Karl Marx on Religion

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Karl Marx on Religion

Religion is the opium of the masses

I thought I understood this quote until I saw a video debate with Christopher Hitchens. Perhaps someone can explain it like IW. I have lost track of the video. But Hitchens said something to the effect that Marx didn't underestimate the power of religion but affirmed it. He saw an alignment and association with actual suffering to religious "suffering". A religious person will have troubles in life but instead of seeing it as just being human it is now a cosmic struggle. It can have not a numbing affect but an empowering affect. <\p>

Is that off base? I realize it isn't necessarily Marx, but Hitch on Marx. So if a separation is necessary there so be it.

Religion Kills !!!

Numbers 31:17-18 - Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

http://jesus-needs-money.blogspot.com/


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 Perhaps it would help to

 Perhaps it would help to have the whole quote in context.

 

Marx wrote:

 

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

 

The profane existence of error is compromised as soon as its heavenly oratio pro aris et focis ["speech for the altars and hearths"] has been refuted. Man, who has found only the reflection of himself in the fantastic reality of heaven, where he sought a superman, will no longer feel disposed to find the mere appearance of himself, the non-man ["Unmensch"], where he seeks and must seek his true reality.

 

The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man.

 

Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But, man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man — state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d'honneur, it enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

 

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

 

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions.

 

The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.

 

Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man, so that he will think, act, and fashion his reality like a man who has discarded his illusions and regained his senses, so that he will move around himself as his own true Sun. Religion is only the illusory Sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve around himself.

 

It is, therefore, the task of history, once the other-world of truth has vanished, to establish the truth of this world. It is the immediate task of philosophy, which is in the service of history, to unmask self-estrangement in its unholy forms once the holy form of human self-estrangement has been unmasked.

 

Thus, the criticism of Heaven turns into the criticism of Earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of law, and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics.

 

That was written in Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, so yes I think it is accurate to say that Marx affirmed the power of religion. He saw it as a construct of the powerful to protect themselves from criticism. If you are suffering, it is because god wants you to suffer. He thought it was necessary and inevitable that people would discard the illusion of religion, and having cast aside that illusion will recognize the real suffering at the hands of the bourgeoisie.

 

 

I just usually go with my own taste. If I like something, and it happens to be against the law, well, then I might have a problem.- Hunter S. Thompson


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The above quote is great. 

The above quote is great.  Having the entire quote as a reference should hopefully guide you to your own understanding what Marx meant.

 

My political scence teacher spoke many times about Marx.  This is what I gathered, but is purely speculation based on what I read and determined from what you were asking about. 

 

Man, needs to be goverened.  Marx did believe that religion was invented by man, for man to be happy.  But in what context?  Originally, perhaps to explain the natural events that could not be explained by sciences, (eclipses, eruptions, famines, prosperity etc...) However, at some point.  A hierarchy existed among humans, creating a gap between the powerful and the weak.  How can a man with power stay in power.  Take a belief and manipulate it.  Make it something that a weaker man cannot live without to justify his own miserable existence, so he can be happy despite being subjugated and used to make another man more powerful.  ex. ( the vatican.)  It boils down to control.  A man can live a miserable existence, but with religion, he can be convinced, that he is actually happy, keeping him under the control of whatever despot was aligned with the church at the time.  Religion, is the opiate, a deeply ingrained psychological need to justify suffering for a false sense of relief, that way, control can be total, without fear of revolt, you can steal from, beat up, and starve a "religious person"  and have them convinced that it is ok, so long as your need to mistreat them follows their indoctrination.  Do something in the name of religion and righteousness, and people will fall like sheep at your heels, begging you to take their lives, and hurt them even more, because their belief makes them your servant to use as you fit.

 

Through great sufffering, most any human being will look for relief.  The power of religion however, as a form of control, can actually have a human being begging you to continue hurting them, and that while they suffer, it will only empower their belief, driving them deeper into that sense of happiness, making them more, and more ready to seek that false happiness through suffering more, and sacrificing more, and with any reservation.

