Magazine article The American Conservative

The Scourge of Cultural Marxism: The Alienation Factor Is Crucial to the Leftist Agenda

Magazine article The American Conservative

The Scourge of Cultural Marxism: The Alienation Factor Is Crucial to the Leftist Agenda

Article excerpt

In previous columns I have used the term "cultural Marxism," which may not be familiar to all readers. What is cultural Marxism? Is it Stalin leading the Moscow Symphony Orchestra or an exhibit of Walter Ulbrichts watercolors?

Not exactly. Almost everyone knows cultural Marxism under a different name. As "political correctness" or "multiculturalism," we have all had it shoved down our throats for too long. Though it seeks to disguise its real nature and goals, which are the destruction of Western culture and the Christian religion, it is in fact a full-blown ideology, Marxism translated from economic into cultural terms. As with most things, we can understand it best through its history.

Early 20th century Marxism said that if another big war broke out in Europe, the working class would join hands across national boundaries and overthrow capitalism. But when war broke out in 1914, that didn't happen. In 1919, two Marxist intellectuals working independently, Antonio Gramsci in Italy and Georg Lukacs in Hungary, explained why. The Christian religion and Western culture had so blinded the working class to its class interests that communism was impossible until both were destroyed. When Lukacs became deputy commissar for culture in Hungary's short-lived Bela Kun Bolshevik government, he proclaimed a program of "cultural terrorism." He asked, "Who will save us from Western civilization?"

Lukacs went on to influence a Marxist think tank established at Frankfurt University in Germany in 1923, the Institute for Social Research. When a brilliant young Marxist intellectual named Max Horkheimer took over the Institute (today usually known as the Frankfurt School) in 1930, he picked up Lukacs's work and expanded it into a new version of Marxism, very different from Moscow's. That new version, cultural Marxism, is what we now know as "political correctness."

The task was intellectually difficult because the Institute had to argue against Marx on some points. Most critically, it posited that Marx was wrong in saying that culture was merely part of society's "superstructure," determined by ownership of the means of production. Horkheimer said that, on the contrary, it was an independent and highly important variable.

To assist in developing this new Marxism, Horkheimer brought in some additional Marxists who thought as he did. The most important was Theodor Adorno, whose influence remains vast today. Adorno argued that because capitalism is alienating, all art, to be "true," also had to be alienating. That is why, all around us, we hear and see alienating music, art, and architecture. Adorno further said that anyone who defended traditional culture was both a "fascist" and mentally ill. His book The Authoritarian Personality is still a basic text for the left. It is also the source of much of the nonsense in education theory that has wrecked America's public schools. …

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