The Origin of Russian Communism, by Nicolas Berdyaev

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Re: The Origin of Russian Communism, by Nicolas Berdyaev

Postby admin » Thu Jul 18, 2019 6:49 am

Part 2 of 2

It must always be remembered that the Church bears two different meanings, and the confusion of these two meanings or the denial of one of them has fatal results. The Church is the mystical Body of Christ, a spiritual reality, continuing in history the Life of Christ, and its origin is revelation, the action of God upon man and the world. But the Church is also a social phenomenon, a social institution; it is linked with its social environment, and feels its influence; it finds itself in interaction with the State; it has its own law and polity and its origin is social. The Church as a social institution, as part of history, is sinful, liable to fall and to distort the eternal truth of Christianity, passing off the temporary and human as the eternal and divine. The Church in history is a very complex divine-human and not only divine process, and the human side of it is fallible; but the eternal truth of the Church of Christ acts secretly and operates through the Church as a social institution which is always relative and fallible. The Marxist-Leninists see the Church only as a social phenomenon and institution and see nothing behind it. To them the whole is thrust into the foreground; to them there is no spiritual life; that is only an epiphenomenon. Existence is flat, two-dimensional; there is no measurement of depth. But communism must be understood as a challenge to the Christian world. In it is to be seen the Highest Tribunal and a reminder of duty unfulfilled. The communists themselves do not understand this and cannot understand it. The communists expose the evil violent actions of Christians but they themselves continue to do the same evil and violence. Their responsibility may be less because they do not know the truth of Christianity, but they are responsible for the fact that they do not desire to know it.

There are two very significant books by Hecker published in English. (39) They convey a very hazy impression. If Hecker simply defended communism and the communist point of view all would be clear, but his attitude to Christianity is different from that of a thorough-going communist and, probably on account of his own past, he would like to preserve a certain value in Christianity, though one which sets him in sharp contradiction to the Christianity of the Church. His attitude to Christianity reminds one of that of the rationalist-moralist type of sectarian. Everything that Hecker says about Christianity witnesses to the fact that he entirely fails to see and understand the mystical side of it. To him the Church is simply a social phenomenon, defined by its environment and infected with all the ills of the ruling classes in history; he is incapable of recognizing the spiritual side of it. Religion he derives from fear which was afterwards sublimated. He explains it in a purely sociological sense. Hecker regards it as undoubted that man is descended from a simian ancestor, that is to say, that he has an animal origin. In conformity with the philosophy which is dominant and obligatory in Soviet Russia, he takes, of course, the dialectic point of view, although no traces are to be seen in him of the assimilation of Hegelianism. In the Orthodox Church Hecker sees only its outward side (ceremonies behind which, of course, he sees no mysteries), the link with the monarchist state and slavish dependence upon it, and the subservience of the clergy. Hecker's exclusive this-worldliness does not allow him any feeling for the theme of salvation and eternal life. The value of Christianity for him is simply a matter of ethics and the organization of social life. Orthodoxy appears to him as a form of Christianity which has not evolved any system of ethics as its own and exerts no influence for the betterment of social life. The problem of religion appears to him to be finally subordinate to the social use which he can make of it, and therefore the question of its truth does not arise. This is Anglo-Saxon pragmatism -- a thing which is readily perceived in Hecker and which in actual fact contradicts the communists' general outlook, which claims the knowledge of absolute truth.

Hecker is the apologist of Russian communism to the West, but he is certainly not a thorough-going communist; his general outlook is eclectic. Hecker is an admirer of Leo Tolstoi and apparently is disposed to understand Christianity as L. Tolstoi understood it, that is to say, principally as an ethical code. This is the result of Hecker's sectarian Christianity. I am myself disposed to think that L. Tolstoi was the awakener of the Christian conscience in a torpid Christian world and that there was much truth in his criticism of historical Christianity. I have already said that there were elements of Russian nihilism in L. Tolstoi which make him one of the forerunners of Russian communism, but it is impossible to deduce from this, as apparently Hecker is inclined to do, that communism realizes Tolstoi's ideas. Communist ideology and especially its practice are diametrically opposed to the teaching of Tolstoi. Communism represents the extreme of violent resistance, extreme étatism, the lure of technical civilization and industry, the denial of the essential brotherhood of man, the disruption of immediate links with the soil, the destruction of the religious principle of life. L. Tolstoi taught nonresistance, an anarchic repudiation of the State and of technical civilization, the acknowledgement of the essential brotherhood of man, links with the soil and the affirmation of the religious principle of life.

