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Fascinating document from Soviet archives on atheist organization suppression of religion (1934)

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HamdenRice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 10:23 AM
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Fascinating document from Soviet archives on atheist organization suppression of religion (1934)
Edited on Sun Jun-08-08 10:56 AM by HamdenRice
<NB: This was posted in response to a question in another thread, but I thought the general R/T audience might find it interesting. What follows is a paragraph of intro by me; then the link; then a few sentences about the use of the word, "propoganda" by the webmaster of the site from which this document was copied. Also note that the scanning of the document appears to have created a few typos. >

Here is a document from the Soviet archives -- one out of millions of pages of documents -- that explains in great detail and indeed a certain amount of theoretical coherence, why religion is an enemy of the socialist revolution and must be suppressed. This document does not directly sanction violent suppression (although given what happened to other enemies of the revolution it's kind of predictable what would happen), but it is a fascinating insight into the theoretical position of the communist party. In particular, it makes a fascinating argument for why religion was blocking the transformation of the means of production and relations of production. To make one complicated argument-story short, the peasants could not control natural forces like rainfall; they therefore "paid" the church for supernatural intervention to control nature; the introduction of tractors and irrigation, the transformation of the means of production and relations of production in agriculture required the destruction of peasant relgion. Notice the number of technological metaphors used:

http://rationalrevolution.net/special/library/cc835_41....

RELIGION IN THE, U.S.S. R. MILITANT ATHEISM BECOMES A MASS MOVEMENT - 1934


Webmaster's note: The term propaganda is frequently used throughout this document. It should be noted that the word propaganda did not take on a negative connotation until after the end of World War II, because of its association with the German Ministry of Propaganda. Propaganda simply means "official information". This must be kept in mind when reading the following document.


EXHIBIT No. 41

The epoch-making changes which are taking place in all branches of the national economy in the U.S.S.R. must necessarily be accompanied by correspondingly sharp changes in the ideology of the great masses.

The soil that fostered the ideology of the Russian workers in the period of tsarist reaction is now being deeply plowed up by lumbering tractors on the collective and state farms; the choicest seeds of Leninism are being sown on a vast expanse of territory stretching, over one-sixth of the surface of the globe. Years of stubborn and, persistent toil have prepared this soil to receive this seed. Now that the sewers have grown up, have been trained and prepared for their task, we garner the rich harvest they sowed. Witness the mass antireligious movement, which is one of the consequences of the enormous social-economic changes which are taking place in our country.

The program of our Party says:

The Communist Party of the Soviet Union is guided by the conviction that only the conscious and deliberate planning of all the social and economic activities of the masses will cause religious prejudices to die out completely. The Party stands for the complete dissolution of the ties between the exploiting classes and organized religious propaganda, and facilitates the real emancipation of the working masses from religious prejudices by organizing the widest possible scientific, educational, and antireligious propaganda.

Thus religious beliefs will be destroyed not primarily by antireligious propaganda, but by the conscious and deliberate planning of all the social and economic activities of the masses.

This does not imply that the Party should or does ignore the use of antireligious propaganda, which helps to form the new atheist conceptions of the broad toiling masses. Tile basis of this movement, however, rests on the fact that the working class is winning in its struggle against the capitalist forms of economy that the working class is rebuilding the whole of the country in accordance with socialist ideas that it is not the old Russia, but the workers, 'the most suitable standard-bearers of atheism, the leaders of the socialist revolution, who are building giant state farms, who are building the mighty Dnieper Dam and the large tractor works, who are marching to victory despite the malevolent plotting of the exploiters of all the world: The Pyatifetka (Five-Year Plan) in the realm of construction embodies that "conscious and deliberate planning of all the social and economic activities of the masses" which the party program refers to as the greatest force which will bring in its wake "the dying-out of religious prejudices."

Under the leadership and influence of the proletariat, the peasants are turning to a new form of economy, socialized economy. More and more we find them adopting the new technique and freeing themselves from and subduing the dominion of the elemental forces of nature.

These victories over nature, over these elemental forces, are of paramount importance in the work of freeing the great peasant masses from the stupefying influence of religion. In a few more years the masses of peasants organized in the collective and state farms will, with the use of the mighty technique of the proletarian state and with the help of the mighty fertilizers at work upon new and hitherto untilled fields, be able to free themselves from the last remnants of the influence Of religion which the exploiters had almost indelibly imprinted on their minds in the course of centuries.

It must be pointed out that in this process, the cultural revolution, the logical concomitant of all these profound changes in the national economy of our country, plays a very important part.

Take for example the Christmas holidays, December 25, 26, and 27. In the village of Borodino, the peasants arranged a mass festival of socialist culture. About two thousand people, poor and middle peasants, came from all part of the country and without a single dissenting voice closed down two of the three churches in the village. They installed machinery in one church and turned it into a collective farm mill; in the other they opened up a home for socialist culture with a number of assembly rooms, a library, rooms for study circles, moving pictures, and radio.

But all this was made possible only because the peasant masses had joined this mighty movement and because of the influence of the mass collectivization of the farms in this region.

Illiteracy has been almost completely wiped out in this village, and two-thirds of the adult population regularly visit the village reading room. This room was set up without a single kopek being spent by the state, as was also an elementary school, another school for knitting and sewing, a living newspaper, a Young Pioneer detachment, a creche for babies, and a library. Out of every three homes, two subscribe to newspapers, and in every home there are two who go to the library. This is something entirely new in the Russian village; Here they are making short shrift with all the vestiges of the old regime.

Hand-in-hand with this work of reconstructing our economy, we are making great progress in remolding the consciousness of the masses. We see in this an assurance that the work of the atheists will be crowned with success and this explains why militant atheism has become not only a mass movement in the cities, but throughout the whole countryside.

This is of tremendous significance in view of the fact that all our work towards carrying out the Pyatiletka the industrialization of the country, the collectivization of agriculture, as well as our entire cultural revolution deals a crushing blow to all exploiters and to their influence over the toiling peasant masses. This is why our. Party finds it easier sailing now than at any time before "to completely dissolve the ties," as our program reads, "between the exploiting classes and organized religious propaganda." The collective farmers will not go to the priest to ask him to propitiate the deity by offering up a prayer to the prophet Elijah or some other saint in the calendar. They will rely solely on the village proletariat to improve the conditions of their work, to combat drought and other elemental forces of nature which affect the well-being of the masses.

A gigantic movement against religious organizations is going on in the collective farms, in favor of dropping out of religious societies of removing church bells, closing down churches and remodeling them to meet the new secular cultural requirements of the masses Only a few months ago, this movement bore an entirely different character. Indeed, before our very eyes, quantity has been transformed into quality. There is not the slightest doubt that these two "fronts" on which we work on the destruction of the material roots of religion, and atheist propaganda are evidences of the many-sided activities of the proletariat which, in the aggregate, seeks not only to explain the world, but to remake it.

Lenin, as early as 1909, pointed out in his article, "The Attitude of the Workers' Party Towards Religion," that:

To draw a hard and fast line between the theoretical propagation of atheism, between breaking down the religious beliefs of certain sections of the proletariat; and the effect, the development, the general implications of the class struggle of these sections, is to reason non-dialectically-to transform a variable, relative boundary into an absolute one. It is a forcible tearing asunder of that which is Indissolubly connected in reality.

While in 1909 this was true only of the advanced strata of the proletariat, to-day the situation has changed, for today the great masses of the working class have already been drawn into the atheist movement. We must lay great emphasis on Lenin's words, and not "fall either into the abstract, wordy and in fact futile revolutionism of the anarchist, or into the philistinism and opportunism of the petty bourgeois, or liberal intellectual, who shirks the fight against religion, forgets his tasks, reconciles himself to a belief in god, and who is guided, not by the interests of the class struggle, but by petty, mean calculations such as: not to offend, not to repel, not to frighten; and who is governed by the wise rules 'Live and let live,' etc., etc."

