The Anabaptists and Christian Socialism


By David Chilton

 In 1975, a blockbuster of a book was published in Paris entitled From Under the Rubble. 1 Edited by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, it was a collection of essays by Solzhenitsyn and six of his dissident Russian colleagues — men who were, at the time of publication, still residing in the USSR, exposed to punishment by the Soviet state.  Solzhenitsyn’s co-editor, and the author of three of the essays, was the distinguished, world-renowned mathematician Igor Shafarevich.boardwalk

As a Moscow university professor, Shafarevich was risking- at the very least –his academic career by going into print with a Christian attack on Soviet civilization. And Shafarevich lost. As a result of the publication of those essays, this brilliant scientist was fired from his post; yet he immediately published The Socialist Phenomenon,2  an expansion and continuation of his From Under the Rubble essays.

 The Socialist Phenomenon is, unquestionably, the most perceptive and significant work on the personal and cultural meaning of socialism ever written. Shafarevich has accomplished the awesome task of bringing together the diverse strands of numerous socialist movements and societies and weaving them into a recognizable, coherent definition – a definition that is able to include ancient Egyptians and medieval Anabaptists, the Incas of Peru and the Soviets of modern, enslaved Russia.

 Shafhrevich begins with a question: How can we explain the remarkable fact that socialism, which criticizes society for its injustice and inequality, results in even greater inequality? How is it that a system which agitates for freedom has so consistently produced slavery on a massive scale? Is this simply stupidity-or is there an underlying logic within socialism which, when uncovered, can provide us with a definition of socialism that is free of contradictions?  Shafarevich argues that there is a cohesive and consistent worldview on which socialism is based — one which explains the seeming contradictions.We should remember that for Shafarevich himself, his wife, and his two children — all still living in Moscow — the issue is far from being merely academic; and thus the book, though scholarly, is anything but detached in tone. It is at once both sober and urgent. And the book carries an unexpected urgency for us as well, for Shafarevich spends a large portion of his treatise dealing with the apalling, horrifying history of a movement that is much closer to American Christians than to Russians: “Christian” Socialism.

Russian Christians, it is to be hoped, have learned their lesson. (And that, indeed, is the question with which the book closes: Has the Russian experience been sufficient?)

Christian Socialism: The Early Years

 No, it didn’t begin with Ronald Sider. The attempt to justify socialist ideals and practices on the basis of Christian terminology has a long history, with origins in the antinomian, gnostic, communistic heresies which flourished during the early church period.  But socialism as a broad-based, popular movement began during the Middle Ages with the complex of millenarian heresies which, eventually, came to be known collectively as Anabaptism, to which Shafarevich devotes a chapter of over 50 pages entitled “The Socialism of the Heresies.” Despite the differences among the various sects, he says, The Anabaptists had one trait in common: the rejection of orthodox theology accompanied by “a fierce hatred for the Church itself.”4

 Implied in this, of course, is the issue of ‘blueprints.” As Norman Cohn wrote of the Anabaptists: “It is characteristic of this kind of movement that its aims and premises are boundless.”  A social struggle is seen not as a struggle for specific, limited objectives, but as an event of unique importance, different in kind from all other struggles known to history, a cataclysm from which the world is to emerge totally transformed and redeemed.”5 This “boundless,” “blueprintless” character, in fact, insures that the movement will not be successful (although, as we shall see, it may well cause a great deal of social chaos).  Harold Berman, in his outstanding book Law and Revolution, has argued that the successful revolutionary movements – the real revolutions of Western history-always have a set of blueprints. The true revolution always seeks legitimacy in a fundamental law-order and, over generations of application, always produces a new system of law, altering the Western legal tradition.6 Those groups which claimed to follow no blueprints were, thus, unable to create a new society; but they appeared on the fringes of the real revolutionary movements– the groups that did have a specific agenda, along with the organization and political sophistication to pull it off.Thus, when we see a millenarian, socialist, “revolutionary”movement which denies blueprints, we can safely assume two things: First, like similar movements in history, this one may (in the short run) have an explosive, destructive, murderous effect on society; second, it may well be on the “fringe” of another, organized, long-term revolution – one which is biding its time and benefiting from the chaos brought about by the millenarians. Someone has the blueprints.