In his attacks upon the past of the Orthodox Church in Russia, Hecker is frequently true in his facts. Nothing is easier than to show that the history of the Church and in general the history of Christianity is to a considerable degree a history of human sin, treachery, decadence and subservience in despite of conscience. From the time of Constantine the Church has not so much mastered the kingdom of Cæsar as been subjected to it. The history of religion as linked with its social environment, with social claims and interests, has always been more prominent and more powerful than the history of religion as linked with revelation and the spiritual life. But it is only spiritual weakness and blindness, only the subjugation of the spirit to its outward environment, which leads from that to the conclusion that there is no such thing as revelation and no such thing as the spiritual world.

There is no doubt that the Church, as a social institution, was in a state of subjection in Russia and even enslaved by the State. The degrading dependence of the Church upon the State belonged not only to the time of Peter but also to the Muscovite period. It is even indisputable that the clergy in Russia were in a degraded and dependent position and that they lost all sense of leadership especially from the time of the schism. The level of the episcopate was particularly low; the bishops who, during the period of the Tartar yoke and to some extent the Muscovite period, had a sense of spiritual leadership, became civil servants, governors, the recipients of stars and ribands, and drove in their carriages. The bishops usually persecuted the Startsi, that is to say, men who were specially spiritual, and every spontaneous manifestation of religious life. Corresponding facts are to be seen in the Roman Catholic Church too. It is incontestable that in the Revolution the Orthodox Church has to pay for the sins of its past. Church people cannot suddenly repudiate the links of the historical Church with the old régime. But to see all this does not justify the hangman; and the protest against the slavish subjection of the Church in the old kingdom of Cæsar certainly cannot lead to the demand for slavish subjection to a new kingdom of Cæsar, although this may call itself communist. With all the actual truth to fact of much that Hecker says about Orthodoxy, and that might be said of the past of Catholicism and Protestantism, his general judgments are mistaken and entirely out of perspective; and this is inevitable since for Hecker spirit and spiritual life do not exist. In his view the Orthodox Church amounts to no more than outward formality, faith in ceremonial and relics of old superstitions. His sympathies are only with the rationalist sects. But what has acted upon the Russian soul and moulded it is the hidden spiritual life of Orthodoxy, not outward official ecclesiasticism. It is useless for Hecker to regard the liturgical life of the Church as mere outward formality, as something in the nature of superstitious magic, when in fact spiritual depth and the reflection of heavenly life exist in it. Khomyakov's teaching about the Church, that is to say, his teaching about sobornost [14] and freedom, seems to Hecker a Utopia which has never been realized in actual fact, simply because to his mind reality is exhausted by empirical data; and he is incapable of understanding a world of ideas in the ontological sense behind the empirical world and opposed to it even while it acts upon it. Therefore he sees in the Church only a crude empiricism and does not see its ideal form, that is to say, the mystical Body of Christ.

All Russian creative religious thought of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, beginning with Khomyakov and the Slavophils down to the thinkers of the beginning of the twentieth, censured the sins of the historical Church of Russia, and frequently spoke more sharply than Hecker; the statement that the Russian Church was paralysed belongs to Dostoyevsky the Orthodox Christian. Neither Russian communism nor Hecker's books are required to show the humiliating falsity of the relation which existed between the Church and the old state. This was frequently referred to very severely by men who were believers and even considered themselves supporters of the monarchy -- Khomyakov, Samarin, Aksakov, Dostoyevsky, Solovëv and many others. Russian creative religious thought, from Khomyakov onwards, had entered upon the path of religious reformation within Orthodoxy. Indictments of the spiritual hierarchy, and especially of the episcopate, are very commonly found among those representatives of Orthodoxy who have nothing in common with sectarianism. Not only the sectarians but also those Russian religious thinkers to whom Hecker is disposed to ascribe no significance whatever, were distinguished by a certain nonconformity. But Hecker says nothing about the immense and beneficial part played by the Church in social life during the Tartar period, or about the love of the poor in ancient Russia. He makes no reference to the positive phenomena of Russian sainthood. He does not understand that Russian Orthodoxy, alien though it is from moralism, was in the last resort that which gave their inward training to the souls of those too whose minds have abandoned it, and which evoked in the souls of the Russian people the search for die Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and which brought into being that humanity and sympathy which are so widely reflected in Russian literature. Hecker does not understand that if real marks of saintliness were to be found in Chernishevsky, marks of the podvizhnik, [15] he derived them from the Christianity of his childhood and youth. Decadence in the official Church and weakening of Christian life among the people preceded the revolution. And so it always happens. Formal Orthodoxy frequently presented a horrible appearance. At the beginning of the twentieth century a religious renaissance took place in a very restricted circle in Russia, and it was a phenomenon belonging not so much to popular life as to a cultured élite. For that reason, as I have said already, it was ineffective socially. Rasputin was a symbol of the disintegration of the old world and evidence of the spiritual inevitability of revolution; but Hecker's understanding and appraisement of the whole Russian religious-philosophical movement is too inaccurate, and after all he cannot class it with official State Orthodoxy.

