On "Comment is Free", George Galloway endorses Ken Livingstone for London Mayor. I assume that the article is part of the feud between Galloway and the Socialist Workers' Party, whose Politbureau member Lindsey German will be running for Mayor on behalf of the continuing Respect "Coalition". But while I can understand Galloway's desire to pretend to be a cat and to dress up in a leotard, I was thrown by his belief that Alger Hiss was framed. Galloway helpfully reminds CiF readers: "[Whittaker] Chambers, you'll recall, was the former communist turned apostate who 'revealed' that celebrated senior US state department official Alger Hiss was a red under the White House bed."
That is indeed what Chambers did: no inverted commas required. Hiss wasn't merely a covert Communist in the State Department when the Communist Party of the USA was formally committed to establishing a one-party state: he was a Soviet agent. This is just a fact. We know it beyond any serious dispute from the VENONA files. These were Soviet cables intercepted and decrypted by the US, which were eventually published half a century later, in the mid-1990s. One intercepted cable (reproduced here) refers to an agent in the State Department codenamed "ALES". The biographical details it contains - specifically the agent's attending the Yalta conference and then travelling to Moscow - match Hiss, and Hiss alone. Hiss was a talented figure, most of whose long life was devoted to protesting his innocence. Why he did this when he knew the truth was anyone's guess, but the truth is a matter of record. Hiss was a perjurer and a spy on behalf of a nightmare-totalitarian state.
The late pragmatist philosopher Sidney Hook, a far more serious socialist than Galloway or Livingstone, wrote in the 1970s (in a review included in his book Philosophy and Public Policy, 1981, pp. 238-52): "It may sound old fashioned to say so but the guilt or innocence of Alger Hiss depends not on one's position towards the Cold War or the degree of one's antipathy to Richard Nixon but solely on the evidence." That is a lesson that the faith-based Left has not imbibed, on this or on much else.
UPDATE: I ought to have mentioned that Ken Livingstone is equally imaginative when it comes to that period of American history. Earlier this week, also on "Comment is Free", he remarked: "One of my heroes is [the broadcaster] Ed Murrow, who had the moral courage to take on Joe McCarthy, and for that reason is remembered when all the journalists who supported the House Un-American Activities Committee are totally forgotten."
Senator McCarthy was nothing to do with the House Un-American Activities Committee. HUAC was, as its name might suggest, a committee of the House. McCarthy, as his title might suggest, was a member of the Senate. And Murrow was by no means especially courageous in opposing McCarthy, either. The President of the United States (Eisenhower) had, after all, already taken personal charge of the campaign to bring down McCarthy when Murrow made his famous anti-McCarthy broadcast in March 1954.