The following articles are devoted to the same problem: the meaning of political radicalism in our time. Though written independently, and containing quite different emphases, they raise questions that are likely to be of particular interest to readers of DISSENT. As usual in our pages, each writer speaks for himself. Mr. Hampshire’s article first appeared in the English magazine Encounter, with whose permission it is here printed, and was also given as a paper at the “Congress for Cultural Freedom” in Milan last fall.—The Editors.
Among the few successes of DISSENT we count the fact that we have been able in some minor way to establish a link between radicals of an older generation and younger men and women who are untouched and even bored by the rhetoric of the thirties, yet repelled and frightened by the realities of the fifties. In the talks some of us have had with such younger people one theme has been recurrent. They have asked us: “What should we do?” and they did not always mean “How should we engage ourselves?” Very often they simply desired to know “How is it possible to disengage oneself? How can one counter the pressures toward conformity and assent which are so hard to resist partly because they are so very insidious?” We have tried to suggest to them that one of the key virtues in an age like ours may be the virtue of patience, that what may matter most is the capacity to endure. But many have replied that our patience is founded on our political defeats of the past few decades and that it is difficult to imitate attitudes which are the fruits of defeat—especially when it is so easy, and so tempting, to be successful in the world of the fifties.
The following pages are to be understood as an effort to reestablish a dialogue between two generations of radicals, one that has tasted political defeat and another that is uneasy before worldly success.