The 1950 conviction of Alger Hiss for perjury in denying that he was a Communist spy was a seminal event in American politics. It is difficult to name any other trial that had such a widespread effect on American politics, even including the convictions of atomic bomb spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
Alger Hiss was the quintessential Establishment Man: Harvard Law School, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, erudite, good looking and perfectly tailored, with a glorious resume and fervent testimonials from everyone who was important. Even his name marked him as someone special, as in Horatio Alger, later morphing into Horatius at the bridge.
His social friends did not suspect, indeed found it incredible, that Hiss could have been a Jekyll-and-Hyde double persona, living half his life underground where he carried out traitorous missions. When the facts were spread on the table, one of his friends told me in shock, “If Alger could be a Communist, anyone could be.”
Indeed, anyone could. In those years, many people who had as elegant an image as Hiss were secret Communists. The handsome husband of my best friend in college turned out to be a secret Communist, a fact which my friend learned only when the FBI told her after the Party ordered the husband to get a divorce and marry a Party member.
Good looking men and women leading double lives held jobs throughout the Roosevelt and Truman Administrations in the 1930s and 1940s. When the House Committee on Un-American Activities exposed this Communist virus, the liberals in and out of government, especially in the media, counterattacked against the anti-Communists with a frightening ferocity.
The culpability of the liberals in standing cheek-to-jowl with the Communists was summed up by the founder and first chairman of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, Martin Dies, in his book “Martin Dies’ Story.” He wrote: “Without exception, year in and year out, the American Liberals have defended, protected, encouraged, and aided the Communists, both in the United States and abroad.”
Dies said that there is a “sympathetic tie between the ultra-liberals and the Communists. Actually, the ultra-liberals have always been socialists at heart.”
Because the Rooseveltian liberals were soulmates with the socialists and Communists, they closed ranks to defend Alger Hiss, and continued to defend him year after year, even after he exhausted his appeals and spent four years in prison, and even after all subsequent revelations confirmed his guilt beyond quibble. On the other hand, Hiss’s conviction proved that treachery and subversion were real, and, to the anti-Communists, America’s honor was at stake.
Alger Hiss wasn’t merely a middle-level bureaucrat who turned over classified documents to the Soviet espionage network. He was the number-two man in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s State Department and a key player in our foreign policy and relations with the Soviet Union.
Hiss was the principal author of the United Nations Charter, which was drafted at the Dumbarton Oaks Conference. Hiss presided as the UN’s first Secretary General at the San Francisco Conference in April 1945, where we learned that a secret agreement had been made at the Yalta Conference the preceding February, giving the Soviet Union three votes in the UN, while every other nation has only one.
Poland, the first country to resist Hitler and supposedly the reason why the West entered World War II, was barred from the UN until the legitimate anti-Communist government of Mikolajczyk was replaced by Communist stooges from Moscow. As this was not accomplished until the fall of 1945, Poland’s seat was empty in San Francisco.
At the Yalta Conference, Alger Hiss had been the chief aide to Secretary of State Edward Stettinius. In the telephone system set up for the U.S. delegation, Roosevelt was #1, Stettinius #2, and Hiss #3, and Hiss’s hovering presence is apparent from the news photographs.
Most of the obituaries on Alger Hiss since his death on November 15 were encrusted with layers of liberal bias. The New York Times headlined the event as “Alger Hiss, Divisive Icon of Cold War, Dies at 92.”
That headline is misleading. Alger Hiss was an icon of the liberals in their war against the anti-Communists. He was the personification of the Communist chic which patriots believed should be removed from our government.
The definitive account of the Alger Hiss story was written by Allen Weinstein in 1978. He started out as a liberal determined to prove Hiss’s innocence by getting access to documents under the Freedom of Information Act. However, the documents convinced Weinstein that Hiss was guilty, so he entitled his book “Perjury.”
Hiss’s guilt was reconfirmed in 1993 by the release of the files of the Interior Ministry in Budapest, and again in 1996 by the release of the Venona papers. The Venona papers are hundreds of messages sent by Soviet agents between Washington and Moscow which had been decrypted and translated by our National Security Agency.
The Alger Hiss story proves that traitors made policy at the highest levels in our government during the 1930s and 1940s. The Alger Hiss story validates the courageous battle waged by anti-Communists to rout traitors out of our government.