The articles, letters and book on Philby, reprinted here in full, are wonderfully well written. Professor Trevor-Roper was a stylist that few could rival. Much of it is of enormous interest but he also shows a good deal of closed mindedness of the kind he accuses his own wartime superiors and colleagues. On the whole, I'd say he never came to terms with the extent to which Communists agents of espionage and influence, penetrated various British and American institutions, displaying a certain amount of censoriousness towards anyone who tried to unravel this. (And I find it particularly infuriating that he and, I am sorry to say, his editor, Edward Harrison, refer to Russia when they mean the Soviet Union.)
The review of Andrew Boyle's The Climate of Treason, a crucial publication in the history of that unravelling is dismissive: no real need for it, nothing important in it and, in any case, the three rather sordid traitors (how right Trevor-Roper is on that adjective), Burgess, Maclean and Philby, did very little real harm.
Just as one despairs at such willful misreading one comes across this paragraph. Having analyzed why so many young people joined or supported the Communist Party in the thirties for what seemed like very good reasons at the time, he adds:
There was also another reason, less reputable, but not, I think, less real. Intellectuals often pretend that, as a class, they are advocates of liberty. This is seldom true. Intellectuals like the beauty of mathematical order. They like tidiness, symmetry. Liberty is untidy, asymmetrical. Consequently young intellectuals, even when they speak of liberty, really worship power. they generally grow out of this when they realise that they are less likely to exercise power themselves than to be the victims of it. But for a time they think that they respect it. Communism, as intellectually justified system of total power, has a fatal fascination for young intellectuals seeking short cuts to total solution.One could point to other displays of total power that intellectuals or those who think themselves to be intellectuals, support. But, when it comes to Communism and its one manifestation in the thirties, the Soviet Union (not Russia), though the same would apply to the supporters of Mao in the fifties and sixties, there is another consideration.
Even more than fascism or Nazism, Communism is a political system that purports to be constructed on an intellectually coherent base. It is not anything of the kind, as it happens, but that is what a good many people, more intelligent and intellectual than the Cambridge five and others of that ilk have believed. Even Albert Camus differentiated between the "irrational terror" of fascism and the "rational terror" of Communism. In actual fact, Stalin was often considerably less rational than Hitler and the terror introduced in Bolshevik Russia and the Soviet Union was no more rational than that introduced in Nazi Germany, though often considerably more bloody.
On top of this, it seemed that the Soviet Union really valued and cherished its intellectuals while the higgledy-piggledy Western systems did not. Somehow, it did not appear to be important to many that those intellectuals, so cherished at first, often found themselves, as was well known even in the thirties, in prisons, in torture chambers, in labour camps and execution chambers. Other intellectuals appeared to take their place and the life of the intellect was still, apparently, cherished.
Naturally, the Soviet Union's propaganda machine played on the Western intellectuals' sense of grievance and treated them as highly honoured guests as well as highly honoured agents. The easiest person to fool is the man (or the woman but more often the man) who thinks he is the only one to know the real truth but nobody appreciates it. Too much has been written about various fellow travellers for me to have to reiterate any of it (though I may well do another time) but the intricate relationship between intellectuals and absolute power or what they see as absolute power needs to be studied now just as it was by Professor Hugh Trevor-Roper.