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RELIGION IN THE, U.S.S. R. MILITANT ATHEISM BECOMES A MASS MOVEMENT - 1934

Webmaster's note: The term propaganda is frequently used throughout this document. It should be noted that the word propaganda did not take on a negative connotation until after the end of World War II, because of its association with the German Ministry of Propaganda. Propaganda simply means "official information". This must be kept in mind when reading the following document.


EXHIBIT No. 41

The epoch-making changes which are taking place in all branches of the national economy in the U.S.S.R. must necessarily be accompanied by correspondingly sharp changes in the ideology of the great masses.

The soil that fostered the ideology of the Russian workers in the period of tsarist reaction is now being deeply plowed up by lumbering tractors on the collective and state farms; the choicest seeds of Leninism are being sown on a vast expanse of territory stretching, over one-sixth of the surface of the globe. Years of stubborn and, persistent toil have prepared this soil to receive this seed. Now that the sewers have grown up, have been trained and prepared for their task, we garner the rich harvest they sowed. Witness the mass antireligious movement, which is one of the consequences of the enormous social-economic changes which are taking place in our country.

The program of our Party says:

The Communist Party of the Soviet Union is guided by the conviction that only the conscious and deliberate planning of all the social and economic activities of the masses will cause religious prejudices to die out completely. The Party stands for the complete dissolution of the ties between the exploiting classes and organized religious propaganda, and facilitates the real emancipation of the working masses from religious prejudices by organizing the widest possible scientific, educational, and antireligious propaganda.

Thus religious beliefs will be destroyed not primarily by anti­religious propaganda, but by the conscious and deliberate planning of all the social and economic activities of the masses.

This does not imply that the Party should or does ignore the use of antireligious propaganda, which helps to form the new atheist conceptions of the broad toiling masses. Tile basis of this movement, however, rests on the fact that the working class is winning in its struggle against the capitalist forms of economy that the working class is rebuilding the whole of the country in accordance with socialist ideas that it is not the old Russia, but the workers, 'the most suitable standard-bearers of atheism, the leaders of the socialist revolution, who are building giant state farms, who are building the mighty Dnieper Dam and the large tractor works, who are marching to victory despite the malevolent plotting of the exploiters of all the world: The Pyatifetka (Five-Year Plan) in the realm of construction embodies that "conscious and deliberate planning of all the social and economic activities of the masses" which the party program refers to as the greatest force which will bring in its wake "the dying-out of religious prejudices."

Under the leadership and influence of the proletariat, the peasants are turning to a new form of economy, socialized economy. More and more we find them adopting the new technique and freeing themselves from and subduing the dominion of the elemental forces of nature.

These victories over nature, over these elemental forces, are of paramount importance in the work of freeing the great peasant masses from the stupefying influence of religion. In a few more years the masses of peasants organized in the collective and state farms will, with the use of the mighty technique of the proletarian state and with the help of the mighty fertilizers at work upon new and hitherto untilled fields, be able to free themselves from the last remnants of the influence Of religion which the exploiters had almost indelibly imprinted on their minds in the course of centuries.

It must be pointed out that in this process, the cultural revolution, the logical concomitant of all these profound changes in the national economy of our country, plays a very important part.

Take for example the Christmas holidays, December 25, 26, and 27. In the village of Borodino, the peasants arranged a mass festival of socialist culture. About two thousand people, poor and middle peasants, came from all part of the country and without a single dissenting voice closed down two of the three churches in the village. They installed machinery in one church and turned it into a collective farm mill; in the other they opened up a home for socialist culture with a number of assembly rooms, a library, rooms for study circles, moving pictures, and radio.

But all this was made possible only because the peasant masses had joined this mighty movement and because of the influence of the mass collectivization of the farms in this region.

Illiteracy has been almost completely wiped out in this village, and two-thirds of the adult population regularly visit the village reading room. This room was set up without a single kopek being spent by the state, as was also an elementary school, another school for knitting and sewing, a living newspaper, a Young Pioneer detachment, a creche for babies, and a library. Out of every three homes, two subscribe to newspapers, and in every home there are two who go to the library. This is something entirely new in the Russian village; Here they are making short shrift with all the vestiges of the old regime.

