Lesson 76- Hegel, Marx and Communism
Perhaps the reason why I find so much of Hegels philosophy compatible with my own religious beliefs is because of what the Encyclopedia Britannica has to say about him. The Britannica writes:
Inspired by Christians insights and possessing a fantastic fund of concrete knowledge, Hegel found a place for everything- logical, natural, human, and divine- that repeatedly swung in a dialectical scheme that swung from thesis to antithesis and back again to a higher and richer synthesis. His panoramic system engaged philosophy is the consideration of the problems of history and culture At the same time, it deprived (both history and culture) of their own autonomy, reducing them to a symbolic manifestation of the one process, that of the Absolute Spirits quest for and conquest of its own self.
In plain language it is saying that both history and culture are part of a dialectical process in which the Absolute Spirit, which for a Christian is the Holy Spirit of Truth, is leading everything toward the fulfillment of its plan. In other words, the Hegelian Dialectic is the process that describes how the Judeo/Christian Linear Utopian Concept of History is leading Humankind towards the coming of Gods Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
If this is so, then why are some well-intended and sincere Christian writers critical of his theories? Since I havent read everything that he wrote, nor am I an expert on all the aspects of his theories, I have to assume that there are things which he wrote which are not compatible with Christianity, or that other thinkers do not see the connections that I do, or that there are others who have been influenced by Hegels theories who have used them in an anti-Christian way. Let me now address this last point.
Karl Marx, the developer of the theory of Communism, was greatly influenced by Hegels theories. Hegel was born in 1770 and died in 1831. Marx was born in 1808 and died in 1883. Thus Marx was only twenty-three when Hegel died. So far as I know, they never met or communicated with each other. However, while attending the University of Berlin in 1836, five years after Hegel death, he was greatly influenced by Hegels writings. In fact, he belonged to the Young Hegelian Club which was devoted to reading and discussion his works. Like any good Hegelian, Marx agreed and disagreed with Hegels theory of history. Hegels theory, known as Dialectical Idealism, had said that history was moving from mental darkness or ignorance towards the Ultimate Truth or God through a dialectical process of Thesis-Antithesis, resulting in a higher Synthesis. Thus, it was the clash between ideas that moved history and it was being led by the Divine Spirit of Truth towards the Ultimate Truth or God.
Marx, although he agreed that history was being led towards some ultimate end through a dialectical process, disagreed with Hegel on a number of points.
First, since he was a secular humanist and atheist, he didnt believe in any Divine Spirit, nor did he believe that it was Ultimate Truth or God who was at the end of the rainbow. For him it was the Spirit of Mankind that was the driving force behind this historical process and its goal was a utopian society that would resolve all the problems and conflicts in human society. Like other secular humanist, his motto was, There is no God to save Mankind; Mankind must save itself.
In fact, Marx was a materialist who didnt believe in anything that couldnt be seen, smelled, felt, or weighed. Therefore he called his theory Dialectical Materialism and, according to it, history was the story of class struggle in which a group, generically called the haves, have continually oppressed and taken advantage of another group, generically known as the have nots. Thus, the Thesis in Marxs dialectical theory is always the haves. At different times in history they have gone by different names like the patricians or lords or brahmans etc but, despite the differences in names, they have always been the group that had the money, powers, and position to oppress those under them. The Antithesis in his theory is always the have nots who, like the haves, have gone by different names like plebeians, serfs, and untouchables. But despite their different names they have always been the group that lacked money, power, and position.
As time passes, a conflict or struggle takes place between the two classes as the have nots begin to protest their position and demand better treatment and a greater share of the wealth. The haves, not wanting to give up any of their privileges, resist any attempt to change the existing system. Thus, we have the classic battle between liberal and conservative forces with the have nots who are the Antithesis representing the liberals who want to change society and the haves who are the Thesis representing the conservative forces. As the conflict heats up, a revolution takes place and some of the haves join the have nots while some of the have nots join with the haves. For example, during the Civil War there were slaves who supported the South and there were Southerners who supported the North.
The conflict is finally resolved when the revolution results in a Synthesis when a New Class composed of both haves and have nots is created. However, the problem of class conflict in not solved because this New Class composed of the revolutionaries starts out with everyone being equal but soon breaks up into two new classes of haves and have nots and the problem begins all over again.
