For Marxian humanism, man does not yet exist. Man is alienated by the society he lives in. He does not yet know what he will be when he becomes himself. But alienated man must be wiped out, and then man as he really ought to be will come into existence.

It is both dangerous and easy to hate man as he is because he is not “what he ought to be.” If we do not first respect what he is we will never suffer him to become what he ought to be: in our impatience we will do away with him altogether. Strange that Marx at first toyed with an idea of what man is and then rejected it, confessing the sin of “idealism”: he had wasted time thinking about an “essence.” For Communism, this is the great philosophical sin.

But if you deny man his essence, you refuse him at the same time the respect that is due to his existence. It is of little avail to deify man if at the same time you do not allow that he is real: if at the same time he remains simply a fluid nonentity, the shadow of the situations into which he is maneuvered by history. What matter if he takes charge of history if history, after all, really determines him anyway? If, in the end, he is only the reflection of his own work?

The great question, then, is the ambivalence of Marxian humanism.

Let us walk along here, says my shadow, and compose a number of sentences, each one of which begins: “You think you are a monk, but…”

Thomas Merton, Confessions of a Guilty Bystander