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Marxism and Christianity in Latin America Author(s): Michael Lowy and Claudia Pompan Source: Latin American

Marxism and Christianity in Latin America Author(s): Michael Lowy and Claudia Pompan Source: Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 20, No. 4, The Struggle for Popular Participation (Autumn, 1993), pp. 28-42 Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.

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Marxismand ChristianityinLatinAmerica

byMichaelL6wy

TranslatedbyClaudiaPompan

Forhalfa century,Marxismhasbeenproscribed-underthecaricatural

epithetof "atheistcommunism"-asthemostformidableand insidious enemyoftheChristianfaith.Theexcommunicationdecreedbythepopein thepostwaryearswasmerelythecanonicalsanctionoftheimplacableand obsessivestrugglethathas builta wallof hostilityin LatinAmericaand throughouttheworldbetweenthefaithfulofthechurchandMarxist-oriented politicalmovements.The breachesopenedin thiswall by thesurprising convergenceofChristianityandMarxisminLatinAmericaduringthepast 30 years-particularlythroughliberationtheology-havebeenamongthe mostimportantfactorsofsocialtransformationinthemodernhistoryofthe hemisphere.Indeed,someofthekeysocialandpoliticaleventsofrecent decades-such as theNicaraguanrevolution,thepopularuprisingin El Salvador,and thenewgrass-rootsworkers'movementin Brazil-can be neitherunderstoodnorexplainedwithoutbearingin mindtheprofound changethathasoccurredinLatinAmericanCatholiccultureas a resultof broadsectors'havingembracedandincorporatedsomeofthebasictenetsof

Marxism.RegardlessoftheoutcomeofRome'scurrentauthoritarianoffen-

sive-and thepossibilitythatthisoffensivewillmeetwithsomesuccess shouldnotbe ruledout-these eventsalreadyconstitutean irreversible historicalfact. Thesedevelopmentshavebeena causeofconcernnotonlyforconserva- tivebishopsandtheologians,defendersofRome'sorthodoxy,and doctri- nairesofthefaithinthehighestspheresoftheVaticanandtheConferencia Episcopal Latino-Americana(Latin AmericanBishops' Conference- CELAM) butalso fortheLatinAmericangeneralswhometin 1987inMar del Plata,Argentina,and theRepublicanadvisorsto thepresidentof the UnitedStateswhometinSantaFe in 1980and1988.In an attempttohead

MichaelLowyis a participatingeditorofLatinAmericanPerspectives.He residesinParisand is associatedwiththeGroupede Sociologiedes Religions,CentreNationalde la Recherche Scientifique.Thisarticlewas originallypublishedinLua Nova(Vol. 19) inSao Paulo,Brazil. ClaudiaPompan,a nativeofBrazil,receivedherPh.D.inpoliticalsciencefromtheUniversity ofCalifornia,Riverside.ShecurrentlyresidesinRedlands,California.

LATINAMERICANPERSPECTIVES, Issue79,Vol.20 No. 4, Fall 199328-42 ? 1993LatinAmericanPerspectives

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offthisunexpectedphenomenon,RonaldReagan'sadvisorsresortedtoclassic policeterminology("infiltration")intheMay1980SantaFe document:

U.S. foreignpolicyshouldbegintoconfrontliberationtheology(andnotjust

reacttoita posteriori)

InLatinAmerica,theroleoftheChurchis vitalto

theconceptofpoliticalfreedom.Unfortunately,theMarxist-Leninistforces haveusedtheChurchas a politicalweaponagainstprivateownershipandthe capitalistsystemofproduction,infiltratingthereligiouscommunitywithideas thataremorecommunistthanChristian.

It wouldserveno purposeto dwellon thegrossinadequacyof suchan

"analysis";sufficeitto say thatit is entirelyincapableof explainingthe internaldynamicsofthesesectorsofthechurchthatledthemtotakepositions againstthecapitalistsystemofproductionthatwereoftenmuchmoreradical thanthosetakenby thetraditionalMarxist-Leninistforces(i.e., theLatin Americancommunistparties). Thesameteamofexperts(nowworkingforPresidentBush)haspublished a secondreport(SantaFe II) withbasicallythesamegeneralthrustas the first,albeitinslightlymoresophisticatedterms.Thediscussionhasnotturned totheGramsciantacticsusedbytheMarxists,whohavediscoveredthatthe mosteffectivewaytocometopoweris by"dominatingthenation'sculture, whichmeanssecuringa positionofstronginfluenceoverreligion,schools, themassmedia,andtheuniversities":"It is in thiscontextthatliberation theologyshouldbe viewed,as a politicaldoctrineintheguiseofa religious beliefthatis antipapaland anti-free-enterprise,aimedat weakeningthe independenceofsocietyinthefaceofstatecontrol."Thecomplexandunique relationshipbetweenreligiousand politicalconsiderationsin liberation theologyis thusreducedto a mere"disguise,"a resultof theMarxists' Machiavellianstrategy. A similarthrustisfoundinthedocumentonliberationtheologypresented at theInter-AmericanConferenceof ArmedForcesin December1987.

