Vladimir Ilyich Lenin brought Marxism out of the shadow world of ideology
into the daylight of the real world. He midwifed the Bolshevik Revolution, an armed putsch
which threw out the liberal democratic government put in place after the
downfall of the Tsar. While the revolution which brought down the Tsar was
a genuine popular uprising, the Bolsheviks were a small minority when they
seized power. This is the man who subjected the Russian empire to the malignant
project of Communism, with its attendant consequences of low living standards and
deprivation of liberty, for seventy long years.
The Communists were convinced that their views, unlike the views of
other people, were 'scientific,' and science can not be expected to
co-exist with other forms of thought, but to displace them:
“Those who are really convinced that
they have advanced science would demand, not freedom for the
new views to continue side by side with the old, but the
substitution of the new views for the old."
(Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, Dogmatism and
'Freedom of Criticism,' A. What is Freedom of Criticism?, What
is to be Done, p. 10).
Adopting the 'science' meme was intended to lift communism out of the normal realm of politics. Science marches
onward, while the fields of ethics and politics revolve endlessly in the same orbits they traced out in classical
antiquity. The Communists aspired to leave rival utopias behind, not
forever quarrel with them. Because the Communists were doing 'science,' they need not consider the views of others nor protect the freedom
of others to express their unscientific views. This fallen banner has been picked up on
the contemporary scene by atheist Sam Harris, who also claims his new 'scientific'
ethics renders obsolete prior systems of ethics, including those of
revealed religion. 'Neuroscience's' meager cupboard of findings is only a
consequence of its life stage: this science is in its beginning stages;
it's taking its baby-steps. But, of course, this admitted incapacity in no
way dampens Sam Harris' triumphalist claims. In the same way, the admitted mis-steps of the Bolsheviks, the fact that everything they built fell
apart and everything they tried didn't work, was quite comprehensible and
forgivable, for the dawn of a new era; that the economy failed to function
should in no way be taken as evidence of ignorance or ineptitude. Once
these excuses ceased to be believed, Communism fell.
As Lenin himself noted, you can't have a revolution with a motivating revolutionary theory.
The revolutionary theory in this case was Marxism, an obscurantist and
dysfunctional, albeit 'scientific,' theory of economics. This 'scientific'
theory predicted that paradise was coming to this earth, so you'd better get ready.
It begins with the claim that labor is the source of all value.
"Marx taking Ricardo's investigations as his starting-point,
says, the value of commodities is determined by the socially necessary
general human labor embodied in them, and this in turn is measured by its
duration." (Friedrich Engels, Anti-Duhring, Part II: Political Economy, V. Theory of Value).
“Without a revolutionary theory there
can be no revolutionary movement."
(Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, Dogmatism and
'Freedom of Criticism,' D. Engels on the Importance of the
Theoretical Struggle, What is to be Done, p. 28).
As it turned out, religion did not die, though they certainly tried. While Lenin did not want his faction to stress the atheist angle prematurely in
the unpopular way the anarchists did, there was no question in his mind that
Marxism is built upon the foundation of atheism. The relation between the two is not accidental,
adventitious or optional:
"By declaring from the Duma rostrum that religion is the
opium of the people, our Duma group acted quite correctly, and thus
created a precedent which should serve as a basis for all utterances by
Russian Social-Democrats on the question of religion." (V. I. Lenin, The
Attitude of the Worker's Party to Religion).
V. I. Lenin praised the founding of an atheist materialist
journal in 1922 in a speech entitled 'On the Significance of Militant
Materialism,' included in his collected works. The reader will note
Lenin and his associates are not waiting passively for the day when
religion will wither away, rather, agencies of the government have been
tasked with atheist education. One detects a wistful note of dissatisfaction that the Bolshevik
bureaucrats placed in charge of propagandizing the Russian masses in
favor of atheism were not closing the sale. Realizing that Marx and
Engels' dense and obscurantist prose did not strike a responsive chord
in Russian hearts, Lenin is willing to go backwards, to the
'unscientific' but readable savants of eighteenth century atheism:
“In the second place, such a journal must
be a militant atheist organ. We have departments, or at
least state institutions, which are in charge of this work.
