Pentecostal Marxists: Lenin, Left’s political demons, anti-imperialism and anti-Americanism

Pentecostal Marxists: Lenin, Left’s political demons, anti-imperialism and anti-Americanism

Click to join the conversation with over 500,000 Pentecostal believers and scholars

Click to get our FREE MOBILE APP and stay connected

| PentecostalTheology.com

[ This is a sample chapter from The Rv. William De Arteaga’s book, “America in Danger: Left and Right”]

 

Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism and Anti-Americanism

The Left’s long standing conspiracy theories (CTs) of anti-imperialism and anti-Americanism have been long prominent as Left mythology and ideology. They are a part of a world view where the sources of evil are condensed into just a few causes, economic inequality and the imperialist countries being the chief demons. Marx and other 19th Century revolutionaries were hamstrung not only by their primitive view of human nature (discussed above in chapter 4) but by their materialism which blinded them to the presence of the spiritual world.

Vladimir Lenin tried to take into account the fact that Marx’s predictions about a general worker’s uprising were wrong. Marx had predicted that the worker’s increasing impoverishment would lead to desperate and violent revolution, and ultimately the establishment of a classless Utopia. In fact, worker’s wages and standard of living was improving in Europe and America. Lenin’s solution was the theory that Capitalism was “exporting poverty” to other countries and colonies by establishing industries overseas via its empires. Wages could rise in Industrial counties, but the poverty was disguised and exported to lesser industrialized areas.[1] With this rationalization of Marx’s failed predictions, capitalism gained new twin brother of evil, “imperialism.” This was supposedly as destructive to humanity as capitalism. This was an enormous alibi and untruth which resulted in much harm. Today it is generally recognized that less developed countries need economic infusion via investments and factories, etc.. These greatly benefit the host country by creating jobs, suppliers and local contractors. Now days it is common for the host country to encourage a large foreign company to establish itself within its boundaries because everyone understands the long term economic benefits involved. Ironically, this is currently often supplied by the Chinese, the great pseudo-communists power of the world. But for most of the 20th century capital investment was suspect by the Left, and Lenin’s theory, dampened industrial expansion where it was most needed in the less developed countries.

Now let us admit the truth that most political and military acts of imperialism are evil and sometimes horrendously so. For instance, the Belgian Congo was run as a slave plantation right up the beginning of the 20th Century. Similarly, when England’s East India Company gained control over India it was basically an enterprise of looting. But that’s only part of the story. After the English government took over the governance of the Indian subcontinent a lot of good was done in building railroads, a court system, and schools, etc. On balance, it is fair to say that the British Empire was a source of much good. Yes, it had racists assumptions and nationalist pride,[2] but its civil Empire service, well-regulated and clean of bribery,  allowed for pace, a rational way of governance including a fine judicial system, and the beginnings of representative government.[3] The too rapid course of de-colonization in the 1960’s proved how good the British Administration was, as many of the newly independent states slid into tyranny, large scale nepotism and economic ruin.[4]

In fact, sometimes empires are better for human freedom and the general good than other alternatives. The Austro-Hungarian Empire which included Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia, was a peaceful place of increasing economic development. It was an empire which respected the ethnic expressions, religions and the languages of the people it encompassed. It was broken up after World War I into more purely national groupings which in many instances did less to protect ethnic diversity and minority rights than the Empire.

America created its empire at the end of the Spanish American War by temporarily occupying Cuba and the Philippines, and permanently Puerto Rico and Guam. But the record of “American Imperialism” has shown many positive elements. American solidification of its rule in the Philippines had cruel aspects in its war against the Philippine nationalists, and that would fit the Leftist narrative of imperialism as intrinsically evil. But after the war was over the American occupation government set up on the task of preparing the Philippines for independence. It did so methodically – it imported teachers to start an educational system and created local governments and courts. A “Commonwealth” was formed which was self-governing and just short of independence. Finally, in 1946 the Philippines was given full independence. The result was that when the Philippines became an independent nation it had in place its own government, with political parties and locals as government officials already practiced in governance.

