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The Socialist Dewey and the Fascist Ludovici

Anthony Ludovici (1882 – 1971) was a popular British author who understood the essentials of the Alexander Technique and wrote literately about it.  Alexander himself referenced his book, the first book on the Technique not by Alexander,  Health and Education through Self-Mastery (1933)  in  The Universal Constant in Living.  Unlike Dewey, Ludovici made no claim that the Technique illustrates his own philosophy (except briefly in Religion for Infidels).  And unlike Dewey he seems to have practiced it well himself.

Dewey visited Russia in 1928 and praised the Soviet government’s efforts to create “by means of education, a new mentality in the Russian people.”  Ludovici visited Germany in the early 1930s and told the British public (in “Hitler and the Third Reich”) about what fine work the Nazis were doing: 

“ ‘Not individual gain, but the common good!’  This can be read on almost every hoarding.  And it is no empty phrase.  It genuinely inspires the mass of the people, ... while the gigantic work of reconstruction is in progress.”
John Dewey praised the Bolshevists for  “substituting a collective mentality for the individualistic psychology inherited from the ‘bourjui’.”  He referred to  “the marvelous development of progressive educational ideas and practices under the fostering care of the Bolshevist government.”  All these Dewey quotes are from his book  Impressions of Soviet Russia and the Revolutionary World .

Some years later Dewey stopped praising Stalin’s Russia (though never socialism) and viewed Stalin’s fellow murderer, Trotsky, as some kind of hero for being purged.

It’s amazing how similar in tone – breathless, admiring, agog – is Dewey’s book (made up of reprints of articles first published in The New Republic, 1928)  to  Ludovici’s article  “Hitler and the Third Reich”  (in  The English Review, 1936).

The Red Decade would be better called the Statist Decade.  The intelligentsia of that day was rife with admirers of the Communists in Russia and the Fascista in Italy – the common denominator being government control, whether “socialist” or “fascist.”  (There isn’t much difference in practice.  Recall that “Nazi” is short for “National Socialist.”)  Hitler ended crime, Mussolini made the trains run on time, Stalin and Trotsky created a workers paradise!

Today the typical intellectual judges Dewey, Ludovici and their contemporaries by a flexible standard.  The reputations of past admirers of Hitler are irremediably tarnished;  as for admirers of Trotsky and Stalin – who were responsible for killing many times more men than Hitler – that phase of their life gets discreetly overlooked.  Rather than exercising a double standard, the statism of both groups should be denounced.

Of the two – Dewey and Ludovici – a case could be made that Dewey is worse because his socialist writing actually had practical effect:  it was used by others to justify “progressive politics” (the New Deal etc.), turn schools away from learning to “socializing,” and end the first wave of Montessori schools in the U.S.  Ludovici’s fascist writing had no practical effect other than in part me-tooing the socialists and in part making the socialists look good compared to a false alternative.