One-Hundred Years Ago, Communism Attacked the Church and the World
In March of 1917, Lenin was living in poverty in Zurich. He was the exiled leader of a small extremist, revolutionary party. Eight months later, in October of 1917, he was the master of Russia, a country with a population of over 160 million and a surface that covers one-sixth of earth’s inhabited land. He established in this country one of the worst regimes the world has ever known.
Before finding his way back to Russia, Vladimir Ilitch Oulianov was living a mediocre life in Zurich, spending his time writing articles for obscurely Marxist papers and carrying on endless debates in cafes.
But in the middle of World War I, with the help of Kaiser William II’s government, Lenin traveled across Germany and Scandinavia by train to reenter Russia. This eight-day journey, from March 27 to April 3, 1917, changed the face of the world.
“Millions of destructive projectiles were fired during the world war,” wrote Stefan Zweig in Le Wagon plombé, but “none flew farther, none played a more decisive role in all of recent history than this train that took off from the Swiss border with its load of the most dangerous and determined revolutionaries of the century, flew over all of Germany, and landed in St. Petersburg where it blew up the reigning order.”
He was a puny, worried man when he arrived in Petrograd on the night of April 16, 1917; he feared he would be arrested for treason as soon as he descended from the train by the temporary government directed by Prince Lvov who had been in power since the abdication of the Czar. During the journey, he wrote his April Theses, advocating a radical proletarian revolution that did not include the middle-class revolution prescribed by the Marxist theory.
When the train arrived at the Petrograd station, Vladimir Ilitch discovered to his stupefaction that the crowd awaiting him was not there to arrest him but to acclaim him. The Bolshevik party had rallied hundreds of militants to celebrate the return of its leader. There was even a brass band on hand to play the Marseillaise…
After the failed insurrection of July 1917, Lenin was a wanted man and had to flee. He finally reappeared on the evening of October 24, 1917, at the Smolny Institute. Unrecognizable – he had shaved off his legendary beard – he had to sneak through the crowd to go harangue his comrades.
The next day, galvanized by Vladimir Ilitch, in a general atmosphere of social unrest, the Bolsheviks took the Winter Palace, the seat of the temporary government established after the abdication of Nicholas II and the fall of the czarist regime in February of the same year. A new day had dawned with the promise of better days to come for Russia and for the entire world… History’s first atheistic State would prove to be the worst persecutor of religions and the most murderous of all totalitarian regimes.
The Church’s Condemnation of Communism
The Church condemned the doctrine of Communism under Pope Pius XI in the encyclical Divini Redemptoris on March 19, 1937. It called Communism “intrinsically perverse.” The Socialist revolution was denounced as violent and barbaric. The “all too imminent danger” threatening the entire world was “bolshevistic and atheistic Communism, which aims at upsetting the social order and at undermining the very foundations of Christian civilization”. This “false messianic idea,” explained Pius XI, is based on the erroneous principles of the “dialectical and historical materialism previously advocated by Marx,” a doctrine in which “there is in the world only one reality, matter, the blind forces of which evolve into plant, animal and man.”
In a system like this, continued the pope, “human society is nothing but a phenomenon and form of matter, evolving in the same way. By a law of inexorable necessity and through a perpetual conflict of forces, matter moves towards the final synthesis of a classless society”. The consequence of such a doctrine is that “there is no room for the idea of God; there is no difference between matter and spirit, between soul and body; there is neither survival of the soul after death nor any hope in a future life”; and therein lies the perversity of this system that claims to regenerate humanity.
The Marxist-Leninist regimes that were established little by little – up until 1991 in Russia – turned Communism into the most repressive and murderous totalitarianism of our times. According to the study conducted by The Black Book of Communism, the various attempts to build the “new man” have been the cause of 65 to 85 million deaths throughout the world.
The Soviet count – about 15 million dead – was sadly surpassed by Mao’s China. The number of victims in the Middle Kingdom is estimated between 45 and 72 million… But the record for murderous intensity goes to the Khmer Rouge, who in less than four years, between 1975 and 1979, eliminated between 1.3 and 2.3 million of the 7.5 million Cambodians.
For Bolshevik Communism took on the figure of a veritable “crusade for the progress of humanity,” as Pope Pius XI had so clearly understood. As it spread, so did the massacres and the general terror, repeating over and over with the same logic the mechanism of every revolt against God and the natural order, a sort of continuation of the French Revolution that was the mother and matrix of all the modern revolutions.
Communism Against the Catholic Faith
Communism, explained the papal encyclical, “is by its nature anti-religious. It considers religion as ‘the opiate of the people’ because the principles of religion which speak of a life beyond the grave dissuade the proletariat from the dream of a Soviet paradise which is of this world”. But since “the law of nature and its Author cannot be flouted with impunity,” it was through terrorism and the enslavement of millions of men, that the Soviet paradise was imposed, thanks to this new religion of the Party.
One-hundred years after the Bolshevik revolution, the Soviet regime no longer exists in Russia, but the statues of Vladimir Ilitch Oulianov, although slightly damaged, are still standing in St. Petersburg. His mummified body is still exhibited on Red Square, enthroned in such a way as to recall the cult that he enjoyed.
Although the empire of the Czars has been resurrected, the echo of Our Lady of Fatima’s words continues to resound with as much relevance as ever: “If my requests are answered (the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the communion of reparation on First Saturdays), Russia will convert and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions against the Church”.