Thinking In Public

February 10, 2021

Karl Marx Meets the Devil: A Conversation with Historian Paul Kengor

Transcript

Albert Mohler:

This is Thinking in Public, a program dedicated to intelligent conversation about front line theological and cultural issues with the people who are shaping them. I'm Albert Mohler, your host, and president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

Albert Mohler:

Paul Kengor is a professor of political science, and he's also Senior Director of the Institute for Faith and Freedom at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. He earned his master's degree from the American University, his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh. He's a renowned scholar of the Cold War and Communism and the American Presidency. His book God and Ronald Reagan was a New York Times bestseller. He's written many other books, and we've had a previous conversation for Thinking in Public.

Albert Mohler:

His most recent book is The Devil and Karl Marx: Communism's Long March of Death, Deception and Infiltration, which is the topic of our conversation today. Professor Paul Kengor, welcome to Thinking in Public.

Paul Kengor:

Dr. Mohler, it's great to be with you. I think we did an interview a few years ago about my books, and I'm a big fan. I love your show and always enjoy these conversations. Thank you.

Albert Mohler:

Well, thank you. Paul, I've really been looking forward to this conversation. I have to tell you that when I saw the title of your latest book, The Devil and Karl Marx, I was of course doubly interested. And looking at your book, I was actually amazed by how considerable in size it is, and dense with material, because even as someone who's studied Marx as a part of a larger study of the intellectual landscape for four decades or more, frankly, I was surprised how much material there is just dealing directly with Karl Marx and the Devil.

Albert Mohler:

Now, at this point in your research and academic work, did this come as something of a surprise to you?

Paul Kengor:

I'd say a little bit. I knew a pretty good deal about it already, and I had been thinking for years about writing a book on this. And I'm sure that you, Al, you probably are familiar with Reverend Richard Wurmbrand, the founder of Voice of the Martyrs. He did the book Tortured for Christ in the 1970s. He also did a book called Marx & Satan, and that was I think mid-80s. And I have that, I have it marked up. Also, I read Paul Johnson's Intellectuals, which had a chapter on Karl Marx.

Paul Kengor:

And the one book that I wasn't really familiar with, I had seen it referenced by Johnson, but it was the first time I had dug into it, was Robert Payne, who was a biographer of Marx. Just a really impressive British intellectual, kind of a thoughtful man of the arts, of letters, a theater critic, drama, English. Very learned individual. In no way any kind of ideologue. And he did a number of biographies of Marx. He did one in 1968 that was published by Simon & Schuster. He did another that was published by New York University Press. And he's really the guy who found a lot of this.

Paul Kengor:

Marx's writings about the Devil were first discovered by his original biographer, a guy named Franz Mehring, and I know you probably want to get to this, so I might be talking a little bit out of order, but when Franz Mehring discovered these writings, he told Marx's daughter. He said, "You should not let this stuff see the light of day. This is bad. This is really quite frightening stuff." So I knew about those things, but once I started digging into a bunch of Marx biographies with a specific intent.

Paul Kengor:

You know how this goes, doing research on something like this, where you really start mining and looking for the material. I did a book, God and Ronald Reagan back in 2004. I think I had read every biography of Reagan, and so I knew some of the religious stuff, but not until I went back to Edmund Morris's Dutch, until I went to Lou Cannon's biographies and looked for every religious reference. Went back and read all the letters, went to the Reagan Library. Then you line it all up and you've got this giant puzzle thrown out on the floor, and you start lining up the puzzles and you say, "Wow, there's a lot here."

Albert Mohler:

No.

Paul Kengor:

There's really a lot here. So yeah, that's-

Albert Mohler:

One question-

Paul Kengor:

Go ahead.

Albert Mohler:

... that as an historian and historical theologian I try to employ is asking whether a question is anachronistic and out of its time. And so there's a sense in which we might say that the question of something like an obsession of the Devil on the part of Karl Marx, that if that's all of a sudden discovered now and considered troubling now by Professor Paul Kengor at Grove City College, well, that's not that significant an issue.

Albert Mohler:

But if it turned out to have been significant to people at the time, that adds historical cogency and importance, and that's one of the reasons why I appreciate you mentioning Mehring, because he very clearly identified the problem dealing with the primary source material, and as you say, was so alarmed by it he did everything he could to prevent the publication.

Paul Kengor:

Well, and kudos to a Marxist scholar at the Marx-Engels Institute named David Riazanov who discovered this material and preserved it, made sure that it was known. And non-kudos here to all the recent Marx biographers, hagiographers, who, Dr. Mohler, they ignore all of this stuff. They ignore all of it. All of it. And they certainly ignore the poetry, and if they do come across certain things that I included in the book, to be fair, some of these things are reported by Marx biographers, Francis Wheen and a few others, but they'll downplay it. And they'll almost give it a kind of wink, wink. They'll think it's playful or endearing. They use words like that. Or cute. It's strange.

Paul Kengor:

It's, "Oh, here he is, and his friend describes him as, 'Eyes like a wet goblin.' Look at this nice little horseplay between Marx and this individual." Horseplay? Look at it. The guy is describing Marx as if he's possessed here.

Albert Mohler:

So let's talk about that.

Paul Kengor:

Yeah.

Albert Mohler:

Let's actually bring our audience in on the core issue. And that is that your argument is that Karl Marx had an obsession with Satan, and clearly, even as he sought in every way possible to kill off God, and even organized religion, he had enormous sympathy for the Devil, and clearly, in some sense, believed in the Devil. Now, we're going to talk about what that may have meant, but he clearly believed in the personification of evil.

