Book Reviews: ‘Wilhelm Reich and the Function of the Orgasm’, & ‘What is Critical Social Research, Vol. II’

Mass Psychology

‘Wilhelm Reich and the Function of the Orgasm, Short Biography, Book Reviews, Quotes, and Comments’. By Peter Fritz Walter

Socialists know Reich as one of those who have tried to combine Marx and Freud, though he was always more Freud than Marx. In the 1930s he was a member of the German Communist Party and wrote The Mass Psychology of Fascism in which he argued that the type of sexual repression that people in Germany had suffered in childhood had contributed to making them prepared to support an authoritarian ideology like fascism. Later, in the 1960s this pamphlet enjoyed a popularity as if it had been entitled ‘The Mass Psychology of Capitalism’.

In the meantime Reich had moved on and had become a quack doctor claiming to have discovered a cosmic force called ‘orgone’ that could cure cancer, leukaemia and the rest. He got himself jailed over this and died in prison in 1957. No doubt he was sincere but people don’t have much sympathy for those who offer false hope to cancer sufferers.

Reich always regarded himself as a scientist and was convinced that he had made the same sort of ‘scientific discovery’ as other scientists. In this book, Walter argues that Reich was nearer to ‘the Eastern medical approach’ (with ‘orgone’ being the same as ‘chi’) and was ‘the true founder of the Aquarius Age’, i.e. that he was nearer to so-called ‘alternative medicine’. There is some truth in this. Walter regards this as a compliment.



Critical Research

‘What is Critical Social Research, Vol II’. By Babak Fozooni. (Fastprint publishing, £8.99)

The blurb on the back says that Babak Fozooni ‘writes from a working class perspective’ and he does indeed write from a position of wanting to see capitalism replaced by a system without production for sale and without wage-labour. He defines ‘critical social research’ as social research that goes beyond surface appearances to bring in capitalism as the underlying factor.

The book is a collection of articles on various subjects ranging from the psychology of sex to football in Iran and cricket in Afghanistan. The one on ‘Guy Aldred and proletarian atheism’ is of interest as Aldred moved in the same milieu as us and at one time considered himself an ‘impossibilist’. He is more widely promoted and known as an ‘anti-parliamentary communist’ though he stood for parliament on a number of occasions. The view attributed to him – that the sort of atheism promoted by Richard Dawkins is inadequate – was also expressed in our 1910 pamphlet Socialism and Religion ( which criticised the atheist/Freethinker approach to religion of trying to refute it by reason without taking into consideration the social conditions that gave rise to it, giving the impression that capitalism without religion would be acceptable.

In the article on football in Iran, Fozooni makes the point that football was promoted by the government as a means of ‘nation-building’ to rally people round the Iranian state. Football internationals perform the same role of course in ‘nations’ that have already long been built.


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