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Party members are religious people - From V.I.Lenin's views to the present practice

(LLCT) - After the failure of the 1905 revolution in Russia, there was a trend of “finding god” and “creating god” that wanted to combine scientific socialism with religion. This would consider socialism as a religion that would disorientate party members and the masses. In that context, V.I.Lenin actively propagated and struggled to assert the scientific nature of the views of K.Marx and F.Engels on religion, but also asked people not to be extreme on the issue of party members as religious people. Studying V.I.Lenin’s views on this issue is very meaningful to the current Vietnamese situation.

Keywords: Party members, party members are religious people, V.I.Lenin’s views.

1. V.I.Lenin’s views on religion and party members are religious people

Like K.Marx and F.Engels, V.I.Lenin studied religion, not to build a “purely” theoretical system of religion but to meet the demands from the practice of the revolutionary movement. Russia in the early twentieth century was a country with rotten ruling; the bourgeoisie closely linked with feudal landlords to exploit the people badly and used Orthodox religion to hold back and enslave them. Shaken by the rising revolutionary movement, reactionary forces sought to manipulate and incite religious activities to distract the masses from the struggle for freedom and democracy.

Besides the plot of taking advantage of the religion of reactionary forces and the bewilderment and vacillation of a part of the Democratic-Socialist party members after the failure of the 1905 revolution created a trend of “finding god”, “creating god” wanted to combine socialism with religious beliefs, considering socialism to be a religion. The movements “finding god” and “creating god” caused great harm to the revolutionary movement, disorienting the masses. V.I.Lenin pointed out that these movements were just excuses for reactionary forces, “the sweetest and the most cleverly concealed toxin among candies wrapped in all kinds of colorful paper”. They made the public fascinated and doomed to oppression and exploitation. V.I.Lenin  wrote many articles on religion such as “Socialism and religion”, “On the attitude of the workers’ party towards religion”, and “Attitude of classes and parties towards religion”, in which V.I.Lenin explained and deepened many aspects related to religious issues in general and the issue of party members being religious in particular.

V.I.Lenin affirmed: “As Marx and Engels have stated many times, the philosophical basis of Marxism is dialectical  materialism which  completely absorbs the historical traditions of materialism of the eighteenth century in France and that of Feuerbach in Germany (the first half of the 19th century), that is, absolute atheistic materialism is determined to be hostile to all religions ”(1).

Inheriting the views of K.Marx and F. Engels on the religious nature and origin, V.I.Lenin analyzed and clarified the socio-economic origin and the cognitive origin of religion. According to V.I.Lenin: “The deepest source of religious prejudice is poverty and ignorance”(2); more specifically, “the oppression of the working people socially, their seemingly utterly helpless state to the blind forces of capitalism are daily inflicting terrible sufferings and pains which are a thousand fold compared with what was caused by extraordinary events such as wars, earthquakes... that is the current deepest source of religion”(3).

In opposition to the notion of people who believe in “creating god” - that “god” is a complex concept of awakening and organizing social sentiments - V.I.Lenin  points out, “God (in terms of history and living) is firstly a complex of ideas produced by human obedience to the outside world and class oppression. It is a complex of notions of recognition of that repression and eases the class struggle”(4). And religion is one of the forms of spiritual oppression. At any time and in any place, the burdens are on the miserable people because they have to work all their life for others, because they are impoverished and solitary. As for the workers who work all their lives and live in poverty, religion teaches them to live with a spirit of resilience and patience in life on earth, by giving them hope to be rewarded when going to heaven. And for those who live on the work of others, religion teaches them to do well in the world, to justify very cheaply for their entire life of exploitation, and sells them cards to the heaven of happy people(5).

V.I.Lenin pointed out the harmful effects of religion when being used by reactionary forces as a tool to oppress the spirit of the mass and strengthen their dominance. He asserted that Feuerbach had responded with all the right answers to what religion advocates, considering it a source of “comfort” for man, that comforting slaves was beneficial to slave owners. The true friend of a slave was the one who taught them to be angry, to rise, to overtake the oppression, and absolutely not to “comfort” them.

Criticizing religion as a tool to enslave the spirit of the ruling class, V.I.Lenin persisted with the view of not declaring war on religion. Instead, V.I.Lenin proposed the right principles and methods to solve the problem, addressing religious issues and limiting the negative influence of religion while ensuring the freedom of belief of the people.

