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Chapter 7: The Religion of Immoralism
Since Stalin’s death it has become necessary to find a new focus for our hostility to the unscrupulous and inhuman behavior of the Communists. I wish it might be focused on the real cause of the trouble: Marxism. Much force of argument is wasted among Western intellectuals through a wish to exempt Marx from responsibility for this return to barbarism. Realpolitik in the evil sense was certainly not born with Marx. But the peculiar thing we are up against, the casting aside of moral standards by people specializing in the quest of ideal human relations, was born with Marx. He is the fountain source of the mores as well as the economics of the Russian Bolsheviks, and is the godfather of the delinquent liberals in all lands.
The notion of Marx as a benign and noble brooder over man’s hopes and sorrows, who would be “horrified” at the tricks and duplicities of present-day Communists, is as false as it is widespread. Marx had a bad character. His best eulogists can hardly think up a virtue to ascribe to him—except, indeed, tenacity and moral courage. If he ever performed a generous act, it is not to be found in the record. He was a totally undisciplined, vain, slovenly, and egotistical spoiled child. He was ready at the drop of a hat with spiteful hate. He could be devious, disloyal, snobbish, antidemocratic, anti-Semitic, anti-Negro. He was by habit a sponge, an intriguer, a tyrannical bigot who would rather wreck his party than see it succeed under another leader. All these traits are clear in the records of his life, and above all in his private correspondence with his alter ego and inexhaustible sugar-daddy, Friedrich Engels. There are bits in this correspondence so revolting to a person of democratic sensibility that they had to be suppressed to keep the myth of the great-hearted Karl Marx, champion of the downtrodden and of human brotherhood, alive at all. To give one example: Ferdinand Lassalle, who was eclipsing Marx as leader of a genuine working class movement in Germany, they discovered to be not only a Jew whom they called “Baron Izzy,” “oi-oi, the great Lassalle,” “the little Jew,” “the little kike,” “Jew Braun,” “Izzy the bounder,” etc., but also “a Jewish nigger.” “It is perfectly obvious,” Marx wrote, “from the shape of his head and the way his hair grows that he is descended from the Negroes who joined Moses on the journey out of Egypt, unless perhaps his mother or his grandmother had relations with a nigger.” Only the Russian Bolsheviks, who went in for the religion of immoralism with a barbaric candor impossible to an urbane European, had the hardihood to publish these letters unexpurgated.
I use the word religion in a precise sense. Although he dismissed God as a hoax and the heavenly paradise as a decoy, Marx was not by nature skeptical or experimental. His habits of thought demanded a belief both in paradise and in a power that would surely lead us to it. He located his paradise on earth, calling it by such beatific names as the “Kingdom of Freedom,” the “Society of the Free and Equal,” the “Classless Society,” etc. Everything would be blissful and harmonious there to a degree surpassing even the dreams of the utopian socialists. Not only would all “causes for contest” disappear, all caste and class divisions, but all divisions between city and country, between brain and manual worker. Men would not even be divided into different professions as they are at this low stage of the climb toward paradise.
“Socialism will abolish both architecture and barrow-pushing as professions,” Engels assured the believers, “and the man who has given half an hour to architecture will also push the cart a little until his work as an architect is again in demand. It would be a pretty sort of socialism which perpetuated the business of barrow-pushing.”
It would seem that only a benign deity could guarantee such a future to mankind, and only by teaching a higher morality could He lead us to it. But Marx hated deity, and regarded high moral aspirations as an obstacle. The power on which he rested his faith in the coming paradise was the harsh, fierce, bloody evolution of a “material,” and yet mysteriously “upward-going,” world. And he convinced himself that, in order to get in step with such a world, we must set aside moral principles and go in for fratricidal war. Although buried under a mountain of economic rationalizations pretending to be science, that mystical and antimoral faith is the one wholly original contribution of Karl Marx to man’s heritage of ideas.
It is common among those who condemn the lowering of moral standards by Marxists to blame their “materialism” for it, but that is a crass mistake. Throughout history, from Democritus to Santayana, men who believed genuinely that the substance of the world is matter have been among the noblest teachers of morality. Marx’s materialism was not genuine. It was the disguise of a mystical faith. The world he called “material” was mental enough to be forever ascending “from the lower to the higher” with a determinism that is hardly distinguishable from determination. Engels, who did the work and took the risk of actually expounding this naive philosophy—for Marx played it safe as well as lazy by only jotting down a few notes—even tells us that “the celestial bodies like the formation of the organisms . . . arise and perish and the courses that they run . . . take on eternally more magnificent dimensions.” Remembering that on this particular planet human society is also rising through successive stages to the “more magnificent” goal of the socialist society, you see what a godlike kind of “matter” it was that Marx believed in. It differed from Hegel’s Divine Spirit only in agreeing with Marx about what is sublime, and in mapping out a course of procedure toward it that gave free exercise to Marx’s rebellious and contumaceous disposition. The universe of dialectic materialism—to put it briefly—is a pantheistic God masquerading as matter, and permitting Himself under that disguise forms of conduct that no God honestly named and identified could get away with in a civilized world.
Whittaker Chambers is very profoundly wrong when he says in his book, Witness, that the issue between Soviet Communism and the free world is between religion and irreligion, or between belief in man and belief in God. The Communists believe in man not as an independent power, but as a constituent part of the superhumanly ordained movement of the universe. That dialectic movement is their God, and it is that God who exempts them from the laws of morality. The difference between Christianity and Communism—the difference, I mean, that is vital in this connection—is between a religion which teaches personal salvation through sympathy and loving-kindness and a religion which teaches social salvation through bringing the morals of war into the peacetime relations of men.