Despiteitssignificantlyhigherlevelofdetailand"expertise"-itwasprob-

ablycomposedbya conservativetheologianactingas advisortothearmed forces-thisdocumentalso interpretsthephenomenonwithinthegeneral frameworkofa "strategyoftheinternationalcommunistmovementinLatin America,implementedthroughvariousmodioperandi." Now, a minimumof good sense would sufficeforany observerto

recognizethatliberationtheology-andtheconvergenceofChristianityand

Marxismincertainsectorsofthechurch-wasnottheresultofanyconspir-

acy,strategy,tactic,infiltration,or maneuverby communists,Marxists, Gramscians,orLeninistsbutratheran internaldevelopmentofthechurch itself,stemmingfromits own traditionand culture.What needsto be

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explainedis whyitoccurred-why,ata givenpointinhistory(i.e.,theearly 1960s)andin a givenarea(i.e.,LatinAmerica),a sectoroftheclergyand theChristian(mainlyCatholic)laityfelttheneedtoadopttheMarxistmethod ofinterpretationandtransformationofreality. Inthislight,theanalysisofRome'smainopponentofliberationtheology,

CardinalRatzinger(1985:122-130,mytranslation),ismuchmoreinteresting

andinsightful.AccordingtotheeminentprefectoftheHolyOfficeofthe DoctrineofFaith,inthe1960s"a perceptiblevacuumofmeaninghadarisen in theWesternworld.In thissituation,thevariousformsofneo-Marxism becamebotha moralforceanda promise'ofmeaningthatseemedpractically irresistibletoacademicyouth."Moreover,"themoralchallengeofpoverty andoppressionpresenteditselfinanineluctableformattheverytimewhen EuropeandNorthAmericahadattaineda hithertounknownaffluence.This challengeevidentlycalledfornewresponsesthatwerenottobefoundinthe

existingtradition.Thechangedtheologicalandphilosophicalsituationwas a formalinvitationtoseektheanswerina Christianitythatalloweditselfto be guidedbythemodelsofhope,scientificallygrounded,putforwardby

Marxistphilosophies."Theoutcomewastheemergenceofliberationtheo-

logians"whofullyembracedthebasicMarxistapproach."Ifthegraveness of thedangerpresentedbythisnewdoctrinewas underestimated,it was "becauseit did notfitintoanyof theacceptedcategoriesof heresy;its fundamentalconcerncannotbe detectedbytheexistingrangeofstandard questions."Thereis no denying,thecardinalconcedes,thatthistheology, whichcombinesbiblicalexegesiswithMarxistanalysis,is "appealing"and has an "almostflawlesslogic."Itseemstorespondto"therequirementsof scienceandthemoralchallengesofourtime."This,however,doesnotmake itanyless a threat:"Indeed,an erroris all themoredangerous,thegreater thegrainoftruthitcontains." The questionremainswhyitwas Marxist-oriented"modelsofhope"in particularthatwereabletoseducesuchlargesectorsoftheRomanCatholic ApostolicChurchin LatinAmerica-morespecifically,whataspectsor elementsofthechurch'sowndoctrineandofMarxismmighthavefavored, facilitated,or encouragedtheirconvergence.A conceptthatmightprove usefulin thistypeofanalysisis theone thatMax Weber(1971) used to

studythereciprocalrelationshipbetweena religiousform(theProtestant ethic)and an economicethos(thespiritofcapitalism):selectiveaffinity (Wahlverwandtschaft).On thebasisofcertainanalogies,certainaffinities, certaincorrespondences,twoculturalstructuresmay-in therighthistorical circumstances-enterintoa relationshipofattraction,ofchoice,ofmutual selection.Thisis nota unilateralprocessofinfluencebutrathera dynamic dialecticinteractionthatmayleadinsomecasestosymbiosisorevenfusion.

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Thefollowingaresomeexamplesofpossibleareasofaffinityorcorrespon-

dencebetweenChristianityandsocialism:

Theliberationofslavesand theoppressed,as a moralimperativeanda historicalprocess.ThisideahasitsrootsintheOldTestament;itis notmere coincidencethatgrass-rootscommunitiesandliberationtheologyattribute so muchimportancetothebookofExodus. The viewthatthepoorareinnocentvictimsofinjustice,immunetothe reigningcorruption,andtheideaofa moralimperativetoacttosavethepoor. Obviously,thereis considerabledistancebetweenthepoor of Catholic doctrineandtheproletariatofMarxisttheory,butthereisnodenyinga certain socio-ethical"kinship"(Verwandtschaft)betweenthetwo. Universalism,internationalism("catholicism" in its etymological sense)-doctrineandtransnationalinstitutionsthatviewmankindasa whole; humanism,affirmationofthesubstantialunityofhumankindaboveraces, ethnicgroups,andnations. Criticismofindividualism.As theMarxistsociologistLucienGoldmann (1955) observedinhisbookonPascal,bothMarxismandChristianityreject

pureindividualism(liberal/rationalist,hedonistic,or empiricist).Forboth theories,thesupremevaluesaretransindividual:God (forreligion)andthe humancommunity(forsocialism). Assignmentofgreatervaluetothecommunity,tocommunitylife,tothe

