Marxism as the Ideology of Our Age

Professor Nikolaus Lobkowicz

When I left Europe in 1960 to become professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, I had worked for almost seven years under, and later with, one of the best Western specialists on Soviet Marxism, Father Bochenski. I knew my Marxism-Leninism from first to last, and I considered it the most boring philosophy I knew of, in spite of Bochenski's masterful teaching. In particular, I had assisted in the compilation of a book which at that time was considered the most thorough description of Soviet thought and reality, the Handbook of World Communism. In fact, I even negotiated with the German government for its publication and distribution among thousands of German state officials, high-ranking officers and politicians. I was inclined to believe that I was serving a good yet hardly important cause. Marxism, to my mind, was a dead philosophy, an ideology nobody really believed in. It was important only because due to a series of historical coincidences, it served to legitimate a totalitarian empire. If anyone would have suggested to me that within less than a decade we would witness a breathtaking spread of Marxism in the Western world, I simply would have laughed at him.

Yet this is just what happened. When I began to teach at the University of Munich in 1967, I was surrounded by students who considered Marxism the most fascinating philosophy they had ever heard of. The great philosophers of the day were either Marxists, like Marcuse, Adorno or Habermas, or else sympathized with Marxism. In social sciences, in literature, in psychology, even in Protestant and Catholic theology, Marx was considered the most important thinker of the modern age and Marxism the great inspiration of democratic societies. It was virtually impossible to give a lecture or to publish a paper which did not use Marxist notions and did not take into account Marxist ways of thinking. When I returned to the United States in 1971, I noticed a similar development there. Analytic philosophy, which during my seven years at Notre Dame had been considered the philosophy, was out; Marxism (rather, various forms of Marxism) was in. One of the most sophisticated Notre Dame language philosophers claimed that Engels, and therefore also Lenin, were the most interesting of all philosophers. Everybody was busy studying and discussing the Frankfurt School; the Department of Theology was excited about Latin American theologies of liberation and revolution.

During the last four or five years this unbelievable renascence of a philosophy long believed dead has subsided. Yet, if you look somewhat closer, it is only the excitement about it that has faded away. Though in a diluted form, Marxism has gotten under the skin of Western intellectuals. One no longer speaks about Marx and Marxism, but its patterns of thinking have become an integral element of Western scholarship, intellectual work, the mentality of journalists, of artists, of many politicians.

As far as I know, there still does not exist a careful report of this conquest of the free West by an ideology, one brand of which rules the Soviet Empire. We know, however, some of its crucial stages. While everybody with the exception of a few insiders thought of an Eastern empire when Marxism was mentioned, there rose in the Western world a different kind of Marxism- a more sophisticated one, concentrating on the philosophy of the young Marx and on notions such as alienation and emancipation. It underwent curious unions: with Freudian psychology, with sociological analyses of Western societies, with secularized forms of theology. Then one day it was mature: men with powerful voices such as Marcuse or Fromm, Adorno or Habermas, Mandel or Adam Schaff presented a many-faceted philosophy appealing to a Marx dissociated from Engels, a philosophy which was even more revolutionary than the saturated Soviet Marxism but which could not be rejected simply on the grounds that Marxism was the ideology of a totalitarian system. The Soviets had failed to implement real Marxism; the October Revolution had been a world-transforming event but Stalin had vitiated it by meaningless violence and bureaucratic thoughtlessness; it was in the Western world, in the heart of liberal democracy, that Marx's prophetic vision was to be made real.

However, to narrate the story of the Marxist conquest of the West, as important as this may be and as many doctoral dissertations as it may occasion, does not explain why this conquest was successful. We have of course witnessed many times the renascence of a past thought: of Kierkegaard in existentialism, of Hume in many analytic circles, of Kant and Hegel in German philosophy. Never before, however, had a past philosophy returned so broad an echo. While hitherto the rediscovery of a philosopher of the past was a professional development hardly noticed outside philosophy departments, the spread of Marxism in the late '60s and early '70s was like the outburst of a new world wide religion.

