[Marxism] The criticism of religion [was: RE: Vnzla: reasons to be optimistic]

Joaquin Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Wed Aug 22 18:19:29 MDT 2007

Gary writes: "We live in a world so ripe for socialism. That is surely the
dialectical result of globalisaiton and the emergence of new technology. Yet
looking around at the slaughter bench of history that is unfolding in front
of us we seem so very far from a socialist future. Yet I feel an alternative
world is close. I am reminded of the Brecht line about communism - 'The
simple thing; so hard to achieve'.  Whether we achieve it or not is of
course all up to how hard we struggle."

I know it is rude or worse, but let me say that whether we achieve communism
is NOT NOT NOT "all up to how hard we struggle." This is an ILLUSION, an
expression of the mindless voluntarism so prevalent on the pseudo-Leninist
left (and not only).

By any number of measures, it would be impossible to "struggle" as "hard"
for "communism" as is done by the comrades of the American SWP. Yet the
single biggest contribution these comrades could make to the socialist cause
TODAY would be, simply, to CUT IT OUT. 


Go away. 

And the SWP is NOT the only group that could make this contribution. It's
when you ask me for the names of the groups that SHOULDN'T at least have a
real, honest, soul-searing discussion about whether they should exist AT ALL
that I start having a hard time coming up with examples.

I know there are damn few people who would agree with this. "Something is
better than nothing," they say. 

I would urge those comrades to study and reflect on why Marx and Engels took
such care to DESTROY the Communist League and DESTROY the First
International, and why they spent a decade or more doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING
we would recognize as political activism from the early 1850's to the

Just riddle me this: ¿Why did Marx and Engels insist on DISSOLVING the
Communist League when the revolutions of 1848 broke out? (Extra credit: ¿Why
did Marx pour such scorn on LaSalle's organizing efforts in Germany from the
1850's on?)

Contrary to what Gary says, we do NOT NOT NOT "live in a world so ripe for
socialism." Socialism is not brought about simply by technology, the
expansion of the world market, or imperialist domination. What is decisive
is the reaction of social forces to those developments.

Viewed from the standpoint of the imperialist countries, the world of 100
years ago was much RIPER for socialism, qualitatively so, incomparably so.
Mass workers parties, of AT LEAST a socialistic or Marxian bent, existed in
virtually every country where capitalism was significantly implanted. 

OF COURSE, we know now what no-one even suspected then, that the working
class of the West, bathed in imperialist privilege, would FAIL; and not just
fail, but wither away in the political sense of the word "class." 

A catastrophic failure of world-historic proportions -- AND, it should be
noted, one entirely unforeseen by Marx, Engels, Lenin or even Trotsky. 

[For those of us raised in the Trotskyist tradition, think of it this way.
The fundamental theses of the Transitional Programme: "The world political
situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the
leadership of the proletariat" is fundamentally wrong. Instead, "The world
political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by" the failure of
the proletariat of the imperialist West to take power -- or even to maintain
its coherence as a CLASS in the political struggle. This failure is rooted
in material realities, in the social relations of the imperialist epoch, and
not fundamentally in the "mistakes," "betrayals" and so on of Stalinism and
Social Democracy. The victory of such opportunist currents was not the
CAUSE, but the MANIFESTATION of the failure of the imperialist proletariat.
The CAUSE --at least this is my stab as a Marxist analysis-- lies in the
social position of this class in the world imperialist system taken as a
whole. And eschewing any claim to have a "crystal ball," one obvious route
to the elimination of this root cause is the elimination of the relatively
privileged position of imperialist working classes, for example, by the
liberation of most peoples who are today oppressed/exploited by

Most of us on this list --at least of the older generation-- grew up
politically in the framework of waging a political struggle against the
specific, immediate political expressions of countless particular examples
through which that world-historic failure of the imperialist proletariat
manifested itself. 

At least for right now, we need to stop thinking in terms of HOW to combat
opportunist (popular frontist/reformist) and outright, nakedly bourgeois
currents in the working class movement, and, adopting a broad framework of
decades, many decades, try to figure out WHY those currents won, not in THIS
confrontation or on THAT issue or in a given country, but world-wide, in the
main imperialist countries taken as a whole, and for what has clearly been
an entire historical epoch.

This is the truth: the U.S. has TODAY a BOURGEOIS-IMPERIALIST working class,
and I believe that is ALSO quite likely true at least of Britain, France,
Germany and Japan, or put another way, these countries don't have a working
class movement worthy of the name. The bulk of the workers --to the extent
they are political at all-- identify politically with various national
bourgeois forces, and there is not even a genuine social class pole to
present an alternative. 

We may not like the reality; we may fervently wish it would change. But the
first step in CHANGING reality is RECOGNIZING FOR WHAT IT IS. Step two is to
UNDERSTAND it. Rah-rah cheerleading for "our" class accompanied by ringing
declarations of loyalty to its cause and the most deeply felt expressions of
our conviction as to its ultimate victory are THE OPIUM OF THE CADRE. 

Statements such as those Gary made are simply the liturgy of what has become

And this is where Marx STARTED. With the criticism of RELIGION:

"Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real
suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the
oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless
conditions. It is the opium of the people. 

"The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the
demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions
about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that
requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the
criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo."

One of our MOST URGENT tasks is the criticism of the religion that we have
turned Marxism into. The first step is to subject Marxist dogma to the
withering fire of Marxist analysis. 

If we have the nerve.


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