communalsharingofgoods;criticismofanonymity,impersonality,alien-

ation,selfishcompetitioninmodernsocietallife. Anticapitalism.Max Webercorrectlyidentifieda profoundopposition betweentheethicalrationalityof theCatholicchurchand theeconomic rationalityof capitalism.The churchrejectsa totallyimpersonal,reified (Versachlicht)economicsystemthatlies beyonditsmoraland religious

imperatives(Weber,1971:591-592).Criticismofliberalcapitalismhasbeen

one of thebasic tenetsof thechurch'smagisteriumeversincethe 19th century. The hope fora futurekingdomofjustice and freedom,peace, and brotherhoodamongall mankind.Theidentificationofthisaffinitybetween Christianandsocialistutopiasdoesnotnecessarilymeanacceptingthethesis ofNikolaiBerdiaev,KarlL6with,andmanyothersthatMarxismis merely a secularizedavatarofJudeo-Christianmessianism. It is obviousthattheseelementshaveentirelydifferentmeaningsinthe twoculturalsystemsandthatformalanalogiesinandofthemselvesdo not constitutea causeforconvergence.Forexample,thereisnothingfartherfrom thepooras construedinthechurch'straditionaldoctrine-astheobjectof

charityandpaternalprotection-thantheroleoftheproletariatinMarxist thinking,as theagentsofrevolutionaryaction.Thecorrespondencesoutlined

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abovedo notpreventthechurchfromreconcilingitselfwithcapitalistorder andfromregardingsocialism,communism,andMarxismas theintrinsically perverseenemiesofChristianfaith-althoughtherehavebeenindividuals, groups,andcurrentsofthoughtwithinCatholicism(andthevariousbranches

ofProtestantism)thathavebeenattractedtomodernrevolutionarydoctrines. Whattransformstheseformalanalogiesintoa dynamicrelationshipof selectiveaffinityis a givenhistoricalconjuncture,specificallytheonethat beganinthelate1950s.Thiswas,ontheonehand,a globalconjuncture:the crisisandtheologicalrenewalofEuropeanCatholicismafterthewarandthe electionofJohnXXIII in 1958andhisconveningofa newcouncilwitha viewto theaggiornamentoofchurchdoctrineandpractices.On theother hand,institutionalMarxismwasthrownintoa crisisbythe20thCongressof theCommunistPartyoftheSovietUnionandthedenunciationofStalinism. These eventscreatedfavorableconditionsfora moreopen relationship betweenChristianityandMarxism,althoughEurope(witha fewexceptions, e.g.,France)wouldneversee anythingmorethana dialogbetweenthetwo politicallyandculturallyopposedblocs. Itwas inLatinAmericathatcircumstancesmadepossiblea muchmore radicalconvergence.TheLatinAmericanconjuncturebeginningatthatpoint inhistorywascharacterizedby(1) anaccelerateddevelopmentofcapitalism, urbanization,and industrialization(underthe aegis of NorthAmerican capital)thatdeepenedsocial contradictionsand (2) theCubanrevolution

(1959-1960),thefirstgrass-rootsvictoryagainstimperialisminLatinAmer-

ica andthefirstsocialistrevolutioninthehemisphere,ledbyMarxistforces

ofa newkindindependentoftraditional(i.e.,Stalinist-oriented)communism.

Thecomingtogetherofthesetwoprocesses-onestructuralandsocioeco-

nomic,theotherpoliticalandideological-markedthebeginningofa new chapterin LatinAmericanhistory,a periodofsocial struggle,grass-roots movements,andinsurrectionsthattooka quantumleapwiththeSandinista revolutionandcontinuestothisday.Thisnewstagewasmarkedbya renewal andanincreaseininfluenceofLatinAmericanMarxistthought,inparticular (butnotexclusively)inacademia.Itwasinthisconjuncturethata relation- shipofselectiveaffinitybetweenChristianityandMarxismwoulddevelop amongcertainsectorsofthechurchanditssocialbaseinLatinAmerica.This relationship,foundedonexistinganalogies,wastoleadtoa convergenceor articulationof thesetwotraditionallyopposedcultures;in some cases it wouldevenlead to theirfusionin a Marxist-Christiancurrentofthought.

Indeed,theconceptofselectiveaffinity,whichforWebermerelydescribes therelationshipbetweenmutualselectionandreciprocalreinforcementof distinctsocioculturalphenomena,stemsfroman alchemicdoctrinethat

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soughttoexplainthefusionofbodiesintermsoftheaffinityofelementsin theirchemicalmakeup. Thepast30 yearshaveseennumerousmanifestationsofthisprocessof convergenceby selectiveaffinity.The threeof mostdecisivehistorical importancehavebeen(inchronologicalorder)theBrazilianChristianLeft

oftheearly1960s,liberationtheology,andtheSandinistarevolution.Other

importantmodelsandforms-forexampleCamilism(basedontheideasof CamiloTorres),theChristiansforSocialismmovement,and thevarious Christiansympathiesin Brazil's Partidodos Trabalhadores(Workers' party-PT)-are beyondthescopeofthisarticle. Brazil'sChristianleft,as itappearedinthe1960sintheformofJuventude UniversitariaCrista(ChristianAcademicYouth-JUC), JuventudeEs- tudantilCrista(ChristianStudentYouth-JEC),andAcao Popular(Popular Action-AP), wasthefirstmanifestationinLatinAmericaofthearticulation

