C.S. Lewis & Karl Marx

C.S. Lewis recognized quite early how Karl Marx’s philosophy, a “potent evil,” would justify terrible crimes.

The greatest threats to humanity’s future are the two major Communist powers. We see Russia’s brazen criminal ambitions currently on display in Ukraine.

Communist China’s malevolent intentions are more insidious and far more dangerous.

Aside from its nuclear arsenal, we now recognize how vastly overrated Russia’s military has been. China, by contrast, possesses an army and navy that grow deadlier each day.

C.S. Lewis understood the evil at the core of Marxism. Communists and, to a lesser degree, Socialists, seek to strip away individual rights for the illusory betterment of the whole.

But, because human beings are sinful and self-centered, even true Marxist idealists invariably end up devolving into fascist totalitarians. That’s why every one of these so-called “people’s republics” reflect nothing of republican or democratic values.

They invariably become corrupt oligarchies, typically led by ironfisted dictators. In addition to the aforementioned regimes, consider Cuba and Venezuela. When was the last time any of these four beacons of Socialism held free elections?

Karl Marx was a very troubled man. This essay in a recent publication addresses not only his insane economic theories, but his extensive personal failures as well.

The sufferings of the Marx family, and especially of poor faithful Jenny, are difficult to describe. Though they did have a housekeeper and though Friedrich Engels spent in the course of the years at least 4000 Pounds on Karl Marx, they lived in abject misery.

The death of one child, a boy, is directly attributable to poverty and neglect. Family life must have been absolutely terrible, but Marx could not be moved – neither by entreaties, nor by tears, nor by cries of despair. . . .

Yet it would be a mistake to think that Marx suffered silently and proudly. By no means! In his letters and in his conversations he never failed to complain and to lament. He had a colossal amount not only of self-hatred, but also of self-pity, but no human feelings for others, least of all for his wife whose health he had ruined completely.

In a 1946 essay entitled “Modern Man and His Categories of Thought,” C.S. Lewis discussed the atheistic core of Communism. He noted that its advocates can use “religion” as a puppet to bolster their power. Read here about the official position of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the sad fact that “Patriarch Kirill is a staunch ally of Mr. Putin.”

Such is the fruit of the Marxist mind. Here is C.S. Lewis’ description.

Proletarianism, in its various forms ranging from strict Marxism to vague “democracy” . . . [is] self-satisfied to a degree perhaps beyond the self-satisfaction of any recorded aristocracy.

They are convinced that whatever may be wrong with the world it cannot be themselves. Someone else must be to blame for every evil.

Hence, when the existence of God is discussed, they by no means think of Him as their Judge. On the contrary, they are His judges. If He puts up a reasonable defence they will consider it and perhaps acquit Him. They have no feelings of fear, guilt, or awe.

They think, from the very outset, of God’s duties to them, not their duties to Him. And God’s duties to them are conceived not in terms of salvation but in purely secular terms – social security, prevention of war, a higher standard of life. “Religion” is judged exclusively by its contribution to these ends (“Modern Man and His Categories of Thought”).

As destructive as Marxism is wearing its true, secular garb, it becomes far more calamitous when it infiltrates the Christian Church. As C.S. Lewis observed, Marxism can use and abuse the Church, but that is done from an external position.

When actual members of the Church are deceived to the degree they adopt this error, it is beyond tragic. In 1940 Lewis warned of this danger in a letter to a Roman Catholic priest with whom he corresponded.

Fascism and Communism, like all other evils, are potent because of the good they contain or imitate. Diabolus simius Dei.* And, of course, their occasion is the failure of those who left humanity starved of that particular good.

This does not for me alter the conviction that they are very bad indeed. One of the things we must guard against is the penetration of both into Christianity-availing themselves of that very truth you have suggested and I have admitted.

Mark my words: you will presently see both a Leftist and a Rightist pseudo-theology developing – the abomination will stand where it ought not.

C.S. Lewis was an honest man, who was capable of acknowledging his own shortcomings. Thirteen years after the previous letter, he wrote to another priest in the wake of massive suppression of Christianity in China.

After lamenting the persecution, he acknowledges the failure of the Church to live according to its calling. To this failure he attributes the rise of “other evils” such as Communism.

At last, dearest Father, there has come to hand that copy of . . . your article on that Chinese disaster. I used myself to entertain many hopes for that nation, since the missionaries have served there for many years not unsuccessfully: now it is clear, as you write, that all is on the ebb.

Many have reported to me too, in letters on this subject, many atrocities, nor was this misery absent from our thoughts and prayers.

But it did not happen, however, without sins on our part: for that justice and that care for the poor which (most mendaciously) the Communists advertise, we in reality ought to have brought about ages ago. But far from it: we Westerners preached Christ with our lips, with our actions we brought the slavery of Mammon.

We are more guilty than the infidels: for to those that know the will of God and do it not, the greater the punishment. Now the only refuge lies in contrition and prayer. Long have we erred.

In reading the history of Europe, its destructive succession of wars, of avarice, of fratricidal persecutions of Christians by Christians, of luxury, of gluttony, of pride, who could detect any but the rarest traces of the Holy Spirit?