Paul Kengor:

Yeah. And some of those poems, for example. And I will say this, it's often hard to know if what he's writing about, like any writer or any poet, he's internalizing, he's projecting. It's what he believes, it's what a character believes. But when you see the whole composite, this isn't like Edgar Allen Poe writing a scary story. You can see in Marx case it's very reflective of what he believes. And I open the book with a couple stanzas from a couple different poems, and the one from The Player, Marx says, "Thus Heaven I forfeited. I know it full well. My soul once true to God, is chosen for Hell."

Paul Kengor:

And I think that one, Al, is pretty autobiographical. Because his soul was once true to God, and Heaven he did forfeit. Now, I don't know if it was chosen for Hell, I think he made the choice that he made, he made the choice to reject God.

Paul Kengor:

And then there was a second one that I open up with, and he talks about it, he says, "See this sword, this blood-dark sword, which stabs unerringly within my soul? Where did I get this sword? The Prince of Darkness. The Prince of Darkness sold it to me. The hellish vapors rise and fill the brain until my heart goes mad, until I go utterly insane." So really, some chilling poetry.

Paul Kengor:

And also too, these poems and his plays, they're filled with destruction, death, suicide pacts, and of all things, you're a historian. Can you name for me any individual that you could think of in all of history who had two daughters who killed themselves in suicide pacts with their husbands, of all things? And Marx writes about fair maidens, pale maidens, suicide pacts. Marx had two daughters who killed themselves in suicide pacts with their husbands, one of which Marx was quite cruel to, Paul Lafargue, because he was partly Cuban, and Marx was an out and out vile racist, and he referred to Paul as, "The gorilla," and there are letters between him and Engels going back and forth.

Albert Mohler:

And you're using that term in the context of their own writings?

Paul Kengor:

Yeah. These guys were atheistic materialists, Darwinian evolutionists. And here, we get back to another one of these sort of skeletons in the progressive closet, along with eugenics and so forth. And when they forsake God, Darwin ... in fact, I quote in the book Trotsky, who said, "Darwin did away with all of my ideological prejudices. He opened the universe to me." And it was at Marx's funeral where Engels gave the eulogy, and he quoted Darwin, and he said, "Marx is doing for Darwinians and social sciences what Darwin did for the physical sciences," and he also, Engels at the funeral of Marx's wife, quoted Darwin as well. So they were proud Darwinian evolutionists.

Albert Mohler:

Yeah. And they were absolute materialists, that's the point, isn't it?

Paul Kengor:

Yes.

Albert Mohler:

Richard Dawkins says that Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. Materialism really only becomes possible if you have a cosmology that affirms materialism, and until you had ... we'll use Darwin here not just for Darwin and his own writings, but for Darwin as an intellectual movement, materialism now has a metaphysic ontology, and you really have to have Darwin before you can have Marx in this sense.

Paul Kengor:

That's right. And Marx, in his famous Opiate of the Masses essay, and I've heard people say from time, including a number of Christians, "Oh, that's really not that bad what Marx is saying. I understand what he's saying here. He's speaking of the Opiate of the Masses like a drug, and let's be honest, for Christians, and this is okay, religion's kind of a crutch. We Christians think it's a real crutch, something that we can lean on, but it's kind of a crutch. So Marx isn't that far off here."

Paul Kengor:

No, no, no. If you actually read the Opiate of the Masses essay, he refers to religion as the sigh of the oppressed creature. The heart of the heartless. The soul of soulless conditions. As this grunt of despair. As religion is the Opiate of the Masses.

 

Albert Mohler:

Well, he saw it as a fatal delusion. Not as an anecdotally diversionary false belief, he saw it as a fatal delusion. The fact that humanity can never be humanity so long as it included an affirmation of deity. And of course, the problem is every time we talk about Marx, we really have to talk about Marx and somebody. Marx and Engels or Marx and Lenin, and by the time you get to Marxism and Leninism, you've got Lenin saying that all worship and divinity is a necrophilia. It's a worship of a dead thing, of a dead God. But all of that's implicit and explicit in Marx himself.

Paul Kengor:

That's right. Yeah, Lenin said there's nothing more abominable than religion. Yeah, that any worship of divinity is a necrophilia. Yeah, and that's very much an extension of Marx. And also too, you mentioned earlier the fascination with the Devil. I quote at length Mikhail Bakunin, who was a friend of Marx until eventually he and Marx couldn't stand one another, which was true for Marx and pretty much everybody. Everybody at some point, Marx slung so much vitriol at everybody that nobody could get along with. But Mikhail Bakunin refers to Satan as this glorious rebel, so in a way, while they're rejecting God, they commend Satan. They hail Satan.

Paul Kengor:

And Bakunin does this in a way that Saul Alinsky does as well. Saul Alinsky dedicates Rules to Radicals to "That first rebel who rebelled against God and won for himself his own kingdom, Lucifer," as he refers to him. So they like Satan as this rebellious character who shakes his fist at God, and that's what Marx did too. You see this in Marx's plays, in his poems. Marx wanted to burn down the house. Marx and his characters in the end of these plays, they are standing there in the pit of these embers, flames all around them.

Paul Kengor:

Marx had a favorite line all of his biographers said from Goethe's Faust, the Mephistopheles character, the Devil character, the demon character. "Everything that exists deserves to perish." Imagine that. If they asked you or I, "Do you have a favorite line?" We'd give a scripture verse, I might say something like, "Be not afraid," something like that. Marx said, "Oh yeah, Goethe, Faust, Mephistopheles, 'Everything that exists deserves to perish.'" That was Marx's favorite.

