Month: September 2017

Giving Platforms to Nazi’s is Not “Free Speech” and “Tolerance”. It’s The Grave Digger of Tolerance and Free Speech!

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Image: Anti-Fascists in Charlottesville protect clergy

Recently I came across a news article on Facebook about Richard Spencer’s proposed visit to my own university and hometown: The University of Cincinnati. All of the top comments in this public forum were people defending Richard Spencer’s right to “free speech”:

“Now why would you make freedom of speech news? News media say alot of things that make me personally angry and upset! You have special rights, we have the First Amendment right!
FREEDOM OF SPEECH RATHER WE LIKE IT OR NOT! DON’T GO IF YOU DON’T WANT TO LISTEN TO HIM.”

The other most liked comments mirrored this cynical liberal “wisdom”. For instance the next top comment,

“He has the right. But that isn’t the same as saying he isn’t an a$$. So let’s just get that clear. I know many people who have the right to do many things but they are also a$$w@$:/&’s.”

What isn’t mentioned among these comments is the fact that the intolerance of intolerance is a fundamental aspect of a truly tolerant society. Tolerance of intolerance is what leads to the destitution and inevitable destruction of a tolerant society. In this way it can be said that liberalism produces its own gravediggers (not in the economic sense but in the political). By heralding on those who promote hatred and bigotry (intolerance) on the basis of race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, etc, they expediently provide the means by which they will lose their influence over society entirely. Fascism (as a specific phenomenon and not just a blanket term for various forms of right wing populism), does not base itself on logic or reason but solely on cognitive biases that it uses to divide the working class. Cognitive bias is the bullet that fascism fires, its gun is the liberals who herald them on and happily provide them a platform in the name of “tolerance” and “free speech”. Such was the fate of 1930’s Germany, a liberal democratic country much like our own in which the liberal tolerance of intolerance led to its total abolition under the Nazi Party.

This is the reasoning of 20th century philosopher Karl Popper, and his idea of the Paradox of ToleranceHe sums up this idea saying in his work The Open Society and Its Enemies Vol. 1:

“Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.”[1]

Free speech is certainly a fundamental right, but so is the right not to tolerate the intolerant. Only the intolerance of intolerance can ensure that a society remains a tolerant one. It is only by this logic that society can remain truly tolerant. This is they price you pay for living in a tolerant society, the tolerance of intolerance.

It is also in this spirit that I absolutely and 100% support Anti-Fa. It becomes necessary to suppress by force and prevent from having a platform those who would, if in power, suppress by force others on the basis of race, religion, nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc. Anti-Fa is not a threat to “freedom” or against “free speech”. It is the only thing capable of saving it. Of course, there have been those few who ignorantly label mere conservatives and right wing populists as “fascists”, but this is not the general trend, and this is not what Anti-Fa stands for.

Sources:

 [1] Popper, Karl, The Open Society and Its Enemies, volume 1, The Spell of Plato, 1945 (Routledge, United Kingdom); ISBN 0-415-29063-5 978-0-691-15813-6 (1 volume 2013 Princeton ed.)

The Thought Foundry Blog promotes… Marxism AND Progressive Christianity?

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I had to explain this blog to some seemingly angry people recently. How would I describe The Thought Foundry? Unconventional, controversial, revisionist, likely to start a fire with both Christians and Marxists alike? Sure sure. To me, I am not a Marxist because I am a Christian. But to me any true Christian should feel themselves compelled to be a communist. I am a Marxist because Marxian economics and philosophy (excluding its albeit atheist conclusions) is so obviously true and self-evident of this fact that it really needs no justification. This is a blog written from the unique perspective of Trotskyism and Liberation Theology (it literally says so in the cover photo). To those who have come out of the woodwork to criticize me, I ask: At what point have I ever been not clear about this? At what point has my unorthodox application and interpretation of these ideas not been shown in full force? At what point have I shied away from the question of Marxism and Religion? This is The Thought Foundry Blog. We are followers of Liberation Theology and Marxists (albeit unorthodox ones).

We do not advocate that socialist and communist organizations take on a religious line, but we also do not advocate that they take on an atheistic line either. This was one of the chief mistakes of the 20th century Marxist movement. Religious persecution led directly to the fall of communism in Poland, then the Eastern Bloc and the USSR. It can be said that they fell like dominos. But, if you cannot learn from history and still insist on dogmatically applying that which caused untold needless suffering, and still want to call yourself someone who bases their theory on ‘material reality’, that is not my problem.

