Religion a n d Communism By EARL BROWDER KC The following is the text of the address of Earl Browder, General Secretary of the Commmtist Party, U.S.A., delivered at the regular morning service of the Commmniy Church Boston on March 5, 79^9. in THE LIBRARY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN PUBLISHED BV WOKKKItS LIlikARV PUBLISHERS, INC. P. O. UOX 148, STATION D, NEW YORK, N, Y, KJRST PRINTING^ MARCH, iggg SECOND PRINTING, MARCH, 1939 PRINTED EN THE U.Sji. RELIGION AND COMMUNISM BY EARL BROWDER THERE is an extensive newspaper campaign being con- ducted in the United States, designed to unite all persons of religious belief in a common front against Communism and the Communist Party, on the ground that Communism and the Communistii threaten to destroy their religions and their religious freedom. I have taken advantage of your kind invita- tion to address you today, in order to give the Communist view of this question. I am assuming that we occupy at least this common ground, to begin with, that we all agree that both sides of the question should be considered fully before minds are closed and final judgment rendered;* that is, I assume that I am not addressing myself to those whose views are already fixed and final, not to be reached by reasonable discussion. Allow me, first of all, to make a clear definition of the Communist Party attitude to religion. My Party stands for unconditional freedom of religious beliefs and worship, as a matter of principle, for the complete scparacton of church and state, for the removal of every element of coercion in matters of conscience. That is its fundamental principle in all ques- tions of public, of governmenlal, policy. Within our Party we place no tests of religion whatever upon our merabershipj which includes, as a matter of fact today, persons of all shades and tendencies of religious belief, as well as skeptics, agnostics and atheists. The Party resei-ves the right, in relation to its own members, of caUing up for discussion any particular opinions of any kind, religious or otherwise, which involve formulation of policy toward social and political problems, but this can never result in coercion because of the purely vohintary nature of membership in the Party. This being the Communist position, not a new position but going back to the foundation of our movement in the teach- mgs of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels from the middle of the nineteenth century on. the question arises, upon what basis has it been possible for misconception to arise, for the Communists to be pictured as proponents of forcible destruc- tion of religion and reh'gious freedom? Two facts have served to lend some color of credibility to these charges against us, and to make possible widespread mis- understanding. First, the repression of the Greek Orthodox Church in the Russian Revolution which founded the first socialist republic of the world under the leadership of the Communist Party; second, the insistence of all Marxian ]>hil(}sophical authorities upon the exclusion of every element of the supernatural from the explanation of the world and of man's history, and from the policies which are expected to mold and direct future his- tory^the insistence that these questions must be dealt with as matters of scientific inquiry as rignronsly as questions of as- tronomy, physics, chemistry or biology. Let us, therefore, examine these two facts more in detail, to sec if they conflict with the principles of religious freedom. • « • The Greek Orthodox Church was deeply involved in the Russian Revolution, and suffered from it, first of all because it was a State Church, a political instrument in the hands of the tsarist autocracy, as corrupt, rotten and unspiritual an insti- tution as history records. It was the antithesis of religious free- dom, as well as the symbol and instrument of political despotism, Any steps toward freedom, religious or political, on the part of the Russian people, no matter how limited, could only be taken over the ruins of tsarism and the Church which was its unlimited instrument; the role of the Church was summed up in the sinister figure of the Monk Rasputin, who dominated the last years of the reign of Nicholas II. For full documentation of this phase of the problem, no recourse is needed to Communist authorities; the case was fully estab- lished by historians of all religions (except of the one under examination), before the socialist revolution o£ 1917 caused them to lock up their books in forgotten archives, so as not to embarrass the anti-Soviet political fight of the Church, with which they were in agreement. As a matter of simple historical fact, the disestablishment of the Greek Orthodox Church in Russia, and its elimination from political life, was pan of the bourgeois-democratic revo- lution and not specifically of the socialist revolution, even though it was realized only under the Soviet Republic, as were most of the simplest democratic achievements. But it was an historical Lask strictly paiallel to the disestablishment of the Catholic Church in France, a feature of the bourgeois revolution, and was carried through with much less violence and incidental hardships precisely because it was so long over- due that only the socialist revolution completed it. It was an historical task strictly comparable to that which the United States carried out over the sixty or seventy year period follow- ing the Declaration of Independence. It compressed in a few short years for Russia the hundreds of years required for the Reformation fn Central and Western Europe, which had left Russia almost untouched. It becomes further clear that the struggle against the church was a necessity of the simplest aspirations to political liberty, and not a special item of the socialist or communist program, when we see how today it repeats itself in other lands fighting for