Cedar and Eden Paul’s Creative Revolution: The ‘new psychology’ and the dictatorship of the proletariat, 1917-1926

Autumn 2019

This article contributes to the history of the international communist movement by investigating the role of the ‘new psychology’ as a theoretical justification for bolshevism in the years immediately following 1917. It focuses on Cedar and Eden Paul, two almost forgotten theorists whose works were key texts for the socialist movement of the 1920s. Drawing on a range of ideas to supplement Marxist political economy, including Freudian psychoanalysis, biological instinct theory, and the philosophy of Henri Bergson, the Pauls fashioned a striking critique of capitalist democracy and defence of proletarian dictatorship. This heterodox approach was influential within the early communist movement even beyond Britain, and parts of their writings were copied by Li Dazhao, the ‘first Marxist in China’ and mentor of Mao Zedong. The art icle concludes by advancing an explanation for why the Pauls fell out of favour in the CPGB in the mid-1920s: as the prospects for world revolution receded, the party’s leaders sought to erase the heterodoxy and intellectual experimentation that characterised the communist movement in favour of ‘iron proletarian discipline’.

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