I find the best explanation for my views in the words of Marxist revolutionary and Catholic, James Connolly. I say that I am a materialist and a Christian, but not an atheist. Well now, to explain my philosophical views on God and the universe would require a much lengthier post (something I have elaborated on somewhat in the past). But in short, we can say that we are certainly materialists in the way Connolly explains:

We do not mean that its supporters are necessarily materialists in the vulgar, and merely anti-theological, sense of the term, but that they do not base their Socialism upon any interpretation of the language or meaning of Scripture, nor upon the real or supposed intentions of a beneficent Deity. They as a party neither affirm or deny those things, but leave it to the individual conscience of each member to determine what beliefs on such questions they shall hold…

I often quote Gianni Vattimo when he said, “I am a Christian, therefore I am a communist.” But as I stated previously, I am not a communist because I am a Christian. I am a communist because Marxism is self-evident and requires no theological justification or faith to uphold its validity. Connolly is also in agreement with this notion:

If any special interpretation of the meanings of Scripture tends to influence human thought in the direction of Socialism, or is found to be on a plane with the postulates of Socialist doctrine, then the scientific Socialist considers that the said interpretation is stronger because of its identity with the teachings of Socialism, but he does not necessarily believe that Socialism is stronger, or its position more impregnable, because of its theological ally. He realizes that the facts upon which his Socialist faith are based are strong enough in themselves to withstand every shock, and attacks from every quarter, and therefore while he is at all times willing to accept help from every extraneous source, he will only accept it on one condition, viz., that he is not to be required in return to identify his cause with any other whose discomfiture might also involve Socialism in discredit.

So if I am a Christian, why do I advocate that communist and socialist parties not declare themselves Christian? Why do I not advocate such a thing? To this Connolly answers in continuation with the previous passage,

This is the main reason why Socialists fight shy of theological dogmas and religions generally: because we feel that Socialism is based upon a series of facts requiring only unassisted human reason to grasp and master all their details, whereas Religion of every kind is admittedly based upon ‘faith’ in the occurrence in past ages of a series of phenomena inexplicable by any process of mere human reasoning. Obviously, therefore, to identify Socialism with Religion would be to abandon at once that universal, non-sectarian character which to-day we find indispensable to working-class unity, as it would mean that our members would be required to conform to one religious creed, as well as to one specific economic faith – a course of action we have no intention of entering upon as it would inevitably entangle us in the disputes of the warring sects of the world, and thus lead to the disintegration of the Socialist Party.

As socialists, and especially as members of socialist parties, we must be inclusive of people of all faiths. Though I promote socialism from a Christian perspective I recognize that it is not, in and of itself, Christian. As Connolly concludes,

Socialism, as a party, bases itself upon its knowledge of facts, of economic truths, and leaves the building up of religious ideals or faiths to the outside public, or to its individual members if they so will. It is neither Freethinker nor Christian, Turk nor Jew, Buddhist nor Idolator, Mahommedan nor Parsee – it is only human.

It is in this spirit that I write for The Thought Foundry. You may, as a Marxist, condemn me for not being an atheist. You may, as a Christian, condemn me for being a radical, a progressive, a Marxist. Well and good ladies, gentlemen, and non-binary folk. You wanted something unorthodox, something new. That is precisely what The Thought Foundry is. Don’t blame the forest for the spark. You may not agree with my writings, with my historical analysis, with my views. That is perfectly fine. I take no offense. But no one can deny that our current predicament requires a tinge of unorthodoxy, a tinge of something new. It is in that, that I deliver.

I know nothing! All I know is but a part of myself even though it exists outside of myself!

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I hold an apple in my hand realizing that the apple in my hand which I am perceiving is not the apple that exists outside of me, but rather exists as an internal abstraction of the apple itself. Therein begins the terrifying realization that everything I know or think I know is only that which I have perceived or learned, is only that which has been interpreted by my sense organs, filtered by them, reflected into my brain, filtered by my brain, and finally perceived by my brain.

Nothing I know is objective, only that which has been perceived. Perception of our higher reality, while being of this plane of existence, without filtration, is impossible. The apple to me exists as an abstraction, and thus as a concept. It exists as that which is, though material in nature, idealist to me. The apple is certainly infinite in scope, down to the smallest subatomic particles it is mathematically possible to go down in our analysis of the size of the parts of the apple forever. But it exists in actuality as a finite infinity. For to perceive the apple in its entirety is impossible, only a part can be perceived by us. Even this merely implies an analysis the apple as it exists in a moment frozen in time, not even taking into account the constant dialectic of decay and change in which the apple is undergoing.

