You have asked me to convey my opinion about the Cleveland Message. This I wish to do, indeed, feel I must do at the behest of conscience, and is what I would have done even without your request. I wish to state the result of my painstaking examination before any further comment: I am utterly alarmed at this message. The ground for my reaction is explained in the following pages.

I shall begin with the most important postulate of the Cleveland Message, and which is also discussed at greatest length therein, namely, the demand that Red China be received into the United Nations. The Cleveland Message is right insofar as it affirms that the U.N.O., the nucleus of a future international order which is to replace the present international anarchy, must be given our complete support. That it is an anomaly for the most populous nation on earth not to be represented therein is something to which many are acutely sensitive even on our side, and the wish to correct this anomaly through the admission of Red China to the U.N.O. is therefore very understandable and quite debatable. But we must not overlook the fact that such a change in the U.N.O. probably would result in its losing what prestige still remains to it, as well as the complete loss of its capability to accomplish even a part of that for which it was founded. Yet I do not wish to address myself to this challenge in itself, but rather to place it in the context of the total complex from which perspective this and other questions must be considered.

The world today stands over against two terrifying dangers: that of total nuclear war and that of world bolshevism. The Cleveland Message speaks of the first of these in well-chosen and persuasive words. Total nuclear war means nothing less than the total obliteration of the greater part of mankind. That which the Cleveland Message has to say in this regard receives my committed agreement. We cannot even conceive any real idea of the horror of such a total war. It actually surpasses one’s conceptual powers. No individual can imagine what conditions, what destruction of human life and material goods such a war would bring with it.

It is probable that the greatest part of the earth presently occupied would scarcely be habitable in the wake of nuclear war, and that the few still living would face a future burdened with a horrible mortgage of sickness and a heavily-damaged progeny. Who would want to say a word vindicating such a war?


However, the Cleveland Message is virtually silent about the second danger, and this is ground for the sharpest counterargument. The Western world must also hear from the Church concerning why such tremendous efforts are expended for military preparedness and why its governments so determinedly promote such preparedness. This can only be the case in a situation of alarming danger making such preparedness a necessity. The Church must tell the world what she for the most part does not know, namely, what bolshevism in its aim for world domination is actually like.

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Any judgment about this danger actually has nothing to do with separating “evil” peoples from the “good,” as the Cleveland Message expresses it. For bolshevism has not come to power anywhere in the world through a movement of the people, but since its beginning in Russia it has been imposed upon large masses of people against their will by a small minority.

It is undoubtedly necessary to evaluate the original motive of the Communist revolution in its positive signification. The power of this movement can only be explained if we understand it as a rebellion against the social injustice in the world, particularly as to the manifestation of the extreme wealth of the few on the one hand and the poverty (beyond the comprehension of Western man) of great masses of people on the other. Communism originally wished to create justice and a humanly significant existence for all. But a system has been made out of this praiseworthy motive which has exchanged its ideals for the most extreme antithesis. This system we call bolshevism. So-called communism is not a political or an economical system comparable to others but a system which wishes to conform the whole man. The totality of human life on earth is its ideology, and it is in a position to accomplish its aim through centralized, highly organized and fearful power. In the power realm of this totalitarian communism, there is no possibility of withdrawing from this process of systematically-compelled molding or even to undertake anything against it. Wherever this power once is established, it becomes the definitive tribulation of the ensnared people. In earlier times there was a possibility to revolt against a tyrannical system. But under the totalitarian Communist dictatorship, subsequent to the establishment of the perfect power organization, with its all-knowing secret police service and the universally-present coercive powers, no such possibility exists. This is the new element in the total state—and the communistic is merely the most highly developed and thoroughly designed total state. Every other form of totalitarianism, for example, that of Hitler, is by comparison with the communistic, pure dilettantism.