One of the first of these millenarian movements of the Middle Ages was that of the Cathars (“the pure”), a loosely united group of Manichean sects. All these sects possessed a dualistic worldview, holding that there was an ‘irreconcilable contradiction between the physical world, seen as the source of evil, and the spiritual world.”8 This resulted, logically enough, in the denial of the Incarnation and the Resurrection of Christ, and in the rejection of the Old Testament. The power of the civil government was held to be a creation of an evil god; having children was demonic; and the ultimate goal of the human race was universal suicide.9 The Church was hated and regarded as the Great Whore of Babylon: according to Cathar doctrine, the Church had fallen into irretrievable apostasy when it became legitimate in the time of Constantine.10

Because property was considered an aspect of an inherently sinful, material world, the Cathar leaders demanded that their followers forsake private ownership and practice communality of property. “In their sermons, the Cathars preached that a true Christian life was possible only on the condition that property was held in common.”11 (It was, of course– as always – the benevolent leaders who watched over the socialized belongings.) And, since the evil god of the Old Testament had forbidden adultery, promiscuity was encouraged, wives were shared, and faithful marriage was condemned as sinful: “Marital bonds are contrary to the laws of nature, since these laws demand that everything be held in common .“ 12

The Cathars were amazingly popular and successful. For two centuries they spread over Europe, electing numerous bishops and holding synods and councils. In Milan, the orthodox bishop reported that there were more heretics than faithful in his diocese.  The Cathar movement, which was opposed by repeated missionary efforts (including the work of St. Bernard of Clairvaux), was not finally stamped out until the thirteenth century. But other socialist movements had already arisen to take its place.

The Brethren of the Free Spirit were charismatic antinomians whose doctrines were shaped, in part, by a pair of 12th-century heretics named Joachim and Almaric; men who have been largely forgotten, but whose ideas keep cropping up in socialist theory.  They divided history into three ages: the age of the Father (Slavery to the Law), the age of the Son (Filial Obedience), and the age of the Spirit (Freedom). In this last age, all property would be socialized, no one would have to work hard, and God’s people, freed from all moral constraints, would be incapable of sin. 13 The Free Spirit had an ideological position on sexual promiscuity, and was able to participate in an “orgiastic mass”: “What had been blasphemy for him in the past (and remained so for ‘rude’ folk) now became a sign of the end of one historical epochand the beginning of another – the new Eon.”14 And this freedom from moral restraints meant freedom from all restraints: the Free Spirits launched rebellions in which entire populations of cities, including women and children, were brutally massacred, and in which these Brethren, freed from the blueprints of biblical law, took special pride in raping nuns. 15 Much of the revolutionary, violent character of the Free Spirits stemmed from a doctrine that is absolutely central to socialism: an egalitarian hatred for authority.  For the socialist, all hierarchy must be destroyed, all implications of superiority in any way must be wiped out. And this easily grades, as we shall see further, into an obsession with erasing all differences between people, on the grounds that differences are inequalities, and inequalities are unjust and sinful. Thus there is a constant tendency, as socialism becomes more consistent, toward the socialization of wives and children, and the utter abolition of the family.

Growing out of the movement of the Free Spirits was another cult, the Apostolic Brethren, founded by Gherardo Segarelli, a peasant preacher whose application to the Franciscan order had been rejected. Segarelli gradually came to accept the views of the Brethren of the Free Spirit, and his sect took on the character of that movement. Executed for heresy in 1300, he was succeeded by a priest’s bastard named Dolcino. The new leader brought to fruition the evil growth which had always existed in the movement: Dolcino announced that the Church was irrevocably apostate and therefore doomed; commanded the communalizing of property and wives, issued apocalyptic prophecies of the End, and gathered thousands of followers into an armed camp. From their fort they began raiding throughout the region, establishing a pattern of plunder, destruction, and mass murder that would be followed by Christian Socialists for years to come (one of the latest examples being the evangelical Sandinistas in Nicaragua, whose vicious butcheries were made possible, in part, through the generous tithes and offerings donated by pacifistic Anabaptists in the United States). Dolcino’s millennium lasted for three terrible years, until the orthodox Christians finally captured and executed him in 1307.16 

Dolcino’s heresy has become well-known recently through Umberto Eco’s best-selling historical novel of the fourteenth century, The Name of the Rose. 17 Toward the end of the book, Brother Remigio (a former member of the Apostolic Brethren) tells Brother William what motivated the movement: “And we burned and looted because we had proclaimed poverty the universal law, and we had the right to appropriate the illegitimate riches of others, and we wanted to strike at the heart of the network of greed that extended from parish to parish, but we never looted in order to possess, or killed in order to loot; we killed to punish, to purify the impure through blood. Perhaps we were driven by an overwelming desire for justice: a man can sin also through overwhelming love of God, through super-abundance of perfection. We were the true spiritual congregation sent by the Lord and destined for the glory of the last days; we sought our reward in paradise, hastening the time of your destruction. We alone were the apostles of Christ, all others had betrayed him, and Gherardo Segarelli had been a divine plant,” planta Dei pullulans in radice fidei;” our Rule came to us directly from God. We had to kill the innocent as well, in order to kill all of you more quickly. We wanted a better world, of peace and sweetness and happiness for all, we wanted to kill the war that you brought on with your greed, because you reproached us when, to establish justice and happiness, we had to shed a little blood. . . . The fact is . . . the fact is that it did not take much, the hastening, and it was worth turning the waters of the Carnasco red that day at Stavello, there was our own blood, too, we did not spare ourselves, our blood and your blood, much of it, at once, immediately, the times of Dolcino’s prophecy were at hand, we had to hasten the course of events. . . . “18

