The ‘pure Marxism’ of Pope Francis and Edmund Burke

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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The press has seized on Rush Limbaugh’s assertion that Pope Francis’ recent exhortation amounts to “pure Marxism.” (Somehow, the media managed to ignore the fact that, before Limbaugh uttered those words, others — such as Ed Morrissey and yours truly — reached vastly different conclusions.)

To be sure, we’re not in the same league as El Rushbo, which is why I cited luminaries ranging from Daniel Bell to Francis Schaeffer to buttress my argument. But as is almost always the case, one inadvertently stumbles upon the best evidence only after hitting the “publish” button.

In this instance, I was preparing for my interview with Yuval Levin to discuss his new book, The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and The Birth of Right and Left (stay tuned for the podcast), when I was reminded a quote, in which Burke predicts that France

“will be wholly governed by the agitators in corporations, by societies in the towns, formed of directors in assignats, and trustees for the sale of Church lands, attorneys, agents, money-jobbers, speculators, and adventurers, composing an ignoble oligarchy, founded on the destruction of the crown, the Church, the nobility, and the people. Here end all the deceitful dreams and visions of the equality and rights of men.”

Agitators in corporations? Money-jobbers? Oligarchy? That’s Commie talk!

(You see the irony. Burke was warning about a form of radicalism which actually did lead to the Russian Revolution in 1917.)

In Das Kapital, Karl Marx would dismiss Burke as an “out-and-out vulgar bourgeois.” But I suppose — taken out of context, at least — Burke’s aforementioned quote might also have warranted labeling the father of modern conservatism a purveyor of “pure Marxism.”