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Catholic Culture News

Bertrand Russell: Prophet of the New World Order

by David J. Peterson


In this summary of Bertand Russell’s life, David J. Peterson discusses Russell’s philosophy, behavior and the effects he has had on society. Many of today’s problems can be associated with the influences of Bertrand Russell such as: abortion, contraception, promiscuity, population control and threats of a one-world government.

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New Oxford Review



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New Oxford Review, Inc., June 2000

In many ways, what the Englishman Bertrand Russell stood for characterizes the ideas and forces of the 20th century, which have emerged triumphant today. Despite his reputation as a mathematician and philosopher of science, Russell is known primarily for his work as a social philosopher and advocate of world peace. Depending on your viewpoint, he may have been one of the greatest peacemakers of the epoch or one of its greatest villains.

Bertrand Russell was born in 1872. His public career began in 1900, and spanned seven decades until he died in 1970. He was a primary leader and spokesman for one of the great philosophical movements of the early century. This movement consisted of physical and social scientists known as Positivists -- also known as the Vienna Circle. Bertrand was the grandson of Lord John Russell, a Prime Minister of Great Britain under Queen Victoria. Bertrand's official title was Viscount Amberley, the third Earl Russell. He was also a popular author who wrote on a wide range of topics such as culture, morality, and politics.

Russell popularized many of the new scientific currents. One of his most successful books, The ABC's of Relativity, explained Einstein's abstruse propositions about space and time for the layman; what millions of people knew as Einstein's famous theories came from Russell's book. He had a clear and readable style, which got right to the heart of an issue. He is often compared as a philosopher to John Dewey but was a much superior writer. Although all the existing biographies of Russell provide much useful information, they overlook his darker side. The exception is a 1996 book by Raymond Monk, which at least explores the man's highly unstable psychology. The great activist and spokesman for world peace and disarmament was, on closer inspection, something of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Bertrand lost both father and mother at a very early age. In his sixth year he was placed in the home of his elderly grandmother. In his autobiography Russell complains bitterly about the stifling tyranny and repression he endured while living in her home. Unlike his older brother who rebelled and left home, little Bertie remained her pet, never openly defying his granny. He said he developed an overwhelming rage which, to keep the peace at home, he completely suppressed during his childhood. Whether his grandmother did him any harm is hard to say; however, there is no doubt he developed some serious psychological problems. In his autobiography he speaks about his plan to commit suicide as an adolescent, a plan, which was abandoned when he realized it would mean never learning any more mathematics. Despite his great intellect he displayed the personality of an iconoclast and a misanthrope all his life. The primary motivation of Russell's intellectual effort was the removal of cultural repression, which he attributed to traditional religion. He set his mind to the task of eliminating the influence of Christianity on Western culture.

Here is a passage from a letter Russell sent to his friend Gilbert Murray, which gives some insight into his tumultuous state of mind as a young man: "I have been merely oppressed by the weariness, tedium and vanity of things lately, nothing seems worth doing or having done. The only thing that I strongly feel worthwhile would be to murder as many people as possible so as to diminish the amount of consciousness in the world."

In the same melancholy mood Russell composed a letter to Lady Ottoline Morrell. Speaking about his inner motivation, he wrote that he has had about all the self-repression he can stand, and his words bring to mind the image of a venomous snake about to lash out at its victim: "There is a fierce hate in me, a hate that is also a well of life and energy -- it would not really be good if I ceased to hate…I used to be afraid of myself and the dark side of my instinct, [but] now I am not."

