The Church of the Left

Let's say it up front: Marxism is a Christian heresy. I know, I know, "religion is the opium of the people," and all that. But it is precisely because Marxism is a Christian heresy that Marxists are so adamant about how awful Christian orthodoxy is.

If you doubt me, just read The ABC of Communismco-authored in 1919 by Nicolai Ivanovich Bukharin (1888-1938, note date of death) and Yevgeni Preobrazhensky (1886-1937, ditto on date of death). Both Bukharin and Preobrazhensky became Bolsheviks as students, Bukharin in 1906 at the age of 18, Preobrazehnsky a few years earlier, in 1903. They were both actively involved in the revolution of 1917, and from 1918 Bukharin acted as editor of the Party newspaper Pravda.

"Why an ABC?," you ask. Because of course the first thing the Party needed to do was set up schools so as to catechize its members in proper doctrine. And schools need a textbook because faith, sorry, communism begins with knowledge. Why? Because "every party pursues definite aims, whether it be a party of landowners or capitalists...or a party of workers or peasants. Every party must have definite aims, for otherwise it is not a party." In other words, the Party members need to know their creed.

But, of course, simply being a worker or a peasant is not enough. Not everyone who is a peasant or a worker is capable of becoming a member of the Party, only those whose consciousness has been raised to the point that they can see what it means to be a class: "Nowhere and at no time has any party been able to enroll all the members of the class which it represents; never has any class attained the requisite degree of consciousness." You might say, have seen the light. Who, then, belongs to the priesthood, sorry, Party? Only those who have "the knowledge of the program," only those who know the creed. And what is this creed? The one that Marx taught on the basis of his study of the structure of society: "That capitalism is digging its own grave, that the machine will break down, and that the cause of the breakdown will be the inevitable uprising of the workers, who will refashion the whole world to suit themselves."

So we have a catechism (The ABC), a priesthood (the Party), and a creed ("Capitalism is digging its own grave"). Now all we need are Scriptures and prophet. Bukharin and Preobrazehnsky provide reading lists: "Concerning the scientific character of the Marxist program consult the literature of scientific socialism: GOLUBKOFF, Utopian and Scientific Socialism; ENGELS, Development of Socialism from Utopia to Science; MARX and ENGELS, Communist Manifesto." Need you ask who the prophet is?
We have already said that it is wrong to manufacture a program out of our own heads, and that our program should be taken from life. Before the time of Marx, those who represented working-class interests were apt to draw fancy pictures of a future paradise, without troubling to ask themselves whether this paradise could ever be reached, and without seeing the right road for the workers and peasants to follow. Marx taught us another way. He examined the evil, unjust, barbaric social order which still prevails throughout the world, and studied its structure. Precisely after the manner in which we might study a machine, or, let us say, a clock, did Marx study the structure of capitalist society, in which factory owners and landowners rule, while workers and peasants are oppressed. Let us suppose we have noticed that two of the wheels of our clock are badly fitted, and that at each revolution they interfere more and more with one another's movements. Then we can foresee that the clock will break down and stop. What Marx studied was not a clock, but capitalist society; he examined it thoroughly, examined life under the dominion of capital.... 
The Prophet Marx
Marx's chief interaction to all his followers was that they should study life as it actually is. Thus only can a practical program be drawn up. It is self-evident, therefore, why our program begins with a description of the capitalist regime. 
The capitalist regime has now been overthrown in Russia. What Marx prophesied is being fulfilled under our very eyes. The old order is collapsing. The crowns are falling from the heads of kings and emperors. Everywhere the workers are advancing towards revolution, and towards the establishment of soviet rule. In order fully to understand how all this has come about, it is necessary to be thoroughly well acquainted with the nature of the capitalist system. Then we shall realize that its breakdown was inevitable. Once we grasp that there will be no return of the old system and that the victory of the workers is assured, we shall have full strength and confidence as we carry on the struggle on behalf of the new social order of workers.
You can almost see him coming down from the mountain, can't you? His beard flowing, the tablets of the Law written by the finger of God in his hands. Before Moses, sorry, Marx, there was darkness. People dreamed of a paradise, of liberation from the slavery of their capitalist lords, but they could only dream, there was no way of realizing this paradise. "Marx taught us another way." Marx was able to see clearly, gaze upon the face of God, the Clockmaker, and know the workings of Creation. His eyes were not clouded with ignorance, but illuminated by the light of scientific study. So clearly did he see the workings of the Clock that he could prophesy when and how it would break down--and so it has! Marx's prophecies have come true! The old world is falling away, the New Jerusalem is descending from heaven. But only those with eyes to see and ears to hear will understand what has happened, why salvation is at hand.

