Wednesday, July 25, 2018


July 25, 2018





MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey



What is CULTURAL MARXISM? 
Why is It Important to Understand What it Means for Us?



Friends,

Since I began this MY CORNER series, and before that in my CONSERVATIVE CRACK-UP columns, I have employed the term “cultural Marxism” as a moniker, a descriptive term, collectively to indicate basically a wide-ranging, multi-level assault on Western Christian and traditional culture. In that usage my intended meaning was very similar to  and paralleled the meaning that author and friend Patrick Buchanan has explored in several books and graphically painted twenty-six years ago in his famous speech at the Republican National Convention, August 17, 1992   [see: https://web.archive.org/web/20141005032823/http://buchanan.org/blog/1992-republican-national-convention-speech-148]  

In that speech he described a momentous conflict that was “about who we are. It is about what we believe. It is about what we stand for as Americans. There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.”

At the time, that speech was roundly criticized as “extreme” and “inflammatory” for its imagery of a dawning sharp cultural and religious divide that would, if left unchecked and unaddressed, destroy the nation and transform it into something unrecognizable to even our immediate ancestors.

Pat’s clarion call—his warning about what was occurring in Western society and to our culture—found resonance and immense erudition in a significant trilogy by international scholar, Paul Gottfried, in three titles that continue to be fundamental if we are to truly understand what has happened to our country and Western Europe in recent decades. Beginning with his volume, After Liberalism: Mass Democracy in the Managerial State (2001), followed by Multicuralism and the Politics of Guilt: Towards a Secular Theocracy (2002), and finally, The Strange Death of Marxism: The European Left in the New Millenium (2005), and continuing with dozens of essays, Gottfried has deepened and provided important context to the culture wars in which we find ourselves.

Those “culture wars” we witness occurring in our (and Western European) society are not just restricted to debate about political issues, although political change and its advocacy are important by-products, but rather are a complex manifestation of theories and ideas advanced that would, in effect, completely transform what we have known as Western civilization. Although inspired to some degree by traditional Marxist theory, “cultural Marxism” differs from what customarily was once identified as “Marxism” or Communism, especially in how it looks at the economy, its emphasis on radical institutional change, and its usage of narratives on race and gender as socially and culturally transformative.

In a recent essay (“The Death of Marxism Revisited,” The American Thinker, February 9, 2017, http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2017/02/the_death_of_marxism_revisited.html#ixzz4YCfQIGXF, and copied at the end of this column), Professor Gottfried offers a precise but comprehensive description of what we are talking about:

…the present Left is not Marxist, but post-Marxist. Unlike traditional Marxists and European democratic socialists, the type of Left that has gained ground since and even before the fall of the Soviet Empire is culturally radical but only secondarily interested in economic change. Our present Left makes its peace with private enterprise and even large corporations, providing it can impose its idea of social and cultural transformation on increasingly powerless citizens and their increasingly indoctrinated children. Not that this Left is particularly friendly to anything that is private, including economic transactions. But it treats the economy as something that it can influence without having to nationalize, thereby avoiding those disastrous policies that socialist governments of the past tried to enact. Our own master class has sensibly concluded that it’s better to allow market forces to operate while making sure that public administration can dip, when it advances a pretext, into the profits. Further, the master class endlessly bullies the public into going along with increasingly complicated behavioral guidelines, supposedly intended to fight “discrimination.” It is the culture and only instrumentally the government that the post-Marxist Left seeks to dominate; and the type of administrative state that has expanded explosively in every Western country since the 1960s is an effective instrument by which social engineers and sensitivity commissars can do their work. [Italics added]


This summation contains all the elements of a definition…and is an excellent invitation to investigate further Gottfried’s very important  and detailed studies if we are to fully comprehend what has happened—and what is happening—to our culture.

