God behind Iron Curtain

The Vatican and many Protestant prelates in the Western bloc thunder against “Godless Communism” but their diatribes are out-of-date, for the Communist Party has adopted God as one of its allies. The Daily Worker admitted this in a recent editorial when it wrote, “The Communists and the genuine Christians have much in common. They can find ways of working together to achieve a peaceful world.” (Daily Worker, 29th December, 1950.)

It is true that in the early days of the Russian Revolution the Bolsheviks tried to liquidate religion, to tear down the ikon from the peasant’s hovel and replace it by a picture of Little Father Lenin. The programme of the Communist International adopted by the Sixth World Congress in 1928 contained the following attack on religion, “The fight against religion, the opium of the people, occupies an important position among the tasks of the cultural revolution. The fight must be carried on persistently and systematically. The proletarian power must withdraw all State support from the Church, and abolish the influence exercised by the Church.” (“Lenin on Religion” published by Lawrence and Wishart.) But religion could not be liquidated. The people of Russia were not Socialists and they shared with people all over the world the poverty, insecurity and frustration of capitalism. In their ignorance many of them turned for hope and consolation to religion with its message of the transience of human suffering and everlasting bliss in a world to come. The Second World War gave a fillip to religion in Russia and in 1943 Stalin made a non-aggression pact with Christ by approving the formation of a Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church. Since then the Patriarchs of this Church have been faithful servants of the Russian state. As good lieutenants of the God of Battles they gave enthusiastic support to Russia’s war effort; as humble followers of the Prince of Peace they have been prominent at the Peace Conferences which have been staged to support Russia’s current foreign policy. And judging by the amounts that some of them have been able to invest in Russian War Loans they have benefited materially as well as spiritually.

In Czechoslovakia, too, religion prospers under State patronage. The clerics who oppose the Government share the same fate as rebellious laymen, but those who are prepared to serve both God and Gottwald are well looked after. According to “Prague News Letter,” a periodical published in Prague (1st January, 1951) “All church expenses such as electricity bills, bell-ringers’ and organists’ wages, candles and wine are . . . met by the civil authorities” and . . . “several hundred million crowns were spent on other ecclesiastical needs, such as the maintenance of theological faculties and seminaries.” The same paper informs us that “All priests have rent-free houses;” and the “average salary of priests in the Prague diocese . . . is about 6,500 crowns per month.” “Czechoslovak Life,” another journal published in Prague (December, 1950), states that this amount is “nearly twice the average industrial wage,” and the Czechoslovak minister. Josef Plojahr, himself a Catholic priest, declared that “Czechoslovakian priests are the best paid in the whole world, and not only the Catholics, but the priests of all other religions.” (“Soviet Weekly,” March 1st, 1951). It is hoped that this information does not become too generally known in clerical circles or there may be a mass invasion of Czechoslovakia by poverty-stricken Anglican curates. And what shall we do without our padres?

The Socialist Party alone maintains its hostility to all forms of religion. It considers all religious beliefs to be incorrect and a barrier to the acceptance of the Socialist case. Therefore one of the tasks of a Socialist is to show the falsity of religious ideas and not to compromise with them. A Socialist cannot be religious, and when Socialism is established religion will be dead, for the overwhelming majority of the world’s population will have become Socialists. If anyone remains who wishes to tell his beads or sing his hymns he will be tolerated. But a world of enlightenment and security will not provide fertile soil for the growth of religious ideas, which flourish in the rubbish heap of misery and ignorance.

J. M.

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