5

In 1905, Lenin wrote the text 'Socialism and Religion' Some quotes:

Religion is one of the forms of spiritual oppression which everywhere weighs down heavily upon the masses of the people, over burdened by their perpetual work for others, by want and isolation. Impotence of the exploited classes in their struggle against the exploiters just as inevitably gives rise to the belief in a better life after death as impotence of the savage in his battle with nature gives rise to belief in gods, devils, miracles, and the like. Those who toil and live in want all their lives are taught by religion to be submissive and patient while here on earth, and to take comfort in the hope of a heavenly reward. But those who live by the labour of others are taught by religion to practise charity while on earth, thus offering them a very cheap way of justifying their entire existence as exploiters and selling them at a moderate price tickets to well-being in heaven. Religion is opium for the people. Religion is a sort of spiritual booze, in which the slaves of capital drown their human image, their demand for a life more or less worthy of man.

[...]

If that is so, why do we not declare in our Programme that we are atheists? Why do we not forbid Christians and other believers in God to join our Party? [...]
But under no circumstances ought we to fall into the error of posing the religious question in an abstract, idealistic fashion, as an “intellectual” question unconnected with the class struggle, as is not infrequently done by the radical-democrats from among the bourgeoisie. It would be stupid to think that, in a society based on the endless oppression and coarsening of the worker masses, religious prejudices could be dispelled by purely propaganda methods. It would be bourgeois narrow-mindedness to forget that the yoke of religion that weighs upon mankind is merely a product and reflection of the economic yoke within society. No number of pamphlets and no amount of preaching can enlighten the proletariat, if it is not enlightened by its own struggle against the dark forces of capitalism. Unity in this really revolutionary struggle of the oppressed class for the creation of a paradise on earth is more important to us than unity of proletarian opinion on paradise in heaven.

The whole wording makes me wonder if, at the time, parts of the party where arguing for a more militant atheism. Was there a specific position Lenin was arguing against, what was it?

3

The intra-party (party-internal) debate had been endemic until the late 1920-ies, so the leadership had to deal with dissent both from the left (e.g., отзовисты) and the right (e.g., ликвидаторы). Additionally, the external ideological threat from Christian socialism has always been strong in the backwards agrarian country such as Russia.

Lenin, the ultimate opportunist, was always prepared for a compromise if it promised a hope of advancing his cause (gaining/keeping control over the party/country). 1905 was the time of a revolution in Russia, so expanding the party was of paramount importance, which meant that ideological purity had to take second place to inclusiveness.

As for "a specific call to forbid Christians from joining the party" at that specific time, I don't think there was one - rather an endemic debate about ideological purity.

  • 1
    Was there a specific call to forbid Christians from joining the party? – mart Oct 8 '15 at 5:17
  • @mart: see edit – sds Oct 8 '15 at 11:39

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