Divine Communism

An Italian comrade at the Institute asked me the other day how I would describe myself ideologically and politically. To the first, I answered in terms of the Baha’i faith, allowing the obvious fact that besides our unitarianism (which goes beyond theology to encompass all aspects of human society), there is no consensus on a “Baha’i ideology”, nor should there be. I added some slight Kropotkinism, specifically that if there is to be any true change, it must be individual in tactic and generational in scope.

To the second, I replied, “If Marx believed in God and liberal democracy, then Marxism.” Of course, such “divine communism” is a contradiction in terms. Nevertheless, I think the idea captures the transformative, hopeful, and “do-what-it-takes” revolutionary essence of what had been the Marxist tradition, which were its chief positives. There was an intrepidness among the Soviets in particular, a reaching for something great, that is sorely missing in today’s overwhelming commercialism.

I concede that perhaps (indeed, probably) I would have thought differently had I lived during the Cold War or if I were a citizen of an ex-Marxist country. Certainly, the peoples of the Communist world paid a high price for the ideology’s aspirations. But be that as it may, and my occasional flirtations with libertarianism and neo-liberalism notwithstanding, I find myself getting more radical in some vague sense as I get older, hence the semi-nostalgia.

I also note that in the eyes of some (especially American right-wingers) a believing, liberalist communism is precisely what exists in Europe and China. However, I disagree with that interpretation. Even a passive glance at these societies reveals that atheistic and atomistic capitalism is as much on the march there as in America, just in different ways.

Leave a comment below about what you think of “divine communism”. Do you think it would have been possible? How might have history been different? Is there anything out there like it today? And so on. I’m hoping to submit a paper to a conference in Rotterdam on the topic, “Is Change Possible in a Hegelian System?” and I want to use Marxism as my case study, so insightful comments shall be included.

(By the way, the image attached to this post is actually a Christmas Eve stamp. It’s part of a Soviet/Russian-themed series by Flickr artist Vincent Caplier. It’s all very well done and I feel appropriate for my question.)