Hammond: In terms of people that are accused, if you were to say, oh, yeah, Her Majesty the Queen, the person that looks after the Royal R, is a Soviet spy - that almost sounds like, oh, sure. That's crazy. But if that's true, then why could a bunch of other things not be true, right?
Alexis Albion: Yeah.
Andrew Hammond: And then I was just saying there that, yeah, you've got the '50s, '60s, '70s, and then John Cairncross just after the Berlin Wall comes down. And it seems to me that in the second part of the book, Peter Wright starts chasing ghosts. And he's looking for spies everywhere. He's looking for things that don't exist. And I think you almost see something similar with Angleton and the United States as well. And Peter Wray - yeah, Harold Wilson - he says that the head of MI5, Roger Hollis, is a Soviet mole. And then Angleton - there seems to be this corrosive effect on American counterintelligence because of Angleton, which you can probably partly attribute to his relationship with Philby. Yeah, I think that's so fascinating. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Alexis Albion: No, I think it is - it's one of the tentacles of this story, which you can be...
Andrew Hammond: It's so broad, right?
Alexis Albion: ...Yeah. I mean, that's what - it is fascinating. There are so many rabbit holes that you can fall down - and I think we all have - that there are these sort of tangential effects that the Philby betrayal has on people personally, as you said, on these different institutions and so on. Does all go back to the idea that this person who seemed like they were the perfect candidate, the perfect spy - again, came from the right schools, the right education, the right family, was brilliant, well-spoken, charming, all the best connections, relationships with all these people - turns out to be just rotten at his core. And you're right - if that can be true, then perhaps all these other things can be true, too.
Andrew Hammond: That also reminds me of a phrase from "Tinker Tailor." There's a rotten apple, Jim - where Control was looking for her for the moles. I think it would be good now - what the listeners don't know is that this whole time we've been talking, we've actually got a bunch of Philby artifacts right beside us on a trolley. So here at the Spy Museum, we speak about memory exhibits. But right here beside us now are some of Kim Philby's artifacts. And it's weird because you can smell his pipe, and you can still smell that tobacco smell that Kim Philby smelled once upon a time before he died. We've got a shirt here, and I swear that you can still smell traces of Kim Philby on the shirt. So it's really, really interesting. And this is one of the best parts of the job, I think, being able to engage with these artifacts. So let's move from the realm of ideas to concretize our conversation and some of these artifacts. So I just wanted to ask you, Alexis, what was one of the first things that jumped out at you on the table that we have here?
Alexis Albion: His pipe. Just it does seem so quintessentially British, doesn't it? And Philby himself seems so quintessentially British. So, yeah, I think the pipe is fascinating. And, you know, we have pipes in our collection that look like pipes that aren't, right? They've got a spike in them, or they're a dead drop, or a hiding place, or, I don't know, they've got cyanide or something like that. But this is just a pipe. But it's Philby's.
Andrew Hammond: Are you sure?
Andrew Hammond: Should we take it apart?
Alexis Albion: Yeah. Not sure if we're allowed to do that.
Andrew Hammond: The collections manager will have our guts.
Alexis Albion: Yeah.
Andrew Hammond: Yeah.
Alexis Albion: I think this one is just a pipe. And it was Philby's pipe. I know that much if not everything that we have in our Philby collection does come from his time in Moscow because we were lucky enough, through our - the donor was able to get this I think after Philby's death from his Russian wife, who he married in Moscow, Rufina Philby. She passed on a lot of his personal items to this collector, who is - now it's in our collection. So I'm guessing that this pipe is from his time in Moscow - again, going back to that image of this Englishman sitting in his apartment in Moscow, not able ever to go back to the country of his birth, smoking his English pipe and his tobacco, wherever he got that imported from. So I think that's a kind of a very poignant artifact there. What jumps out at you?
Andrew Hammond: I think one of the things that jumps out at me is the Leica a camera. It's just such a beautiful artifact, and it's just so well built. You could hammer nails with that thing. And it just fascinates me to think that, what can Philby see when he looked through that lens? What parts of Moscow did he see? So just like for each of us as human beings, we encounter a certain world through our own eyes. That's our window into the world. What did Kim Philby see through his eyes, which is some of what was spoken about? And what did he see through this camera? What did he think? Like, sometimes when you take a photograph, you think about what you're taking. What did he think about the material conditions in the Soviet Union? What did he think about the lives of regular people? What did he think about the social structure? Did he think that was an improvement on the society that he came from? So I just find that interesting because I would be interested to know how Kim Philby viewed the world through the lens of this camera.