In the first place, Hecker uses the term 'the search for God' incorrectly; it is not applicable to currents of thought which regarded themselves definitely as Christian. Speaking of the 'neo-Christians' (a permissible term as long as one is speaking of Christians who believe in the possibility of a new creative epoch in Christianity), Hecker reckons amongst them V. Rozanov who was undoubtedly a thinker of genius, but was a definite foe of Christianity and may rather be called a neo-pagan. Many inaccuracies of statement might be pointed out in Hecker. He looks at those spiritual phenomena which he is writing about, from a distance; his judgments are too sweeping; he has no light and shade, no appreciation of individual characteristics. Moreover, it must be pointed out that everyone who adheres to the philosophy of communism loses the ability to distinguish the individual thing.

What Hecker finally and hopelessly fails to understand is the problem of personality in Christian consciousness. Defence of the principle of personality he apparently identifies with individualism and egoism. He seems to think that when the Gospel calls upon a man to lay down his life for his friend it is declaring against the principle of personality. But the recognition of the absolute value of every personality as made in the image and likeness of God, the inadmissibility of treating the human personality as a mere instrument or tool, lies at the very basis of Christianity. It is precisely Christianity which teaches that the human soul is of more value than all the kingdoms of the world. Christianity pays endless attention to every individual man and to his individual fate. A human being, always individual and never to be repeated, is for Christianity a more primary and deep reality than society. A man may and frequently ought to sacrifice his life but not his personality; the personality within him he ought to realize, and sacrifice is the condition of realizing personality. It is personality which is called to eternal life, which is the conquest of eternity. Personality is a spiritual-religious category and indicates the task which is set before men. Personality is an entirely different thing from the individuum, which is a biological and sociological category and the subordinate part of the family and the community. Personality cannot be a part of anything, neither of the community nor of the world; it is an entirety and in virtue of its depth it belongs to the spiritual world and not to the natural. (40) All the limitation and falsity of communist philosophy is due to the failure to understand the problem of personality, and this turns communism into a dehumanizing power hostile to man; it takes the community, the socialist community, a social class, the proletariat, and makes it into an idol, and the real human being is denied and rejected.

I ought to say a word or two about Hecker's false interpretation of my own views. The terminology which I use, the words aristocratic principle', 'the new Middle Ages', etc., clearly lead him astray. He regards me as a supporter of feudal aristocracy, which is almost laughable. A supporter of feudal aristocracy in our day would have to be regarded as had. In actual fact, I am a supporter of the classless society, that is to say, in that respect I am very near to communism. (41) But for all that, I am a supporter of the aristocratic principle as a qualitative principle in human society, but a personal qualitative principle, not one which depends upon class or property; that is to say, I am a supporter of spiritual aristocracy. Class inequality ought to be overcome in human society, but personal inequality would come out all the stronger for that. Man should be distinguished from man by his personal quality not by his social position, his class or his property. The qualitative, that is to say, the personal aristocratic principle, cannot disappear from human society. On the contrary, it will become all the clearer in a classless society, when classes no longer exist, for classes mask and conceal personal qualitative differences among men and make them symbolic, not real. A man occupies a high position in the community not on the strength of his personal qualities and his spiritual aristocracy, but symbolically, in virtue of what is conferred upon him by his belonging to a certain class. I am a supporter of Christian Personalism, certainly not of individualism which is hostile to the principle of personality. In a bourgeois capitalist community personality is levelled down and is looked upon merely as an atom. (42) Individualism is hostile to the Christian idea of the communion of men, whereas the realization of personality presupposes the communion of men.