betweenChristianfaithandMarxistpoliticsas a movementwitha broad socialbase,inacademiaandevenamongtheclergy.Thisprocesswasnotthe resultofVaticanCouncilII orofthecomunidadeseclesiasde base (ecclesi- asticbase communities-CEBs)or of liberationtheologyor of the1964 militarycoup;itbeganlongbeforeall theseevents.Thatstudentswerethe firstgroupwithinthechurchtocometoknowthe"Marxisttemptation"is notsurprising,sincethiswasthesocialgrouponwhichMarxandhisdisciples hadhadthestrongestinfluence;similarprocessesoccurredlaterinChileand

elsewhere.MuchhasbeenwrittenonJUC'shistory,inparticularthenote-

worthyworksofLuiz AlbertoGomezde Souza,OscarBeozzo,Emmanuel de Kadt,andThomasBruneau.Whatisofinteresttoouranalysisis tosituate itinthehistoricalprocessofthetransformationofCatholiccultureinLatin America.Twoaspectsmeritspecialmentionhere:

TheJUCof1960and1962representedthefirstattemptanywhereinthe

hemisphereto developa Christiancurrentof thoughtusingelementsof Marxism.As such,it was a pioneeringmovementand was markedby a surprisinglevelofintellectualandpoliticalcreativitythat,despiteitsinitial failure,setthestageforwhatwastocomelaterinBrazilandthroughoutLatin

America.PabloRichardwasrightwhenhetermedJUC's10th-anniversary

congressin 1960"thebeginningofa newstageinthehistoryofChristianity inBrazilandLatinAmerica"(1984:154).Itis alsonoteworthythatthiswas notjustnewrhetoricbuta newpracticebothwithinthestudentmovement andin theareaofgrass-rootseducation(theMovimentode Educac,aode Base/Grass-rootsEducationalMovement-MEB)and,later,politicalaction (AP). Furthermore,whileJUC'sdoctrinewasnottheologicalinnature,itdid representan effortbythelaitytoplaya rolein thehistoricalrealityofthe

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country.It was nota discussionof religioustopics(Christology,Bible exegesis,ecclesiology)butratherananalysisfroma religious(i.e.,Catholic) viewpointofBrazil'seconomic,social,andpoliticalproblems. Duringthisfirststage,theMarxistelementsembracedbyJUCwerefew

butsignificant:certainbasicconcepts(alienation,theproletariat),a general analysisofexploitation(definingtheworkingclassas "thegroupforcedto sellitsworkonthemarketinexchangeforwagesthatdo notcorrespondto thevalueof itscontributionto theproductionprocessand thatdoes not

participateinthemanagementofsaidproductionprocess"[RegionalCentro-

OestedaJUC,1979(1960)]),anda generalanticapitaliststancethatfavored socialism(inthewordsofHerbertde Souza [1979(1962),mytranslation], "Wearewitnessingtheendofcapitalismandthebeginningofworldsocialist construction").JUC'sideologsdidnotinvokeMarx,althoughtheydidreject theanti-Marxtaboo;accordingtode Souza,"Wedo notviewMarxas our master,becausewealreadyhadone,a differentone,before.However,wedo readMarx."ThemainreferencesofthedocumentsarestrictlyCatholic:Saint Thomas,Leo XIII,PiusXII,JohnXXIII.Itis alsoworthnotingthatJUCdid notfollowanymodelofMarxismcurrentinBrazil,suchas thatofthePartido ComunistaBrasileiro(BrazilianCommunistparty-PCB) orof anyofits dissidents,butattempteditsowninterpretationof Marx'sthoughtand of Brazilianreality(reachingconclusionsmuchmoreradicalthanthePCB's, whichweremoreinlinewithstatepopulism). Whywas Brazilthefirstcountryin whichthisdynamicof selective affinitybetweenChristianityandMarxismwas able to evolve,achieving duringthepast30 yearsa greaterimpactthanin anyotherchurchinLatin America?Theanswer,ofcourse,liesina seriesofhistoricalandstructural factors.Particularlyrelevantto theradicalizationofJUC,however,is the traditionalinfluenceofFrenchCatholiccultureandtheFrenchchurchin Brazil in contrastto theSpanishand Italianmodelsof Christianitythat prevailedin therestof thehemisphere.PostwarFrenchtheology(Yves Congar,ChristianDuquoc,DominiqueChenu,YvesCalvez,HenrideLubac) representedan advancedstageoftherenewalofCatholicism,raisingtopics

thatwouldlaterbe adoptedby VaticanII. Furthermore,FrenchCatholic culturewas theonlyonethathadanuninterruptedflowofsocialistfigures

andcurrentsofthoughtthroughoutthe20thcentury:fromCharlesPeguyto

Esprit,fromtherevolutionaryChristiansofthePopularFront(1936-1938)

to theTemoignageChretienoftheResistance(1940-1945),and fromthe workingfathersof theMissionde Franceto thesocialistConfederation Frangaise des TravailleursChretiens(FrenchConfederationof Christian

Workers-CFTC)oftheearly1960s.

