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Reconstituted Socialist Party of Great Britain Pamphlet: Socialism versus Religion, War, Capitalism

Preface

In one respect religion has tended to be a neglected subject. The Party has not dealt with it in pamphlet form since 1910. However that publication - SOCIALISM AND RELIGION- went through three editions running into the mid-1920's.

There have also been many excellent articles condemning religion in our monthly journal over the years and speakers have always explained the conflict between Socialism and religion from our platform; this has included a few debates against parsons. More recently the Reconstituted Socialist Party of Great Britain has carried articles showing the anti-working-class nature of religion as an obstacle to understanding Socialism, both historically and at the present time.

In November 2002 we debated with the so-called Christian Socialist Movement. It had been intended to write this up for publication but other things, such as the war in Iraq, intervened.

The Socialist opposition to religion has not in any way changed. The case for Socialism is built upon a materialist understanding of history, the fact that men make history through class struggles which are the motor of change from one system of society to another. Socialism is scientific in that the evidence of mans' experience in social production supports it. The relationships entered into to produce the wherewithal of life show that social production must be harmonised with social ownership and class antagonism abolished. Socialism is sustained by knowledge and the instability bred of conflicting class interests under capitalism.

Religion, on the contrary, has no basis in knowledge or science; it is built upon myths and superstition, and sustained by poverty, fear and ignorance. The study of religion reveals more than anything the seemingly infinite capacity of the human mind to fantasise and to believe the unbelievable.

The sheer diversity of religion both historically and currently throughout the world really goes full cycle and cancels itself out. They cannot all be right but they can certainly all be wrong. The myths of creation, of almighty spirits, the immortality of the soul and the efficacy of prayer have trapped believers in the grip of predatory ruling classes whose interest it is to perpetuate their submission and servility.
The appeal of Socialism is of such a fundamentally different order that, when it is asked why, after a hundred years of SPGB and Socialist propaganda, so little progress has been made, a major part of the answer is that the lack of progress has been on the part of those who live on their knees.

Before Socialism can be established a majority of the working class must reject the pernicious ideology of capitalism which includes religion and nationalism. To look at the persistence of religious myths and primitive superstitions gives us a sobering realisation of the distance we have yet to travel before the exploited class of capitalism prioritise their emancipation.

In this pamphlet we have dealt with religions other than Christianity including Islam, Judaism and Buddhism as the 21st century suffers from an upsurge in their negative activities. There is also a chapter on religion in Bolshevik Russia which was falsely passed off as godless. We have included the words "War and Capitalism" in the title of our pamphlet because religion is universally used by capitalism to "justify" its wars.

Poverty and religion have always been bedfellows. Capitalism guarantees the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few and deprivation for the class that sells its labour-power for wages.

It is as futile to yearn for a form of capitalism without religion as it is to imagine capitalism without war. They are an integral part of the same degenerate society. When the world's workers abolish capitalism, religion and war - together with the other ill effects of that system - will be consigned to the past.

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Preface to 2nd Edtiton

In this second edition of this pamphlet, we have extended the section dealing with Islam by bringing in some details of more recent orgies of killings, mostly of Muslims against each other. We are aware that these outrages are ongoing and it is impossible to catalogue them all.

We condemn religion and the uses made of it by rival rulers. We appeal to working class victims on all sides to abandon myths that set them at enmity with each other and to make the little effort necessary to understand Socialism so that we can have a sane and happy society in place of wars, rival religions and hatred.

We have also added a brief section on Marx and religion, which shows the scientific basis for understanding society and how to change it. To do this, the Socialist Party of Great Britain needs your help.

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Socialism versus Religion, War and Capitalism

All the religions practised in the world today, including numerous spin-offs, divisions and breakaways, have their origins in the remote past of mankind's primitive, tribal, superstition-ridden emergence. In a world with no recorded learning, no libraries, museums, schools or the mass communication of ideas, crude concepts about the world, nature and man's part in the scheme of things were handed on through experience as it was understood from generation to generation.

Where no rational or scientific explanations for natural phenomena existed, everything was endowed with spirits that might act to the good or detriment of savage people who were at the mercy of nature. Thunderstorms, volcanic eruptions, falling trees and the human life cycle ending in death were all awesome, fear-inspiring phenomena as were the light and warmth-giving sun and moon in the sky above.

Means of influencing the 'spirits' responsible for natural events, led to the growth of rituals and myths.

With the development of the idea of the 'soul' arising from savage tribesmen dreaming of deceased comrades, the foundation was complete and ready for the emergence of a sect of specialist keepers of the rituals to fasten themselves on the back of suffering humanity. These are, of course, the priests. From witch doctors and holy-men, they had expanded their role from the dissolution of primitive society through all the stages of class society, to become the agents who bestowed gods' blessings on successive classes of plunderers, war-lords and exploiters. Today they stand as the self-appointed intermediaries between the ignorant faithful and the god or gods who remain as the few modern survivors from primitive spiritualism.

Belief in the idea of the soul took hold in the minds of savages. It endowed the natural world with spirits and led to ancestor worship, the earliest form of tribal deification of the dead that provides the key to the fear, control and escapism of modern religions.

Without this man-made phantom the soul, the idea of life in another world after death could not have existed, and the priests would have been denied their most potent lever for fear, control and manipulation.

In their self-appointed role as mediators between believers and their gods, Christian priests have found the fear of eternal damnation a powerful weapon. The promise of eternal bliss after a life of submission and obedience on earth has placed great power in the hands of those believed to be instrumental in deciding such matters.

Thus resurrection and reincarnation, in one form or another, are central features of modern religions.

"He who believeth in me shall not perish but have ever-lasting life" is a self-evident piece of nonsense, the perpetuation of which has paid dividends to successive centuries of ruling class parasites by keeping the exploited on their knees. Ever-ready with a helping of pie-in-the-sky, the priests have been party to and beneficiaries of the exploitation of the toiling masses. They and their churches owe their survival to being the ready hirelings of ruling classes.

Among the more sinister aspects of religion is the lack of any scruple about infecting the minds of children. As soon as they start school the process of mind- poisoning begins.

This amply demonstrates the value of religion to the ruling class whose over-riding concern is for profits. A docile and compliant working class is vital to the success of the modern capitalist class as it rapes and plunders the world while exploiting wage-labour for profits.

The wars that the system of cut-throat competition engenders involve workers being called upon to slaughter each other in conflicts which have no interest of theirs at stake. The part played by religions in appealing to the "just" causes of the gods to sanction the bloodletting has been an invaluable asset to the rival capitalists of the world.

In perpetuating the myths of resurrection and life after death, they promote belief in a better life cut short by war in the real world. For workers, who lose their lives in the wars of capitalism, such wars are made more acceptable if the finality of death can be removed from their minds.

This belief was a creation which took hold in the minds of savages. For them it endowed the natural world with spirits and led to ancestor worship, the earliest form of tribal deification of the dead, a belief that provides the key to the fear, control and escapism of modern religions.

