More than 20 years ago Walter Bergman was left physically handicapped as one of the ''freedom rider'' civil rights workers attacked by Alabama segregationists. Now a federal judge has ruled that the FBI was in effect a co-conspirator in the assault because it did not act to prevent the crime although tipped off in advance. It was not enough to tell local police, since their leadership was sympathetic to the segregationists. Police are alleged to have allowed time for attackers without interference. Mr. Bergman is expected to be awarded damages.
Considering the victim's lingering ordeal, his response to the present decision was as judicious as any editorial comment could be: ''I think we can say without question of doubt that we have a better America in 1983 than we had in 1961. Not as good an America as we should have, not as good as we're going to have. But we are making progress.''
* * * Last December the seldom-noticed Latin American land of Suriname made headlines when the military government summarily killed 15 lawyers, journalists, and other individuals on grounds they were plotting to overthrow it. The regime is repressive, with reportedly friendly ties to Cuba, and no doubt invites the recent repeated coup attempts. But the United States does well to stay out of the coup business there, as two TV networks report that it has decided to do. According to them, President Reagan initially supported CIA plans to organize rebels to topple the Suriname government. Opposition in Congress, though without veto power, was sufficient to forestall the misguided effort. One more reason not to weaken rules for intelligence agencies to let oversight committees know what they are doing.
* * * The old song's slow boat to China is giving way to ''Love Boat.'' Literally, in the sense that a ''Love Boat'' episode is the first from an American TV serial being filmed in China. And figuratively, in the sense of hands across the sea even though the waters may be ruffled.
The ruffling followed Washington's granting of asylum to Chinese tennis star Hu Na. But Peking's cancellation of exchanges has been selective. It is proceeding with a deal for CBS television in China. And it has started the first American edition of its China Daily.
Americans, with full antipathy to communist totalitarianism, can nevertheless join the Chinese people in a bit of ''Getting to Know You'' as the slow boat between them moves faster.