Whittaker Chambers, born Jay Vivian Chambers, aka Jay David Whittaker Chambers

Chambers, born Jay Vivian Chambers, aka Jay David Whittaker Chambers

American Editor, Journalist and Writer

Author Quotes

A nation's life is about as long as its reverential memory.

For in this century, within the next decades, will be decided for generations whether all mankind is to become Communist, whether the whole world is to become free, or whether, in the struggle, civilization as we know it is to be completely destroyed or completely changed.

Innocence seldom utters outraged shrieks. Guilt Does.

Now, the Communists recognized at once (or, more probably, after they had stirred things up a bit) that Senator McCarthy is a political godsend.

The last war simplified the balance of political forces in the world by reducing them to two. For the first time, it made the power of the Communist sector of mankind (embodied in the Soviet Union) roughly equal to the power of the free sector of mankind (embodied in the United States). It made the collision of these powers all but inevitable. For the world wars did not end the crisis. They raised its tensions to a new pitch. They raised the crisis to a new stage. All the politics of our time, including the politics of war, will be the politics of this crisis.

Tragedy occurs when a human soul awakes and seeks, in suffering and pain, to free itself from crime, violence, infamy, even at the cost of life. The struggle is the tragedy - not defeat or death. That is why the spectacle of tragedy has always filled men, not with despair, but with a sense of hope and exaltation.

A witness, in the sense that I am using the word, is a man whose life and faith are so completely one that when the challenge comes to step out and testify for his faith, he does so, disregarding all risks, accepting all consequences.

For the world, as seen in materialist view from the Right, scarcely differs from the same world seen in materialist view from the Left. The question become chiefly: who is to run that world in whose interests, or perhaps, at best, who can run it more efficiently? Something of this implication is fixed in the book’s dictatorial tone, which is much its most striking feature. Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal.… From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding, “To a gas chamber—go!”

Is dirt nice? Is death nice? Above all is dying nice? And, in the end, we must ask, is God nice? I doubt it.

On a scale personal enough to be felt by all, but big enough to be symbolic, the two irreconcilable faiths of our time - Communism and Freedom - came to grips in the persons of two conscious and resolute men.

The mass of Americans, who vehemently made known their views in (and during) a recent general election, know perfectly well that they are not living in a reign of terror and that they seldom look behind a door for anything more frightening than an umbrella.

Trotsky was essentially a Western mind. Lenin was a Russian, and unlike most other revolutionary exiles, wherever he went he was a Russian.

Abortion, which now fills me with physical horror, I then regarded, like all Communists, as a mere physical manipulation.

For while Communists make full use of liberals and their solicitudes, and sometimes flatter them to their faces, in private they treat them with that sneering contempt that the strong and predatory almost invariably feel for victims who volunteer to help in their own victimization.

It is better to die on the losing side than to live under communism.

On that road of the informer, it is always night. I cannot ever inform against anyone without feeling something die within me. I inform without pleasure, because it is necessary.

The New Deal was a genuine revolution, whose deepest purpose was not simply reform within existing traditions, but a basic change in the social, and, above all, the power relationships within the nation. It was not a revolution by violence. It was a revolution by bookkeeping and lawmaking. In so far as it was successful, the power of politics had replaced the power of business. This is the basic power shift of all the revolutions of our time. This shift was the revolution.

Two faiths were on trial . Human societies, like human beings, live by faith and die when faith dies... At heart, the Great Case was this critical conflict of faiths; that is why it was a great case.

About both brief, tidy men [Heinrich Himmler and Max Bedacht] there was a disturbing quality of secret power mantling insignificance—what might be called the ominousness of nonentity, which is peculiar to the terrible little figures of our time.

He was a Southerner with the fine abandon some Southerners have about firearms and related matters. "Well, sir," he said with immense pleasure, "you've bought the right gun. Just hold it in front of you, squeeze the trigger, and, brother, it will be fay-ya-you-well."

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 something 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.

Once upon a time, when the Yewnited States was just a little shaver among the nations, but already very spoiled along the literate Eastern fringes, there lived younder in Tennessee a lovable old man with a tongue like a rat-tailed file and a face so hard they called him Old Hickory.

The pessimist stared at his visitor. He had never talked with the Devil before. But he had read descriptions of him by people who had and who remembered Satan as a goat, a bull, a dog, a cat, a big black man with horns, claws and a tail. The presence beside him looked distinguished, relaxed, urbane. Except for a face too characterful to be contemporary, the Devil might have been a movie magnate, an airline executive, a college president, a great surgeon or a grain speculator. “And yet,” thought the pessimist, “those are certainly not the eyes of a Yale man.”

What I felt [as he was about to testify before the Congressional committee] was what we see in the eye of a bird or an animal that we are about to kill, which knows that it is about to be killed, and whose torment is not the certainty of death or pain, but the horror of the interval before death comes in which it knows that it has lost light and freedom forever. It is not yet dead. But it is no longer alive.

All children are afraid of the night; when they grow up, they are still afraid, but more afraid of admitting it.

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Chambers, born Jay Vivian Chambers, aka Jay David Whittaker Chambers
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American Editor, Journalist and Writer