Witness Background

Witness Background

Witness is an autobiographical novel written by the American Jay Vivian Chambers. The novel was published in 1952, nine years before the author’s death. The novel was a best-seller for more than a year and it focuses on the life of the author.

The author, Jay Vivian Chambers, was an American who from a brief period of time was a Soviet Spy. He was deeply influenced by Lenin’s book Soviets at Work and after he read it, he became convinced that communism was the answer to the inequality he saw in the American society. Moved by what he had read, Jay Chambers joined the Communist Party of the United States in 1925 and he began working for the party writing newspaper articles, translating propaganda and writing communist literature. He was later recruited to work for the Communist underground where he worked as a courier.

Starting 1932, Chambers became more worried about his life and safety after he had read accounts of various former spies who just disappeared after expressing their dissatisfaction with the Communist regime. He refused to go to Moscow because he knew that he could die there and he also began to gather documents to keep as leverage. Chambers broke from the party in 1938 and the novel he wrote includes various accounts from the time he served as a spy. He also tried to warn others and reveal the truth about Communism and he influenced many people, including Ronald Reagan who awarded him posthumously with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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