Max Nomad, Aspects of Revolt, 1959.


This volume is an attempt to present, from the point of view of a skeptical but unrepentant ex-participant, the various aspects of nineteenth and twentieth century radicalism, the picaresque and the sordid as well as the tragic and the heroic.

I say unrepentant not in the sense that I still share the views which I held when I was a Socialist in my high school days, an Anarchist as a college student, a Syndicalist sui generis during the years of my romantic and not-so-romantic vagabondage, and finally a Soviet sympathizer some forty years ago when Lenin and Trotsky were still glorious legends between 1917 and 1920. I use the word "unrepentant" merely in the sense that my sympathies are still with the disinherited as against the beneficiaries of the status quo. Even though some of the pages of this volume may, as a New York Times reviewer of one of my books put it, "gratify Tories," who may gloat over the admission that the fiery enemies of "law and order" -- anti-totalitarians as well as totalitarians -- are for the most part made of the same clay as its defenders; and not infrequently of the same slime, to borrow a phrase from the late Victoriu Marcu, a disenchanted Rumanian radical.

I fully realize that some of the ideas presented in this volume may be grist to the mill of the reactionaries who take pleasure in disparaging the "eggheads." That holds particularly for the thesis that the conscious or unconscious purpose underlying the various anticapitalist theories and movements -- whether totalitarian or non-totalitarian -- was not the "emancipation of the working class" but the establishment of a non-capitalist system of exploitation for the benefit of the office-holders, managers and intellectuals in charge of the political, economic and cultural life of the socialized State.

It was because of this thesis, first presented in my Rebels and Renegades in 1932, that my book was called by a reviewer "a javelin hurled at the intellectuals." In reality my "javelin" was and is aimed chiefly at the inexorable scheme of human history which, ever since the dawn of civilization, has divided mankind into the educated "classes" and the uneducated "masses," with the declasse stepsons or malcontent poorer relations of the former invariably using the masses for that switch in power and privilege called by Pareto the circulation of elites.

It is possible that, after a casual sampling of some of the chapters of this volume, those of my readers who are not familiar with my previous writings will be at a loss as to where I really stand. So here is, condensed in a few paragraphs, my "credo":

I am a perfectly harmless philosophical libertarian and egalitarian whose ultra-radical rejection of both capitalist exploitation and "statist" or collectivist inequality of incomes -- whether under democratic-socialist or totalitarian-"communist" auspices -- is counterbalanced by an ultra-pessimistic skepticism as to the prospects for a really egalitarian "classless" and "stateless" system that would do away with all social injustices.

I am fully aware of the fact that all successful upheavals against the political and economic structure of every social system invariably lead to the enthronement of a new privileged stratum of former "outs" as against the hitherto all-powerful "ins"; yet I believe in a permanent struggle against all these systems -- present or future -- as the only means of achieving a greater degree of cultural freedom and of raising the standard of living of the underprivileged.

I am suspicious of the common run of champions of "proletarian emancipation"; for, to paraphrase an idea expressed by H. G. Wells, those who are able to seize power ostensibly for the purpose of bringing about that "emancipation," are more interested in maintaining their power and their newly won privileges than in creating an earthly paradise for the masses. But I offer my humble homage to the few pure idealists, heroes and martyrs whose rebellion was not inspired by their will to power -- conscious or unconscious.

I have no use for those snobs, whether Nietzscheans or plain Babbitts, who look down with contempt upon the crowd; yet I cannot help realizing that the masses are hopelessly benighted and gullible, ready to submit to any form of servitude, either sanctified by tradition or ushered in by demagogues and adventurers after the long overdue collapse of the old regime.

I may be all wrong, of course. For the time may come when the leaders will be disinterested and the masses intelligent. That will be the blessed post-atomic age when the wolf will dwell with the lamb.