When The Socialist Party of Great Britain first published the pamphlet SOCIALISM AND RELIGION nearly a hundred years ago, it was only necessary to expose the Christian religion as the agent of the capitalist class, and it is true that the Socialist case against Christianity can be, by extrapolation, seen to apply to all religions.

In fact, the forthright statement of Marxian Historical Materialism - that man must first produce in order to feed, clothe and shelter himself before he develops ideologies - shows that religion has no existence independent of man: if one religion is demolished they are all exposed as empty myths created by man.

It is now nearly a century since the SOCIALISM AND RELIGION pamphlet first appeared, and it is an indication of how the world of capitalism has opened up since then that nearly 10% of the people now living in the UK are from parts of the former British Empire. In the national census of 2001, over three million people registered as Muslims, making Islam the second largest religion in Britain.

Where church attendances in Britain were declining, Hindu temples and Muslim mosques now thrive, and yet more brands of Christianity have become evident as black former colonials have brought their white man's indoctrination with them.

These black people from the West Indies and the southern United States are descendants from ancestors who were abducted from Africa, and bought and sold as slaves to work on the sugar, cotton and tobacco plantations of the Christians who owned them. These people have nothing for which to be grateful to Christianity. For more than a hundred years, since the abolition of slavery in 1865, black people have suffered the most brutal prejudice and discrimination at the hands of white Christians.

Both Christianity and Islam engaged in slavery. In embracing these religions, black workers are denying their own dignity as people. Like their white fellow workers, they have become wage-slaves. Religion sanctions this degradation also.

None of this has necessarily increased the amount of religious activity in the world but it has certainly moved it around.
What has intensified is religious extremism and bigotry. For instance, in the breaking up of India into two vast countries threatening each other, we now have two nation states confronting each other, with the nuclear technology of modern capitalist warfare, over the disputed territory of Kashmir. Hindu India and Islamic Pakistan both have nuclear weapons, and religion is used by both as a pretext for killing each other.

The Socialist case applies. As workers the Indians and Pakistanis have no country so which of their ruling classes gains control over Kashmir is not their concern. They should abandon the religious and nationalist nonsense used by their masters to set them apart and gain an understanding of Socialism so that, in harmony with their fellow workers world-wide, they can rid the world of war, hatred and religion.

The same argument must also be applied to the Jewish State of Israel which, as the client-state of America, uses religious bigotry to "justify" decades of hi-tech militarism against Palestinian Arabs. God, as always, is on the side of the big battalions.

The 'chosen people' myth is not far removed from the 'master race' concept. The aim of territorial expansion and many of the methods are much the same. Destruction of poor people's homes and the killing of their children is a shabby role for religion to play and exposes its promoters for the capitalists and adventurers they in fact are..

The gods of Judaism and Islam are merely a reflex that provide a cover for America and its client state in their struggle for control of Middle East oil on the one hand and incipient Arab nationalism, striving for independent existence, on the other. Yet Jewish workers and their Palestinian counterparts have no interest in being duped by religion and nationalism into killing each other for the ambitions of their rival ruling classes.

The same interplay of forces can be seen everywhere, from Chechnya to Ireland. In Northern Ireland, the same ugly twins of religion and capitalism coexisted with poverty, hatred, misery and war. Nationalism everywhere reflects ruling class power-struggles. Religion is used to lend 'divine' sanction to property interests.

The alienation and degradation of the working class, as wage-slaves in the system of commodity production, was something Marx observed very early in his writing.

In his ECONOMIC AND PHILOSOPHIC MANUSCRIPTS OF 1844, written when he was 26, he wrote:

The more man puts into god, the less he retains in himself. The worker puts his life into the object, but now his life no longer belongs to him but to the object (p 70).

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Religion and Alienation Continues

Capitalism has developed and extended in many other ways since the early years of the 20th century, not least in the development of arms technology and its many applications to death and destruction. Christian capitalism having used atom bombs on human targets towards the end of the first half of that century has, over the second half, accumulated vast arsenals of nuclear weapons capable of eliminating life on earth.

In the early 21st century, we now have a world situation in which Hindu, Islamic and Jewish as well as Christian states have nuclear weapons with which to express their "love of humanity". What lies behind this is the continuing expansion of predatory capitalism, which expresses in religious and nationalist terms its lust for territory, markets and natural resources, in pursuit of profit. The gods, as always, speak through the ruling class and say what is required of them.

While the lives of ordinary people are threatened and insecure, while they have no control over the production of wealth and political power is in the hands of class enemies who control the coercive state on behalf of the capitalist class; while the world is full of violence and despair, it is likely that people will turn to imaginary agencies for comfort and salvation.

That no salvation is forthcoming must become another factor turning workers against capitalism and its failing gods.

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Ethical Weapons and Moral Wars

The so-called ethics and morality of Christian capitalism have never been more damningly exposed for the hollow sham they are than in the years since 1997 with a Labour government mouthing commitment to an "ethical dimension" to foreign policy.

Their devoutly Christian leader, Mr Blair, supported by the likes of Jack Straw, Geoff Hoon, David Blunkett and the rest have not shrunk from bombing the former Yugoslavia (a largely Christian country). Nor did they hesitate to join the Americans again in bombing Afghanistan, probably the poorest country on earth. This included the use of cluster-bombs, which demonstrated their ruthless determination to gain control over central Asian oil.

Having continued the previous, Tory, government's policy of repeatedly bombing Iraq and helping to enforce sanctions which cost the lives of half a million Iraqi children, the same Labour government, while repeating President Bush's gramophone record about Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction" being in breach of UN Resolutions, helped support the Israeli state with bomber parts for its war against its neighbours, also in breach of UN Resolutions.

Mr Blair, as a Christian, found a moral case in favour of the renewed full-scale war against Iraq, a thinly veiled cover for gaining control of the region's oil reserves.

Of those Christians who would indignantly reject the idea that such policies and conduct reflect their view of Christian ethics, we would ask what were 37 million people who put themselves down as Christians in the 2001 census doing all this time? The same question might also be asked of the 60 million Catholics in the US./p>

The ethics and morality of Christianity had no effect on Christians killing each other with all the refinement of modern science throughout the 20th century, any more than in centuries past when they burned and decapitated each other during the power struggles between an emerging commercial industrial class and a moribund system of serfdom and landed aristocracy.

That the leadership of the Catholic Church and the Church of England opposed the second war on Iraq is a strange inconsistency, since both churches have supported wars through the centuries.There is no Christian opposition to war as such. Blair and Bush dropped their bombs and launched their rockets, and the overwhelming majority of Christians, both in Britain and America, either acquiesced or supported the war.

It has been left to a tiny minority of Socialists in the SPGB, without the need of supernatural agencies, but armed with the knowledge of Marx and Engels's MATERIALIST CONCEPTION OF HISTORY, to propound the case for Socialism. It is Socialists who explain and argue that it is the way in which society is organised for the production of the wherewithal of life and the relationships entered into, primarily those of wage-labour and capital, that determines there will be competition instead of co-operation, starvation instead of plenty, exploitation and profits instead of production for use, and war instead of peace.

