Commentary

Fides et Ratio

Originally Appeared in : 9724-11/23/17

Just over 100 years ago, an armed insurrection against the Russian Provisional government took place on October 25 (7 November, New Style), 1917, in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg). No one could have predicted the extreme consequences for the whole world of this revolt. By promising bread and peace to a starving and war-torn populace, Lenin’s Russian Revolution gained sufficient support to establish a communist regime, not throughout the world as Karl Marx had predicted, but in one country, Russia, which did not yet meet the criteria that Marx had expected the home of revolution to have reached. It was not yet an industrial society dominated by capitalists, but a largely agricultural society still controlled by a landed aristocracy. 

 

But in other respects, Lenin implemented Marx’s dialectical materialism with extreme ruthlessness, aided by his chief henchman, Joseph Stalin. At the cost of an estimated 100,000,000 lives, they created what they called “workers’ paradise,” which Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn more accurately termed the “Gulag Archipelago”—that vast region of slave labor camps known as the Soviet Union.

 

With the end of World War II (the second part of the 20th Century’s “Thirty Years’ War” (from 1914-1945), the Soviet Empire spread to Eastern Europe and the Communists took over China and other areas of Southeast Asia, adding to the body count of the Marxist experiment. While the Soviet Union collapsed and Eastern Europe threw off its shackles, Southeast Asia remains Communist in its polity, if not in its economy. And in the Western World, where political and economic Communism was resisted, Marxist dogma continues to be espoused on the left, but in a cultural rather than economic form.

 

Karl Marx, taking a cue from Hegel’s dialectical materialism, tried to analyze human history “scientifically,” as if the actions of millions of human beings, both deliberate and random, over time obeyed the laws of physics. As a Jew who had been baptized a Lutheran in Catholic Trier, Marx saw religion as the “opium of the masses” that dulled the pain of their oppression by the unjust structures imposed by the upper classes with promises of “pie in the sky when you die.” And he rejected one of the central truths of the Judeo-Christian tradition: the doctrine that our humanity is flawed, tainted as it is by original sin. This doctrine has been called the one most capable of empirical verification—just look at us! Herr Marx saw humanity—and he preferred humanity in the abstract collective to specific individual human persons—as perfectible, needing only the removal of oppressive structures—“created by whom?” one wonders—to bring about Utopia (a Greek word that literally means “no such place”). 

 

And so Lenin, following Marx, was convinced that removing the Tsar’s regime (and his successor’s) would cause Russia to blossom into a paradise for those who had previously been oppressed. The result was a monstrous system that enslaved hundreds of millions of people and, as we noted above, killed 100 million human beings.

 

According to Marxist dogma, the Revolution was inevitable, as was its spread, but the workers of the Western world did not feel oppressed enough by democratic capitalism to revolt against the systems that had actually improved their material well-being better than any other system, especially Soviet Communism, with the result that in the aftermath of the Second World War, the Western proletariat (working class) was prospering, as class barriers were coming down or being ignored.

 

Western Marxists in Germany (the Frankfort School), began translating Marxism into primarily cultural, rather than economic, terms. They still wanted their glorious revolution and the destruction of what they considered to be unjust structures, but needed to foment greater resentment against them, using other categories. 

 

Hence, Western Marxist, which still dominates much of the “academy,” has pitted races against each other, women against men (and their completely unscientific gender theory against genetics!), and every conceivable “community” against every other (including hearing-impaired against hearing and fat versus thin).

 

The result has been an intellectual chaos that seems doomed to implode just as the Soviet Union did. But there will be casualties. Irrationality must be countered by rationality and atheism with a strong belief in the Creator of all things, including science. The Catholic synthesis of faith and reason (fides et ratio), which considers each individual human creature to possess a God-given dignity that must be respected from conception to natural death, has much to offer the world, if anyone will listen. 

 

Father Douglas K. Clark is pastor of Saint Matthew Church, Statesboro.

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