Bertrand Russell’s Preface to Left-Wing Political Thought


HE attempt to conceive imaginatively a better ordering of human society than the destructive and cruel chaos in which mankind has hitherto existed is by no means modern: it is at least as old as Plato, whose “Republic” set the model for the Utopias of subsequent philosophers.  Whoever contemplates the world in the light of an ideal – whether what he seeks be intellect, or art, or love, or simple happiness, or all together – must feel a great sorrow in the evils that men needlessly allow to continue, and – if he be a man of force and vital energy – an urgent desire to lead men to the realization of the good which inspires his creative vision.  It is this desire which has been the primary force moving the pioneers of Socialism and Anarchism, as it moved the inventors of ideal commonwealths in the past.  In this there is nothing new.  What is new in Socialism and Anarchism, is that close relation of the ideal to the present sufferings of men, which has enabled powerful political movements to grow out of the hopes of solitary thinkers.  It is this that makes Socialism and Anarchism important, and it is this that makes them dangerous to those who batten, consciously or unconsciously, upon the evils of our present order of society.  · · ·

So begins Bertrand Russell’s Preface to Proposed Roads to Freedom – Socialism, Anarchism, and SyndicalismThis webpage, the one you are reading now, amounts to a lengthy introduction to just the sort of thing Russell is talking about in his Preface.  What keeps me going is the idea that eventually someone will read the book, On the Preservation of Species, and realize that, with all its faults, it’s a very important book with many ideas that everyone should know and understand – no matter what he thinks or does about them – but especially if he (or she) is a great teacher who can diffuse these ideas, or better (more radical) ideas, into The World.  This is what it is going to take to preserve humanity and other species.  What I hope for is The Triumph of Reason.

I suppose that it would take me many months to read and comprehend the book and essays linked directly to this page if I had not written them myself.  Let me assure you that it takes the author several hours to review the average chapter in the book, which accounts for the slow pace at which editing and revision occur.  Necessarily, I assume that it is worth the trouble.  As soon as I learn how I will provide a copy of the book as a Wiki so readers can be editors.