A century later, what was essentially the same Christian heresy reappeared, earnestly striving for peace and justice through socialism; this time, it was incarnated in the Taborites, who were more self-consciously bloodthirsty than even the Apostolic Brethren.  The end of the world was coming in 1420, they decided, so they had to work fast: “It is necessary for each of the faithful to wash his hands in the blood of the enemies of Christ,” declared their prophets. “All peasants who refuse to join the Taborites shall be destroyed along with their property.”19 Everything was socialized (again, wives included), towns were razed to the ground, and men, women, and children were indiscriminately and gleefully slaughtered. These Christian socialists were regarded as almost completely inhuman in their taste for cruelty and torture (special atrocities were reserved for pregnant women). 20 As with the previous experiments in socialistic Christianity, the Taborites were remarkably successful: they shook central Europe to its foundations, and their impact was felt as far away as England and Spain.  While the earth has endured long after 1420 (in stubborn defiance of the inspired prophecies), the Taborites’ world ended in a bloody battle in 1434. For almost a century thereafter, Christian Socialism left the Church in relative peace; then, in a Satanic, frantic attempt to destroy Christian civilization and the Protestant Reformation, it raised its head again, in even more murderous and devastating forms.

Christian Socialism During the Reformation

The term for revolutionary socialism during the Reformation was Anabaptism. The Anabaptists, while they claimed to be “true” Christians, denied virtually all the content of the faith.21 They rejected biblical law, rebelled against the Church’s government, ministry, worship, and sacraments, and turned from orthodoxy to a multitude of heretical doctrines. And they were forthrightly-socialist, using the old techniques of envy- and guilt-manipulation: “It is impossible to be Christian and wealthy at the same time,” they proclaimed.22 Thus they formed Christian communes, in which all possessions — yes, wives too —-were shared among the Brethren, and from which they published their radical, egalitarian dogmas: “Therefore it ought to be that all authorities, secular and clerical, be deprived of their offices once and for all or be killed by the sword . . .”23  The stories of two important Anabaptist leaders, Thomas Muntzer (or Munzer) and John of Leyden, are crucial for an understanding of the nature of Christian Socialism, and a likely intimation of where it is headed in the future. Muntzer and John of Leyden are given extended treatment by Shafarevich in a twenty-page, small-print appendix to his chapter on the heresies. Muntzer, a vagrant preacher and organizer of conspiracies, early established a pattern of rebellion against authorities in the name of Christ. After many escapades and scrapes with the law, he finally established a revolutionary base in Muhlhausen, Germany, from whence he issued proclamations damning landowners, magistrates, and the Reformers (“1 would like to smell your frying carcass,” he wrote to Luther).24 Friedrich Engels summarized Muntzeds doctrines: “Under the cloak of Christianity he preached a kind of pantheism, which curiously resembled modem speculative contemplation and at times even approached atheism. He repudiated the Bible both as the only and as the infallible revelation. The real and living revelation, he said, was reason, a revelation which existed and always exists among all peoples at all times. To holdup the Bible against reason, he maintained, was to kill the spirit with the letter, for the Holy Spirit of which the Bible speaks is not something that exists outside us — the Holy Spirit is our reason. Faith is nothing but reason come alive in man, and pagans could therefore also have faith.

Through this faith, through reason come to life, man became godlike and blessed. Heaven is, therefore, nothing of another world and is to be sought in this life. It is the mission of believers to establish this Heaven, the kingdom of God, here on earth. Just as there is no Heaven in the beyond, there is also no hell and no damnation. Similarly, there is no devil but man’s evil lusts and greed. Christ was a man, as we are, a prophet and a teacher, and his supper is a plain meal of commemoration wherein bread and wine are consumed without any mystic garnish.”25

 Engels explained that “by the kingdom of God Munzer meant a society without class differences, private property and a state authority independent of, and foreign to, the members of society. All the existing authorities, insofar as they refused to submit and join the revolution, were to be overthrown, all work and all property shared in common, and complete equality introduced.”26 And he makes this highly significant observation: “Munzer preached these doctrines mostly cloaked in the same Christian phraseology, behind which the new philosophy had to hide for some time”27 By using superficially biblical language, Muntzer was able to gain a following among many who might have repudiated his damnable doctrine if it had been presented in the clear light of day as a call to envy and mass murder.

