Christianity and Politics (XX)


The weight of the religious factor in the political struggle must be considered in a completely different way according to the stage of contemporary history, which includes three phases: the preparation, development and victory of the bourgeois revolution; the struggle of the bourgeoisie against the real dangers of feudal restoration; the current phase in which dominant capitalism is now struggling throughout the world on a single front, against the revolution of the workers.

In the feudal system, political power was based on closed classes and exclusive institutions, nobility, clergy, officers' corps, dynasty; its doctrine justified this monopoly of wealth and power by the principle of authority and invested it by the will and grace of God. Religious preaching and the organisation of churches provided an essential part of the defence of the dominant regime and constituted a fundamental obstacle to the assault by the new forces on power and privilege. In some countries, the State relied on the Church; in others, it had established a Church whose structure was penetrated by the State, according to its own objectives of self-preservation. God and the priest were used on the same level to justify and defend the existing relationships of ownership and production and the exploitation of the servile masses.

The commercial and industrial bourgeoisie, deprived of rights proportionate to those of the other orders, could only make its way by fighting against the Church and against the official religion. The criticism of the principle of authority and of divine right that it developed led its pioneering theorists to criticism of the entire theological system and even to the negation of religion.

The fourth estate, the embryonic proletarian class, could not fail to struggle alongside the bourgeois third estate; and just as it shared its struggles, it accepted its doctrinal and philosophical criticism as a proven historical result. Not only did the first socialist movement emerge as atheistic, but it considered that, in the subsequent anti-bourgeois class struggle for the pursuit of other political relations and principles, the religious question would no longer be raised because it would be liquidated; this situation lasted throughout the period when the forces of the absolutist and feudal monarchies tried to annul the conquests of the revolution and used in the first rank, in counter-revolutionary coalitions and in uprisings of the Vendée type, the influence of religion and excommunication by priests the workers fought with the liberal bourgeois and Jacobins against the noble monarchists and priests.

True or illusory, the danger that capitalist revolution (which had meanwhile acquired power and socially transformed the world even in its bowels on a frenetic progressive rhythm) could be defeated and reversed, generated the particular policy of the anti-clerical bloc, cultivated Masonic ideology and the widespread conviction that capitalists and workers, although divided by economic and social struggle, would share an anti-clerical and anti-religious position. In Italy, this situation lasted longer than in other countries because the temporal power of the Popes over Rome represented a material obstacle to national unity, the basic premise of the bourgeois regime.

As a reflection of this historical process, the doctrine of the proletariat, Marxism, also went through the same stages, in the sense that, initially, criticism of bourgeois social and political systems was called for to a point that was thought to be a definitive conquest, namely the victory of the destructive criticism of religion.

In Marx's early works, in which tendentious interpreters of Marxism often sin with complacency (from both the libertarian and radical-democratic sides, they converge on the point of agreement that they do, starting from the common root of the conquest of ideological and political freedom, all that remains is to work for the further conquest of "economic freedom" in the near future), in these works, therefore, it is clear that this basis, namely that the contradictor admits that he agrees on the religious problem, is a given. We are talking about the democratic contradictor to the socialist and revolutionary Marx of the "Critique of the Philosophy of Law" and the "Judenfrage" (Jewish Question) which date back to 1844. And yet, it is enough to take into account, in these positions, the polemical campaign to see as if in broad daylight that there is no contradiction with the complete developments of Marxism and its language, as in "Capital" or in "Anti-Dühring".

Germany at that time was in a special position. Remaining outside the bourgeois revolutions, it had had, Marx said, the counter-revolutions without the revolution. But if it had remained outside historically and in "praxis", it had been inside as far as theory and philosophy were concerned. From the Reformation to the great idealistic critique, German thinkers had participated in the demolition of the principles of the former dominant feudal order and the influence of the Vatican. Religion seemed to be beaten and outdated in the scientific field; in the political field, the principles of divine authority and right remained unshakable within the traditional Austro-German state; in the economic and social foundation, industrialisation and with it the emergence of a powerful bourgeoisie were at their beginning. Marx introduces his criticism to Hegel, who was his master, with these words

"For Germany, the criticism of religion has been essentially completed, and the criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticism".

