This week we will start off with the story of a young American who became enticed by the promises of Communism. It comes from a book that he wrote… Witness. This man’s name is Whittaker Chambers. I tell his story because it lets us see how young people can become involved because of their desire to ‘change the world’ and doing so without really knowing the direction from whence their ideas have been tried and failed in the past. His evolutionary pattern was followed by a considerable number of young American intellectuals during the Nineteen-Twenties and early Thirties. Hopefully you will get to see the kind of lifestyle that lets one follow a path that eventually leads nowhere.
Whittaker was raised on Long Island not far from Suburban New York. His father was an impersonal and disinterested individual consumed by his job as a newspaper illustrator. He had an ‘over-loving’ and ‘overbearing’ mother who had been an actress; an insane grandmother; and a younger brother whom he felt no particular fraternal affection for. He entered maturity during the hectic post-World War I period, and like many people of that time became a moral and spiritual causality. Whittaker’s younger brother returned from college cynical and disillusioned. He became an alcoholic and finally committed suicide. The whole family seemed to have degenerated into a pattern of life which was precisely the mess of purposeless pottage that Marx and Engels had declared the family to represent.
Whittaker explains: “When I entered college I was a conservative in my view of life and politics, and I was undergoing a religious experience. By the time I left, entirely by my own choice, I was no longer a conservative and I had no religion. That same year I went to Europe and saw Germany in the manic throes of defeat. I returned to Columbia. In 1925, I voluntarily withdrew from society for the express purpose of joining the Communist Party. I had come to believe that the world we live in was dying, that only surgery could now save the wreckage of mankind, and that the Communist Party was history’s surgeon.” (Witness, Whittaker Chambers, page 164.) (I cannot help but wonder how many college students today are coming to the same conclusions?)
Whittaker in real earnest went to work for Communism. He became co-editor of The Textile Worker, wrote for the Daily Worker, married a Communist ‘wife’, and learned the strike tactics of trade union violence. He learned how the Communist Party employed gangsters against business owners, and how to get union members to lead their own gangs of strikers. He intended to make Communist programs a permanent pattern of his life. However, his Communist ‘wife’ left him to go her own way and he settled for a ‘bourgeois marriage’ at city hall in 1931. At this point he never could have guessed he also had other sensibilities which would one day take him out of Communism and make him senior editor of TIME Magazine.
In 1928, Whittaker saw the first purges in the American Communist Party. He came to realize that the American Communist Party was being dictated to by Stalin in Moscow. Stalin had named a man named William Foster to lead the American Communist Party and forced every member of that party to support Foster or be expelled. Whittaker saw Stalin behaving exactly like a Fascist dictator, forcing American Communist to follow a leader that they had already voted against. Whittaker stopped being an active member of the party. He was never expelled, nor did his loyalty to Communism change, but he deeply resented Stalin. However, the Great Depression arrived and Whittaker’s sympathies for the unemployed drew him back toward the party program. He believed that from all appearances the long-predicted collapse of American capitalism had arrived. In June 1932, he was asked to pay the full price of being a Communist…he was nominated to serve as a spy against the United States in the employment of the Soviet Military Intelligence. He did not cherish this assignment but was told he had no choice. Whittaker was assigned to be the key contact man for Russia’s most important spy cell in Washington, DC. He has described his espionage associations with persons who were later to become top officials in the United States Government:
> Alger Hiss…started out in the Department of Agriculture and then served on the Special Senate Committee investigating the munitions industry. He then served in the Department of Justice before moving on to the State Department. There he served as Director of the highly important office of Political Affairs. He served as advisor to President Roosevelt at Yalta and as Secretary General of the International Assembly which created the United Nations.
> Harry Dexter White…who became Assistant Secretary of the United States Treasury and author of the Morgenthau Plan, named after the Secretary of the Treasury from 1935-1945.
> John J. Abt…who served in the Department of Agriculture, the WPA, the Senate Committee on Education and Labor, and was made a Special Assistant to the Attorney General in charge of the trial section.
> Henry H. Collins…served in the NRA, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Labor, and the Department of State. In 1948 he became Executive Director of the American Russian Institute (cited by the Attorney General as a Communist front organization).
> Charles Kramer…served on the National Labor Relations Board, in the Office of Price Administration, and in 1943 joined the staff of the Senate Sub-committee on War mobilization.
> Nathan Witt…served in the Department of Agriculture and became Secretary of the National Labor Relations Board.
> Harold Ware…served in the Department of Agriculture
> Victor Perlo…served in the Office of Price Administration, the War Production Board, and the Treasury.
> Henry Julian Wadleigh…became a prominent official in the Treasury Department.
During the national trial of Communist influence in the United States, Whittaker testified that he received so many confidential government documents that it took continuous efforts of two and sometimes three photographers to microfilm the material and keep it flowing to Russia. His best source of information was Alger Hiss who would bring home every night a briefcase filled with material from the State Department. It was by the famous “Pumpkin Papers” that Hiss was convicted of perjury. In later years Whittaker was asked to give an explanation as to why so many well-educated Americans were duped into committing acts of subversion against their native country. He explained that once a person has been converted to the ideology of Communism he will consider espionage to be a moral act…a duty…committed in the name of humanity for the good of future society.
In 1938, at the height of his career as a Russian agent Whittaker found his philosophy of materialism collapsing. It was one morning while he was feeding his small daughter that he suddenly realized as he watched her that the delicate yet immense complexity of the human body and human personality could not possibly be explained in terms of accumulated accident. He became completely persuaded that he was living in a universe of amazingly immaculate design which was subject to the creative supervision of a Supreme Intelligence. Just as Communist philosophy had brought him into the movement, he was now determined to get out. With his break from Communism he tried to get his friend Alger Hiss to leave with him. Hiss not only refused but heatedly denounced him for trying to influence him. Whittaker’s departure brought with it physical and mental suffering not even he expected. At one point he worked with a gun beside him for fear the Russian secret police would take his life just as they were doing to many others. Whittaker even tried to take his own life to keep from having to expose those who had formerly been his most intimate friends. Up until the time Whittaker Chambers made up his mind to tell the whole story, the American public was almost completely unaware of the vast spy network which Russia had built into every strata of American society.
Next week we will see how Communism groomed a replacement for Whittaker Chambers. In many cases his replacement was even more involved in the spy network than Whittaker was. It is so important that our church leadership take a part in educating their congregations on the value of our founding principles and how those principles are under constant attack by those wanting to destroy our nation. It is a must that Christians take a stand. Today we even have some churches that are embarrassed to display the American flag. Jesus, by His crux- fiction, represents His love for mankind. That flag represents man’s love for mankind. Will we forfeit that love?
– Bob Munsey
“True believers cannot simply check their Christianity at the door when they leave the church facility and never mention it again. Christ lives inside of us and He is a vital part of everything we do.” (Mixing Church and State God’s Way, Rick Scarborough, page 30)