Muntzer created an army of citizens, which enforced his doctrine of equality upon the countryside by what Engels praised as its “robust vandalism”28: robbing, burning, and destroying the property of the rich. “Let your swords be ever warm with blood!”  Muntzer exhorted the faithfull.29 In 1525 he was successfull in rousing up all of central Germany in the bloody, so-called “Peasant Rebellion” (although, it must be carefully noted, he attracted several nobles to his side). The rebellion was eventually put down and Muntzer was executed; Luther said, “Whoever has seen Muntzer can say that he has seen the devil in the flesh, at his most ferocious.”30 That was before Luther saw Jan Bokelson31 –better known to history as Johann (or John) of Leyden.

Bokelson began his career as the disciple of the Anabaptist leader Jan Matthijs (or Matthys), who took over the town of Munster in 1534. Shafhrevich describes the scene: “Armed Anabaptists broke into houses and drove out everyone who was unwilling to accept second baptism. Winter was drawing to a close; it was a stormy day and wet snow was falling. An eyewitness account describes crowds of expelled citizens walking through the knee-deep snow. They had not been allowed even to take warm clothing with them, women carrying children in their arms, old men leaning on staffs. At the city gate they were robbed once more.32

 But those were the lucky ones. They, at least, escaped the reign of terror which followed, as Matthijs and Bokelson ordered the socialization of all property and ordained apostles of revolution to preach throughout Europe. The communist paradise of Munster attracted thousands of armed Anabaptists from Germany and Holland, and eventually a war broke out between the Munster rebels and the surrounding cities. Matthijs was killed in one of the early battles, and Bokelson took command. He established a dictatorship (in the name of equality), and issued an order for what was by now a standard Anabaptist/socialist tradition: Polygamy (or, more technically, wife-sharing; as Frederick Engels observed, “It is a curious fact that in every large revolutionary movement the question of ‘free love’ comes to the foreground” 33). No woman was allowed to be exempt, either – there was a law against being unmarried, which meant that every girl of “marriageable age” was forced to be passed around among the men.

Every woman became fair game for an anabaptist’s lust. All this led, understandably, to rapes, suicides, and severe punishments; mass executions took place almost every day.34 (On one notable occasion, Bokelson himself beheaded a virtuous woman who had refused his sexual advances. As he ceremoniously chopped her head off in the public square, a choir of his wives sang ‘Glory to God in the Highest’) This went on for a year and a half, until the city was captured at last by the orthodox forces, who put Bokelson and his lieutenants to death for their crimes — crimes committed in the name of love, equality, and spirituality.

Shafarevich observes another very curious fact about Muntzer and Bokelson: they became the first “in a long list of revolutionary leaders” to break completely under defeat .35 When the end came, both Muntzer and Bokelson ran for cover (Bokelson hid in a tower, which is mildly amusing in light of the fact that, just before the city fell, he had ordered all towers to be destroyed, on the grounds that they were unfairly “superior” to other buildings;36 identical orders, incidentally, were issued — but not carried out — during the French Revolution). When they were caught, the socialist leaders confessed, informed on their confederates, and begged for their lives to be spared. This strange and contradictory figure will reappear in subsequent historical epochs. He is a man of seemingly inexhaustible energy when successful, but a pitiful and terrified nonentity the moment his luck turns against hirn.”37  Shafarevich explains: “An ideology that is hostile to human personality cannot serve as a point of support for it.38

 I have necessarily omitted a great deal of Shafarevich’s material on this subject, and he has by no means told the whole story.  Many other groups, with stories just as horrifying, could be mentioned, along with the various cults that served as links between pagan religions and the Anabaptist heresies. The definitive history of the Anabaptist/socialist heresy has not yet been written, and it may be that the Church will never grow up until that history becomes widely known. For example, some Christian groups today regard movements such as the Donatists, the Patricians, the Bogomils, the Petrobrusians, and the Albigenses as “forerunners of the Reformation,” or some such nonsense, 39 They were not. They were heretical, socialist, revolutionary cults, outside the Christian faith. In truth, the Reformation was resolutely opposed to socialism and Anabaptism, because the Reformers believed, taught, and practiced the law of God.40 They believed it was wrong to murder, fornicate, and steal. The Anabaptists, having rejected “blueprints” and thus freed from the law, came to regard these abominations as marks of sanctification. It is no wonder that the English Reformers specifically repudiated Anabaptist socialism in their official confession of faith, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.