Alexis Albion: Yeah, yeah. I wonder if he brought that with him to Moscow or obtained it when he was there.
Andrew Hammond: It's a good question. We should find out (laughter).
Alexis Albion: Let's do that.
Andrew Hammond: We should look into the model and find out when it's from. That may give us an answer.
Alexis Albion: We do have one of his shirts here, and we've got a number of pieces of Philby's clothing. And in the exhibit that we have here at the museum, we do have, I think, Philby's suit with - I think it's probably got a shirt and a tie and his trilby hat. It is one of my happiest memories, actually, from when we were developing the museum - when we were actually - had to pick out what artifacts to put in the Philby exhibit. We knew we were going to have this sort of figurine of Philby as we do of our other sort of individuals in that exhibit. And we had the suit, and I now had to pick out a shirt for him. This shirt that we've got right here is a gray and white, checked shirt. And I had actually picked out that one, I think. And our exhibit - I'm blanking on the title...
Andrew Hammond: Collections manager?
Alexis Albion: Collections manager...
Andrew Hammond: Dena.
Alexis Albion: Our collections manager at the time objected, and she said, no, you can't choose that shirt. I said, why? It's Philby's shirt. And she said, it doesn't go with the suit. And we had a wonderful discussion, which left me in tears of laughter about, what would Philby have worn? - which involved trying to look up images, photos of Philby and trying to get a sense of his fashion style, actually, and along with that, trying to imagine, you know, whether that would have changed in the 1970s and '80s in Moscow and what kind of shirt and tie he might have actually worn with that suit and having to channel him. And it was a wonderful discussion and not sort of one that I thought I'd be having as a curator at the museum. But I just like to tell people we did really try to channel Philby in that sense and say, what would he have worn with this suit? And we actually didn't in the end, choose this gray and white, checked one. I think we've got a pretty plain, white pinstripe one downstairs.
Andrew Hammond: And was it always going to be Philby? Was Philby always going to be...
Alexis Albion: Most definitely.
Andrew Hammond: ...One of the people?
Alexis Albion: Oh, yes, definitely. We wanted to cover betrayal as a theme in this exhibit. And, of course, Philby is such a seminal figure. And we do have wonderful artifacts, as well. That was really important to us. And for those of us who are really interested in Philby, I think seeing those artifacts - those items that were associated with him - in - one of the great artifacts we have in the exhibit is actually his samovar, again from his life in Moscow. And it's juxtaposing that with the pipe, right, which is so, so British, and this samovar, which is so Russian.
Andrew Hammond: A samovar is a Russian...
Alexis Albion: Yeah, urn, basically, in which you keep your tea or coffee, I suppose. Everybody has one, and so Philby had his samovar, as well, in his apartment. I just - I think that's a wonderful item to have.
Andrew Hammond: For our listeners, as well, that aren't super familiar with his life in Moscow, can you tell us a little bit more about that? He ends up with a Russian wife and...
Alexis Albion: His - goodness, I think it was his - was it his second wife joined him over there in Moscow? Second or third - I think it was his third, actually, if I think about it - joins him actually in Moscow, not immediately, I think some months or maybe up to a year later. And she does actually come and join him. Now, Donald Maclean was in Moscow, as well, and his wife was with him. Now, there's - Philby's wife doesn't last very long in Moscow and, in fact, ends up leaving. Philby himself ends up having an affair with Donald Maclean's wife - an awful lot of hopping around going on...
Andrew Hammond: More betrayal (laughter).
Alexis Albion: More betrayal, absolutely. And so he ends up getting his divorce and then probably being set up, I would guess, with a Russian woman, Rufina, who ends up becoming his fourth wife - Rufina Philby - who stays with him for the rest of his life. She's a bit younger, but - and from all accounts, seems like a perfectly happy marriage, actually. As I think I mentioned, you know, he thought that going to Russia - he would become a general in the KGB, that his services would be needed and used. He would be helping the KGB with their efforts, obviously, against the West, but finds out that he is kept at arm's length, is not given very much to do, actually has to keep asking, what can I do? How can I help? - is brought in a couple of time to talk to trainees at the KGB - I believe he's once brought over to East Germany, actually, talks to young Stasi officers there to inspire them.