When I say that the world is moving towards a new Middle Ages, I certainly do not mean a return to the old Middle Ages and least of all to feudalism. The phrase is only an indication of the type of society in which man will strive after wholeness and unity as opposed to the individualism of modern history, and in which the significance of the religious principle will increase, even though it may be in the form of militant anti-religion. Hecker also completely fails to understand the new problems of Russian religious thought. These problems, while not sundering the links with the inward spiritual tradition of the Orthodox Church, are concerned with creative efforts in the Christian world. The problem of Christian anthropology is sharply stated and, in connection with it, the problem of Christian culture and Christian society. Russian creative religious thought has introduced the idea of God-humanity. As in Jesus Christ, the God-Man, there occurred an individual incarnation of God in man, so similarly in humanity there should occur a collective incarnation of God. God-humanity is the continuation of the incarnation of God; it brings forward the problem of the incarnation of the truth and righteousness of Christ in the life of humanity, in human culture and human society The idea of God-humanity as the essence of Christianity is but little developed in Western Christian thought; it is an original product of Russian Christian thought, in which Christian philosophy is understood as the philosophy of God-humanity, as christological. It passes beyond the boundaries of Greek and scholastic thought as well as those of the rationalist thought of modern times. This whole sphere is completely alien to Hecker who does not understand it at all. As a pragmatist and social utilitarian he judges the significance and value of a phenomenon of spirit and thought solely by its immediate social effect. But there can be very effective movements in the world which are completely hostile to spirit and thought, when man is thrust wholely into the outward side of things and achieves aims which are perhaps important but other than the deeper aims of spirit and thought. The problems of Russian religious thought are concerned with the more distant future when the pressing economic questions have been decided; its orientation is towards eternity.

Hecker takes the so-called 'Living Church' under his protection and he assigns it, of course, a clear primacy over the Patriarchal Orthodox Church. It seems to him, as it has seemed to many in the West, that the movement of the 'Living Church' is something in the nature of a Reformation, that it is akin to Protestantism. This is a mistake. There was no sort of reformation movement in Russia at the time of the revolution, though there was among the clergy at the very beginning of the twentieth century. The leaders of the 'Living Church', which has now lost all significance, were devoid of any religious creative idea. It was a mere self-adjustment by a part of the Orthodox clergy to the existing government; it was not reformation but conformism. There the traditions of the old slavery of the Church hierarchy to State authority made themselves heard. Apart from other considerations the adherents of the 'Living Church' are unworthy of any respect because they became informers against the Patriarch and the hierarchs of the Patriarchal Church, they became ecclesiastical spies and adjusted themselves to those who held power. They were linked with the G.P.U. which issued its instructions to the 'Living Church'. This revived the old relation between Church and State, the Procurator being a member of the G.P.U. No fundamental reforming movement of any sort ever arose from compliance and subservience, from delation and spying; such movements have arisen when those who spoke for them sacrificed themselves, not others.

The 'Living Church' movement had no religious ideas of any sort; it said nothing but that the Church ought to adapt itself to the Soviet Government, but that is not a religious idea. Its adherents did not rise even to the idea that there is Christian truth in communism; they were interested not in communism but in the Government. I myself hold much more radical ideas than the adherents of the 'Living Church' and I believe more than they do in the new creative ideas of Christianity, in the new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon man. But I am utterly opposed to the 'Living Church' because I consider that sort of conformism in religious life is inadmissible. The Orthodox Church in Russia ought to establish some sort of concordat with the existing government, as the Metropolitan Sergius is trying to do. The Church cannot occupy itself in political strife, and all suspicion of connection with the old régime ought to be removed from it. But the Church must rise above the kingdom of Cæsar. A condemnation by the Church of the capitalist régime, its recognition of the justice of socialism and of a labouring community, would in my opinion be very right, but under the Soviet régime it loses all religious meaning, for it becomes the mere carrying out of the demands of the G.P.U.


