"Granted his assumptions, much of Trotsky's argument is, I think, unanswerable. Nothing can be sillier than to play at revolution if that is what he means. But what are his assumptions? He assumes that the moral and intellectual problems of the transformation of Society have been already solved--that a plan exists, and that nothing remains except to put it into operation. He assumes further that Society is divided into two parts the proletariat who are converted to the plan, and the rest who for purely selfish reasons oppose it. He does not understand that no plan could win until it had first convinced many people, and that, if there really were a plan, it would draw support from many different quarters. He is so much occupied with means that he forgets to tell us what it is all for. If we pressed him, I suppose he would mention Marx. And there we will leave him with an echo of his own words "together with theological literature, perhaps the most useless, and in any case the most boring form of verbal creation."
Trotsky's book must confirm us in our conviction of the uselessness, the empty-headedness of Force at the present stage of human affairs. Force would settle nothing no more in the Class War than in the Wars of Nations or in the Wars of Religion. An understanding of the historical process, to which Trotsky is so fond of appealing, declares not for, but against, Force at this juncture of things. We lack more than usual a coherent scheme of progress, a tangible ideal. All the political parties alike have their origins in past ideas and not in new ideas and none more conspicuously so than the Marxists. It is not necessary to debate the subtleties of what justifies a man in promoting his gospel by force; for no one has a gospel. The next move is with the head, and fists must wait."
First, as in the General Theory and the Tract on Monetary Reform Keynes comes out firmly against this idea that anybody has a viable blueprint or plan that they can just superimpose on society. In the General Theory especially he made repeated mention of the fact that we must take a gradual, experimental approach and be cognizant of the fact that different societies are going to accept different forms and extents of reform. This point, of course, gets back to my old complaint about rationalist vs. empirical outlooks, and my old complaint against social engineering mindsets.
I am also quite fond of the point against people who promote themselves through the use of force. The dismissal of this option reminds me of Christopher Hichens; the advocacy of force in the imposition of these master-plans should not lead us to a debate over the alleged plan. "It is not necessary to debate the subtelties of what justifies a man in promoting his gospel by force," in other words. By promoting his gospel by force, this man removes himself from the scope of reasoned discourse.
Finally, I love the line "we lack more than usual a coherent scheme of progress, a tangible ideal". It captures the mood of the interwar period very well, and I'm afraid it also captures our current mood.