Whittaker Chambers, born Jay Vivian Chambers, aka Jay David Whittaker Chambers

Chambers, born Jay Vivian Chambers, aka Jay David Whittaker Chambers

American Editor, Journalist and Writer

Author Quotes

Conservatism is alien to the very nature of capitalism.

I do not know any way to explain why God's grace touches a man who seems unworthy of it.

It taught me that . . . there can be no true humility and no true compassion where there is no courage.

Sometimes, of a spring evening, Papa would hear that distant honking that always makes his scalp tingle, and we would all rush out to see the geese, in lines of hundreds, steer up from the southwest, turn over the barn as over a landmark, and head into the north. Or on autumn nights of sudden cold that set the ewes breeding in the orchard, Papa would call you out of the house to stand with him in the now celebrated pumpkin patch and watch the northern lights flicker in electric clouds on the horizon, mount, die down, fade and mount again till they filled the whole northern sky with ghostly light in motion. Thus, as children, you experienced two of the most important things men ever know--the wonder of life and the wonder of the universe, the wonder of life within the wonder of the universe. More importantly, you knew them not from books, not from lectures, but simply from living among them. Most important, you knew them with reverence and awe--that reverence and awe that has died out of the modern world and has been replaced by man's monkeylike amazement at the cleverness of his own inventive brain.

The story has spread that in testifying against Mr. Hiss I am working out some old grudge, or motives or revenge or hatred. I do not hate Mr. Hiss. We were close friends, but we are caught in a tragedy of history. Mr. Hiss represents the concealed enemy against which we are all fighting, and I am fighting. I have testified against him with remorse and pity, but in a moment of history in which this Nation now stands, so help me God, I could not do otherwise.

Yet there is one experience which most sincere ex-Communists share, whether or not they go only part way to the end of the question it poses. The daughter of a former German diplomat in Moscow was trying to explain to me why her father, who, as an enlightened modern man, had been extremely pro-Communist, had become an implacable anti-Communist. It was hard for her because, as an enlightened modern girl, she shared the Communist vision without being a Communist. But she loved her father and the irrationality of his defection embarrassed her. 'He was immensely pro-Soviet,' she said,' and then -- you will laugh at me -- but you must not laugh at my father -- and then -- one night -- in Moscow -- he heard screams. That's all. Simply one night he heard screams.' A child of Reason and the 20th century, she knew that there is a logic of the mind. She did not know that the soul has a logic that may be more compelling than the mind's. She did not know at all that she had swept away the logic of the mind, the logic of history, the logic of politics, the myth of the 20th century, with five annihilating words: one night he heard screams.

Counterrevolution and conservatism have little in common. In the struggle against Communism the conservative is all but helpless. For that struggle cannot be fought, much less won, or even understood, except in terms of total sacrifice. And the conservative is suspicious of sacrifice; he wishes first to conserve, above all what he is and what he has. You cannot fight against revolutions so.

I have great silent thanks to God. For I knew that if, as children, you could thus feel in your souls the reverence and awe for life and the world, which is the ultimate meaning of Beethoven and Shakespeare, as a man and woman you could never be satisfied with less.

Lenin was a Great Russian peasant et rien de plus, mais r-r-rien de plus. Oh yes, he was a dialectician, the only true one among them. But most of all he was a Russian and that is to be a peasant.

That [haunting fear of being wrong] is the fate of those who break without knowing clearly that Communism is wrong because something else is right, because to the challenge: God or Man?, they continue to give the answer: Man… They are witnesses against something; they have ceased to be witnesses for anything.

The Wizard of Oz (M. G. M.) should settle an old Hollywood controversy: whether fantasy can be presented on the screen as successfully with human actors as with cartoons.

Yet, so strong is the hold which the insidious evil of Communism secures upon its disciples, that I could still say to someone at that time: I know that I am leaving the winning side for the losing side, but it is better to die on the losing side than to live under Communism.

Crime, violence, infamy are not tragedy. Tragedy occurs when a human soul awakes and seeks, in suffering and pain, to free itself from crime, violence, infamy, even at the cost of life. The struggle is the tragedy - not defeat or death. That is why the spectacle of tragedy has always filled men, not with despair, but with a sense of hope and exaltation.

I know that I am leaving the winning side for the losing side, but it is better to die on the losing side than to live under Communism.

Life is not worth living for which a man is not prepared to die at any moment.

The book begins with the clang of a cell door closing in a GPU prison. It ends with a shot in the back of the head in a murky passageway of the prison cellar. It moves with the speed, directness, precision and some of the impact of a bullet.

Then he asked in German (the only language that we ever spoke): "Ist die Sowjetregierung eine faschistische Regierung? - Is the Soviet Government a fascist government?"... I sat silent for some moments. Then I said: "Ja, die Sowjetregierung ist eine faschistische Regierung - the Soviet Government is a fascist government"... Krivitsky turned for the first time and looked at me directly. "Du hast recht," he said, "und Kronstadt war der Wendepunkt - You are right, and Kronstadt was the turning point."

You know what the problem with this case is? We're cast wrong. I look like a slob, so I should be the villain. [Alger] Hiss, the handsome man who knows all the society people, is the born hero. It's bad casting. If it was the other way around, nobody would pay any attention to the story; but because of the way we look, all of you people think he must be telling the truth. That's what has made him so valuable to the other side.

Die goldene Medina. The accent was not on the golden (except in the sense of some mysterious Light), but on the Medina - that is, the city of hope, the city of deliverance.

I remembered the saying: “Any fool can commit a murder, but it takes an artist to commit a good natural death.”

Men have never been so educated, but wisdom, even as an idea, has conspicuously vanished from the world.

The chief fruit of the First World War was the Russian Revolution and the rise of Communism as a national power.

There has never been a society or a nation without God. But history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations that became indifferent to God, and died.

Every man is crucified upon the cross of himself.

I see in Communism the focus of the concentrated evil of our time.

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Chambers, born Jay Vivian Chambers, aka Jay David Whittaker Chambers
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American Editor, Journalist and Writer