Lenin in church

A little while ago I quoted Nadezhda Krupskaya concerning her and Lenin’s regular church attendance while they lived in London. Others also commented on the habit, such as Trotsky, who went with them on at least one occasion. Of course, these were Christian socialist and Christian anarchist churches, often independent and established by charismatic leaders who broke away from a mainstream church.

But why in the world did Lenin and Krupskaya attend? There was no free meal, no free lodgings. It’s worth remembering that the reasons people attend church are as diverse as the number of people in the congregation. Not all present believe, not all are orthodox in any sense, not all are ardent. Yet, the relationship with these radical churches was not a passing affair, for when the fifth congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) was seeking a safe exilic venue to meet in 1907, they were able to secure the Brotherhood Church in Southgate Road, Hackney, in London. That church, originating in 1887 under the influence of various streams such as Christian socialism, anarchism, pacifism, Quakers and Tolstoy, continues to exist today now as a community in Stapleton.



11 thoughts on “Lenin in church

  1. Going back to the previous post … the use of biblical quotation might help win over religious workers … but the appropriation of the sentiment would also help to argue the shortcomings of faith. Here, attendance at church would provide an opportunity to engage with religious arguments. Moreover, there would be a great deal of radical potential in popular religious groups of the kind you mention.

    1. All of the above, but there is also a substream in Lenin’s thought that is aware of the revolutionary communist dimensions of a religion like Christianity. They certainly weren’t interested in the mainstream, established churches, but continued to have a soft spot for the radical proto-communist groups. It shows up in agitational work among these groups before the October Revolution and in fostering unaffiliated, independent Christian peasant groups after the revolution.

      1. It is no coincidence that Thompson, despite his suspicions, in his Witness Against the Beast found radical streams in the antinomian tradition (with its emphasis on the radical nature of grace) that influenced Blake and Lenin’s own interest.

  2. Because men, and the women who want to be them, will always seek and receive refuge in the institutions designed by and for them, no matter the belief, politics, ideology, philosophy?

  3. Quite right Roland. I seem to have these little meltdowns lately whenever church or frickin Jesus get mentioned. I blame Facebook, and the CONSTANT preaching that goes on from certain FB “friends”. Or, maybe I am just a bog-standard atheist after all 🙂 JK

  4. Hello – I’m just writing some stuff about Lenin in Hackney and was wondering what the provenance of the painting in this post was? Also plan to write a bit about the Brotherhood Church, which seems like another bit of underexposed Hackney history… thanks!

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