THE WITNESS AND I by O. Edmund Clubb

THE WITNESS AND I

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Clubb was one of the State Department's Chinese experts -- not merely an ""expert"" but an intelligence officer with twelve years' worth of earnest digging. In 1951 he became a target of the McCarthy purge. The essence of the charges was that he had always been ""pink"" (i.e., certain rightwing anti-Roosevelt colleagues disliked him as a relative liberal, and envied his assiduous investigations made possible by contacts with all sorts of people, including leftists). The second charge had to do with Clubb's visit to the New Masses office in the 1930's to check out the domestic scene; this brought him into the mares of Whittaker Chambers, who (as his diary records) was an ""unkempt"" Communist Party member on the scene. What is both painful and comical is Clubb's reaction to the assault. He frankly says he would never fight ""the system,"" but only tried, in the most tactful and decorous way, to defend his own State Department record. This tact meant a cheap dissociation of himself from Lattimore and others under assault. And this decorum meant a refusal to ruffle the Loyalty Security Board and others by reminding them that every accusation of ""pinkness"" could be equally applied to FDR and others who professed friendship with the U.S.S.R. Clubb complains to us that he was a messenger damned by his message -- that Chiang couldn't win -- but to his inquisitors he presented a cowardly tangle of legal twists, even fudging his knowledge of Agnes Smedley's Communist connections, when Ms basic, and still narrow, defense was that an intelligence-seeker had not only the right but the duty to seek out suspect people. Clubb's denunciations of ""bureaucratic gobbledygook"" and trial by innuendo certainly recall the grotesque details of the period, but evoke less sympathy for Clubb himself than he intended.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1974
Publisher: Columbia Univ. Press