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Religion and Economics

There is a relationship between one's faith and economic policy. Ideas have consequences and religious ideas have a major impact in the economies of the material world. This is why it is absolutely critical that our political leaders be screened for their view on economic policy. Their economic worldview is a reflection of their true faith commitment. Eastern ideas have been growing in influence within Western culture and undermining the Christian principles that built Western Civilization. In the following article R.J. Rushdoony describes the impact of Karma on Western economic philosophy and policy. 


Karma, Debt and the Sabbath

By Rev. R.J. Rushdoony

 

The doctrine of Karma is one of the most important religious doctrines invented by man. Its origins are Brahmanic, but its great development is Buddhist. Perhaps no other non-Biblical doctrine is more important and more perceptive, however deadly. Karma is the law of cause and effect as it regulates the present and future life of man. Karma says that what a man sows, that shall he also reap; every man inherits his own burden of sin and guilt, and no man can inherit the good or evil acts of another man. Karma holds that sin cannot be destroyed by sacrifice, penance, or repentance, but only by self-expiation. A man thus spends his life (and future reincarnations, according to this doctrine) working out the atonement for sin. The important fact about Karma is that this doctrine does justice to the reality of cause and effect; it recognizes the reality of sin in man, and the burden which sin imposes on the present and the future. Modern humanism is unable to cope with this fact of causality and chooses to ignore it. It does not escape causality thereby and only compounds its problem.

According to Karma, the past determines the present and the future. Man’s sin most surely finds him out and will not let him go.

The karma faiths have no savior, but they are at least aware of the reality of sin and its demand for expiation. Their doctrines of self-atonement are ineffectual, but their realism as to man’s condition make them wiser than those moderns who choose to deny causality.

The doctrine of karma was current in the world of the Bible, especially the New Testament era. The Bible speaks emphatically of causality, and the consequences of sin (Gen. 2:17; 3:7). Moses declares, “ye have sinned against the LORD; and be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23). Paul warns, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). However, rather than an abstract world of causality, for the Bible the cosmos is the creation of the personal God. This fact creates a vast gulf between the Bible and the doctrine of Karma.

But Karma does stress a fact that the modern world chooses to forget: causality. It is this fact that Keynesian economists choose to forget. Keynes himself, when asked about the long-run consequences of his economics, replied, “In the long run, we are all dead.” Because of its disregard for causality, Keynesianism creates an inflationary economy; long-term consequences are dismissed in favor of short-term benefits.

The average American and European is not familiar with Keynesian as a body of economic thought; they are familiar with it as a way of life, their own way of life. In Keynesian terms, all sin is assessed in terms of present benefits, not in terms of long-term consequences. As a result, debt living has become a way of life. From a moral liability at the beginning of the century, debt has become now an asset, and the word credit, which once meant reliability, now means the ability to contract debt. The world’s monetary systems are no longer based on the gold standard but on debt; paper money represents debt, not wealth.

The modern Keynesian world is a rejection of the triune God and His law-word, which prohibits debt beyond a six-year limit, and then for necessities only, which requires covetous-free living, and which regards debt as a form of slavery. Between 1945 and 1980, many fortunes were built (and many lost) by pyramiding debt.

But debt, like sin, has its consequences. Karma holds that past sins govern our present and future lives. With its concomitant doctrine of re-incarnation, Karma holds that thousands of generations or re-incarnations may be necessary in some cases to work out the self-expiation necessary. The burden of sin and guilt is not lightly discarded simply because man wills it. Causality rules all things unrelentingly.

This brings us to the deadly aspect of the doctrine of Karma. Because of its unrelenting doctrine of causality, the past rules the present and the future. Only insofar as we have a better past or Karma can we have a better future. The world of Karma is a past-oriented world.

The same is true of the world of debt. For those who are in debt, the past governs the present. The first claimant on their monthly check is the past: the house payment, and other debts have a fixed claim on their income before either they or God can touch it. One of the most common questions I encounter with respect to the tithe is this: “How can I tithe, and still meet my payments on my debts?” The house is on “the never-never plan;” the car and furniture get old and shabby before they are paid for, and man's days are dominated by the past.

