Lesson 115- Analysis of the Communist Manifesto
In my last program I had begun to describe how the changes resulting from the Renaissance caused the Feudal System to break down and began to lay the foundation for our modern world. The Renaissance had resulted in the reuniting of the dynamic duo of Art and Science that are related to the right and left hemisphere of the human brain. I say that they are the dynamic duo because when they operate in tandem, the are the pillars upon which all great civilizations rest. Like the Father, who is the Artistic Genius in the Trinity, and the Son, who is the Logical Craftsman, when the two operate in unison, they exude a spirit of “creative enthusiasm” that takes human society out of the circle of existence and places it on the linear road of development towards the “fullest expression of life.”
The new wine of the Renaissance could not be contained in the old wine skins of the Feudal Period and something had to give. Feudal attitudes and practices had to be replaced with new attitudes and practices to accommodate the energy of the new emerging system. And thus at the end of my last program, I was describing how the subsistence, mercantilist economic system of Feudalism had to give way to a new dynamic economic system known as Capitalism.
Before progressing any further in my description of these events, I want to remind my listeners that the Church is neither Capitalistic nor Communistic. It sets itself above both systems by accepting whatever good they may contain while critiquing their shortcomings. Thus, we would make a big mistake to think as Christians we are totally tied into one system or the other. Therefore, like the world, we may be in either of them, but we will never be part of them because we bring a particular Christians perspective to all human institutions. Thus, we are willing to listen to proponents of either system but we reserve the right to critique both of them from a Christian perspective.
Karl Marx had an interesting theory about social changes that is worth our consideration here. His theory was called “economic determinism” and it basically stated that the economic system of any society determined and shaped all other social institutions in the culture. Thus, if you wanted to change any society, change the economic system and everything else would follow. Let me illustrate.
Suppose that we were part of a fairly large primitive group that was looking for a place to settle down. As we are walking along a beach, we come upon a large grove of fruit-bearing trees and decide that this is where we are going to establish a permanent village. The first thing, according to Marx, is what type of economic activity we will adopt in order to survive. If we decide to become fishermen, it will determine how the rest of the culture will be shaped. First of all, we will take the “means of production” which are the raw materials, workers, tools, and managerial skills to create what is necessary for fishing. Some trees will be cut down and hollowed out as boats. Fibers from the leaves will be woven into nets for fishing. The political leaders will be the best and most prominent fishermen. Children will be educated in the skills of fishing and females will be drawn to marry the best fishermen. Our religion will center around the ocean. Our god will be someone like Neptune or a Shark God and our prayers will be for calm seas or a large catch.
If however, we make a different economic choice by deciding to become farmers, everything else will change to match it. We will nurture the fruit-bearing trees that we found and try to expand them and other crops to other areas. We will use the “means of production” to create farming tools. Our political leaders will be the best and most prominent farmers and our children will be educated in the skills for farming and the females will be drawn to marry the most successful farmers. Our god will be the God of the Harvest and we will pray for rain and sunshine in the degree that are necessary for a plentiful yield.
However, what will happen if we decide to become a warrior society who would attack weaker groups around us and force them to pay tribute in fish and fruit? Then we would take the “means of production” to produce implements of war. The trees will be cut down and made into spears, clubs, shields, battering rams etc… Our political leaders will be the greatest warriors and our children will be educated in the art of war. And the women in our society we be drawn to marry the greatest warriors. Our god would be a god of war who would assure us victory over our enemies.
Do you get the idea? Marx is saying that the most effective way of changing a culture is to change its economy because it, in turn, will change everything else to match it. It certainly seems to have some validity to it. And if it is true, then it helps to explain the changes that took place in Europe following the Renaissance when the merchant class started to rise in power and prestige from the bottom of society to the top. As their power and influence grew, other social institutions had to change to match this change in economic power.
