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Book Notes: Life in the “Apparatus”

In this weeks reading of Witness, Whittaker Chambers joins the Communist underground.  I continue to find this book fascinating.

Chambers is approached by the communist underground while working at a communist paper.  He is given the “option” of joining the underground (or “apparatus” as they refer to it).  After deciding not to join the underground, he finds out that there really isn’t an option.  He is caught in a situation beyond his control.   Chambers doesn’t really discuss what could have happened to him at this point if he had broken with the communist party.  Likely he would have disappeared.

The rest of this section covers Chambers typical life while working for the operation.  He discusses how he got money from the apparatus, how he learned to look for a tail, and how he learned to develop film and microfilm. I found it interesting that he was also told that he could no longer have any contact with the open communist party.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this section is that Chambers realized he worked for the intelligence section of the Soviet military, yet continued to do it.  He was born in the United States, had grown up in the United States, had even attempted to enlist in the military during WW I.  Yet he was now actively facilitating  intelligence gathering for a foreign nation.  Chambers didn’t have faith in our system of government to solve the problems of the time.  He believed communism was the way of the future.

I feel like there is a lesson there for today.  It has become politically correct to insult our nations history in school.   The current crop of Democrats continually disparage big business and capitalism.  Chambers became a communist in school.  If we don’t teach kids the positive things our nation has done, why would they defend it?  If we don’t teach them why our capitalist system is beneficial, why would they work to protect it?  People yearn for something to believe in.  If they aren’t provided it as they grow up, they will look for it later in life.

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