Some of this development might be explained by modern mass media. The fact that the so-called students' revolution, which from its very beginnings at Berkeley was Marxist-inspired, jumped like a spark from university to university, from the United States to Europe, from Germany, France and Italy to Spain and Portugal and even to East European countries such as Czechoslovakia or Poland, certainly may be explained by the influence of TV, radio and newspapers, plus the modern tendency of the young to follow the same fads throughout the world. Still, the mass media, being what they are, hardly can explain a development which reminded one of the story told by Gore Vidal in his famous book, The Messiah. Their programs were much too hasty, short-lived and shallowly intellectual to explain this conquest by a philosophy that always had been quite sophisticated and now was dressed up as modern scholarship, presented in an awkward, highly technical language. Whenever Marcuse wrote a new book, the American and German publishing houses had a hard time editing it so as to make it readable. How then was it possible that the message of these books dashed like a whirlwind through one university after another, from artists' circles through editors' offices to workshop meetings, and even was one of the causes of the near-successful Paris uprising in May, 1968? Indeed, it influenced the overthrow of the governments in Portugal and Spain, not to speak of electoral victories of leftist socialist parties all over Europe and later in Latin America. There is only one kind of answer that sounds convincing: Marxism must have sparked a hidden longing of the Western world. It must have been the obvious answer to-indeed, the synthesis of- what many if not most of its intellectuals believed in. To the surprise of many and to the amazement of Soviet leaders (which quickly turned into gloating), Marxism turned out to be the ideology of our age, summing up its most characteristic traits, articulating its most profound convictions, giving a new and promising shape to it. It was almost funny to see how the Soviet philosophical journals which had unambiguously rejected, say, Marcuse up to this time, took to his brand of Marxism as soon as they realized what it does to the West.

Now I would like to devote the major part of my paper to presenting to you Marxism in such a way that it becomes obvious why it has turned out to be the ideology of our age. . . I ask you to consider this kind of analysis constantly asking yourself whether this is not what many liberal contemporaries in the West would and, in fact, do hold. I will speak first about Marxist ideas on history, second on the Marxist notion of man, third about the Marxist view of society, and finally about the Marxist account of truth.

From the Marxist point of view, it all began by chance, for it was by chance that life and man emerged. In the beginning, there was nothing except eternal matter with its meaningless laws. This matter and everything that goes on in it certainly were not created, for there is no God and if, as Soviet Marxism claims, for example, there is a difference between matter and mind, it certainly was matter which existed first and generated out of its womb life and mind. The world began and, in fact, always existed as meaningless matter. When, one day, as Engels explicitly predicted, man will disappear, there again will exist nothing except dumb matter.

However, since man came about, be it by chance or because of the hidden potentialities of matter, the universe no longer is meaningless. Its meaning, of course, exists only through and for man. Still, due to the emergence of man, matter has generated meaning, for with man history came about and history has a direction. By its very nature, it is an upward movement, the story of mankind's progress from the ape to a being which shapes its own fate and eventually becomes its own master, as well as the master of the universe. Progress, here, does not mean that man learns and achieves some things but at the same time forgets and loses other ones. It is a Progress (with a capital P) in the sense that man unfolds his hidden potentialities, and step by step reaches mastery over nature, over himself, over his society and in the end even over his own history, until he becomes something like a mortal god, a luminous center of the universe, which though finite is truly good. Man is the secret meaning which he achieves by carrying the torch of self-actualization through the course of time. In a way, Marxism translated Hegel's vision of god (god becomes himself as history proceeds) to man. The paradise is to be found at the end, not at the beginning of history; it is the stage in man's development in which everything that he is, he is in virtue of himself and "sees that it is good."

Contrary to Hegel's god, however, Marxist man does not create Progress deliberately. There is a point in history from which progress is man's own conscious deed, since he has begun to perform history as if it were his own act. There may be some disagreement between Marxists whether this development begins to come about with the final socialist revolution or already with the emergence of Marxism. Up to this point, though, men create progress by laboring and fighting, indeed, oppressing one another.

This is a crucial point in the Marxist doctrine. All would agree that man, as we know about him through historical scholarship, had to work in order to survive and spent much of his time fighting and defending himself from others. One even might agree that in one way or another technological progress was due to such doings. Marxism, however, has to prove one thing more-that man's labor and struggle constantly create something that is better, not only different. This it proves by its philosophy of man.

