The First Church Was Communist | Socialism and the Churches by Rosa Luxemburg 2



hey I'm Damon Garcia I'm bringing you perspectives from the Christian left and we're going through Rosa Luxemburg document from 1905 socialism and the churches and we're talking about how Rosa was right and today we're talking about how she was right that the early church was pretty much communist so let's talk about it now this document is seven parts this is part two so if you haven't watched part one go check that out it's in the description then come back here and continue watching and Rosa Luxemburg here wrote this while she was being persecuted by the church so interesting such an interesting thought so often Church people like to say they're the ones being persecuted but we all know throughout history the church persecutes – and she was being persecuted for trying to gather the workers in solidarity to lead a socialist movement this was way before any communist revolution and if you're immediately triggered by the words like socialist and communist and Marxist and stuff like that recognize that when we talk about that we're not saying yeah what Lenin and Stalin and Mao did was a-ok and that's what we should head for no no first off what Rosa is writing here was before any of those revolutions and when the Russian Revolution happened she became famous later for critiquing Lenin and warning him that he would just end up leading an authoritarian fascist dictator like movement and that today is probably one of the most popular critiques of communism that you can't do it without eventually turning into a fascist government run by a dictator and I think all real socialists and communists would say oh we're not saying what they did was ok and Rosa Luxemburg vision of communism actually has never been tried maybe it'll work maybe it will we're talking about the word communism at its core the wealth and the work being shared among all according to everyone's needs and the abolition of the classes of the super-rich and the super poor so throughout this document she's basically saying shouldn't these church leaders be on our side trying to help the poor and so she continues here to then go through the history of the church to talk about the early church and talk about how it was actually communist so let's start this off and we'll get way deeper and give way better arguments as we go through it let's go the Social Democrats want to bring about the state of communism that is chiefly with the clergy have against them first of all it is striking to notice that the priests of today who fight against communism condemn in reality the first Christian apostles for these latter were nothing less than ardent communists the Christian religion developed as is well known in ancient Rome and the period of the decline of the Empire which was formerly rich and powerful compromising the countries which today are Italy in Spain part of France part of Turkey Palestine and other territories the state of Rome at the time of the birth of Jesus Christ much resembled that of Czarist Russia on one side there lived a handful of rich people and idleness enjoying luxury and every pleasure on the other side was an enormous mass of people rotting in poverty above all a despotic government resting on violence and corruption exerted a vile oppression the whole Roman Empire was plunged into complete disorder ringed around by threatening external foes the unbridled soldiery and power practise its cruelties on the wretched populace the countryside was deserted the land lay waste the cities and especially Rome the capital were filled with poverty-stricken who raised their eyes full of hate to the palaces of the rich the people were without bread without shelter without clothing without hope and without the possibility of emerging from their poverty yes it's very important to realize this is the world that Jesus was born into a world completely over ruled by the Roman Empire and Jesus was as we all know a carpenter or the Greek or Tecton which don't think today a carpenters back then it was just a builder really and being a builder being a Tecton him and his family were a part of the second to lowest social and economic class below them were peasants and slaves so Jesus was born into this world of the lowest of the low and scholars say that because of triple taxation on the Jews probably about 80 to 90% of their income went to taxes triple taxation meaning the first going toward King Herod who was using all that money for building projects all over he was famous for building projects building large monuments to Caesar and to himself and the other part of that taxation goes to Caesar who would use that money to extend the Roman Empire the Roman soldiers would go country to country saying declare Caesar as Lord if they say yes then there were a part of the Roman Empire if they say no then they would execute every single one of them on two crosses and it would be a public execution so everyone can see this is what happens when you say no to Caesar third taxation would go to the Jewish temple now we're getting into some of my favourite things to talk about because so many people don't realize the context that Jesus was born into it's so important to talk about the context of the Roman Empire when we're talking about the life of Jesus just as it is really important to talk about British imperialism as the context of Gandhi's life and American racism the context of Martin Luther King Junior's life the terrible violent oppression of the Roman Empire is the world that Jesus was born into and constantly responding to I could give way more details because I said I love talking about this but let's continue there is only one difference between Rome and her decadence and the Empire of the stars Rome knew nothing of capitalism had the industry did not exist there at that time slavery was the accepted order of things in Rome noble families the rich the financed years satisfied all their knees by putting two the slaves with which war had supplied them in the course of time these rich people had laid hands on nearly all the provinces of Italy by stripping the Roman peasantry of their land and it's possible Jesus family was one of those people that had their land stripped from them because