Industrialization Day, which has now replaced the religious holiday known as the Day of the Transfiguration, has shown to what extent not only the great ,masses of workers, but the, peasants too, are aware of the problems of industrialization. This is a tremendously successful day. And it must be pointed out that vast numbers even of seemingly the most fervent religious devotees have during > recent years begun to adopt antireligious views. We see this change also among the Jews, the Mohammedans and others. On such, strict Jewish holidays as the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and New Year's Day, ,they arranged special "subbotniks" among the Jewish workers, artisans, employees and peasants, and the proceeds went to the industrialization fund. These ,"subbotniks" were highly successful everywhere. The Jews who year after year had spent these same days in the synagogues, now went to the factories and workshops, collected scrap iron, cleaned up the factory yards or worked in the fields. After this first "Industrialization Day" a great deal of antireligious work began. There is no doubt whatever that the resolutions of the Second Congress of Militant Atheists which laid down as its fundamental plan that the Union of Militant Atheists must become a mass atheist organization, played a very great part in effecting recent changes. The membership of the Union of Militant Atheists has more than doubled in a year and a half. In Kronstadt, for instance, prior to the anti-Christmas campaigns, it had six thousand members, whereas after the campaign ,the membership rose to ten thousand. The newspaper "Bezbozhnik" (The Atheist) increased in circulation to 350,000. This increased interest was largely due. to the ,initiative of a large number of organizations which until then had been rather indifferent to the necessity of antireligious propaganda.

Those who argue that up till now, we have used only "light artillery" in our antireligious propaganda, and that now we must use "heavy artillery"-Marx, Engels, and Lenin-are wrong. Our Party programs and all our resolutions regarding the question of religion are permeated with the spirit of this "heavy artillery"-Marx, Engels, and Lenin. The point is that now the scope of our activities has become much wider since the masses have awakened and are joining the movement. We must work untiringly to develop a consistent materiaiistic philosophy among the masses. And Lenin repeatedly emphasized that:

A Marxist could not make a worse mistake than to think that the many millions of people (particularly peasants and artisans) who are condemned by modern society to ignorance, illiteracy and prejudices can extricate themselves from this ignorance only by following the straight line of purely Marxist education. It is essential to give these masses the greatest variety of atheist propaganda material to acquaint them with farts from the most diversified fields of life. Every way of approach to them must be tried iit order to interest them, to rouse them from their religious slumber, to shake them up by most varied ways, and means. (Lenin, Religion, p. 31.)

The atheist movement has become a mass movement even beyond the confines of the Soviet Union. A number of facts go to prove
that this movement is gaining ground also in other countries. A growth in the antireligious movement is observed particularly among the great masses of working class Jews in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Belgium, England, America, Germany and other countries. In Warsaw, for example, on the. Jewish New Year's Day, 15 mass demonstrations were held, which were dispersed by the police. Demonstrations were also held in Polish provincial towns, in Latvia, New York and elsewhere. Priests are beginning to complain of the drop in their incomes and of the decline of religion.
Despite, or because of, the fact that religious organizations are supported by social democratic as well as avowedly bourgeois and fascist organizations, there is no doubt whatever that the abovementioned facts concerning the anti-religious movement will intensify the campaign of lies and slander now being waged by all the pillars of the church against the Soviet Union. The exploiters of all countries fully realize that the experience of the work of socialist construction, which is going on throughout the length and breadth of the U.S.S.R., in town and country, will be of enormous significance for the workers in other countries.

The Five-Year Plan, which maps out our economic construction, is riveted to another and a concurrent Five- Year Plan designed to tear up the roots of religion. The vast army of exploiters and priests of all the religious creeds all over the world realize that the day when the earth will tremble beneath their feet is drawing near. That is why the rise of the mass atheist movement imposes upon the Communist Parties the task of increasing the anti-religious struggle.

The Social Democrats organize Free Thinkers' Societies and Religious Societies simultaneously. The Communist Parties must penetrate into all anti-religious organizations in which the masses take part and must take control of this movement of the masses, link it up with the movement of the class struggle of the proletariat, and bend the tasks of the anti-religious to the task of this class movement.

The workers and peasants of our Party occupy the key position also in this movement. It is imperative for us to increase the importance of this central position in anti-religious propaganda. We have certain institutions that can be of great assistance. For example, our anti-religious museum, the first of its kind, which, in spite of all its deficiencies, has attracted the attention of all those interested in the anti-religious movement.- An anti-religious center must be created to assist the Commnnist Parties of all countries to guide this constantly-growing movement against religion and the clergy, because this is a part of the class struggle and as such is not only inevitable, but an essential part of the struggle against the capitalist world, part of the struggle for Communism.

COMMUNISTS AND RELIGION


Why must every Leninist know the correct Communist attitude towards religion?

Why is every class-conscious worker and peasant who wants to join the Communist Party confronted with the question of religion? What have the Communists to do with god? Why are they concerned with religion? Does it make any difference to the prospects of the victory of communism whether a Communist believes in a God or gods and goddesses, or in evil spirits, or not? Is it, not possible to be a Communist and at the same time believe in religion, i. e., believe that the whole world is controlled by a god, or a number of gods, and that everything on earth is done by the will of these gods or of their assistants-the saints, or the malice of evil spirits-devils, fiends, Satan? Is it possible to live without believing in god and yet preserve "morality"?

Millions of workers and peasants who have not yet entered the road to communism ask themselves these questions, and thousands of workers who are sympathetic towards the Communist Party waver on the question of religion. Their belief in god, or in gods, their belief that without religion, without faith, without religious rites they will not know how to live right, prevent them from joining the ranks of the Communist Party. The worker in the city c n more easily free himself from religious beliefs than rural workers. It is easier for young people to abandon religious beliefs; their beliefs are not so firmly rooted. It is much more difficult for old folks to shake oft" these beliefs. And as a rule it is still more difficult for women to get away from religion than men.

Every Leninist, every Communist, every class-conscious worker and peasant must be a le to explain why a Communist cannot support religion; why Communists fight against religion; and every Communist must be able to answer the questions p t to him by his fellow workers on this subject, he must know and understand why the Soviet Government has separated the church from the state, and the school from the church.

Program of the C. P. S. U. on the question of religion:

What is a program? The program of a party is the full statement of the demands and views of the party on all phases of its activities. The party program explains the struggle of the various classes in modern society, and how this society develops. Our program contains our Party's demands on all questions concerning social life.
On questions of religion we had to express ourselves with precision and clarity. What does our program say on these questions? In paragraph 13 we read:

With regard to religion, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union does not confine itself to the already decreed separation of church and state and of school and church, i. e., measures advocated in the programs of bourgeois democracy, which the latter has nowhere consistently carried out to the end owing to the diverse and actual ties which bind capital with religious propaganda.

The Communist Party of the Soviet Union is guided by the conviction that only conscious and deliberate planning of all the social and economic activities of the masses will cause religious prejudices to die out. The Party strives for the complete dissolution of the ties between the exploiting classes and the organizations of religious propaganda, facilitates the real emancipation of the working masses from religious prejudices and organizes the widest possible scientific educational and anti-religious propaganda. At the same time it is necessary to carefully avoid giving offense to the religious sentiments of believers, which only leads to to the strengthening of religious fanaticism. (The Program and Rules of the C. P. S. U., pp. 20-21.)

The program of the Communist International also states clearly that Communists fight against religion, as it is a counter-revolutionary force, an ally and a weapon of the bourgeoisie in its struggle against the revolutionary movement. .

We will try to state more simply what the program of the C. P. S. U. says on the question of religion, and then we will explain it in detail.

On January 23, 1918, the Soviet Government issued a decree separating the church from the state, and the schools from the church. We will speak in detail about this decree later on. But our Party is not content with passing this law, for this law alone does not yet destroy the power of religion and of the church, it only weakens it. Laws separating the church from the state, and the schools from the church, have been passed not only by the Soviet Government but also by the governments in capitalist countries. But in these capitalist countries the bourgeoisie put these laws on their statute books only for the sake of appearances, to give in to the demands of the people, while in reality they retain the connection between the church and the state, between religion and the state, and between religion and organized capital in the state. In fact, in almost all the capitalist countries the church still enjoys enormous power and tremendous wealth; and to this very day, inmost capitalist countries it still wields power in both the state and the school.

Take, for instance, Italy, where in 1929, the power of the Pope the head of the Catholic Church was reestablished. In accordance with a treaty concluded with the leader of the fascists, Mussolini, the Pope was recognized as the head of the Vatican State, formed within the territory of the city of Rome. Of course, in return for this, the clergy gives still greater support to the fascists. In Germany, and in many other states, the governments likewise invest the church with far reaching rights. In the U.S.S.R., the law separating the church from the state, and the school from the church, has been actually carried out. But the law does not abolish religious organizations, nor does it prohibit religion. Our Party is. convinced that only when all social life, including economic life, proceeds according to a conscious, well. thought-out plan, will religion lose its authority over the peasantry and over the working class.

