Culmination of the American Utopian Delusion:
Whittaker Chambers and the Crisis of History
The Greatest Threat to Democracy
Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, delivered an extraordinary speech in October, 2020, in which he outlined plans to fight against “separatism.” In his address he discussed current threats to the cohesiveness of French democracy. Macron mentioned “certain social science theories entirely imported from the United States” as a direct threat to French unity. “His education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer also warned that there is a ‘battle to wage against an intellectual matrix from American universities.’”
Macron understands that cohesion is essential to both quality of life and to national survival. American obsessions with race, deconstruction of national identity and pride, emphasis on membership in various victim groups and linkages between these groups (“intersectionality”) all subvert national unity and put the democracy of France, and here, at risk. If the balkanization-corruption of democracy currently underway in America should find a foothold in France, Macron is fully correct to be concerned for the future of France—however, it is not only French democracy at risk from American identity politics and utopian, anti-freedom ideas but democracy everywhere.
Across the planet democracy is now under threat. Through wretched philosophies of dissolution and internal self-hatreds and utopian revolutionary fervor, finally to the disruption of those unifying chords of freedom, unity, and pride in national identity that sustain a democracy’s continued existence—democracies everywhere are now jeopardized by its once greatest champion, the United States.
One Hundred Years of Communist/Utopian Subversion
The transformation of the United States from the greatest example of democracy and its surest defender to its most malignant threat required one hundred years. For those not fully aware of the century-long history of this revolutionary movement in the United States the shocking changes now happening daily all must seem like a sudden whirlwind; from the ousting of Trump in the 2020 falsified presidential election to this article’s publication date has been just a matter of months—and since the removal of Trump almost everything in American politics and culture seems to have changed. It seems as if the presidency of Trump was holding back the tide.
The dysfunctional cultural and political climate in the United States is founded upon the long unwinding, and finally moral and ethical corruption, of the American left, that is, modern American liberalism (i.e., the Democratic party). The circumstances of the present moment are the culmination of a century of American liberal affection for, then ambivalence toward, and finally acceptance of Marxism as the path to egalitarianism and social equality. That every implementation of Communism (or any totalitarian system) including the former Soviet model and the current Chinese or Cuban models eradicates individual freedoms seems, for the liberal utopians, a small if not entirely irrelevant price to pay. However, it is not only the acceptance and approval of the ugly truths of collectivism and state control as merely necessary inconveniences on the path toward utopia that allows American leftists/Democrats to support totalitarian solutions—but rather a fundamentally skewed worldview and utopian false "morality."
Liberalism and Communism
When the Soviet Union arrived on the historical scene after the 1917 Russian Revolution, many American liberals immediately supported it. Marxism/Communism seemed to have the answer to many of the issues of the day (and into the future), and appeared to provide a solution to political, moral, ethical, and pragmatic problems of poverty, wealth redistribution, and finally of meaning. It quickly became apparent to those paying attention and who could still think clearly about such things that after the murder of the Romanovs the Soviet revolution would forever be tainted. For most American leftists who supported the communists in the Soviet Union even the murder of the deposed Tsar and his family was forgivable, if not acceptable, as a revolutionary "necessity."
Revolutions tend to be all-encompassing things and the means to get to the desired beneficial utopian ends are almost universally justified by the revolutionists. In the early days most American leftist-communists were, despite all the “red flags,” unfazed. Over time the death toll from Russian communism wasn’t measured only at the former Tsar’s-family level but in the millions; regardless, the American left sustained their support for the Russian revolutionists and even occasionally decried certain communist abuses.
It was only in the 1930s, as a consequence of the Stalin purges and the show trials against the Trotskyites and others, that some semblance of a “crisis of heart” regarding Soviet Communism occurred among American Democrat leftist/liberals.
The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939 and the alliance between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany that it represented created a profound challenge to American leftists. If the liberals continued to support the Soviets, they were tacitly also supporting the Nazis whom everyone (even most American liberals) knew were enemies of the United States. If the Democrats abandoned their support for the Russian communists because of this alliance with the Nazis, many conflicted liberals worried, were they also then abandoning Marxism/Communism itself?
Without Communism, the most powerful example of utopianism in existence, American liberals no longer had a foundation or a pole upon which to fly their utopian flag. Many liberals who disapproved of the pact became “anti- anti-communists,” who continued to hate the American right (i.e., Republicans) yet retained a minimal support for the Soviet Union and sustained their affection for Communism itself though generally in a subdued sort of manner. When the pact was broken by the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941 these troubled American liberals/communists/Democrats were rescued from the conundrum presented to them by the circumstances of events and could once again openly characterize Russia as a friendly country and a victim of Nazi aggression worthy of public (and national) support.
