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No theory of government was ever given a fairer test or a more prolonged experiment in a democratic country than democratic socialism received in Britain. Yet it was a miserable failure in every respect. Far from reversing the slow relative decline of Britain vis-à-vis its main industrial competitors, it accelerated it. We fell further behind them, until by 1979 we were widely dismissed as 'the sick man of Europe'... To cure the British disease with socialism was like trying to cure leukaemia with leeches.
I believe in intuitions and inspirations. I sometimes feel that I am right. I do not know that I am. When two expeditions of scientists, financed by the Royal Academy, went forth to test my theory of relativity, I was convinced that their conclusions would tally with my hypothesis. I was not surprised when the eclipse of May 29, 1919, confirmed my intuitions. I would have been surprised if I had been wrong.
Those experienced in work must take up the study of theory and must read seriously; only then will they be able to systematize and synthesize their experience and raise it to the level of theory, only then will they not mistake their partial experience for universal truth and not commit empiricist errors.
Does housekeeping interest you at all? I think it really ought to be just as good as writing and I never see where the separation between the too comes in. At least if you must put books on one side and life on the other, each is a poor and bloodless thing; but my theory is that they mix indistinguishable.
On the theory of natural selection we can clearly understand the full meaning of that old canon in natural history, 'Natura non facit saltum.' This canon, if we look only to the present inhabitants of the world, is not strictly correct, but if we include all those of past times, it must by my theory be strictly true.
It has become a commonplace that aggressiveness also often has its roots in fear. I am inclined to think that this theory has been pushed too far. [...] The type of aggressiveness that is the outcome of timidity is not, I think, that which inspires great leaders; the great leaders, I should say, have an exceptional self-confidence which is not only on the surface, but penetrates deep into the subconscious.
If we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason — for then we would know the mind of God.
The materialist theory of history, that all politics and ethics are the expression of economics, is a very simple fallacy indeed. It consists simply of confusing the necessary conditions of life with the normal preoccupations of life, that are quite a different thing. It is like saying that because a man can only walk about on two legs, therefore he never walks about except to buy shoes and stockings.
Only the defeat of the proletariat in Germany in 1923 gave the decisive push to the creation of Stalin's theory of national socialism: the downward curve of the revolution gave rise to Stalinism, not to the theory of the permanent revolution, which was first formulated by me in 1905. This theory is not bound to a definite calendar of revolutionary events; it only reveals the world-wide interdependence of the revolutionary process.