The American Approach
The paradox of our day is the so-called cold war, which despite it professed coldness gets pretty hot at times, at least here at home. The communist aggressor from outside tries to infiltrate our “cradle of democracy” in order to overthrow our beloved “American way of life,” and to subvert its basic ideas. Radio commentators and press columnists expose in their sensational way the intrigues of the fifth column, and the stupidity of those servants of the sovereign people who in their “innocent simplicity” give these disgusting individuals free access to our atomic and political secrets we are holding in store for use against the aggressor. If a convicted spy prefers an American prison to deportation back to Russia, his spiritual fatherland, it is in a matter of hours one of the headline stories of radio and press.
The cold war becomes still warmer when it comes to the so-called psychological warfare. On the national level every upright American hates class distinctions. But at the international level we are not very kind in the selection of our weapons for the cold war. But that does not trouble our righteous souls too much: for the Jesuitical rule: “the end justifies the means” covers our inconsistency.
To make our Communistic neighbors see the errors of their system we flaunt to Russia and her satellites a picture of dear Uncle Sam with a big, fat belly, a new home, a 200 h.p. car, the indispensable refrigerator and television set, and so on, as the lively testimony to the success of our beloved “American way of life.” “The Voice of America,” our radio broadcast to those behind the iron curtain, Russia et alia, is the pride of every American abroad, the symbol of our power at home. Of course, we are ready to a large extent to adopt socialism as something acceptable within the so-called “New Deal” and “Fair Deal” systems of redemption from depressions and subsequent miseries and evils. As long as a little socialism pays it is acceptable, and for the rest we do not trouble our souls too much about the fact that socialism and communism are twin-brothers.
A Bread and Butter Proposition
The most amazing fact is that apparently none of these wise commentators and prudent observers, who hate class distinctions and reject communism because “it does not pay,” see the foolishness of their attitude. For after one hundred years of theoretical and experimental communism it is rather silly to make a “bread-and-butter” proposition of the communistic “problem.”
In the first place, the statement that “communism does not pay” is certainly not correct. Communists are the best paid people in the world. The estimated 6 million communists in Russia who rule and exploit about 190 million slaves enjoy the butter and cream of the actually capitalistic, but so-called “communistic” economy of Russia. Of course, the truth is that communism “does not pay” for those 190 million slaves who either refuse to accept the communist credo, or are considered not to be eligible for membership in the party of the communist elite by the real people who run this satanic, anti-Christian show. And the real reason that communism “does not pay” for many of these poor victims of a revolution which consumes her own children is, that they refuse to worship a Stalin as their God and Karl Marx as their Messiah. It is a shocking ignorance to present the communistic “problem” as a “bread-and-butter” question.
The American Way of Life versus Communism?
Many people nowadays think of communism as a threat to the American way of life, but they overlook some very important facts. They forget that in the final end the latter is just as intolerant as the former, if one dares to question its basic assumptions. For example, according to our way of life our children must have a standardized education in our public schools according to the educational and philosophical views of John Dewey. If our parents build Christian schools, then they are considered as intolerant people who try to break up our society or our nation with their extremist views. For this reason it is quite proper to punish these extremists by compelling them to pay for their own schools, and in addition to support the public schools.
Another basic assumption of the American way of life is that we must assume the rotten, poisonous, ungodly Hollywood culture as our pattern of life. He who refuses to read the magazines which are the mouthpieces of this filthy sex-culture, is considered as an indecent citizen. He who wants to read a Christian press, is considered as a foreigner, even though his ancestors landed three centuries ago at our Eastern shores. If we refuse to join the non-Christian, or better, anti-Christian labor unions, we are considered as outcasts of society, as unfit people, and as far as the defenders of the American way of life are concerned, we may starve in this our land of abundance, exactly because our credo, our statement of faith, does not fit into the scheme of this world.
To summarize: the truth is that it “does not pay” to be a Christian, neither here nor in Russia. What really “pays” is to be either an American according to the style of the American way of life, or a purebred communist. Both consider the Church as a dangerous element in their system. The only difference is that the communists “liquidate” this dangerous element, and that as yet those Americans, especially our leadership, negate, tolerate the Church, although only God knows for how long. There is no sense in entertaining illusions: it takes less than one second for a “communist-hunter” to become a “Christian-hunter.” History gives abundant proof of “persecution mania” if the Church is involved.