On several occasions in my columns I have mentioned Marxist theoreticians Italian Antonio Gramsci and Hungarian Georg Lukacs, both of whom wrote critically of the successes and failures of world Communist revolution immediately prior to and after World War I. Uniting the workers of the world in highly industrialized countries like Germany, Communism was supposed to have overthrown the old capitalist order. But that was not what happened. Instead, on the outbreak of war workers rallied to their own national governments, patriotically, and even religiously. And after the war, with the triumph of Communism in Russia (often opposed strongly by the Russian peasantry), Communist revolutions failed in every other European state (e.g., Hungary, Germany, etc.). “War Communism” was stopped cold in the famous “Battle of the Vistula” (August 1920) by valiant forces of a newly independent and Christian Poland, and Europe was saved from military conquest by Trotsky’s legions.

What had happened? Why had it failed, and what could be done to make it palatable and insure its future success in “the West”? These were questions that Gramsci and Lukacs addressed. And, historically, these questions are extremely important for us to examine as well, and not just for the bold ideas that those ideologues offered, but for the eventual permutations and transformation of orthodox Marxist thought that emerged in the decades that followed.

And they also assist us to explain why in 2018 we can state with certitude that post-Soviet Russia, with its dramatic return since August 1991 to its pre-Communist traditions, religious belief, and “blood-and-soil” patriotism, is, ironically, in many ways less “Marxist” today than the United States. Pat Buchanan, a few years back, raised the same point, by declaring: “On whose side is God now on?” not to say that there aren’t millions of God-fearing traditionalists who hang on (precariously) to the heritage and beliefs that once dominated in the American nation, but that formally, led by both political parties and abetted by both the Left AND much of the established “conservative movement,” America has gradually accepted the template of cultural Marxism in nearly every sphere of American life, while Russia seems intent on rejecting its Soviet Communist past.

Recently, long time Old Right conservative theorist and writer, William S. Lind, authored a piece for the Lew Rockwell web site. Lind has been associated with the late Paul Weyrich and the Free Congress Foundation for years, and his observations on cultural Marxism and its history are a succinct and very accessible summary of the history and development of that ideology and what it means for us. Certainly, additional points could be added or discussed, but Lind’s essay is still quite useful.

I pass it on, followed by Paul Gottfried’s important essay updating his volume, The Strange Death of Marxism.  I urge you strongly to read—and save—both of them.

===============================================================

Who Stole Our Culture?



By William S. Lind    July 19, 2018



Sometime during the last half-century, someone stole our culture. Just 50 years ago, in the 1950s, America was a great place. It was safe. It was decent. Children got good educations in the public schools. Even blue-collar fathers brought home middle-class incomes, so moms could stay home with the kids. Television shows reflected sound, traditional values.

Where did it all go? How did that America become the sleazy, decadent place we live in today – so different that those who grew up prior to the ’60s feel like it’s a foreign country? Did it just “happen”?

It didn’t just “happen.” In fact, a deliberate agenda was followed to steal our culture and leave a new and very different one in its place. The story of how and why is one of the most important parts of our nation’s history – and it is a story almost no one knows. The people behind it wanted it that way.

What happened, in short, is that America’s traditional culture, which had grown up over generations from our Western, Judeo-Christian roots, was swept aside by an ideology. We know that ideology best as “political correctness” or “multi-culturalism.” It really is cultural Marxism, Marxism translated from economic into cultural terms in an effort that goes back not to the 1960s, but to World War I. Incredible as it may seem, just as the old economic Marxism of the Soviet Union has faded away, a new cultural Marxism has become the ruling ideology of America’s elites. The No. 1 goal of that cultural Marxism, since its creation, has been the destruction of Western culture and the Christian religion.

To understand anything, we have to know its history. To understand who stole our culture, we need to take a look at the history of “political correctness.”

Early Marxist theory

Before World War I, Marxist theory said that if Europe ever erupted in war, the working classes in every European country would rise in revolt, overthrow their governments and create a new Communist Europe. But when war broke out in the summer of 1914, that didn’t happen. Instead, the workers in every European country lined up by the millions to fight their country’s enemies. Finally, in 1917, a Communist revolution did occur, in Russia. But attempts to spread that revolution to other countries failed because the workers did not support it.

