The Cambridge Spy Ring

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#1
What this report fails to mention is that Auden enlisted in the US army during WWII and he ended up as a Major in Military Inteligence.

Defection probe over poet Auden
By Liam Allen
BBC News



WH Auden's centenary is being celebrated this year
MI5 failed to prove its belief that poet WH Auden was involved in the defection of two of the "Cambridge spies", official documents show.

Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean fled the UK on 25 May 1951 after they had been exposed as passing valuable intelligence to the Soviet Union.

Newspaper reports and sources said Burgess had tried to contact his friend Auden in London a day earlier.

MI5 could not prove involvement as Auden holed himself up in Italy.

Burgess and Maclean defected to the Soviet Union three days before a planned interrogation by MI5, after being tipped off by US-based fellow Cambridge spy Kim Philby.

The Cambridge spies were all recruited as students at the city's university before securing sensitive government posts, from which they passed valuable intelligence to the Soviet Union.

Auden and Burgess had also met at Cambridge University.

'Intellectual communist'

Auden, who was married to Erika Mann - daughter of German novelist Thomas Mann - had been watched for years with a number of possible Communist connections being established, the documents released by the National Archives at Kew, west London, show.

He was described in a document from 1938 as "an intellectual communist of a highly-idealistic and literary brand".

WH AUDEN - THE POET
Born in York on 21 Feb 1907
Regarded as one of great 20th century writers
Published about 400 poems
1935 marriage to German Erika Mann was one of convenience that gave her UK passport
Move to US in Jan 1939, ahead of WW2, seen as a betrayal by some
Became naturalized citizen of US in 1946
Work enjoyed revival when Funeral Blues used in 1994 film Four Weddings and a Funeral

MI5 was first alerted to the Burgess/Auden connection when the Reuters news agency reported a conversation it had with the poet's childhood friend Stephen Spender.

Auden - whose centenary is being celebrated this year - had been staying at fellow poet Spender's house in St John's Wood, London.

"Reuters learned from Stephen Spender that Burgess had telephoned him on 24 May," it was noted on 11 June.

Two days later, the Daily Express reported from the Italian Island of Ischia, where Burgess was by now staying in his holiday home.

Interviewed by the paper, Auden admitted a call had been made to Spender's house on 24 May.

"I was out and Spender forgot to pass on the message," he told the paper.

"In fact, I did not know about the phone call until this week."

'Take care'

The Express article prompted the FBI to conclude "Auden may have considerable information of interest concerning Burgess".

Burgess had previously worked at the British Embassy in Washington.

MI5 noted "the Americans, of course, must take care not to base their enquiries on what has been said in the Daily Express".


Guy Burgess defected to the Soviet Union in May 1951

The documents say that, on 14 June, an unnamed source had spoken to Spender and his wife who "now remember definitely that Burgess telephoned twice between 20 May and 24 May - most anxious to get in touch with Auden".

When they had passed the message on to Auden, he had said Burgess "must be drunk", the source said.

But when the source spoke to Auden, he had "categorically denied having been given a message by Spender".

A note reads: "Our conclusions must be that either Auden or Spender is deliberately prevaricating."

A further minute from the source suggests it was, indeed, Auden who was deliberately prevaricating.

The source said that - on a subsequent meeting - Auden, who "had been drinking heavily", had "reluctantly admitted Spender was probably right in saying he had told Auden of Burgess's telephone calls".

The source "felt it likely that Auden was lying" previously.

'Never sober'

A suggestion that Auden's old friend Burgess was also fond of a drink came in an interview with Auden's wife who had not joined her husband in Italy.

Mrs Auden had "no clear recollection of Guy Burgess", an agent wrote.

"She believed she met Burgess at parties in London but said she 'never recalled seeing him in a sober state'."

While there's no doubt that Auden and Burgess were acquainted, it proved impossible to substantiate the reports that they had recently been in touch

Official document

Despite his apparent about-turn, when interviewed by Italian police at the end of June Auden went back to his original story that Spender had not mentioned the call.

And so without solid evidence that Auden had anything to do with the disappearance of Burgess, the investigation ended.

The file ends with the summary: "These reports were investigated and, while there's no doubt that Auden and Burgess were acquainted, it proved impossible to substantiate the reports that they had recently been in touch."

Other files, also released on Friday, show that, in an interview on 12 June 1951, acquaintance Peter Pollock revealed Burgess's "greatest friend was Anthony Blunt".

