American Editor, Journalist and Writer
Whittaker Chambers, born Jay Vivian Chambers, aka Jay David Whittaker Chambers
American Editor, Journalist and Writer
I see in Communism the focus of the concentrated evil of our time.
My century is unique in the history of men for two reasons. It is the first century since life began when a decisive part of the most articulate section of mankind has not merely ceased to believe in God, but has deliberately rejected God. And it is the century in which this religious rejection has taken a specifically political form.
The Columbia faculty was not, of course, composed wholly of young skeptics and esthetes. By any count of academic noses, they were a small minority.
They [liberal newsmen] were people who believed a number of things. Foremost among them was the belief that peace could be perserved, World War III could be averted only by conciliating the Soviet Union. For this no price was too high to pay, including the price of willful historical self-delusion.… Hence like most people who have substituted the habit of delusion for reality, they became hysterical whenever the root of their delusion was touched, and reacted with a violence that completely belied the openness of mind which they prescribed for others.
[The Devil said:] Hell is a conspiracy. Like all good conspiracies, its first requirement is that nobody shall believe in it. Well, we have succeeded so well that for centuries there has been no Hell, and there is scarcely a rational man in the world today who, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, believes that the Devil exists.
Every sincere break with Communism is a religious experience, though the Communists fail to identify its true nature, though he fail to go to the end of the experience. His break is the political expression of the perpetual need of the soul whose first faint stirring he has felt within him, years, months or days before he breaks. A Communist breaks because he must choose at last between irreconcilable opposites — God or Man, Soul or Mind, Freedom or Communism.
I wanted my wife to realize clearly one long-term penalty, for herself and for the children, of the step I was taking. I said: You know, we are leaving the winning world for the losing world.
My children, as long as you live, the shadow of the Hiss Case will brush you. In every pair of eyes that rests on you, you will see pass, like a cloud passing behind a woods in winter, the memory of your father - dissembled in friendly eyes, lurking in unfriendly eyes.
The Communist vision is the vision of man without God
To me many of my colleagues at Time, basically kind and intensely well-meaning people, seemed to me as charming and as removed from reality as fish in a fish bowl. To me they seemed to know little about the forces that were shaping the history of our time. To me they seemed like little children, knowing and clever little children, but knowing and clever chiefly about trifling things while they were extremely resistant to finding out about anything else.
[The Devil said:] It seems but yesterday that I launched Hell’s Five Hundred Year Plan.… I saw that Hell had to move with the tide and leave the rest to rationalism, liberalism and universal compulsory education… At first there was some opposition in Hell. Baal, Beelzebub and a handful of almost aboriginal demons who are still living in the 10th Century B.C. and have not had an idea since the Fall, naturally opposed the New Deal.
Experience had taught me that innocence seldom utters outraged shrieks. Guilt does. Innocence is a mighty shield, and the man or woman covered by it, is much more likely to answer calmly: “My life is blameless. Look into it, if you like, for you will find nothing.” That is the tone of innocence.
In 1937, I began, like Lazarus, the impossible return. I began to break away from Communism and to climb from deep within its underground, where for six years I had been buried, back into the world of free men.
My eye came to rest on the delicate convolutions of her ear-those intricate, perfect ears. The thought passed through my mind: No, those ears were not created by any chance coming together of atoms in nature (the Communist view). They could have been created only by immense design.
The dying world of 1925 was without faith, hope, character, understanding of its malady or will to overcome it. It was dying but it laughed. And this laughter was not the defiance of a vigor that refuses to know when it is whipped. It was the loss, by the mind of a whole civilization, of the power to distinguish between reality and unreality, because, ultimately, though I did not know it, it had lost the power to distinguish between good and evil.… The dying world had no answer at all to the crisis of the 20th century, and, when it was mentioned, and every moral voice in the Western world was shrilling crisis, it cocked an ear of complacent deafness and smiled a smile of blank senility—throughout history, the smile of those for whom the executioner waits.
To those for whom the intellect alone has force, such a witness has little or no force. It bewilders and exasperates them. It challenges them to suppose that there is something greater about man than his ability to add and subtract. It submits that that something is the soul. Plain men understood the witness easily. It speaks directly to their condition. For it is peculiarly the Christian witness. They still hear it, whenever it truly reaches their ears, the ring of those glad tidings that once stirred mankind with an immense hope. For it frees them from the trap of irreversible Fate at the point at which it whispers to them that each soul is individually responsible to God, that it has only to assert that responsibility, and out of man’s weakness will come strength, out of his corruption incorruption, out of his evil good, and out of what is false invulnerable truth.
A man is not primarily a witness against something. That is only incidental to the fact that he is a witness for something. A witness, in the sense that I am using the word, is a man whose life and faith are so completely one that when the challenge comes to step out and testify for his faith, he does so, disregarding all risks, accepting all consequences.
External freedom is only an aspect of interior freedom. Political freedom, as the Western world has known it, is only a political reading of the Bible. Religion and freedom are indivisible. Without freedom the soul dies. Without the soul there is no justification for freedom.… Hence every sincere break with Communism is a religious experience.
In the 20th Century, treason became a vocation whose modern form was specifically the treason of ideas.
No matter how favorable his opinion had been to an individual or his political role, if that person fell from grace in the Communist Party, Harry Freeman changed his opinion about him instantly. That was not strange; that was a commonplace of Communist behavior. What was strange was that Harry seemed to change without any effort or embarrassment. There seemed to vanish from his mind any recollection that he had ever held any opinion other than the approved one. If you taxed him with his former views, he would show surprise, and that surprise would be authentic. He would then demonstrate to you, in a series of mental acrobatics so flexible that the shifts were all but untraceable, that he had never thought anything else. More adroitly and more completely than any other Communist I knew, Harry Freeman possessed the conviction that the party line is always right.
The Hiss Case has turned my wife and me into old people - not a disagreeable condition. But we who used to plan in terms of decades, now find a year, two years, the utmost span of time we can take in.
Toscanini was hailing a great artist, but that voice was more than a magnificent personal talent. It was the religious voice of a whole religious people — probably the most God-obsessed (and man-despised) people since the ancient Hebrews.
A nation's life is about as long as its reverential memory.
For in this century, within the next decades, will be decided for generations whether all mankind is to become Communist, whether the whole world is to become free, or whether, in the struggle, civilization as we know it is to be completely destroyed or completely changed.