This Marxist philosophical anthropology is best described by contrasting it with other philosophies of man. These usually argue that man is an animal which has a reason, speaks and is endowed with the mysterious moral faculty that we call conscience. Since antiquity, both man's reason and his moral qualities seemed so distinctive to philosophers that they argued for a specific principle, a soul, which according to the religions is immortal, does not wither away when a man dies. Marxists deny the existence of such a principle. To the question whether there is anything immortal in man they will reply just as Michael Scriven, the famous Australian philosopher of science teaching in this country, once replied: "Of course not. We rot like fish." Yet Marxism does not deny that man fundamentally differs from other animals. Though it hardly ever speaks of man's moral abilities, it admits that he has rational faculties that are qualitatively distinct from those of animals. In Marx's Kapital you even find a passage in which he extols man's reason, contrasting it with the ability of a bee to construct its honeycombs. However, when you ask how this can be, that is, how man can be endowed with a distinctive faculty without differing from animals by his very substance, Marxists will reply that man's reason is only the fruit of another human characteristic, a biological one. This characteristic consists in the fact that man is the only animal whose biological needs undergo a transformation when they are satisfied. Every time man satisfies his needs they reemerge in a more subtle way. When a wolf, for example, has enough to feed on, he may devour only the more succulent parts of his prey. But this is all; his needs will never change in such a way as to force him to adjust nature to his needs. Yet this is precisely what happens with man. Whenever his basic needs are satisfied, they reemerge in a sublimated form and thus force man to labor. Through labor, however, man transforms his needs even more. In fact, he transforms the conditions of his survival and thereby himself. Thus, labor is man's misery in order to survive, he has to work and, in fact, to continue to work. But it is also his greatest glory: by laboring, he transforms not only nature around himself, but also his own nature. He produces his own rational abilities, as it were. He works his abilities out of himself, as Marx once put it. Whatever man achieves, his whole civilization and culture, his artistic achievements as much as his loftiest ideas, is the product of his specific need- structure, of the fact that his needs constantly change while he satisfies them.

This Marxist anthropology contradicts virtually everything that a Christian believes about man. Nothing in man is immortal; there is no God who could call man by his proper name; man differs from animals exclusively by a biological feature, just as most birds do not swim under water and deer do not prey. Yet, it has to be admitted that this philosophy of man explains why man progresses while he labors and struggles. It is not his intellectual ability that makes of man a being of progress; it is his biological structure. Therefore, for the greatest part of mankind's history, it makes no difference whether man uses his abilities for good or for evil. His biology forces him to go on, to progress, whatever he believes he does or in fact does, until one day he will have developed a full, a Marxist reason. Even then he will, as Marx and Engels admit, have to continue to work but his work no longer will be a misery; it will be the free expression of his mastery over himself and reality.

This Promethean view of man has one very important implication that is easily overlooked. Marxism likes to speak of a Man with a capital M. To some extent this is due to the Hegelian heritage of Marxism: just as Hegel spoke of the Notion and the Mind, Marxists like to speak of the Capitalists, the Workers, the Proletariat, the Human Labor. This is a consequence of an important fact to which I will return later on, namely, that Marxism is something like a modern myth. Yet, as far as man is concerned, this capitalizing has a reason of its own. As the Marxist view of man ultimately is biological or, if you prefer, biosocial, it is not this or that individual man that counts-just as usually we do not call sparrows by their proper name, but speak of the sparrow. Man is nothing but an exemplar of his species, and it is the species that counts. Yet this species itself is a strange one: it changes and, as some Marxists put it, constitutes itself. Within this species, the human individual is never anything but the intersections of a sociobiological web. This may sound abstract, yet it has very practical consequences. Man is not first a person which then, and be it inevitably, enters into commerce with other persons. Rather, whatever he is, is constituted by the biosocial situation in which he finds himself, by the society in which he lives. As an individual he does not count. In fact, there is a sense in which, as an individual, he does not even as much as exist. One may compare him to a passing moment of a wave in a stream or to a note produced by one of the many instruments playing a symphony-with the only difference that a stream does not find its fulfillment in the Wave and a symphony does not culminate in the Ultimate Tone, while in the eyes of a Marxist history finds its end in True Man. It is this future Man, the exemplar of the fully constituted human species, who counts; and I hardly have to add to what extent this conception legitimates any and every violence and brutality towards man as he is today.

In fact, this autocreation of an ultimate Man is so central to Marxism that Marxists never could agree as to whether it simply will come about without us having very much to do, or whether deliberate action is required from us. This wavering between a fatalistic determinism and an activistic voluntarism, which is so characteristic of Marxism, permits it to appeal to inexorable historical Laws and to call for revolutionary action, just as the concrete political situation demands it. As you may notice when you read Lenin's statements between the moment he arrived in St. Petersburg in April, 1917, and the storming of the Winter Palace, the so-called October Revolution, this shifting from one kind of argument to another may happen within days. . . indeed, hours.