Christians, I encourage you to join me in repenting of our failures. We must still challenge the lies, such as those of Karl Marx. But, we should never do so without remaining conscious of our own failures which too often provide fertile soil for such deceptions.

* Diabolus simius Dei means “the Devil is the ape of God.” This refers to Satan’s attempts to imitate or counterfeit divine actions and principles. The observation was first made by Tertullian, and echoed by Augustine and others.

20 thoughts on “C.S. Lewis & Karl Marx

  1. I do not understand the naïve excitement over Marxist ideals currently. Your quote that they believe it to be the “illusory betterment of the whole” is the only way I’ve seen any sense to their support.

    1. Good observation. In “theory” it actually could appeal to idealists.

      Fortunately, those with sense often come to recognize their early foolishness.

      Wherever Marxism has been practiced, of course, it’s proven itself to be a failure. (And often at the cost of innocent lives.)

      1. Now there is a subject for valuable discourse. I agree. The only people who I could see reasonably arguing for the alternative are those who confuse the word you used (“ideals”) with “principles.” We definitely need the latter in our leaders.

  2. In my country of South Africa, our governing party still drags around its ankles the shackles of Communism, after decades of ‘democratic’ government. Our President is a good man, but his party cronies remain some of the most corrupt in the world, while continuing to address each other as ‘Comrade X’ and ‘Comrade Y.’ The ANC is still bound by alliances with the Communist Party of South Africa and militant trade unions, preventing real growth for the poorest at grass-roots level. Even sections of the Church remain captured.

    Thanks for the insights of Lewis, and your own Rob. And yes, we need to repent, intercede and do whatever we can to address our social, economic and spiritual needs, as a nation, and as the Church. I have a news clipping before me in which the S.A. Council of Churches, in the face of one of the worst floods ever in the N.E. Province of KwaZulu-Natal Province and the loss of some 500 lives, could merely muster ‘a few moments of condolence and prayer’ on Good Friday! Meantime the Islamic ‘Gift of the Givers’ organization works together with all and sundry (including grassroots Christian believers) to bring relief on the ground. PS, in our house church we have an ex-Marxist activist, making a wonderful contribution to our fellowship group. Apologies for the long post!

    1. No apologies necessary. Everything you shared is timely, informative and thoughtful.

      I’m glad to hear you have a member of your church who has been delivered–just as C.S. Lewis’ wife was–from Marxism.

      Sorry to hear about the lingering corruption in South Africa’s government. At least you can thank God you never had a Mugabe. I’m afraid that every politician who remains more than a single term grows corrupt due to the corrosive nature of politics itself. So sad, but the evidence is plentiful.

      That is sad news about the Council of Churches. Hopefully the individual constituent churches did better than their corporate agency…

      I hadn’t heard about the floods (American journalism is so US/DC focused), but did just read about. I’ll be praying and sharing the request with my congregation.

  3. Very interesting article. Richard, our photographer, grew up in communist Poland. He has taught me a lot of the realities of this so called workers’ paradise. It’s interesting to hear his views of the current war in Ukraine. Maggie

    1. It’s fascinating, isn’t it, to talk with people who personally experienced these oppressive regimes? Through the years my military service allowed me many such opportunities.

      One of the most fascinating was an East German pastor whose education had been stifled because of his Christian faith. No opportunities for those who challenged the State.

      Before the unification of Germany, after the Soviet yoke had been thrown off of East Germany’s neck, he briefly served as their ambassador to the United States. Fascinating story.

    1. History teaches that evil people do not have healthy homes. And, as is too often the fact, it is the innocents (this this case, wife and son) endure the greatest suffering.

  4. Outstanding article. I always ask myself, what can “I” do? I pray, of course, but our country is in a tailspin. I share the love of Christ at every opportunity. I greet people at the grocers and local vendors by their name via their name tag, I pray for nearly every encounter. I know many do not see the self-destructive path we are on. But the silent majority do. Unfortunately the destructive voices have the floor. Thank you for defining things so clearly.

    1. Thank you for your faithfulness. You’re making a difference in the lives of people you treat with compassion and dignity.

      As for the voices of those “who have the floor…” they are unfortunately the loudest and too often the most misdirected.

  5. Very interesting and insightful and very much consistent with Lewis’s fiction as well as his apologetics. My research is on Lewis’s Pilgrim’s Regress which includes, as you may recall, the Marxomanni in the Furthest North, alongside Mr Savage, so he portrayed the dangers of Marxism quite boldly, I think.
    Your comment that ‘to a lesser degree Socialism’ should, I think, be given a caveat: not all falls under the name ‘socialism’ is equally dangerous, or indeed undesirable.

    1. Yes, Pilgrim’s Regress offers stark portraits of several “diversions” to the path taken by the wise. Good point.

      As to socialism… it’s all in the definition, which is why I qualified my reference. “Liberalism,” as practiced in democracies is not true socialism, as I understand it. The “democracy” aspect distinguishes it from the 100% centralized power of the totalitarian leader and/or oligarchy.

      Of course, there is a spectrum in which individual rights are either respected or dismissed…

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