What is “Cultural Marxism?”

by David Barkin

[Author’s note: So far, I have not read one post on this board not worthy of respect. So forgive me the tone of the below essay. It’s the way I write, and I intend no insult to anyone.]

Mr. William Lind often mentions it in tones of the old red menace. On the DNI blog, this fear has been confirmed. This is all very educational for an old fashioned Marxist like myself. I say this because I’ve never heard about this before. Ignorance is bliss.

During the cold war of course there was a tremendous, and justified fear of Soviet style Marxism, and this was rational from the geo-political point of view. Moreover a small percentage of native born Marxists were quite capable of treason in the literal interpretation of the word.

Now I’ve been told that at the end of WW II, Marxists, presumably Soviet style Marxists, got together, and realising that the “PARTY” was not getting anywhere with its working class rhetoric, a new form of propaganda was called for.

I believe the link here is a fair description of this fear of the Cultural Marxist menace


If this link is not typical, please feel free to correct me.

Now the only one of the four leading theoreticians that I am familiar with is Herbert Marcuse. He is given the “credit” for starting the sexual revolution.

Wilhelm Reich is known to me by his belief in sitting under a pyramid to get a psychic boost.”

He said he had discovered a form of energy, which he called ‘orgone,’ that permeated the atmosphere and all living matter, and he built ‘orgone accumulators,’ which his patients sat inside to harness the energy for its reputed health benefits.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_Reich)

Erich Fromm is a well known author, who had some influence in academic circles. As for Theodor Adorno, I wonder why he is referred to as an influential figure here in the States. Certainly in Germany he had influence, and was often attacked by leftist students. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodor_Adorno)

Actually of course the only one of these people who had any influence here, that could be measured, was Marcuse. We young people enjoyed an old codger who patronised us. No folks, sorry, the sexual revolution owes its beginning and success to birth control pills, and a middle income middle class that wanted more pleasure. Just how many books did Marcuse sell?

But the theory of Cultural Marxism is that there was a plot to attack every aspect of America in order to change the consciousness of Americans. On orders of Moscow of course. Why then were the above figures attacked by Moscow’s functioning American organization – The CPUSA? Some sort of clever strategy, working both ends against the middle?

Comrades, words fail me. Was the Civil Rights movement a cynical plot by Communists? Certainly all leftists rallied behind the movement. One did not have to be a Marxist to see the essential justice of combating Jim Crow. And what I ask (rhetorically of course) would be the inevitable result of discovering the plight of Black People? Why that Washington and Jefferson owned slaves, and therefore by modern standards deserved only contempt? And of course there were some who adapted this view, hook, line and sinker. It should be noted that there were always people who had nothing but contempt for our Founders. Did they need Cultural Marxists to bring that out?

Well, history books now mention slavery and the Founders. Is it wrong to acknowledge that many of our Founders owned slaves? Should we ignore the primary reason for the CIvil War? Would it be better to live in a world where children are only taught that George confessed to cutting down the cherry tree? Are we still a product of the time when movies would only show Presidents in silhouette? Life goes on, mores and morals change. Even so, today’s history books are not unkind to Washington. If Gore Vidal doesn’t like him, and slanders Washington, there are plenty of other books (some by leftists) that justifiably raise his good points.

What makes people think that a handful of intellectuals wield the kind of power to have created the sixties? Were “Cultural Christian Fundamentalists” the cause of the religious revival of the 1820’s? (Should I mention modern Apocalyptic Christians?) Just as people of that time reacted to the materialism of the enlightenment and wanted a return to God, so people of the sixties were reacting to the sterile 1950’s with its McCarthyism, and its irrational fear of anyone who asked for a raise as being a Communist.

The plot thins the more it’s examined. Womens rights? Was the feminist movement, which appears so threatening to so many, a product of this Cultural Marxism, or was it an inevitable development as more and more woman became educated and wondered why they were still second class citizens. And the list goes on.

Here’s a quote from the link I posted:

The Frankfurt School would mainstream the dicktat of the Moscow Central Committee laid down in 1943. This declaration, right from the horse’s mouth, illustrates exactly what were up against:

“Members and front organizations must continually embarrass, discredit and degrade our critics. When obstructionists become too irritating, label them as fascist, or Nazi or anti-Semitic.The association will, after enough repetition, become ‘fact’ in the public mind.”

Well, this is probably an accurate quote. One thing is certain in my mind — It’s so ambiguous as to mean nothing. Really, it means nothing. Based on the date, my assumption of the meaning of this quote, is that Moscow sent out orders to make aid to the Soviet Union the main priority of Party Work in the West. There was a war on, Second Front anyone? Moscow wasted no effort on organizing anything but aid to its literally life and death struggle with Germany. I can produce much longer quotes from the Soviets laying down the law to the various members of the International.

To sum up: Essentially a loose bunch of intellectuals developed their own thesis in opposition to the existing orthodox Marxists. They pushed their views as much as any serious group of cranks can be expected to, and had very little influence on anyone outside their small academic circle. And within this academic circle, they fought each other like cats and dogs — hardly the proper atmosphere for this or any other conspiracy.I could say far more. While I was never an influential person, I was friends with influential people, and can safely report that none of them were aware of the above conspiracy.

You don’t like the women’s movement? The Civil Rights movement? The change in sexual mores? Life is full of surprises, life and attitudes change. Society, discovering the plight of American Indians, would have to result in the debunking of Custer. AIM, the most radical of the Indian Rights movement owes nothing to Marxism, cultural or otherwise.

Things are rough.The end of the cold war ended the Soviet style menace. If China is a menace, it’s not because they are “Communists.” But it’s hard to let go of some deep and dark conspiracy from the left. This particular one, simply doesn’t hold water.

NB. “Cultural Marxism” is a moving target. It means all things to all people, anxious to find some reason, some human reason for the broad societal changes that have occurred. As in all periods of “Interesting Times,” (as the old Chinese curse goes) some of these changes are for the better, some are not.For a more extensive look into the “conspiracy” of Cultural Marxism, and the essentially non-existent Frankfurt School, take a look at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankfurt_School

[David Barkin is a community activist concerned primarily with environmental and wildlife issues. He has some familiarity with Marxism as his parents were union organizers and members of labor-oriented political organizations. His father was a sergeant in WW II and was an instructor in urban / village warfare.]

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