I do not think it necessary to repeat what Marxism claims about how society develops. The basic pattern always is that society is divided into social classes, one of which exploits the other, this other being the carrier of progress, until in the end the proletariat, which no longer represents the interest of a social class but simply that of man, takes over. It is not necessary to emphasize this theory of social development, since-contrary to what Marxists usually claim, and many believe-in reality it is not a central pattern of Marxism but rather its most variable element. Marcuse has questioned whether it really is the proletariat which carries out the ultimate revolution, suggesting that it might be replaced by intellectuals. Marxists such as Fanon and Che Guevara have transposed the conflict between capitalists and the proletariat to the international scene, the conflict between developed and underdeveloped nations. Some Yugoslavs have claimed that the expropriation of the exploiters is not the decisive historical event but at most a precondition of a truly human society. For nearly 100 years Marxists have not been able to agree as to whether the ultimate revolution ought to or even must be violent, or whether violence might not be replaced by political moves permitting a parliamentary takeover. Marcuse, for example, though he rejoiced at the Paris unrests, was afraid that a violent revolution might vitiate its aftermath. Some Neo-Marxists, e.g., Habermas, have always insisted that without parliamentary democracy socialism would turn into a disaster.

If one is not inclined to believe in such protestations (for which the Italian Communists, for example, are particularly known), this is due to another, much more central feature common to all brands of Marxism. It is best described by listening to Marxist analysis of the so-called capitalist society. This society, Marxists admit, has created a system of production in which man no longer is forced desperately to run after the satisfaction of his basic needs. The industrial system permits man to reduce his oppressing labor to a minimum and enjoy himself. With it, man's completion has become possible.

Why, then, does man not become a finite god? Why does he continue to suffer, to be unhappy, to die? This can only be due to some stricture of industrial society as it looks today. Therefore, human society as it is in the age of industry must be reshaped from the bottom to the top. There maybe some disagreement as to where the essence of this reshaping would occur; it is only clear that those who in this society hold the strings of power have to disappear. The owners of private means of property, the wealthy, the generals, the leading politicians must all go, and be replaced by people who see the universe the Marxist way. In this connection, Neo-Marxists usually will repeat a famous phrase by Marx, written in 1843: "Even though the construction of the future. . . is not our task, what we have to accomplish at this time is all the more clear: relentless criticism of the existing conditions." The destruction of what is will be the labor pains of a new world. This is the basic revolutionary message of all Marxists. Whether it is destroyed by the Red Army, by guerilleros, by an oppressed section of the nation, or by intellectuals who step by step succeed in poisoning the minds of their fellow-citizens is a secondary question.

It is at this point that it becomes most obvious that Marxism is something like a modern myth. Those not familiar with the writings of Marx often believe that his main concern was to help the worker suffering under the undoubtedly inhuman yoke of the early days of industrialization. This belief is completely wrong, although Marxists certainly have succeeded in spreading it. In reality, Marx was interested in something completely different-the secular redemption of man. Long before he met the first proletarian he "knew" that only a fundamental change of all existing conditions would fulfill his vision of salvation. That he stumbled upon the proletariat and eventually became the exponent of its cause is due solely to his insight that only those whom society has excluded from all its benefits will be both strong and pure enough to achieve the ultimate turn of history.

To those who would want to accuse me of an exaggeration I recommend rereading one of the most decisive publications of Marx's youth-the paper, "Introduction to a Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right," published in a little-known Paris journal in 1843. The only solution to the problems of the day, Marx writes, is a radical revolution. But who is around to carry it out? The aristocracy belongs to the past; the bourgeoisie has created the prevailing conditions and therefore is satisfied with them. However, there remains

a class with radical chains, a class in civil society that is not of civil society, the class that is the dissolution of all class, a sphere of society having a universal character because of its universal suffering and claiming no particular right because no particular wrong but unqualified wrong is perpetrated on it; a sphere that can invoke no traditional title but only a human title; a sphere, finally, that cannot emancipate itself without emancipating itself from all the other spheres, thereby emancipating them; a sphere, in short, that is the complete loss of humanity and can only redeem itself through the total redemption of humanity. This dissolution of society as a particular class is the proletariat.
When you mull over this famous text, you notice that the proletariat plays in Marx's thought a role similar to Christ in Christian faith. Christ, so we believe, has redeemed man by taking upon himself the sins of the world, although he himself was without sin. Similarly, the Marxist redemption originally was to succeed through the proletariat because on the one hand it was the only social class desperate enough to carry out the revolution and, on the other hand, being excluded from society, it was not tainted by its rottenness. The decisive point, however, is not the proletariat's fate but rather the "must" of an ultimate change, the salvific revolution.