The hostility of The Socialist Party of Great Britain to all religion remains as implacable as it is to all forms of ignorance that help to perpetuate the inhumanity of capitalism.

The one great advantage of religion having no basis in reality and being founded entirely on myths and superstition is that interpretation is wide open, and the faithful, or rather, those who manipulate them, can accept or reject what suits them. This has produced the situation where scores of rival Christian organisations are mutually exclusive of each other, while peddling what they claim to be the word of the same saviour.

That struggles for ascendancy in economic and political terms are the real substance of class struggles, however much they may be disguised by ideology and myths, is undeniable.

While modern Christians may refuse to recognise their lineage and seek to disown what they are unable to defend, which includes much of the bible, particularly the fairy tales about creation in the Book of Genesis, the fact remains that to disown such rubbish used to cost people their lives. Christians may seek to avoid embarrassment by not drawing attention to Exodus 22-18: "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live". Or to Matthew, 10-34: "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword".The mental contortions of believers are such as not to be bothered by such trifles. But if there is no god the father of creation as in the Old Testament, there is no god the son as in the New Testament.

It is revealing to consider Yahweh, the god of the bible held by the Jews to have created everyone, in relation to the stories in Exodus about how he treated the Egyptians.

The BBC screened a television documentary on Moses presented by Jeremy Bowen which, with the aid of archaeologists and biblical historians, examined the stories about the ten plagues supposedly unleashed by god through Moses against the Egyptians. They found natural explanations and historical parallels for nine of them. The tenth was the killing of every first-born Egyptian.

Yahweh is shown to have been a mere tribal god of the Israelites and not recognised by the Egyptians, who had their own brand of polytheism - a collection of intriguing deities mostly with heads of birds and animals.

Moses was 80 when he is supposed to have seen a burning bush out of which came the voice of Yahweh. With this mythical piece of nonsense began the religious "justification" for the state of Israel.

Hershel Shanks, editor of THE BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW, who has access to early archives, said "we have no direct evidence for Moses".

Of the Ten Commandments it was made clear: "we don't know when or where they were written and we don't have any idea who wrote them". Fittingly, the programme ended with Jeremy Bowen saying: "Perhaps all we can hope for is that one day the best known commandment 'thou shalt not kill' will become a reality in Moses' tortured promised land".

To which the Socialist has to say this pious wish is unlikely to become a reality so long as capitalism with its competition and conflicts continues.

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Islam

All religion is reactionary, a retarding force against social change. In all its many varieties and creeds it is the kindred agent of the capitalist class and therefore the enemy of the world's workers, an obstacle to their struggle for emancipation and Socialism.

As a refuge from poverty, Islam, like religion generally, presents no cure but helps ensure the continuation of the disease. It is part of the oppression of class society.

The term Islam means "submission". In submitting to Allah, its practitioners are submitting to the rule of the clerics and those who control political power

In those countries such as Afghanistan and Iran where Islam has set up 'fundamentalist' states, and in single-family despotisms (monarchies) like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, extreme barbarity and repression have been the order of things.

Their treatment of women, which includes female circumcision and the wearing of veils, is an affront to humanity. In 2003 Channel 4 News reported an incident in Saudi Arabia where a fire in a girls' school killed 15 girls who were prevented from leaving the building by the Religious Police because they were not wearing head covers.

Decapitation and dismemberment - common forms of punishment - are described as "Koranic Rule". The Koran means in practice what those with power say it means.

Nobody appears to know where the Koran (or Qur'an) came from. This is part of the mysticism which seems to captivate the devotees. The story is that the Prophet Muhammad, who is said to have been illiterate, was made to read from a book by the archangel Gabriel. "At other times the prophet felt certain words in his heart which he took to be revealed by god" (Ninian Smart, THE WORLD'S RELIGIONS, p 288). The Koran is regarded by believers as the word of god. "Of course, recitation or written copies of the Qur'an are all created but as divine speech what lies behind and within the Qur'an is eternal " (ibid., p 289). Muhammad died in the year 632 AD so the Koran has existed only since the early 7th century. Where was this "eternal" word before that? It was perhaps a fortunate coincidence that Allah spoke Arabic.

Muhammad himself was something of an adventurer who engaged in a number of battles. He gained political power in Medina and took Mecca by armed force after the battle of Badr in 624AD. "A battle shortly thereafter, at Hunayn, disposed of some of the outlying tribes and Muhammed was master of a large slice of Arabia" (ibid., pp287/8).

His expansionist plans were continued after his death. The power struggle that followed led to assassination and the first civil war within Islam. "THE DICTIONARY OF WARS", by George Childs Kohn, records eight other Islamic civil wars ranging through to the 12th century.
Muslims have a duty to pray five times a day at predetermined times. Nobody seems to wonder what all this praying to a set formula has ever achieved. Observed as a form of social coercion, its only purpose is the control of a subject class.

In February 2003, a Muslim cleric appeared before the Old Bailey charged with inciting people to kill Americans, Hindus and Jews. He had used texts from the Koran as his authority. The fact that when the Koran first appeared the only Americans were the North American 'Indians', who were later virtually exterminated to make way for capitalism to take over America, was not dwelt upon either by the court or by the accused.

As for Muslims being incited to kill today's Americans, Hindus and Jews, not a word was uttered about the reality of America's bombing of Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq, or of the United States' policy of support for Pakistan against - Hindu - India. Just as the open season on Palestinian Muslims as victims of Israeli barbarity was somehow overlooked, so too was the constant stream of reports about Hindus and Muslims killing each other in India and Pakistan.

No incitement seems to have been necessary for Shiite and Sunni Muslims to slaughter an estimated million, fighting each other for eight years in the war of 1980-1988. In Iran Ayatollah Khomeini used religious extremism and nationalism to consolidate his power but the disputed control of the Shatt al-Arab waterway remained unchanged by the Iran-Iraq war.

The specific background to the incitement of terrorist activity and religious extremism can clearly be seen in the impasse to which capitalism has brought the world. Religion is irrelevant except as a rallying call for setting one group of workers at the throats of another.

Islamic Violence and Hindu Poverty

Since the first edition of this pamphlet appeared, the aggressive activities of world Islam, as a front for power-struggles, have greatly intensified. Throughout recorded history, religion has been a means in the hands of ruling classes, to gain control of territories and ignorant mass populations.

Pakistan, for example, is an Islamic country which is seldom out of the news for incidents of Muslims killing Hindus, or for setting up car-bomb training camps for the purpose of killing those they regard as enemies: these are invariably other workers.

With a picture of two Muslim women completely shrouded in black, the SUNDAY TIMES (29 April 2007) carried a full page of stories detailing the barbarity of 'modern' Islam. The latest pastime for Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims [in Iraq] is killing each other for 'mixed' marrying. A total of 89 such killings was recorded in the five days before publication of that article. In detailing a case where a father (a Sunni) , who had been lecturing in Australia and returned to Iraq to see his wife (a Shi'ite) and their newly born child, and was gunned down by Shi'ites, a footnote in the SUNDAY TIMES said:
Sixty people were killed and 160 wounded in a car bomb attack in Kerbala yesterday.