Hand-in-hand with this work of reconstructing our economy, we are making great progress in remolding the consciousness of the masses. We see in this an assurance that the work of the atheists will be crowned with success and this explains why militant atheism has become not only a mass movement in the cities, but throughout the whole countryside.

This is of tremendous significance in view of the fact that all our work towards carrying out the Pyatiletka the industrialization of the country, the collectivization of agriculture, as well as our entire cultural revolution deals a crushing blow to all exploiters and to their influence over the toiling peasant masses. This is why our. Party finds it easier sailing now than at any time before "to com­pletely dissolve the ties," as our program reads, "between the exploiting classes and organized religious propaganda." The collective farmers will not go to the priest to ask him to propitiate the deity by offering up a prayer to the prophet Elijah or some other saint in the calendar. They will rely solely on the village proletariat to improve the conditions of their work, to combat drought and other elemental forces of nature which affect the well-being of the masses.

A gigantic movement against religious organizations is going on in the collective farms, in favor of dropping out of religious societies of removing church bells, closing down churches and remodeling them to meet the new secular cultural requirements of the masses Only a few months ago, this movement bore an entirely different character. Indeed, before our very eyes, quantity has been trans­formed into quality. There is not the slightest doubt that these two "fronts" on which we work on the destruction of the material roots of religion, and atheist propaganda are evidences of the many-sided activities of the proletariat which, in the aggregate, seeks not only to explain the world, but to remake it.

Lenin, as early as 1909, pointed out in his article, "The Attitude of the Workers' Party Towards Religion," that:

To draw a hard and fast line between the theoretical propagation of atheism, between breaking down the religious beliefs of certain sections of the proletariat; and the effect, the development, the general implications of the class struggle of these sections, is to reason non-dialectically-to transform a variable, relative boundary into an absolute one. It is a forcible tearing asunder of that which is Indissolubly connected in reality.

While in 1909 this was true only of the advanced strata of the proletariat, to-day the situation has changed, for today the great masses of the working class have already been drawn into the atheist movement. We must lay great emphasis on Lenin's words, and not "fall either into the abstract, wordy and in fact futile revolutionism of the anarchist, or into the philistinism and opportunism of the petty bourgeois, or liberal intellectual, who shirks the fight against religion, forgets his tasks, reconciles himself to a belief in god, and who is guided, not by the interests of the class struggle, but by petty, mean calculations such as: not to offend, not to repel, not to frighten; and who is governed by the wise rules 'Live and let live,' etc., etc."

Industrialization Day, which has now replaced the religious holi­day known as the Day of the Transfiguration, has shown to what extent not only the great ,masses of workers, but the, peasants too, are aware of the problems of industrialization. This is a tremendously successful day. And it must be pointed out that vast numbers even of seemingly the most fervent religious devotees have during > recent years begun to adopt antireligious views. We see this change also among the Jews, the Mohammedans and others. On such, strict Jewish holidays as the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and New Year's Day, ,they arranged special "subbotniks" among the Jewish workers, artisans, employees and peasants, and the proceeds went to the industrialization fund. These ,"subbotniks" were highly successful everywhere. The Jews who year after year had spent these same days in the synagogues, now went to the factories and workshops, collected scrap iron, cleaned up the factory yards or worked in the fields. After this first "Industrialization Day" a great deal of antireligious work began. There is no doubt whatever that the resolutions of the Second Congress of Militant Atheists which laid down as its fundamental plan that the Union of Militant Atheists must become a mass atheist organization, played a very great part in effecting recent changes. The membership of the Union of Militant Atheists has more than doubled in a year and a half. In Kronstadt, for instance, prior to the anti-Christmas campaigns, it had six thousand members, whereas after the campaign ,the membership rose to ten thousand. The newspaper "Bezbozhnik" (The Atheist) increased in circulation to 350,000. This increased interest was largely due. to the ,initiative of a large number of organizations which until then had been rather indifferent to the necessity of antireligious propaganda.

