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In an interview with Stephen Koch, author of Double Lives: Spies and Writers in the Secret Soviet War of Ideas Against the West, former Soviet agent Babette Gross, wife of Willi Münzenberg, says of Sorge: "I knew him when he was young and beautiful." 291 (Koch, p.10)
291 Gross, Münzenberg, and the likes of Hede Massing, Otto Katz, Ruth Werner, Agnes Smedley, Walter Krivitsky, Leopold Trepper, Leonid Eitingon, Aleksandr Orlov, and Aino Kuusinen were all part of the world-wide network of Communist agents. Many of the international spies and agents seem to have know one another fairly well, or at least knew of one another. They were all associates by maybe one degree of separation, and usually none. It was like a "big club," Sorge was a member of this network. He knew Gross and Massing (he had recruited Massing). It must be mentioned that in the "club's" ideological fervor for a Communist utopia, one of the greatest genocides of the 20th century was committed-Stalin decimated dozens of millions during his purges and state sanctioned murders. The "coziness" of the "club" and the familiarity among its members may be understood in light of the newness of the Soviet State. Still in its infancy, the U.S.S.R. was still just beginning its adventure in the 1930s when many of the club members were at their height. After all. 1917 was still the recent past, and the passion of the times swept many "club" members into the net of Soviet espionage. Author Eric Carlton explains the attraction to Marxism by members of the "big club"-"Marxism appeared to explain so much to the young, and it certainly had more to say about imperialism and the 'class struggle' than it did about nationalist ideologies. Marxism gave a philosophical underpinning to their protests, or--in more existential terms--it gave their lives a requisite 'authenticity. "Sorge was a bit different, however. He was not your typical communist. "In many ways he was more like a bourgeois intellectual and idealist who saw in Communism the best way to usher in an egalitarian society." He never publicly expressed distaste for Stalin. but Elisabeth Poretsky, the wife of NKVD defector Ignace Reiss (aka Poretsky), remembers Sorge had no love of Stalin. "Sorge was convinced that serving the U.S.S.R. as a spy constituted a service to the revolution. He knew well enough what was happening in the Soviet Union, and for that matter in the Fourth Department." When Reiss fulminated against Stalin "IKA himself spoke little and usually sat through these conversations, his face hard and unsmiling. But we knew that he was one of us and that we could say anything in from of him with complete faith and safety." Sorge also operated with a degree of freedom unlike most of his comrades. Says historian Chalmers Johnson "Sorge was radically different from most spies who have served the Soviet Union since 1917. None were ever given the free hand that he had, and the U.S.S.R. never tolerated another man so notorious for his heavy drinking, his extravagant relations with women..., and his apparently flagrant indifference to the dangers of his position." (Carlton, pp.170, 178; Johnson. p.12; Poretsky, p.105) (see also footnote #275)