Max Eastman

American writer (1883-1969)

Max Forrester Eastman (January 4, 1883March 25, 1969) was an American writer on literature, philosophy and society; a poet, and a prominent political activist. For several years, he edited The Masses. With his sister Crystal Eastman, he co-founded in 1917 The Liberator, a magazine of politics and the arts.

The worst enemy of human hope is not brute facts, but men of brains who will not face them.


  • What happened here is the most significant, as it is the most devastating human thing that has happened in America since Sherman marched to the sea.
    • "Class War in Colorado," The Masses, June 1914, cited in Dorothy Ray Healey, California Red: A Life in the American Communist Party (1990)
  • A liberal mind is a mind that is able to imagine itself believing anything.
  • Hegelism is like a mental disease—you cannot know what it is until you get it, and then you can't know because you've got it.
    • Marx, Lenin and the Science of Revolution (1926), p.22
  • Marxists profess to reject religion in favor of science, but they cherish a belief that the external universe is evolving with reliable, if not divine, necessity in exactly the direction in which they want to go.
    • Marxism: Is It Science? (1940)
  • I omit from consideration here the fact that people who demand neutrality in any situation are usually not neutral, but in favor of the status quo.

Stalin's Russia and the Crisis in Socialism (1940)


W.W. Norton, New York, NY, 1940

  • Stalinism is worse than fascism, more ruthless, barbarous, unjust, immoral, anti-democratic, unredeemed by any hope or scruple, ... better described as superfascist.
    • p. 82
  • Stalinism, as we have seen, contains all of the evils of Nazism and Fascism, most of them in extremer form.
    • p. 149

Reflections on the Failure of Socialism (1955)


New York, NY, Devin-Adair Company, 1955 [1]

  • An armed seizure of power by a highly organized minority party, whether in the name of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, the Glory of Rome, the Supremacy of the Nordics, or any other slogan that may be invented, and no matter how ingeniously integrated with the masses of the population, will normally lead to the totalitarian state. 'Totalitarian state' is merely the modern name for tyranny.
    • p. 18
  • A false and undeliberated conception of what man is lies at the bottom, I think, of the whole bubble-castle of socialist theory. Although few seem to realize it, Marxism rests on the romantic notion of Rousseau that nature endows men with the qualities necessary to be a free, equal, fraternal, family-like living together, and our sole problem is to fix up the external conditions. All Marx did about this with his dialectical philosophy was to change the tenses in the romance: Nature will endow men with the qualities as soon as the conditions are fixed up.
    • p. 29
  • Libertarians used to tell us that ‘the love of freedom is the strongest of political motives,’ but recent events have taught us the extravagance of this opinion. The ‘herd-instinct’ and the yearning for paternal authority are often as strong. Indeed the tendency of men to gang up under a leader and submit to his will is of all political traits the best attested by history. It has been so shockingly exemplified in modem times that only a somnambulist could ignore it in trying to build, or defend, a free society. His first concern should be to make sure that no one gang or group-neither the proletariat, nor the capitalists, nor the landowners, no the bankers, nor the army, nor the church, nor the government itself-shall have exclusive power.
    • pp. 37-38
  • It was natural that idealistic people who had ceased to believe in heaven should think up some bright hope for humanity on earth. That, I think, more than any objection to "capitalism", accounts for the spread of the socialist dream, especially in Anglo-Saxon countries.
    • p. 45
  • More goods and fewer people is the slogan I should like to see carried at the head of humanity's march into the future.
    • p. 55
  • I still think the worst enemy of human hope is not brute facts, but men of brains who will not face them.
    • p. 57
  • The backers of Hitler in Germany made the same mistake about the Nazi party that the workers and soldiers in Petrograd made about the Bolshevik party. Each group believed that this new brutal, rabid, monolithic fighting gang, on achieving power, would promote, as had been promised, its enlightened interests.
    • p. 110
  • An honest, bold, loyal, and within its limits extremely highbrow attempt to produce through common ownership a society of the Free and Equal, produced a tyrant and a totalitarian state;…
    • p. 110

"The Policy of The Masses: An Editor's Reflections"


Afterward to Echoes of Revolt: The Masses, 1911-1917 by William L. O'Neill (1989)

