Leslie Mason

The Forum

The Conflict Between Communism and Religion

A Reply to Baldwin

Source: The Communist Review, June 1924, Vol. 5, No. 2.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

Dear Comrade,

In the Forum of last month’s issue of the Communist Review, I noticed a very misleading article entitled “Should We Combat Religion,” criticising the action of the Enlarged Executive of the Comintern for attacking religion, and preaching Atheism in the interests of Communism. According to the writing, “it is not religion itself that our Party should fight against, but only the falsification of it in the interests of capitalist society.”

For a Communist to hold such a confusing opinion is, to say the least, dangerous—both to himself and to the militant interests of the working class. The Christian teachings of the I.L.P. before the war, led to pacifism, which is, judging from the words of Christ, true Christianity, and pacifism lulls into inactivity the best fighting elements of the working class, thereby leaving them entirely at the mercy of the capitalist class, without the will or the means of resistance.

Would Lenin have accomplished the Revolution if he had adhered to the Christian doctrine of pacifism instead of waging the class war? Will the Communist Parties in the various countries overthrow capitalism by the Christian doctrine of love and gentle persuasion instead of by the use of force!

No, decidedly not! No one can be consistently both a Christian and a Communist. A true Christian believes in turning the other cheek, resisting not oppression, returning good for evil. It would be madness for a Communist to adopt such an attitude towards the oppression of the capitalist class.

According to Frederick Engels, so surely does the acceptance of the materialistic conception of history lead to the exclusion of religion that the attempt to couple them betrays charlatanism, or lack of thought. It is indeed surprising that any member of the Communist Party who naturally accepts the materialistic conception of history, which leaves no room for divine influence in the making of history should wish to introduce religion into the Party. If we adopted religion, the result would be disastrous.

I would advise Comrade Baldwin, and all wavering comrades to study Bishop Brown’s “Communism and Christianism,” price 1/-, published by the Communist Party, which ably describes the conflict between religion and Communism.

It should be the duty of every member of the Party to read this book, written to a Christian Socialist by an American bishop converted from orthodox Christianity to Communism, from which the following is a quotation—

“The contradiction in terms known as the Christian Socialist is inevitably antagonistic to working class interests and the waging of the class struggle. His policy (that of the Christian Socialist) is the conciliation of classes, the fraternity of robbers and robbed, not the end of classes. His avowed object, indeed, is usually to purge the Socialist movement of its materialism, and this means to purge it of its Socialism, and to divert from its materialisms to the fruitless chasing of spiritual will-o’-the-wisps. A Christian Socialist is, indeed, an anti-Socialist.”

I will conclude with the memorable words of Comrade Trotsky—

“And therefore, we adopt a ruthlessly irreconcilable attitude to anyone who utters a single word to the effect that mysticism or religious sentimentality might be combined with Communism. Religiousness is irreconcilable with the Marxian standpoint.

“We are of opinion that Atheism, as an inseparable element of the materialist view of life, is a necessary condition for the theoretical education of the revolutionist.

“He who believes in another world is not capable of concentrating all his passion on the transformation of this one."

Yours fraternally,
Barrow Branch