American liberal support for the Soviet Union and Marxism/Communism had, until just recently, been generally low-key and shadowy, more often hidden in behavior and in rhetoric. With the current phase of the utopian communist revolution now underway, there is no reason at all to hide their true beliefs and affiliations. Hilton Kramer could therefore write in the New Criterion in 1988, “Liberalism dares not openly acknowledge, even to itself, its surrender to socialist ideology, for everybody knows that the American voter will not elect a frankly socialist government.” (Hilton Kramer, “Thinking about Witness” New Criterion, March, 1988.) Thirty years after Mr. Kramer’s confident dismissal of the at-that-time absurd idea of American voters supporting a socialist ideology everything seems to have changed.
The profound subversion of and subsequent failure of American institutions, the deconstruction of national unity, and the public advocation of Communism/Marxism in today’s American left were foreshadowed in the 1950s when Whittaker Chambers dramatically accused a senior American State Department official, Alger Hiss, of being a spy for the Soviet Union, a communist, and a traitor to his country.
A Utopian Communist Agent Dramatically Defects
Whittaker Chambers was a senior editor at Time magazine, and a contributor to Life. He was also a former communist agent who had abandoned communism, a utopian revolution-centric political ideology that he had come to identify as evil. He wrote about his life in the American communist underground, his profound rejection of it, and the events around what became the greatest trial of the Cold War period, the Alger Hiss case, in his extraordinary autobiography, “Witness.” Considered by many to be one of the greatest American autobiographies Chambers’s memoir is not widely read. Its 800+ pages likely present too hefty a challenge for most readers who would otherwise be interested and enthusiastic to know it well.
When Chambers (above) testified against his former friend and associate Alger Hiss before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1948, though articulate and highly intelligent, he made a poor physical comparison with the accused. Overweight, unkempt, morose, and taciturn, Chambers seemed the most unlikely accuser against Hiss. Lionel Trilling wrote of Chambers in 1975, that “. . . the chief impression he made was of a forbidding drabness.” (Lionel Trilling, “Whittaker Chambers and The Middle of the Journey,” New York Times Review of Books, April 17, 1975.) Hiss, on the other hand, Harvard-educated lawyer, senior State Department official, advisor to FDR during the Yalta Conference, New Deal defender, and president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (which was instrumental in the founding of the United Nations) was well-dressed, well-connected, articulate, and handsome. Hiss denied any wrongdoing, denied he was a spy, denied he had passed classified documents to the Russian communists and even denied knowing or ever having met Chambers (though Chambers testified that they had been personal friends and comrades in the Soviet spy networks).
Chambers noted the visual contrast. “‘We’re cast wrong,’ he wrote in a letter to his publisher, Bennett Cerf. ‘I look like a slob, so I should be the villain. 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.’” (Bennett Cerf, At Random, 1977.)
Having once considered Hiss (above) a personal friend Chambers was, at first, reluctant to give detailed evidence to the Committee. This reluctance to divulge personal details about his former friend cast suspicions and doubt on Chambers’s testimony. Finally, he produced classified State Department documents that he said Hiss had personally given to him to pass to the Soviet communists. That these documents had Hiss’s signature and were typed on Hiss’s personal typewriter was evidence enough for a second jury to convict Hiss of perjury. (The first trial [espionage charge was not allowed due to statute of limitations-therefore, the charge was perjury] resulted in a hung jury—8 to convict, 4 for acquittal; the second trial [perjury] in 1950, ended in Hiss’s conviction for which he spent five years in prison.)
The Hiss trials were a defining moment for both men and for the country, and was one of the key public events of the Cold War. For Americans of the time and for later generations the Hiss-Chambers trial was not merely a matter of historical curiosity characteristic of a time of hysteria, fear, and heightened awareness of the threat of communism within the United States, it instead illuminated a much bigger conflict; a conflict that now plays out daily in our own time. Chambers described it best when he wrote later, “The simple fact is that when I took up my little sling and aimed at Communism, I also hit something else. What I hit was the forces of that great socialist revolution, which, in the name of liberalism, spasmodically, incompletely, somewhat formlessly, but always in the same direction, has been inching its ice cap over the nation for two decades.” (Whittaker Chambers, Witness, p.741; Emphasis mine.)
By the time of the second trial, communism had been making enormous headway among American liberals for decades. In the present day, the American left no longer hides its affection and appreciation for Marxism and Communism—corrupt and failed political theories that were once widely reviled and considered fundamentally un-American/anti-American. There are state governors, representatives in Congress and in the Senate, and in the upper echelons of the Executive branch who publicly assert affection for communism, and Marxist/socialist ideas and policies.
A Permanent War
In a letter to his friend William F. Buckley, Chambers wrote that the Hiss case “is a permanent war.” The Hiss-Chambers trial was simply the great shot-across-the-bow, a stunning warning to the country that utopian concepts like communism were not just localized in time but, as the leading ideology of modern utopians, are a permanent challenge to our democracy, freedom, and national survival.