Time after time a new revolution promises to end the problem of class oppression but the revolutionaries always end up by dividing into a new group of haves and have nots.
The reason that all of these revolutions fail, according to Marx, is because the revolutionaries dont know the laws that govern history. If they did, they would know that class oppression will never end until you get rid of the cause of class: private property. Thus, history will never reach its final goal and class oppression will never end until a final revolution is led by Communists who, knowing the basic cause for class oppression, will create a classless society by eliminating all private property.
In this final revolution, the working class or proletariat, led by the Communist, will seize control of the factories, natural resources, and all the means of production and create a dictatorship of the proletariat in which every person will work according to his ability and receive according to his needs. Thus, a brain surgeon with one child, who is working according to his ability, will receive less than a street cleaner with five children, who also is working according to his ability. In this workers paradise, according to Marx, everyone will be equal and will belong to one, big happy community. Thus, the name for this movement is Communism because it will replace the nasty world of self-interest and competition which emphasized the individual with the nicer world of mutual-interest and cooperation which emphasized the community.
It might surprise many of you, as it did me, to learn that the Evil Empire of Communism was based on such lofty and almost Christian ideals. And that is why so many liberal minded Christians find it difficult to separate the aims and objective of Christianity from those of Secular Humanism from which Communism springs. The problem, as I have mentioned in previous programs, is that both systems often agree on ends but disagree on means. And, of course, lofty theories, like Communism, have a way of becoming distorted when they move from the drawing board to reality.
To understand Marx and Communism, one has to understand his Jewish roots and the historical events that led up to the conditions that existed in Europe during the late 1700s and 1800s.
Like many Jewish intellectuals who became secular humanist, Marx no longer believed in the Jewish God but he continued to believe in the Jewish Linear Utopian Concept of History. Judaism had always contained a call for social justice because Yahweh, unlike the Babylonian, Greek, and Roman gods, was a moral God who demanded, through his prophets, that human beings act in a moral way towards each other. Listen to the words of Isaiah 58: verses 7-10:
Thus says the Lord: Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them and do not turn your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wounds shall be quickly healed. Your vindication shall go before you and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help and the Lord will say Here I am!
If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; if you now bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted, then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom for you will become like midday
Can you imagine Zeus or Thor saying this?
Does any of this sound familiar? It should because it closely parallels the Eight Beatitudes of Jesus. In fact Jesus said the whole law was contained in one statement: love God with your whole heart and your neighbor as yourself.
Its another one of those dialectical statements that becomes distorted if it loses its balance by moving to one extreme or the other. Some people love God so much that they forget about their neighbors. Thus, one of the charges that secular humanist make against some Christians is they are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good. Other people, both Christian and non-Christian, love their neighbors so much that they forget about God. For example, some Christians become so involved in the needs of their neighbors that they start to substitute social work for Christianity, and like secular humanist who are involved in humanitarian endeavors, they never mention Jesus or God. The midpoint was best expressed by a quote that I believe was attributed to St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. He said, Work like everything depended on you and pray like everything depended on God. Mother Theresa of Calcutta was a perfect example of this balance.
Anyway, social justice was always a major theme in Judaism and, thus the Jewish prophets became great social revolutionaries who demanded that the rich should stop oppressing the poor and that the strong should protect the weak. Therefore, even when Jewish thinker no longer believed in God, the Torah, or the Kingdom of God that was suppose to arrive with the coming of the Messiah, they continued to believe in a New World Order in which justice and peace would kiss, the lion would lay down with the lamb, and men would take their weapons of war and transform them into tools for farming.
If Hegel is correct when he says that God uses geniuses and revolutionaries to move history towards its final goal, the Jews have produced more than their fair share of both. This has been both their blessing and their curse because, while they have contributed greatly to the advancement of civilization in science, medicine, technology and learning, they have also been gadflies who seem to be always leading the charge towards some type of social reform. Many of them are natural liberals who just cant leave things alone and, as a result, they are resented by conservative forces who are trying to preserve the status quo. Consider the hostility generated by the ACLU that contains many talented Jewish lawyers who are constantly challenging, for better or worse, the traditions of our country. Thus, when things fail and the backlash comes Jewish liberals, either rightly or wrongly, become a perfect target for those who are looking for a scapegoat.