We now approach the fundamental problem of communism, the problem of the relation between man and society. Hecker shares all the weaknesses of the communist statement and the communist solution of this problem, that is to say, for him the problem of man has no dimension of depth. What was the case with Marx? Marx was an admirable sociologist but a very feeble anthropologist. Marxism states the problem of society but not that of man. In its view man is a function of society, a technical function of economics. Society is the phenomenon, while man is the epiphenomenon. Such a degrading of man is a striking contradiction to the accusatory teaching of Marx about the verdinglichung of human life and about dehumanization. There remains in him a rooted duality of thought: Is the turning of man into a function of the economic process a sin and an evil of past capitalist exploitation or is it the ontology of man? in any case, the fact is decisive that the first attempt to realize communism on Marxist soil which we see in Russia also regards man as a function of economics and also dehumanizes human life as the capitalist régime does. Therefore, no such revolution in world history as Marx and Engels hoped for has taken place.

Meanwhile, communism claims to have created not only the new society but also the new man. They talk a great deal in Soviet Russia about the new man, about a new spiritual make-up. Foreigners who have visited Soviet Russia are also fond of talking about it; but the new man can only come into being in the event of man being regarded as of supreme value in life. If man is considered simply as a brick in the structure of society, if he is but an instrument in the economic process, then one must speak not so much of the appearance of the new man as of the disappearance of man, that is to say, of the intensifying of the process of dehumanization. Man is deprived of the measurement of depth; he is turned into a flat two-dimensioned being. The new man will exist only if he has a measurement of depth, if he is a spiritual being; otherwise man does not exist; he is but a function of the community. In his dimension of depth, man is a sharer not only in time but in eternity.

If man is wholly relegated to die time process, if nothing of eternity and for eternity exists in him, then the image of man, the image of personality, cannot be preserved. In its atheistic materialist form communism entirely subordinates man to the time process; man is only a transient unit in a series of moments and every moment is but the means which produces the next. Thus man loses his interior existence; human life is dehumanized. Marxism revealed a crisis in humanism. In Marx, especially during his younger days, when he still kept traces of German idealism, there were possibilities of a new humanism; he began with a revolt against dehumanization, but later he himself was influenced by die process of dehumanization, and in relation to man communism inherited the sins of capitalism.

In Russian Marxist communism this process of dehumanization went even further and was conditioned by the whole set of circumstances in which Russian communism arose. There entered into Russian communism the traditions not of Russian humanism, which had a Christian origin, but of Russian anti-humanism, deriving from Russian state absolutism, which always regarded man as a mere means to an end. Marxism considers evil as the pathway to good. The new society, the new man, is born of the growth of evil and darkness; the soul of the new man is formed by negative emotions, by hatred, revenge and violence. This is the demoniacal element of Marxism and it is called dialectic. Dialectically, evil passes over into good, darkness into light. Lenin proclaimed that everything was moral which served the proletarian revolution. He knows no other definition of good. From this it follows that the end justifies the means, every sort of means. The moral impulse in human life loses all independent significance, and that is undoubted dehumanization. The end for the sake of which every means is justified is not man, not the new man, not the completeness of humanity, but only a new organization of society. Man is a means for this new organization of society and not the new organization of society for man.

The communist is defined psychologically chiefly by the fact that for him the world is sharply divided into two opposed camps -- Ormuzd and Ahriman, the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness, without any shading. This is almost a Manichæan dualism which at the same time commonly makes use of a monist doctrine. The kingdom of the proletariat is the light kingdom of Ormuzd; the kingdom of the bourgeoisie is the dark kingdom of Ahriman. To those who belong to the kingdom of light everything is permissible for the annihilation of the kingdom of darkness. The fanaticism, intolerance, cruelty and violence of the thorough-going type of communist is explained by the fact that he feels himself faced by the kingdom of Satan and he cannot endure that kingdom. But at the same time he depends negatively upon the kingdom of Satan, upon evil, upon capitalism, upon the bourgeoisie. He cannot live without an enemy, without the feeling of hostility to that enemy; he loses his pathos when that enemy does not exist, and if there is no enemy he must invent one. The prosecutions of 'saboteurs' are due to this requirement of creating a class enemy. If the class enemy finally disappeared and communism easily existed the communist pathos would also disappear. The revolutionary pathos is to a large extent due to a hostile attitude to the past. The question is sometimes put: To what extent does communism actually belong to the future and is it concerned with the future? Undoubtedly it is more concerned with the future than is fascism, which is an entirely transitional phenomenon. A world problem is connected with communism; but in communism there is too great a dependence upon the past, a falling in love with hatred of the past; it is too much shackled to the evil of capitalism and the bourgeoisie. Communism cannot conquer hate, and in that lies its chief weakness. Hatred always turns to the past and always depends upon the past. A man who is gripped by the emotion of hatred cannot be concerned with the future, with a new life; only love turns a man towards the future, frees him from the heavy shackles of the past, and is a means of creating a new and better life. The preponderance of hate over love is terrible among communists. One cannot entirely blame them for this. In that respect they are victims of past evil.