Many “bread-and-butter problems” have turned out to be the result of the antithesis between God and Satan, Church and “world.” That one little letter of Paul to Philemon upset the whole economy of the ancient Roman republic. It exercised in fact a lot more influence than all the American labor unions of today together. But still the enlightened and so-called “broad-minded” people of those days persecuted the Church almost to death, precisely because the Church did not fit into their slave economy. That is the lesson from history. Lest we forget!
Church and Communism
This challenge, which the Church that is true to her confession undoubtedly will meet in a not too distant future is indeed a very serious one. But still, in spite of this grave situation, there are even in our Reformed circles people who consider a certain “amount” of socialism a not too bad solution for the problems created by the disintegrating tendencies within the present American economy and society as resulting from recurrent depressions, “rugged individualism,” etc. To be sure, they abhor communism, but they want “more socialism,” the twin brother of communism, and in the meantime they point their warning finger at the Church as the real cause of all the economic distress, the crammed jails, etc.
Many of us will admit that this is indeed a remarkable and serious accusation. Hundred years ago all modern philosophers tried to make us believe that we could eliminate crime and abolish our prisons if we only educated our youth to think and act according to the lofty principles of their infallible reason. Likewise, classic economists predicted a harmonious economy and society based on rugged individualism. And now as a result of this rugged educational and economical individualism the jails are packed, and, not to mention more, now there are members of the Church who accuse their own Mother as being the real cause of all these miseries. Truly, it seems to us that this accusation is not fair. Our conviction is that if the Church is to blame, then it is not because she was not socialistic enough, but because she did not set forth the Word of God properly and rightly over against the ideologies of those modern philosophers who laid the scientific foundation of present day socialism and communism. It is not the fault of the Church that the utopias of these philosophers do not come true! Their failure illustrates the truth of the Scriptures: “Except Jehovah build the house, they labor in vain that build it” (Ps. 127).
To accuse the Church means to accuse her Head, Jesus Christ. To present communism, socialism, and today’s immorality as “the unpaid accounts” of the Church means playing with fire. “For our God is a consuming fire.” Let us be well aware of this truth!
This does not exclude a conscientious criticism. On the contrary, such a criticism, bound by the norms of God’s Word, actuated by love to our Mother, will make us the more aware of the sorrowful fact that the Church failed in many respects because she had lost the proper insight into the Word of her Lord, that she rather practiced idolatry with modernistic philosophies than devoted herself faithfully to the ministry of the Word. The apostatizing Church bred communism and socialism in Europe, and this same apostasy breeds communism and socialism today in America. That is the present day dilemma: Church or Communism.
Communism or Socialism
A great many persons, not the least among them being the so-called intellectuals, think in terms of either communism or socialism. They suppose that communism is something quite different from socialism. Apparently they do not know that originally the terms denoted the same ideology. Historically communism meant only extreme socialism, and since it gradually became more and more clear that there existed also a moderate socialism, it became practice to call the extreme wing of the socialistic movement communists, and the moderate wing socialists. Between these two extremes several modifications are, of course, possible. As circumstances may require one can be more or less moderate or extreme. This accounts for the fact that one can find in several European countries, for example, left and right wing socialists, radicals, syndicalists, etc.
Communism and socialism are not opponents in principle. They differ only with respect to the methods which they advocate to realize, to materialize their principles. The difference is thus a matter of political opportunism. But on matters of principle communists regularly are in agreement with socialists and vice versa in actual politics. This is quite natural. It is unnatural that so many people do not want to acknowledge this simple truth, but are immediately ready to lament that the Church is opposed to socialism.
In contemporary political and philosophical literature it is established custom to use the terms communism and socialism interchangeably, with a tendency to differentiate between Marxian socialism, that is, communism, and non-Marxian socialism. The criterion commonly used is the potential revolutionary character of the respective party dogmas. If the party aims at the immediate overthrow of existing societies and states as a means to establish a socialistic Utopia, the party is called communistic. If the party uses more “long term” tools like the British Labor Party, for example, social reforms, parliamentary means, etc., it is called socialistic.
A good example is Martin Buber’s Paths in Utopia. A chief witness is certainly Joseph Stalin himself. Fritz Lieu, a renowned “Christian Marxist” in Switzerland, who by the way uses the same terminology, relates in one of his widely read books2 that which happened a day in August, 1946, on occasion of the return to England of the delegation of the British Labor Party. Leader of the delegation was Harold Laski, and one of the members Morgan Philips, general secretary of the Labor Party. The latter said in his report that one of the many benefits the delegation enjoyed in the communistic paradise was the following declaration of Comrade Stalin:
Two roads lead to socialism: the Russian and the British. It is evident that both countries are determined to achieve the ultimate socialistic goal in their own way. The Russian method is shorter, (somewhere between head and shoulders—note: writer) but more difficult , and could not be carried out without bloodshed. Still, one must remember that the Marxian Leninists do not hold the opinion that their method is of necessity the only method which leads to social ism. The parliamentary method avoids bloodshed, but means a much longer procedure.