Thus Marx was being true to his Jewish roots when he, and his partner Engels, announced at the end of his Communist Manifesto, Workingmen of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains and you have the world to win.
Marx, aside from being a product of his Jewish roots, was also a product of his times. The spirit of change and revolution was in the air and everywhere people were rethinking and questioning the old ways and trying to create new ways. And although the immediate causes could be found in the conditions that existed at that time, the distant causes reached hundred of years back into European history. Let me review with you some of these causes.
In previous programs, I had given a general outline of European history by breaking it up into 500 year segments. The first segment was the Roman Empire which lasted roughly for 500 years from the year 1 A.D. to 500 A.D. when the empire was over-run by Germanic barbarians. After the Roman government collapsed, the only institution standing that was able to unite the fragmented remains of the empire was the Roman Catholic Church.
The next 500 years, from 500 A.D. to 1000 A.D., is referred to as the Age of Faith by the friends of the Church and the Dark Ages by those who are not. During this time, the Church worked feverishly to convert both the Germanic tribes and the Nordic or Viking tribes who began a second barbaric invasion beginning around 700 A.D. A third threat developed when in the early 600s a new religion, Islam founded by the prophet Muhammed, developed on the Arabian Peninsula. For hundreds of years, Europeans had to fight off constant attempts by Islamic armies to invade Europe.
Obviously, the emphasis during this period was on survival and there was not much opportunity for learning and scholarship. However, whatever remained of both was the result of the efforts of the Church. It was her monks that copied and recopied whatever manuscripts remained from the ancient past. And it was the Church that created the colleges and universities of Europe. Nevertheless, it was a period best symbolized by a circle indicating an emphasis on existence rather than on development.
In the next 500 years, between 1000 and 1500 A.D., Europe broke out of its circular existence and went linear when a group of holy wars called the Crusades resulted in European armies invading the Holy Lands in an attempt to force the Muslims to allow Christian pilgrims free access to the holy places located there. These war continued for over two hundred years. However, their major impact was on European culture which was radically changed by the new products and ideas that came flooding into Europe. Silks and spices from Asia peaked European interest in trading with the East and it had a few effects.
First, it sparked an Age of Exploration that resulted in the discovery of America as European explorers went searching for additional routes to the East. Second, it caused the merchant, who was at the bottom of European society, to rise to the top as he became wealthy and powerful from the profits that resulted from the growing trade. Ironically, during the Dark Ages it was the Jewish population who had occupied this position since any good Christian, believing that money and the making of it was the root of all evil, would not jeopardize his eternal salvation, by becoming involved in such a worldly pursuit. Since the Jews were already on the path to damnation because of their rejection of Christ, it was only common-sense that they should dirty their hands in this occupation. Thus, the lowly and despised Jews were destined to become the merchants, money changers, and bankers of Europe. God certainly must have an ironic sense of humor.
However this was both to their detriment and benefit. First, to their detriment, it reinforced the stereotype of the Jews as dishonest, money-hungry people who would sell their souls for a dollar. Thus, in Shakespeares play, The Merchant of Venice, Shylock, the Merchant of Venice, is a Jewish money lender who demands a pound of flesh from his debtor when he is unable to repay the debt and in Oliver Swift by Charles Dickens, Fagan, a Jew, is a low-life criminal who employs deserted children to pickpockets and to steal for him. Second, it benefited them, by giving them the resources to become the power behind many thrones. For example, the five Rothchild brothers became the major bankers of Europe and many kings were beholden to them for the money to finance their wars and luxuries. Therefore, it gave the Jewish community and Jewish interests a lot more power then their numbers would warrant. However, it also added fuel to the charges that Jewish conspirators were responsible for everything that happened. Hitler was to use this theme to his own advantage when he charged Jewish leaders with the defeat of Germany in World War I and all the economic, political, and social ills that followed.
By becoming powerful, the Jews had committed the cardinal sin of any minority group: they had become more successful than many of those who belonged to the majority and they did this in their own backyard.
Thus, throughout European history, anti-Semetism became a reoccurring theme that raised its ugly head in the pograms, which were officially sponsored Jew-bashing exercises in Russia, and the ghettos of Warsaw and other places.