Those who argue that up till now, we have used only "light artillery" in our antireligious propaganda, and that now we must use "heavy artillery"-Marx, Engels, and Lenin-are wrong. Our Party programs and all our resolutions regarding the question of religion are permeated with the spirit of this "heavy artillery"-Marx, Engels, and Lenin. The point is that now the scope of our activities has become much wider since the masses have awakened and are joining the movement. We must work untiringly to develop a consistent materiaiistic philosophy among the masses. And Lenin repeatedly emphasized that:

A Marxist could not make a worse mistake than to think that the many millions of people (particularly peasants and artisans) who are condemned by modern society to ignorance, illiteracy and prejudices can extricate themselves from this ignorance only by following the straight line of purely Marxist education. It is essential to give these masses the greatest variety of atheist propaganda material to acquaint them with farts from the most diversified fields of life. Every way of approach to them must be tried iit order to interest them, to rouse them from their religious slumber, to shake them up by most varied ways, and means. (Lenin, Religion, p. 31.)

The atheist movement has become a mass movement even beyond the confines of the Soviet Union. A number of facts go to prove
that this movement is gaining ground also in other countries. A growth in the antireligious movement is observed particularly among the great masses of working class Jews in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Belgium, England, America, Germany and other countries. In Warsaw, for example, on the. Jewish New Year's Day, 15 mass demonstrations were held, which were dispersed by the police. Demonstrations were also held in Polish provincial towns, in Latvia, New York and elsewhere. Priests are beginning to complain of the drop in their incomes and of the decline of religion.
Despite, or because of, the fact that religious organizations are supported by social democratic as well as avowedly bourgeois and fascist organizations, there is no doubt whatever that the above­mentioned facts concerning the anti-religious movement will intensify the campaign of lies and slander now being waged by all the pillars of the church against the Soviet Union. The exploiters of all countries fully realize that the experience of the work of socialist construction, which is going on throughout the length and breadth of the U.S.S.R., in town and country, will be of enormous significance for the workers in other countries.

The Five-Year Plan, which maps out our economic construction, is riveted to another and a concurrent Five- Year Plan designed to tear up the roots of religion. The vast army of exploiters and priests of all the religious creeds all over the world realize that the day when the earth will tremble beneath their feet is drawing near. That is why the rise of the mass atheist movement imposes upon the Communist Parties the task of increasing the anti-religious struggle.

The Social Democrats organize Free Thinkers' Societies and Re­ligious Societies simultaneously. The Communist Parties must penetrate into all anti-religious organizations in which the masses take part and must take control of this movement of the masses, link it up with the movement of the class struggle of the proletariat, and bend the tasks of the anti-religious to the task of this class movement.

The workers and peasants of our Party occupy the key position also in this movement. It is imperative for us to increase the im­portance of this central position in anti-religious propaganda. We have certain institutions that can be of great assistance. For example, our anti-religious museum, the first of its kind, which, in spite of all its deficiencies, has attracted the attention of all those interested in the anti-religious movement.- An anti-religious center must be created to assist the Commnnist Parties of all countries to guide this con­stantly-growing movement against religion and the clergy, because this is a part of the class struggle and as such is not only inevitable, but an essential part of the struggle against the capitalist world, part of the struggle for Communism.

COMMUNISTS AND RELIGION


Why must every Leninist know the correct Communist attitude towards religion?

Why is every class-conscious worker and peasant who wants to join the Communist Party confronted with the question of religion? What have the Communists to do with god? Why are they concerned with religion? Does it make any difference to the prospects of the victory of communism whether a Communist believes in a God or gods and goddesses, or in evil spirits, or not? Is it, not possible to be a Communist and at the same time believe in religion, i. e., believe that the whole world is controlled by a god, or a number of gods, and that everything on earth is done by the will of these gods or of their assistants-the saints, or the malice of evil spirits-devils, fiends, Satan? Is it possible to live without believing in god and yet preserve "morality"?

Millions of workers and peasants who have not yet entered the road to communism ask themselves these questions, and thousands of workers who are sympathetic towards the Communist Party waver on the question of religion. Their belief in god, or in gods, their belief that without religion, without faith, without religious rites they will not know how to live right, prevent them from joining the ranks of the Communist Party. The worker in the city c n more easily free himself from religious beliefs than rural workers. It is easier for young people to abandon religious beliefs; their beliefs are not so firmly rooted. It is much more difficult for old folks to shake oft" these beliefs. And as a rule it is still more difficult for women to get away from religion than men.

