These are the words of the dying Doctor Spiletti to the Communist Mayor Peppone in one of the Dom Camillo films – You red ass! Since the downfall of Soviet Communism in 1989, Communism has made as much of a caricature of itself as Peppone in the old Don Camillo films. He spouts out ideology about the workers being oppressed by the owners of capital and the means of production – without really understanding the deepest meaning of the works of Hegel, Engels, Marx and Lenin.
As most revolutions, like the French one of the end of the eighteenth century, the oppressed became the oppressors. Intolerance against difference and the “enemies of the people” led in France to the guillotine, and in Russia to the gulags and the deaths of millions in various parts of the Soviet empire. I remember the sadness of the Nepomucene College in Rome in 1985. Some of those seminarians were ready to walk out of their country with nothing but their papers and a bit of money in their shoes for freedom to become Catholic priests. We read about Ostpolitik and the vacillating attitude of men of the Church in regard to the Soviet empire – and now the empire of corporate capitalism.
One thing strikes me very deeply as a Christian and a priest – the increasing inequalities between rich and poor. In England, an ordinary family cannot find an affordable house to buy. Unsaleable food from supermarkets is being wasted on an unprecedented scale, and stealing it from dustbins in England is against the law (France has at last outlawed this wastage). Less than one hundred people own the same amount of money as billions of the rest of us. From what I read, the USA is on the slippery slope to totalitarianism and the Police State, and it becomes very frightening.
Should we bring back Communism? What a question to come from a priest! Perhaps if the Communism were of a voluntary nature, tolerant of difference and open to the spiritual, there might be something with which I could sympathise – like the village in Spain and the Mayor who looks like Castro. Everyone can find work, though on a modest salary. On the other hand, food and housing are at an affordable price. Education and medical care are free and assumed by the Cooperative.
We read about the “end of history” represented by corporate capitalism and economic liberalism, the free-for-all for the bankers and speculators. The crisis of the 2000’s has put all that into question. I am tempted by the Communist idea with the reservations I expressed above, but I know that human nature can be just as vile with socialism as with the kind of capitalism that is now destroying the world by sucking it dry.
Capitalism is unmasked in its grossest cynicism, and its tyranny rivals that of Stalin and Beria. I am concerned about the way the European Union is going, the plight of Greece, Spain, Ireland and many other places – as we all languish under the bureaucracy of Brussels. Should we go back to the pre-1989 situation? That would be impossible. The dinosaur died under its own unsupportable weight. Socialism in France is nothing more than “state capitalism” as it would have been in England had Labour won the election.
Actually, I think that any political system at a state level is doomed to failure and internal corruption. It can only work at a much smaller scale and when there is some way it can be prevented from being infected by men with evil intent from seeking power and money. It may seem a hopeless dream.
What could be hoped and worked for? Some of the people working to transform institutions in Gramsci’s cultural Marxism are not the kind of people we would invite to dinner. We find ourselves close to the Frankfurt School and Critical Theory – destroy the DNA of everything and create something different. There are many different types of anarchists as in Russia before the Revolution of 1917, some identified as “demons” by Dostoevsky, the nihilist who does the logical thing – suicide. On the other hand, we find extremely noble ideas in the thought of Tolstoy. It is a labyrinth and as diverse as the individual hotheads who worked to topple everything.
I can understand the way many French priests sided with Communism in the 1950’s, almost in expiation from the way their bishops had collaborated with the Nazi Occupation during the war. Sooner or later, the bomb will go off, and I would hope that the visionaries and prophets of this world will be heeded before blood flows. Communism as we have known it has been as irretrievably tainted as the Nazi regime. Is the evil intrinsic or a deviation from the noble ideal?
Something will arise to restore justice and peace in this world, and I mean justice and peace in a different way from the Vatican bureaucrats. The last straw will break the camel’s back. Perhaps it is now the vocation of Christianity to influence and help what is to come, above all to keep noble ideals out of the hands of evil exploiters. It all sounds naive, but we should dream of that day when we may drink the wine of youth!