 

Like me grabbing your hand and putting it in a fire.  You say thank you, and ask me how long you should keep your hand in the fire. The sick part, is the longer you burn, the happier you become for fulfilling your righteous purpose.

 

It's sick.  Happens everywhere. All throughout history.  Bad men, using peoples beliefs to subjugate them to their will.  And they loved them for it.

 

Like I said earlier.  That is the conclusion I came to in college.  Just an observation of what Marx tries to hint at, with how people's sick need to be happy, can drive them to do terrible things, to themselves and others when the need for happiness is twisted into religious servitude.  Control them mind, then you can control the body.

 

mr. O

"Whoever feels predestined to see and not to believe will find all believers too noisy and pushy: he guards against them."

Friedrich Nietzsche


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Here is what gets me. People

Here is what gets me. People compartmentalize with the likes of Marx and anything accurate he may have said gets thrown out because of his wrongful ENTIRE PACKAGE.

It is cherry picking. If they are going to throw out everthing, be consistent and throw out Newtons lagit laws because he also postulated Alchemy.

The reality is that ANYTHING that becomes dogmatic can lead to the point of protection against criticism. It boils down to egos being protected because of utopia thinking.

Nationalism is as much a religion as theocracy, just as tribal as sports zealots who start fights over a game.

So my only problem is that Marx failed to see the bigger picture in that anything ANYTHING that becomes dogmatic is dangerous.

What Marx did in his attempt to break an abusive utopia was to replace it with another utopia and in turn one monopoly ended up being replaced with another.

The economy sucked at the time of Marx and he saw one class abusing the workers so he became an advocate of workers rights. Fair enough, but his solution merely became another monopoly controlled by Stalin.

The issue once again is that you cannot solve problems with blanket solutions, utopias, "one size fits all" either way. You must always have something in place to be a check so that power, EITHER WAY, cannot become lopsided, EITHER WAY. This is what Marx failed to realize. He merely was the opposite side of the coin in trying to fight the monopoly of his time.

He was right in that religion is a very useful tool to distract people away from the fact that they are being abused. Stalin was merely a state religion and just as abusive as the utopia class warfare that caused the revolution that lead to Stalin in the first place. BOTH were dogmatic and abusive.

 

 

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Interpreting Marx ?

Thanks for the full quote & comments Beyond and mr O.

I have read this before a few months back and I still find it bewildering. It reminds me of an R.E.M. song. I heard stuff I think he is saying and then am unsure.

Marx wrote:

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

Religion must be critiqued before anything? It is so foundational apparently that any critique of the human condition would be off base to begin with.

 

Marx wrote:

The profane existence of error is compromised as soon as its heavenly oratio pro aris et focis ["speech for the altars and hearths"] has been refuted. Man, who has found only the reflection of himself in the fantastic reality of heaven, where he sought a superman, will no longer feel disposed to find the mere appearance of himself, the non-man ["Unmensch"], where he seeks and must seek his true reality.

The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man.

Once you critique religion its' error is compromised. Religion is man-made and therefore it believes in an anthropomorphic God, but a more powerful human than we humans.  So the critique exposed this and now man needs to found reality or a god who is not like us (?)

 

Marx wrote:
 

Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But, man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man — state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d'honneur, it enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Men who have low self-esteem are drawn into the trap of religion. They need to feel importance and being a special favorite of the big man in the sky satisfies that. "You might be more powerful or rich or better looking or have  more women or have better fortune in life, but I have more than that in Jesus". Since this feeds into a man's self-esteem when you attack his religion you are attacking his core, stripping him bare, taking away his security blanket and therefore like a animal with its back to the wall all he knows to do is attack back.

Religion was developed in communities. What does Marx mean by writing Religion is "an inverted consciousness of the world" ?

The entire human pop experience revolves around religion.

How could the human essence not acquire true reality? Is it so contrary to our being that we cannot comprehend reality? If humans cannot grasp true reality how would he know?

A struggle against religion is a struggle against the world order.