Article XXXVIII reads:

  The Riches and Goods of Christians are not common, as touching the right, title, and possession of the same; as certain Anabaptists do falsely boast. Notwithstanding, every man ought, of such things as he possesseth, liberally to give alms to the poor, according to his ability.

While some scholars regard the Anabaptist movement as a product of the Reformation era, Shafhrevich argues (correctly, I believe) that Anabaptism has been a unified heresy throughout the history of the Christian Church: A striking  picture emerges of a movement that lasted for fifteen centuries. . . . A precisely fixed set of religious ideas affecting the general attitude toward life was preserved virtually unchanged, often down to the smallest detail.  The heretical movement, thoroughly hostile to the surrounding world, flares up from time to time with an all-consuming blaze of hatred.”41

One obvious objection to all this, of course, would be that the Anabaptist tradition is one of pacifism, not violence; thus it is unfair, and slanderous, to lump the peaceful Anabaptists together with these bloodthirsty revolutionaries. There’s only one problem with that argument: the facts. For the bloodthirsty revolutionaries we have been discussing were pacifists! Some groups even had theological positions against the killing of animals-yet they would suddenly explode into some of the most violent orgies of destruction and mass murder known in history. “The two extremes [pacifism and violence] of the heretical movement were closely interwoven;

they cannot be clearly distinguished. At times, in fact, a sect switched from one extreme to the other overnight42 Shafarevich cites numerous examples of this phenomenon, and concludes: “Apparently it was possible for a sect to exist in two states, “militant” and “peaceful,” and the transition from one state to the other could happen suddenly, and for all practical purposes instantaneously.”43 

Anabaptism/socialism was not a movement for reform or improvement; rather, it called for utter destruction of the Church, and indeed of the earth itself. In its fervor to establish total equality, it rejected all individuality and hierarchy, ultimately declaring that man was equal to God. The nineteenth-century historian Johann von Dollinger concluded: “Each heretical doctrine that appeared in the Middle Ages bore, in open or concealed form, a revolutionary character; in other words, had it come to power, it would have been obliged to destroy the existing state structure and implement a political and social revolution. The gnostic sects, Cathars and Albigenses, who provoked the severe and implacable medieval laws against heresies by their activities, and with whom a bloody struggle was carried on, were socialist and communist.

They attacked marriage, the family and property. Had they been victorious, the result would have been a traumatic social dislocation and a relapse into barbarism.”44  But they were not victorious. They failed. Socialism parading as radical Christianity was shown to be a pious-sounding fraud.

Orthodoxy had demonstrated that there can never be any such thing as Christian Socialism, because socialism is antichrist. And so the tactics changed.  Socialism went secular, and it went underground as well, dropping the theological approach and turning to an avowedly autonomous, philosophical rationale instead. It is striking that the two great opponents of that era – Reformed orthodoxy and the Anabaptist heresy, resurfaced in our age at the same time. In 1973 (the year of the socialistic, blueprint-denying Humanist Manifesto II, Ronald Sider and his Anabaptist/socialist colleagues (at least some of whom, at this writing, are still pacifists) issued the Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern, which brought a forthright demand for Christian socialism to the attention of Christians across the country. In the very same year, two Reformed works were published which will mean the eventual defeat of Christian socialism in our day as well: R. J. Rushdoony’s Institutes of Biblical Law 45and Gary North’s Introduction to Christian Economics. 46 Just as, according to tradition, Pelagius and Augustine were born in the same year (354), so God again has brought the poison and its antidote into the world simultaneously.

Philosophical Socialism

 After the Reformation, the socialists abandoned all pretense to biblical justification whatever. “The preacher and the wandering Apostle gave way to a publicist and philosopher. Religious exaltation and references to revelation were replaced by appeals to reason. The literature of socialism acquired a purely secular and rationalistic character; new means of popularization were devised… no longer pitched to peasants or craftsmen but to the well-read and educated public. Thus socialism renounces for a time a direct influence on the broad masses.  It is only at the very end of the eighteenth century that socialism once again comes out into the street, and we meet with a fresh attempt to create a popular movement based on its ideology.”47 The modern, philosophical socialism is simply secular AnabaptismAnabaptism taken to the logical limits of its denial of “blueprints.”