Albert Mohler:

There's a sense in which looking at intellectual history, how you can trace a Bakunin easier than a Marx on this. There is a strain in Russian thought, Russian mythological thought, a fascination with demons and the Devil. This even shows up in a great work by Dostoyevsky. The Russian anarchists certainly included kind of a demonology in their thought. But Marx was German living in London. Where does this come from for Marx? I thought of this reading your book, it's just hard for me to come up with an English pedigree for this thought.

Paul Kengor:

Yeah. Or for that matter, German. He's born May 5th, 1818 in the city of Trier in Germany. Trier is T-R-I-E-R. Extremely religious. One of the most Roman Catholic cities in all of Germany.

Albert Mohler:

And beautiful.

Paul Kengor:

And at that time, very devout. Probably at least 90% of the people in the town were practicing Roman Catholics. The great cathedral at Trier is a magnificent work, it goes back to the 300s. Of all things, it was built, financed by Helena, Saint Helena, Mother of Augusta, of all things. And she had made the famous pilgrimage to the Holy Land where she brought back what she believed were certain relics, the crown of thorns, which is believed to be in Notre Dame, and also she brought back the Holy Robe, what she believed was the Holy Coat, the robe that Jesus wore on the way to the crucifixion that at the foot of the cross, the Roman soldiers cast lots for. That's actually there.

Paul Kengor:

By the way, the Devil character in one of Marx's plays, Marx actually drew out the wardrobe for his characters as well in one of these plays, and while he's sawing on his violin and summoning up the powers of darkness, he's wearing the Holy Robe of Christ, of all things. So Marx grows up literally in the shadow of the Cathedral of Trier. His father, like many Jews in the city, converted to Christianity. The father became Lutheran, which was kind of an odd ... I mean, it's not an odd choice because if you wouldn't pick Catholicism, you would probably pick Lutheranism, but Marx had uncles who converted who chose Catholicism. So most people that converted chose Catholicism.

Paul Kengor:

And probably, as the Marx biographer said, probably did this at least in part under social pressures the Jews were facing in those days, but the father told the son, he said, "Karl, religion's good. It's good to believe in something other than yourself. It's good to believe in a deity." I quote at length this ominous letter, March 2nd, 1837, from his father, and he asked, "That heart of yours son, what's troubling it? Is it governed by a demon? Is it governed by a spirit? And is that spirit heavenly or is it Faustian?"

Albert Mohler:

As we think about this, Paul Johnson, who you mentioned, gives attention to Marx in more than one of his works. One of the things he points out is that the Marxists offer a sanitized Marx in which they basically don't confront head-on his misanthropy. His deep, deep, deep hatred for virtually all humanity. He's calling for humanity to unite in this Communist movement, but he hates humanity, and it began with his own family. He hated his own family. And it's a loathing that's almost impossible to describe. But you do describe it in this book.

Paul Kengor:

He was a very angry man, yeah. Yeah, very angry. All the people around him couldn't stand him. And Engels was one of the only people that was really able to hang in there with him at all. In fact, the only reason that Marx was able to do what he did was because of the inheritance that Engels had inherited from Engels's own wealthy, capitalistic, Christian, conservative father. Which is ironic too, because in the 10-point plan in the Communist Manifesto, point three calls for abolition of all right of inheritance.

Albert Mohler:

Except mine.

Paul Kengor:

Yeah. Yeah, right, exactly. Except mine. Yeah, what complete hypocrites they were. Marx is just a miser after mooching as much money as he could from his mother and father. They finally cut him off, and then it was left to Engels to subsidize him, and Engels was offended at how Marx did this, but Engels did so really to help out Marx because of Marx's wife, Marx's family. Engels felt bad for Marx's family. Marx refused to get a job. He refused to work. Marx's poor long-suffering wife, Jenny, his mother, they both expressed the wish that Karl would start earning some capital rather than just writing about capital. Children in the Marx household died, arguably, from malnutrition, exposure to the elements, it's horrible what happened.

Paul Kengor:

But yeah, misanthrope. He did, he hated people, people disliked him. Very, very difficult to get along with. Not a nice, pleasant individual.

Albert Mohler:

Yep. I've been to the Reading Room where he worked, and you could just imagine this smelly guy was how he was referred to, this misanthrope writing this work that would literally change the course of world history and in horrible ways, but no one wanted to be around him half the time.

Albert Mohler:

I want to track another argument with you. I am a theologian, so I would make the argument that in many, many cases, if not most of this kind of horrifying idea, coming from a Western source, Western civilization, it's a second generation fulfillment of an earlier generation's theological problem. So in the case of so many, you can trace either a form of Protestant liberalism, enlightenment theology, or Catholic modernism or something similar to that. And so, in Karl Marx's sense, his grandfather was a rabbi, but his father was a convert not just to Protestantism as a cultural reality, but to liberal Protestantism.

Albert Mohler:

He basically bought into the entire Kantian system. He did not think of Christianity as a body of truth, he thought of Christianity as a culture with which he would identify. The God of whom he speaks is a God who is basically an ethical principle and moral principle, and it's just, I think, very, very troubling to me when you consider the course of theological history that you have these liberal fathers who give birth to demonic children.

