Leopold Tyrmand founded Chronicles in 1977 to provide a conservative and “value-oriented criticism” of arts and letters, morals and manners. From the very first, Tyrmand’s Chronicles exposed the pretentions of the radical chic culture and subjected the permissive, “anything goes” world view of liberalism to an eloquent and withering scorn. Under his editorship, the magazine published such distinguished writers and scholars as Robert Nisbet, Jorge Borges, James Burnham, and Lev Navrozov, as well as provided an opportunity for younger journalists and writers to grapple with serious ideas. This great work of Tyrmand’s may turn out to be his most enduring legacy, and all the efforts of his successors will be directed to realizing the dreams he had for the magazine.

The dream is to articulate a positive vision of American culture. This means we are aiming at more than a critique of intellectual fashions. It will be our duty to reform as well as criticize, construct as well as attack. But truth is an elusive phe nomenon which, as Plato realized, was more likely to emerge from a spirited discussion than from a doctrinaire sermon.

Revolutions do not begin with the masses or even with leaders of political movements. Every important revolution of modern times was hatched in intellectual discussions a full generation before a shot was fired. The Russian Revolution of 1917 would have been impossible if it had not been preceded by 150 years of speculation on the unequal distribution of wealth and privilege. The “rebellion” of the 1960’s was prepared in advance by all the novelists, professors, and journalists who succeeded in implanting their vision of life into a whole generation of young men and women. In the closing years of the 20th century, America is faced with problems of the greatest magnitude. There is a growing convergence of science, religion, ethics, politics, and economics on fundamental questions, and yet the implications of current research are rarely discussed and, if so, it is only from a perspective that is hostile to the tradition of the U.S. and of the civilized West.

The major problem with the American intellectual establishment is its exclusiveness. There is a whole realm of ideas and opinions which simply cannot be discussed in the pages of major organs of opinions. Issues involving the family, the defense of the nation, and the free market are usually seen from only one perspective. As one early Chronicles editorial expressed it, “a variety of ideas is necessary to which American culture once again a home for everybody.” We must be prepared to confront ideas head-on, and to set aside ideological squabbles in the common pursuit of wisdom. There are serious scholars, scientists, and writers in the world today who, in their novels and monographs, are contributing to what Robert Hutchins once called “the great conversation,” but there is really no forum where they can address each other and work out their ideas in the common language of ordinary English. The world of ideas is divided into feuding specialties and ideologies. As a result, it can take a decade or more for a major intellectual revolution to seek to reach the general literate public, and when it does, the issues may by then be clouded over by irrelevant political considerations. A magazine like Chronicles can be the forum for engaging that great conversation and, what is more, it will allow the reading public to listen in.

Perhaps the biggest difference between liberals and conservatives in America is the degree to which the two camps are willing to pursue the truth with honesty and freedom from ideological coercion. Conservatives do not fear the truth. But if we are open to debate, that does not mean we are without firm principles. An openness to new ideas and opinions is in itself a statement of belief which many Marxists and their allies will find highly offensive. Truth is, for them, whatever serves to advance their political cause. In fact, a fair-minded and honest discussion cannot be conducted with those who do not recognize honesty as a virtue and who refuse to abide by the rules of civilized discourse. To that extent, we must be exclusive.

There is another sense also in it, which Chronicles cannot be entirely “open.” It is our aim to affirm certain basic principles which have been obscured by ideological fashions and pragmatic preoccupations. Among those principles are the foundations of our society in family and community, and the recognition of a transcendent and unchanging foundation for our moral life. Our first order of business in pursuing an editorial policy must be to work out the implications of these principles for modern life. What is more, the peculiar condition of our American and European society is that we live in a free society. The basis of that freedom is imperiled not only by those who seek to destroy our way of life or overthrow our governments. A more serious threat is mounted by the consistent ideological attack on civility, moral decency, and artistic standards which continues to be made by the cultural elites in universities and influential journals of opinion.