  • The Masses marked, I have been told, the first appearance of "realism" in an American magazine. But I was ignorant of, and indifferent to, schools of art and literature. Of the new movement in art represented by John Sloan, George Bellows, and the other pupils of Robert Henri, I had never heard.
  • It is this catholicity of The Masses, its freedom from the one-track mental habit of the rabid devotee of a cause, for which I as editor was most responsible. I never could see why people with a zeal for improving life should be indifferent to the living of it. Why cannot one be young-hearted, gay, laughing, audacious, full of animal spirits, and yet also use his brains? The everlasting cerebral attitude of such papers as The Nation and The New Republic, the steady, unbillowy, unjoy-disturbed throbbing of grey matter in their pages, makes me, after some months, a little dogsick. And yet on the other hand I hate and always did hate smart-alecky and irresponsible leftism. This posture of mind was, I think, my chief contribution to The Masses.
  • Art Young drew a picture of a complacent cherub carrying a tiny pail of water dipped from the "Ocean of Truth." The pail was marked "Dogma," and my editorial read: "I publish this little picture in answer to numberless correspondents who want to know just what this magazine is trying to do.' It is trying not to try to empty the ocean, for one thing. And in a propaganda paper that alone is a task."
  • This freedom from dogma enabled us to join independently in the struggle for racial equality and woman's rights, for intelligent sex relations, above all (and beneath all) for birth and population control. Socialist dogma declared that all these problems would be solved when the economy of capitalism was replaced by a cooperative commonwealth. I was convinced to the contrary.
  • So far, at any rate, as I shaped its policy, the guiding ideal of the magazine was that every individual should be made free to live and grow in his own chosen way. That was what I hoped might be achieved with all this distasteful palaver about politics and economics. Even if it cannot be achieved, I would say to myself, the good life consists in striving towards it. As my notebook of those days declares: "I can bear the prospect that the world may never be free, but I can not bear the prospect of my living in it and not taking part in the fight for freedom."

