Like the soviet regime created a religion, so does Western liberalism
Iben Thrandholm, journalist, theologian (Denmark):
”Like the soviet regime created a religion, so does Western liberalism”
100 years 100 years since the Bolshevik coup d’état
10 questions for those who think
On the occasion of the October Revolution centenary we decided to ask personalities from the Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russia and western countries the same set of questions. These interviews are intended to represent a modest contribution to the re-evaluation of the events that had an impact in the 20th century. Although 100 years have passed, many misconceptions about the profound causes of this major overturn and the way the „proletarian revolution” is treated by the political elite, the academia and the church hierarchy still remain in the public consciousness of ex-communist countries and of the entire world. We think it is vital to find appropriate answers to questions of this intricacy.
1.What are the spiritual, intellectual and ideological origins of the October Revolution?
In 1917, on the eve of the Bolshevik Revolution. three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, reported seeing the Virgin Mary. The children said that Mary told them that Russia would spread “her errors throughout the world,” but if people prayed, the nation would convert and there would be peace. Why would the Virgin Mary appear asking people to pray for Russia if the revolution had only been about economical distribution and political changes and not about an devasting anti-Christian ideology? The Virgin Mary also told the children that if Russia is consecrated to her Immaculate Heart Russia will be converted and there will be peace.
The Virgin Marys message at Fatima shows that there is a strong connection between the spiritual and the political world. The doctrine of the prophets in the Old Testament is that when a people abandon the ways of the Lord, it leads to economical, social problems and wars. The remedy is political but the root is spiritual. This is a reality that is forgotten and ignored by most modern historians and political thinkers, but is nevertheless the main reason why the Russian revolution took place in the first place.
To get a deeper undestanding for the origin of the revolution, it is worth paying attention to what famous Russians saints prophesied about the events in Russia a century ago. Elder Aristocles of Moscow wrote in 1918:
"An evil will shortly take Russia, and wherever this evil goes, rivers of blood will flow. It is not the Russian soul, but an imposition on the Russian soul. It is not an ideology, nor a philosophy, but a spirit from hell.”
Prior to that, as early as in 1833, St. Seraphim of Sarov also predicted a future political revolt in Russia of spiritual origin. He wrote:
“Before the birth of the Antichrist there will be a great protracted war and a terrible revolution in Russia passing all bounds of human imagination, for the bloodletting will be most terrible: the rebellions of Ryazan, Pugachev and the French revolution will be nothing in comparison with what will take place in Russia. Many people who are faithful to the fatherland will perish, church property and the monasteries will be robbed; the Lord's churches will be desecrated; good people will be robbed of their riches and killed, rivers of Russian blood will flow…But the Lord will have mercy on Russia and will bring her along the path of great sufferings to glory.”
Tsar Nicholas II was above all an Orthodox Christian. Obedience rather than emancipation was his watch word. The overturn and killing of the tsar is another proof of the spiritual origin of the revolution. To establish a Bolshevik society, Gods representative on earth, the tsar, had to be removed and destroyed.
2.Why did this coup d’état happen specifically in Russia and to what extent is it an „imported project”?
Marxism is a western idea that was imported to Russia.
A number of 19th-century Russian prophets and saints—and even some far-seeing laymen like Dostoyevsky—foresaw the Revolution which would come upon Russia. They saw it as a result of unbelief, worldliness, and a purely formal attitude towards Orthodoxy, devoid of the burning and self-sacrificing faith that Orthodoxy demands. Some saw this in general terms as a terrible disaster ready to overtake the Russian land, as did Bishop Theophan the Recluse when he looked at the lack of true Christian faith in so many people and exclaimed: In a hundred years, what will be left of our Orthodoxy? Others saw more specifically the frightful Revolution which would spread to the entire world. Thus, St. John of Kronstadt said, in a sermon delivered in 1904:
“Russia, if you fall away from your faith, as many of the intellectual class have already fallen away, you will no longer be Russia or Holy Russia. And if there will be no repentance in the Russian people—then the end of the world is near. God will take away the pious Tsar and will send a whip in the person of impious, cruel, self-appointed rulers, who will inundate the whole earth with blood and tears” [Father John of Kronstadt, 50th Anniversary Book, Utica, NY, 1958, p.164].
