Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Garaudy versus the Soviet Union

For decades, Roger Garaudy was a high-ranking member of the French Communist Party (PCF). He was also the party's resident expert on religious affairs. In 1968, Garaudy condemned the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. For this and other reasons, he was expelled from the PCF in 1970. In 1974, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union published a whole book against Garaudy and his ideas, which suggests that the apostate Frenchman was still the talk of the town. "Marxism and the renegade Garaudy" was authored by Hachik Nishanovitch Momjan, described as "an eminent Soviet philosopher, head of the department of Marxist-Leninist philosophy at the Academy of Social Sciences".

I admit that I didn't read Momjan's dissection of Garaudy *that* closely, but the book covers a lot of ground. Garaudy is accused (perhaps rightly) of rejecting Hegel and Marx in favour of Fichte, of denying the possibility of a socialist transformation of the United States, of over-emphasizing the role played by scientists and the intelligentsia in the struggle for socialism, etc. Above all, Garaudy wants a "pluralist" form of socialism, with a multi-party system, and different "national roads" to the socialist society. According to Momjan, Garaudy opportunistically supported *all* opponents of the Soviet Union, from the proponents of the Prague Spring to the decidedly different Red Guards in China!

The most interesting chapter deals with Garaudy's views of religion and the Christian-Marxist dialogue. Momjan doesn't oppose practical cooperation between Communists and Christians around concrete political issues, but he is absolutely opposed to any philosophical concessions to the religious worldview as such. By contrast, Garaudy attempted to cleanse Christian theology from anachronism, the better to create a new form of Christianity, more compatible with Marxism (or at least Garaudy's version of Marxism). Momjan rejects this, arguing that religion is always a distorted picture of reality, which breeds passivity, quietism and superstition. This, of course, is patently ridiculous, as if "religion" was some kind of unchanging essence (and this from a supposed believer in "dialectics"!). Momjan admits that religious believers often react against social or political injustice, but says this is due to "reality" forcing itself on religion, while religion as such is always pro-establishment and breeds servility. He doesn't seem to understand that this contradiction can be reflected *within religion itself* - where else would the "progressive" or "modern" theologies come from? Of course, demented Marxism-Leninism was the quasi-religion of Brezhnev's Soviet Union, and I suppose Papa didn't want any competition...

I'm not sure who could be interested in "Marxism and the renegade Garaudy" today. Perhaps it could have some interest to people studying the religious-atheist conflict? Garaudy, of course, ended his life a Muslim. What happened to his Armenian adversary Momjan is less clear...

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