Every Leninist, every Communist, every class-conscious worker and peasant must be a le to explain why a Communist cannot support religion; why Communists fight against religion; and every Com­munist must be able to answer the questions p t to him by his fellow workers on this subject, he must know and understand why the Soviet Government has separated the church from the state, and the school from the church.

Program of the C. P. S. U. on the question of religion:

What is a program? The program of a party is the full statement of the demands and views of the party on all phases of its activities. The party program explains the struggle of the various classes in modern society, and how this society develops. Our program contains our Party's demands on all questions concerning social life.
On questions of religion we had to express ourselves with precision and clarity. What does our program say on these questions? In paragraph 13 we read:

With regard to religion, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union does not confine itself to the already decreed separation of church and state and of school and church, i. e., measures advocated in the programs of bourgeois democracy, which the latter has nowhere consistently carried out to the end owing to the diverse and actual ties which bind capital with religious propaganda.

The Communist Party of the Soviet Union is guided by the conviction that only conscious and deliberate planning of all the social and economic activities of the masses will cause religious prejudices to die out. The Party strives for the complete dissolution of the ties between the exploiting classes and the organizations of religious propaganda, facilitates the real emancipation of the working masses from religious prejudices and organizes the widest possible scientific educational and anti-religious propaganda. At the same time it is necessary to carefully avoid giving offense to the religious sentiments of believers, which only leads to to the strengthening of religious fanaticism. (The Program and Rules of the C. P. S. U., pp. 20-21.)

The program of the Communist International also states clearly that Communists fight against religion, as it is a counter-revolutionary force, an ally and a weapon of the bourgeoisie in its struggle against the revolutionary movement. .

We will try to state more simply what the program of the C. P. S. U. says on the question of religion, and then we will explain it in detail.

On January 23, 1918, the Soviet Government issued a decree separating the church from the state, and the schools from the church. We will speak in detail about this decree later on. But our Party is not content with passing this law, for this law alone does not yet destroy the power of religion and of the church, it only weakens it. Laws separating the church from the state, and the schools from the church, have been passed not only by the Soviet Government but also by the governments in capitalist countries. But in these capital­ist countries the bourgeoisie put these laws on their statute books only for the sake of appearances, to give in to the demands of the people, while in reality they retain the connection between the church and the state, between religion and the state, and between religion and organized capital in the state. In fact, in almost all the capitalist countries the church still enjoys enormous power and tremendous wealth; and to this very day, inmost capitalist countries it still wields power in both the state and the school.

Take, for instance, Italy, where in 1929, the power of the Pope the head of the Catholic Church was reestablished. In accordance with a treaty concluded with the leader of the fascists, Mussolini, the Pope was recognized as the head of the Vatican State, formed within the territory of the city of Rome. Of course, in return for this, the clergy gives still greater support to the fascists. In Germany, and in many other states, the governments likewise invest the church with far reaching rights. In the U.S.S.R., the law separating the church from the state, and the school from the church, has been actually carried out. But the law does not abolish religious organiza­tions, nor does it prohibit religion. Our Party is. convinced that only when all social life, including economic life, proceeds according to a conscious, well. thought-out plan, will religion lose its authority over the peasantry and over the working class.

This is why our Party is trying first of all to prevent the capitalists of all countries from- using religious organizations to deceive the peasant and working masses, as they are doing now. We expose the class basis of religion, that is, we lay bare the class motives of those who are interested in upholding and spreading religious beliefs. Secondly, our Party conducts a struggle against religious prejudices and religious beliefs by propagating science and general education, through books, newspapers, lectures, moving pictures, etc., all directed against religion and religious deception.
As already stated, our program expressly warns all Communists and Marxists that they must, in carrying out this work act in a way that will give no avoidable offense to the sentiments of believers, because, by intentionally outraging the feelings of believers, they will only confirm them in their religious convictions.