But the work is being carried on with extreme apathy and
very unsatisfactorily, and is apparently suffering from the
general conditions of our truly Russian (even though Soviet)
bureaucratic ways. It is therefore highly essential that in
addition to the work of these state institutions, and in
order to improve and infuse life into that work, a journal
which sets out to propagandize militant materialism must
carry on untiring atheist propaganda and an untiring atheist
fight. The literature on the subject in all languages should
be carefully followed and everything at all valuable in this
sphere should be translated, or at least reviewed.
“Engels long ago advised the contemporary
leaders of the proletariat to translate the militant atheist
literature of the late eighteenth century for mass
distribution among the people. We have not done this up to
the present, to our shame be it said (this is one of the
numerous proofs that it is much easier to seize power in a
revolutionary epoch than to know how to use this power
properly). Our apathy, inactivity and incompetence are
sometimes excused on all sorts of 'lofty' grounds, as, for
example, that the old atheist literature of the eighteenth
century is antiquated, unscientific, naive, etc. There is
nothing worse than such pseudo-scientific sophistry, which
serves as a screen either for pedantry or for a complete
misunderstanding of Marxism. There is, of course, much that
is unscientific and naive in the atheist writings of the
eighteenth-century revolutionaries. But nobody prevents the
publishers of these writings from abridging them and
providing them with brief postscripts pointing out the
progress made by mankind in the scientific criticism of
religions since the end of the eighteenth century,
mentioning the latest writings on the subject, and so forth.
It would be the biggest and most grievous mistake a Marxist
could make to think that the millions of the people
(especially the peasants and artisans), who have been
condemned by all modern society to darkness, ignorance and
superstitions — can extricate themselves from this darkness
only along the straight line of a purely Marxist education.
These masses should be supplied with the most varied atheist
propaganda material, they should be made familiar with facts
from the most diverse spheres of life, they should be
approached in every possible way, so as to interest them,
rouse them from their religious torpor, stir them from the
most varied angles and by the most varied methods, and so
“The keen, vivacious and talented
writings of the old eighteenth-century atheists wittily and
openly attacked the prevailing clericalism and will very
often prove a thousand times more suitable for arousing
people from their religious torpor than the dull and dry
paraphrases of Marxism, almost completely unillustrated by
skillfully selected facts, which predominate in our
literature and which (it is no use hiding the fact)
frequently distort Marxism. We have translations of all the
major works of Marx and Engels. There are absolutely no
grounds for fearing that the old atheism and old materialism
will remain un-supplemented by the corrections introduced by
Marx and Engels. The most important thing — and it is this
that is most frequently overlooked by those of our
Communists who are supposedly Marxists, but who in fact
mutilate Marxism — is to know how to awaken in the still
undeveloped masses an intelligent attitude towards religious
questions and an intelligent criticism of religions.
“On the other hand, take a glance at
modern scientific critics of religion. These educated
bourgeois writers almost invariably 'supplement' their own
refutations of religious superstitions with arguments which
immediately expose them as ideological slaves of the
bourgeoisie, as 'graduated flunkeys of clericalism'. . .
“The well-known German scientist, Arthur
Drews, while refuting religious superstitions and fables in
his book, 'Die Christusmythe' (The Christ Myth), and while
showing that Christ never existed, at the end of the book
declares in favor of religion, albeit a renovated, purified
and more subtle religion, one that would be capable of
withstanding 'the daily growing naturalist torrent' (fourth
German edition, 1910, p. 238). Here we have an out-spoken
and deliberate reactionary, who is openly helping the
exploiters to replace the old, decayed religious
superstitions by new, more odious and vile superstitions.
“This does not mean that Drews should not
be translated. It means that while in a certain measure
effecting an alliance with the progressive section of the
bourgeoisie, Communists and all consistent materialists
should unflinchingly expose that section when it is guilty
of reaction. It means that to shun an alliance with the
representatives of the bourgeoisie of the eighteenth
century, i.e., the period when it was revolutionary, would
be to betray Marxism and materialism; for an 'alliance' with
the Drewses, in one form or another and in one degree or
another, is essential for our struggle against the
predominating religious obscurantists.
“'Pod Znamenem Marksizma [the new magazine],' which sets out
to be an organ of militant materialism, should devote much
of its space to atheist propaganda, to reviews of the
literature on the subject and to correcting the immense
shortcomings of our governmental work in this field. It is
particularly important to utilize books and pamphlets which
contain many concrete facts and comparisons showing how the
class interests and class organizations of the modern
bourgeoisie are connected with the organizations of
religious institutions and religious propaganda. . .