This is why our Party is trying first of all to prevent the capitalists of all countries from- using religious organizations to deceive the peasant and working masses, as they are doing now. We expose the class basis of religion, that is, we lay bare the class motives of those who are interested in upholding and spreading religious beliefs. Secondly, our Party conducts a struggle against religious prejudices and religious beliefs by propagating science and general education, through books, newspapers, lectures, moving pictures, etc., all directed against religion and religious deception.
As already stated, our program expressly warns all Communists and Marxists that they must, in carrying out this work act in a way that will give no avoidable offense to the sentiments of believers, because, by intentionally outraging the feelings of believers, they will only confirm them in their religious convictions.

DECREES OF THE SOVIET GOVERNMENT ON THE SEPARATION OF THE CHURCH FROM THE STATE, AND OF THE SCHOOL FROM THE CHURCH

On January 23, 1918, the Soviet Government issued a decree on the disestablishment of the church. This decree reads as follows:

Decree of the Soviet of People's Commissars on the Separation of the Church from the State, and of the School from the Church (January 23, 1918):

1. The church is hereby separated from the state.

2. It is unlawful to pass any local law or issue any decree whatsoever within
the territory of the Republics, which will restrict or limit the liberty of conscience or grant any advantage or privilege whatsoever to any citizen on the basis of his religious profession.

3. Every citizen may profess any religion he desires or profess no religion; all laws disfranchising any citizen by reason of his profession or non-profession of faith are hereby repealed.
Note: No reference is to be made in any official document to the profession or
non-profession of religion by any citizen.

4. No proceedings of any state or other official public body shall be accompanied by any religious rites or ceremonies whatsoever.

5. The right to perform religious rites is hereby guaranteed in so far as no breach of the peace is committed and the performance does not infringe upon any of the rights of any citizen of the Soviet Republic. Local authorities have the right in such cases to take all the measures necessary to safeguard public order and security.

6. No person may refuse to fulfill any civic obligation on the ground of his religious convictions. Exceptions to this rule may be made on the condition that another civic obligation is performed in substitution for the one declined, but this must in each separate case be considered by the People's Court.

7. Religious vows, or oaths, are abolished. Whenever necessary solemn
affirmation to tell the truth is made.

8. Registration of births, marriages, deaths, etc., are performed exclusively by the civil authorities and the departments for the registration of marriages and births.

9. The school is hereby separated from the church. The teaching of religious
doctrines is not permitted in any state, public, or private educational institution where general educational subjects are taught. Citizens may give or receive religious instructions privately.

10. All ecclesiastical and religious societies are subject to the general conditions governing private societies and associations, and shall not receive any privilege or subsidy from any state, local, autonomous or self-governing body.

11. No compulsory collection of dues or assessments for the benefit of ecclesiastical or religious societies is permitted, nor may any measures of compulsion or
punishment of fellow-members be taken by such societies.

12. No ecclesiastical or religious society whatsoever, has the right to own
private property, nor does any such society enjoy the rights of a judicial person.

13. All the property of the existing ecclesiastical and religious societies in Russia becomes the property of the people. The local or central state authorities may, by special decree, place the buildings and objects specially intended for ,worship at the service of the given religious society free of charge.

What are the tasks and duties of the League of Militant Atheists during this period?

Primarily, to conduct serious work among the masses, because the demands of these masses, even of the most backward groups among whom the influence of religion is still strong, have become more serious. In our work among religious people we must bear in mind Lenin's advice to utilize every method available to us, or, as he said, we must "approach them this way and that way" in order to stimulate them to criticize religion themselves. This work has not yet been properly developed. We must also work out the proper methods and produce the necessary mass literature which will meet the requirements of these backward groups and of religious people.

We must observe that the past fifteen years of struggle for consistently Leninist militant atheism have been years of struggle against every attempt to restrict the tasks of the struggle in an opportunist manner, or to give the struggle an anarchist-rebel turn. We have fought against the substitution of "pure" education, mere anticlericalism, priestophobia, for militant atheism. But at the same time we have also combated the tendency to draw a distinction between our educational work and the exposure of the class role of religion. We have linked up every step in our educational work among the masses with the task of exposing the social roots of religion. We have fought against the opportunist attempts to liquidate antireligious work on the pretext that religion is dying in the U.S.S.R. anyway. But we have also fought resolutely against the theory that religion can be wiped out in no time-that all that is required is to use strong language. This struggle on two fronts was one of the necessary conditions of the victory which we have gained on the antireligious front.
This victory would have been impossible without an intense ideological struggle in the field of philosophy. For this reason the League of Militant Atheists has been closely connected with the Society of Militant Dialectical Materialists and they together have fought both against the Mechanists and against Menshevik idealism. I may remind you that the magazine, the Atheist (Bezboshnik), was the first to start the struggle against the philosophical mistakes of Deborin's school. The defect of this struggle at first was that we did not criticize the Mechanists with sufficient sharpness; but this defect was subsequently rectified. The struggle against the Mechanists and the influence of Menshevik idealism in the field of antireligious propaganda, continues to be one of our most important tasks. While we do not refuse to cooperate with the inconsistent Materialists in the antireligious struggle, we must, however, expose their mistakes; we must sharply define our own viewpoint, sharply criticize every inconsistency on this sector of the ideological front.

We have continued and must continue to criticize very strongly those who underestimate the importance of atheist propaganda; for this underestimation was one of the results of the underestimation of the role of Lenin and of Leninism as marking a new stage in the struggle for a consistent materialist world outlook. This was the particular weakness of the Deborin school, and this was precisely the reason why the magazine, Under the Banner of Marxism, failed, under its old leadership, to fulfill the task placed before it by V. I. Lenin. That is precisely why the magazine and the Society of Militant Dialectical Materialists must now devote much more attention to the problems of antireligious propaganda. That is precisely why it is necessary to introduce ideological clarity in the whole of the work of the Union of Militant Atheists and to combat every deviation from the consistent Marxiam-Leninist line in our work.

Particularly immense are our tasks in our antireligious work among the various nationalities in the U. S. S. R. which are only now beginning ,to awaken to a real life-which are only beginning to develop their own culture. Among many of the nationalities the relics of pre-revolutionary ideology are still great the influence of the mullah, rabbi, shamans, lamas, etc., is still strong. The literature these nationalities possess is too poor for antireligious propaganda and they have almost no translated literature. The methods of work among the various nationalities are not yet sufficiently differentiated; plans for this work have not yet been prepared thoroughly. That is why it is necessary to train cadres, to study and explain the various problems, and to conduct a serious work of popularization.

Our entire work must be more closely than ever linked up with the work of the Proletarian Free-Thinkers International. The atheist movement has made giant strides in many countries. No punitive measures against the Proletarian Free-Thinkers International can stop this mass movement now that it has begun. The suppression of the League of Militant Atheists in Germany, as many observers, even from the bourgeois camp, admit, only led to the further strengthening of godlessness, to open defections from the church, to withdrawal from the parishes, etc. The growth of godlessness in the United States, the closing of churches in other countries, are inevitable accompaniments of the decay of capitalism. Of course, in these countries, too, the priests are trying to adapt themselves to the social changes that are taking place. Whenever necessary they even flirt with socialist theories. But, the exposure of the role of the church and of religion will proceed at a growing pace in the countries of capitalism and create a mighty army of militant atheists throughout the world.
The only country in which the antireligious movement is able to develop openly, broadly, unhindered is the U. S. S. R. Our experience is of the greatest importance to every nation. We must never forget that by our work we are rendering assistance to our foreign comrades. We must deeply internationalize our work so that every atheist should regard his work as part of our international struggle against religion and the church.

The League of Militant Atheists has always closely linked its work with that of the Proletarian Free-Thinkers International. In the columns of the press of the League of Militant Atheists we inform our members and the workers generally of the work of the League, and of the struggle taking place within the Proletarian Free-Thinkers International. The delegates of our League took a most vigorous part in the defense of this international, against the demoralizing pettybourgeois influence of the social-fascist leaders of the type of Sivers, Hartwig, etc. The latter sought to utilize the international in order to subject the entire atheist movement to the interests of the bourgeoisie, to deprive atheist propaganda of its revolutionary sting, to convert the militant atheism of the masses of the workers and peasants into a liberal movement of bourgeois freethinkers. We have exposed their role. We did not allow the Siverses and Hartwigs to convert the Proletarian Free-Thinkers International into an appendage of the bourgeoisie. Thanks to this, the International continues to exist and grow throughout the world as an organization of militant atheists. It is our duty to do even more than we have done to make the antireligious movement, not only in the U.S.S.R., but in the capitalist countries as well, a movement of vast millions.

