The Sophism of the Christian Social Movement

Christian socialism is but the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart burnings of the aristocrat. Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto

Jose Maria Sison
August 29 and September 4, 1968

I
Clerical quarters in the Philippines today are trying to strengthen the political influence of the Catholic Church. The cursillo movement, patterned after its Spanish counterpart under the fascist regime of Franco, has been instituted among high government officials and lower government personnel in various departments among the comprador and landed wealthy and the middle class affluent enough to pay the exorbitant fees, and lately at the lower levels of Philippine society through a system of sponsorship. In an attempt to build up its influence among the majority class of the peasantry, the most numerous church has sponsored and launched the National Rural Development Congress. Correspondingly, the Federation of Free Farmers is engaged in intensified reformist work in some rural areas.

The Catholic Church has always played a big role in Philippine politics since its importation during the Spanish colonial regime. As a matter of fact, it played the dominant role in the dark feudal era of the Philippines. It was only as a result of the Philippine revolution of 1896 that the Catholic Church has taken a more cautious and oftentimes covert participation in Philippine politics. At any rate, it has always played an active role overshadowed only by the more raucous conduct of the bourgeois parties and politicians.

The Philippine revolution instituted the liberal principle of the separation of church and state but this principle has been circumvented in many ways. At present, under the pretext of fighting communism and taking a competitive position vis-a-vis the Iglesia ni Kristo (INK), the Catholic Church is increasingly taking an open, direct and active role in Philippine politics.

It is in the context of this development that the emergence of a Christian “democratic” movement, now under the name Christian Social Movement, is to be evaluated properly. Current attempts by Raul Manglapus, president of the Christian Social Movement, to introduce this kind of movement reveal the determination of clerical quarters to build up a political party, a Christian socialist party based on the traditional following of the dominant church. As a song goes, the second is like the first. Participate in modern clerical affairs, in the fashion of loving thy neighbors, only to serve old feudal and bourgeois ends. Drum up the utopia of New Jerusalem through pseudo-Left rhetorics, and exorcise the armed “demons” of the revolution!

Christian “socialism” or Christian “democracy” as an ideology had its early beginning in Europe in a period early enough for Marx to be able to classify it as a reactionary feudal socialism in his Communist Manifesto. Starting as the views of aristocrats, some clerics and conservative men of politics and letters, it evolved with papal sanction upon the issuance of the encyclical Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XIII in 1891. Further on, this movement was ideologically guided by Quadragessimo Anno of Pope Pius XI in 1931. Lately, following closely one after the other, Mater et Magistra and Pacem in Terris of Pope John XXIII and Populorum Progressio of Pope Paul VI came out to adjust further the views of the Catholic Church to the political milieu and activities of Christian democratic parties, now sharply in competition with the Left.

The Christian democratic and Christian socialist parties and the papal encyclicals came in the backwash of the advance of scientific socialismadvocated by Marx and Engels. Almost half a century after the publication of the Communist Manifesto in 1848, the Vatican begrudgingly accepted the right of trade unionism and firmly condemned the idea of socialism. It would take more than another half a century for Pope John XXIII to accept the term “socialization” but guardedly so as to mean the old-time corporativism or syndicalism of the Catholic Church that Mussolini used to the detriment of the Italian working class. Now, more than half a century after Lenin’s study of imperialism, Pope Paul VI, in Populorum Progressio, criticizes “neocolonialism” and the “imperialism of money” and advocates in vague terms the “development” of Asia, Africa and Latin America. It would now appear that the Christian democratic or Christian socialist parties have all the scriptures to endorse their mission of utopian incantations.

It was the late Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain, however, who provided the overriding integralist neo-Thomist philosophy to guide the activities of Christian democratic or Christian socialist parties in a period marked by the basic ideological struggle between bourgeois ideology and Marxist- Leninist ideology. Christian “democracy” or Christian “socialism” is philosophized as the “third force” in the present struggle between capitalism and socialism. Ascribing atomized individualism to capitalism and “totalitarianism” to Marxist socialism, Christian “democracy” is supposed to uphold the “human person” under theo-philosophic principles and also to work for Christian “socialism” that is neither individualistic nor collectivistic but personal in the Christian sense.