After World War I ended in 1918, Marxist theorists had to ask themselves the question: What went wrong? As good Marxists, they could not admit Marxist theory had been incorrect. Instead, two leading Marxist intellectuals, Antonio Gramsci in Italy and Georg Lukacs in Hungary (Lukacs was considered the most brilliant Marxist thinker since Marx himself) independently came up with the same answer. They said that Western culture and the Christian religion had so blinded the working class to its true, Marxist class interests, that a Communist revolution was impossible in the West, until both could be destroyed. That objective, established as cultural Marxism’s goal right at the beginning, has never changed.

A new strategy

Gramsci famously laid out a strategy for destroying Christianity and Western culture, one that has proven all too successful. Instead of calling for a Communist revolution up front, as in Russia, he said Marxists in the West should take political power last, after a “long march through the institutions” – the schools, the media, even the churches, every institution that could influence the culture. That “long march through the institutions” is what America has experienced, especially since the 1960s. Fortunately, Mussolini recognized the danger Gramsci posed and jailed him. His influence remained small until the 1960s, when his works, especially the “Prison Notebooks,” were rediscovered.

Georg Lukacs proved more influential. In 1918, he became deputy commissar for culture in the short-lived Bela Kun Bolshevik regime in Hungary. There, asking, “Who will save us from Western civilization?” he instituted what he called “cultural terrorism.” One of its main components was introducing sex education into Hungarian schools. Lukacs realized that if he could destroy the country’s traditional sexual morals, he would have taken a giant step toward destroying its traditional culture and Christian faith.

Far from rallying to Lukacs’ “cultural terrorism,” the Hungarian working class was so outraged by it that when Romania invaded Hungary, the workers would not fight for the Bela Kun government, and it fell. Lukacs disappeared, but not for long. In 1923, he turned up at a “Marxist Study Week” in Germany, a program sponsored by a young Marxist named Felix Weil who had inherited millions. Weil and the others who attended that study week were fascinated by Lukacs’ cultural perspective on Marxism.

The Frankfurt School

Weil responded by using some of his money to set up a new think tank at Frankfurt University in Frankfurt, Germany. Originally it was to be called the “Institute for Marxism.” But the cultural Marxists realized they could be far more effective if they concealed their real nature and objectives. They convinced Weil to give the new institute a neutral-sounding name, the “Institute for Social Research.” Soon known simply as the “Frankfurt School,” the Institute for Social Research would become the place where political correctness, as we now know it, was developed. The basic answer to the question “Who stole our culture?” is the cultural Marxists of the Frankfurt School.

At first, the Institute worked mainly on conventional Marxist issues such as the labor movement. But in 1930, that changed dramatically. That year, the Institute was taken over by a new director, a brilliant young Marxist intellectual named Max Horkheimer. Horkheimer had been strongly influenced by Georg Lukacs. He immediately set to work to turn the Frankfurt School into the place where Lukacs’ pioneering work on cultural Marxism could be developed further into a full-blown ideology.

To that end, he brought some new members into the Frankfurt School. Perhaps the most important was Theodor Adorno, who would become Horkheimer’s most creative collaborator. Other new members included two psychologists, Eric Fromm and Wilhelm Reich, who were noted promoters of feminism and matriarchy, and a young graduate student named Herbert Marcuse.

Advances in cultural Marxism

With the help of this new blood, Horkheimer made three major advances in the development of cultural Marxism. First, he broke with Marx’s view that culture was merely part of society’s “superstructure,” which was determined by economic factors. He said that on the contrary, culture was an independent and very important factor in shaping a society.

Second, again contrary to Marx, he announced that in the future, the working class would not be the agent of revolution. He left open the question of who would play that role – a question Marcuse answered in the 1950s.

Third, Horkheimer and the other Frankfurt School members decided that the key to destroying Western culture was to cross Marx with Freud. They argued that just as workers were oppressed under capitalism, so under Western culture, everyone lived in a constant state of psychological repression. “Liberating” everyone from that repression became one of cultural Marxism’s main goals. Even more important, they realized that psychology offered them a far more powerful tool than philosophy for destroying Western culture: psychological conditioning.

Today, when Hollywood’s cultural Marxists want to “normalize” something like homosexuality (thus “liberating” us from “repression”), they put on television show after television show where the only normal-seeming white male is a homosexual. That is how psychological conditioning works; people absorb the lessons the cultural Marxists want them to learn without even knowing they are being taught.

