Spy vs. Spy

Alger Hiss was a Soviet agent… a spy, spook, traitor- all the same.  Hiss’s story was never frustrating, but the academics who defended him provided more than enough consternation over the decades.  Academia saw a victim, a noble man wronged by the excesses of McCarthyism and the ambition of Richard Nixon.  In many ways, it was the perfect script for Hiss- people never stopped talking about him.  He could have gone down as just another middling diplomat who briefly served at the UN– get in line, professor; but no, Hiss wanted it both ways.  He wanted the recognition, but on his terms- history be damned.

Clearly beneath him

Clearly beneath him

Even as the evidence mounted against him… Alger Hiss refused to surrender to the facts.  He was a hero in the minds of many, the case against him  had to be an elaborate plot.  Poor Whitaker Chambers first warned the State Dept. of Hiss in 1938, ten years before the infamous HUAC encounter.  Soviet defector Igor Gouzenko confirmed the bulk of Chambers’ accusations, but still the Hiss charade soldiered on.  Hiss’s popularity carried over the generations as Hollywood made certain the public couldn’t forget the poor American communists victimized by the Red Scare.  Even the appearance of Hiss in decrypted Soviet messages weren’t enough- he may have been ALES, but to the American left, he was a martyr.

Spy

Spy

Liberal historian, Allen Weinstein… wanted to write the definitive work vindicating Hiss in 1977.  His exhaustive research provided just the opposite- the evidence, even in 1977, definitively proved Hiss had lied. Alger Hiss died in 1996 as thousands of left-leaning academics continued to proclaim his innocence.  And another crime emerges- Hiss let it happen, he lived a lie and allowed his followers to ruin their reputations- all for his vanity.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Spy vs. Spy

  1. This follows the usual primrose path that begins when you get away from facts. The reason why people do not accept that Hiss was guilty point to the fact that some of the copies of documents produced by the prosecution were not confidential, others were of no interest to the Russians, and some were not circulated to the office where Hiss worked. There was nothing in Hiss’s career as a government official that indicated that he was pro-communist, and some which showed him to be very moderate or conservative in his attitudes.
    A large number of lawyers, many personal friends, helped him at trial and none, to my knowledge, decided he was guilty after all.

  2. The Russian sources, apart from being from a totalitarian state, were compiled without regard to truth. The US sources were created in a free country where the courts would order discovery of confidential documents if that would lead to a specific decision in the case. The position of the academics such as Messrs Haynes and Klehr is now based on the Soviet sources, and, it seems, mistaken appeals to patriotism. They are now well described by Dr Johnson’s comment on materialist philosophers of his time: “Truth is a cow that will yield them no more milk, so they have gone to milk the bull.”
    People who start from the trial documents and other US sources, among them Hiss’s lawyers, have found forgery, false witness, attempts -some successful- to coerce or exclude witnesses, and “spy” documents that are mostly non-confidential or of no use to Soviet intelligence.

    • There is no doubt that there were people who were wrongly accused and saw their reputations damaged. I am no defender of McCarthy or his ilk; but facts are facts. I wish more effort would be spent on defending people like Fred Fishcher. Believing that being a communist in the 1930’s was some kind of “right” is foolish since the American party was founded on Stalinist principles. It was incompatible with republican government and freely advocated the dissolution of the US Constitutional system. Hiss’s case was far from well prosecuted, but the number of scholars who are now willing to admit his guilt is telling. Thanks again for reading!

      • This “scholar” with more than twelve years research on the Hiss case and a book about it is not prepared to “admit” his guilt. The US evidence points strongly to this. It is significant that most of the new data are from Soviet sources. I don’t regard these as reliable.

  3. If Hiss was a spy, why did he send copies of non-confidential documents to the Russians?
    Why did he also send to them copies of documents which were of no conceivable interest to the Russians?
    Professor Weinstein’s research is biased and omits important data.
    It is not true that” left-leaning academics” are the main people who doubt Hiss’s guilt. Most have been professors of Law or Economics. Examples: Charles Alan Wright, John Lowenthal, George T. Altman.

    • You feel Weinstein’s work to be biased because your mind is quite made up. Weinstein wanted to exonerate Hiss, but the evidence prevented that book from being written.

      Ales is Ales is Ales. Sorry.

      • It is not a matter of WANTING to exonerate anybody. The now deceased Professor Weinstein RIP was biased and I show this in my book “Secret History”.
        I read about the case a long time ago, as a sort of preparation for study for a Law degree. I found it interesting but doubted the verdict of the jury. I had no preconceived attitude to Hiss or Chambers, simply following the book by Lord Jowett, who was sceptical but fair. I went back to the case when I found that no one was interested in my degree as a way of preventing the waste of my skills, such as they were. One thing that struck me was that some of the documents were of no use at all to the Soviets. For instance the copies of cables from China about the Japanese occupying and then vacating and then re-occupying the empty premises of the Tsinghua University in Peking in 1938. This university was created with the help of American academics and its fate was of very great interest to various groups in the United States. What was happening was a Japanese stratagem to cause the US authorities to “lose face”.
        By the time that the occupation/withdrawal took place, Tsinghua University had moved, lock stock and barrel, to a remote location in Yunnan. Its buildings in Peking had no strategic or military interest to the Soviets. Any Soviet spy would not have bothered with it.
        It is the same with other documents. For example, the report about Japanese plans for the economic development of its puppet state, Manchukuo. This had been reported in the “New York Times” the previous year, quoting US business leaders as considering it ridiculous. Obviously, the Japanese had rewritten their report to take account of this frosty response and make it more acceptable to the US interests.
        The documents in the “White Memorandum”, a series of notes on economic issues compiled by Harry Dexter White, show a similar lack of value in the subject matter for the Soviets.
        Finally, these are evidence in US documents. They were created for a trial in the USA. By contrast, the Soviet documents used in recent years to incriminate both men are products of a totalitarian society where the truth was whatever suited the government. Just how totalitarian it was has been shown by the research of, among others, Robert Conquest.

      • An ineffectual agent, but an agent, nonetheless.

  4. I maintain that the innocence of Alger Hiss is a matter of fact. The futility of the documents from a Soviet point of view I have demonstrated. This is further shown by the fact that he initialled some of the documents to show that he had read them. He, proud alumnus of Harvard Law School, first signs the documents and then copies them for the Soviets. I think not.

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