This is why most Marxists did not even consider giving up their revolutionary aspirations when it turned out that the workers were not interested in overthrowing the society which they served. (They were interested in making a decent living within its boundaries, not in destroying it.) Anyone interested in helping those who suffer would have concluded that the original problem was solved and that at most it remained to see to it, as unions do, that all workers come into, and remain in, their own. What distinguishes a Marxist from anyone of this kind, be he as much a Leftist as he may, is his determination not to give up the revolution. If it is not the proletariat which carries it out, the torch of progress must be carried on by someone else: the Communist Party, the Soviet Union, the Communist bloc or, if it turns out that these forces have betrayed the Marxist ideals, the enlightened intellectuals.

My sketch of Marxism would not be complete if I did not add a few remarks on its interpretation of human thought. Let me first repeat that for Marxism the only truly important force in history is the need of man to satisfy his material needs. This is why he gradually takes over the mastery over the world and, as a Marxist, presses for a revolution. However, this amounts to saying that by his very nature man is a being interested in its own advantage. Whoever claims that he wants to serve others is a liar. Whichever religion or ideology claims that it does not serve the interests of those who are committed to it is a lie. Until Ultimate Man has been brought about, each man and all men are egoists. If there is for Marxists a basic ethical problem, it does not consist in overcoming of egoism but in finding the kind of egoism that serves not only a few but mankind as a whole.

This view of man and his morality induces Marxism to maintain a theory of truth which radically contradicts the tradition of the occidental world. Truth, according to this theory, is a function of Progress. Whether a claim, a theory or a philosophy contributes to man's mastery over the universe and to his emancipation from his dire past, it is true; if it does not contribute to it, it is false, no matter how empirical, scientific or lofty it may be.

This amounts to saying that, according to Marxism, objective truth is nothing but a bourgeois trick. Truth is by its very nature partial: what retards or even hinders Progress is always false and in most cases a conscious lie. In other words, Marxism is an ideology which makes of its bias a precondition of truth. It explicitly admits that it is one-sided and partial, indeed party-minded, yet it claims that this is the only way in which reality may be grasped as it should. After all, Marxism knows of no "impartial spectator"; there is no God to the absolute knowledge of whom we might be invited to adjust our views. Even science is not objective in the sense most people think of it; after all, it is nothing but an instrument to master reality. Thus, there exists only one legitimate point of view: that of the survival of mankind, of the self-constitution of the human species, of the creation of the finite god. Whatever serves it is true and good; whatever hinders it is false and evil. There exists no objective morality and there cannot exist any disinterested pursuit of truth. As one of my Marxist students at the University of Munich once put it: "As long as you do not grant that Marxism, including its partiality, is true, you have not understood what it is about."

. . . At this point it is important that I make explicit what I mean by saying that Marxism is the ideology of our age. What I mean is that Marxism sums up some of the most basic and central elements of modern thought, completing them in a particularly radical and ruthless way. It is as if Marxism with a few bold strokes would have completed a sketch at which many thinkers of the modern age have scrawled. Let me conclude by elaborating on this point.

If you look at the development of occidental thought since the 17th century, you notice some basic tendencies usually associated with the expression "Enlightenment." The first of these tendencies is to make of modern science a model of human knowledge. Beginning with Newtonian physics, this new kind of science had at least three features which fascinated people; the fact that it offered clear-cut criteria permitting one to decide which claims are true and which false; the fact that in the long run it promised a mastery over nature; and its ability to progress. No one of sound mind would want to deny that the achievements of science as well as of the technology made possible by it were not only breathtaking but on the whole also beneficent to man. However, this obvious fact should not blind us to another one, namely, that modern science has induced man, on the one hand, to forget that there are other kinds of knowledge and, on the other hand, to believe that he is his own master. Neither of these two developments has anything to do with modern science as such; it is an extrapolation of its spirit to nonscientific domains. However, it seems difficult to deny that there is a connection between the advancement of modern science on the one hand and what has been called the Promethean view on the other hand. "Promethean view," in this case, means two things: first, that man is able to achieve anything that he makes up his mind to do, and second, that he be permitted to do whatever he can do. No philosophy has put forward this Promethean view more forcefully than Marxism. It claims that it is possible and indispensable to master not only the world outside of man, but also man himself-to master him in such a way as to make of him something radically different from what he hitherto was and, in fact, by his very nature is.

