The Shadow Man

Title:                      The Shadow Man

Author:                  Geoff Andrews

Andrews, Geoff (2015). The Shadow Man: At The Heart of The Cambridge Spy Circle. London ; New York: I.B. Tauris

LCCN:    2015463747

UB271.R92 A54 2015


  • 1.Hampstead: Bourgeois Beginnings — 2.Outsider at Gresham’s — 3.A Cambridge Communist — 4.Organising the Movement — 5.Mentor and Talent Spotter — 6.The Making of a Communist Intellectual — 7.Working for the Comintern — 8.The Professional Revolutionary — 9.The Spy Circle — 10.The Reluctant Spy — 11.A Communist Goes to War — 12.Comrade or Conspirator? — 13.Great Expectations — 14.Cold War Intellectual — 15.Trials and Tribulations — 16.The Party Functionary: 1956 and After — 17.A Lost Generation — 18.Late Spring — 19.Hopes and Fears — 20.A Good Jesuit.


Date Posted:      March 20, 2017

Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[1]

The Gresham public school in England, founded in 1555, has a webpage that recognizes notable “Old Greshamian” graduates. The citation for James Klugmann, class of 1931, notes he was a “contemporary of Donald Maclean”—not otherwise mentioned—and “a leading British communist who served with the SOE during the War and later became official historian of the Communist Party of Great Britain.” The Shadow Man reveals other attributes that brought him to the attention of MI5.

After graduating Gresham, Klugmann attended Trinity College, Cambridge, in October 1931, where author Geoff Andrews depicts him as one of many prominent intellectuals who chose communism as the path to the future, at least for a while. It was Klugmann, however, who followed communism—openly—for the entirety of his life. He befriended others on the same path: he mentored Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, and US citizen Michael Straight.

Since Klugmann was an open communist known to MI5, he seldom participated in clandestine activities. At the urging of Burgess and Blunt, however, and somewhat reluctantly, according to Andrews, he helped Arnold Deutsch recruit John Cairncross, the so-called “fifth man,” and, Andrews suggests, very likely worked to bring Oxford students to the attention of Soviet intelligence. (p. 125)

By 1935, Klugmann had become a promising academic and “a person of enormous prestige, even a sort of guru.” (p. 74) He went to Paris for two years of research and, while there, became involved with Soviet propagandist Willi Münzenberg’s Comintern activities. The pull of the party overcame his academic bent, and he abandoned his Cambridge studies to become a professional revolutionary. During this period, his travels for the Comintern included trips to India and China, where he met Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong. (p. 78)

When World War II began, Klugmann—apparently feeling no obligation to adhere to the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact of 1939—returned to England to join the Royal Army Service Corps as a private. Andrews observes that, as a communist well-known to MI5, Klugmann should never have been allowed overseas, but as a result of an administrative foul-up he was sent to Egypt, where he learned Arabic. (p. 129) His linguistic abilities, his knowledge of communist activities in Yugoslavia (acquired working for the Comintern), and help from a Gresham colleague soon earned him a position in SOE and a commission as an officer. MI5 and later historians suspected he aided both the Soviets and the British.

Klugmann never admitted manipulating reports to the advantage of the partisans, and Andrews concludes from his analysis of the allegations, “We can exonerate Klugmann from claims that he acted as a Soviet agent.” (p. 145) After the war, MI5 still kept him under close surveillance and even heard him admit during a talk at communist party headquarters that he had worked for Soviet intelligence before the war. (p. 151) Still, inexplicably, they merely continued the surveillance.

Klugmann returned to work for the party after the war and became its “Cold War intellectual,” editing several of the party’s publications, contributing to its education programs, and eventually writing the first two volumes of a party history. His time as a party functionary was often difficult, as the Soviet leaders and their policies changed. Andrews goes over these times in detail, and they should be of interest to communist party historians.

MI5 made one more attempt to get evidence on Klugmann’s spying by enlisting the help of Cairncross to gain a confession in a bugged conversation over lunch. It failed, as did Klugmann’s refusal to be debriefed by MI5 in connection with the Philby case. (pp. 219, 223)

While in quasi-retirement in 1973, Klugmann gave an interview to the BBC “to discuss his love of book collecting”—a most admirable passion—but he told the journalist that he “would hate to be remembered for my book collection.” (p. 234) He wanted to be remembered for his contribution to communism. The Shadow Man assures that is a goal only partially fulfilled.

[1] Peake, Hayden in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (22, 3, Winter 2016-17, pp. 118-119). Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence, Other reviews and articles may be found online at

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