In the discussion that follows, he demonstrates how this overcoming is sterile and inadequate if we fail to establish that the liberation of the human brain from religious superstition has no effect if we leave untouched the absurdities and inequities of social and political relations, which bourgeois and democratic revolutions have implemented and sanctioned in their hypocritical constitutions, which have not emancipated men but the bourgeoisie.

A century has passed and we must note that, in both theoretical thinking and the organisation of society, we are facing a world of adversaries and contradictions who are still resolutely holding the trench of the religious principle and tolerance of the churches as social organisations of worship and as so-called areas of private action.

But since then, the nature of the anti-religious position of Marxism has been inseparable from the entire critique, already traced organically and wonderfully, of the bourgeois system. It contains a rigorous critique of the Reformation and its bourgeois spirit, even if it makes extensive use of the usual themes of Hegelian dialectics.

"Luther... shattered faith in authority because he restored the authority of faith. He turned priests into laymen because he turned laymen into priests. He freed man from outer religiosity because he made religiosity the inner man."

But a new revolutionary problem, which is ours but which was immediately repulsed by the bourgeois who go to the temple, has arisen as follows

"It was no longer a case of the layman’s struggle against the priest outside himself but of his struggle against his own priest inside himself, his priestly nature".

This work, which only needs a "translation" into the terms of modern Marxism, already contains the position of the class struggle and better still, for the departure point and for confounding the Orthodox Hegelians who continue to treat the State, Society and Man as theoretical units, it contains a merciless criticism of the bourgeois concept of the citizen and of man, enough to establish an irreducible and radical opposition between any acceptance of the proletarian class struggle and the survival of individual religious faiths.

The French Declarations of 1791 and 1793, sanction religious "freedom" by saying that no one is to be subjected to annoyance because of his opinions, even religious opinions, and that everyone has the freedom of every man to practice the religion of which he is an adherent.

"the so-called rights of man, the droits de l’homme as distinct from the droits du citoyen, are nothing but the rights of a member of bourgeois society – i.e., the rights of egoistic man, of man separated from other men and from the community".

These natural and imprescriptible rights are "equality, freedom, security, property".

And it is from this ancient work that Marx wrote the basic equation of our doctrine: freedom equals property. Here is the sentence of the text (which should be reported in its entirety and illustrated):

"The practical application of man’s right to liberty is man’s right to private property."

The theme would require appropriate development. A recent note in the "Times", which sought to establish the insurmountable antithesis between the communist doctrine and that of Western Europe, was based on this identity of freedom, property and Christianity. This is perfectly correct since this generic bourgeois "man" from the West is all the more selfish in economics because he is the owner, since he has transplanted Christianity within himself to Luther's school, "chaining his heart" and worrying above all about the balance of his individual accounts, one at the bank, the other at the gates of the Valley of Josaphat.


Since the dangers of a feudal return have been transformed into past shadows (we place this date, as a world date, at the latest in 1917 during the Russian revolution, since with the latter disappeared the ultimate national feudal force), since then all the atheism of the bourgeoisie and its organisations is over and the bourgeoisie-religion relationship has been turned upside-down.

The Catholic priest Luigi Sturzo, one of the very few people in Italy to think and write in a decent way on historical and political issues, accomplished a work of Lutheran style and with a bourgeois objective by founding the Italian Popular Party, now known today as Democrazia Cristiana.

This party does not include in its doctrine the acceptance of a given religion or the militant profession of a given religion. Christian Democrats do not want to be called a denominational or Catholic party and they are right in that the use of religion as a political force in its denominational form is now historically outdated and their function corresponds very well to the new modern phase.

Marxists fight all these social Christians without having to go back to the philosophical refutation of their theological doctrine as it sometimes happens to bourgeois free thinkers in order to destroy the dogma used as a counter-barricade. We Marxists not only consider ourselves as antithetical in our interpretation of society and history to any religious construction, but we must also fight in the social field the general application of so-called Christian principles, of the "Christian spirit", even if we intend to use them only on the modest level of ethical law, of the rule of practical behaviour of the individual, because that is where the trap is.

