Friday, February 20, 2009

Bukharin on religion

Programme of the World Revolution
Chapter I
The Reign of Capital, the Working Class, and the Poorer Elements of the Village Population
Capitalist society is divided into two classes: those who work a great deal and feed scantily, and those who work little or not at all, but eat well and plentifully. That is not at all in accordance with the Scriptures, where it says: “He that does not work, neither shall he eat.” This circumstance, however, does not prevent the priests of all faiths and tongues from lauding the capitalist order; for these priests everywhere (except in the Soviet Republic) are maintained by increment derived from private or church property. Another question now arises. How is it possible for a group of parasites to retain private ownership over the means of labour, so indispensable to all? How has it come about that private ownership by the idle classes is maintained to the present day? Where does the reason lie?

The reason lies in the perfect organisation of the enemies of the labouring class. To-day there does not exist a single capitalist country where the capitalists act individually. On the contrary, each one of them is infallibly a member of some economic organisation. And it is these economic unions that hold everything in their hands, having tens of thousands of faithful agents to serve them, not out of fear, but as a matter of conscience. The entire economic life of every capitalist country is at the complete disposal of special economic organisations: syndicates, trusts, and unions of many banking concerns. These combines own and direct everything.

The most important industrial and financial combine is the Bourgeois State. This combine holds in its hands the reins of government and power. Here everything is weighed and measured, everything is premeditated and arranged in such a manner, as to crush instantly any attempt at rebellion on the part of the working class against the domination of capital. The State has at its disposal, forces (such as spies, police, judges, executioners, and trained soldiers, who have become soulless machines), as well as mental influences which gradually pervert the workers and poorer elements of society, imbuing them with fallacious ideas. For this purpose the bourgeois State utilises schools and the Church, aided by the capitalist press. It is a known fact that pig-breeders can breed such stock as are incapable of moving owing to the vast accumulation of fat; but such pigs are extremely suitable for slaughter. They are bred artificially on special fattening food. The bourgeoisie deals with the working class in exactly the same way. It is true it gives them little enough substantial food – not enough to get fat on. But day by day it offers to the workers a specially-prepared mental food which fattens their brains and makes them incapable of thought. The bourgeoisie wants to turn the working class into a herd of swine, docile and fit for slaughter, not capable of thinking and ever subservient. This is the reason why, with the help of schools and the Church, the bourgeoisie tries to instill into the minds of children the idea that it is necessary to obey the Authorities, as they hold their power from heaven (and the Bolsheviks, instead of prayers, have drawn on themselves the curses of the Church, because they have refused to grant any State subsidies to these cassocked frauds). This is also the reason why the bourgeoisie is so anxious to circulate its lying press far and wide.
Chapter XVII
Spiritual Liberation – The Next Step to Economic Liberation
(The Church and the School in the Soviet Republic)

A major statement.

Bukharin, Nikolai. "Church and School in the Soviet Republic," The Class Struggle, Vol. Vol. III, No. 2, May, 1919.

Also at:

Nikolai Bukharin; Evgenii Preobrazhensky; The ABC of Communism

§ 76. The school under the bourgeois regime

The work of bourgeois educationists is completed by the servants of the church with their religious instruction. Thanks to the intimate associations between capital and the church, the law of God invariably proves to be the law of the possessing classes.

§ 77. The destructive tasks of communism

The old school was intimately associated with religion - by compulsory religious teaching, compulsory attendance at prayers, and compulsory church-going. The new school forcibly expels religion from within its walls, under whatever guise it seeks entry and in whatever diluted form reactionary groups of parents may desire to drag it back again.
Chapter 11: Communism and Religion

Major statement.