This contrasts with what happened to some British and especially French colonies in Africa and Asia. In the 1960s they were given independence and its leaders were often totally inexperienced in governance and unprepared for the practice of democratic government. They were often the military leaders of the independence movement and had no political skills or tolerance for criticism. They often fell into grievous dictatorship and tyrannies that enriched their own inner circle and tyrannized and impoverished the nations politically and economically.[5] Analysist invented a new term “kleptocracy” to describe these governments whose principal concern seemed to have been to robe the national treasury and stay in power.

The American record in establishing good self-governance is even better regarding Puerto Rico. After the island was occupied with a practically bloodless military campaign, a similar civil process to the Philippines was begun, with civic institutions established and sustained.[6]  In 1917 the Jones Act made Puerto Ricans American citizens and local governments were established, and eventually Puerto Rico became a self-governing Commonwealth (1952) subject to the oversight and guarantees of the US constitution and courts. Since then, in various plebiscites the Puerto Ricans have chosen to maintain their Commonwealth status, but a majority has recently swung in favor of statehood. None of this indicated an evil “imperialism” of the Marxist caricature.[7]

A personal note here: My great grand uncle was a Spanish artillery captain stationed in Puerto Rico during the American invasion. He was repatriated back to Spain after the war and continued his military career. When he retired in the 1930s as colonel, he and his wife chose to come back to Puerto Rico where they lived out their years. As a youth I met the elderly widow then in her 90s. She was grateful for the peace that the Americans brought to Puerto Rico, which contrasted to the sad history of Spain’s cruel Civil War (1936-1939). In that conflict her two sons were apprehended and summerly shot. She was also puzzled as to why Catholics in Puerto Rico were often more devote  than the Catholics she knew in Spain where Catholicism was state supported. (Hint, the competition among denominations for churchgoers leads to better churches and Christians. New sociological research points to this and also that state support of Christianity is a negative to church growth and health.)[8]

Ironically, the “non-aligned” group of nations, dominated by 1960s newly independent states and heavily pro-Marxists in spite of their name, routinely called for the freedom of Puerto Ricans from “US imperialism.” This group, often including some of the worst tyrants and most corrupt government on earth, was in contrast with the government of Puerto Rico, which has had little corruption, and no history of civil rights oppression. The major fault of Puerto Rican governments of various parties seems to have been overspending which had led to recent problems about defaulting. Puerto Rico’s history and association with the United States was so positive that when France was fighting the Algerian independence movement (1954-1962) many in France advocated “The Puerto Rican option” – for Algerian to remain part of France with autonomous local government. But it was too late for that, and unfortunately after its independence Algeria lapsed into dictatorship, and later into a horrendous sectarian civil war.

It really is ridiculous to call the American presence in the world an “empire.”   Yes there are a multiplicity of military bases and stations throughout many countries, but by treaty. And America has been thrown out of several, including France under De Gaulle. More importantly, on the economic sphere it seems that the supposed “colonies” like Korea or Japan exploit the open US market and create an unfavorable balance of payment deficit for the U.S.  This year Toyota sold more cars in the U.S. than GM.  Korean auto makes are also doing very well. This is not how a classic empire operates. Further, as President Trump crudely pointed out on his trip to Europe, the U.S. had paid a grossly unfair proportion of the expenses of maintaining an effective fighting force for NATO. Again, this is not how an exploitative empire works.

Anti-Americanism:

Anti-Americanism has subsided somewhat in the last decade, especially after the fall of East European Communist states and the Soviet Union. But in the 1970s it was a world-wide ideology that blended Marxism and Lenin’s theory of imperialism with local nationalism. It was the staple of the Left for almost seventy years and continues in subdued form today.  But as boy in New York in the 1950s I ran into an earlier, non-Leftist form of anti-Americanism through contact with my father’s Latin American business associates.[9]

Their complaint was Americans were materialistic and had a “Faustian” pursuit of material things. Latin Americans, they claimed, were not like that, but rather dedicated to high culture, with an authentic Christian spirituality (i.e., not Protectant). I believed that until I visited several countries in Latin America. The key was that the Latin American upper and middle classes had servants working for them at low wages. The husband of a middle-class family did not have to hustle to get a refrigerator or washing machine for his wife because the servants would take care of going to the market every day and do the laundry by hand.

