Richard Willoughby Gott (born 28 October 1938, Aston Tirrold, England) is a British journalist and historian. A former Latin America correspondent and features editor for the British newspaper The Guardian, he is known for his radical politics and a connection to Che Guevara. He resigned from The Guardian in 1994 after claims that he had been a Soviet "agent of influence", a tag Gott denied.
Gott studied history at Oxford University and worked at the Royal Institute of International Affairs. In the 1960s he worked at the University of Chile, where he wrote Guerrilla Movements in Latin America. In January 1966, Gott was a candidate in the 1966 Kingston upon Hull North by-election for the 'Radical Alliance', running on a platform which stressed opposition to the Vietnam War; he polled only 253 votes.
In November 1963, working as a freelance journalist for The Guardian in Cuba, Gott was invited to a celebration of the revolution party at the Soviet Union embassy in Havana. During the evening, a group of invited journalists who were chatting in the garden were joined by Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara for a few hours, who answered their questions.
In 1981 the BBC's Alasdair Milne and Aubrey Singer sought to appoint Gott to the position of editor of its cultural magazine, The Listener, but Gott failed to obtain security clearance from MI5 and Russell Twisk was appointed instead. Gott was then appointed features editor for The Guardian.
Work for KGB
In 1994, Gott admitted KGB contacts beginning in 1964, and to having taken Soviet gifts, which he called "red gold". One of his controllers was Igor Titov, who was expelled by the UK in 1983 for "activities incompatible with his diplomatic status" (espionage), but left while he denied being a spy.
After his period as features editor, Gott became literary editor of The Guardian, but resigned from the latter post in December 1994 after it was alleged in The Spectator that he had been an "agent of influence" for the KGB, claims which he rejected, arguing that "Like many other journalists, diplomats and politicians, I lunched with Russians during the cold war". He asserted that his resignation was "a debt of honour to my paper, not an admission of guilt", because his failure to inform his editor of three trips abroad to meet with KGB officials at their expense had caused embarrassment to the paper during its investigation of Jonathan Aitken.
The source of the allegation that he had been an agent was KGB defector Oleg Gordievsky. In his resignation letter Gott admitted: "I took red gold, even if it was only in the form of expenses for myself and my partner. That, in the circumstances, was culpable stupidity, though at the time it seemed more like an enjoyable joke". One issue was whether during the 1980s, the KGB, would have thought Gott's information worth £10,000. Phillip Knightley, biographer of the KGB agent Kim Philby, highlighted the limited value of outsider Gott as compared to insider Aldrich Ames concluding that Gott would have been lucky to get his bus fare back. Rupert Allason pointed out valuable activities such as talent-spotting and finding people who did have highly classified access.
- Gott, Richard; Gilbert, Martin (2000) . The appeasers. Orion. ISBN 978-1842120507.
- Gott, Richard (1968). A future for the United Nations? (pamphlet)
- Gott, Richard (1970). Guerrilla movements in Latin America. Thomas Nelson.
- Gott, Richard (2000). In the shadow of the liberator: Hugo Chávez and the transformation of Venezuela. London New York: Verso Books. ISBN 9781859843659.
- Gott, Richard (2004). Cuba: a new history. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300104110.
- Gott, Richard (2005). Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution. London New York: Verso Books. ISBN 9781844675333.
- Gott, Richard (2011). Britain's Empire: Resistance, Repression and Revolt. Verso Books.
- Gott, Richard (May–June 2006). "Venezuela's Murdoch". New Left Review. New Left Review. II (39). Available online.
- Review of Gustavo Cisneros: Un Empresario Global by Pablo Bachelet.
- Donegan, Lawrence. Spy-watchers split on KGB's pounds 10,000", The Guardian, 12 December 1994
- New Yorker
- David McKie "By-elections of the Wilson Government" in Chris Cook and John Ramsden (eds.), "By-elections in British Politics", Macmillan, 1973, p.228
- Richard Gott "US Agent in at the Death of Che Guevara", The Guardian, 11 October 1967
- Mark Hollingsworth and Richard Norton-Taylor Blacklist: The Inside Story of Political Vetting, London, Hogarth Press, 1988, p.109
- Hitchens, Christopher (12 January 1995). "Gotterdämmerung". London Review of Books (17:1). p. 5.
- "UK journalist quits over KGB contacts". UPI. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
Gott said he was first approached by a Soviet Embassy official in London in 1964
- RHYS WILLIAMS (9 December 1994). "'Guardian' journalist recruited by the KGB". The Independent. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
he added, that along with his partner, he went on expenses-paid trips to Austria, Greece and Cyprus, where he met a more senior Soviet figure. Accepting this red gold was, he admitted, culpable stupidity.
- PAUL GOULD (9 December 1994). "UK journalist quits over KGB contacts". UPI. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
former Soviet Embassy official Igor Titov was Gott's first 'controller,' before his expulsion in 1983 for 'activities incompatible with his diplomatic status.'
- "A Soviet Embassy official has been quietly expelled from..." UPI. 1 April 1983. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
The British Foreign Office said the Soviet diplomats were found 'to have engaged in activities incompatible with their status,' a euphemism usually used to mean espionage.
- ALINE MOSBY (6 April 1983). "The expulsion of 47 Soviet diplomats and journalists proves..." UPI. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
Assistant air attache Col. GennadiPrimakov and the London correspondent of the Soviet magazine New Times, Igor Titov, left for Moscow Wednesday denying they were spies.
- Richard Gott, letter to The Sunday Times, 24 September 2000
- Williams, Rhys (9 December 1994). "'Guardian' journalist recruited by the KGB". The Independent. Retrieved 5 April 2016.
- Donegan, Lawrence (12 December 1994). "Spy-watchers split on KGB's £10,000". The Guardian. p. 17.
He would have been of use 'as an agent of influence, as someone who knew people who did have access to classified information. He could also have talent-spotted other journalists and correspondents going out to the Eastern block countries'.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Richard Gott.|
- New Statesman, 4 October 1999, Book Reviews – A looking-glass world – In 1994 it was claimed that Richard Gott was a KGB "agent of influence". In this article he responds that the claim was anti-spy hysteria which amounted to McCarthyism
- The Guardian, 1 February 2006, – A Comment piece about his standing in the 1966 North Hull By election
- Richard Gott Relishes this Sweet Moment in US-Cuban Relations by Richard Gott, The Guardian, 14 April 2009
- What If Latin America Ruled the World? – a review by Richard Gott, 3 July 2010
- Who Comments? – Richard Gott – Chronology of articles and biographical information