The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism is a critique of Russian communism as witnessed by the author. Russellbelieved that a proper restructuring of how businesses are run and the production systems organized was the most vital component in achieving true happiness. However, the Bolsheviks tried to achieve their dreams by using force instead of the free and idealistic anticipation. Russell is opposed to Bolshevism because of its superficial knowledge of human nature and motivations. He concedes that, although Bolshevism is good, its methods were contradictory to its ideals. However, the author concludes by saying that Bolshevism was the best movement for Russia at that time “because the opposite alternatives are worse. If Russia were governed democratically, according to the will of the majority, the inhabitant of Moscow and Petrograd would die of starvation.”
Russell considers three possible scenarios in all of which Russia of the 1920s was under imminent threat coming from the capitalist world. The first problem potentially affecting the country would be the defeat by the capitalists. The second would be a victory by the Bolsheviks but this would be at a cost of the loss of their ideals followed by the regime of Napoleon. The last scenario would be a prolonged war that would result in the destruction of human civilization.
Although the writer considers himself politically a Bolshevik, there is an aspect of the Bolsheviks that he rejects vehemently. The manner in which they seem to defend their belief nears fanatic, according to Russell. For his argument, he provides the example of philosophic materialism. To Russell, materialism might be true; however, the manner in which its adherents proclaim it is off the mark and closes people’s minds to any meaningful scientific inquiry. Russell writes: “This habit of militant certainty about objectivity doubtful matters is one from which, since the Renaissance, the world has been gradually emerging, into that temper of constructive and fruitful skepticism which constitutes the scientific outlook”
Russell provides a parallel between the ideals of communism and Christianity. He observes that communism conveys a great source of inspiration to people just as the Sermon on the Mount would influence a Christian. In his words, Christians should support communism if they clearly understood its ideals. However, he also asserts that communists hold their ideals as fanatically as Christians do. According to Russell, there is no difference between communist states and capitalist ones because all states have always been terrible according to the perspective of religion.
Another notable statement made by the author is the future of capitalism. He views capitalism in a negative light asserting that it is doomed, as working people will no longer support the system. According to the author, only tradition and ignorance keeps capitalism working. His observation was that capitalism would not last more than 50 years. This means that by the 1970s, capitalism should have vanished from the face of the earth. However, this was not the case as the system is still as alive today as it was during the time he wrote his book. It is possible that the financial crisis of 2007 could eventually lead to the collapse of the whole system, but this is not for certain as of yet The U.S is the custodian of the capitalism, and if it happens to go under, it might take the whole system with it. However, there is no solution that communism can offer either, as the author tends to see no big difference between capitalism and communism.
Russell also notes that the Bolsheviks are very dogmatic and what is required, instead, is a patient attitude which does not take into consideration the complexity of the international situation. The author rejects the “the facile hysteria of ‘no parley with the enemy”’. This was an imprecise explanation of the thought of the Third International.
Russell also explains the possibility that the Russian communism might fail and go under, but socialism will remain intact. This was true at that time and even now. According to Russell, the Great War proved the destructive nature of capitalism, and he anticipated that the future would not show the destructiveness of communism but rather the healing power of socialism. However, what followed was indeed another war that came with mass destruction and thriving of capitalism and its destructiveness. It is currently a big threat to the Earth itself—the atmosphere, oceans, and rainforests as well as the life of the civilization.
In summary, the book is too short and does not provide a good critique of communism. The author recognizes Bolshevism as a human tragedy waiting to explode. Russell recognized a tragedy ensuing from the concentration of power by Bolshevism and the unquestioning confidence of the Russian communists in their own rectitude and ultimate victory. Russell seems to see further more than any other socialist who thought the failures of Bolshevism were short-lived. The arguments presented by Russell would be correct if socialism could thrive under ideal conditions. However, history does not always favor ideals of people. In most cases, people are forced into situations that they have not planned or anticipated. This means there is no likelihood of an ideal situation presenting itself for the thriving of socialism, for it will always be opposed by capitalist states. Indeed, this book is deeply thoughtful and might prove helpful for anyone interested in communism and the Soviet Union.