Catholic Democracy

How significant the word democracy has be­come ! Kings, State and church ministers, politicians, and even employers say they are out for the benefit of the people. Now the Catholic Church, a remnant of feudal society, also toes the line in this respect.

How queer ! The same church that was re­sponsible for the torture and murder of thou­sands of human beings who would not submit to her, and for the death of such pioneers of public speech as Servetus, Brunno, and Ferrer (see Professor Buty’s “History of Freedom of Thought”), is now attempting to capture the heart of democracy ! Why is this ?

In feudal society the Catholic Church was representative of that society. About a third of the land and stock, the giving of alms, and learning, were monopolised by her. But with the coming of the bourgeois revolution in Eng­land in the seventeenth century, its power de­clined. The capitalist class, who were in need of science and a free course in the productive processes, crippled her. No longer could the Church have the full sway she possessed in feudal times.

In England, though, the week-kneed capital­ists had not the necessary courage to uproot society and destroy it root and branch. They made a compromise with the aristocratic or land-owning class, and through this the Catholic Church was allowed to remain.

With the development of capitalist conditions, however, the capitalist class saw clearly that if they wished to keep the workers in subjection they must instil into their minds religion, i.e., belief in an eternal future. Since the inaugu­ration of capitalism we find ever so many reli­gious sects springing up by the side of the old Church in all capitalist countries.

The Catholic Church, then, since it is exist­ing in capitalist society, must have some special use for the capitalist class, and right well do the heads of this Church see that this is so.

The Church does not say, according to Father Day (who has written a book called “Catholic Demccracy, Individualism, and Socialism”), that the capitalist revolution has not had its good qualities—it is the awful reign of terror and its consequences that the Church condemns.

Father Day sajs (p. 4) : “for though the revolutionary movement [French revolution] contained elements of good and eventually resulted in good, bringing about, amorgst other things, the overthrow cf a corrupt and oppressive aristocracy, and the emancipation of suffering and down-trodden people, it was, in reality, the outcome of a blind, popular passion rather than a rationally controlled emotion.”

Of course, it would not do to say that the capitalist revolution was “against the will of Gcd,” for look at the good positions these Catholic priests hold.

Again, tte Catholic Church is serving the ruling class by preaching to the workers that Catholic democracy alone will save them from the abominable conditions of their slave state. And what, pray, is this Catholic democracy ? Anything that will help the workers ? Well, let Pope Leo XII., as quoted by Father Day, answer this question.

“What social democracy means and what Christian democracy ought to mean does not admit of doubt. The fotmer, more or less extreme as the caee may be, is by many carried to such wicked extravagance as to reckon on humane satisfaction supreme, and to acknowledge no­thing higher ; to pursue bodily and natural goods only, and to make the whole happiness of man consist in attaining and enjoying them. Such persons would place the supreme power of the State indiscriminately in the hands of the masses of the people. Moreover, they would abolish all distinctions of rank, and make all citizens equal, in order that all might equally have access to the good things of life. They would likewise do away with ownership, confiscate private fortunes, and socialise the instruments of labour. But Christian demo­cracy ought to have as its foundation the principles laid down by divine faith, having regard, indeed, to the temporal advantage of the poorer and less educated, but designing therewith to fit their minds for the enjoyment of the things eternal. Accordingly, to Christian democracy let there be nothing more sacred than law and right ; let it bid the right of having and holding inviolate ; let it maintain the diversity of ranks which properly belongs to a well-ordered State.” (Pages 13-14.)

To show the Church’s respect for the capital­ist class the Pope is quoted as follows by Father Day:

“God forbid that under the name of Chris­tian democracy should lie the surreptitious aim of throwing off all obedience and turning away from those in lawful authority. The law of nature no less than that of Christ, enjoins respect for all such as in their several degrees hold office in the State, and further enjoins obedience to their lawful commands.”

It will be seen from the foregoing that there is no attempt to conceal the nature of Catholic democracy. The Church is on the side of the masters, it must therefore, be antagonistic to the workers, because the master class and the woking class are in conflict.

But do not think that Father Day is without his reasons for opposing Socialism. He meets all the arguments of Socialists, not excepting Karl Marx.

The pity of it all is, however, that our rever­end Father gets so hopelessly mixed up. At one time he will say that such an one is no Socialist, and will next proceed to quote him as a Social­ist. For instance, on page 112 he says :

“As far as it is a constructive system at all Bernstein’s revisionism is not Socialism, but a system of social reform on the basis of mo­dern Liberalism. Mr. Ramsay Macdonald is its present exponent in England.”

He afterwards quotes Macdonald and his clique as representing Socialist opinion in this country.

In proceeding to attack Karl Marx’s theories. Father Day tackles him firstly on “equality.” He (the priest) cannot understand how class distinctions arise from the economic conditions existing at a given period. No, he says, “class distinctions in most cases spring directly from ‘unequal talents and capacities,’ and are, like them, ‘privileges of nature.’ ” True, as soon as society is rid of its parasites, the class who to­-day is not equal to the task of working will cease to exist.

He next goes on to criticise Marx’s theory of surplus-value, and attacks it, one must suppose, from the social labour-time theory. Says the priest (p. 134) :

“People buy objects on account of their usefulness, their worth or fitness to afford them pleasure. These qualities accordingly are the chief factors in determining the prices or the commercial value of the goods. The labour force expended in making them is a matter of quite secondary consideration. At the same time, inasmuch as it forms a part of the cost of production, it must, of course, be paid for by the purchaser. Also good workmanship, as far as it results in better qualities in articles produced, has the effect of enhancing prices. But mere embodied labour is no real measure of worth. Were it a real measure we should have to judge artificial jewelry as being more valuable than real jewelry, and bad art as often superior to good. The theory of ‘surplus value’; is therefore baseless, and falls to the ground.”

