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ceeds in effecting substantial reforms faith is
more easily sustained and there is less despair-
ing doubt, less temptation to heed the allure-
ments of the purveyors of social quack



nostrums, than where the agitation brings no
tangible gains. The political sterility of the
American Socialist movement, its complete
failure to become a positive force for the
progressive advancement of the democratic
Socialist program, and the unfortunate policy
of the American Federation of Labor, to
which more than anything else is due the ab-
sence of anything like a Labor party in this
country, must be counted among the most re-
grettable circumstances of our present day
political life. They are responsible for a very
large part of the political despair and be-
wilderment which is the working capital of
Anarchism, Syndicalism, Bolshevism, and
their variants.

The obvious domination of our politics and
government by the capitalist interests in-
evitably contributes to the same result. Labor's
indictment is not to be dismissed lightly.
Legislation for the protection of the workers
lags far behind the enlightened consciousness
of mankind ; legislatures are far more quickly
responsive to the demands of capital; the
executive forces of government operate with
the same discrimination. Something very
close to a plutocratic dictatorship has long ex-



isted and has done much to foster the desire
for a proletarian dictatorship.


It has been cynically observed that most
men learn nothing from history except the fact
that they learn nothing from history. The
Lenines, Trotzkys, and Bela Kims can hardly
be said to have learned even that little from
history. Nothing in the whole range of Bol-
shevist psychology is more remarkable than
the utter obliviousness of the Bolshevist lead-
ers to the plain lessons of history. Take, for
example, the insistence of Lenine and
Trotzky, approved by their American fol-
lowers, that the proletariat of to-day must base
its tactics upon the example of the ill-fated
Paris Commune of 1871; could there be a
more glaring illustration of mental inability
to profit from even the most tragic experience?

The Commune had nothing to do with the
social theories of Communism, of course. It
was purely a political movement. Widely
divergent groups, holding economic and
social theories which were antagonistic and
mutually destructive, united in hostility to the
existing government, to the Prussian peace,



and in favor of political federalism. The
only basis of agreement of a constructive na-
ture was the theory that the State should con-
sist of absolutely autonomous self-governing
communes, loosely federated, and subject to
no central authority whatever. It was fun-
damentally a retrogressive and reactionary
proposal, which, if successful, would have
weakened France immeasurably and made
her an easy prey to the new Empire which
Bismarck created.

Because the French members of the already
tottering Internationale were active in the
Commune, drawn into the vortex of unrest by
the never-dying hope that the extremity of the
old order, as they conceived the crisis, would
prove the golden opportunity of the new,
Marx himself saw it through rose-tinted
revolutionary spectacles. For a brief while
he lapsed back into the faith of Blanqui, the
belief that an energetic, courageous and ably
led minority could seize the powers of organ-
ized society and set in motion a new social
order. But Marx was very soon disillusioned,
as Engels has told us. It could not be other-
wise: his theory of the economic motivation
of history was too firmly based, too dominant
in his mind, to be thus easily destroyed. A



more reckless, ill-advised undertaking, or one
more certainly doomed to abortive failure
was never attempted.

Even for the limited program of political
federalism the methods of the Commune were
inadequate to the point of puerility. Chil-
dren playing with fire symbolize wisdom in
comparison with the desperate men who
thought thus to seize the political machinery
of a great modern State and immediately di-
rect it to new ends. So much Marx and
Engels recognized before the tragic struggle
was over. But nearly half a century later we
find men like Lenine and Trotzky ignorantly
repeating the tragic errors of 1871, upon a
far vaster scale; trying to apply the methods
of the Commune to the immeasurable task of
realizing the vast program of communism in
a land in which the historical and economic
development for that program is wholly lack-
ing. It would be a spectacle to excite the
laughter of gods and men were the issues less
tragic, but there can be no laughter, no mock-
ing derision, only infinite sadness, when we
remember that their ghastly experiment
amounts to a vivisection of the writhing and
bleeding body of Russia.

