Sunday, November 18, 2018

Whittaker Chambers: The Enemy Within

August 5, 1954

Dear Bill:

 I no longer believe that political solutions are possible for us. I am baffled by the way people still speak of the West as if it were at least a cultural unity against Communism though it is divided not only by a political, but by an invisible cleavage. On one side are the voiceless masses with their own subdivisions and fractures. On the other side is the enlightened, articulate elite which, to one degree or other, has rejected the religious roots of the civilization—the roots with-out which it is no longer Western civilization, but a new order of beliefs, attitudes and mandates. [ED]

In short, this is the order of which Communism is one logical expression, originating not in Russia, but in the culture capitals of the West, reaching Russia by clandestine delivery via the old underground centers in Cracow, Vienna, Berne, Zurich, and Geneva. It is a Western body of belief that now threatens the West from Russia. As a body of Western beliefs, secular and rationalistic, the intelligentsia of the West share it, and are therefore always committed to a secret emotional complicity with Communism of which they dislike, not the Communism, but only what, by the chances of history, Russia has specifically added to it—slave-labor camps, purges, MVD et al. And that, not because the Western intellectuals find them unjustifiable, but because they are afraid of being caught in them. If they could have Communism without the brutalities of ruling that the Russian experience bred, they have only marginal objections. Why should they object? What else is socialism but Communism with the claws retracted? And there is positivism. 'What is more, every garage mechanic in the West, insofar as he believes in nuts and bolts, but asks: "The Holy Ghost, what's that?" shares the substance of those same beliefs. Of course, the mechanic does not know, when he asks: "The Holy Ghost, what's that?" that he is simply echoing Stalin at Teheran: "The Pope—how many divisions has the Pope?" [ED]
That is the real confrontation of forces. The enemy—he is ourselves. That is why it is idle to talk about preventing the wreck of Western civilization. It is already a wreck from within. That is why we can hope to do little more now than snatch a fingernail of a saint from the rack or a handful of ashes from the faggots, and bury them secretly in a flowerpot against the day, ages hence, when a few men begin again to dare to believe that there was once something else, that some-thing else is thinkable, and need some evidence of what it was, and the fortifying knowledge that there were those who, at the great nightfall, took loving thought to preserve the tokens of hope and truth.

Sincerely, Whittaker

Look at the date. People tend to think of the 1950's as the Halcyon years of the West yet Whittaker Chambers saw that West was on its death spiral even then. The suddenness of the cultural revolution of the Sixties was due to the fact that the Western cultural institutions were by that stage hollow shells and one only had to push on them a bit for them to fall over.

Also note the fact that Chambers equates the West with a belief in God. Anyone selling you a "West" without God is selling you a false bill of goods.


swimologist said...

In Witness, Chambers relates how his Commie handler (in the 1930s) gloated that America was second only to Germany as to the depth of subversion and infiltration
that the Communists had succeeded in. No wonder-- Hitler.

Anonymous said...

We interacted a bit at Z Man's blog a day or two ago. I wanted to ask you, have you studied theorists Edgar Julius Jung and Othmar Spann at all? Do you have any opinions on them? A google search of their names connected with your website only brings up a very impressive comment from the blogger 'Carlsbad 1819', which is leading me to take a second look at his website as well (here

MK said...

SP: Look at the date. People tend to think of the 1950's as the Halcyon years of the West yet Whittaker Chambers saw that West was on its death spiral even then.

Sure, But what people lament is that the collapse of unified white culture no longer pretending to embrace Christian values. It's open season on proles who cannot thrive like they did in the 1950s. The book Lost City about 1957 Chicago is well worth a read here.

I'm Gen-X, American. All I can say: if one is intelligent & educated these are the glory years. Enjoy 'em. Freedom of religion, the internet, peace, prosperity. One can choose health, family, comfort, achievement. Just choose your mate well (sure this is a lot of luck a good spouse is from the Lord) and life's great. Yet if one is a prole the lights are now flashing red. Why? It ain't 1950 anymore...

The Social Pathologist said...


have you studied theorists Edgar Julius Jung and Othmar Spann at all?

No. I've had look a very brief look at them today and from what I could see they were clearly perceptive about Natsoc but I don't think that they had any really workable solutions.

And yes Carlsbad is very good, a hyper-intellectual.


All I can say: if one is intelligent & educated these are the glory years

You are quite correct there a certain segments of the population that are doing quite well at the moment, just like there were certain sections of society that did well in pre-revolutionary France. It wasn't sustainable then and it ain't now.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Shoot First.

In Cold Friday, Chambers describes the existential societal collapse in Germany at the time of the hyperinflation. (He was apparently traveling through it then.) People were looking for a way out and the past was not an option. Hence the attraction of these ideologies to the desperate.

David Foster said...

re the German hyperinflation: Sebastian Haffner, who grew up in Germany between the wars, described the great inflation and its impact vividly.

"That year (1923) newspaper readers could again play a variation of the exciting numbers game they had enjoyed during the war…this time the figures did not refer to military events..but to an otherwise quite uninteresting, everyday item in the financial pages: the exchange rate of the dollar. The fluctuation of the dollar was the barometer by which, with a mixture of anxiety and excitement, we measured the fall of the mark.

By the end of 1922, prices had already risen to somewhere between 10 and 100X the pre-war peacetime level, and a dollar could purchase 500 marks. It was inconvenient to work with the large numbers, but life went on much as before.

