Maurice.Thank you, Karl, for agreeing to discuss communism with me, although you must realise that as a Christian I would not agree with you on many points.
Karl.Most of the early communists were brought up as Christians. Karl Marx was of Jewish descent but was brought up as an Evangelical Christian, and Stalin and Mikoyan trained to be priests. Creative thinkers know how to use their earlier training in new and fresh ways, mobilising old ideas to bring out something new.
Communism is based on the idea of ‘dialectic materialism’, which is really a reworking of Hegel’s triad of ‘thesis’, ‘antithesis’ and ‘synthesis’. Like Hegel’s system, dialectical materialism is based on history but it sees history from a different angle. We believe there is a historical process at work in human society which begins with the dictatorship of the proletariat, and leads on to socialism and, finally, to communism and freedom.
Maurice.Could you explain how dictatorship can lead to freedom?
Karl.You have to understand what is meant by freedom. Freedom is attained when people fulfil the destiny for which they are intended. It is not anarchy or individualism – it is when every member of society is playing a part for the good of all. As we say: ‘From each according to his ability; to each according to his need’.
Maurice.Then why do communist regimes have such a bad reputation for coercion?
Karl.You should remember what Robespierre said in the context of the French Revolution: ‘The will of the people must prevail, but only I know the will of the people!’
Maurice.But the French Revolution led to the Reign of Terror and a class-based bloodbath.
Karl.Yes, that is one of the unfortunate facts of the historical process. In order to achieve the triumph of the workers, the oppressed and the underclass, their oppressors have to be eliminated. You cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs!
Maurice.But if the professionals, business people and employers are eliminated, how will the workers produce suitable people to be national leaders?
Karl.I have already mentioned such people as Marx and Stalin. They were not workers but they understood the aspirations of the workers. So they were able to lead them, once the revolutions in different countries brought the workers to power. While the revolutions were being prepared, such people were known as ‘agitators’. They worked to raise the consciousness of the workers and helped them to see how they were being exploited.
Maurice.But your slogan ‘Workers of the world, unite!’ was addressed to the industrial workers of the world, who failed to respond to it. It was eventually only the peasants of Russia and Asia who responded to the call. The Communist Manifesto led to risings which were suppressed and which were followed by authoritarian regimes.
In my own country, the 1926 general strike collapsed without leading to the bloody revolution for which many had hoped. The Socialist cause was taken up democratically in the early twentieth century, and the socialist Labour Party has won power several times in democratic elections, without bloodshed or violence.
Karl.This illustrates my point. Because there was no active prosecution of the class war, the oppressing classes of capitalists and landowners were left in place, ready to take over from the workers when the electorate became tired of their Socialist rulers.
Knowing what is best
Maurice.But the electorate consists mainly of the workers – surely a free election would bring the workers’ representatives to power?
Karl.Not necessarily – the workers don’t always know what is best for them. This is why there have to be intellectual leaders waiting in readiness to guide the workers in the right direction.
Politics is not just a matter of economics. There has to be a correct worldview behind the political facade. I mentioned dialectical materialism. The anti-materialist forces of religion and nationalistic sentiment feed the workers with superstition and patriotic dreams. All this had to be swept away by clear scientific education. People have to be told that nothing exists but matter. Gods and angels and such things are figments of the imagination. They are used as an ‘opiate of the people’, dulling the senses of the workers and deterring them from revolution.
Maurice.What is then your hope for the individual?
Karl.He must stop thinking of himself as an individual and think of himself, instead, as a member of the proletariat, the mass of workers who are destined to rule the world.
Maurice.Then what is your vision for the world?
Karl.The workers must rally round the Communist Party, which will help them to understand their commanding role in society. Their standards and their morality will be explained to them by the Party, no other group being authorised to decide on these matters. Once the workers are alerted and organised, their triumph is inevitable.
Maurice.So how will politics be organised?
Karl.At first a Socialist regime will be put in place, with public ownership of the means of wealth production and exchange. When economic and social equality is established, crime and violence will disappear and the need for government will diminish until the state fades away and a communist community will emerge.
Maurice.We have all seen how the Soviet Union and the Eastern European states have collapsed as communist entities. From what we hear, the worst aspects of capitalism are emerging in the old Communist bloc.
Karl.This is really a temporary setback. The communists of Russia and Eastern Europe have not gone away – they are regrouping their forces and they will rise up again at the right time.
Spirit of freedom
Maurice.But the younger generation, which has been educated in communist schools and has never known any other form of government, does not want atheism and coercion. Millions of Russians and Chinese have turned to Christianity for a new worldview and have rejected the communist worldview.
Karl.I am glad you mentioned the Chinese. Mr Jiang has shown what communist discipline has to be. He refused to be panicked by the Tiananmin Square demonstration and communism in China survived that incident.
Maurice.But the spirit of freedom is still in the air. Even Mr Jiang cannot control the Internet. Millions of young Chinese will be in touch with their fellow youth in the Western world and eventually that spirit of freedom will break out again.
Karl.As I said before, you have to have a correct definition of freedom. It is communism that sets the workers free and releases them from the chains of wage-slavery.
Maurice.I believe it is Jesus Christ who sets people free with his truth. He said: ‘You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free’ (John 8:32).