Sexual obsession and lust were a dominant force throughout Russell's life and underpinned his public advocacy of population reduction and birth control. Lady Ottoline Morrell, Bertrand's longtime lover and confidante, was the wife of Phillip Morrell. Russell was a notorious libertine whose multiple marriages never prevented him from satisfying his momentary lusts with whomever was at hand and willing. Russell carried out a long series of such affairs after he walked out on his first wife, Alys. With characteristic bluntness, he explained that he left his despondent young wife because he was "bored and disgusted with her." We could say that, all in all, Bertrand Russell devoted his life to eradicating what is known as the moral order. Nietzsche had pronounced in his writings that "God is dead" and firmly held that the ethical norms taught by Jesus Christ had emasculated the human race. It was Russell who took Nietzsche's call for the "transvaluation of all values" (reversing the Judeo-Christian moral order) and lent to that project his respectable credentials as a modern scientific thinker. He put forward a post-Christian moral code for the new scientific era. Here is an excerpt from one of his most influential lectures on one of his favorite subjects, the scientific method:

God and immortality, the central dogma of the Christian religion, find no support in science. But we in the West have come to think of them as the irreducible minimum of theology. No doubt people will continue to entertain these beliefs, because they are pleasant, just as it is pleasant to think ourselves virtuous and our enemies wicked. But for my part I cannot see any grounds for either. I do not pretend to be able to prove that there is no God. I equally cannot prove Satan is a fiction. The Christian God may exist, so might the Gods of Olympus, Ancient Egypt or Babylon; but no one of these hypotheses is more probable than any other. They lie outside the region of provable knowledge and there is no reason to consider any of them.

When he talked of religion, especially Christianity, he referred to it as the "fear doctrine." He complained that it represses a human being's normal drives to satisfy innate appetites, it creates deep-seated psychological problems, and it destroys a person's most creative impulses. Russell, like many other ideologues, singled out the Catholic Church, which he believed represses the natural inclinations in mankind and which he regarded as an implacable enemy of human liberation. "Religion," said Russell, "since it has its source in terror, has dignified certain fears and made people think them not disgraceful. In this it has done mankind a great disservice." He described his alternative as follows: "We are ourselves the ultimate and irrefutable arbiters of value in the world.... Nature is blind and sense has no values, it is we who create value, and our desires, which confer value. In this realm we are kings...."

Russell's philosophy was Positivism, a materialist and atheist school of thought deriving from Comte. Russell was the chief mentor to Ludwig Wittgenstein, the famous logician who was a Positivist in his early years. Prominent Positivists such as Sir Karl Popper, Rudolf Carnap, and free-market economist F.A. von Hayek all paid homage to Russell for their education and training in the scientific method. Russell's last important scientific project was his Theory of Knowledge, a three-volume work that attempted to unite all scientific theories into one simple framework so as to "liberate" science forever from assumptions about God and Creation. He wanted to use this revolutionary framework as the acid test of scientific credibility. His opponents who were religious believers would then be exposed as charlatans -- superstitious fools whose methodology made anything they published or said suspicious and unreliable.

The striking thing about Russell is not so much that he, like Nietzsche, wanted to rewrite the moral code of society and produce the transvaluation of all values. The striking thing is that Russell was so successful. The obvious question is: Why? I would suggest six reasons.

(1) He was a member of the Coefficients, the dining club that brought together the highest levels of the English elite for discussions and debates.

(2) He was one of the most popular writers in the English-speaking world.

(3) He was a prominent lecturer at prestigious institutions such as the University of Chicago, Harvard, and the London School of Economics.

(4) He was an associate of a prominent group of "futurist" authors -- e.g., Aldous Huxley and H.G. Wells.

(5) He was a United Nations activist working through his own parallel institution, the Pugwash Conference for World Disarmament.

(6) In an epoch obsessed with fear of an imminent nuclear war, Russell achieved worldwide acclaim as a pacifist, anti-war activist, and disarmament spokesman. For these reasons, Russell proved very successful, over a long career, in applying most of his social doctrines. Certainly he did not invent immorality and sin, but he played an indispensable role in promoting the credo of the Culture of Death. Russell had an elaborate and comprehensive program for social reform. Many observers are astonished at how pervasive its provisions are today. To illustrate, we will look at four of his key tenets: sexual liberation and the destruction of the nuclear family; social control through the means of psychology and the use of addictive and psycho-tropic drugs; one-world government; and population control. Russell played a seminal role as one of the 20th century's earliest and most prominent spokesmen for all these endeavors.