The Frankfurt School was well on the way to creating political correctness. Then suddenly, fate intervened. In 1933, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power in Germany, where the Frankfurt School was located. Since the Frankfurt School was Marxist, and the Nazis hated Marxism, and since almost all its members were Jewish, it decided to leave Germany. In 1934, the Frankfurt School, including its leading members from Germany, was re-established in New York City with help from Columbia University. Soon, its focus shifted from destroying traditional Western culture in Germany to doing so in the United States. It would prove all too successful.

New developments

Taking advantage of American hospitality, the Frankfurt School soon resumed its intellectual work to create cultural Marxism. To its earlier achievements in Germany, it added these new developments.

Critical Theory

To serve its purpose of “negating” Western culture, the Frankfurt School developed a powerful tool it called “Critical Theory.” What was the theory? The theory was to criticize. By subjecting every traditional institution, starting with family, to endless, unremitting criticism (the Frankfurt School was careful never to define what it was for, only what it was against), it hoped to bring them down. Critical Theory is the basis for the “studies” departments that now inhabit American colleges and universities. Not surprisingly, those departments are the home turf of academic political correctness.

Studies in prejudice

The Frankfurt School sought to define traditional attitudes on every issue as “prejudice” in a series of academic studies that culminated in Adorno’s immensely influential book, “The Authoritarian Personality,” published in 1950. They invented a bogus “F-scale” that purported to tie traditional beliefs on sexual morals, relations between men and women and questions touching on the family to support for fascism. Today, the favorite term the politically correct use for anyone who disagrees with them is “fascist.”

Domination

The Frankfurt School again departed from orthodox Marxism, which argued that all of history was determined by who owned the means of production. Instead, they said history was determined by which groups, defined as men, women, races, religions, etc., had power or “dominance” over other groups. Certain groups, especially white males, were labeled “oppressors,” while other groups were defined as “victims.” Victims were automatically good, oppressors bad, just by what group they came from, regardless of individual behavior.

Though Marxists, the members of the Frankfurt School also drew from Nietzsche (someone else they admired for his defiance of traditional morals was the Marquis de Sade). They incorporated into their cultural Marxism what Nietzsche called the “transvaluation of all values.” What that means, in plain English, is that all the old sins become virtues, and all the old virtues become sins. Homosexuality is a fine and good thing, but anyone who thinks men and women should have different social roles is an evil “fascist.” That is what political correctness now teaches children in public schools all across America. (The Frankfurt School wrote about American public education. It said it did not matter if school children learned any skills or any facts. All that mattered was that they graduate from the schools with the right “attitudes” on certain questions.)

Media and entertainment

Led by Adorno, the Frankfurt School initially opposed the culture industry, which they thought “commodified” culture. Then, they started to listen to Walter Benjamin, a close friend of Horkheimer and Adorno, who argued that cultural Marxism could make powerful use of tools like radio, film and later television to psychologically condition the public. Benjamin’s view prevailed, and Horkheimer and Adorno spent the World War II years in Hollywood. It is no accident that the entertainment industry is now cultural Marxism’s most powerful weapon.

The growth of Marxism in the United States

After World War II and the defeat of the Nazis, Horkheimer, Adorno and most of the other members of the Frankfurt School returned to Germany, where the Institute re-established itself in Frankfurt with the help of the American occupation authorities. Cultural Marxism in time became the unofficial but all-pervasive ideology of the Federal Republic of Germany.

But hell had not forgotten the United States. Herbert Marcuse remained here, and he set about translating the very difficult academic writings of other members of the Frankfurt School into simpler terms Americans could easily grasp. His book “Eros and Civilization” used the Frankfurt School’s crossing of Marx with Freud to argue that if we would only “liberate non-procreative eros” through “polymorphous perversity,” we could create a new paradise where there would be only play and no work. “Eros and Civilization” became one of the main texts of the New Left in the 1960s.

