How to Resist Marxism According to Solzhenitsyn

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Time for our five-minute “When Marxism Comes Knocking, Be a Doormat” team-building session! Today’s wisdom comes from Coca Cola’s Better Together global training materials, reported by a whistleblower on February 19, 2021. All together now: “To be less white is to be less oppressive, be less arrogant, be less certain, be less defensive, be less ignorant, be more humble, listen, believe, break with apathy, break with white solidarity…. Try to be less white.”

Yes, you guessed it. That’s Critical Race Theory, but its proponents don’t actually care about your whiteness levels. What they care about is eradicating the remnants of Christian civilization and turning you into a doormat over which Marxism can march to victory. And while seemingly compassionate socialists form the vanguard of the Marxist army, diehard communists with dreams of world domination are rolling in green jeeps right behind them, hammers and sickles embroidered on their hats.  

Yes, all Marxist-influenced initiatives, from the mildly socialist to the violently radical, serve to advance Marxism’s goal: the formation of a worldwide, collectivist, classless state where everyone accepts the principles of atheistic materialism—in a word, communism. While the West hasn’t yet reached that point, the widespread social support for Marxist Critical Race Theory and communist-style censorship makes it plain that we’re moving swiftly in the wrong direction.

How can Catholics offer effective resistance? Well, we could start listening to the voices that have been desperately trying to get through to us for the last 50 years. One of the greatest of these is Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918–2008) whose time in the gulag gave him ample opportunity to observe Marxist ideology and its horrible consequences for humanity.

Here are five ways to resist Marxism, taken from the wisdom of Solzhenitsyn.

Don’t think like a Marxist. “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them,” Solzhenitsyn wrote at the beginning of The Gulag Archipelago (1973). “But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

Like it or not, our lives today are steeped in Marxism. We’re taught in the classroom, in the media, in our entertainment, to see the world only through the prism of artificial Marxist conflicts. There’s feminism, the artificial conflict between women and men; there are unions, dividing labor and management; there’s Critical Race Theory, fostering hatred between one race and another; there are so-called social justice movements, setting the poor against the rich, the minority against the majority, the citizen against the police, the environment against humanity.

These artificial conflicts help advance Marxism in two ways. First, they promote class warfare, which communists hope will cause revolution and bring about the collectivist state. Secondly, they encourage people to blame social problems on the traditional understanding of male and female natures, and on the historical social structures endorsed by Scripture and sanctified by the Church and Tradition. Solution: tear down the patriarchy, tear down hierarchical authority—and communism will take their place.

Their argument is nonsense, of course. Catholics know social evils result directly or indirectly from original sin, which can be cured not by revolution but by sanctifying grace. Students of Scripture and Tradition know the Church favors Christianity’s time-honored institutions and structures for the simple reason that they provide the optimal conditions for the propagation of sanctifying grace, which in turn promotes human flourishing in this life (and the salvation of souls).

The most painful step in resisting Marxism is the first: being willing to destroy its foothold in our own hearts.

Do remember that we, not Marxists, are the friends of humanity. In a speech delivered in Washington DC, June 30, 1975, Solzhenitsyn spoke of his dislike for the expression “anti-communism.” It’s a poorly designed expression, invented by people ignorant of etymology, he complained: by defining anti-communism in relation to communism, “it makes it appear as though communism were something original, something basic, something fundamental.”

But the primary concept is humanity. Communism, Solzhenitsyn says, means being “anti-humanity.” Thus, to describe someone as “anti-communist” is to say they are “anti-anti-humanity,” which falsely dignifies communism with the status of a positive philosophy. Therefore, Solzhenitsyn concluded, “That which is against communism is for humanity. Not to accept, to reject this inhuman Communist ideology is simply to be a human being.”

Don’t lick out bowls. In One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1959), the hero recalls the advice given to him when he first arrived in the work camps: “A man can live here, just like anywhere else. Know who croaks first? The guy who licks out bowls, puts his faith in the sick bay, or squeals to godfather [camp slang for the resident informer].”

Why did the men who licked out bowls die first? Because they were at the mercy of their appetites. They would not develop the moral strength needed to survive harsh conditions. They were spiritual weaklings.

Spiritual weaklings cannot resist pro-Marxist social pressure without cracking under the strain. Solzhenitsyn gives us a model of spiritual strength in the same book, a tall old inmate who had never “knuckled under”:

He was steadily eating his thin skilly, but instead of almost dipping his head in the bowl like the rest of them, he carried his battered wooden spoon up high…. His face was worn thin, but it wasn’t the weak face of a burnt-out invalid, it was like dark chiseled stone. You could tell from his big chapped and blackened hands that in all his years inside he’d never had a soft job…. But he refused to knuckle under: he didn’t put his three hundred grams [of bread] on the dirty table, splashed all over, like the others, he put it on a rag he washed regularly.