“One would like to hope that a journal
which sets out to be a militant materialist organ will
provide our reading public with reviews of atheist
literature, showing for which circle of readers any
particular writing might be suitable and in what respect,
and mentioning what literature has been published in our
country (only decent translations should be given notice,
and they are not so many), and what is still to be
(Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, On the Significance
of Militant Materialism,
Lenin was losing patience with those sentimentalists remaining in the
teaching profession who were not fully and enthusiastically committed to
“The Marxist journal will have to wage war also on these
modern 'educated' feudalists. Not a few of them, very likely, are in
receipt of government money and are employed by our government to
educate our youth, although they are no more fitted for this than
notorious perverts are fitted for the post of superintendents of
educational establishments for the young.
“The working class
of Russia proved able to win power; but it has not yet learned to
utilize it, for otherwise it would have long ago very politely
dispatched such teachers and members of learned societies to
countries with a bourgeois 'democracy' That is the proper place for
“But it will learn, given the will to learn.”
(V. I. Lenin, On the Significance of Militant Materialism, 1922).
In time the Russian communists would 'learn,' indeed, to do a lot more with these
non-conformists than exile them. Their idea of 'separation of church and
state' was very simple; confiscate all church property: "We have already
had an opportunity to observe that the separation of church and state was
so construed by the state that the churches themselves and everything
that hung in them, was installed in them and painted in them, belonged to
the state, and the only church remaining was that the church which, in
accordance with the Scriptures, lay within the heart." (Aleksandr I.
Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, p. 342).
"The Decree on the Separation of Church and State was published the next
day, 20 January, much earlier than planned. It declared all Church
property to be the property of the state. Sanctioned by this
license, Bolshevik squads went round the country's churches and
monasteries looting their silver, drinking their wine and terrorizing
the priesthood. Patriarch Tikhon, the head of the Church, called on
the clergy to resist 'these monsters of the human race' in a
pastoral letter anathematizing the Bolshevik regime. . .The monks of
the Alexander Svirsky Monastery in Olonetsk, for example, after
trying to resist the Bolshevik squads, were imprisoned—and
later executed—by the local Cheka." (Orlando Figes, A People's
Tragedy, p. 528).
As had happened earlier in the French Revolution, the atheistic policy towards the churches which
began with a looting spree ground on into long years of repression and
"In October, 1918, Patriarch Tikhon had protested in a message
to the Council of People's Commissars that there was no freedom to preach
in the churches and that 'many courageous priests have already paid for
their preaching with the blood of martyrdom. . .They are executing
bishops, priests, monks, and nuns who are guilty of nothing, on the basis
of indiscriminate charges of indefinite and vaguely counterrevolutionary
offenses.'" (Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, p. 326).
As in the French Revolution, the church tried to compromise, tried to 'donate' the merchandise
the Communists wished to pillage, but to no avail. The atheists perceived
the church as their sworn, mortal enemy, no matter what. At one of the
church trials, the prosecutor put it all into perspective:
"Accuser Krasikov cried out: 'The whole Orthodox Church is a
subversive organization. Properly speaking, the entire church ought to be
put in prison.'" (Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, p.
For seventy long years of darkness, the atheists held this vast country in their iron vise.
We the Living
To assure that what happened to Russia never happens again, the testimony of
eye-witnesses must be kept alive. Ayn Rand's personal testimony as a
survivor of Communism is invaluable. Though as fervent an atheist as
Lenin himself, she lived through the early years of Bolshevik misrule and
knew from personal experience just how well that system worked. Even at the outset the Bolsheviks
were transforming Russia into a police state. The lone individual was
nothing: "What's a citizen? Only a brick and of no use unless cemented to
other bricks just like it." (Ayn Rand, 'We the Living,' p. 41). People could no longer
wander free as they had in the past, undocumented and unmonitored; the state had to
"She was there to receive her labor book.
Every citizen over sixteen had to have a labor book and was
ordered to carry it at all times. It had to be presented and
stamped when he found employment or left it; when he moved
into an apartment or out of one; when he enrolled at a
school, got a bread card or was married. The new Soviet
passport was more than a passport: it was a citizen's permit
to live. It was called 'Labor Book,' for labor and life were
(Ayn Rand, We The Living, p. 35, Signet edition.)
