Is Marxism All that Bad?
By Dr. Peter Jones
I have long vowed not to employ simplistic theological and spiritual categories in debates over politics, since there are genuine Christians in each political party. But as some politicians lunge to wild extremes, Christians need to pause long enough to understand the larger picture. Ultimately, politics starts with worldview. Do we need to be “woke” and if so, to what? Is the new vision valid and valuable?
Christians are called by God to be sensitive to injustice, generous with those in need and eager to see each human being, made in God’s image, receive respect and compassion. In the early church, believers were so dedicated to loving one another that they eagerly distributed their goods and funds to those in need. Isn’t such a system better than greedy capitalism, in which billionaires find tax loopholes and wealthy families deprive worthy students of a place in college by paying off a sports coach on the take?
In light of unfair practices such as these, many voting citizens are considering the possible benefits of a socialist or semi-Marxist cultural structure. Some contend that Marx, in his hostility to Christianity, was only attacking the wealthy Christians of his day, not criticizing true Christianity’s concern for the poor. Under proper circumstances, can religion not sit down at the table with some kind of socialist or Marxist economic theory? Can we not mitigate the worst aspects of capitalism while avoiding the worst effects of old-style Marxism? Such equitable, moderate terminology is attractive. Perhaps we could create a Neo-Marxism—a more humane variant of its atheistic forebear.
In such a discussion, we must first understand the core tenets of the “old-style” Marxism. What did Marx believe? What did he advocate? Marx was a thorough-going materialist who hated religion with an unrelenting passion because he considered it a huge barrier to creating a “just” socialist society. In his book Marxism and Religion Marxist scholar David McLellan says that “for Marx religion is metaphysically and sociologically misguided” and that “its disappearance is the necessary pre-condition for any radical amelioration of social conditions.” For Marx, God only exists in man’s imagination as a projection of himself. If Marx is right about that, then we cannot derive our dignity from being made in God’s image, because there is no God. If Marx is right, then justice is defined and enforced by whichever (sinful) human bureaucrats hold the power. In history, Marxism has never worked out well. Old-style Marxism included the destruction of the family and the practice of abortion, two hauntingly familiar ideals prevalent in our own culture, which aspires to redefine the family and rationalize infanticide. Marxism is pure secular Oneism, in which the only reality is selfish humanity without any transcendent laws to reign in evil. If selfishness is not curtailed, those in power will freely impose their will on others. Needless to say, today’s neo-Marxists realize that it would be political suicide to build a platform on an openly anti-Christian agenda—though those who favor infanticide are getting close!
In every case where Marxism has been tried, the cultural product looked nothing like the voluntary generosity described in the book of Acts. Instead, without the protection afforded by the divine laws of God, countless millions were slaughtered in the name of social justice.
We need a little historical overview. In the 1960s prominent American theorists of socialism and community organizing “devised a plan to provoke chaos by deliberately overwhelming governmental systems…to the point of collapse, paving the way for state intervention” in favor of a “collectivist system.” Frances Fox Piven, with her colleague, Andrew Cloward were members of Chicago’s “socialist” New Party, which closely followed the playbook of neo-Marxist, Saul Alinsky, who deliberately avoided the term Marxism and was an expert in linguistic deception. David Horowitz, once a revolutionary Marxist himself, observes that the New Left had learned the “technique of stealth,” following the influential teachings of Alinsky. But if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck. So in what way is this duck fundamentally and theologically anti-Christian?
The preferred term these days is Neo-Marxism, and while even this term is not used in political circles, it now defines a more humane variant of its atheistic forebear. Actually this version of Marxism, sometimes called “cultural Marxism,” is even more radical than the old Marxism. It has to go beyond the anti-capitalist liberation of the worker because the free market eventually took care of the worker’s economic needs. Neo-Marxism brings a full-orbed Marxist cosmology—a complete worldview seeking to liberate from any creational norms not just the worker’s economic situation but the worker’s psyche and his or her sexual fantasies. The system has emerged as a wholesale program of humanly-generated subjective “identity politics,” severely opposing the dominant oppressors. The vision is broad:
Our concept of socialism is not limited to restructuring work and economic activity. It embraces altering the full range of social, cultural, political and familial structures and power relations…. The socialism we build must address all aspects of power, all of the institutional forces that affect our lives.”
The new Marxism seeks to transform more than the working conditions of the economically disenfranchised; more than the needs of the poor. It’s goal is to liberate the human being from the chains of God’s created cosmic structures. Contemporary progressive American socialists and under-the radar Marxists have the political and cultural wind in their sails. “We are the Underminers, and this is our time,” declare the radicals who are working to remake America into a new society. Here is the important definition of their immediate goals: They do not want to ameliorate Western culture. On the contrary, they want to unmake it, for, as they say, “to undermine something is to weaken its very foundation in order to bring about its eventual collapse.” There is hardly a better way of explaining the violent confrontation between the Left and the Right.
How close to real power are neo-Marxist socialists?The programmatic book on this new movement is Imagine Living in a Socialist USA, hailed appropriately by the author of Marxism in the United States, Paul Buhle, as “the best, most insightful, and most lively work on socialism to appear in a long time.” Imagine Living states clearly that “socialism” is a social agenda of radical egalitarianism or sameness to create the new world of redemptive Marxist fantasy. In other words, caring for the down-trodden is a pretext. The real goal is the radical religious program of the Oneist lie which seeks to wipe God out of the cultural memory.
