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The Influence of Marxism in the United States Today
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S. J.
As the title of our conference indicates, we plan to cover two areas of an immense subject: first, to see something of what is Marxism, and then reflect on its influence in the United States.
On a personal note, I should say that I began reading Karl Marx at the age of fourteen. I have taught graduate courses in Marxism; and have given lectures in Moscow on two lengthy occasions. Most personally, members of my own family have died under Communism in the profession of their Catholic faith.
What is Marxism?
In order to do justice in answering this question, suppose we identify what I consider the fifteen principal marks of Marxism, You might compare them to the four marks of the Church founded by Christ. Marxism is a godless religion in which its leaders believe, shall I say, with a faith comparable to that of believing Christians.
The best single source to understand Marxism is the Communist Manifesto. The best single analysis of Marxism is the encyclical on Atheistic Communism by Pope Pius XI in which he identifies Marxism as a "Utopian Messianism,"
1. Messianic Ideal. According to Karl Marx, mankind should look forward to the attainment of a Messianic society in this world, which is the highest ideal toward which the human race can tend. The attainment of such a society presumes man's perfectibility, and is based on the belief that the human desire for happiness will be fulfilled on earth in some future period of history.
2. Equality and Fraternity. This idyllic society will be distinguished by the practice of perfect equality and fraternity among its members. It will be the last stage in a series of five stages of human development, reflecting the original state of man in a tribal and communitarian society, namely slavery, feudalism, capitalism, socialism and communism. In the first three of these stages, men exploit one another; in the fourth (socialism) they are passing through an interval of adjustment; and in the fifth (communism) the classless society is achieved.
3. Economic Progress Through Marxism. Confirmation of the myth of Marxism is the remarkable material progress already attained in places where its ideology has been put into practice. It is, therefore, no longer a merely speculative position but an established fact that a Marxist philosophy succeeds where others had failed.
4. Dialectical and Historical Materialism. According to all its philosophers, Marxism is founded on two kinds of materialism, the dialectical and historical. It is materialism because it claims there exists only one reality, matter. It is dialectical because through the interaction of opposing material forces all apparently higher forms of being evolve first life, then sentient beings, and finally man. It is historical because, now that man exists, human history follows the same evolving pattern towards higher perfection, but uniquely through the interaction of the material (economic) forces of society.
5. Accelerating Progress Through Conflict. Consistent with its stress on dialectics, Marxism holds that the progress of humanity toward its predicted goal is accelerated by human conflict. Hence the role of revolution as a necessary means of fostering social development and the importance of sharpening the antagonisms which already exist or can be stimulated between various classes of society.
6. Marxist Deviation. There is only one "grave sin" in Marxian morality. It is committed by those who deviate from the ideal of relentless revolution. Within the Marxist camp, left and right are measured by the degree of departure from or conformity to this need for violence as the precondition for an eventual warless society.
7. Primacy of the Group. The individual in a Marxian society surrenders his personal rights in favor of the group. He does this, after long indoctrination, on the conviction that part of the contribution toward the eventual rise of a classless commonwealth is the complete sacrifice of his own personality,
8. Equality Among People. In man's relations with other individuals, Marxism holds that only absolute equality is legitimate. It rejects all civil and ecclesiastical authority as grounded on the will of God, and denies any innate authority of parents over their children. What people call authority or subordination is derived from the community as its source and only foundation.
9. Denial of All Property Rights. Not without reason did Marx and Engels state in their Communist Manifesto that "The theory of Communism may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property." They meant it to be taken in absolute literalness. In Marxian ethics, no individual should be granted any rights over material goods or the means of production. This is because history has shown that private property is the universal source of further wealth, and personal possession gives one man power over another. All forms of private property, therefore, must be eliminated because they are the origin of every economic enslavement.
10. The Artificial Institutions of Marriage and the Family. Since Marxism denies any sacred or spiritual character to human life beyond the merely economic, it logically claims that marriage and the family are purely civil and, in fact, merely artificial institutions. They are the outcome of an outmoded economic system. There are no moral bonds of marriage. There are only such privileges as the collectivity may see fit to grant persons to mate and procreate, for the sake of the collectivity and subject to its conditions. An indissoluble marriage bond may be humored by the state, but it has no inherent rights before the civil law.
