Politics

Cultural Marxism is Real, Despite What the Left Says

Alex Antic, a Liberal Party senator for South Australia, recently gave a speech to parliament in which he detailed his reasons for entering public life, declaring: “I was tired of watching the political class, including some polyester conservatives, allow the tide of cultural Marxism to wash over us.” To most people these would seem unexceptional sentiments, but online these simple words created a stir. Within the hour a former ABC journalist, a current Guardian journalist and a professor at ACU took to Twitter to proclaim that in using the term “Cultural Marxism” Senator Antic was spreading an anti-Jewish “right-wing conspiracy theory”—a bizarre accusation considering that Antic had immediately followed these comments by praising Judeo-Christian values.

These knee-jerk responses reveal an interesting truth: we really aren’t supposed to talk about Cultural Marxism. And I do mean really. The wider Left and especially those residing in newsrooms or the halls of academia really, really don’t want you to talk about it. They’ve gone so far as to edit the Wikipedia page for the term so that it is now titled “Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory” and the first line declares that even mentioning the term is “far-right” and “anti-Semitic”. Search for the term on the Guardian Australia website and you will see the spittle-flecked denunciation the term evokes from amongst our betters.

This essay appears in the latest Quadrant.
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Yet as far as one can tell, none of the facts around the theory itself seem to be in much doubt. In fact you can find almost the exact same theory referencing mostly the same thinkers under the Wikipedia entry for “Western Marxism”. It seems that this is one of those (ever more common) things that it’s acceptable for the Left to talk about but suddenly becomes unacceptable when the rest of us notice it.

So where did the term “Cultural Marxism” come from? Moreover, what is it? And why don’t they want you talking about it?

Back around the turn of the twenty-first century, an American, William S. Lind, began giving a series of speeches to respectable conservative audiences on the topic of what he called “The Origins of Political Correctness”. Lind had spent a large proportion of his life in Washington analysing defence policy for the United States Senate Committee on the Armed Services. Despite never joining the military himself Lind had served as a mentor for generations of young American officers and was one of the original proponents of the massively influential “fourth-generation war” theory.

Lind wasn’t some fringe crackpot, so when he began explaining his new analytical concept of “Cultural Marxism” people paid attention. His contention was really quite simple: that the classical “Economic” Marxist analysis so dominant amongst the intellectuals of the early to mid-twentieth century had morphed into something new and extremely powerful.

Economic Marxism states that the entire world is controlled by an exploitative elite that oppresses everyone else. According to this theory the elite maintains its power through control of finance, the media, the banks, corporations, the education system, law enforcement and the military. This parasite class uses its dominance of these institutions to keep the oppressed divided and obsessed with trivialities so that they can never rise up. Distracted by tabloids, blinded by advertising, addicted to soap operas, numbed by sports and circuses, the submerged peoples are brainwashed into a false consciousness that prevents them from ever realising who their real enemies are.

In economic or classical Marxism the oppressive enemy is the bourgeoisie and the system that keeps them in power is capitalism. In Cultural Marxism the oppressive enemy is white males (particularly straight white males) and the system that keeps these awful human beings in unearned “privilege” is called “white supremacy” or “whiteness” or sometimes just “racism”. All success is unearned. All wealth is the product of exploitation and needs to be “redistributed” to those who really deserve it. By virtue of existing in the system in which they have succeeded, both white people and the bourgeoisie are evil (presumably white bourgeoisie are some sort of super-duper evil). Only the unsuccessful oppressed can ever be “good”.

This switch sure shocked a few people. Quite a few radical Baby Boomers who in the 1970s were certain that they were on the virtuous “oppressed” side of the ledger have woken up in the twenty-first century to discover that without changing anything about themselves (or even making much money) they’ve suddenly become “evil oppressors”.

So what changed? How did this evolution happen?

Lind traced the seeds of the transformation back to the First World War. It can be difficult today (especially in the English-speaking world) to understand the dominance of Marxist thought on the continental Left in the years leading up to that global conflict. Almost every good leftist intellectual in Europe at the time accepted at least some broad version of the Marxist or socialist worldview.

