proportion as the knowledge of the truth is disseminated by a twofold
revelation: (1) the truth as it is revealed by history according to the
Marxian interpretation thereof, a revelation of the truth which is
saving the world from the robbing impositions of the capitalistic
interpretation of politics, and (2) the truth as it is revealed by
nature, according to the Darwinian interpretation thereof, a revelation
which is saving the world from the robbing impositions of the
supernaturalistic interpretations of religion.
Man has always had as a basis for his thought, belief and action, a
system for the production and distribution of the necessities of life.
This is the discovery of Karl Marx which is known as the scientific or
materialistic interpretation of history.
According to the scientific interpretation of history which is taught by
naturalistic socialism, man is what he is, and his institutions are what
they are, because he has fed, clothed and housed himself as he has.
According to the traditional interpretation of history, which is taught
by supernaturalistic Christianism, man is what he is because of his
thinking, believing and acting with reference to a revelation of a god,
as it has been interpreted by his inspired representatives, the great
prophets and statesmen, like Isaiah and Luther, Moses and Washington.
Perhaps the best proof of the correctness of the scientific or
naturalistic explanation of the career of man and of the incorrectness
of the traditional or supernaturalistic one is afforded by the history
of morals, the soul of both religion and politics, without which neither
could have any existence.
Before the discovery of the art of agriculture, man was dependent for
his food upon fruits and nuts, game and fish. When these sources of
sustenance failed, the tribes living in the same neighborhood fought
with each other in order that the victorious might eat the vanquished.
During this period cannibalism was morally right, and it probably
extended through at least two hundred thousand years, even into the Old
Testament times. So righteous and holy was it that, in the course of
time, the victims were recognized as saviour gods and the drinking of
their blood and eating of their flesh constituted a Lord's Supper in
which the god was eaten.
Cannibalism is the basis of our sacrament of the holy communion of bread
and wine. As a connecting link between these extremes there was the form
of communion which consisted in the eating of animal sacrifices.
By a sacrament with such an origin, you and I render our highest act of
worship, though yours is still directed towards one among the
supernaturalistic divinities and mine is now directed towards humanity.
You say of a divinity: Thou, Lord, hast made me after thine own image
and my heart cannot be at rest until I find rest in thee. I say of
humanity: Thou, Lord, hast made me after thine own image and my heart
cannot be at rest until it find rest in thee.
Within the social realm humanity is my new divinity, and your divinity
(my old one) is a symbol of it, or else, so I think, he is at best a
fiction and at worst a superstition.
You will be surprised, and I do not expect you to understand me, when I
tell you that by translating the services and hymns from the language of
my old literalism into that of my new symbolism, I am getting as much
good out of them as ever and indeed more. I love the services,
especially that great one, the Holy Communion, and the hymns, especially
those great ones, Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah; Lead, Kindly Light;
Abide With Me; and Jesus, Lover of My Soul.
My experience has convinced me that the sentimental and poetical
elements in religion, to which I attach as much importance as ever, are
as readily excited and securely sustained by fixing thought and sympathy
upon the martyred human savior, the working class, as upon a crucified
divine saviour, who after all, as the suffering son of God, is but a
symbol of the suffering sons and daughters of man, the workers, from
whom all good things come.
If grace at dinner means anything, it is addressed to a god who is the
symbol of the many workers who did the innumerable things necessary to
the producing and serving of it, without whom there would be nothing of
all the good things on the table.
In the representation about my pleasure in the services of the church
and their value to me, and in many representations scattered throughout
this letter, I have in mind the question of an unanswered letter of
yours, bearing date, February 25th, 1919, the one in which you ask, in
effect, by what right a man can remain in an institution after he has,
as I have, abandoned its chief doctrines and aims as they are
The right of revolution is the one by which I justify my course, and
surely no consistent Protestant Christian or American citizen will doubt
the solidity of this ground; for Protestantism and Americanism had their
origin in revolutions.
Our national declaration of independence contains this famous
justification of political revolutions, and it is equally applicable to
religious ones, for religion and politics are but the ideal and
practical halves of the same social reality:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created
equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are
instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent
of the governed: that, whenever any form of government becomes
destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter
or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its
foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such
form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and
happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long
established, should not be changed for light and transient causes;
and, accordingly, all experience hath shown, that mankind are more
disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right
themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing
invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under
absolute despotism, it is their right - and it is their duty - to
throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their
Jesus was nothing if he was not a revolutionist. Anyhow, his alleged
mother is authoritatively represented as believing him to have been
foreordained as one, for this song is put into her mouth:
He hath showed strength with his arm: he hath scattered the proud
in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the
humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath
sent empty away.