11. The Emancipation of Women. Marxism is especially characterized by its rejection of any link that binds women to the family and the home. Women's emancipation is proclaimed as a cardinal principle of the socialist interim that will usher in the classless society of the future. Women are to be first encouraged and then, if need be, compelled to withdraw from the family and the care of children. These are regularly stigmatized "bourgeois" activities, Liberated from household chores and the rearing of a family through thousands of childcare centers, women are to be thrust instead into public life and collective production under the same conditions as men.
12. No Parental Rights in Education. Correlative with the function of women as robots (Russian for "work"), the collectivity assumes the total responsibility for the education and training of children. The euphemistic statement in the Manifesto, "Free education for all children in public schools," has been implemented to mean that the state alone has the right to educate. In practice, this has further meant that the state, and not the parents, has the exclusive prerogative to determine who shall teach, under what curriculum, with what textbooks, and how the matter is communicated. The previous mandate of the Manifesto (number 10) should be joined with another mandate (number 6), that is, "Centralization of the means of communication. . . in the hands of the state."
13. Economics, the Basis of Society. In the Marxian scheme of society, economics is the fundamental law of human existence. It is not freedom, or human rights, or a divinely established moral order, or the pursuit of happiness, or the service of God, but uniquely the advancement of the economic system. Greater production of material goods, more efficiently, in a more collectivized manner this is the bedrock of a societys well being. This must be given precedence over everything else; as everything else mentioned must be subordinated to technological productivity.
14. The Collectivity Controls the Individual. Six of the ten principal "measures" of the Manifesto affirm in clear language how completely Marxism sees the individual as a tool in the hands of the state: "Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes; abolition of all rights of inheritance; centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of... an exclusive monopoly; centralization of the means of... transport in the hands of the State; extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; equal liability of all to labor; establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture." State totalitarianism could not be more complete or the subjugation of individual to the "common plan" devised by the collectivity.
15. Disappearance of the State. According to Marxist predictions, this tyrannical enslavement to the State is the necessary radical surgery which must be performed on society in order to give birth to a new society never before dreamed possible in the history of mankind. Synonyms are accumulated to describe this prophetic vision. It will be a society in which "the public power will lose its political character"; a society in which "the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all." For the time being, during the period of socialism, the state dictatorship of the proletariat is necessary. But, by means of the Marxist revolution, the proletariat will be "abolished in its own supremacy as a class. In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association" in which all conflicts are gone.
The United States is a Marxist Country
In the light of what we have just seen, can anyone doubt that the United States has been deeply infected by Marxism. However, I believe we can say even more. Our country is a Marxist nation, Dare I say still more? The United States of America is the most powerful Marxist country in the world.
This thesis deserves not just another lecture, or even just a semester of class. It should be the bedrock of our understanding of what the Vicar of Christ is telling us. As we come to the close of the twentieth century, we are seeing the gravest crisis in the history of Christianity. In my judgment, at the center of this crisis is the deep penetration of Marxism into our beloved country.
In order to do some justice to a gigantic subject, let me just choose two of the fifteen hallmarks of Marxism, and see how deeply they have penetrated American society. I focus on the emancipation of women and the denial of parental rights in education.
Emancipation of Women. Also known as women's liberation, the emancipation of women has become a major revolution in the United States. Its avowed purpose is to free women from the discrimination to which they have been subject in civil society and in political legislation. It argues from a massive discrimination of women by men, and urges women to revolt against men. The best known proponent of this ideology was Nikolai Lenin, a disciple of Karl Marx, who urged that, "The success of a revolution depends upon the degree of participation by women." On these terms, women's liberation is simply part of the larger struggle for the eventual creation of a classless society.
The range of women's liberation in our country is as broad as American geography and as deep as our present-day American culture. Perhaps the best way to see how widely feminism has penetrated our society is to quote some typical statements of feminists who call themselves Catholic but have been seduced by Marxism.