The evidence found in the trials for guilt was overwhelming but Hiss’s endless denials continue even now to cause controversy. For years afterward the baseline question when people tried to quickly gauge the political views and allegiances of others was this: Was Alger Hiss a spy? How this concise question was answered would illumine fairly accurately the respondent’s political and philosophical predilections. Similarly, a recent version of this sort of test question is: Was OJ guilty?
Many liberals (Democrats) continued to support Hiss after his conviction choosing to believe (or simply ignore) his endless denials of guilt—regardless of the convincing evidence presented during the trial that resulted in his perjury conviction. In fact, more than a few liberals in the 1950s and beyond were far angrier with Chambers for having turned on his friend than with Hiss for committing treason. Lionel Trilling wrote, “So relentlessly was Chambers hated by people of high moral purpose that the newsletter of his college class, a kind of publication which characteristically is undeviating in its commitment to pious amenity, announced his death in 1961 in an article which surveyed in detail what it represented as his unmitigated villainy.” (Lionel Trilling, “Whittaker Chambers and The Middle of the Journey,” New York Times Review of Books, April 17, 1975.)
Continued support for Hiss was often motivated by a corrupted sense of idealism. The Democrat liberals of that time and the Democrat liberals of today are motivated in the same fashion—utopianism. The tragic human character flaw of utopianism continues to upend societies and, while it has already caused countless millions of deaths across the centuries, will likely continue to do so until such a day as utopianism is accepted by utopianists as a fraud, and acknowledged as little more than an entrée to despotism. Utopianism is one of the single most dangerous failings of human beings.
Alfred Kazin, writing in 1978, described the extraordinary lengths to which some Hiss supporters went, regardless of the jury verdict and the extensive and convincing evidence that supported it. Of Hiss, Kazin wrote: “For thirty years he has maintained his innocence of Chambers’s accusations, and he has always had such passionate support in high places that in 1975 he was readmitted to the Massachusetts bar—the first lawyer in the state’s history to be readmitted after a major criminal conviction.” (Alfred Kazin, “Why Hiss Can’t Confess,” Esquire, March 28, 1978.)
In the same article Kazin noted the exceptional people who came to Hiss’s defense.
“If he was guilty as charged (eight jurors at his first trial thought so and all twelve did at the second trial—the evidence against him goes far beyond Chambers’s ‘revelations’), what are we to make of a man whose character was defended by the Secretary of State, two Supreme Court justices, two Democratic nominees for the Presidency, some of the famous newspapers, publicists and writers in the land, but who has held to lie after lie for thirty years?” (Ibid.)
Diana Trilling wrote of those Democrat liberals who continued to support Hiss.
“They point to Hiss’s idealist career, which was so much in consonance with their own idealism, as proof of the outrageousness of the accusations made against him. They do not recognize that idealism is the very nature of the Communist commitment—perhaps misdirected idealism, perhaps an idealism carried to undesirable length, but an idealism nonetheless.” (Diana Trilling, “A Memorandum on the Hiss Case,” Partisan Review, May-June, 1950.)
On what basis would a fellow traveler and supporter of the same liberal utopian concepts for which Hiss went to jail criticize Hiss? They would not criticize him for perjury nor for treason (or espionage) for the simple reason that, according to their revolutionary “morality,” Hiss was doing his duty for the revolution—to them this is no crime. Utopians do not believe that telling the truth to the supporters of the status quo is a requirement regardless of their legal obligation to do so. Rejection of the status quo is fundamental to the utopian revolutionist.
Hiss could readily have told the truth and admitted to what the evidence and testimony showed that he did do. Instead, he chose to lie and uphold the lie throughout his life. There is no way to know why he chose this path because he never admitted nor explained, but having chosen it those who supported the same concepts and goals that he did would have no reason to abandon him for his lies, just as they would not abandon him for the crimes that he had committed against the nation.
Utopian Totalitarian “Morality”
Utopians tend to be highly motivated people . . . they believe that the solutions to the problem of humanity and the crisis of history are held in their hands. Liberals supported Hiss because they believed in the same things he believed in—that communism (i.e., the Marxist theory and the Soviet implementation of it) was the solution to the problems of humanity and history. More importantly, the solutions they supported were about the future and—for the sake of realizing the utopian (false) promise—being held accountable by a system they despised for a little bit of treason and a little bit of lying were matters of limited if negligent importance in the greater scheme of things, after all.
The extremist rhetoric of hatred and division seen from many on the left today, particularly from the true believers, emboldened as they are by the culmination of the revolutionary moment in the removal of Trump and the installment of a Democrat president, is a form of “splitting.” In psychological terms “splitting” is the phenomenon whereby a person with a particular character disorder views another person as either all good or all bad. In this context a person’s opinion/view of others can have a sudden onset—and shift to the polar opposite just as swiftly. For the revolutionist their worldview and morality foster the same sort of absolutist, bifurcated thinking and where those who oppose them are concerned there is little compassion or respect. In the revolutionist “morality” and worldview “splitting” is not a matter of psychological distress that comes and goes rather it is a permanent condition and an essential element of the revolutionists’ character and approach to the world.
