Socialism’s impulses

Fran Maier writes on Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s foreword to a fellow Russian dissent’s book on socialism:

The Socialist Phenomenon, published in English by Harper & Row in 1980, is now out of print. But it’s in the public domain and available free on the web in multiple formats. In a time when presidential candidates blather smoothly on about “democratic” socialism, it makes for useful reading.

A Lenin Prize-winning mathematician and a Soviet math genius of global standing, [Igor] Shafarevich (like his friend Solzhenitsyn) eventually turned to Russian Orthodox Christianity. He became a leading Soviet dissident…

…the author analyzes what he sees as the four essential features of socialist thought: abolition of private property, abolition of the family, abolition of religion, and a relentless quest for communality or equality. These features appear in different ways and degrees in different socialist experiments, but—so Shafarevich argues—they’re nascent in all socialist thought.

The heart of the socialist impulse, for the author, is a structural hostility to the idea of human individuality and an almost suicidal nihilism toward the future of the species. None of this is explicit or even dimly perceived by most of the faithful of the many socialist variants—least of all, perhaps, by comfortable and secure American “democratic” socialists. But in the end, all streams of socialist thought flow in the same direction. “Socialism,” writes the author, is that “which remains of the spiritual structure of mankind if the link with God is lost.” And consciously or (more often) otherwise, it finally “aims at organizing human society according to new principles which are compared to the instinctive actions of insect societies.” …

As Solzhenitsyn wrote in his foreword, Shafarevich’s text “convincingly demonstrates the diametrical opposition between the concepts of man held by religion and by socialism.” The bitter irony is that “it was written by a mathematician of world renown,” because in a world where true scholars of the humanities had been crushed in the name of a perverse socialist humanism, “practitioners of the exact sciences must stand in for their annihilated brethren.”

“The heart of the socialist impulse … is a structural hostility to the idea of human individuality and an almost suicidal nihilism toward the future of the species.”

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