This article is from Law and Liberty, Chapter 22, by Rousas John Rushdoony, a Reformed scholar and brilliant writer of the last century. Dr. Rushdoony was the founder of Chalcedon Foundation, an educational organization devoted to research, publishing, and to cogent communication of a distinctively Christian scholarship to the world at large. His son Mark continues to publicize and distribute Rushdoony’s work through Chalcedon. We are grateful to Chalcedon for permission to publish this book serially, chapter by chapter. Visit Chalcedon’s website here.
A Major Force in the Twentieth Century
The Marxist doctrine of law is a major force in the twentieth century. For Marx and Lenin, the basic fact is seen as the denial of truth. Marxism is relativistic; it denies that there is any absolute truth, any fundamental right and wrong in the universe. Instead of God as the source of truth and law, Marxism insists that all ideas of truth and law simply reflect the will of a ruling class. Thus, for communism, law is simply the will of the ruling class stated as statues and legal requirements, so that the law merely mirrors the policies of the ruling class as it operates through the state. As a result, for Marxism there is no truth in any law; no law has any relationship to any absolute right and wrong, because no absolute right or wrong exists. This means that Communist law is no more true than capitalistic law; that is, that Soviet law and Red China’s laws are no more true in any absolute sense than the U. S. Constitution. The only difference the Marxists make is this: the Constitution supposedly represents, not the people, but the will of a capitalistic ruling class, whereas Marxist law is more democratic; it supposedly represents the will of the proletariat. And, since Marxism is economic humanism, man is its only standard of value; therefore, the will of the proletariat is relatively better than the will of the capitalists, because there are more proletarians in the world. Albert Weisbord, a prominent Marxist, attacked the U. S. Constitution, not because it was true or false, but because he believed it to be anti-democratic, anti-proletarian, and in his study, The Conquest of Power, he saw the Constitutional Convention of 1787 as a part of “a secret conspiracy” against the people (Vol. I, p. 71). The Constitution, of course, asserted implicitly the supremacy of the law over all classes and peoples, and, as Edward S. Corwin has pointed out, it presupposed a “higher law,” the law of God. But, for Marxism, all talk about God and God’s law is a façade and sham used by a ruling class to suppress the poor.
The Will of the State
For Marxism, law is simply the will of the state. It has no reference to any absolute right or wrong, nor is there any higher law than the state. Law is simply a system of prescriptive and binding rules which express the totalitarian and coercive will of the state. This Marxist theory was developed further by Andrey Vishinsky, who applied his theory both as the Soviet prosecutor in the great purge trials of the 1930s, and again as the head of the Soviet delegation to the United Nations. For Vyshinsky, and as a result for the Communist states, law is a weapon to be used against the enemy in the fight for socialism and an instrument for reconstructing human society on a socialist basis. It is thus a political tool.
Aspects of Marxist Law
From this, two things have already become apparent. First, Marxist law denies any absolute truth, any ultimate right and wrong, and second, law is a political weapon to be used in destroying enemies and remaking its subjects.
A third aspect of Marxist law is equally evident. It is summed up in the slogan of the Soviet system: “All power belongs to the Soviets.” This is totalitarianism, the dictatorship of the proletariat. Communism is not opposed to totalitarianism as such. It is merely opposed to all non-Communist totalitarian states, but it is definitely in favor of its own form of totalitarianism.
A fourth aspect of Marxist law is its use of the courts. Since the law has no reference to an absolute right and wrong, neither can the courts be geared to any absolute justice. The courts have nothing to do with justice; they simply safeguard the interests of the Soviet state and work to destroy all its enemies. The courts therefore cannot tolerate any appeal to absolute justice. They move in terms of what is called “Soviet justice,” that is, the will of the state.
Fifth, as is clearly apparent, Soviet law does not tolerate any division of powers, because it is by its own definition totalitarian. As a result, the courts have no independence. Lenin and Vishinsky insisted that the courts, like the army, and the administration of the state as a whole, have one function, to further socialism and destroy its enemies.
Sixth, Marxism denies that anything can be called law which does not further socialism. As a result, all Christian systems of law are called frauds, because by definition law is the correct action of the socialist state. As a result, it works to discredit every other law system and to bring about its breakdown in order to replace it with socialist, with revolutionary “justice,” that is, the destruction of capitalists, churches, independent groups, and all things hostile to communism.
Seventh, this means that for Marxists the only real crimes are crimes against socialism, that is, opposition to Marxist totalitarianism. New crimes are accordingly invented, and we now hear the term “crimes against peace” freely used. A crime against peace is any kind of war against Marxism. It is a new and dangerous concept, because it involves a faith that Marxism is the one true god, and any opposition to it is a mortal sin. There has been no change in this Marxist concept; it has only been developed more fully. The only real complaints against Stalin by his successors were for offenses to ruling Marxists, not for his offenses against true justice. Milovan Djilas, in his book Conversations With Stalin, said, “As long as Stalin’s successors are mourning, on the one hand, individual victims of arbitrary rule between 1937 and 1955 but do not talk on the other hand about the millions of victims of Bolshevik persecution among the peasants, the middle classes, and the Russian intelligentsia, we cannot believe them that they have turned away honestly and sincerely from the methods of violent oppression and of terror.”
This brings us to an eighth aspect of the Soviet system of law. Because it is totalitarian and political law, it insures a perpetual state of civil war. In fact, it creates a double civil war. First, it creates a civil war within the ruling Communists. The Soviet Union has seen a long civil war, first, between Lenin’s successors, next, between Stalin’s successors, and the present scene is far from a quiet one. The Communists of Red China are in the midst of a civil war between the ruling assassins, and the triumph of one party or another will not end the trouble. The second kind of civil war created by Marxist law is between the state and the people, and the state wars against its own people as an enemy. Because the Communist state always regards its subjects as an enemy either to be remade by brainwashing and brute force, or to be crushed by terror and violence, peace between the party and the people is an impossibility. Because the Soviet state is the totalitarian and absolute power, it can do no wrong, and the people are therefore by definition wrong if they do not submit totally to the state. Moreover, the people are also in the wrong even if they do submit. When communism makes a mistake, it refuses to accept guilt, because it is by definition the perfect system. Someone must be made the scapegoat, and the scapegoat becomes either portions of the Communist Party, or else the people, or both. That someone must then be punished. As a result, communism, because it is not nor can be perfect or free from failures, must with every failure make civil war against itself and its people. This means that communism can never bring peace, because its Marxist theory of law guarantees perpetual war and the destruction of that which law is supposed to ensure—justice and order.
Anarchy and Chaos Ensured
Now no society can exist without law, and when a system of law turns out to be anti-law, it ensures that instead of society there will be anarchy and chaos. The Webbs called the Soviet Union a new civilization; instead of a new civilization, it is a sorry substitute for civilization, civil war instead of culture. Instead of the rule of law, it substitutes the rule of terror and of brute force. In the name of man, in the name of humanism, Marxism claims to offer mankind a new hope to replace Christian revelation.
What it offers instead is the worst horrors of humanity’s experience and unrelieved terror and perpetual civil war. It is the logic of humanism carried to its conclusion, and its logic is suicidal. As our Lord, speaking as Wisdom, said long ago: “He that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death” (Prov. 8:36).
1. Edward S. Corwin, The “Higher Law” Background of the American Constitutional Law, 1928 (Ithaca: Cornell, 1955).
2. Hermann Raschhofer, Political Assassination (Tubenjen: Fritz Schlichtenmayer, 1964).
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