Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Ideas of a Socialist

Arthur Koestler, author of the celebrated novel Darkness at Noon, was many things; writer/journalist, investigator of the paranormal, political prisoner, womanizer and suicide. But, more than anything, he was a committed socialist, although a vociferous critic of the Soviet Union. In 1944 he wrote the following in his essay The End of an Illusion:

"The paramount lesson which we have to draw from the failure of the Russian experiment is that economic factors are important, but not all-important. The regimental tailor is not a socialist institution, and a nationalised economy may become an instrument of tyranny and reaction. By concentrating all its attention on the economic issue, the Left became deaf to the strange and changing moods of the People. Their religious nostalgia turned into free valences of the soul, apt to fuse into the wrong compounds of chauvinism, mysticism, addiction to new myths.
The weaning of the Left, the breaking up of the false emotional compounds, is one half of the task. The other half is the creation of a new fraternity in a new spiritual climate, whose leaders are tied by a vow of poverty to share the life of the masses, and debarred by the laws of the fraternity from attaining unchecked power. If this seems utopian, then socialism is a utopia.
The age of enlightenment has destroyed faith in personal survival; the scars of this operation have never healed. There is a vacancy in every living soul, a deep thirst in all of us. If the socialist idea cannot fill this vacancy and quench our thirst, then it has failed in our time. In this case the whole development of the socialist idea since the French Revolution has been merely the end of a chapter in history, and not the beginning of a new one."

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