“Christian Anarchism“

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ajjohnstone
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Jun 5 2021 03:50
“Christian Anarchism“

https://dissidentvoice.org/2021/06/christian-anarchism-for-absolute-begi...

As we all know, religious scripture can be cherry-picked to present practically any political position.

Quote:
LS: Does the Book of Revelation talk in certain ways about politics which are of interest to Christian anarchists?

AC: Yes. Christian anarchists point to the opposition between the majesty of God and the dominions of Earth throughout the book. They see in the two beasts and the four horsemen different facets of contemporary politics. They see the book as another stark reminder of the choice between loyalty to God and loyalty to earthly power. They understand Revelation as warning true Christians of the difficult path of persecution and suffering which comes with following Jesus, and so on. Of course, much of the book is vividly metaphorical, but for Christian anarchists what those metaphors signify reinforces what they read as the core message of the rest of the New Testament.

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sherbu-kteer
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Jun 5 2021 13:59

Whilst to an extent this is just a matter of an academic trying to flog his book, there are a growing number of anarchists who have abandoned the usual anarchist/communist stances of opposition to religion. The origins of this phenomenon are worth discussing – I think it's partially a backlash against the New Atheist movement of the 00s and the way it descended into right-wing politics, but also maybe the re-emergence of social-democrats as a notable force on the left and a corresponding rise in the idea that socialism is some kind of philanthropic exercise.

I've read a bunch of these "Christian Anarchist" texts and nearly all of them amount to people reading validations of their own beliefs into Christian scriptures, or the practices of pre-Pauline Christian communities. This goes for every kind of contemporary leftist belief, from the abolition of wage-labour to the acceptance of transgender people in society. I'm just left asking what the point of it is – why do we need religion to justify communism? What does religious anarchism offer that plain old atheist anarchism does not? And on that, I've never found an actual answer...

Black Badger
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Jun 5 2021 20:12
Black Badger
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Jun 5 2021 20:13

snooze

Rurkel
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Jun 8 2021 07:04
sherbu-kteer wrote:
I'm just left asking what the point of it is – why do we need religion to justify communism? What does religious anarchism offer that plain old atheist anarchism does not? And on that, I've never found an actual answer...

The usual answer is that Commie-Jesus or other religious figure, be it Indigenous deities, Commie-Muhammad etc provide aid and comfort in struggle, or inspire militants to be even more militant and intransigent.

ajjohnstone
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Jun 8 2021 12:15

I think that many revolutionary ideas in pre-capitalist times were expressed by religious terms as there was no other language. And the custom has prevailed.

There was a debate on Libcom about Early Christian Communism.

In England we had the Peasants Revolt led by a pauper preacher, the European rebellions of various heresies like the Taborites, and then with the German Peasants War and Muntzer, then again in England, the English Revolution couched in verses from scripture and all manner of weird cults.

We also have radical currents in other religions such as Dhammic Socialism. Although it is commonly perceived as reactionary, even Islam has socialist proponents overlapping with the welfare state 'socialists' (UBI was originally started by some Khalif)

adri
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Jun 11 2021 12:52
ajjohnstone wrote:
I think that many revolutionary ideas in pre-capitalist times were expressed by religious terms as there was no other language. And the custom has prevailed.

Even in the early American industrial era there was a religious component to workers' anti-capitalist activities. The Lowell textile operatives, mostly women, expressed their opposition to factory life in mostly religious terms. I'm surprised there's hardly any content on here about them considering their significance and contributions to magazines like the Voice of Industry (there's archives of that here). I'm kind of with Marx however about the whole religion thing, it being the opium of the people etc.

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R Totale
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Jun 11 2021 20:42

Yeah, I tend to think that it'd certainly be nice if religion disappeared tomorrow, but that doesn't seem to be happening any time soon, so if we have to have people still being Christians then I'd rather have them be Christian anarchists than any other kind. I suppose we could turn the question around and ask if religious anarchism is necessarily worse than other kinds of anarchism. And I think you probably could make a case that it is in some ways, like I think it's probably pretty rare to find a non-pacifist Christian anarchism.