The spirit of communism, the religion of communism, the philosophy of communism, are both anti-Christian and anti-humanist. But the social system of communism possesses a large share of truth which can be wholly reconciled with Christianity, more so, in any case, than the capitalist system, which is most anti-Christian, Communism is right as against capitalism. The falsity of the communist spirit and of its spiritual servitude can be condemned only by those Christians who cannot be suspected of defending the interests of the bourgeois capitalist world. It is precisely the capitalist system above all which crushes personality and dehumanizes human life, turns man into a thing and an article of merchandise; and it does not become the defenders of this system to condemn communists for repudiating human personality and dehumanizing human life. It was the industrial capitalist period which subjected man to the power of economics and money, and it does not become its adepts to teach communists the evangelical truth that man does not live by bread alone. The question of bread for myself is a material question, but the question of bread for my neighbours, for everybody, is a spiritual and a religious question. Man does not live by bread alone, but he does live by bread and there should be bread for all. Society should be so organized that there is bread for all, and then it is that the spiritual question will present itself before men in all its depth. It is not permissible to base a struggle for spiritual interests and for a spiritual renaissance on the fact that for a considerable part of humanity bread will not be guaranteed. Such cynicism as this justly evokes an atheistic reaction and the denial of spirit. Christians ought to be permeated with a sense of the religious importance of the elementary daily needs of men, the vast masses of men, and not to despise these needs from the point of view of an exalted spirituality.

Communism is a great mentor for Christians; it is a frequent reminder to them of Christ and the Gospels and of the prophetic elements in Christianity. In regard to economic life two contradictory principles may be postulated. One of them says: In economic life follow up your own personal interest and this will promote the economic development of the whole, it will be good for the community, for the nation, for the state. Such is the bourgeois ideology of economics. The other principle says: In economic life serve others, serve the whole community and then you will receive everything which you need for your life. Communism asserts this second principle, and in that respect it is right. It is abundantly clear that the second principle corresponds to Christianity more closely than the first. The first principle is just as anti-Christian as the Roman theory of property. Bourgeois political economy, having invented the economic man and eternal economic laws, regards the second principle as utopian. But the economic man is transient, and a new motive for labour is entirely possible, a motive which corresponds more with the value of a man. One thing is clear: this problem cannot be only a problem of a new organization of society. It is inevitably a problem of a new make-up of man, of a new man. But the new man cannot be prepared in mechanical ways; he cannot be the automatic result of a certain organization of society. A new spiritual make-up presupposes a re-training of man spiritually. To this last problem communism is obliged to devote much attention, but it does not possess the spiritual strength for solving it. It is impossible to create the new man and the new society while proclaiming that economic life is a function which concerns civil servants alone. This is not the socialization of economics, but their bureaucratization.

Communism in the form in which it has appeared in Russia is extreme étatism; it is the appearing of the monster Leviathan which has laid its paws upon everything. The Soviet Government, as I have already said, is the one totalitarian state in the world which is carried to its logical consistent end; it is a transformation of the ideas of Ivan the Terrible, a new form of the terrible hypertrophy of the state in Russian history. But to understand economic life as social service certainly does not mean the conversion of every economic agent into a civil servant, nor the recognition of the state as the only economic agent. It is indisputable that a part of commerce, of commerce on the most considerable scale, ought to pass over to the state. But side by side with this one must recognize the co-operation of men, the labouring syndicate, and the separate man established by the organization of society in conditions which exclude the exploitation of one's neighbour; and the state will have controlling and mediating functions, such as will not permit the oppression of man by man. It does not enter within the scope of my present task to go into the details of these questions; only it is important to notice that étatism is not the only form of the new organization of society. The pluralist rather than the monist social system corresponds more truly with the freedom of the human spirit. The monist social system always leads to tyranny and the oppression of human personality; the monism of the Marxist system is its principal defect. The monism of a totalitarian state is in any case incompatible, with Christianity; it turns the state into a Church, and a heroic conflict is in store against the absolute claims of the kingdom of Cæsar in communism and in fascism. During this struggle Christianity may be cleansed and freed from the stamp of the kingdom of Cæsar which has lain upon the Church since the time of Constantine. Christianity seems to me to be compatible only with a system which I would call a system of pluralist socialism, which unites the principle of personality as the supreme value, with the principle of a brotherly community of men. At the same time it is necessary to make a distinction, which the communists do not make, between the realization of righteousness in the life of the community, presupposing the impulse of coercion, and the realization of the brotherhood of men, of their true community or communion, presupposing the freedom of man and the action of grace.