Marx wrote:

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

How can religious suffering be the expression of real suffering and a protest against it at the same time?

Is this like going to the hardware store for bread? Instead of addressing the direct problem only a symptom is addressed?

If it is a protest against real suffering why wouldn't the religious see that? 

While I don't get it I really like the poetic nature of this paragraph.

Marx wrote:

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions.

So he has concluded that religion prevents them from being happy, despite the apparent fact they are happy. 

What is the "condition that requires illusions"? suffering? This one is baffling to me.

Marx wrote:

The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.

I think we are still on suffering, vale of tears. Religion is the halo to real suffering. It blesses it? It honors it?

 

Marx wrote:

 

Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man, so that he will think, act, and fashion his reality like a man who has discarded his illusions and regained his senses, so that he will move around himself as his own true Sun. Religion is only the illusory Sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve around himself.

 

Criticizing religion removes the blinders off of man exposing its hollow promises. You think it made you happy but it did not. It reminds me hear of Socrates' cave. The man who walked out of the cave and saw the bright sunlight.

"He will move around himself as his own true Sun" ? "Religion is only the illusory Sun which revolves around man".

What?

 

Marx wrote:

 

It is, therefore, the task of history, once the other-world of truth has vanished, to establish the truth of this world. It is the immediate task of philosophy, which is in the service of history, to unmask self-estrangement in its unholy forms once the holy form of human self-estrangement has been unmasked.

 

Thus, the criticism of Heaven turns into the criticism of Earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of law, and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics.

 

Once religion is gone men must see reality. What is the holy and unholy forms of self-estrangement?

I think philosophy is not a good tool. Science is far better. Less BS.

This quote came to mind while I was composing this post and why Americans are still so damn religious at least in word. Low self-esteem and/or ignorance.

John Steinbeck wrote:

 

Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

I think Marx recognized this was no small task to unmask religion because it was so ingrained in mankind. Men would be very afraid to step out of its warm comfort meanwhile dying inside. They would think who the hell would I be if something so basic to my core was gone. I traveled that path and that is why it took me literally decades to step out. My self-esteem back then was quite low and thought religion could fill that. But it didn't live up to its' promised claims.  I assume the more religious a person is the lower their self-esteem is. Anecdotally I can affirm that.

 

Well, please fill me in where I get and to not get Marx. TIA.

 

 

 

Religion Kills !!!

Numbers 31:17-18 - Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

http://jesus-needs-money.blogspot.com/


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Yeah, Marx was a horrible

Yeah, Marx was a horrible writer. His rambling and meandering style makes him difficult to follow. I will be happy to never read Das Kapital again. I think it is a German thing because I found Hegel to be almost as unreadable.

 

ex-minister wrote:

Marx wrote:

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

Religion must be critiqued before anything? It is so foundational apparently that any critique of the human condition would be off base to begin with.

Yeah, I think Marx believed that religion was a type of shield that had to be broken down before people could see the true problems with society.

 

 

ex-minister wrote:
 

Marx wrote:
 

Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But, man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man — state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d'honneur, it enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Men who have low self-esteem are drawn into the trap of religion. They need to feel importance and being a special favorite of the big man in the sky satisfies that. "You might be more powerful or rich or better looking or have  more women or have better fortune in life, but I have more than that in Jesus". Since this feeds into a man's self-esteem when you attack his religion you are attacking his core, stripping him bare, taking away his security blanket and therefore like a animal with its back to the wall all he knows to do is attack back.

Religion was developed in communities. What does Marx mean by writing Religion is "an inverted consciousness of the world" ?

The entire human pop experience revolves around religion.

How could the human essence not acquire true reality? Is it so contrary to our being that we cannot comprehend reality? If humans cannot grasp true reality how would he know?

A struggle against religion is a struggle against the world order.

 

The "inverted consciousness of the world" is lifted from Hegel's Phenomenology. Here Marx is arguing that religion creates an inverted world where religion, heaven, gods etc is "real" while the physical world is not. Hegel's concept goes much deeper than that but I do not feel qualified to fully flesh it out. Perhaps someone on here who has a little more background in Hegel and philosophy can explain in greater detail. 

