Marxism as Humanism
By L. J. Lebret
Marxism, insofar as it consists of an ideology of economic development encourages a healthy and necessary trend. But this ideology includes a spurious humanism which provides no sure guidance for the solution of present-day human problems. As [Jacques] Maritain said, with justification, in his Humanisme intégral: Marx saw that the class struggle was the effective consequence of the capitalist system, and that the great historical task of modern times was the emancipation of the proletariat. But he marred this insight with his theory of inevitable and irreconcilable class warfare, and with a false philosophy of both man and work which amounted to the socialization of the entire human being.”
Marx, who was a disciple of Hegel, wanted to set Hegel “back on his feet.” Hegel’s complex philosophy presented a sort of dialectical immanence in which the divine element progressively impregnated all earthly forms of reality until it became incarnate in the State, and particularly in the Prussian state. Marxism established itself as a philosophical doctrine in reaction against the position adopted by a false spirituality. Marx, however, retained dialectical analysis as a means of acquiring knowledge: thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. He replaced the synthesis by the “leap” — a catastrophe giving rise to a new situation in which the antithesis has won control. In history Marx’s philosophy is, essentially, a dynamic of evolution through tension.
Marx affirmed his own rigorous materialism in preference to the idealism of his master. in his materialism his principle was there was no idea before matter, before nature. The idea appeared with the growth, during evolution, of man’s capacity for thought. man, who is subject, became aware of objects, and knowledge consisted of this fusion between subject and object.
“Today,” said Marx, ‘there cannot possibly be room in our evolutionary concept of the world for a Creator and an Orderer,” Man, to be precise, was no more than a transitory element of nature. the advance of mankind and its triumph over the world was all that mattered. Each man was, in the midst of the great mass of humanity, equal only to one point, one moment. he could not achieve immortality.
“Apart from nature and mankind, ” wrote Engels, “there is nothing, and the superior beings created by our religious imaginations are only the fantastic reflections of our own selves.”
In this way, religion was no more than a “conception of man’s alienated self,” and the most serious of the three fundamental feelings of alienation which formed a chain: the sense of alienation felt by the worker, frustrated by the sight of all his productive work benefiting the capitalist and the bourgeois; the sense of alienation also felt by the worker and induced in him by the absence of his liberty, by which he is made the slave of capitalism; and the sense of alienation felt by the man who feels that he is enslaved to a divine chimera.
It was also implied that men are only the products of the natural order, which is itself transformed by men; and religion by its very essence empties man and nature of all their content, and transfer this content to a phantom god in a world beyond, who graciously returns a part of his superfluity to man and to nature.
Marxist materialism is a radical materialism. the spirit is not denied; but the activities which we ascribe to the human spirit can only be the properties of living matter which has reached a certain point in complexity.
In his criticism of Hegel, Marx lacked the concepts of analogy and transcendence; and the author of Das Kapital considers that all that exists is matter. His humanism, consequently, is a mutilated form of humanism. Even though he may use the word “man” here and there, man has in fact faded out of the picture.
With Lenin we arrive at the practical phase of the revolution. The revolutionary struggle, through its strategic and tactical perspective and controlled by the Party, should crush all opposition.
Revolution is the most authoritative thing possible. . . . The existence of factions is incompatible with party unity. . . . The party must have iron discipline.
The dictatorship of the proletariat, which is a necessary sequel to the revolution in order to purify the new regime of all the bourgeois after-effects of the previous one, is a desperate fight, bloody and yet bloodless, violent and yet pacific, military and economic, academic and administrative, against the traditions and power of the old forms of society.
Pity has no place here, nor truth in the normal sense of the word. Truth is what makes the revolution progress and succeed. we are thus plunged into a state of anti-humanism. All opposition is criminal, and anyone who opposes the regime must be prevented, by killing him if necessary, from halting the forward march of mankind whose only authorized representative is the Party. Religion, the conservative influence of the past, must be relegated to its place along with the other, useless things; more than that, it must be beaten down by vigorous propaganda.
Man, thus freed, is more than ever bound to the subhuman. A new religion–that of the progress of humanity–will replace the old. Established materialism leads logically to the sole triumph of the proletariat. A religion of unlimited progress, of one class bearing all the hopes of the world on its shoulders, and the creed of universal liberation, make mankind man’s real god, his only acceptable god.
Barbarism is thus at our gates, however technically competent it may be, however capable it shows itself to be of developing the resources of the earth above and below ground. Man, snatched up to form part of the huge production machine, can no longer be man. After what seems to be a period of great progress, he finds himself facing a void.
This anti-humanism cannot prolong itself indefinitely. Sooner or later the human conscience will have its revival. If the West, cleansed of its wicked passions, were to give a pure witness to the Gospel through an intelligent and vigorous campaign, by assuming responsibility for the control of the “deprived” world, the shock would be so great that, in the East, it would change the whole world trend. But as long as the West continues to oppose the humanitarian spirit of communism with nothing but greedy calculations and a lack of social consciousness despite its atomic superiority, so long will the Marxist god progressively invade the world.
What is striking about Marxism, when it has been reduced to its essential traits, is the fact that it seems to be completely coherent, undivided by schism, and the fact that it claims to have a solution for every problem and is both dynamic and capable of world-wide application.
To anyone who is dissatisfied with capitalist society, it offers the opportunity of revolt; to the deprived it holds out hope of better days; to the oppressed it offers capacity for resistance; to the isolated it offers the strength of the proletariat, the savior of humanity. To the man who is devoid of culture it offers a philosophy of history and an economic and sociological system; to the potential leader it offers the leitmotif of the crystallization of one group; to the ambitious it offers the possibility of success through the support of the masses who are waiting to be organized.
A man moved by a sense of elementary justice which he feels to be lacking in the world can be inspired by Communism; the hesitant intellectual will discover his doctrine in it; the non-believer will discover the new religion of humanity acquiring divinity through his own efforts; and the lukewarm believer will find it easy to transfer his affection to it.
These latter cases still occur even in the West, which still has something left of the Christian spirit. According as they continue to give way before the Western logic which has been adopted since the technological and scientific revolution, superstitious practices, myths, sorcery, or magic arts which have become too ridiculous or too oppressive, and other naïve beliefs, will readily yield place to the great myth of a liberated humanity without any trace of social sin.
Communism, offering a mystique of materialism to mankind materialized but lacking a philosophy, finds possibilities of penetration on every side. It inspires revolutionary enthusiasm in peoples who were previously resigned and passive. The ignorant peasant is content to grasp, without fully understanding them, the broad outlines of the struggle against poverty and oppression. As soon as he progresses, he is captivated by what he hears of the achievements of the U.S.S.R. Later, he perceives the possibility of equating his nationalistic pride with his frustration at not yet having attained the place in the world to which he believes himself entitled. With education, he has discovered a philosophy of the universe.
In this way, all religious alienation is forced to give place tot he cult of mankind becoming ruler of the earth.
|Source: The Last Revolution: The Destiny of Over-and-Underdeveloped Nations. NY: Sheed & Ward, 1965. Excerpt from Chapter 19, “Marxism; The Illusory Solution,” pp. 178-183.|