Lenin the ecumenist

After the hard-won victories of the 1905 revolution, the socialists gained freedom of association, freedom of meeting and freedom of the press – to some extent. The outcome: a party with both legal and illegal sections. But it also meant Christians began joining the party more freely:

To be sure, those workers who remain Christians, who believe in God, and those intellectuals who defend mysticism (fie upon them!), are inconsistent too; but we shall not expel them from the Soviet or even from the Party. Lenin, Collected Works, vol 10, p. 23.

We are now becoming a mass party all at once, changing abruptly to an open organisation, and it is inevitable that we shall be joined by many who are inconsistent (from the Marxist standpoint), perhaps we shall be joined even by some Christian elements, and even by some mystics. We have sound stomachs and we are rock-like Marxists. We shall digest those inconsistent elements. Freedom of thought and freedom of criticism within the Party will never make us forget about the freedom of organising people into those voluntary associations known as parties. Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 10, pp. 47-8.

Lenin the ecumenist? Usually he is represented as a trenchant sectarian, but this is too simplistic. One element in his work and thought was definitely sectarian, but another was distinctly inclusive and ecumenical (as Lars Lih argues in Lenin Rediscovered).

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