Bertrand Russell was a libertarian socialist


Bertrand Arthur William Russell

English philosopher, mathematician and logician (1872-1970)

Bertrand Russell was born on May 18, 1872 into a family of the English aristocracy. His grandfather, John Russell, who was bestowed the title of Earl Russell in 1861, was British Prime Minister. Bertrand Russell's father, John Russell, Viscount Amberley, died when Bertrand was three years old. The mother Katherine Louisa Stanley, who also comes from a noble family, died before her husband, of diphtheria.

After their parents' death, Bertrand Russell and his brother were taken in by their Victorian grandparents and grew up on their estate at Pembroke Lodge, Richmond Park. His grandfather died in 1878, and so Russell was raised primarily by his grandmother, a religious woman who, however, had progressive views on science and social justice and thus had a significant influence on him.

Bertrand Russell spent a lonely youth. One of the formative events was long walks in Richmond Park, where he spent much of his time. He was tutored by private tutors and studied literature and mathematics.

Russell received a scholarship from Cambridge University, his father's alma mater, and studied mathematics there from 1890 to 1894. Here he found a circle of friends and interlocutors, including George Edward Moore, Alfred North Whitehead and John Maynard Keynes. On Whitehead's recommendation, he became a member of the Cambridge Apostles' conspiratorial debating club. With the academic teaching of mathematics ("I had nothing at all from the lectures") and philosophy ("Most of what I learned there in philosophy, I gradually recognized as wrong"), however, he was dissatisfied. He later received a fellowship that enabled him to conduct research from 1895 to 1901 without teaching commitments.

During his student years, Russell met Alys Pearsall Smith, the daughter of an American Quaker family influential in the sanctification movement. They fell in love and married in December 1894 against the wishes of Russell's family. According to Russell's account, the marriage failed as early as 1902. The couple subsequently lived separately from one another. However, Russell feared professional disadvantages and therefore did not divorce until 1921 when his future second wife became pregnant.

Russell had been politically active since the late 19th century. He campaigned for women's suffrage and ran unsuccessfully for the House of Commons in a by-election in 1907.

A decisive event in Russell's life was the First World War. From 1914 on, Russell put his mathematical research on hold and began working as an activist and writer for peace and conscientious objection. The University of Cambridge took Russell's sentence to a fine for reading a leaflet as an opportunity to revoke his professorship. He was later sentenced to six months in prison for considering the possibility in an anti-war service magazine that US soldiers might be used as scabs in England. However, Russell was enabled to read and write in prison and wrote several books while in prison.

After the First World War, Russell made several trips. In 1920 he visited the Soviet Union with a delegation from the Labor Party and, among other things, had the opportunity to talk to Lenin, who greatly disappointed him. Russell returned disaffected and was extremely negative about Russian socialism. Russell, who had previously sympathized with socialism, was henceforth an outspoken opponent of Soviet communism.

In 1920 and 1921 Russell made a trip to China and Japan. Peking University had offered him, who had been dismissed at Cambridge, a visiting professorship. Russell, deeply impressed by many aspects of Chinese culture, summarized the experiences of his travels in several books.

Russell was accompanied on his Asia trip by his then lover Dora Black. She nursed him to health when he was near death due to pneumonia in China. When they returned to England together, Dora was pregnant, whereupon Bertrand Russell divorced his wife Alys Pearsall Smith in 1921 and married Dora Black shortly afterwards.

Together they founded the experimental libertarian Beacon Hill School for their children Kate and John Russell in 1927. During these years Russell worked mainly as a writer and authored books on philosophical and educational topics, but also popular scientific treatises on contemporary physical theories such as quantum physics and relativity.

But Russell's marriage to Dora Black also failed and in 1936, at the age of 64, Russell married, Patricia Helen Spence moved to the USA, where Russell initially taught at the universities of Chicago and Los Angeles.

In 1939 Russell left Los Angeles to accept a position as a lecturer at the City College of New York. Although he had already been appointed professor in New York, New York University was forced to withdraw its appointment in 1940. The reason for this were protests by fundamentalist Christians and politicians who believed that Russell spoke out against religion and thus for immorality in his writings and was therefore unsuitable for the task of teaching logic and the fundamentals of mathematics. These circles particularly criticized Russell's book "Ehe und Moral".

In 1944 Russell returned to England to teach again at Trinity College, Cambridge. In the following years he also worked on radio broadcasts for the BBC.

In 1949 Russell received the Order of Merit, and in 1950 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, particularly for "Marriage and Morality," for which he had been heavily criticized a few years earlier.

After Russell's marriage to Patricia Helen Spence ended in divorce, he entered into a fourth marriage with Edith Finch in 1952, which lasted until the end of his life.

At 78 years of age, the world-famous and multiple award-winning Russell did not withdraw from the public eye after 1950. Above all, he was moved by a possible Third World War as a great danger to humanity. He was the driving force behind the Russell Einstein Manifesto and was involved in various political crises of the Cold War as a mediator between the heads of state. He was temporarily president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. In 1961, along with other members of the organization, he was charged with calling for resistance to state power and - at the age of 89 - sentenced to two months' imprisonment. However, this penalty was reduced to one week on the basis of medical certificates.

In 1963 he founded the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation and investigated US war crimes in Vietnam in the Russell Tribunal.

At an advanced age he wrote his autobiography, which appeared in three volumes from 1967 to 1969.

On February 2, 1970, Bertrand Russell died of influenza at the age of 97 in Penrhyndeudraeth (Wales).

Although Bertrand Russell turned increasingly to philosophical questions in the second half of his life and became more and more politically active with increasing age, Russell's name remains primarily associated with "Principia Mathematica", which he wrote together with Alfred North Whitehead. The aim was to construct all mathematical truths from a set of axioms and rules of inference. Russell's focus was on philosophical problems, Whitehead's on mathematical problems. Work on this monumental work lasted from 1902 to 1913. The planned fourth volume no longer appeared, but even so, "Principia Mathematica" became one of the most important works of the 20th century on the fundamentals of mathematics.