How, then, shall we account for the readi-


ness of men and women who have thought
long and earnestly upon the social question,
who call themselves 'liberals and democrats,
to applaud a policy so inherently and so
demonstrably illiberal and undemocratic, so
completely discredited? It is easy enough to
understand how the illiterate, ignorant, and
superstitious, goaded by misery, follow these
mad counsels, but what of the men and wom-
en of education, the Intellectuals, who defend
them instead of exposing them for what they


No single formula affords an adequate an-
swer to these questions. No one category
covers all these misguided muddlers. There
are various distinct and separate approaches
to the same evil result. We can, however, de-
fine some of the categories with reasonable
and useful clearness. Some are so embittered
by hatred of the capitalist system and its man-
ifold injustices that they are incapable of mak-
ing rational and moral distinctions in all mat-
ters relating to the struggle against that sys-
tem. Often they are highly intelligent men
and women of the highest rectitude in their

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personal lives, inspired by the purest motives,
but rendered so abnormal by hatred of the sys-
tem and its results as to be incapable of mak-
ing those mental and moral distinctions which
are essential to sound and efficient citizenship.
It is characteristic of this type that passionate
and sincere denunciation of even petty injus-
tice, when this emanates from the ruling class,
is commonly associated with a most callous in-
difference to, or even passionate indulgence
in or defense of, the grossest acts of injustice
emanating from the subject class, even when
the victims of these acts of injustice are not
members of the ruling class, but fellow mem-
bers of the class to which the perpetrators of
the unjust acts belong. What seems to be
evidence of moral inconsistency and insincer-
ity is in fact evidence of a pathological con-
dition, a fairly well defined form of psycho-

Another large category is composed of
typical victims of another quite well defined
form of hysterical hyperesthesia. Their
thought processes are spasmodic and violently
emotional. They are obsessed by some fixed
idea, which is emotionally and not rationally
derived. This type of mind has been the sub-
ject of much extensive observation and study,



particularly in connection with religious
forms of hysteria. No one who has attended
many Bolshevist meetings, or is acquainted
with many of the individuals to whom Bol-
shevism makes a strong appeal, will seriously
question the statement that an impressively
large number of those who profess to be Bol-
shevists present a striking likeness to extreme
religious zealots, not only in the manner of
manifesting their enthusiasm but also in their
methods of exposition and argument. Just
as in religious hysteria a single text becomes
a whole creed, to the exclusion of every other
text, and instead of being itself subject to ra-
tional tests is made the sole test of the ra-
tionality of everything else, so, in the case of
the average Bolshevik of this type, a single
phrase received into the mind in a spasm of
emotion, never tested by the usual criteria of
reason, becomes not only the very essence of
truth, but also the standard by which the truth
or untruth of everything else must be de-
termined. Most of the preachers who become
pro-Bolsheviks are of this type.

People who possess minds thus affected are
generally capable of, and frequently indulge
in, the strictest logical deduction and
analysis. Sometimes they acquire the reputa-



tion of being exceptionally brilliant thinkers
because of this power. But the fact is that
their initial ideas, upon which everything is
pivoted, are derived emotionally and are not
the results of a deliberate weighing of avail-
able evidence. The initial movement is one
of feeling, of emotional impulse. The con-
viction thereby created is so strong and so
dominant that it cannot be affected by any
purely rational functional factors. As long
as it remains, that is to say until the spasm
passes or some fresh and more powerful emo-
tional impulse pushes it aside, it grips the
mind and enslaves its faculties. People of
this type, who, as the popular saying goes,
"think with their feelings," are far more
numerous than is generally supposed. They
fall very easy victims to religious hysteria,
and to all forms of propaganda and agitation
in which the main characteristics of hysteria
are present.