They needed this information, not to stream-line administration, but
so that they could take down names. As soon as they came to power, the
Bolsheviks set about humiliating their 'class enemies:' "One of the most
traumatic humiliations suffered by the wealthy classes in these early
months of the Soviet regime was the compulsory sharing of all or part of
their living space. The Bolsheviks were proud—and stressed it in their propaganda—that
they were forcing the wealthy to share their spacious houses with the
urban poor." (Orlando Figes, 'A People's Tragedy,' p. 528). The
third-class bread ration reserved for the former bourgeois was described
by Zinoviev as "just enough bread so as not to forget the smell of it."
(Orlando Figes, 'A People's Tragedy,' p. 727). The
orders for this campaign of class humiliation came down from the top:
"The bourgeoisie has to be throttled and for that we need both hands
free." (V. I. Lenin, quoted on the need to end the war with Germany,
Orlando Figes, 'A People's Tragedy,' p. 544). Kira's struggles against the Bolshevik bureaucracy frequently lead
down Catch-22 dead ends:
"'So you want to join the Union of Pedagogues? Very well,
citizen. Where are you working?'
"'I'm not working.'
"'You cannot join the Union if you're not working.'
get a job if I'm not a Union member.'
"'If you have no job,
you can't become a Union member. Next!'" (Ayn Rand, 'We the
Living,' p. 160).
To navigate successfully this bureaucratic maze, the citizen needed
Bolshevik friends and sponsors, which members of the middle class, like
Ayn Rand, were not likely to find. While a valuable witness to the public
sufferings of the early years of Bolshevism, her prescription to end
these ills was scarcely any improvement. Her fervent atheism is only the beginning of Ayn Rand's ideological
and personal peculiarities. She is an atheist to be sure:
Get it? If you love life, you have no need for God, and if you love
God, you must hate life. Ms. Rand's fictional alter-ego, Kira, shares the Communists' contempt
for the people of Russia, and not only for the Russians, but for
humanity at large:
For some unknown reason, the Nietschean superman for whom she was longing
always looked more like the Nazis' 'blonde beast' than like Ms. Rand herself:
At times Kira seems like a high-functioning autistic: "'I never
notice what I eat,' said Kira." (Ayn Rand, 'We the Living,' p. 27).
(Though Kira is a fictional character, Ms. Rand admitted she was a
stand-in for herself.) She had a difficult upbringing, it would seem,
forever meeting with perplexed stares when she shared her inmost,
anti-social, feelings with those around her. Much as one might wish to
sympathize with a misunderstood child, sometimes it is hard not to
re-enact society's puzzled looks. She, however, was sure these
eccentricities were proof of her superiority, and proclaimed an ethic of
pure selfishness. To her way of thinking, the superior folk thought only
of themselves anyway:
In spite of all the difficulties with her own unattractive and
unchristian views, Ms. Rand was a survivor of Communism whose warning
voice of caution should not be stifled.
The cardinal sin in Ayn Rand's 'Objectivist' ethics is
self-sacrifice. Thus it is with some puzzlement that readers of her
fiction notice that her characters not infrequently give up their own
happiness for another, and even risk their lives for the sake of
another. It's not apparent why perfectly selfish people would pretend to
have eaten so as to give up their inadequate Bolshevik bread ration to
"When Leo sat down at the table, Kira's smile was a little forced.
"'You see, there's no dinner tonight,' she explained softly. 'That is,
no real dinner.' Just this bread. The co-operative ran out of millet
before my turn came. But I got the bread. That's your portion. . .
"'Where's your portion?'
"'I've. . .eaten it already, before
you came.'" (Ayn Rand, 'We the Living,' pp. 158-159).
When she makes any effort to reconcile this contradiction between her
explicit ideals and her characters' exemplary behavior, Ms. Rand explains
that her characters are motivated by love, and they have not been coerced
into acting this way. No kidding: nothing but love led Jesus to Calvary,
and it is widely understood that those who are acting under duress are not
moral actors at all. No religion recommends that unwilling people should
be coerced into laying down their lives as a ransom for many, unless it be
the old Aztec religion. Yet Jesus' death on the cross as an atoning sacrifice
for humanity sends her into screaming fits.
