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But before considering how far this view of the logic of the relationship between Christianity and Marxism can be sustained, let us turn from the view that liberation theology dances too intimately with Marxism to one which maintains almost exactly the opposite. This is the view that liberation theology fails as an adequate theological project because it is not Marxist enough. Most systematically and thoroughly explored by Alistair Kee in his Marx and the Failure of Liberation Theology,17 the starting point is, in one crucial respect, similar to that of the Vatican's: for Kee argues that Marxism cannot, at the eclectic whim of the theologian, be exploited for a merely empirical analysis of the structures of class exploitation and oppression, leaving aside as dispensable and 'ideological' components, the critique of religion itself. Moreover, insofar as liberation theologians have been prepared to acknowledge the force of Marx's critique of religion, they have done that too in an inconsistently selective fashion. For, as Kee points out, that critique of religion contains two inseparable but distinct elements, the first {and generally accepted by liberationists as legitimate) being the empirical, historical critique of the actual role of Christianity within society as normally reactionary, and the second (generally ignored by liberationists), the more radical and comprehensive critique of Christianity as involving in principle an 'ideological reversal*, involving a falsification therefore of the real relations of class and domination and a mystification of them.18

Now Kee argues - and in this he is surely right - that these two elements of the generalised critique of religion cannot be separated one from the other. For particularly as regards Christianity, Marx's hostility was universal and directed at it as a form of religion in principle. It is sometimes supposed that Marx's criticism of Christianity as an historical phenomenon was culturally limited in its focus upon the German Lutheranism in which his father, a convert of convenience from Judaism, brought him up. This is not true. Certainly he identified early Lutheranism, with its individualistic emphasis on the 'authority of faith1 as against the Roman Catholic feudal emphasis on 'faith in authority' as the natural ally of emergent sixteenth-century capitalism. But this was not because he regarded Roman Catholicism as any better placed to offer a theological critique of capitalism just because it was more distanced ideologically from it; on the contrary, he regarded Roman Catholicism, to which he admittedly paid scant attention, as still less capable of taking up the concerns of revolutionary socialism, since it stood even further back down the line of reactionary doctrines, a hopelessly stranded medieval survival from a world which pre-dated even capitalism.

Moreover, it is not true even that Marx thought all forms of Christianity necessarily make explicit alliances with reactionary politics: in fact he very well understood the mechanisms inherent in the religious formation of ideology which would lead to episodic recurrences of politically radical Christianity, and in addition to his scornful dismissal of Christian socialism in The Communist Manifesto y his friend and colleague Friedrich Engels made a detailed study of one such episode in his Peasant War in Germany*19 There Engels analysed the peasant revolt in the early Reformation period in Germany, paying attention not only to the increasingly reactionary stance of Luther, but also to the increasingly radical communism of the neo-Anabaptist leader, Thomas Muentzer - the latter, on paper at least, a prototypical communist. But a 'communist by fantasy* is how Engels describes Muentzer, for, in Engels' view, the radical political programme which Muentzer proposed was inspired by Utopian Christianity and as such 'went beyond the directly prevailing social and political conditions*.30 Being a theologically inspired idealism unrooted in real history, Muentzer's communism could, therefore, hope to succeed only by virtue of violent imposition, and so inevitably degenerated into the tyranny in which all utopianisms must end. Thus, commented Marx himself, *the Peasant War, the most radical event in German history, came to grief because of theology'.31

Empirically, therefore, Marx allows no exceptions to the proposition that religiosity as such has ever proved an obstacle to revolutionary progress, a claim which he thought was sufficiently demonstrated by the fact that, even when allied to politically revolutionary programmes, that alliance with religion had always in practice blunted the revolutionary edge of the politics, by converting a concrete historical practice of class struggle into idealistic utopianisms. Moreover, this empirical claim is supported by his analysis of religion itself - and here Kee's contention comes to the fore -because on Marx's account religion in principle involves an 'inversion' of reality and therefore must always be a source of alienating illusion. And if that is true of religion in general, it ought to be true of the 'radical' Christianity of the liberation theologians- Why must this be so?

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