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Reflections on the Failure of Socialism

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Max Eastman during the time from the Bolshevik Revolution through the early 1950s was one of the most famous political writers in America, known also for such literary works as The Enjoyment of Laughter. He began as a radical and, surprising though it may seem to us today, he first looked upon Lenin with favor. How was this possible? He was, and remained throughout his life, a devotee of the scientific method, and he saw Lenin as engaged in a great social experiment. After a long struggle, he saw the error of his ways. Lenin was a dogmatist guilty of great crimes, and socialism was a recipe for disaster. He devoted many years to combating the system he had once foolishly favored, and Reflections on the Failure of Socialism is the record of his insightful assault on socialism and his defense of the free market.

Eastman is particularly effective at showing that socialism of necessity leads to totalitarian tyranny. This contention of course recalls the central argument of Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, and this should not surprise us, as it was Eastman who condensed Hayek’s book for The Reader’s Digest, where it attracted a nationwide audience. Concerning the “Soviet Experiment,” he says: “Stalin’s totalitarian police state is not an approximation to, or something like, or in some respects comparable with Hitler’s. It is the same thing, only more ruthless, more cold-blooded, more astute, more extreme in its economic policies, more explicitly committed to world conquest, and more dangerous to democracy and civilized morals.”

Eastman has great fun in showing the unscientific character of the “dialectical materialism” of Marx and Engels. Fortunately, this has largely passed from the scene, but Eastman’s expert dissection of it has much to teach us.

Owing to the author’s unique background and interests, the book has insights you will not find elsewhere, and even readers who have studied the works of Mises, Rothbard, and the other great Austrian economists will gain much from it. Randall Dollahon and Kathleen Lacey deserve our thanks for their donation that made possible the reissue of Max Eastman’s book.

Reflections on the Failure of Socialism is available from the Mises Bookstore and through Amazon.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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