This year marks the 175th anniversary of the publication of The Communist Manifesto, a political pamphlet co-written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels which argued for the inevitable collapse of capitalism and the triumph of socialism and, eventually, communism. The eschatological vision for mankind was one of communism conquering the world. We can fault Marx for a lot of things, but a lack of eschatological ambition is not one of them. The pamphlet closes with these words: “Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working Men of All Countries, Unite!”
Marx was an ardently optimistic evangelist (though not of the Christian variety). He had “a world to win,” and a message to preach to all creation. The publication of the Manifesto was prompted by such missionary zeal: “It is high time that Communists should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of Communism with a Manifesto of the party itself.” Marx and Engels wrote that the “Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.”
What the devil had told him in the dark, Marx wanted to say in the light, and what was previously whispered, Marx wanted to proclaim on the housetops.
And so he did.
And the Manifesto is widely considered the most celebrated pamphlet in the history of the socialist movement.
The Ten Planks
In the second section of the pamphlet, Marx and Engels provide what has come to be known as the “Ten Planks of the Communist Manifesto.” Modern readers would do well to acquaint themselves with what are essentially warning signs of a society given over to humanism and the worship of the secular state. What will be even more disturbing to some is that the sirens are blaring in these United States of Marxism. They have been for some time.
For the sake of space, let’s simply consider two of the planks.
The fifth plank calls for the “Centralization of Credit in the Hands of the State, by Means of a National Bank with State Capital and an Exclusive Monopoly.” The groundwork for such a system was laid in America before Marx was born with Alexander Hamilton’s National Bank – an institution Hamilton called “a political machine, of the greatest importance to the state.”
Economist Thorsten Polleit notes that Marx’s vision reached its culmination in the United States in 1971 with the termination of “the redeemability of the U.S. dollar into physical gold – and so gold, the currency of the civilized world, was officially demonetized…Since then, all currencies around the globe represent fiat currencies: representing money creation by circulation credit expansion, not backed by real savings or deposits, monopolized by central banks.”
Polleit identifies the “true spearhead” of “central bank Marxism” as the United States central bank: The Federal Reserve (Fed).
The tenth plank of the Manifesto includes “Free Education for All Children in Public Schools.” It should be noted that state-run indoctrination of all children was not invented by Marx. Just like much of the humanistic claptrap of the Renaissance and Enlightenment, it had already been expressed in ancient pagan thought (e.g., Plato argued that the children belong to the state). However, Marx reformulated it and cast a greater vision for socialistic education.
At the time the Manifesto was published, no U.S. state had a compulsory education law. Four years later, Massachusetts became the first state to enact such a measure. By 1918, every state fell in line. Marx’s vision, aided by the work of American Horace Mann, became a reality in our nation generations ago.
Plato could have only dreamed of the scale to which the god of the state has grown. Never in human history have we seen compulsory government education as we experience it today. The devastating consequences of such a pagan system are only beginning to be revealed. And professing Christians, conservative voters, and Republican politicians all continue to support the pagan, Marxist, socialistic beast that is government education.
A World to Win
Marx was a lousy economist, a miserable philosopher, and a pathetic man (letting his children go hungry), but he understood something of the trajectory of Christendom. We read in the Manifesto, “When the ancient world was in its last throes, the ancient religions were overcome by Christianity.” Indeed, they were. Christendom spread and conquered, overcoming the pagan practices of infanticide, human sacrifice, and sodomy. The Renaissance, with its return to paganism and humanism, was a brief stumbling block as Christendom continued to grow, reaching serious (but not perfect) attainments with the Reformation.
But then came the collapse. Marx and Engels are not wrong when they write that “Christian ideas succumbed in the 18th century to rationalist ideas.” The professing church abandoned “thus saith the Lord” as their epistemological authority and acquiesced to Cartesian navel-gazing and philosophical subjectivism. It started by the church adopting a Thomistic approach, relegating God’s revealed Law-Word to a portion of life and allowing autonomous human “reasoning” to deal with the rest. But such an artificial dualism would lead to serious consequences, and the coup de grâce came when the ideas of Descartes, Locke, and Rousseau blossomed into full-scale human autonomy for every area of life.
Broadly speaking, the church gave up the fight in the 18th and 19th centuries, allowing humanistic rationalism to grow like nutsedge in every area of life. Perhaps the church settled on her lees, assuming she could rest on a millennium of hard-won gospel victories. Or perhaps she was like those in Zephaniah’s day who said, “The Lord will not do good, nor will he do ill.” In whatever case, she erred.
There is indeed a world to win, and it will not be won by nostalgia or complacency. Marx understood that. The church did not.
Not until after World War II did a significant number of Christians seriously begin to consider the direction society had taken since America’s founding. And even then, they failed to identify the root problem (apostasy from Christ) and instead tried to coalesce against central control and socialism by appealing to the nebulously defined ideas of tradition and truth. In other words, too little, too late.
Trying to overcome the pagan religion of state centralization with an academic “Great Tradition” repertoire is like taking a letter opener to a gun fight. Predictably, it failed miserably. The “conservative movement” has been unable to defeat Marxism, not because communism is inevitable (as Marx believed), but simply because you cannot defeat a humanistic system with another humanistic system. You don’t fight error with error.
The church of the 20th and 21st century has been more willing to name the name of Burke, Madison, or Reagan in the civil sphere than the name of Christ. This is a problem, and it plays into the hands of the Marxists, who are not afraid to name their god. But Jesus is “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). He is not simply a pietistic savior; he is the “ruler of the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1:5). And he has a world to win, much to the chagrin of Marx and his disciples.