Bertrand Russell and the Socialism That Wasn’t

by Jean Bricmont and Normand Baillargeon

Monthly Review |  Volume 69, Issue 03 (July-August 2017)

Presidium of the Second Northern Oblast Congress of Soviets

Presidium of the Second Northern Oblast Congress of Soviets, 1 August 1918. Seated: Uritskii, Trotsky, Sverdlov, Zinoviev, and Lashevich. Standing: Kharitonov, Lisovskii, Korsak, Voskov, Gusev, Ravich, Bakaev, and Kuzmin. St. Petersburg Institute of History, Russian Academy of Sciences. (The Bolsheviks in Power, p. 325)

In 1918, a few days before being jailed for pacifism, Bertrand Russell completed Proposed Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism and Syndicalism, a short, simple, and profound guide to the theories of anarchism, Marxist socialism, anarcho-socialism, and guild socialism—the associative form of socialism that existed in Great Britain in those days.

All those theories called for collective appropriation of the means of production within a democratic framework, which amounts to what could be called nineteenth-century socialism (broader than that of Marx), itself stemming from the ideas of the Enlightenment. Eighteenth-century thinkers sought to emancipate humanity from the constraints of their era: royal absolutism, feudalism, and religious obscurantism. And the solutions they came up with, freedom of expression, separation of powers, and representative democracy, were adequate responses to those problems. It is easy to understand why they were also often in favor of the free market, because they rightly rejected the feudal tolls, which impeded circulation of goods.

But as industry developed, the “free market” produced a concentration of wealth in a few hands. At the same time, production became de facto “socialized” in the sense of involving many individuals instead of independent producers, requiring infrastructure enabling transport of raw materials and merchandise, and calling for educated workers in reasonably good health. These external social factors are necessary for industrial production.

The basic idea of socialism is that once the production process is in fact socialized, its control should be socialized too, at least if the aspirations for emancipation expressed by eighteenth-century liberalism are to be realized. If the means of production and—as happened in the twentieth century—the means of information are concentrated in a few hands, those who possess them exercise an enormous power over the rest of the population. They can influence elections, either directly by financing candidates, or indirectly by threatening governments that resist their demands with economic reprisals (capital flight, plant delocalizations). These days, weaker countries face the threat of (mainly U.S.) sanctions and military intervention. The disagreements between doctrines discussed in Russell’s book deal with what should be done “after the revolution”: what should be the role of the state, how much economic and social constraint should weigh on individuals, and what form of democracy is desirable—direct, representative, or by means of councils representing producers and consumers.

Russell’s attitude remains moderate in these debates. Although he appreciates the arguments of pure anarchism, represented by Peter Kropotkin, he considers those ideas too extreme to be put into practice: free goods, total freedom to work or not to work, absence of any governmental constraint. Kropotkin’s arguments are always ingenious, but the radical nature of his conclusions leaves Russell in doubt. If Russell defends anarchist ideas, it is perhaps more because of his distrust of state socialism, of the Marxist variety, than for their inherent appeal. He sees anarchism as “the ultimate ideal to which society should approximate” rather than an alternative program capable of replacing tomorrow the existing social order.

But he had a solid distrust of state power, well before his 1920 visit to Soviet Russia. For Russell, the critique of capitalism is not solely a criticism of the “thirst for profit” or a simple revolt against poverty, nor is it based on the inevitability of cyclical crises. It is above all an opposition to the concentration of power engendered by private ownership of the major means of production and the degradation of human life linked to insecurity and merciless competition. Today, at least in the West, the wretched slums and child labor of the nineteenth century have disappeared, but the lives of thousands of workers can still be ruined by their employers if the latter decide to ship their factories to the other side of the planet. Thus we see that the problem of the power exercised by the owners of the means of production is not solved merely by raising the standard of living.