Therefore, it should not surprise Christians that there was an underlying resentment against Christians nurtured by many in the Jewish community. Aside from the natural opposition that exists between people who hold different theology, there was the very real resentment that came from the way they had been treated by the Christian community. Therefore, it should also not surprise us that many of them would be attracted to any movement designed to overthrow or lessen the power and influence of Christianity.
Another result of the Crusades was that it brought Western Europeans into contact with a superior Arab culture that resulted in the influx of the writings of ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, which caused a cultural upheaval.
As I have mentioned before, when this happens there are three natural responses: the conservative response which, as the defender of the existing Thesis, resists by covering its eyes and blocking its ears to anything new; the liberal response which, as the perpetrators of the new Antithesis, challenges everything in the old order; and the moderate response which, as the agents of progress and reform, become the Synthesis which attempts to integrate what is good in the new with what was good in the old.
These new ideas that flooded Europe led to a Renaissance, which was rebirth of the Arts and Science. Moderates, like St. Thomas Aquinas, welcomed the stimulating effect of these new ideas and set about integrating those that were compatible with Christianity into the Churchs pool of wisdom.
However, liberals within and without the Church became intoxicated with the ancient writing of the Greek and Roman philosophers and entered paths that led away from the Christian Gospel. Thus, within the Church, we have a flowering of Art under the Medici popes who, although they were great patrons of the Arts, were often an embarrassment to the Church. During this time, corruption and greed within the papacy and the Church in general rose to an intolerable height. Reformers began to pop up everywhere and were often struck down by Church leaders as heretics or extremists. Those that werent often became founder of new religious orders and were later canonized as saints.
This movement during the Renaissance is often referred to as humanism because it started to emphasize human happiness and the improvement of the human condition on this earth. There were Christian humanists like St. Thomas More who wrote a book entitled Utopia which tried to describe an earthly paradise. However, there were also secular humanist who were either disgusted with the abuses of religion or who preferred the pagan perspective of the past to the Christian perspective of the present. Some of these were atheistic Jewish thinkers who saw a utopian secular state as an alternative to Christian society. Eventually, they would join with the forces of the French Revolution of 1789 in an attempt to overthrow Christianity and, when that failed, they, like Karl Marx, would seek to create a New World Order based on a secular state under the banner of communism or socialism.
The Renaissance also had another effect. Whereas before the emphasis had been on the group or community, there now arose the idea of the individual. During the Dark Ages when the emphasis was on group identity, the Church had converted most of the barbaric people by first converting the leader and everyone else followed. Needless to say, this did not always result in sincere conversions and later on it would lead to behavior that scandalized the Church as half-baked Christian continued to behave according to their pagan past.
Anyway, this emphasis on individual identity and conscience was to combine with disgust over the growing corruption among Church leaders to create a reform movement that became the largest and most permanent fracture in the Christian community: the Protestant Reformation of 1517. .
With the rising level of education and the invention of the printing press, books, especially the Bible, became more available to the average person. Thus, when a Catholic Augustinian monk named Martin Luther spoke out against the sale of indulgences he found a lot of sympathetic ears who were ready to follow their own consciences even if it meant a break with their group identity.
What started out as a reform movement soon became an all-out revolt as Luther, in tune with the spirit of individualism, proclaimed that each individual was free to interpret the Bible according to his own insight. Although, his main intention was to undermine the authority of the Magisterium of the Church as the final interpreter of Church doctrine, he opened up a Pandoras Box because no sooner had he broken with the Church then his fellow-sympathizers broke with him over doctrinal disputes based on their interpretation of the Bible.
The unity that Christ had prayer for completely disappeared as Christianity broke into multiple warring camps as each group proclaimed that it, and it alone, had the proper interpretation of Sacred Scripture.
Leaders in various countries, following the old rule, tried to force their citizens to accept their view on the issue and, as a result, persecution broke out against any dissident who refused to follow. Catholics leaders persecuted Protestants; Protestants leaders persecuted Catholics; One Protestant group persecuted another one until Europe was ablazed with Christian groups who were acting like anything but Christians. Many of the persecuted groups fled Europe and came to the New World of America where they set up their own communities and immediately began persecuting anyone who disagreed with them.