Marx was so sure that the world was going to be redeemed by its own dialectic evolution that he would not permit his disciples to invoke the guidance of moral ideals. He really meant it when he said the workers have “no ideal to realize,” they have only to participate in the contemporary struggle. He expelled people from his Communist party for mentioning programmatically such things as “love,” “justice,” “humanity,” even “morality” itself. “Soulful ravings,” “sloppy sentimentality,” he called such expressions, and purged the astonished authors as though they had committed the most dastardly crimes.
Later in life, when Marx founded the First International, he felt compelled for the sake of a big membership to soft-pedal his highbrow insight into the purposes of the universe. He wrote privately to Engels: “I was obliged to insert in the preamble two phrases about ‘duty and right,’ ditto ‘truth, morality, and justice.’” But these lamentable phrases—he assured his friend—“are placed in such a way that they can do no harm.”
This mystic faith in evolution set Marx’s mind free, and, alas, his natural disposition, to replace the honest campaign of public persuasion by which other gospels have been propagated, with schemes for deceiving the public and tricking his way into positions of power. It was Marx, not Lenin, who invented the technique of the “front organization,” the device of pretending to be a democrat in order to destroy democracy, the ruthless purging of dissident party members, the employment of false personal slander in this task.
It was Marx and Engels who adopted “scorn and contempt” as the major key in which to attack the opponents of socialism, introducing a literature of vituperation that has few parallels in history. Even the political masterstroke of giving the land to the peasants “initially” in order to take it away from them when the power is secure came from the same source. The introduction of such unprincipled behavior into a movement toward the highest ends of man was entirely the work of Marx and Engels. Lenin added nothing to it but skill, and Stalin nothing but total instinctive indifference to the ends.
So strong a force was set going after his death to sanctify Marx, and benevolize him, so to speak, that these practices were largely forgotten among Western Socialists. His religion of immoralism was smoothed over. But in Lenin’s mind this religion found a perfect home, for Lenin had grown up under the influence of the terrorist wing of the Russian revolutionary movement. Lenin was an ardent admirer of Nechayev, a rabid zealot of the 1870’s who drew up a famous document called “Catechism of a Revolutionist.”
The revolutionist is a doomed man. . . . He has severed every link with the social order and with the entire civilized world. . . . He hates and despises the social morality of his time. . . . Everything which promotes the success of the revolution is moral, everything which hinders it is immoral.
Nechayev was denounced even by his sufficiently violent colleague, the anarchist Bakunin, as a dangerous fanatic, who “when it is necessary to render some service to what he calls ‘the cause’ . . . stops at nothing—deceit, robbery, even murder.” But Lenin startled his early friends by defending this madman and honoring his memory. Thus before he became a Marxist, Lenin had arrived by an emotional road at that rejection of moral standards which Marx deduced from a pretended science of history. The confluence of these two streams of thought is one of the greatest disasters that ever befell mankind.
Lenin was even more credulous and more specific than Marx and Engels in describing the beauties of life in the paradise toward which this dialectic world was traveling. In his socialism every “barrow-pusher” and every kitchen maid was to take part in the function of government. He was also more specific in describing the kinds of vile conduct which must be employed to help it along. “We must be ready to employ trickery, deceit, law-breaking, withholding and concealing truth,” he exclaimed. “We can and must write in a language which sows among the masses hate, revulsion, scorn, and the like, toward those who disagree with us.” Acting upon such principles, Lenin made use of slanderous lies and character-assassinations; he encouraged bank robberies and armed holdups as a means of replenishing the funds for the millennium. His disciples have carried the faith forward, not stopping at any crime, from bodily assassination to state-planned famine and wholesale military massacre. A chief organizer of those bank robberies and holdups was the Georgian Djugashvili, who took the party name of Stalin. The Marx-Leninist belief that such crimes are methods of progress toward a millennium was instilled in this youth from the day of his revolt against Christian theology. He had no other education, touched no other conception of the world. He was once described by Archbishop Curley as “the greatest murderer of men in history,” and the record when it is calmly written may bear this out. But he took no step beyond the logical implications of a devout belief in brutal and dishonorable conduct. He merely followed through on the doctrine invented by Karl Marx, that in order to enter the “Kingdom of Freedom,” we must set aside moral standards. We must place “duty and right . . . truth, morality, and justice,” where “they can do no harm.” Or, in Lenin’s words (spoken to an all-Russian Congress of Youth): “For us morality is subordinated completely to the interests of the class struggle of the proletariat.”
We have not entered, alas, the Kingdom of Freedom, and the Classless Society has failed to appear. Everything under the Communists moves in the opposite direction. But this religion of immoralism flourishes. The notion of an earthly paradise in which men shall dwell together in millennial brotherhood is used to justify crimes and depravities surpassing anything the modern world has seen. And this is true not only in Russia, but wherever the power of the Communist conspiracy extends. In countries beyond the reach of Moscow the taint is carried by Communist parties to their fringe of accomplices, dupes, and fellow travelers; even the once-honest liberals are not immune to it. More and more throughout the world those dedicated to an extreme social ideal, instead of being trained in virtue, are trained to condone crimes against the elementary principles of social conduct. Such a disaster never happened to humanity before. No such religion ever existed. That is why our statesmen have been bewildered and outwitted by it. Even after thirty years of being assiduously swindled by the Kremlin, they find it hard to believe that any human animal can be, on principle and with devout and selfless fervor, a liar, a murderer, and a cheat.
They are now looking for some recrudescence of the old simple decencies in Malenkov and his associates. But they will look in vain. These men have been brought up in the same school. They are fanatics of the same antimoral and antiscientific religion. Only the disproof and dislodgment of Marxism will ever cure the world of its present desperate sickness.