Brother Stalin explained also why the Russian method could not be carried out without bloodshed. By means of the parliamentary method it has been possible in England to ask every citizen who was fully aware of his responsibilities, whether he was in favor of socialism or not. But the Russian people were at the beginning of the communistic revolt very backward; especially the peasants hated socialism. This hostility made it necessary to apply a different method.
In other words, it is the ultimate socialistic goal of communism or socialism that counts. To achieve this lofty goal it does not matter whether one wrecks an entire nation by socialistic experiments as the “moderate gentleman-like” socialist Attlee does, or to erect a throne which rests upon the blood of an estimated 40 million Russians, as the “extremist” Stalin did. The difference between communism and socialism is the difference between the bullet of a gun and an incurable, creeping paralysis.
“Lack of Socialism” Those intellectuals, who are dissatisfied about their Church and’ are in favor of a certain “amount” of socialism as the panacea for our social and economic troubles, apparently think that socialism is a kind of wonder drug. Too much of it might be disastrous for the patient, but a little poison will work out all right for his infected body. And for the rest: please leave the patient alone, he needs his rest badly. When someone criticizes the bad behavior of the patient they are very much delighted, but when others, like McCarthy, pay some attention to these socialistic quacks they howl aloud and forget entirely the piece of mind of the patient. We do not want to protect McCarthy by any means, on the contrary, but we think there is no reason at all to feel disturbed about the wailings of these “physicians.”
Anyone who has had the opportunity to attend the meetings of socialist or communist parties knows that these insipid lamentations are a standard practice of their tactics, and he is not a bit impressed by it anymore. All those well-meaning intellectuals ought to remember that long before there was any thought of “McCarthianism” in this country, one of the founders3 of communism ridiculed those well-to-do people who in their innocent simplicity played with socialistic ideas without the least intention of sharing their possessions with the men of the street or of the slums. Even Karl Marx himself told a group of communistic philosophers and literators that it was immoral to smuggle communist and socialist dogma’s, that is, an entirely new way of looking at the world, into their casual dramatic criticisms, etc. For this reason it is unscientific to talk about the desirability of a certain “amount” of socialism as the remedy for our social and economical troubles. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels fought during their entire lifetime against this dissecting of their doctrine. In fact, this practice counts for many of the variations within the socialist and communist movement today in Europe.
Science versus Religion
The common fallacy that religion has nothing to do with true science, because religion is supposedly squarely opposed to science, enters also many times the discussion about communism. There is no need of giving an extensive explanation of our Christian viewpoint on this question. Our Heidelberg Catechism says in Lord’s Day VII “that true faith is a sure knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his Word.” Accordingly we confess in our Confession of Faith “that the Father by the Word, that is, by his Son, has created of nothing the heaven, the earth, and all creatures, when it seemed good unto him, giving unto every creature its being, shape, form, and several offices to serve its Creator; that he also upholds and governs them by his eternal providence and infinite power for the service of mankind, to the end that man may serve his God.”
The underlined parts of this quotation are the most important for our purpose. God has given every creature his office, a position with duties attached to it, namely those relating to the service of mankind in order that man may serve his God. Service of God is also the office of man, his cultural mandate. And this service requires the entire man with all his powers, his intellectual as well as his physical powers; or rather, our Lord demands absolute obedience in all man’s functions, inclusive of his analytical function, to the divine law. If we keep this in mind the antithesis between faith and science disappears like snow under a hot sun.5
Notwithstanding their confession of faith many Christians foster the idea that a good scientist cannot be a good Christian. Their train of thought is much like the one that Max Eastman defends in the introduction to his anthology of Marxian theories which has been published by the Modern Library series in 1932 under the title of Capital and other writings by Karl Marx. In the typical communist manner he contends several times that we, especially we young Americans, ought to read and study the writings of Marx, because his ideas are most directly applicable to our culture.6 But because many are unable to understand the philosophical background of Marx theories, he attempted to devise a non-philosophical way of presenting Marx ideas.