Paul Kengor:

You're right on. You're absolutely spot on. That's an excellent description of where the father was coming from. And the father would read to him Rousseau, and the French writer, who Marx could recite off the top of his head. Why can't I think of who this is? Voltaire. They could recite Voltaire. Yeah, it's very much liberalism. Liberal Protestantism. At the very least, very unorthodox. This was true of Joseph Stalin as well. Stalin, when he went off to seminary, went to this very liberal Russian orthodox seminary heavily imbibed in evolution. So yeah. Yeah, no, you're absolutely right.

Albert Mohler:

It's a frightening pattern, and it's just all the more frightening when you consider how many Protestants and Catholics flirt with liberal theology as if it's an intellectual option.

Paul Kengor:

Well, and let me add to this too, that a very major influence on Marx. So when Marx goes off to college, and at that point he still believed in God, and one of the most toxic pernicious influences on him was a mentor and professor named Dr. Bruno Bauer, who was a professor of theology, probably some form of systematic theology, and he was an atheist. So you could see how things never change. I've had parents at my church come up to me and say, "Oh, it's okay. I know that Junior, he's gone to this very liberal university, but he's taking a course on theology for a semester. He'll be okay."

Paul Kengor:

And then I ask around Thanksgiving, "Hey, how's he doing?" "Oh, not too good." "How's the theology course?" "Oh, the theology course. It's taught by an atheist." It's like, "Well, of course it is. What, did you think it was going to be taught by CS Lewis?" But this guy, his name was Bruno Bauer, he was an atheist, and he was also very anti-Semitic, and he and his favorite student, Marx, they end up founding or starting watching a journal called the Archives of Atheism. And the two of them, and here's one of these things that I found in one of the Marx biographers, a very good one, a very good honest biographer, in one instance, he and Bruno Bauer ride into the local village on Palm Sunday on donkeys, mocking Christ's entrance into Jerusalem.

Paul Kengor:

And there's actually two biographers that describe this. The other one who does describes it as, "How fun this is. And here they were, rollicking along, and making noises in church. How endearing. How fun. What a card Karl was."

Albert Mohler:

Yeah. By the time you get to the early decades of the 20th century, it's already clear that for many, German Protestantism has become largely culture Protestantism. And it's just how cultural Protestantism, and much of Catholicism have become a cultural Catholicism, there's no binding theology. And so, by the time you get to the late 19th century and the debacles of the 20th century, much of what's referred to as theology isn't actually theology in any legitimate sense at all.

Paul Kengor:

Well, and how much of this ... I don't want to pick on Germany, I guess, too much, but look at how much came out of Germany in this time. I mean, wow. So Marx and Engels, and then you go in the 10s and the 20s and the Frankfurt School, the Marxists who focused on culture. Cultural Marxism, these guys were Freudian Marxists, of all things. Herbert Marcuse, Wilhelm Reich, who wrote The Sexual Revolution, who tried to create this fusion between Freudianism and Marxism. So yes, so many of these ideas crawled out of Germany at that time.

Paul Kengor:

And you want to talk about liberal Catholicism, look at the bishops in Germany right now. And one of them, by the way, I'm not making this up, his name is Cardinal Marx, and he's the worst. He's the most liberal, heterodox ... he's even giving Pope Francis fits, of all things.

Albert Mohler:

From the left, yeah.

Paul Kengor:

Right, right. And Pope Francis is like, "Whoa, pull it back here. I didn't expect this, of all things." So yeah, kind of this liberal theological strand in Germany, 1800s on, this has been a very destructive influence.

Albert Mohler:

Well, this is where the biblical criticism was born, this is where Schleiermacher, the father of liberal theology as a movement, reducing the essence of Christianity to experience and feeling and utter subjectivity. This is the ultimate victory of Kant in his distinction between the phenomenal and the noumenal, rendering Christianity nothing more than a spirituality and a culture.

Albert Mohler:

And it did affect both Protestants and Roman Catholics to the extent that by the time you get to Marx, as you pointed out, he had a professor who was an atheist. And furthermore, just to be clear, it would be one thing if those ideas stayed in Germany, but by the time you get to the late 19th century, they're already thoroughly ensconced in the most prestigious American institutions and churches.

Paul Kengor:

Right. Right. Yeah, I quote right upfront early on in the book, it's Earl Browder, who was one of the original chairmans of Communist Party USA, right after William Z. Foster ... By the way, the interview between Congressman Hamilton Fish and William Z. Foster in the book is amazing. People read that, they'll be floored. But Earl Browder is speaking at Union Theological Seminary, and it's 1935, and he says to them, he said, "You might be surprised to know that we have preachers, preachers who are active in the Communist Party, who are actually members of the Communist Party." And that's striking, Dr. Mohler. You'd think, "Yeah, well I know there were preachers who were American Communists called suckers. Who were dupes. Who were misled." But for Browder to stand up there and say, "We've got preachers who were actual party members-

Albert Mohler:

But we can draw a line there, because if indeed you buy the logic of Walter Rauschenbusch and the social gospel, which transformed American Protestantism in a liberal direction, especially in the North in the beginning. And especially in a place like Union Theological Seminary. Then if you buy into a social gospel, then Marx appears to be, and indeed, this is what the Latin American liberation theologians claimed, Marx just shows up as the praxis to be applied to your liberal theology and abandonment of biblical Christianity.

