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Red Reviews #36 - In Praise of Idleness

In this episode of Red Reviews Justin talks to me about Bertrand Russell’s non-Marxist view of socialism and the value of a socialist society.

You can read it here from libcom

Here are a few quotes from the book

"In a world where no one is compelled to work more than four hours a day

every person possessed of scientific curiosity will be able to indulge it,

and every painter will be able to paint without starving,

however excellent his pictures may be young writers will not be obliged to draw attention to themselves by sensational potboilers with a view to aquiring economic independence needed for monumental works for which, when the time at last comes, they

will have lost the taste and the capacity. Men, who in their professional work have become interested in some phase of economics or government will be able to develop their ideas

without the academic detachment that makes the work of university

economists seem lacking in reality. Medical men will have time to learn about the progress of medicine, teachers will not be exasperatedly struggling to teach by routine methods.

Things which they learnt in their youth which in the interval may have improved

to be untrue Above all there will be happiness and joy of life instead of frayed nerves,

weariness, and dyspepsia. The work exacted will be enough to make

leisure delightful but not enough to produce exhaustion"

"The class might produce one Darwin but against him had to be set

tens of thousands of country gentlemen who never thought of anything

more intelligent that fox hunting and punishing poachers"

"It is a natural result of the domination of the profit making motive

that the most haphazard, unorganized, and altogether unsatisfactory

departments of human activity are those from which no pecuniary profit

is to be expected"

"It will not be from men that the desire for change will come. Wage earning

men, even when they are socialists or communists seldom see any need for

alteration in the status of their wives In any case however the construction of cooperative parallelograms such as I have been advocating can only come on a large scale as part of a large socialistic movement since the profit motive alone could never bring it about

Some of this will be largely led by women"

"Fascism is a retort to communism and a very formidable retort. So long as

socialism is preached in Marxist terms it rouses such powerful antagonism that

its success in developed western countries becomes daily more improbable.

It would of course, have aroused opposition from the rich in any case but the

opposition would have been less fierce and less widespread"

"Let us begin by a definition of socialism. The definition must consist of two

parts, economic and political. The economic part consists in state ownership

of ultimate economic power which involves as a minimum land and minerals,

capital, banking, credit, and foreign trade. The political part requires that the ultimate political power should be democratic. Marx himself, and practically all Socialists before 1918, would have agreed to this part of the definition without question, but since the Bolsheviks dissolved the Russian Constituent Assembly, a different doctrine has grown up, according to which, when a Socialist Government has achieved success by revolution, only its most ardent supporters are to have political power."

"The result of our system is that there is a great waste of ability. A boy or girl

born of wage earning parents may be of the first rate capacity in mathematics

or music or science but it is very unlikely that he or she will have a chance to

exercise this talent, moreover education, at least in England, is still infected through and through with snobbery. It is not to be expected therefore that the present defects in the educational system can be remedied until the economic system has been transformed"

"With religion Socialism has nothing to do. It is an economic doctrine, and a Socialist might be a Christian or a Mohammedan,a Buddhist or a worshiper of Brahma, without any logical inconsistency."

"Is it really the case, as Communists maintain, that Socialism, a system so universally beneficent and so easy to understand,' a system, moreover, recommended by the obvious breakdown of the present economic regime and by the pressing danger of universal disaster through war -- is it really the case that this system cannot be presented persuasively except to proletarians and a handful of intellectuals, and can only be introduced by means of a bloody, doubtful, and destructive class-war? I, for my part, find this' impossible to believe. Socialism, in some respect, runs counter to ancient habits, and therefore rouses an impulsive opposition which can only be overcome gradually. And in the minds of its opponents it has become associated with atheism and a reign of terror"

"On the contrary, every appeal to unconstitutional violence helps on the growth of Fascism. Whatever may be the weaknesses of democracy, it is only by means of it and by the help of the popular belief in it that Socialism can hope to succeed in Great Britain or America. "Whoever weakens the respect for democratic government, is intentionally or unintentionally, increasing the likelihood, not of Communism, but of Fascism.."

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