Why the Traitor George Blake Turned from Marxism to God

Article excerpt


As he stands devoutly beside a priest in a Russian Orthodox church, Britain's most notorious Cold War traitor wants the world to believe that he has discovered religion and inner peace amid the ruins of his former Communist creed.

At 77, the bearded George Blake has lived in Moscow since dramatically escaping from Wormwood Scrubs - and a record 42-year sentence at the Old Bailey for spying - in 1966.

But only now, almost a decade after Communism, his ideological fixation, collapsed, has he admitted to finding new truths - or anyway to rediscovering old ones.

His announcement last week on a Russian TV documentary, Top Secret, that he is now embracing God will be seen by some as a welcome, if belated, atonement for his sins by Blake, who arguably handed over more damaging information to the Russians than any of the other celebrated Cold War spies spawned by Britain.

But with Blake, everything is more complicated than it looks, for, instead of begging forgiveness, he now tries to justify his previous actions as a double agent - whose treachery sent many to early deaths by KGB executioners - in terms of religion. His view, conveniently enough, is that all Man's actions are guided from above.

'I believe everything is preordained,' he has said. 'Had I not studied Russian at Cambridge, I never would have been here. Life cannot be lived in any other way than it is lived.' Luckily for him, this means he can justify all the twists of an extraordinary life that took him from being a Dutch refugee given a haven in London to a prisoner of war in Korea who saw the light of Communism after reading Marx, but who went back to work at the heart of British intelligence, all the time spilling everything he could about his adopted country to his real masters in Moscow.

There is no doubting the daring of Blake's flight from Wormwood Scrubs, achieved with the help of two peace activists and, significantly it now seems, an Anglican vicar, the Rev John Papworth, who provided a safe house before he fled to East Berlin and Moscow. But even that was meant to happen, in the latest version of history according to Blake.

'I think it was destined that I had to escape,' he said on last week's documentary.

'By whom?' he was asked. 'God or Marx?' 'No, not by Marx. By whatever it is that moves the universe.' 'And what moves the universe?' 'I can tell you after I die.' Such thoughts would have been sacrilege had he voiced them in Soviet times when Marx and Lenin were the only high priests. He would have been turned back at the Berlin Wall, a kind of atheist Pearly Gates at the Communist citadel, when he sneaked across in 1966, instead of being given a warm welcome, a Moscow flat and privileged country house by his proud KGB controllers.

But Russia, where Blake survives on a modest KGB pension of several hundred pounds a month, has changed and so has he. Incredibly, his espionage and betrayal is all now linked in his mind directly to God. 'I had lost my faith,' he said of his time after being taken prisoner by the Communists in Korea. The Calvinism imbued by his Dutch mother had deserted him. 'I could not any longer be the same believing Christian and my philosophy became a vacuum.' But then he discovered a new faith at the hands of his captors, who gave him Das Kapital to read. 'I regarded Communism as an endeavour to create a reign of God on Earth,' he said. 'Many Christian ideals were still dear to me, they are dear to me even now, especially the church's idea to create God's reign on Earth

by means of praying and sermon. But the Communist solution out of that was that everything could be reached by taking action.' And it is not just his own spying he now sees in pseudo-religious terms.

Recently he spoke of Melita Norwood, the great-grandmother unmasked as a KGB spy at 87, as 'practically a saint'.

Blake recalled that as a British agent in the Far East he came to the conclusion that he was fighting on the wrong side. …