THE CONTINUING WORLD CONFLICT
An Address by
REV. DR. EMLYN DAVIES, D.D., B.Litt. (Oxon.) Thursday, March 14, 1963
CHAIRMAN: The President, Mr. Palmer Kent, Q.C.
MR. KENT: It is a great pleasure for me to present to you today, my friend Rev. Dr. Emlyn Davies. For almost 12 years he has been the minister at Yorkminster Baptist Church until he resigned as a result of the amalgamation with the Park Road Church. Now he is guest professor at Knox College. He also lectures at Upper Canada College and he is a member of the Board of Broadcast Governors for Canada.
He came to us from Cardiff, Wales, where he was professor of Church History and financial secretary at the South Wales Baptist College. Born and raised in Wales, he spoke Welsh for many years before he could speak English. After graduating from the University of Wales with Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Divinity degrees, he attended University College, Oxford, and earned the degree of Bachelor of Literature. He was the minister of High Street Baptist Church at Merthyr Tydvil in Wales from 1934 to 1940, when the depression caused most serious suffering to the Welsh people. Then he was minister of a church at North Finchley, near London, during the worst of the London Blitz. Since arriving in Canada he has been president of the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec and he has received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from McMaster University. He has also taken a great interest in the World Council of Churches. In the course of his work in England and Wales, it became necessary for him to know what the communist party in England was attempting to do in advocating the overthrow by force of established institutions. He made an intensive study of the writings of Karl Marx and others. Frequently he has lectured on the conflict of ideologies between our system and that of the communist countries. There is no more important issue in the world today and I know of no one better able to enlighten us on the subject, "The Continuing World Conflict."
DR. DAVIES: I am reminded of the distinguished Baptist preacher who changed his sphere of labour. On one of his return visits to his previous charge, he enquired about his successor from one of his older lady friends. The report was enthusiastic. As a preacher, a public-relations officer, a young people's worker, a pastor, a denominational leader, his successor was proving himself to be widely accepted and greatly favoured. The friend noticed that as she added praise upon praise, the face of the previous minister showed some signs of bewilderment, if not of dismay. Anxious not to hurt or cause the former minister any unnecessary embarrassment, the friend blurted out, "Oh, but Dr. Johnson, no one can hold me as you used to hold me!"
If it happens, Mr. President, that you are not held today as you would have been held, you will, I am sure, exercise your customary goodwill and be patient.
I have chosen to speak to you about Communism-not that I have any expert knowledge not vouchsafed to others, or any inside information which will add to the many and varied studies of Communism now available on this Continent. I speak as one who regards Communism as one of the two most serious contenders for the dominance of the world. The other is the Christian faith. It is, therefore, altogether fitting that I, a servant of the Church, whose adult life has been spent seeking to promote the Christian cause, should examine the Communist challenge. This task is undertaken not to score some debating points or to expose some obvious fallacies, but out of a deep concern for the true well being of our nation, and the larger family of nations both on this continent and throughout the world. For Communism has to be seen and recognised as a world force. It is more than a social philosophy which has to be refuted. It is more than a political movement which has to be out-manoeuvred and eventually destroyed. Certainly, it is more than a false religion which has to be out-preached. It is a world force, contending for the allegiance of the world and seeking to vindicate itself where vindication matters most, namely, in the realm of contemporary historical human action and affairs.
On the occasion of the funeral of Karl Marx, on a cold day in March, 1884, in Highgate Cemetery, London, England, Friedrich Engels, Marx's closest friend and in his closing years his benefactor, made the following prediction in the presence of the dozen or so people who were present: "humanity had lost its greatest thinker whose achievements would be honoured throughout the ages to come."
Nearly eighty years have come and gone since that day, and what might have been dismissed as a wildly extravagant claim made in the intensity of grief has turned out to be literally true for millions of people. Almost one-third of the world's population regards Karl Marx as virtually the economic and social saviour of the world. No less an authority than Professor Harold Laski has declared that "the history of Socialism in the second half of the nineteenth century is so emphatically the history of Marx and his influence that apart from him the movement has little meaning of universal quality."
What, then, was Marx's contribution to our understanding of experience and our interpretation of human existence? Engels gives a clear and unequivocal answer. What Marx did was to discover the law of evolution in human society. If this was meant to imply that Marx was a social scientist, then the answer is open to grave questioning. The true scientist sets out to discover facts, verifiable facts, and on ascertained and established facts he propounds his theory. Marx propounded a theory and used only those facts which supported his theory. The rest he ignored.
In many ways the simplest division of Marx's whole system of thought is that given by the late Reverend Ingli James in his book "Communism and the Christian Faith". He offers a fourfold division. Marxism is (a) an economic doctrine; (b) a philosophy; (c) an interpretation of history; (d) a system of ethics.