Modern man may not believe in Karma, but he has created a new world of Karma in debt.

The same is true in politics. Cause and effect in politics has brought the world’s many nations to the raw edge of judgment. In politics, this has brought some vaguely conservative parties and administrations to power. All are looking for cosmetic solutions and avoiding the long and ugly chain of causality which has led to the present crisis. The Karma of modern politics threatens them like a crumbling cliff over a cottage, and all are offering a more modest table fare as the solution.

All around us a host of things have created a vast chain of causes and effects which threaten our world: debt, the minimum wage law, statist education and the new illiteracy, welfarism, and much, much more. The world may say, Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die, but God says, Tomorrow the judgment. (One is reminded of the cartoon, picturing a sad-faced man carrying a sign on a busy street, reading: “We are all doomed: the world will not end!” Man has no escape from his sins in any way of his own devising.)

When the past governs the present, it has a paralyzing effect on it. As J. Estlin Carpenter pointed out many years ago, the doctrine of Karma froze society and led to the caste system. Basic to the dogma was this principle: “a man is born into the world that he has made.” The present is read in terms of the past.

Our current Karma culture is also seeing a like stratification. Despite the talk of equality, the premise of welfarism and more is the incapacity of vast numbers of peoples. The ghettos of America have seen successive waves of immigrants come and go as they worked their way into more advanced positions. Now we have, as a policy of state, an assumption that a permanent ghetto resident is a fact of life. (of course, because of environmentalism, we now seem to hold that a man is born into the world others made for him.)

The two principles of Karma are, first, “A man is born into the world that he has made,” and second, “The Deed does not perish,” i.e., consequences continue until they are fully expiated. Karma cannot be destroyed, neither by fire, flood, wind, or the gods. It must proceed unrelentingly and unerringly to its results. A man might briefly postpone the workings of his Karma, but he could never frustrate nor destroy them. All else passes, but acts and their consequences remain. Destiny, Karma, reigns and rules. The word deva is gods, and daiva, derived from it, means destiny, and, for the Buddhist, destiny is simply past acts, according to L. de la Vallee Poussin. Since Karma includes in its unrelenting causality mental acts as well, man’s waking thoughts as well as his dreams in sleep govern his life and add to his Karma. Only through good acts can man expiate his past sins, and “the good act has three roots: the absence of lust, of hatred, and of error” (Poussin). Thus, we have a negative idea of good, so that its essential function is to diminish the retribution for the vast accumulation of past acts.

The very clear fact which emerges from this is that, in the world of Karma, there can be passivity and withdrawal, but definitely not rest. The Biblical doctrine of the Sabbath is thus unique. We are commanded to observe the Sabbath in Deuteronomy and to “remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath Day” (Deut. 5:15). Redeemed man can rest because he knows that the Lord has saved him. The meaning of the cross is not that the consequences of our sin are simply overlooked, but that Jesus Christ makes full expiation for our sins. The causality is worked out on the cross; atonement is made for our sins, and we are free from the guilt and the burden of sin. Where men deny the causality of sin, they deny also the atonement, and they become antinomians.

But only Christ’s atonement can free man from sin and death and give him rest. The answer to the doctrine of Karma is the atonement and the Sabbath rest which the atonement creates. The Sabbath law follows the Passover event, and it sets forth the salvation-rest of the Old Israel. The Christian Sabbath follows the atonement and the resurrection, the first day of the week, and it celebrates the salvation-rest of the New Israel of God.

The redeemed in Christ now are governed, not by the past, not by their sins, nor by Karma, but by the Lord, who is the same, yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). They are to live righteously, to render to all their due honor, to love their neighbor as themselves, and, as a normal practice, to owe no man anything, save to love one another (Rom. 7-10).

 

The true Sabbath enables us to rest, because, first it is Christ’s finished work of atonement and continuing work of providence that is our life, not our deeds and past acts. 

