Between Ideology and Realpolitik: Woodrow Wilson and the Russian Revolution, 1917-1921

By Georg Schild | Go to book overview

Conclusions: Between Ideology and Realpolitik

For it is clear that in fundamental theory socialism and democracy are almost if not quite one and the same. They both rest upon the absolute right of the community to determine its own destiny and that of its members. Men as communities are supreme over men as individuals. Limits of wisdom and convenience to the public control there may be: limits of principle there are, upon strict analysis, none. The difference between democracy and socialism is not an essential difference, but only a practical difference -- is a difference of organization and policy, not a difference of primary motive. Democracy has not undertaken the tasks which socialists clamour to have undertaken; but it refrains from them . . . for lack of adequate organization and suitable hardihood. -- Woodrow Wilson, "Socialism and Democracy"1

It was a strange fate of history that within two weeks in late January and early February 1924 both Wilson and Lenin, the two great ideological antipodes of the early twentieth century, died from the effects of a stroke. For almost three generations, historians have studied their ideological differences, the struggle between liberal democracy and socialism. From the point of view of the post-Cold War late twentieth century, however, Wilson and Lenin appear more similar in their struggles than either man might have ever

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