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Bolshevism is above all a refined mechanism designed to shape man in its own image. It alone possesses the schools, it has an absolute monopoly over the press, the theaters, the cinema, radio, and television. One of its most effective methods is the withholding of knowledge of what other peoples think and the kind of life they live from the peoples over whom they have control. This is achieved by means of the “Iron Curtain,” for example, through employment of the dictatorially-controlled press to mislead the enslaved people. The Communist state rears every person from kindergarten to university according to its program, which is thought out to the minutest detail. Moreover, this educative process is distinguishable from ours in that through its instruction and training it so shapes the ensnared persons that they, subsequent to the completed process of this “education,” are really no longer able to think otherwise, nor do they wish to do anything other than that which this power wishes. Not only is all criticism of the system forbidden—and this prohibition is actualized through gruesome punishment—but the brainwashing is so psychologically determined that the individual actually thinks and wills to do that which the system thinks and wills. Any other thinking and willing is eliminated.

We have heard all kinds of things about the relaxation of the thought-control terror. But this is merely an illusion, for communism will only allow as much opposition as will not strike at its heart. When the latter becomes apparent, however, its suppression is fundamentally gruesome and without scruple. Inasmuch as there are in Russia today few persons who internally oppose the system, this is but a sign of the tact that the process of dehumanization has seen considerable progress. This education process has not yet been so fruitful in the satellite states, firstly, because the internal opposition was stronger than in Russia (which never has known anything but a despotic order), and secondly, because the isolation from the rest of the world via the Iron Curtain was not so easily accomplished. But so much more brutal was the implementation of the power arm when the freedom movements became apparent, as in the case of the East German workers’ class, and in Poland and Hungary!

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The system of Communist totalitarianism is saturated with the idea that the whole world is to become Communist and with the will to assist this inevitable process through the power of the Kremlin. Communistic totalitarianism has had the fixed plan, since the time of Lenin, to subjugate completely the world under its system, without war if possible—through the excitation of internal unrest, and through the formation of Communist parties whereby it can intervene as the power which comes to the help of the “freedom-fighters,” as it did with great success in China; as it has attempted recently in Lebanon (though it did not prevail, thanks to the alertness of the American foreign policy); as it now is trying to do in Iraq; or, if there is no other way and no favorable prospect, through conquest, as it actually did in Hungary and Poland and even earlier in the Baltic States; as it attempted in Korea in 1950 and as it recently has done with success in Tibet. How systematic and cunning is their work could be elucidated by various statesmen (cf. M. de Gaulle in this regard, about the Indians mustered in Paris in order to be planted in Algeria as freedom fighters).


Some years ago, a “time-table” of an influential Communist leader was disclosed in which we read: “1960, all Asia communistic; 1964 all Europe; 1978, all America and thereby the whole world.” This is fundamentally not a new idea, but the old statement of Lenin: the road to Paris is through Asia. This plan does not necessarily imply war; but if the Western people (the “capitalists and imperialists”) are not wise and determined, the Kremlin in alliance with Peking can achieve these goals, step by step, virtually unnoticed. Its tactic is not the stupid “all or nothing” but the shrewd “always a bit forward towards the inevitable goal of Communist world dominion.” Pressure concentrated upon this objective is as constant as that of an expanding glacier, but the separate steps can be modified depending upon the solidity of the defensive measures which they may meet.

We Quote:

TOTALITARIAN READING: “Today our American way of life is challenged from abroad … not in serried ranks of marching feet but in books. The devotees of totalitarian government are prolific writers.… We should be afraid that communist material and socialist propaganda is not matched, answered and exposed. If it isn’t, our way of life here in the wonderland of the world will go by default, through a series of persistent half-truths and outright lies.… Those who would corrupt our youth have presumed on the natural tolerance of Americans. They have hidden their vicious wares under the cloak of an academic freedom designed for mature adults. The result has been that materials derogatory of our American history and achievements and laudatory of totalitarian government have found their way into schools for our youth.… It is the responsibility of our school board members to take care that all of our school materials will help our teachers to build strong-willed young people, clean in mind and body.…”—State Senator NELSON S. DILWORTH of California, in an address to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco.

