Yes Ronald Reagan, a former New Deal Democrat, by his own admission was converted to Conservatism by Whittaker Chambers an admitted former Communist (capital C), and former Soviet spy, and his book Witness.
Whittaker Chambers was a complex man, early in life, he became caught up in the idealism of Soviet Communism and its purported benevolence toward the common man. Whitaker Chambers was born Jay Vivian Chambers April 1, 1901. He was raised in a household with a mentally ill maternal grandmother that caused dissension and apparently drove his father to leave his family. His father supported the family with weekly checks of eight dollars from that time.
Whittaker attended Columbia University, but left school after creating controversy by writing and reviewing his own play, A Play for Puppets, as the editor of the school’s literary magazine Morningside; the play led to a controversy among faculty and students that eventually ended up in the New York City newspapers; the play was considered blasphemous and the notoriety eventually drove Chambers away from academia.
During this period Chamber adopted his mother’s maiden name Whittaker, he later used the name David Chambers.
In 1924, he read Lenin’s book, Soviet’s At Work, he found it to be a compelling book that reflected his family experience that reflected his family’s experience as he wrote “in miniature the whole crisis of the middle class.” He became a Marxist in 1925 and joined the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA). He wrote for and edited The Daily Worker and The New Masses newspapers.
Chambers also supported himself by writing plays and working as a translator, his most famous translation is Bambi, A Life in The Woods, by Felix Salten.
In 1930 or 31 he married a Jewish artist, Ester Schemitz, 1900-1986.
In 1932, he was recruited by the Communist Underground and became a Communist spy.
A son John, was born in 1936, after demands by his Communist handlers that the baby be aborted. Chambers perceived this as Anti-Semitism by the Communists and began to become disillusioned with the Communist Party. Later on, a daughter was born, an event Chambers described as the most important event of his life.
Chambers admitted in a letter to J. Edgar Hoover, that the lifestyle of a spy with the constant traveling allowed him to carry on a gay lifestyle of “cruising” in New York City and Washington, DC. He also revealed numerous heterosexual affairs during this same period from 1933, revealing that the heterosexual affairs were accepted and informally condoned by all the Soviet sympathizers. The revelation of the gay lifestyle resulted in a hostile reaction to his later court testimonies.
In either ‘37 or ‘38, his accounts varied, Whittaker broke with the Communist handlers that directed him. Stalin’s Great Purge, begun in 36, was increasingly disturbing for Chambers, the tipping point was reached in 39 with the Hitler Stalin Non-Aggression Pact. He was also shocked by the murder in Switzerland of Ignatz Reizz, a high ranking Soviet Spy that disagreed with Stalin and the disappearance of fellow spy and close friend Juliet Poyntz, Soon Chambers became concerned for his own life.
Stalin asked for Chambers to come to Russia several times, but Chambers was in mortal fear of being killed and refused.
After secreting rolls of microfilm that were pictures of stolen documents as insurance against a Soviet attempt on his life, he took his family into hiding.
In September of 39, Chambers was convinced to meet with Secretary of State Adolf Berle at Berle’s residence, by Russian born journalist Issac Don Levine. Chambers insisted on Berle’s home because he was afraid he would be compromised by Soviet Agents if they met at the State Department.
Berle showed Roosevelt the information from Chambers and FDR dismissed it with indifference.
Berle showed the information to the FBI and they had two interviews with Chambers, in May of 42 and June of 45. It is assumed that because of the political situation of being aligned with the Soviets and since the Soviets were not considered a threat, no further action was initiated.
Walter Krivitsky, a fellow spy, was found dead in his hotel room and his death was ruled a suicide, but speculation was rampant in Washington that he was killed by the Soviets.
In 45 another Soviet spy, Elizabeth Bentley, defected in November of 45 and corroborated the information supplied by Chambers; suddenly, the FBI began to take Chambers seriously.
In the mean time, Chambers came out of hiding after one year and joined the staff of Time reviewing books and film; at this time there was an internal struggle at Time between Soviet sympathizers and anti-Communists. The magazine’s founder, Henry R. Luce fell in with the anti-Soviet group and Chambers became a Senior editor in 43 and a member of Time’s “Senior Group” the staff that oversees editorial policy. Chambers was at the height of his career and drew international attention with his scathing review of the Yalta Conference, “Ghosts On The Roof” where Alger Hiss was a key participant.
In 1932, Chambers was recruited by the GRU, Red Army General Staff of The Soviet Army, by Alexander Ulanovsky, aka Ulrich, acting as main controller. Later his controller was Josef Peters, whom CPUSA (Communist Party USA) General Secretary, Earl Browder, replaced with Rudy Baker. Chambers claimed that Peters introduced him to Harold Ware who directed this particular Soviet cell.