Marcuse also widened the Frankfurt School’s intellectual work. In the early 1930s, Horkheimer had left open the question of who would replace the working class as the agent of Marxist revolution. In the 1950s, Marcuse answered the question, saying it would be a coalition of students, blacks, feminist women and homosexuals – the core of the student rebellion of the 1960s, and the sacred “victims groups” of political correctness today. Marcuse further took one of political correctness’s favorite words, “tolerance,” and gave it a new meaning. He defined “liberating tolerance” as tolerance for all ideas and movements coming from the left, and intolerance for all ideas and movements coming from the right. When you hear the cultural Marxists today call for “tolerance,” they mean Marcuse’s “liberating tolerance” (just as when they call for “diversity,” they mean uniformity of belief in their ideology).



The student rebellion of the 1960s, driven largely by opposition to the draft for the Vietnam War, gave Marcuse a historic opportunity. As perhaps its most famous “guru,” he injected the Frankfurt School’s cultural Marxism into the baby boom generation. Of course, they did not understand what it really was. As was true from the Institute’s beginning, Marcuse and the few other people “in the know” did not advertise that political correctness and multi-culturalism were a form of Marxism. But the effect was devastating: a whole generation of Americans, especially the university-educated elite, absorbed cultural Marxism as their own, accepting a poisonous ideology that sought to destroy America’s traditional culture and Christian faith. That generation, which runs every elite institution in America, now wages a ceaseless war on all traditional beliefs and institutions. They have largely won that war. Most of America’s traditional culture lies in ruins.

A counter-strategy

Now you know who stole our culture. The question is, what are we, as Christians and as cultural conservatives, going to do about it?

We can choose between two strategies. The first is to try to retake the existing institutions – the public schools, the universities, the media, the entertainment industry and most of the mainline churches – from the cultural Marxists. They expect us to try to do that, they are ready for it, and we would find ourselves, with but small voice and few resources compared to theirs, making a frontal assault against prepared defensive positions. Any soldier can tell you what that almost always leads to: defeat.

There is another, more promising strategy. We can separate ourselves and our families from the institutions the cultural Marxists control and build new institutions for ourselves, institutions that reflect and will help us recover our traditional Western culture.

Several years ago, my colleague Paul Weyrich wrote an open letter to the conservative movement suggesting this strategy. While most other conservative (really Republican) leaders demurred, his letter resonated powerfully with grass-roots conservatives. Many of them are already part of a movement to secede from the corrupt, dominant culture and create parallel institutions: the homeschooling movement. Similar movements are beginning to offer sound alternatives in other aspects of life, including movements to promote small, often organic family farms and to develop community markets for those farms’ products. If Brave New World’s motto is “Think globally, act locally,” ours should be “Think locally, act locally.”

Thus, our strategy for undoing what cultural Marxism has done to America has a certain parallel to its own strategy, as Gramsci laid it out so long ago. Gramsci called for Marxists to undertake a “long march through the institutions.” Our counter-strategy would be a long march to create our own institutions. It will not happen quickly, or easily. It will be the work of generations – as was theirs. They were patient, because they knew the “inevitable forces of history” were on their side. Can we not be equally patient, and persevering, knowing that the Maker of history is on ours?

This article was first published on January 2, 2018

William S. Lind has a B.A. in History from Dartmouth College and an M.A., also in History, from Princeton University. He serves as director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism of the Free Congress Foundation in Washington, D.C., and as a vestryman at St. James Anglican Church in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio

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THE AMERICAN THINKER   February 9, 2017 

The Death of Marxism Revisited



About ten years ago I published a book, The Strange Death of Marxism, which argued strenuously that the present Left is not Marxist, but post-Marxist. Unlike traditional Marxists and European democratic socialists, the type of Left that has gained ground since and even before the fall of the Soviet Empire is culturally radical but only secondarily interested in economic change. Our present Left makes its peace with private enterprise and even large corporations, providing it can impose its idea of social and cultural transformation on increasingly powerless citizens and their increasingly indoctrinated children. Not that this Left is particularly friendly to anything that is private, including economic transactions. But it treats the economy as something that it can influence without having to nationalize, thereby avoiding those disastrous policies that socialist governments of the past tried to enact. Our own master class has sensibly concluded that it’s better to allow market forces to operate while making sure that public administration can dip, when it advances a pretext, into the profits. Further, the master class endlessly bullies the public into going along with increasingly complicated behavioral guidelines, supposedly intended to fight “discrimination.” It is the culture and only instrumentally the government that the post-Marxist Left seeks to dominate; and the type of administrative state that has expanded explosively in every Western country since the 1960s is an effective instrument by which social engineers and sensitivity commissars can do their work. 

