By James D. Bales
How does Communism express its antagonism to religion? It must be kept in mind that Communists do not believe that they must act in the same way at all times and under all circumstances. As Lenin said: “It is necessary to combine the strictest loyalty to the ideas of communism with the ability to make all necessary practical compromises, to ‘tack,’ to make arrangements, zigzags, retreats and so on…” “…the revolutionary class, in other words in order to fulfill its task, must be able to master all forms or sides of social activity without exception… second, that the revolutionary class must be ready to pass from one to another in the quickest and most unexpected manner.” “…revolutionaries who are unable to combine illegal forms of struggle with every form of legal struggle are very bad revolutionaries. ” (“Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder. New York: International Publishers, 1940, pp. 74,77).
In August 1935 Georgi Dimitroff put it this way: “We are enemies of all cut-and-dried schemes. We want to take into account the concrete situation at each moment, in each place, and not act according to a fixed, stereotyped form anywhere and everywhere; not to forget that in varying circumstances the position of the Communists cannot be identical.” (The United Front, p. 91.)
What, then, are some of the ways in which communism has expressed its opposition to religion ?
Anti-religious propaganda is carried on by communists both before and after they come to power. In 1905 Lenin wrote: “Our propaganda necessarily includes the propagation of atheism” (Socialism and Religion. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1955, p. 10). Some were accepted into the Party while they retained vestiges of their old religious beliefs, but the Party’s educational program was such that it tried to destroy these vestiges of religious faith. Stalin stressed the necessity for anti-religious propaganda and said that there was no room in the Party for any “Communists” who would oppose its program of anti-religious propaganda (Leninism, Vol. 1, p. 387). When the Communist control a country atheistic materialism is taught in the schools, by radio, by newspapers and by other publications.
Physical persecution is also utilized by the Communists in their drive against religion. In Russia after the revolution thousands of clergymen were killed, or imprisoned or exiled to Siberia. In North Korea in some areas 60 to 80 percent of the religious leaders were killed. In Red China public “trials” and executions were used as a means of “educating” the masses. Dr. Thomas Dooley recorded a number of cases of religious persecution of people in North Viet-nam in 1954-55 (Deliver Us From Evil. New York: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, Inc., 1956).
The Communists, however, do not imprison, persecute or kill a person with the public charge that he is a religious leader. Instead, their public accusations contain charges of political disloyalty. Thus they endeavor to deceive people and to deny that they persecute on the grounds that a person is religious.
When the Communists take over a country they harass religious organizations in various ways. Lands, institutions, education and social services are nationalized. The churches are often not allowed to carry on benevolent work. Church activities are restricted to worship services inside the church building. Spies invade religious organizations. Communists infiltrate the clergy. An effort is made to turn the people against religious leaders who will not “cooperate” with the Communists. Ties that the churches may have with religious bodies in other lands, are severed until the Communists have infiltrated the churches to such an extent that they have a group of religious leaders who will do the will of the Communist government.
Communists in countries of the free world try to use religion’s people for the accomplishment of some particular objective which the Communists have in mind. In America, for example, especially between 1928 and 1935, the Communists were able to get religious people to enter into what the Communists called the United Front wherein people consciously worked with the communists for some supposedly common objective. At the present, the Communists are trying to revive the United Front tactic. (Dimitry Monin, “Time to Act in Common,” News: A Soviet Review of World Events. May, 1956, pp. 12-14).
Communists have deceived and used religious people in Communist Front Organizations. These are organizations, which on the surface seem to have no connection with Communists but which have either been established, or in rare cases organizations, which were infiltrated, by hidden Communists or fellow travelers. This was the Trojan-Horse tactic which was launched by Georgi Dimitroff in August 1935. (The United Front. New York: International Publishers, 1938, pp. 52-53). By means of (Communist front organizations the Communists endeavor to realize several objectives: (1) To raise money, (2) Spread some point of Communist propaganda, (3) Form contact with some individuals who later were led into the Party, (4) Provide jobs and experience for some Party members, (5) Create divisions within a country, (6) Create a psychological atmosphere which was unfavorable to the militant anti-communists.
Communists have also endeavored to infiltrate religious organizations within the free world. Stalin seems to have been the one who conceived the idea of invading what the Communists regard as the ideological fortress of their enemies. This was not only done in Russia after the Communists took over, but it has also been done in some countries of the free world. In 1936 Earl Browder, then National Chairman of the Communist Party in America, said: “You may be interested in knowing that we have preachers, preachers active in churches who are members of the Communists Party.” (Communism in the United States. New York: International Publishers, 1935, p. 335). Reinhold Neibuhr, a non-communist theologian, said that there are a few communists in the churches in America (“Communism and the Clergy” The Christian Century, August 19, 1935, pp. 936-937. See also J. Edgar Hoover, “The Communists Are After Our Minds” The American Magazine, October, 1954). What do the Communists hope to accomplish with such infiltration? First, to use the names of religious leaders to give prestige to Communist front organizations. Secondly, to circulate the idea that non-collectivistic systems are immoral. Third, to give their opposition to anti-communists the influence of their religious office.
After the Communists take over a country they infiltrate the religious organizations to the extent that they finally use them as tools of their domestic and foreign policies. This is well illustrated in Red Russia by speeches delivered at a “religious” conference, May 9-12, 1952. These communist speeches attacked the free world. (Conference in Defense of Peace of All Churches and Religious Associations in the U. S. S. R. Moscow: published by the Moscow Patriarchate.)
The Communists believe that the final destruction of religion will come with the change of social systems. All social systems which are not socialistic or communistic, and under the control of the Communists, are viewed as irrational.
Thus religion as an irrational worldview, according to them, is reflected in the minds of the people. Change the social system and you cut the roots of religion. As Marx put it: “The religious world which is but the reflex of the real world can, in any case, only then finally vanish, when the practical relations of everyday life offer to man none but perfectly intelligible and reasonable relations with regard to his fellowman and nature.” (Capital, Vol. I, pp. 91-92).
The Communists claim to have already built socialism in Russia, and that they are now building communism (N. S. Khruschev, Report of the Central Committee, CPSU to the XXth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. New York: New Century Publishers, 1956, p. 97). And yet, they admit that among the young people in Russia who have been brought up on Marxism one finds some who have faith in religion. To explain this, they say that the ideological consciousness of the people lags behind the social and economical development. How can this be if man’s mind but reflects the social system, as Marx maintained? How could their consciousness reflect a social system that has ceased to exist and which these young people never experienced? Can it be because of capitalistic society which they do not see or experience, and about which they hear only the distortions of Communist propaganda? As a matter of fact, man by his very nature has religious aspirations and a change of social system does not bring about a removal of man’s religious aspirations. Men will be searching after God long after the Communist philosophy of life has vanished from the earth.
This brief presentation of the antagonism of Communism to religion and of the various ways in which it expresses this antagonism, can be easily verified by anyone who will take the time to read the literature on the subject which has been published by Communists and to study their history.
Truth Magazine, VI: 3, pp. 6-8