What’s the Difference: Mid-20th Century American Communists and Liberals?

Within the Roosevelt Administration? According to Whittaker Chambers? From page 473 of Witness:

Any charge of Communism enraged [liberals] precisely because they could not grasp the differences between themselves and those against whom it was made. Conscious of their own political innocence, they suspected that it was merely mischievous, and was aimed, from motives of political malice, at themselves. But as the struggle was really for revolutionary power, which in our age is always a struggle for control of the masses, that was the point at which they always betrayed their real character, for they reacted not like liberals, but with the fierceness of revolutionists whenever that power was at issue.
I perceived that the Communists were much more firmly embedded in Government that I had supposed, and that any attempt to disclose or dislodge them was enormously complicated by the political situation in which they were parasitic. Every move against the Communists was felt by the liberals as a move against themselves. If only for the sake of their public health record, the liberals, to protect their power, must seek as long as possible to conceal from themselves and everybody else the fact that the Government had been Communist-penetrated. Unlike the liberals, the Communists were fully aware of their superior tactical position, and knew that they had only to shout their innocence and cry: “Witch hunt!” for the liberals to rally in all innocence to their defense. I felt, too, that a persistent effort by any man to expose the Communists in Government was much less likely to lead to their exposure than to reprisals against him. That fact must be borne constantly in mind in understanding what I did and did not do in the next nine years, and indeed throughout the Hiss Case, which was to prove on a vast scale how well-founded my fears had been.
One of my close friends, himself an ardent New Dealer, who knew my story in full detail, summed up the situation tersely. “I see,” he said one day, “why it might not pay the Communists to kill you at this point. But I don’t see how the [Roosevelt] Administration dares leave you alone.”

This is my second reading of this book. I think that I started it in the middle of a nasty, online dispute with a guy who insisted that Nazi Germany was “of the Left” because of the word “-Sozialistische” in their official name. I am grateful to this guy, whom I, eventually, called a fascistic right-winger, which he earned as he openly called for the killing of ever Leftist, Liberal or Progressive in the U. S. of A.

It’s getting very ugly out there.

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