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New Left Review I/167, January-February 1988


Ellen Meiksins Wood

Capitalism and Human Emancipation

Let me say something, first, about Isaac Deutscher, not just in some ritual tribute for the occasion but because it seems appropriate to what I am going to say in my lecture and the spirit in which I intend to say it. [*] This is the Isaac Deutscher Memorial Lecture, delivered on 23 November 1987, at the London School of Economics. Only footnotes have been added. I did not know Isaac Deutscher, but I have formed a pretty strong impression of the kind of man he was, and the kind of political voice he represented; and it seems to me precisely the kind of voice we need a lot of now. Like many others, I have been impressed in particular by the stability and balance of his commitment to socialism—and I say stability quite deliberately, to convey not a stubborn dogmatism but, on the contrary, the kind of balanced, independent and critical judgment which allowed him, for example, to praise without apology the achievements and promise of the October Revolution while never disguising the horrors of its deformations, at a time when so many others were swinging wildly between blind worship and abject recantation of socialism altogether. Or the stability which kept him working as a Marxist intellectual through periods of muted class struggle, while so many others gave up and went off in pursuit of various intellectual and political fashions.

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