Thus, as I ended my last program, I had just finish explaining how the religious premises of the Catholic Church, which were incompatible with some of the premises of Capitalism, were replaced by a new theology that is sometimes referred to as the Gospel of Wealth. I should amend this statement by emphasizing that the Church opposition to Capitalism was only partial. It certainly disagreed with the amoral aspects of Capitalism that focused exclusively on the profit motive but, it wholeheartedly agreed with the idea of private property that it considered to be based on a Natural Law which stated that a man was entitled to the “fruits of his own labor.” It was a matter of justice and, although the Church thought that we all had a moral obligation to share what we had with those who were less fortunate, it totally opposed any system that through force would redistribute a person’s wealth without his consent. Charity was a virtue that demanded an individual response to another person’s need and, if a government replaced it with a welfare state, it undermined the mechanism that was most essential for the growth of this virtue. That is why, in a previous program, I quoted a man in the Soviet Union who, upon the collapse of Communism, stated that the worst thing that happened when Communism came to Russia was the disappearance of charity.
Thus, according to Marx’s theory of economic determinism, as capitalistic businessmen grew in wealth and power, a new religious perspective had to be created to accommodate them. This, according to some scholars, was the Calvinistic church based on John Calvin’s theory of predestination. Calvin’s followers,who were living a very austere life in the theocracy he had created in Geneva Switzerland, wanted a sign that would indicated that they were among the elect who had been predestined by God at the moment of their conception to go to heaven. In other words, the wanted a “Blessed Assurance” of their salvation. This, of course, finds its theological expression today in the belief that many Protestants have that their salvation is “final” and “irrevocable.” In other words, you can’t lose it. Thus, their favorite question to Catholics and others is “are you saved.” This is confusing to Catholics because we believed that we are saved through “faith and works” and thus the way we live our lives is related to our salvation. In other words, we are being saved from the “doing of our sin” through the graces that God bestows on us through the sacraments and the Church. Thus, Catholics see themselves in the process of being saved and the possibility of losing their salvation if they should ever turn their back on the Lord and stop participating in the process. Thus, the Catholic response ought to be “I am being saved.”
Some Protestants, following the theology of Luther, believe that they are saved by “faith alone” and that how they live their lives has little or nothing to do with their salvation. In other words, they are being saved from the “punishment for their sins”, not from the “doing of their sins.” Carried to its logical conclusion, it would mean that it doesn’t matter how we live our lives since “faith alone” assures our salvation.
An extreme example of this was told to me by my Protestant brother in California. His daughter attended a class reunion for the Christian high school she attended. There she met an old girlfriend who told her that she had been married but her husband divorced her because she was cheating on him. However, they reconciled and were remarried but she cheated on him again. Now, according to her, she was living with a wonderful man that the Lord had sent her.
My niece was shocked by the fact that nowhere did this Bible-believing Christian indicate any sense that her behavior had anything to do with her relationship to the Lord or her salvation. And that is the flaw in this position that even good living Protestants see and thus we hear admonitions like “You got to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.”
However, Calvinist don’t believe that either “faith or works” can save you because they believed in predestination through which God arbitrarily predestines some souls to go to heaven and others to hell. Thus, when they say they are saved, they do not mean by “faith or works.” Rather they mean that they have been predestined and that is why they have “Blessed Assurance” of their salvation. But, of course, it’s an assurance that is very unassuring since predestination “cuts both ways.” You are assured of going to heaven or hell and the one question that would plague you is which one. Thus, they asked John to give them a sign that assured them that they were predestined to go to heaven. The sign that John Calvin gave them was “economic success” and thus was born “economic man: a man who worked from dawn to dusk, and instead of spending his money on frivolous pleasure, he reinvested it into his business or other money-making enterprises because the more he made, the greater was his assurance.
Thus, a new religious concept was created that, unlike the Catholic position that warned about the moral dangers involved in a preoccupation with money, gave its followers a “green light” to pursue money-making enterprises as a religious duty related to their salvation. The result was a left-lobed person who, because he was very time-conscious and structured, worked even when he didn’t need to work. His motto became, “an idle hand is the devil’s work shop.” It is what became known as the “Protestant Work Ethic” and, the Puritans and other Protestants who first settle this country were infected with it and that is why Capitalism flourished here.
Latin countries like Italy and Spain, that are more Catholic in heritage, are known for their “laid-back” attitude and lack of concern with time. A teacher friend, who had migrated from the Soviet Union, spent a few years in Europe, before arriving here. He said that in Italy no Italian would think of working past noon on Friday or returning to work before noon on Monday. And, if he could find a good reason to take Wednesday off, he would. Thus, Capitalism flourished in Protestant countries that were influenced by this Protestant Work Ethic and stagnated in those countries that were not.