One of the more outstanding examples of the new form of socialist literature was Thomas More’s; “Utopia” (1516). More saw the source of life’s problems in the fact that ‘money and property existed; he felt that everything would work out nicely if these evils were simply abolished. So he constructed a fictitious society, Utopia, as the perfect socialist state. It is remarkably accurate in its outline. All of life is regulated: clothing is uniform, food is rationed, the government resettles whole populations at will; private property, and privacy itself, have been abolished. There are no material needs, no need for any citizen to do heavy work, and everyone is completely, absolutely equal —except for the elite class, who don’t work at all. So who does all the hard labor? It turns out that even in this socialist paradise of complete equality, the real economic basis for the whole society is nothing other than the labor of slaves. And if the slaves don’t like the work, the saintly Man for All Seasons has the solution: “They are laughtered like wild Beasts.”48

 More’s work was followed for the next few centuries by other utopian socialist writers, who refined More’s basic outline in terms of a more consistent, thoroughly paganized, socialist vision. In general, no practical steps were suggested for alleviating the condition of the poor; the image of the suffering poor was simply dredged up in order to incite hatred and envy against the rich. The philosophers were explicit in their insistence upon complete standardization: increasingly, equality meant identity. They dreamed of the “inevitable” approach of the socialist ideal, of total equality under a total State, when language would become static and unchanging, reading (and eventually thinking) would atrophy, all days would be alike, and even facial appearances would be identical.49

State Socialism

 Shafarevich turns at this point to a discussion of the nature of socialism when it gains control of an entire nation, beginning with what is probably the best example: the Inca civilization of Peru, in which an almost total socialism was actually achieved (the Inca state would be cited as the model for later experiments, including that of the Soviet Union).51 One conscious imitator of the Incas was the Jesuit state in Paraguay during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which ruthlessly enslaved hundreds of thousands of Indians, attempted to govern all of life, absolutely destroyed any individual initiative on the part of its “citizens,” and created a stupendously unprofitable economy.52 Predictably, the Jesuit state was a great hit with philosophers such as Voltaire, who pronounced it “a triumph of humanity.”53 Shafarevich goes on to deal with socialism as it was expressed in the ancient states of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and ancient China, which saw it as the duty of the state to destroy initiative, make business unprofitable, eliminate all private interests, and control all the natural resources.54

 Of course, when men attempt to be as God, the results are not only frightening, but often humorous as well. Examples abound in Shafhrevich’s book. There is always fertile ground for this in the writings of Charles Fourier, who first developed the concept of “scientific socialism.” Fourier, who enjoyed something of a revival in our day through the work of New Left theorist Herbert Marcuse, was probably quite mad. He believed that planets are living beings that copulate (the aurora borealis, he said, was the earth’s version of a nocturnal emission, and “an indication that the planet is in heat”). Worldwide socialism would result in a new sexual experience for the earth, with the result that the world would become beautiful and the ocean would taste like lemonade.56

Even Karl Marx had his occasional lapses, and this is especially true of his predictions on the basis of socialist theory, which tend to be incorrect with amazing consistency. In fact, Shafmevich says, “a better percentage of correct predictions could probably have been achieved by making random guesses.”57 Marx feared that this might prove to be the case; but, as he wrote to Engels, it wouldn’t matter: “It is possible that I might be discredited. But in that case it will still be possible to pull through with the help of a bit of dialectics. It goes without saying that I phrased my forecasts in such a way that I would prove to be right also in the opposite case.”58

In order to make the reading public aware of his first volume of Capital, Marx arranged for seven phony reviews to be written by friends, from various points of view–even noting what to disagree with, for the sake of authenticity — and published in leading journals. “It’s hilarious how both magazines have taken the bait; Engels told Marx, after two forgeries of his own had been accepted; and Marx exulted: “The conspiracy of silence in the bourgeois and reactionary press has been broken!”59  More grimly humorous is the distinctive phenomenon of the

socialist party, which has no parallel in free societies. The party “not only demands that its members subordinate all aspects of their lives to it, but also develops in them an outlook according to which life outside the party seems in general unthinkable.60  In his final speech before a Party Congress, Trotsky said: “I know that it is impossible to be right against the party. It is possible to be right only with the party, for history has created no other road for the

realization of what is right.”61 This explains the “confessions” of party members at the show trials of the 1930s,62 and the loyalty of party members who, even in concentration camps, were still devoted to Stalin. As one communist declared: “We are a party of men who make the impossible possible. Steeped in the idea of violence, we direct it against ourselves, and if the party demands it and if it is necessary and important for the party, we can by an act of will put out of our heads in twenty-four hours ideas that we have cherished for years. . . . The party may be absolutely mistaken, it is said, it might call black something that is clearly and indisputably white. To all those who try to foist this example on me, I say: Yes, I shall consider black something that I felt and considered to be white, since outside the party, outside accord with it, there is no life for me.63Outside the Church there is no salvation.