Thus the litany of feminist quotations could go on for literally hundreds of volumes that are currently in print. What has been the result in the United States? Inclusive language in the liturgy is only a minor effect of Marxist feminism which has penetrated the Catholic Church. In one diocese after another, women, dare I say it, are in charge. One of the most devastating effects of this radical feminism has been the breakdown of literally tens of thousands of once dedicated religious women who decided they were sick and tired of being dominated by a male hierarchy, especially by a male Bishop of Rome. I think it is worth quoting from the Foreword to Donna Steichen's book Ungodly Rage.
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta has said, "Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness." This book is about darkness. Its pages document one of the most devastating religious epidemics of our, or any other, time an infectious and communicable disease of the human spirit for which there is no easy cure, and which afflicts not only the "carriers", but nearly all religious believers including our children, the future of the human race and the future of the Church. The book should be read attentively by all who are concerned about or responsible for the religious welfare and spiritual development of others.
This disease, the source of the "ungodly rage" of the title, has a name: "feminism".
It is no wonder that Pope John Paul II urged American bishops to combat what he termed a "bitter, ideological" feminism among some American Catholic women, which he said has led to "forms of nature worship and the celebration of myths and symbols" usurping the practice and celebration of the Christian faith. The ordination of women to the priesthood is infallibly excluded by the Catholic faith. Yet it is being widely promoted in some high, professedly Catholic circles as evidence of the Marxist mentality in our country.
Denial of Parental Rights in Education. Some years ago, I had the privilege of publishing a thirty page Statement of Principles and Policy on Atheistic Education in Soviet Russia. The opening paragraph of this document stated:
The Soviet school, as an instrument for the Communist education of the rising generation, can, as a matter of principle, take up no other attitude towards religion than one of irreconcilable opposition; for Communist education has as its philosophical basis Marxism, and Marxism is irreconcilably hostile to religion. "Marxism is materialism," says V. I. Lenin; "as such, it is as relentlessly hostile to religion as the materialism of the Encyclopaedists of the eighteenth century or the materialism of Feuerbach."
How has this philosophy penetrated the United States? So deeply that most Americans have only the faintest idea of what is going on in our schools. William Foster, former American chairman of the Communist party, wrote in Toward a Soviet America that he wanted the "cultural revolution" to be advanced under the aegis of a national department of education.
That is exactly what the National Education Association lobbied for during the 1976 presidential campaign, and a Department of Education is exactly what the American president gave the union in gratitude for its support.
Foster wrote that the Department of Education should be "revolutionized, cleansed of religious, patriotic and other features of the bourgeois ideology The students will be taught on the basis of Marxian dialectical materialism, internationalism, and the general ethics of the new Socialist society."
What happened to parents rights to educate their children? In less than a quarter century, these rights have been lost by most parents in the United States. Most of the once Catholic schools in America have been closed. This manuscript is being written in an empty Catholic school, once taught by dedicated women religious who have been beguiled by Marxian ideology.
Parents who courageously teach their children at home are being subjected to inhuman pressures, not only by State but by Church authorities.
Some time ago, I was asked by Rome to write a series of articles on John Dewey, the atheistic genius who is commonly regarded as the father of American education. According to Dewey, the idea of "God" represents a unification of ideal values that is essentially imaginative. In other words, God does not exist, except as a projection of our imagination.
That is why religion, which believes in the existence of a personal God is excluded by American law from public schools. That is also why Catholic schools in our country have been deprived of any government support. According to Dewey, it is a mistake to think that in the United States we have separation of Church and State. No, says Dewey, in America we have the subordination of Church to State.
On these premises, what is left of parents' rights in the education of their children? Nothing, except what a Marxist government allows the parents to teach.
I would like to close with a paraphrase of what Pope Pius XI told us in his classic encyclical on Communism. He was speaking to professed Christians. Specifically, he was addressing "those of our children who are more or less tainted with the Communist plague. We earnestly exhort them to hear the voice of their loving Father. We pray the Lord to enlighten them that they may abandon the slippery path which will precipitate one and all to ruin and catastrophe. We pray that they may recognize that Jesus Christ our Lord is their only Savior, `for there is no other name in heaven given to man whereby we must be saved. "'
I join my prayer with that of the Bishop of Rome, that Jesus will save our beloved country, which has become so deeply infected by the plague of Marxism.
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