 

I don't believe Marx was arguing that humans couldn't comprehend reality. Quite the opposite. He was arguing that religion was being substituted for reality, and once religion was out of the way humans could, and indeed would comprehend reality. For example, suppose someone believes that God causes rain. As long as the person continues to believe the false reality that God creates rain, they will never bother to discover the science behind rainfall. Only by questioning the belief and throwing it out can a person comprehend the true reality of rainfall.

 

 

ex-minister wrote:

Marx wrote:

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

How can religious suffering be the expression of real suffering and a protest against it at the same time?

Is this like going to the hardware store for bread? Instead of addressing the direct problem only a symptom is addressed?

If it is a protest against real suffering why wouldn't the religious see that? 

While I don't get it I really like the poetic nature of this paragraph.

 

Yes, I think Marx was saying that only a symptom was being addressed. Opium is a pain reliever, so if you have a broken leg, opium will make you feel better but your leg is still broken. Marx saw widespread religion as a sign that there was real suffering going on. After all, you take opium because you have pain. So if you see someone taking opium one might logically conclude that the person was in some kind of pain. 

 

ex-minister wrote:

Marx wrote:

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions.

So he has concluded that religion prevents them from being happy, despite the apparent fact they are happy. 

What is the "condition that requires illusions"? suffering? This one is baffling to me.

 

The condition that requires illusions in Marx's mind was the oppression of the people by the bourgeoisie. He believed people were suffering in the economic system and therefore required the illusions created by religion as a man suffering from pain requires opium. They turn to the false happiness provided by religion like the man in pain turns to the false relief of opium rather than solve the underlying problem. 

 

ex-minister wrote:

Marx wrote:

Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man, so that he will think, act, and fashion his reality like a man who has discarded his illusions and regained his senses, so that he will move around himself as his own true Sun. Religion is only the illusory Sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve around himself.

 

Criticizing religion removes the blinders off of man exposing its hollow promises. You think it made you happy but it did not. It reminds me hear of Socrates' cave. The man who walked out of the cave and saw the bright sunlight.

"He will move around himself as his own true Sun" ? "Religion is only the illusory Sun which revolves around man".

What?

 

 

Yeah, or to stay with Marx's analogy to cure an opium addiction you need to admit that there is a problem causing you pain that needs to be dealt with. The second half is Marx asserting that man is the center of himself. IOW man and the physical world he perceives IS reality as opposed to god, heaven etc. 

 

 

ex-minister wrote:

I think philosophy is not a good tool. Science is far better. Less BS.

 

 

Yeah, philosophy is a lot more interesting when you are stoned. I loved it in college. Not so much now. 

I just usually go with my own taste. If I like something, and it happens to be against the law, well, then I might have a problem.- Hunter S. Thompson


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Thanks Beyond. It makes more

Thanks Beyond. It makes more sense now. Don't see how it ever caught on being so obtuse. I agree with Brian. Marx could express the problem with religion but was clueless on its solution.

Religion Kills !!!

Numbers 31:17-18 - Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

http://jesus-needs-money.blogspot.com/


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so far i have nothing to

so far i have nothing to add, other than to try to remind everybody that there was an ENORMOUS series of ideological steps between marxism and stalinism.  there were two other socialist internationals before lenin's third international, and the second coexisted with and competed with the third.  both claimed "orthodox" marxism.  marx and engels gave birth to HUNDREDS of schools of thought.  even the third international split into bolshevism and menshevism.  then you have the fourth (troskyist) international.  you have left communism, european communism, marxist humanism, and even the anarchists were part of the first international in marx's lifetime.  jacques derrida revamped marxism after the fall of the soviet union.

to say that marxism led to stalinism of necessity is asinine.

