This is a book review.
Chambers published this book in 1952, but I recommend the paperback 50th Anniversary edition of 2001 which has forewords by the late William F. Buckley and Robert D.Novak. We include a recommendation of this book from the past for several reasons.
Conservatives, Nationalists and Traditional Christians are not well-served these days with intellectually important books. This is not surprising, given that most serious and well-researched books have to be written by academics who have the (publicly paid-for) time and who are almost all busy rewriting modern history to fit a Leftist agenda. So a book that sets the record straight on US politics in the decades 1930/40/50’s is like a tree on the prairie (and lucky to find a publisher). If the above three beleaguered and overlapping groups are to have stamina in tough times, they need access to their predeccessors beliefs and to know the truth about their struggles.
Chambers certainly knew about struggle in the same way that Joe McCarthy knew about it for he changed political sides and became a conservative, patriot and Christian just when these things came under attack from anti-American Leftist forces both with-in the US and across the world.
“Witness” was not ‘ghost-written’ for Chambers was a true intellectual and a good writer and this is the searingly honest story of his dysfunctional upbringing, his conversion to Communism, and his traitorous descent into the Soviet spy network as a link and recruiter between US government employees and the Soviet agents who worked for Stalin. After several years of this, Chambers ‘deserted’ for he had concluded that Communism was evil. His defection co-incided with that of a few other comrades in the US and he knew from the ‘accidents’ some suffered, that he and his family were in danger.
The valuable lesson for us today is the response to Chambers and other defectors from US politicians, bureaucrats and the liberal MSM. It took years for Chambers and others to arouse the US to the infiltration of Government by Communist traitors. Chief of these was Alger Hiss, a highly placed Civil Servant with an Ivy League background who fed the USSR crucial information. Hiss was eventually tried and found guilty, but the US Left and Liberal Establishment treated him as a victim and Chambers as a liar and worse. The information in Eastern European secret police archives revealed in the 1990’s that Hiss was indeed a traitor and that Chambers account was wholly truthful, but the Media and Academia continues to ignore the facts. There is a lesson in the Chambers experience for all who care about the survival of the West and care about truth.