Nearly everyone in those circles was convinced that an outbreak of war would lead to revolution in at least one of the industrially advanced nations of France, Germany or Britain. When this didn’t happen they were disillusioned; but then the wave of revolutions and attempted revolutions in eastern and central Europe after 1917 gave them hope. When most of those didn’t pan out either, the smarter Marxists went away and had a think. Lind in particular singled out from amongst these thinkers the influence of the brilliant theorists Antonio Gramsci of Italy and Georg Lukacs in Hungary.

Gramsci and Lukacs came to much the same conclusion. The workers had failed to create a socialist paradise because they had been too distracted by unimportant trivialities like family, religion and nation. Gramsci in particular identified that it was the institutions of Western society (especially those of education and religion) that did the most to decide what a society considered “normal”. Gramsci and Lukacs were extremely influential and their thought inspired left-wing academic types across the continent.

Some of those intellectuals would go on to form what would eventually become known as the Frankfurt School, a German think-tank for Marxists. Seed money was provided by one of the usual lefty rich kids who can be counted on in these situations and after an initial “Marxist Workweek” in 1923 (attended by Lukacs himself) the “Frankfurt Institute for Social Research” was born.

William S. Lind correctly pointed out the links between the transformation of orthodox Marxism into its cultural form and the Frankfurt School notables Theodore Adorno, Herbert Marcuse and Max Horkheimer. But I think he focused on them a little too much. It’s true that “Critical Theory” as it is taught in modern universities is usually credited to these Marxist thinkers, but they were simply parts of a much wider cultural, social and structural trend that was overtaking the West.

After all, Lukacs wasn’t only hanging around in Germany attending shindigs funded by the idle sons of the merchant classes. He had also joined the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic as “People’s Commissar for Education and Culture”. In between advocating the mass murder of the “oppressive classes” Lukacs managed to find a job in the revolutionary government for his student Karl Mannheim, who in turn was the primary influence on the American academic C. Wright Mills. Mills coined the term “New Left” in 1960 and spent the last years of his life before passing away in 1962 exhorting the next generation of educated leftists to adopt a cultural rather than economic Marxian view of society.

In all of Mills’s later works one can see repeated the idea that the proletariat were no longer the revolutionary force, and that the new agents of change were the university students. People were listening. Three months after Mills died the soon-to-be-extremely-famous “Students for a Democratic Society” (SDS) launched their Port Huron Statement. Point four of the statement could have been written by Mills himself:

A new left must include liberals and socialists … The university is a more sensible place than a political party for these two traditions to begin to discuss their differences and look for political synthesis.

Americans aside, the over-emphasis on the Frankfurt School also ignores what has probably been one of the greatest foundations of the Cultural Marxist analytical model taught at every university in the Western world today: the French. Not all the French are bad, of course. But if we go back to Gramsci we can trace his influence like a blood-red line through to his student by proxy, the mentally ill, wife-murdering communist academic Louis Althusser. Despite being a monster who strangled his spouse, Althusser was incredibly influential in France and around the world. Through his teaching position at the prestigious École Normale Supérieure he was able to indoctrinate some of the most influential intellectuals of the late twentieth century. Among a crowded field including Pierre Bourdieu and Jacques Derrida the stand-out among Althusser’s students was a brilliant but damaged young hedonist named Michel Foucault.

If you don’t know who Foucault is, you probably haven’t attended a university in the last thirty years (and especially not in the humanities). In the first decade of the twenty-first century he was the most referenced humanities academic on earth. His influence on everything from education to law to sociology has been devastating. Althusser introduced the young Foucault into both his particular brand of Gramscian Marxism and to the French Communist Party. The former had an impact, but the latter didn’t stick. Unlike his mentor Foucault would end up quitting the party after three years, as it was in his view not nice enough to homosexuals.