Reports from Iraq of car and truck bomb killings of similar numbers of victims are published almost every day.

Amnesty International were reported to be calling for Iran to stop the execution of children. In a recent report, 71 people were currently facing death, 24 having been executed since 1990 - eleven while still children. Iran is the only country in the world that executes child offenders - people convicted of crimes before they are eighteen (TELETEXT, 27 June 2007).

In early July 2007, the Pakistan government forces stormed a mosque in Islamabad and a hundred were reported killed (BBC CEEFAX). The thousands of students in the mosque, plus a pro-Taleban cleric, were all Muslims, as were the troops who fired on them. The Pakistan government's fear of so-called Muslim fundamentalists is in reality part of a power-struggle. When reporting another Pakistan car-bombing in clashes between soldiers and 'militants', CEEFAX (4 August 2007), said there had been a sharp rise in violence since the previous month's Red Mosque battle in the capital. On the same day (26 July 2007) that yet another Muslim car bomb - this time in Iraq - killed at least 50 people, all Muslims, it was reported by Pakistani officials that they had successfully test-fired a cruise missile capable of delivering nuclear war-heads deep into India.

It is obvious that capitalism with its conflicting quests for power and territorial expansion lies behind all this insane barbarity. Religion serves as a cover to keep the faithful on side.

India, of course, has its own nuclear arsenal, no doubt capable of reaching deep into Pakistan, but while Muslims in Pakistan and Iraq were busy killing each other, Hindus in Britain were distracted by a bullock suffering from bovine tuberculosis which vets put down. This animal was said to be "sacred" to Hindus throughout the world so, while the Indian (Hindu) government can kill perhaps many millions of people and destroy a huge area of the earth, religion has their masses worrying about a "sacred" bull.

India's Finance Minister was reported as saying that 250 million Indians - 25% of the population - live in "abject poverty" (his words), earning less than $1 a day (CEEFAX, 3 February 2007): the historic co-existence of religion and poverty pitilessly exemplified.

Muslims prostrate themselves in daily rituals of worship but what are they bowing down to? In common with other religions, they have an imaginary figure in their minds - one which was planted there at an early age by their elders. It is the clerics and behind them the ruling class who control such images. In reality they are bowing to a ruling clique that lives on their backs. Unquestioning devotion enables Islam to exist without any rational foundation, a medieval hangover in a nuclear age. The same is true of all religions - it is merely a matter of degree.

Workers must come to see religion as a class instrument preaching superstition, conformity and obedience. When they realise that the dominance of the capitalist class is made "righteous" by the agents of religion and that the churches, mosques and temples are part of the parasite hierarchy for keeping the masses docile, they will withdraw their support from their masters' system.

Religion has no independent existence outside the system of riches and poverty. A minority class owns the means of production , while the workers are taught to accept life on their knees and to believe that poverty prepares them for a better life to come.

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Buddhism

Buddhism is supposed to follow the teaching of Saddhattha Gotoma - the Buddha. The myths associated with Buddhism are many and varied. Gotoma's birth date varies by a factor of 200 years, from the 6th to the 4th century BC. As with all religions, there are only absurd fantasies to be found - nothing of any substance worthy of working class attention.

The idea of being born, dying and being reborn with the aim of breaking the cycle to reach Nibbana or Nirvana, the end of suffering, is manifest nonsense.

Dying ends the suffering of the individuals who die but the suffering of the living is socially generated by capitalism. It consists of poverty, wars and starvation - all of which can be ended by changing society.

Gotoma as the fable goes was an Indian prince who left his wife and palace, shaving his head, and became a "holy man". Whatever that is?> He found that starving himself did not answer his problems so he packed it in and found himself a fig tree. At that time fig trees were "sacred" in India. He sat under the tree and meditated for 46 days. At the end of that time he gained what Buddhists called enlightenment, the meaning of life. The birth, death, rebirth cycle idea was taken from India's main religion now known as Hinduism.

There are three universal truths and four noble truths. The first of these holds that nothing lasts - everything changes. There is no rest except Nibbana. So the first truth is a contradiction since Nibbana lasts and does not change.

The second is Dukkha, which means suffering. Life is Dukkha, no one can escape it. Yet Buddhist teaching is, it is claimed, a way to overcome it. Another contradiction!

When Buddhists reach enlightenment, "they can break free of the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth.. When they have done this they can enter Nibbana" (BUDDHISM by Sue Penney, p10).

Buddhists hold that it is impossible to describe Nibbana. How long Gotoma (the Buddha) lived after gaining "enlightenment" we do not know but he died at the age of 80 and was cremated. What state he was in when he entered Nibbana or how his entry can be confirmed it is impossible to say. A perfectly natural death aged 80 followed by cremation is quite final: beyond that lie only the fables of faith and superstition.

CHANNEL 4 News on 2 April 2003 showed Buddhist monks in Hong Kong praying for protection against the SARS virus. They all want to reach Nibbana, but none of them wanted to die.That the religious behaviour of Buddhists is closely similar to that of other religions is undeniable. Mysticism acts like a magnet on the minds of believers.

In December 2002 King Sihanouk of Cambodia led a million people in a procession to relocate the fabled remains of Buddha (TELETEXT, 19 December 2002) There are still pilgrimages to the burial mounds where his ashes are supposed to have been placed. A special temple was built in the city of Kandy in Sri Lanka to house a relic, one of the Buddha's teeth, and a ten day-festival is held every year in its honour. There are other such festivals in other parts of the Buddhist world.

When Sue Penney wrote her book in 1988, there were about 100,000 Buddhists in Britain and an estimated 600 million world-wide. The submissive minds of people who engage in relic-worship are a long way from the revolutionary consciousness that will prepare the working class for emancipation.

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Orthodox Soviet Gods

Another major issue bearing upon the religious question was the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917.

This obviously could not be dealt with at the time of THE SPGB's pamphlet on religion (1910) but The Socialist Party of Great Britain was alone among political parties in identifying that seizure of power as the completion of Russia's industrial capitalist revolution. We rejected all along the false claims that this was a "workers' state" or an example of "Socialism in one country".

The capitalist class's propaganda supported Lenin, Stalin and the Bolsheviks in the lie that state capitalism meant Socialism. They also helped promote the further lie that the Soviet Union was an example of "godless Communism". In fact, it was neither godless nor Communist.

Lenin's main concern was to gain power and, through murder and terror, to hang on to it.

In 1917 the population of Russia was about 60% illiterate peasants steeped in religion. The question of educating the minority of industrial wage-workers never arose.

In a backward country, Lenin knew they had to "catch up" with capitalism, which implies that he knew that capitalism was coming to Russia. How did such massive misrepresentations as Russia under the Bolsheviks being Communist and godless come to be generally believed?

Given that the overwhelming majority of the world's workers do not regard wage-labour and production for sale as basic features of capitalism, it is not difficult to stick misleading labels on systems and parties, names which do not properly identify them.