Alexis Albion: But mostly, he doesn't have an awful lot to do, starts drinking a lot - he's an alcoholic by all accounts. And he lives a rather sad life. He does have some visitors from abroad with - you know, I think members of his family came to visit him. Graham Greene came to visit him. But he's living, from what I can see, it seems, quite a sad and lonely existence, actually, in Moscow, not feeling very useful, writes his memoirs. So that's quite early on, actually.
Andrew Hammond: And tell us about them. We've got two...
Alexis Albion: Yeah, I mean...
Andrew Hammond: ...Two versions right in front of us, right?
Alexis Albion: ...We've got two versions right here - we've got the British version and a Russian version. I believe it gets published in 1969. So pretty - gets on it quite quickly. It does get published abroad. I mean, it is very much Philby's version of his life. He doesn't go into a lot of details about the juicy stuff that we would like to know. He talks about his childhood, something about his relationship with the other Cambridge Five. He throws in there a lot of snarky comments about British intelligence, basically. It's pretty much, I think, as one would expect from somebody who is selling his version of events. There's quite a lot of crowing there about the third man incident and how everybody believed him and how extraordinary it was, what a great job he did. But pretty much, it reflects, I think, the view throughout his entire life in Moscow. He never relents. He never sort of, much as one might want to - he might say at some point, you know, maybe I made a mistake. Maybe there are holes in communism, in the Soviet ideology. No, never. That never happens throughout his entire life. He always seems to express no regrets whatsoever and then, of course, dies in 1987, I believe, or '88?
Andrew Hammond: '88, I think.
Alexis Albion: '88, yeah. He was - must have been in his 60s or so, coming up on his early 70s at that time. I think his liver was in very bad shape, so not entirely unexpected. He is then, after his death, given all those honors that he craved during his lifetime. He is given a state funeral, open casket there. We actually have photos in our collection of that funeral from the open casket and so on. A stamp is actually issued with his image on it, one of the Soviet Union's great spies. He is given a medal and so on, all posthumously. And then a couple of years later, the entire system of the Soviet Union collapses. And he never knew. And I think it is quite painful to think that he never knew that. You just wish - I would like to have seen the look on his face, like to have known what was going on in his head if he'd seen that system entirely collapse before his eyes.
Andrew Hammond: It's quite ironic that he dies in almost blissful ignorance.
Alexis Albion: Absolutely. It's really extraordinary.
Andrew Hammond: And think, as well, like, just on Philby not being trusted, that wasn't just Philby. That was typical for Soviet intelligence - right? - if you were a defector. It wasn't just because it was Kim Philby. It wouldn't matter who you were. You are never - you're always going to be held at arm's length in case you were a triple agent. So there was always that residual mistrust, right?
Alexis Albion: That is certainly true. I think it's just, again, this impression that we have of spy of the century and that Philby himself sowed his expectations. And what we find is that - actually, from those Soviet archives - that he was never - that all of Cambridge Five were always kept a bit of an arm's length throughout. Even early on in the '30s and '40s, there were always suspicions about them.
Andrew Hammond: I find it quite interesting with Philby, as well, just to pick up on what you were saying. So Anthony Blunt - it seems to be more, that's something that I'd done when I was young, and I'm embarrassed about it. And now I'm quite happy doing my art. John Cairncross - he was quite committed ideologically, but he was never as central because of his social upbringing and background as Philby was. His family weren't as connected as Philby's. And he was, yeah, I've done that. But actually, I'm a scholar of French literature. That's my calling. That's my purpose. Burgess is a famously outlandish figure. Maclean is definitely a committed communist. His life goes off the rails very quickly. But Philby's just this dogged, I'm committed to the cause until the end. I'm not embarrassed about anything I've done. It wasn't a youthful dalliance. I don't consider myself anything else other than a foot soldier who'd done up within the realms of espionage. So there is something different about Philby in terms of his relationship to espionage and the Soviet Union compared to the other members of the Cambridge Five, right?
