2.02 China (scroll below)
2.06 India (scroll below)
2.09 Lithuania (scroll below)
2.10 Philippines (scroll below)
2.12 Other Nations (scroll below)
2.00 Internationalism. There are one billion Catholics throughout the world. Most are working people and many have an interest in the working class movement and communism. James Connolly the Catholic leader of the 1916 Easter Rebellion in Dublin wrote in 1909 about the internationalism of the working class movement and the economic necessity for it:
Every member of the investing classes is interested to the extent of his investments, present or prospective, in the subjection of Labor all over the world. That is the internationality of capital and capitalism. The wage worker is oppressed under this system in the interest of a class of capitalist investors who may be living thousands of miles away and whose very names are unknown to him. He is, therefore, interested in every revolt of labor all over the world, for the very individuals against whom that revolt may be directed may - by the wondrous mechanism of the capitalist system - through shares, bonds, national and municipal debts - be the parasites who are sucking his blood also. That is one the underlying facts inspiring the internationalism of labor and socialism. (Connolly, 1909).
2.02 China. Catholics make up less than 1 percent (3 million) of China's total 1.2 billion population. Some worked in the movement that culminated in the communist victory in 1949. They included a few Catholic missionaries such as Vincent Lebbe, a Belgian Vincentian in the 1920s (TTerrar, 1992, p. 15). After the revolution the Catholics, most of whom are working people, took the communist side. During the 1950s they deposed the clergy who preached the capitalist gospel. Included among the deposed was bishop Gong Pinmei of Shanghi. Theresa Chu, R.S.J., a nun who took the communist side, wrote about Gong Pinmei:
Why should that couple be refused communion when all they did was to allow their daughter to wear the red scarf awarded her in school? Why should I be refused communion when all I did was to read the People's Daily? More important issues included volunteering to fight the enemy or to nurse the wounded in Korea from 1950 to 1953, and signing a protest against germ warfare, and after 1957, the consecration of bishops. [Theresa Chu, R.S.J., "The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association," Ecumenist (May-June 1984), vol. 22, p. 52].
The Chinese Catholics helped establish communism because it advanced their class interests. For centuries the colonial powers had used religion to implement racist policies like not allowing a native church leadership and by inhibiting Chinese religious culture. In 1704 the pope outlawed the Chinese rite. After the Opium War between Britain and China in 1840, capitalists promoted drug sales and drug addiction in China. Foreign missionaries were exempted from Chinese laws by the "unequal treaties." The missionary presence served the public relations needs of colonialism. [Toby Terrar, "Catholic Mission History and the 500th Anniversary of Christopher Columbus' Arrival: A Time for Mourning and for Celebrating," Mission Studies: Journal of the International Association for Mission Studies (Chicago & Hamburg, Ger.: 1992), vol. 9 (1), pp. 7-23].
2.06 India. One can find Catholic communists not only in traditionally Catholic countries such as Italy, Colombia, Philippines, and Cuba, but in traditionally non-Catholic countries, such as India (population 886 million). Kerala, a state on India's southwest coast has had Catholics since the time of the Portugese in the 15th century and St. Francis Xavier in the 16th century. Catholics make up 5% (1 million) of the state's 30 milion population. [Patrick Heller, "Social Capital as a Product of Class Mobilization and State Intervention: Industrial Workers in Kerala, India," State-Society Synergy: Government and Social Capital in Development , ed. Peter Evans (Berkeley, Calif.: International & Area Studies, 1997), p. 48; Thomas J. Nossiter, Communism in Kerala: A Study in Political Adaptation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), p. 22]. Like most of the population, Kerala Catholics have always been working people and militant. They are landless laborers, poor tenants, and urban workers in trades such as coir, construction, oil & chemical refining, cashews, brick, cigarette, aluminum, fertilizer & tile manufacturing, textile milling, headload workers (coolies) and elephant drivers.
Coalitions led by the communist parties (CPI and CPM) have controlled Kerala more or less continuously since the 1950s. The communist parties get on average 30% of the vote, but 50% of the Catholics in many districts vote communist. [George Lieten, The First Communist Ministry in Kerala, 1957-1959 (Calcutta: K.P. Bagchi & Co., 1982), p. 162; Heller, "Social Capital," p. 78]. In the 1950s foreign and domestic landlords and merchants bankrolled the Catholic hierarchy to establish an anti-communist Catholic militia and an anti-communist Catholic political party. But soon after its establishment, the hierarchy lost contol of the Catholic party to its rank and file working class membership. It joined in coalition with the communist parties. Priests like Fr. Jospeh Vadakkan spoke on the same platforms with communist leaders like A. K. Goplan. [K. V. Varughese, The United Front Government in Kerala: A Study of the Marxist-Led Coalition (Madras: Christian Literature Society, 1978), p. 7].
