glyph 287: libertarian principles ... authoritarian methods ... individualism, collectivism ... voluntarism, coercion ... history of the Russian Revolution ... people, state ... liberation, oppression ... Emma Goldman ... Bolshevism, Bolsheviki . Marxism, fanatical governmentalism ... importance of principle ... disillusionment in Russia ... Murray N. Rothbard (notable by his absence), Ludwig von Mises, praxeology, general theory of human action


Authoritarianism vs. Libertarian Principles in the Russian Revolution

Emma Goldman, Afterward to My Disillusionment in Russia

Found in Red Emma Speaks: An Emma Goldman Reader, compiled and edited by Alix Kates Schulman:

It is now clear clear why the Russian Revolution, as conducted by the Communist Party, was a failure. The political power of the Party, organized and centralized in the State, sought to maintain itself by all means at hand. The central authority attempted to force the activities of the people into forms corresponding with the purposes of the Party. The sole aim of the latter was to strengthen the State and monopolize all economical, political, and social activities—even all cultural manifestations. The Revolution had an entirely different object, and in its very character it was the negation of authority and centralization. It strove to open ever larger fields for proletarian expression and to multiply the phases of individual and collective effort. The aims and tendencies of the Revolution were diametrically opposed to those of the ruling political party.

Just as diametrically opposed were the methods of the Revolution and of the State. Those of the former were inspired by the spirit of the Revolution itself: that is to say, by emancipation for all oppressive and limiting forces; in short by libertarian principles. The methods of the State, on the contrary—of the Bolshevik State as of every government—were based on coercion, which in the course of things necessarily developed into systematic violence, oppression, and terrorism. Thus two opposing tendencies struggled for supremacy: the Bolshevik State against the Revolution. That struggle was a life-and-death struggle. The two tendencies, contradictory in aims and methods, could not work harmoniously: the triumph of the State meant the defeat of the Revolution.

It would be an error to assume that the failure of the Revolution was due entirely to the character of the Bolsheviki. Fundamentally, it was the result of the principles and methods of Bolshevism. It was the authoritarian spirit and principles of the State which stifled the libertarian and liberating aspirations. Were any other political party in control of the government of Russia the result would have been essentially the same. It is not so much the Bolsheviki who killed the Russian Revolution as the Bolshevik idea. It was Marxism, however modified; in short, fanatical governmentalism. Only this understanding of the underlying forces that crushed the Revolution can present the true lesson of that world-stirring event. The Russian Revolution reflects on a small scale the century-old struggle of the libertarian principle against the authoritarian. For what is progress if not the more generous acceptance of the principles of liberty as against those of coercion? The Russian Revolution was a libertarian step defeated by the Bolshevik State, by the temporary victory of the reactionary, the governmental idea.

My Disillusionment in Russia (New York: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1923), and My Further Disillusionment in Russia (New York: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1924) —although written and intended for publication as a single volume the manuscript was published as two books because the printer accidentally omitted the second half of it from the first printing. —leif

Emma Goldman, a great mind and spirit, crippled, even cursed, by the fate of living too soon to work with Murray Rothbard, who joyously would have placed in her hands the powerful tools of praxeology, the general theory of human action that underlies the Austrian School of economics as formulated by Murray's teacher, Ludwig von Mises. —leif
entered before July 9, 2006; edited/updated November 26, 2015

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