This Marxist claim was supported by another side-effect of modern science, namely, reductionism. The aim of modern science always was to explain as many phenomena as possible by as few principles as possible. This amounts to saying that it has an inherent drive to reduce the complex to the simple, the subtle to the plain, the lofty to the trivial. Again, nobody would want to deny that this tendency of modern science has permitted it to help man to understand and to do more than he ever believed possible. However, one of the side effects of this tendency was to wipe out man's ability to wonder, to worship, to recognize that, although he may be the pride of creation, he is not the Supreme Being. Under the sway of modern science man has become partly blind, has succumbed to the temptation simply to ignore what cannot be seen and touched, calculated and managed. This partial blindness is perhaps required of him in a laboratory or an assembly line, but when it permeates his everyday life it seduces him to succumb to one-track solutions, to a materialism which has to deny the originality of the spiritual, to a rationalism which cannot but ignore what is beyond reason, to an ethics which judges everything in terms of desires and needs, to an attitude which induces a man to believe that everything he sets his heart to can and, indeed, may be pushed through.

Again, Marxism has done little else than to carry this dogged one-dimensionality to its logical end. Science tends to explain what is considered higher by what is considered lower; so let us be uncompromising materialists. Science is embarrassed when it meets phenomena that it cannot subsume under laws; so let us be consistent rationalists who, whenever they encounter such phenomena, simply will argue that the problem still has not been solved. In many natural sciences there is a sort of symmetry between explanation and predictability, between understanding something and being able to handle things; therefore let us reduce our desire to know to those realities with respect to which we can do, or rather make, produce, something. If we proceed in this way, the whole of man's future will look to us as if it were an entrepreneur's project. History, if not that of the past then that of the future, will turn into a simple technological problem. You want to live in Cockaine? Let us wipe out history and construct it anew. You feel that you are ruled by individuals or classes that do not meet your needs? Overthrow them and permit everyone to do just what he wishes. You suffer from a society that is complex, difficult to understand and trying? Forget it and come with us who will build up a society as simple and transparent as a farm in a Disney motion picture. Notice that not only the answers are wrong; even the questions are put in a way which stems from a misunderstanding about what modern science is.

It is an insight into how nature functions, but in terms of its approach it does not tell us everything about reality, not even about nature. It gives us a partial knowledge that becomes downright false as soon as we extend it beyond its legitimate boundaries.

Those who rightly feel that, in order really to be able to fight an enemy, one has to look for what is best and strongest in him, may object that I present you with a caricature of Marxism. But does not the strength of Marxism, its bewitching spell, consist mainly in its ability to offer the simplest possible solution? People do feel uneasy; they risk unhappiness looking for a way out of their predicament. Marxism pinpoints an enemy and names a solution; it offers a doctrine of salvation that is simpler than any other produced by the occidental world.

Yet the reason why it appears so simple is precisely that we all partake in a number of the premises from which it proceeds. I have mentioned two of them, both dubious side-effects of modern science: the mentality of Prometheus and reductionism. I might also mention the modern myth of progress. From the 17th century until very recently, and for many even now, it is the central myth of the Age of Reason: the idea of a progress which does not, as in antiquity and during the Middle Ages, ask each of us individually to try to be a better person but, rather, claims to make of us better persons by improving our life-conditions; the idea of progress which, moreover, aims exclusively at what it terms the liberation of man. With very few exceptions, all modern thinkers succumbed to this myth. They tell us that the reason why we are not good and happy consists solely in that we have not been liberated enough-from the coercion imposed upon us by nature, from the alienated life-conditions that generate religion, from the errors of a long tradition, from the oppression of rulers, even from compulsions internal to our inner life. One has only to look into children's schoolbooks all over the world: this myth of progress is the myth of modern times, a myth that has become an integral part of our thinking. Look what progress we have achieved: we have assembled wealth; we are a free nation; we live under a democratic system. I would be the last to deny that these are important achievements, yet by describing them in terms of the myth of progress we daily invite our young to destroy them by proceeding further on. We literally urge them to destroy what mankind has achieved, simply to dispose of it, by suggesting to them that it is a logical result of human history, a result that may be improved without negative consequences. We tell them that democracy is the solution to all political problems. (They inevitably will notice that not everything is perfect in politics, and they will push for more democracy, for a democratization, and Marxism promises it.) We tell them that the inner logic of history has produced the considerable amount of social justice that prevails today. Is it not logical that they wonder why there still exists injustice? Are they not consistent when they look for a basic evil explaining this shortcoming? Marxism has the answer: it is private property in the hands of those who have power. We tell them about progress in science and technology, concealing from them how much man has forgotten and lost during the past centuries. Are we to wonder that they succumb to an ideology which tells them that a little bit more progress, progress at the right place, social progress, will solve all remaining problems?

