>Communism as light relief

>Interesting how communism – or what remains of it – has become a human interest story to cheer us up as we ponder the terrorist networks apparently burgeoning in the suburbs and backstreets.

Markus “Misha” Wolf the former head of the East German foreign intelligence service, who has just died, is depicted in today’s papers and media as a rather interesting old gent and subtle spymaster immortalized in popular culture by John LeCarré, whose professional achievements during the Cold War are to be respectfully admired. His memoirs – which I read in the days before I became a full time slave to academic books and articles – tries hard to live up to the image of a honourable (if ideological) man of culture and intellect out of place amongst the brutal and philistine GDR nomenklatura. Although he clearly was an interesting character, the book tries too hard and his account is flat, self-conscious and not very convincing even as exercise in self-reinvention and self-justification. He also wrote a cookbook and made chat show appearence in the early 1990s.

Today’s Guardian also reports that the chair of the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) has inherited a painting worth £20 million through restitution. The CPB as far as I know is descendent of the pro-Soviet ‘tankie’ faction of the now defunct Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), which resisted the CPGB’s turn to Eurocommunism in the 1970s and 80s. These days it is relieved of the burden of defending the USSR – although still feels the need to slavishly defend Castro’s Cuba – and so can play around with the usual far-left playpen equipment far happily.

Like a good comrade, she is it seems, going to hang on to the dosh, so the CPB will not be regaling us James Goldsmith style with a multi-million pound election campaign in 2008. A pity. These days we need a bit of political light entertainment and a nostalgic and odd takes on the detritus of the Cold War is as good as source as any. Somehow I don’t think Bin Laden will be sharing his favourite recipies with us on Jonathan Ross any time soon….

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