[Marxism] The Jesus Factor

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Fri Apr 30 10:06:21 MDT 2004

When Trotsky was alive Zionism hadn't yet succeeded in
stealing a homeland from the Palestinians, nor had the
Apartheid regime been imposed in South Africa, so we
can't blame the old man, otherwise quite prescient in
many ways, for not seeing all of the twists and turns
which capitalism might develop later on. However, we
do know Marxists who have creatively responded to the
phenomena we're seeing, and, yes, they are in Cuba.

Today, the Cubans have dumped the simple-minded forms
of atheism which most leftists, trained in fighting
against the role of the church in Czarist Russia were
taught. Looking at the role of Catholic combatants
from Jose Antonio Echevarria, to Camilo Torres and in
today's world to Ernesto Cardenal and others, Cuba in
recent years has come to realize that there's no point
in arguing over things which cannot be verified in our
real life. Check out this article on theology which is
posted at CUBA SOCIALISTA, for example, the political
and theoretical magazine edited by the Central Committee
of the Cuban Communist Party. The author, Sergio Arce,
is a member of the Cuban National Assembly, but not a
member of the Cuban Communist party. He was denied a
visa to visit the US recently, though he's been to the
United States previouisly. By the way, you'll even find
section on theology on the CUBA SOCIALISTA home page

Integrity and Freedom: Paradigms 
and Tasks of Cuban Theology Today [EXCERPTS]

The Search for an Appropriate Biblical Paradigm

Our theology is not only consciously contextual; it is also
biblical. From this the necessity emerged to search for a
specific biblical paradigm which could serve as a spiritual
foundation for our theological pursuit in the face of the
lack of precedents which were revealing themselves in the
character of our revolutionary context. In this sense, we
were drawn by the moment in the history of the Hebrew
people when, due to the historical demands which are the
demands of God, they were obliged to open themselves to the
world around them, a world organized on an ideological
basis and on the basis of social, political and economic
structures which were totally different to their own. As of
the moment of their constitution as a Federation of Tribes
based on the equality of rights and duties they renounced
an oppressor ideology with its unjust structures and now,
paradoxically, it was proposed to them that they accept
parameters they had rejected as the only solution to their

Towards the end of the 10th century B.C. the series of
changes in the political, economic, social order gradually
produced a change in the original structure of the
Federation of Tribes of Israel or Jehovah - which were
egalitarian, participatory and popular - to structures
which were increasingly differential, unipersonal and
bureaucratic, later on giving rise to a corrupt and
unscrupulous government in which the contradictions reached
a breaking point. A large part of the theological
literature from that age, basically learned, reflects the
preoccupation and the prophetic rejection of the ulterior
development of that historical phenomenon which reached a
point of undermining all the prudent pragmatism of the
initial protagonists of those structural changes, initially
inspired by the idea of not losing the independence and the
sovereignty of the nation.


Can you imagine reading anything remotely like this in
the theoretical magazine of a Trotskyist or other dogmatic
leftist of the types we're all-too familiar with? There's
much, much more on this in Arce's full article.

Many of the traditional leftist types are frightened by
Cuba's much more friendly attitude toward some churches.
This January, Fidel opened the new Greek Orthodox cathedral
with immense pomp and circumstance. The thing went on for
a full week, filling all the papers and the media for what
some people had taken to calling the GREEN POPE because he
spoke out politically very strongly against the blockade
and in favor of Cuba. He was much better than the Roman
Pope, of whom the Cuban media also speaks favorably now.

Read about the Greek Orthodox Church opening here:
And what with all the tourists who are coming to Cuba,
people need a place to pray in their own religious faith.
Shouldn't Cuba help facilitate that? It certain provides
a reason for people to go to Cuba on a religious license
if they're from the United States, for example. 

Not that they're buying into religion, which they're not,
and Cuba's government is secular, but it doesn't engage
in the kind of frivolous anti-religiosity which of which
people on the left are so fond. 

Atheism is a philosophical stance, but to some people, 
it's a religion. When I was in the SWP(USA), for example, 
there was a very talented young comrade named Norman Oliver. 
He left the party for some reason I don't now recall. 
When he tried to return (saying he fully agreed with the
SWP's political program) they wouldn't allow him back in 
after he'd changed his name to Muhammad Oliver and become 
a Muslim (not an NOI, but a Muslim.) I don't have the old 
bulletins about this and wish I did. For the SWP, atheism 
is a sort of ersatz religion. Here's an old note by Louis 
on Norman Oliver and Derrick Morrison, two Black SWPers:

It occurred to me while watching this show that there is a
phenomenon at work here that has never been fully explored
by Marxism. While Trotsky wrote many useful and insightful
analyses of fascism, there has not been nearly as much
attention devoted to the particular character of late
capitalist devolution which takes a different form. 
You get a toxic mixture of Judeo-Christianity and rightwing
politics that continues to embrace parliamentary forms with
repression around the edges. In semicolonial contexts, the
repression is escalated--particularly with respect to
rebellious indigenous populations. I am thinking of the
Bush presidency in the first instance and apartheid South
Africa and Israel in the second.

Of course, just like in the 1930s the only way to fight
this rightwing movement is through resolute and radical
direct action, not dithering at the ballot box.

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