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A Fictional Conversation Between Emma Goldman and John Reed — a must watch for anyone thinking about the history of socialism

Summary:
John Reed, author of Ten Days That Shock the World, was an American journalist who worked on behalf of the socialist cause, and he was buried at the Kremlin Wall.  Warren Beatty wrote, directed, starred and produced the 1981 film Reds that depicted John Reed's life as an American Communist and supporter of the Russian Revolution.  In my favorite scene in this movie, he is confronted by the great American anarchist thinker who was deported to Communist Russia in 1919, Emma Goldman (played by Maureen Stapleton). Goldman wrote My Disillusionment with Russia in the early 1920s after witnessing the betrayal of the socialist dream in theory through the day to day practice of socialism in reality.  In this scene she points out to Reed that "my understanding of revolution is not the

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John Reed, author of Ten Days That Shock the World, was an American journalist who worked on behalf of the socialist cause, and he was buried at the Kremlin Wall.  Warren Beatty wrote, directed, starred and produced the 1981 film Reds that depicted John Reed's life as an American Communist and supporter of the Russian Revolution.  In my favorite scene in this movie, he is confronted by the great American anarchist thinker who was deported to Communist Russia in 1919, Emma Goldman (played by Maureen Stapleton).

Goldman wrote My Disillusionment with Russia in the early 1920s after witnessing the betrayal of the socialist dream in theory through the day to day practice of socialism in reality.  In this scene she points out to Reed that "my understanding of revolution is not the continual extermination of political dissenters, and I want no part of it."  Reed will respond, "You sound a little confused, E.G., with the revolution in action, up till now you only dealt with the revolution in theory."  But, Goldman persists and explains to her good friend that 4 million people died last year in a militaristic police state where nothing works.  Reed counters with the standard claims placing the blame on the frustrations and disappointments first on counter-revolutionary forces, and also on the ignorance of the people who do not YET know how to carry out the revolution.

Everything about this discussion captures so much of the difficulties in the debate over this bold idea of socialism, and the repeated frustrations experienced by the people who are led down this path.  In short, Hayek's The Road to Serfdom details the logic behind this tragic tale, and we must honestly never forget the details of the argument and the history of the diverse circumstances under which this tragedy has been played out over the last 100 years in Europe, in Latin America, in Asia and in Africa.

Bruce Caldwell's paper on the 75th anniversary of The Road to Serfdom is, as expected, is an exemplar of high quality scholarship and careful exposition of the argument.  Watch, read, watch and read, and form your own judgment on the debate between Goldman and Reed.  Love to hear your views.

Peter Boettke
Peter Joseph Boettke (January 3, 1960) is an American economist of the Austrian School. He is currently a University Professor of Economics and Philosophy at George Mason University; the BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism, Vice President for Research, and Director of the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at GMU.

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