Bertrand's immediate family was involved in the sexual freedom movement of the Sixties. In this case it was the 1860s. It seems that in 1868 Lord Amberley Russell, Bertrand's father, failed to retain his seat in the House of Lords in part because his outspoken advocacy of contraception created considerable outrage in Victorian England. The younger Russell spoke out incessantly about his own views in favor of sexual promiscuity. For example: "Certain forms of sex which do not lead to children are at present punished by the criminal law: this is purely superstitious.... The peculiar importance attached at present to adultery is quite irrational.... Moral rules ought not to be such as to make instinctive happiness impossible."

Russell pioneered the idea of "open" marriage so that sexual lusts could be satisfied at the same time that children are being raised. He advocated programs that would give all children sex education and he was also adamant that early sexual initiation and continued sexual promiscuity for children was an indispensable emotional health measure, necessary to counteract what he called "the effects of unnatural repression of the child's strongest impulses, which is both cruel and dangerous." "At puberty," said Russell, "the elements of an unsuperstitious sexual morality ought to be taught. Boys and girls should be taught that…mutual inclination" justifies sexual intercourse, and "they should also be taught methods of birth control so as to insure that children shall only come when they are wanted.... The increase of human happiness to be expected from sex education on these lines is immeasurable."

Much of Russell's obsession about "too many" births linked contraception and abortion as important new advances to achieve a "stable" population. He was alarmed about the higher fertility of nonwhite women and he demanded that the Asian and black birthrate be drastically curtailed. Otherwise, he felt his own breed (whites) would be overwhelmed, resulting in chaos and disaster. His view on population was made clear in his Prospects for Industrial Civilization: "Population [must be] stationary or nearly so.... The White population of the world will soon cease to increase. The Asiatic races will be longer, and the Negroes still longer, before their birth rate falls sufficiently to make their numbers stable without the help of war and pestilence.... Until that happens...the less prolific races will have to defend themselves against the more prolific...."

An early eugenicist, Russell was one of the most dignified and reputable names who finalized the plans for a massive post-World War II campaign for world population control. His ideas on population are now cited chapter and verse by the modern stalwarts of the Zero Population Growth movement. To his credit, Russell was straightforward about the movement's actual goals and objectives. In 1951 he warned about the kinds of dangers he saw in the near future -- apparently the renowned Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were not having the kind of result he was hoping for. In The Impact of Science on Society, he wrote: "At present the population of the world is increasing at about 58,000 per diem. War, so far, has had no great effect on this increase, which continued throughout each of the world wars.... War has hitherto been disappointing in this respect…but perhaps a bacteriological war may prove more effective. If a Black Death could be spread throughout the world once in every generation, survivors would be free to procreate freely without making the world too full." Russell went on, "this state of affairs may be somewhat unpleasant, but what of it? Really high minded people are indifferent to happiness, especially other people's."

In the absence of a moral code, how can it be expected that people will behave themselves? What if we are faced with social chaos and permanent anarchy? The answer to this question emerged in the wake of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, and can be summed up in two words: social control. A society lacking the simplest inhibitions must of necessity turn to a government that will promote policies of overt and covert social control and manipulation. With this in mind, Russell accurately predicted that the two most important fields of research for the second half of the century would be psychology and physiology. Let's see what he has to offer us in The Impact of Science on Society in this regard: "What is essential in mass psychology is the art of persuasion.... It may be hoped that in time anybody will be able to persuade anybody of anything if he can catch the patient young and is provided by the state with money and equipment" Then he becomes very specific about what this entails:

Anaxagoras maintained that snow is black but no one believed him. The social psychologists of the future will have a number of classes of school children on whom they will fay different methods of producing an unshakable conviction that snow is black. Various results will soon be arrived at: First, that the influence of the home is obstructive; second, not much can be done unless indoctrination begins before age ten; third, that verses set to music and repeatedly intoned are very effective; fourth, that the opinion that snow is white must be held to show a morbid taste for eccentricity. But I anticipate it is for future scientists to make these maxims precise and discover exactly how much it costs per head to make children believe that snow is black and how much less it would cost to make them believe it is dark grey.