The concept that religion was the opium of the masses goes back
to Karl Marx. They used to say that Communism was the opiate of the intellectuals. Certainly it appealed to this
group far more than it ever appealed to any actual workers. V. I. Lenin and his colleagues knew this perfectly
"The history of all countries shows that the
working class, exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only
trade union consciousness, i.e., the conviction that it is necessary
to combine in unions, fight the employers, and strive to compel the
government to pass necessary labor legislation, etc. The theory
of socialism, however, grew out of the philosophic, historical, and
economic theories elaborated by educated representatives of the
propertied classes, by intellectuals. By their social status the
founders of modern scientific socialism, Marx and Engels, themselves
belonged to the bourgeois intelligentsia. In the very same way, in
Russia, the theoretical doctrine of Social-Democracy arose altogether
independently of the spontaneous growth of the working-class
movement; it arose as a natural and inevitable outcome of the
development of thought among the revolutionary socialist
(V. I. Lenin, What is to be Done?, II The
Spontaneity of the Masses and the Consciousness of the
It is something of a sham to suggest that the Communist party ever represented the workers,
when even they realized they did not. It would be more accurate to say
that, in their secular messianic ideology, the working class played the
role originated by the Messiah. The triumph of the proletariat over their
'class enemies' was to bring in paradise,
the end of history. That didn't happen, though. The Communists' contempt for the
'proletariat' whose interests they supposedly upheld is striking. V. I.
Lenin quotes Karl Kautsky with approval:
"'Modern socialist consciousness can arise only on the basis of
profound scientific knowledge. Indeed, modern economic science is as
much a condition for socialist production as, say, modern technology,
and the proletariat can create neither the one nor the other, no
matter how much it may desire to do so; both arise out of the modern
social process. The vehicle of science is not the proletariat, but the
bourgeois intelligentsia: it was in the minds of individual
members of this stratum that modern socialism originated, and it was
they who communicated it to the more intellectually developed
proletarians who, in their turn, introduce it into the proletarian
class struggle where conditions allow that to be done. Thus, socialist
consciousness is something introduced into the proletarian class
struggle from without and not something that arose within it
(V. I. Lenin, What is to be Done? II. The Spontaneity of the Masses
and the Consciousness of the Social-Democrats, B. Bowing to
Everyone wants to feel needed, under-employed intellectuals no less
than anyone else. Marxism-Leninism employed an arcane vocabulary, taken
partly from Hegel's idealistic dialectic (though Marxism was thoroughly
materialistic), and also from text-book nineteenth century British economics.
Ideologies which employ arcane terminology take on a life of
their own, because vanity is stoked when the learner is clever enough to master
a complicated vocabulary. The same caution applies to medieval
scholasticism; people who have taken the trouble to learn the vocabulary
are invested in it. In general it is a good idea to rephrase everything
into simple words and common language; if what you want to say cannot be said
except in the arcane vocabulary of the initiates, then the Wizard of Oz
is standing outside your door.
The love affair between the literati and the Bolsheviks remained ardent
even in the wake of events, like the liquidation of the kulaks, which
might have been expected to cool it. Still, everyone likes to feel needed:
"'You produce the goods that we need,' said Stalin. 'Even more
than machines, tanks, aeroplanes, we need human souls.' . . .The writers,
Stalin declared, were 'engineers of human souls,' a striking phrase of
boldness and crudity. . ." (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon
Sebag Montefiore, p. 96).
The literati did not always shine in their new role as the conscience
of the nation, the new prophets and priesthood for an atheist nation. For
their part, the Bolsheviks went to great lengths to keep their important friends
happy. When flattery and special treatment wasn't enough, as in the case
of writer Maxim Gorky, they went to the length of printing phony
newspapers so he would not realize the extent of Stalin's purges: "The NKVD actually printed false issues of Pravda especially for
Gorky, to conceal the persecution of his friend, Kamenev." (Stalin:
The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 186). Still they
cannot all have been kept in the dark. It takes a
strong stomach to defend Communism as it turned out to be, not as it was
projected in fantasy, yet many of these people were up for it.
The Bolshevik state served the interests of the workers no better than
anyone else's, excepting only the nomenklatura, the well-connected
"'The Soviet regime, having been established in our name, has become completely alien to us. It promised to bring the workers
socialism but has brought them empty factories and destitution.'"
