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Book Notes: “The Lesson” from Witness

With 50 pages left in Witness, it may be a little premature to claim to know the one lesson we should learn from this book.  There are a number of incredible themes and lessons from this book I will take with me.    However, during this week’s reading, I found what I think should be the lesson we take from this book as part of the Book Notes project.

Chambers discusses how he felt like parts of the government were more interested in silencing him than in learning just how far Communism had penetrated the government.  During the espionage trial of Hiss, Chambers notes that two Supreme Court Justices testified to Hiss’s character.  He also pointed out that the Secretary of State made a very public statement of support for Hiss.  Saying, “I will not turn my back on Alger Hiss,” Secretary of State Acheson could well have spoken for many in the federal government when Chambers decided to expose the communist infiltration.  But why?  What possible benefit could these individuals gain from defending a Communist who was spying on our government?  Even if these men thought Hiss innocent, they risked destroying their careers by trying to protect him.

It was tempting to chalk this up to “partisan politics”.  However, Chambers says he thinks it was something deeper:

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.  This is not a charge.  My opinion of that revolution is not at issue.  It is a statement of fact that need startle no one who has voted for that revolution in whole or in part, and, consciously or unconsciously, a majority of the nation has so voted for years.  It was the forces of that revolution that I struck at the point of its struggle for power.  And with that we come to the heart of the Hiss Case and all its strange manifestations.

This is the lesson we should take from Witness, and the lesson we should remember going forward.  Socialism, Progressive policies, and liberalism are all fellow travelers of Communism.  These policies simply haven’t thought through their own beliefs.  Once they do, they will either reject communism, or realize that they are heading towards communism themselves.

Conservatives must point out how close these beliefs are to communism.   We should do this not as a way of insulting progressives and statist, but to show voters where these beliefs lead.

For Next Week: Finish the book!!

In Two Weeks: I am still taking suggestions for the next book for our reading list.  I am still leaning towards C S Lewis’ Mere Christianity, but I am looking for other possibilities, and am looking for titles for the Book Notes reading list.

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