“A specter is haunting Europe – the specter of communism.” This is the famous opening line of the Manifesto of the Communist Party written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1848.
This sentence could perhaps be paraphrased today: “A specter is haunting America – the specter of socialism.”
Is Communism Dead?
Talking about communism is similar to talking about socialism, for communism is only an extreme form of socialism.
After the fall of the “Berlin Wall” in 1990, many thought communism was dead and could be relegated to the “dustbin of history.”
However, is communism really dead?
It is hard to support this assertion. We hold that neither socialism nor communism have died. In fact, although the political power of communism and socialism has declined, it is undeniable that its cultural aspects are now at a peak.
Much more important than the political expansion of communism/socialism is the spreading of ideas and customs that are leading the world to abandon the natural order and Christian civilization. Such ideas and customs can be seen everywhere in campaigns in favor of abortion, euthanasia, same-sex “marriage,” and other moral aberrations.
Somebody could ask: “What do these moral issues have to do with socialism?” The answer can be given at two levels: that of doctrine and of facts.
A Theoretical Approach
Theoretically, the answer to this question is that pride and unbridled sensuality break down intellectual and moral barriers that preserve the order established by God in the universe, thus opening the gates for the progress of socialism. In turn, socialism provides philosophical systematization and political support for such practices.1
In other words, everything that favors immorality on the one hand, or the revolt against any inequality on the other, ipso facto fosters the advancement of socialism. Conversely, socialism favors these same unrestrained evil tendencies of fallen man, masking them under the façade of a pseudo-philosophy and pseudo-science.
A Response From the Facts
Another answer may be found in the facts themselves.
It is no coincidence that, upon coming to power, socialist parties try to implement the homosexual agenda, promote or facilitate abortion, impose stringent “hate crime” laws, or advance other “politically correct” causes.
Let us mention just some recent examples:
Portugal: The parliament has just passed a law establishing the same-sex “marriage.” Last year, abortion was introduced.
Spain: Same-sex “marriage” and further liberalization of abortion were introduced in recent years by the Socialist government lead by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
England: The same measures were introduced by Tony Blair’s Labor Party.
Brazil: President Lula (Workers Party) just signed Presidential Decree No. 7,037, of December 21, 2009 a large and comprehensive package that includes the expansion of abortion, homosexual “rights,” state control, and other socialistic features.
Some might object that these examples of socialism appear in other lands and not in America where these things never happen.
Alarming Signs: Is America Turning Left?
Unfortunately, America is no exception. As the whole world is moving almost imperceptibly toward socialism, America is also following the trend as can be seen by these examples:
1. In schools, students are taught the doctrine of evolution as scientific dogma.
2. The presence of Ten Commandment monuments are being banned from the public square and the invocation of God is forbidden in classrooms.
3. A climate of “class struggle” permeates relationships between employers and employees, professors and students, parents and children and so on.
4. Today’s massified society deprives man of his individuality which can be seen in a real dictatorship of the media that imposes “politically correct” behavior and inhibits reaction against unbridled permissiveness.
5. Forces imbued with an egalitarian metaphysics seek to eliminate any inequality, be it in the family, society or the Church.
6. The right of private property is being progressively eroded by an ever-growing tax burden.
Finally we might mention the program of health care reform that has often been described as “socialist.” Indeed this was the TFP’s own assessment as presented in the statement titled “Socialist Intervention in the Private Sector is Not True Health Care Reform.” Other articles from the media highlight this same socialist focus. To mention a few: “Barack Obama’s Socialist Philosophy,”2 “Socialism Creeps In As America Sleeps,”3 or “Obama’s health care reform is socialism.”4
Thus, we see the advance of socialism in America. However, the best way to evaluate this advance is to define exactly what socialism is.
…the Specter of Socialism
So, What is Socialism?
Socialism is described currently as a system of social and economic organization based on collective or state ownership and administration of the means of production. It is also a philosophical and political theory, in addition to the political movement trying to establish this system. Thus, socialism is more than an economic system. It is a doctrinal system that proposes a major change in lifestyle and social structures.