DECREES OF THE SOVIET GOVERNMENT ON THE SEPARATION OF THE CHURCH FROM THE STATE, AND OF THE SCHOOL FROM THE CHURCH

On January 23, 1918, the Soviet Government issued a decree on the disestablishment of the church. This decree reads as follows:

Decree of the Soviet of People's Commissars on the Separation of the Church from the State, and of the School from the Church (January 23, 1918):

1. The church is hereby separated from the state.

2. It is unlawful to pass any local law or issue any decree whatsoever within
the territory of the Republics, which will restrict or limit the liberty of conscience    or grant any advantage or privilege whatsoever to any citizen on the basis of his        religious profession.

3. Every citizen may profess any religion he desires or profess no religion; all laws       disfranchising any citizen by reason of his profession or non-profession of faith are hereby repealed.
Note: No reference is to be made in any official document to the profession or
non-profession of religion by any citizen.

4. No proceedings of any state or other official public body shall be accompanied by any    religious rites or ceremonies whatsoever.

5. The right to perform religious rites is hereby guaranteed in so far as no breach of the peace is committed and the performance does not infringe upon any of the rights of any citizen of the Soviet Republic. Local authorities have the right in such cases to take all the measures necessary to safeguard public order and security.

6. No person may refuse to fulfill any civic obligation on the ground of his religious convictions. Exceptions to this rule may be made on the condition that another civic obligation is performed in substitution for the one declined, but this must in each separate case be considered by the People's Court.

7. Religious vows, or oaths, are abolished. Whenever necessary solemn
affirmation to tell the truth is made.

8. Registration of births, marriages, deaths, etc., are performed exclusively by the civil authorities and the departments for the registration of marriages and births.

9. The school is hereby separated from the church. The teaching of religious
doctrines is not permitted in any state, public, or private educational institution where general educational subjects are taught. Citizens may give or receive religious instructions privately.

10. All ecclesiastical and religious societies are subject to the general conditions governing private societies and associations, and shall not receive any privilege or subsidy from any state, local, autonomous or self-governing body.

11. No compulsory collection of dues or assessments for the benefit of ecclesiastical or religious societies is permitted, nor may any measures of compulsion or
punishment of fellow-members be taken by such societies.

12. No ecclesiastical or religious society whatsoever, has the right to own
private property, nor does any such society enjoy the rights of a judicial person.

13. All the property of the existing ecclesiastical and religious societies in Russia becomes the property of the people. The local or central state authorities may, by special decree, place the buildings and objects specially intended for ,worship at the service of the given religious society free of charge.

What are the tasks and duties of the League of Militant Atheists during this period?

Primarily, to conduct serious work among the masses, because the demands of these masses, even of the most backward groups among whom the influence of religion is still strong, have become more serious. In our work among religious people we must bear in mind Lenin's advice to utilize every method available to us, or, as he said, we must "approach them this way and that way" in order to stimulate them to criticize religion themselves. This work has not yet been properly developed. We must also work out the proper methods and produce the necessary mass literature which will meet the require­ments of these backward groups and of religious people.

We must observe that the past fifteen years of struggle for con­sistently Leninist militant atheism have been years of struggle against every attempt to restrict the tasks of the struggle in an op­portunist manner, or to give the struggle an anarchist-rebel turn. We have fought against the substitution of "pure" education, mere anticlericalism, priestophobia, for militant atheism. But at the same time we have also combated the tendency to draw a distinction between our educational work and the exposure of the class role of religion. We have linked up every step in our educational work among the masses with the task of exposing the social roots of religion. We have fought against the opportunist attempts to liquidate antireligious work on the pretext that religion is dying in the U.S.S.R. anyway. But we have also fought resolutely against the theory that religion can be wiped out in no time-that all that is re­quired is to use strong language. This struggle on two fronts was one of the necessary conditions of the victory which we have gained on the antireligious front.
This victory would have been impossible without an intense ideological struggle in the field of philosophy. For this reason the League of Militant Atheists has been closely connected with the Society of Militant Dialectical Materialists and they together have fought both against the Mechanists and against Menshevik idealism. I may remind you that the magazine, the Atheist (Bezboshnik), was the first to start the struggle against the philosophical mistakes of Deborin's school. The defect of this struggle at first was that we did not criticize the Mechanists with sufficient sharpness; but this defect was subsequently rectified. The struggle against the Mechanists and the influence of Menshevik idealism in the field of antireligious propaganda, continues to be one of our most important tasks. While we do not refuse to cooperate with the inconsistent Materialists in the antireligious struggle, we must, however, expose their mistakes; we must sharply define our own viewpoint, sharply criticize every incon­sistency on this sector of the ideological front.