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Lucky Black Cat
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Jun 15 2021 19:32
Quote:
I'm just left asking what the point of it is – why do we need religion to justify communism?

I don't think we do, but for many people, perhaps even the majority of people on Earth, religion is important to them. I agree with R Totale that it would be better if religion disappeared tomorrow, but since that's not happening any time soon, in the meantime, a religious take on anarchism or communism can make these politics accessible and attractive to people who otherwise would not have been interested.

Although I'm an atheist on religious interpretations of "God", and skeptically agnostic on the possibility of some sort of intelligent creative force behind life, there are certain things I appreciate about Christian anarchism/communism or Buddhist anarchism and so on, which is that they often highlight ethical values of love, care, compassion, and "brotherhood" of humanity. Personally I find this very appealing, although I would prefer a secular interpretation of this, and secular interpretations certainly are possible.

freemind
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Jun 16 2021 11:49

The malaise and confusion of today's so called Anarchist movement leaves it prone to these sad analogies.
What next?
Hippy Anarchism?
Buddhist Anarchism?
Quaker Anarchism?
Capitalist Anarchism?
Marshall-Demanding the Impossible makes the same error.
Until we have a definitive definition of our beliefs we will be prone to ideological misinterpretation and will go nowhere I fear.

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Lucky Black Cat
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Jun 17 2021 08:49

While we're on the topic...

Mikhail Bakunin in God and the State wrote:
A jealous lover of human liberty, deeming it the absolute condition of all that we admire and respect in humanity, I reverse the phrase of Voltaire, and say that, if God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him.

Ninja64
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Jul 28 2021 11:05

I don´t believe in god, but I do think Christianity and anarchism are compatible.

ajjohnstone
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Jul 28 2021 15:11

Whether it is the Old or New Testament, anybody can cherry-pick anything from the scriptures to justify any standpoint they so wish.

It is why there are hundreds of different denominations within Christianity, each all swearing on the Bible that theirs is the 'Truth' and 'The Way'. Obviously, they cannot all be right. In fact, they can't even agree on and accept the same Bible, including and excluding various Books.

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Red Marriott
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Jul 28 2021 17:44
Quote:
Whether it is the Old or New Testament, anybody can cherry-pick anything from the scriptures to justify any standpoint they so wish.

It is why there are hundreds of different denominations within Christianity, each all swearing on the Bible that theirs is the 'Truth' and 'The Way'. Obviously, they cannot all be right. In fact, they can't even agree on and accept the same Bible, including and excluding various Books.

Much like Marxism.

ajjohnstone
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Jul 29 2021 04:52

As in the history of Christianity, there has been the re-writing of Marxism, which is undeniable, to turn it into Leninism, Trotskyism, Stalinism and Maoism.

But with Marxism, we can actually refer back to the actual words written by Marx for verification. The Gospels and the Paulian letters may claim to have the authority of The Christ but we don't possess for certain what he said, nor the context what is said to be his words were spoken in. We can refute and rebut claims of 'Marxists' with what Marx wrote.

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Reddebrek
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Jul 29 2021 22:55

Um, except a vast quantity of Marx's texts were unknown outside a small circle of SPD theoreticians until the Soviet Union got its hands on the Marx and Engels archives in the late 1930s, decades after most main branches of Marxism had already been developed and established.

So apart from the small number of back to basics and refounding marxists, who don't really agree with each other either, that's not really what happened. Most marxist traditions interpreted from the same slim bibliography and filled in the blanks with their own chosen thinkers and adaptions to their own circumstances, don't see how that's inherently a bad thing or why so many Marxist-whatevers act like this is some intolerable slur either.

