Follow usTwitterFacebook


31 Dec 2015 Q&A Comments (2)

Was I wrong to take the host back to my pew?

Full Question I sit in the first row at Mass because I am hearing-impaired. When visiting a church recently, the usher gestured for me to go up for Communi…

Read more

31 Aug 2016 Uncategorized No comments

Baghdad patriarch urges international community to do more to stop ISIS

Patriarch Sako said Christians are waiting for governments and religious authorities to work together to 'confront and dismantle terrorism' A Patriarch of the …

Read more

23 Oct 2014 USA Comments (1)

We're 'just touching the surface' of St John Paul II's teachings

Washington D.C., Oct 23, 2014 / 05:02 pm .- St. John Paul II's life and teachings offer a witness to love that is so profound it is only beginning to be be mine…

Read more

08 Nov 2014 Q&A Comments (5)

Does the Sunday observance begin on Saturday evening, in imitation of the Jewish sabbath?

Full Question In ancient Judaism the sabbath was from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. If Sunday is the Christian sabbath, should we celebrate it …

Read more

10 Sep 2015 News Vatican No comments

Church’s mission is not political, says Coptic pope

As Egypt prepares for parliamentary elections, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, to which most of the nation’s Christians belong, emphasized that the “Cop…

Read more

27 Jan 2015 Articles Comments (2)

Catholics! Keep Your Trees Up!

New Year’s Day promises two certainties: college football bowl games and Christmas trees on the curb. To Catholics, of course, January 1 is the Solemnity …

Read more

17 Sep 2014 Vatican No comments

Pope Asks for Prayers for Upcoming Trip to Albania

At the end of today's general audience, Pope Francis greeted those present in various languages. In his greetings in Arabic, he addressed the faithful of the Ho…

Read more

08 Apr 2015 Q&A Comments (1)

Why was it necessary for Jesus to have been born of a woman?

Full Question Why was it necessary for Jesus to have been born of a woman? Answer Vatican II responds: The Father of mercies willed that the Inc…

Read more

16 Sep 2014 Vatican No comments

2015 World Meeting of Families Will Help Synod on the Family

The 8th World Day of Families, to be held in Philadelphia from September 22-27, 2015, was presented today in the Holy See Press Office. The theme of the event w…

Read more
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

We all have an instinct to worship, Communist delusions show what happens when that instinct goes wrong

I have recently been reading David Aaronovitch’s affectionate and mordantly humorous memoir, Party Animals: My Family and Other Communists, published by Jonathan Cape. As he makes clear, for his parents and their Communist circle in post-war north London, Communism was a faith rather than a political system. Behind the public rhetoric, that the churches were “sinks of superstition”, the Royal Family was “a feudal remnant”, the police were “oppressors”, the army was “a tool of imperialism” and the BBC “purveyors of lies and propaganda” (I have a sneaking sympathy for this last notion), lay the bald fact that “it was religious. Like a…Catholic, a Communist really meant to try to live a life of faith.”

I have only known one Communist, a friend of mine back when I was a student, and although he would protest loudly if I leveled the charge of “faith” at him, his belief in Communism has been just that: his whole life. He lives it and breathes it. Perhaps the same can be said about Jeremy Corbyn and his followers in their extreme brand of socialism? Indeed, where is the dividing line between an intellectual sympathy for a particular political party and a political “creed” that comes to dominate one’s life?

Aaronovitch describes the regular “branch meetings” of the Party as “the secular mass of a Party existence”. His parents’ Communism affected his family’s whole life. Indeed, he goes on to say that he has met Catholics “lapsed and practising, whose childhood experience seems to have been very similar…” He is clear that the Party “was a church, not a cult” because there was “no psychological game played to keep members docile and loyal. Its strength was that it was about belief and faith as much as about intellect.”

All this is really interesting. The book shows how deep the religious impulse is in human beings. We all have an instinct to worship which, as adherence to Communism demonstrates, will follow a perverted truth rather than endure a spiritual vacuum. Thus, the final collapse of Communism was disastrous for Aaronovitch’s parents, their friends and fellow Party members. One official described is as a “shattering blow” and asked, “Is everything I lived and worked for only a mirage?” The brutal answer must be “Yes”.

What is interesting in this memoir is the level of self-delusion the members of the Communist Party of Great Britain (founded in 1920, when the Terror in Russia was just getting underway) went along with, without questioning or unease. Alongside Aaronovitch’s book I have also been dipping into John Ure’s Beware the Rugged Russian Bear: British Adventurers Exposing the Bolsheviks. Ure, a retired diplomat, was posted to Moscow during the Cold War. He frequently contacted Khrushchev and met Russians in the 1950s that lived through the Russian Revolution. They told him that although they knew the days of autocracy were numbered – and rightly – they were shocked at the level and extent of cold-blooded violence on the part of the new Soviet Union that followed the collapse of the old regime.

In this country, as Ure describes, people were duped by the reports of HG Wells, George Bernard Shaw, the Webbs and others, that Russia was now a new socialist paradise. They refused to listen to the eye-witness accounts of people like Robert Bruce Lockhart, Maurice Baring, John Buchan and Somerset Maugham who saw the Bolshevik takeover for what it really was. Aaronovitch comments that when the British comrades heard Khrushchev’s famous speech of 1956, denouncing Stalin, they “could not believe what they were reading.”

Of his own parents, Aaronovitch writes, “They stood to lose too much from admitting the truth – even to themselves. About the Party, about themselves…” His memoir is a salutary lesson in the human craving for a cause to believe in – and the wrong paths such a craving can take.



1 comment

  1. Patrick Gannon Reply

    “As he makes clear, for his parents and their Communist circle in post-war north London, Communism was a faith rather than a political system.” and ” “it was religious. Like a…Catholic, a Communist really meant to try to live a life of faith.””
    This is exceptionally interesting, because one of the charges that agnostics and atheists constantly have thrown at them is the idea that atheism is worse than religion, and the believer always points to Communism as an example. The non-believer counters that Communism might as well be a religion, because it acted just like one, but most believers in my experience, completely reject that. Now here we have the an author writing in support of the Church, acknowledging and confirming the atheist/agnostic position! It means you can’t throw out the charge that atheism is worse than religion, if Communism as a religion killed so many in the USSR, China and elsewhere. It supports the frequent atheist/agnostic accusation that more people die in the name of religion than anything else. If Communism is a religion, that pretty much nails down the assertion as being valid. Score one for atheism/agnosticism!!!
    Now the Church would argue that Communists are following the wrong religion, the wrong faith – but what’s the common denominator in all the killing, and misery both systems have wrought? It’s faith. Pretending to know things you don’t know or understand. Faith is the common denominator. Faith is the lie we tell ourselves, and lying to ourselves always seems to result in hostility and violence, perhaps because of the cognitive conflict it creates in our brains.
    We may indeed have an evolutionary instinct to listen to authority, particularly when we are young. In a hostile environment, when the elder says, “watch out for the lion” you don’t have time to debate it – you listen, you believe and you act, and this trust for elders results in an evolutionary advantage allowing one’s survival. However this instinct is then abused by elders such as the RCC and other religions (including Communism), resulting in people controlled through fear, whether that fear emanates from Politbureau in the USSR, or the Vatican in Rome.

Leave a Reply

  1. most read post
  2. Most Commented
  3. Choose Categories