Communism — The Sociological Challenge -- By: E. Herbert Nygren

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 04:0 (NA 1971)
Article: Communism — The Sociological Challenge
Author: E. Herbert Nygren


Communism — The Sociological Challenge

E. Herbert Nygren

On Sunday, January 22, 1905, the Tsar’s Cossacks were turned loose on the striking workers in St. Petersburg, Russia.1 Before the year—referred to by Lenin as “the year that buried patriarchal Russia” —had passed, some 2,800,000 people had taken part in the rebellion.

The priest, George Jopan, leader of the peasants who converged on the great square, asked amnesty for the strikers already arrested, an expansion of civil liberties, land reforms, and other ammenities. “Sire,” he said, “do not refuse aid to thy people! Throw down the wall that separates thee from thy people. Order and swear that our requests will be granted, and thou wilt make Russia happy.” The Tsar did not appear. His later concessions were too late, far the nation of Russia was never to be the same. Onto the stage of human history was to appear one Lenin, carrying into practice some of the philosophical theories and meanderings of his sometime traveling companion and intellectual mentor, Karl Marx.

Karl Marx, was born in Trier, Germany, the son of a prosperous Jewish lawyer, who for no apparent reason had himself and his family baptized into the state church when young Karl was six. His early study at the University of Berlin was marked by arrogance and satire. His acid tongue led him from his first love, teaching, into Journalism. His Manifesto, prepared in 1848, made no impression whatsoever on the intellectual community of nineteenth century Europe. Before the consideration of the Marxian writings, it would be fitting to consider briefly the philosophical and intellectual heritage of this relatively unknown aspiring journalist whose teaching, according to Lenin, “is all-powerful because it is true.” Lenin went on: “It is complete and harmonious providing man with a consistent view of the universe, which cannot be reconciled with any superstition, any reaction, any defense of bourgeois oppression. It is the lawful succession of the best that has been created by humanity in the nineteenth century—German philosophy, English political economy, and French socialism.”2 (There is a very real dilemna here; Marx and Lenin both assert true objectivity, but each also claims cultural determinism.)

The primary intellectual stimulation for Marx seems to have been the philosophy of the German, Hegel. Philosophy, to Hegel, is a self-enclosed and self-sufficient system. Its subject matter is what has happened; its purpose is the clarification of the happening. To clarify an event is to explain it in terms of its logical necessity, the dialectic of unfolding truth. What is real is reasonable; what is...

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