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In additiontothisdiffuseinfluenceandtheroleofFrenchmissionaries presentat thattimein Brazil(JeanCardonnelandothers),twofiguresof progressiveFrenchCatholicismhada directimpacton JUCin the1960s:

FatherLebretand,above all, EmmanuelMounier.AlthoughLebretwas hostiletowardMarxism,hedidnothesitatetousecategoriesfromMarxist economicsin his studies,and he recognizedin socialism"a pro-human reactionagainstcapitalismas an inhumansystem"(1963 [1959]: 53, my

translation).Mounierwasmoreradical:categoricallyrejectingthecapitalist system,he feltthatChristianscouldlearna lotfromMarxism.Describing hissocialphilosophyin 1947,he wrote:"Personalismviewsthestructures ofcapitalismas an obstacleinthepathofman'sliberationthatneedstobe destroyedandreplacedbya socialistorganizationofproductionandcon- sumption"(1963 [1947]:244,mytranslation).InJUC'sdocuments(suchas its guidelinesfora historicalideal of 1960) notonlyis Mounierquoted

frequentlybutthemesfromhiswritings(e.g.,criticismofcapitalistanonym-

ityandimpersonality,ofthetyrannyofmoney)appearateveryturn.There is no doubtthatforan entiregenerationofBrazilianCatholics,Emmanuel Mounierwas thebridgebetweenChristiananticapitalismandMarxistanti- capitalism.In suchan explosivecontextas Braziliansocietyinthatperiod of crisisof thepopulistmodel(1960-1964),Mounierand Lebretwere reinterpretedandevensurpassedina processofgrowingpoliticalandsocial radicalization. LiberationtheologyisnottheoriginofradicalChristianity;rather-asthe theologiansthemselvesstress-itistheproductofa practicethatbeganwith Brazil'sJUCbetween1960and1962.In thewordsofClodovisBoff(Boff

andBoff,1985:16,mytranslation),

beforeliberationtheologyemergedin thelate 1960s,thechurchin Latin Americaalreadyhad a praxisofliberation.Beforetheadventof liberation theologians,we hadpropheticbishops,aninvolvedlaity,andliberationcom- munities.Thatwas mostlyin theearly1960s.The theologyaroseduringa secondmoment,and it came as theexpressionof thechurch'spraxisof liberation.Hence,liberationtheologyis thetheologyofa churchofliberation, a churchthatoptspreferentiallyandwithsolidarityforthepoor.

Indeed,throughoutthe1960sallofLatinAmericawitnessedthedevelopment

(as a resultof theglobaland regionalconjunctiondescribedabove) of a Christiancurrentofthoughtthatwas markedbysolidaritywiththepoor,a consciousness-raisingand emancipationistpraxis,participationin grass- rootsculturalmovements,literacyprograms,neighborhoodorganization, ruralunionization,andeven,in somecountries,Marxist-orientedpolitical movements.Thebasicidea,whichhadbegunto germinatedeepwithinthis

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praxisas a resultof experiencewiththepoor,landlesspeasants,slum- dwellers,workers,women,blacks,andindigenouspeople,was thatonlya radicalchangeinsocialstructures-ledbythepoorthemselves-couldbring anendtopoverty.

Liberationtheology-thebodyofworkspublishedsince1971bysuch

figuresas GustavoGutierrez,HugoAssmann,PabloRichard,Leonardoand ClodovisBoff,EnriqueDussel, and FreiBetto-embodiesthisidea and

placesitatthecenterofitsreinterpretationoftheGospel,itsnewhermeneu-

ticsoftheOldTestamentandthemessageofChrist,anditsreformulationof

thechurch'smagisterium.ThisreformulationembraceskeyaspectsofMarx-

ismintegratedintoreligiousrhetoricin a muchmorecoherentandorganic

mannerthaninthedocumentsoftheChristianleftofthe1960s.Liberation

theologianssaw Marxismas theonlytheorycapableofofferinga precise, systematicanalysisofthecausesofpovertyas wellas a specificandradical proposalforabolishingit.Thustheoldanticapitalisttraditionofthechurch enteredintoa relationshipofselectiveaffinitywiththeMarxistanalysisof capitalistexploitationand withthecriticismlaunchedbyLatinAmerican Marxists(dependencytheory)thatdependentcapitalismwas thestructural foundationofunderdevelopment,poverty,andmilitaryauthoritarianism. Solidaritywiththepoorwasthepointofdepartureforthisnewtheology. The majordifference-thedecisivenewelement,thequalitativeleap from thetraditionalCatholicview-was thatnowthepoorwereconsiderednot

passivevictims,theobjectofcharityandaid,butrathertheagentsoftheir ownliberation.It was becauseofthischange-theresultof thepractical experienceof involvedChristiansduringthe 1960s and 1970s-thatthe

problematicofliberationtheologycametoconvergewiththebasicpolitical tenetofMarxism:thattheemancipationoftheworkerswillbe achievedby theworkersthemselves. TheprioritizationofthepoorapprovedbytheCELAM inPueblain1979 is inrealitya formulaforcommitment,interpretedinthetraditionalsense

(i.e.,theprovisionofassistance)bythechurch'smoremoderateandconser-

vativeranksbutina radicalsensebytheliberationtheologiansandthemore progressivesectorsof theclergy,forwhomit is a commitmentto the organizationand struggleof thepoorfortheirown liberation.The class struggle-notjustas a methodofanalyzingrealitybutalso as a guidefor action-thusbecomes,implicitlyor explicitly,a keyelementin thenew

theology.InthewordsofGustavoGutierrez(1974:276-277,mytranslation),

"Todenytheexistenceofclassstruggleis,inessence,totakethesideofthe dominatingsectors.Neutralityonthispointis impossible." SomeliberationtheologianspresenttheirrelationshipwithMarxismin utilitarianterms,describingitas a scientificinstrumentorananalyticaltool.

