26 October 2005

A Chip off the Old Bloc

The Frolik Defcection; Josef Frolik; Corgi Books; 1975

This is the story of Josef Frolik, a spy for the Czech Intelligence Service who became disillusioned with Communism and decided to defect.

It traces his career, his "spiritual development" (i.e. his growing awareness of the sordid truth behind the curtain of propaganda about the Communist regime), describes the paranoid and arbitrary but addictive world of the spy, gives a basic insight into the Prague Spring and its supression and aftermath, and describes how one defects - a more difficult undertaking than most realise.

Perhaps most shocking was the number of traitors in Britain trade union officials and Labour MPs, including one on the Defence Committee.

Equally shocking and fascinating was the sleazy intertwining of Czech Communists and Czech Nazi collaborators - often one and the same people.

Frolik writes in crisp clean formal slightly old-fashioned highly readable prose. I read the entire book (214 pages) in one sitting. This is testament to its readability and fascinating content.

In Frolik's own words: "I hope my story will serve to warn the vast majority of complacent, well-meaning and basically honest people in the West that the Soviets will never cease to attempt to achieve their aim of world domination...if the Soviets realise they cannot win from without, by military force, they will try to do so from within, using subversion, corruption, blackmail, bribery; and there are enough fools - and rogues - in the West always prepared to become their tools."

Like most other intelligentsia I have met from Communist or former Communist countries, he is profoundly anti-Communist. (The exceptions are those who benefit financially from currently functioning Communist countries. The rest of the population are like the rest of the population anywhere - they go along with whatever is the current orthodoxy.) His strongly put anti-Communist message may seem no longer relevant to most readers, now that the Evil Empire has been gone for 15 years (the book was published in 1975 - when the Soviet Empire was at its height). After living in Vietnam and speaking to many naive Westerners, I think the lesson needs to be learned anew.

I was slightly disappointed that it took the Prague Spring and Frolik's nationalism and his resultant fall from grace to push him to take the plunge and defect, however I cannot hold that against him: anyone who has ever made a courageous move like that is aware of how much procrastination and thinking and planning must go into it, and to the extent that Frolik is compromised, he is far less compromised than most, including myself.

The climax is of coures Frolik's defection with his wife and son - no simple matter. By now the reader is thoroughly steeped in the world of espionage and appreciates the difficulty, paranoia and risk involved. (As Peter McAleese writes in his Fighting Manual: "Surrendering is a dangerous action...However, the act of taking a prisoner can be equally dangerous...") . It is interesting to learn how the Americans did it (I won't spoil it for you).

The book leaves much omitted - details which could perhaps now be revealed as the fall of the Soviet Union makes their secrecy no longer necessary. Sadly, it appears that Frolik died in 1989, which means he would never have had the joy of seeing the collapse of the hated Soviet Union, although he would surely have had some inkling. Sadly for us, it means that much more that he could have told us is probably lost forever.

****1/2 Four-and-a-half stars


Blogger Toutie said...

In the interests of proper blog hygiene can you please delete all "Comments" by fuckwits pushing their own business related websites.

Blogger Patrick Henry said...

Dear Toutie

I usually do, but I was a bit slow on the old weeding this morning.


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