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Revolutionary Worker #1227, February 1, 2004, posted at rwor.org

May Day 2001, the RCP released its Draft Programme with the slogan "Looking for a Plan to Change the World?.It's Here!" Since the release of the Draft Programme, or DP, the RCP has learned from the sentiments, thoughts, and opinions of thousands of people checking it out. All the while the RCP has been popularizing its revolutionary strategy and vision.

The RW has been publishing selected comments, criticisms, and suggestions from people studying the DP. In this issue, we are publishing two comments from RCP comrades on the DP's approach to religion and religious forces.


I have had several conversations recently with a very radical, supportive clergyman who has raised criticisms of our stance on religion as "one-sided." He has said he LOVES the Chair's exposure and denunciation of the Christian fundamentalists (in both the interview with Carl Dix and in speeches), but that he firmly believes there is another, progressive trend in Christianity that needs to be acknowledged and with which he himself identifies. I haven't had had a chance to get deeply into what he thinks about the "Preaching..." book, especially the second essay where the Chair addresses this directly by taking on Wallis' views. And this clergyman is also very challenged with the realization that some of his deeply held beliefs are hard-pressed to stand up under materialist analysis.

But coming off this, I think that the Programme needs to take into account that some religious people, precisely from what they believe as true Christian (or other religious) ideas, stand on the side of the people and can be important allies of the revolutionary proletariat, from now well into the dictatorship of the proletariat. In fact, some of these radical clergy could play a very important role in realignment of class forces leading up to--and at the time of--the emergence of a revolutionary situation. On rereading the paper on the Chicano struggle, a sentence stood out that might be adapted to be included in the Programme. On page 29, in the section "Indigenism," it says, after criticizing the role of religion: "But we also know there are many people who, out of religious conviction or similar ideals, are propelled to fight against injustice, oppression, and sometimes to consciously fight against imperialism. So we urge people to take up this yardstick in evaluating whatever set of beliefs they are gravitating towards--do those beliefs lead them to accommodate with their oppression--to make their peace with it--or to overthrow it?"

Perhaps such a thought could be inserted into Part 1--page 25. In the paragraph beginning, "At the same time, communists are atheists...," after the sentence "Communists also recognize religion's role in instilling a sense of powerlessness in the masses and discouraging them from rising up in revolution"--add the phrase: "even though many religious people are propelled to fight against injustice and oppression and may even side with the revolution out of religious conviction." As I write this I don't think this is quite right (a contradiction between the sentence as written and what I just suggested). But I do think that many religious people, including clergy, can be won to stand on the side of the revolution...and this will take both struggle.as well as ability to unite with them in their convictions that a better world is needed in the here and now.


The debate [on the 2changetheworld. info web site-ed.] around religion has been very interesting. In particular, the debate is very stimulating in the parts relating to how to unite with religious progressives and even advanced people who have some religious beliefs. This strikes me as being important for building the united front, under proletarian leadership.

There has been an interesting exchange around how hard to struggle against religious thinking, and how to unite with religious people. It seems to me that there are two related questions: one is to plant our scientific pole and line, and work to win people over to them; and the other is how to find points of unity with people and at the same time struggle with them over their erroneous ideas (i.e., the influence of bourgeois ideology among the masses).

Some posts have even suggested cutting out (from the DP) the part about the masses leaving behind religious beliefs as socialism advances and scientific education is strengthened among the people. However, I think this part should remain, and it should even be made clearer. This is related to very firmly planting the proletarian, scientific pole and line throughout society and working to educate the people, help them break with wrong ideas, and win them over to the revolution and to freeing all mankind.

In his younger years, Lenin left behind religion when he became aware of all the damage that religion causes. Later, when writing Materialism and Empiro-criticism,he realized that the struggle on the philosophical front was related to the struggle against religion. Mainly, he drew out the class character of religion (what class religions serve), that religion in the hands of the bourgeoisie is an instrument to derail the class struggle among the masses, to block their consciousness. Lenin further argued that we should deeply analyze the question of religion to get at the social roots of religion and deal with all the complexities of the problem.

Probably the majority of the people who participate (in revolution) when the time is right will have some level of religious beliefs. But there could be a tendency to not criticize with the necessary firmness (as we do criticize the religious fundamentalists) the more "humanist" and/or "enlightened" forms of religion. There have been some posts from people who are examples of these more enlightened forces.

Lenin pointed out that the more "refined" forms of religion can be more dangerous, because they reject some of the clearly more contradictory and non-scientific parts of religious doctrine and clean up some of the slavishness expressed in these doctrines. Such "refined" religious forms can come to have more influence among the people in revolutionary times, or even with just the development of the capitalist-imperialist society.

From the Draft Programme (p. 85):

An important question that the proletarian state will have to deal with is religion and religious activity. The socialist state will uphold people's right to worship and to hold religious services and will provide them with the necessary facilities and materials for doing so. Religious people will not, however, be allowed special privileges, nor will they be permitted to use religious activity as a means to promote reactionary political movements. The proletarian state will monitor and regulate their finances to prevent them from becoming a source of capital or otherwise employed in violation of the principles and laws of the socialist state.

When forces do arise within the new society who attempt to carry out counter-revolutionary political activities and/or the exploitation of the masses under the cloak of religion, they will be prevented from doing so and politically suppressed, together with counter-revolutionaries of all other kinds. But as long as religious people do not actively organize against the continuing revolution, they will be allowed to hold services and other similar activities.

At the same time, communists are atheists: they do not believe in supernatural forces or beings of any kind and instead understand that it is the masses themselves who, through taking up and applying the principles of Marxism, must and will achieve their own emancipation and continually advance humanity's understanding of and transformation of nature. And further, they recognize that the role of religion is to instill in the masses the sense that they are powerless before the forces of nature, and those that rule over them in society, and to console them in their misery rather than arousing them to rise up and abolish the source of it through revolutionary struggle.

The Party, as the leading force of the working class and in the proletarian state, cannot and must not attempt to force people to give up religious beliefs. Rather, it must wage an ideological struggle over this question and rely on those among the masses who hold such beliefs to cast them off on their own. And this they will do, as they come to see--through the advance of the revolution, the masses' increasing mastery over society, and their continually developing ability to know and change the world in general--that these religious beliefs are incorrect and, more, that they are a burden carried over from capitalism and the dead weight of backward tradition.

Therefore, the proletarian state will, on the one hand, uphold the right of people to believe in religion and, on the other hand, will propagate atheism and educate the masses in the scientific world view of Marxism in opposition to all religious beliefs.

Through the educational system and other means, the Bible , the Torah , the Koran and other religious works and doctrine will be analyzed and criticized with the science of Marxism. In this way--and in general through the process of ideological struggle and persuasion, together with the overall advance through the socialist revolution toward communism--the masses themselves will be enabled to break and cast away the bond of religion and other mental and material shackles and achieve their full emancipation.