He’s no victim, though he is starved and treated brutally like the rest. He holds his head high and lifts his food up to his mouth, demonstrating the dominion he has achieved over his passions. He sets his bread on a clean rag, not because he is fussy or effeminate—his face “like dark chiseled stone” and his chapped hands show his masculine fortitude—but because this gesture of dignity bears witness to the value of the soul and its spiritual destiny.

Marxism is materialistic atheism. Dignified behavior counters it by silently, but powerfully, testifying to the existence and nobility of the soul.

Do support traditional forms of authority. In Solzhenitsyn’s Harvard Address (1978), he explained how modern Western democracies are designed to ensure the reign of mediocrity:

A statesman who wants to achieve something important and highly constructive for his country has to move cautiously and even timidly; there are thousands of hasty and irresponsible critics around him, parliament and the press keep rebuffing him. As he moves ahead, he has to prove that every single step of his is well-founded and absolutely flawless. Actually, an outstanding and particularly gifted person who has unusual and unexpected initiatives in mind hardly gets a chance to assert himself; from the very beginning, dozens of traps will be set out for him. Thus, mediocrity triumphs with the excuse of restrictions imposed by democracy.

Here’s a real-life example. Suppose a President of the United States wanted to stop socialist propaganda in schools (as President Trump did). Under the current system, it’s almost impossible to do so. The reforms Trump did attempt were immediately overturned upon his departure from office. But that’s how it’s supposed to be, defenders of contemporary democracy will argue: More important than stopping socialism in schools, is ensuring presidents don’t have too much power—because while one leader might pursue good initiatives, the next might be bad.

But as Solzhenitsyn points out, reducing the power of a given authority limits his capacity for good even more than his capacity for evil, because middle-of-the road mediocrity invariably skews toward evil. (Consider that checks on power notwithstanding, bad leaders successfully push progressive agendas.) Society is the loser while Marxism is the winner, for a weakened or incapacitated authority cannot take strong action against it, nor can individuals without effective leadership.

This is important for Catholics who are understandably horrified by the moral and doctrinal deviancy of certain members of the hierarchy to consider. We can’t turn against all authority because some leaders are bad. Of course, it’s legitimate to distance oneself from an authority that’s moving, wittingly or unwittingly, in a bad direction. But it is nonetheless necessary to uphold the principle of personal authority. Otherwise, when a good man does become a leader, how will things change?

Don’t tell lies. Lies were everywhere in Soviet Russia, and they are everywhere now: lies about God, lies about the nature of man and woman, lies about what is good and what is evil. In his essay Live Not by Lies (1974), Solzhenitsyn offers “the simplest, the most accessible key to our liberation” from Marxism: “a personal nonparticipation in lies! Even if all is covered by lies, even if all is under their rule, let us resist in the smallest way: Let their rule hold not through me!”

It takes courage to put oneself unreservedly into the hands of the truth (even though it’s only putting oneself in the supremely trustworthy hands of God). But once you’ve chosen truth, the rest is easy; it’s those who participate in lies who spend their lives agonizing. Solzhenitsyn, with the insight of a great artist, shows this in Cancer Ward (1969). Two Soviet-era patients are comparing their hardships. The first lists off war, labor camps, exile, lack of education, and loss of his career. But the other, Shulubin, a former professor who never went near a war or a jail, insists that his life has been much harder. “I’ll tell you something. You haven’t had to do much lying, do you understand? At least you haven’t had to stoop so low—you should appreciate that!”

Every compromise that the Soviets demanded of him, Shulubin accepted, for fear that his children would be taken from him. He applauded every denunciation of the innocent and parroted the Party line. Eventually, he was made a librarian in a faraway region. From time to time he would have to pull certain old books from the shelves and destroy them so people could not access ideas from the past. Now, late in life, rejected by his ungrateful children, he is full of shame and regret, feeling that he has exchanged his integrity for a mess of pottage.

“I was happy bringing up my children, but they spat on my soul…. To preserve this happiness I took books which were full of truth and burned them in the stove….”

It’s tragic. But the honesty of Shulubin’s admission leaves room for hope. It’s never too late to start telling the truth.

[Photo Credit: Shutterstock]

By

Jane Stannus is a journalist and translator. Her writing has also appeared in the Catholic Herald of London, The Spectator USA, and the National Catholic Reporter.

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