in the region of Galilee a lot of them made their living by being farmers and usually when a farmer's land got taken from them they went to being a builder a carpenter as they appropriated cereals and all the conquered provinces as tribute without cost they profited thereby to lay out on their own estates magnificent plantations vineyards pastures orchards and rich gardens cultivated by armies of slaves working under the whip of the overseer the people of the countryside robbed of land and bread flowed from all the provinces into the capital but there there were in no better a position to earn a livelihood for all the trades were carried on by slaves thus there was formed in Rome a numerous army of those who possessed the nothing the proletariat having not even the possibility of selling their labor power by the way in the notes we get the root for that word proletariat which is tossed around a lot it comes from the Latin Provost which is Latin for children or for offspring proletarians therefore constituted that class of citizens who owned nothing but the arms of their body and the children of their loins that's the proletariat this proletariat coming from the countryside could not therefore be absorbed by industrial enterprises as is the case today they became victims of hopeless poverty and were reduced to beggary this numerous popular mass starving with that work crowding the suburbs and open spaces and streets of Rome counted a permanent danger to the government and the possessing classes therefore the government found itself compelled in its own interest to relieve the poverty from time to time it distributed to the proletariat corn and other foodstuffs stored in the warehouses of the state further to make for people forget their hardships that offered them free circus shows unlike the proletariat of our time which means maintains the whole society by its Labour's the enormous proletariat of Rome existed on charity now you may hear the word charity and think what how can we ever critique charity well we all know that the good part of charity is that money goes to people who need it but if we go through years of rich people giving money to help those in need but we still have a system that creates those continuously in need and we keep a society of extremely rich and extremely poor it's like maybe charity itself isn't the solution it was the wretched slaves treated like beasts who worked for Roman society in this chaos of poverty and degradation the handful of Roman magnates spent their time in orgies and debauchery there was no way out of these monstrous social conditions the proletariat grumbled and threatened from time to time to rise and revolt but a class of beggar is living on crumbs thrown from the table of the lords could not establish a new social order further the slaves who maintained their labor by the whole of society were too downtrodden too dispersed too crushed under the yoke treated as beasts and live too isolated from the other classes to be able to transform society they often revolted against their masters tried to liberate themselves by bloody battles every time the Roman army crushed these revolts massacring the slaves and thousands and putting them to death on cross and honestly as the Jews were expecting Messiah this is what they expected the Messiah to do to lead a violent revolt against Rome kick them off the throne and put Israel back on the throne several people before Jesus and even after Jesus came about saying I'm the Messiah therefore I'm gonna lead this revolt and like it says here Rome crushed them every single time they tried and they expected Jesus to do the same and yet Jesus had a very different vision but please recognize wherever Jesus went the people's hope was for someone to put an end to this violent and terrible Empire of Rome in this crumbling society where there existed no way out of their tragic situation for the people no hope for a better life the wretched turned to heaven to seek salvation there now some scholars suggest that the idea of heaven and hell and just the afterlife in general came about for this reason for the oppression that they're facing under Empire after Empire after Empire because Jews don't believe in an afterlife and nowhere in the original Hebrew Bible or what Christians call the Old Testament is there an idea of an afterlife that came with Christians and during the time of the birth of Christianity several different groups were talking about an afterlife and a heaven and hell because when you continually see the rich and powerful committing such terrible acts of violence to the poor and downtrodden again and again and again and again and you believe in a God you start to think how can a God ever let any of this happen and out of despair and hope you start to hope that hopefully this God does something after we die hopefully all these people aren't dying for nothing hopefully this God takes them to a place where they could be free of their suffering that they went through their entire life hopefully all the people who suffered go to a heaven and all the people who were causing the suffering go to some sort of Hell Jesus plays a bit with these images when he tells a parable about a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus and this poor man named Lazarus has been everyday going to the gates of the rich man begging and begging and begging for food and eventually this poor man dies and eventually the rich man dies and the poor man is with his ancestors and with Abraham in paradise and the rich man is in hell suffering and being tortured and eek see the poor man and he's begging Abraham to get the poor man to at least give him a drop of water because he's suffering down here and Abraham says nope there's a great chasm between us cannot be done and I very much believe that story shouldn't be taken literally like there really is a literal heaven in hell and that's exactly what it looks like and stuff people shouldn't read Jesus parables that way but it is to show this whole Christianity thing is how you live here now and how you treat people and Jesus is on the side of the poor and the oppressed not of the rich and the violent and the oppressors we continue Christian religion appeared to these unhappy beings as a lifebelt a