Since the utopian revolutionaries believe that they own the solution to the problem of history and the difficulties that face the human race they must certainly speculate about why, having all the answers as they believe that they do, many do not agree with them. What sort of people, they wonder, would choose to oppose the improvement of humanity and the eradication of poverty, hunger, and warfare? What could possibly motivate such people? They find that the answer is simple—those who do not support their utopian revolution are enemies of the improvement of humanity; therefore, they are evil.
Why, then, would Alger Hiss, as a proper utopian communist revolutionist, feel any sense of duty to tell the truth to those he considered evil? Concomitantly, why would his fellow utopians abandon him or criticize him for doing the work of the revolution?
When revolutionary “morality” is understood, Hiss’s denials are easier to comprehend.
“We must keep it in mind that, to the committed communist, personal morality as we conceive it is bourgeois morality or no morality at all. The only morality to a Communist is revolutionary morality, and according to revolutionary morality, Hiss performed a moral act because he was furthering the revolutionary goal. It is interesting to study why someone like Hiss who was bred by standards of bourgeois morality should have switched to so different a moral code; but such a study has only a coincidental pertinence to his objective acts. What is immediately pertinent to his acts is his ideas. In lying and stealing Hiss took the fullest responsibility for his political ideas. He contemplated where his ideas might lead, and he was nevertheless willing to have these ideas and perform his acts. He really understood the reality of politics. (Diana Trilling, “A Memorandum of the Hiss Case,” Partisan Review, May-June, 1950.)
In similar vein to an Islamist who commits atrocities to further the goals of Islamism the radical leftist Democrat lives in a comparable extremist, yet ersatz, intellectual world in which politics is paramount; for the revolutionist everything is political.
The “morality” of the Democrat-Marxist revolutionist is a completely goal-based/mission-centric “morality” that places them outside the boundaries of standards of decency, and long-held concepts of legality and right. It is a cold, mission-oriented worldview in which the ends almost universally justify the means. Revolutionaries have always had this destructive, “smash ‘em up” sort of Weltanschauung, because politics, destruction, then utopian “rebuilding” are all elemental to them and their goals.
The Hero Warns
Questions as to Chambers’s motives in testifying against Hiss were rife. “The most moving moment of the Hiss hearing came near the end of Chambers’s testimony. I (Richard Nixon) asked him. ‘Can you search your memory now to see what motive you can have for accusing Mr. Hiss of being a Communist? . . . Is there any grudge you have against Mr. Hiss over anything he has done to you?’” Chambers’s reply to HUAC-member Nixon was right to the point:
“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.” (Witness, pp.694-5.)
Chambers viewed the Hiss case as but a singular incident in a much larger crisis of not only the future of America but of the entire world. Chambers wrote that “few men are so dull that they do not know that the crisis exists and that it threatens their lives at every point.”
“It is popular to call it a social crisis. It is in fact a total crisis—religious, moral, intellectual, social, political, economic. It is popular to call it a crisis of the Western world. It is in fact a crisis of the whole world. Communism, which claims to be a solution of the crisis, is itself a symptom and an irritant of the crisis.” (Witness, p.7.)
The power of the Democrat-communist utopian worldview to influence the wayward, ignorant, and those opposed to the rigors and responsibilities of personal freedom, and the highly motivated actions of its adherents who believe that they have found in communism (“socialism” is just another way to say “Marxism”) the answer to the world’s problems was not lost on Whittaker Chambers. At one time himself a communist subversive and agent for the Soviet Union, Chambers was aware that he was risking everything—including his life—to testify against Hiss and demonstrate to the country (and the world) the threat then (and now) that it faced.
Chambers’s courageous actions to expose a spy and networks of spies operating at the highest levels in the US government were not motivated by any sense of triumphalist hope that he would then, or in the future, see a victory over communism in the United States. Chambers instead saw quite rightly that the Hiss case was just one battle in a protracted existential conflict of good versus evil.
“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.’ I meant that, in the revolutionary conflict of the 20th century, I knowingly chose the side of probable defeat. Almost nothing that I have observed, or that has happened to me since, has made me think that I was wrong about that forecast. But nothing has changed my determination to act as if I were wrong—if only because, in the last instance, men must act on what they believe right, not on what they believe probable.” (Witness, p.25.)
The undermining of social and political institutions now seen most particularly in the United States and the western democracies are elements of the one hundred-year leftist assault on non-communist/non-totalitarian societies, particularly the pragmatic and individual freedom-centric foundations of America.
The American founders were aware that there would always be people and forces that would try to undermine the United States and its worldview that values freedom and elevates the individual above the collective. Lincoln acknowledged that it was unlikely a foreign power could destroy the country but far likelier that internal doubt, ignorance, and intellectual and spiritual rot could. In a letter to Buckley, Chambers wrote,
“Liberals, by default, preempt the human and intellectually sound positions, when it is precisely the Liberals who, in the name of freedom, are inviting the total State.” (John B. Judis, “The Two Faces of Whittaker Chambers,” New Republic, April 16, 1984.)
