I view this undertaking with skepticism. Perhaps I am influenced by the grotesque product of the Commentary effort, but I think that my objections to a symposium on Young Radicals go deeper. Such a symposium presupposes that there is in existence a community of persons with a sufficiently coherent outlook to consider one another as a natural audience. It presupposes further that the term “radical” has enough content to withstand careful analysis. I find these suppositions very dubious indeed.
My doubts are only intensified by the evidences of “a significant upsurge in the interest of young people in politics,” to quote the letter which accompanied the symposium questions. When one examines the examples cited, one discovers that they are without exception a-political or non-political in character. The first is the sit-ins and the response to them in the North. Now segregation is a totally non-political question, at least in any sense which is relevant to “radicalism.” The Negroes desire to be admitted to existing American society. At best, this desire is neutral with respect to the value of that society, and at worst it implies an endorsement of it. The Negro problem is, in the language of the philosopher, accidental to left-wing politics, not essential to it. It is not even really the case that the Negroes provide a pool of cheap labor, and hence in that sense are involved in a conflict of economic interests. I am reminded here o...
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