Alexis Albion: Yes, definitely. And I think that's what makes him such an interesting character in literature because Philby never gave us any hints, any doubts whatsoever. And it's through fiction and literature that I think authors have tried to explore the mind of Philby and thought, there must be some kinds of doubts there. And I think that's the realm where people have tried to explore him he's clearly - you know, he seems like such a more interesting person than that kind of one-sided, dogmatic, sticking to the ideology kind of guy. He never gave us any hints there of any weakness. But - and I think this is authors and filmmakers and so on - have found that so interesting to try and explore if there's something more complex there.
Andrew Hammond: And we've also got a Russian copy of his book. And his book is called "My Silent War," right?
Alexis Albion: Yes. Yeah. We've got a Russian copy here. And interestingly, it is actually - I mean, yeah, came out in 1968. And we actually have written in the front here a little inscription from Kim Philby himself. It says, to Gennady - we're not entirely sure who Gennady was. I'm guessing he was - may well have been his Russian handler in Moscow. Clearly, we've seen a number of things where he refers to Gennady here. So I would think quite close friend - in memory of long years, of fruitful cooperation and in hopes of more to come. Kim Philby. And it's seems to be the 23 of August, 1980. So clearly a gift to his friend years afterwards.
Andrew Hammond: One of the other things that we have here, which I find really fascinating, is this photograph of Kim Philby. And he's with a hockey team, and he's sitting...
Alexis Albion: Hockey.
Andrew Hammond: An ice hockey team, and he's looking rather out of place. He's sitting at the front holding an ice hockey stick. There's Soviet ice hockey players in the background. And then at the very back, you see an image of Karl Marx and one of Vladimir Lenin. I just find this such an interesting - almost a piece of evidence about the nature of the 20th century, where you have this ideological civil war between liberalism, fascism, communism. And here we have an English gentleman who smoked a pipe, who has a samovar in his apartment, sitting there with all of these Soviet hockey players. It's just really, really fascinating to me that this is one of the curveballs that history has thrown up, and it seems to me that this photograph captures the nature of that. I just wonder if you could have a quick look and reflect on it, Alexis.
Alexis Albion: Yeah, I have - we don't know when this was taken - right? - or why. It is funny because here's Philby sitting in the front row with a hockey stick in his hand and all these young athletes sitting next to him and standing behind him like a class photo. I mean, my guess is he was sort of a minor celebrity and maybe was brought out to say a few words. I have no idea. I'm complete speculation here, but perhaps they were an Olympic team who were being sent abroad, and he was giving them some tips about going abroad or something like that as well because sports and politics obviously overlapped at that time. Perhaps we can find somebody who's more familiar with Soviet athletes during the Cold War and maybe identify this may - I'm guessing they're a pretty high-level team. Would be interesting to find out. But yeah, he just does look so out of place here, and I wonder what they - these players thought of him.
Andrew Hammond: I wonder.
Alexis Albion: Yeah.
Andrew Hammond: We can do some more research. And there's another one here from his time in Moscow. And it looks like some kind of parade in 1983. And as a kid, I always remember watching the news, and whenever it was about the Soviet Union, it was usually some parade where people were goose stepping in Moscow and there was rockets and it was all a big choreographed event. And there's one of these here from 1983, and I think Philby's in the front row with a bunch of dignitaries. I guess I was wondering as well, you mentioned him being a minor celebrity. Like, how much was he - I know he wasn't trusted, but how much was he in contact, if at all, with senior people within Soviet intelligence or even Soviet politics or, you know, was he well-known enough that Gorbachev would have met him or - yeah, how well-connected was he? We know that he wasn't trusted, but was he shunted off to the side and wheeled out for bit parts, or was he still a bit of a star within intelligence circles, and did he have political connections? Do you know?
Alexis Albion: I'm not 100% sure. I'm not sure. I think he wanted people to think that he was in contact with the highest levels. But I have the sense that it may be your latter description of being brought in every now and then. And certainly as time went by - if you think about it - he died in the late '80s. He was operating in the '30s and four - took a little bit of a break, and then back in the late '50s and '60s. How relevant was his experience in the '70s and '80s? I guess that would be up to the Soviets. But yeah, here - I mean, now it's hard to say. This looks like one of these meetings of the Communist Party, of men in dark suits all sitting there under a gigantic image of - well, this is actually an image of Dzerzhinsky.
Andrew Hammond: Yeah.
Alexis Albion: Yeah. So this is a KGB meeting. That's what this is - some kind of celebration, yeah. A hundred and six years of - oh, perhaps of the - don't know - Dzerzhinsky's birthday or something like this. I'm not sure...