Although I haven’t changed my view about how the Left has transformed itself since I wrote my book, it does seem that in some ways there’s been more continuity between the old and the new Lefts than I once suggested. Old-time Marxists here and in Europe became multiculturalists almost overnight, while our current leftists still admire Communists of the past (like Castro) and associate anti-Communists with fascism. Moreover, as I’ve watched the organized anti-Trump hysteria that is gripping our grievance-crowds, soi-disant entertainment industries, and unhinged media, it is obvious that the PC-multicultural Left is following the older, more cerebral Marxist Left in three critical respects.

  1. Like the Communists and also like the Italian Fascists, the multicultural Left never sees itself as occupying positions of authority or being able to force the unwilling to comply with its demands. As the Left understands its situation, it is always struggling to take power. Also when it seems to be on the verge of getting somewhere (as in Obama’s America), it is still in danger of being crushed by hostile forces. Just as the Left once contended that no socialist revolution had ever been fully carried out and that Communist countries were still “on the way to becoming socialist,” so too are today’s PC regimes, as viewed by their advocates, only tentative first steps toward overcoming the past. They are first steps on the long march to power; and even these steps became threatened when Hillary Clinton failed to win the presidency.
  2. There is no way that the Left can retreat from what it has achieved in transforming society without the entire edifice of change being imperiled. This corresponds to Trotsky’s formula that if the revolution is made to retreat from stage D to stage C, then the entire march toward the new society could be reversed. Therefore the march out of the gloomy repressive past must be continued unconditionally, and any retreat from it is tantamount to counterrevolution -- or in the leftist fear-mongering phrase, having women forced to have abortions in back alleys, re-imposing racial segregation, and jailing homosexuals. This kind of thinking makes perfectly good sense, if one begins with the assumption that one is in an “all or nothing” situation. It also doesn’t matter that President Obama stopped flights to the U.S. from Iraq in 2011 or that Bill Clinton spoke in a State of the Union address in 1994 about stopping the presence of illegals in the U.S. Nor should we notice that Donald Trump’s predecessor opposed gay marriage at the time he was elected to the presidency. It is our duty to protect whatever revolution is underway in its most advanced state. Any retreat from the present into the past, even the recent past, should be seen as an attempt to undo every bit of Progress that’s been gained until now.
  3. Anyone who threatens the still fragile, reversible process of change must be dehumanized. There can be no honest disagreements with those who either by design or because of dangerous ignorance are working against “hope and change.” One is therefore justified in condemning these reactionaries as the lowliest and most malevolent of beings. Like the Communists, the current Left, particularly in Western Europe, characterizes its opponents as “fascists.” Note that for the old Left, “fascism” had a quasi-scientific meaning. It referred to the defenders of a form of late capitalism, which had already reached a point of mortal crisis. “Fascists” repressed socialist revolution by creating right-wing nationalist dictatorships. In the process phony “fascist” revolutionaries drove real leftist revolutionaries underground.

For the multicultural Left, by contrast, the once meaningful Marxist term “fascist” has been reduced to a smear. It now signifies those the Left is combatting, that is, those who disagree with all or some aspect of the Left’s social agenda. Those who oppose this agenda may or perhaps should be attacked as Nazis and even Holocaust-deniers (which an acquaintance of mine recently called me for voting for Donald Trump). If the people under attack don’t deny Nazi crimes explicitly, their view of “social justice” is so hopelessly negative that presumably they would have enthusiastically endorsed Hitler. What else should one think of someone who is trying to push us back into the Dark Ages, perhaps as far back as 2008?

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                                                  May 8, 2021     MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey Aggressive Abroad and Despotic at Home:  ...