That revelation is significant in light of the 1964 naming of Blunt as the fourth member of the Cambridge spy ring.



http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6407793.stm
 

PeniG

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#2
Also doesn't give any context - but then context was exactly the sort of nuance that Cold War Commie-hunting couldn't afford to let get in the way of its fantatical persecution of nonconformity. EVERYBODY in the "Auden circle" (including Spender) was a "premature antifascist" or "Communist sympathizer" at some point in the 30s. It was a reasonable moral position for people not blind, deaf, and dumb to reality, especially before Stalin destroyed his opposition. If Auden was lying, he was protecting his friend, and if the Spenders were telling the truth, they were throwing their friends to the wolves.

Given the reality of the times, no one trapped in the similar modern situation which brands lovers of free speech and civil liberties as terrorist sympathizers should feel inclined to judge either party.

I'll judge MI5 all I want, thank you.
 

OldTimeRadio

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#3
There were a number of Soviert spy cells operating within the United States Federal Government during the years 1946-1948, not - as one might expect - in the State Department or the Defense Department or even the Justice Department but rather in the comparative obscurity (and therefore cover) of the Agriculture Department.

But Auden? He never struck me as a Communist. It's obvious given his circumstances that he would have known Communists, but that doesn't a Communist make. The same thing was obviously true of C. S. Lewis, but nobody accuses him of being a red.
 
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#4
OldTimeRadio said:
There were a number of Soviert spy cells operating within the United States Federal Government during the years 1946-1948, not - as one might expect - in the State Department or the Defense Department or even the Justice Department but rather in the comparative obscurity (and therefore cover) of the Agriculture Department.

But Auden? He never struck me as a Communist. It's obvious given his circumstances that he would have known Communists, but that doesn't a Communist make. The same thing was obviously true of C. S. Lewis, but nobody accuses him of being a red.
There's another obvious difference between C.S. lewis, his circle, the Inklings and the members of W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood's circle...

... The Inklings were Oxford academics. :)
 

PeniG

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#5
Lewis (a) didn't get a phone call from Burgess right before he defected and (b) wasn't gay. The first is relevant in the real world - MI5 had to do its best to track Burgess down, which includes investigating his friends and contacts. The second is relevant in the paranoid world of traitor-hunting, because gay people were preceived as being icky security threats by nature. As for knowing Communists vs. being Communist - guilt by association was the order of the day. If you knew a Communist and didn't denounce him, you must be a Communist yourself! Because heaven knows, we can't be friends with people whose political opinions differ from our own. "You can live in freedom when you live like me." :roll:
 

OldTimeRadio

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#6
Yes, I fully realize that C. S. Lewis was at Oxford. But do you think that only Cambridge sported Communists in the 1930s?
 

OldTimeRadio

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#8
Peni, I can't honestly tell you what I'd do if a good friend who'd become a wanted fugitive (of any type) called me to say that he (she) was fleeing the country. I'd like to think that I'd perform my duty to my country. But that's one of those things I can't ever be wholly certain of until the hour strikes (dear God, please make that never).

Guilt by association cuts both ways. Members of American anti-war organizations during the late 1930s were branded as "Nazi-lovers" for the next 30 years, regardless of their political stripes.

Personally, and of course immensely aided by 20/20 hindsight, I believe these people were short-sighted, failing to see the "big picture." But political myopia alone doesn't a Nazi make.
 

PeniG

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#10
I hope I'd do my duty by my friend. But none of us knows what we'd do until we'd do it. Which is why the injunctions go "Judge not, lest ye be judged" and "Look out for the beam in your own eye, not the mote in your neighbor's" rather than "nose into everybody else's heart and ignore your own." (And I don't accuse anybody here of doing that - it's just what people do.)

Actually, the Cambridge/Oxford joke works if MI5 perceived Oxford as never producing Communists. I have no evidence or opinion on the subject, but if their track record is anything like the FBIs I wouldn't bet any money against agents operating on that sort of prejudice.
 

OldTimeRadio

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#11
PeniG said:
I hope I'd do my duty by my friend..
It would depend on what my friend did, or was accused of doing. Draft evasion or drug possession is one thing, assassination or mass murder or serial killing another.
 

wembley8

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#12
OldTimeRadio said:
It would depend on what my friend did, or was accused of doing. Draft evasion or drug possession is one thing, assassination or mass murder or serial killing another.
The quote is specifically about whether you would betray your country or your friend. --

If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country
-

and I'm with EM Forster, to whom this is attributed.

(...he was Cambridge and also gay...).
 

OldTimeRadio

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#13
wembley8 said:
The quote is specifically about whether you would betray your country or your friend. --

If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country
-

and I'm with EM Forster, to whom this is attributed.

(...he was Cambridge and also gay...).
And, AGAIN, it would depend on what my friend had done.

TREASON isn't exactly in the same league as cheating at hopscotch. It usually involves MURDER, directly or indirectly, multiple murders, with those deaths continuing into the future.