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Thistypeof approachoftendistinguishesthephilosophy(or ideology)of Marxism,whichisrejectedasincompatiblewiththeChristianfaith,fromthe social scienceofMarxism,whichcan andshouldbe usedintheologyas a meansofsocioanalyticalmediation.Thisdistinctionarisesfromtwodifferent

butconvergentmotivations:theinfluenceofAlthusser'stheoryofan"epis-

temologicalbreak"betweenscienceandideologyandhisclaimthatMarx shouldbe regardedas a "manof sciencelikeanyother"(e.g.,Lavoisier, Galileo) andthegreaterdefensibility,in thefaceofanti-Marxistpressure fromRomeandconservativebishops,ofa merelyinstrumentalrelationship withMarxistsocial science.Withoutunderestimatingtheimportanceof Marxistsocialscience,itis difficulttooverlookthefactthattherelationship betweenChristianityand Marxismin liberationtheologyis broaderand deeperthantheheuristicborrowingofa seriesof analyticconcepts.As a processofconvergencethroughselectiveaffinity,thisrelationshiprefersalso tocertainvalues(community),ethicalandpoliticaloptions(solidaritywith thepoor),andfutureutopias(a societyfreeofexploitationandoppression). And,inasmuchas liberationtheologyis theexpressionofa socialpraxis,a socialmovement,an activeexperienceatsociety'sbase,itsencounterwith Marxismalso-and mainly-occursatthelevelofa practicalcommitment to popularstrugglesforliberation.Marxismis notmerelya methodof interpretationbutalso, and above all (as Marxstressedin his "Eleventh ThesisonFeuerbach"[1975(1845)]),a methodoftransformationofreality. AsIgnacioEllacuriahasnoted,Marxism'scontributiontoliberationtheology is at once ethical,epistemological(i.e., scientific),andphilosophical-to whichshouldbe addedsocialandpolitical. This does notmeanthatliberationtheologyembracesall of Marxist thinking.Itobviouslyrejectsthoseaspectsthatitconsidersincompatiblewith

Christianity-forexample,atheism,cosmologicalmaterialism,andcriticism of religiousalienation.It selectivelyincorporatesthoseaspectsthatare congruentwithitsefforttoreinterprettheGospel,theOldTestament,andthe church'smagisterium.However,thisreinterpretationtakesintoaccountthe situationofLatinAmerica'spoorandtheexperienceoftheirstrugglefor social liberation(analyzedwiththeaid ofMarxism).It is in thiscomplex dialecticthatthealchemicprocessofselectiveaffinitytakesplace.

TheSandinistarevolutionwasthefirstonesince1789inwhichChristians,

laypeopleandclergy,playeda keyroleatthegrass-rootslevelas wellas in theleadershipofthemovement.ItwasthefirstinwhichChristianswerenot justtacticalorstrategicalliesbutanorganiccomponentoftherevolutionary vanguard,theFrenteSandinistadeLiberacionNacional(SandinistaNational LiberationFront-FSLN). ItwasalsothefirstinwhichChristianitywasone

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ofthekeyingredients,alongwithMarxismandtheSandinotradition,ofthe ideologythatinspiredtherevolutionarystruggle. In thecourseof the 1970s,a growingnumberof Christianyouthand studentsdiscovered"SandinistaMarxism."Withthesupportofsuchpriests andclericsas theFranciscanUrielMolinaandtheJesuitFernandoCardenal, variousmovementswereformed,amongthemtheChristianuniversity

movementandtheChristianrevolutionarymovement,mostofwhosemem-

berswouldlaterjointheFSLN.ThefirstChristiancelloftheSandinistaFront was made up of Luis Carrion,JoaquinCuadra,AlvaroBaltodano,and

RobertoGutierrez,whowentontobecomekeyleadersoftheorganization. At thesame time,FatherErnestoCardenal,founderof theSolentiname community,didnothesitatetoproclaimhimselfa Marxistwhobelievedin Godandinlifeafterdeath.Apoetanda mystic,Cardenal(1973)wasadamant thatwhatmadehima MarxistwasnotreadingMarxbutreadingtheGospel. As partof a movementof spiritualsynthesisthatis moreintuitivethan theological,hearguedthatMarx'scommunism,a societyfreeofselfishness andinjustice,iswhatChristiansunderstandas thekingdomofGodonEarth. JustifyinghisdecisiontojoinanFSLN guerrillagroupin1977,FatherGaspar GarciaLavianawroteina letterin 1978,shortlybeforehisdeathincombat:

MyfaithandthefactthatI belongtotheCatholicchurchforcemetotakean activepartintherevolutionaryprocesswiththeFSLN, sincetheliberationof an oppressedpeopleis an integralpartofthefullredemptionofChrist.My activecontributionin thisprocessis a signof Christiansolidaritywiththe

oppressedandwiththosewhoarefightingtofreethem(n.d.:21,mytranslation).

