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25 April 2011

Comments

Robert

An initial thought about the juxtataposition of your interesting quotes & expressed ideas are, the apparent illiberality of the former thinker, compared to the apparent liberality of the latter!? Who is the more genuine? Who the more realistically practical? History may have delivered on the naivity of the latter? For the former, how really liberal/genuine the thought? Liberal in Western terms? Possibly not!?Although, couldn't agree more, in that the West are in no position to dictate to anyone! But no doubt that history is ALWAYS instructive. The more people sit under shady trees & absorb serious thought,rather than indulging in 'helter skelter'- the better the world will be!!

jeremy

Robert, I'd agree up to a point.

Liberalism in the West, particularly Europe, has been associated with the left in the last century or two. For his part Wen (and Hu), strengthened the CP's commitment to bridging the rich-poor/rural-urban divides while all but dismissing Jiang's Three Represents. Russell would have approved of that.

Speaking of Russell, idealistic is probably a better term than naive. This was a man who grew up in real power - Russell's grandfather was a two-time prime minister and his godfather was the MP and free market champion John Stuart Mill. Throughout his life, Russell was a close friend and advisor to Labour Party politicians and deal-makers. 'Naive' won't get you far in that environment.

Russell spent only a year in Beijing but he had the ear of revolutionary China - both the Kuomintang and the Communists. A guest of the chancellor of Beijing University, Russell lectured at Changsha (that spiritual home of Chinese communism) to a young Mao. Mao's views on Russian communism, education and post-Qing/post-war political reconstruction were tangibly influenced by Russell.

It also strikes me that Russell, along with George Orwell, were the least woolly/naive liberals of that age. He was an early and frequent critic against Stalin's Russia, even more so than many Conservatives, which demonstrates how grounded he really was.

Finally, Russell also favoured war against the Nazis but was against the Vietnam war, and was also a strong opponent of colonialism .

History shows he got those four most important political calls of his generation right. This is precisely why he is respected the way he is.

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