Its easy to think of Europe as we know it today. Boring and dull. Sticky cheese and over-priced wine; but oh so comfortable. Old and nostalgic. Its that way on purpose, because the first half of the 20th century was so fraught. The 2nd industrial revolution had created new economies, that nobody understood and sprinkled wealth and opportunity around enough to cause the scramble for it to become violent. And the backlash against those who were rich and powerful by those who could not seem to get ahead led to a new world order which lasted for the better part of a century. Communism – I wonder if communism would have had its appeal if not for the fascists. Sure, the Soviet Union arose because of the wickedness of the Tsar. But it was the fight against fascism that gave international communism purpose and drive. This book is about that. About a German Jew who was a communist and became the Cold War’s greatest spy because of her drive to fight Hitler and the fascists. Anti-fascists, is what they called themselves – to not have to call themselves communists (though that is what they were). Its what they still call themselves today, pretending they are against something or something else; but anti-fascism is not a new phenomenon, harkening back to the day when there actually were fascists to fight.
The part that makes me laugh about this story – the same for Arthur Koestler (also a Jewish communist, for a season, though he had the smarts to reform himself when he saw that the system was as wicked as the one he was fighting), was their love for England. England does prevail, doesn’t it? It weathers the mayhem, its rolling hills and pub-dominated villages providing continuity in seasons of turmoil. To be loved and give peace, even to a soviet spy sending nuclear secrets to Stalin.