However, there is no reason to think that the situation would be much better if power were concentrated in the hands of a caste of bureaucrats, thanks to “socialism,” if what that means is the absolute takeover of production and intellectual life by the state. In keeping with the fact that his critique is aimed more against power than against private property as such, Russell displays none of the economic reductionism often found among Marxists, which constantly sees ideological phenomena as the expression of economic relations. For Russell, there is a “life of instinct” which manifests itself, for example, in nationalism, and is independent of the pursuit of material interests. As he puts it in his critique of Marxism: “To desire one’s own economic advancement is comparatively reasonable; to Marx, who inherited eighteenth-century rationalist psychology from the British orthodox economists, self-enrichment seemed the natural aim of a man’s political actions. But modern psychology has dived much deeper into the ocean of insanity upon which the little barque of human reason insecurely floats.”1

What is striking nevertheless is the extent to which the theories discussed in this book are close to each other, at least compared to all the rest: communism, fascism, imperialism, neoliberalism—that is, almost everything that really happened after 1918. Moreover, Russell’s optimism is astonishing, right in the midst of a war whose end could not be foreseen by anyone in the first months of 1918 (the Russian Revolution had in fact strengthened Germany). His optimism was based on the idea that with the war having shown the failure of the existing system, a new world was going to be built on its ruins. This outlook contrasts sharply with the situation today, when any left ideas discussed here in France are regarded in general as at best harmless daydreams or, at worst, dangerous utopias.

Finally, the revolution did not take place—at least not the one pre-1914 socialists were thinking of, and no new world emerged from the war. Instead, the First World War gave birth to communism and fascism. Fascination with the former would confuse the radical part of the left as much as fighting against the latter would absorb all its energy.

Russell, however, remained clear-headed. As early as 1920, he traveled to Soviet Russia to see for himself, and returned without illusions to write The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism. Fifty years before the “revelations” of Solzhenitsyn caused shock and dismay in the French intelligentsia of the 1970s—but also well before Stalin took power, before the Moscow trials and the disillusions of the 1930s, before the writings of Victor Serge and Boris Souvarin—Russell saw what nobody denies today: that the regime put in place by V. I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky in 1917 was a dictatorship, and a ferocious one at that. Above all, he was guided by observation, a critical mind, and common sense. Russell had no grand theory about the social classes in power in Russia, the nature of the Soviet state, or the supposed “degeneration” of the revolution, such as proliferated among so many Marxist critics of the USSR, particularly among Trotskyists.

Russell observed the mechanisms of the dictatorship rapidly set up after the October Revolution: total suppression of freedom of expression or of assembly for the opposition, even the left opposition, and creation of a secret police that could act outside the law. As he noted, in the expression “dictatorship of the proletariat,” which on the face of it might indicate an original form of representative government (through the Council system), the word “dictatorship” is taken literally but not the word “proletariat”; the latter designated the “conscious” elements of the proletariat, that is, in practice, the Communists, regardless of their class origin.

It is only fair to stress just how hard it was psychologically, right on the heels of the First World War, to which Russell was so ardently opposed, to be lucid about Soviet Russia, whose revolution had enabled that country to get out of the war. After all, even the Spanish Anarchists joined the Communist International in 1919, “without hesitation, as a woman gives herself to the man she loves,” to echo their expression at the time (they left in 1922).2 If so many people joined the parties of the Third International, it was precisely because the First World War had convinced them of the total failure of the system that led to it, and they were ready to adhere to whatever radical alternative was available, abandoning all critical sense. In contrast to most of the intellectual left, Russell always tried not to take his desires for reality.

Russell was also quick to spot what would be a characteristic trait of the Communist movement, namely its “religious” aspect, often fanatically so. Moreover it is amusing to read today his comparisons of communism and Islam (at the time of its conquests), in light of the fact that the latter has replaced communism in Western demonology. He saw in Lenin an intellectual aristocrat, but one with an extremely dogmatic belief in the doctrines he took to be those of Marx. It was the dogmatic certainly with which the communists defended their doctrines that shocked Russell (and with him all free thinkers) even more than the doctrines themselves.

One cannot overstate the difference between Marx and Lenin. When the latter wanted to “prove” a point, he tended to cite Marx. Marx didn’t cite anyone. Marx was a child of the Enlightenment, authoritarian in some ways and, contrary to the anarchists, not believing in the need to abolish the State immediately after the revolution. But nowhere in Marx is to be found the idea that socialism can be identified with more or less complete state control of the economy, much less that the form to be taken by the socialist State should be a sort of absolute monarchy imposing an official doctrine in the same way that State religions were imposed in the past.

And yet, despite the evident repulsion that Bolshevism inspired in him, Russell offers a fairly nuanced vision of the revolution—at least compared to its critics on the right or on the “democratic left.” First, he recognized that, regarded as a “splendid attempt,” Bolshevism “deserves the gratitude and admiration of all the progressive part of mankind.”

