Above all, we cannot grant expediency any precedence over regard for truth, as the communists do and the leftist intellectuals who follow them; for such systematic relativism leads to the death of intelligence and oppression of the worker. A press or a book is not true because it is revolutionary. It has a chance of being revolutionary only if it tries to tell the truth. We have a right to think that truth with a capital letter is relative. But facts are facts. And whoever says that the sky is blue when it is grey is prostituting words and preparing the way for tyranny.
Expediency for a communist newspaper perhaps amounts to saying that the whole population of Hungary is “fascist” except Kadar, his policemen and his executioners. But the factual truth is that we have seen a revolt of workers, intellectuals, and peasants who wanted national independence and personal freedom. …
He [the intellectual] must create if he can, first and foremost, especially if his creation does not sidestep the problems of his time. But in certain exceptional circumstances, he must leave no room for doubt as to the side he takes; he must be very careful not to let his choice be clouded by wily distinctions or or discreet balancing tricks and leave no question as to his personal determination to defend liberty.
Grouping of intellectuals can, in certain cases, and particularly when the liberty of the masses and of the spirit is mortally threatened, constitute a strength and exert an influence; Hungarian intellectuals have just proven this. However it should be pointed out for our guidance in the West that the continual signing of manifestoes and protests is one of the surest ways of undermining the efficacy of and dignity of the intellectual. There exists a permanent blackmail that we all know and that we must have the often solitary courage to resist.
Subject to these reservations, we must hope for a common rallying. But first, our leftist intellectuals, who have swallowed so many insults and may well have to begin doing so again, would have to undertake a critique of the reasonings and ideologies to which they have hitherto subscribed, which have wreaked the havoc they have seen in our most recent history. That will be the hardest thing. We must admit that today conformity is on the Left. To be sure, the Right is not brilliant. But the Left is in complete decadence, a prisoner of words, caught in its own vocabulary, capable merely of stereotyped replies, constantly at a loss when faced with the truth from which it nevertheless claimed to derive its laws. The Left is schizophrenic and needs doctoring through pitiless self-criticism, exerctentof the heart, close reasoning, and a little modesty. Until such an effort at re-examination is well under way, any common rallying will be useless and even harmful.
Meanwhile, the intellectual’s role will be to say that the king is naked when he is, and not to go into raptures over imaginary trappings.
—Demain, 21-27 February 1957