While the Christian “democrats” have ferociously tried to hinder the advance of scientific socialism as a revolutionary movement, it could merely take superficial verbal digs at capitalist society which it utopianly avows to reform structurally from within. In practice, Christian “democrats” are defenders of capitalism against scientific socialism and are utopian and hypocritical neofeudalists with their fundamental religious bias. They speak of peaceful social revolution and they obscure the objective class struggle between the exploiters and the exploited whom they try to reconcile through “communitarianism,” their principle of “distributing wealth” without disturbing the property rights and state power of the exploiting classes.

Using the concept of Christian humanism or universal humanism, the Christian “democrats” wish to take the “intermediate steps” of inspiring the personal Christian “revolution” within every member of the exploiting classes and of the entire society. They wish to inspire the capitalist class to sell shares to the workers and share profits and also the landlord class to agree to the establishment of cooperatives which it can control. They do not wish the exploiting classes to be deprived of the property and political power that they possess. They merely act as agents of the stock exchange and the banks. They wish to overlay class antagonisms with incantations of humanism and love only to preserve the privilege of the oligarchy to commit systematic violence, exploitation and other acts of class hatred against the masses.

Christian “democracy” or Christian “socialism” is one of the worst varieties of unscientific socialism which smacks of feudalism. It is even more impossible than Robert Owen’s and Charles Fourier’s bourgeois concept of personal philanthropy. It has long been exposed for its sophism and reactionary character throughout the world.

After taking some roots in Western Europe and in Latin America in the 1920s, Christian “democracy” is belatedly being peddled by Manglapus and his comprador-landlord gangmates in contemporary Philippine society. These efforts to propel the Christian “democratic” movement are being made anachronistically at a time that the Christian “democratic” parties of Europe are desperately trying to forestall the impending collapse of capitalism and are being fast isolated by the people.

However, the Christian “democratic” parties in Latin America are being held up as models by Manglapus and his gangmates for the obvious reason that our country, the Philippines, has basically the same semicolonial and semifeudal conditions as the Latin American countries. Also, all these countries have – in common with the Philippines – the Catholic Church as the dominant religious organization. Principally, it is because of the latter reason.

The oft-repeated statement of Manglapus is that there is no ideology and direction in Philippine politics and, by implication, he is providing it with one now. This is a Jesuitical, seemingly true but dishonest statement. There can be no class society as that of the Philippines which would be lacking in ideology and direction. It is a bourgeois and feudal kind of ideology and direction that have reigned in Philippine politics. Because of our semicolonial and semifeudal conditions and because of the ruthless exercise of reactionary state power to exclude the free operation of any other political party with a truly different ideology, the Nacionalista Party and the Liberal Party, including their special ramifications like the Progressive Party of the Philippines and now the Christian Social Movement, have persisted as the ideological and political tools of those imperialist, comprador and feudal forces that maintain them financially and politically.

What Manglapus obviously means by there being no ideology in Philippine politics is the lack of a political party that is guided by the theo-philosophic principles of Christian “democracy” and comparable in strength to the more established Nacionalista Party and Liberal Party. It is his wish that aside from those comprador-landlord parties there should be another one in the reactionary political arena, one with the veneer of Christian ideology.

The attempts to build up a Christian “democratic” party or Christian “socialist” party are being made at a time that the reactionary forces in the Philippines fear the breakdown of the present state and the possible rebuilding of the Communist Party of the Philippines as a fighting force. US imperialism and its local lackeys are trying to make direct and open use of the Catholic Church against the people, revolution and communism. In this regard, it is pertinent to recall the role of the Christian “democratic” parties in Western Europe after World War II when the prospect of proletarian seizure of power was undermined by the Marshall Plan, by the internal political operations of the Christian “democratic” parties and by the revisionist errors of old communist parties themselves. It is also relevant to refer to the intensified activities of Christian “democratic” parties in Latin America in line with the Kennedy “Alliance for Progress.” The 1965 electoral victory of the Christian “democrats” headed by Eduardo Frei Montalva in Chile is being played up today as an example of seizing the initiative from a “communist” movement.

