Workers Vanguard No. 1167

13 December 2019


The Reactionary Role of the Church

(Quote of the Week)

Writing amid the mass radicalization that accompanied the 1905 Russian Revolution, Marxist leader Rosa Luxemburg addressed the role of the clergy and officialdom of the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches in attacking the workers movement and promoting social reaction. Marxism is a scientific worldview based on a materialist understanding of class society, and is thus implacably hostile to all religious obscurantism, superstition and ideological backwardness.

The clergy, no less than the capitalist class, lives on the backs of the people, profits from the degradation, the ignorance and the oppression of the people. The clergy and the parasitic capitalists hate the organized working class, conscious of its rights, which fights for the conquest of its liberties. For the abolition of capitalist misrule and the establishment of equality between men would strike a mortal blow especially at the clergy which exists only thanks to exploitation and poverty. But above all, socialism aims at assuring to humanity an honest and solid happiness here below, to give to the people the greatest possible education and the first place in society. It is precisely this happiness here on earth which the servants of the Church fear like the plague....

From the moment when the priests use the pulpit as a means of political struggle against the working class, the workers must fight against the enemies of their rights and their liberation. For he who defends the exploiters and who helps to prolong this present regime of misery is the mortal enemy of the proletariat, whether he be in a cassock [vestment] or in the uniform of the police.

—Rosa Luxemburg, “Socialism and the Churches” (1905), printed in Rosa Luxemburg Speaks (Pathfinder Press, 1970)