But the mark now went on the rampage…the dollar shot to 20,000 marks, rested there for a short time, jumped to 40,000, paused again, and then, with small periodic fluctuations, coursed through the ten thousands and then the hundred thousands…Then suddenly, looking around we discovered that this phenomenon had devastated the fabric of our daily lives.

Anyone who had savings in a bank, bonds, or gilts, saw their value disappear overnight. Soon it did not matter whether it ws a penny put away for a rainy day or a vast fortune. everything was obliterated…the cost of living had begun to spiral out of control. ..A pound of potatoes which yesterday had cost fifty thousand marks now cost a hundred thousand. The salary of sixty-five thousand marks brought home the previous Friday was no longer sufficient to buy a packet of cigarettes on Tuesday."

The only people who were able to survive financially were those that bought stocks. (And, of course, were shrewd or lucky enough to buy the right stocks and to sell them at the right times.)

"Every minor official, every employee, every shift-worker became a shareholder. Day-to-day purchases were paid for by selling shares. On wage days there was a general stampede to the banks, and share prices shot up like rockets…Sometimes some shares collapsed and thousands of people hurtled towards the abyss. In every shop, every factory, every school, share tips were whispered in one’s ear.

The old and unworldy had the worst of it. Many were driven to begging, many to suicide. The young and quick-witted did well. Overnight they became free, rich, and independent. It was a situation in which mental inertia and reliance on past experience was punished by starvation and death, but rapid appraisal of new situations and speed of reaction was rewarded with sudden, vast riches. The twenty-one-year-old bank director appeared on the scene, and also the sixth-former who earned his living from the stock-market tips of his slighty older friends. He wore Oscar Wilde ties, organized champagne parties, and supported his embarrassed father."

Haffner believes that the great inflation–particularly by the way it destroyed the balance between generations and empowered the inexperienced young–helped pave the way for Naziism.

"In August 1923 the dollar-to-mark ratio reached a million, and soon thereafter the number was much higher. Trade was shutting down, and complete social chaos threatened. Various self-appointed saviors appeared: Hausser, in Berlin…Hitler, in Munich, who at the time was just one among many rabble-rousers…Lamberty, in Thuringia, who emphasized folk-dancing, singing, and frolicking."

David Foster said...

continuing with the Haffner excerpt:

As inflation reached a point of total insanity...a miracle happened. “Small, ugly grey-green notes” appeared, with “One Rentenmark” written on them. The small numbers on these notes belied their value. You could use them to buy goods which had previously cost a billion marks. And, most amazingly, they held their value. Goods which had cost 5 Rentenmarks last week would also generally cost 5 Rentenmarks next week.

Haffner does not venture an answer to the then-hot question of “who discovered the Rentenmark,” but he credits Gustav Stresemann–who had just become Chancellor–with the general stabilization of German politics and the economy. Most people breathed a vast sigh of relief, but some were less happy:

"Twenty-one year-old bank directors began to look around for clerking jobs again, and sixth-formers had to adjust to having twenty marks’ pocket money.

But overall, the picture was bright:

The last ten years were forgotten like a bad dream. The Day of Judgment was remote again, and there was no demand for saviors or revolutionaries…There was an ample measure of freedom, peace, and order, everywhere the most well-meaning liberal-mindedness, good wages, good food and a little political boredom. everyone was cordially invited to concentrate on their personal lives, to arrange their affairs according to their own taste and to find their own paths to happiness."

But…and I think this is a particuarly important point…a return to private life was not to everyone’s taste:

"A generation of young Germans had become accustomed to having the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions…Now that these deliveries suddently ceased, people were left helpless, impoverished, robbed, and disappointed. They had never learned how to live from within themselves, how to make an ordinary private life great, beautiful and worth while, how to enjoy it and make it interesting. So they regarded the end of political tension and the return of private liberty not as a gift, but as a deprivation. They were bored, their minds strayed to silly thoughts, and they began to sulk."


"To be precise (the occasion demands precision, because in my opinion it provides the key to the contemporary period of history): it was not the entire generation of young Germans. Not every single individual reacted in this fashion. There were some who learned during this period, belatedly and a little clumsily, as it were, how to live. they began to enjoy their own lives, weaned themselves from the cheap intoxication of the sports of war and revolution, and started to develop their own personalities. It was at this time that, invisibly and unnoticed, the Germans divided into those who later became Nazis and those who would remain non-Nazis."

This point seems very important. I think that in America today, we have quite a few people who are getting "entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions"....not all of these people are on the Left, but the vast majority of them are.

The Social Pathologist said...

I think that in America today, we have quite a few people who are getting "entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions

I think there is an element of truth here but I disagree with Haffner here.

The last ten years were forgotten like a bad dream. .....according to their own taste and to find their own paths to happiness."

Some people never forgot the ten years. Many people blame the Depression for the rise of Hitler,but I think they're mistaken. Revolution was in the air well before it. The old order was crumbling well before Hitler came to power and people were itching for a change. In England, for instance, there was lots of social upheaval following the end of WW1,i.e. London General Strike of 1926, and this was well before the Depression and the social devastation of 1920's Germany. I view the Depression as a catalyst for social change which many of the above-mentioned disgruntled took advantage of; they were not the cause. Germany could have very easily gone itnermantional socialist if the socialist politicians were more adept.