While Christian “democrats” cover up their essentially anticommunist role by making pretended denunciations of liberal capitalism, they cannot deny that it is their constant practice and goal to serve as a reactionary neutralizing force or roadblock to the advance of a truly progressive and revolutionary movement. In practice, the Christian “democratic” parties have always helped to preserve the reactionary state while squeezing out some special concessions for clerical institutions. May we ask how much social revolution has been effected by the Christian “democratic” parties in Italy, France, Germany, Chile, after political leaders have won the highest seats in the bourgeois government?

II

While the Christian “democratic” movement takes a principally anticommunist and antipopular stand, it tries secondarily to take an antiliberal and anticapitalist stand. In the Philippines, it has as its main task to take an antiliberal stand because of the widely accepted principle of separation of church and state established by the old national democratic revolution of 1896. That the Christian “democratic” movement should engage actively in the political arena stands to threaten this principle of separation of church and state, among others.

It is still fresh in the minds of the people how clerical quarters have struggled to gain the ideological upper hand in public schools through the introduction of religious instruction and through efforts to prevent the passage and then the implementation of the Noli-Fili Law which is a liberal measure. It is through this type of struggle that those who now lead the Christian Social Movement have shown to what extent they are antiliberal. They are antiliberal because they are profeudal in their ideological conviction. However, they cannot be wholly antiliberal because of changes wrought in society by modern imperialism. So, they are the staunchest advocates of “people’s capitalism.” In their attitude towards the land problem, they are not truly antifeudal. They merely wish to forestall an agrarian revolution under proletarian leadership by goading the big landlord class to adopt capitalist methods of production. But there is a great difference between the wishes of the reactionaries and the laws of motion of the present society.

It is hypocritical for Christian “democrats” to say loudly that their party is independent from the Catholic Church and is truly ecumenical. Even if they say that they depend mainly on a “nonconfessional” base and even if actually they take superficial measures to have the ceremonial or supplementary participation of non-Catholics, the fact remains that their obvious and admitted source of support is the traditional following of the Catholic Church. If the integralist philosophy of Jacques Maritain is to be thoroughly realized by them, the refusion of church and state, if it were only possible now even through coup d’etat or some other devious ways, is not something that the Christian “democrats” will reject. The Christian “democratic” movement does not make it clear as a matter of principle that the separation of church and state will always be respected; it has only avowed the pluralism of intermediate organizations. There is no guarantee that pluralism will be unilaterally tolerated because of the sectarian conviction that a single theo-philosophy is to be followed for “freedom” to exist. The motivation and historical circumstances of the Christian “democratic” movement must be grasped in this regard.

While world and Philippine historical circumstances now make it difficult for a refusion of church and state, attempts to achieve it are calculated to exercise a regressive effect on the national democratic movement. Obscurantism and bigotry of the feudal type can no longer be as brazenly dominant as during the Spanish colonialfeudal era. Though the revolution of 1896 failed, the US imperialists have conceded the old national democratic principle of breaking up the theocratic unity of church and state. But certainly, the church has worked out and can still work out certain sinister combinations with US imperialism to preserve the present semicolonial and semifeudal conditions as the base for a feudal and imperialist culture.

However, an anticlerical tradition has arisen in the Philippines in line with the old world liberal revolution and the revolution of 1896, precisely because of the institutional abuses of the ideological and material powers of the church. The frailes of the Spanish colonial era were powerful at the very autocratic core of the feudal state and at every center of the colonial regime. They owned wide expanses of landed estates, they collected taxes and donations, engaged in usury and managed and restricted the lives of communities in the manner that provoked sporadic uprisings among our people until the national revolution of 1896 came.

Since property relations in the Philippines have not changed with the coming of US imperialism, the material power of the church has remained intact after the failure of the Philippine revolution. It has merely come into combination with US imperialism. The Catholic Church and those political leaders who have taken advantage of the customary flock of the Church have acted as a social force within Philippine society to help preserve the unjust property relations that favor the big bourgeoisie and the landlord class. The feudal ideology has been the handmaiden to imperialist ideology on the material basis of a combined imperialist and feudal exploitation of the Filipino people.

The advocates of Christian “democracy” or Christian “socialism” have often declared their modern nontraditional character and their independence from the Catholic Church as a traditional force. But why don’t we investigate the material underpinnings of their incumbent political influence and of what is to become their political power? The Christian “democrats” make much out of their avowals of Christian cleanliness and purity in a “holier-than- hou” fashion. But an analysis of their social position would certainly reveal that there is a disparity do within the limits of the present social framework which they wish to reform internally.