Then, when he met the Russian writer Maxim Gorky, Russell said that if he were Russian, he like Gorki would support the government because the alternatives were even worse. Russell thought that in seeking to modernize a backward country, the Bolsheviks were performing “a necessary though unamiable task.” He might finally have agreed with the statement, often attributed to Winston Churchill, that Stalin found a Russia equipped with a wooden plough and left it in possession of atomic weapons. His main objection concerns what he called the “camouflage” used by the Bolsheviks to claim that their modernizing dictatorship was the ally of socialism such as it was conceived at the time in the West.

Russell’s critique of the practice of Bolshevism thus is not aimed primarily at its action in Russia itself, but rather at the tactics of the Communist International, especially in the West, and at the idea that seizing power by an elite made up of “professional revolutionaries,” as Lenin put it, more or less on the model of what happened in Russia in 1917, was the way to socialism. On that he was completely right, and the notion of taking power in such a way in developed countries has always been a myth. While it mobilized some and repulsed others, it was never anything but a myth.

Where Russell also parted from critics of the Bolshevik Revolution on the right or the “democratic left” was his view of the Franco-British entente and the policies toward Russia followed by the imperialist countries after 1917: an extremely deadly blockade and direct military interventions. He stressed, and there again history has proved him entirely right, that those policies by no means weakened Bolshevism, but drove it to be still more dictatorial, while inflicting dreadful suffering on the Russian population. As Russell put it, the fact that a man who is deprived of food and drink will grow weak, go mad, and finally die, “is not usually considered a good reason for inflicting death by starvation. But where nations are concerned, the weakness and struggles are regarded as morally culpable, and are held to justify further punishment.” Thus the great powers have used the internal weaknesses of Soviet Russia, and later of China, Vietnam, Iraq, Cuba, or Iran today, to justify more sanctions.

On this point, Russell foresaw what would be the source of one of the major tragedies of the twentieth century: the use, first by European powers and then by the United States, of systematic subversion, direct or indirect assassination or coups d’état to “kill the hope” aroused by reformist movements and leaders in the third world: notably Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran, Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, Patrice Lumumba in Congo, João Goulart in Brazil, Sukarno in Indonesia, and Salvador Allende in Chile. Moreover, inasmuch as dictatorships are usually harder to overthrow or subvert than democracies, the former are favored by a sort of unnatural selection. Cuba for example has managed more successfully to survive U.S. assaults than democratic reformers such as Arbenz, Goulart or Allende. Iran today is much harder to subvert than it was in Mossadegh’s day.

In addition to that unnatural selection, there is a “barricade effect” which was produced by foreign intervention in the Russian Civil War. When countries are faced with aggression, their tendency is to close in on themselves in self-protection. As an example, it is enough to look at the drastic security measures taken by the U.S. government after September 11, 2001, not to mention its subsequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Why wouldn’t much more sustained assaults provoke similar reactions in other countries? It is impossible to understand the policy of the USSR throughout its history, or of China after 1949, or of Iran today, without taking that effect into account. By the same token, it was having witnessed firsthand the overthrow of Arbenz that radicalized Che Guevara.3 In 1919, a young Vietnamese came to the Versailles Conference with a proposal to achieve the self-determination of his people. Unceremoniously shown the door, he went to Moscow to complete his political education and went on to make history under the name of Ho Chi Minh.

The “democratic” Western left has shown little interest in opposing all those forms of imperialism, with the exception of a few particularly dramatic conflicts, such as the wars in Algeria and Vietnam. But it misses no chance to denounce dictatorship in the third world today as in the Soviet Union in the past, while completely overlooking the overwhelming responsibility of Western actions in the emergence and radicalization of those dictatorships. Thus, even when those criticisms are theoretically justified, they are tinged with hypocrisy.

The aspect of Russell’s book which remains the most timely is nevertheless his critique of the “theory” of Bolshevism, or the “materialist theory of history.” Once again, that has very little to do with Marx, even though it is true that Marx had a taste for apodictic formulas giving the impression of a mastery of the laws of historical development. This shows up especially in the Communist Manifesto (written when he was twenty-nine years old). And in Capital he tried to provide a scientific analysis of how the economy functions, but he was nonetheless nowhere near the dogmatism of Lenin and his successors.4

The “materialist theory of history” assumes that in the last analysis, human actions are motivated by the desire to possess as much material goods as possible, and that ideological phenomena are to be explained on that basis. In particular, concerning wars such as the one from which the world was barely emerging in 1920, and which Lenin attributed to imperialist rivalry, the dominant idea, not only among Marxists but in the left in general, was that the working class had been taken in by capitalists who wanted the war in order to increase their profits. This type of explanation is still extremely popular, even among many who have nothing to do with Marxism; most of the current conflicts in the Middle East are explained in terms of oil, while the ideological or religious aspects related to these conflicts are dismissed as the result of ruling-class “manipulation” of working people.

