Friday, July 1, 2011

Before you die, you must read: "Witness" by Whittaker Chambers

It’s summer time when you spread out your blanket on the sand, catch some rays and settle in for a good read. First up on my list is “WITNESS” by Whittaker Chambers. I have Carl Weber (Manchester, NH) to thank for pressuring me again and again to read this 800+ page book. Recently, I learned that Broadway playwright and film director, David Mamet, had come out of the closet as a conservative. In a fascinating interview in the Wall Street Journal, Mamet credits this book as having a profound influence on his conversion from liberalism to conservatism. 

Whittaker Chambers was a member of the American Communist Party and was a Soviet agent, paid to spy on the American government. In the late 1930's he broke away from communism and became one of Time magazine's top editors for over ten years. In the late 1940's, he agrees to testify in senate hearings about the role of communists in the U.S. government. He reveals the names of influential Americans who were also Soviet agents. One of them, Alger Hiss, was a beloved member of Washington, DC's inner circle. The subsequent controversy and trial divided the nation then and now as to whether Alger Hiss was a Soviet agent. 

What is remarkable about this book is that Chambers writes his own personal assessment of communism. He also describes what it is like to be attacked by the American left during much of the Alger Hiss case. The insights that the reader gains from Witness are many. You realize that the left and the American press have always been on the wrong side of most issues. In the early 30s when Stalin was slaughtering thousands of Russians as well as starving the inhabitants of the Ukraine, journalists like the NY Times reporter, Walter Duranty, turned a blind eye and even acted as apologists for these atrocities. Duranty is known to have said, “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.” These same apologists exist today propping up our socialist president, the radical Islamic agenda, and the leftist environmental movement to destroy our nation, our moral foundation, and our belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Whittaker Chambers widens his scope to frame the history of communism for what it really is: the war between God and man. In Witness, he writes that the real choice comes down to this: Will we serve God or will we serve man? When men reject God and his plan for their lives, intellectualism, rationalism, atheism, cynicism and nihilism are adopted to take His place in their lives. When we reject God, we often turn to power, money, politics, environmental issues, animal rights, communism or other “isms” to fill the void created by our rejection of God.

Witness is the ultimate spy novel except that it’s not fiction, it’s about a real man’s experiences with dangerous individuals seeking to destroy America from within. This book is not boring, it is a thriller from start to finish. It would make a great mini-series.

On another note, Witness is an important book to read because it explains the near maniacal obsession that the left has with attacking anyone who dares to reveal the truth about the Soviet Union. We live in a day when the left will always smear someone with the charge of “McCarthyism”, which means you are acting like the late Sen.  Joe McCarthy. This is always done to end all debate. We're taught that McCarthy and the others who revealed the extent of American communism and its connections to Soviet espionage were just fear mongers or worse, were cynical conservatives out to target good democrats. Whittaker Chambers proves that Alger Hiss, the wise old man of Georgetown, the man who was the life of every cocktail party, was in fact a traitor, a paid agent of the Soviet Union. He wasn't just a leftist. He wasn't just a patriotic American who disagreed with the American right. He was a spy and agent of Soviet communism. The defense of Alger Hiss and other communists became a lifetime obsession for many in the American left.

The left is maniacal in its devotion to the celebrated cases of the day - Alger Hiss, and the Rosenbergs especially - because these cases point out the connection of the radical left to communism. The obsession with hating anyone who investigated Soviet espionage not only targeted heroes like Whitaker Chambers, but also smeared and forever changed the career of a young representative from California, Richard Nixon. We see that same obsession today with smearing anyone who attacks radical Islam, abortion, gay rights, etc. The left labels you as a “right-wing extremist.”

Witness is as contemporary as any thing you will read because the struggle is still in evidence today. 


  1. Mark NarankeviciusJuly 2, 2011 at 7:19 AM

    This is going to be my next read Dale - thanks for the recommendation. I heard Glenn Beck interview David Mamet a couple of weeks ago and it was fascinating. I'm just trying to decide whether to download this onto my phone through my Nook app or get the actual book. I'll let you know what I think once I've read it, I expect I'm going to love it.

  2. Yeah Mark...get the will want to read it again as C.S. Lewis says, "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once."