In fact, as Jesuit philosopher Fr. Victor Cathrein has rightly pointed out:
“We call Socialism a system of political economy, not as if it did not also lead to many political and social changes, but because the gist of socialism consists in the nationalization of property and in the public administration and distribution of all goods.”
“The fundamental principles of socialism belong not to economical but to metaphysical science. Foremost among its tenets is the equality of man…”5
Socialism is, therefore, much more than an economic, social or political system: it is a whole view of man and the universe. It is what the Germans call a Weltanshauung (a comprehensive view of the world and human life).
It is this worldview, grounded on egalitarian metaphysics, that will be the object of this explanation.
Preliminary Remark: Socialism and Communism
From the ideological or philosophical standpoint, there is no substantial difference, properly speaking, between communism and socialism. The founders of modern communism −Karl Marx and Frederick Engels− called themselves “socialists.”6
The very motherland of communism, the Soviet Union, called itself the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; likewise Communist China, Cuba and Vietnam define themselves as socialist.7
Socialism can be applied in varying degrees. Thus, in practice, there can be a difference between an incomplete application of socialism and full-blown communism, which is socialism taken to its ultimate consequences.
Therefore, to define the socialist doctrine, we can use interchangeably socialist authors as well as authors better known as communists.
In our explanation, the summary of the socialist ideology will come from avowedly socialist sources or from papal documents condemning these doctrines. However, for the sake of brevity, literal quotes have been kept to a minimum.
The Socialist Ideology
The socialist ideology can be summarized in twelve main points:
1. Metaphysical Egalitarianism
The foundation of the socialist ideology is metaphysical egalitarianism. This means that the idea of absolute equality is the fundamental assumption of the socialist view of man, society and the universe. All other principles of the socialist ideology stem in one way or another from this fundamental principle.
The assertion of an infinite, omnipotent and omniscient God clashes frontally with the principle of absolute equality. It must therefore be rejected. Indeed, what greater inequality is there than that between the Creator and simple creatures?
3. Materialistic Evolutionism
Socialism holds that there is an obscure force from which we cannot escape that leads humanity step by step to higher planes of social and moral being. History is a progressive process of purification. Socialism − in its full-fledged expression of communism − is the end of this process. Although socialism is the inevitable outcome of the forces underlying social, political, cultural and economic life, we can accelerate progress and evolution through class struggle, cultural warfare, or legislation. In fact, every new fashion, school curriculum, artistic style, law, and the like takes us closer to the socialist worldview. Every effort in this regard is progress; every contrary measure is a setback.8
4. Secularist and Materialistic Worldview
In the universe, there is nothing but matter. God, the soul, and the next life are only chimeras. Thus, what matters is to seek complete happiness in this life. With the help of science, socialists hold that all must strive toward the largest possible amount of pleasure, and avoid any effort or suffering. As a result, all obstacles to happiness must be removed, be they religious, moral, cultural, or any other. 9
5. Contempt of Religion: “The Opium of the People”
Karl Marx explained his contempt for religion in his famous expression that religion is “the opium of the people.” 10 His faithful devotee Lenin also developed this idea: “Religion is opium for the people. Religion is a sort of spiritual booze [or hard liquor], in which the slaves of capital drown their human image, their demand for a life more or less worthy of man.” 11 In other words, religion leads men astray from the present struggle because it promises them the prospect of a future life.By preaching restrictive moral standards, religion hampers absolute freedom. Above and beyond this, religion has a transcendental character which is totally incompatible with science, progress and the material world.
6. Secular Messianism
Socialism is much more than an ideology. It has a messianic character, i.e., it offers a message of “salvation.” This is not eternal salvation, but merely temporal “salvation,” a “salvation” on this earth, achieved not by supernatural but human means. 12
7. From the Idolatry of the State to Anarchy
Socialists teach that, at the present stage of human evolution, it is already possible to abolish private property, social hierarchy and the family. They seek to make the State the sole proprietor of all rights. This State, led by workers and peasants, will maintain complete equality among men. In the future, the universe and man will evolve in such a way that even the State will wither away. 13
8. Ethical and Cultural Relativism
There are no absolute truths or revealed morals that establish immutable standards of conduct that apply to everyone, everywhere, and always. Everything evolves, thus right and wrong, good and evil depend on the socio-economic development of mankind.