As Russell stressed, the idea that men act according to rational calculations of how to increase their share of commodities underestimates “the ocean of insanity upon which the little barque of human reason insecurely floats.” It neglects human passions, the most politically significant being the various forms of religion and nationalism. Citing numerous examples, Russell argued that even if economic factors play an important role, Marxists ignore “irrational” factors at their peril, and that the notion that wage-earners were dragged into the war because they were “misled by cunning capitalists” is largely a myth, because the capitalists were “in the grip of nationalist instinct as much as their proletarian ‘dupes.’”

Russell observed the human tendency to rationalize conduct that is in reality motivated by drives and sentiments. In war, there are two ways to go about this: the “idealist” will claim to fight for democracy, and the “materialist” will claim to defend his economic interests. Marxists, observed Russell, see through the idealistic “camouflage,” but not through the other.

Of course, Russell never denied that every war is accompanied by enormous propaganda in its favor, but he notes that there are some things that even the most intense propaganda fails to accomplish: for example, to make Irish Catholics into Englishmen, and more generally to manage to alter the sentimental attachments that bind a human group to its identity, religion or nation. These attachments are due to human psychology and are inexplicable in terms of profit-seeking or manipulation by the ruling class.

In fact, these irrational but profoundly human factors, much more than the action of the ruling classes themselves, are probably what have historically constituted the greatest obstacle to achieving socialism. Much of Russell’s reflection, in common with most pacifists, has been the attempt to find ways, such as appropriate education and systematic criticism of irrationality, to control self-destructive human passions. It is sometimes comical to observe how “Marxists” dismiss such efforts as a waste of time, since in their view ideological phenomena will solve themselves once “the revolution” has transferred the means of production to the state.

The most damaging intellectual confusion of the twentieth century has no doubt been to identify socialism with the Soviet adventure. The Soviet Union was the result of a tragic and violent history: Civil War and foreign interventions, the need to modernize and defend the nation from Nazi invasion, and unimaginable sacrifices accomplished in order to win the Second World War. None of that was foreseen or foreseeable before 1914, and surely not even the “statist” socialists of that period hoped for the type of absolute dictatorship that emerged from those hardships. That identification nevertheless was made, both by the enemies of socialism, who sought thereby to discredit it, and by the communists who sought by the same identification to embellish the image of the Soviet Union.

One could have hoped that with the collapse of the Soviet Union, that confusion would be cleared up, but it is the very opposite that took place. Even those who maintained that the USSR was not “genuine socialism” (expression which presumes that another socialism is possible) for the most part declared after 1991 that socialism itself was a failure. The European social democratic parties adopted privatization policies that were the exact opposite of what they had advocated at the time when the USSR still existed.

And this raises the question as to who was right in the end, Russell or Lenin and the Bolsheviks. The fall of the Soviet Union as well as the horrors accompanying its history seem to answer unambiguously in favor of Russell. But things are not so simple, because the fall of the Soviet Union by no means marked a triumph of Russell’s ideas. There is no doubt that Russell was one of the first socialists to keep reminding those “who were dazzled by the external success of the Soviet Union, that they had forgotten the painful lessons of absolute monarchy,” that is, the corrupting effects of absolute power.5 He also refused to engage in one-sided criticism ignoring history and the domestic and foreign obstacles weighing on the Russian Revolution, that would merely have played into the hands of imperialists and reactionaries. By adopting a subtle and nuanced attitude, he pleased no one, neither the communists nor the anticommunists.

Today, alongside all the negative aspects, which are sufficiently known to everyone, the positive achievements of the communist movement should not be ignored: the victory over fascism, obviously, but also its significant contribution to the major emancipation of the twentieth century, namely the colonial liberation movement. It is actually more realistic to see the communist movement outside Western Europe as part of the global revolt against imperialism (Russell also points to that essential aspect in Lenin’s speeches) than as a contribution to socialism.