Paul Kengor:

Well, that's exactly right. And liberation theology, this would spring up in the 60s and 70s, and a lot of the Jesuits in the 70s and 1980s. Yeah, and it's interesting, the one German theologian who kind of goes to the left and then saw how bad this got in the time of Vatican II was Joseph Ratzinger. Cardinal Ratzinger. And then later on, he ends up becoming conservative and orthodox when he headed up the congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under John Paul II, who, of all things, goes to Nicaragua and other places in Central America and slaps down liberal cardinals and bishops who are flirting with liberation theology. So of all things, it takes a German theologian there, Cardinal Ratzinger to become Pope Benedict XVI, to try to bring back orthodoxy. And now, of all things, here you are with a Jesuit pope who, for the record, rejects liberation theology, but you can see it's still influenced by that whole milieu, very much so.

Albert Mohler:

Yeah. And I would say that formally, he rejects it. Structurally and substantially, he does not. And of course, you are Roman Catholic, I'm president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, very much a Protestant, but we share many common concerns along these lines. And it gets to the point now, and by the way, I'm probably the only Baptist seminary president you're ever going to meet who spent time during my doctoral work in a Roman Catholic institution studying Cardinal Ratzinger, amongst others.

Paul Kengor:

Yeah. His writings are brilliant, yeah. They're really outstanding, and I've listened to some of your podcasts, watched some of your podcasts on Pope Francis, so we could go into quite a tangent on that. But yeah, it is very much a product of that whole Latin American left. Central Asian.

Albert Mohler:

Yeah. And the fact is, when I'm talking with you, I want to chase so many points, but you mentioned Union Theological Seminary, and that is just the fountainhead of Protestant liberalism in the United States, but it's also physically located in Morningside Heights, very close to Columbia University. And in two of your previous books, you have pointed to a phenomenon that has caught my attention long ago, and that is that for some reason, Columbia University turned out to be the nexus for so many of the most toxic ideas in American culture, and in particular, the open advocacy of Marxism.

Paul Kengor:

Yes. So many different individuals who went hard left, some of the most famous Communists that we know of in America in the 20th century, and who became anti-Communist, some of them from a theological point of view, Whittaker Chambers. Whittaker Chambers goes into Columbia University as this Taft Republican, and ends up, by the time that he's done at the end of the decade, he's an editor for New Masses, of all things.  Ends up spying for the Soviets, of all things. Thomas Merton. He became a Communist at Columbia, and then later leaves that, becomes a monk. Bella Dodd, who I talk about in the book, all it took was she and her friend, Ruthie Goldstein, to take a summer class at Columbia University after she was in Hunter College, and sweet little Maria Isabella Asunta, this Picerno, this nice little Italian girl from New York, ends up becoming a Marxist who claims, or reportedly claimed that she helped place 1,000 Communist men in seminaries, Catholic seminaries in the 30s. And so, what happened at Columbia is really extraordinary. And I think part of that too is, and I quote in the book and I've quote in previous books, the FBI was able to document this, literally half of the Communist Party members in the United States in the 1950s lived in New York. They lived in New York. They had New York City zip codes, and it was quite literally 50%, so it was a hotbed.

Albert Mohler:

Yeah. Columbia, oddly enough, was started, of course, as an Anglican college for boys and young men, King's College, because it was quite literally the king's possession. And then it became, of course later, you have the whole social justice movement, and cultural Marxism, which yes, is a term I use without apology, because it is a thing. And Columbia becomes so centered in that. And I'm not implying that Barack Obama was a Communist, let's be clear about that, but it's not accidental that Barack Obama transfers from Occidental College to Columbia University, to the very place where that is so much a part of the ethos. And I want to be clear, it's not just Communism, but it is basically the idea of a very liberal social organizing praxis that is very much a part of the ethos and culture of Columbia University.

Paul Kengor:

Well, and he wrote in Dreams from My Father about going to Columbia and attending socialist conferences, and hanging out with socialist professors. So yeah, yeah. No, he admits that. Another character here that's popped into my mind a couple of times as you said this, and also as you mentioned social justice, probably the most damaging theologian of the day was the Reverend Harry Ward, who was Methodist. And he headed the group Methodist Federation for Social Action, it was called. Today, they probably call it the Methodist Federation for Social Justice.He and Roger Baldwin were the two founders of the ACLU, and also too, one of the original founding board members of the ACLU, you can't make this up, was William Z. Foster, the first head of the Communist Party USA, of all things. But Harry Ward, who was known as ... Manning Johnson called him the Red Dean of Clergy in the United States. He's somebody who Manning Johnson and others said was actually a party member. So that's somebody, he's quite a case. He very well may have been faking his Christianity all the while in order to do what he did. And he ended up creating some enormously influential front groups.

Albert Mohler:

Yeah. I'm not even sure he had to fake it. Because by then, liberal Protestantism was so devoid of theology and any kind of significant truth claim or moral claim that you didn't have to fake being a liberal Protestant, because it didn't require anything. And we just forget how dominant that establishment was in creating the American elite. Virtually-

Paul Kengor:

Yeah. William Z. Foster though said under oath to Congress, he told Hamilton Fish, Hamilton Fish said, "Could you be a religious believer and be a party member?" And Foster said, "Well, that'd be pretty odd. I guess you could, theoretically, but you would need be in the process of liquidating those religious superstitions." So you wonder how somebody like Harry Ward really could even be a Communist, because really, like Marx said, Communism begins where atheism begins. You really cannot be a Christian.

Albert Mohler:

No, and that helps bring us back to kind of the first question, and even the title of your book, and the purpose of writing your most recent book, The Devil and Karl Marx. So people today, especially young people, attracted, we are told, and I actually believe this, to Socialism in unprecedented numbers. Americans who seem to have forgotten the entire 20th century, and you look at this and you recognize that atheism was not a factor in a Marxist thought. Atheism is the apriori because if there is any ontological God, then you cannot have the world view of Marxism.