This is a partial list of Government officials and state department employees that Chambers implicated as being part of the Harold Ward Communist cell.
Henry Collins employee National Recovery Administration, later Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA)
Lee Pressman assistant general counsel of AAA
Alger Hiss attorney for AAA and the Nye Commission, later with the State Department, key component for the Yalta Conference and the Formation of the UN, working both for the State Department and the UN at the same time.
John Abt Chief of litigation for the AAA, later assistant General Counsel for Work Progress Administration, in 37 pecial Assistant to US Attorney General
Charles Kramer Department of National Labor Relations Board
Nathan Wit employee of AAA, later National Labor Relations Board
George Silverman employee rail road retirement board, later Federal coordinator of Transportation with the US Tariff Commission, later with labor advisory board of National Recovery Administration
Marion Bachrach sister of John Abt office manager Representative John Bernard of the Minnesota Farm Labor Party
John Herman author, assistant to Harold Ware, employee of AAA, courier and document photographer for the Ware Group, introduced Chambers to Hiss
Nathaniel Wey author, would later defect from Communists and give evidence against the others in the Harold Ware Group
Victor Perlo chief of Aviation Secretary of War Production Board, later joined office of price administration, Department of Commerce and division of monetary reserve with the Department of the Treasury
Except for Marion Bachrach, these people were all members of FDR’s New Deal Administration, that is probably why FDR feigned disinterest when presented with the evidence by Berle.
Chambers also implicated:
Noel Field Department of State
Harold Grasser Treasury Department
Ward Pigman National Bureau of Standards for the Treasury
Vincent Reno Mathematician Aberdeen Proving Grounds
Harry Dexter White Director Monetary Research, for Secretary of the Treasury
Chambers was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He gave the names included in the Ware group and gave Hiss’s name as a Communist but not for committing espionage. Hiss denied it and was later convicted of perjury and sentenced to prison.
The Leftist press defended Hiss to the utmost even when it was obvious that the charges were true and to this day maintains his innocence. They maintained that Hiss was sophisticated, impeccably dressed and a Harvard Law Graduate. While Chambers appeared disheveled, was overweight, a terrible dresser and a college dropout. Facts that would have condemned many of us.
Hiss’ first trial in a hung jury voting 8 to 4 for conviction. The second trial brought conviction on two counts of perjury, despite the Hiss Defense producing a psychiatrist who charged that Chambers was a psychopathic personality and a pathological liar.
Of course many of these charges were confirmed by the Venona Cables and by the declassification of Soviet Secret Documents, yet the Left still maintains that there was never a spy network in the State Department and that it was all McCarthyism. The arguments are of course less than weak, they are outright lies.
These State Department jobs have been passed on to the typical Ivy League types hired by the same people who were Soviet Agents in the 30’s, 40’s, and 50‘s and surely the trend has continued; the Ware group was the only cell that was outed, but surely not the only cell in the State Department; the loyalty of the present State Department employees and of the Democrat party has to come in to question, especially among those who try to still argue against Alger Hiss and the Communist past of others.
The Venona Project revealed and confirmed that a huge percentage of US security had been compromised by the Soviets; however, the NSA was reluctant to reveal the facts for fear of tipping off the Soviets that their code had been broken. Refer to, Body Of Secrets, Anatomy Of The Ultra-Secret National Security Agency by James Bamford, it is truly an eye opening book that takes you through the Cold War to the 21st Century. I doubt that you will ever view politics or our politicians the same way after reading this book.
Chamber left Time in 1948, he wrote for periodicals like Fortune ad Life utl hiring on with William F. Buckley in 1955 at National Review. He was once again controversial after writing a provocative review of Ayn Rand’s, Atlas Shrugged.
Chambers died of Angina at his farm in Maryland in 1961.
Ronald Reagan credited Chamber’s book Witness as being the single most contributing factor in his conversion from being a New Deal Democrat to becoming America’s most famous Conservative. President Reagan awarded Chambers the Presidential Medal Of Freedom posthumously in 1984.
Witness was a New York best seller for over a year. His second book, Cold Friday, was published posthumously in 1964; it predicted the fall of Soviet Communism through problems with its satellite countries.
A professional horseman for over 50 years, Skook continues to work with horses. Skook has finished an historical novel, Fifty Thousand Years, that traces a mitochondrial line of DNA from 50,000 years ago to the present. The story follows a line of courageous women, from the Ice Ages to the present, as they meet the challenges of survival with grit and creativity. These are not women who whimper of being victims, they meet the challenges of survival as women who use their abilities without excuses or remorse, these women are winners, they are our ancestors.