It is clear from the preceeding, as well as subsequent extracts from his effusions, e.g., his definition of capital on page 260, that he has never understood capitalist wealth.

In capitalist society wealth takes on the commodity form. Undoubtedly a commodity must have a use value, but its use value can only be realised when it falls out of circulation, when, in a word, it is consumed and functions no more. In the process of exchange, therefore, it in only exchange value that can be taken into account. It is the average social labour time that is necessary to be expended on the produc­tion of commodities that determines their value. Nothing else can be attributed as a basis of value. Even if we could measure the value of a commodity by its utility—which we cannot do, for it in impossible to say how many times more useful is an umbrella than a pair of braces, for example—it would not apply at the point of exchange, for we cannot know the usefulness of an article until we have used it. Again, the question of rare art does not apply to the aver­age wealth of society ; and that there is more average socially necessary labour time in what Father Day calls “artificial” jewelry than in his so-called “real” jewelry is an assertion he should condescend to prove before he claims it as a fact.

Thus it will be seen the priestly champion of capitalism does not in any way touch Marx’s position, whilst his own case is fallacious.

Next Father Day treats with Marx’s theory of the materialist conception of history in a rather humorous fashion, at least, from the Socialist standpoint. He says (p. 139) :

“A further general basis of the Socialist theory, not altogether relinquished, is the ma­terial conception of history which Marx had developed from the doctrine of Comte and Herbert Spencer [elsewhere Marx and Spencer are said to have borrowed from Comte. Rather funny that the moralist ideas of Comte should have shaped the materialism of Marx, whilst Spencer’s evolutionary works came out rather too late in the day for the Socialist philosopher to borrow from]. According to this conception, the production and exchange of wealth are held to be the sole determining factors of the evolution of social life and of the growth of the whole of civilisation. Society, laws, poli­tics, morals, and religion, are simply the out­growth of economic conditions. The doctrine is flagrantly untrue, and clearly has no value except from the standpoint of downright ma­terialism. If man has a purely material being, and is without any spiritual faculty, it might then be claimed that civilization depended on material causes. But granted that man is en­dowed with spiritual soul, then it at once becomes evident that economic conditions, which are the chance circumstances of barter and exchange, cannot be the ultimate cause of all social development. Religion and moral ideas are an immensely more powerful cause in shaping social development than all the forces of industrial and economic conditions.”

It need hardly be mentioned that this is merely burking the question. Father Day must prove before we grant it that there is a spirit­ual being. He had a chance of doing that when he quoted our pamphlet “Socialism and Religion” on pages 177-181 of his own book, but he seemed to wish to get out of the conflict.

For us religion has no meaning, except as an instrument used by the master class to keep the workers in ignorance. People living in a sav­age state, where scientific knowledge is un­known, can be excused for being religious; but to-day, when the forces of nature are so largely understood and controlled by man, and when fresh discoveries are the daily fruits of scientific research, there can be little or no excuse for such ignorance and superstition.

Father Day has the cheek —or the blindness—to attempt to defend the “anarchy of production” as Engels called it, obtaining in the pre­sent capitalist mode of production. On page 151 he says :

“Thus workmen and manufacturers offer their services and commodities when and where a rise in wages or prices indicates an under­stocked market and the chance of a favourable bergain ; and when these circumstances are reversed, they withold them. Purchasers and employers, on the contrary, look out for an overstocked market in order to obtain for themselves the most favourable terms. By this process of individual choice and effort social supply and demand are automatically determined, whilst at the same time labour and distribution are naturally adjusted and organised.”

How beautiful ! In the first place, can the workers, even combined, withold their labour force for any great length of time, until the labour market demands a big supply of workers ? We know very well that the workers, possessing practically nothing but their power to labour, must sell this as soon as possible, or else they will perish of starvation.

Again, do the workers always find a master ? We know that through the system of production which Father Day eulogises, there appears after a mad run of production, the crisis. By a sys­tem in which each individual producer seeks to get rich as quickly as he can there is produced such an abundance of commodities that a crash occurs. The market is choked with goods and no more are needed ; production ceases and workmen are thrown out idle ; manufacturers who have not enough to tide over the crisis are ruined, and help to swell the ranks of the un­employed. Because warehouses and storerooms are crammed with the things the workers have produced and are in need of, they must go with­out them.

Capitalism, then, suffers from over-production, and not from under-production, as R. B. Suthers of Tariff Reform “Clarion” fame would have it in criticising Father Day upon this point.

Under Socialism, according to our reverend Father, the people would not have the brains to carry on production. Presumably not, since all the wizards of society, including Catholic priests, would be no more.

From amongst a whole mish-mash of wild assertions occur such glaring errors as the attri­bution to Arkwright of the spinning jenny in­vented by Hargreaves ; and in one place Marx is spoken of as a State Socialist, then Engels, the co-worker of Marx, in another place shows the State to be superfluous in a Socialist regime.

The best pages of Father Day’s book are those which refer to our pamphlet “Socialism and Religion,” and to our Declaration of Prin­ciples.

When the workers get to understand those principles they will no longer uphold the capitalist system and the horrible conditions of life it means for them ; but by organising themselves “consciously and politically,” they will usher in the Socialist regime, when the workers will come to their own.

L. M.

Leave a Reply