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Whittaker Chambers joined the American Communist Party in the 1920s. He was then recruited into the separate Soviet-run Communist underground. He helped form a secret ring of Communists among New Deal officials who then spied on their own country, passing documents to the Soviets. Chambers led the ring for about three years before his growing disillusion with Communism led him to risk his life by breaking with the party in 1937, at the height of Stalin's purges.
He grew personally close to Alger Hiss, a New Deal lawyer with sterling credentials - including Harvard Law and working as a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Hiss served in the Agriculture, State and Justice departments and later became president of the Carnegie Endowment for World Peace. He helped create the United Nations and advised Roosevelt at Yalta, where the ailing president ceded Eastern Europe to the Soviets, condemning it to half a century of Communist domination. Chambers' break with the party, and his later focus on Hiss in his accusations, is made poignant by the intensity of his friendship with Hiss.
Hiss's supporters defended him for decades.Read more ›
I'm glad I finally got around to reading the story, and will briefly share my impression here.
Firstly, Chambers was an excellent writer. The book flows well, is hard to put down, and Chambers led a fairly interesting life. Probably the least interesting was his time as a spy, and the second least interesting was the case itself.
The second thing I found impressive, and indeed the pivot on which the book turned, was the account of his metamorphisis from ardent communist true-believer to ardent anti-communist. From godless to God-filled is how one might sum it up, but the changes were subtle, and often described in a kind of echo. "I heard someone screaming in the night"- sums it up figuratively if not literally for him, knowing that the screams were due to the grinding of a soul under the gears of the communist-soviet machinery.
Thirdly the book has a quiet humor mixed in with the tragic melancholy of Chamber's ironic life. It's not laugh-out-loud funny by any stretch, no one has any hilarious Stalin anecdotes or anything, but the humor is there, and it provides an undercurrent to carry the reader through the drier places until the end.
Finally I was amazed at the similarity with the left-right struggle of today.Read more ›
Ann Coulter helped rectify this unfortunate development last year with the publication of her mega-bestseller "Slander". Her trenchant exploration of twentieth century communism and the unbridled invective hurled against those who dared to oppose the murderous ideology introduced Chambers to a whole new generation. In interviews she has often stated that his autobiography Witness is one of the absolute-must reads for conservatives and an important title for all students of American history.
As someone whose knowledge of Alger Hiss' nemesis was lacking, I decide to follow the sapient blonde's advice and picked up a copy of the 800-page memoir. I now second Miss Coulter's call; Witness is a moving and educational read. The extent to which communists infiltrated the United States Government in pre-World War days is frightening both in its scope and in the fact that today few Americans appreciate just how serious actual security breaches were. Chambers was well-qualified to address the magnitude of the red threat because for more than a decade he was a part of the menace. As a committed fellow traveler, he hobnobbed in all the right (left?) circles. So powerful was the communist structure within our nation that when he eventually grew disillusioned and abandoned the atheistic dead end, he firmly believed that he was "leaving the wining world for the losing world.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Tedious but informative. I didn't realize the scope of communism in this country at that time and even today.Published 25 days ago by Reva J Ledbetter
A fascinating first-person insight into the major story of the 20th century--the expansion of communism.Published 2 months ago by Rowland J. Martin
While I am only a few chapters into this book, it is at times, both provocative and profound. It is a view of a world I only remember as a child, with the focus now on the Middle... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Kurtis R. Palmer
A must read for people who think socialism or communism is going to work.Published 5 months ago by debidew
Serious and entertaining as needed history of the times/peoplePublished 9 months ago by THE GUNSMITH