It is characteristic of this type and the
characteristic is admirably illustrated by Bol-
shevist literature that it coincidently decries
intellectualism and parades its own intellec-
tuality. Sneering at intellectual demonstra-
tion it displays at the same time a childish
pride in its own manifestations of intellectual



power and resources. People of this type
jump at decisions and reach very positive con-
victions upon the most difficult matters with
bewildering ease. They have been rushed to
these convictions upon a storm of emotion,
and have not endured the protracted and pain-
ful labor of moving step by step along a way
paved with intellectually satisfying resultants
of deliberation and weighed evidence. In
consequence of this peculiar experience they
see every problem in very simple terms. For
them the complexities and intricacies which
trouble the normal mind do not exist. Every-
thing is either black or white: there are no
perplexing intervening grays. Right is right
and wrong is wrong: they do not recognize
that there are doubtful twilight zones. Ideas
capable of the most elaborate expansion and
the most subtle intricacies of interpretation
are immaturely grasped and preached with
naive assurance. Statements alleged to be
facts, no matter what their source, if they
seem to support the convictions thus emo-
tionally derived, are received without any ex-
amination and used as conclusive proof, not-
withstanding that a brief investigation would
prove them to be worthless as evidence.
There are other recognized characteristics



of this type of abnormality, all of which will
be found strongly marked in the mentality of
the average Bolshevik. Bitter intolerance is
one of these. Of course, intolerance is not,
per se, a sign of hysteria. Sometimes, indeed,
intolerance is the outcome of pure rationality.
But when an audience of radical protesters
against limitations upon the right to free
speech and free publication hiss and howl
down whoever tries to express an opinion with
which they do not agree, their conduct is
hysterical, that is, excessively emotional, and
not rational: they are not logically consistent
to any ideal of freedom. In the moment of
demanding freedom they are denying the free-
dom already existing. More than once I have
seen Bolshevist audiences, as well as audiences
of Socialists, howl with fury in denunciation
of the suppression of free speech by police
authorities, and then furiously clamor till they
have howled or terrorized into silence some
speaker with whose views they did not agree ;
thus suppressing, most effectually, the ex-
pression of opinions they did not favor. Thus
they were coincidently doing a thing and de-
nouncing others for doing it. Certainly,
wholly rational minds would not be so incon-
sistent. Of course, emotional infectiousness



and mass suggestion are present in such cases.
Crowd psychology is distinct from individual
psychology. The fact remains, however, that
the individuals comprising the crowd are
peculiarly over-emotional.

The group of men and women in this coun-
try whose sympathy for the Bolsheviki is well-
known have been notably ready to protest
against despotic and undemocratic acts, such
as the suppression of free speech and assem-
blage, the brutal treatment of political prison-
ers, excessive prison sentences, and so on.
With what fervor they denounced the restric-
tions imposed upon popular liberties during
the war we know. How strenuously they ob-
jected to conscription, and how solicitous
they were for the supposed "rights" of the so-
called conscientious objectors, will be remem-
bered. Now, zeal for popular freedom is a
noble quality and should not be held lightly
or derided. By such zeal the heritage of
hardly-won freedom is preserved from age
to age. It is when we turn from contempla-
tion of their attitude as defenders of freedom
to their attitude as defenders of the Bolshe-
viki that the group we are discussing are seen
to be intellectually unbalanced. Ask any of
them to condemn the outrageous suppression



of popular liberties by the Bolshevist govern-
ment in Russia, the unspeakably brutal treat-
ment of men and women whose only offense is
the expression of democratic opinions, or the
ruthless murder of innocent men and women,
and no word of condemnation will come.
They will defend the suppression of the Con-
stituent Assembly, of public meetings, and the
press; they will condone and defend the in-
troduction by the Bolsheviki of capital
punishment without trial, conscription and
every other device of militarism, alleging sim-
ply that these things are necessary to enable
the Bolsheviki to "save the fruits of the
Revolution." Reply to them that here in
America we, too, had a Revolution, the fruits
of which we sought to save by conscription
and by extraordinary restrictions of our nor-
mal freedom, and it at once becomes apparent
that some mental inhibition makes them in-
capable of applying to America the rule they
so glibly apply to Russia. The simple truth
is that reason does not rule in their minds: it
is only present as a secondary force, as a de-
pendent of a controlling master emotion.