However, if God is directing history towards some ultimate goal through the historical movements and decisions of Mankind, then Capitalism has to be seen as a necessary step towards the Omega Point. Like all things it involves both right lobe and left lobe qualities and, if human history is the story of the growth of the left lobe in coordination with the right lobe in human affairs, then it should be useful to indicate what are the right and left lobe qualities that are associated with it.
First, the fact that it is an amoral system based on greed, self interest and profit
seems to be related to our animal nature and the right lobe of the brain
Second, because it is based on competition, that many critics refer to as the
“law of the jungle”, this also seems to be related to the right lobe
Third, because it is unplanned, creative and spontaneous it is like the right
hemisphere of the brain and, like the nature world, it is constantly self-adjusting
itself to changing conditions
Fourth, it, like the creative right hemisphere, emphasizes freedom and resents restrictions of any kind. To it, freedom means “laissez faire” or “no control” Thus, in its pure form, it resents censorship or government interference of any kind
Fifth, despite all these right lobe qualities, the very competitive nature of the system forces its agents to structure their productive methods according to left lobe principles. Thus, Capitalism employs left lobe qualities like the “division of labor”; the structuring of time; the planning and efficiency of production; the use of assembly line methods and the uniformity of parts that allowed them to be interchangeable.
Sixth, the most important thing about Capitalism is that it is a linear system that is always pursuing development and expansion and it has been a major factor in the movement of human history towards international integration. Let me explain.
If you want the best critique on a person, idea, or organization, you should go to its opponents because they see the defect clearer than anyone else. Thus, we are going to turn to the Communist Manifesto to hear what Marx and Engle think about this new economic system, that overthrew Feudalism and laid the foundation for the modern world.
The Manifesto begin by comparing the theory of communism to a “ghost that is haunting Europe” that has frighten all the kings and political leaders into uniting against it because of its threat to overthrow existing systems. According to it, anybody who challenges and tries to reform any alleged problem in the existing system is immediately charged with being a Communist.
History, according to the Manifesto, is a dialectical story of class struggle between the “haves” and “have nots” in which the former are constantly oppressing the latter. In other words, history is the story of “class oppression” in which the “upper classes” or rich are oppressing the “lower classes” or poor. Of course, they aren’t called the “haves” and “have nots” but, no matter whether it is the patricians and plebeians of Ancient Rome, or the lords and serfs of the Feudal Period, or the bourgeoisie and proletariat of modern capitalistic society, the story is the same.
Of course this is Marx’s theory of Dialectical Materialism in which he borrows the Hegelian Dialectic in which ideas are clashing in our journey towards God or Ultimate Truth and replaces the clash of idea with the clash of social classes resulting eventually in a classless society. Thus, the Thesis in his dialectic is always the group in power, and the Antithesis is the group that is being oppressed by them. Eventually this results in a revolution to eliminate “class oppression” by creating a “new class” containing people from both the have and have nots. However, this doesn’t solve the problem, because this new class, which represents the Synthesis in his dialectic, soon breaks up into two new classes of “haves” and “have nots” and the whole story of “class oppression” begin all over again.
The reason that these revolutions fail to solve the problem is because the leaders don’t understand the laws of history and fail to get rid of the root problem which is “private property.” The reason that there are classes at all is because of the idea of “private property” through which one individual is allowed to possess more than another. What is needed is a New World Order in which a state controlled by Communist who understand the laws of history, will seize all private property and declared a “dictatorship of the working class or proletariat” in which all things will be shared in common. Thus, Communism. In this workers utopia, “everyone will work according to his ability and received according to his need.” Thus, a counter girl at MacDonald’s with five children will receive more than a brain surgeon with one child. The laws of inheritance will be abolished because no one should have excess wealth or be allowed to pass it on to their children. Consequently, we will have finally reached that glorious world predicted by the French Revolution in which “Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality” will reign. All titles and ranks will be eliminated and everyone will be addressed either as citizen or comrade and all forms of oppression will be outlawed. Marriage, which was invented by “men” to oppress “women” will be abolished and all ranks in the army will be eliminated. Eventually, the government itself will disappear as our basically good human nature will take over and, since all wealth is equal, there will be no reason to steal, and since sex will be freed from the exclusivity of marriage, there will be no reason for rape, and we will all live happily-ever-after in this Secular Humanistic paradise. Perhaps you can see the connection between this vision and the deification of the word “equality” in our current society. The Manifesto continues.