The aristocratic disdain for American materialism was a standard motif of Latin American literature for over a hundred years. The classic of this genre was a book entitled, Ariel, by the celebrated writer José Enrique Rodó. He railed against the materialism of us North Americans and warned his audience not to be captivated by material things but to focus on culture and beauty.[10] The most celebrated Latin American poet and writer of early 20th century, Rubén Darío, published a book of poems which included a tirade against Theodor Roosevelt’ high energy lifestyle, Cantos de vida y esperanza, los cisnes y otros poemas. It included these lines

You are the United States
you are the future invader
of the naive America that has indigenous blood
that still prays to Jesus Christ and that still speaks Spanish[11]

Ultimately, as Latin American modernized, its people began to hustle for the TVs, refrigerators and today, for smart phones, just like everyone else in the world.[12] Working hard for five days to provide for the family’s need, including a nice refrigerator and home, is not necessarily materialism. But it certainly can devolve into it if not balanced by spiritual activities such as prayer, church attendance, the spiritual disciplines, etc. Conversely, focusing on cultural activities such as opera and art are not necessarily spiritual but may be sinful class bound snobbism.

The aristocratic-Catholic critique of the United States melded into the newer form of anti-Americanism based on Marxism and Lenin’s theory of imperialism from about the early 1930s. Latin Americans realized they were falling behind Europe in US in industrialization, and also wanted the goodies of industrialization. Marxists writing began to circulate in the universities and intellectuals and formed a radical class of students who spread in the educational and government sectors.[13]

The mythology of Lenin’s Imperialism, that they were poor because of the “exportation of poverty” became commonplace in Latin America. Its widespread repetition has been a major factor in 20th Century politics. It was, for instance, the basis of Chavez-Madura revolution in Venezuela. That revolution is an especially potent example on how Marxism, populism and anti-Americanism united to bring a robust economy to ruin and political liberties to an end.[14] It is very similar to the disaster that came to Myanmar in the 1970s that has garnered less press attention.[15]

To be clear, Lenin’s theory and its popular adoption to blame the United Sates for the relative backwardness of Latin America was a gross misrepresentation of history and economics. Latin America was poor and undeveloped by reason of the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors of 15th and 16th Centuries. They intentionally established feudal, mercantile (not capitalist) societies based on the labor of Indians or imported Negro slaves. The aim was to produce enough wealth to keep the ruling class in genteel comfort with their sons employed in plantation supervision, government administration, military, law, or medicine. Manual work of any type was disdained. This was an grossly unbiblical position that was not corrected by the Catholic Church in spite of recognition of St. Joseph as a carpenter.[16]  and the hard work in the fields and mines was left to the peasants, and the necessary commercial work of importing manufactured goods (a smidgen of capitalism) was left mostly to emigres from Europe.[17] This type of society produced a static economy with a very low standard of living for those at the bottom – the indigenous peoples. The colonial Latin Americas elites were not ‘capitalists’ in any meaningful sense.

When the Latin Americans decided they wanted modernization there was not the human infrastructure to do it rapidly or effectively. There were little or no ‘bourgeois” that has a tradition of entrepreneurship and innovation to create new products and services, create or manage factories.  Western Europe and America had grown out of the anti-merchant (anti-bourgeois) biases of the Ancient World and had produced a respected and powerful bourgeois to innovate and create new enterprises and develop industries by the 17th Century. For instance, the New England colonies became the ship-building center of the English Empire. They had abundant forests resources, developed skilled labors and “bourgeois” merchants and entrepreneurs who organized the industry. Nothing similar happened in for Chile or Brazil which had similar or better forest resources.