We are entering the sixteenth year of the proletarian revolution with great gains to our account in the field of atheism. But these gains are insufficient; our work must be improved, consolidated, expanded, deepened. The banner of militant atheism must be raised still higher. Propaganda in favor of militant atheism must be carried on more widely, must become deeper and more serious. The ranks of the militant atheists must be increased to include millions.

Remember that the struggle against religion is a struggle for socialism!





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LoZoccolo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 10:28 AM
Response to Original message
1. How's that workin' out for ya'? n/t
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ayeshahaqqiqa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 10:36 AM
Response to Original message
2. What I find most interesting
is that, despite an ongoing deliberate program of anti-religion, the Soviet Union was never able to eradicate religion. If anything, I believe that the active anti-religion actions of the USSR made religion flourish. Contrast it to, say, the Scandinavian countries, where religion is very weak--this happened by the general evolution of the society without any move on the government's part to suppress religion. I think it is an apt analogy, as the Scandinavian countries are also socialist in nature.

What I see happening is the teachings of religion (such as helping the less fortunate, etc)are being implemented in many countries--and the people's lives, on the whole, are improved--people get along, and are generally happy and hopeful. It is when people are afraid and unhappy that they run to dogmatic religious zealots for answers to ease their pain. This flight is exacerbated when the state represses all forms of a religion, because the moderate/progressive forms of the religion get brushed aside.
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HamdenRice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 10:51 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. Very insightful
Edited on Sun Jun-08-08 10:52 AM by HamdenRice
I think that when a regime tells ordinary people in an authoritarian way, "you can't do this," a certain number of people will do it out of a spirit of rebelliousness.

What's striking about the language of the document, however, is how the writer had to convince himself and his readers not just that the suppression campaign was working, but that people were enthusiastically embracing the mass movement against religion.
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trotsky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 10:58 AM
Response to Original message
4. Just further shows that atheism was a tool, not the reason.
They did all this to further The Party, not because somehow atheism mandated that religion must be destroyed. I know you obsess over this, but really, you've got to get past it. The last line says it all:

Remember that the struggle against religion is a struggle for socialism!

It's not a struggle for atheism, it's a struggle for SOCIALISM, i.e. the Party. Thank you for posting direct evidence putting this little myth to rest.
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HamdenRice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 11:01 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. Wrong again.
The document clearly lays out why.
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trotsky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 11:04 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. "Remember that the struggle against religion is a struggle for socialism!"
Sorry but you're wrong, HR. Your own document shows it.
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TZ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 12:12 PM
Response to Reply #5
10. If you don't know that the reason the Soviets wanted to squash
organized religion was because they wanted to establish their own "religion" (with Stalin as "god").
Than you are more ignorant than you know. people who want power squish anything in their way. And this goes for religious loonies as well...This kind of behavior is akin to David Koresh. Just change the name. Its not athiesm gone wild as you seem to think, but people imitating the POWER STRUCTURES OF RELIGION.
Stalin wasn't so much interested in wiping out religion as he was invested in increasing his own power. This kind of thing was going on for CENTURIES with the CZARS eliminating Jews and other ethnic minorities.
And besides, if you think this is anyway relevant to Dawkins et al writing a "dangerous subversive book" you are CLOSER to Stalinistic behavior than any atheist in this country. Its not the atheists who are trying to shut up the majority in this country.
I maintain that the fundies in this country actually behave JUST LIKE STALIN in their intolerence for ANY thought that contradicts their world views.
Tell me how Stalin behaved any differently than the Taliban..both are consolidating power and can't stand differening POV and ban them.
I have yet to meet a modern atheist group that does this. In fact, I think atheists are on of the most diverse groups around--having both conservative and liberal.
You are making the case really well how the power structures of organized religion have been exploited successfully over and over again to dictators benefit.
So I think one could argue that Stalin actually illustrates how harmful religion can be when misused. Almost all dictators have known that the best way to become the ultimate leader is to foster god-hood on themselves.
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ayeshahaqqiqa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 03:04 PM
Response to Reply #10
24. very insghtful post
I hadn't thought of looking at things this way, but I believe you are onto something. The structure of organized religion often is designed to consolidate power in the hands of a few, be they Popes, bishops, or merely a minister.

In my view of the history of theism, it seems that different faiths appear to originate with one or a few people using their personal spiritual experiences to explain why the world works as it does and how we can learn to work together better. It is only after their deaths that their teachings are set in writing, and begin to mutate into dogma, which aids and helps those who wish to gain power over others. In a very few instances, and in only small groups, the teachings are kept alive; these folks can be said to loosely form a "religious group" because they lack the power structure of mainline religions.

To give a quick example, the one I'm most familiar with: Abraham is a person who, through spiritual experiences and also just his contemplation of life, determines that there is one underlying cause for everything--an underlying Unity that causes the sun to rise and set, the stars and moon to follow their courses through the sky, etc. etc. His exploration of this Unity is personal and direct. No doubt, just as current mystics do, most of his teachings were transmitted directly to his students, often not in words, but in direct experience. Eventually, these experiences were related orally to others. Abraham's words and teachings are not set down in writing until centuries after his death--and how much had language and the meaning behind the words changed in that time? How much of what he was truly meaning was lost--and perhaps so that others, more interested in power, gained?

By the time Jesus comes on the scene, there is much corruption and hypocrisy--one sees the core teachings ignored while the superficialities are complied with scrupulously--and those superficialities gave those in power--their power. Jesus stated the core teachings again, and again the same thing happened, though over a shorter period of time; the teacher died, the lessons passed on briefly from teacher to student; then they are put down on parchment. Only this time we have the added complication of early translations of texts from Aramaic to Greek--the two languages have a very different way of viewing the world. In Aramaic, a thing can be two things at once, just as light can be a particle and a wave; in Greek, the way of thinking was different-a thing can be one thing but not another at the same time. Idioms and whole expressions were mistranslated, misinterpreted--and then we have the Church Councils that threw out the writings that didn't conform to what they saw as the Church--and which helped take power from the people and give it to the priest class.

Then came Mohammed. Inspired, no doubt, by the Christians and Jews he met while trading, he began his spiritual journey through solitary meditations in a cave. It was there that he began his spiritual visions with the meeting of the Archangel Jibril (Gabriel) who told him to "Recite!" What came through was the same teaching--treating your fellow human as your sibling--along with the admonition to realize that tolerance was to be practiced and that the most important thing was one's own personal relationship with God. Mohammed was very careful with what he said and did, because he realized what would happen after his passing--people would write down the words he recited, and the actions he performed, and they would eventually be misinterpreted. It is said that he urinated sitting down, but on one occasion stood up to relieve himself. When asked why, he said it was so that followers in years to come would know that it didn't make any difference in their salvation if they stood or sat---that to look at little things like this was to miss the big picture of how to live your life in harmony with others. He even predicted that the fall of Islam would not come from the outside, but from over-zealous followers from a certain part of the desert who would follow the minutae and forget the teachings. The place he predicted, btw, was where Wahhabism was founded. After Mohammed's death, what he feared did happen; the teachings were written down, the Caliphs and Imams and other so-called "spiritual leaders" lusted after power, forgetting the core teachings.

All through this time there were mystics who kept alive the teachings, not through books but by direct experience. The teachers and their students passed on the way of viewing and acting in the world, and usually lived on the fringes of society, staying away from power because they realized the ego trap it was. The mystics of all spiritual traditions now have the chance to meet together; when they do, they find that the religious labels they bring with them are really meaningless--the teachings are the same, the experiences are the same.
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uberllama42 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 11:49 AM
Response to Reply #4
8. As far as I can tell, you're absolutely right
I don't know what this is supposed to demonstrate, but it looks to me that it explains why religion is a threat to Communism/Marxism/dialectical materialism. It doesn't describe religion as a self-existent evil that should be destroyed because of its own deficiencies but as an institution opposed to the implementation of a Communist state. Maybe I'm missing it. I dunno.
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cosmik debris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 11:22 AM
Response to Original message
7. Have you read the book from which this was excerpted?
Are you familiar with the author of that book?
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cosmik debris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 12:18 PM
Response to Reply #7
12. Here is a clue
That is not a document from the Soviet Archives, it is an excerpt from a book published in New York in 1934.

http://www.antiqbook.com/boox/cro/42441.shtml
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trotsky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 12:21 PM
Response to Reply #12
14. Whoops!
HR ends up with egg on his face yet again. Nice catch, cd!
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cosmik debris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 12:25 PM
Response to Reply #14
16. And the author is a Soviet Propagandist,
Not an historian or government official in charge of policy.
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HamdenRice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 06:26 PM
Response to Reply #16
31. Wrong again!
Edited on Sun Jun-08-08 06:28 PM by HamdenRice
In fact, I have yet to read a post of yours in which you have gotten anything right (or for that matter in which you have written anything "non-boring.")