The whole Christian mechanism on the behaviour of man in his relations with other men is invoked and applied for bourgeois purposes and more specifically to appease and eliminate revolutionary class struggle.

But let us go beyond the general refusal of violence and the formula, which is overused, from resignation even to the abuse of the power by others, from individual respect for the property of the privileged, from the expectation that Christian morality will know how to move the latter sufficiently to make the alms and apply the quod superest date pauperibus! Property, freedom and charity, keep it all to yourself. To bring down these fragile lies, it would be enough to mention the approval and exaltation of bestial wars and police repression which, before the eyes of the last naive people, crush human flesh or threaten to crush it, always in the name of Christ and by raising the Shield of Libertas.

The contradiction is deeper. Marxism is not a rule of behaviour for the individual, it is not the conquest of postulates for the human person. If, after so many brilliant discoveries and revelations bringing a new light, he still allows himself to be locked within these stupid limits, he dies. The theory of revolution and class dictatorship collapses completely if we admit for a moment that we may hesitate on the choice of means of action for the reason that they would dirty the hands or make the soul of the person who uses them damned. We believe that the use of violence and the use of authority, which destroy the freedom of the owner and the security of enjoyment of the property of the bourgeoisie, are not only not in contradiction with the final objective, but represent the only path leading to it, namely the historical destruction of oppression, exploitation and crushing on a social scale; we invite the revolutionary vanguard to get its hands dirty and to eradicate class enemies and establish new conditions for the behaviour of tomorrow's societies.

We demonstrate that, in the economic dynamics of today's world, falsehood, whose intention is to mitigate the infamies of the irresistible accumulation of capital by atomising wealth, is only the means common to all the defeatists of proletarian revolution.

It makes no sense to oppose the Christian democrats with the false accusation of clericalism, political confessionalism, legitimism or feudalism.

They are ten times more modern and dangerous than that and they must be denounced and fought because their role is, on behalf of dominant capitalism, to divert people from class struggle.

Their social programme of apology for the petty-bourgeois, the peasant and the artisan, of the impossible promise of redistributing concentrated capital into the hands of the bands that control state power in the country and in the world, is no different from that of all the other parties that have camped for decades against the classist proletariat and its revolutionary vanguards. It uses the stupid myth that the problems of the social order are solved by history in inculcating in men, one by one, some silly precepts of moral behaviour, imagined for all intents and purposes by a handful of great heads a few millennia ago. All of them have said the same thing - Confucius, Buddha, Christ, Mohammed or Plato - and yet one cannot find a more contradictory position with Marxism than that of this poor individual ethical doctrine as the only basis for social and political action. It would create less trouble for us to admit that there is, from an ontological and philosophical point of view, a superior being.

Instead of this defeatist myth of the Christian spirit, the others propose recipes that are all on the same historical level: the fascists had the homeland and the nation, more or less elected; the various democrats and republicans have the people and even humanity, undivided as soon as everyone is a voter and they can say and write nonsense; the Stalinists have their progressive and popular democracy which is not well defined but is a Czechoslovakia like the others. [1]

They all represent obvious resources for the defence and counter-offensive of capital; the social Christian is particularly dangerous and odious since he gives himself the right, like the others, to write on his flag the anti-proletarian words freedom, democracy and property for all of the words with which capitalism was born, which will only die when they are swallowed by all who use them, from the Kremlin to the White House and to the Basilica of St Peter's.


[1] On the last page of this filo, Bordiga talks about "Cecoslovaccata". It is an untranslatable pun between "Cecoslovacchia" (Czechoslovakia) where the Stalinists had just seized power through a coup d'état and "vaccata" which means filth, junk. An attempt at translation could have been Czechosloshitia!

Battaglia Comunista, No. 23, 8 - 15 June 1949
Translation by Libri Incogniti

(Italian Version)


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