America’s Top General Read Marx, but Doesn’t Understand How It’s Destroying America

June 25, 2021 Updated: June 27, 2021


Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley says he is interested in theory. This past week, he defended teaching critical race theory in U.S. military academies because he thinks our troops should understand “white rage.” He said that he himself wants to understand why the American families who send their children to serve under him are angry.

And so he believes that it’s a good thing to read books by authors like Robin DiAngelo and Ibram X. Kendi who call white Americans racist. He says it’s good for the military and the country, but, in fact, it’s just good for Milley and the rest of the senior officer class that’s making its retirement plans.

Milley told a congressional committee that he’s read Marx, too, but that doesn’t make him a communist. He’s right, but it signals his ambition. Outside of the faculty lounges of American universities, no one reads Marx because Marx is unreadable. You could fit everyone who has read all three volumes of Marx’s masterwork, “Capital,” into a small prison cell.

Milley said he reads to understand what other people think, but people who boast of having read Marx are trying to shape what other people think about them. He’s addressing the kind of people who think reading Marx is part of the foundation of a well-rounded education. In America, these are the men and women of the establishment left who not coincidentally sit on the boards of big corporations and decide who gets to earn a million-dollar paycheck simply by occupying the board seat next to them. Saying you’ve read Marx shows that you’re OK, even if you’ve spent your career with an American flag on your shoulder.

Milley said he reads to understand what motivates people. But no one in the communist world, neither its politburos nor its proletariats, have ever been motivated by Marx, regardless of what they’ve written in their memoirs or on the walls of their prison cells.

Understanding Marxist doctrine was no help in explaining the actions of Soviet leaders during the Cold War. The U.S. intellectual class said it was important to figure it out because they wanted to be paid by the federal government to read and write so they said they were on the front lines in the War of Ideas.

Had the Cold War really come down to a War of Ideas, America would have lost. For all the social realist garbage that communism produced—as intellectually vapid and morally vulgar as DiAngelo and Kendi and other work prized by the class Milley seeks to impress—the Soviets also promoted great art, like Russia’s great ballet troupes and filmmakers such as Andrei Tarkovsky.

Even in the West, most of the top writers and thinkers of the time enlisted on the other side. For instance, Jean-Paul Sartre, one of the most celebrated intellectuals of the 20th century, endorsed communism, revolutionary violence, and for a time, Josef Stalin.

Sartre mocked the Midwestern farm boys who manned the Fulda Gap to protect him and his friends in the cafes of Paris, but America still won the Cold War because it had nothing to do with the War of Ideas. Rather, it was because the families of those boys stationed in Europe constituted the core of the middle class, which has always been the engine of productive economies. The Soviets lost because, as with all communist regimes, it had looted the wealth that its middle class created.

In short, those who read Marx are among those least informed about the nature of communism. On the other hand, Americans who have suffered the depredations of the elites that Milley is courting have a better grasp of communism than any university professor. Indeed, what we have learned about communism in the last several years requires us to reinterpret the historical account.

Communism has nothing to do with ideology. Ideology (lifting the masses out of poverty, making all people equal, etc.) is just cover for class war. But the class war is not, as Marxists describe it, between the proletarian masses and the bourgeoisie. Rather, the proletariat is simply the instrument that the oligarchic elite—known in the Soviet Union, for instance, as the nomenklatura—uses to keep the middle classes at bay while they steal their wealth.

After watching the serial operations destroy the leadership of the America First movement—from Russiagate through the second impeachment of Donald Trump—the COVID-19 lockdowns, the George Floyd riots, and now the effort to categorize Trump voters as domestic terrorists, we don’t need a theory to understand the nature of what has historically been called “communism” to obscure the fact that it’s nothing but the power grab of an oligarchic elite. We’re living it.

Nor does Gen. Milley need critical race theory to understand why the middle-class Americans who send their children to serve under him are mad at the elites he flatters by promoting their ideas. He’s just not asking the right questions, which are these:

Why are they mad we exported their jobs to China? Why are they mad we send their children to kill and die in strategically pointless foreign wars that advance only our interests? Why are they angry we denigrate their symbols and their monuments, their heroes, and their history? Why are they mad we destroyed their businesses and kept their children from going to school? Why are they mad we didn’t let them visit their loved ones in nursing homes and hospitals as they lay dying? Why are they mad we tell them they are racist, and their country will be remade in the image of those we encourage to cross our borders illegally, and the criminals we send to the streets to kill them? Why are they mad when we tell them that there is no place for them in the new country until they confess to the evil they have done?

Lee Smith is a senior fellow at America’s Future, and the author of the recently published book “The Permanent Coup: How Enemies Foreign and Domestic Targeted the American President.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Lee Smith
Lee Smith
Lee Smith is a veteran journalist whose work appears in Real Clear Investigations, the Federalist, and Tablet.