Notes on Mercy and Cruelty

Charles de Koninck

(A comparison of Christianity and Marxism)

(a) It has been said that "There is one very noble aim which our countries share in common, whether it be motivated by God, as we believe, or what you might term great natural forces."(Davies, Mission to Moscow, p. 367.)

In reality, the first principle of all things in marxism cannot be more opposite than what we hold to be the primary root of all things. According to Marx, a blind, purposeless, "inhuman power reigns over all things." In our conception, mercy is the "prima radix" of all things. (Cf.Ia P., q.21,a.4.) In a way, the marxist first principle is more opposed to mercy than the proper contrary of mercy, for cruelty is more than mercilessness.(Cf. IIa IIae, q. 159, n.1, ad 2.)

(b) In both doctrines, misery holds a central position: it represents power. But for us, the power of the weak is the mercy of God (Cf. IIa IIae, q. 30, a. 4.), and God himself has embraced weakness and misery (See St.Paul, ad Philip. II,6..; I ad Corinth.I, 26...) and death in order to vanquish it. (See St.Paul, ad Rom. VI, 9; I ad Cor. XV,: II ad Tim. I, 10.) The misery of man moved God in his Mercy. In marxism, misery, privation, is the great power that brings about progress. But the power of the miserable is identified with the power of exasperation and revolt.

For us, "all the ways of God are mercy and truth", Ps. XXIV, 10, and "his mercies are above all his works", Ps. CXLIV, 9. However, the efficacy of divine mercy supposes, on our part, humility for "no one is less worthy of mercy than the proud miserable. Marxism encourages pride by identifying the power of the weak with weakness.

(c) In christian doctrine as well as in marxist doctrine, the conception of the temporal future is catastrophic. (See St. Matthew, chapt.24; St. Marc, chapt.13; St.Luke, chapt.21. But the sufferings are for eternal life. In marxism, the present sufferings are for purely material welfare. The humanity of the future to be give birth to by the present sufferings will itself soon be entirely exterminated without mercy. (See Engels, Dialectlcs of nature, pp.19-20.) Ultimately, all we do is useless.

(d) In christian doctrine, we must die unto ourselves to be reborn of Christ, and die a temporal death, the wage of sin, to pass into eternal life. In marxism, we die a total death, we give up our whole being for a future humanity that has no more being than we.

(e) In marxism, finality has meaning only within the sphere of human action. Nature does not act for an end. There is no such thing as a Providence. Ultimately, the unyielding necessity of matter will destroy the momentary upsurging of freedom. There shall then be no one to know we have been and struggled. Human suffering and action are therefore essentially vain. Life is, then, the great tragedy of being. We are the children of despair. Worse than that, we cannot even reasonably say it, nor think it. Such despair is vain - matter is lifeless, deaf, innocent of life and misery. The question of "to be or not to be" is, in marxism, a reactionary question that would not be tolerated in a well-ordered society.

Blind matter that spewed us on earth cannot even be called merciless and cruel. We must despair even of despair.

Philosophical writings of Charles de Koninck