On February 18 2023, a Facebook page shared the following quote meme, attributing commentary about capitalism to scientist and inventor Albert Einstein:
A watermark (“Redfish”) appeared at the top of the meme, and text at the bottom read “Albert Einstein, March 14, 1879 – April 18, 1955.” Alongside a color image of Einstein, text read:
“[Capitalism] as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of evils[.]”
No information about the specific source of the quote was included with the post. Reverse image search indicated the Twitter account @redfishstream shared the meme in April 2021, and previously in March 2019:
Exactly 66 years ago Albert Einstein passed away. Einstein wasn't just one of the greatest scientists in history, he was also a socialist. pic.twitter.com/nDWX6JMpVB
— redfish (@redfishstream) April 18, 2021
On March 14 2021, the same account shared the meme on Facebook. An appended status update mentioned a possible source for the quote:
Happy birthday, Albert Einstein! Einstein wasn’t just one of the greatest scientists in history, he was also a socialist.
In his 1949 essay “Why Socialism?”, he wrote:
“[Capitalism] as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules.
I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion.”
Redfish is a Berlin-based, Russian state-affiliated media outlet that presents itself as a left-leaning news organization in order to spread Kremlin-approved narratives and outright disinformation intended to destroy individuals’ faith in democratic institutions.
A March 2022 story on Vice.com (“Millions of Leftists Are Reposting Kremlin Misinformation by Mistake”) points out that the channel has been able to shape the geopolitical attitudes of Americans, at least to a certain extent:
….Redfish has continued to grow in the last four years, with over 1.4 million combined social media followers and a string of viral hits to its name.
“Some experts call this media outlet a revolutionary way of doing propaganda, and in some ways, I agree with this assessment,” Lukas Andriukaitis, the associate director at Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, told VICE News. “Not only is the propaganda politically ideological on one side, coherent, subtle, and rather well-produced, but it is also not openly showing any direct links to the Kremlin.”
“That Redfish [content] is everywhere and really forming the backbone of many people’s opinion toward Ukraine,” Ciaran O’Connor, an analyst who tracks disinformation and extremism at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told VICE News. “This tactic can be very effective as it conceals who is behind the content, the information it contains, and the perception it’s trying to create. In this instance, the [‘Airstrikes’ map] was a classic case of ‘whataboutism.’”
Whataboutism, the tactic of bringing up the crimes or misdeeds of one group by reminding people about the crimes or misdeeds of another, is a tactic Putin himself employed back in 2014. During racial justice protests in Ferguson, Missouri, Putin directed his state-run media to highlight police brutality toward Black Americans in order to deflect criticism of his human rights record from U.S. lawmakers.
However, this quote meme is legitimate, if slightly imprecise. It matches part of an essay written by Albert Einstein in May 1949 for the socialist journal Monthly Review. In context, Einstein wrote:
I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.
The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production—that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods—may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.
“Evil” (or “evils”) appeared about four times in total in the piece. Another excerpt read:
This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.
I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.
A February 2023 Facebook post quoted Albert Einstein as saying “[Capitalism] as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of evils.” In the essay excerpted above from 1949, Einstein wrote that the “economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil.” Although the quote was truncated, slightly imprecise, and promulgated by a propaganda site, it largely matched Einstein’s writings.