Thus, it was this lack of faith that allowed enemies of Christianity to use political unrest and material poverty of the people to create a revolutionary movement.
Studying the causes of Russia’s 20th century tragedy, the Russian Christian and political philosopher and Ivan Ilyin (1883-1954) wrote:
“The Russian revolution is a reflection of the religious crisis we are living through now, an attempt to establish an anti-Christian public and state system thought up by Friedrich Nietzsche and economically and politically realized by Karl Marx. This anti-Christian virus was exported to Russia from the West…Losing our bond with God and the Christian tradition, mankind has become morally blind and gripped by materialism, irrationalism and nihilism.”
Although socialism and communism were ideas imported from the West, it was only possible to implement them so successfully in Russia because faith in God was weakened.
3. The soviet regime produced a specific ideology which is also named the religion of the soviet civilization. What are the causes and characteristics of sovietolatry? How could you explain the fact that the communist virus still persists in Russia and in the former socialist countries, even after more than a quarter of a century?
The idea that Communists attempted to create a government based on Christian values without Christ has become common knowledge over the past years. Disturbingly, Communists even parodied the Russian Christian belief in holy relics by embalming and displaying Lenin's body on the Red Square. In the Communist religion Marx was like Moses, who led the people to the promised land. Lenin was like Christ. He was a simple boy, born in a poor family, but he came into power. Revolution was like Easter, a resurrection of the state. Stalin was like an apostle spreading the teachings around the world. Communism used a Christian matrix.
Nevertheless, its a confusion to say Soviet Union was anti-Christian. The ideology of state communism was. But millions of Russians actually lived Christian lives despite going to church was dangerous. Under communism many Russians focused on family morality, lived a modest and humble life and sacrificed a lot for their children, which are all basic Christian values.. Some even kept the Orthodox faith in and baptized their children secretly.
When there some “sovietolaters” remains, one has to keep in mind that Russians were taught this anti-Christian religion, for 75 years. An abolition of the sovietolatry cannot happen immediately. People damaged by generations of lies cannot shake them off completely, there must be generational turnover. Really, the big threat to Russia is not the remaining legacy of Sovietism but the temptation of progressive, educated people to ape western liberalism and repeat the same mistake once again.
4. Critics of the soviet experiment often operate with the Western democratic system of reference when addressing the political and economic effects of that period. Why are the religious, spiritual and metaphysical aspects neglected most of the time?
They are neglected because liberalism denies the existence of any metaphysic. The only considerations that matter in its system of reference are material and instrumental ones. Anyone who rejects that system of reference and asserts instead the priority of the religious, spiritual and metaphysical is on liberalism’s own terms necessarily mistaken, if not deluded. The anti-Christian ideology is still at work in full force in the West.
Nevertheless, decades ago the West actually did have some awareness of the spiritual aspect but later lost it. In the 1950s, if you asked Americans what they thought was the heart of the conflict between the East and the West, they might say "free enterprise" compared to socialism, but they'd also say belief in God vs. "godless communism."
”The Knight of Columbus”, a Catholic mens organization, successfully lobbied Congress to add "one nation under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag as a rebuke to Soviet atheism. That's almost lost now. In retrospect, it was all about economics: socialism vs "capitalism" (which is itself a Marxist term).
Today the West is largely dominated by cultural marxism. Even right-wing parties and conservatives circles are influenced by it. The ultimate purpose of cultural marxism is to destroy Christian culture. Therefore it ignores or eliminates any reference to Christian spirituality at ideological and political level.
5. Nowadays, liberalism and communism are considered to represent two completely different ideologies. However, when taking a closer look we can identify a series of striking coincidences and complementarities. How would you describe the differences and similarities between these political theories?
Although to all appearances America firmly rejected Soviet Communism during the Cold War, there was a massive undercurrent of Marxist-Leninist indoctrination at many, if not most, universities and institutions of learning, in the media and artistic communities in the West throughout the 1960s and 1970s that was never challenged or counterbalanced by fundamental American patriotic values.