What about who I am to myself? I must filter my perception of myself as well even though it is myself. And those around me I love and care about? They too are but abstractions who I can never truly know. In this I am utterly alone, in this, though together, we are all alone. But in realizing this it also comes to mind that, even the good things about life are also internalized reflections of the external, and that they too are a part of me in some small way. Entering into a field of extreme skepticism one can easily come to idealist conclusions that I am the only thing that exists and the world around me is merely a figment of my imagination. But one must accept a scientific analysis if one wishes to retain sanity. The external is real and the mind is an emanation of the material, though no doubt highly organized. But in a spirit of skepticism I can never really know the answer to this question, or the objective answer to any question. In short, the only thing that I know is that I know nothing, nothing at all. And this too is but an abstraction.

The Foundation of the Idea of Objective and Subjective injustice and its Relation to Mercy

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I once said that “one cannot fight injustice with injustice”. But I realize now that this only touches the tip of the iceberg. More specifically, it can be said that “one cannot fight objective injustice with objective injustice”, or that “one cannot fight merely subjective injustice with any form of injustice”.
First of all, what do I mean by this? Objective injustice is precisely how it sounds: that which is objectively unjust. If a person slaughters an innocent for no real purpose at all, with malicious intent, we can say that this was objectively unjust. There was and can be no real justification for this. To the accused, the price for their violating the civil liberty of another is rightfully the violation of their own civil liberty. To the murderer, he experiences a subjective by being imprisoned. Can we say that this subjective injustice was objectively unjust? Not in the least. Therefore this subjective injustice was objectively just.
Objective injustice is always morally abominable. Subjective injustice and mercy are the only ways to address an objectively unjust phenomenon. When equality of white and black people was formally declared it released a whole wave of reaction among some white people who felt that they were being oppressed. But on the contrary! This oppression may have been a subjective injustice to the white man, but it was objectively just, and therefore certainly right! Equality always feels like oppression when you come from a position of privilege.
In response to 9/11, a truly abominable act of terrorism, the U.S. found its alleged justification for unleashing a wave of terror of its own against the middle east. Was this just? It may have seemed that way to the United States but this is merely an example of fighting that which is objectively unjust with objective injustice. It is, therefore, a form of injustice which cannot be justified. Abolitionist John Brown found the only truly emancipatory solution to slavery to be the creation of a violent slave rebellion. Was this unjust? Not in the least! It was a response to an objectively unjust institution which perpetually created injustice. The response was subjectively unjust to the slaveowners, but by merit of being slaveowners they were guilty of an enormous crime against humanity. Brown’s response to slavery was therefore objectively just, and arguably, didn’t go far enough against the slaveowners.
What then is the relationship between mercy and justice? It must be said that mercy towards an individual objective injustice in which the injustice is perpetrated solely against the individual who, in contemplation of what to do arrives at the conclusion that inflicting subjective injustice against the accused is just, is certainly admirable and a worthy deed. However, in instances in which the objective injustice is institutional, collective, and systematically reinforced, the act of mercy against that institution or the perpetrators of it, is itself, merciless against the victims of that objective injustice. Therefore mercy against that which has no mercy in its objective injustice towards others, is itself an act of moral cowardice and barbarity. There can be no mercy against that which is objectively unjust and institutional in nature. This is, in and of itself, an act of objective justice.
We go back to an earlier post, ‘The Elements of Leadership: Immoral, Moral and Immorally Moral Pragmatism’, to ask a simple question. Is it not an act of moral cowardice for one to refuse to kill 5 people if it is the only way to save of 5 million? It may seem to that individual to be wrong, to be an act of barbarism, but objectively the act is eerily just. The ideas of objective and subjective justice and injustice are therefore aspects of utilitarianism, and my contribution to it.

