The Revolution is Now! (1)

These days we hear a lot about revolutionary movements throughout the world and in our own countries.

You can see the revolutionary mind in the bombing of the United States Capitol, the blowing up of a refinery, the shooting of police officers, and in mass demonstrations with such signs as: “If there is no solution to pollution, we will start a revolution.”

What is a revolution, and how can we recognize whether a country is really heading for it?

To answer these questions we should first analyze what events led to the French Revolution of 1789. That great upheaval has set the pattern for all following revolutions, including the Russian one of 1917. The basic ingredients are strikingly similar in every new rebellion.


Let us take a closer look at what happened in France prior to the French Revolution.

1. Class Struggle: There were three classes in France: clergy, nobility, and “third class.” One year before the Revolution, in 1788, this third class had gained as many delegates in the National Assembly as the clergy and nobility had together. This gave a feeling of power and superiority to the third class, which resulted in the virtual end of deliberations and the start of violent overthrow. (The Paris street revolution and .the fall of the Bastille occurred July 14, 1789.) This led to the slaughter of thousands by the mobs (September 2–6, 1792). The revolutionary books of Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Voltaire had always stressed the gap between classes of society which could be done away with only by bloodshed. The “Committee of Public Safety” condemned anti-revolutionaries to the guillotine in batches of fifty persons (D. L. Dowd, The French Revolution, p. 128).

2. Law Struggle: The revolutionaries had a floating idea about law. Robespierre suspended the laws he made himself (1793). Laws are made by the most powerful group for its own welfare. This led to lawlessness and anarchy. Robespierre was executed by his own fellow revolutionaries (July 27, 1794). Before the revolution this idea had shown up in the utter disdain for the functions of judges, police officers, church officers, parents; and, in fact, a hatred for any one in a position of authority.

3. Morality Struggle: Revolution aims at the overthrow of all values, religious values also. This life is all that counts. But as soon as religion is done away with, moral values have no foundation. Man is deified, and therefore not even nature can dictate that he is not free to indulge in homosexuality or even bestiality. Marriage also becomes a floating thing. The main thing is to cut loose from your moorings and be adrift on unbridled passions and lusts. The weirdest stories can be told of what happened before and during that great upheaval (See: Cousin, Histoire de fa philosophie du 18e siecle, p. 28). This still leaves a blot on “French Morality.”

4. Leader Crisis: The strangest thing was the attitude of certain leaders in this authority crisis. Slowly but surely, by far the majority gave way to the pressures of the spirit of the times. Most professors at the University catered to the general criticizing of all values and institutions; it became the “in-thing” to do. Priests would openly propagate doubt. Even King Louis XVI “was excited about the new views of the revolutionaries and implemented them for a long time whenever he could” (Histoire de la Revolution Francaise I, 16). Thus he worked toward his own downfall brought about by these revolutionaries. The end was his death by beheading on January 21, 1793.

He had accepted the crown of a prosperous country, he died as king amid burning ruins.

Revolution is then the overthrow of the existing structure, a cutting of all ties with previous history, the attempt to create a Paradise on the ruins. However, not even all the political murders were able to restore France to the level of its previous prosperity, let alone improve what had been built up during many centuries (E. Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, p. 92). Revolutionists had no qualms of conscience in killing the bourgeoisie. One of them said: “Is this blood then so pure that one should so regret to spill it?” (Georges Lefebvre, The Coming of the French Revolution, p. 119.)


Compare now the ideas developed by Karl Marx, the father of Communism. These can be found in his standard work Das Kapital, first published in 1867.

1. Materialism: Karl Marx was born in a strict orthodox Jewish family. But to him religion spelled the status quo. Heaven has been invented by man as a soother for the pains of this earth. The Bible says: “In the beginning God created man in his image.” Karl Marx says: “In the beginning Man created God in his image.” God is just a product of man’s thoughts, as conditioned by his material circumstances. Heaven is an escape-idea.

Because man’s material circumstances are bad, he needs thoughts of a God who can help him and give him the promise of a wonderful, supernatural world ahead.

2. Floating Morality: Man’s material circumstances also determine his ideas about justice and moral goodness. Good is whatever at the time is the most profitable for the proletariat. How this works out in practice can be seen from the following event during the Russian Revolution:

“At a banquet in Russia in 1934, Voroshilov told Bullitt that in 1919 he persuaded eleven thousand Czarist officers at Kiev to surrender by promising them that, if they surrendered, they, their wives and their families would be permitted to return to their homes. When they surrendered, he executed the eleven thousand officers and all male children, and sent the wives and daughters into the brothels for the use of the Russian army. He mentioned in passing that the treatment they received in the brothels was such that none of them lived for more than three months . . . Thus an inescapable step of their program for the regeneration of mankind is the elimination of the residual diseased social classes” (Dr. F. Schwarz, You Can Trust the Communists, p. 14, 15).

3. Justice: Also justice becomes a doubtful entity. Felix Dzerzhinsky, the chief of Lenin’s Commission for the Suppression of Counter-Revolution coined this slogan: “Better to arrest ten innocent people than let one guilty person go free” (S. Martin, History of Russia, p. 209).

“Any lie that advances Communist conquest is by definition not a lie but the truth” (Schwarz, p. 10).