The stage for the creation of this worker’s paradise was set when Capitalism replaced Feudalism because in order to have a society in which “everyone will work according to his ability and receive according to his need” you first have to have enough goods and services to go around. The subsistence economy of Feudalism was incapable of producing enough to meet the need. However, capitalism, which is the most productive economy the world has ever seen, is capable of producing in such great quantity that it the essential foundation for the creation of Communism. Capitalism will create the wealth that Communism will distribute. In fact, in terms of historical development, Communism is impossible if it is not preceded by Capitalism since the forte of Capitalism is production and that of Communism is distribution.
Capitalism has also set the stage for Communism because, whereas before there were intermediate classes between the “haves” and “have not”, who like the “middle class” were neither, Capitalism will reduce it to just two classes: millions of starving workers and a handful of rich capitalists. At that point, the Communist will rouse the workers into rebellion with the battle cry of “Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!” The capitalists will be overthrown. Their factories and properties confiscated and wealth will be redistributed to everyone according to his or her need.
The Manifesto then goes on to describe how this all came about. It began with the increase in trade following the discovery of America and the establishment of a trade route with the East by traveling around the Cape of Good Hope. At this point, the Feudal method of production, which was based on customized hand-made products, was unable to keep up with the increased demand and was replaced by manufactured or machine made goods.
As the demand for goods increase, local markets were replaced by world markets, small businesses by large businesses, local governments by national or international government. And eventually, Capitalism would create an international, worldwide culture as the businessmen, who were seeking profits as bee seek honey, cross-pollinated cultures as they traveled around the world seeking new customers.
As the businessman grew in wealth and power in the economic sphere , says the Manifesto,he longed to gain power in the political sphere but was block by the Divine Right of Kings theory that limited political power to the heirs of existing kings. Therefore, a new theory of government was needed to replace it. The Social Contract Theory, which said that God gave power to the people who then gave it to a leader by forging a contract with him, replaced the idea that God gave power directly to the king. Thus, documents like the Declaration of Independence spoke of the right of the people to elect and replace their leaders. The modern democratic republics that have replaced the kings of the past, says the Manifesto, are not “governments of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Rather, they are “of the business class, by the business class, and for the business class” as government, like other social institutions, was modified to reflect the interests of the new group of “haves.”
It should be noted here that the ideal form of government to replace the monarch of Europe was a republic. Thus, the government formed by our Founding Fathers was a republic; the French Revolution was a republic; the Soviet Union was a republic. Most people believe that a republican form of government is a democracy but that isn’t true. In a previous program, I quoted James Billington, an eminent historian, who indicated that during the Enlightenment a group of European intellectuals rejected Christianity and became enamored with Plato’s Republic which, as you might remember, involved the common masses being ruled by philosopher kings. Plato thought that the “masses were asses” and like ignorant children had to be ruled by benign parents. He thought that democracy was the worst form of government because it placed the important decisions of the state in the hands of the ignorant and unqualified common people. Recently, an eminent humanist ended his talk on television with the statement, “ Pray for the day when philosophers will rule!” Remember this as we get further into the Secular Humanistic vision for a New World Order.
Therefore allow me to define what a republic is. A republic is a form of government in which representatives of the people have the power to make, judge, and enforce laws that are necessary for social order and justice. How those representatives are designated is another issue. In Plato’s Republic they were filtered out of the total population by an educational process that ended with the survivors studying philosophy and then assuming the responsibility for ruling the people. On the other hand, in a democratic republic the people elect those who are to represent their interests.
Anyone who is familiar with American history and our Constitution knows that our government was not intended originally to be a democratic republic in the sense that we now think of it.