This was especially true of the entertainment industry. Several group of rock or pop-musicians with a message of 'social-justice' sugar-coated in popular 'spiritual' tunes was actually more helpful to the KGB than someone standing in the pulpit preaching Marxist-Leninist doctrine. This proces was done by Americans to Americans thanks to lack of morals. Most of the people who have been educated in the 1960s, intellectuals are now occupying the positions of power in the government, civil service, mass media and the education system. This has resulted in the ideology of Cultural Marxism, which consists of eroding all traditions and values, thus destroying the foundations of Judeo-Christian culture. In this sense communism and liberalism are like twin brothers.
The main targets of liberalism are religious faith, education, media and culture and the open-border policy. Mass immigration is another tool used by liberalism to destroy the the Judeo-Christian culture.
If faith in God is replaced by materialism as was the case in Soviet Union, that has an effect on individual human souls. Of course the same is true in the West, where consumerist materialism, no less godless than Bolshevism, has tightened its grip and shows no signs of relaxing it. Indeed, it has started a war on human nature itself, notably in anything touching on sexuality.
This has now become a sort of pseudo-religion in the West. Like the soviet regime created a religion, so does liberalism, which operates with a form of trinity: elections, free market and human rights (including same-sex marriages). All of them are held sacrosanct. In liberalism freedom is separated from truth (in the Christian sense) and thats why even freedom and democracy in many Western countries increasingly appear as totalitarian.
6. Some researchers claim that the communist project found a logical continuation in the globalist project. To what extent to you find this opinion valid?
The initial round of Marxism, implemented in 1917 in Russia, was mainly about economical reforms and the distribution of financial goods. This model has now collapsed with the demise of the Soviet Union. No one fights for state socialism any more. Multinational companies have taken over. However, the spirit of Communism lives on in the West, the cradle of Marxism, in the shape of false compassion, freedom and equality in absurd measure.
The second coming of Marxism, which now unfolds in the West, assumes the form of identity politics, which aims to obliterate all distinctions based on race, gender, culture and religion, using the weapon of open borders and mass immigration. The special target is the traditional family, which is attacked constantly and viciously in the attempt to create a culture in which identity and fundamental relations are dissolved. Transgenderism is another way to deprive a human of his or her fundamental identity. All this is done in order to allow the state or large multinational corporations to control these individuals, who no longer know for certain who they really are. As Soviet Communism dismantled economic class distinctions, cultural Marxism and multiculturalism will obliterate all identity and national distinctions in order to facilitate global control of the masses. The white, Christian male, branded as a supremacist, is the new capitalist or nobleman, who must go to the scaffold, like the czar and his courtiers. Accusation of hate-speech is the new form of censorship that radical leftists apply to control all discourse. The media have manipulated the concept of truth beyond all recognition of truth and falsehood.
As we witness the current development in the USA, especially after the violent clashes in Charlottesville and the disturbances and violence instigated by movements like Antifa and Black Lives Matter, it is relevant to ask if we will soon witness a Red October in Washington. It may take only a few weeks to bring a country to the verge of crisis and - after the crisis - the violent change of power, structure and economy, the period of normalization begins, which will usher in a new regime. We have seen the same method used in the Middle East with the Arab Spring, and the Maidan coup in Ukraine in 2014. Western society is now undergoing the same process with destabilization through radical leftist movements and dominance of social justice warriors.
Professor Mark Bray, a historian and lecturer at Dartmouth, author of a new book entitled "Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook”, defined the Antifa movement in an interview on NBC News:
“It’s basically a politics or an activity of social revolutionary self-defence. It’s a pan-left radical politics uniting Communists, Socialists, Anarchists and various different radical leftists together for the shared purpose of combating the far right.
In the interview, Bray explains that ”anti-fascists go about resisting fascism, and discusses if they are ethically reasonable as collective self-defence against fascism and nazism."
The resistance against the “old, conservative America”, also visible in the dismantling of statues, is now so strong that the opposition to Trump think it is reasonable to discuss if the de radical leftist movements are ethically defensible in their fight against what they call fascism and the policies the claim Trump represents.
This bears an uncanny resemblance to the political events leading up to the October revolution in Russia in 1917. Antifa, the tearing down of statues and the march on Washington now resemble the revolutionary Bolshevik uprising that brought down the government in 1917, and later assasinated Czar Nicolas II and his family.
The Democrats have attempted to depose President Trump and his presidency together with the radical leftist ever since Trump was inaugurated, and it could actually amount to a coup d’etat like in the Bolshevik revolution in Russia.
