The Illusions of the Intelligentsia:
The Moral Question and the Secularists
It was the good fortune of this American republic that its founders were members of an intelligentsia. It was also the good fortune of that intelligentsia that its members were men of affairs, who held responsibilities as statesmen, businessmen, lawyers, farmers, and churchmen. Since then things have changed. The American intelligentsia has become a separate class—of writers, teachers, scholars, clergymen, scientists, and artists. This class was restored to political influence as the Brain Trust under the New Deal. Apparently its leadership was repudiated in the “revolt against the eggheads” in the presidential election of 1952.
If at this moment I choose to write about the illusions of the intelligentsia rather than about their positive skills and their true visions, it is because it would seem that the time has come for critical self-examination. Speaking as one who is a member of the class under consideration, I must insist on the importance and on the lightness of this criticism. It is no fairer to say that a critic of the intelligentsia must be a fascist than to say that a critic of the government must be a Communist. Fascism, like Communism, is not peculiarly an attack upon the intelligentsia, any more than it is an attack upon free enterprise in business, or upon the independence of labor unions, or upon the autonomy of the family or of the church or of science or of the arts. Moreover, the historical record does not suggest that the members of the intelligentsia have distinguished themselves above the members of other classes in the resistance either to fascism or to Communism.
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