A Commentary (Apr 1932)
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456 ] A Commentary The Criterion: A Literary Review, 11 (Apr 1932) 467-73 I have again been reading a number of small books, pamphlets and articles of a “revolutionary” nature; I find that younger people with whom I talk have, not exactly revolutionary ideas, but rather a yearning towards revolutionary ideas of some kind. Indeed, those who prefer things to be much as they are, including practising politicians in and out of power, and Fabians, may take comfort from the multiplicity of revolutions which seem to cancel each other.1 But what chiefly interests me at the moment is the general interest, not so much in economics, as in what Péguy would have called la mystique of economics; the mixture, which may easily be a muddle, of economic theory, humanitarian enthusiasm, and religious fervour.2 That is the subject of the present note. Sympathy with communism seems to me to have three important elements : observed facts, respect for what appears to be the most or even the only “scientific” theory about them, and pleasurable emotions of a religious type. These elements fortify each other to a very high degree, and are with difficulty distinguished. About certain very serious facts no one can dissent . The present system does not work properly, and more and more people are inclined to believe both that it never did and that it never will; and it is obviously neither scientific nor religious. It is imperfectly adapted to every purpose except that of making money; and even for money-making it does not work very well, for its rewards are neither conducive to social justice nor even proportioned to intellectual ability. It is well adapted to speculation and usury, which are the lowest forms of mental activity; and it rewards well those who can cozen and corrupt the crowd. Dislike of disorder unites with humanitarian zeal to inflame discontent: and humanitarian zeal when uncontrolled by the discipline of an exact religious faith, is always dangerous and sometimes pernicious. Secondly, no one who is seriously concerned can fail to be impressed by the work of Karl Marx.3 He is, of course, much more cited than read; but his power is so great, and his analysis so profound, that it must be very difficult for anyone who reads him without prejudice on the one hand, or without any definite religious faith on the other, to avoid accepting his conclusions.4 [ 457 A Commentary (apr) But those who are in this way converted to Marxism must also become converts to the religion to which it has given rise; it is the absence of the religious fervour, the complete gentility, which makes the Fabians look to-day so antique.5 And it is exactly in its religious development that Communism seems to me to collapse and to become something both ludicrous and repulsive. The Theology (so to speak) of Communism is still, I suppose, but imperfectly expounded; and so I am happy to see as a recruit so accomplished a theologian as Mr. Middleton Murry. Anyone who has followed attentively the progress of Mr. Murry’s theological writings cannot fail to be struck by the inevitability of his present position.6 It was Mr. Murry who first perceived the extraordinary resemblance between Jesus Christ and D. H. Lawrence; and it was Mr. Murry who first assigned to Judas Iscariot, with sympathy and comprehension, his proper role in the drama.7 It was obvious from Mr. Murry’s next book that God Himself was under notice to quit; and it is only with relief that we observe that He has finally vacated Mr. Murry’s premises.8 And at least as early as January of 1929 Mr. Murry showed himself warmly in sympathy with other developments necessary for the emergence of the New Humanity.9 Writing in The Forumin thatmonth,withhiscolleague,Dr.JamesCarruthersYoung, Mr. Murry exclaims: It is, indeed, simply untrue that a greater freedom in “experimental” relations would cheapen marriage. On the contrary, it would help to make marriage more precious, more satisfying, and more permanent. The dogma of original sin still warps our sense of psychological realities. The realities are, first, that men and women do, very ardently, desire to find a companion for life.10 And so on. One must admire the skill with which Mr. Murry, here, as elsewhere , envelops every utterance with his familiar odour of sanctity; not even the dearest of old ladies could be upset by such sentiments, Mr. Murry puts things...