Throughtheselinksinthecity(inthebasecommunities)andinruralareas (throughtheComit6Evangelicode PromocionAgraria[EvangelicalCom- mitteeforAgrarianAdvancement-CEPA]),a kindof organicunitywas createdbetweenChristianandatheistrevolutionarieswithintheSandinista movementthathad neverbeforebeen seen.Whenthefinalinsurrection occurredin 1978-1979,theareaswherethestrugglewas themostintense andthebestorganizedweremainlythoseinwhichCEBs, Delegatesofthe Word,andrevolutionaryChristianshadbeenworkingpreviously:Monimbo, Masaya,Chinandega,Leon,Matagalpa,Esteli,andthepoorneighborhoods ofManagua. Somethinghappenedin Nicaraguathathad neverhappenedanywhere else:RadicalChristians,laypeopleas wellas clergy,notonlytookanactive partintherevoltagainstSomozabutalsoassumedkeyresponsibilitiesinthe newrevolutionarygovernmentundertheauspicesoftheFSLN. Astestimony tothenoveltyofthissituation,theSandinistaFrontnotedinits"Declaration on Religion"ofOctober7, 1980:"Christianshavebeenan integralpartof

L6wy/MARXISMAND CHRISTIANITY

39

our revolutionaryhistoryat a level unprecedentedin anyrevolutionary

movementinLatinAmerica,andperhapsintheworld

hasproventhatitispossibletobea believerandatthesametimea dedicated

revolutionaryandthatthereis nocontradictionbetweenthetwo." ThisactiveChristianparticipation-criticizedwithgrowinghostilityby theofficialNicaraguanchurchhierarchy(CardinalObandoandmostofthe bishops)and by theVaticanbutsupportedby thereligiousordersin the country(particularlytheJesuits)-wasanessentialelementofSandinismo, anoriginalideologystemmingfromthefusionofSandino'sradicalagrarian

nationalism,revolutionaryChristianity,andtheGuevara-inspiredinterpreta-

tionofLatinAmericanMarxism.Theterminology,symbols,andimagesof SandinistacultureareoftenbasedonChristianthemes.Thiscanbe seenat thegrassrootsof themovementas wellas in therhetoricof someofthe FSLN's keyfigures,suchas LuisCarrionandTomasBorge.Commentingon

thisphenomenon,theItaliantheologianGiulioGirardi(1983:63,mytrans-

lation)notes:

The clearestsignofthisinfluenceliesintheverystrongethicalcontentthat permeatestherevolution,tothepointthatmanyEuropeantheoreticiansofthe revolution,paladinsofthe"scientificity"ofrevolutionaryrhetoric,wouldnot hesitatetoclassifyitas "moralist"and"ideological."Obviously,thereis no reasonto grantChristiansa monopolyon ethicalconcerns;however,the frequencywithwhichtheyoccur,thelanguagein whichtheyarepresented, andtheexplicitreferencetoChrist,theGospel,andtheBiblebyleaderswho arepubliclylaypeopleallowus to see in thissensibilitya reflectionof the Christianpresenceas well.

The verypracticeoftheSandinistaFrontwas also influencedbyChristian ideals,forexample,withregardtotheprincipleproclaimedbyToma'sBorge:

"Ourvengeancewillbe forgiveness."TheNicaraguanrevolutionabolished thedeathpenaltyandbecamethefirstmodernrevolutionarymovementsince

Ourexperience

1789nottousetheguillotineorperformexecutionsafteritsvictory.

It is obviousthatthisconvergencewas notfreeofcontradiction,resis-

tance,andmistrustonbothsides.AccordingtoGirardi(1983:69),therewere

twodistinctpositionsintheSandinistacadre:(1) theoldorthodoxview,based on SovietMarxism-Leninismmanuals,thatChristiansarealliesbutunreli-

ableonesbecauseoftheirfaithandlinkswiththechurch.Atbest,conver-

gencewiththemcan occuronlyat thelevelofpractice;at thetheoretical level the contradictionbetweenmaterialismand idealismis total.This

attitudewasoftenfoundamongtheaveragecadreswithoutexperienceprior to1979.(2) Thenew"Nicaraguan"view,inspiredbytheconcreteexperience ofcommonstruggle,thatrevolutionaryChristiansarepartofthevanguard.

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LATINAMERICANPERSPECTIVES

The traditionalMarxisttheoryof religionmustbe reformulatedso as to

recognizeitsrevolutionarypotential.ConvergencewithrevolutionaryChris-

tiansis at once practicaland theoreticalas faras theliberationof the oppressedis concerned.Thislatterattitudeis sharedbythemajorityofthe historicalleadersoftheFSLN. Anexampleofthisoriginalandinnovative positioncan be seeninCarrion's(1985: 16,mytranslation)descriptionof convergenceandorganicfusionwithintherevolutionaryprocessthatledto

thetriumphofJuly1979:

I seenoobstaclethatwouldpreventChristians,withoutrenouncingtheirfaith, fromembracingalltheconceptualMarxistinstrumentsthatarenecessaryfor thescientificunderstandingof social processesand fortherevolutionary orientationof theirpoliticalpractice.In otherwords,a Christiancan be a Christiananda Marxistatthesametimewithouttherebeinganycontradic-

tion

foughtandarefightingin theSandinistaFront;thereareevensomepriests.