The president was suppose to be elected by a small group of representatives from the states known as the Electoral College. The Supreme Court and federal judges were to be appointed by the president with the approval of the Senate. The Senators were, like ambassadors from other sovereign governments, appointed by the state governments and the House of Representatives was to be elected by property owners within the states. Alexander Hamilton expressed the original idea when he said that the people should be ruled by the “good, the wise, and the wealthy” and it was often interpreted to mean that if you had wealth, you also had the other two qualities. It was only later through the influence of presidents like Andrew Jackson that the involvement of the general population moved us towards a democratic republic.
Thus, there is an element of truth in Marx’s claim that the democratic republics that replaced the monarchs of Europe began as a way for those with economic power to attain political power.
According to the Communist Manifesto, Capitalism replaced the personal relationships found in the Feudal Period with impersonal relationships based solely on money or profit. Whereas in the past, workers and employers lived in the same community, went to the same church, knew the same people, and interacted with each other on a social level, the only thing that connected the worker to his employer or the employer to the worker in a capitalistic system was the economic benefit they derived from each other. If the worker was offered higher wages by a competitor, he felt no personal loyalty to remain with his employer. If the employer found someone who would work for lower wages, he felt no obligation to hold on to an employee who had been with him for years. Competitive sporting events that used to pit the men of one territorial area against another, now employed professional athletes who came from all over and who had no personal loyalty to the territory they represented. When they became “free agents” they offered themselves to the highest bidder. By the same token, the team’s owner would replace any player once he became unproductive. It was nothing personal, just a matter of business.
Thus, in this new capitalistic world, according to the Manifesto, the doctors, lawyers, teachers, ministers, and everyone else were motivated by profit or economic gain rather than by any idea of service to his fellow humans.
Capitalism also caused the towns to be replaced by the cities and primitive cultures to be replaced by modern cultures. The reason is obvious. Capitalism is based on mass production that involves large factories and machines. In pre-Capitalistic days, manufacturing was a cottage industry that took place in small shops or one’s own home. For example, during the Colonial Period, woman in England and the United States often owned spinning wheels on which they spun cloth to earn extra money. Cloth merchants traveled throughout the countryside gathering up their produce to be sold at market. However, when the demand for cloth became so great that this method was unable to keep up with it, the merchant informed his suppliers that if they wanted to continue to work for him, they would have to leave the countryside and move to the cities where he had built a factory that contained machines that increased production by a thousand-fold. The result was that Capitalism caused a mass migration of people from the rural to the urban areas. Marx and Engel, by the way, were approving of this because they thought that rural life was intellectually deadening while the city was intellectually stimulating. The accuracy of their observation is born out by the fact that during the Colonial Period in the U.S. 95% of the people lived in rural areas and 5% in urban areas. Today, those numbers have been reversed. Capitalism has the effect of centralizing populations into crowded urban areas.
It also, according to the Manifesto, transforms any primitive society that comes in contact with it. Whenever a primitive group comes in contact with the goods and services produced by an advanced capitalistic society they will face two choices. First, either they will die out and become extinct. Or they will be forced to become capitalistic themselves. The reason is because once they replace their own artifacts with ones produced by capitalistic methods, they will become dependent on the capitalistic society to resupply them or else learn to use capitalistic methods of production themselves. For example, suppose a primitive group living in the Stone Age comes in contact with someone from our own cultures who offers them a metal axe to replace their stone axe. As soon as they take it, they have sealed the doom for their culture. As metal axes replace stone axes, they become dependent on us to resupply them. The only way they can avoid this is to learn how to make their own metal axes and, before you know it, they are mining ore, building factories, wearing watches, establishing production schedules, and organizing their lives around their economic activities. In other words, they have replaced their cyclical existence with a linear one and are moving more and more towards the left hemisphere of the brain.
I see that I am running out of time and will not be able to finish my analysis of the Communist Manifesto in this program. However before I sign off let me say that there are two parts to every debate: the problem and the solution. Although I find myself often agreeing with the problems identified in the Communist Manifesto, I disagree with its solution. Most of all I disagree with its materialistic philosophy that leads Communists to say, “There is no God to save Mankind; Mankind must save itself. In future programs, I will analyze both Capitalism and Communism, pointing out where we as Christians can agree or disagree with them. Ultimately, it will be a Christian vision of the future that will save the world. Well I see that my time is up.