Equally characteristic of this form of
psycho-neurosis is the manner in which the
actions of those subject to it are determined by



slogans, catchwords, and formulae. This
verbal hypnosis idealizes the commonplace
for them, and makes it possible for old and
time-worn ideas to excite the enthusiasm and
energy peculiarly associated with the exhilara-
tion of intellectual adventure and discovery.
Quite frequently ideas and programs which
make no appeal under old and familiar n.jnes
create tremendous enthusiasm when they are
labelled with new and unfamiliar names.
Many examples of this might be cited, but
two or three illustrations must suffice. Dur-
ing the whole period of modern industrialism
there was never a time when discontented
workers did not attempt to gain revenge for
real or fancied wrongs by spoiling materials
and tools, retarding production, and so on.
Nothing in these practices ever inspired men
to construct elaborate theories about them,
or to build policies upon them, until the
strange Scotch colloquialism "Ca Canny"
fascinated a little group of French Intel-
lectuals and to translate it they coined the new
word "Sabotage," which in turn fascinated
certain groups in this country. Commonplace
trades union policies and ideas were thus
easily glorified by the mere substitution of
French terms for English.



It is safe to say that the hypnotic influence
of such unfamiliar terms as "Bolshevism" and
"Soviet Government" has had far more effect
in making the central features of the prin-
ciples and policies connoted by them accept-
able than any of the qualities of the principles
and policies themselves. If it had been pro-
posed that, instead of our present form of gov-
ernment, we should establish government by
our Trades and Labor Councils, very few of
our Intellectuals would have found anything
in the proposal to enlist their sympathy and
support. Yet that is precisely what soviet
government means. As far back as 1869, at
the Congress of the old Internationale, the re-
placing of political governments by federated
councils of labor unions was actively promul-
gated and became the basis of a propaganda.
This old idea was revived by the I. W. W.,
in 1905, but fell flat and went unheeded by
our Intellectuals until the introduction of the
French word "Syndicalism" gave it some-
thing of a vogue for a brief while. Lenine
has admitted that he and his colleagues sim-
ply adopted the I. W. W. program in its en-
tirety, but lo, because a Russian name has
been attached to it, it is hailed as something
new under the sun.



Finally, the hysterical type we are discuss-
ing is easily moved to ecstacy and sees in
minor and relatively restricted measures al-
most unbounded potentialities. In an earlier
day the Chartists of England contended for
reforms which were just and altogether ad-
mirable. In all save minor and unimportant
details, their program was realized. It is
highly amusing and equally instructive today
to read the ecstatic forecasts of some of the
hysterical leaders of that great struggle as to
the results to be expected from the realization
of their aims. Much the same thing may be
said of the numerous agitations and prop-
agandas which have succeeded Co-opera-
tion, equal suffrage, compulsory education,
prohibition. Every such movement has seemed
to many a sure and safe short-cut to Utopia.
Yet the promised land is still far, far distant.

If we take the group of American Intellec-
tuals who at present are ardent champions
of Bolshevism we shall find that, with excep-
tions so few as to be almost negligible, they
have embraced nearly every "ism" as it arose,
seeing in each one the magic solvent of hu-
manity's ills. Those of an older generation
thus regarded bimetallism, for instance. What
else could be required to make the desert



bloom like a garden and to usher in the
Earthly Paradise? The younger ones, in
their turn, took up Anarchist-Communism,
Marxian Socialism, Industrial Unionism,
Syndicalism, Birth Control, Feminism, and
many other movements and propagandas, each
of which in its turn induced ecstatic visions
of a new heaven and a new earth. The same
individuals have grown lyrical in praise of
every bizarre and eccentric art fad. In the
banal and grotesque travesties of art produced
by Cubists, Futurists, et al, they saw tran-
scendent genius. They are forever seeking new
gods and burying old ones.