(striking workers at the Sormovo factory, quoted p. 625, Orlando Figes,
'A People's Tragedy').
I wonder how long it would take, if Sam Harris ever succeeded in bringing about his own October Revolution,
before people noticed the atheist "moral experts" now running the show are doing
just a little bit better than everyone else? Everyone understands that
the 'dhimmis,' the Jews and Christians living under Muslim protection,
are oppressed by their protectors. Though their lives are spared, they
are not eligible to serve in government, and many careers are closed to
them. In a similar vein, the Soviet constitution theoretically protected
religious liberty, and yet the Communist Party held the leading role in
the state. Only atheists could join the Party, and without a party card,
many career and job opportunities were closed. Career opportunities for
militant atheist intellectuals abounded.
Documents put out by socialist congresses, like the Communist
Manifesto, usually include a list of demands expressing the every-day
aspirations of Lenin's "trade union consciousness," like the forty hour
work week. Leaving out those demands, which were customarily found in party
programs of the day, at least those for political parties who hoped to
win working class
votes, might have led to the embarrassment of a 'Workers' Congresses'
attended solely by under-employed intellectuals. Some people today argue
against legal protections like the forty hour week on the grounds they
are mentioned in the Communist Manifesto, though of course this is not
where these ideas originated. Is governmental concern for workers'
In the mid-nineteenth century there were unsolved dilemmas which have since been
whittled down to size, if not corrected altogether. When capitalism came
in, it brought with it the business cycle. Capitalist economies, though
they grow over time, do not grow in a straight line, like so, a.):
People are expecting that, though. People always expect that present trends
will continue, though it is almost a given that they will not. They expect
that, if the price of gold has gone up, then it will continue to go up;
thus, at the very top of the market, gold seems like a stellar investment
to them. Perhaps this expectation is hard-wired into our brains. What you see over time
as you chart the economy's progress does not look like a straight line, but more like this,
Because people expect a.) rather than b.), or random noise, every chance
upturn or downturn in business conditions is amplified into a boom or a
crash. It is always surprising to watch people sell their stocks at the
depths of a down-turn, but that is what the rubric 'present trends will
continue' leads to. Every move is an over-reaction.
Every seven years or so there is a recession. The ups and downs of the
business cycle cause painful disruption to people's lives; the ups
are not so bad, but the downs are a killer: lay-offs, unemployment,
business failures. No one has ever figured out how to smooth out the
business cycle entirely, but John Maynard Keynes happened upon the
felicitous idea that the government should set up a counter-cycle: when
the private economy is in free-fall, that is the best time for the
government to start work on needed highway construction and similar projects. If
the government can set up a counter-cycle, a wheel within a wheel, that
counter-current will tamp down the extremes of the private business cycle.
Of course Keynes did not mean for the government to run a permanent
deficit as now, rather the government was to run a surplus in good times,
to dry up the 'irrational exuberance' bubbling up, but operate at a
deficit during recession. Moreover unemployment insurance and similar
programs were established to provide a safety net, not only so that lay-offs did not
mean hunger and hardship, but also to prevent consumer demand from
collapsing. The resultant tinkering works, not perfectly, but well enough,
so that there are no unresolved problems left over from the classical
age of Communist agitation. At this point this ideology is a
non-functional solution to a non-existent problem.
How Did it Work Out?
It worked out so poorly that modern-day atheists use the failure of their atheist forbears
to prove that God does not exist:
"To make my point, I would show
pictures of the famine to the students, pictures of emaciated
Ethiopian women with famished children on their breasts,
desperate for nourishment that would never come, both mother
and children eventually destroyed by the ravages of hunger.