It is almost impossible to overstate the influence of Foucault on the evolution of what would become Cultural Marxism and its popularity amongst the upper echelons of educated Western society. Every Australian law student educated since at least the early 1990s has been forced to trawl through his turgid musings on the prison system and (worse) has been taught to see them as authoritative. With Foucault we finally see the full transformation of the original “Marxism with a focus on culture” line of thought into the wonderful intersectional panoply of anti-white male “wokeness” discourse we see today.

It explains a lot about modern Australian society if you consider it a product of too much Foucault. The man after all repeatedly advocated for the legalisation of pedophilia and spent his spare time and money purchasing under-age Tunisian boys to molest.

The problem with pinning the Cultural Marxism of today entirely on the Frankfurt School as Lind did is twofold. First, it oversimplifies the massive social and cultural evolution that occurred as middle-class Baby Boomers usurped the mantle of the radical Left from the working classes. And second, it allows the academic and media Left to dismiss you as an anti-Semite, since almost every intellectual associated with the “Institute for Social Research” was born Jewish.

The massive social and philosophical drift since the early twentieth century that has created Cultural Marxism and its child, the modern “woke” culture, can’t be blamed on a few guys from Frankfurt. Marcuse may have had an impact on the 1960s New Left but even in academic circles Adorno and Horkheimer are generally considered minor figures today. The damage was not so much from their own thought but from the thought of those they influenced. They were bubbles on a wave, not the wave itself.

The denial of the Left and the furious squeals of “anti-Semitism” and “conspiracy” are attempts (conscious or not) to conceal a simple truth. The phenomenon William S. Lind imperfectly described at the turn of the century is now obviously the philosophy of the entire Western elite. It now so dominates our societies that you can baselessly denounce and smear anyone who even mentions the term and expect to get away with it. “Cultural Marxism”, “woke-ism”, “political correctness” or whatever else you might wish to call it has become the toxic water in which we poor fish are now forced to swim.

Perhaps the furious manner in which so many academics and journalists react to such a simple term betrays a certain fear on their part—a silent terror pushed down deep in the back of their minds that if ordinary people are allowed to see what Cultural Marxism is and the effect it is having, they might decide they don’t like it. After all, throughout the ages there has been nothing a pampered elite has feared more than a mob of angry peasants with torches and pitchforks.

14 comments
  • Andrew L Urban

    Magicians don’t show the punters how their tricks work. Sleight of hand is a craft practiced to deceive. That’s perhaps why the left is aghast when the phrase ‘cultural Marxism’ is used in public; it’s revealing the mechanism of their agenda.

  • pmprociv

    Is it just a coincidence that Foucault’s pronunciation in English is almost “fook-all”?

  • lajos.halmos

    For a start hear is a ( cut ) from this article.
    All wealth is the product of exploitation and needs to be “redistributed” to those who really deserve it. By virtue of existing in the system in which they have succeeded, both white people and the bourgeoisie are evil (presumably white bourgeoisie are some sort of super-duper evil). Only the unsuccessful oppressed can ever be “good”.
    1, The Wealth can be generated in a number of ways.
    a, The first and most acceptable is when a individual have a good idea to produce something useful
    that other people can use for there benefit. As a example to lower there work load or improve their life in some other way. This person was thinking. Using his brain. Hi made a effort to improve his own life & if others interested ” there life “. Now the point is. Hi put in a eforth and needs to be rewarded for it so to motivate him to keep thinking of other ” things/items ” as time go on. If the item vas successful and many people purchased it hi may become a wealthy man. ( As a Designer. )
    b, A other person have seen this product in the toun and had a good idea. “Most people in toun purchased this and using it hire. ” If I take this to the next toun’s / countries, I will ad a small margin and sell it. I can make some money. If I sell a sot I can live comfortably then. ( As a Salesman. / Entrepreneur. )
    2, The World need people like this !! Without them we still would be living in the “STONE AGE”
    This people need to be rewarded aducatly according to the importance of the “Invention /work”
    a, What are the consequences if no or induct reward for there work? They STOP thinking or work on
    new ideas. ” Why should I bather ??” I don’t get payed enough for it.
    b, The same situation in a ” Communist / Socialist ” country this is amplified by some government policy to bring all workers wages to one or neer one level. That have been demonstrated and proven in
    all of those countries then, “behind the iron curtain.”
    What happened ?? In short the hard worker have seen that the other next to him get’s the same pay
    as him. The other produces 1/2 of his output. So he think. Why should I work hard? So he slows down. Others in the country do the same. The output in the country drops to a all time low then the national income drop so they go in to “Bankruptcy”.