This Christian socialism, like Bolshevik socialism, turns the idle rich
empty away; but, whereas the Christian gives them no chance to get
anything to eat, the Bolshevik allows them to have as much as the poor,
if they will work as hard.
Assuming for the sake of argument, that there may have been an
historical Jesus who taught some of the doctrines, in accordance with
the representations of the gospel, which are attributed to him, I am
nevertheless justified in claiming that he was quite as heretical
touching the faith of orthodox Judaism as I am touching that of orthodox
As to the Jewish faith he said, in effect, of himself what I say of
myself: I have all of the potentialities of my own life within myself. I
and my god are one. He dwells in me and I in him, and we are on the
earth, not in the sky.
As to the Jewish church and state, Jesus taught that they had become
utterly antiquated and that it was the mission of himself and disciples
to establish a new heaven, that is to remodel the church; and a new
earth, that is, to remodel the state; both remodelings being with
reference to the service of humanity by enlightening its darkness and
alleviating its misery here and now, rather than teaching it to look for
light and happiness elsewhere and elsewhen.[E]
As for the faith and church of orthodox Christianism there is no reason
for believing that he would be any more loyal to either than am I. His
loyalty was to the truth and to the proletarian, and they (this faith
and church) are disloyal to both, being ever on the side of tradition
against science, and on the side of the owner against the worker.
Jesus remained in the Jewish church, in spite of his many and great
heresies, until he was put out by death.
My contention is that in view of this example, whether it be, as you
think, of an historical or, as I think, of a dramatic character, there
is no reason why I should voluntarily go out of the Christian church.
Religion in general and Christianity in particular are nothing unless
they are embodiments of morality, and morality does not consist in
professions of belief in a god and his revelations as they are recorded
in a bible and condensed in a creed, but in a desire and effort to
acquire a knowledge of the laws of nature in order that, by conformity
to them, life may be made longer and happier.
When this desire exists and this effort is made with reference to one's
own self, they constitute morality; when with reference to one's own
family and associates, they constitute religion, and when with reference
to all others of contemporary and future generations, they constitute
But in making such distinctions the fact should not be lost sight of
that at bottom there is no difference between morality, religion and
Christianity. They are synonyms for the same virtues, the desire and
effort to know and live the truth as it is revealed in the doings of
nature. There are no other revelations of the truth, nor is there any
other morality, religion or Christianity.
Socialism is for me the one comprehensive term which is a synonym at
once of morality, religion and Christianity. Marxian and Bolshevikian
socialism are two halves of one thing, the theoretical half and the
practical half. Marxism is socialism in theory. Bolshevism is (perhaps
imperfectly as yet) socialism in practice.
As long as gods dominate the sky and capitalists prevail upon the earth,
the world will be safe for commercial imperialism, having a small heaven
for the few rich masters and a large hell for the many poor slaves.
Come over and help us make the world safe for industrial democracy by
banishing the personal, conscious gods from the sky and the lying,
robbing capitalists from the earth.
But in coming there is no need for leaving your church any more than
there is for leaving your state. During the short time which is for me,
before the night cometh in which no man can work, I shall remain in both
as long as the powers that be allow it, and do what little I can to
revolutionize them - revolutionize the church into a school for the
teaching of truth instead of lies, and revolutionize the state into a
hive for the making of commodities for the use of all instead of for the
profit of a few. In doing this I shall be following in the very
footsteps of the human Jesus.
After it was discovered that the ground, by planting and cultivating,
would produce the necessities of life, when a tribe found that it had
too little of it for its growing population, it would go to war with the
weaker among adjacent tribes for the purpose of securing its territory;
but from this on the vanquished were not eaten, and it was morally wrong
to eat them. They were kept alive and put to work at raising harvests
for their conquerors, hence arose the institution of slavery, and hence
its moral rightness even in this country of the free, down to the
beginning of the generation to which I belong.
However, human slavery has never ended, nor will it ever end while the
competitive system for the production of the necessities of life for
profit rather than use continues. Human slavery is, so to speak, the
basic ingredient of this system.
Speaking broadly, there have been three forms of human slavery - the
chattel, feudal and wage slaveries - the third much worse than the first,
and the second intermediary between them.