But thanks for pointing out that although this is by Yaroslavsky, it was not taken directly from a government document.

But Yaroslavsky was indeed a "government official in charge of policy." If you had done just one more google search, you might have known that (but some people research only so far as to confirm their biases). Given Yaroslavsky's position, it is highly unlikely that it was written in English in the U.S. (Yaroslavsky was very active in the U.S.S.R. in the mid 1930s.)

Yaroslavsky was the long time founder and chairman of the Soviet "Union of Belligerent Atheists". So he is reporting from a first hand perspective on the progress of suppressing religion, and why he and his organization are doing so. Although the provenance of the document is unclear, it still appears to be a Soviet document, translated and republished in the United States by local communists. So to make it absolutely clear, he is a government functionary reporting on his government's progress in eradicating religion in the name of atheism.

Moreover, this simply adds credibility to the main issue at hand: that the "League of Belligerant Atheists," coopted as an official Communist Party organization, suppressed religion for ideological reasons related to their commitment to atheism.
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and-justice-for-all Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 06:43 PM
Response to Reply #31
34. I kindly disagree with you...
Edited on Sun Jun-08-08 06:44 PM by and-justice-for-all
Communism was the reason for religious suppression. Why? because the leader of the communist state wanted to be God, wanted to control ever aspect of everyones life. The religion was state worship, there was an appeal to remove other ideologies because they conflicted with the new religion, communism.

removing of the invisible friends and replacing them with a God-man in the flesh to be revered and praised is the center of it all.

What appears to be extremist Atheism at work, really is not. Your perspective is distorted by your determination to tag non-theism as some sort of monster, which it has never been and is not to this day.
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HamdenRice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 06:55 PM
Response to Reply #34
37. I think that's a metaphor
Edited on Sun Jun-08-08 06:56 PM by HamdenRice
I realize that it is common to think of communism as a religion, but to me it just seems to be a metaphor describing certain aspects of communist ideology.

Communism described itself as a scientific method of describing, analyzing and transforming social and economic relations. It just wasn't a religious movement at all, although like all ideologies of "certainty" including "fundamentalist atheism," it has certain commonalities with religion.

Yaroslavsky makes perfectly clear why he wanted to eradicate religion -- because it stood in the way of a technological transformation of the means of production. Keep in mind Yaroslavsky was a militant atheist before he achieved a position of power and had the means to eradicate religion. I think we have to take him at his word unless we have proof of some other motive.
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and-justice-for-all Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 09:42 PM
Response to Reply #37
52. Communism is a political ideology...
Edited on Sun Jun-08-08 10:01 PM by and-justice-for-all
that is very clear. But in that Political ideology is the notion of replacing an invisible god with a flesh and blood man-god to be worshiped, the center of it all was the Chancellor/president/dictator who was to be praised and revered as a deity.

There is in fact a religiousness to communism, standard religions were of course seen as a threat, a challenge to the dictator who was a god in their mind.

Atheism was not prevalent and is not involved in communism, Communism is STATE WORSHIP.

"The League was a "nominally independent organization established by the Communist Party to promote atheism." It published newspapers, journals, and other materials that lampooned religion; it sponsored lectures and films; it organized demonstrations and parades; it set up antireligious museums; and it led a concerted effort to persuade Soviet citizens that religious beliefs and practices were "wrong" and harmful, and that good citizens ought to embrace a scientific, atheistic worldview" Daniel Peris Storming the Heavens: The Soviet League of the Militant Godless Cornell University Press 1998

It sounds to me that Atheism was used as a tool and was not the reason for the attempted coup d'tat of religion. Communism was the reason and Atheism was just a tool.

I see nothing wrong with such an INDEPENDANT group, that also worked on a volunteer bases. Why is that called militant I do not know and I disagree with that notion that Atheism is some sort of militant organiztion. Simply because it brings to light the facts about religion, it shines a light on its flaws and does not let it sleather by unnoticed.

You seem to be taking things out of context and reaching for something that simply is not there.
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HamdenRice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 07:54 AM
Response to Reply #52
53. What you are describing is Stalinism, not communism
Edited on Mon Jun-09-08 08:01 AM by HamdenRice
I would agree that Soviet communism at various times tried to elevate some leaders in various ways. Stalin was indeed elevated to "god on earth" status. But I wouldn't identify Stalinism with communism. Lenin was certainly held up as nearly infallible, but the propoganda focused on his supposedly brilliant intellect.

After Stalin died, the USSR remained "communist" but it stringently avoided deification of its leaders after Kruschev's "de-Stalinization" program. So the independent variable isn't communism; it's Stalin. No one pretended, for example, that Brezhnev was a charismatic or superhuman leader. (Do you remember him? What a calculated bore!)

While many in the west used the metaphor of "communism as religion" or "state worship" it simply wasn't. It was a theory that purported to be scientific and therefore was certain of its own correctness, and a teleology of progress, but not in any way, a religion.

As for the "independence" of the "League of Militant Atheists" (that is one translation of what they called themselves), by the mid 1930s the Soviet Union practiced "democratic centralism," which among other things, meant that all political organizations had to be affiliated to some degree or another with the party -- the labor unions, the civic associations, the bar associations, the writers' organizations, the universities, the professional organizations, and so on. "Independence" was very relative in the Soviet Union. So I would disagree with two positions that have been prevalent in this thread -- that there were no organizations other than the party (there were) or that there were truly independent organizations (there were very few). The League was like most political organizations: ostensibly independent but party contolled.
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knitter4democracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 02:52 PM
Response to Reply #53
64. The Politburo always tried to deify the leaders after Stalin, though.
Krushchev went so publically crazy, though, that they couldn't hide it, and they ousted him (and he's the only one not buried by Lenin's tomb in the Kremlin's wall). The rest were often deified in many ways, but the people had caught on by then. Then, when Gorbachev started Prohibition, that was the beginning of the end for him.
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knitter4democracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 02:49 PM
Response to Reply #37
63. There was a huge difference between Communism and Leninism/Stalinism.
Sure, they borrowed heavily from Communism, but people here who say that Communism's never really been tried are mostly right. Communism was supposed to take place after a country had already been heavily industrialized. In WWI, Russia sent men into war against German tanks on horseback with swords. One of Stalin's biggest triumphs that they still talk about is getting tractors to all of the farms. Tractors--when the US had had them for years and years by that point. So, in order to bring about the new age of Communism, Lenin and then Stalin had to actually industrialize the country first. The huge build-up to WWII helped, but they never really caught up with the West until far, far later.

In order to get there, they had to do things in a more Eastern/Russian way, too. That meant replacing the main religion, Eastern Orthodox Christianity mixed with Russian paganism, with a new religion, which Stalin was the master of. They actually wrote hymns to the guy, and people died in the huge crush at his funeral--this after he was responsible for 20 million Russian deaths in WWII and in the Purges.

You have to also take into account the Russian culture. Yes, the scientific method is there, but there's also a mystic side that they take quite seriously. The Soviets actually funded research into ESP and the paranormal and lots of it, and that's not the only time they got a bit more mystical than Marx or Engels had ever envisioned.
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cosmik debris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 06:43 PM
Response to Reply #31
35. Who would have ever guessed that you would change the subject
I believe that is Tactic #1.

You misrepresented this as a document from the Soviet Archives.

That's a fraudulent assertion.

Changing the subject won't change that fraud.
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HamdenRice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 06:52 PM
Response to Reply #35
36. Uh oh!
Edited on Sun Jun-08-08 06:57 PM by HamdenRice
CD has resorted to his list of tactics. That can't be good for his argument, indeed!

Here is a yes/no question I double dare you to answer:

Was Yaroslavsky a "government official in charge of policy"?

Yes or no?
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cosmik debris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 07:01 PM
Response to Reply #36
39. You got caught in a fraud. You can't hide that.
The evidence is in the open.

Twice you said that was a document from the Soviet Archives.

That was false.

It is an excerpt from a book published in New York City.

So keep going with your list.

#2 Blame others.
#3 Resort to insults.
#4 Declare victory.

Don't let us down, we're counting on you!
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HamdenRice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 07:03 PM
Response to Reply #39
40. Answer the question
I already said that I had the provenance of the document wrong, but that Yaroslavsky was indeed the head of the League of Belligerant Atheists in the USSR.

So once again, was he a government official or not?