Before the semester was over, I think my students got the
(Bart Ehrman, 'God's Problem,' p. 11)
Get it? This is "God's Problem," not the atheists' problem, though
atheist mismanagement caused it to happen. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy: if the atheists can make life
miserable enough, then they can convince others ("my students") that God
does not exist! What happened in Ethiopia was not a natural disaster, only what happens, as a
rule, when Marxism-Leninism comes to the country-side. Farmers, you see,
do not like to amalgamate their lands into large state farms: "'. . .it is
well known that there are rich peasants in the villages, who are hostile
to Leninism.'" (Ayn Rand, 'We the Living,' p. 194). Stalin solved that
problem once and for all in Russia by 'liquidating' the kulaks, the family
farmers, though he was only following Lenin's prescription: "Ruthless war
on the kulaks! Death to all of them." (V. I. Lenin, quoted p. 618, Orlando
Figes, 'A People's Tragedy'). Lenin inaugurated, and Stalin continued,
this great leap forward which snuffed out millions of human lives. Some they
machine-gunned, some they starved, and some they moved about from place to
place until they were dead:
"The Northern Dvina, the Ob, and the
Yenisei know when they began to haul prisoners in barges —
during the liquidation of the 'kulaks.' These rivers flowed
straight north, and their barges were potbellied and
capacious — and it was the only way they could cope with
the task of carting all this gray mass from living Russia to
the dead North. People were thrown into the trough-like holds
and lay there in piles or crawled around like crabs in a
basket. And high up on the deck, as though atop a cliff,
stood guards. Sometimes they transported this mass out in
the open without any cover, and sometimes they covered it with
a big tarpaulin — in order not to look at it, or to guard
it better, but certainly not to keep off the rain. The
journey in such a barge was no longer prisoner transport, but
simply death on the installment plan. Anyway, they gave them
hardly anything to eat. Then they tossed them out in the
tundra — and there they didn't give them anything at all to
eat. They just left them there to die, alone with nature."
(Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag
Archipelago, p. 578)
The war in the country-side over the collectivization of agriculture
was not so much a war between different classes of peasants, as
represented in Marxist-Leninist lore, but a war between the machine-gun
toting Commissars and the pitchfork-wielding peasants:
"V. G. Korolenko, in his Letters to Lunacharsky. . .explains
to us Russia's total, epidemic descent into famine and destitution. It was the result of productivity having been reduced to zero (the working hands
were all carrying guns) and the result, also, of the peasants' utter lack
of trust and hope that even the smallest part of the harvest might be left
to them." (Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, p. 343).
Marxism did not work in the Ethiopian
countryside any better than it worked in Russia. It is less than obvious how the spectacular but predictable failure of an atheist
economic system can prove that God does not exist, but connoisseurs of
atheist logic have seen stranger cases. To watch the same process unfolding in real time,
see the Marxist Robert Mugabe ravaging Zimbabwe. Little children are
starving there, too, and why? Because God is cruel? Or because atheists
are not to be trusted with managing the farm economy? What kind of
arrogance can keep doing this, over and over and over again, and never
learn, never say 'we're sorry,' never confess, 'we killed all these
people, not God'?
V. I. Lenin did not inculcate nor live by the principle that we are to
love our neighbor. He deliberately turned away from those influences, such
as music, which he feared might soften his character: "Lenin had no place
for sentiment in his life. 'I can't listen to music too often,' he once
admitted after a performance of Beethoven's Appassionata Sonata. 'It make
me want to say kind, stupid things, and pat the heads of people. But now
you have to beat them on the head, beat them without mercy.'' (V. I.
Lenin, quoted p. 390, Orlando Figes, 'A People's Tragedy.')
Communism is all about 'class warfare,' 'the
dictatorship of the proletariat,' and similar martial clashes and combats.
The killing started because justice was subordinated to the class
struggle: "'A tribunal is an organ of the class struggle of the workers
directed against their enemies. . .No matter what the individual
qualities [of the defendant], only one method of evaluating him is to be
applied: evaluation from the point of view of class expediency.'" (quote
from Comrade Krylenko, p. 308, The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr I.
Solzhenitsyn). Like Adolf Hitler, who envisioned the world of man and nature as locked in a
cosmic and endless struggle, where only the strong could survive at the
expense of the weak, this is a harsh, 'evolutionary' philosophy which sees
struggle as fundamental to life. It does however depart from the bellicose
evolutionary paradigm in the 'happy ending' of the withering away of the
state (which never actually happened).
That we are to love our neighbor is neither common sense nor the
universal consent of mankind. It is a dictate of revealed
"You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD."
"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect."
Not everybody wants to follow Jesus on this point, but following
would have stopped this runaway freight train, the 'revolution,' in its tracks,
before it killed so very many innocent people. Why is God to blame for all
these deaths, when He explained how they were to be avoided?
Atheists may wonder: so what if Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a monster?