One component of Russell's vision for mental health and social control was the discovery and use of hallucinogenic drugs. The idea was a favorite topic among the futurists in the early years of the century. Russell had first suggested that such drugs would be invaluable for social control, and his prestige as a progressive spokesman helped create the climate in which such drugs were investigated and tried both overtly and covertly. There is no doubt that a small group of futurists including Russell helped create an inverted moral order in which pharmaceutical and psychological experiments were carried out on young subjects (most of them unwitting), using LSD, peyote, mescaline, and other psychedelic drugs. Such experiments were, in turn, the catalyst for the "Age of Aquarius" or what one spaced-out rock devotee called the generation of "sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll."

Novelist Aldous Huxley outlined the prospects of such drugs in Brave New World. He proceeded to initiate a network of drug researchers and aficionados that included Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey, and Jerry Garcia. Their efforts to inaugurate the psychedelic revolution are the subject of Tom Wolfe's classic, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. There we meet up with the Merry Pranksters, Kesey's little circle who worked with Garcia and the aptly named band The Grateful Dead dispensing large doses of LSD and mescaline to thousands of teenagers. For a high percentage of youngsters, along with liberation came drug addiction -- and, for some, death.

Russell won his greatest renown for his long service as an activist for world peace. During World War I, Russell described himself as a pacifist and was jailed in England for his antiwar speeches. Later his reputation as "peace maker of his generation" suffered severe damage when, in the early years of the Cold War, Russell signed on as an avid backer of the so-called Baruch Plan. The proposal was billed as a peace offer to the Russians but it might be better described as a bomb hidden in a CARE package. Under the plan, Stalin would be given an ultimatum: the Soviets could join an international peace agency and forgo developing an H-bomb; but if they refused, Moscow and the other major Russian population centers would be instantly obliterated by a nuclear bombardment.

In his defense, Russell told a BBC interviewer, "I thought the Russians would give way but you can't threaten unless you're prepared to have your bluff called." Certainly this English aristocrat and intellectual was not the only voice that could be heard recommending a pre-emptive nuclear attack against the Soviets, but he was by far the most prominent "pacifist" to do so. Some years later when he was faced with the publication in a New York newspaper of the charge that he had "decided that it would be good morals and good politics to start dropping bombs on Moscow," Russell contracted a convenient case of amnesia and vehemently denied that he had ever countenanced any such thing.

By the opening of the inaugural meeting of the Pugwash Conference in 1957, Cold War Realpolitik had changed considerably and the Baruch Plan was buried. Russian scientists had developed a Soviet version of the ultimate weapon of mass destruction and just as suddenly Russell experienced a change of heart. Miraculously, his former mortal enemies, the Soviets, were now his partners in world peace! Anti-Communism had dissolved in favor of Russell's new crusade for world peace and nuclear disarmament. Pugwash proposals were imbued with the ideology of the British Fabian Society, calling for a world government (made up of the world's elites) to enforce a global peace. The plan called for NATO and the Warsaw Pact to be partners in halting the spread of nuclear weapons. The Pugwash Plan, however, went far beyond megatonnage and delivery systems. All nuclear energy and technology were to be centralized in the hands of the existing nuclear states--America, Britain, and Russia.