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Hi

Hi IW, I was hoping to hear from you. Russia has always been a fascination of mine. I took 4 years of Russian back on high svhool. My senior year the high school took a trip there. This was 1972. It blew my mind to be on Red Square and to visit St. Basils. I became a huge fan of the movie Dr Zhivago, which sentimentalized the whole experience. I was not into the politics of it though. Can you tell me the key differences been Marxism, Leninism and Stalinism? I wonder if Lenin had lived longer and Stalin never came to power would the results have been that much different? I believe if Christianity had not had such a harsh grasp on these people if the bolsheviks would have ever gained ground.

Religion Kills !!!

Numbers 31:17-18 - Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

http://jesus-needs-money.blogspot.com/


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ex-minister wrote:Hi IW, I

ex-minister wrote:

Hi IW, I was hoping to hear from you. Russia has always been a fascination of mine. I took 4 years of Russian back on high svhool. My senior year the high school took a trip there. This was 1972. It blew my mind to be on Red Square and to visit St. Basils. I became a huge fan of the movie Dr Zhivago, which sentimentalized the whole experience. I was not into the politics of it though. Can you tell me the key differences been Marxism, Leninism and Stalinism? I wonder if Lenin had lived longer and Stalin never came to power would the results have been that much different? I believe if Christianity had not had such a harsh grasp on these people if the bolsheviks would have ever gained ground.

 

well, it's always difficult to answer hypotheticals.  your story is interesting.  i took russian for four years in high school as well, but we were a little podunk school in eastern kentucky so we certainly never took a trip to russia.  i still haven't been there to this day, though i now live in slovakia, and i've been to most of the warsaw pact countries (hungary, poland, and the czech republic multiple times, as well as once to romania) and parts of the former yugoslavia (croatia and macedonia).  my wife is slovak and she's been everywhere i've been, as well as serbia, bulgaria, and albania.  i've had the chance to meet and work with several russian people over the years in central and southeastern europe.

marxism as laid down by marx and engels is actually not very developed as a revolutionary philosophy.  it's heavy on economics and historical materialism.  remember that marx was not concerned with laying down a closed system for the ages.  his philosophy was constantly being revised to meet new developments.  he was a supporter of the paris commune.  he helped form the first international and then promptly turned his back on it in disgust.  he and engels were convinced the revolution was going to break out in england any day and engels even went so far as to designate himself head of military affairs ahead of time.

lenin's goal was to take marx's philosophy and make it applicable in a real revolutionary situation.  it was lenin who emphasized the "dictatorship of the proletariat," a term marx used very rarely and never really elaborated upon.  it was also lenin's idea that the proletariat could never rise above "trade union consciousness" of its own accord, and so it needed a party, commanding absolute loyalty and enforcing absolute discipline (though not, it is to be emphasized, headed by one absolute leader), to be the catalyst for revolution.  that was lenin's true innovation: party leadership, a party over and above the state.  this is why it's fallacious to call marxism-leninism "state-worship," because the state was always a puppet for the party, which could even dissolve the state if necessary.  the head of any "communist" country is not the president or prime minister, but the party general secretary.

you mention "leninism," and i just mentioned "marxism-leninism."  these terms were coined by stalin after lenin's death, and are usually to be understood as euphemisms for stalinism.  lenin didn't consider himself an innovator (though he was), only an applier of marxism.  stalinism magnified and distorted leninism (i.e., lenin's own philosophy as we can glean from his writings) in several ways:

1. it made the state completely impotent.  the government in lenin's time was headed by the sovnarkom (council of people's commisars), and while it was definitely submissive to the party central committee, it still had a great deal of real power--lenin was even its president.  stalin began changing all that even before lenin's death.

2. it steadily concentrated power in the party, first from the general assembly to the central committee, then from the central committee to the secretariat, then to the politburo, then from the politburo to a sort of smaller standing committee, and finally into the hands of the general secretary (stalin).  as time went on, stalin took his cue from hitler and allowed himself to be addressed as "leader" (vozhd), something lenin would never have allowed.

