A book signed by Maurice Cornforth

Contributed by jonesch5659

A book signed by  Maurice Cornforth

In the mid 1980s I bought a copy of the Webbs' "Soviet Communism- a New Civilisation?" from a Communist bookshop. On the first page is the signature 'Cornforth'. The book belonged to Maurice Cornforth the British Communist party's most prominent philosopher. He started the Cambridge branch of the Communist Party and also married the sister of James Klugman, also a Cambridge Communist who was widely held to have recruited some of the Cambridge spies. Klugman was at school with Donald Maclean, who later defected to the Soviet Union with Burgess and later Philby.

As a 16 year old member of the Young Communist League I met James Klugmann at a weekend school. I was not aware of the historic events which had surrounded him. The book directly links my bookshelf to the Cambridge spies and speaks of the love affair between Soviet Communism and British intellectuals.

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  • 3 comments
  • 1. At 10:59 on 28 July 2010, Buffalo Joe wrote:

    Different times then, & different times more recently, when you could go into a Communist bookshop to make a find like this.

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  • 2. At 16:38 on 7 August 2010, Stephen Unwin wrote:

    I own a copy of Christopher Cauldwell's ILLUSION AND REALITY (1937) which has Cornforth's signature in the front. It also has his frequently intemperate and often very acute comments in the margin (eg "Tweedledum, tweedledee theory"). I was particularly struck to discover that one of Cornforth's major claims to fame was his critique of Cauldwell: my copy of Cauldwell must have been in his hands

    I got interested in this world having been taught by Margot Heinemann (1913-92), who knew most of these extraordinary people. She was a close friend of Klugman's, was married to JD Bernal and was the subject of John Cornford's great poem Heart of the Heartless World. (she also knew Guy Burgess, who told her that he was going to join the Conservative Party!). This was an amazing generation of true intellectuals who make much of what passes as left wing thought today seem very shallow and unconnected. It is too easy to dismiss them as dreamers and poets.

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  • 3. At 12:33 on 18 October 2010, jonesch5659 wrote:

    Yes I agree Stephen. I have just finished reading a book called Double Lives which is a biography of Willi Muntzenberg. In it all of the lefts causes (Spain, the Reichstag trial etc) throughout the 30's are portrayed as being vehicles of the Soviet Unions secret services. I am not so certain of this myself, though some very strange things went on. I find it hard to make sense of the world these days, having abandoned some very comforting certainties since the collapse of Communism.

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