Quotes about Eastman

  • By May 1916, Eastman and his sister, Crystal Eastman, the leading spirit of the American Union Against Militarism, were working hard to combat the mounting drive toward American participation in the war. With such people as Paul V. Kellogg, Amos Pinchot, Winthrop D. Lane, and Randolph Bourne, Eastman spoke at mass meetings in various parts of the country, telling his audiences that nothing was to be gained by joining in on the kill, that all chance of appealing to Germany's liberal elements would be lost with America's entrance against it. After April 1917, Eastman's tone hardened. He knew now that the brief interlude of fun and freedom had ended, that the New Freedom was finished and the New Intolerance had begun. "You can't even collect your thoughts," he told an audience on July 18, 1917, "without getting arrested for unlawful assemblage. They give you ninety days for quoting the Declaration of Independence, six months for quoting the Bible, and pretty soon somebody is going to get a life sentence for quoting Woodrow Wilson in the wrong connection."
  • During her junior year at Vassar in 1902 Crystal wrote in her journal that men were typically "clever, powerful, selfish and animal"-except for her brother Max. And, she wrote, should she ever marry a man he would have to have Max's qualities: "I don't believe there is a feeling in the world too refined and imagined for him to appreciate." Crystal thought her brother might not like it, but she thought it was "the highest compliment you can pay a man to say that he has the fineness of feeling and sympathy of a woman... All mothers ought to cultivate it in their boys."
    • Blanche Wiesen Cook's introduction in Crystal Eastman on Women and Revolution
  • Eastman was a brilliant polemicist, but he too could not long preserve the innocence of The Masses-no one could have. He found that he had to start asking questions of himself, and once you begin doing that you can never be sure the answers will please you. Thus Eastman began his astonishing political career, for a time dropping into the dogmatism of early American communism, then moving, in the late twenties, to the honor and courage of being the first left-wing anti-Stalinist intellectual in this country, and finally becoming a convert to the conservatism of The Readers Digest.
    • Irving Howe Introduction to Echoes of Revolt: The Masses, 1911-1917 by William L. O'Neill (1989)
  • behind them (The Masses staff) still throbbed the tradition of nineteenth-century American radicalism, the un-ambiguous nay-saying of Thoreau and the Abolitionists. This tradition implied that the individual person was still able to square off against the authority of the state; it signified a stance-one could not quite speak of it as a politics-of individual defiance and rectitude, little concerned because little involved with the complexities of society. The radicalism of nineteenth-century New England had been a radicalism of individual declaration far more than of collective action; and while Max Eastman and his friends were indeed connected with a movement, the Socialist party of Debs, in essential spirit they were intellectual freebooters, more concerned with speaking out than speaking to. They swore by Marx, but behind them could still be heard the voices of Thoreau and Wendell Phillips-and it was a good thing.
    • Irving Howe Introduction to Echoes of Revolt: The Masses, 1911-1917 by William L. O'Neill (1989)
  • war means recruiting propaganda, conscription, military discipline, the death penalty, the whole damnable business of organized dying and killing. Max Eastman said in Madison Square Garden two years ago, "When our own war comes you'll know it, because it won't be necessary to conscript the workers to fight in it." I thought he spoke a profound truth. I do not think so now. When we heard about those democratic regiments formed in Russia after the first revolution, I thought, "This is a real workers' army." Now I know there can be no such thing as a democratic army. People don't want to die, and except for a few glorious fanatics they are not going to vote themselves into the front line trenches.
    • The Liberator (August 1919) article, in Crystal Eastman on Women and Revolution
  • Two editors of the Masses, Crystal Eastman's brother Max and Floyd Dell, used that journal for vigorous advocacy of feminist issues. In it Eastman attacked American socialist men for their indifference to women's rights. "The members of the Socialist Party in America, on the whole, have been like every other group of sexually selfish men. None of them got up and actively went into the suffrage propaganda until after they saw that suffrage was coming and they would soon have to be asking for women's votes." He demanded of the socialists: "Sex Equality is a question by itself. Answer it."
    • Margaret S Marsh, Anarchist Women, 1870-1920 (1981)
  • The Masses was the only male-edited socialist journal that consistently affirmed the importance of equality as essential for the full development of the lives of both men and women. In a satiric piece, Floyd Dell took up the arguments of the antifeminists. "I thought, you see, that [women] were persons like myself. Well, they aren't. I know better now." Eastman took the same line. Under an egalitarian political and social system, girls "will grow up to be interested and living individuals, and satisfy their ambitions only with the highest prizes of adventure and achievement that life offers. And the benefit of that will fall upon us all-but chiefly upon the children of these women when they are mothers. ... Only a developed and fully constituted individual is fit to be the mother of a child. Only one who has herself made the most of the present, is fit to hold in her arms the hope of the future."
    • Margaret S Marsh, Anarchist Women, 1870-1920 (1981)
  • Mr. Eastman, like all good doctrinaire Marxians, was somewhat taken aback at seeing how quickly, easily, and apparently naturally the Marxian system in Russia slid off into an autocratic regime of outrageous tyranny.
    • Albert Jay Nock, Snoring as a Fine Art: Twelve Other Essays, Richard R. Smith Publisher (1958) p. 177, originally published as “Epstean’s Law”, Atlantic Monthly (Oct. 1940)
  • Max Eastman, one of the foremost writers and teachers of the country, went to Fargo, North Dakota, to deliver a lecture on "Democracy." A great crowd evidently interested in the thing we were fighting to make the world safe for, gathered in the court to listen to what he had to say. A drunken mob, led by a judge and a "very respectable" attorney, invaded the "temple of justice" and would have murdered Max Eastman but for the sublime heroism and unflinching courage of a woman. An attempted murder of Max Eastman was flaunted as an exhibition of the "spirit of Americanism."
Wikipedia has an article about:
Conservative intellectuals
France Bainvillede BenoistBernanosLe Bonde BonaldBossuetBrucknerCamusCarrelde ChateaubriandFayeFustel de CoulangesFaguetDurkheimGirardGuénonHouellebecqde Jouvenelde MaistreMaurrasRenande RivarolTainede TocquevilleZemmour
Germanosphere von BismarckBurckhardtHamannHegelHeideggerHerderJüngervon Kuehnelt-LeddihnKlagesLorenzLöwithMannNietzscheNolteNovalisPieperRauschningvon RankeRöpkeSchmittSloterdijkSchoeckSpenglervon TreitschkeWeininger
Italy D'AnnunzioEvolaGentileMoscaPareto
Iberia & Latin America de CarvalhoCortésDávilaFernández de la Mora y MonOrtega y GassetSalazar
United Kingdom AmisArnoldBalfourBellocBowdenBurkeCarlyleChestertonColeridgeDisraeliFergusonFilmerGaltonGibbonGrayHitchensHumeJohnson (Paul)Johnson (Samuel)KiplingLandLawrenceLewisMoreMosleyMurrayNewmanOakeshottPowellRuskinScrutonStephenTolkienUnwinWaughWordsworthYeats
USA & Canada AntonBabbittCalhounCoolidgeCrichtonBellBellowBloomBoorstinBuchananBuckley Jr.BurnhamCaldwellConquestDerbyshireDouthatDreherDurantEastmanFrancisGoldbergGoldwaterGottfriedGrantHansonHuntingtonJacobyKimballKirkKristolLaschLovecraftMansfieldMearsheimerMeyerMurrayNockPagliaPetersonRepplierRieffRufoRushtonShockleySowellSumnerThielViereckVoegelinWeaverYarvin
Russia DostoyevskyDuginHavelSolzhenitsyn
Ummah AsadFardidKhameneiKhomeiniQutbShariati
Other / Mixed Alamariu (Bronze Age Pervert)ConradEliadeEysenckHayekHazonyHoppeMannheimMishimaMolnarSantayanaStraussTalmon