|Tomorrow is a mystery,|
but yesterday is
|Secrets of times gone by|
Alger Hiss (November 11, 1904–November 15, 1996) was an American lawyer, government official, author, lecturer, and professional SOB. He played the American Left like a fiddle for decades and gave the Joseph McCarthy branch of the GOP enough ammo to go berserk. Even after six decades, Alger's son persists in defending the old man, but as Susan Jacoby argues, that's just bullshit. Because this glib liar was able to play a game of semantics with an unstable witness, America had to endure a nasty brush with McCarthyism.
It's not clear when Hiss was actually inducted into the Communist Party as an agent, but as early as 1935, he was a member of a DC-area Marxist reading circle for high operating government employees which worked in the vast Roosevelt administration. At some point, he also ran into a closeted gay writer for the Communist Party newspaper, The Daily Worker, named Whittaker Chambers. Chambers – at least in his head – said at this point he was an underground agent for the Comintern, that Hiss was a source in the government, and he could produce microfilm of classified documents that Hiss gave him.
The 1948 Republican Party was foaming at the mouth when they realized that Hiss had been a lackey for the American delegation at Yalta. They just insisted FDR had lost his mind by 1945 due to his bad health, and the Yalta Agreement had been rigged in favor of the USSR (it wasn't, Churchill just lied through his teeth in the Iron Curtain Speech at Fulton to start his political campaign against Clement Atlee and inadvertently nearly started World War III because he was probably drunk as hell). If the GOP now could produce a Democrat Soviet double-agent, they could win a landslide in the elections to break what at that point was over a decade-and-a-half of New Deal Democratic majorities in both halves of the Congress (including a hard Jim Crow Southern Democratic bloc that had prevented passage of a federal anti-lynching law because they actively courted the Klan as a constituency).
- Was Hiss a Communist?: YES
- Was Hiss pro-Stalinist?: YES
- Was Hiss a spy?: YES
- Did he spy at Yalta?: YES – But, in all fairness, we know that Stalin bugged the suite in the Soviet embassy they made handicap-accessible for FDR, so whatever intelligence he gathered was perfunctory at best and useless in all probability.
A legitimate espionage case was not brought to trial because the statute of limitations had expired at this point. Whittaker Chambers was so insane-looking it is a wonder they didn't have Xanax back then. But Richard Nixon – a freshman congressman looking to get newspaper headlines – was able to dress Chambers up enough to look halfway respectable for a few cameras and coax him into spilling his guts, herein Legal Action Number One. Hiss, realizing he was done for, dared Chambers to repeat the charge outside the Senate hearing, where it could be prosecuted as libel. Chambers, totally bonkers by now, told a whole song and dance story which may have been a little more homoerotic than reality had been, and so Hiss, a high government lawyer, was being accused of being a Communist and affiliating with sodomites, ergo Legal Action Number Two. Then, Hiss was called to testify in Legal Action Number One, where he took advantage of how awful Chambers looked and lied up and down, gay-bashing Chambers left and right through double-entendres and sly references.
Next, Chambers shows Nixon and a bunch of news reporters a microfilm hidden in a pumpkin for some bizarre reason that has Hiss's name all over them, even though nobody bothered to make clear if it was the H-Bomb formula or a copy of his laundry list. All they needed to show was that Hiss lied about just knowing Chambers and, therefore, had perjured himself in Action Number One, negated Action Two, and now had to have a perjury trial, Legal Action Number Three. Hiss went to jail, lying out his ears and making excuses about why he had perjured himself, but the fact remained that he had lied. No one gave a damn about him until America lost its mind in 1968 and actually elected Richard Nixon to the Presidency, who proceeded to kill more people during his two terms than in the prior twenty years of the war in Vietnam. This was a perfect paperback book-publishing moment, so Hiss became a speaker and writer, continuing to make an absurd fool of the collective American Left. His writings were pretty dull overall, but at one point he made a slip, says Jacoby and made it clear he'd been a Leninist in the 1930s. The context of the question was about a black-listed writer, non-Bolshevik Democratic Socialist Irving Howe, and Hiss merely sneered at how he always thought the guy had not been a 'real' Leftist, something only a Stalinist circa 1938 would have said. Gotcha fucker!
Two weeks later...
Within two weeks of Nixon winning big with the Hiss conviction, Joseph McCarthy made his famous Wheeling Speech, thus (supposedly) causing the Communist witch-hunts. Striking while the iron was hot, things were turned up to 11 and honest people had their lives destroyed because they had been Communists when Stalin was pushing for an international anti-Fascist Popular Front coalition of Communist and Capitalist nations to fight Hitler. Stalin was evil, no doubt, but the fact that he lied to people who thought he was serious about fighting Hitler is not their fault. A huge charity, run by CPUSA, was for Spanish Civil War orphans, Eleanor Roosevelt was a big donor, and it was serious about trying to put the former First Lady on the stand for espionage! All because Hiss lied.
If it is not clear yet, no more credible evidence in favor of Hiss exists, and he should be given less accord than he gets from some Leftists, but it also goes to show just how gay McCarthyism was to begin with; it was all a bunch of gay-bashing lunacy.
- Q&A with Susan Jacoby. C-SPAN, July 8 2009. http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/287553-1
- http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/10/books/review/Gallagher-t.html?_r=0 A not-as-famous atheist writer who has some serious journalistic credibility.
- http://www.amazon.com/Witness-Whittaker-Chambers/dp/0895267896 THIS is considered a Neoconservative founding document!
- cf. Jacoby.