democracy and independence, for example, in Spain and Mexico. I know quite well, of course, that all Tories point to the conflict between church and state in Spain and Mexico as signs of Communist influence in those lands, but such propa- ganda is so obviously untrue that it should not confuse a single educated person. Every period of Spanish history, when its people were striving toward democracy and civilization, saw the church hierarchy (always with honorable exceptions) on the side of reaction; and the repressions of the popular move- ment always resulted in movements against the church, marked by church burnings and so on. When the Spanish Republic arose a few years ago, the same 5 struggles set in again, as they had so ofter^in Spanish history; that the Communist Party did not create this struggle is proved by the fact that it was not strong enough, before 1936, to elect a single deputy to the national legislature, and v/hen it did become stronger its influence was consistently a mod- erating one on the religious issue (not, of course, conciliatory toward the pro-fascist section of the Church hierarchy). Simi- larly in Mexico, the conilicL between church and state has been a permanent one since the 1911 Revoliarion, and was sharpest in the period before the Communist Party was formed, or while it was a small and persecuted sect, President Cardenas is the first Mexican executive to have the epithet ''Communist*' flung "at him (he has the consolation, if he needs it, of know- ing that President Roosevelt suffers at the same time from the same accusation), but he is also the first President since 1911 to have succeeded in softening tliis conflict considerably with- out compromising the program of the revolution written into the Mexican Constitution. And finally, citizens of the United States, before they accuse Communists of being church-burners and persecutors of reli- gion, should study the history of our own country more care- fully, for they will find that church-burnings and persecutions in tliis country have occurred, but always on the part of one religious group against another, never as the act of anti- religious groups or of Communists. An illuminating and valuable book has but recently been issued, The Protestant Crusade, by Ray Billington, dealing with the anti-Catholic movement in America in the first half of the nineteenth century, from a pro-CaLholic viewpoint, which is sufficient by itself to absolve the Communists from any responsibility for the origin of bigotry or intolerance on the religious question in our counti7. So much for the first of the two grounds upon which Com- munists have been accused of being enemies of religious free- dom. Overwhelming evidence proves that all the great strug- gles between church and state which have been so lightly ascribed to Communist hostility to religion are nothing of tlie kind; they arose out of the general democratic movement of the people for both political and religious freedom^ and char- 6 acterize the bourgeois-dernocraiic revolution against feudalism and semi-feudal survivals, and that these struggles arc carried over into the socialist revolution only there where, and to the extent to which, the bourgeois-democratic revolution was de- layed or was incomplete. Now for the second ground for accusation against us, namely, the insistence of Marxian ideology and philosophy upon the exclusion of the supernatural from the world-view upon which we base our prograni, the insistence upon an ex- clusively scientific consideration. First of all» let me repeat, there is no religious or anti-religious test of membership in the Communist Party, and an increasing number of Party mem- bers are active communicants of the various churches, finding in the Party program and activities, as distinct from its back- ground and base of M^xian philosophy, what they themselves describe as "the nearest we can find to applied Christianity." And, indeed, it cannot be denied that Christianity and most other religions have communistic traditions and ethical teacli- ings which can be realized in the modern world only through the program of the Communist Party. Nevertheless, there is a conflict between the Marxian philosophy which is the dom- inating iniSuence in the intellectual life of the socialist and communist movementj and the distinctly religious, ethical, or philosophical-idealist approach to social and political ques- tions, even when these latter approaches result in the accep- tance of the same immediate political program o£ the Com- rc^unist Party. We Communists would be the last to evade this issue, or to belittle its significance. But we insist upon keeping it, insofar as we are able, upon its proper plane as a conflict of ideas, which does not necessarily, and should not, result in a. conflict between persons who agree upon immediate program while disagreeing upon the intellectual path by which they reached that common point. We are determined not to allow any dis- putes about the Marxian philosophy to be used by anyone to break the unity of the people in their struggles to realize an immediate, agreed-upon program, whether that is a simple pro- gram of the democratic front or even the program of estab- 7 lishing socialism. In fact the highest evidence of the validity of Marxism, in our view, is its effective contribution to the unity of the working class and the toiling masses of the popu- lation. We are not sectarians or dogmatists. We know that there is every likelihood that even when the time comes when the majority of the American people decide to establish socialism according to the program of the Communist Party, the greatest part of that majority will not understand or consciously accept the Marxian philosophy, but will be moved by immediate needs which will be expressed in their minds in religious, ethical, or philosophical-idealist forms of thought. It would therefore