John Gray: “We’ve come to believe that freedom is the natural human condition”

We’ve come to believe that freedom is the natural human condition, which only tyrants prevent everyone from enjoying – but when a tyrant is toppled, we can’t know what will come next, says John Gray.

In February 1917, a young boy was reading a Russian translation of one of the books of Jules Verne in a street in St Petersburg (at the time called Petrograd) where a bookseller had laid out his stock in the snow.

The boy heard a commotion and, looking up from the book, saw a terrified man being frog-marched down the street. The ashen-faced figure was one of the city’s policemen, who were among the last functionaries of the Tsarist regime to remain loyal.

Discovered hiding on the roof of a building, he had been brought down to be taken to what he evidently feared would be his end. What happened to the man cannot be known, but his deathly white face as he was marched away made an enduring impression on the boy who witnessed the scene.


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