I have presented Marxism as the ideology of our age-as a philosophy which synthesizes into a bold worldview much of what most contemporary men believe in, since it is the outcome of what has been called the Age of Reason. If what I said is basically correct and convincing, there is one obvious conclusion to draw: it is not enough to face the challenge of Marxism and to fight against it. We have also to ask ourselves what it is in the culture of the free Western world that makes this ideology so attractive in spite of its nightmarish results. Whoever would fight Marxism must also take issue with many of the traditions on which we have set our daily lives. We have to ask whether we ourselves do not partake in a view of man, his society, his ultimate end, his place in the cosmos, of what the scientific outlook may achieve, that makes Marxism appear as a logical continuation of what we hold. We certainly should not restrict ourselves to pointing out the dire inhumanity of Communist systems; many Marxists around us, young and old ones, would without hesitation agree with us: It was Stalin who vitiated an idea that was basically correct. It was the underdeveloped situation in Russia of 1918 that explains why the experiment went wrong. We must try again, try to save a vision that is fundamentally sound. This is the attitude we are confronted with, not with sympathy for Russia. The challenge of Marxism does not reside in Moscow, but is hidden in our own culture, in our own way of thinking, in our own hearts. As Alasdair MacIntyre put it at the end of his book, After Virtue, we are confronted with a cultural situation similar to that which St. Benedict, the great monk living at the borderline between antiquity and the Middle Ages, encountered. This time, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they are among us. They have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this fact that constitutes part of our predicament.

Let me add an observation about where we might begin. John Paul II recently appointed me and 15 other laymen as members of a new Pontifical Council for Culture. None of us knew why he was appointed; none of us really had any idea what it was we were expected to do. I cannot say, after having taken part in the first meeting of the council, that I feel significantly more enlightened. This is in part due to the fact that the pope considers culture a task specifically for laymen, not for the hierarchy, and therefore appointed us expecting that we might tell him what the problems are and how they should be tackled.

But I believe I learned at least one of the reasons which induced the pope to create this unusual "ministry" within the church. It is exemplified in the development of the Catholic Church in Latin America from Medellin to Puebla. When the Latin American bishops first met in Medellin, they studied Gaudium et Spes, which speaks of the church's relationship to the world. They asked themselves, what is the world?, and were told by everyone that it is above all a social structure. The consequence was that the Latin American bishops immediately involved themselves in issues which literally begged for a treatment in Marxist terms. When, several years later, the Latin American bishops met once again, this time in Puebla and with the pope present, they discovered that the world which confronts the church is also, and above all, a world of culture in the broadest sense of the term. They immediately began abandoning the Marxist framework they had succumbed to, because the issues could now be seen as cultural, not as purely social.

The conclusion which I want to draw from this is very simple. Marxism has seduced us to see all problems as social ones. From this point of view, the basic problem of the contemporary world consists in the fact that many are poor, indeed, dying of hunger. Certainly this is a very important problem, especially for a free world that still claims to adhere to Christian principles. But it is neither the only nor the most important problem. We have succumbed to the Marxist idea that first people have to have something to eat, and everything else will arrange itself. Certainly, we have to look for remedies against poverty, and only we Christians have a faith that will not permit us to let this issue drag along. Still, it is not the crucial problem of today's world; the crucial problem is a rapid, and still accelerating, decay of all cultural values and traditions.

Therefore it seems to me that the first step in beginning to face the challenge of Marxism is to rethink the notion of "world" as the Christian tradition has used, and Marxism has misused, it. The world of man certainly is also a social structure, but it is much more. It is the whole of culture which man has inherited, the codetermination of our present by the long file of our ancestors. We ought to begin by fighting those who speak as if the only problems really worth solving in today's world were social ones.