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Bolshevism has achieved a great deal. In 1939, 17 per cent of the total surface of the earth was under Communist control, which meant about nine per cent of the total world population and 10 per cent of the industrial potential. Today the same figures are: 20 per cent of the total surface, 35 per cent of the world population, 33 per cent of the industrial potential. And this immense advance of the slave system took place in a period of 18 years! It would have been even more stupendous but for the alertness of American foreign policy and the preparedness of the Western world.

But what is meant by bolshevist world domination? The picture drawn by most of even the well-informed is far too optimistic—for two reasons. First, the Communist system, after its victory, could drop all restraint, which it must still utilize as it still must consider world opinion. How unrestrained it can be has been impressed upon us by the brutal suppression of the Hungarian revolt. Second, not until total communism is victorious will its true character be manifest: atheism is its basis, moral nihilism the result, the total robotization of mankind is the inevitable consequence. One hears it asserted again and again that the issue of godlessness is not so serious: witness the fact that Russia still has churches and even theological seminaries. But suppose we consider the lot of the churches under a victorious bolshevist system. There would be no chuches or Bibles any more except for those that a few of the courageously faithful, at risk of life, would have in hiding. To what end victorious bolshevism presses can be seen in the people’s communes in Red China. The Chinese family, the greatest social force of world history, is in a very brief period being demolished and the individual is being made a work horse in the ant kingdom.

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Communism is the system of consequent inhumanity, which it must be as the system of programmatic atheism.


If one asserts to the contrary that communism has also accomplished much good, it must be conceded good in the sense of industrialization, in the raising of living standards, in the freely accessible and gratuitous (Communist) education, in technical performance—but all of this is nothing in comparison with the death of the soul of man. The free development of the soul, a free faith and hope, free action according to conscience—these can never be conceded, for they would attack the system at the roots and destroy it. If people are satisfied with being well-fed work horses, they may then permit the bolshevist danger to overtake them. But so long as they still have freedom of thought and faith, so long as they consider love and humanity more worthy than technically sophisticated apparatus, so long will they fear communism and detest it as the greatest delivery that has yet made its appearance on the scene of human history. It is, in a word, an anti-godly, anti-Christian system.

It should therefore have been the first duty of a National Council to explain the nature of this devil to all Christians and to strengthen the will of them to say: to this system, I and above all my children and grandchildren will not be subjugated. Their divine destiny is at stake. We have here to do with all that which in actuality concerns our faith: that man finds God in His Word and that he loves his neighbor inasmuch as God has first loved us. Of all this there is not a word in the Cleveland Message. But all sorts of wishful thinking is strengthened among the people, namely, that things are not really so bad with communism; surely the good in it will come to the fore; it is definitely not so belligerently-oriented, and so forth. The Cleveland Message has neglected the fact that communism is a devilish system which can allow no correction of itself without mortal danger to itself. It is therefore a system which cannot permit any constitutive improvement at any point of importance. To the contrary, the system has perfected itself, both in the sense of self-perpetuation and in that of the systematic seizure of all that will serve it, yet without harm to itself. Thus it has made no backward step in its plans for world dominion and the realization thereof.


Once these two terrible dangers have been set over against each other, the question must be put as to which of the two is the greater—the unleashing of a nuclear war by accident (for an intentional initiation is as good as excluded), or the danger of world bolshevism? Before the question is answered, we must first establish the fact that it was singularly the nuclear preparedness of the West that has hindered the advance of bolshevism since 1945. We are thankful for this preparedness, for that alone has kept us out of the bolshevist soul-murdering machinery.