And what will this New Jerusalem be like? Perfectly planned, like a heavenly cube. All production will be scientifically planned so that it can be known in advance how much labor should be assigned to what industries and what products are required. The division of society into classes will be abolished. There will be no specialization of labor, no permanent managers of factories, and nobody will do the same work throughout his life: "Today I work in an administrative capacity...tomorrow I shall be working in a soap month perhaps in a steam laundry, and the month after in an electric power station." (Bukharin was a journalist, he had never held any such jobs; Preobrazehnsky's father was a priest, who set up the school where Preobrazehnsky learned to read.)

There will be no commodities, only products stored in communal warehouses, so no money will be required, and there will always be enough of everything: "No one will have any interest in taking more than he wants in order to sell the surplus to others, since all these others can satisfy their needs whenever they please." More and more machines will mean more and more products. Everything will be distributed according to need, "for there will be an abundance of everything." There will be no classes and no State, but everything will work like a well-oiled machine (e.g. a printing press, the only machine Bukharin and Preobrazehnsky would have been familiar with at first hand). So smoothly will society work that there will be no need for ministers of state, for police or prisons, for laws and decrees.

Even better, there will be no vice, no "sloth, slackness, criminality, pride," for all these are products of the capitalist system. All of the human energy "which is now absorbed in the class struggle" will be liberated, and wars will come to an end.
In communist society parasitism will likewise disappear. There will be no place for the parasites who do nothing and live at others' cost. That which in capitalist society is squandered by the capitalists in gluttony, drunkenness, and riotous living, will in communist society be devoted to the needs of production. The capitalists, their lackeys, and their hangers-on (priests, prostitutes, and the rest), will disappear, and all the members of society will be occupied in productive labor... 
Human culture will climb to heights never attained before. It will no longer be a class culture, but will become a genuinely human culture. Concurrently with the disappearance of man's tyranny over man, the tyranny of nature over man will likewise vanish. Men and women will for the first time be able to live a life worthy of thinking beings instead of a life worthy of brute beasts. 
You would have to be pretty evil to oppose such a vision, wouldn't you? You would have to want for people to continue to live in misery, like beasts, never fulfilling their human potential. You would have to want for there to be people who lived off the labor of others without ever contributing their own, parasites squandering the hard labor of others on vice. You would have to want for there to be scarcity, not abundance; war and tyranny, not harmony and peace. You would have to want to maintain "the inequality, exploitation, and slavish obedience" of the workers under capitalism. You would have to want for people to suffer.

Who would want such a thing? Christian priests and capitalists, of course, as communists know from the longer version of their creed. Say it with me:
"Death to the World's Imperialism"
Every communist must regard social processes which occur in accordance with definite laws. The laws of social development have been fully established by scientific communism on the basis of the theory of historical materialism which we owe to our great teachers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. This theory explains that social development is not brought about by any kind of supernatural forces. Nay more. The same theory has demonstrated that the very idea of God and of supernatural powers arises at a definite stage in human history, and at another definite stage begins to disappear as a childish notion which finds no confirmation in practical life and in the struggle between man and nature. But it is profitable to the predatory class to maintain the ignorance of the people and to maintain the people's childish belief in miracle...and this is why religious prejudices are so tenacious.
As the apostle Paul put it: "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood" (1 Corinthians 13:11-12). The Party needs schools, Bukharin and Preobrazehnsky insist, because the Church has schools in which they instruct the children of Russia and make them "from their earliest years thralls to religious superstition, thus making it practically impossible to convey to their minds any integral outlook upon the universe." It is the role of the Party schools to take the offensive against this "religious that from the very outset the children's minds shall be rendered immune to all those religious fairy tales which many grown-ups come to regard as truth."

