Marxism in the Face of the Church and the State (VI)
Church and State. An old question that keeps coming up, especially in Italian political affairs.
According to bourgeois liberal thought, religion should not be a political matter, the democratic state should admit all religious opinions and treat citizens of all faiths equally. But from religion as an ideological matter to worship as a matter of collective and public acts, and to the church as an associative organisation with solid hierarchies and machinery, a strong tradition and strict discipline. This body openly declares that it is not only concerned with faith and prayer, but also with the behaviour and actions of men, which are judged, forbidden or approved, and therefore it is impossible to distinguish between individual and collective, private and public action and behaviour.
This utopian formula of a neutral state in matters of religious faith and a neutral church in matters of internal and international politics, a formula blatantly contradicted by the centuries of history of every nation, has never been able to satisfy the bourgeoisie itself. Everyone knows that, in order to reach power, it had to overcome the declared resistance of the ecclesiastical apparatus which, in the Middle Ages, claimed the right to distribute public offices, to invest and to crown kings and emperors. The struggle for the liberal revolution was above all a struggle against the churches and also, as long as they were uncompromising, a struggle against the religious principle itself. The liberals were born atheists, then, as the class they represented held power sustainably and became conformist, they admired religion but more or less long retained their original anticlericalism, especially in Catholic countries and especially in Italy.
There, the church not only wanted, as everywhere, to intervene in the affairs of the state, but it was itself a state and governed Roman territory. Italian liberalism wanted to conclude the long struggle it waged to remove its temporal power by formulas of the type: the free church in the free state and the Catholic state religion, while tolerating the other cults. For a long time, the Vatican refused the terms of the compromise.
The position of the proletariat and its theory, Marxism, is very clear in this matter. By placing in the economy and the social facts the basis of political struggles and ideologies that reflect them, it fully considered religion as a political fact and an ideology derived in the same way from the social base, it treated the different churches as political organisations that, moreover, always have functions in solidarity with the resistance of the dominant classes, even in historical periods when the reflections of social rebellions took on the face of religious schisms (one could cite, for example, the very birth of Christianity and the Reformation movement).
In addition to its theoretical criticism of any religious interpretation of nature (which bourgeois thought had already attempted) and of social and historical relations, socialism recognised everywhere in religion and in the church forces which, in the struggle against the bourgeoisie, would be directly and integrally allied with it.
Despite this, in many countries and especially in Italy, the survivors of bourgeois anti-clericalism of the Masonic type were wrongly evaluated: this led to the tactics of bloc alliances and, by reversing the process of conversion of the most powerful forces of capitalism from the struggle against the church to the alliance with it, to the illusion of the struggle of an advanced anticlerical bourgeoisie against the retrograde and reactionary layers, while the most reactionary political tendency that has been in circulation for decades is precisely, in the light of true Marxist critique, the completely outmoded and decaying masoning liberalism.
This misunderstanding and the ruinous nostalgia for a democratic bloc struggle invaded everything again when Mussolini achieved, with the Lateran Treaty, peace in Italy between modern capitalism and the religious organisation.
It became clear that this was a definitive rapprochement between the two parallel political forces of the capitalist state and the church, since none of the parties that countered fascism and succeeded to power proposed or did not propose the abandonment of this conciliation.
The process that led to it began under Giolitti with the intervention of Catholics in the political struggle in order to confront revolutionary socialism; it then developed with the birth of the popular party that collaborated at the beginning with this fascism, of which no one took seriously some of its anti-curative attitudes, and the use of castor oil by a few priests considered as neutralist, that is to say (what a strange coincidence) enemies of those Western powers against whom fascism later crusaded... The process of conciliation in question was perfected after the fascist period and the war, with the formation of Christian democracy, which was recognised as magna pars of that big bullshit called the Resistance, accepted as an ally of trade unions and government by our so-called communists and socialists, and finally installed to an almost exclusive power.
That all the bankrupt ideologies of the pitiful Italian bourgeoisie converge in this unworthy mess is demonstrated by the fact that this government, once highly appreciated by the Vatican and regularly bombarded with rhetorical cannons, nevertheless includes parties directly generated by the Masonic or liberal, Mazzinist republican and ultra-right socialist blocs. So there is something to laugh about when, on the same day, the Catholic head of government visited the Pope to celebrate the anniversary of the Mussolini pacification and that during this time we were also celebrating the centenary of the very bourgeois, certainly, but given the situation at the time, very radical Roman republic which drove out for a time of the Urbe Church and Papal State (and say that Pius IX had first played the liberal and constitutional card!). The pope is pope and king, and therefore to abhor three times! However, he raised his sacrilegious hands on his sacred person, and after a hundred years of a glorious cycle, having preserved with splendid partisans the lodges and the sacristies, he founded this masterpiece of the Vaticano-Kremlino-Quirilinean republic (all Roman), the legitimate heiress of the historical solution given by fascism to the old question of relations between state and church.
That is why the Stalinists are the last ones who have the right to be indignant and surprised at the idyll with the Vatican. They are outraged about one thing, and that is being out of power; they are only angry because it was their lucky electoral competitor, not them, who went to kneel and kiss the Papal slipper. Not only, if they conquered the legal power of the bourgeois state in Italy, they would not change its ecclesiastical and religious policy, but they would also be ready to accept places in a government of collaboration with Catholics, as they constantly postulate.
And even in countries where, for contingent reasons, they struggle politically with the forces of the churches, their inveterate drive to change principles leads them to argue in controversy that they are willing to admit religious freedom for a church that would not make politics and that they do not fight the clergy as a necessary ally of capitalism. Plus, they would go so far as to build themselves a religion and a church that would do their politics for them.
The scam becomes clearer when one understands that they themselves are allies of capitalism.
Battaglia Comunista Nr. 7, 16-23 February 1949.
Translation by Libri Incogniti