Trotsky on religion

April 23, 2009 at 5:32 am (Jim D, Marxism, religion, Respect, SWP, trotskyism)

From Sasha Ismail (and John G should take note):


I just came across a 1935 article by Trotsky on Marxists’ attitude to 
religion. I can’t find it online, but here is a quotation. Highly 
relevant to our position for religious freedom, for workers’ 
mobilisation to defend it and defend religious minorities against 
fascist attack – but against cross-class political fronts with those 
claiming to represent religious workers (as in Respect).

“Radical” refers to the main party of the French bourgeoisie, which 
was in a popular front with the French Socialist and Communist parties.


“Of course, supporting the *church* is out of the question. For us it 
can only be a question of whether or not we support the *political 
struggle* of Catholics and Protestants to remain Catholics and 
Protestants and to act as such. The answer to this question is yes. It 
goes without saying that we do not in the process commit ourselves to 
supporting religion and the church, but rather emphasise, insofar as 
possible, our opposition to religion and the church.
“However it is not clear to me what that has to do with the slogan 
‘Down with the Radical ministers’ (not just the ex-ministers). This 
slogan is nothing more than the demand to break with 
*class-collaborationist front*. Since the reformists and the 
Stalinists refuse to carry out this break, they will be compromised in 
the eyes of the workers. Hence the slogan ‘Bourgeois Radicals out of 
the People’s Front’ is a completely correct Marxist slogan at the 
present time.
“Let us suppose, and this is not so difficult to imagine, that 
tomorrow the [French] fascists begin to storm Freemason temples or 
smash Radical newspapers (and this has already occurred episodically). 
It goes without saying that the workers will take to the streets to 
help defend the Freemason temples. But what is Freemasonry. It too is 
a kind of church charged with making the free-thinking petty 
bourgeoisie pliant to the interests of high finance. Can we support 
Freemasonry? No, never. We can and must, however, defend its right to 
exist against the fascist attacks, with gun in hand if necessary. To 
be capable of this, the working class must stay revolutionary-minded 
and ready to fight. However, the People’s Front makes this impossible. 
For this reason it is necessary to drive the Radical bourgeoisie out 
of the People’s Front to be able to defend even Freemasonry, should 
the occasion arise. There isn’t the slightest contradiction here.”


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  4. Sue R said,

    Do you know of any of Lenin’s writings on this question? I am confused, how far does defending the right of a religion to exist go, or is a case of who is doing the attacking?

  5. Futurecast said,

    I have to say Sue that being confused is a perfectly natural response to the contradictory nature of reality.

    Looking for the pure answer in Lenin and Trotsky is not the best way to make decisions. Lenin and Trotsky made arguments the same way you or I or various blogs do.

    They were neither of them right about everything.

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