Second, we can rest, because we are not past-bound and past-oppressed and haunted. We can say with David, “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety” (Ps. 4:8). We have the blessedness of restful, trusting, sleep. Instead of a burden, the past has become an asset in the Lord, who makes all things work together for good to them that love Him, to them who are the called according to His purpose. (The converse of this is that all things work together for evil for those who hate God, Obadiah 15; Jeremiah 50:29; Lamentations l:22.)

Third, because we are now future oriented, we become Dominion Men, working for godly reconstruction in every area of life and thought. Our lives are dominated, not by past burdens but by present responsibilities and the assurance of power (John 1:12). Together with Joshua (and the apostles, Matt. 28:18-20), we have the assurance: “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you...There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Joshua 1:3, 5). The sad fact today is that many church members profess Christ but live in the world of Karma. To illustrate, one church officer, an able and talented man but a despiser of God's law, has twice been bankrupt, several times a failure in business because of lawless policies and debts, and is a sour and critical leader whose ways are oppressive to many. There is no Sabbath in his life, nor any freedom and power; he has the aura of a hunted man, and, in his work, is a “plunger,” one who prefers risks to sound practices. We have all too many pastors whose sermons are trumpets always sounding defeat, and echoing with the oppressiveness of sin, not the freedom and joy of victory and redemption. Their sermons echo the death of the tomb, not the triumph of the resurrection.

To all such we must say with Paul, “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Eph. 5:14). (June, 1981)

 

Taken from Roots of Reconstruction, p. 106.

 

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God versus Socialism: The planks we walk to our doom

Dec 16, 2015 by Dr. Joel McDurmon 40 Comments

While it is helpful to remind ourselves that the technical definition of “Socialism” is quite narrow, and that by that definition we must understand “Socialism” is indeed a dead political and economic philosophy, let’s not be so black-and-white minded that we ignore the obvious. Whether the government technically owns the means of production, or whether the government simply has its finger in every pie, is only a matter of degree. I argue that both are therefore Socialism since they partake of the same principle: theft by government.

Let’s not ignore the obvious: Marx is dead and gone, and yet his manifesto haunts our culture in demonstrable ways.

From God versus Socialism:

People have no idea how much freedom we’ve lost, how far we’ve gone.

It is no stretch to say that America is not what it used to be. Many lovers of our country will readily identify with the sentiment. What needs to be pushed, however, is a reminder about how and in what ways we have changed. The program we have followed and where we have ended up needs commentary.

Not so long ago, Christians and conservatives in this country defined themselves politically by opposing the great threat of Communism. We hear hardly anything of this today. The idea that Communism was a real threat not so long ago, yet is almost forgotten today, presents a classic example of the American public’s short memory. Mention Marxism in a conversation today and you will almost definitely be hearing crickets in a short time. No one cares: it’s history. The wall fell, we won, move on.

Yes, the Berlin Wall fell, but it fell in our direction. No one talks about this. The Soviet Union fell, but Marxism and Socialism have long flooded all of Western and Eastern Civilization. America is no exception. Marxism is history, yes, and yet the influences of Marxism and various ideas of socialism have never been more dangerous than now, when it stands ready to expand further into every office of government, and when we are yet asleep to it.

So let me briefly state my problems with America as it has come to be. First, we pride ourselves on free-market economics and private ownership of property, but these ideas have been phantoms as long as there has been property tax, which is little more than rent paid to government. If you disbelieve that, then try to go a year or two without paying your property tax, and you will learn who your landlord is. You will be fined, jailed, or “your” property will have a lien filed against it, or it will be confiscated. We don’t own so much as rent from the government. That we have a free-market is likewise ridiculous to defend in the light of recent events. If the Federal Reserve can “print” money at will, and the U. S. Treasury can buy stakes in bank shares, then the market is not free of either State manipulation or intervention.

Second, we have a heavy progressive (or “graduated”) income tax. For the few who may not know, “graduated” means that those who make more money should not only pay more tax based on equal percentage of tax, but should also bear the added burden of an increased percentage. Greater wealth is disproportionately taxed, which penalizes and discourages financial success. The graduated system is unfair, arbitrary, and unbiblical. The United States instituted the graduated income tax by the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913. It has been increased—again disproportionately—many times since.

