A Wolf In Religious Clothing

Not too long ago EWTN (“Eternal Word Television Network”), a Catholic media company based in the United States, ran a program on American radical Saul Alinsky. In A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, the producers claimed Alinsky’s brand of socialism has infiltrated the Catholic Church.

The problem is that Alinsky was not a socialist. He did not advocate abolishing private property. Nor did he accept the basic theory of socialism: that natural rights come from the collective instead of being inherent in each human being. He was a radical in the tradition of William Cobbett, not Karl Marx.
Alinsky favored widespread ownership of capital as a fundamental human right. As he said in Reveille for Radicals (1945), “[Radicals] hope for a future where the means of economic production will be owned by all of the people instead of just a comparative handful.”

Calling Alinsky a socialist is as unjust as saying Pope Leo XIII advocated abolishing private property in § 46 of Rerum Novarum: “The law . . . should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the people to become owners.”

Nor are the organizing methods he advocated peculiar to socialism. There is a legitimate role for his peaceful brand of social action as a prelude to acts of social justice.

What should have concerned the producers was not Alinsky, but the use others made of his techniques — something at which socialists are experts, as the American controversialist Orestes Brownson noted over 150 years ago. As Brownson said,
“Veiling itself under Christian forms, attempting to distinguish between Christianity and the Church, claiming for itself the authority and immense popularity of the Gospel, denouncing Christianity in the name of Christianity, discarding the Bible in the name of the Bible, and defying God in the name of God, Socialism conceals from the undiscriminating multitude its true character.”

The point here is not to defend Alinsky. The concern is with the infiltration of socialism into all forms of society, civil (the State), religious (the Church), and domestic (the Family).

In this, Fabian socialism and its offshoots, such as guild socialism and social credit, have had the most success. According to Edward Pease in The History of the Fabian Society (1918, 1925), the modern Welfare State embodies the Fabian program.

The Fabian Society was established as the political arm of “The Fellowship of the New Life,” a theosophical (New Age) organization founded in 1883. The Fellowship sought to attain “the cultivation of a perfect character in each and all” in this life through pacifism, vegetarianism, and simple living.
Instead of violently overthrowing the existing order, Fabians advocate seizing political and religious power by peaceful means. They hide their true intent and work to impose socialism by transforming governments and churches from within. The emblem of the Society is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

By any measure the results have been spectacular. The Fabian goal of full employment is official government policy in many countries. Through manipulation of monetary and tax systems, proportionately more people are utterly dependent on government for their livelihood than at any other time in history. Church, State, and Family have been completely redefined.

Through manipulation of monetary and tax systems, proportionately more people are utterly dependent on government for their livelihood than at any other time in history

Fabian gains in religious society have been particularly remarkable, with the rapid spread of what Archbishop Fulton Sheen called “Religion Without God.” By shifting the focus from God to Collective Man, and from the spiritual and temporal, to the temporal alone, many religions have become mere adjuncts to government.

In the Catholic Church, for example, the writings of Fabians such as R.H. Tawney and E.F. Schumacher are accorded almost the status of Holy Writ by some authorities. Distributism, a system G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc developed specifically to counter Fabianism, has in many cases been transformed into a virtual clone of the very thing it was intended to oppose.

Despite this, however, there is still a chance to restructure the social order along more human, natural law lines. As applied in “Capital Homesteading,” the Just Third Way of the Center for Economic and Social Justice (CESJ) in Arlington, Virginia, U.S.A. offers a philosophically sound and financially feasible way to return power to every child, woman, and man, giving them back control over their own lives.

Michael D. Greaney is Director of Research at the Centre for Economic and Social Justice. He published recently “So Much Generosity” and “Political Animal”.