be the extreme of stupidity on our part if we should raise dogmatic barriers between our Party and the great masses who do not understand Marxism, and who will not have the opportunity to understand it for some time to come. And Marxians are not stupid, at least not as a rule. A dogmatic Marxism is, in our understanding, foreign to the whole teaching of Marx and his great successors, Lenin and Stalin, and was what Marx himself had in mind when, on an occasion of being pestered by dogmatists trying to quote him against himself, impatiently declared tliat he, Marx, was no Marxian. No, we are not dogmatists. But neither are we weak-minded opportunists or conciliators, who try to patch up a united movement of the people out of mutually contradictory frag- ments of ideas or the colorless common-denominator of the rich and multifonn popular thought. We use our Marxism as an instrument to discover the effective forces that can and will unite the people in struggle for the needs of their life, despite all differences in ideas, and through such common struggle gradually achieve more and more unity of ideas. For it is the essence of our thought, and that is why we are called materialists, that the universe and life come first, and out of it grows the idea, not the other way about; and it is also of the essence of our thought, and that is why we are called dialectical, not mechanical, materialists, that the idea, when it corresponds to reality and is taken possession of by the masses becomes such a power that can shape, direct and guide the 8 human race to complete freedom, which is the same thing as to say the full realization o£ its capacities. With increasing frequency I have the question put to me by religious persons with a communistic tendency of thought: why does not the Communist Party drop its Marxism, toward which the churches are hostile, and frankly adopt religion as an approach to the masses, even if only from practical and opportunistic motives. I believe that this question can be an- swered in such a way that everyone, including the advocates of religion, will understand the impossibility of such a pro- posal. All that is necessary is to begin to visualize the steps that would be necessary, and what would result from these steps- These proposals usually come from Christians- They really propose that the Party should adopt Christianity. But if we did, that would immediately exclude the Jews, Mohammedans, and the horde of small non-Christian sects, not to speak of a great mass (the majority of the population in the United States) who profess no religion at all, as well as smaller groups of professed atheists, That would only be to fix arbitrarily a division o£ the people instead of greater unity. But then our troubles are only begun. The outstanding characteristic of the Christian community, from the viewpoint of influence upon social groupings, is its schismatic character. The largest of the Christian churches is less than one-third of the total, while the remainder is divided up among a score of Protestant denominations. The Catholics are convinced that all others are but disguised forms of atheism, and all the more dangerous because disguised; while most Protestants continue to look upon the Catholics as idolaters and subjects of a for- eign potentate, even when they allow the issue to lie in abey- ance. Not even all Methodists have been able to remain in one church, and the same is true of Presbyterians and Bap- tists, not to mention the lesser denominations. If the Christian community is so demonstrably unable to unify itself, or even to move in the direction of unity, what reason have we to think the adoption of Christianity by the Communists would help to unify the people around our po- litical program? It is, of course, idle to apply the same test to other faiths* as for example the Jewish. And of course the religious Jewish community would indignantly protest against the Commu- nists endorsing their religion, since the fascists have so terribly revived the cannibalistic and-Semitism of the Middle Ages, and ijitensiiied it, precisely under the completely false identi- Rcation of the Jewish religion, with Communism. Incomparably larger numbers of people are religious-minded than are scientifically minded, due to the educational delects of our present social system. Yet, while the religious approach to our political problems opens up the doors to schism with- out end, the strictly scientific approach gives the maximum of uniiy^ and contributes most to realizing the brotherhood of man. There has never yet been found a test of religious faith acceptable to all religious people; but there are such tests for all -who agree upon the scientific approach. That is why all sciences, except the social sciences, have largely liquidated opposing schools of thought; while in the social sciences, where there is as yet only the beginning of unity in America, this is only because their scientific possibilities are by and large denied, because to admit them would be to admit the tabooed premises of Marxism or Communism. But scientific thought is a mighty force, which it is very difficult to outlaw, and that is why the Communist Party, comparatively very small indeed, exercises an influence in our country which is quite broad and is extending rapidly. » ^ * By maintaining this scienLific approach, while scrupulously refraining from all offense to the religious preconceptions of all m^n and joining in the guarantee of religious freedom to all, the Communist Party finds the road to the maximum unity and effectiveness of all who agree with the practical program of Communism, and the greatest possibility of cooperation with the broadest progressive and democratic masses who con- stitute a majority of the population. And our cooperation with the broadest circles, on a minimum program of ameliora- tion of social conditions under capitalism (a minimum pro- gram typified by the New Deal), is growing every day. In this process we more and more find ourselves in cooperation with 10 groups united on the basis of their religious beliefs. We wel- come this cooperation, and do our best to make it more fruitful. Sometimes there are by-products of this cooperation, which are embarrassing to our friends. I have in mind a recent article in the American Magazine^ which set out to prove that the Communist Party was ''boring from within" the Protestant churches, with such success that we are supposed to be within sight of a majority influence already. Of course^ suclx fantastic conclusions are reached by the simple process of identifying "Communists" l>y ihe same standards Mrs. Dllling used to "expose" the '^Communism" of the President, Mrs. Roose- velt and Supreme Court Justice Frankfurter. And you can hardly blame the Communists for this embaiTassment, because even if we should remove ourselves entirely from the Amer- ican scene, Mr. Dies and Mrs. Billing would only insist all the more that we had merely "gone underg] ound," and would all the more insistently ''expose'' every serious progressive as a "hidden Communist," An interesting fact* to offset the fantasies about "Commu- nism" in the Protestant churches, is that we have more com- municants of the Catholic Church as members of the Communist Party than of any other denomination. While we make many sympathetic contacts among active Protestants, they seldom become Party members; but among Catholics, the speed with which a sympathetic contact develops into a loyal and active Party man is much greater, and the proportion much higher. When 1 asked one of otir Cadiolic Party members Lo explain the reasons for this to me, he replied that his religious educa- tion and discipline had contained a recognition of the reality of the material world, which he found largely lacking in Prot- estant churches, but which he found compatible with the Marx- ian dialectical materialism. He considers himself first of all a Catholic, but he is intcUectualiy convinced that communism is the inevitable next stage of society, and he believes that if he helps to bring it about he will thereby contribute most effectively to the continuity of his religion. He points out that his Church, despite all difficulties, did learn to adapt itself 11 to capitalism, despite its ties to the old feudal society, and he hopes it will, with less resistance, accept the new society of socialism. His views are at least interesting, and I pass them on to you for what they may be worth. This much I can testify toward their soundness, that in the trade union movement the Communists have found no more harmonious and effective co-workers than among those circles predominantly Catholic. From such facts, you will understand why the Communist Party does not reply in kind to tlie furious diatribes directed against us by the reactionary clergy of the Ca4;holic Church, typified by Father Coughlin and the Rev, Edward Lodge Curran. They are not representative of the Catholic com- munity, and as their links with foreign and native fascism become clearer, they are doomed to repudiation by their own flocks. Meanwhile, there is a valuable by-product to their ravings; inasmuch as they are of such low intellectual caliber, most of their audience are left unsatisfied, but curious to really learn something about this much-talked-of Communism, with the result that the circulation of our literature among Cath- olics is increasing by leaps and bounds. A growing number of Catholic youth, who are sent to my meetings by Rev. Cur- ran in order to scoff, remain, if not to pray, yet to enter into reasonable discussions from which they almost always emerge with thoughtful visage, minus the cocksure aggressive intoler- ance with which they were sent. « # * All these growing friendly contacts between Communists and religious communicants are more than casual and acci- dental incidcnrts. They are symptoms of deep currents begin- ning to move among the people. They reflect a deepening uneasiness before the rising menace of fascism within the United States, and alarm before the aggressions of the Berlin-Rome- Tokyo axis which are engulfing the world in the second World War. When they witness tlie alliance of the war-makers march- ing under the flag of "Anti-Communism," their long-inculcated prejudices against the Communists are undermined, at least to the extent of recognizing that they share a common enemy with the Communists, and that enemy an extremely aggressive one, and dangerous beyond anything hitherto seen in history. 12 • 1 The distressful conditions of all loyal and active com- municants of both Catholic and Protestant churches under Hitler, and the cannibalistic pogroms against the Jews, have served to awaken and frighten all intelligent church adherents in the United States. They are no longer able to accept the old formulae and ready-made answers of the pre-Hitler time. They are asking questions, serious ones, and demanding serious answers. With the fascist powers setting themselves up as the church, violently assimilating into themselves all existing churches, our American church members can no longer be satisfied with superficial comparisons with former conflicts between Church and the democratizing states which sought the disestablishment of the church and its removal from politics. Here is some- thing quite different, opposite in fact, something which threatens to turn back the clock of human progress not to the Middle Ages, but to pre-civilization. With the fascist absolutism, no longer content to oppress in the name of God, but claiming to be God himself, personified in Der Fuehrer, disposing of the fate of whole nations with iron hands and the kick o£ rough-shod military boots, Ameri. can churchgoers can no longer be frightened by the menace of a few quotations from the philosophical writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin which combat the conception of supernatural influences, in the realm of ideas. Here is some- thing quite different, opposite in fact, something which trans- forms the whole concept of religion and of God himself into a monstrous military machine, raining death and destruction from the skies upon men, women, and children alike. That all America is aroused and frightened by this horrible menace is attested by the current rearmament program now getting under way, and which seems destined to reach colossal dimensions before any relief comes. Does any one doubt whence comes the danger before which America is arming? Surely the danger does not come from "Godless" Soviet Russia. It has existed for twenty-one years, and not one of its neighbors has ever had cause to fear its armed forces, even if some ruling classes have shivered with fright before its ideas. 13 The stronger the Soviet Union grows, the more it has been able to prove in deeds its undying devotion to international order, to peace, and to the inviolability of agreements between nations. No, there can be no doubt in the mind o£ any intelligent person^ even one who is only most siiperficially informed. The world is being plunged into war by the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo axis, the ^^Anti-Communist'' alliance. There are the enemies of all mankind, of civilization itself. Thence comes the menace to all culture and all freedom, including religious freedom. If that is true— and who can deny it?-what then are we to think of those who continue to shout from the housetops the alarm about the "menace of Communism"? Communism will and can be nothing but what the majority of the people make of it, and if we cannot trust the people then all talk of human liberty has become so much hypocrisy. And what are we to think of those who, more slyly* talk oi the "menace of dictatorships" and lump together Germany. Russia, Italy, and Japan? That is only to make the enemy look more powerful, throw panic among the democratic peoples, and deny to us the natural and inevitable cooperation of a natural and inalienable friend, in the most dangerous moment of world history. The brutal truth, which needs to be spoken with brutal frankness, is that every public man who agitates today against the Soviet Union is thereby taking the path toward the Berlin- Romc-Tokyo axis, toward submission to its plans of world conquest. * * * The issue i& submission or resistance. Can anyone think of resistance, but at the same time wish the United States to bear the burden of such resistance alone? Certainly not, for such ideas are clearly nothing but a disguised form of submission, putting off the decision until the rest of the world has been conquered. Can anyone think of resistance, and not want among Amer- ica's friends every power, great and small— but especially great —which can be aligned against the war-makers, for peace and international order? Certainly not, for to refuse friends in the 14 \ face of world cataclysm is only the road of self-destruction, of national suicide. Can anyone deny that the Soviet Union is a great powei;? Only those who take their thoughts ready-made Trom the Volkischer Beohachter of Berlin, as an increasing number of Republican spokesmen from Herbert Hoover down are doing. A nation that multiplied its national wealth and income by ten times since 1928, the same period in which even the United States declined in wealth and national income, cannot be described other than as a great power, A nation which oc- cupies the eastern half of Europe and the northern third of Asia, with half the surveyed mineral resources of the world, cannot be described other than as a great power. A nation which has raised its general standard of living five-fold in ten years cannot be described other than as a great power. A nation that stands second in wealth and income only to the United States itself cannot be described other than as a great power. This great power, the Soviet Union, has proved in its entire existence that it never broke an agreement, never deserted a friend, never uttered a threat, and never violated a border, In a world of chaos and destruction, a world in which the United States government with the overwhelming support of the people considers it necessary to multiply armaments to guarantee our simple national existence— in such a world, such a great power offers its friendship and cooperation to the American people and government. Should America accept, cultivate and cherish such a prof- fered friendship? Men are speaking in the name of religion and religious freedom to advise us no, to refuse this offer. May I be allowed to point out, to Catholics, Jews, and Prc^t- estants, to men and women of all religions and of none, that it was such advice, which was followed in Europe, which raised this Frankenstein that threatens our destruotfon, and if fol- lowed in the United States will destroy us also. J5 SOCIAL AHD NATIONAL SECURITY liY EARL BROWDER What does the Munich Pact mean for the security o£ America? How can the American people meet the threat of reaction at home and fascist aggression abroad? These questions are answered in the report by Earl Browder, General Secretary, to the December, 1938, meeting of the National Committee of the Communist Party, U.S.A. 48 pages, price 5c \ THE DEMOCRATIC FRONT For Jobs, Security, Semocracy and Peace BY EARL BROWDER In Lhis brilliant, historic report, Earl Browder makes clear the main political problems confronting the people of America today. He deals extensively here with the offensive of reaction in the United States, and the growing forces of the democratic front, and with such vital questions as labor unity, foreign policy, the Communist Party, the Soviet Union, etc. 96 pages, price 10c WORKERS LIBRARY PUBLISHERS P. D. Box 148, Station D, New York, N. Y.