Third, we have strong anti-family laws, including inheritance tax. In other words, when you die and leave wealth to your children or other designees, the government grabs anywhere from 18–55% of the amount for itself. This is a denial of the sacredness of the family as a unit, and the rights of families to determine the use of their own wealth. It is also a double tax on property, and a blatant attempt to again penalize wealth. It diminishes successful families’ strength in that it detracts from parents’ ability to advance their children’s future. Thus, it is an attack on the traditional family structure and leadership in society in general.

Fourth, following almost immediately on America’s 1913 imposition of income tax, was America’s less obvious 1913 Inflation Tax, which came in the form of the Federal Reserve. America’s first central bank was proposed by Alexander Hamilton and created in 1791. It was closed twenty years later and continued off and on due to mass opposition until the covert form emerged into law in 1913. . . . With recent events, the fall of many banks has left primarily only a few big banks standing. This “crisis” and the mindless and immoral actions of Congress to go along with the various “bailouts” have pushed our central bank closer to an exclusive monopoly.

Fifth, we have many, massive, subsidized government programs. These are all transfers of wealth based on factors other than the market. There are too many to name here, but farm subsidies come to mind: farmers are paid in various ways in order to manipulate crop prices across the board. Ethanol alone has been subsidized to the tune of $10 billion. This diverts corn from other markets into an otherwise market-doomed purpose (ethanol would never brew in a free market); not only does the public get hit with the $10B, it also suffers a rise in the price of meat and other products that require otherwise market-rate corn. These billions are a miniscule part of the overall government subsidy equation, which from 1995–2010 equals about $262 billion.1

Sixth, and finally for now, we have compulsory public education regulated at federal, state, and local levels. “Compulsory,” because even if we home school or privately school our children, we are still compelled to pay taxes for public schooling. “Public,” because the taxes are used to fund government-run schools. This tax-funded schooling is presented as free, of course, but it is only free to those who don’t pay property taxes. Our government spends about $700 billion per year on public education, just for primary and secondary levels. The State determines whether, when, and what you will teach your kids. If people want to participate in this system, that is fine with me, but do not compel me to pay for it. This is a robbery of freedom. Also, when schools function legally as “in place of the parents,” the State has again usurped the role of the family.

Why the Concern?

The concern over these particular aspects of modern America—and believe me there are many others—is that they are all innovations imposed upon America in direct contrast to the original American way of life. More to the point is the historical source of these points of discussion:

I have lifted them all from the Communist Manifesto of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

The reason these points are un-American and anti-biblical is that their source was anti-American and anti-Christian in principle.

What I have described above cover roughly seven of the ten “planks” of the Communist Manifesto. I could probably work to show others, but have neither the time nor necessity. The relevant points are these (1, 2, 3, 5, 7/9, 10):

(1) Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

(2) A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

(3) Abolition of all right of inheritance.

(5) Centralization of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.

(7) Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state . . .

(9) Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries . . .

(10) Free education for all children in public schools.

The historical connections are clear, too. For example, the springs of the graduated income tax in America flow directly from Marxism. The connection is direct and unmistakable. The first group in American history to advocate the graduated income tax was the Socialist Labor Party, a dedicated collection of Marxists founded originally as the “Workingman’s Party of America” in the People’s Republic of New Jersey in 1876. Their 1887 platform unashamedly declared “we strive for the acquisition of political power.”2 Among their many “Social Demands” is “Progressive income tax and tax on inheritances; but smaller incomes to be exempt.”

The short-lived Populist Party followed in 1892. Their platform decried “a vast conspiracy against mankind” to demonetize silver and monopolize gold in the hands of a few, among other things. The document contains classic Marxist verbiage, accusing “bondholders” of wanting to “decrease the value of . . . human labor,” and to “fatten usurers, bankrupt enterprise, and enslave industry.”3  The party died out quickly but had a lasting impact, much of its platform being picked up by the Democratic Party the following election year.