Fairy tales like, we may imagine--although Bukharin and Preobrazehnsky do not specify--the teaching of the prophet Isaiah that there shall come a time when all divisions of society will be overthrown, "the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the falling together, and a little child shall lead them" (Isaiah 11:6).

Fairy tales like the promise that Wisdom makes those who long for her: "I am the mother of fair love and of fear and of knowledge and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth. In me is all hope of life and of virtue. Come over to me, all ye that desire me, and be filled with my fruits, for my spirit is sweet above honey, and my inheritance above honey and the honeycomb. My memory is unto everlasting generations. They that eat me shall yet hunger, and they that drink me shall ye thirst. He that hearkeneth to me shall not be confounded, and they that work by me shall not sin. They that explain me shall have life everlasting" (Ecclesiasticus 24:24-31).

Fairy tales like Jesus told, when he asked his followers: "And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith?" (Matthew 6:28-30).

Fairy tales like the vision that the evangelist John saw, as his eyes were open and he gazed upon the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven like a bride, and heard a voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; and he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:1-4).

Capitalists want to keep you in the dark, Bukharin and Preobrazehnsky tell their fellow catechumens in the Party. But we communists are here to show you the light.
In capitalist society, production, and the exchange of products, are not effected with full consciousness and in accordance with a preconceived plan; they proceed as if there were the outcome of elemental forces. The market controls the producer. No one knows whether commodities are being produced in excess or deficiency. The producer does not fully understand how the great and complicated mechanism of capitalist production works; why crises occur and unemployment suddenly becomes rife; why prices rise at one time and fall at another; and so on. The ordinary worker, knowing nothing of the real causes of the social happenings amid which his life takes place, readily inclines to accept the "will of God" as a universal explanation.
In organized communist society, on the other hand, the realms of production and distribution will no longer contain any mysteries for the worker. Every worker will not merely perform his allotted portion of social work. He will in addition participate in the elaboration of the general plan of production, and will at least have clear ideas upon the matter. Throughout the entire mechanism of social production there will no longer be anything mysterious, incomprehensible, or unexpected, and there will therefore be no further place for mystical explanations or for superstition. Just as the joiner who has made a table knows perfectly well how the table came to exist and that he need not lift his eyes towards heaven in order to find its creator, so in communist society all the workers will clearly understand what they have produced with their collective energies and how they have produced it.
When God made Adam and Eve, he placed them in a garden with all the plants and animals that they would need in order to be fruitful and multiply, and he gave them permission to eat of every tree in the garden, except one, that of the knowledge of good and evil. But the Enemy took the form of a serpent and came to them, and tempted them. "You will not die [if you eat of the tree]," the serpent told the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." And so the woman ate of the tree and gave to her husband, and he ate, too. "Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons" (Genesis 3:1-7)--the first artifacts of humankind.

Marxism is a Christian heresy because it promises in the future all of the things that Christianity promises--paradise, enlightenment, release from suffering, participation in the work of the Creator--while blaming their absence in the present not on universal human sin, but on a particular group of sinners alone: capitalists. It promises a life of abundance, like that which Adam and Eve enjoyed, however briefly, in the Garden of Eden, before they were cursed by their disobedience to spend their lives toiling under the sun. Like Satan, it blames not human nature, but God, sorry, the mysterious forces of the market, for the deprivations that the workers suffer under capitalism. And like that of Satan, its greatest temptation is arguably--if unsurprisingly, given that its greatest exponents like Bukharin and Preobrazehnsky were not laborers, but men of letters--the promise of perfect knowledge, shorn of the mysteries in which God would obscure it. The priests have kept you in darkness, they insist, but we have seen God face to face--and he is us.

If you wonder why the Left defends its doctrines with the fury of ten thousand demons, this is why. They know if they do not, there is nothing to prevent God's children from seeing their hubris and knowing they lie.


N. Bukharin and E. Preobrazhensky, The ABC of Communism: A Popular Explanation of the Program of the Communist Party of Russia, trans. Eden and Cedar Paul (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1966).

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