Paradoxically, these are the very political movements that spearhead the hysteria of accusations of Russian involvement in America’s democratic elections and Trump’s alleged cooperation with the Russians. The radical leftists hate Russia because they cannot forgive it for abandoning Marxism and instead embracing conservative, Christian values as the foundations of modern Russia.
7. In the ex-communist world and in the West, russophobia is fed by the artificially maintained confusion between the Soviet Union and Russia (up to 1917 or after 1991), the crimes of the former communist regime being attributed to the Russian nation. It's the same as if Nazism would be attributed to the German nation, something that should cause germanophobia. Whom does the maintenance of this confusion benefit and how could it be overcome?
The analogy with Germany is only half-correct. Clearly, Russia has not repudiated the totality of its Soviet experience in the way that Germany (as the successor state of the post-War West Germany) has done so. Lenin’s statue still stands, after all, in most Russian towns, historical Soviet achievements (such as Victory in 1945) are still publicly celebrated. None the less, the frequently-drawn analogy (and certainly the equation) in the English-speaking press between the Soviet Union and contemporary Russia is false: post-Soviet Russia has publicly repudiated the Marxism-Leninism that formed political and economic philosophy of the Soviet state, as well as the latter’s borders and global role as a superpower in ideological opposition to the West. On the one hand, the analogy serves to deny the legitimacy of Russia’s interests or the need to take them into account and the morality of doing so by the common tools of diplomacy; on the other, it serves as a blanket, a priori rejection of any Russian criticism (lately in the name of conservative values) of the West’s fundamentally liberal public philosophy. The primary beneficiaries of this are those who benefit from this state of affairs, i.e. governing elites of the United States and its close allies, as well as their leading public intellectuals whether on the left or right.
8. Another frequent confusion in Russia and in the former communist space is the simultaneous attachment of a part of the population both to the Church and to the soviet civilization, which is by definition anti-Christian. What should be done to overcome this at least incoherent approach? Could the church hierarchy itself contribute substantially to the surmount of these deviations?
The Bolsheviks wanted to erase the past and start a new world, almost with Year Zero. (Their disciples in Cambodia literally declared a Year Zero in 1975, comparable to the French revolutionary Year One in 1792.) The past was worthless trash to be disposed of. But modern Russia should not succumb to Bolshevik temptations. There was a bad government with an evil ideology, but real people lived, they built, they suffered, they raised three generations. It would not be right just throw those years or the people who lived then in the dustbin.
Instead it better to take a closer look at resurgence of Russian Orthodox Church and faith in the post-soviet society.
Since the collapse of communism Russia has experienced a major spiritual rebirth and a resurrection of the Church without precedent in history. By the start of the 1990s hundreds of thousands of people were seeking baptism in towns and villages all over the country. Significantly, since 1991 over 26,000 churches have either been restored or opened, as well as 800 monasteries, filled with young monks and nuns. Over the next few years 2000 churches are planned for Moscow alone. The denial of the existence of God and persecution of Christians in the land once dominated by communism is no longer a problem. What’s more, president Vladimir Putin, the old KGB agent, not only is aware of and understand his people genuine desire to rediscover their religious roots, but is taking on the role of defender of Christianity on a larger world scale. If one reads Putin’s speeches (rarely reported in secular press in West) it is evident that his Christians faith is central to his policies. Putin gave a talk at the Valdai Forum in September 2013 in front of representatives from most European countries. Central part of his talk was about Christian values:
“We can see how many of the Euro-Atlantic countries are actually rejecting their historic roots, including the Christian values that constitute the very basis of Western civilization. They are denying moral principles and all traditional identities: national, cultural, religious and even sexual. They are implementing policies that equate large families with same-sex partnerships, belief in God with the belief in Satan. (…) Without the values embedded in Christianity, without the standards of morality that have taken shape over millennia, people will inevitably lose their human dignity. We consider it natural and right to defend these values. One must respect every minority’s right to be different, but the rights of the majority must not be put into question.”
