Catholic Communism: The Story of the Catholic Left in Europe

The link between Catholicism and the Left has been ongoing for some time now. In Eastern Europe, especially in Czechoslovakia, Catholic Communists were common enough to form an actual movement. Obviously there were Catholic Communists in Spain and particularly in the Basque Country. The ETA was virtually a Catholic Communist revolutionary movement. The armed Left, especially the Communists, started killing priests in the Spanish Civil War. Although burning churches has been an odd tradition in Spain for a good century now, the actual killing of priests did not go over well. Of course the same could be said of the great IRA in Ireland, most of whom were Catholics.

In Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania, unfortunately, the Catholics were virulently anti-Communist for whatever reason. The Communists under Stalin brutally repressed the church, killing many priests and lay workers. In Poland and Ukraine, Catholicism got wrapped up in an anti-Communism in a horrible way. One of the main beefs against Communism particularly in Poland was that the Communists were not only anti-nationalists but mostly that they were anti-Catholic. At any rate, Catholicism and nationalism are so wrapped together in Poland that one can hardly see where one ends and the other begins.

Nevertheless, most of the virulent Polish nationalist Catholic anti-Communist were committed socialists. However, many of these folks who were often also anti-Semites as these Poles linked Communism with Jews. Anti-Semitism in Poland is as old as dirt. Yitzhak Rabin once noted that Poles learn their anti-Semitism at their mother’s breast – it’s that deeply rooted in the culture. There was a nationalist rally in Poland recently that drew a huge crowd of 50,000. One of the things that they demanded was a Judenfrei Poland. The problem is that there are probably no more than 4,000 Jews in Poland to this day. One wonders what evil effects such a tiny community could have on the national body politic, yet this shows you the intensity and paranoia of Polish antisemitism.

In Eastern Europe, there is a big difference between a socialist and a Communist. Almost everyone you meet in Eastern Europe is a socialist or practically one, although Poland is particularly pathetic in this regard, a sorry habit in light of the centuries of abuse the reactionary feudal lords committed against the 95% serf Poles for centuries. The Polish ruling class is still feudal in nature and has changed little since the days of the lords of the land. It also has deep ties to a deeply conservative Polish army, which has always had strong links to the feudal royal ruling classes.

It is a little told story, but when Communism first came to Poland, it was quite popular, particularly among the downtrodden peasants. It was also very popular among the urban proletariat and to some extent among intellectuals. But the brutality of the Polish Communists working in the model of Stalin quickly doomed the project. The Polish Communists were hoist on their own petard. Even Stalin recognized the futility of the project. “Imposing Communism on the Poles,” Stalin said, “Was like trying to put a saddle on a cow.” Basically doomed from Day one.

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Filed under Anti-Semitism, Catholicism, Christianity, Czechoslovakia, Economics, Europe, Ireland, Left, Lithuania, Marxism, Nationalism, Poland, Political Science, Racism, Regional, Religion, Socialism, Spain, Ukraine, USSR

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