In Western Europe, despite its revolutionary rhetoric, the communist movement has in practice more or less amounted to a branch of social democracy, which after the Second World War made great strides in terms of public services, social security, and democratic education. In his own country, Great Britain, the moment when ideas close to those of Russell were most put into practice was doubtless following the victory of the Labour Party in 1945.6But, even there, it is questionable whether those transformations would have been possible without the victory of the Soviet Union in the war, without the inspiration it provided (rightly or wrongly) to the workers and the fear it aroused in the ruling classes. An answer to that question is perhaps provided by the fact that after 1991, far from seeing the rise of a radical “non-Stalinist” left, such a left has completely vanished, as social democracy has become neoliberal and the left intelligentsia has turned to the joys of postmodernism and identity politics, while European green movements have abandoned their pacifism to support “humanitarian wars.”

To return to the comparison between Lenin and Russell, one may ask what status, what effectiveness a free intellectual, independent of any party, can possibly have in the arena of political conflicts. Communism was a mass movement bringing together tens of millions of people, whereas Russell was an intellectual, no doubt as influential as an intellectual can be, but with no mass movement behind him. Even today, in the whole world there are surely more members of the international communist movement than people who have even heard of Russell. Incidentally, without Lenin, the name of Marx himself might well have ended up in the same category, since most of the socialist movement was moving away from his ideas in the early years of the twentieth century (leaving aside the question as to what extent Lenin really propagated the ideas of Marx, rather than a considerably distorted version).

Political conflicts tend to be dominated precisely by those irrational passions whose very existence is denied or played down by Marxism. All too often the violence of the oppressors, fascists, imperialists, or colonialists can be combated effectively only by the violence of the oppressed, and the voice of reason is drowned out in the tumult of battle. Of what use can it be?

It was perhaps in response to that objection that Russell maintained that the four most powerful men in history were the Buddha, Jesus Christ, Pythagoras, and Galileo, none of whom enjoyed official support in their lifetime nor disposed of any power other than that of persuasion.7 The underlying idea being that the force of arms carries the day in the short time, but in the long-term ideas win out. In their lifetime, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao enjoyed enormous popularity, which eroded sharply once they were gone. The emancipating ideas contained in the best of classic liberalism, in the defense of rationalism, pacifism, and a truly libertarian education, continue to spread. Russell’s liberal ideas have enjoyed considerable success. His book on Marriage and Morals could be shocking in 1929, but seems quite banal today, as do his critique of religion and his anti-militarism. But the prospect of socialization of the means of production within a democratic framework, which was also one of his fundamental aspirations, seems more remote than ever.

Russell was both a liberal and a socialist, a combination that was perfectly comprehensible in his time, but which has become almost unthinkable today. He was a liberal in that he opposed concentrations of power in all its manifestations, military, governmental, or religious, as well as the superstitious or nationalist ideas that usually serve as its justification. But he was also a socialist, even as an extension of his liberalism, because he was equally opposed to the concentrations of power stemming from the private ownership of the major means of production, which therefore needed to be put under social control (which does not mean state control).

But there was a major lacuna in the socialist vision of the world before 1914, concerning what were then called the “barbarians,” that is the world outside the West. If Russell can be criticized for his terminology, which was that of his era, he was far ahead of others in adopting an anti-imperialist attitude and commented ironically on the colonial exploitation that a socialist government would perpetuate.

For the major social transformation of the twentieth century was not in the direction of socialism but rather was decolonization (the communist movement in Asia should be seen primarily as anticolonial and anti-feudal, its adhesion to “communism” being essentially a means of gaining international support). That transformation has had a profound impact on Western socialism. Already in 1902, the British writer John Hobson (whose celebrity is partly due to the fact that his work served as the basis of Lenin’s Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism) saw that the opportunities for Western capitalists to invest in the colonies would create a situation in which “little clusters of wealthy aristocrats” would draw “dividends and pensions from the Far East” and would thus support, thanks to this tribute, “great tame masses of retainers, no longer engaged in the staple industries of agriculture and manufacture, but kept in the performance of personal or minor industrial services under the control of a new financial aristocracy.” Hobson warned that this situation, “far from forwarding the cause of world-civilization, might introduce the gigantic peril of a Western parasitism.”8

Just how much Hobson’s predictions have come true is evident from a New York Times report of how Apple got an urgent job done. Although it was the middle of the night, a foreman aroused eight thousand Chinese workers in the company’s dormitories, gave each a biscuit and a cup of tea, put them to work for a solid twelve-hour shift, and within ninety-six hours, the plant was producing over ten thousand iPhones a day.9

Another way to look at the problem posed by the existence of the world outside the West is to imagine that the developed countries have always been totally isolated from the rest of the world: no cheap raw materials, no immigrant work force, no goods produced under the conditions just described. It is obvious that our society would be completely different from what it is: the level of consumption would be much lower, but we would also have to produce what we consume, which would create a relationship of forces quite different between workers and employers.