3. finally, even before the beginning of operation barbarossa, the party general secretary took military power for himself, with stalin making major military decisions (once again, probably taking his cue from hitler).  contrast this with lenin, who never made military decisions during the civil war and never appeared in any sort of military uniform.

in lenin's day, it was possible to argue with him without losing your job, much less your head.  trotsky, his right hand man, had been one of his fiercest critics and a member of the menshevik faction between 1905 and 1917.  lenin, while trying to create (without much success) a minor personality cult around marx and engels, abhorred any such cult around himself and rarely allowed his likeness to be displayed.  it was his wish to be cremated, and his widow, nadezhda krupskaya, fought tooth and nail the party's decision to have him embalmed in a grand mausoleum.  this is not to say he was anything close to a liberal, "western" politician, but you'd be hard-pressed to find any such politician anywhere in russian history, even today.

as for "what if" lenin had lived longer, or stalin had not come to power, i don't know.  it's my personal opinion, having studied the lives of both men, that neither lenin nor trotsky would ever have enacted the great purges.  i think, however, trotsky would definitely have instituted collectivization and five-year plans, because these had been his ideas (which stalin had criticized at the time), though i think, because of his demonstrable integrity, they would not have been near as disastrous as in stalin's rule.  i do not think trotsky would have permitted a personality cult, nor would he have concentrated all the power in his office.  he would no doubt have been a military leader, however, since he had formed and led the red army during the civil war (with admirable success, considering his lack of prior military experience).  i also think the soviet union would have been in capable hands under bukharin's leadership.

i'm not sure about your thoughts on russian christianity making it easy for the bolsheviks to take power.  the bolsheviks were originally very iconoclastic and rode to power on the support of the urban proletariat, particularly in moscow and petrograd, and that group wasn't terribly religious.  the religious peasantry, on the other hand, strongly opposed the bolsheviks, until stalin came along, who knew how to deal with them: raise up a god on earth and treat them like cattle.  i don't think christianity had anything to do with the bolsheviks taking power, but it definitely contributed to the seemingly irresistable strength of stalinism.

it's very much in vogue among post-communist scholars today to say that stalinism was a natural and necessary--indeed, inevitable--outgrowth of leninism.  it can never be proved either way, but i think that's gross oversimplification and, frankly, propaganda.  there have been many great political thinkers, who were not sympathetic to the soviet union at all, who would agree with me, the chiefest being hannah arendt.

"I asked my father,
I said, 'Father change my name.'
The one I'm using now it's covered up
with fear and filth and cowardice and shame."
--Leonard Cohen


iwbiek
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btw, i'm sorry if covered a

btw, i'm sorry if covered a lot of historical ground you're already familiar with, but i try to take into account the fact that people of varying levels of familiarity with soviet and/or marxist history will be reading the post (if they find it interesting enough, that is).

"I asked my father,
I said, 'Father change my name.'
The one I'm using now it's covered up
with fear and filth and cowardice and shame."
--Leonard Cohen


iwbiek
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Beyond Saving wrote:Yeah,

Beyond Saving wrote:

Yeah, Marx was a horrible writer.

lenin was much worse.  i remember reading about some radical student at a marxist study group in the '60s saying something like, "if you had to fuck something as awful as naadezhda krupskaya, you'd write an terrible book like imperialism: the highest stage of capitalism as well." his peers were not amused.  i was.

BeyondSaving wrote:
 

I don't believe Marx was arguing that humans couldn't comprehend reality.

he certainly was not.

BeyondSaving wrote:

Quite the opposite. He was arguing that religion was being substituted for reality, and once religion was out of the way humans could, and indeed would comprehend reality. For example, suppose someone believes that God causes rain. As long as the person continues to believe the false reality that God creates rain, they will never bother to discover the science behind rainfall. Only by questioning the belief and throwing it out can a person comprehend the true reality of rainfall.

well put.  he not only thought that about religion, but about hegelianism as well.  he referred to his system as "hegel turned on his head, or rather, rightside-up" (paraphrase).

"I asked my father,
I said, 'Father change my name.'
The one I'm using now it's covered up
with fear and filth and cowardice and shame."
--Leonard Cohen