There is a great deal of deviousness on the part of politicians like Raul Manglapus who have long engaged in bourgeois politics to embark on a movement of sorts under the smokescreen of a “revolutionary” Christianity and to build a political following on the actual basis of the traditional clerical following. This is an attempt to take advantage of the semifeudal base in the country and the traditional pietism in the superstructure only to buttress the semicolonial and semifeudal arrangement prevailing. The Christian “democrats” wish to exploit the gullibility of religiously devout women, the students in Catholic schools, the superstitious among the peasants and the electors disgusted with the other reactionary and bigger parties like the NP and LP.

In his career as a politician, Manglapus in seeming acts of radicalism and with a great deal of phrasemongering about “social revolution,” “revolt against tradition” and “faith in the Filipino people” has talked of the bankruptcy of the two most established reactionary political parties and the need for a third alternative party. Nevertheless, as a third party experiment, his Progressive Party of the Philippines did not at all provide a political program radically different from those of the NP and the LP. On the other hand, the circle associated with the Progressive Party of the Philippines has always exposed its true class character by its coterie of financial supporters and by its shifting collaborations with the two most established reactionary political parties.

Raul Manglapus himself is in reality an epitome of bourgeois reactionary politics. In contravention of his own pronouncements, he violated the constitutional prohibition against electoral overspending and was found out to have done so by the Electoral Tribunal. This is the political dishonesty that is most widely recognized in the Philippines. By this time, the superficial glow of the Christian crusader should be wearing off Manglapus.

Manglapus has never yet made any fundamental criticism of the present social framework or of the forces of US imperialism and feudalism. He has merely criticized the “lack of ideology” among the other established political parties and what he calls the “neocolonial” role of the government.

What he means, however, by the “neocolonial” role of the present government is that there is supposed to be an overconcentration of powers in the central national government. Thus, he calls for between their idealistic generalizations and what they can possibly decentralization in line with the accepted Christian “democratic” program of government.

Talking of centralization and decentralization of governmental power without reference to US imperialism and the domestic classes that actually wield both economic and political power is a lot of nonsense. The national bureaucrats of Malacanang are not powerful by themselves, by the sheer perversity of law or by their own personal wishes. They are powerful only to the extent that they are the chief representatives or political agents of the imperialists, the compradors and the landlords in the Philippines. Manglapus has never uttered any objection to the national bureaucrats for being mere servitors of US imperialism and the local exploiting classes. His attacks against “centralization per se” is nonsensical and reactionary because he does not question the real central power, the class dictatorship put up by the foreign monopolies, the compradors and the landlords. He obscures the fact that it requires both centralized and widespread powers of the masses to break up the central dominance of the exploiting classes. Manglapus is seriously concerned with the centralization of government but not with the centralization of the Catholic Church. He is thoroughly consistent with the Christian “democratic” principle of “autonomism,” which is wishfully calculated to weaken the secular institutions so as to strengthen the centralized clerical institutions on the most parochial basis, including sectarian schools and other sectarian business enterprises which enjoy the constitutional class benefits of “charitable and religious” organizations.

That Manglapus advocates “free enterprise” means that he obscures the reality of foreign monopolies; he also obscures the actual central power of the foreign monopolies, the comprador bourgeoisie and the landlord class behind the Philippine government. Even when he declaims against the excesses of liberal capitalism, his real purpose is to obscure the reality of monopoly capitalism. He is so much unlike some Christian “democratic” leaders in Latin America who make more pretense in calling for a “nationalist” economic development. In the case of Manglapus, there is less of such pretense so that he belongs to the “right of center” even within the verbal range of Christian “democracy,” a rightist ideology.

Being an advocate of “free enterprise,” especially during the time of his collaboration with Macapagal, Manglapus does not violate the Christian “democratic” economic program of “economic humanism.”

“Economic humanism” recognizes private property as its key ingredient and “base of the new responsibility in the new era.” This is affirmed by the local Christian “democrats.”