The typical Bolshevist Intellectual of the
type we are discussing here, as distinguished
from the proletarian type (whose economic
experience and environment are so different
and, in war periods, so naturally conducive to
the Bolshevist state of mind) is marked by the
following hysterical characteristics: exag-
gerated egoism, extreme intolerance, intellec-
tual vanity, hypercriticism, self-indulgence;
craving for mental and emotional excitement,
excessive dogmatism, hyperbolic language,
impulsive judgment, emotional instability, in-
tense hero-worship, propensity for intrigues
and conspiracies, rapid alternation of extremes



of exaltation and depression, violent contra-
dictions in tenaciously held opinions and be-
liefs, periodic, swift, and unsystematic
changes of mental attitude. Not every in-
dividual invariably exhibits all of these char-
acteristics, of course, nor are these the only
characteristics, generally symptomatic of
hysteria, to be observed in this type.

It would be going too far to say that these
individuals are all hystericals in the patho-
logical sense, but it is strictly accurate to say
that the class exhibits marked hysterical char-
acteristics and that it closely resembles the
large class of over-emotionalized religious en-
thusiasts which furnish so many true hyster-
icals. It is probable that accidents of environ-
ment account for the fact that their emotion-
alism takes sociological rather than religious
forms. If the sociological impetus were ab-
sent most of them would be religiously mo-
tived to a state not less abnormal.

In the claque applauding Bolshevism, and
favoring its introduction into the United
States, we find also the usual number of ad-
venturers common to revolutionary move-
ments and uprisings. Many of these are sim-
ply gamblers. They rush into every agitation,
always hoping that "something will turn up."



Native uprisings in India or Africa, Sinn
Fein rebellions in Ireland, guerilla warfare
in Mexico, race riots in Chicago or Buda
Pest, or strikes in London or San Francisco
are all equally alluring. Every disturbance,
no matter what the cause may be, is welcome
because it may provide the occasion for the
fateful something to turn up.


A very different category from any of the
foregoing is composed of a small class of
wealthy persons who more or less lavishly
give from their wealth to subsidize the Bol-
shevist propaganda. Testifying before a com-
mittee of the Senate of the United States, one
of the best known of the American pro-Bol-
shevist Intellectuals is reported to have said
that the Bolsheviki can always readily obtain
funds for their propaganda from rich, idle
women who have nothing else to do. The cold
cynicism of this remark deserves to be classed
with Lenine's famous statement, at the Third
Soviet Conference, "Among one hundred so-
called Bolsheviki there is one real Bolshevik,
with thirty-nine criminals and sixty fools."

The association of men and women of great



wealth with such a propaganda is remarkable
as a phenomenon, but not exceptionally un-
usual. A few years ago it was observed that
a number of rich society women devoted such
sympathetic attention to the I. W. W. that it
almost became a society fad. The I. W. W.
leaders were quite at home in the drawing-
room of Fifth Avenue, and were familiar fig-
ures at house parties on the fashionable Massa-
chusetts North Shore. Rich women are far
oftener interested in such propaganda than
the men of their families and their circles,
perhaps due less to sexual differences than
to the fact that the men are more intimately
and directly connected with, or engaged in,
the great industrial and financial organiza-
tions which are the center of attack. It is well
known, however, that women are far more
subject to hysteria than men whatever the ex-
planation (concerning which there has been
so much learned controversy) may be.

Notwithstanding the cynical testimony be-
fore the Committee of the United States Sen-
ate, already quoted, it would be a serious mis-
take to conclude that Bolshevism is only sub-
sidized by fad-seeking women of the idle
rich class. On the contrary, some of the wom-
en who give their money to sustain the prop-


aganda of such movements as Anarchism,
Syndicalism, and Bolshevism are serious and
high-minded women of splendid intelligence
and character. They are in no sense of the
term society butterflies; they are not inferior
in character or general intelligence to the
women of the same class who support
churches, missions, and charities. They are,
moreover, quite as careful and as conscientious
in spending their money.

In this numerically small class are included
several distinct types. With perhaps one ex-
ception, hyperesthesia is common to all of
them. The exception consists of unemotional
individuals, creatures of pure intellect, whose
minds work with mechanical precision and
regularity. A cynical contempt for minds
which are less exact, or which are influenced
by sentiment, is common to these super-in-
tellects. Generally, they are crass ma-
terialists. Generally, too, their sexual life is

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Online LibraryJohn SpargoThe psychology of bolshevism → online text (page 2 of 8)