From the Marxist standpoint, the state is itself the political apparatus of class rule. Another fact that Lenin twisted into its opposite. With the demise of the so-called 'Soviet' Union in 1991 and the introduction of a multi-party regime closer to western-style capitalism, we were now expected to believe yet more fantasies.

Instead of the history of human society evolving through the agency of class struggles from lower forms of slavery and feudalism to modern industrial capitalism and ultimately through the final class revolution to classless Socialism, are we now to accept that society can first leap from feudalism into Socialism as Lenin pretended and then, after three quarters of a century, evolve backwards into capitalism?

Such an absurd series of propositions provides a clear parallel with the survival of myths and religion in general. What comes to be commonly believed suits the prevailing ruling class interest. In this case there was the creation of a bogyman by the West in case of war, and the creation of a fifth column for the other side. With the meagre resources available to expound Socialism and debunk capitalism, it is not surprising that such myths are still in place.

In his little wartime pamphlet, SOVIET MILLIONAIRES, Reg Bishop praised the way the Christian Church in Russia had supported Stalin's 'war effort' financially:/p>

As is well-known, in the latter half of 1942 the Bishops of the Orthodox Church and the leading figures of other denominations vied as to which could make the most generous contribution ...

Typical of many others is Vladimir Stefanov, priest of the Moscow Church of the Assumption, who donated his life savings, 73,000 roubles, to the Defence Fund last year.

This priest, in a letter to Stalin, described himself as a "Shepherd of Souls". Clearly religion was flourishing in Stalin's Russia, performing the same function as in any other capitalist country, namely that of promoting nationalism, supporting the war and filling the heads of workers with myths.

The above-named pamphlet was published by THE RUSSIA TODAY SOCIETY, and was strongly supportive of Soviet state capitalism. Its purpose was to explain away and applaud, in the context of Russia's wartime alliance with the capitalist West, the emergence of millionaires in Soviet Russia

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Stalin and Lenin

Stalin had studied for the priesthood in Georgia. His mother was devoutly religious and, having lost three children in infancy, prayed for a boy whom she would name after Saint Joseph (Yossif) dedicating him to the service of god. With the aid of his priest, his mother enrolled Yossif Vissarionovich Djugashvili at the age of 11 in an ecclesiastical school, and when he was 14 she obtained a scholarship for him to enter the Seminary of Tiflis (Tibilisi).

Stalin learned to detest the Russians.

He knew that Georgian culture was older and greater than Russian, and shared his mother's pride in the fact that Georgia had been Christian during centuries when the barbarian Slavs up north were still pagans (Eugene Lyons, STALIN, CSAR OF ALL THE RUSSIAS, p27).

Eugene Lyons points out that for nearly a century the Czars had tried to Russianise "the Georgians, Tartars, Armenians, Kurds, Jews and the dozen other races who held onto their own languages and ancient ways".

Stalin spent five years in the Seminary and although Christianity didn't make Stalin its own, becoming a Bolshevik did not mean he became a Communist in his thinking or politics, or that he understood or cared anything about Marxism except as a front for holding power.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain rejected Lenin's pretences and fought to expose Stalin's reign of terror throughout its ugly existence, and this against the idol-worshippers of the so-called Communist Party.

Eugene Lyons soundly argues that:

Bolshevism was basically a conspiracy with a rigid hierarchy of power, and it dismissed sentimental nonsense about idealism. It was an instrument made to order for a man like Stalin (p56).

In Stalin's case, his police-state power was so absolute that fear and submission were universal through his vast domain. This is the very essence of religion.

Promoting conventional religion may not have been Bolshevik policy, except in wartime when Stalin called on the Orthodox priests to pray for God's help, but Stalin was himself deified. This fact is relevant to showing how gods are made by men.

Compare one of many fulsome hymns of praise to Stalin published in PRAVDA, the official organ of the Communist Party, with one from the Christian hymn book.

O great Stalin, O leader of the peoples;
Thou who broughtest Men to birth;
Thou who fructifiest the earth;
Thou who restorest the centuries;
Thou who makest bloom the spring;
Thou who makest vibrate the musical cords;
Thou splendour of my spring, O thou sun reflected by millions of hearts
.
STALIN, CZAR OF ALL THE RUSSIAS, p190


A Christian equivalent is the hymn PRAISE MY SOUL :

Angels, help us to adore him;
Ye behold him face to face;
Son and Moon bow down before him;
Dwellers all in time and space;
Praise him! Praise him! Praise with us the God of Grace
.

The same meaningless sterility is common to both. The self-effacing submission to a higher power betrays the same intensity of ignorance and fear in both cases. The mental state of submission to imaginary heavenly rulers co-exists with submission to earthly masters. Both are incompatible with being a Socialist.

That Bolshevism became a faith, with infallible leaders and sacred texts, is clear to any serious student of Soviet history.

Eugene Lyons says that it was Stalin:

… who conceived the notion of embalming the body of Lenin turning it into a "sacred relic" and his tomb into a Bolshevik 'shrine'.
On the eve of Lenin's funeral in January 1924, Stalin spoke to the Congress of the Soviets. The speech has the authentic flavour of priesthood about it.
"In leaving us Comrade Lenin ordered us to maintain and strengthen the dictatorship of the proletariat. We swear to thee, Comrade Lenin to exert our full strength to honour Thy command" … on and on in this liturgical style
(pp40-41).

The millions who starved to death with the failure of the first five-year plan in 1928-32 and the millions more who perished in slave-labour camps would have found little to celebrate in Stalin's strengthening of his dictatorship over the proletariat.

That Lenin and the Bolsheviks seized power in the vast underdeveloped country still emerging from feudalism, the Czar having abdicated only in March 1917, the country dominated by the medieval religion of the Orthodox Church, is the surest proof that for them power was an end in itself.

That they were a conspiratorial party with a hierarchical structure and dominated by a Central Committee under the control of one man, proves that, for them, Socialism had to be brought to the working class by leaders.

Lenin said as much in "WHAT IS TO BE DONE?"

We have said that there could not have been social democratic consciousness among the workers. It would have to be brought to them from without. The history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness.

He argued that Socialist theory was to be"… elaborated by educated representatives of the propertied classes"(p31-32, emphasis in original).

The theme of Marx and Engels and the reconstituted Socialist Party of Great Britain that: "the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself (see Engels' 1888 Preface to THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, also CLAUSE 5 of our DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES): pre-supposing the development of class consciousness in the industrial system of capitalism, this had to be ignored in conditions which did not exist in backward Russia.

That there was a struggle between Lenin and the Bolsheviks on the one hand and the various Orthodox Church factions and their leaders on the other is not denied. This was a power struggle over the control of the masses, where divided loyalty could not be accepted.

The fact that Lenin stripped the church of its possessions, closed monasteries and executed resisters has nothing to do with communism or Marx. By this criterion Henry VIII was a communist.