freemind
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Jul 30 2021 11:01

I detest these liberal lazy comparisons and merging of completely different belief systems personally.It betrays a denigration in what Anarchism was and what its become.A once great movement debauched by bourgeois parasitism.
An Anarchist may oppose the State of Rome but that doesn't mean he accepts Christian beliefs because some Carpenter with a shit dress sense got nailed to a Cross ffs!
Many ideologies may agree that Prostitution is wrong but that doesn't mean they are the same.Sorry for the crass tone.lol
Ergo Individualism can be an ambiguous belief system also.
On a separate point if Anarchism progressed in a more fortuitous way Individualism would not be fetishised as it so often is in Libertarian circles and these sad comparisons like Christian Anarchism,Anarcho this or that would not exist.There is only one Anarchist ideology in my view and it has as its core fundamentals Abolition of State,Capitalism and all the resultant bourgeois characters ie Racism,Sexism ,Religion etc.
Anarchist ideology is about the fundamental prosecution of the Class War and institution of Libertarian Communism.
If Anarchists today do not believe in Class or Communism they're not Anarchists but fakirs just like Christian "Anarchists" lol

ajjohnstone
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Jul 30 2021 12:11
Quote:
except a vast quantity of Marx's texts were unknown outside a small circle of SPD theoreticians until the Soviet Union got its hands on the Marx and Engels archives in the late 1930s, decades after most main branches of Marxism had already been developed and established

I suppose Marx and Engels can be classed as being a bit of Marxist skeptics to all the academic interest in his untranslated or unpublished works regards that heavy tome, the German Ideology, which they chose to leave to the 'gnawing criticism of the mice'.

I recall the surge of interest in the early Marx by sociologists in my own youth with the publication of the 1844 Philosophical and Economic Manuscripts. Some say it only added to the obfuscation.

However, there was sufficient material already available to determine what were the key tenets of Marxism, at least for the SPGB in 1904 when some of the founders had previously attended economic classes organised by Marx's daughter Eleanor.

A useful 1909 article has appeared on MIA, shows there were many others who grasped Marxism's meaning.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/duncker/1909/socialism.htm

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Noah Fence
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Aug 4 2021 20:02

It would appear that according to Freemind, my assertion that individualism is an essential component of any libertarian attempt at communism is fetishisation. At last, I’ve got a kink! Which way to the Anarchist Munch!

freemind
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Aug 6 2021 12:24

I'm not saying you're kinky lol Only that some so called Anarchists take the Individuals struggle v The State to excessive lengths to the detriment of the Communist aspect of Libertarianism.

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Noah Fence
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Aug 6 2021 12:35
freemind wrote:
I'm not saying you're kinky lol Only that some so called Anarchists take the Individuals struggle v The State to excessive lengths to the detriment of the Communist aspect of Libertarianism.

I don’t doubt it, but if you think I’m going to ignore the opportunity to make a joke with a callback to the great libcom munch controversy of 2015, you are sorely mistaken!

FTR though, I’m a communist because I’m a libertarian and an individualist, not the other way round. Does that put me in the category you described earlier?

freemind
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Aug 6 2021 14:05

No of course not

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Reddebrek
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Aug 7 2021 19:53
ajjohnstone wrote:

However, there was sufficient material already available to determine what were the key tenets of Marxism, at least for the SPGB in 1904 when some of the founders had previously attended economic classes organised by Marx's daughter Eleanor.

Right, but even she wasn't an expert on her father's work, most copies of Revolution and Counter Revolution in Germany for example come with a foreword by Elanor talking about what her father must of been thinking when he wrote it. We now know that he didn't write much or even any of the text and that Engels submitted the text using his name.

The SPGB was also founded as a dissident split from the closest thing to an official Marxist party to have ever existed in Britain the SDF which Marx and Engels did not care much for, so we're back to square one, here.

Like the Shia, you're welcome to point to the involvement of the great prophet's direct descendant, but it isn't an argument for legitimacy with any inherent weight.

Quote:
A useful 1909 article has appeared on MIA, shows there were many others who grasped Marxism's meaning.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/duncker/1909/socialism.htm

Sorry, not to pile on but I missed this at first, and I think its a really good example of what I'm getting at. Dunckner was a member of the SPD, and a politician for them, so he had better access to the Marx and Engels archive than others, but even he didn't see all of it, his article of Lassalle has him accusing the SPD leadership of covering up and hoarding much of the material.