A Letter to My Professor About Equating Communism With Fascism

During an in class discussion earlier today, the phenomenon of fascism was brought up. Eventually, as often happens in these sorts of discussions, communism came up as well. In agreement with a large section of the populous, it was mentioned that “communism and fascism are two sides of the same coin”, that coin being totalitarianism. Naturally, as a Marxist and a Trotskyist with libertarian tendencies, I was compelled to politely write her a letter on why this was not the case, on why communism does not equal fascism, even if one wishes to equate Stalinism with communism generally. I have nothing but the utmost respect for my professor, but naturally I did felt compelled to write the following letter:

 

Dear Professor (Name Omitted),

I certainly enjoyed today’s discussion and while I took absolutely no offense to it in any way whatsoever, I wanted to address something that was said because it commonly comes up in discussions I have with other people. That is, the misconceptions of Marxism brought about by the tragedy of Stalinism in the 20th century and, consequently, what it has done to the image of the Marxist movement as a whole.

Initially, nearly all of the early socialists and communists of the 20th century took on an attitude that the state was an inherently evil institution, and even went so far as to criticize the roots of totalitarianism that emerged in Russia before the Stalinist period. Rosa Luxemburg for instance, a leading figure of the attempted communist revolution in Germany, had this to say in light of the despotism that had emerged in the early Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic:

“Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party – however numerous they may be – is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently. Not because of any fanatical concept of “justice” but because all that is instructive, wholesome and purifying in political freedom depends on this essential characteristic, and its effectiveness vanishes when ‘freedom’ becomes a special privilege… Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element.”

Even within the Russian Revolution itself, there developed an intangible bureaucracy in which all the genuinely democratic gains of the early revolution were lost. When Stalin came to power he not only continued the revolutionary despotism of the civil war era into the post-revolutionary period, but he also amplified and obfuscated its role in the development of Soviet society. Stalin murdered, imprisoned, exiled, or otherwise “disappeared” nearly all of the original Bolsheviks who first served in the October revolution, numbering in the thousands.

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He did this in the name of Marx, Engels and Lenin, who, contrary to popular belief, never once wrote about a one-party state. Trotsky, a man who most considered to be Lenin’s no. 2 during the revolution, was exiled by Stalin for opposing the bureaucracy within the party. For the rest of his life he fought for genuine democracy and liberty within Soviet society and for political revolution before being murdered by one of Stalin’s henchmen in his own home.

As for Marx, he was first and foremost an economist; he studied above all else capitalism and its relation to the earlier economic systems of human history. After decades of intense investigation of political economy (including a tedious analysis of all the written works of the prominent economists of and before his time) and human history, he made a scientific prediction that capitalism, like feudalism before it, would eventually be surpassed by a more efficient, democratic socioeconomic system. The means of producing wealth in our society, which are today exclusively owned by the property owning class who de facto hold all state power, would be held in common and would be brought not under state control, but the democratic control of the workers themselves, thereby abolishing private property. Those who produce all the wealth in our society would have democratic control over what is to be done with that wealth. The objective of the produce of human labor would thus become addressing human needs rather than blind profit.

The idea was that eventually humankind, after abolishing private (not to be confused with personal) property, would necessarily enter into a stateless society. Because to Marx and Engels, the state was, as Engels put it, “nothing but an instrument of oppression of one class by another – no less so in a democratic republic than in a monarchy.” Marxists certainly never saw it as a good thing. The violent organization that we call the state would be replaced with the democratic management of society. Eventually when human society became productive enough, people could work according to ones abilities and take freely (without money as a medium of exchange) to each according to their needs. This, and not the totalitarian despotism of Stalinism, is what we call communism.

The question of how to get to this society has many answers, some in anarchist (anti-statist) tactics from the beginning, some in the initial use of the state under a more libertarian pretext, others through sheer state terror and totalitarianism (Stalinism). Thus the proposition of achieving a communist society has no inherent basis in the use of the state, let alone a totalitarian one. I consider myself to be a libertarian Marxist, meaning that while I agree with Marx’s critique of capitalism; I wholly and unequivocally condemn any form of totalitarianism to get to a more democratic and equal society.

As for fascism on the other hand, while its totalitarianism and lack of personal liberty is, admittedly, comparable to the Stalinist despotism that devolved in the cold war era, it sees the use of the state as an end and not a means to an end. Hitler wanted his “Reich” to last a thousand years. Lenin wanted the state to wither away as soon as possible, for the state is always a barrier to the genuine fulfillment of human liberty. Contrary to Marxism, it sees democracy as a negative aspect of human society, it sees classes and inequality as a good thing. As Mussolini, Hitler’s biggest inspiration put it,

“After Socialism, Fascism attacks the whole complex of democratic ideologies and rejects them both in their theoretical premises and in their applications or practical manifestations. Fascism denies that the majority, through the mere fact of being a majority, can rule human societies; it denies that this majority can govern by means of a periodical consultation; it affirms the irremediable, fruitful and beneficent inequality of men, who cannot be leveled by such a mechanical and extrinsic fact as universal suffrage. . . . Democracy is a regime without a king, but with very many kings, perhaps more exclusive, tyrannical and violent than one king even though a tyrant. . . .”