Even if I were competent as an economist, which I am not, to discuss Marx's doctrine of surplus value, such a discussion would not really bring out the true nature of the abiding conflict which confronts the world at the present time. We are more likely to appreciate this if we remind ourselves of the late Archbishop of Canterbury's observation, namely, that "Marxism is a Christian heresy." Professor Nicolai Berdiaeff, formerly Professor of Philosophy of Moscow University, prior to his exile in 1922, calls attention to a similar truth in his discussion of Christianity and Communism in Russia. Communism is essentially a religion. It is not simply a new social and economic structure. The pretensions of Communism are religious through and through, and Communism seeks to provide an answer to all the questions of human life. It offers a metaphysic and a philosophy. Indeed, if we may put the matter very sharply, Communism is an attempt to set up the kingdom of heaven without the king.
Nevertheless, Marx's primary concern was not with philosophy. He once caustically remarked that philosophers only wished to explain what he wanted to change! Yet his basic philosophy was "Materialism", and Lenin, perhaps his most brilliant disciple, stated quite emphatically, "Marxism is Materialism." Marx explained the operation of those material forces which constitute Reality, and chief among them he cited "the method of producing material goods obtaining in a given society at a given time." To quote his own words:
The mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social, political and spiritual processes of life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but on the contrary their social existence determines their consciousness.
In other words, ideas are merely shadows cast by economic circumstances. They enjoy neither independent existence nor power of their own. Economic conditions bring them into being, and when these change, ideas, also, must change. In spite of the many attempts to interpret Marx more fully, it is reasonably clear that according to this theory the economic factor is decisive in human life and history, and the operative cause differentiating one group from another is the economic environment in which their life is set. This is so because the dominant ideals of any society reflect the dominant material conditions, and in calling attention to this fact Marx rendered a signal service to our human understanding. Where he went astray in his thinking was to regard the economic factor as "finally decisive", and in his confusion in the use of the terms conditioned and determined. Men are conditioned by their social and economic setting; but their action is not thereby determined. Dr. H. G. Wood has made a pertinent comment on this issue, viz., that economically Israel and Judah were in a similar position to that of their neighbours, Moab and Edom; but their history was different by reason of the different spirit which possessed them and of the different religious beliefs which they cherished.
Further, the materialistic philosophy which Marx sought to expound had, according to his own particular interpretation, one strange inconsistency. Materialism is the philosophy of chance for it involves the denial of spirit, will and purpose. How can the Marxist justify his belief that history is moving towards its predestined end? In the light of materialism there can only be purposeless and unprogressive change; but Marx certainly argued that there was purpose and progress in history, but in his attempt to combine materialism with the Hegelian dialectic he only created for himself an insoluble problem. If matter is ultimate, history is a series of accidents; if there is purpose in history, then matter is not ultimate. This unsolved philosophical problem remains to this day the main serious objection to the materialistic philosophy whereby Marx sought to justify both his economic theory and his interpretation of history.
The main attack, however, falls within the realm of history, and however superficially we must deal with it, reference must be made to the Marxist view of history. It is cogently and eloquently presented in the Manifesto of 1848, which was produced by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
It opens with the impressive assertion: "The history of all human society, past and present, has been the history of the class struggle." 1 his is not said to foment class war. For the Marxist, the class war is on, and this is the true description of the actual historical situation which now exists throughout the world. Therefore, to charge the Marxists with fostering the class war is to betray a complete misunderstanding of his conception of what constitutes the nature of the historical process.
To quote Marx: "There is a tendency working itself out with an iron necessity towards an inevitable goal." Nothing can withstand the inevitable and predetermined end. The conflict may be long and bitter, but the result is a foregone conclusion. The day of capitalistic domination is swiftly and surely drawing to its close, and the dawn of communist bliss is soon to break with all its proletarian splendour.
There is no purpose in asking why this will be so. The question is meaningless and irrelevant, and Marx does not even stop to consider it. His sole desire is to describe life as it actually is, to begin with the historical process as it exists factually in the world that now is, with no reference to what ought to be and with no regard to the fate of those for whom this new era will mean death, humiliation and annihilation. Further, Marx does not attempt to pass any moral judgment on the situation. Certainly, it will be better for the proletariat to rule than for anyone else. This is not, however, the reason why they will rule. This is the dialectic of history, and the classless society is the predetermined end. This way alone lies redemption for the world.
Purely on the historical level this prophecy has not been fulfilled. Marx did not envisage the growth of trade unionism, first cradled in the evangelical revival of the eighteenth century under the leadership of John Wesley. This movement has secured privileges undreamed of in the eighteenth century, and the labour forces are now protected legally under both private and state enterprise. Thanks also to the growth of the legislative power of the state, workers and owners are now subject to restraint and discipline. Moreover, Marx completely understated and assuredly underestimated the unifying and preserving power which resides in patriotism. Love of one's native land and of one's own way of life can unite workers and management in a way in which nothing else can.
There is one further comment to be made. The Marxist .declared that the classless society is within history; no "pie in the sky, by and by," for the realistic, scientific Marxist. His feet are planted on earth and no kind of otherworldliness shall be allowed to contaminate his mind or divert him from the inevitable process of history which is shaping the destiny of the world with its "iron necessity." Nevertheless, in setting up history as the final arbiter of human destiny and setting the end of history within history, the Marxist is making history both judge and jury in its own case.