From Historical Materialism - a System of Sociology:

1: Cause and Purpose in the Social Sciences (Causation and Teleology)

Of like nature are all the religious pseudo-explanations. They are intrenched behind the intangibility of mysterious powers, or the essential insufficiency of our reason. A father of the Church has set up the following principle: "I believe, because it is absurd" (Credo quid absurdum). According to the Christian doctrine, God is one, but also three, which contradicts the rudiments of the multiplication table. But it is declared that "our weak reason cannot comprehend this mystery." Obviously, the most ridiculous absurdities can be covered by such considerations.

2: Determinism and Indeterminism (Necessity and Free Will)
(free will, God, etc.)

3: Dialectical Materialism
b. The Materialist Attitude in the Social Sciences

This point of view [materialism in sociology], as we know, by no means denies that "ideas" have their effects. Marx even said distinctly, in discussing the highest stage of consciousness, which is scientific theory: "Every theory becomes a force when it secures control over masses." But materialists cannot be satisfied with a mere reference to the fact that "people thought so". They ask: why did people in a certain place, at a certain time, "think" so, and "think" otherwise under other conditions? In fact, why do people think such an awful lot anyway in "civilized" society, producing whole mountains of books and other things, while the savage does not "think" at all? We shall find the explanation in the material conditions of the life of society. Materialism is therefore in a position to explain the phenomena of "mental life" in society, which idealism cannot, for idealism imagines "ideas" developing out of themselves, independently of the base earth. For this very reason the idealists, whenever they wish to construct any real explanation, are forced to resorting to the divine: "This Good", wrote, Hegel in his Philosophy of History, "this Reason in its most concrete conception, is God; God rules the world ; the content of his government Regierung), the execution of his plan, is universal history:'1) To drag in this poor old man who constitutes perfection, according to his worshipers, and who is obliged to create, together with Adam, lice and prostitutes, murderers and lepers, hunger and poverty syphilis and vodka, as a punishment for sinners whom he created and who commit sins by his desire, and to continue playing this comedy forever in the eyes of a delighted universe - to drag in God is a necessary step for idealist theory. But from the point of view of science it means reducing this "theory" to an absurdity.

6: The Equilibrium between the Elements of Society
See the subsection on "Religion and Philosophy".

Theory and Practice From The Standpoint of Dialectical Materialism

Some interesting stuff here on mystification, e.g. against mystical holism:

In the sphere of "spiritual culture" the return to religion, the substitution of intuition, "inward feeling," "contemplation of the whole," for rational cognition. The turn from individualist forms of consciousness is patent. It is universal--the idea of "the whole," "wholeness" ("das Ganze," "Ganzheit") in philosophy; in biology (Driesch and the Vitalists), in physics, in psychology (Gestaltpsychologie), in economic geography (territorial complexes), in zoology and botany (the doctrine of heterogeneous "societies" of plants and animals), in political economy (the collapse of the school of "marginal utility," "social" theories, the "universalism" of Spann), and so on, and so forth. But this turn to the "whole" takes place on the basis of the absolute breaking-away of the whole from its parts, on the basis of idealistic understanding of the "whole," on the basis of a sharp turn to religion, on the basis of the methods of super-sensual "cognition." It is not surprising, therefore, that from any scientific hypothesis quasi-philosophic (essentially religious) conclusions are being drawn, and on the extreme and most consistent wing there is openly being advanced the watchword of a new medievalism.

Bukharin, N[ikolai]. Finance Capital in Papal Robes: A Challenge, translated by Moissaye J. Olgin. New York: Friends of the Soviet Union, 1931(?). 24 pp.

This seems to be a fairly rare item. I can't find a digitized copy online. The Library of Congress doesn't have it. Curiously, I have a photocopy of an Esperanto translation but not of the English.

Buĥarin, Nikolaj I. Financa Kapitalo en la Papa Mantelo. [Trad. el la rusa lingvo de SEU-ano 50/212] Moskvo: Eldonejo C. K. SEU, 1930.

N.I. Bukharin: Marx's Teaching and its Historical Importance
4. The Theory of Proletarian Dictatorship and Scientific Communism
(c) religion in communist society disappears altogether, for, since it is the reflection of a divided world and the projection into "heaven" of the "earthly" categories of the state, of subjection, it loses any basis for existence.


