Friday, September 18, 2009
Gerry Whyte (Trinity College Law [Dublin]) writes:
[T]he relationship between socialism and Christianity ... may be closer than
many US conservatives realise.
For a start, socalists arguably inherited from Christianity
a particular way of seeing history, namely, as a linear progression to a future
utopia. According to John Gray ("Black Mass - Apocalyptic Religion and the Death
of Utopia"), this characteristic of Christianity also influenced Jacobinism,
Fascism and, more recently, neo-liberalism - remember Fukuyama's 'End of
history'? - with often catastrophic consequences for
More positively, Christianity has had a strong influence on
the social democratic tradition, especially in the UK. The last three leaders of
the UK Labour Party, John Smith, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, all come from the
Christian Socialist tradition. This is what Tony Blair has written on the topic
in the foreword to Graham Dale's "God's Politicians: The Christian Contribution
to 100 Years of Labour":
'The Labour Party and the nation are indebted to people
whose Christian faith motivated their political service: individuals who were
outraged by the social injustice they say all around and believed that it was
their duty to stand up for the downtrodden; individuals who wanted to show
compassion towards their neighbours and saw the Labour Party as a means by which
this could be done; individuals who saw a connection between the values of
Christ and the values of Socialism, and who chose to work out these connections
in the rough and tumble of party politics.
It was the Christian values of these people that informed
their political thinking. They believed in community, in equality and in
individual responsibility. Their beliefs forced them to take political action
when faced with the great need around them - the need for jobs, the need for
homes or the need for health care (emphasis added!). They believed that
legislation, not just charity, was needed to transform the inadequate present
into a better future."
Finally, MOJ-ers may also be interested in the following
'Demonstrations, protests, strikes and passive resistance -
all these are means of class struggle that need to be considered appropriate.
The struggle for rights, after exhausting all peaceful means ... is a necessary
act of justice that leads only to the achievement of the common good, which is
the goal of social existence...
It is clear that from the view of the ethical assumptions
of the Bible, such a struggle is a necessary evil, just like any other human
struggle... It is also evident from the Bible that struggle itself is not the
opposite of love. The opposite of love is hate.
A struggle in a specific case does not have to be caused by
hate. If it is caused by social and material injustice, and if its goal is to
reinstate the just distribution of goods, then such a struggle is not [hatred]
... Social justice is the necessary condition for realisation of love in
Many times Jesus Christ has proven that God's kingdom
cannot be achieved in man without a struggle .. Achievement of social justice is
one element of achieving God's Kingdom on earth..."
"Marxism ... does not see any other way to solve the
burning social issues ... Catholicism sees the possibility of solving ... social
issues by evolutionary means. The struggle of the oppressed classes against
their oppressors becomes the stimulus for the evolution to proceed faster
The class struggle... grows stronger when it meets
resistance from the economically privileged classes. Pressure from the class
struggle should bring appropriate changes in the socioeconomic
"The Church realizes that the bourgeois mentality, and
capitalism with its material spirit, are contradictions of the Bible. According
to the tradition of ... monastic/religious life, the Church also can appreciate
the idea of communism... Communism, as a higher ethical rule of ownership,
demands from people higher ethical qualifications."
"At the present state of human nature, the universal
realization of this [communist] ideal ... meets with insurmountable
difficulties. Private property is suited to human nature. The goal that should
be pursued is to achieve, in the system based on private property, such reforms
as will lead to the realization of social justice. The class struggle leads to
Revolution is not the doom of society but at most a
punishment for specific offenses in socioeconomic life."
All of the above comments are from a work called "Catholic
Social Ethics", written by the then Fr. Karol Wojtyla in the early 1950s and
distributed by the Catholic underground in communist Poland - see Kwitny, "Man
of the Century - The life and times of Pope John Paul II" (1998)