Referring to the church as the foundation of Russia's political and economic system, Rene Fullop Miller says:

In this respect, too, conditions in Russia before the revolution were almost like those of medieval Europe, when the church was identical with the state and was the true ideal foundation of temporal power. Thus the revolution if it wished to make a really clean sweep of the old regime, had to reckon with the church.
THE MIND AND FACE OF BOLSHEVISM, 1927, p245

The Orthodox Church was itself factionalised with some struggling to retain monastic theological dominance against others who welcomed the break from the state as an opportunity to develop religion independently. This is detailed by Fullop Miller, as is the fact that the Catholic Church was ready to fill any vacuum that arose in order to fulfil their dream of reuniting the Orthodox and Catholic churches which had split in 1054.

Lenin is quoted saying:

With regard to our own party, we observe that religion should be a private affair. The State should not concern itself with it, and religious societies should have no connection with the political authorities ( ibid., p246).

This cop-out further demonstrates the lack of conditions for Socialism and that the Russian people were far from rejecting religion. That these events happened seven years after Lenin's coming to power underscores the point. It is also clear that "an accommodation" was reached as 17 years later the leaders of these same churches were donating handsomely to Stalin's war effort.

It is illuminating to note some of the "elevating" issues being earnestly debated by rival sects within the Orthodox Church at this time (1924).

The Imiaslavia Movement draws its strength from a mystical branch of the Byzantine faith. They were concerned about "… the being of god and its relation to the word", concluding that the name of god must be worshipped as such (THE MIND AND FACE OF BOLSHEVISM (p258). This finds its echo in the words of the so-called Lord's Prayer: "… hallowed be thy name".

The monks of the hesychiast faction debated the light from the hill of Tabor:

whether this light is God himself and betokens his presence, or whether it is not a light created by god and thus neither god himself nor his energy ( Ibid., p259).

These, and many similar matters of world-shattering unimportance which had occupied the "thinking" of the Orthodox Church at least since the 14th century, were given a revival by the new religious movements in the Russia of the 1920's. The absurd obsession with light is nothing but a survival from sun-worship and shows the evolutionary process that all modern religion has undergone. Once the evolution of religion is admitted, its origins in some divine, eternal, unchanging, supernatural entity becomes untenable. Superstition and ignorance are all that is left.

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More Absurd Myths and Rituals

The Eucharist, now regarded as only symbolic cannibalism had once been accepted as the flesh and blood of Christ. Just how a small piece of wafer and sip of cheap wine becomes transubstantiated into flesh and blood is a minor feat of magic that says more about human gullibility than anything else.

The LITTLE OXFORD DICTIONARY (1988 ed.) still gives the meaning of the word transubstantiated as: "conversion of Eucharistic elements wholly into the body and blood of Christ". A recent report of vampirism in the UK and Germany about people drinking blood would, no doubt, be regarded as degenerate by Christians who participate in the Eucharist.

To consecrate is to make or declare anything to be "sacred" for religious purposes. It is perfectly obvious that men can and do consecrate just about anything, for example land, trees, slabs of stone, pieces of wood and metal, and a bewildering array of idols.

What is deemed "sacred" to one religion or in one era is not so to another. Even within the same religion (Christianity) bitter battles were fought over idol worship. There is no tangible attribute that identifies anything as intrinsically sacred. It is a condition existing only in the mind.

Over many centuries Christianity created a culture wherein, instead of new knowledge being eagerly sought and welcomed, it was felt that God's eternal scheme was threatened and they saw only dangerous heresy. In the early 17th century people refused to look through Galileo's telescope for fear of what they might see. In 1616, "Galileo was forbidden to express his opinions any more either in books or lectures". Copernicus's book CONCERNING THE REVOLUTIONS OF HEAVENLY BODIES was also suppressed (John Langdon Davies, MAN AND HIS UNIVERSE, p78).

In his introduction to THE LAROUSSE ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF MYTHOLOGY, Robert Graves identifies the two main functions of myths. The first is to answer awkward questions such as "where do souls go to after death"? He notes the enormous power conferred "on the various deities credited with the creation and care of souls - and incidentally on their priesthoods".

The second function of myths is to justify an existing social system. Robert Graves also observes: "One constant rule of mythology is that whatever happens among the gods above reflects the events on earth".

Karl Marx makes the same point :"the religious world is but the reflex of the real world". Marx goes on to argue that Protestantism is "the most fitting form of religion" under the capitalist system of commodity production:

... for a society based upon the production of commodities, in which the producers in general enter into social relations with one another by treating their products as commodities and values, whereby they reduce their individual private labour to the standard of homogeneous human labour - for such a society, Christianity with its cultus of abstract man, more especially in its bourgeois developments, Protestantism, Deism, etc., is the most fitting form of religion.
CAPITAL VOLUME I chap.I, section 4

THE LAROUSSE ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF MYTHOLOGY gives very detailed accounts from every part of the world showing the development of such beliefs from early primitive societies to modern times and, with a wealth of information, illustrates how countless thousands of tribal gods, many originating as the objects of ancestor worship, became absorbed into larger units as tribal societies emerged into City States and federations of City States. Though fewer the still numerous gods tended always to take over the rituals and supposed powers of those which were absorbed.

A recurring theme is sun and moon worship and the relation of such cults as reflections of power struggles on earth. When the Akan tribe of Ghana was ruled by a queen, descent was reckoned in the female line, and the moon-goddess, Ngame, was all powerful. When the Sudanese invaded they forced the Akans to accept a male creator and the myths were modified.

New myths appeared when the Akan accepted the patriarchal principle and Sun-worship was brought in. They began tracing succession through the father and mothers ceased to be the spiritual heads of households
LAROUSSE ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF MYTHOLOGY, INTRODUCTION, pvi

Similar power-struggles between men represented as struggles between the gods were common in ancient Egypt. The sun god, Ra, was challenged by the moon goddess, Isis, as city rulers vied for power when city-states were federating. The history of these and countless earlier gods predates Christianity by thousands of years.

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Free Will and Class Oppression

Another more significant example of what happens among the gods reflecting conditions and events on earth is to be seen in the concept of reward and punishment. To become a sinner by breaking God's laws is to invite eternal damnation. But be obedient and submissive and accept the power of God and his priests, and eternal bliss will be your reward.

This control of the masses by fear and ignorance rests upon the convenient idea of Free Will. Man in society can choose Good or Evil as determined by the ruling class and their legal and religious agents. Applied to life on earth, this means respecting private property and doing as you are told as wage-slaves producing wealth for the profit of a few.

The law stands ready to punish offenders, defending the privileges of the capitalist class and, helping to extend their domain, particularly in war situations, brings the "reward" of being "elevated" to the status of "hero".

How Free Will can be exercised in choosing the class into which you are born, the kind of environment in which you live, and whether at any time you are made unemployed is never explained. What Free Will the men, women and children who are on the receiving end of American and British bombing have as to whether they are maimed, murdered, tortured or have their homes destroyed is also something about which the Sin and Virtue hypocrites of Christianity have nothing to say.The doctrine of Free Will, applied to millions of starving people in Africa, where 3 million people, many of them children, die from AIDS each year, while the Roman Catholic Church forbids contraception and popularises the lie that condoms are porous, either challenges the sanity of people who "choose" such horrors or it condemns the barbarity of Christianity at both the theoretical and the practical level.