In this book I have tried to show that Russian communism is more traditional than is commonly thought and that it is a transformation and deformation of the old Russian messianic idea. Communism in Western Europe would be an entirely different phenomenon in spite of the similarity of Marxist theories. To the traditional Russian character of communism are due both its positive and its negative sides: On the one hand the search for the Kingdom of God and integrated truth and justice, capacity for sacrifice and the absence of the bourgeois spirit; on the other hand, the absoluteness of the State, and despotism, a feeble grasp of the rights of man and the danger of a featureless collectivism. In other countries communism, in the event of an attempt to bring it into existence, may be less integrated, make less claim to take the place of religion, may be more secular and more bourgeois in its spirit. The problems of communism stimulate the awakening of the Christian conscience and should lead to the development of a creative social Christianity, not in the sense of understanding Christianity as a social religion, but in the sense of revealing Christian truth and justice in relation to social life. This will mean emancipation from social slavery, that social slavery in which Christian consciousness finds itself. The world is living through the danger of a dehumanization of social life, the dehumanization of man himself. The very existence of man is in danger from all the processes which are going on in the world. Only the spiritual strengthening of man can combat this danger. When Christianity appeared in the world it defended man from the danger arising from demonolatry. Man was in the power of cosmic forces, of demons and spirits of Nature which tormented him. Christianity focused man spiritually and subjected his fate to God; thus was prepared the possibility of man's power over Nature. At the present time Christianity is again called upon to protect man, to protect his whole image from a demonolatry which torments him anew, from servitude to the old cosmic and the new technical forces. But this can only be done by a rejuvenated Christianity which is true to its prophetic spirit and which is turned towards the Kingdom of God.
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Re: The Origin of Russian Communism, by Nicolas Berdyaev

Postby admin » Thu Jul 18, 2019 6:50 am



1 For Author's Notes see p. 189 ff.
2 See footnote on p. 134 .
3 This word, and the abstract noun 'norodnichestvo' derived from it, are explained by the  author at the beginning of Chap. III, p. 58
4 See the note at the end of the chapter.
5 A communal house.
6 'Person belonging neither to any guild, nor to the merchant class nor to the nobility.'
7 I St. John, 5.19.
8 See footnote on p. 37.
9 See footnote on p. 83.
10 Subordination of art to social ends. Cf. p. 78.
11 The inward, organic and harmonious aspect of Catholicity. See an article by G.  Florovsky in "The Church of God". S.P.C.K. 1934.
12 'Bolshe' is the Russian for 'greater', and 'menshe' for 'less'.
13 A monk distinguished by his great piety, long experience of the spiritual life, and gift  for guiding other souls. Lay folk frequently resort to Startsi for spiritual counsel.  Starchestvo (p. 15) is an abstract noun describing the system. See The Way of a  Pilgrim ( Philip Allan, 1931).
14 See footnote on p. 87.
15 One who performs great exploits in the ascetic life; a spiritual 'athlete'.


(1) Page 8. See the interesting book: Das Antlitz Russlands und das Gesicht der Revolution, by Fedor Stepan.

(2) Page 11. v. G. Fedotov, Saints of Ancient Russia.

(3) Page 22. v. Hershenzon book, Young Russia.

(4) Page 30. The Anarchist element is particularly strong in K. Aksakov.

(5) Page 32. v. P. Sakulin, Russian Literature and Socialism. 1922.

(6) Page 33. v. P. Sakulin, op. cit.

(7) Page 33. See an interesting book by Cornu, Karl Marx, L'homme et son (Euvre. 1934.

(8) Page 38. v. Belinsky's Socialism. Essays and Letters. Edited and commented by Sakulin, 1925. The remarkable letters from Belinsky to Botkin are collected in this book.