The extraordinary shift in American liberalism toward a general acceptance and championing of communist concepts partly originates in a mistaken, childish, idealistic, twisted form of “compassion.” Utopians almost always believe that the solution they consider the only and best answer to their country’s problems is not limited but universal. This universality of utopianist thinking converts them to champions not only of their favored political solution but of resolving, through their solution, the problems of humanity itself.
People who believe that they are saviors of humanity are generally highly motivated and brook no argument, and often do not hesitate to act—sometimes committing heinous crimes (such as treason by Hiss) to bring victory for their particular utopian solution. The comradery of the revolutionaries, the compassionate motivator to resolve the challenges of the world and thus reduce suffering, poverty, and warfare create a false sense of moralism and moral superiority in the revolutionist. “Thus, by insisting on acting as Communists must,” Chambers wrote of his own actions as a Soviet spy, “we found ourselves unwittingly acting as Christians should. I submit that that cuts to the heart of one aspect of the Communist appeal.” (Witness, p.358.)
Chambers saw the challenge of communism as a long-term element in an existential clash of civilizations and nations. A clash itself created in the modern era by the ideology of communism.
“Sooner or later, one of my good friends is sure to ask me: How did it happen that a man like you became a Communist? Each time I wince, not at the personal question, but at the failure to grasp the fact that a man does not, as a rule, become a Communist because he is attracted to Communism, but because he is driven to despair by the crisis of history through which the world is passing. I force myself to answer: In the West, all intellectuals become Communists because they are seeking the answer to one of two problems: the problem of war or the problem of economic crises.” (Witness, p.191)
That communism and all totalitarian movements present an antithetical challenge to American and western concepts of freedom and individual worth (as well as the individual’s relation to the state), is fundamental to what Chambers describes as “the crisis.” The ongoing onslaught on American institutions in political and cultural life is part of the Democrat-communist effort to destroy American independence and the idea of individual liberty. Collectivist ideologies are fundamentally opposed to those concepts that value individuals because such values are a direct challenge to and negation of the collectivist utopian solution. Being, as it is, a utopian ideology with a proven track record of tyranny and cruelty (and failure) the proponents of communism are fully aware that they must undermine institutions and religion to advance their revolutionist goals.
“It is the crisis that makes men Communists and it is the crisis that keeps men Communists. For the Communist who breaks with Communism must break not only with the power of its vision and its faith. He must break in the full knowledge that he will find himself facing the crisis of history, but this time without even that solution which Communism presents, and crushed by the knowledge that the solution he sought through Communism is evil against God and man.” (Witness, p.193.)
Chambers was thorough in describing the conflicts of the Cold War as battles in the perpetual war between good and evil. Belief in God in the Jewish/Christian concept (Chambers re-embraced Christianity toward the end of his life) is fundamental to social concepts of right and wrong, institutions of law and justice to support and enforce those concepts, and the fostering of a society of decency and cohesion that, in a sense, can self-police when individuals commit acts that are detrimental to the society as a whole. When revolutionist forces undermine these ideas and society lacks the confidence and power to defend itself, the cynicism of Chambers’s view that in testifying against Hiss, exposing soviet spy networks, and admitting his own crimes, he had knowingly joined the losing side becomes more understandable.
“I have sought, too, to report, more painfully, how out of my weakness and folly (but also out of my strength), I committed the characteristic crimes of my century, which 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, so that the characteristic experience of the mind in this age is a political experience. At every point, religion and politics interlace, and must do so more acutely as the conflict between the two great camps of men—those who reject and those who worship God—becomes irrepressible. Those camps are not only outside, but also within nations.” (Witness, p.449.)
The Fall of Institutions
The undermining of institutions is critical to the success of the utopian revolution. While many people take such things for granted and do not fully realize that they are the pillars upon which societies rest, the revolutionists know that to bring down the society the institutions that support it must be destroyed first. Once the institutions are undermined/corrupted and then become non-functional or are destroyed that is when the revolutionists create new institutions entirely out of accord with the ones they have ruined.
“Other ages have had their individual traitors—men who from faint-heartedness or hope of gain sold out their causes. But in the 20th century, for the first time, men banded together by millions, in movements like Fascism and Communism, dedicated to the purpose of betraying the institutions they lived under. In the 20th century, treason became a vocation whose modern form was specifically the treason of ideas.” (Witness, p.524; Chambers quoting his article in Time magazine about Rebecca West’s book The Meaning of Treason, late 1947.)
