In the previous posting on this subject we looked at the evidence — such as it was — that we could dig up to support the contention that the Christian apologist C.S. Lewis approved of socialism in any form. Admittedly, the evidence we found was remarkably weak, not to say unconvincing, but we had to do the work ourselves as the individuals making the claim were a trifle shy about providing their own evidence.
Lewis was not, however, the only authority (or presumed authority) trotted out to support the claim that socialism and Christianity are somehow compatible. This is despite two centuries of condemnations that appear to leave little room for doubt, e.g.,
|Eugene V. Debs, Democratic Socialist|
If Socialism, like all errors, contains some truth (which, moreover, the Supreme Pontiffs have never denied), it is based nevertheless on a theory of human society peculiar to itself and irreconcilable with true Christianity. Religious socialism, Christian socialism, are contradictory terms; no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist. (Quadragesimo Anno, § 120.)
Thus, although the current rage (in every sense) for “democratic socialism” (or any other kind) seems to have come out of left field (so to speak), the problem has been around for quite a spell — and that’s just the “democratic” version of socialism, presumed to be entirely New & Improved by so many of its adherents.
The democratic socialist movement in America originated in the three socialist parties co-founded by Eugene Victor Debs (1855-1926), Social Democracy of America (1897), Social Democratic Party of America (1898), and the Socialist Party of America (1901). Despite Debs’s remarkable performance in the 1912 presidential race, however, the movement did not pick up steam until the so-called global “Great Recession” of the late 2000s and early 2010s.
|Karl Marx, Scientific Socialist|
Democracy and socialism have always been linked, of course . . . although the definition of democracy used doesn’t exactly conform to what Alexis de Tocqueville saw in America in the 1830s just before socialism hit its stride. Modern socialism actually began in the early nineteenth century as “the Democratic Religion,” a materialist replacement not for capitalism, but for traditional faiths.
Modern socialism first appeared in reaction to the totalitarian excesses of the French Revolution. It was promoted as a replacement for outdated traditional Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant, which seemed incapable of dealing with the problems that arose with the rise of nationalism and the Industrial Revolution.
Atheistic “scientific socialism,” which Karl Marx (1818-1883) called “communism” to distinguish it from forms of socialism tainted by religion, only made its appearance a generation later. Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) stated that he and Marx were forced to use the older term for their system because the followers of Robert Owen (1771-1858) had coopted the word socialism for their system intended to replace organized religion.
|Robert Owen, Utopian Socialist|
And Owen made perfectly clear of what the socialist program consisted. On July 4, 1826 in New Harmony, Indiana, he delivered his talk, “A Declaration of Mental Independence,” in which he identified the three great evils of the then-modern world as private property, organized religion, and marriage, all of which (according to Owen) had been invented by the few to oppress the many. (Oakley C. Johnson, Robert Owen in the United States. New York: Humanities Press for the American Institute for Marxist Studies, 1970, 67-72.)
Whatever its roots, the latest phase of the movement got its primary impetus from the growing uncertainty many people today have about the future. Especially in the United States, millennials were confronted with a rapidly rising cost of education and a greatly diminished “jobs market” — the latter an interesting concept in itself.
In search of something, anything, that would guarantee them the security they believed they had been promised and that was their due, millennials flocked to the standard of democratic socialism. Official membership of the Democratic Socialists of America increased 900% from 2005 to 2015.
In religious society, particularly in the Catholic Church, the election of Pope Francis in 2013 seemed almost as if Heaven itself was handing down a mandate for democratic socialism. Francis was now head of an organization wracked by scandal and saddled with what many perceived as outdated and inadequate responses to the evils afflicting the modern world . . . the original justification for the development of socialism in the early nineteenth century. His initial statements as reported in the media appeared to endorse democratic socialism in all but name as his proposed solution to the problems of Church and State.
But is that an accurate assessment of the official teaching of the Catholic Church regarding socialism? That is what we will look at in the next posting on this subject.#30#