(9) Page 38. See an interesting book recently published, Hegel bei den Slaven; about 250 pages are devoted to Hegel in Russia. This part was written by D. Chizhevsky, a great authority on the history of Russian philosophical thought. Insufficient attention is paid to the double crisis of Hegelianism in Russia.

(10) Page 48. See a very interesting book for material about Chernishevsky, The Love of the People of the 'Sixties. Academia. 1929.

(11) Page 50. op. cit., p. 61.

(12) Page 52. v. G. Plekhanov, N. G. Chernishevsky.

(13) Page 63. v. Michael Bakunin Social-politischer Briefwechsel mit Alexander Herzen und Ogarëv, 1895, in which Nechaev Catechism of a Revolutionary is printed.

(14) Page 65. v. E. Yaroslavsky, Aus der Geschichte der Kommunistischen Partei der Sowjetunion, Erst Teil.

(15) Page 66. v. Cornu, op. cit.

(16) Page 68. v. M. Bakunin, The Cat-o'-Nine-Tails German Empire and the Social Revolution. 1922.

(17) Page 69. Ibid.

(18) Page 71. v. G. Plekhanov, Our Divergencies; and A Historical Revolutionary Chrestomathy, Vol. I. 1923.

(19) Page 74. v. K. Pazhitnov, The Development of Socialist Ideas in Russia, Vol. I. 1924.

(20) Page 75. v. A. Voronsky, Zhelyabov. 1934.

(21) Page 85. See my book, Dostoyevsky's Outlook on Life.

(22) Page 88. See my book, Konstantine Leontyev, a Sketch of the History of Russian Religious Thought.

(23) Page 96. v. Cornu, op. cit., and also Der Historische Materialismus Die Frühschriften, Kroner. Verlag. In these two recently published volumes Marx's earlier writings are collected.

(24) Page 98. Writing of Feuerbach, Marx says: 'Der Hauptmangel alles bisherigen Materialismus ist dass der Gegenstand, die Wirklichkeit, Sinnlichkeit nur unter der Form des Objects oder der Anschauung gefasst wird, nicht aber als sinnlichmenschliche Tätigkeit, Praxis, nicht subjectiv.' Thesen über Feuerbach.

This passage is entirely contradictory to materialism and approaches existential philosophy.

(25) Page 105. Lukatch, Geschichte und Klassen-Bewusstseit -- Studien uber marxistische Dialektik.

(26) Page 108. My first book, published in 1900, Subjectivism and Idealism in Social Philosophy, was an attempt to synthesize revolutionary Marxism and the idealist philosophy of Kant and Fichte.

(27) Page 113. In an article written in 1907 and appearing in my book, The Spiritual Crisis of the Intelligentsia, I definitely foretold that if the present great revolution took place in Russia, then it was inevitable that the bolsheviks would triumph.

(28) Page 114. The literature dealing with Russian Communism is immense, but the bulk of it is of no great value. The following may be noted: René Fülöp-Miller, Geist undGesicht des Bolshevismus Gesicht des Bolshevismus; Waldemar Gurian, Le Bolchevisme; C. Malaparte, Le bonhomme Lenine; Fedor Stepan, Das Antlitz Russlands und das Gesicht der Revolution; Berdyaev, Problème du Communisme.

(29) Page 116. v. the very able book, Le bonhomme Lenine, by C. Malaparte.

(30) Page 116. Lenin Jubilee Collection.

(31) Page 131. G. de Maistre, Considérations sur la France.

(32) Page 149. v. Historical Materialism, by various writers of the Institute of Red Professors of Philosophy, under the editorship of Galtsevitch. 1931.

(33) Page 153. N. Fedorov, The Philosophy of the Common Task.

(34) Page 155. See the recently published interesting book, L'idêe socialiste, by Henri de Man.

(35) Page 161. v. Lenin on Religion.

(36) Page 166. Yaroslavsky, On the Anti-Religious Front; and Against Religion and the Church.

(37) Page 167. The matter was dealt with in the journal, Under the Marxist Flag.

(38) Page 171. v. Gerard Walter, Les Origines de Communisme.

(39) Page 173. Julius Hecker, Religion and Communism; and Moscow Dialogues.

(40) Page 178. See my Myself and the World of Objects.

(41) Page 179. See my Christianity and the Class Struggle.

(42.) Page 179. I am even inclined to think that in the deep sense of the word the individual is revolutionary and the mass is conservative.
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