In modern Russia the old conflict between church and state belongs to the past. Putin has cultivated strong ties with Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, adopting policies in line with traditional Christian values. In 2013 in an official meeting with Patriach Kirill, Putin stated: "We hope to continue our versatile and positive partnership with the Russian Orthodox Church. We shall do everything we can to help it grow strong. We shall continue our cooperation and joint work in strengthening harmony in our society with high moral values.” No wonder Patriarch Kirill has called Putin “God’s miracle”.
Increasingly Putin’s vision for Russia reflects the ethics of the church. Putin has practically outlawed abortion in Russia, clamped down on homosexual propaganda in front of minors. He strongly support traditional marriage, especially religious marriage, with financial aid to married couples having more than two children. Compulsory religious instruction has been established in all Russian schools, implement a policy instituting chaplaincy in Russian military regiments, have made religious holidays now official Russian state holidays; have instituted a nationwide program of rebuilding churches that were destroyed by the Communists (the most notable being the historic Church of Christ the Saviour in Moscow); and officially support the Russian film industry in producing conservative, religious and patriotic movies.
There may be a minor group of people attached to the idea of communism, but some 80% of the population identifies as Orthodox. For this reason it is fair to say that the Church has already contributed remarkably to surmount the old communist regime.
9. How could it be explained that at the distance of more than a quarter of a century after the fall of communism and the USSR, Lenin's mausoleum is intact and his mortal remains are not buried? The explanations which relate to the sparing of the sensitiveness of a portion of the elderly who harbour nostalgia or the ones about political opportunity do not withstand criticism. What are the spiritual causes that determine this volitional paralysis and what should the Russian elite, the Church, the peak intellectuals, the government administration do in order to get out of the net of this historical curse?
In May 2017 the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia called for Lenin’s body to be removed from the square.The orthodox church said Lenin, and all his images throughout Russia, should be removed.
“The liberation of Red Square from the remains of the main tormentor and repressor of the 20th century, as well as the destruction of all monuments dedicated to him, could become one of the symbols of the Russian people’s reconciliation,” a statement said, according to the state-run Interfax agency. (The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia was formed by priests and religious leaders after 1917 who fled the communist regime and its persecution against all forms of religion.)
A few days later Russian Orthodox Church official Alexander Shipkov dismissed the idea of removing Lenin’s body from the mausoleum on Red Square, saying that before this happens, the country must rid itself of its Soviet and communist legacy.
“We understand very well that his presence on Red Square has nothing in common with Christian traditions. But we cannot raise the question of his reburial before we complete the campaign on de-Sovietization and decommunization in the post-Soviet space.”, he was quoted as saying by Interfax.
Shipkov also called for a temporary moratorium on any war against political symbols in the Russian Federation.
“We can witness how our closest neighbors are using decommunization as an excuse for starting de-Russification campaigns. Can we allow any support to this ideological operation? Of course not,” he said.
At the same time, MP Ivan Sukharev of the Liberal-Democratic Party proposed removing Vladimir Lenin’s Mausoleum from Red Square “to put a final end to all discussions by giving the Bolshevik leaders an Orthodox burial.”
A poll conducted by the government-owned VTSIOM polling agency in April of 2016 showed that 60 percent of Russians support the general idea of burying Lenin. Among those, 36 percent say it can’t happen soon enough, while 24 percent believe it’s better to wait until the generation that still reveres him passes away. Meanwhile, 32 percent say that Lenin should stay put – in the Mausoleum next to the Kremlin.
There is no doubt that the opinion of the Russian Orthodox Church is that Lenin should be buried in the future, but only when time is ripe. Communism is dead. But Christians should be more generous to communism and not destroy monuments and Churches in the same style the Bolsheviks did in the Soviet Union. The strategy of Church is not to defeat communism, but simply to outlive it.
10. In recent years, more and more people see Russia as the bastion of traditional values of the world. Could the anti-liberal stream of thought in Russia advance to the measure of a Conservative Revolution with global impact and what do you think are the chances of a far-reaching religious resurrection that could remove the LIedominant liberal paradigm from the stage of history?
Over the recent years Western foreign policy has failed miserably. It has failed by underestimating the significance of religious faith in the countries subjected to Western intervention. The West’s most egregious foreign policy error is the assumption that the Western secular model, which demands clear separation between organized religion and politics, may be imposed on the rest of the world, irrespective of cultural or religious background.