Chambers asserted, based on his own knowledge and experience, that the assault on American institutions began shortly after the communist revolution in Russia. As a utopian revolution Soviet Communism was also expansionist just as was Jacobinism during the French Revolution; those in France and elsewhere who were not desirous of French political revolutionism, liberté, egalité, and fraternité, met unpleasant fates as the French violently exported their version of utopianism beyond their borders and crushed opposition within. Even with the lessons of history and the current example of communist China and the failure of communism in Cuba and Venezuela, utopians of the Democrat/leftist/communist sort will not concede that communism is a grotesque, totalitarian, failed, corrupting, evil ideology.
With Chambers’s autobiographical evidence and official testimony it is clear that the present assault on American sovereignty, institutions, fundamental concepts, and freedoms has been underway for one hundred years. That leaders of the Democrat party and much of its base now openly champion these once commonly reviled and rejected concepts of collectivism and communism, that is, the leftist utopian revolution of which Chambers was once a part—but then rejected as evil—is now in a new and exceptionally dangerous phase.
That the Democrat party itself is now an agent of the deconstruction of American institutions, and actively opposed, through its innumerable agitation groups and outlets of false journalism, lies, and agitprop to American history, symbols, and fundamental beliefs and concepts, means that the culmination of one hundred years of utopian-communist revolutionary subversion is now. This period, characterized in large part by the Democrat-Communist revolution, is therefore one of the greatest crises ever faced by the United States.
The details, themes, events, and personalities of the Democrat revolutionists are commonly known. During this new, critical phase, and what must seem for many in the revolutionary ranks, the final if not penultimate phase, the old dichotomy of Marxist dialectic—the permanent conflict of the heroic workers versus their vile corporate masters, business owners, and managers who abuse them—is replaced by a sickening milieu of race conflict. Jefferson, in his book “Notes on the State of Virginia,” acknowledged that race would likely become the central issue in America’s future; the revolutionists have leveraged and exploited this tragic national fault-line to their benefit and the horror of decent people of all colors everywhere.
In today’s America in which the wisdom of Martin Luther King is rejected by Democrat party communists nothing matters more than race, with the “content of character” reduced to nothing more than a reflection of race, sexual preference, gender preference, and numerous other “intersectional” identities.
What was once an essential element of Marxist theory (the conflict between workers and capitalists) is now “flipped on its head” with American corporations publicly supporting the Democrat communist revolutionary effort. “Wokeness” of American corporate leaders, middle managers, and their companies is far more than simple pandering to what they consider a large population of woke leftist customers; it is symptomatic of the enthusiastic acceptance by the elites of business, government, “education,” entertainment, and the media, and now even senior officers of the United States military of leftist utopian concepts that once were only whispered in secret and for which proponents were held in disdain and publicly shamed/reproached if not shunned.
With the previous administration’s focus on American sovereignty, independence, law and order, and patriotic love of country, and a vocal opposition to socialism, communism, political correctness, wokeness in general and specifically the so-called “critical race theory,” it was imperative to the revolutionary effort that the Trump administration be removed. Recent rallies in Ohio and Florida and Arizona in which tens of thousands of enthusiastic supporters were in attendance shows clearly that the Democrat communist revolution, so thoroughly foreseen by people like Whittaker Chambers over 75 years ago, is not at all a movement of the majority of the American people.
Humans are not good at warnings; we too often wait for a crisis before taking action that, had it occurred in a timelier fashion, would have been preventative—and perhaps less painful. Though Chambers and many others issued warnings over the years it is sometimes difficult to see slow changes as part of a larger picture until a crisis moment is reached, then all comes into painful focus.
Success Breeds Self-Contempt
Some have said that American navel-gazing and vicious, catastrophic self-criticism are functions of a nation of too much comfort, of too much economic success and perceived stability, of a limited home front experience of warfare. At the center of this particular view is that a country that is not required to retain its unity and cohesion in the face of external challenges; a country that no longer appreciates its freedoms and those who identified and formulated those freedoms; a country that no longer appreciates its own existence and those who sacrificed to create it and later to secure it, is a country in a grave crisis.
In the face of all of the hyper-critical, generally false and hyperbolic criticisms of the country and its people as being racist, hegemonic, and altogether too white emanating from the race-obsessed and racist Democrat-Marxists are the millions of illegal immigrants who will breach any border and break any law to get here. Even the revolutionists themselves know that all of this hyper-criticism of the country is a great fraud—people want to come to the United States for the personal freedoms it promises under the constitution, in addition to the economic opportunities that exist here; we know this because they always say so. The illegal and legal immigrants never say that they want to come to the United States because it’s a dysfunctional and hateful country full of racists and injustices.
People who expect Democrat-Marxist revolutionists to speak the truth are the same people Whittaker Chambers addressed as follows: “As one of my great contemporaries put it: ‘Anybody looking for a quiet life has picked the wrong century to be born in.’” (William F. Buckley, Jr., “The End of Whittaker Chambers,” Esquire, September, 1962.) Since the Democrat Communists expect that the Revolution will result in utopia, such things as lying are allowed if not laudable. Everything is political to the revolutionist; this was the message of Alger Hiss’s endless lies and denials. It is fair to speculate that, in his view, there was no reason at all to tell the truth to the HUAC committee, to the court, or to the public. The revolution has its own mission-centric concept of “integrity” which is why so many liberal Democrats of that time, even leading statesmen and officials of the government (all liberals), continued to support and defend Hiss even when his guilt was proven. For such supporters Hiss simply could not be guilty, after all he had said that he wasn’t.