I shouldn't like to be put into the position of betraying everybody else in order to aid and abet one friend's criminality. What is that one supposed to win me? Some kind of asbestos medal in Hell?

Besides, I'm not certain what I would do under those circumstances! That was the ENTIRE POINT I was attempting to make!

And, for that matter, neither was E. M. Forster. "I hope I should...."
 

JamesWhitehead

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#14
Forster's statement is much quoted but seldom applauded. Friendship tends to stay within classes so translating the statement as one of loyalty to class rather than country, who is still in favour?

It is the Bloomsbury attitude in a nutshell. When held up against the simple patriotism of the soldiers who believed what they were told, it can seem pretty sickening.

From Colonel Blimp to Licking Hitler, we have a substantial literature which deals with this rather awkward matter. I had not expected to see the Bloomsbury view embraced uncritically in the twenty-first century. :(
 

wembley8

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#16
JamesWhitehead said:
Forster's statement is much quoted but seldom applauded. Friendship tends to stay within classes so translating the statement as one of loyalty to class rather than country, who is still in favour?
Forster's closest attachment was someone who was neither of his country nor I suspect his class. I take the quote as pointing up the diffreence between personal attachments which are real and concrete against the vague, abstract, accident-of-birth connection with one's country.
 

wembley8

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#17
JamesWhitehead said:
Forster's statement is much quoted but seldom applauded. Friendship tends to stay within classes so translating the statement as one of loyalty to class rather than country, who is still in favour?
Forster's closest attachment was someone who was neither of his country nor I suspect his class. I take the quote as pointing up the diffreence between personal attachments which are real and concrete against the vague, abstract, accident-of-birth connection with one's country.[/quote]
 

PeniG

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#18
As long as we talk about these things here, they can only be abstract. In the specific case under which a person - Auden, the Spenders, Mr. Radio, me, or Forster - make such decisions, concrete things will be going on and you will only have so much information available to you. Governments and friends can both do wrong things; and just because a government accuses your friend of doing wrong, doesn't mean he has.

In the specific case of Auden, we do not know what happened, but we do know that Auden, and the people around him, were doing things for personal reasons that were being interpreted politically. Auden's marriage to Mann, for example, was a personal act - he was saving an innocent woman from persecution and death, by assisting her to flee her government. He was also supportive of Isherwood's long, drawn-out, ultimately futile attempts to get his boyfriend out of Europe so he wouldn't be conscripted to fight for the Nazi government. He had himself left England for entirely personal reasons at a politically dangerous, tumultous time, and found himself branded a traitor and a coward. England was not good for Auden as a writer or a human being, and he knew it, but people judged him for leaving on political grounds. America had its downside, too, as homosexuality was criminalized and the "land of the free" did not support his personal pursuit of happiness and would happily have jailed him for his romantic relationship with another consenting adult if he was indiscreet enough. Like most people, he negotiated his personal life in a political minefield and did the best he could to make moral choices in ambiguous situations.

Under these circumstances, why, when called by a friend who said (for instance): "I need to get to Mexico quickly, can you loan me a hundred bucks/pick up a train ticket for me/collect my shaving kit from the house and leave it in a locker at the Main Street Gym" would you even ask for particulars? Who wouldn't take at face value anything such a friend said? Who wouldn't assume: "He's my friend, I trust him, if he did something illegal it wasn't any more wrong than the illegal things I do?"

We don't know what happened, or what evidence Auden had that Burgess might be guilty of a crime that could lead to innocent deaths as opposed to mere crimes-of-existence or suspicion. Maybe the Spenders really forgot to pass on the message and lied about it to shift the pressure to Auden out of fear. (Can't say I blame them if so - a married couple's primary loyalty is to each other. ) Maybe Auden got the message, returned the phone call, and said: "Sorry, Burgess, I can't help this time, you're asking too much," but wasn't convinced enough of Burgess's guilt to tip off the feds; or maybe he was decided that denying the phone call was the best way to protect himself; or maybe he helped Burgess, regretted it, and lied out of fear; or maybe...

We don't know. And it's not our business.

Believe it or not, I have a particular friend for whom I have planned my behavior if he is ever accused of being a serial killer. He's a very close friend, our roommate for 17 years, and I love him and I don't for a moment believe that he is one. But my belief is not reality, and when I'm reading about serial killers, I can't help but notice: Charming, narcissitc, plays power games, has highly mobile job, seldom shows remorse, and there's that time I found a backpack with a name on it that I didn't recognize in the back of his SUV and he told me some Rennie had forgotten it and he'd get it back to them sometime. He was even once questioned by the police about a homicide. There's a big complicated story about that - there always is, with Michael. And I'm easy to lie to, and have been betrayed more than once. You can't live your life expecting betrayal every day, but you can't live it without learning from experience, either. So if Michael came to me and said the police think he's a serial killer and he needs to get out of town, I hope that what I'd do is agree to help, make arrangements, immediately activate our network of friends to act to protect his wife and baby, and then betray our arrangements to the cops so they can swoop down and nab him - because my duty to my friend is to protect his wife and baby and to not enable him to do rash or wicked things, like fleeing the country ahead of a criminal investigation.

