The Marxian Heresy

Marxism has been referred to from time to time as a Christian heresy. Karl Marx himself probably would have taken umbrage at such a designation, but the idea probably arose from the observation that the earliest Jerusalem Christians held property in common. [1]

There will be no attempt to render a judgment here as to whether that designation for Marxism is apt, but the example of the early Christians does manifest a tragic error of observation on the part of Marx that from the onset doomed the movement he started to its eventual evolution into brutal totalitarianism. Indeed, Marx himself recognized that his program could not “be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property….” [2]

Marx envisioned that when his program was fully realized, humanity would arrive at a state where everyone would contribute what he could, and receive what he needed. The famous phrase which Marx did not originate but put in the service of his purposes was: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!” [3]

Critical to understanding this idea of Marx is that this ultimate state of affairs would be realized when there was a total abolition of political power. Of course, that would have to be the case. The fact is, his vision is realized on a small scale already, without any governmental involvement at all.

Churches, synagogues, neighborhoods, families, and small communities already operate quite unconsciously on the “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” basis quite spontaneously. People organize fundraisers and take positive actions to address human desperation in their communities, and have acted this way throughout human history, without any prodding from a Politburo. The early Christians organized their community without any government compulsion whatsoever. In other words, Marx envisioned a world where human beings would behave like human beings.

What he never saw was the inherent contradiction in striving for a world where humanity would act according to its better nature through the dehumanizing means of despotism. Humans behave best when they behave freely. Imposition of external controls makes people behave like slaves, that is, as something less than human.

The mistake of Marx, then, was in thinking that human society had to arrive at what he called “communism” by means of the intense social controls of socialism. Someone should have apprised him of the anecdote: “You can’t get there from here.”

Jack Quirk

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