Why is your fundamentalism so complete that you cannot acknowledge any fact that contradicts your fragile world view?
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cosmik debris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 07:06 PM
Response to Reply #40
41. #2 Blame others.
You're on a roll!

I don't have to tell you what's next.....
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HamdenRice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 07:11 PM
Response to Reply #41
42. Answer the question
Why can't you answer a simple yes/no question?
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HamdenRice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 07:13 PM
Response to Reply #41
43. What's that sound I hear? crickets? **chirp* **chirp** **chirp**
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cosmik debris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 07:16 PM
Response to Reply #43
44. Fraud**fraud**fraud**fraud**
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HamdenRice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 07:17 PM
Response to Reply #44
45. Answer the question
Still afraid, indeed!
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cosmik debris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 07:20 PM
Response to Reply #45
46. There it is, the insult we were all waiting for.
Only one thing left, You know what to do.
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trotsky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 08:18 PM
Response to Reply #40
49. Why are you so focused on this red herring?
Yaroslavsky being a government official means NOTHING when trying to determine the reason why religion was attacked in the Soviet Union. Your lengthy excerpt shows, over and over, that it was Communism that drove the eradication of religion. Again I thank you for settling the issue. You've shown it to everyone except yourself at this point.
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knitter4democracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 12:47 PM
Response to Reply #12
21. I thought it read a bit oddly.
Most Soviet stuff that I read in college was really, really dry and full of Sovietspeak. That wasn't as much as the stuff I read.

Still, I think the main point is that atheism was a side part, not the main part. The main goal was to spread Communism, and it wasn't atheism or their atheism making them do it.
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cosmik debris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 01:01 PM
Response to Reply #21
22. I believe it was written in English
For an American audience.

It was misrepresented by the OP, presumably to enhance his argument.

It certainly didn't enhance his credibility.
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knitter4democracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 03:32 PM
Response to Reply #22
28. The first couple of paragraphs feel that way.
I wonder if he knows the source.
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cosmik debris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 03:56 PM
Response to Reply #28
30. It took me about three minutes to find the source
http://rationalrevolution.net/special/library/cc835_con...

And another two minutes to google the author and title.

This is the same website he linked to.

See item #41 on the list.

If he had taken three minutes to check his source...oh well.
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knitter4democracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 12:01 PM
Response to Original message
9. We studied this in my semester in Russia.
It wasn't all top-down. Many people were mad at how the Church and State had banded together to keep the serfs and small middle class oppressed, so the Communists were a breath of fresh air.

That said, many horrible atrocities were committed against people of faith by the state. There was a commission in the early 1990s that got a hold of the KGB records, and several later admitted to the media that what they read made them ill. Nuns raped and burned alive in their convents, priests nailed to the Holy Doors of their churches, an entire gulag wiped out after some nuns and a priest converted the administrator and most of the guards and held liturgy every day (Stalin even ordered the ground to be sown with salt as well). Many martyrs of many faiths died in those gulags or on the way there.

The state did its level best to replace faith. The leaders co-opted holidays, set up camps to replace religion-based summer youth camps, re-wrote hymns to make them into new songs for Lenin and Stalin, and turned churches into grain bins and even hunting lodges and meeting places after whitewashing the walls and destroying priceless icons.

It was all for Communism, though, not for atheism. Atheism was a by-product of the state's enforcing of Communistic ideals, not the impetus for the work.
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HamdenRice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 12:15 PM
Response to Reply #9
11. Thanks for your first hand information!
I'm sure that certain hard core militants on this forum will accuse you of making this all up.

My only quibble is your assertion: "all for Communism, though, not for atheism." Atheism was part of communism (or at least that brand of communism). That is kind of like saying that the economic trouble we are in is not a result of Republican free economic policy, but only of Republicanism. One is a subset of the other. As the document makes clear, the particular plank of the communist platform, atheism, led to these atrocities against religious communities. The fact that this atheism was embedded in a larger framework does not absolve atheism of these atrocities.

For example, in Latin America, under the idea of liberation theology, many activists in the 1970s and 1980s were both communist and Catholic. Although communist, they would not have advocated religious suppression as the communists of Russia did.

It was indeed militant atheism (as the name of the organization tasked with this suppression makes clear -- the "League of Belligerant Atheists") that ideologically caused these atrocities.
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trotsky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 12:22 PM
Response to Reply #11
15. Since you're disagreeing with her first-hand experience...
doesn't that make YOU the "hard core militant" atheist by insisting that your made-up world trumps her experience?

Hmmmm???
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HamdenRice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 06:30 PM
Response to Reply #15
32. Do you know the difference between "facts" and "interpretation"?
Edited on Sun Jun-08-08 06:31 PM by HamdenRice
If so, you might want to post a few sentences showing that you do, and explaining the difference between "factual claims" and "interpretations." I think that would be useful before we proceed, because if you don't know the distinction, I'm not sure I can educate you on the larger issue.

I thanked her for contributing first hand facts from her time spent in Russia. Her interpretation of the motives of the Soviets, however, seem unsupported by her evidence.

Can you see the difference?
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trotsky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 06:35 PM
Response to Reply #32
33. All I see is you squirming after getting embarrassed on this thread.
No doubt a thread you hoped was going to be your crowning glory, ultimately defeating the horrible militant atheists who today are... uhhh... well... writing a book here or there or posting on an anonymous message board. How brave you are, confronting them... anonymously. LOL
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HamdenRice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 06:59 PM
Response to Reply #33
38. uh...
Your post is almost completely incoherent. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever!

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

As they say in court, would you like to rephrase?

(Before answering that, I think you should re-read your post for understanding.)
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trotsky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 08:13 PM
Response to Reply #38
48. How about you start all over by actually citing something correctly?
Or at least by citing something that you know, at least tangentially supports what you're trying to say?
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YankeyMCC Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 02:55 PM
Response to Reply #38
65. That is funny
because his post made a lot more sense to me than anything I've seen from you, the OP of this thread just being one stellar example.
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knitter4democracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 02:57 PM
Response to Reply #32
66. I can try to find my notes, if you wish.
When we covered this in our cultural studies class in the afternoons, it was by the head of the Russian history dept. at Nizhni Novgorod State University, and his Ph.D. was in the history of Islam in that area of Russia, so it's not like he wasn't well-versed in the history of how people of faith were treated and why.

Oh, and the family I lived with had an interesting history. Babushka's dad had been a priest, and he was taken away in the night by the KGB, never to return again. She and I had quite a long, very interesting discussion about it. Fascinating woman.
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knitter4democracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 12:39 PM
Response to Reply #11
18. Not all Soviet Communists were atheists, though.
In the early days, many were Jews, Christians, and believers of other faiths. They hung onto that. It was Stalin who got ruthless on the faith issue, and my opinion is that it was because they were worshipping someone other than him. You should hear some of the hymns to Stalin from the 40s.

One of the history profs we had said that it was hardly ever more than 10-20% that were atheists, and only 10% were in the Party. Stalin even brought back the Patriarch of Moscow (who was in the KGB, as documents from the time have shown) as a way to control those who would never be atheist.

The point of everything was to bring about the great age of Communism, not atheism.
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TZ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 12:18 PM
Response to Reply #9
13. That's right--they wanted Communism to become like a religion
so they eliminated the competiton. You can still see this kind of behavior in North Korea, the most hard core remaining Communist country in the world. They even refer to their leader as god like and the deceased father as divine.
I think Communists understood that the best way to hold power was to replace one beliefsystem with another. If you ever heard a hard core communist fanatic, the similarities to things that come out of religous zealots mouth is striking.
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knitter4democracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 12:40 PM
Response to Reply #13
19. Especially if you listen to some of the hymns to Stalin.
There's a reason so many were crushed in the crowds at his funeral.
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uberllama42 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 12:27 PM
Response to Reply #9
17. I still submit that nothing can be done "for atheism"
There are many ideologies which do not posit the existence of gods and call for the destruction of religious institutions. Communism is one of them. Despite the explicit protection for freedom of conscience in the Soviet constitution, there of course was widespread suppression of religious belief, violence against believers, and destruction of religious artifacts.

I visited Russia four years ago and saw a replica of an Orthodox cathedral which had been destroyed by the Soviets. It was profoundly beautiful, and I can only imagine how astonishing the original must have been. I was saddened, but I didn't feel responsible for it as an atheist. I'm not part of any cohesive ideology that advocates the destruction of religious culture. As you say, these atrocities were committed in the name of Communism. As a member of the left, I think it's important to understand abuses committed by a leftist ideology, much as George Orwell did. But again, I don't see what this document is supposed to prove.
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knitter4democracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 12:45 PM
Response to Reply #17
20. Was that the seat of the Patriarch of Moscow?
Christ the King, if I remember right? There's an interesting story behind that one.