But if the only evidence against him is that the FBI - the same FBI that's investigating Slaughterhouse Five as an obscene work even as we speak, forsooth! - says he's a traitor, pffft. Mexico, here we come. The real Michael can be profiled into a serial killer, but as a traitor, he is not convincing, especially at a time when you can be labeled a traitor for supporting the Constitution. And if my judgement's wrong, well, all you can do is the best you can do.
 
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#19
Have they really found a "Sixth Man"? Looks as if its "Not Proven".


The Cambridge Spy Ring's Sixth Man: Tinker, tailor, soldier ... Irishman?
Saturday, August 12, 2017

Newly released MI5 papers have added fresh speculation that second generation Irishman ‘Paddy’ Costello, the son of a Dublin grocer, could have been The Sixth Man in the infamous Cambridge Spy Ring. Writer/researcher Johanna Lowry-O’Reilly looks at the evidence as to whether he was an Irish nightingale or a carrier pigeon?

While MI5 files (KV2/4328-31) released on 11 April 11 greatly extend the intelligence profile of Desmond Patrick Costello, commonly known as ‘Paddy’, they neither fully prove nor disprove the contention that he was the ‘Sixth Man’ at the heart of the Cambridge spy ring in the 1930s.

They do, however, ostensibly negate the 2008 assertions of James McNeish, a fellow native of Auckland in New Zealand. McNeish, an historian, strongly defends Costello against accusations of spying in his book The Sixth Man, which was written without the benefit of these files and has been essentially superseded by them.

In support of accusations Costello is described by the KGB as being an important agent, codenamed ‘Long’. Nonetheless, despite relatively intense surveillance by MI5 and detailed police reports, the files leave the question open as to whether Costello was a spy for the Soviets or a political intellectual and active communist.

The fact that he associated with party members while in Cambridge is not in contention; he made no secret of his affiliations. However, these associations were to bring him to the attention of the authorities, particularly given his non-English born status. ...

http://www.irishexaminer.com/viewpo...an-tinker-tailor-soldier-irishman-456887.html
 

Yithian

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#20
Of trifling interest to others, I fear, but I've had a researcher visit the National Archives at Kew and photograph some bundles of government files from the 1950s. I was surprised to find that the very first one I glanced at--from the Far-East department of the Foreign Office--has a cover note signed by Guy Burgess early in 1950. I'll be looking out for his name and any pro-communist bent as I read--it's all about Chinese/Soviet links to Communist Terrorists in Malaya.

It can't have been long before he was transferred to the States and by May '51 he'd returned and was en route to Russia.
 
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#21
Of trifling interest to others, I fear, but I've had a researcher visit the National Archives at Kew and photograph some bundles of government files from the 1950s. I was surprised to find that the very first one I glanced at--from the Far-East department of the Foreign Office--has a cover note signed by Guy Burgess early in 1950. I'll be looking out for his name and any pro-communist bent as I read--it's all about Chinese/Soviet links to Communist Terrorists in Malaya.

It can't have been long before he was transferred to the States and by May '51 he'd returned and was en route to Russia.
Fascinating! Report on any subsequent finds. I've found your past posts on the topic to be educational.
 

Yithian

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#22
Fascinating! Report on any subsequent finds. I've found your past posts on the topic to be educational.
Nothing more on Burgess--apart from his coming across in his notes as a cynical old bird, but you might enjoy this report for the 'flavour' of the times. Straight out of the pages of John le Carré:

P7430509.JPG P7430510.JPG
 

Yithian

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#24
Thanks!

Really interesting intelligence report.
It's a fascinating period. Wary of siding with a possible loser, HM Govt was playing wait and see throughout the Chinese Civil War, and as the communist victory became inevitable they began to invest huge energies into contingency planning, determined not to get caught with their pants down as they had with the Japanese: defence schemes, garisson reinforcement, paperwork duplicated and sent home, surveilance powers, crackdown on protests, screenig refugees for infiltrators etc.

By 1949 when the Red Army finally turned up on their doorstep, they'd pretty much decided to duke it out regardless and hope for the best, but the Chinese--as ever--opted to leave the colony be and play the long game. And a good thing for Grandpa Yith!
 
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