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The will for the extension of the Communist rule has always been before us and has been recognizable. But its pursuance of the rapid expansion of its rulership, as had been the case with its crushing of China and its conquest of East Europe, was hindered through the nuclear arming of America and by the founding of NATO. What would be the result of a weakening of the Western front through, say, a progressive Atom Death campaign? That this came out of Moscow, was planned by the Kremlin, was already announced by Manuilsky in 1931 at the Congress of the Comintern: “We will begin by stirring up the most theatrical peace movement that has as yet existed. Electrifying proposals and extraordinary concessions will be made on our side. The capitalistic lands, stupid and decadent as they are, will be so inspired as to assist in their own downfall. They will fall into the trap of the proferred opportunity of a new ‘friendship.’ And as soon as they are deprived of their defensive protection, we will smash them with our clenched first.” Now it is the churches of America who are misleading the American people “to fall into the trap” inasmuch as they depict the terror of atom war but not that of the dominion of communism. German church leaders have acted similarly on earlier occasions under the slogan “Against Atom-Death.” But they do not know that they are thereby promoting the causes of the Kremlin.


But is not the alternative the factual irruption of the most fearful catastrophe, total nuclear war? A distinction must be made at this point. The expansion of bolshevist control consequent to the abrogation of the preparedness of the West is an absolute certainty, the irruption of nuclear war consequent to accident is pure possibility. Thus we say what we must next elect: to remain firm in our defensive posture. That we therewith hope for a less dangerous resolution than the pursuance of military preparedness is dear to every Christian. Perhaps personal visits to Russia and China may help a little. Perhaps a change of position by the Russian people will still come to pass. That the satellite peoples still shared in complete opposition to the Communist regime is a matter of record as we saw in East Germany in 1953, Hungary in 1956, and Poland of which we know through the inner events which occurred in the Hungarian struggle for freedom. The most important thing is the unqualified determination to stand firm in the military preparedness of the West while refusing to fall prey to the contemporary noises of peace from Moscow. This is the one thing that will impress the lords of the Kremlin. What Khrushchev and Mikoyan desire with their paraded bonhomie is nothing other than the anesthesia and paralysis of the alertness of the West and its most probable disunifications. Our only chance to surmount this terrible danger over mankind is through our clarity of vision, firmness of will, and unity. The Cleveland Message says nothing about all three points. That is why it is a calamity (Unglück) that can only be partially improved by prompt exposure of its weaknesses and through powerful counterpropaganda by the church.

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Pacifism has already played an ominous role several times in recent history. While it sweetens the thoughts of the opponent so that military preparedness and the defensive will no longer exist, it makes the pacifist co-originator of war against his will in that it inspires the attacker to unleash a war. I hold this to be eminently plausible in regard to bolshevism. The weakening of the defensive power of the West is therefore a direct support of the expansion of bolshevist rulership.

We have to do with a fearfully dangerous, powerful and shrewd antagonist. Every concession immediately benefits the power growth of world communism. That is why the Christian must hold fast with all those who have come to know the diabolical character of bolshevism, in order to guard mankind from this greatest of social evils: from this soul-destroying system of fundamental inhumanity. The slogan of the Christian must be: in love and faith, firm in opposition.

We Quote:

CHRISTIANITY AND COMMUNISM: “The growing anti-Communist sentiment, the co-operation on the part of Christians in the anti-Communist crusade, in the cultivation of what we call the cold war is shocking.… The atmosphere of anticommunism has confused human hearts, blinded human eyes, and prevented our ecumenical fellowship from seeing the real issues.…”—J. L. HROMADKA, Dean of Comenius Faculty of Protestant Theology, University of Prague, Czechoslovakia, and a President of the World Council of Churches, in “The Crisis of Ecumenical Fellowship,” reprinted by permission from Communio Viatorum in Christian Advocate, January 7, 1960.

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Jacob J. Vellenga served on the National Board of Administration of the United Presbyterian Church from 1948–54. Since 1958 he has served the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. as Associate Executive. He holds the A.B. degree from Monmouth College, the B.D. from Pittsburgh-Xenia Seminary, Th.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and D.D. from Monmouth College, Illinois.

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