What of French President Macron and his identification of ideas emanating from the United States as among the greatest threats to French democracy? Non-homogenous nations require a unifying concept to sustain unity and cohesion. No country can thrive without unity and cohesion. In France these unifying concepts are nation, state, republic, French language, culture, and national identity, etc. The same undermining concepts of identity obsession, sub-group/sub-culture emphasis and glorification, deep hostility to the general culture, it’s beliefs and history, and a hyper-critical reassessment of the people and concepts that founded the nation are now at work in France (and other countries, e.g., UK, Canada, etc.) following the catastrophic Soviet-style iconoclasm modeled in the United States in recent years. The purpose of all of these things in this country and elsewhere is to undermine the institutions of the culture and state and delegitimize the nation itself so that the state falls—and then the Communist Utopia can be created.
A Weltschmerz-tainted July 4th
The historical record suggests that tyrannical movements and tyrannical countries are doomed to fail. July 4, 2021, showed to me that love of country, love of freedom, and a general sense of patriotism are still very much alive in the United States.
The utopian imperative is a human character flaw. As Chambers explained to his wife, he felt that in abandoning Communism and fighting against it that he was choosing the losing side. Regardless of this feeling, he believed that he had no option but to fight because he had come to see that Communism is evil and an enemy of humanity and God.
We are now in the culmination period of the one hundred years of revolutionary undermining and subversion described by Chambers and others over the many decades since the Russian Communist revolution overthrew the Tsar and murdered him and his family and then millions of others in the years to follow. Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, Marxist utopianism continues to hold people in its power. It seems like a buried landmine that explodes—though the war during which it was planted has long since ended.
History has already given its negative, dismissive verdict of communism and other utopian tyrannies; implementations of communism in numerous failed states of the present day confirm the verdict. For utopians these are all irrelevancies; though utopianism is a strong impulse for many it is not an impulse of the intellect.
The false rationalism and broken logic of Marxism are simply smoke screens to shield a fraudulent, evil political theory that does not work and that represents one of the greatest threats to freedom and humanity on the planet. That decades of starvation, of murders, warfare, savagery, and terror all emanating from the fount of Marxism is irrelevant to American utopian Democrat communists of the present moment shows the insidious nature of the utopian imperative and its fundamentally anti-human, anti-rational, and anti-thought foundations.
Within the human spirit and between nations the conflict between utopian delusions and inconvenient and difficult pragmatic solutions is apparently perpetual. Until humanity advances another leap such that utopianism (and the totalitarianisms that it creates) is forever rejected the conflict underway today, much the same as that faced by Whittaker Chambers, will be at the epicenter of human affairs.
Toward a National Renewal
Several days before his death on July 4, 1826, John Adams, then in his 90s, was asked to provide a toast for an upcoming July 4th celebration. His toast was this: “Independence forever!” When asked if he had anything to add to this concise affirmation he replied, “Not a word.” It did not go unnoticed that Adams and Jefferson both died on July 4th, on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the country.
I attended a July 4th celebration with spectacular fireworks at which over ten thousand people were gathered. Along the route home from this event at least ten other fireworks displays of varying sizes were noted, all celebrations of the existence of the United States and the freedoms promised to its citizens in the Constitution. Adams’s toast was a simple yet powerful reminder that independence (and this means American freedom) should be enthusiastically and raucously appreciated and celebrated.
Those who love freedom and reject utopianism in whatever guise it wears were directly addressed by Chambers in a 1962 letter to William F. Buckley, the founder of National Review. Chambers offers no solution to Buckley, nor a prayer, merely an observation. His comments confirm the lessons of history and suggest that in the darkest times when freedom seems almost lost and the gifts of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and all of our heroes all seem diminished and derided, one can and must retain hope.
In a reference to Ilya Ehrenburg, “one of the most effective Soviet spokesmen to the Western world,” Chambers wrote that “Ehrenburg has just made one of the most memorable utterances of the time: ‘IF the whole world were to be covered with asphalt, one day a crack would appear in the asphalt; and in that crack, grass would grow.’ I offer the lines as the irreducible terms on which the mind can have hope in our age.” (William F. Buckley, Jr., “The End of Whittaker Chambers,” Esquire, September, 1962.) It’s difficult to blame decent Americans if they find themselves developing a weltschmerz in the face of all of this bizarre and disturbing agitation and seemingly endless utopian Democrat communist anti-American, anti-freedom revolutionary pressure.
As I joined the thousands leaving the fantastic July 4th fireworks display, everyone with a satisfied smile and a jaunty spring in their step, I walked across acres of grass—and thought of Whittaker Chambers.