Andrew Hammond: It could be.
Alexis Albion: Anyway, this is clearly some KGB celebration.
Andrew Hammond: And Dzerzhinsky's quite well known because he's the head of the Czech, and he becomes almost a...
Alexis Albion: Father, the father of Soviet intelligence, basically. Yeah. So I would think that definitely somebody like Philby would be brought out for something like that. I mean, he was clearly, I think, somebody everybody knew about. But I'm just - I guess what I'm saying is, I'm not - I think perhaps more of a sort of a figurehead and less somebody who would be consulted for his expertise, which is what he wanted, right? So I think to have him brought out for a celebration of this kind, put in the front row, photographs of him next to other dignitaries - yes. But what he really wanted was to be seen as...
Andrew Hammond: Superspy.
Alexis Albion: Yeah, superspy who's in importance as intelligence and experience, would be brought on in order to really help with their operations and so on. And I think, as far as we know, that didn't really happen.
Andrew Hammond: And just mentioning there his experience in the '30s, one of the documents that we have on the table before us - I think this is really interesting. Philby says, since I began, the world has transformed, also the intelligence world. Rapid advances in science and technology have given us means of getting accurate information undreamt of in the '30s. I mention this because several so-called intelligence experts have advanced the theory. That theory is that scientific intelligence has given us such a comprehensive picture that human intelligence is no longer necessary. I find that really interesting - Philby as the human guy, some of the ways that technology did change during that period because it was really profound, right? We go from biplanes, and then we go to much more advanced planes in the Second World War, satellite, high altitude flights. There's just so much technological development during this period from the '30s through until the late '80s, right?
Alexis Albion: Oh, absolutely. And I mean, a lot of this has to do with the difficulty of getting into - of actually human beings getting into these denied areas. So, for example, the Soviet Union was a very difficult place for spies to get into, for intelligence agents to get into, being so cut off and to get - and technology played a huge role here. This is the development of the spy planes - of the U-2 and the SR-72 and so on - which are able to do overhead intelligence and take photographs of missile sites and so on and gave incredible amounts of intelligence in that way. Obviously, the Soviets were doing that as well. It was very dangerous to be an intelligence officer, an American, say, intelligence officer in the Soviet Union. So technology allowed Western intelligence to look and listen in, in a way that they couldn't have done before.
Alexis Albion: But, of course, that argument that Philby makes about the fact that human intelligence is still needed is one that we see coming up again and again. And we've seen it come up relatively recently as well, that overdependence on technology can actually mean that you're leaving out a whole area of vital intelligence that only - that the human factor can only help you get. We've had that conversation lately, actually, that in American intelligence that not enough resources have actually been devoted to human intelligence, to cultivating individuals, that we still need people to play those roles of intelligence officers - of going out, recruiting, talking to people face-to-face and so on. So I think that argument comes up again and again, and Philby would probably be making that same argument today.
Andrew Hammond: One of the things that I find quite interesting as well is that with these artifacts, these are almost, like, social history artifacts, right? They're not just talking about human intelligence. When many people think of human intelligence, they think of gadgets and tools and things that are meant to be one thing, but secretly they're something else. But we don't have that here, do we? We just have things that are cataloguing the social existence of Kim Philby, which I think is quite interesting.
Alexis Albion: Yeah. Yeah, we don't have his lighter that turns into a pistol...
Andrew Hammond: Yeah (laughter).
Alexis Albion: ...Or any of those things. Yeah, no. And I'm not sure if he used those, actually. My guess is that he did not. Yeah.
Andrew Hammond: And just on that topic of human intelligence, what kind of things was Philby doing when he was working for British intelligence? Was he running operations against the Soviets? Did they have to give him that thing that we often hear of - where to be seen to be doing his job effectively, he needs to take something home. So they give him something that's relatively inert, so it looks like he's doing his job properly. Do they give him chicken feed? How does he manage to walk that line between being seen as an MI6 officer who's fighting the good fight and so forth versus trying to be this other person, having this other identity?
Alexis Albion: I think - so he's working for British intelligence during World War II. I think we should remember that the Soviets were actually...
Andrew Hammond: On our side.