Marx and Lenin, on the other hand, supported a system in which the working masses (the overwhelming majority), to the exclusion of the property holding class, would hold and democratically control all state power. In this way it is an inversion of the early American democracy, a bourgeois democracy in which only white, property owners had an exclusive dictatorship over the state. In this way, we can say that such a system is inherently even more democratic than our own (if applied properly and developed in ideal conditions). For Lenin, freedom and democracy were always a goal for working people, for example, he said,

“Freedom and equality for the oppressed sex! Freedom and equality for the workers, for the toiling peasants! Down with the liars who are talking of freedom and equality for allwhile there is an oppressed sex, while there are oppressor classes, while there is private ownership of capital, of shares, while there are the well-fed with their surplus of bread who keep the hungry in bondage. Not freedom  for all, not equality for all, but a fight against the oppressors and exploiters, the abolition of every possibility of oppression and exploitation-that is our slogan!”

In short, I merely wanted to respectfully lay out my views on the matter. I know you may disagree with me, as is certainly and should be your right, but I just wanted you to be informed of the basics of these ideas, ideas which have suffered intentional obfuscation by those in power since their inception.

 

Respectfully,

 

(Name Omitted)

A Materialist Case For The Potential Existence of The Soul

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A common idealist interpretation of consciousness

Materialism as a philosophy proclaims that matter and energy are all that exist. Traditionally materialism, especially the materialism of Feuerbach and Marx, correctly leaves no room for the medieval idea of the incorporeal spirit controlling the body, being the force which drives human consciousness. Consciousness is rightfully proclaimed to be the highest known organizational form of matter. This notion therefore, traditionally does away with the idea of an afterlife, of an immortal soul, of a God, etc. As to the specifics of this I have no intention of trying to specifically justify my views about the nature of God, the afterlife, etc. but only to postulate the potentiality of the existence of the soul within a materialist framework. If this is possible, then all else follows.

The materialist viewpoint seems to conform to what we know science tells us about the world. But all of this assumes the traditional model of consciousness, a form of consciousness based on the physics embodied in the theories of classical mechanics. Traditionally the debate between idealism and materialism in regards to consciousness has been as follows: the mind exists either as science understands it, being material and a product of the processes of the brain in materialism, or as part of an incorporeal spirit that is immaterial in idealism. Obviously this medieval notion of a purely incorporeal spirit is nonsense. It follows then, traditionally, that there is no such thing as the soul. But all of this, as previously stated, rests on the traditional model of consciousness.

It can no doubt be said that the traditional model hitherto conforms with known scientific laws, that the exception with which I am to bring up is merely a scientific hypotheses and not a theory. But its possibility throws into question the very atheistic shell of materialist philosophy and should thus be, at the very least, investigated by any self-proclaimed materialist. The hypotheses which I am referring to is known as the quantum mind, or quantum consciousness hypothesis. To explain it in a nutshell I will reluctantly quote Wikipedia:

“The quantum mind or quantum consciousness group of hypotheses propose that classical mechanics cannot explain consciousness. It posits that quantum mechanical phenomena, such as quantum entanglement and superposition, may play an important part in the brain’s function and could form the basis of an explanation of consciousness.” [2]

But what does this have to do with idealism vs. materialism? With atheism and theism? With the existence of the soul? To answer this question we have to go back to another hypothesis that is a part of the quantum mind hypothesis called “Orchestrated objective reduction”. It was first formulated by theoretical physicist Roger Penrose and anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff in the 90’s. It should be said that Hameroff is, by his own admission, an idealist. He believes that consciousness does, to a certain extent, create the material world. But even with this, one can easily take his hypothesis and apply it to a materialist framework. For his hypothesis in and of itself, makes no assertion to the immaterial nature of consciousness, for quantum physics is as material a process as Newtonian physics. The hypothesis says that

“consciousness in the brain originates from processes inside neurons, rather than from connections between neurons (the conventional view). The mechanism is held to be a quantum physics process called objective reduction that is orchestrated by molecular structures called microtubules. Objective reduction is proposed to be influenced by non-computable factors imbedded in spacetime geometry which thus may account for the Hard Problem of Consciousness.” [3]