“Religion is the opium of the people” is the cornerstone of Marxism’s whole view on the issue of religion(6). But V.I.Lenin also repeatedly criticized the viewpoint of the party’s credo in openly acknowledging atheism in the sense of declaring war on religion, considering it the party’s political mission, which was then just an anarchist argument on the attitude of workers’ party towards religion. V.I.Lenin said that, “One must know how to fight against religion, but in order to do so, we have to take materialist views and explain the origins of beliefs and religions among the masses. The struggle against religion should not be confined to ideological abstract communication: the fight against religion should not be reduced to such communication; this struggle must be associated with the concrete realities of the working-class movement to destroy the social origin of religion”(7).

In order for religion no longer to be an instrument of class dominance, the proletariat must “make religion truly a private matter to the state”(8). This means that the state is not allowed to subsidize religion. It cannot use religion as an extension system to dominate. The state must not be involved in religion, and religious organizations must not involve in state government. “Do not subsidize a penny of the people to that bloodthirsty enemy of the people, because it obscures the people’s consciousness - that slogan is clear, brave and straightforward and spoken by a socialism representative as a challenge to reactionary forces. It has resounded among millions of proletarians who are about to spread that spirit into the masses, and know how to turn it into revolutionary action when the time comes”(9).

Therefore, the Social-Democratic Party needs to carry out the struggle to overcome the negative aspects of religion through communication and mass education. Fighting against religious prejudices must be extremely cautious. In this struggle, whoever harms religious sentiments will cause great damage. It is necessary to fight by communication, by education. If we act rudely, we will make the people angry. Such actions will further create divisions among the masses on the issue of religion, whose strength is in unity(10). Marxists must be materialists and an enemy of religion, but must not be a dialectical materialist, that is to say, for him, the question of fighting against religion is not abstract, not grounded or based simply on an abstract and purely theoretical communication, which is always the same, but to put into question specifically, based on the ongoing real-world struggle, to bring more educational effects and greater effectiveness. Marxists must pay attention to the entire particular situation; they always have to clearly draw the line between anarchism and opportunism (this boundary is relative, volatile, always transformative but real); and neither fall into the abstract “revolutionary-ism” on the tongue but is actually empty of the anarchists”, nor falls into the philistinism  and opportunism of bourgeoisie or liberal intellectuals who are afraid of fighting with religion, and negligent of the mission that they have to undertake in that field(11).

In the issue of freedom of religious belief, V.I.Lenin not only persisted with the views of K.Marx and F. Engels but also realized those views in reality. After the October Revolution, the right to freedom of religion and non-religion was clearly stated in the Constitution of the new Russia. Speaking at the Conference of non-party delegates on December 26, 1921, V.I.Lenin emphasized: “According to our Constitution, according to the basic laws of our Republic country, the freedom of belief and religion has been absolutely guaranteed to everyone. Anyone is free to follow the religion they like, or not to admit a religion, that is to be atheist, as any socialist is usually atheist. All distinctions of rights among citizens of different religious beliefs are completely intolerable”(12).

In order to meet the requirements set out from the practice of building the ruling Party, V.I.Lenin made breakthrough ideas in the matter of admitting party members to be religious dignitaries and clerics. From a historical-concrete point of view, V.I.Lenin also asserted that unconditional admission to the Party is not true. “It is not advisable to make a rule of law, and in any case, it is stated that priests cannot become members of the Democratic-Socialist Party, but it is not even advised to declare otherwise. If a priest comes with us to join in political activity and conscientiously fulfills his duties in the Party and does not oppose the Party’s platform, then we can admit him to the Democratic-Social Party. Because under these conditions, the conflict between the spirit of our party’s credo and its principles and the religious beliefs of the priest may remain a separate conflict of that person, which is his own business(13).

Thus, in V.I.Lenin’s view, it should not be rigid to declare whether a priest can or cannot enter the Party. In the event that a priest is accompanied by a member of the Democratic-Social Party to join in political activities and conscientiously fulfills his political duties within the Party and does not oppose the Party’s platform, it is possible for that priest to be admitted to the Democratic-Social Party but that case must be very special, very exceptional, very rare.

And if a priest has already entered the Democratic-Social Party, and yet just actively carried out communication for the religious views within that party, considering it a major and almost only work, the party necessarily expels the priest from the Party(14). V.I.Lenin  stressed that we must not only be willing to admit, but also try to attract to the Democratic-Social Party all workers who believe in God; we are bound to oppose any minor insults to their religious beliefs, but we attract them to educate them in the spirit of our credo and to not let them actively oppose that credo.

Not only considering the specific historical circumstances of priests and religious workers when they are admitted to the Democratic-Social Party, the Party also keeps track of activities of their members who must also prove to have a firm proletariat stance. The Party also spreads the materialist worldview, and promptly expels the Party members who join the organization to develop religion and to propagate to the idealistic world. It is impossible to “hold hands” with people who do not share political goals.