Socialism: Theophobic Death-Wish

One of the great values of Shafarevich’s treatment is that, amid all the variances of socialism from culture to culture, a consistent picture emerges of the main contours and basic principles of socialism. Whether we look at the theories of Plato or those of the Anabaptists; whether we consider the practices of the ancient Babylonians or the modern Soviets; the same ideas, even in seemingly unimportant details, are present (for example, one of the many strange threads running throughout this book is the recurring socialist condemnation of private rooms, of doors and walls64). Socialism is not – contrary to Marxian dogma –  a ‘later phase” in human history. The basic, heretical principles have been championed for ages: the abolition of authority, of property, of the family, and of Christianity. On this last point, Shafarevich says:

The term “atheism” is inappropriate for the description of people in the grip of socialist doctrines. It would be more correct to speak here not of “atheists” but of “God-haters,” not of “atheism” but of “theophobia.”65

 And this leads to what Shafarevich powerfully argues is the essence of socialism: the yearning for death and destruction. The closing sections of his book are filled with some of the most startling documentations of socialist hatred for mankind I have ever seen.66 Again and again, socialists have made it clear that they desire nothing less than the death of mankind. This, Shafarevich says, is the basic allure of socialism; this is the secret of its seductive power and its driving force; it is nothing less than a deep- emotional, ecstatic urge toward self-destruction. This, I submit, is exactly why neither Ronald Sider nor any of his cohorts, either within or without the Christian Church, have been able to provide a positive program for the creation of wealth, for the productive development of the earth’s resources to bring about a rising standard of living. This is why they can speak only of confiscation and destruction.

They never intended otherwise. The, prospect of the utter annihilation of oneself and of mankind is precisely the attraction of socialism, and possesses a subliminal motivating power far surpassing any rational economic argument. For socialism is the final religion of the Theophobians, the God-haters; and God has told us of the inescapable psychological condition of those who deny Him: He that sinneth against Me wrongeth his own soul all they that hate Me love death. (Proverbs 8:36)


1.Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1975.

