Middle East Resources

Reflections on the Defining Role of Marxism in the 20th Century

By Bassam Michael Madany

It’s Holy Week 2020; like everyone else, my life is impacted by the restrictions occasioned by the Pandemic of Covit-19 virus. There was no sense being glued to the TV set, watching the news of the “war” against this global epidemic.

So, I began reflecting on my early years as a Levantine who arrived at New York City harbor, on the first of September 1950. I had boarded an American Export Line ship that left Beirut on 8 August. It stopped at the ports of Alexandria, Egypt, Piraeus, Greece, Naples, Genoa, Italy, and Marseilles, France. The Mediterranean part of the journey was great; however, as soon as we crossed the Strait of Gibraltar, the Atlantic welcomed us with big waves and colder weather.

I had enrolled at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA. The academic year began in mid-September. My previous education had been in Arabic and French, with English as a second language. Now, I had to learn unfamiliar terms, Old Testament Hebrew, and work on improving my New Testament Greek.

On Saturday mornings, I spent time at the Seminary library. I read The Saturday Evening Post. “Up to 1969, it was a weekly magazine and one of the most widely circulated and influential magazines within the American middle class, with fiction, non-fiction, cartoons and features that reached millions of homes every week.”

During 1952, the Saturday Evening Post began publishing Whittaker Chambers, “Witness.” I had never heard of him before. I had hardly begun reading the first installment, that I noticed his definition of Communism, “Communism Is a Vision of the World Without God,” Actually, the subject wasn’t new to me.

Back home in Alexandretta, Syriai, my father used to get newspapers from Beirut. I had become an avid reader, such as the accounts of Stalin’s Great Purges of 1937 – 1938. The photo of Marshall Mikhail Tukhachevsky is etched in my mind; he was executed by Stalin, after forcing him to confess his “collaboration” with the enemy.

Before leaving home for the voyage to America, the subject of Communism had already occupied the free world. Not long after WWII had ended, Stalin and Mao Tze Tung began expanding the hegemony of Marxism. On 5 March 1946, Winston Churchill gave his “Iron Curtain Speech” at Westminster College, in Fulton, Missouri, signaling the beginning of the Cold War.

In 1948, President Truman proclaimed his policy to counter the Soviet Union’s threat to its neighbors. It was known as the “Truman Doctrine.” The US pledged to defend both Greece and Turkey against any attempt to dominate them by the USSR. In June 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea which prompted the US entry into a new war in Asia.

The response to the expansion of Marxism throughout the world was not merely a military one. On the ideological level, works appeared by Western writers dealing the threat. On a trip  during the Christmas of 1951, I picked up at a railroad station in Iowa, “The God That Failed, a classic work and crucial document of the Cold War that brought together essays by six of the most important writers of the twentieth century: Louis Fischer, André Gide, Arthur Koestler, Ignazio Silone, Stephen Spender, and Richard Wright. They told of their conversion to and subsequent disillusionment with communism.”

It’s not likely that young Americans, or others in the rest of the world, know much about these major events in modern history. Here are certain online documents about the Cold War, the legacy and continued relevance of Whittaker Chambers. While Stalin’s show trials, Gulags, and his many barbaric acts, are a thing of the past, new threats to peace and freedom keep propping up in various parts of our world.  

Foreign Policy and Whittaker Chambers (A Video Presentation)


Whittaker Chambers: A Biography (Modern Library Paperbacks)

By Sam Tanenhaus

Still Witnessing: The Enduring Relevance of Whittaker Chambers



Alexandretta, Syria  Following the end of WWI, the Ottoman Empire lost all its colonies in the Middle East. The League of Nations mandated France to “prepare” Syria and Lebanon for full statehood. The new leader of Turkey, Mustapha Kemal, known as Ataturk, abolished the Caliphate in 1924, embarked on several reforms such as the secularization of Turkish society, and the adoption of a Latin-based alphabet, thus facilitating the spread of literacy among the masses. Ataturk claimed that the Syrian Province of Alexandretta belonged to Turkey. A few months before his death. In 1938, the Turkish Army entered the region with the consent of the French. In June 1939, Turkey annexed the province causing most of its residents (Arabic-speaking Christians and Armenian survivors of the Genocide) to seek a new home in Syria and Lebanon.