He then becomes a Leninist, his later works praise Lenin and Bukharin and he becomes a member of the KPD. And after WWII he lives in East Germany as a member of the Socialist Unity Party. So he went from a marxist social democrat to a leninist and then a stalinist, but during that period his access to the texts of Marx and Engels improved significantly.

So he worked with what he had access to, and then filled in the blanks, or he read the works of M&E and came to the conclusion that Moscow was the way they were pointing.

ajjohnstone
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Aug 8 2021 02:58

Yes, I'm aware that Dunckner and his wife moved to the GDR and became apologists for the regime but the point was at the time of the SPGB founding more that they understood the relevance of Marxism from what was already available and I'm not sure he shifted his position by reading newly published Marx

My point is that there was sufficient material to correctly determine the content of Marx's ideas and find contemporary (such as Bernstein) and later claimants (eg Lenin) mistaken. But if you are suggesting that the misinterpretation or distortion was due simply to the scarcity of works, I disagree.

And the SPGB was prepared to reject Pope Kautsky when he began to stray from what the SPGB believed was Marxist principles.

The SDF debate which was happening was not just a UK event as even members of the SPGB are prone to describe the party as English Marxism but there was a wider movement such as the Impossiblist debate in France with Lafargue and Guesde with the SPGB frequently translating them and others into English.

But I am a bit of a heretic. I insist to my comrades that we really don't need Marx and Engels. All the MCM = MCM1= MCM2 stuff leaves me bewildered even if others such as Bakunin thought it all worthy of translating.

And of course, there was the influence of the Socialist League and the American SLP neither particularly dependant upon Marx.

But to return to the original point. Compared with the Christian canon there is adequate information to reliably define what Marxism is and there was a general consensus about it until political developments created divergence.

link
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Aug 8 2021 20:22

'if God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him.'

Thanks LBC for reminding me of the quote from Bakunin. God and the State was probably the first radical book I read as a youngster and that quote is so strong (even though I remembered it as being ‘fight him’ ).

Surely that says it all for anarchist and communists. We must start from real world not from fantasy and oppose all those in power and not fall for their trickery.

I read the Christian Anarchist interview that AJJ linked to but all it reminded me of is the recognition that nothing is ever 100% wrong. As far as religion goes there must be points of interest or correctness in what they say in order to persuade people to follow. It is not surprising therefore that we can find good (sorry didn’t want to use that word but.. ) things in what others say or do ie getting rid of profiteers, saying murder is wrong or that Mother Teresa wasnt a good person. Who can argue? But that is not the point. We have to look at the whole context of what’s said so I agree with freemind that creating another clever identity like christian anarchism is ridiculous. It just focusses on the wishful and hopeful ideas about how to change society.

I got talking to the jehovah’s witnesses a while ago and actually found some sort of common ground in that they apparently believe in a society without money and leaders - but unfortunately this could only come about if you rely on god to create it for you!!! The old socialists used to talk about utopianism, what we perhaps call idealism today, and that is all you get when you take one good idea and ignore what these groups and movements actually are. Even if Jesus did say nice things, even if he was on the side of the poor, that cannot mean that he was a saviour who could create a new society let alone a socialist one. He lived in a slave society and slaves were only able to run away. We have to rely on ideas that explain the world we live in how it can actually be changed - and not just hope things could be better if we cling on to the leaders in capitalist society.

AJJ is right in saying that what Marx has given us is a way of analysing society and its history but it would be wrong to say he was right about everything just like I don’t think AJJ is right about everything. Marx lived over 150 yrs old so we need to be able to adapt his view of society to what we see now. - something that is not always easy. Surely religion was and is the opium of the people but perhaps we should now add nationalism and the mainstream leftists to the list.

ajjohnstone
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Aug 9 2021 01:49
Quote:
AJJ is right in saying that what Marx has given us is a way of analysing society and its history but it would be wrong to say he was right about everything just like I don’t think AJJ is right about everything.

I definitely know I'm not right about everything.

As I approach my 70s, I'm still on a learning curve, debating and discussing various options, trying to detect past errors and correct them.

Despite what some might believe, I don't visit this site merely simply to promote the SPGB. I discover new and different insights.