A further example, the Chilian elites squandered an opportunity for industrialization and modernization in the 19th Century when Chile had a near monopoly on guano (bat poop) from which nitrogen was derived. It was sold to the world’s fertilizer and ammunition makers. Nitrogen was necessary for the smokeless gun powders that the newly designed canons and rifles demanded. Chile’s vast guano deposits were mined by imported Chinese coolly laborlores who mostly died in their slave-like servitude. The profits went to pay for imported French wine, furniture, opera buildings and other marks of “high culture.” It was a missed opportunity to use the enormous prophets of the guano trade create a modern economic manufacturing base, like locally manufactured fine furniture as had been done in New England in the 18th Century. A similar chain of events occurred in Brazil in the era when raw rubber was in high demand. A plantation system was developed in the Amazon based on enslaved indigenous peoples. The raw rubber was sold for export and the profits went to buy luxury products, or such cultural artifacts as the fine opera building in Manaus, a small town in the center of the Amazon rubber producing basin. Even small businesses were relatively rare. A comic-tragic example: when a Brazilian planter went to a social function, he wore a European style white shirt. The soiled shirt was shipped to Portugal to be “properly” laundered and pressed and shipped back to Brazil.

Another major factor in the delay of industrialization in Latin America) has been the prevalence of corruption in government – a factor in many underdeveloped countries to this day. This issue also has origins in colonial times when gentleman administrators of the Spanish Crown were paid low wadges and had to supplement their income by ad hoc “fees for service.” There was a related spiritual factor here too in that Catholicism, until recently, was a form of “catechism Christianity” that saw the Old Testament as relatively unimportant. It is in the Old Testament where corruption, merchant or government, is strongly condemned. In this regard, the European countries most influenced by the Reformation are the ones that have the lowest incidents of corruption. They developed traditions of civil service that avoided corruption just at the time when industry and commerce were expanding, and bureaucracies were growing to manage the industrialized societies.[18]

 

In summary, anti-imperialism anti-Americanism superficially filled in part of the Left’s spiritual void by creating demons that were not, and ultimately postponing a more general understanding the true causes of poverty such as bad governance and corruption, and the discouraged, ham strung or eliminated the bourgeois and entrepreneurs who are necessary for a prosperous economy. China came to the realization that Marxist economics were disastrous and reversed course into a free-market capitalism to become the World’s dominant manufacturing powerhouse. Others on the Left, including many in the American Left, have still not admitted those relities and cling to the romance and excitement of Marxist CTs.  For many on the Left anti-imperialism and anti-Americanism also fuels self-esteem. That is, by adhering to anti-imperialism and anti-Americanism, they think they are inherently “enlightened’ (woke) and wiser to those who do not share their beliefs.

This may seem like more information than some readers may want. But it is important to understand history in its details, including its tragedies and missed opportunities, rather than fall for the slander ridden CTs of Marxist-Leninist type. The US did not produce poverty in Latin America or anywhere else in the world.[19] In regard to Latin America, it is more correct to say that Latin Americans are working their way out of the poverty by (mostly) accepting free-markets and encouraging the emergence of the bourgeois as respectable businessmen and entrepreneurs. Some countries like Chile and Brazil are doing well at this now. Venezuela was doing very well also until it fell into the black hole of Marxism-populism via Hugo Chavez. Peru may now be on the same route to economic destruction.

 

[1] V.I Lenin, Imperialism, The Highest State of Capitalism. (1917). Many modern editions.

[2] Described in the classic novel by E. M. forester, A Passage to India, (1924).

[3] A new work details the achievements of the British Empire and it excellent colonial administrations: Bruce Gilley, The Last Imperialist: Sir Alan Burn’s Epic Defense of the British Empire, (Washington: Regnecy Gateway, 2021).  For an audio interview of the author see Mark Bauerlein, “When Colonialism Was Good,” First Things (Posted Dec, 27, 2021). https://www.firstthings.com/media/when-colonialism-was-good

 

[4] Robert Klitgaard, Tropical Gangsters (New York Basic Books, 1990).

 

[5]It is a sad story that has embarrassed many Leftist writers and reports to silence. The story about South Africa is particularly sad as there was so much expectancy of good about the post-apartheid government, but it too has increasingly slid into corruption and nepotism.  See William Shoki, “South Africa is Falling Apart,” New York Times, July 28, 2021).

 

[6] My mother recounted the story, told by her mother, of an American officer coming into Santurce, her family’s hometown, and lining up the school children for smallpox inoculations. Many people in the town of were fearful of it. But her father, a doctor, was all in support and urged cooperation.