It was then in 1896 that William Jennings Bryan gave that most famous political speech in American history: the “Cross of Gold” speech. Bryan adapted ideas of the former Marxist groups to please American ears and persuade American hearts. Already two years prior he had argued in favor of the income tax, and was now calling it “a just law” and further pushing for the inflation of the money supply. The success of his speech derives from his successful weaving of Marxism and Christian language. Lines like “[tarrif] protection has slain its thousands the gold standard has slain its tens of thousands,” echoed to the religious mind unreligiously bent on envy of other people’s wealth. He called his crusade a “righteous cause” and “holy.” It was brilliant political propaganda. Unequally yoking Marx and Christ (2 Cor. 6:14–18), Bryan argued that the gold standard would be a crucifixion of the “producing masses” and the “toiling masses.” The famous concluding lines leveraged the suffering of Christ for the Marxist agenda: “you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” Christians by millions bought into the rhetoric. Tens of millions still do.

And lest we forget the fundamentally anti-religious nature of this plank of Socialism in the country, the Socialist Party platform of 1887 demanded “Separation of all public affairs from religion; church property to be subject to taxation” (note the irony here: the church cannot get involved in public affairs, but the public treasury should benefit from the church’s property). What the Socialist Party could not accomplish with its explicitly anti-church platform, Bryan and his Democrats accomplished by appropriating biblical language to say the same thing.

Likewise, the socialization of education stems directly from the work of early socialists in America. The “Father of the Common Schools” was Massachusetts lawyer and politician Horace Mann (1796–1858). He predates Marx, and thus is not dependent on him, nor was Mann an atheist like Marx, but an enthusiastic churchgoer. His theology, however, was suspect, as he embraced Unitarianism in its early days when it was mission-minded—presenting itself as the culmination of Protestantism and ready to lead the direction of the natural order. Mann rejected orthodox Calvinism and believed strongly in the “perfectibility of man.”4 This naturalistic belief was, however, couched in religious language: public education would eliminate ignorance, poverty, and crime. In his system, the State replaced both the church and the family: “Society, in its collective capacity, is a real, not a nominal sponsor and god-father for all its children” (classic political salvation).5  Rushdoony summarizes, “Mann’s work was two-fold, first to secularize education, and, second, to make it the province of the state rather than the community and the parents.”6 The story of the socialization of education, then, is the product of unbiblical theology. It results in an unbiblical view of education and society that abolishes the role of church and family.

Fall and Recovery

Why do I rehearse these aspects of American history specifically, and why should they bother you so much? Simple. These changes in the American system directly reflect the famous Ten Planks of the Communist Manifesto. We have witnessed a gradual progression into a Marxist America, all the while boasting ourselves champions of freedom. Well, the “land of the free, and the home of the brave” has become, in fact, the “land of the Fed, and the home of the slave.” We no longer live in the America that fought for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but in the America which will fight tooth and nail for government funding and special-interest politics. America today is more Marxist than anything, and a large portion of the voting public wishes to make it even more so.

I say these things realizing that many will pelt me with tomatoes and bricks, call me un-American, an America-hater, and most definitely unpatriotic. But here’s the catch: it is only because I absolutely love and adore the America of the Pilgrims, the Declaration, the Bill of Rights, the Founding Fathers, etc., that I point out how much we have lost. This is not the same country. It has been flooded with socialism. Envy, greed, and subsequent lust for political power have raped lady liberty, ravaged our land, and stolen the inheritance of the American Dream. It is not patriotism to keep saying “America, America,” when the America of our fathers is all but gone. It is ridiculous to sing “America the Beautiful” when socialists and statists have marred the cheeks of her once-free and optimistic smile. The America that remains is but a shell filled with Prussian and European-style Socialism, wrapped in red, white, and blue. This is not true patriotism.