Albert Mohler:

And I think that's what so many Americans, young and old, frankly, just don't recognize. The way I would put it as a theologian is that the atheism is apriori to Marxism.

Paul Kengor:

It is, yeah. And apriori, so again, Marxist Communism begins where atheism begins. And you need to be an atheist first in order to be a Communist, and they believe that. I quote Nikolai Bukharin, the founding editor of Pravda, and he said, "Religion and Communism, Christianity and Communism are incompatible. Christianity and religion must be fought at the tip of the spear. At the tip of the bayonet."

Paul Kengor:

And again, like Lenin said, "All worship of the divinity is a necrophilia." Speaking again of the Jesuits, there was a horrific piece July 2019 in America Magazine, which is the flagship publication of the Jesuits, called, "The Catholic Case for Communism." Now, that quite literally could've gotten them probably excommunicated in 1949 under Pius XII's papal decree on Communism. And not only would the church have said in those days, "Wait a second, Catholic case for Communism? You can't be a Catholic and a Communist." In fact, Pope Pius XI, the Quadragesimo Anno said, "One cannot be at the same time a socialist and a Christian. The two are incompatible." So not only would the church have said that, the Communists would have said that. The Communists would have walked into the offices of America Magazine and said, "What are you guys talking about? The Catholic case for Communism? The Christian case for Communism? These are incompatible. Are you out of your minds? What are you reading? What are you smoking?"

Albert Mohler:

Yep. No, you're exactly right, except we have to add to that that one of the axioms of applying Marxism was that one could misrepresent Marxism in so far as it would advance the Marxist political aims. And so, I've seen that in my own lifetime, where people who actually will advocate for a genuine Marxism, they mispresent and misrepresent Marxism, especially to religious people, because as you used the word dupes, it's a horrifyingly condescending word, but it's often true. They would find fellow travelers amongst religious people.

Paul Kengor:

Now, this is crucial. Yeah. So I think it's part three of the book, and I go through Earl Browder's outstretched hand effort in the 1930s. So yeah, the Communist Party did a major about-face, where they realized that attacking Christianity, declaring a war on religion was absolutely and utterly counterproductive. And if they were going to make any inroads at all, especially in the United States, which was such a religious country, they looked at the mainline denominations, they looked at 18 million Catholics, Al. In New York City, between 110th and 59th Street ... Or not 18 million, that was nationally.

Paul Kengor:

But hundreds of thousands, and they said to themselves, "If we could sucker," ... Bella Dodd called them suckerless, "If we could get even 1% of these people, we'll explode our membership. We're struggling to get 50 thousand Communist Party USA members." So they started singing a different tune. This was the whole united front effort, which was led by JB Matthews. By the way, JB Matthews, I think he was another Union Theological Seminary product. And so, they led that effort in the 1930s, so that began indeed an effort to lie. To conceal. To deceive.

Paul Kengor:

As Manning Johnson said, "The Devil doth quote scripture." That led to a long process of misleading, and they had enormous success, especially when they sought to create front groups, like the American League Against War and Fascism, to which Fulton Sheen said, "I have an idea. If you change your name to the American League Against Communism and Fascism, then we'll join your group." But that's not what it is.

Paul Kengor:

So they would create these names. What's in a name? A lot. Look at the name today, like Black Lives Matter. The name is brilliant. Who could possibly oppose that? Who would say, "Black lives don't matter"? Nobody. So I'm not comparing it to the American League Against War and Fascism, but the point is that they realized the importance of proper names, sloganeering, and these Communists in the 30s were outstanding at deception and disinformation and manipulation.

Albert Mohler:

Well, they treated it as an art form with everything as a means to the end. And the end justifies the means. And so, that's one of the first things I was taught about Communism as a young boy in the public schools in the 1960s. At least they taught us what to listen for. I had a Marxist teacher at one point, and he could never have, I think, been clear in his Marxism publicly, but nonetheless, was. And frankly, caused me to think a lot. And in college, a professor who said to me basically, "We don't have to destroy religion, religion's destroying itself." And by the way, again, as a conservative, I have to say there's a lot of evidence for him to have confidence. But he said, "The thing is," he said, "Marx took religion too seriously." And I thought, "Well, that's interesting," and especially relevant to our conversation today. What he meant was that they didn't have to destroy the church to bring about a Communist revolution, all they had to do was force the church into acquiescence.

Paul Kengor:

Yeah. Or confusion. Yeah, that’s right. Although what Marx said, Marx, in a letter to Arnold Ruge, called for, "The ruthless criticism of everything that exists." The ruthless criticism of everything that exists. On pages 383 to 384 of this book, I reiterated a bunch of those different quote throughout the book. I thought it was really important to wrap them up in the conclusion, and they're in bullets, and one of them is that Communism represents the most radical rupture in traditional relations. Yeah, page 383 to 384.

Paul Kengor:

And this is in the concluding lines of The Communist Manifesto. Everybody thinks of, "Workers of the world unite," "We have nothing to lose but our chains," all those different lines, but there's a line in the end there where Marx and Engels write that, "Communism calls for the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions." The forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. So they realized that you had to take out God. You had to take down God. You had to remove God. Once you raise that foundation, once you destroy, the words in the manifesto, "All morality, all religion, then you can stand there like Marx did in the embers of that burnt down house with your fist in the air, 'Everything that exists deserves to perish.' And now we can begin our world anew.” So they knew that you had to abolish not just property, not just capital, not just the family, you needed to abolish religion as well.