What is that to us? Even if every atheist on earth were a horrible
person, that would not prove that God exists nor disprove His
This is certainly true, though it is self-defeating to hear that
rejoinder from one of the New Atheists. They are ever writing books where
the existence of Peter the Hermit, or some other murderer who says he is a
Christian, is advanced to prove God's non-existence. To their way of
thinking, one bad apple is enough to disprove the whole thing, all the way down
from the top. This of course is not valid reasoning either.
There are more than a few
atheist bad apples; there is a crowd of these atheist mass murderers, Pol
Pot, Mao Zedong, Enver Hoxha, etc., etc. It is not just by accident that
these people happen to be atheists, and also happen to be criminals. The one stands to the other in the relation of cause to effect.
The people they eliminated stood in the way of the atheist utopia. All
this killing did not repel the young Christopher Hitchens away from
Trotksy's perennial revolution, nor dissuade Madalyn Murray O'Hair from
making a serious effort to defect at the Soviet embassy in Paris, foiled
only when they would not have her. When apologists for the big league
atheist killers profess to be scandalized by atrocities committed by
nominal Christians, they fail to convince:
Nor is there any reason to think this is over. The atheist Communists
committed the crimes they did because they had no better understanding of
ethics than utilitarianism: the end justifies the means. For instance, the
Red Terror was justified, because it forestalled counter-revolution; the
math works out. Lenin wrote sarcastically to Gorky, who protested the
growing number of arrests: "A calamity indeed! What injustice. a few days,
or even weeks, in jail for intellectuals in order to prevent the massacre
of tens of thousands of workers and peasants!" (Orlando Figes, 'A People's
Tragedy, p. 649). Of course, once the writers lost their rights, they
never got them back. The Bolsheviks were not
beasts, they had some understanding that murder and robbery were not
noble, nor ideal, behavior patterns, but they looked to the future. It was
the drawn of a new era:
"She looked at the pitiless face before her;
she saw two dark triangles in the sunken cheeks; the muscles of his
face were taut. He was saying: 'When one can stand any suffering, one
can also see others suffer. This is martial law. Our time is dawn.
There is a new sun rising, such as the world has never seen before. We
are in the path of its first rays. Every pain, every cry of ours will
be carried by these rays, as on a gigantic radius, down the centuries;
every little figure will grow into an enormous shadow that will wipe
out decades of future sorrow for every minute of ours.'"
The moral philosophy known as 'utilitarianism' sets up a market in
trades just such as this. The future happiness of mankind,—so bright
and shining, you can almost see it, if it weren't unapproachable
light-years away—can be placed in trade against the real and present misery you are
causing to people, by robbing them of their goods and even their lives.
Enron never set up such a dangerous trading floor; every crime can be
rationalized under this system of ethics. Do you think they've given up on
it, even yet? They have by no means admitted defeat, they are straining
and clamoring for a rematch; atheist Sam Harris has just written a book, 'The
Moral Landscape,' reviving the very set of ideas that set Lenin in motion.
He was not born a monster; he did however believe that the end justifies
the means, and the rest followed. Next time will undoubtedly be different,
the "moral experts" will guide us unerringly to utopia,
even though there is no difference.
It is better, and more humble, to realize that none of us stands in the
place of God, none can foresee the future, and we would do better to look to
our own case rather than to remold humanity into a better configuration.
The next in sequence is Josef Stalin, who began as a favorite of V.
I. Lenin's, who later seems to have felt some qualms. Stalin had been a
bank robber and all-around revolutionary thug in the early days; he
ended as an all-powerful ruler whom no one dared question, with his
finger on the nuclear button. There was a natural progression from
Lenin's violence against the enemies of the revolution to Stalin's
violence. The policy of 'liquidating the kulaks' was already in place
when Lenin died in 1924, and it was already a fact, not a dream, that
the Soviet Union was a one-party state where dissent was not tolerated:
"In his essay 'How to Organize the Competition' (January 7
and 10, 1918), V. I. Lenin proclaimed the common, united purpose of
'purging the Russian land of all kinds of harmful insects.'. . .True,
the forms of insect-purging which Lenin conceived of in this essay were
most varied: in some places they would be placed under arrest, in other
places set to cleaning latrines; in some, 'after having served their
time in punishment cells, they would be handed yellow tickets'; in
others, parasites would be shot; elsewhere you could take your pick of
imprisonment 'or punishment at forced labor of the hardest kind.'" (Aleksandr
I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, p. 27).