No, the true patriot loves freedom, family, and property. The word “patriot” literally means “of the fathers.” A true patriot, therefore, conserves the good his fathers built and passed down. He loves vast horizons untaxed by cold marble institutions in distant Capitols, unfettered by radicals in black robes. A true patriot loves the land, and his Father is God not “the State,” and not “the People”; his land is protected by law, respect for law, and as a last resort, the right to defend, not progressively taxed away by politicians wanting to “spread the wealth around,” neither rented from the State as a privilege to live under its almighty watch.

Is there a way to stop, even reverse the godless trend of the past 150 years? As pessimistic as this all may sound, change is possible. It begins with mentally and spiritually reclaiming our founding principles of individual freedom and enterprise. We must make up our own minds and hearts that these principles are worth defending. And unlike those spineless Congresspersons who, after voting “no” on the bailout, sickeningly caved and voted “yes” after some of the loot was thrown to their pet projects and districts. We must never compromise our principles.

Once we secure these convictions, we must pass them to the next generation. This means maintaining a strong biblical view of the family and of education. Education should be compulsory (in the sense that Deuteronomy and Ephesians command us to educate our children), but this is compulsory before God and not the civil State; and education should be costly (in personal time, money, and effort), but no one should ever be forced to pay for someone else’s education. This seemingly simple tax for public education violates nearly every sacred boundary known to man, especially when the content of that education begins and ends with blasphemy. Unless we recover education as a distinctly family- and church-oriented mandate, we will continue to watch society slide into secularism.

Further steps include continual effort to secure public debates and discussion in churches and public forums. Debates should center on America’s Christian history and the necessity of Christianity as the foundation of social order. Marx consciously erased this foundation, claiming it was but an abstraction of the real problems of mankind. He said that any objections to his system from a religious standpoint “are not deserving of a serious examination.”7 But he was too self-consciously opposed to Christianity for his dismissal to carry any truth. Christian freedom, God-given rights, and law-protected family and property all posed the ultimate threat to his man-centered takeover of the world (and thus of other men). His program of abolishing property, abolishing the traditional family, socializing education, and socializing sex were all contrived precisely as anti-biblical ideas. It was the institution of his system that Marx saw, not as the product of, but as the means to abolishing religion itself.8 He saw his program as the economic and social counterpart to Darwin’s work in nature: an explanation of social order that does not require God.

Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of Marx’s success was the fact the he only succeeded because Christians refused to get involved to begin with. Marx always kept this in mind and exploited it. Reporting on the socialist Hague Congress of 1872, Marx made this unfortunately true remark:

One day the worker will have to seize political supremacy to establish the new organization of labor; he will have to overthrow the old policy which supports the old institutions if he wants to escape the fate of the early Christians who, neglecting and despising politics, never saw their kingdom on earth.9

This “neglecting and despising” of politics by Christians has continued in modern American history, and America has since followed the anti-Christian program of Marx and abandoned that of the Bible. This blind following has included many Christians. The reversal of this trend will require bringing these issues into the open as worldview issues. The church must allow and encourage political and economic discussion, and the public must be made to know that we have the answers. The transformation will not happen overnight, but it can happen.

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1.   This number has been updated from the figures available for the book in 2009. [↩]

2.   “The Socialist Labor Party of North America Platform,” 1887; http://www.slp.org/pdf/platforms/plat1887.pdf, accessed October 16, 2008. [↩]

3.   “National People’s Party Platform”; http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5361, accessed October 16, 2008. [↩]

4.   Quoted in R. J. Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of American Education: Studies in the History of the Philosophy of Education (Philipsburg, NJ: Prebyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1963), 19. [↩]

5.   Quoted in R. J. Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of American Education, 24. [↩]

6.   R. J. Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of American Education, 27. [↩]

7.   Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “Manifesto of the Communist Party,” Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy, ed. Lewis S. Feuer (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1959), 26. [↩]

8.   Karl Marx, “Capital, Book I,” Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels On Religion (New York: Schocken Books, 1964), 136. [↩]

9.   Karl Marx, “On the Hague Congress,” Karl Marx, Frederick Engels: Collected Works, 50 vol. (New York: International Publishers, 1988), 23:255. [↩]

 Source: AmericanVision.org


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