 

Albert Mohler:

So Paul, when you're looking at Marx, you're looking at this absolute commitment to the most ruthless, rigorous criticism. Now, draw the line there, and by the way, let me just pause it right upfront, that meant eventually the abolishment of God, the abolition of the family, the abolition of all organized religion, and as you say, all current social conditions completely obliterated. So explicitly, marriage, the family, God. Draw a line between that and critical theory as it exists right now as very much an intellectual force.

Paul Kengor:

Yeah. In fact, Marx in the Opiate of the Masses essay said that, "The criticism of religion is the beginning of all criticism." In a way, it's pretty profound. The criticism of religion is the beginning of all criticism. And critical theory, which is probably the fancier, more academic term for cultural Marxism. I prefer the term critical theory because I think critical theory nails it. When you really look at a lot of these Marxists, especially the neo-Marxists, the modern-day Marxists, you find out that they, like Karl Marx, are all about criticizing.

Paul Kengor:

Again, what Marx said in an 1843 letter to Arnold Ruge, "The ruthless criticism of everything that exists." People think about that. People say all the time that, "Oh, the problem with Communism is it doesn't understand markets." No, Communism is a philosophical system. The ruthless criticism of everything that exists? Yeah.

Albert Mohler:

Well, be clear. Be clear. Here's the problem. I know what you mean by that, I know what Marx means by that, I know what the critical theorists mean by that, but an awful lot of people hearing us talk won't understand that what is meant by criticism here is intellectual destruction and subversion. It's not criticism that X or Y could be improved, it's that Western civilization is nothing more than a titanic project of human oppression.

Paul Kengor:

Yes. Yeah, and the only word that Marx uses as much as, if not more than criticism, is abolition. So criticism goes with abolition. So the criticism, the ruthless criticism of all that exists in his case means abolition as well. And some Marxist scholars have translated abolition as you transcend, you go beyond. But as you see in Marx and as you see in the followers, no, no, no. These guys mean abolition. They mean take down. And the word abolition is used throughout the manifesto.

Paul Kengor:

You mentioned the family. They actually used the phrase, Marx and Engels, this is a verbatim quote, "Abolition of the family!" Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of Communists. So they can already, in 1848, refer to abolition of the family as an infamous proposal of the Communists. And also, they write in the manifesto, "The entire Communist theory may be summed up in this single sentence: Abolition of private property."

Paul Kengor:

And so, right then and there people who say, "Oh, the Communist Manifesto is a pretty good book if you just read it. It talks about sharing and love and taking care of your fellow man." And as one Marx biographer, Francis Wheen says, "To blame the Gulags on Marx and Engels and the Communist Manifesto is absurd." No it's not. You want to abolish private property? You're going to have a war on your hands. Like Marx said, forcible overthrow. And like he says in the 10-point plan, of course to effect this, despotic inroads will be necessary. Of course you're going to need force and violence and guns to abolish private property. You think people are going to give that up? That's a sacred right. It's a natural right. It's natural law. It's biblical. The cave, the courthouse, Judeo-Christianity. Thou shall not steal implies that people have the right to property. You're going to have a war on your hands if you try to abolish private property.

Paul Kengor:

Which is why, Dr. Mohler, Ronald Reagan said, "A Communist is somebody who reads Marx, an anti-Communist is someone who understands Marx." And again, I hear young people say, "Communism's a pretty good idea if you just read it." They haven't read it. They haven't read it because if they did, they'd reject it.

Albert Mohler:

And they certainly haven't read the history of its attempted application. Because Marxism has worked precisely nowhere any time.

Paul Kengor:

Nowhere. Even if they had one case that they could point to. One. Really, they ought to have 10, but there's not even one. It's just absolute destruction wherever it goes, and I think that it's because it's diabolical, frankly.

Albert Mohler:

Right. Well, and it's skeletons everywhere you look.

Paul Kengor:

That's right.

Albert Mohler:

Given that, let's talk about this kind of leftward infatuation with Marx. Or with Marxist, Che Guevara. They've got the Che t-shirts, wore it all over college campuses. Or take the fact that the Democratic Party still, still in 2020, has never really come to terms with Cuba. Or Venezuela, for that matter. You just look at this and it just defies imagination that we have to be talking about this now.

Paul Kengor:

Yeah. Yeah, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation is now doing an annual survey that comes out every October on American views towards Socialism and Communism. And it just gets worse and worse, and it's really quite shocking. And for the record, for people who don't understand the difference, according to the Marxist-Leninist theory, society, the world, history would go through these dialectical stages, this series of processes, stages, from feudalism and slavery to capitalism to Socialism to Communism. So Socialism would be the final transitionary step to Communism.

Paul Kengor:

The USSR was United Soviet Socialist, right? Socialist Republic. So yeah, Socialism was his final step. Marion Smith, who runs Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, I really like his formulation, he says that when he is asked to define the difference between Socialism and Communism, he says, "Well, as for the Christian, the Christian aspires to Heaven, the Socialist aspires to Communism." And that's a good description, because as Pope Benedict XVI said, "For the Communists, Communism is like the new Jerusalem. It's the earthly utopia. It's the secular utopia. It's the world that they ascend to, that they try to go to." Which is so ironic, because again, it's supposed to be this atheistic philosophy. Ronald Reagan said, "Communism, that religion of theirs." And they indeed treat it like a religion.