Communism has served the Kerala Catholics well. Kerala has always been India's poorest and most populated state. It has the lowest per capita income ($260/year compared with an Indian average of $310/year). Despite this, over the past 40 years of working class rule, it has achieved India's highest adult literacy (91% compared with an Indian average 52%), highest life expectancy (70 years compared with an average 59 years), and highest employment rate. (Heller, "Social Capital," p. 49). The communist parties have mobilized the people in unions (30% of the work force), farmers associations, student groups, village libraries and cooperative markets. Landlordism was destroyed by agrarian reform legislation in the 1970s. (Varughese, The United Front Government, pp. 126, 241). The sectarian schools that served the rich were replaced by universal public education. Basic food such as rice is subsidized so that famine is no longer a threat. Low cost housing has ended homelessness. There is subsidized daycare and a free lunch program for students. (Heller, "Social Capital," p. 50). Productivity in industry has outstripped the rest of India because labor and management now have a common interest. (Heller, "Social Capital," p. 65). Child labor for those below 14 was reduced to less than 1% by 1980. (Heller, "Social Capital," pp. 69-70). The religous fundamentalism of the Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Moslems which had dominated the political, economic and social ideology of India for centuries is no longer a force. Intermarriage of castes, the rights of women and toleration of all religious sects are the norm. (Lieten, The First Communist Ministry in Kerala, pp. 10-11, 162). At the national level communists, including Catholic communists, lead the opposition against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's policy of nuclear imperialism.
The communist approach contrasts with that of the Congress party. The Congress capitalists do not want social services in the hands of the people. Congress seeks to reduce taxation, limit state services, and to substitute charity for the few in the form of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). NGOs are funded by foundations, individuals and foreign sources like the World Bank. This charity industry favored by the Congress party is not for the benefit of the people but to cover over the greed of the imperialist-capitalist system. Mother Teresa (Agnes Bojaxhiu of Albania, b. 1910) was part of the Congress system. She was centered in Calcutta, the communist-led capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. Communist Catholics criticized her for promoting privatized health care, education and nutrition. Her health care organization eliminated normal medical practices like blood tests to distinguish ailments (malaria from other illnesses) and the curable from the incurable. For the terminally ill her nuns offered no relief for pain. She made Catholicism into a cult of death and suffering with passivity and abjection of working people a virtue. [Vijay Prashad, "Mother Teresa: A Communist View," Political Affairs (New York: Sept. 1997), vol. 76, no. 9, pp. 13-17].
2.09 Lithuania Lithuania's 4 million population is mainly Catholic. Among the Catholics are members of the Communist party of Lithuania. Communists get about one-third of the vote in general elections. Most Lithuanians are working class, with 1.3 million in trade unions. During the Soviet period, which started after World War II, the Lithuanians were able to establish universal health care, education, housing, employment, pensions and rational industrial and agricultural growth. This contrasted with both the pre- and post-soviet periods. The infant mortality rate was 122 per thousand in the 1930s. During the 1960s it was down to 15 per thousand. [Jonas Ancias, The Hatemongers: Anti-Soviet Activity of the Lithuanian Clerical Emigres (Vilnius: Mintis Publishers, 1979); Toby Terrar, "Liberation Theology and Lithuanian Catholicism," New World Review (N.Y.: March-April, 1985), vol. 53, no. 2, pp. 29-30].
Not only the Catholics but some among the clergy supported and support communism. This included Juozas Stakanaskas and Alfonsas Lape. Both were part of the 10,000 partisan army and 18,000 Lithuanians in the Soviet Army. Such was the dislike of capitalist and landlord emigrees toward the pro-soviet ecclesiastical hierarchy that at Vatican II in the 1960s, there was an effort to prevent them from being seated. They were baited as being atheists and materialists. In 1955 one of the Lithuanian bishops, P. Mazelis, reflected his working class sympathies when he commented:
I would like to note that in recent years wide sections of the clergy give more and more support to the social and cultural measures taken by the Soviet government. Among the priests one can notice an ever growing confidence in Soviet power, because it gives much attention to common people, it has defended them from exploiters, it is carrying out unprecedented social, economic and cultural reform. Today one thinks with surprise of Lithuania's past when some could own vast plots of fertile land, while others had not even the smallest patch of sandy soil, when some did not know what it is to live in want, and others had nothing all their life. [J. Rimaitis, Religion in Lithuania (Vilnis: Gintaras Publishers, 1971), p. 31].For several decades Lithuanian bishop Kazimieras Paltarokas was active in the Soviet-wide and world-wide peace movement. He frequently led international conferences.