Primitive men built their myths about life and nature out of fear of things they had no other way of explaining. There was no ulterior motive of a privileged class with a vested interest in keeping ignorance in being to preserve their dominance.

It is impossible to escape the conclusion that all the gods and all the myths of all the religions are the inventions of men and women. They have all undergone a long process of adaptations and merging as society has changed.

While the world has classes, one owning the means of life and therefore dominant, the other, a non-owning class of employees and therefore servile, the dominant ideas in society will tend to be those of the ruling class. Their gods and their myths will continue to be accepted by those among the servile majority who believe leaders and gods are needed to control their lives.

Workers are not only robbed of what they produce, but of any independent identity. This, more than anything, is what makes revolutionary ideas difficult to accept. Religion has served to shroud the debasement of mankind in a halo of righteousness. There is no solution to nor any real escape from poverty, alienation and war to be found in the collective burying of heads in the shifting sand of religion. Many centuries of prayer and other senseless rituals have only left the religions' devotees in the control of priests and the ruling class.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, alarmed by declining church attendances, is resorting to the use of videos. Weekly church attendances average 1.2 million. This has to be set against such television programmes as My Favourite Hymns and Songs of Praise which, in effect, turn viewers' homes into mini-churches. In America the retarding forces of religion have their own TV and Radio Channels, but all the effects of capitalism, including massive drugs and alcohol problems, remain.

At every level religion fails. Even as a refuge for frightened and oppressed victims of an alienating society, there is just a void from which nothing is forthcoming. Religion as a reflex of the real world, is the theological equivalent of reformism. Instead of a political patchwork programme for treating the effect of capitalism with piecemeal reforms, divine intervention is sought to relieve poverty, end violence and bring happiness.

The lack of any control over their own lives on the part of the working class is as clear as the futility of both reforms and religion.

Since it is capitalism that causes the major social problems of the world with its exploitation of wage-labour and those ceaseless conflicts over markets and profits, it is this system that must be abolished.

With the establishment of world Socialism, socially equal human beings will for the first time be in conscious control of society. The aim of gaining political power to bring this about must become the top priority of the world's workers.

A final word from Marx:

The life-process of society, which is based on the process of material production, does not strip off its mystical veil until it is treated as production by freely associated men, and is consciously regulated by them in accordance with a settled plan. This, however, demands for society a certain material groundwork or set of conditions of existence which in their turn are the spontaneous product of a long and painful process of development.
CAPITAL VOLUME I, chap.I, Section 4

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Marx and Religion

Marx made his hostility to religion clear not by writing a book or a thesis making a detailed attack on it, but by way of expounding his and Engels's Materialist Conception of History. This concept sees men in historically changing relations of production. This is a developmental process wherein men and women become conscious of the universe through the process of controlling nature in producing and reproducing the means of living. There is room only for man and nature, nothing supernatural.

In volume I of CAPITAL, Marx used the technique of making analogies between some absurd contradictions in capitalist political economy and religious ideas. This was very effective. In the Author's Preface to volume I (Kerr edition, p 15), in laying the foundation of political economy, Marx made his famous swipe at the property-conscious Church of England:
The English Established Church... will more readily pardon an attack on 38 of its 39 articles than on 1/39 of its income.

In explaining the equivalent [exchange] value[s] of a coat and a given amount of linen, Marx says:
Thus the linen acquires a value form different from its physical form. The fact that it is value is made manifest by its equality with the coat, just as the sheep's nature of a Christian is shown in his resemblance to the Lamb of God (p 60).

An even more dismissive sweeping aside of religious nonsense is to be found on another page:
There is a definite social relation between men, that assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things. In order, therefore, to find an analogy, we must have recourse to the mist-enveloped regions of the religious world. In that world the productions of the human brain appear as independent beings endowed with life, and entering into relation both with one another and the human race (p 83).

Marx also quoted from something he had written some twenty years earlier, in THE POVERTY OF PHILOSOPHY, in reply to Proudhon. Here we will reproduce that quotation, and then go back to pages 91 and 92 which have a more fitting conclusion to Marx's references to religion in volume I of CAPITAL.
The economists have a singular manner of proceeding. There are for them only two kinds of institutions, those of art and those of nature. Feudal institutions are artificial institutions, those of the bourgeoisie are natural institutions. In this they resemble the theologians, who establish two kinds of religion. Every religion but their own is an invention of men, while their own religion is an emanation from God (p 93).

And on page 91:
The religious world is but the reflex of the real world. And for a society based upon the production of commodities, in which the producers in general enter into social relations with one another by treating their products as commodities and values, whereby they reduce their individual private labour to the standard of homogenous human labour - for such a society, Christianity with its cultus of abstract man, more especially in its bourgeois developments (Protestantism, Deism etc.), is the most fitting religion.

And then, after dealing with the ancient and primitive tribal origins of bourgeois religion, Marx concludes:
The religious reflex of the real world can, in any case, only then finally vanish, when the practical relations of everyday life offer to man none but perfectly intelligible and reasonable relations with regard to his fellowmen and to nature. The life-process of society, which is based on the process of material production, does not strip off its mystical veil until it is treated as production by freely associated men, and is consciously regulated by them in accordance with a settled plan (pp 91- 92).

This is a superb application of the Materialist Conception of History: man developing consciousness in the social process of production, abandoning obsolete myths and finally changing society. The case for Socialism in a nutshell. In 1859, in his Preface to THE CRITIQUE OF POLITICAL ECONOMY, Marx formally outlined the Materialist Conception of History which, as he explained, once arrived at, served as the leading thread in his studies.

He argued that:
It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence but, on the contrary, their social existence determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of their development, the material forces of production in society come into conflict with the existing relations of production...
... Then comes the period of revolution. With the change of the economic foundation the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed. In considering such transformations the distinction should always be made between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production which can be determined with the precision of a natural science, and the legal, political, religious, aesthetic or philosophic - in short ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out
(p 12).

Twelve years earlier, in the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, Marx and Engels made another excellent application of their Materialist Conception. Of the several references to religion, the following will serve to show their consistent rejection of religious ideas. Referring to the workers' subjection to capital, they wrote:
Law, morality, religion are to [the workers] so many bourgeois prejudices behind which lurk in ambush just as many bourgeois interests.

AND:

The charges against Communism made from a religious, philosophical, and generally, from an ideological standpoint, are not deserving of serious examination.
Does it require deep intuition to comprehend that man's ideas, views, and conceptions, in one word, man's consciousness, changes with every change in the conditions of his material existence, in his social relations and in his social life
?

NB It must be understood that Communism as used by Marx and Engels has absolutely nothing to do with the former Soviet dictatorship which was state- capitalist. It means what the SPGB means by Socialism, i.e. a classless world-system of common ownership of the means of production and distribution.