The chattel slave, as the adjective signifies, was the property of his
master, as much so as were the horse or the mule with which he worked,
and he was cared for in much the same way and for about the same reason.
The feudal slave was as really a chattel as was his predecessor, only he
had to look out for himself to a greater extent; and, more was expected
from him of accomplishment for the opulence and glory of the master,
especially insofar as these depended upon the success of his wars.
The wage slave is, likewise, as really owned by his master as was the
chattel or the feudal slave; but, if the master has no need for his
service, he is altogether down and out, as the feudal slave was not and
still less the chattel, and he has accomplished at least ten times more
for his master than did either of his predecessors.
So far man has produced and distributed the necessities of life by a
competitive system. The existing form of this competition is known as
capitalism. It has supplanted, or at least overshadowed, every other
form and is, so to speak, monarch of all it surveys.
The system as it now stands divides the world into two spheres - a small
one, in which a few live surfeitingly by owning, and a large one, in
which the many live starvingly by working; and, yet, ultimately,
absolutely everything for both depends upon the worker and nothing at
all on the owner.
Yes, the worker is indispensable to the owner, as much so as (to use the
classical illustration) the dog to the flea; but the owner is no more
indispensable to the worker than a flea to a dog. As dogs would be much
better off without fleas, so would workers without owners.
The discovery that the itch is caused by a parasite was of an epoch
making character because it led to the discovery that many, if not most
of the diseases by which mankind and also animal kind are afflicted are
of a parasitical character. This is as true of the social organism as of
the physical. Capitalism is the tape worm of society.
The existence of the master and slave classes inevitably gives rise to
four struggles: (1) the struggle of the slaves with the master for
better conditions, issuing in rebellions; (2) the struggle between
masters for advantages in markets, issuing in wars; (3) the struggle
between the slaves for jobs, issuing in a body and soul destroying
poverty; and (4) the struggle of the slaves with the master for a
reversal of conditions, issuing in revolutions.
All this struggling between the classes and within them tends towards
two results with both classes.
In the case of the master class, these results are the making of the
rich fewer and the remaining few richer.
In the case of the slave class, these results are the making of the
miserable poor more numerous and all less happy.
While capitalism stands, all talk about peace on earth and good will
among men will be so much hypocrisy; for, until it falls, the world will
be divided into the slave and master classes and these four contentions
with these results will continue to fill it with hatred and strife.
The overthrow of capitalism in Russia is the greatest event in the
history of the world and it has converted International Socialism (the
Marxian revolutionary kind) from a theory into a condition.
Theories come and go. Conditions remain and work. From this on
revolutionary socialism will be working, night and day, with might and
main, here and there, everywhen and everywhere, and its three herculean
tasks are: (1) to dethrone the great imperialist, competitive
capitalism; (2) to enthrone the great democrat, co-operative
industrialism; and (3) to make the world safe for an industrial
In less than three years revolutionary socialism in Russia has
accomplished more of these three tasks for the world, than all the
states and all the churches with all their wars have done in the whole
course of man's career, extending through at least two hundred thousand
years. Indeed they never did anything to these ends. On the contrary,
what progress has been made towards them was made in spite of their
strenuous opposition at every step.
Revolutionary socialism is a world movement towards the deliverance of
the producing slave from the non-producing master who has robbed him of
the fruits of his toil and left him half dead on the wayside - the only
effective movement to this humanitarian end.
Revolutionary socialism is the Good Samaritan of the despoiled and
wounded laborer. The reformatory kinds of socialism are so many priests
and Levites who pass by on the other side.
Of no reformatory socialism is this more true than of the Christian
kind. Christian socialism is absolutely worthless, and its utter
worthlessness is due to the essentially parasitic character of
supernaturalistic or orthodox Christianity.
Until the reformation, Christianity was dominated by monks - parasites
who lived by begging, lying, and persecuting; and since then by
capitalists - parasites who live by robbing, lying and warring.
Monks and capitalists have this in common, that they are natives of the
realm of parasitism.
We shall never have peace on earth and good will among men until we have
a parasiteless humanity, and we must wait for this until we have a
classless world. Parasitism is a boon companion of classism.
Nor can the earth ever be rid of its parasites until the celestial world
is rid of the class gods which capitalists have made in their own image
and likeness, nor until the terrestrial world is rid of the class states
and codes, churches and gospels which their respective class kings or
presidents and their class priests or preachers have had the gods of
their making impose upon this world, in accordance with their interests
and in the furtherance of their lying, robbing, warring schemes for the
promotion of them.