When we take the traditional model of consciousness into account we can conclude that consciousness dies with the decay of the human brain, that it does not and can not go on after death by any known processes. If we presume consciousness to be quantum in nature, it follows then that consciousness obeys the laws of quantum physics. We know that nothing can go faster than the speed of light, that for it to do so is a violation of the laws of Newtonian physics. But in quantum physics there exists the process of quantum entanglement, which is the

“physical phenomenon that occurs when pairs or groups of particles are generated or interact in ways such that the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently of the others, even when the particles are separated by a large distance—instead, a quantum state must be described for the system as a whole… This has been shown to occur even when the measurements are performed more quickly than light could travel between the sites of measurement: there is no lightspeed or slower influence that can pass between the entangled particles.” [4]

It is in this process that the adherents of the Quantum Consciousness hypothesis find a potential mechanism for how consciousness could escape the body in the form of quantum information at a speed faster than the speed of light without violating the known laws of physics. It is precisely in this spirit that Hameroff postulates how his theory might apply to life after death:

“‘Let’s say the heart stops beating, the blood stops flowing, the microtubules lose their quantum state. The quantum information within the microtubules is not destroyed, it can’t be destroyed, it just distributes and dissipates to the universe at large,’ Dr. Hameroff told the Science Channel’s ‘Through the Wormhole’ documentary.

If the patient is revived, however, this quantum information can go back into the microtubules and that is what we describe as ‘a near death experience‘.

‘If they’re not revived, and the patient dies, it’s possible that this quantum information can exist outside the body, perhaps indefinitely, as a soul,’ Dr. Hameroff said…

‘The energy of your consciousness peels away from the physical vehicle at death, in the same way that a pianist can get up and walk away from the piano,’ Steven Bancarz wrote in an article.” [5]

Some would say that materialism degrades the human condition by asserting that consciousness is merely a result of physical phenomena. But on the contrary, I say it empowers the human spirit by showing the complexity not only of the universe but of the human mind. As for the idea of quantum consciousness, it is all, of course, speculative, as the hypothesis is just that- a hypothesis. But if true its ramifications could be enormous in the field of materialist philosophy and philosophy at large. Is it a bit of a stretch? Perhaps, but then again perhaps not. What do you think?

 

Sources:

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2: Quantum Mind

3: Orch OR-Quantum

4: Quantum Entanglement

5: Hameroff Quote

 

Controversial View: Religion Should Be A Private Matter Not only In Relation To The State, But To The Party Of The Advanced Proletariat

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“I am a seminarian and I will join the New People’s Army! Christians For National Liberation!”

I will start by saying that while I consider myself to be a (rather unorthodox) Leninist and a Trotskyist, I fundamentally disagree with Lenin’s and Trotsky’s position on how religion relates to the party of the advanced proletariat.

The Traditional Leninist Position

It should be said that, contrary to myth, Lenin never outlawed religion as such, and made it explicitly clear in his writings that freedom of conscience should reign in socialist society. In The Attitude of The Workers’ Party to Religion, Lenin stated that while

“Marxism has always regarded all modern religions and churches, and each and every religious organization, as instruments of bourgeois reaction that serve to defend exploitation and to befuddle the working class” (Lenin Collected Works Volume 15, p. 403)

that,

“Engels frequently condemned the efforts of people who desired to be ‘more left’ or ‘more revolutionary’ than the Social-Democrats to introduce into the programme of the workers’ party an explicit proclamation of atheism, in the sense of declaring war on religion”(Ibid).

This, by the way, shows the anti-Leninist attitude of Albania under Enver Hoxha, who declared all religious worship and practice to be illegal in 1967 and barred religious cadres from joining the party. This pseudo-revolutionary policy of barring religious cadres is also taken up by the Communist Party of China today.

Furthermore, Lenin goes on saying that

“…in 1877, too, in his Anti- Dühring, while ruthlessly attacking the slightest concessions made by Dühring the philosopher to idealism and religion, Engels no less resolutely condemns Dühring’s pseudo-revolutionary idea that religion should be prohibited in socialist society. To declare such a war on-religion, Engels says, is to ‘out-Bismarck Bismarck’, i.e., to repeat the folly of Bismarck’s struggle against the clericals…” (Ibid).

But make no mistake as to Lenin’s position on the matter. Lenin also said

Social-Democrats regard religion as a private matter in relation to the state, but not in relation to themselves, not in relation to Marxism, and not in relation to the workers’ party” (Idib, 404).

