Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 4, No. 2. March 26, 1941
God or Lenin?
God or Lenin?
Love Your Bosses!
Students of philosophy who know their Marx will expect idealistic revivals from time to time, as class privileges become threatened. Working men must be diverted from working for their betterment (to their exploiters' detriment) by concentration on other-worldly things and trust in God. These students will not be surprised by the extravagant hysterics of the saved souls of the Oxford Group.
These "reformers" bear the trademark of the charlatan—the desire to reconcile social classes—an impossibility since the interests of the classes are diametrically opposed. In present society, for example, an increase in profit for one class must by sheer logical necessity entail a reduction in relative wages for the opposite class. They retain this much of the old order—and this much is the essence and the root of its rottenness.
Mr. Menzies resorts to the old dodge of blackguarding materialist philosophy. Yet we remember Plekhanov pointing out that philosophers have tended most towards romantic idealism when the morals of their people have been most sordidly debased. Macauley's schoolboy will tell you that idealism has been the prerogative of conservative classes, and of the capitalist class once it had securely captured power. History does not show that this class is particularly noted for altruism and philanthropy. If the spirit of Give is anywhere today, it is among working people.
We meet in the esoteric wilderness of Oxford-Group mysticism the traditional bourgeois distortions of reality, the customary rechauffee of exploded fallacies. We recognise the atomic conception of society, that society is a collection of individuals arbitrarily bound together, instead of a dynamic something above the mere sum of individuals; something self-moving, necessary. An individual considered apart from the rest of society is an abstraction and but part of the truth. Groups of individuals are the only reality—we must work as classes.
Moreover moral change docs not precede and determine social change. Though "men provide their circumstances as much as circumstances product the men" (Marx-Engels), the coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity can only be understood as revolutionising practice. (Marx).
Thus the individual can only transcend his status as an individual by social intercourse. Hence knowledge is obviously social, i.e., discovered as the result of social practice. The forces of production change and develop continually but this fund of social theory, this idealogical superstructure, tends to fall behind and crystallize. It becomes a conservative force and must finally be overthrown by a revolutionary ideology when its upholders are overthrown by a revolutionary class. Practice is primary. "By thus acting on the external world and changing it, he (man) at the same time changes his own nature." (Marx-Canital).
That social and material change precede moral change is perfectly exemplified by the U.S.S.R. Here (in spite of the ludicrous allegations of Mr. Menzies' friend) the liberation of the country from an effete political system has entailed a moral uplift inconceivable to one who does not understand the effect of material revolution. All competent authorities—all true friends of the working-class (as opposed to loud-mouthed pseudo-radicals) concur in testifying to this amazing progress from the most backward country of Europe to the leader in cultural and moral standards. That it is a new and vitally different system of ethics is a further proof of the far-reaching results of material revolution.
Moral-rearmament, then, is merely another frantic rationalisation of the decaying bourgeoisie. Its efforts to silence militant workmen—its claims to have converted some (for whom their comrades have a name), its efforts to encourage that little extra work and contempt of such material things as wages and good working conditions—it is all too patently ob-
"Reforms are the collateral product of the revolutionary class conflict of the proletariat" (Lenin). "The emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves" (Marx). "Victory over the bourgeoisie is impossible without a long, persistent, desperate life and death struggle" (Lenin).