The following is part of the Anarchy in May series which examines Christian anarchism and quotes prominent Christian anarchist thinkers. For a more detailed introduction and a table of contents, please see Anarchy in May: Brief Introduction and Contents.
For the next three days, I will be sharing a lengthier portion of Eller’s Christian Anarchy, much too long to be placed in a single post. His point, however, is critical enough that I think it warrants extended presentation. During this portion of his work, Eller is attempting to contrast the way humanity attempts to establish a truly just society and the way Jesus endeavored toward that same end. He presents his argument by an examination of the human struggle for “classlessness” on every level of society. Lest this term provide a stumbling block, Eller clarifies, “In our context, remember that “classlessness” is a synonym for ‘justice.'” If the ultimately just society is the one where every person is treated equitably, than the perennial quest for a classless social system, made notorious through the contemporary efforts of Maxists, is certainly one of the most visible attempts to acheive that end.
Because Marxism represents the most infamous attempt to construct the classless, and therfore just, society, Eller begins his examination there:
(In the following, this is as much as I mean by “Marxism.” It is shorthand for “any philosophy that defines social progress in terms of a class struggle toward classlessness.” My use of the word intends no other overtones, is entirely descriptive and in no way pejorative.)
Yet all such “Marxisms”—even while being sincerely dedicated to classlessness—see no other possibility of getting there except by taking off 180 degrees in the other direction. Classlessness can be achieved only by first locating the class distinction that is at the root of the difficulty. The “oppressed class” and the “oppressing class” must be spotted and publicly identified. Once identified, the consciousness of the oppressed class must be raised—which, of course, inevitably leads to the raising of the class consciousness of the opposite number as well. A deliberate polarizing is taking place in order that the oppressed class might consolidate its power (“solidarity” is the very word, “ideological solidarity”)—this in preparation for the struggle, the warfare, which is intended to eventuate in classlessness.
Obviously, the action serves to exacerbate the very class distinction it is out to eliminate—but there is no other way. The “oppressed but righteous class” must gain power over the “wicked and oppressing class” in order then to replace it, destroy it, dominate it, absorb it, or convert it and so leave itself as the one, total, and thus “classless” class. The ideological solidifying and polarizing of the class distinction, which the accompanying intensification of the class struggle, is the only way to classlessness.
Granted, this Marxist theory presents some problems: Are we to “continue in sin that grace may abound”?—play up class antagonism in the interests of classlessness? But I don’t know who has come up with any better solution (actually, I do; but I am holding that for a bit). In common practice, of course, the business proceeds according to program through the spotting of the class distinction, the raising of consciousness, the building of ideological solidarity, and the hue and cry of the class struggle—only to hang up on the final step of creating classlessness. For some reason, at that point everything that can go wrong invariably does.
Thus, with the Soviet Union of proto-Marxism, the comrades of the oppressed working classes achieved their solidarity, won their revolution, and even established the bureaucracy which was to be the instrument for creating their classless society. Yet instead of the workers’ classless society becoming the total order of the day, lo and behold, the bureaucracy itself introduced a new class distinction—doing this by itself becoming totalitarian over everyone else. So it went; and so it goes.