9. Social, Political and Economic Egalitarianism
All inequalities, whether of wealth, prestige, or culture, are unjust in themselves. Socialists especially attack the system of wage earning in which an employer, based on the right of private property, “exploits” workers, demanding part of the product of their work as his profit when it should be entirely theirs.
10. Abolition of Private Property and Class Struggle
The Communist Manifesto defines communism as the abolition of private property: “The theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.”The Manifesto calls for the forcible overthrow of all existing social institutions: “Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workingmen of all countries, unite!”
11. Hostility to Marriage and the Traditional Family − Free Love
Sexual intercourse is simply a physiological function, like any other. 14 Consequently there is no reason for restricting it to marriage. 15 This applies even less to the “present form of marriage” between one man and one woman which is monogamous and indissoluble. 16
Two questions and answers from Engels’ Communist Catechism illustrate well the socialist view on education.
“18. What will be the course of this [communist] revolution?
“(viii) Education of all children, from the moment they can leave their mother’s care, in national establishments at national cost. Education and production together.” 17
“21. What will be the influence of communist [socialist] society on the family?
“It [communism/socialism] will transform the relations between the sexes into a purely private matter which concerns only the persons involved and into which society has no occasion to intervene. It can do this since it does away with private property and educates children on a communal basis, and in this way removes the two bases of traditional marriage – the dependence rooted in private property, of the women on the man, and of the children on the parents.” 18
Conclusion: A Total Incompatibility Between Socialism and the Doctrine of the Church
The final conclusion could not be clearer: socialism is incompatible with Catholic doctrine, both because of its conception of the universe and man, and because it attacks two institutions which are pillars of Christian civilization, i.e., private property and the family.
This finding is timely and significant. This is because some socialist proposals may seem “moderate” and therefore less alarming. However, by understanding the final goals of socialism, we can see that they will lead in one way or another to a program which is harmful to the family, private property rights, free initiative, legitimate interests, in a word, the true freedom of God’s children.
If Catholics do not have a clear notion of the socialist ideology in all of its applications, they could accept some socialist initiatives as harmless or even feel that they could reach a compromise. However, even the so-called moderate socialism is incompatible with Catholic doctrine and natural law.
Thus there is truly a “specter’ that is haunting America: the specter of a veiled socialism. A “specter” that is anything but illusory. It is, in fact, a very real, concrete and active “specter.”
This article is based on a talk given by Mr. Gustavo Solimeo on January 23, 2010 to participants of the TFP Student Conference in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania.
- Cf. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Revolution and Counter-Revolution, Chapter 7, n. 3. Available at https://tfp.org/tfp-home/books/revolution-and-counter-revolution.html
- Rev. Victor Cathrein, S.J., Socialism Exposed and Refuted − A Chapter from the Author’s Moral Philosophy, Translated from the German, by Rev. James Conway, S.J., Second edition (New York, Cincinnati, Chicago: Benziger Brothers, 1902). Retrieved from http://www.archive.org/stream/socialismexposed00cathuoft/socialismexposed00cathuoft_djvu.txt
- Engels even coined the expression “Scientific Socialism” (Frederick Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, 1880) to describe the philosophical-social-political-economic theory opened up by Karl Marx, as opposed to “utopian socialists” (everyone else, before them…).
Besides, Engels, in his Communist “Catechism” (The Principles of Communism), answering the question “How do communists differ from socialists?” does not disagree with the socialists on principles but only about methods, or the degree of radicalism in the application of the principles to concrete situations (Frederick Engels, The Principles of Communism , Q. 24. Retrieved from http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/11/prin-com.htm).