In the 1920s a group of Marxist intellectuals in Germany, affiliated with the University of Frankfurt set up the “Frankfurt School,” or the Institute for Social Research. When Hitler came to power, he sought to destroy communism and the Institute was closed down. Most of its participants regrouped in New York, under a new Institute affiliated with Columbia University. Most notable was Herbert Marcuse [whom I heard lecture at Princeton], who toured American college campuses in the 1960s with his Neo-Marxist message as expressed in his Eros and Civilization. It is now well-documented that Marxist ideas dominate the teaching on current university campuses, where conservative speech is often banned, as it is on many news sites, magazines and internet sites. President Barack Obama began his presidency by stating “we are five days away from fundamentally changing America.”
What did he mean? Though no one pressed him for an explanation of the change he hoped to bring, we are fair in considering the influences he had in is pre-Presidential days. As a young man, Obama was deeply influenced by a committed Marxist, Frank Marshall Davis. This is the “Frank” in Obama’s book, Dreams from My Father who was a member off the Chicago Communist Party and who never deviated from the Party Line. Historian Paul Kengor states: “No other person can claim the title of Obama’s mentor… Frank is a lasting, permanent influence, an integral part of Obama’s sojourn.” Another Marxist, Bill Ayers, ex-member of the Weathermen, was a friend of Obama in Chicago when he was put forward as a presidential nominee.
Making such suggestions may seem exaggerated. After all, we all should have friends who don’t completely agree with us, right? However, Obama, when elected, named a number of deeply committed Marxists to his team. Several of these continue to influence the political world.
John Brennen, who was named by Obama as head of the CIA was once a member of the Communist party. Valerie Jarrett, the powerful overseer of Obama’s White House, came from a family associated with Chicago’s Communist Party. She, in turn, ensured a post for self-identified communist revolutionary Van Jones as the Obama administration’s green jobs czar in March 2009. David Axelrod, a consequential figure in the rise of Barack Obama, was a “red diaper baby,” raised by a Communist to achieve the goals of the Communist Party. Nellie Ohr wrote a PhD excusing the excesses of Stalin and has always maintained an open mind regarding the Marxist system of government.
Leaders such as the ones I mention here, in addition to many younger, current leaders, do not publicly identify as Marxists. But their histories and their connections are strong indications of their allegiance. One wonders to what extent the political option they call “progressivism,” is really a rejection of the God in whom the nation once trusted. Will they one day, like their Marxist heroes of the past, seek to eliminate the Christian faith from the culture?
What should Christians do? The point of my argument is not to provoke harsh political conflict or visceral hatred. Culturally, we can seek to maintain, for the good of the culture, the legal structures and constitutional freedoms of religion and speech that we are blessed to have in the United States. The Apostle Paul did not hesitate to use his Roman citizenship to avoid unjust mistreatment by the authorities. Today our freedoms are starting to be denied by defining Christian speech as “hate speech.” We must recognize that we now face a massive ideological and spiritual resistance that goes far beyond politics. Christians need to remember that Marxism must be an occasion for evangelism, for this political and ideological Oneist system is a clear example of spiritual and ideological poverty. Individualistic Oneists, who have no real sense of the Twoist idea of “the other,” can never know what real love is. It is the failed idea that humanity can, on its own, be a satisfying explanation for the beauty, intelligence and personal meaningfulness of life on this planet. Marxism cannot explain human evil or propose a divine solution, like the one we Christians know in the death of Christ for sinners. Marxists, who deny the God in whose image they are made, need to hear the gospel of God’s love for sinners.
So in the words of the original disciples addressed to the authorities wishing to silence them, our message of hope must still be:
Let it be known to all of you…that this Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’Acts 4:10-12
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. “Phil. 2:9-11
David McLellan, Marxism and Religion: A Description and Assessment of the Marxist Critique of Christianity (Macmillan Paperback, 1987), quoted in https://www.crisismagazine.com/1989/why-marx-hated-christianity-a-reply-to-leonardo-boff.
David Horowitz, Barack Obama’s Rules for Revolution: The Alinsky Model (Sherman Oaks, CA.: David Horowitz Freedom Center, 2009), 26. Horowitz “The Communist Party Is the Democratic Party,” Breibart News http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2013/11/12/Horowitz-blasts-left-Heritage.
Leslie Cagan and Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz, “How Queer Life Might Be Different in a Socialist USA,” chapter 11 in Imagine Living in a Socialist USA, eds. Frances Goldin, Debby Smith, and Michael Steven Smith (NY: Harper Perennial, 2014), 100.
Keith Farnish,Underminers: A Guide to Subverting the Machine (Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society Publishers, 2013), “Introduction.”
Goldin, Smith and Smith, Imagine Living in a Socialist USA.
Paul Buhle, Marxism in the United States: A History of the American Left (University of Michigan: Verso; 1991).
Buhle, quoted on the cover of Imagine Living in a Socialist USA.
Paul Buhle, “Marxism, the United States, and the Twentieth-Century,” Monthly Review, 61 (May 2009), optimistically states: “The realities of a collapsing ecosystem are as fearful as the threats of nuclear war in the first decade of Monthly Review’s existence. Still, there are lots of prospects in front of us and around the corner. Marxism, always unfinished, is going to be a big help in figuring out what they are and what to do about them.”
Toby Young, “The Neo-Marxist Takeover of our Universities,” https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/09/the-neo-marxist-takeover-of-our-universities.
Paul Kengor, The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (July 2012, Simon & Schuster Audio/Mercury Ink).
ValerieJarrett, Discover the Networks https://www.discoverthenetworks.org/individuals/valerie-jarrett/.