The fact that even in the earliest declarations of socialist doctrine there are schemes which in their cruelty far exceed any real system is dismissed as insignificant.It is argued that the determining factor is real life and hardly the constructions of theoreticians or the fantasy of utopian thinkers. It will temper and smooth out the extremes of the fanatics and create a social structure which, even if it does not quite correspond to their original plans, will be at least viable, and in any case closer to perfection than that which now exists.The twentieth century marks one of the greatest upsurges in the success of socialism, and concomitantly of its repulsive practical manifestations.
Pointing out the tragic facts that so frequently have accompanied the socialist experiments of the twentieth century usually evokes the objection that an idea cannot be judged by the unsuccessful attempts at its implementation.The task of rebuilding society is so immeasurably complicated, it is said, that in the initial stages errors are inevitable; they are, however, due to the shortcomings of certain individuals or the heritage of the past; in no sense do they follow from the fine principles enunciated by the founders of the doctrine.But it is precisely such attempts to understand which seem to curtail all discussion.The fact that the adherents of socialism themselves have expressed so many contradictory views ought to put us on guard.But this is possible only because there are people who believe in God and because there is a striving for a union with God which religion creates.
Without taking this fundamental function of religion into account, it is impossible to understand how it influences life generally.If one considers human history in its entirety, socialism can boast of a greater longevity and durability, of wider diffusion and of control over larger masses of people, than can contemporary Western civilization.It is therefore difficult to shake off gloomy presentiments when contemplating that maw into which--before the century is out--we may all plunge: that "Asiatic formation" which Marx hastened to circumvent in his classification, and before which contemporary Marxist thought stands baffled, having discerned its own hideous countenance in the mirror of the millennia.It was written by a mathematician of world renown: in the Communist world, practitioners of the exact sciences must stand in for their annihilated brethren. It provides us with a rare opportunity of receiving a systematic analysis of the theory and practice of socialism from the pen of an outstanding mathematical thinker versed in the rigorous methodology of his science.(One can attach particular weight, for instance, to his judgment that Marxism lacks even the climate of scientific inquiry.) World socialism as a whole, and all the figures associated with it, are shrouded in legend; its contradictions are forgotten or concealed; it does not respond to arguments but continually ignores them--all this stems from the mist of irrationality that surrounds socialism and from its instinctive aversion to scientific analysis, features which the author of this volume points out repeatedly and in many contexts.But later I became acquainted with a bolder and, it seems to me, more penetrating approach. Heichelheim in his fascinating An Ancient Economic History expresses the supposition that the present period of history, which has lasted over three thousand years, is coming to an end.