consolation and an encouragement and became right from the beginning the religion of the Roman proletarians and conformity with the material position of the men belonging to this class the first Christians put forward the demand for property and common communism that's what communism is property in common what could be more natural the people lacked means of subsistence and were dying of poverty a religion which defended the people demanded that the rich should share with the poor the riches which ought to belong to all and not to a handful of privileged people a religion which preached the Equality of all men would have great success however this had nothing in common with the demand which the Social Democrats put forward today with a view to making into common property the instruments of work the means of production an order that all humanity may work and live and harmonious unity so she's making a distinction here saying today we're not saying we just want a sharing of all the products but a sharing of the means of production not just a sharing of the wealth but a sharing of the work we have been able to observe that the Roman proletarians did not live by working but from the alms which the government doled out and it's very interesting that she's making this critique here because today some very ignorant right-wingers think whenever things are doled out are distributed among people social programs oh they're just a socialist she say no that's not what we're wanting this is what the early church was doing but we want way more than that so the demand of the Christians for collective property did not relate to the means of production but the means of consumption they did not demand that the land the workshops and the instruments of work should become collective property but only that everything should be divided up among them houses clothing food and finished products most necessary to life the Christian communists took good care not to inquire into the origin of these riches the work of production always fell upon the slaves the Christian people desired only that those who possess the wealth should embrace the Christian religion and should make their riches common property an order that all might enjoy these good things and equality and fraternity so with the title of this video how the church was communist this is how in the sense that they shared all the property and that they shared all the goods that they shared and everything that they possessed but at the same time there was still rich and poor because the rich were providing most of those products but those products are still being made by slaves so that's how the Christian Church wasn't communist and in the next video we're gonna actually get way deeper into that because the next part she makes even more distinctions between the early church and what communism actually should be and so in the next video we're talking about how the early church was not communist and way more detail but this one we're talking about the ways in which it was it was indeed in this way that the first Christian communities were organized a contemporary wrote these do not believe in fortunes but they preach collective property and no one among them possesses more than the others he who wishes to enter their order is obliged to put his fortune into their common property that is why there is among them neither poverty nor luxury all possessing all in common like brothers they do not live in a city apart but in each they have houses for themselves if any strangers belonging to their religion come there they share their property with them and they can bend from it as if it their own those people even have previously unknown to each other welcome one another and their relations are very friendly when traveling they carried nothing but a weapon for defense against robbers in each city they have their steward who distributes clothing and food to the travelers trade does not exist among them however if one of the members offers to another some object which he needs he receives some other objects in exchange but each can demand what he needs even if he can give nothing in exchange so that's what her contemporary wrote and she goes on say we read an Acts of the Apostles for 30 to 34 and 35 the following description of the first community at Jerusalem is from X no one regarded as being his what belonged to him everything was in common those who possessed lands or houses after having sold them brought the proceeds and laid them at the feet of the Apostles and to each was distributed according to his needs that's how it worked in the early church when you became a Christian sold everything you had brought it to the feet of the Apostles which was a part of the common pool and it was given to everyone in the community according to their needs in 1780 the German historian Vogel wrote nearly the same about the first Christians he said according to the rule every Christian had the right to the property of all the members of the community in case of wants he could demand that the richer members should divide their fortune with him according to his needs every Christian could make use of the property of his brothers the Christians who possessed anything had not the right to refuse that their brothers should use it thus the Christian who had no house could demand from him who had two or three to take him in the owner kept only his own house to himself but because of the community of enjoyment of goods housing accommodation had to be given to him who had none this is how it worked in the early church and I read this and immediately think of how many conservative Christians could criticize this way of living and it's like like a Rosa Luxemburg said earlier the priests of today and the people who fight against communism condemn in reality the first Christian apostles and it's fine you can critique the sharing of property you can critique just the whole idea of people who have more should share more with those who have less sure but if you're a Christian criticizing it please realize the irony alright we're almost done here money was placed in a common chest and a member of the society specially appointed for this purpose divided the collective fortune among all but this was not all among the early Christians