- China’s constitution establishes: “Article 1. The People’s Republic of China is a socialist state under the people’s democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and peasants. The socialist system is the basic system of the People’s Republic of China. Sabotage of the socialist system by any organization or individual is prohibited.” (CONSTITUTION OF THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA, at http://english.people.com.cn/constitution/constitution.html). Likewise, the constitution of Communist Cuba states: “article 5. – The Communist Party of Cuba, Martian and Marxist-Leninist, organized vanguard of the Cuban nation, is the superior directing force of society and of the State, which organizes and orients common efforts toward the high ends of the construction of Socialism and the advance towards the communist society.” (CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF CUBA, at http://www.cuba.cu/gobierno/cuba.htm). Vietnam’s 1992 constitution establishes: “Article 1. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is an independent and sovereign country enjoying unity and territorial integrity, including its mainland, Islands territorial waters and air space. … Article 4. The Communist Party of Vietnam, the vanguard of the Vietnamese working class, the faithful representative of the rights and interests of the working class, the toiling people, and the whole nation, acting upon the Marxist-Leninist doctrine and Ho Chi Minh’s thought, is the force leading the State and society.” (GOVERNMENT WEB PORTAL – ONLINE INFORMATION AGENCY OF THE SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF VIỆTNAM GOVERNMENT www.vietnam.gov.vn.
- For instance, laws that protect traditional values − such as the family, private property and religion.
- Hence, the notorious “liberation movements”: Women’s Liberation Movement or Women’s Lib (feminism as a form of socialism), homosexual “liberation” movements, Liberation Theology & so forth.
- “Die Religion … Sie ist das Opium des Volkes” − Karl Marx. Kritik des hegelschen Staatsrecchts (Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right).
- V. I. Lenin. Socialism and Religion, article published in Novaya Zhizn, No. 28, December 3, 1905. From Marxists Internet Archive. (Our emphasis.)
- Just a sample: “Finland emerges [1905-06]with, proportionately, the largest socialist party in the world … Ehrnrooth emphasizes the importance of emotional dynamics based on class hatred and envy, a sense of injustice, and the hope for salvation on this earth. Instead of waiting for a paradise in the afterlife, Finnish workers [i.e. socialists] saw salvation in the redistribution of property and in the distribution of property and incomes, the leveling of human conditions to create a classless new socialist society.” (Pekka Kalevi Hamalainen. Review of Power of the Word, Force of Hatred: Socialist Revolutionary Doctrines and Their Effect in the Finnish Workers’ Movement, 1905-1914 by Jari Ehrnrooth. In The American Historical Review, Vol. 99, No. 4 (Oct., 1994), p. 1339 Available at http://www.jstor.org/stable/2168860)
- It will be the reign of anarchy, which these utopians conceive as being possible, without causing disorder or confusion.
- “In a book published in Leipsic we find the following thought expressed: ‘Sexual impulse is neither moral nor immoral; it is simply natural like hunger and thirst. Nature knows nothing of morality.’ But organized society is very far from recognizing the truth of this sentence.” (August Bebel. Woman and Socialism, Chapter VII: Woman as a Sex Being, # 1. Retrieved from
- “Woman may love whom she pleases and as long as she pleases. If she is not satisfied with one alliance, she may loose the knot and bless some other with her love. Married or unmarried, she is to enjoy perfect equality with the sterner sex.” (August Bebel, Die Frau, p. 192, as summarized by Fr. Cathrein, S.J, Socialism Exposed and Refuted. Retrieved from
- “Man should be free to dispose of the strongest instinct of his nature as of every other natural instinct. The gratification of the sexual instinct is just in the same way the personal affair of every individual as is the satisfaction of any other natural appetite. Therefore no one is obliged to render an account of such gratification; nor is any uncalled-for intermeddler permitted to interfere in this matter. Prudence, education, and independence will facilitate and direct the proper choice. If disagreement, disappointment, or disaffection should arise, morality [!] demands a disruption of the unnatural and, consequently, immoral alliance.” (August Bebel, Die Frau, p. 192, quoted by Fr. Cathrein, S.J, Socialism Exposed and Refuted, op., cit.)
- Frederick Engels, The Principles of Communism (1847), q. 18. Retrieved from http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/11/prin-com.htm
- Frederick Engels, The Principles of Communism (1847), q. 21. Retrieved from http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/11/prin-com.htm