Finally the last segment of 500 years, from roughly 1500 to 2000 A.D., began with the Age of Reason, evolved to another period known as the Enlightenment and ended with the Computer Age. During this time, we have seen the impact of human reason on the human condition. Of course we could give this period many other subtitles. Politically it was the Age of the Rise of Democratic Republics; economically, it was the Age of Capitalism; geo-politically it was the Age of European Imperialism; commercially it was the Age of the Industrial Revolution; historically it was the Age of Internationalism; culturally it was the Age of Cultural Relativism; and philosophically and religiously it was the Age of the Growth of Secular Humanism. And it is this last age that most concerns us here.
The ultimate effect of these religious wars was to convince many secular humanists that they were right when they saw religion as part of the problem rather than of the solution. Therefore, they set out to create a New World Order to overthrow the Judeo-Christian civilization of Europe and to replace it with a secular-humanist society in which Christianity would become a fossil of the past that had no relevance to the present. Anyone who is paying attention to the European Union which is attempting to unite all the countries of Europe under one flag would have to agree that they have been very successful in their efforts. When they wrote their new constitution, they purposely left out any reference to the Christian past from which Europe sprung. Also, anyone paying attention to what is now happening in this country can see that we are going to be the next one to fall unless some drastic changes takes place. As Dom Latteri keeps saying, Wake up America!
Anyway, as the revolutionary spirit spread throughout Europe, the Church whose leaders often had become identified with the ruling nobility, became a prime target for the revolutionaries. Under the Medicis, who were humanists themselves, clerical position were sold to the highest bidders and the Church had become an attraction for the ambitious and the greedy. The priesthood often had become the road to an education, luxury and financial security and it allowed the educated few to dominate the uneducated many below them.
My father-in-law was second generation Polish who grew up in the coal mining areas of upstate Pennsylvania. His father was a Church organist and thus my father-in-law got to see the inner workings of the rectory. He was so turned off by the lifestyle and dominating ways of the Polish priests that he refused to go to Church for the rest of his adult life.
Anyway, the French Revolution of 1789 became the climax of the growing war between the secular humanist forces and the Church. Unlike the American Revolution, which only set out to remove the king, the French Revolution set out to overthrow the monarch and the Christian religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular. Church property was confiscated or destroyed; nuns and priests were murdered; sacred places were defiled; days and months of the year were renamed to reflect the pagan past; and Human Reason was made into a statue and was worshipped as a god. This was simply an artistic expression of the basic premise of Secular Humanism: There is no God to save Mankind; Mankind must save itself.
However, the revolution that was suppose to create a New World Order based on Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality turned into a Reign of Terror based on Dictatorship, Fratricide, and Inequality and it took Napoleon Bonaparte to restore order to France.
However, the Secular Humanist were not discouraged because they were in this for the long haul and they believed that there would be future revolutions that would accomplished what the French Revolution had failed to do. The revolution went underground for a while but it continue to live in organizations like the Illuminati, a Bavarian group, which believed that we should have a New World Order based on something like Platos Republic where the enlightened few, like Platos philosopher kings, would assume responsibility for the happiness of the ignorant many. Recently, I heard a leading secular humanist say on TV, Pray for the day when philosophers will rule. In a future program, I will quote some of these philosophers and, after your hear them I am sure you will say, as a Garth Brook song says, Thank God For Unanswered Prayers.
According to Professor James Billington, a famous historian, the Illuminate chose the Masonic lodges as an instrument for recruiting powerful people to their cause. The Mason, as a secret organization that uses secret ceremonies as an instrument for choosing those who rise in their ranks, provided a method for distinguishing between those who were in agreement with the aims and objectives of the Illuminate and those who were not.
Although the Masons in the U.S. seem to be less sinister and politically oriented than their counterpart in Europe, the Church is still reluctant to lift its ban on Catholics belonging to the organization.
Recently, on the Internet I read an article that claimed that most of the leaders of the European Union belong to the Masons and that they have successfully used their influence to block any Christian influence on the organization.
Well, I am not totally finished with my historical review of the roots of secular humanism and Karl Marxs theory of Communism but I see that my time is up. Therefore, I will have to wait until next week to put on the finishing touches to this discussion. Heres Dom!