Despite this, Lenin actually advocated the allowances of religious members and even priests into the communist party if they so wished, saying,

“If a priest comes to us to take part in our common political work and conscientiously performs Party duties, without opposing the programme of the Party, he may be allowed to join the ranks of the Social-Democrats; for the contradiction between the spirit and principles of our programme and the religious convictions of the priest would in such circumstances be something that concerned him alone, his own private contradiction; and a political organisation cannot put its members through an examination to see if there is no contradiction between their views and the Party programme.” (Ibid, 408).

“Discrimination among citizens on account of their religious convictions is wholly intolerable. Even the bare mention of a citizen’s religion in official documents should unquestionably be eliminated.” (Lenin Collected Works, Volume 10, p. 84)

But Lenin constantly emphasized the atheism of materialism and Marxism in saying,

“Marxism is materialism. As such, it is as relentlessly hostile to religion as was the materialism of the eighteenth- century Encyclopaedists or the materialism of Feuerbach. This is beyond doubt. But the dialectical materialism of Marx and Engels goes further than the Encyclopaedists and Feuerbach, for it applies the materialist philosophy to the do- main of history, to the domain of the social sciences. We must combat religion—that is the ABC of all materialism, and consequently of Marxism.” (Lenin Collected Works Volume 15, p. 405)

In short, Lenin believed that religion should be a private affair in regard to the state, but not in regard to the party of the advanced proletariat. Lenin taught that the party of the advanced proletariat should fight against religious beliefs as such, even though it never believed in barring religious members from joining, as the contradiction of doing so was a purely personal one. Lenin believed that religion itself was to be combatted, and not merely the bourgeois nature of modern religion.

The Position of Rosa Luxemburg and James Connolly, and Consequently, My Position

Rosa Luxemburg and James Connolly, two of the famous revolutionary Marxists of the 20th century take an entirely different position on the matter of religion in regards to the party of the advanced proletariat. It is precisely their position that I advocate instead of Lenin’s and Trotsky’s.

James Connolly explicitly addresses his view on the matter in a section of Workers’ Republic, June 17, 1899 titled The New Evangel, Socialism and Religion, The Known and the Unknowable. Connolly begins by addressing the fact that the relationship between socialism and atheism is often used as a last ditch attack by the bourgeoisie against the principles of socialism. We saw this in the 20th century with the addition of “In God We Trust” to American currency during the height of the Cold War to combat “Godless” Communism. But in the case of the Cold War, this bourgeois attack had a material basis in the shameful religious persecutions that took place in the so-called Marxist-Leninist states of the 20th Century. Connolly states that this intentional bourgeois obfuscation on the question of religion and socialism often works negatively to deter a religious worker away from socialist politics. A firmly established position of atheism no doubt turns the religious worker away from any socialist party 9/10 of the time, and is undoubtedly negative. In fact, religious persecution was one of the main factors contributing to the fall of the USSR and Eastern Bloc. Connolly further clarifies the pre-Leninist position of the socialists saying that,

“The Socialist Party of Ireland prohibits the discussion, of theological or anti-theological questions at its meetings, public or private. This is in conformity with the practice of the chief Socialist parties of the world, which have frequently, in Germany for example, declared Religion to be a private matter, and outside the scope of Socialist action.* Modern Socialism, in fact, as it exists in the minds of its leading exponents, and as it is held and worked for by an increasing number of enthusiastic adherents throughout the civilized world, has an essentially material, matter-of-fact foundation. We do not mean that its supporters are necessarily materialists in the vulgar, and merely anti-theological, sense of the term, but that they do not base their Socialism upon any interpretation of the language or meaning of Scripture, nor upon the real or supposed intentions of a beneficent Deity.* They as a party neither affirm or deny those things, but leave it to the individual conscience of each member to determine what beliefs on such questions they shall hold. As a political party they wisely prefer to take their stand upon the actual phenomena of social life as they can be observed in operation amongst us to-day, or as they can be traced in the recorded facts of history. If any special interpretation of the meanings of Scripture tends to influence human thought in the direction of Socialism, or is found to be on a plane with the postulates of Socialist doctrine, then the scientific Socialist considers that the said interpretation is stronger because of its identity with the teachings of Socialism, but he does not necessarily believe that Socialism is stronger, or its position more impregnable, because of its theological ally. He realises that the facts upon which his Socialist faith are based are strong enough in themselves to withstand every shock, and attacks from every quarter, and therefore while he is at all times willing to accept help from every extraneous source, he will only accept it on one condition, viz., that he is not to be required in return to identify his cause with any other whose discomfiture might also involve Socialism in discredit. This is the main reason why Socialists fight shy of theological dogmas and religions generally: because we feel that Socialism is based upon a series of facts requiring only unassisted human reason to grasp and master all their details, whereas Religion of every kind is admittedly based upon ‘faith’ in the occurrence in past ages of a series of phenomena inexplicable by any process of mere human reasoning. Obviously, therefore, to identify Socialism with Religion would be to abandon at once that universal, non-sectarian character which to-day we find indispensable to working-class unity, as it would mean that our members would be required to conform to one religious creed, as well as to one specific economic faith – a course of action we have no intention of entering upon as it would inevitably entangle us in the disputes of the warring sects of the world, and thus lead to the disintegration of the Socialist Party.