AndI do notmeanonlythosefightingatthebase:someofthemaremembers

oftheSandinistaAssemblyandhavegreatpoliticalresponsibilities

thatsomeoftheMarxistvanguardtendedtoperceivetheprogressiverevolu-

tionaryChristiansectorsas a rivalforcethatwouldtakepotentialpolitical clientelefromthem.I thinktheyweremistaken,andhavingavoidedthaterror was one of theFSLN's greatestsuccesses.We havelinkedourselveswith grass-rootsstructuresofthechurchnottodrawpeopleawaybuttointegrate themintotheSandinistaFrontas a stageofpoliticaldevelopmentwithoutthis implyinganyoppositiontotheirparticipationin Christianorganizations.On

thecontrary,we lefttheminthosestructuresso thatthishighercommitment mighttaketheformofpoliticalactioninthisarea.Theirintegrationintothe FSLN wasneverpresentedtothemas a dilemmabetweentheirChristianfaith andtheirmilitancyin theFront.Had we castthedebatein theseterms,we wouldhavebeenreducedtoa verysmallnumberofmilitants.

Thephilosophicalenigma-ortheoreticalchallenge-thatMarxistChristi-

Inthissense,ourexperienceis richinlessons.ManyChristianshave

I think

anitypresentsfromthepointofviewofhistoricalordialecticmaterialismcan be discussedatlengthamongourselves(Marxistsandatheists).Ifwe define Marxismaboveall as materialism(abstractandmetaphysical),thenitis an unacceptableheresy.If,however,itisconceivedaprioriasaphilosophyofpraxis (Gramsci),a theoryoftherevolutionarypracticeofglobaltransformation,its integrationby selectiveaffinityintorevolutionaryChristianityis perfectly comprehensible.Nevertheless,whatis essentialforMarxistanalysisis what happensinreality.TheexistenceofMarxistChristians-inNicaragua,Brazil, andothercountries-isanundeniablesocialandpoliticalfact,andtheybringto therevolutionarymovementa moralsensibility,experienceingrass-rootswork,

anda utopianurgencythatcannotbutenrichit.

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41

The Vaticanhas been verymuchworriedby developmentsin Latin Americaandhasbeentryinginthepastfewyearstolimittheinfluenceof

liberationtheology.The"InstructiononSomeAspectsofLiberationTheol-

ogy"publishedin1984bytheHolyOfficefortheDoctrineofFaithcriticized

whatis calledthe"Marxistoption"ofthenewLatinAmericantheology,but sincethisdocumentdidnotproducetheexpectedresults-insteadofgiving in,theradicaltheologiansrespondedwithargumentsand defendedtheir socialchoices-Rome changeditsstrategy.Insteadoftheologicaldebate,it hasactedatthelevelofthestructuresofpowerintheLatinAmericanchurch bysystematicallynominatingconservativebishopsknownfortheirhostility toliberationtheologyandtotheradicalbasecommunities.Thebest-known exampleis thenominationofMgr.JoseCardosoto replacetheagingD. HelderCamaraas archbishopofRecife.A conservativeanda specialistin canonlaw wholivedinRomefrom1957to 1979,thenewbishopquickly dismissedtheleadersoftheLandPastoralandremovedthepriestsknown fortheircommitmentto thepoor.Severaltheologicalseminariesin the BrazilianNortheastconsideredtobeinfluencedbytheprogressivetendency weresummarilyclosed. The aim of theVaticanwas to preparethe 1992 CELAM in Santo Domingotoputanendtotheprioritizationofthepooradoptedbyprevious conferencesin Medellinin 1968 and Puebla in 1979. The preparatory document,writtenbytheconservativeCELAM leadership("Elementsfor PastoralReflectionin PreparationfortheIVthGeneralConferenceofthe LatinAmericanBishops,"1990),proposednotonlya triumphalistcelebra- tionoftheFifthCentennialoftheHispanicConquestandEvangelizationof Americabutalsoa returntothetraditionalsocialdoctrineofthechurch.This document-whichwentsofarastopresentLeo XlI's 1891encyclicalRerum Novarumas "theChristiancountermessagetothewarcryofMarxism"-has metwithconsiderablecriticismfromprogressivetheologians,andgeneral adoptionofitspointofviewwouldbea serioussetbacknotonlyforliberation theologybutforall ofthesocialmovementsin LatinAmericathathave

enjoyedthematerialandspiritualsupportoftheprogressivechurch. However,theworkof consciousnessraisingimplementedby pastoral agents,leftistChristians,radicaltheologians,andbase communityleaders duringthepast30 yearshasalreadyproducedresultsthatareirreversible. The hundredsof thousandsof Christiansthroughoutthecontinent(and particularlyinBrazilandCentralAmerica)whoarepartandparcelofthe movementforself-liberationofthepoorwillnotgivein,andthetheologians andChristianlayactivistswhohavediscoveredinMarxisma precioustool forinterpretingandchangingtheworldarenotlikelytochangetheirminds.

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LATINAMERICANPERSPECTIVES

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