  1. Igor Shafarevich, The Socialist Phenomenon, William Tjalsma, trans. (New York: Harper & Row, 1975, 1980).
  2. Ibid., pp. xiii-xv.
  3. Ibid, p. 18. An important work devoted to the heretical socialist movements of medieval Europe is Norman Cohn’s The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenariians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages (New York: Oxford University Press, 1957; revised, 1970).
  4. Cohn, p. 281.
  5. Harold J. Berman, Law and Resolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), p. 19. Berman’s masterful 45-page introduction to his work is crucially important for an understanding of the nature of revolutions in the West.
  6. Ibid., p. 26.
  7. Ibid., pp. 19f.
  8. Ibid, pp. 21, 27, 29, 34. Cf. the similar teaching of modern anabaptists; this is the thesis of, for example, Leonard Verduin’s The Anatomy of a Hybrid: A Study in Church-State Relationships (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976).
  9. Shafarevich, The Socialist Phenomenon, p. 23.
  10. Ibid., p. 24.
  11. Cohn writes: ‘The long-term, indirect influence of Joachim’s speculations can be traced right down to the present day, and most clearly in certain ‘philosophies of history’ of which the Church emphatically disapproves. Horrified though the unworldly mystic would have been to see it happen, it is unmistakably the Joachite phantasy of the three ages that reappeared in, for instance, the theories of historical evolution expounded by the German Idealist philosophers Lessing, Schelling, Fichte and to some extent Hegel; in August Comte’s idea of history as an ascent from the theological through the metaphysical up to the scientific phase; and again in the Marxian dialectic of the three stages of primitive communism, class society and a final communism which is to be the realm of freedom and in which the state will have withered away. And it is no less true-if even more paradoxical- that the phrase ‘the Third Reich: first coined in 1923 by the publicist Moeller van den Bruck and later adopted as a name for that ‘new order which was supposed to last a thousand years, would have bad but little emotional significance if the phantasy of a third and more glorious dispensation had not, over the centuries, entered into the common stock of European social mythology.” The Pursuit of the Millennium , p. 109. Shafarevich, The Socialist Phenomenon, p. 27
  12. Ibid., p. 28.
  1. Ibid., pp. 29, 46-50.
  2. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983. See pp. 221-33, 382-84.
  3. 18, Ibid., p. 384.
  4. Shafarevich, The Socialist Phenomenon, p. 30.
  5. Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Leftism: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse (New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1974), pp. 154f.
  1. See Ray Sutton, “The Baptist Failure: in James B. Jordan, cd., The Failure of the American Baptist Cube (Tyler, TX: Geneva Ministries, 1982), pp. 152-84, for a Reformed analysis of Anabaptist theology.
  2. Shafarevich, The Socialist Phenomenon, p. 36.
  3. Ibid, p. 38.
  4. Ibid., p. 55.
  5. Friedrich Engels, The Peasant War in Germany (Moscow Progress Publishers, 1956; second revised cd., 1965), p. 55.
  6. Ibid., p. 56.
  7. Ibid., p. 55.
  8. Ibid., p. 27.
  9. 29. Shafarevich, The Socialist Phenomenon, 57.
  10. Ibid., p. 59.
  11. His last name is spelled “Bockelson” in Cohn’s account, which deals with him and his movement at length (pp. 261-80).
  12. Shafarevich, The Socialist Phenomenon, p. 61.
  13. Ibid., p. 33.
  14. Ibid., pp. 63f.
  15. Ibid., pp. 58, 66, 79.
  16. Ibid., p. 66; cf. p. 50.
  17. Ibid., p. 79.
  18. Ibid., p. 269; cf. p. 294.
  19. See, for example, The Modem Age: The History of the World in Christian Perspective, Vol.II (Pensacola, FL: A Beka Book Publications, 1981), a textbook used in many conservative Christian high schools, which approvingly lists many of these heretics right alongside orthodox Christians (pp. 15-21).
  20. See Willem Balke, Calvin and the Anabaptist Radicals, William J. Heynen, trans. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1981); John Calvin, Treatises Against the Anabaptists and the Libertines, Benjamin Wirt Farley, trans. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1982); Peter A. Lillback, Walvin’s Covenantal Response to the Anabaptist View of Baptism,” in James B. Jordan, ed., The Failure of the American Baptist Culture ( Tyler, TX: Geneva Ministries, 1982), pp. 185-232; James B. Jordan, “Calvinism and “The Judicial Law of Moses;” in Gary North, ed., The Journal of Christian Reconstruction Vol. V, No. 2 (Winter, 1978-79), pp. 17-48.
  21. Shafarevich, The Socialist Phenomenon, pp. 72f.
  22. Ibid., p. 73. Itahcs added.
  23. 43. Ibid, p. 74 pp. 22, 35, 99.
  24. 44. Quoted in , p. 77.
  25. 45. Rousas John Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (Nutley, NJ: The Craig Press, 1973).
  26. Gary North, An Introduction to Christian Economics (Nutley, NJ: The Craig Press, 1973).
  27. Shafarevich, The Socialist Phenomenon, p. 81. Italics added.
  28. lbid., p. 86.
  29. Thus the thesis of L.P. Hartley’s novel Facial Justice (Garden City, NY. Doubleday & Company, 1960), cited on p. 177 above, is not as fanciful as it might seem. “Facial justice: strangely enough, is a recurring motif in socialist theory: see Shafarevich, The Socialist Phenomenon, pp. 120, 198, 260, 269.
  30. Shafarevich, The Socialist Phenomenon, p. 129.
  31. Ibid, pp. 132-42; see Louis Baudin, A Socialist Empire: The Incas of Peru, Katherine Woods, trans. (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand, 1961); cf. Father Bernabe Cobo, History of the Inca Empire, Roland Hamilton, trans. (Austin: University of Texas, 1979); William H. Prescott, History of the Conquest of Mexico & History of the Conquest of Peru (New York: Modem Library, n.d.).
  32. Shafarevieh, The Socialist Phenomenon, Pp. 142-51.
  33. 53. Ibid., p. 151.
  34. Cf. Karl A, Wittfogel, Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power(New York: Vintage Books, [1957] 1981).
  35. Quoted in Shafarevich, The Socialist Phenomenon, p. 185.[Edited out for Space]
  36. Ibid., p. 205.
  37. Ibid., p. 206.
  38. Ibid., p. 210.
  39. Ibid., p. 267.
  40. Ibid., p. 217.
  41. Ibid.; cf. Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago (New York: Harper & Row, 1974), p. 414: “And what did Bukharin fear most in those months before his arrest? It is reliably known that above all he feared expulsion from the Party! Being deprived of the Party! Being left alive but outside the Party! . . . Bukharin (like all the rest of them) did not have his own individual point of view. . . . And all their efforts were directed toward staying in the Party?
  42. For truly horrifying reading, see the verbatim record in Robert C. Tucker and Stephen F. Cohen, eds., The Great Purge Trial (New York: Grosset & Durdap, 1965).
  43. Shafarevich, The Socialist Phenomenon, p. 218.
  44. Ibid., pp. 198f.
  45. Ibid., p, 235. Italics added.
  46. Ibid., Pp. 258-300.

This is a slightly edited excerpt of an appendix in David Chilton’s book “Productive Christian’s in an age of Guilt-Manipulators: A Biblical Response to Ronald J. Sider.”

Chilton’s book and others are available to read online for free @




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