The antinuclear weapons campaign allowed Russell and his circle to accomplish two of their most important cultural objectives. The first was establishing a command and control center for one-world government. The second was creating a radical ecological movement that was hostile to technology and industrial progress. Pugwash propaganda skillfully equated "nuclear warfare" with "industrialism and technology." The three terms were linked together and branded as the characteristic "evils of modern capitalism," three evils which would soon annihilate us, either by nuclear war, by uncontrolled pollution, or by the depletion of our "fixed" resources. Only the Pugwash planners -- with the "peace-loving" Soviets as their partners -- had the solution. World leaders had to come to their senses and submit to a world government or all humanity was doomed!

Many of the Pugwash initiatives became the bedrock beliefs of Zero Population Growth and the radical ecology movements. The same ideology was disseminated in Western media channels and financed by the donations of hundreds of wealthy corporations, think tanks, and foundations. Much of this philanthropy is subsidized by having tax-free status -- which means in effect it is paid in part by U.S. taxpayers. Shortly after the efforts of Pugwash began to take hold, a fatalistic view of science and technology permeated the ranks of people who were conservationists and then the general public. Radical ecology and fatalism were woven into the fabric of the postwar culture in the West Just such a doomsday scenario was outlined in the widely publicized and media-acclaimed "Limits to Growth" report. The 1972 study was used to forecast a disastrous materials and energy shortage no later than the year 2000.

Russell's arguments have been amplified by several orders of magnitude and broadcast by the world's top policy makers over the past four decades. One of the best examples of the long shadow Russell has cast over our world is the curious case of National Security Study Memorandum #200 (NSSM-200). The report was completed in the mid-1970s and then was immediately classified top-secret. It was finally released to the public in 1990. The official 250-page study was proposed for adoption by then-U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and received final approval from National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft in 1975. Despite the best efforts of the U.S. media to bury the story, NSSM-200 keeps popping up like Banquo's ghost.

NSSM-200 talks plainly about the strategic plan that will guide U.S. economic, military, and social policies in the post-Vietnam era. The number-one problem addressed by the scholars was not Soviet militarism and expansionism -- far from it. Rather, the most critical strategic problem for America is said to be world overpopulation and how that will cause a scramble for the world's limited resources. There are just too many mouths to feed and a disaster is looming on the planet. The study identifies 13 of the largest developing nations including Mexico, Brazil, India, Egypt, Pakistan, and Colombia. It states: "The U.S. economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially [from] the less developed countries.... Whenever a lessening of population pressures through a reduced birth rate can increase the prospects for stability, population policy becomes relevant to the source of supplies and to the economic interest of the U.S." It continues, "Although population pressures are not the only factor, …[many] types of frustrations are much less likely under conditions of slow or zero population growth."

The document's writers are horrified that increased population in Third World countries will result in increased demands by those states for economic development. Such economic development for impoverished people is seen as one of the great strategic threats to U.S. interests. What the authors of this secret plan propose is that the U.S. should work through its diplomatic and other channels to wage covert economic war upon these 13 nations -- though most of them were at the time in the Western sphere and were U.S. military allies against the Soviet bloc. Of course, the authors in our State Department and the Pentagon had to be aware that population growth is not at all an economic impediment, and that, in fact, productive people are the indispensable and primary asset, which allowed such advanced nations as America, Germany, and Japan to become wealthy and prosperous. Therefore, this U.S. plan appears to be deliberately crafted to destroy the ability of these developing nations to solve their economic problems -- that is, to deprive those foreign citizens of the most basic essentials of life. Every subsequent American administration has adhered with enthusiasm to this depraved social experiment, with the exception of Reagan's.

But Anglo-American globalism and its drive for a new world order returned with a reinvigorated arrogance just after Reagan left Washington. A decade after the demise of Soviet tyranny, the economic, cultural, and military course of the world is guided by -- let's be frank -- an inner elite of neo-pagans. Marxism-Leninism and the thought of Chairman Mao may be dead, but the core of Bertrand Russell's Nietzschean vision is alive right here in the good ole U.S.A., and doing very well indeed.

David J. Peterson is the author of Revoking the Moral Order: The Ideology of Positivism and the Vienna Circle.

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