Albert Mohler:

One of the amazing things to me is, by the way, on these lines, that there's just a lack of intellectual honestly amongst people who need to be grown-ups. For instance, you hear people talking about Democratic Socialism, which is an oxymoron in the truest sense, and always has been. So then they say, "But look at Europe." Okay, look at Europe. Socialism, by any adequate, honest definition means state ownership and control of the means of production. That is not Sweden. That is not Norway.

Paul Kengor:

No. They confuse their terms. A lot of what they're talking about in Europe, which are really social democracies, which is very different from Democratic Socialism. In fact, the organization that's carrying the flag for that in the United States is the DSA, the Democratic Socialists of America. And if you go to their website, it says right at the first page of the website, they refer to themselves as the largest Socialist organization in the United States. So they use the term Socialist. And that is the organization AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Talib, so they have about 50 thousand members, they have chapters on 200 to 300 college campuses. That's where the action is. Communist Party USA really claims only about 5,000 members, so that's not much. But yeah, it's the Democratic Socialists of America, that's it. That's where it's happening.

Albert Mohler:

What does it tell you that in the year 2020, an idea and ideology as horrific as Marxism is, if anything, at least in American and European intellectual circles, ascendent?

Paul Kengor:

Yeah. I think that is a sign of ... Actually, let me put it in three words. Education, education, education. I think it's a product of our universities, and you and I watched this. We saw the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and you and I talking about, I think the book Dupes 10 years ago, we kept saying, "If young people don't start learning the horrors of Communism and what's bad with this system, and to the contrary, if they continue to learn strictly positives about Communism, we're going to be in deep trouble. We're eventually going to pay for this. People aren't going to know the difference."

Paul Kengor:

And one of the surveys by Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation that I'll never forget, it was one-third of millennials, and it was I think 28% or 30% of all Americans generally ... Okay, brace yourselves, folks, believed that George W. Bush was responsible for more deaths than Joseph Stalin. That is absolutely astounding. Alexander Yakovlev, in his Yale University Press book, A Century of Violence in Soviet Russia, he was given the task for Gorbachev in the 1990s of counting the skulls. He said Stalin alone annihilated 60 to 70 million people, and you think George W. Bush killed more people than Joseph Stalin? Where are you? How can that happen? Well, if you're in a university in America in the 2000s, and the only things you hear of the past four years are, "Bush bad, Bush bad, Bush bad," and the only thing you learned about the Cold War is that it was about some bad guy named Joe Stalin ... or, I mean Joe McCarthy, Joe McCarthy, who harassed these wonderful progressives called the Hollywood 10. You're not going to know any of these facts. So here we are, we're now reaping what we've sown.

Albert Mohler:

Yeah. It just amazes me too, the hagiography of the left. And Hollywood and all the rest. So you mentioned Joseph McCarthy, it turned out that of course, he was a complete alcoholic, again, misanthropic, misrepresenting, hatemonger. Okay, give him that. But he also turned out to have been far more right than wrong, as verified by the Verona papers. Once the KGB archives were opened, it's clear that he was ... I mean, he was wrong in making accusations about numbers, but it turns out when he talked about the State Department, there were a lot of Communist agents in it because the Communists were paying them and keeping their records.

Paul Kengor:

Yeah. The most remarkable book on McCarthy is Blacklisted by History by my late good friend Stan Evans, M. Stanton Evans, and yeah, anyone listening right now who doesn't like what you and I just said about McCarthy, you need to read Stan's book. You need to. If you don't, you're not being intellectually honest. You need to go through it.

Albert Mohler:

I'm not trying to revive McCarthy, I'm just simply saying that the left is dishonest about him. They also never point to the fact that Jack Kennedy, as a United States senator, never took a public stand against McCarthy when he was running for office because he needed the votes of Irish Catholics in Boston who loved Joe McCarthy, and Joe McCarthy was in the wedding of Robert Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy wept at his death.

Paul Kengor:

Yeah, they were close. They were tight. Bobby Kennedy worked for Joe McCarthy. In fact, Robert Kennedy's oldest daughter, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, her godfather was Joe McCarthy. And Joe McCarthy used to hang out at the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port. He actually dated one of the Kennedy daughters. And yeah, they were very close. They were all solid anti-Communist Irish Catholics. Yeah. So that's something too that the left doesn't like to talk about.

Albert Mohler:

That doesn't make it into the docudramas.

Paul Kengor:

No. No, it doesn't. No. No, they were tight. They were tight.

Albert Mohler:

Professor Paul Kengor, it's always exhilarating to talk with you. This has been a fun conversation about a very depressing topic, because we care about ideas

Paul Kengor:

Yeah, very depressing. But always good to talk to you.

Albert Mohler:

Yeah. We care about ideas, and we agree with the late Richard Weaver that ideas have consequences, and it's our task intellectually not just to point to the consequences, but to work from the consequences back to the ideas. And you have, in a body of work, done that, and for that, we're in your debt.

Paul Kengor:

Well, we're in your debt. Thank you for all that you do. You're truly doing the Lord's work, and I'll continue to tune in.

Albert Mohler:

Thank you.

Paul Kengor:

Thank you for all you do, and God bless you.

Albert Mohler:

Many thanks to my guest, Professor Paul Kengor, for thinking with me today. If you enjoyed today's episode of Thinking in Public, you'll find more than 100 of these conversations at AlbertMohler.com under the tab Thinking in Public.

Albert Mohler:

For more information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to SBTS.edu. For information on Boyce College, go to BoyceCollege.com. Thank you for joining me for Thinking in Public, and until next time, keep thinking. I'm Albert Mohler.

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