A shadow haunts the world. Over the last 75 years it has spread its errors over everything: art, education, music, architecture, manners, morals, and thought itself. What is this colossal Harpy? Cultural Marxism.
Commonly known as political correctness or multiculturalism, cultural Marxism is an ideology that serves as a religion among America’s elites. You cannot defy it without being cast into outer darkness. It condemns our traditional, Western, Judeo-Christian culture as “racist, sexist, and homophobic.” Those words make up its unholy trinity. It demands fields traditionally devoted to beauty, such as art, music, and architecture, create alienation instead. It reduces education to psychological conditioning designed to generate self-hatred among males, whites, and straights.
Anything fine, good, or noble, any favorable reference to our culture’s glorious past, even individuals who succeed through their own ingenuity and hard work, must be pulled down. Meanwhile, the dregs of humanity’s sewer are plopped on the civic altar and we are commanded to bow down and worship them. On many a college campus, the re-education camps await those who refuse. Should the cultural Marxists win the day, such behavior modification centers will be standard in every Western country.
But is this ideology Marxist? To the best of my knowledge, I coined the term “cultural Marxism.” I did so to distinguish it from the economic Marxism of Moscow. My study of this ideology’s origins made its Marxist nature apparent. Equally clear were its differences from the Marxism we all learned to know and loathe. What else could it be called, given that its main difference from economic Marxism was an emphasis on culture as a causative factor apart from ownership of the means of production? If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…it probably goes well with scallions and plum sauce.
The ideology in question—let’s call it Ideology X for now—was largely created by the Frankfurt School, a think tank established at Frankfurt University in 1923 and formally known as the Institut für Sozialforschung (Institute for Social Research). The details remain murky, but it seems to have been conceived at a gathering in Germany, the “First Marxist Work Week,” in 1922 or ‘23. Significantly, that gathering included Georg Lukács, a Hungarian Marxist who had already pioneered a “cultural Marxism” as deputy commissar for culture in Béla Kun’s Bolshevik government in Hungary in 1919. The meeting in Germany also included two Comintern agents (one of them Richard Sorge, later famous as a Soviet spy) and a young man named Felix Weil, who would subsequently provide virtually all the institute’s funding during its time in Germany.
Originally to be named the Institute for Marxism, someone decided before it was established that it could be more effective if it had a neutral-sounding name. Thus began the Frankfurt School’s tradition of concealing its true nature and objectives. In sum, Ideology X was the product of an institution founded by Marxists to promote Marxism.
My second reason for calling Ideology X cultural Marxism is that its creators thought of themselves as Marxists. The institute’s first director, Carl Grünberg, said at its opening, “I too am a Marxist and here Marxism will have a home.” Under his leadership, the institute worked on standard Marxist subjects such as the labor movement—no surprise there.
But in 1930 that changed. A new director, a brilliant young man named Max Horkheimer, took over the institute. He promptly began refocusing it on other areas, especially cultural ones. He brought in more unorthodox Marxist thinkers, most importantly Theodor Adorno, an influential music critic and promoter of composer Arnold Schönberg. Adorno is the man most responsible for the surpassing ugliness of most modern music, art, and architecture. He argued that, by Marxist definition, capitalism is alienating, so to be “true,” all pictures, symphonies, buildings, literature, and other artistic products in capitalist society must be alienating.
The Institute for Social Research moved from Germany to New York City in 1934 to escape the Third Reich. There its thinkers invented all the basic components of Ideology X: critical theory, “studies in prejudice,” and Adorno’s book The Authoritarian Personality (1950), in which he argued that anyone who defends any aspect of traditional Western culture is both a “fascist” and mentally ill. As with all Marxism, the heart and soul of Ideology X is victim-focused, with the victims now defined not as the lower economic orders of society, but by their race, gender, and sexual normality or abnormality.
Another brilliant young Marxist, Herbert Marcuse, who joined the institute shortly before it left Germany, packaged his elders’ often abstruse work into candy-coated wrappers that college students of the 1960s could “dig,” one such product being his book Eros and Civilization (1955). That book injected ideas into the Baby Boomer generation that remain influential in their worldview today, though few have any understanding of its real origins or nature. Fewer still understand the real objectives of Marcuse: the destruction of Western culture, the Christian religion, and the white race—the later being Marcuse’s innovation on the standard Ideology X program. The average Baby Boomer was a babe in the wilderness in the 1960s and remains so today; as philosophically ignorant as the day he was born.
