Dr. David Cowan
The Left hates to lose control of language, so when a term like “Cultural Marxism” comes along they have to attack it, because it’s too clever by half. They dismiss the term as a conspiracy theory, anti-Semitic, cultural intolerance by the American Right, et cetera, et cetera, fascist, phobic, racist!
I rather like the term. First, because it is almost a play on words, because it sounds like a term that might have been used by trendy Marxist sociologists in the 1960s as presenting a benefit to society. Too bad they didn’t think of it first. Instead it was conservatives in the 1970s who used the term as an attack on cultural analysis and the Frankfurt School.
The roots of the idea go back to Antonio Gramschi and others who promoted the notion - given the inevitable failure of communism and socialism - that the revolutionary needs to get their hands on the levers of society. This is where the conspiracy theory approach kicks in, but gets it wrong.
If one were to say this was an orchestrated approach then it would be a conspiracy, but the question is much more subtle than this. I suggest the 1970s conservative critics gave too much credit to their Marxist friends. They confused the existence of these people and ideas with the notion that they had an infiltration plan. Of course they didn’t, people and ideas are too chaotic for this to happen.
It was more a case of individuals buying into the ideas, and having positions or platforms to promote the ideas, but not in an organized way. Just like water flowing they chose the paths of least resistance, such as sociology departments and media outlets, which are areas always in search of “the new,” in search of something different and hip. So, they became influential as individuals through a process of coalescence rather than orchestrated planning.
Which brings me to the second reason I like the term, because it explains something I’ve written about before, which is the way Marxian ideas have become absorbed into society uncritically. It is a kind of moral high ground for the unthinking. With the implosion of communism, the ideas of Marx, Lenin et al have fragmented into causes and morals in contemporary society, resulting in bourgeois legal and structural change; not by revolution.
This cultural Marxism sets up a morality that is duplicitous; it deceives in words and action. They use the law to change what they want changed, and use shouting words like “fascist,” “racist” and “phobic” to disguise the fact that changing the law does not necessarily mean the moral nature of an act or situation has changed, only the law itself and the legislative and bureaucratic means to achieve that end have changed; which explains why these changes are not necessarily representative of the populace.
Duplicitous cultural Marxism claims the law was immoral when it was against them, but now immaculately moral when the new law comes into place, and how dare others take opposition to change the law as they had when they thought it immoral. So, they shout “fascist,” “racist” and “phobic” instead of being tolerant that many individuals and groups maintain the moral nature has not changed and are entitled to say that, in spite of what the law says. Thus, changing the law has become like the parlor game of musical chairs, where the cultural Marxist controls the seating and their opponent is left without the chair taken away by the legal change.
This is cowardly Marxism, which allows people to say one thing and do another; in other words it is duplicity. Let me give one example of how this works, namely the people in NGOs and “Corporate Responsibility” roles in major corporations. Let’s make change from the inside, they say, while they make a lot of money, dress in designer clothes and travel Business or First Class to visit the poor. So, they take their “commitment” forward without pain in their life and work. Give me a real Marxist, or real Socialist come to that, any day of the week!
And so the duplicity seeps into every corner of our culture. Of course we should not be surprised. One way to understand an idea is to find its originator and see how they lived. Marx lived off the capitalist Engels to sustain a bourgeois lifestyle for himself in London, and where he was buried in Highbury, right next to Islington the duplicitous bourgeois headquarters of the cultural change under the most duplicitous of cultural Marxists: “New Labour.”
Blogpost The Myth of Cultural Marxism by Kevin Preston, with thanks for the cartoon illustration!