The Soviets destroyed the cathedral, as it was still the most important cathedral in Moscow and the biggest church building in all of Russia. Stalin had plans drawn up to replace it with a huge monument to himself, and when his army found the marble for Hitler's statue that never got built, he had it brought back to Moscow for his own statue. Everything they tried to build there sank in the muck (Moscow's built mostly on marshland). Nothing would work. So, he ordered it to be made into the biggest public swimming pool in the entire world. The left-over marble was then used in the gutters and sidewalks of Moscow so Stalin could say that Russians were walking on Hitler and his would-be statue.

It wasn't until the 90s when some in the Church found old plans for the cathedral and raised money to re-build it. Interestingly enough, they never had a problem with anything sinking into the mud. ;)
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uberllama42 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 01:01 PM
Response to Reply #20
23. That might be it
That all sounds vaguely familiar. I kept a journal during that trip, but I think I lost it. That might be the place I'm talking about.
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knitter4democracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 03:31 PM
Response to Reply #23
27. I'm so jealous. I wish I could've seen it.
They'd just started construction when I was there in '95. I never got to see it. The other cathedrals that we visited were quite something, and I'll never forget the monastery on the Volga that we spent a day in.
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uberllama42 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 03:56 PM
Response to Reply #27
29. Thinking about that cathedral, I've often wondered
how it compared to the original. If it was rebuilt by Yeltsin's government, then it was a secular reconstruction of a religious work. If the replica could be accurately compared to the original one, it might be a useful case study on how secular culture measures up to religious culture, and how religious motivation affects art. It would necessarily be a subjective study, but it would be fascinating.
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knitter4democracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 02:36 PM
Response to Reply #29
60. No, from what I heard, it was re-built by the church.
They're the ones who did the fund-raising for it here in the States, anyway. Since it's now the Patriarch's seat, I'd be surprised if the government built it. Granted, ties between the two have gotten a lot closer, but that's been under Putin more than under Yeltsin.
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uberllama42 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 03:52 PM
Response to Reply #60
72. Ah, okay.
The detail are a little sketchy for me at this point.
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ayeshahaqqiqa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 03:10 PM
Response to Reply #9
25. I read the autobiography "Harpo Speaks"
Harpo was persuaded to go to the Soviet Union in the 1930s, just when they were opening diplomatic relations with the US. The idea was that, since he was a mime, his comedy would be appreciated there. One thing that struck me was when he talked about an anti-religious play he watched. He said it made him sick. He was nominally Jewish, though I don't think he practiced his faith beyond being bar-mitzvahed; I know he was married in a civil ceremony. I think what he was recoiling from was the lack of freedom of thought.
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knitter4democracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 03:30 PM
Response to Reply #25
26. A lot of Soviet "art" was barely that.
That's what happens when you kill off the real artists, though. I've only found a small few Soviet-era writers I can stomach.

Oh, and Russian humor's very different from ours. That was something we could never quite bridge. My family showed me famous comedies and laugh and laugh, and I would just sit there and wonder what was so funny. Their satire can be awesome--very biting and nasty, but the rest doesn't always translate.
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HamdenRice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 08:11 AM
Response to Reply #26
55. In the 70s & 80s there were lots of satires of Soviet TV in the US
Edited on Mon Jun-09-08 08:14 AM by HamdenRice
I think it was "Second City TV" (a sketch comedy show that was like Saturday Night Live, but better, and that launched many famous comedians) had a recurring segment called "CCCP-TV".

It was made to look like your own tv was getting interference from Russian TV which would fade in, and you would be watching Russian TV. It was hilarious.

Back then I also remember 60 Minutes doing a story on Soviet TV, and focusing on a game show called "Let's Go Girls!" Very silly stuff.

Oddly, though, aren't the Soviet artists of the "contructivist" period very well thought of in the west in terms of art history?
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knitter4democracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 02:39 PM
Response to Reply #55
61. Early Soviet art was decent, some actually quite good.
After wandering through the Russian Museum in Moscow, the Hermitage, and many other smaller museums, I'd have to say that most of it stopped being all that great by the early 50s. I'm sure there was some resurgence under Krushchev, as there was a cultural flowering during that time after the gulags were emptied after Stalin's death, but a lot of what I saw was without any real spirit unless it was underground stuff.

The best show we all loved to watch was a puppet show with all the politicians/those in power as puppets. Nasty, biting satire that was freakin' awesome. I'd be shocked if that show were still on now.
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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-10-08 03:51 PM
Response to Reply #25
81. I read the same book
and remember that bit, too (along with the naked hole in one on the golf course next to his house). He recoiled at the antisemitism along with the lack of freedom of conscience, something very understandable considering what Hitler was already up to in Germany at the time.

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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 07:27 PM
Response to Original message
47. There was a book written in the 1970s, Anti-Religious Propaganda in the Soviet Union
which I read shortly after it was published. At the time, I had several friends who had studied in the Soviet Union on exchange programs, so I was reading a lot about the place.

As I read the author's accounts, I realized that the anti-religious persuasion teams didn't get it. They had a simplistic view of religion, believing that if people knew about science and the contradictions in the Bible, they wouldn't be religious anymore. It puzzled the hell out of them when young people who had grown up in the Soviet school system would have their children baptized or when, in the most embarrassing moment of all, a member of the Politburo left a will that specified a church funeral.

I discussed this with a friend who had studied in the Soviet Union and was a preacher's kid like me, and we came to the conclusion that the Soviets were trying to obliterate something that they didn't understand.
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moobu2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 08:24 PM
Response to Reply #47
50. But
christians have been brainwashing and persecuting folks and destroying entire cultures for a nearly a couple thousand years...it'll take a little time to undo all that damage.
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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-08-08 09:32 PM
Response to Reply #50
51. Yawn
Edited on Sun Jun-08-08 09:33 PM by Lydia Leftcoast
If that's all you had to say in response to a serious contribution to the discussion, you needn't have bothered.
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HamdenRice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 08:07 AM
Response to Reply #47
54. Interesting take on it
I think that explains Castro's turnabout. He seemed in the 90s to realize he would never "get it" and tried to create some rapprochement with the Catholic Church.

That's a very interesting way of looking at it.
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Jim__ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 08:14 AM
Response to Reply #47
56. Young people who had grown up in the Soviet school system and had their children baptized.
Did these young people grow up with religious parents? I think people who grow up believing in religion are usually strong in their beliefs. Trying to force these people to renounce their beliefs is probably counter-productive. I'd be surprised if people who had actually grown up without religion, later sought it out. If that's the case, do you have an explanation as to why these people sought out religion?
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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 09:50 AM
Response to Reply #56
57. Curiosity about something forbidden, I suppose
Also, I think that some people are naturally mystical. I knew two people in graduate school who were raised by atheist parents, were fascinated by spiritual matters from early childhood and ended up affiliated with religions.

I heard that on Russian Orthodox Easter, which is the biggest festival by far in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and which starts with a Saturday night vigil, so many young people went "sightseeing" at churches that local youth authorities started holding dances with popular bands on that night.

The author of the book I mentioned above told of visiting religious sites around the Soviet Union (this would have been in the 1970s) as part of the research for his book, and his Intourist guide at one famous church pointed out that the worshippers were all elderly. He recalled reading as part of the preparation for his trip an account of a traveler from the 1920s, similarly noting that all the people in church were elderly. However, given the fifty years between the 1920s and the 1970s, these obviously weren't the same generation of elderly people.

The author's explanation was this: Being known as religious was bad for a person's career prospects in the Soviet Union, so people who were religious would keep quiet about it and perhaps not attend church unless they happened to be in a city where they weren't known. Then, when they retired, they had an absolute right to their old-age pension and no more career worries, so they let their inner religious person come to the surface.

Five of my graduate school friends converted to Eastern Orthodoxy, including one of the ones who was brought up as an atheist. It's one of the little-known stories on the American religious landscape: Americans with no ethnic ties to Eastern Europe or the Middle East becoming Orthodox. Still a very small number, but enough so that the Orthodox Church in America has been establishing non-ethnic parishes in major cities.
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knitter4democracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 03:02 PM
Response to Reply #57
68. My husband and I are Orthodox converts.
Of course, we started out Nazarene, so it's not like we weren't believers to begin with. I started wanting to convert when I was in Russia in college. I'd never felt the Holy Spirit in such an amazingly strong way in church, not even in a revival service, and when I started studying their theology, I agreed with almost all of it. I'm not big on their history, but the liturgy and prayers and current practice are more along my lines of faith than any other church.

