Karl Marx And The Decline Of Democracy
By CHARLES G. MOR TIMER
WE have seen that since the Reformation man has been in search of liberty. In securing " religious liberty," he has been handicapped by one profound mistake; he forgot that the Mysteries of Christ were entrusted in their fullness to one undivided body.
His search for political liberty has fared better; the distinctive spheres of authority of Church and State have often been better understood, though at any moment the old conflict can break out in its acutest form. But at any rate we Catholics in England can be profoundly grateful for over a century of toleration and emancipation; while our Parliamentary institutions " broadening down from precedent to precedent " became a model Which was lauded and imitated the world over.
The Movement Against Democracy
It may seem strange that the search for economic liberty has precipitated the most advanced kind of Stale Absolutism today but we must remember that as far back as 1864 in the Syllabus of Errors Pius IX condemned its exaggerated claims.
But to follow the whole trend of events, the decline of democracy on the one hand, the formulation of Socialist States on the other, we must go back to the teaching of Karl Marx in the last century. It is by no means certain where the intellectual movement against democracy originated, whether among the followers of Hegel and Nietzsche, or, as some think, among the Catholic and nationalist writers of the Third Republic, but it seems clear that this economic search, the change in world economic conditions, is the potent fact.
Karl Marx was a Jew who studied his subject in the British Museum Library. His idea of the State, though not its content, he took from the philosophy of Hegel. Hegel taught that the Idea of the State was gradually evolved; two contending ideas met, blended and provoked a similar conflict while the Idea was approaching realisation. Such was the history of man, a constant reconciling of opposites into a higher synthesis.
'Dynamic Nazidom —Static Church"
A renewed plea that the German Concordat with the Vatican is now out of date is made • by Professor Dr. Werner Weber, writing in the Zeitschrift des Akademie fur Deutsches Recht.
In his article Professor Weber expresses the opinion that the Concordat is little by little losing its juridical authority, for it is too much infected by the Weimar republican constitution of Germany which cwas ousted by the Nazi He supports this opinion by the view, now fairly common in Nazi circles, that the dynamic Nazi regime cannot rightly be shackled by treaties with the legalistic, static Church. The one " moves with the times," the other doesn't. An accord between institutions of such different characters is impossible.
Dr. Weber also holds that the Austrian Concordat became inoperative at the Anschluss.
CATHOLIC INVALIDS' UNION An Experiment in the Plymouth Diocese
A Catholic Invalids' Union has been successfully inaugurated in the diocese of Plymouth, with the approval of the Bishop, Mgr. J. Barrett.
The Honorary Secretary and organiser, Miss Warren Vernon, of Rope Walk, Ashburton, South Devon. states: " I myself am bedridden. and I am convinced that invalids could do so much for the Church of God, by prayer and perhaps even by work, if they were united. • ..
" We are going to pro and work for the Holy Childhood Missionary Society and for Our Lady's Missionary League, and 1 will endeavour to write personal letters to each member as occasion may require."
Members will daily recite " the invalid's prayer," collect funds for Our Lady's Missionary League. make garments for the Missions, and write to lonely Missionaries, Nuns, arid other invalids.
A similar Catholic Invalids' Union flourishes in Italy, and enjoys the special blessing and interest of the Pope.
Karl Marx took this idea and turned it
upside down. For him the determining factor was the material equipment of society. The "powers of production " in their ceaseless development were the true causes of changing social structures and class relationships. I suppose this can be regarded as a partial reading of History, though you will observe it is a purely materialistic conception. We seem to have
drifted a long way from the eternal and divine laws of St. Thomas Aquinas!
But Marx went further than this; the subject class, Labour, is at last to be the only class left; everything else., all man's past, is to be wiped out.. There is to be a classless Society; no more exploitation; not even a State is to be left, for that entailed the government of class by class; there will be merely a social administration of the community's resources in the interests of all.
Came the war of 1914: came the Russian Revolution of 1917: and here was a vast country in which this unholy drama could be staged, with Lenin as producer and lead
ing actor. A mighty dictatorship! But that, say the Communists, will pass; it is only a necessary stage, a thing that will of itself wither away when the true forms of administration are ready and when the whole world has been converted to these principles and the danger of attack from without, or strikes from within, is over.
Vain dream, we might well say in 1938! But that, none the less, was the original theory and programme.
Now let us compare with Russian Communism the other new form of political organisation which is challenging Parliamentary government in Europe today, Fascism. Here the underlying idea is not " class," but the Nation. Its quest is a political organ that shall express the entire national life. Italian Fascism wa.s created by Benito Mussolini and arose out of the chaos of post-war Italy. It began with a grand system of "hates." It hated Communism, class-warfare and international labour movements. It hated parliamentarism which had rendered Italy impotent. It hated pacifism, because Italy had ambitions not satisfied at Versailles. It was a call to action; an attempt to organise the entire able-bodied population in the service of the nation. Fascism requires a personal leader from whom all authority devolves; it glorifies force and " power politics" in international affairs. Henceforth the nation is organised on functional lines, not upon mere divisions of territory or of classes.
Nothing Beyond, Against, Without
Here then is the totalitarian state of which we can find examples not only in Italy and Germany but in Turkey and Mexico. Its creed is "Nothing beyond the State; nothing against the State; nothing without the State."
We can see its advantages; irritated with the lagging tempo of Democracy, we may long for a personal leader in the crises of modern life; stung by the unfairness of labour conditions, we may long for an ideal of communisation. But why, as Catholics, do we object to it?
We do not object to one-man rule or to new economic experiments or to a certain type of Corporative State. We do object and we shall go on objecting when we are told that the State is the be-all and end-all of our human existence. We will not accept a Socialism that " conceives human society in a way utterly alien to Christian truth." We will not subordinate our higher goods and our liberty to the exigencies of the most efficient production.
" Society as Socialism conceives it is on the one hand impossible and unthinkable without the use of obviously excessive compulsion; on the other it no less fosters a false liberty, since in such a scheme no place is found for true social authority which is not based on temporal and material well-being, but descends from God alone, the Creator and last end of all things." (Pius Xl: Quadragesitno Anna).
There was a time when the Papacy stood forth as the guarantor of justice within the State and between States and as the active champion of peace. Today the Church is almost forced to bargain for a bare existence; to make friends with the Mammon of Iniquity; to treat with the Devil, if thereby we can save our schools! The Church has been so muzzled that to many it gives the appearance of being compromised. Such can never be the case . . But we have travelled a long way from the Christian foundation of Polities. Can this ground be recovered?
Next week: Today—and Tomorrow.