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Appendix

[Extracts from 2nd edition, 1911, of the reconstituted Socialist Party of Great Britain pamphlet Socialism and Religion, first published 1910, 3rd edition 1925]

The Socialist View of Religion

The Socialist case against religion differs widely from the usual Freethought position. ... Religion was not the wicked invention of charlatans, nor is the passing of superstition simply to be explained by the "triumph of Reason". [Socialists arugue that] the "march of mind", the development of science, and the decay of religion, are themselves ultimately explicable only from the evolution of economic conditions. Ideas play a secondary part in social development. They are the effects of the material environment upon human beings, and are not the creative motive force of social evolution. Consequently, in his worship of the "idea" the bourgeois freethinker is, like the Christian, attributing miraculous powers to the figments of men's brains.
Preface, p.3

The Need for Frankness

Is Socialism antagonistic to religion? Can a Socialist be a Christian?... It is urged [by others] that such discussion is unnecessary, and that it will retard the cause by prejudicing people against it. But it must be recognised that the policy of hiding the truth and avoiding discussion is precisely the most likely way to injure the cause (p.7).

The Genesis of Religion

Primitive man's knowledge and experience were not sufficiently extensive to give him the idea of an inviolable natural order. He believed that all things were swayed by the ghosts of the dead, and consequently the "miracle" was his explanation of a normal happening. So the whole of man's early religious beliefs were due to the limitations of his knowledge and experience. Religion, therefore, has a natural, not a supernatural, genesis (p.11).

The Reflex of Tribal Life

How completely religion was the outcome of material conditions may be gathered, not only from the character of the ideas connected with it, but also from the exactness with which it reflected the kinship and social forms of tribal society (pp11-12).

As a belief ... religion was the outcome of man's ignorance of Nature's working, and of the mastery which awful and uncomprehended natural forces had over him, while as rites and ceremonies it reflected the forms, customs, and unchanging nature of primitive society. Thus the obscurity of material conditions is the source of religion; God did not create man, man created God in his own image.

By the "inertia of the mind", religion tends to persist, even through vast changes in the environment, in so far as it serves some interest and does not directly conflict with the new conditions. But in spite of this tendency to independent existence, religion has been modified continuously as the result of changing conditions and interests; while, notwithstanding repeated endeavours to adapt the ancient legends to modern requirements, its influence has waned. Nevertheless, in the degree that it survives, religion reacts upon society; it is the paralysing hand of the dead past upon the living present (pp.14-15).

The Rise of Christianity

... the spread of "universal" religions was the consequence and accompaniment of the development of a new social system. Kinship ceased to be the social bond; its place was taken by an expanding military or feudal power. The older religion ceased to be in harmony with the social order; it gave place to a religion whose principle was not exclusiveness, but universality; and the ethic associated with the new religion was necessarily that of submission, in order to encourage the obedience to government that was essential to the security of the political State (p.19).

The Reformation

Much might be written regarding the economic basis of Protestantism in all its phases, but it is sufficient here to lay stress on the fundamental part played throughout by the change in material aims and interests engendered by the development of the new methods of gaining the material living ...
... instead of the vast social and political changes that accompanied the great Protestant movements being caused by the new religious ideas, these ideas are themselves only explicable as the outcome of the rise of capitalist farming, industry, and commerce, and the advance of a new class to political domination
(pp.22-23).

The Exodus of Religion

In contrast with science, which grows in volume, complexity, interdependence, and definiteness, religion decreases in volume, cohesion, and definiteness, and is now in process of evolution - if such it can truly be called - into nothingness. It is, in fact, more accurately an evaporation than an evolution (p.23).

It is the development of industrial forces, and mankind's consequent growing control over Nature and increasing knowledge of her working, that provide a wider and firmer basis for science and leave less room for superstition in the minds of working men.

... This indifference of the workers is fostered by the fact that religion, when put to the test, is ever found on the side of their oppressors (pp.24-25).

... so long as the anarchy of modern competitive society exists, the accompanying obscurity and confusion in social life will continue to shelter superstition. ...

...if religion exists it is because of a defective social organisation, of which it is necessary to seek the cause in the very essence of the State (Marx).

Class domination is the essence of the modern State. It is based on competitive anarchy and parasitism - the evidences of a defective social organisation. It still leaves room for religion, because it maintains ignorance and confusion by its structure and contradictions, and because religion is fostered as a handmaiden of class rule (p.26).

It is, therefore, a profound truth that Socialism is the natural enemy of religion. Through Socialism alone will the relations between men in society, and their relations to Nature, become reasonable, orderly, and completely intelligible, leaving no nook or cranny for superstition. The entry of Socialism is, consequently, the exodus of religion (p.27).

The Socialist Philosophy -
The Materialist Explanation of Society

Intellectual changes are made and stimulated by material change. That ideas have an important reflex action on social conditions in no way alters the fact that material conditions form the base, origin, and material of all intellectual life (p.29).

...the contradiction in terms known as the Christian Socialist is inevitably antagonistic to working-class interests and the waging of the class struggle. His policy is the conciliation of classes, the fraternity of robber and robbed, not the end of classes. His avowed object, indeed, is usually to purge the Socialist movement of its materialism, and this, as we have seen, means to purge it of its Socialism and to divert it from its material aims to the fruitless chasing of spiritual Will-o'-the' wisps. A Christian Socialist is, in fact, an anti-Socialist (p.31).

Socialism is consistent only with that monistic view which regards all phenomena as expressions of the underlying matter-force reality and as parts of the unity of Nature
which interact according to inviolable laws. It is the application of science, the arch-enemy of religion, to human social relationships; and just as the basic principle of the philosophy of Socialism finds itself in conflict with religion, so does it, as a propagandist movement, find religion acting against it
... (p.32).

Was Jesus a Socialist?

... the Christian doctrine means submission - and slavery. So the asceticism, self-abnegation, and professed other-worldliness of Christian teaching, which regards this earth as a vale of tears and a painful preparation for a life in the clouds, is an ethic of slavish degradation; and when taught to the workers it admirably reflects the narrowest self-interest of the exploiting class. It is an ethic that runs counter to working-class interests at every point (p38).

Socialism and Ethics

Only when the influence of religion has been so weakened by social advance that it ceases to be useful as an instrument of government will the master class institute purely secular instruction. The poison will nevertheless continue to be administered. The religion known as patriotism, with its superstitions, its miraculous lying legends, its symbols, music, vestments, pomp, and ceremony, is even to-day more useful than Christianity as a means of stupefying the workers and will continue to be used.

... An ethic, indeed, can be no more than a class ethic, because society is divided into antagonistic classes ... The pressing need is therefore not ethics, but an end to the categories of wage-slave and capitalist.

... The worker's guide to-day must be no capitalist code, but the class struggle; and this entails loyalty and co-operation between members of the working class, and implacable hostility to capitalism and those who uphold it (pp40-41).

Socialists and the Religious Conflict

No man can be consistently both a Socialist and a Christian. It must be either the Socialist or the religious principle that is supreme, for the attempt to couple them equally betrays charlatanism or lack of thought (p46).

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Socialist Studies

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