4. Class Struggle: To Marx, there are only two classes of people or strata of society: the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-oats, the oppressors and the oppressed, those who have the wealth and the “producers” of that wealth. The proletariat (they have only their proles-children) must be taught to feel the gap ever increasingly, then rise and take away by force all good and life from the bourgeoisie; that will be the end of greed, and all remaining people will live happily ever after.

“Social problems can be solved only by forceful overthrow of present societal structures” (Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto, 1847). Elimination of the owners of wealth is necessary, under the slogan: All ownership is crime. Accordingly, Lenin stated that the Soviets, uncontaminated by any representation of the property classes, had a far “higher” democratic form than any Constituent Assembly, which is bound to represent all elements of the population (See J. Carmichael, A Short History of the Russian Revolution, p. 214).

5. Utopia: Karl Marx’s ideas were greatly influenced by some socialist forerunners. Important among these was Charles Fourier (1772–1837) who dreamed his dreams about communal societies. The economic unit for him was the phalange, communal settlements of 400 families each. They produced and ate together. Twelve persons would sit at each table, partaking of twelve different kinds of cheese, twelve different kinds of soup, and twelve different kinds of bread. Each day Fourier would wait between twelve and one o’clock for someone to bring him the money for his project. No one came. Lenin therefore said: Don’t wait for someone to come, rob the bank for the revolution and force your system on the Proletariat, which is not so smart as to willingly organize communes (See P. A. Diepenhorst, Grond-Beginselen der Econamie, p. 56).

Lenin was not at all apologetic about the use of violence. It was an essential dogma to him. “The supersession of the bourgeois state by the proletarian state is impossible without a violent revolution” (V.I. Lenin, The State and Revolution, Moscow, Foreign Languages Publishing House, p. 35). Saying this, Lenin went further than his mentor, Karl Marx, had gone. Marx had allowed the possibility of bloodless revolutions in England and America.


It is not hard to point out how these ideas are still very much alive these days.

Northern Ireland’s Bernadette Devlin said in a television interview in Toronto (February 14, 1971) that she knows of only two classes in society: the working classes and those who control the wealth of a country. About violence she stated that those FLQ [Front du Liberation du Quebec] members who strangled Labor Minister LaPorte in Montreal were driven by frustration. She preferred to do without violence, but if it is necessary, society is at fault for not accepting the revolution willingly (St. Thomas Times-Journal, Monday, Feb. 15, 1971). She wanted to identify readily with such violent groups as the Weathermen or Black Panthers.

A similar thought is expressed by Jerry Rubin (Black Panther) who said in a speech on the campus of Kent State University on April 10, 1970: “Kill your parents and I mean that quite seriously. Our parents are our first oppressors.” Such a statement is not a slip of the tongue, for it is time and again repeated in his revolutionary book (Do It! by Jerry Rubin, Ballantine Books, Inc., New York, N.Y.).

One of the Chicago Seven, Abbie Hoffman, similarly advises the readers of his book to murder their parents, defile their churches, and burn down their schools, whereupon the Hippie millennium will have arrived, full-blown (Revolution for the Hell of It, by Abbie Hoffman, Pocket Books, Inc., New York, N.Y.).


One may expect that revolutionist ideas will be accepted by a certain number of unbelievers. They are liable to fall for the idea that evils of society find their origin in a certain wrong structure of society. Overthrow the structure and you will have licked the problem.

A Christian knows, however, that the origin of evil in society is sin, sin in the heart of man. It was caused by rebellion against authority in the Garden of Eden. He also can be expected to know that further rebellion will not solve, but aggravate the woes of society. Accepting one’s lawful place in society is the Christian’s duty. The Bible is very clear in pointing this out.

Honor your father and mother (Ex. 20:12).

Children, obey your parents (Eph. 6:1; cf. I Tim. 3:4).

Obey your leaders in the church (Heb. 13:17).

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities of the state (Rom. 13:1; Titus 3:1).

Jesus never called for rebellion against the government: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Then he said to them: Render to Caesar the things are Caesar’s (Matt. 22:17–21).

When Paul called the high priest a whitewashed wall, he immediately revoked his statement when learning he was the high priest. For it is written, you shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people (Acts 23:3, 5). Paul had no use for insubordinate men (Titus 1:10). Similarly when a runaway slave came to conversion, Paul would advise him to go back to the service of his master (Philemon 12; Titus 2:9). In other words, he should not join the slave insurrections that plagued the area of Phrygia. Slavery would be abolished in Christianity by evolution, not by revolution. Also, a curse of the last days, a situation where children will rise against parents and have them put to death (Matt. 10:21) is foretold.

It is therefore astounding that against the background of such a biblical climate, also Christians can be influenced by revolutionary thinking. But that it does happen is evident.

The World Council of Churches recently voted money for a Marxist revolutionary movement in South Africa. The Canadian Council of Churches wants money for American draft dodgers. In the Reformed Churches in The Netherlands there are those who advocate a “Christian Marxism.” And the proposed hymnal for the Anglican and United Churches of Canada has the militantly urban Song of High Revolt:

He calls us to revolt and fight
with Him for what is just and right
in crowded sheet and walk-up flat
to sing and live Magnificat.

(Time magazine, Canada edition, Feb. 8, 1971, p. 7)

In a following article we hope to consider this revolutionary influence in our own circles.

Leonard T. Schalkwyk is pastor of the Christian Reformed Church of St. Thomas, Ontario.