The unmitigated disaster of Western Middle East policy testifies to the profound error of this presumption. Religious conviction is one of the main reasons for the rejection of Western democracy and the repeated Western foreign and interior policy failures of the past two decades. Western rejection of religion as a valid factor of reality may turn the political agenda upside down, and this offers opportunities and advantages for Russia.
To many nations and peoples outside the West, modernity means a return to their religious roots. The 21st Century therefore does not permit a separation of geopolitics from religion. Vladimir Putin understands this. In February 2012, he made a solemn vow to the Russian Orthodox Church that protection of persecuted Christians all over the world would be a key issue of his foreign policy.
Even though the immediate cause of Russian intervention in Syria is the fight against terrorism, the protection of Christian minorities and the defense of the Christian heritage in Syria play a crucial role. The most revered Christian Orthodox saints were Syrians, including Ephrem the Syriac, Basil the Great and St John Chrysostom.
Due to its secularist ideology, the West is no longer in any position to protect Christian interests in the world as it did for centuries in the past. It now creates terrorism and religious fanaticism fuelling blood-curdling horrors. Russia is the only major power in the world today that accepts the responsibility of protecting persecuted Christians.
The fact that Putin is now the greatest hope of persecuted Christians will have an impact on strategy that reaches far beyond the Middle East. This spiritual dimension of Russian foreign policy has been completely ignored by the Western media. The world’s Christians number 2,3 billions. Two thirds of them live outside the Western world and are exposed to persecution everywhere. According to Open Doors, 322 Christians are murdered for their faith every month, 214 churches and Christian properties are destroyed and 772 incidents involving various forms of violence are committed against Christians.
These persecuted Christians are in dire need of a champion, a great power able and willing to defend them. They obviously accept such help as is offered. Syrian Christians have expressed great elation and gratitude that the Russians have taken decisive steps to put an end to the slaughter of Christians that has been going on for more than four years.
To many Christians around the world, Putin may become the 21st Century Constantine, the Roman emperor who helped the Christians of his day by putting an end to the persecutions endured under the Roman Empire. Constantine also conferred privileges on the Christian church that allowed it to become strong enough to have a positive impact on society. Putin may turn out to play the same role in the history of our day and recreate the Christian superpower that used to be the role played by the West, but which the West has abandoned.
When Western media mention Putin’s declaration of protection for persecuted Christians, they consistently analyze it in terms of a mere tool of geopolitical expansion and imply that this is not rooted in genuine Christian faith. Western pundits portray Putin’s faith as a cynical ploy to promote his political interests. However, this puts on display the abysmal Western ignorance of the spiritual development that has taken place in Russia since the demise of Communism and the Cold War.
In his autobiography “First Person”, published in 2000, Putin states that the first line in any Russian law code should be moral values and that Russia must pay complete attention to its spiritual position, in the same way as Russia is concerned with its political and geographical position. This indicates that President Putin has real understanding of the fact that in this world, the spiritual foundations of political reality have a profound effect on the way a culture develops. A viable culture needs a moral compass that goes deeper than passing political expediency and the secularistic tenet “do what you will”.
Many Christians betrayed by the West now look to Russia for hope and protection, and this can open a new avenue of global influence for Russia.
Russia’s declared determination to protect persecuted Christians has rapidly growing significance for millions of Christians all over the world. Accepting this role is a game changer for Christianity and simultaneously holds the potential for changing Russia’s role in the world.
The Russian Christian philosopher Ivan Ilyin believed in the religious gift and talent of the Russian soul and that Russia has a messianic role in history. In his words, “Russian history is all about morality triumphing over difficulties, temptations, dangers and enemies."
Two other prominent Russian Christian philosophers Nikolai Berdyaev (1874-1948), Vladimir Solovyov (1853-1900) argued that the historic mission of Russia is to lead the way to human unification. Russia would transcend secularism and atheism and create a unified spiritual kingdom. “The Russian messianic conception,” said Berdyaev, “always exalted Russia as a country that would help to solve the problems of humanity.”
Solovyov did not seek to use the Russian Orthodox Church to wall off Russians and Russian culture (from the West), he sought a unity of religions and cultures in order to affect a religious rebirth and a spiritual, mystical, and supernatural orientation in human development as opposed to a materialistic one.