 

[7] Leftists generally partake of the logical fallacy that the philosopher Karl R. Popper calls “methodological essentialism.” This is, that one chooses a word and ascribes to it certain characteristics, such as socialism is good and capitalism is bad, and then refuse to acknowledge that the categorization is imprecise and can have opposite examples. The Right does the same thing is assuming that socialism is evil in every instance.

[8]Nilay Saiya, “Proof That Political Privilege Is Harmful for Christianity,” Christianity Today.         

Posted May 6, 2021   https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/may-web-only/christian-persecution-political-privilege-growth-decline.html

 

[9] My MA thesis dealt with Anti-Americanism of both the Left and the Right in Latin America. William L. De Arteaga, “The Historiography of Anti-American ism in Latin America.) (Gainesville: University of Florida, 1970).

[10] Ariel (1900) still in print in modern editions.

 

[11] Cited from the Wikipedia article on Dario.

 

[12] It is significant that the Bible directs people to work six days and reserve one of worship and rest, recognizing that earning a living is full time work that should be the duty of everyone. St. Paul commands that the all Christian should work so that they may provide for their own needs and give generously to others. (Ephesians 4:28)

 

[13] A fine study of contemporary anti-Americanism is Jean-Francois Revel’s Anti-Americanism. Trans. by Diarmid Cammell (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2000) – it sadly lacks any spiritual insight into the problem. Another interesting source is an article on Norman Podhoretz—editor of the Jewish intellectual magazine Commentary from 1960 to 1995. He transited from Left to neo-conservatism largely as he was annoyed by the irrationality of anti-Americanism. See Barton Swaim’s, “The Spiritual War for America,” Wall Street Journal (Dec 10, 2010).

https://www.wsj.com/articles/norman-podhoretz-spiritual-war-for-america-conservatism-republican-trump-youngkin-carlson-11639149560?st=zn7o5t5vi7idszh&reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink

 

[14] The literature one the ruination of Venezuela is extensive, and even much of the Left press agrees that the Chavez-Maduro regime has been a disaster for the Venezuelan people. An article by a former Venezuelan economic minister is both detailed and devastating, claiming that Venezuela’s corrupt Marxist regime has survived largely by being colonized and exploited by Cuba: Moises Naim, “Venezuela’s Fatal Embrace of Cuba,” Wall Street Journal (Dec. 10, 2021). https://www.wsj.com/articles/venezuelas-fatal-embrace-of-cuba-11639152017

 

[15] Most Americas are unaware that the present military government of Myanmar (formerly Burma) began as a socialist-populist dictatorship which slowly turned Myanmar from a prosperous, multi-industry country and food exporter to a food deficient and poverty-stricken country, very similar to the process in Venezuela.

 

[16] If a gentleman in Spain wanted to enroll in the prestigious religious-social order of Santiago (St.James) he had to prove that for four generations his ancestors did no manual work.

[17] In 1965-1966 I spent two summers in El Salvador a decade before the horrible civil war there broke out. There I noticed the commercial enterprises, like hardware stores, were owned and operated by German immigrants. The landed elites did not want to soil their hands in such materialist endeavors. That of course has now changed, but that attitude delayed economic growth in Latin America for much of the 19th and 20th Centuries.

 

[18] See my blog posting on this issue give a fuller explanation of this, “The Worldwide Problem of Corruption,” Pentecostal Theolog. Posted Nov. 2, 2019.   https://www.pentecostaltheology.com/the-world-wide-problem-of-corruption-and-its-biblical-remedy/

 

[19] Again, a remembrance of my stay in El Salvador. I recall a conversation with a middle-class student of Christian democratic persuasion who ranted on how a US company has installed itself in El Salvador and over the course of years had taken out many times its investment. Of course. That is happening now and in welcomed in such countries as Vietnam who encourage Chinese investments. The real issue is that an industry produces a large “multiplier” effect of contractors, worker wages, suppliers, etc. that do the host economy much good. That is now more widely understood, but not so through most of the 2Oth Century.

 

You may also like:

Looking Over the Wall

Facebook Comments

William DeArteaga

William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include, Quenching the Spirit (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), and Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He and his wife Carolyn continue in their healing, teaching and writing ministries. He is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations.

Be first to comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.