    A word about ” CORRUPYION”

    There is not a country on this earth ” Without Corruptions ”

    It started with ” Adam & Eva ” that is human nature. Some people rize above the temptation / some not. The temptation is to ( GET MORE THAN YOU DESERVE ) that is as a person / gov aficial/army officer/
    head of the army/ head of the country or any party.
    For those people on top or the bottom they have the life long ambition to get as much as possible en
    MONEY, POWER, or LAND. The corruption and criminal behaviour is flourishing as the ones that are trusted
    to make the relevant ” LOWS ” to stop it, introducing diversions & loopholes for friends & some cases there selfs to escape in case there own failings. I don’t even want to get in to the aria of ” Industrial & Intellectual ” espionage. Now with the introduction of the “Computer” world vide it is rampaged.

    We have so many problems in this Country / World there are not enough pages gust to list them.
    By LH

  • ChrisPer

    The ideology of smug.
    What will it look like when it reaches ‘global fail’? Hard to say. Venezuela, 1930s Germany, Kampuchea?

  • IainC

    Socialism: fascism you can vote for within a Democracy
    Marxism: fascism without a vote, after you’ve voted for Socialism
    Cultural Marxism: fascism in Arts Departments

    The Right: I don’t like that idea/book/film, I’m not going to believe it/read it/see it.
    The Left: I don’t like that idea/book/film, you’re not going to believe it/read it/see it.

  • Stephen Due

    I would have thought this description of Economic Marxism fits modern Western Societies like a glove::
    “Economic Marxism states that the entire world is controlled by an exploitative elite that oppresses everyone else…. maintains its power through control of finance, the media, the banks, corporations, the education system, law enforcement and the military…. uses its dominance of these institutions to keep the oppressed divided and ….prevents them from ever realising who their real enemies are.”
    Today’s Exploitative Elite are in fact those who control Big Tech, Big Pharma, the Global Corporates, the Universities, and the Public Service i.e. it includes the Woke Progressives – the very ones whom this article calls the “Cultural Marxists”.
    These are the people who destroyed Donald Trump as a political force, rigged a presidential election and staged a ‘Reichstag’ event to deprive him of office, and disenfranchised more than half of the US electorate. Their current project is mass global ‘vaccination’ with an experimental gene therapy. Talk about a con job!

  • Stephen Due

    Dear LH,
    Surely you are correct when you write:
    “We have so many problems in this Country / World there are not enough pages just to list them”
    That is so true!
    And the following is also true, being the witness of St. John, at the conclusion of his Gospel:
    “There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world could contain the books that would be written.” John 21:25
    The Gospel of Jesus Christ is surely the best solution to the problems of this world. His Gospel is the secret of the greatness of the West. Its betrayal by the elites is the ultimate cause of our downfall.

  • wdr

    It seems inaccurate to me to describe the current left-wing wave of destruction as “Marxism” in any sense. Indeed, it has replaced Class War with Race War and Gender War. There is no evidence that today’s leftists think that Capitalism is inevitably doomed, and will be replaced by Socialism, ruled over by the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, etc.- the basis of Marxism. It is simply destructiveness pure and simple, generally by affluent upper middle class academics, government employees, teachers, journalists, etc., many of whom are tenured and borderline wealthy. It harps on “white racism,” based on mendacious rubbish such as the Pascoe book. The current wave should be distinguished from what Lenin, Trotsky, et al. believed.