Neither capitalism nor Christianism is anything except insofar as it is
a system of parasitism and as parasitic systems they have striking
resemblances, nearly as many and close as indistinguishable twins.
Both have gods, churches and priesthoods and these are in each case
nothing but symbols.
However, the god of capitalism, though only a symbol, is nevertheless
real gold, below a real vault, and nearly all the world sincerely
But the god of Christianism, though none the less symbolic, but rather
more so, is an unreal imaginary spirit, a magnified man without a body,
above an imaginary vault, and only a very small part of the world
sincerely worships him.
International socialism of the Marxian or Russian type, is for those who
starvingly live by working, the most uplifting thing in the world, and
for those who surfeitingly live by owning, it is the most depressing
thing in the world.
Wise people consider theories without losing too much, if any, sleep on
their account, but they study conditions and lie awake nights over them.
Millions of wise Americans have, in the past, been studying socialism as
a theory but, in the future, they will study it as a condition, in the
only way by which it can rightly and adequately be studied - the way of
reading its official documents, accredited periodicals and books. Of all
such, the most notable is the Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels.
This Manifesto is the Marxian gospel. I read two pages in it every day
as faithfully as ever I read a chapter in the Jesuine gospel, and with
much greater profit; for, whereas the gospel of Marx is exclusively
concerned with this terrestrial world, about which I know much and for
which I can do a little, the gospel of Jesus is as exclusively concerned
with a celestial world, about which I know nothing and for which I
cannot do the least. Here, as a sample of this gospel, I give half of
yesterday's reading and most of today's:
The immediate aim of the Communists (Socialists) is the same as
that of all the other proletarian parties; formation of the
proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy,
conquest of political power by the proletariat.
The theoretical conclusions of the Communists are in no way based
on ideas or principles that have been invented, or discovered, by
this or that would-be universal reformer.
They merely express, in general terms, actual relations springing
from an existing class struggle, from a historical movement going
on under our very eyes. The abolition of existing property
relations is not at all a distinctive feature of Communism.
All property relations in the past have continually been subject to
historical change consequent upon the change in historical
The French Revolution, for example, abolished feudal property in
favor of bourgeois property.
The distinguishing feature of Communism is not the abolition of
property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property. But
modern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete
expression of the system of producing and appropriating products,
that is based on class antagonism, on the exploitation of the many
by the few.
In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the
single sentence: Abolition of private property.
We Communists have been reproached with the desire of abolishing
the right of personally acquiring property as the fruit of a man's
own labor, which property is alleged to be the groundwork of all
personal freedom, activity and independence.
Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property! Do you mean the
property of the petty artisan and of the small peasant, a form of
property that preceded the bourgeois form? There is no need to
abolish that; the development of industry has, to a great extent,
already destroyed it, and is still destroying it daily.
Or do you mean modern bourgeois private property?
But does wage-labor create any property for the laborer? Not a bit.
It creates capital, i. e., that kind of property which exploits
wage-labor, and which cannot increase except upon condition of
getting a new supply of wage-labor for fresh exploitation.
Property, in its present form, is based on the antagonism of
capital and wage-labor. Let us examine both sides of this
To be a capitalist, is to have not only a purely personal, but a
social status in production. Capital is a collective product, and
only by the united action of many members, nay, in the last resort,
only by the united action of all members of society, can it be set
Capital is therefore not a personal, it is a social power.
When, therefore, capital is converted into common property, into
the property of all members of society, personal property is not
thereby transformed into social property. It is only the social
character of the property that is changed. It loses its
Let us now take wage-labor:
The average price of wage-labor is the minimum wage, i. e., that
quantum of the means of subsistence, which is absolutely requisite
to keep the laborer in bare existence, as his labor merely suffices
to prolong and reproduce a bare existence. We by no means intend to
abolish this personal appropriation of the products of labor, an
appropriation that is made for the maintenance and reproduction of
human life, and that leaves no surplus wherewith to command the
labor of others. All that we want to do away with is the miserable
character of this appropriation, under which the laborer lives
merely to increase capital, and is allowed to live only insofar as
the interest of the ruling class requires it.
In bourgeois society, living labor is but a means to increase
accumulated labor. In Communist society, accumulated labor is but a
means to widen, to enrich, to promote the existence of the laborer.
In bourgeois society, therefore, the past dominates the present; in