We have continued and must continue to criticize very strongly those who underestimate the importance of atheist propaganda; for this underestimation was one of the results of the underestimation of the role of Lenin and of Leninism as marking a new stage in the struggle for a consistent materialist world outlook. This was the particular weakness of the Deborin school, and this was precisely the reason why the magazine, Under the Banner of Marxism, failed, under its old leadership, to fulfill the task placed before it by V. I. Lenin. That is precisely why the magazine and the Society of Militant Dialectical Materialists must now devote much more attention to the problems of antireligious propaganda. That is pre­cisely why it is necessary to introduce ideological clarity in the whole of the work of the Union of Militant Atheists and to combat every deviation from the consistent Marxiam-Leninist line in our work.

Particularly immense are our tasks in our antireligious work among the various nationalities in the U. S. S. R. which are only now beginning ,to awaken to a real life-which are only beginning to develop their own culture. Among many of the nationalities the relics of pre-revolutionary ideology are still great the influence of the mullah, rabbi, shamans, lamas, etc., is still strong. The literature these nationalities possess is too poor for antireligious propaganda and they have almost no translated literature. The methods of work among the various nationalities are not yet suffi­ciently differentiated; plans for this work have not yet been prepared thoroughly. That is why it is necessary to train cadres, to study and explain the various problems, and to conduct a serious work of popularization.

Our entire work must be more closely than ever linked up with the work of the Proletarian Free-Thinkers International. The atheist movement has made giant strides in many countries. No punitive measures against the Proletarian Free-Thinkers Interna­tional can stop this mass movement now that it has begun. The suppression of the League of Militant Atheists in Germany, as many observers, even from the bourgeois camp, admit, only led to the further strengthening of godlessness, to open defections from the church, to withdrawal from the parishes, etc. The growth of godlessness in the United States, the closing of churches in other countries, are inevitable accompaniments of the decay of capitalism. Of course, in these countries, too, the priests are trying to adapt themselves to the social changes that are taking place. Whenever necessary they even flirt with socialist theories. But, the exposure of the role of the church and of religion will proceed at a growing pace in the countries of capitalism and create a mighty army of militant atheists throughout the world.
The only country in which the antireligious movement is able to develop openly, broadly, unhindered is the U. S. S. R. Our experi­ence is of the greatest importance to every nation. We must never forget that by our work we are rendering assistance to our foreign comrades. We must deeply internationalize our work so that every atheist should regard his work as part of our international struggle against religion and the church.

The League of Militant Atheists has always closely linked its work with that of the Proletarian Free-Thinkers International. In the columns of the press of the League of Militant Atheists we inform our members and the workers generally of the work of the League, and of the struggle taking place within the Proletarian Free-Thinkers International. The delegates of our League took a most vigorous part in the defense of this international, against the demoralizing petty­bourgeois influence of the social-fascist leaders of the type of Sivers, Hartwig, etc. The latter sought to utilize the international in order to subject the entire atheist movement to the interests of the bour­geoisie, to deprive atheist propaganda of its revolutionary sting, to convert the militant atheism of the masses of the workers and peasants into a liberal movement of bourgeois freethinkers. We have exposed their role. We did not allow the Siverses and Hartwigs to convert the Proletarian Free-Thinkers International into an appendage of the bourgeoisie. Thanks to this, the International continues to exist and grow throughout the world as an organization of militant atheists. It is our duty to do even more than we have done to make the antireligious movement, not only in the U.S.S.R., but in the capitalist countries as well, a movement of vast millions.

We are entering the sixteenth year of the proletarian revolution with great gains to our account in the field of atheism. But these gains are insufficient; our work must be improved, consolidated, expanded, deepened. The banner of militant atheism must be raised still higher. Propaganda in favor of militant atheism must be carried on more widely, must become deeper and more serious. The ranks of the militant atheists must be increased to include millions.

Remember that the struggle against religion is a struggle for socialism!

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