Then, there was Fr. Alexander Men: http://www.alexandermen.com/Main_Page
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knitter4democracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 02:59 PM
Response to Reply #56
67. They have since.
I knew many kids my age at the church I attended in Nizhni Novgorod who'd grown up in the Red Pioneers with parents who'd squashed their faith in fear of getting found out or hadn't really had any. The church was packed every Sunday, and the priest did many adult baptisms all the time (well, that's what he said in an interview a fellow student and I did with him for a paper).
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knitter4democracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 02:42 PM
Response to Reply #47
62. And don't forget: Gorbachev was baptized as a baby.
He kept his faith quiet, as it wasn't politically advantageous, but he's been more vocal since being ousted.

Only 10% of the population at any one time was in the Party, and many of them quietly kept their faith (whatever it was), especially in the latter years after Krushchev. Most people did, really, from what I was told.
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Jim__ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 11:30 AM
Response to Original message
58. "The Philosophy Steamer: Lenin and the Exile of the Intelligentsia" by Lesley Chamberlain
Based on the reviews of this book that I've read, Lenin exiled and/or executed, not only the religious, but anyone who disagreed with his view of the future. This particular review calls it a confrontation between reason and faith; but "faith" has to be viewed more broadly than as just religious faith. An excerpt from one review:

In September 1922, in St Petersburg, Lenin's political police loaded 25 families onto the German ship Haken. Six weeks later, about the same number were loaded onto another German ship, the Preussen. The ships steamed out into the Gulf of Finland and the families waved goodbye to Mother Russia.

...

On board those ships was a peculiarly Russian mix of philosophers, critics, historians, mystics and theologians. They were divided by many things, but they were united by three big things. First, they had all been identified as threats to Leninism; second, they were famous, and executing them would have alienated foreign supporters; third, they had all seen the malignancy that lay behind the hyper-rationalism of the Bolshevik revolution. They had seen, in other words, the fatal weakness in the Enlightenment Project and were seeking an alternative. Chamberlain calls them "the shipped-out mystagogues".

The book's true subject, therefore, is the confrontation between reason and faith. But the banality of that formulation simply does not do justice to the depth and passion that Chamberlain brings to her story, nor, indeed, to the complexities of what we mean by faith. The reason this is such a good book is that the author feels the conflict within herself. She sees herself as a rational secularist and humanist, but, equally, she sees how catastrophically those causes have failed in the past. As a result, she understands the evil of Lenin but also grasps his deep and entirely logical attraction for western intellectuals; on the other side, she sees the vagueness, eccentricity and, frequently, just plain madness of her mystagogues, but also their honesty, heroism and high decency. In almost every sentence, one feels the pressure to codify this conflict into a coherent statement, and the impossibility of the task.

...

But what did it all mean? The mystagogues were a strange bunch. At one end of the spectrum was the formidable and infinitely lovable Nikolai Berdyaev, a true mystic admired by Saul Bellow for his insistence on the irreducible mystery of the human experience and our need for something greater than ourselves. Then there was the literary critic Yuly Aikhenvald, much more of a rationalist and, indeed, a man who could have lived with and improved communism. Or there was Lev Karsavin, not a great thinker but a good man and a true believer in Christian Russia who never abandoned his hope that his country would abandon oppression and revert to its "mighty destiny" but who was rewarded with death from TB in the Gulag in 1952.


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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 11:48 AM
Response to Reply #58
59. I'd hardly call Soviet Communism "hyper-rationalism"...
Perhaps some of these communists fancied themselves as highly rational, but "dialectical materialism" was pseudo-scientific faith-based nonsense, and the huge failures of collectivization and the Soviet centrally-planned economy where hardly the result of insufficient mysticism.
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knitter4democracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 03:04 PM
Response to Reply #59
69. I'd agree with that. How about hyper-magical thinking?
That seems more along the lines of many of the programs and such.
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Jim__ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 03:31 PM
Response to Reply #59
70. The point is that the Soviets suppressed any thought that disagreed with the Soviet system ...
Edited on Mon Jun-09-08 03:36 PM by Jim__
... and not just religious thought.

But, it is actually not that unusual to claim that Marxism, and even socialism, is hyperrationalism. Basically due to the contention of those who make the charge that socialism is an attempt to understand and, largely, control human behavior through science. Marx claimed to understand the mechanism behind history, and the ability to see where it was, inevitably, headed. Quite a fantastic claim.
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 03:43 PM
Response to Reply #70
71. It's not unusual for *who* to claim that?
We can judge the rationality of Marxism, or the Soviet take on socialism, apart from the claims of its proponents. In fact I'd say we clearly have to do that, considering how wrong they were about a lot of things. Marx's supposed understanding of the mechanism of history doesn't exactly hold up under the light of, oh, actual history since his time.

Judging by end results, not unfulfilled claims of proponents and practitioners, I'd call Marxism hyporationalism.

I'm not really sure where you're going, but my main point is that the failures of Marxism and the Soviet Union are in no way attributable to some "excess" of rationality, or some insufficiency of mysticism.
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Jim__ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 04:06 PM
Response to Reply #71
73. Any number of people.
For instance (I pulled this up via google; but I have seen this terminology before):

... This is born out by the facts once we accept, following famous thinkers such as Ludwig von Mises, Sir Karl Popper, Friedrich-August von Hayek, Michael Polnyi and Leszek Kołakowski, that the economic and political theory of socialism is a peculiar manner of hyperrationalism based on faulty, positivistically interpreted science. ...


I have absolutely no interest in what labels are put on the Soviet system. I was merely pointing out that the Soviets suppressed any non-Soviet thinking, not just religious thinking.
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 04:15 PM
Response to Reply #73
74. Certainly we agree on the suppression of any non-Soviet thinking...
...but I am interested in the labels, however, because I don't like seeing the faults of the Soviet system described using wording that sounds like it impugns rationality, as if "too much" rationality was somehow what went wrong.
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Jim__ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 04:31 PM
Response to Reply #74
75. I don't know what the formal definition of hyperrationality is.
However, I can see where someone would claim that Marx went wrong because he relied too much on reason nad not enough on testing. It's easy to look at what is happening, and based on that to come to a reasonable hypothesis as to why that is happening. However, if you then go on to build a new hypothesis without having tested your first hypothesis, you may have a rational structure for where you are; but, without testing, it is a shaky structure. I think Marx's method followed that sort of procedure.

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greyl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-10-08 11:22 AM
Response to Reply #74
80. How about lack of incentive for creative excellence, and
what was seen as the moral superiority of society over intellect?
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skepticscott Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 09:13 PM
Response to Reply #70
76. But what's interesting is, they didn't always
During WWII, when the Soviet state needed the aid of the church to rally the peasants in the country's defense, they eased off considerably on their suppression of religion. A new patriarch was elected, seminaries were re-opened, and the Orthodox church enjoyed a brief re-flowering. None of HR's blathering explains why the Communist government would have done this, if they had been motivated purely by atheism as opposed to the consolidation and preservation of absolute political power.
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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-09-08 09:48 PM
Response to Reply #76
77. If the Germans had won it would have REALLY threatened their power, so
they were willing to do anything to prevent that from happening, even violate their previously consistent principle of hostility to religion.
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skepticscott Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-10-08 05:20 AM
Response to Reply #77
78. Their previously consistent principle
was hostility towards anything that was a threat, or a potential threat to their authority. Poets, playwrights, artists and filmmakers got the same treatment, among others. They didn't suppress religion because it was a threat to their atheism, they suppressed it because it was a threat to their political power.
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knitter4democracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-10-08 07:45 AM
Response to Reply #78
79. Exactly.
Anna Akhmatova wasn't persecuted because she was a Christian but instead because she was a poet who'd married the wrong poet and had a son by him. He was murdered, her son was sent to the gulag repeatedly (even to the front lines in WWII, as many in the gulag were as cannon fodder), and she came close to the same fate herself multiple times. She had to burn her drafts and manuscripts on more than one occasion in anticipation of the KGB coming to her home and finding her poetry and her prose (which was permanently lost--the poetry she and a friend had memorized, but she never was able to reproduce the prose pieces to her satisfaction).

That's why Bulgakov's line in Master and Margarita, "Manuscripts don't burn," took on such power culturally.

The kulaks, the middle class, anyone with ties to the tsars and the nobility, artists who refused to conform to the new Soviet style, believers who spoke out and those around them were all sent to the gulags--and only 10% of those sent there survived.
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