According to V.I.Lenin, not all laws equally condemn the Democrats-Socialists’ claim that “socialism is my religion”. If the promoters or public speakers speak in such a way to make it easier to understand, to start their stories, to make their views more realistic, with familiar words especially for the low-level masses, that is one thing. But if a writer starts to propagate “god creating”, or socialism that creates gods (in the spirit of Luna Tichavsky and other groups in Vietnam), then it is another thing. In the first case, the condemnation may be a traction, or even an improper infringement of the right to freedom of encouragement and the right to use “pedagogical” methods for mass impact. In the second case, the condemnation of the party is even more a necessity and obligation. The thesis “socialism is a religion” for these people is a transitional form from religion to socialism, and for those people, it is a form of transition from socialism to religion(15).

Thus, V.I.Lenin explained, deepened, and concretized many issues related to religion and solved the problem of party members being religious in the new regime, thereby developing and raising Marxist theory about religion to a new level. With that viewpoint, V.I.Lenin successfully solved the religious issue in the process of revolution, gathering and uniting the mass of religious people around the party, limiting the negative effects of religious prejudice, nullifying the religious exploitation of hostile forces, and contributing to the victory of the revolution.

2. The issue of party members are religious people in Vietnam today

President Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnamese Communist Party have creatively applied the Marxist - Leninist theory on religion in general and on religious members in particular to the specific conditions in Vietnam, bringing great achievements in resolving religious issues. During the national liberation revolution, President Ho Chi Minh and the Party made policies with contents such as respect for freedom of belief, uniting religious followers and non-religious followers, uniting the entire people, ensuring that all citizens are equal, taking care of the material and spiritual life of the religious people, helping the people to have a full life materialistically and spiritually, promoting the patriotism, encouragement and praising of “good life, good religion” examples, the admission of believers and religious dignitaries into the Party, and resolutely fighting against abusive religion for evil purposes. That right policy has had a great effect on national unity, forming a synergy to ensure the victory of the revolution. The resolution of the 7th plenum of the 9th Party Central Committee summarized: “In the democratic national revolution, the policy of freedom of belief and uniting religious and non-religious people proposed by President Ho Chi Minh has contributed greatly to the cause of uniting the entire people in the victorious cause of winning independence and complete unification for the country”(16).

In the current period, our Party has issued Regulation 123-QD/TW and Guiding Document number 40-HD/BTCTW on members being religious. There have been changes in the awareness of the party committees and Party members about the admission of religious people; the communication, education and fostering of mass religious people to create a source of development has undergone many positive changes. However, in the current period, it is necessary to continually study and absorb the progressive values of contemporary theories of religion, the universal values of humanity achieved in international law on human rights, and to supplement and develop V.I.Lenin’s views on party members are religious people.

Firstly, it is essential to develop party members who are religious, contributing to changing the structure of party members, and strengthening the leadership and fighting capacity of party organizations and party members in areas where there are many religion followers, as well as working to increase consensus in the community of the people and strengthening the faith of religious people towards the Party.

Secondly, party members must fulfill their duties and rights as regulated in the Party’s Charter. Religious Party members should be assigned to work in mobilizing the religious masses to join hands in performing political tasks, observing the Party’s guidelines and policies and the State laws, and doing charity work well and fulfilling civic obligations at the residence in addition to propagandizing and educating to contribute to helping believers become vigilant to the conspiracies of hostile forces who wish to take advantages of religion to divide the great national unity bloc.

Thirdly, believers, dignitaries, and religious people, after being admitted to the Party, should play their roles and take responsibilities in performing political tasks as well as mobilizing religious believers and non-believers to perform activities well in the locality, building a great solidarity bloc at the grassroots level.

Fourthly, it is necessary to develop the V.I.Lenin’s viewpoints of considering religion to be private and religious activities to be personal. But it is advisable not to use the media, public places and state resources to indirectly propagate religion.



(1), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (9), (10), (11), (12), (13), (14), (15) ) V.I.Lenin: Complete works, Vol.17, Progress Publishing House, Moscow 1979, p.517, 519, 517, 510-511, 511, 523-524, 560, 518-519, 528-529, 519, 520, 532, 171.

(2) V.I.Lenin: Complete Works, Vol.37, Progress Publishing House, Moscow, 1979, p.221.

(8) V.I.Lenin: Complete Works, Vol.12, Progress Publishing House, Moscow, 1979, pp.170-171.

(16) CPV: Documents of the 7th Plenum of the Party Central Committee (9th tenure), National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2003, p.45.

Dr. Dao Dinh Thuong

Institute of Religion and Beliefs,

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

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