Socialism, as a party, bases itself upon its knowledge of facts, of economic truths, and leaves the building up of religious ideals or faiths to the outside public, or to its individual members if they so will. It is neither Freethinker nor Christian, Turk nor Jew, Buddhist nor Idolator, Mohammedan nor Parsee – it is only human” (Socialism and Religion, 1899, James Connolly).

*My Bold – TFB

Rosa Luxemburg, a figure so famous among the left that there can no doubt as to her loyalty to Marxism, goes a step further saying that not only should religion be considered a private matter in relation to the party of the advanced proletariat, but to social-democracy as such, saying,

“And here is the answer to all the attacks of the clergy: the Social-Democracy in no way fights against religious beliefs. On the contrary, it demands complete freedom of conscience for every individual and the widest possible toleration for every faith and every opinion.* But, from the moment when the priests use the pulpit as a means of political struggle against the working classes, the workers must fight against the enemies of their rights and their liberation. For he who defends the exploiters and who helps to prolong this present regime of misery, he is the mortal enemy of the proletariat, whether he be in a cassock or in the uniform of the police.” (Socialism and The Churches, 1905, Rosa Luxemburg).

*My bold – TFB

It is in this tradition, that of the pre-Leninist Marxists that I fall. It is well known to my readers that I am a follower of Liberation Theology, and, consequently, a religious communist. It must be said, however, that while we have to combat bourgeois religion due to its loyalty to the bourgeoisie, this fight should be taken up because it is bourgeois and not because it is religion as such. This fight should be taken up by religious communists as well, for every minute a religious institution supports capitalism, it betrays its own emancipatory foundations. We should support any religious movement that tries to emancipate itself from the chains of bourgeois ideology and the defense of capitalist exploitation. Religion always defends the prevailing socioeconomic order, but, with the stubborn struggle against social change, it eventually comes around to support the new order once it is firmly established. Such will no doubt be the path taken by the church when socialism inevitably triumphs over the earth. But by making the struggle against religion an active policy of the party of the advanced proletariat, as was the case in the 20th century, it actually works to prevent this future support by religious institutions of socialism. On the contrary, religious institutions under a socialist state hostile to religious belief will never come around to support socialist society as they did support capitalist society, even though the ethics of socialism fall infinitely more in line with religious teachings than those of capitalism. Such institutions under such conditions will act to militantly defend the reign of the bourgeoisie, and be permanently opposed to socialism.

To quote St. Paisios of Mt. Athos,

“Personally, if the communists weren’t atheist, if they didn’t hunt Christ, I would agree with them. It’s good for the plots of land, the factories, to belong to everyone; not for one to be hungry while someone else is throwing away food.”
-Elder Paisios

That is the only contradiction between religion and socialism the socialist movement of the 21st century need worry about.

I consider myself to be a materialist but not an atheist, and no, there is no contradiction. An actual philosophical inquiry as to my interpretation of materialism and consciousness, however, will be saved for a future post as it would be too lengthy to go into in this post.

I strongly advocate that socialist and communist parties everywhere, not only in the spirit of Rosa Luxemburg and James Connolly, but in the spirit of learning from the horrendous tragedies of the 20th century Marxist-Leninist states, take on an attitude of neutrality towards religion as such.

Sources:

Lenin Collected Works Volume 10

Lenin Collected Works Volume 15

Socialism and Religion, James Connolly

Socialism and The Churches, 1905, Rosa Luxemburg

Elder Paisios Quote