The Lost Literature of Socialism

In his hard-hitting and controversial book, George Watson examines the foundation texts of socialism to find out what they really say; the result is blasphemy against socialism’s canon of saints. Marx and Engels publicly advocated genocide in 1849; Ruskin called himself a violent Tory and a King’s man; and Shaw held the working classes in utter contempt. Drawing on an impressive range of sources from Robert Owen to Ken Livingstone, the author demonstrates that socialism was a conservative, nostalgic reaction to the radicalism of capitalism, and not always supposed to be advantageous to the poor. There have even been socialist monarchs – Napoleon III was one. Two chapters of the book study Hitler’s claim that ‘the whole of National Socialism’ was based on Marx, and bring to light the common theoretical basis of the beliefs of Stalin and Hitler which led to death camps. As a literary critic, George Watson’s concern is to pay proper respect to the works of the founding fathers of socialism, to attend to what they say and not what their modern disciples wish they had said. The dust grows thick on many of these tomes, while present-day socialists follow a few ossified slogans plucked selectively from the best-known books. Socialist ideas are now rescued from priggish and woolly-thinking moralists so that genuine debate can be revived. This invigorating book forces the reader to abandon long-standing assumptions in political thought. It is certain to ruffle feathers, blue as well as red.




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