The Socialist Tradition: Moses to Lenin

The Socialist Tradition: Moses to Lenin

The Socialist Tradition: Moses to Lenin

The Socialist Tradition: Moses to Lenin

Excerpt

It is a chastening thought that some parts of this book have had an ante-natal existence of approximately twenty-two years. When I began the final stage of reducing to writing an unwritten book, I had in mind the production of what should be, in size and otherwise, a companion volume to The Development of Economic Doctrine, which apparently has been found to serve a certain purpose in the education of the young economist. Despite my good intentions, however, it has refused to be compressed; and in the end it does not fall far short of attaining twice the modest dimensions originally planned. Possibly the socialists, being in the main dissentients, rebels, and prophets, are a more interesting lot than their orthodox and respectable cousins, the economists.'

I make no apology for writing this book. It may not be the book which the general reader requires as an introduction to the development of socialist thought, but that at the present moment he does require a book on the subject is beyond all question. Kirkup's History of Socialism dates from 1892; and since then the literature on the subject has been astonishingly meagre, and -- as it may appear to many -- grossly disfigured by prejudice on one side or the other. It ought to be possible to write of Socialism without the underlying assumption that socialists alone are right and righteous; that they alone are the true crusaders against the powers of darkness. Equally, of course, it ought to be possible to write of Socialism without assuming that all socialists are fundamentally dishonest, and that Socialism attracts exclusively the world's incompetents and the world's failures. And of this second view, there are also some glaring examples.

Not that any one in these matters can be expected to write without bias: if such a miracle were possible, the result would probably not be worth reading. There is, however, an obvious duty resting on an expositor to try to understand a point of view, even when he disagrees with it. In the present case, my bias -- some may say my 'prejudice' -- is doubtless sufficiently apparent. I shall be told that I am not sympathetic to Marx and the Marxian tradition. In a Preface an author, having rigorously eschewed the First Person Singular throughout eighteen chapters, may be allowed to talk somewhat more informally to his readers; and accordingly I am prepared to acknowledge that I do not like Marx, and that I do not like Lassalle; just as further back I do not like Rousseau. And though one may admit on high principle that one ought not to allow a small matter of likes and dislikes to influence judgment, those of us who are honest with ourselves will . . .

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