Last century the world saw over 100 million deaths thanks to the communist worldview of Marxism. You would think that such a lesson would be unforgettable. However, the Western world has not only forgotten such a lesson, but according to BBC News, Karl Marx was voted as the greatest thinker of the millennium ahead of Albert Einstein! Because of Marxism’s continued influence, it is imperative for Christians to know about it. We must recognize it, be able to decry its evil, and we must warn our churches about Marxism’s seductive and sinful promises.
The Beginnings of Marxism
Marxism is associated with the man himself, Karl Marx (1818–1883). Marx was born to a nominal Christian family, but he converted to atheism very early. Unsurprisingly, his atheism colored many of his views throughout his life.
Marx studied the philosophy of Georg W. F. Hegel at the University of Berlin. Hegel had quite an impact of Marx. Marx took the Hegelian Dialectic and inverted it, supposing that there should be a focus on the material world rather than dealing with ideas (which was Hegel’s main idea).
“My dialectic method is not only different from the Hegelian, but is its direct opposite.… With me …, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought.… With him it is standing on its head. It must be turned right side up again, if you would discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell.”Karl Marx “Afterword to the Second German Edition,” in Das Kapital (1873)
The Foundational Beliefs of Marxism
Remembering that Marx was an atheist, it should be no surprise that the core tenet of Marxism was that the fundamental problem of humanity is oppression. Marx viewed oppression as being an integral part of the class system, promoting inequality.
Karl Marx despised the capitalist class (the bourgeoisie), because, in the view of the Marx, they oppressed the working class (the proletariat) to benefit themselves. This pessimistic view is due to the fact that Marxism viewed economics as a zero-sum game. In other words, when someone wins, everyone else loses. There is only one pie, and when someone gets a bigger piece, that leaves little leftover for everyone else. This is why socialism is a key component of Marxism.
Marx taught that the logical conclusion of capitalism was rebellion. As the working class grew impatient with their oppression under the hand of the capitalists, they would revolt, and the class system would dissolve as true equity was achieved. Marx hypothesized that the most capitalistic nations would be the first to rebel. Nations like Britain, America, and France were, according to Marx, a brief step from overthrowing the class system via revolution.
Interestingly enough, Marxism never was attractive to the developed Western nations. Rather, Marxism was favored in the least developed parts of the world. Nations like Russia, China, Cambodia, Cuba, East Germany, North Korea, and parts of Latin America embraced the ideas of Marxism with drastic consequences.
The Birth of Neo-Marxism
Obviously even the dullard could see that the Marx was a false prophet. The capitalist nations continued to thrive, and there were no signs of the promised revolution from within. Because Marxism could not explain this, the philosophers went back to the drawing board.
Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937) is largely credited with moving Marxism into Neo-Marxism. Gramsci was imprisoned by Benito Mussolini for 8 years (1926–1934), and while in prison he wrote what became known as The Prison Notebooks. These writings were not published in English until the 1970s, but his teachings were very influential from the 1950s on.
Gramsci believed that the reason there was no class revolution was because Western culture was blocking the uprising. In other words, those who were oppressed were actually blinded to their oppression by cultural dogma. This then, was where traditional Marxism had failed. Marx taught that economics led to culture, but for Gramsci and the new brand of Neo-Marxism, culture was what led to economics.
The solution to the problem then, for the Neo-Marxist, was to break the cultural hegemony of Western Christianity and destroy the culture and Christianity. Then, and only then, could the revolution happen, and happiness be achieved.
“The Long March” of Marxism
Marxism in its Neo-Marxist form shifted from theoretical analysis into activism. The new goal of Marxism was to destroy the Western culture in order to facilitate freedom of the oppressed. Because Christianity and the Western Culture were inherently linked in Marxist thought, that meant Christianity and its entire system or religion and morality must also be destroyed.
“Socialism is precisely the religion that must kill Christianity. [It is a] religion in the sense that it too is a faith … [and] because it has substituted for the consciousness of the transcendental God of the Catholics, trust in man and his best strengths as the sole spiritual reality.”Antonio Gramsci, “Audacia e Fede,” Avanti, 22 (May 1916); reprinted in Sotto la Mole: 1916–1929 (Turin: Einaudi, 1960), 148.
Gramsci and those who embraced similar ideologies set their sights on the long game. In order for their Socialist worldview to succeed, they needed to change the culture and discredit Christianity. In order to do that, the Marxists needed to achieve positions of influence in the culture.
“In the new order, Socialism will triumph by first capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches and the media by transforming the consciousness of society.”Cited in Damien Tudehope, “What’s Left of Western Culture? Just about Everything,” The Spectator, 9 October 2017, https://www.spectator.com.au/2017/10/whats-left-of-western-culture-just-about-everything/
Like Gramsci before him, Rudi Dutschke, a Marxist activist called this strategy “the long march through the institutions.” Marxism could only succeed if it took hold of the schools, the churches, the Media, and became the pervading influence. With the restraining power of Christianity and Western culture diminished, the Marxist revolution could happen and true equity could be achieved.
Marxism may have been defeated on the battlefield, but that only resulted in a shift in tactics. Today Marxism has a choke hold on public education and the media. Unfortunately, Marxism has also found a welcome place not only in liberal Christianity, but also in certain naïve conservative denominations.
We have now reached a place in Western culture where it is not repulsive for well known organizations to identify as Marxist. I would warn the church that if someone knows enough to call themselves a Marxist, a Christian needs to be discerning enough to know to recognize the danger!
Although Marxism is important, it really is only part of the picture for why we are seeing such cultural upheaval in our day. Next time we will talk about Critical Theory—the tool of change for the Marxist worldview.