Christian “democracy” envisions distribution of wealth through what it calls “communitarianism” in urban enterprises and “cooperativism” in land without violating the right of private property of foreign monopolies, compradors and landlords. This is utterly ridiculous. Concentration of wealth, if they are not broken by a social revolution entailing the replacement of reactionary state power, will remain as they are, ever accumulating. By its long record of pronouncements and actions, Christian “democracy” has fundamentally stuck to the line of private property being the key ingredient of its “economic humanism.”

“People’s capitalism” which Manglapus, an urban landlord, and Dr. Salvador Araneta, a strikebreaker, have been batting for is perfectly in line with the Christian “democratic” principle of private property and “communitarianism.” “People’s capitalism” is supposed to make every worker a “capitalist,” a co-owner of the enterprise, through the process of selling shares to the workers and profit-sharing. But can a big mass of small shareholders become capitalists if they hardly have enough to live on unlike the real capitalists who live high on their dividends? In the Philippines where the workers do not have much personal savings and generally live in squalor, how can they assume the status of capitalists? Is “people’s capitalism” not a nasty device of capitalists for directly getting the savings of workers, instead of borrowing from banks at a certain interest rate?

Is this not a form of taxation conducted directly by the capitalists on the masses of workers? Is this not creating the legal fiction that workers are no longer workers but capitalists who are no longer entitled to their democratic right to strike against their “own” enterprise? Was it not the Church-supported corporativism and syndicalism of Mussolini that deprived the Italian workers of their democratic rights? Have the Aranetas found more justification from Christian “democracy,” “communitarianism” and “people’s capitalism” to give low wages, bust unions in their enterprises and raid the state’s financing institutions in the name of the workers as has been their well-known wont? Manglapus and his Christian humanist supporters seem not to recognize the nature of capitalism, that private capital can never be distributed evenly but is always accumulating in the hands of the few, that among capitalists themselves there is cutthroat competition and monopolization and that between capitalist and working class there is exploitation and class antagonism.

If workers give percentages of their wage directly to the capitalists, the well-entrenched capitalists will only have more finances to manipulate bigger business empires with less investments of their own. It is already bad enough that finance capitalism has already developed through the manipulation of banks controlled by a few who maintain business empires. The modern corporate structure, which is benefited by the selling of shares to a big mass of people, easily enables a few real capitalists to control an entire firm or business empire by merely controlling 1O percent of either.

In batting for a land reform program of the type of the Agricultural Land Reform Code, Manglapus is in line with the Christian “democratic” principle of “cooperativism.” This code provides all the loopholes for landlords to save their own class. These loopholes include the area-by-area proclamation of leasehold system; the uncertain opportunities for land expropriation; “just compensation” for landlords; the establishment of cooperatives with open chances for landlords, rich peasants and the banks to control them; the landlords adopting capitalist methods; the priority purchase of idle and less economic lands from landlords; and the sheer political, financial and technical refusal and inability of the reactionary government to make a genuine land reform program. If the original demand of Manglapus to require the high interest rate of 12 percent on loans taken from the Agricultural Credit Administration were enacted, the right of landlords to hold their private property in land would be far more secure than they are now as secure as before the enactment of the bourgeois land reform code because they would be the ones who can most easily pay the high interest charges. The most important gain that Manglapus and his ilk have gotten from the present type of government land reform code is that they have already quite succeeded in fooling a big number of so-called peasant leaders and peasant organizations.

If landlord power, like imperialist and comprador power, is not broken, the base for depriving and exploiting the masses of the people will continue to exist. “Communitarian profit-sharing” will only be used to support the big bourgeoisie and “cooperativism” in land will only result in the national preservation of the landlord class.

The imperialist presence of the United States in the Philippines is both a domestic and foreign policy matter. It so affects basic national reality and policies that none should wonder why the youth and the masses today are fast rising against it. But what do Christian “democrats” in Latin America and those represented by Manglapus think?

Eduardo Frei Montalva, the notorious spokesman and chieftain of Christian “democracy” in Latin America, says that cooperation with the United States is “fundamental” for the “economic development and future prosperity” of Latin America as well as for the “wellbeing of its peasant, industrial and mining masses.” He warns that those who encourage “hatred” between North America and Latin America are sacrificing the people. In his seat of power, Frei Montalva is today suppressing the masses of workers, peasants and students because they dare to fight resolutely against US imperialism and the landlords. He covers up his own class hatred by speaking loud about the class hatred of the oppressed.