Witness (50th Anniversary Edition).
Whittaker Chambers, Regnery, (Washington, DC; 1952, 2001)
Alger Hiss, Whittaker Chambers, and the Schism in the American Soul.
Patrick Swan, ed., Intercollegiate Studies Institute, (Wilmington, DE; 2003).
January 27, 1838, by Abraham Lincoln
. . .
“At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.
. . .
“And not only so; the innocent, those who have ever set their faces against violations of law in every shape, alike with the guilty, fall victims to the ravages of mob law; and thus it goes on, step by step, till all the walls erected for the defense of the persons and property of individuals, are trodden down, and disregarded. But all this even, is not the full extent of the evil.--By such examples, by instances of the perpetrators of such acts going unpunished, the lawless in spirit, are encouraged to become lawless in practice; and having been used to no restraint, but dread of punishment, they thus become, absolutely unrestrained.--Having ever regarded Government as their deadliest bane, they make a jubilee of the suspension of its operations; and pray for nothing so much, as its total annihilation. While, on the other hand, good men, men who love tranquility, who desire to abide by the laws, and enjoy their benefits, who would gladly spill their blood in the defense of their country; seeing their property destroyed; their families insulted, and their lives endangered; their persons injured; and seeing nothing in prospect that forebodes a change for the better; become tired of, and disgusted with, a Government that offers them no protection; and are not much averse to a change in which they imagine they have nothing to lose. Thus, then, by the operation of this mobocractic spirit, which all must admit, is now abroad in the land, the strongest bulwark of any Government, and particularly of those constituted like ours, may effectually be broken down and destroyed--I mean the attachment of the People. Whenever this effect shall be produced among us; whenever the vicious portion of population shall be permitted to gather in bands of hundreds and thousands, and burn churches, ravage and rob provision-stores, throw printing presses into rivers, shoot editors, and hang and burn obnoxious persons at pleasure, and with impunity; depend on it, this Government cannot last. By such things, the feelings of the best citizens will become more or less alienated from it; and thus it will be left without friends, or with too few, and those few too weak, to make their friendship effectual. At such a time and under such circumstances, men of sufficient talent and ambition will not be wanting to seize the opportunity, strike the blow, and overturn that fair fabric, which for the last half century, has been the fondest hope, of the lovers of freedom, throughout the world.
. . .
“They were the pillars of the temple of liberty; and now, that they have crumbled away, that temple must fall, unless we, their descendants, supply their places with other pillars, hewn from the solid quarry of sober reason. Passion has helped us; but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason, must furnish all the materials for our future support and defence.--Let those materials be moulded into general intelligence, sound morality, and in particular, a reverence for the constitution and laws: and, that we improved to the last; that we remained free to the last; that we revered his name to the last; that, during his long sleep, we permitted no hostile foot to pass over or desecrate his resting place; shall be that which to learn the last trump shall awaken our WASHINGTON. (Emphasis in original.)
Upon these let the proud fabric of freedom rest, as the rock of its basis; and as truly as has been said of the only greater institution, ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’”
Kudos to D. L. Adams for his insights and perspective on one of my favorite writers and his biographical masterpiece, Witness. The liberal left hated Whittaker Chambers for his betrayal of their utopian causes, and the East Coast elite "intellilgencia" has done all it can to bury his talent, experience and wisdom in an unmarked grave.
To our profound dismay, the American Utopian delusion not only continues, it has been reborn and is currently thriving while Richard Nixon, who in large part built his political career on pursuing the trial resulting in Hiss' conviction was himself relegated to a dustbin of history.
BASSAM MICHAEL MADANY
I appreciated your publication of “Culmination of the American Utopian Delusion: Whittaker Chambers and the Crisis of History.” It’s not likely that young Americans or others in the rest of the world, know much about these major events in modern history. During 1952, the Saturday Evening Post began publishing Whittaker Chambers, “Witness.” I had hardly begun reading the first installment, when I noticed his definition of Marxism: “Communism Is a Vision of the World Without God” Before coming to the US while living in Syria, I had read the accounts of Stalin’s Great Purges of 1937 – 1938. The photo of Marshall Mikhail Tukhachevsky is etched in my memory, he was forced confess his “collaboration” with the enemy and executed. In December 1951, I read, “The God That Failed,” a classic work with essays by Louis Fischer, André Gide, Arthur Koestler, Ignazio Silone, Stephen Spender, and Richard Wright. They told of their conversion to and subsequent disillusionment with communism.
I have read Witness. It is not a great book but certainly a weird one. Two things stand out. The first is the ludicrousness of the communist agents 'going underground'. What follows reminded me of the Monty Python criminals following their instructions: 'But we're not doing anything illegal.' The second is that after living this life for years amongst the lowest of the low, Chambers suddenly decides to give it up and slips effortlessly into an editorial job at Time. I mean, wtf?