Backsliders, Opportunists, and Renegades: A Contribution to a Pauline Marxist Theory of Sin (2021)
What is sin for a Marxist? It is inapplicable, irrelevant, null and void. Or so it would seem if we are correct to attribute to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels a critical theory and practice of proletarian self-emancipation whose hallmarks were Promethean defiance of gods, rulers, and paternalistic do-gooders. For example, in 1847 the young Marx ridiculed the notion of “social principles of Christianity” that were presumably superior to communist principles and would somehow obviate the need for self-emancipation through philanthropic gestures of goodwill: “The social principles of Christianity declare all vile acts of oppressors against the oppressed to be either just punishment for original sin and other sins [der Erbsünde und sonstigen Sünden], or trials that the Lord in his infinite wisdom imposes on the redeemed.” In other words, as Marx writes earlier in the same text, “the proletariat … expects help from nobody but itself.” Hal Draper even ironically identified what he called the “sin of charity” as a way to disparage the fantasy of emancipation bestowed from above instead of demanded from below.