From Bondage to the Desert – 1.1 The Religious Character of Communist Ideology – 7

1.1.7 Marxist Eschatology

DefinitionEschatology is the doctrine or understanding of the future and particularly of the end of history (from Gk. eschata – ‘the last things’).

Communism promotes a sort of ‘atheistic millenarianism’ – a promise to establish heaven on earth through human means, with no reference to God.

Marxist ideology is based on the myth of determinism, according to which the historical destiny of humanity is controlled, in a supposedly scientific manner, by a perfect chain of cause and effect. Thus, by knowing this historical mechanism, the new ‘enlightened’ man can participate in the creative transformation of the world and society.

Human society is believed to be developing ineluctably through the following stages:

  • the primitive commune
  • slavery
  • feudalism
  • capitalism
  • socialism
  • communism

Communism, supposedly the final stage in the development of human society, is for Marxists what Paradise is for Christians. It is a sort of ‘surrogate heaven’. This demonstrates once more that communism sets out to replace Christianity in the minds and hearts of people.

This supreme culmination of history was to be preceded by a transitional period, called socialism, whose role was to destroy, through the dictatorship of the proletariat, any vestiges of capitalism – the bourgeois state and its institutions, the capitalist economic system and the old mentalities on which these were based – and to replace them with new structures and mentalities, thus preparing the ground for a millennial age of happiness and prosperity.

Unfortunately for Marxists, these expectations were never accomplished in any societies where they were tried out. There are no exceptions. There are at least three areas where Marxists’ hopes were proven to be utterly wrong:

  • capitalism – Marx expected capitalism to disappear under the offensive of communism; yet in fact capitalism adapted and learned to incorporate some social concerns, thus becoming, in spite of its obvious weaknesses, the strongest and most effective economic system available;
  • nationalism – Marxist ideology expected that the institution of the state would be weakened and eventually disappear; yet the twentieth century proved to be the age of the nations. What is more, the fierce nationalistic passions which had been suppressed in former communist countries broke loose after 1989, leading to bloody conflicts and to tensions that are still unresolved today;
  • religion – as we have already seen, Marxism predicted that under the impact of secularism religion would steadily decline and finally disappear, being replaced by a commitment to science. The resurgence of religion almost everywhere in the world, including the former communist block (western Europe is a strange exception, not the norm) proves that this prediction was wrong too.

The communist ‘eschatological hope’ failed to be actualised, and in fact many of the former communist countries have reverted to a capitalist system, which is inconceivable for the Marxist historical scheme. When those who still hold Marxist convictions are asked today how they explain this, their reaction becomes irrational and fideistic. The standard answer is that Marxist ideas were never applied as they should have been, but these modern Marxists also believe that they will be the ones who will do the job thoroughly and eventually succeed. In the light of the facts we have, this is simply wishful thinking, or worse, self-delusion.

The historical scheme outlined above was so effectively ingrained in the psyche of the people who lived under communist regimes that even today many Christians living in post-communist countries still continue to think in this way.

This is why many dissidents and even many Christians in the former communist countries could not imagine (let alone expect) that communist regimes would ever fall. Therefore they were taken by surprise when the system collapsed, and the sudden change found them completely unprepared for freedom and totally unable to live and witness for Christ in a capitalist free-market system.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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