Communism is on the march, and one reason for its growth is the lack of resistance on the part of Western intellectuals, William F. Buckley, Jr., editor of the National Review, said last night in an address on "The Decline of the Intellectual in Public Affairs."
One instance of this intellectual reticence is in the predominating attitude of open acceptance toward ex-President Harry S. Truman, Buckley observed. Even "perceptive" men like Dean Acheson and Adlai Stevenson "fail to stand firm in judiciously assessing Mr. Truman's personal limitations." Instead, they and others yield to "transcendent considerations" and "continue to undermine the standards of honesty and courage and perception by which nations flourish."
A factor in this defect is the "obsessive, fetishistic" commitment of intellectuals to democracy. Democracy is "a procedure, not a policy;" yet in it all our hopes are vested, Buckley said.
In our universities, a basic idea of democracy, "that truth will emerge victorious in a free contest of ideas," takes the form of "the distilled voodoo of academic freedom," Buckley, who is author of God and Man at Yale, continued. Universities do not take sides, because the acceptance of truth would involve the rejection of its opposite as an error, a violation of "academic freedom."
"The only defense against the short-comings of collective action by the state is concerted resistance by individuals," Buckley warned, since democracy no longer guarantees "enlightened" public action. If the entire thinking class suppresses its collective conscience, "great nations are humbled," he stated.