The rise of savage terrorist creeds

This is from Arnold Lunn’s 1939 Communism and Socialism: A Study in the Technique of Revolution. It comes at the start of Chapter XIV, “The Fruits of a False Philosophy”. The waning of the Christian ethic across the world will have and is already having moral consequences.

“Cruelty and the abuse of power,” wrote Charles Dickens, “are the two bad passions of human nature,” passions which have not been eradicated, but have certainly been tamed by Christianity, for though no Christian can read without shame the history of the Inquisition or the story of the Catholic martyrs racked and tortured in Elizabethan England, Europe, even in its darkest moments, paid homage to Christian ideals, ideals whose influence was cumulative and progressive. The rack and the stake vanished from Europe under pressure of the strongest of all arguments, the appeal from Christians to Christ. The contrast between the ideals and the practice of Christian men is impressive, but the value of of the Christian ideals has been proved by the consequences which follow when these ideals are repudiated. Russia is the first European country officially to accept atheistic materialism as the State creed, and only those who are wilfully blind can continue to ignore the fruits of that philosophy.

Soviet Russia provides indirect evidence of the immense importance of high standards even in a society in which only a minority seriously attempt to live up to those standards. Even lip-service to an ideal has some value. The contrast between Soviet Russia and the Christian Europe which even in the darkest period recognized Christian ideals, is a powerful if indirect argument for the influence of Christianity. Soviet Russia with a few short years has sacrificed the hard-won gains of the Christian spirit, and has re-established the ruthless standards of the pagan world into which Christ was born. The uneasy conscience of Christendom which still condoned and exploited pre-Christian methods of persecution is apparent from the apologetics with which Christians attempted to justify the rack and the stake. These tragic derelictions, which Christians defended with halting casuistry, are proudly accepted by Communists as an integral element of their new civilization. Modern states accused of war atrocities have implicitly recognized the Christian standards, and have either indignantly denied the charges, or have disclaimed responsibility for regrettable excesses. The worst crimes charged against States still influenced by Christianity are venial compared with the horrors officially enjoined by the rulers of Soviet Russia. The secretive use of terrorism as an emergency weapon to be disowned and denied when challenged has been displaced by the defiant glorification of terrorism and of violence. Lenin, indeed, argues that the dictatorship of the Proletariat is impossible without the “violence which is not limited by any laws or restricted by any absolute rules.” Lenin glorifies terrorism in the famous letter published in The Bolshevik for October 31st 1920. “The legal trial,” he wrote, “is not intended to replace terrorism; to make such a profession would be a deception of others or oneself; but to base terrorism firmly on a fundamental principle and give it legal form, unambiguously, without dishonesty or embellishment.” (Lunn 1939: 128-129)

Over the past 200 years if one could know only one fact about some nation that would determine where it was safest to live it would be whether the leader of its government was a believing Christian. Not absolute, by any means, but no other question imaginable would provide the kind of assurance that knowing the head of a government was a believing Christian.

The full bibliographic reference is: Arnold Lunn. 1939 Communism and Socialism: A Study in the Technique of Revolution. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode. A book well worth the read if you can get your hands on one.

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