The real prophet of the 20th century was not Marx…

… it was Dostoevsky. Albert Camus’ provocative statement provides the backdrop as to why socialists should be interested in this most original of writers. In 1849, Dostoyevsky was arrested and sentenced to death for his involvement with a group of Russian utopian socialists. His death sentence was commuted to penal servitude in Siberia, an experience that shook Dostoyevsky to his foundations and resulted in a political shift to the right with a revitalised faith in Christ.

However, despite his subsequent reputation as an arch reactionary, Dostoyevsky’s conservatism was far more nuanced than is commonly understood. Indeed, socialists should be able to identify with his penetrating psychological insights into the mindset of Russian ‘nihilism’, and the irrationality of humankind more generally.

Novels such as ‘Crime and Punishment’, ‘The Possessed’ and ‘The Brothers Karamazov’, won him monumental praise from the likes of Nietzsche, Freud and Albert Einstein. For some, he was the ‘prophet’ of what became the ‘nightmare’ of the Russian Revolution.

But did Dostoyevsky offer any real alternative, and what is his relevance for us today? Negative Capability blogger Dave explores these issue in his excellent talk, given to the comrades of a party we were both once members of. Please do have a listen.

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