communism was pressed so far that they took their meals in common see the Acts of the Apostles their family life was therefore done away with all the Christian families and one city lived together like one single large family to finish let us add that certain priests attack the Social Democrats on the ground that we are for the community of a woman now before we finish off your community of women is an old phrase and reference to prostitution and adultery so one of the ways that the church was criticizing the Socialists and the way that they're criticizing them and marks this time was saying they want to share everything including just sharing all the woman and having sex with all the woman sharing them amongst themselves to which Rosa says obviously this is simply a huge lie and also and Marx is the Communist Manifesto he takes a part of it to say the same thing to address people saying that they just want to start a community of woman and again he says no that's not what we're doing he says the bush washout that you just want a community of women and he says no no it's not what we're doing so she says the same thing simply a huge lie arising from the ignorance or the anger of the clergy the Social Democrats consider that as a shameful and beast eale distortion of marriage and yet this practice was usual among the first Christians the practice of sharing property and then she addresses a note here saying but see Tertullian an early church father in the second century who said we are brethren and our property which with you mostly dissolves Brotherhood we therefore who are united in mind and soul doubt not about having possessions in common with us all things are shared promiscuously except the lives and that alone do we part fellowship and which alone others Greeks and Romans pig UNS exercise it so he's like yeah because we're christians we share everything promiscuously it's like we share everything so much so that it uses the adjective promiscuously we share everything except our wives except the spouses except sexual partners we share everything except sexually and one of these reasons is because quite a few of the early christians and a lot of the communists were trying to change things and trying to get people to see women as equally valuable members of society and not as property and so it's pretty crazy and twisted how the reason this was a huge critique is because when people who are against communism are when the priests would here they want to share all their property their mind would go too and women are property so they want to share all their women so the fact that that was a critique just shows the misogyny of the people making those critiques alright so that's the end of part 2 and in part 3 she goes into more ways how the early church was not communist and how they could have done things better and the ways that they kind of stopped sharing all their property because we all know now nobody hears a Christianity and thinks oh yeah those are the people who share everything in common no but in the beginning of this whole thing that's exactly what Christians were known for and even at that time people were criticizing them for living that way and they're accusing them of all kinds of crazy things people over the time were spreading rumors about Christian communities saying that they had incestuous orgies is one rumor and that came from the fact first off they met at dark either late at night or early in the morning because if they met in daytime out in public then they would be persecuted and they would be killed for it because it was illegal to do it they're going to be Christians and to not follow caesar to say Jesus was a savior of the world not Caesar and so they had to meet in private at dark and they're known for calling each other brother and sister thus the rumour that they're having incestuous orgies and another rumour was that there were cannibals that they were eating babies all the time when they would gather together because they heard that they had a ritual where they would eat the body and blood of the Son of God and they would just hear what but eating and of course that was just bread and wine but the ritual gives it a symbolism and so they would but they would just hear it like what they're eating body and blood of someone's son oh my god they're eating babies and so when people live this promiscuous lifestyle of sharing all in common a lot of people are gonna find a lot of problems with it because we're not used to that definitely not and it's interesting people who criticize this way of life who criticize even people wanting to live in a community where we share all in common or property to share where everyone's needs are met you can't criticize it and be a Christian because like we said if you're criticizing that then you're criticizing the early church too so this is all about how the first early church worked and next week we'll talk about how yeah it's hard to keep this type of community going because they couldn't keep a community of sharing everything they had in common as they grew so we'll continue to talk about this stuff we'll continue to talk about socialism and the churches hopefully I see you in the next part see you later you

2 thoughts on “The First Church Was Communist | Socialism and the Churches by Rosa Luxemburg 2

  • I appreciated Luxembourg's distinction between communism of the means of subsistence vs. the means of production. I've seen a takes on the communism described in Acts from liberal Christian writers, but "Socialism and the Churches" is the first argument I've seen that calls out the fact that the mode of production matters. What the first church did seems to have been a matter of survival, as you point out, and not so much revolutionary, even if it was based on a radical worldview. I appreciated this aspect of the analysis.

    I think what Luxembourg doesn't address is the extent to which the early church's communism of subsistence was informed by apocalyptic expectation? Perhaps something of an open question, but it seems important at least to the Pauline biblical texts…

  • “He who wishes” Is it morally right to force someone to give for the greater good or should it be voluntarily.

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