Raul Manglapus acts in the shadow of the Christian “democrats” of Latin America. He also makes no clear and basic opposition to US imperialism. He and his disciples declare themselves merely against free and preferential trade. They take the reactionary side on the question of parity rights (the Parity Amendment in the Philippine Constitution and the Laurel-Langley Agreement); the US-RP Military Bases Treaty; the US-RP Mutual Defense Pact; the US-RP Military Assistance Pact; the presence of US monopolies and their superprofits; the US war of aggression in Vietnam and elsewhere; and so many other issues that have been agitating the masses of the people and youth of this land.

III

In our study of Christian “democracy” or Christian “socialism” which is the fountainhead of Raul Manglapus’ “revolutionary” rhetorics, we have found its political and economic “programs” to be more of exorcism against the “evils of communism and collectivization” than programs of social revolution and its actions to be basically in defense of the class dictatorship and property rights of the imperialists, compradors and landlords and the special privileges of the Catholic Church. There is a great deal of expressed good intentions and cosmic generalizations about man and faith in the statements of Christian “democrats.” This would have been less begrudged, because of their patent falsehood, but the Christian “democrats” would even go so far as to use the dishonest Jesuitical trick of borrowing phrases from the Left to attack the Left.

Christian “democracy” or Christian “socialism” offers no clear analysis of the material conditions that obtain in a semicolonial and semifeudal country like the Philippines. Manglapus, like his fellow Christian “democrats” everywhere, puts “moral questions” above the material in his idealist and unscientific approach to the problems of society. This approach cannot grasp the laws of motion of matter in nature and society. This approach cannot arrive at what it takes to transform a social system on the basis of class conflicts between the exploiters and the exploited. It would rather wait for every individual in the exploiting classes and in the entire society to make individual and internal “revolution.” It shuns philosophically the truth that social formations have leaped from one lower stage to a higher stage precisely because of class struggle and class ideology, without the intervention of any divine will or any incantation of Christian humanism. The Christian “democratic” idea of “social revolution” is actually indefinite evolution within the bourgeois social system. By its rigid commitment to peaceful change, it is actually committed to the indefinite preservation of the status quo and to the prevention of genuine social revolution.

We propose a political movement with no religious bias, Christian or otherwise. We call for the correct political movement, a national democratic movement of a new type different from the old one of 1896 because it is under the leadership of the working class. Because this national democratic movement that we propose is under proletarian leadership, its revolutionary accomplishment leads on to a socialist revolution. At this moment, we must firmly grasp the truth that the joint puppet dictatorship of the exploiting classes under US imperialism must be replaced by the united front dictatorship of the proletariat, peasantry, urban petty bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie.

Instead of Christian “socialism,” we must be inspired by scientific socialism and by all its ideological and political advances in this world era. We must take advantage of all its political advances as the conditions for the accomplishment of our immediate tasks of national democratic revolution in our semicolonial and semifeudal society. We must apply the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought in the concrete practice of the Philippine revolution. We must comprehend scientifically the present stage of our national history and our present world historical context. There lies the best possibility for social revolution. Therein we see the irrepressible advance of the working class and its genuine party, together with the semiproletariat and petty bourgeoisie, against the forces of US imperialism and its domestic cohorts, the comprador bourgeoisie and the landlord class.

Only by an investigation of our material conditions can we determine scientifically what are our problems and also the means by which we can solve them effectively. It is futile to be prating constantly about the “original sin” and all the personal wrongs that “man” has been committing as the Christian “democrats” would prefer to do. Let us consider the irreconcilable contention of classes that make a class society such as ours so dynamicand so predisposed to social revolution.

Social revolution will never occur through wishful thinking, praying or declaiming for the Christian humanism of every person. Neither can social revolution be achieved by solely or mainly restricting oneself or one’s party or movement to peaceful change within the exploiting society through such measures as “communitarianism” and “cooperativism,” which merely reinforce the political and economic power of the foreign monopolies, compradors and landlords.

In Europe, Christian “democracy” or Christian “socialism” has merely helped preserve the monopoly capitalist system. In Latin America, it has merely helped preserve the semicolonial and semifeudal conditions. It has nothing special to offer in this country except clerical cretinism and clericofascism.

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