  • Elizabeth Beare

    wdr, it is Marxism in a very clear sense, because this current left-wing post-modernist approach was developed by Marxists within American, British and then Australian universities, following the French influence first of the hard-line structuralist communism of Althusser, and then as he declined in influence, the ‘cultural’ work of the Marxist Gramsci and some followers of the American Chicago-school of Marxist theories that stressed the need for a cultural take-over of all key institutions of social influence by the left using these new cultural theories. Marxist theorists of culture such as Derrida then continued the trend. They were ALL people invested in totally changing the nature of capitalism and capitalist societies. Those who hold ‘woke’ opinions today are people of the same ilk even if they strenuously deny it. They want total social and institutional change according to their own concepts of equity. The latest iterations of this madness can be found in the Great Re-set that leftist climate alarmists are now promoting, ostensibly to stop most likely harmless CO2 emissions but also to redistribute world wealth. They are taking the opportunity to link in the Covid lockdowns as a template for progression of their de-industrialisation program. Best to remember that Marxism has many offspring, some of whom deny their parentage.

  • Ian MacKenzie

    Wikipedia is a far-left conspiracy blog which claims Cultural Marxism doesn’t exist in order to support the basis of continuing academic and intellectual efforts to subvert Western culture.
    Consequently it seems Cultural Marxism fits the Fight Club meme. The first rule of Cultural Marxism is: You do not talk about Cultural Marxism.

  • Elizabeth Beare

    “Economic Marxism states that the entire world is controlled by an exploitative elite that oppresses everyone else…. maintains its power through control of finance, the media, the banks, corporations, the education system, law enforcement and the military…. uses its dominance of these institutions to keep the oppressed divided and ….prevents them from ever realising who their real enemies are.”
    You can see how this sort of thing is easily keyed into lunatic theories about Jews in history and Israel in ‘Palestine’ that are circulating on the internet, where the oppressive elite is turned suddenly in a Jewish conspiracy elite. Hence the left is becoming increasingly anti-Semitic. This is what happens when history is not taught as an investigative discipline but as received wisdoms; people then become very much prey to other received wisdoms, some of them very unpleasant indeed.

  • Stephen

    I am reminded of a George Orwell quote that goes something like, “Some ideas are so stupid only an intellectual could have thought of them”. I can’t think of a single Utopian idea, thought up by some intellectual, that hasn’t ended in misery and disaster with a huge butchers bill. The latest mob of idiots, the Woke, just want to “burn it all down” without any real prescription for the “perfect” society to replace it. Humans are what they are. We are inventive, enterprising, competitive, restless and freedom loving. we are also cruel and warlike. Free Enterprise (the hated capitalism) is the natural way to express our true intuitive nature. Any attempt at anything different always begins and end in oppression. Our urges can be tamed which is the triumph of civilization, but we can’t be changed into a completely different animal.

  • Michael

    An ideology with hegemonic ambitions does not want to be labelled, named. It wants to pose as our totality, the air that we breath, the world we inhabit, borderless and nameless, our everything. It does not want to be a named something that makes it an object that can be defined, analysed, critiqued, and, specifically, rejected.

  • tim1

    The first rule of Fight Club? There is no Fight Club. That is essentially the essence of the ‘cultural marxism’ doesn’t exist or is just dog whistling on the Right. As an ex Marxist myself – I’m in great company – it takes one to know one. Every Marxist knows that in the 60s-80 there was what we used to call ‘the cultural turn’ where the radical left turned away from class and material issues to cultural and gender/race issues which now obsess contemporary academic radicals. Many on the left called this ‘turn’ cultural Marxism though many of us purists doubted it was ‘really’ Marxist. I add that in an influential trad Marxist attack on the cultural turn published by New Left’s Verso Books in 2013, socialist academic Vivek Chibber referred to ‘the cultural Marxism in vogue at the time’ (‘Postcolonial theory and the Spectre of Capital’). The ABC’s concern as to the apparent right wing origins of the term ‘cultural Marxism’ are groundless and based on their own ignorance and prejudice. ‘Cultural Marxism’ is a left-wing term in origin and speaks to the collapse of Marxism as a class project. This episode shows once again that the ABC like the BBC and The Guardian has an ideology which is actually derived from the Left of the US Democrat Party. It’s wrong and alien.

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