Unknown said...

Holism is a trick to make you drown in a sea of connections.

It makes you slow and inactive.

When the capitalist is hanging by a thread he will say you are unclear, vague and you need to be more concrete. He will force you to think in false analogies on the theme of solidness -- the more connected the more concrete.

Lenin said Dialectics makes the determination unclear [ see philosophical notebook] and Marx used this anaolgy : "..dialectics is also the torrent which smashes the bounds, which tears down the independent forms, sinking everything in one sea of eternity" pp 66 - "The Making of Marxist Philosophy"

The pirates off the horn of Africa should have something to say about this?

Ralph Dumain said...

I checked Oizerman's book, but it did not help me make sense of your post.

Unknown said...


What Im saying is the idea of holism is about taking into consideration the whole and not just the parts.

Dialectics says a similar thing: the more connections you have the more concrete you are.

If you consider what Marx (young Marx ) and Lenin say we should be cautious of the negative aspect of this ie. using dialectics makes the "determination unclear" and "smashing of bounds" will result in loss of all distinctions.

What I have found in my battles with capitlists is that they use the idea of connections to drag out and complicate situations. They demand we be more concrete and more rounded; to consider the whole, also referd to as a body.

This is done to slow down / fudge and confuse situations.

I believe the anolgy of a sea Marx used is still relied on today to force this way of thinking upon the general public.

Is it enough to show a few pics of the sea to put across the idea of hoilsm. I think so.

Ralph Dumain said...

Oizerman gives a different interpretation of Marx's statement, but I think I get your point. The 'whole' is exploited to argue 'but reality is so complex', to stave off radical critique. Hence the relation between the abstract and the concrete is fudged in the process of evoking a vague whole, which, in actuality, is predicated on fragementation.

Unknown said...

"Hence the relation between the abstract and the concrete is fudged in the process of evoking a vague whole, which, in actuality, is predicated on fragementation."

The abstract for them is vague, and unclear. The concrete is the solid foundation, is clarity , is sharp and firm.

They rely on the concept of concrete (many sided many connections ) because it is never ending, open ended. You can always be more clear, more concrete because there are infifite connections.

What I have had to do though is say to myself I am clear enough. The fuller rounded picture isnt always necessary. Sometimes you have to fight from less firm ground, grey areas. Especially in a revolutionary sitution.

Im not going to be tricked into the exhausting process of finding endless conncetions.

Ralph Dumain said...

The relationship between the abstract and the concrete, and of both to totality, lie at the core of how both ideology and ideology-critique function. Keep on developing your thoughts on this subject, for therein lies the secret of the suppression or expansion of social and philosophical consciousness. The see-saw between positivism and metaphysics is essentially how bourgeois philosophy functions. The marriage of science and spirituality, for example, is predicated on this pattern.

Unknown said...

“The relationship between the abstract and the concrete, and of both to totality, lie at the core of how both ideology and ideology-critique function.”

I believe the very adoption of the term concrete into Marxist philosophy is designed to make you think the less firm, the less sharp, the less concrete is to be ignored and passed over. Marxists believe that a worthy critique is based on the many sided and this is also encouraged by the capitalist. Under this thinking you will always be ignorant and not quite there yet.

“Keep on developing your thoughts on this subject, for therein lies the secret of the suppression or expansion of social and philosophical consciousness.”

Social and philosophical consciousness formed by the Marxist method will always leave you feeling ignorant and in the end exhausted.

"The see-saw between positivism and metaphysics is essentially how bourgeois philosophy functions. The marriage of science and spirituality, for example, is predicated on this pattern. "

I believe the functioning of bourgeois defensive philosophy relies on the concepts of science. The bourgeois will attack from the subtle, the slight, the obscured and the abstracted knowing “solid facts” will be difficult to discern.