From the hierarchy's view, there were good reasons for supporting the Soviets. Dating from the middle ages, the Lithuanian church had been dominated by the Polish church. There were no Lithuanian bishops, only Polish bishops. Mass in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, was said in Polish. With the liberation after World War II, Lithuania won the right to elect its own hierarchy. The attempt by the pope in the 1950s to nominate a Nazi collaborator (V. Slatkevicius) to the hierarchy was rejected. A Lithuanian priest, Kostas Gajauskas, reflected back on the pre-soviet Lithuanian church:
Having taken holy orders in 1938, I wished to obtain an appointment in a Lithuanian parish. Alas, the Vilnius curia took no heed of my request. While still a seminarian, I saw the disgusting policy of Polonization, I saw the discrimination and persecution of Byelorussians and Lutherans. Such was the official policy of the Polish government, and the ecclesistical life in the region of Vilnius was also subordinated to its aims. At that time the archdiocese was administered by a Polish archbishop, R. Jalbrzykowski, together with a Polish curia and chapter. St. Nicholas' church was the only place where one could hold divine service in the Lithuanian language. Even today old people in Vilnius remember that the Polish chauvinists used to attack Lithuanians after services and beat them for the simple reason that the latter had dared to pray in Lithuanian. (Rimaitis, Religion in Lithuania p. 26).
2.10 Philippines. Catholics make up about 85% (54 million) of the Philippines total population (64 million). Since the 1960s the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), established in 1968, has been the leader of the working class movement there. It controls and runs provisional governments in 8000 of the country's 41,000 administrative units. (Jones, 1989, p. 8). Catholic farming people, trade unionists and students are part of the CPP and of its military arm, the 25,000 strong New Peoples Army (NPA), and of its half-million sympathizers. Catholic-communists are also in mass organizations such as the Federation of Filipino Workers. They conduct strikes, picket and lead protests.
In 1973 Catholics helped establish the National Democratic Front (NDF), which is an umbrella group of mass revolutionary organizations that support the CPP. One of the Catholic organizations in the NDF is the Christians for National Liberation (CNL). The CNL's 4000 members are composed of working people, clergy, religious, church workers, and several bishops (out of 100 in the country). The CNL was founded in 1972 by working people along with 50 nuns and 12 priests who were inspired in part by Vatican II's desire to make the church more relevant. (Jones, 1989, p. 203). In addition to the CNL, Catholics in the CPP are in many Basic Christian Communities (BCC). Since 1980 BCCs have operated in about one-third of the dioceses. It is not unusual for party groups to meet in churches. In the barrios communist nuns run health and literacy programs. [ Gregg Jones, Red Revolution: Inside the Philippine Guerrilla Movement (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1989), pp. 203, 211-212, 297]. CPP priests like Jose Torre celebrate people's masses that contain revolutionary songs and symbols, political homilies and saints who have given their lives for the people. (Jones, Red Revolution p. 170).
About 25 priests operate as NPA commanders or are CPP officials. Nick (Nato) Ruiz was one of the first priests to join the NPA in 1972. He is on the CPP executive committee of Bohol province, which has helped bring land reform, health care, literacy and "quick and democratic justice" for working people. These are things he had tried, but failed to do as an individual priest. (Jones, Red Revolution, pp. 203, 211-212). Luis G. Jalandoni is another NPA priest communist. He and the sugar workers in the province of Negros first took up arms in the 1970s because the landlords and their allies were killing, raping and stealing from the sugar workers and farmers. (Jones, Red Revolution, p. 170). The court and parliamentary system were controlled by the landlords and provided no relief. Jalandoni remarked, "If peasants and social reformers had to follow the rules made by landowners, they would never win." (Jones, Red Revolution, p. 207). Jalandoni now occupies a seat on the CPP central committee and is director of the NDF's international office in the Netherlands. Other CPP priest-leaders are Edicio de la Torre of the NDF and Brendan Cruz, spokesperson for the CNL. (Jones, Red Revolution, pp. 202, 209).
2.12 Other Nations. Below are some communist parties in nations with Catholic populations. Each no doubt has its own Catholic-communist story. With luck that history will eventually find itself on the web:
CP of Bohemia and Moravia
CP of Canada
CP of Canada(Marxist-Leninist)
CP of France
CP of Germany
CP of Peru
CP of Spain (CP of Andalucia, CP of Catalonia, CP of Valencia, Basque CP)
CP of the People of Spain
CP of Venezuela
CP of Vietnam
Workers Party of Belgium
Hungarian Workers Party
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