Alexis Albion: ...On our side during World War II, so they were allies. That being said - that he was feeding information about British and American operations to the Soviets, and after the war, I believe he was on Soviet sort of counterintelligence operations. And he was feeding all that information so that Soviets knew what the British and the Americans were planning. But I think Philby had to be quite clever about navigating his - this position, feeding information back to the Soviets, while at the same time making sure that his position was secure. I think a lot of that had to do with his relationships with people. You know, he was put in these extraordinary positions where he was actually responsible for working against the people who he was actually loyal to.
Andrew Hammond: It all sounds so stressful to me.
Alexis Albion: Yeah, I know.
Alexis Albion: Yeah, yeah.
Andrew Hammond: Just to close out, I want to read some text from one other document, which I think is really fascinating. So this is a question that's put to him. What are your purely personal feelings on this, the 59th anniversary of the foundation of the Soviet Intelligence Service? He says, (reading) it is more than 46 years since I started my work for the Communist movement, more than 45 since I was recruited into the Soviet Intelligence Service. Therefore, it is natural that I should look upon my whole life as being bound up with the service. It has given to me and to my activities meaning and coherence, which they otherwise would have lacked. If I had followed a normal bourgeois career in England, I may have been at least moderately successful. What is certain is that I should now be living in retirement, complaining about inflation and taxes and looking back on a life devoted principally to my own personal advancement. Not a very satisfactory subject for contemplation. I just find that so fascinating. Any thoughts?
Alexis Albion: This is why it's easy to get sucked into this admiration for a man devoted to a cause that was bigger than himself. It's easy to see some admiration for that if it wasn't for the fact that the cause that he was devoted to was, I think, one that was really quite inherently rotten, caused the death and murder of millions of people.
Andrew Hammond: Tens of millions.
Alexis Albion: Tens of millions of people. He was personally responsible for the death of individuals there, and that's sort of the area that Philby doesn't engage with, where we'd like to sit him down and interview him and ask him quite directly how he felt about Stalin's purges, for example. I'd like to know the answer to that. But there is this other sort of side here that he talks about and where it is easy to get sucked into that. Yeah. He certainly didn't want to have a life of sitting at home talking about inflation, feeling that he hadn't made his mark on the world. And instead, he did, by betraying his country, his friends, his government, his institutions and then ended up sitting in Moscow for rest of his life doing the crossword puzzle and drinking tea and a lot of vodka.
Andrew Hammond: I think that's really interesting just to see the way that he thinks about that and the way that he tries to justify it to himself. Sometimes it seems to me that there's just so much cognitive dissonance going on with Philby. For the left in the 20th century, when the crimes of the Stalin era come out, many people break with a more traditional communist line. Then when the Soviets invaded Hungary in '56, Czechoslovakia in '68 or even Afghanistan in '79, people break. I can't be involved with this anymore. This is not what I signed up for. So I find that quite interesting. But Philby just keeps hanging on till the very end. And we can see from this, which is pretty late on in his life, that he just has never letting go of this youthful idea of what it was he was trying to do.
Alexis Albion: Yeah. This flirtation or whatever with communism is a pretty common thing that we see early on. And you've pointed out these markers where it's hard to justify people's adherence to the cause after those points where the sort of corruption of Marxist-Leninism is just - seems to be so clear. But I don't know. Maybe Philby didn't have a choice. He couldn't go back to England. It would be wonderful to have him sitting down, and we could ask him these pointed questions. Nobody ever got that opportunity. And I have the feeling that he would come back with some non-answers as well.
Andrew Hammond: Yeah.
Alexis Albion: I don't think he was ever going to show his cards.
Andrew Hammond: Yeah. Well, thanks so much. This has been great. It's been really great to speak about this one. And to be continued.
Alexis Albion: Yes. Thank you. Thanks, Andrew.
Andrew Hammond: Thanks for listening to this episode of "SpyCast." Go to our webpage where you can find links to further resources, detailed show notes and full transcripts. We have over 500 episodes in our back catalogue for you to explore. Please follow the show on Twitter @INTLSpyCast and share your favorite quotes and insights or start a conversation. If you have any additional feedback, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm your host, Dr. Andrew Hammond. And you can connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter @SpyHistorian. This show is brought to you from the home of the world's preeminent collection of intelligence and espionage-related artifacts, the International Spy Museum. The "SpyCast" team includes Mike Mincey and Memphis Vaughn III. See you for next week's show.