The people who created Ideology X thought of themselves as Marxists. They often concealed their Marxism from the outside world, especially during the institute’s New York phase. But, in their writings to each other, they made their shared Marxism clear. If they saw themselves as Marxists—and these men were evil, but never stupid—who are we to say they were not? Do ducks not lay duck eggs?
The third reason I think Ideology X is a variant of Marxism is its parallels with classical economic Marxism. The first is that both are totalitarian ideologies. In their search for “equality,” both contradict human nature. Seeking as they do equality not of opportunity but of condition, they must rely on force, because people are not naturally equal. Lenin, Stalin, and Mao made the severity of economic Marxism’s equality clear (though some animals were always more equal than others); Ideology X’s totalitarian ambitions to enforce cultural equality are becoming clear before our eyes.
The second parallel is that both have single-factor explanations of history. Economic Marxism argues that all of history was determined by ownership of the means of production. Ideology X says history is wholly explained by which groups—defined by gender, race, and sexual normality or abnormality—have power over which other groups. Both economic Marxism and Ideology X here run into a contradiction with their call for equality, since both are actually about reversing power relationships, not ending them. Economic Marxism elevates workers and peasants over capitalists, landlords, and the bourgeoisie, while Ideology X seeks to put women, blacks, and gays over men, whites, and straights.
A related parallel is that both ideologies declare certain groups virtuous and others evil a priori, that is to say, without regard for individuals’ actual behavior. In economic Marxism, workers and peasants are automatically virtuous while the bourgeoisie is automatically bad. Ideology X says blacks, gays, and feminist women are automatically good, and that whites, straights, and males are evil. Ideology X does not recognize the existence of non-feminist women, who are in fact the majority of women, and labels conservative blacks as effectively “white”—as Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden did recently, telling a black audience that those who don’t vote for him “ain’t black.” If you have the misfortune to have been born a straight, white male, you are supposed to spend your life kissing the feet of the various “victim” groups.
A fourth parallel is in the means: expropriation. Economic Marxists, where they obtained power, expropriated the bourgeoisie and handed their property to the state as the “representative” of the workers and peasants. Ideology X, where it gains power, takes “privileges”—which is to say, property—from whites, males, and straights and gives them to the groups it favors. Affirmative action is one of the many examples of expropriation by believers in Ideology X: this system will give a black person preferential treatment to get into an Ivy League school instead of a better-qualified Asian or white person, downgrading the latter’s lifetime earning potential.
Finally, both classical Marxism and Ideology X employ a method of analysis designed to show the correctness of their ideology in every situation. In classical Marxism, the analysis is economic. In Ideology X, the analysis is linguistic deconstruction. Deconstruction takes meaning out of any text and then substitutes whatever new meaning the ideology seeks. Thus all texts illustrate the oppression of women, blacks, gays, etc., just as economic Marxist analysis supposedly scientifically proves that all history is a tale of oppression by owners of the means of production.
These parallels are not coincidental. The members of the Frankfurt School were steeped in economic Marxism. It was their common starting point. It’s true, I have not found evidence that one day the Frankfurt School boys gathered around a blackboard, listed the characteristics of economic Marxism and said, “Now, what parallels can we draw to our evolving thinking?” But, they didn’t have to do that. It all flowed as naturally as, well, as water off a duck’s back.
In the end, the question of whether Ideology X is cultural Marxism comes down to this: are there multiple “schools” of Marxism? I say, “Yes.” Marxism-Leninism is one, Maoism is another, and the Marxism of China’s current ruling Communist Party is a third, even though it’s departed a good deal further from Marx than did the work of the Frankfurt School. Marx himself, I suspect, would argue that there cannot be any Marxism but his own. He was not famous for his flexibility. But that would also leave out Marxism-Leninism and compel Moscow to airbrush Uncle Karl’s portrait out of all those May Day parades.
So, is cultural Marxism Marxist? Marx may say no, but history says yes. Ducks of a feather flock together.