Proposed Roads to Freedom

By BERTRAND RUSSELL, F.R.S. New York: Henry Holt & Co. 1919. 12mo, xviii+218 pp. $1.50.
IT is high time that something came to hand to rescue Mr. Bertrand Russell from the reputation of being a visionary and pacifist crank. That a thinker gifted with so rarely individual and balanced a mind should be associated with careless and wayward thinking is a kind of intellectual tragedy. The book under discussion, however, will go far toward restoring the author to his rightful rank. No present-day book of social criticism is more in touch with the realities of life, or more skeptical of visions of all kinds.
The book is divided into two parts. The first, part, headed ’Historical,’ consists of three chapters entitled, respectively, ‘Marx and Socialist Doctrine,’ ‘Bakunin and Anarchism,’ and ‘The Syndicalist Revolt.’ The spirit in which these chapters are treated is less that of criticism than of exposition, a field in which, as readers of Mr. Russell’s Problems of Philosophy know well, the author has few equals. Such criticism as there is to be found figures more as an occasional ‘aside.’
Once having established the history and principles of three proposed roads to freedom, Mr. Russell applies them to human life and nature as he sees them. The succeeding chapters are headed ‘ Work and Pay,’‘Government and Law, ‘International Relations,’ ‘Science and Art. under Socialism,’ and ‘The World as It Could Be Made.’ With admirable impartiality he points out the dangerous stretches of his metaphorical roads, and if they appear to lead to a social quagmire, we are are told so on the spot. His treatment of Marxian Socialism is surprisingly critical. Anarchism he dismisses, after having analyzed it with sympathy and without prejudice, as an impossible dream, and he gives certain aspects of syndicalism short shrift.
Although Mr. Russell gives a number of hints as to the constitution of ‘The World as It Could Be Made,’ he spares us — and this is not the least attractive element of the book—any detailed study of his own particular Utopia. He is content to declare that the destructive and cruel chaos of the day cannot continue, and that some form of communal action must take its place. This action he connects with the new English development of Guild Socialism.
The book has a grip upon reality which it nowhere abandons.
At a time when three great empires have undertaken the experiment of communistic government. it is of greatest importance that we should have first-hand information concerning the charters and ideals of such governments. Mr. Russell’s book supplies this information, and is by far the best thing of its kind available.
H B. B.