Eastman praises Marx as a great scientist, but he reproaches him for his philosophical approach to scientific problems. According to Eastman this method is entirely alien to our American mind and way of solving scientific problems, because our culture is far removed from the dominance of religious attitudes. Karl Marx himself was a little backward yet in this respect, he had himself not been entirely freed from his philosophical background and environment. But our practical, non-philosophical minds have advanced rapidly since the days of Marx. The surest mark of the advanced scientific mind today is simply to say: I do not know, when asked if your scientific investigations and methods imply some general attitude toward the universe at large, for example, its Creator, Ruler, destination, etc.
How far advanced the mind of Max Eastman is can be seen from his Anthology. Instead of presenting a non-philosophical Marx he presents the entire philosophical apparatus of Marx. It is the best proof that the “People’s Marx” is not the Marx of the unreadable economical explanations, but that it is the Marx who hung “the communistic pie in the sky” in front of the eyes of all those faithless people who in their hatred lifted their fist against heaven and cursed God in the strongest possible language. The common man in the street never cared a bit for Marx theories; but they did want the communistic paradise that Marx envisaged as the ultimate result of the class struggle within the capitalistic society. On this matter they understood Marx quite well, and were willing to turn the whole world upside down for this ideal. That is the “people’s Marx,” the demagogue, the Messiah of a new materialistic religion.
To say that Americans are practical, non-philosophical beings is an unwarranted statement, and not backed by actual proof. The tremendous influence of the philosophies of the “Founding Fathers,” especially Jefferson, and others, as James and Dewey, speaks other language. The truth is that every American when be leaves the grade school is a well-trained philosopher, if not a well-equipped “modernist.” But he is not modern at all. Jefferson’s doctrine7 of the equality of all men because they all have Reason is nothing else than a rejuvenated, two thousand year old, Stoicism. Since its development it has been the germ of almost every revolution of importance. Karl Marx adopted almost everything of the philosophy of the so-called Enlightenment, the same philosophy of which Jefferson was a main representative in America.
But Karl Marx went just one step further. According to his opinion the one deficiency of philosophers as Jefferson had been that they were not enlightened enough. If it is true that all men are equal because they all have Reason in common, then it is the most logical consequence that they also must have an equal amount of property. For man’s material conditions under which he lives determine his whole existence, including the power of his almighty Reason. The unequal material circumstances in which man lives cause the subsequent inequality of men, the classes of oppressors and of suppressed. Therefore, the doctrine of the equality of man cannot be used as a practical means of building a new society unless all men live in equal material circumstances. The real communistic danger in America today is, that many people, especially the so-called intellectuals, do not possess the intellectual and religious conviction to resist and to oppose these “logical” conclusions of Jefferson’s philosophy. They lack the intellectual power because they have been taught that the wisdom of James and Dewey is the highest that can be achieved. And they lack the religious conviCtion because they have lost their Mother.8 And the paradox of the case is that the latter has caused the former. That is the result of a religion that separated itself from science, that reserved the worship and service of the Lord for the Sabbath alone.
A New Religion
Socialism does not lend itself to division in desirable, less desirable and non-desirable parts. Neither can it be presented as a system of social and political engineering without any reference to its religious implications. For if the founders of communism explained one aspect of their doctrine clearly, then it is surely this one: communism is not an innocent neutral theory to play with as one pleases, but it is a cultural movement, a great world-ideology, a totalitarian religion! It is a new religion of which Karl Marx is the great Messiah. His books are the new Bible the Communist Manifesto the new credo, and the proletariat the newly elected people of the post-revolutionary heaven on earth, the communist Utopia. It is this antithesis between communism and our Reformed faith which we hope to discuss in our following contributions.
1. This term is from Calvin. See his Institutes when he writes about the Church, Book IV.
2. See his Russland Unterwegs, Bern Switzerland, 1945. The quotation is from the preface to the Dutch edition. Lieb is a disciple of Barth. See concerning Barth’s theology the very instructive study by Dr. C. Van Til: The New Modernism. Two other well-known disciples of Barth are Paul Tillich and Gogarten. Buber tells us that Tillich is also a Marxist. Gogarten became a National Socialist, i.e. a Nazi.
3. See Franz Mehring: Karl Marx, the Story of His life, New York, 1935, pg. 71. This is the English translation of the second German edition.
4. Mehring, pg. 73.
5. See further the excellent article by Prof. H. Van Til in Torch & Trumpet, Vol. 2, No. 5, December, 1952.
6. Even in Reformed circles there are some who think it is rather silly to proclaim our cultural mandate as the basis for Calvinistic action. Here is a communist who does the same thing with his communistic doctrine.
7. See Ernst Cassirer : The Myh of the State, New Haven, 1946, pg. 167, f.
8. See note 1.