We can only speculate on the type of society such a situation would create, but it might very well resemble the socialism that was dreamed of before 1914. Of course, the point here is not to blame the rest of the world for the present situation, but to emphasize that what has enabled the existing system to survive is in large part the existence of a hinterland, former colonies that became the third world and then emerging nations, on which we shifted many of our problems. But that observation leads to two conclusions concerning socialism. First of all, far from having disappeared, the working class is still in formation on the world scale: in Asia and in Latin American, the transformation of peasants into workers is underway, while in Africa it is only beginning. No one knows how these upheavals will end. As for the developed countries, their hegemony over the rest of the world is in constant decline; if the day comes when these countries are obliged to solve their own problems without being able to shift them abroad, the question of another form of social organization will arise once more.

Moreover, everything that is more or less civilized in the developed countries—social security, democratic education, protection of workers, public services—was created in an essentially socialist spirit. In economic terms, a good part of life—childhood, youth, old age, illness, unemployment—is already socialized. True, the neoliberal offensive aims to dismantle those achievements, but it is running up against a disorganized but obstinate resistance, because those achievements are still very popular.

In The Spirit Level, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett show statistically that in the Western world, relatively egalitarian societies (thanks to partial application of socialist ideas) enjoy enormous advantages in terms of health, safety, education, social mobility, and so on.10 In America Beyond Capitalism, Gar Alperovitz reviews all the more or less collective enterprises that already exist even in the “capitalist paradise” of the United States.11 In Spain the Mondragon cooperative, with its 35,000 employees, demonstrates that economic democracy and efficiency are not necessarily contradictory.

Of course, none of that is perfect and in many ways remains marginal. But at least it shows that the ideas of classical socialism are not dead. In a period when the main forces opposing each other in the Western world are, on one hand, a democratic “left” and right both converted to neoliberalism and, on the other, various reactionary currents, the ideas of Russell can help to keep afloat the fragile barque of human reason and offer the prospect, however distant, of a truly human world.

Jean Bricmont is a professor of physics at the Université catholique de Louvain, and the author of Humanitarian Imperialism (Monthly Review Press, 2006). Normand Baillargeon is a professor of education at the Université du Québec à Montréal.
This article is adapted from the preface to a French-language edition of Bertrand Russell’s The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism, published by Éditions du Croquant in 2014. Translated from the French by Diana Johnstone.


  1. Bertrand Russell,The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism (London: George Allen and Unwin),1920.
  2. Daniel Guérin,L’anarchisme (Paris: Gallimard, 1965),132–36.
  3. Che was to write later: “I was in Guatemala at the time, the Guatemala of Arbenz, and I began to draft some notes for rules of revolutionary medicine. I began to think about what was needed to be a revolutionary doctor. But then came the aggression, the aggression let loose by United Fruit, the State Department, Foster Dulles—anyway, all that in reality is the same thing—and the puppet they set up was called Castillo Armas.… I then realized something essential: that to be revolutionary doctor, or simply to be a revolutionary, what is needed first of all is for there to be a revolution. Isolated individual effort, pure ideals, the desire to sacrifice a whole life to the noblest ideals, all that is useless if one is acting by oneself alone in some remote corner of America, struggling against hostile governments and social conditions that block all progress” (“The Revolutionary Doctor,” speech given in Havana on August 19, 1960, available at
  4. According to Engels biographer Tristram Hunt, the “materialist concept of history” owes more to Engels than to Marx.
  5. Bertrand Russell, “Why I Am Not a Communist,” inPortraits from Memory and Other Essays(Nottingham, UK: Spokesman, 1995), 213.
  6. See Ken Loach’s 2013 documentary filmThe Spirit of45, to appreciate the achievements and mentality of that period.
  7. Bertrand Russell,Power: A New Social Analysis (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1938).
  8. John Atkinson Hobson,Imperialism: A Study (Nottingham, UK: Spokesman, 2011).
  9. Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher, “How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work,”New York Times, January 21, 2012.
  10. Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett,The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone (London: Penguin, 2010).
  11. Gar Alperovitz,America beyond Capitalism, second ed. (Takoma Park, MD: Democracy Collaborative, 2011).



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