From the above analysis certain conclusions can be drawn fairly clearly, and they involve both Christians and Marxists. Both these are believers in a non-believing world. Both are committed-the former to the validating of God's kingly rule, the latter to a validating of the historical dialectic. In a very real sense, though Marxists on the whole repudiate this, both Christianity and Marxism are faiths preached and proclaimed. By them men live, and for them men are gladly prepared to die. But the world in which these faiths are declared is an unbelieving world. To the Marxist, the Christian faith is an illusion, unreal and non-scientific; to the Christian, Marxism is a heresy, an attempt to substitute darkness for light with a passionate belief that it is light.
If time permitted, it would be interesting to spell out in detail the difference between the Christian doctrine of sin and the Marxist doctrine of social evil. Involved in this is the further issue of how to deal with opponents. The Marxist method is that of liquidation. Perhaps the most striking example of this was the liquidation of the Kulaks on the order of Stalin himself. It is imperative that no one should be under any illusions about this method. It is true that there are some who are persuaded that the social revolution may be achieved without violence; but there is no responsible Marxist leader who would totally abandon the method of violence as an effective way of dealing with opponents or of crushing opposition.
Two further comments must be made before this brief study can be brought to its close. Both Christianity and Marxism are committed to justice, but the word "justice" does not carry the same meaning for both. For the Marxist, justice is the triumph of one class. To achieve this everything is justified, and the fact that others suffer injustice is brushed aside as a false reading of the situation. They are not suffering injustice; they are only reaping their reward. This is the only justice of the world, namely, that the proletariat should enter into their inheritance. Anything and everything that furthers this end is justifiable, because the end so achieved is just. Marxism is the science of historical change and the art of co-operating with it. Nothing must be done to interfere with this, and everything that will promote this, however devious, however inconsistent, must be undertaken.
Lenin, for example, supported Mr. Henderson, the then British Minister, "as the rope supports the man who is being hanged." Communist tactics, brilliantly developed by Lenin, included in his own words, "manoeuvring, temporising and compromising with other parties."
For himself, he was prepared, should the occasion demand it, "to compromise with the devil and his grandmother." The end always justified the means. This is the essence of justice.
For the Christian, justice involves treating persons in such a fashion as may best further the will of God. Man is treated not as he is, but as one who may become, by God's grace, a new and better man. To treat a man justly is to treat him as God would have him treated, and this involves a recognition of his value as a person and not simply a recognition of his membership within a certain class.
The final distinction between Marxism and Christianity has to do with the belief in the ultimate hope. The one problem to which Marxism has no answer is that of death. Marx has left on record a moving and almost pathetic piece of evidence in this connection. After the death of his son, he wrote: "My child's death has affected me so greatly that I feel the loss as bitterly as on the first day." To that anguished cry Marxism has no answer. The dialectic of history is dumb and historical determinism irrelevant and futile. Economic determinism may account for the historical process; it cannot heal the wound in a father's heart. Opponents can be silenced, but here is a cry that cannot be stifled; here is a pain from which there is no relief.
The Christian gospel is not so frustrated or handicapped. It affirms its faith in the certainty of the life everlasting; it announces that death has been swallowed up in victory and that the terror of the grave has been wrenched from it. Lenin was embalmed. Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. Here is a distinction which on any showing is ultimate and final.
There is much more that should be said. Karl Marx is still forcing western man, indeed all men, to think radically about the nature of man and that of society. Moreover, Marxism offers a doctrine of man and a hope for social and economic reconstruction which makes a tremendous appeal to the under-privileged millions in both the East and the West. Let no one imagine that the conflict has been reduced either in area or in intensity by the discovery of the modern formula of .co-existence. Co-existence may be a modus vivendi, but the day is not far distant when a choice has to be made between the way of life which is implicit in the Marxist doctrine and the way of life implicit in the Christian faith. The issue will be resolved, not by nuclear arms, not necessarily in the ideological realm itself, but by the measure of devotion and dedication men will bring to the way of life they seek to preserve and to hand down to generations yet unborn. A famous classical scholar, writing of the history of the early Christians, said that Roman civilization was overcome because of weakness from within, and that the Christian faith prevailed and ultimately triumphed in the Mediterranean world because the Christians out-thought, out-lived and out-died their opponents and their rivals. Mr. President, Sir, I cannot do more than lay this responsibility upon the conscience of all of us in Canada, privileged as we are far beyond our deserts.
Four things in a land must dwell If it succeed and prosper well: One is manhood, true and good, One is noble womanhood;
One is child-life clear and bright, One an altar kept alight.It may well be that in trying to build up a new world without an altar, Marx has stabbed our consciences broad awake to a new awareness of the peril in which we stand and of the way of deliverance. As I see it, the writing is on the wall of our contemporary history. Its message is clear and direct. It is addressed to us all-rich and poor, privileged and unprivileged, newer Canadians and older Canadians. It says, "Attend to your altars." In the words of Lord Macaulay: "The matter, Gentlemen, is urgent, the time is short."
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. Alexander Stark, O.C.