Cultural Marxism: How Marxist Thought Found Its Way Into Today’s Culture

September 10, 2018 Updated: September 11, 2018

The modern Left dominates in today’s culture in discussions around gay rights, environmentalism, trans issues, women in the workplace, multiculturalism, racial diversity, Marvel and DC comics, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, the NFL, postmodern art—the list goes on in an infinite display of social justice platitudes and virtue signaling.

It’s impossible to keep up because this is deliberately designed to consume every aspect of our lives. So many social justice movements may appear unrelated, but this is far from the truth.

What complicates matters is that leftist ideology is hard to pin down, not least because its proponents deliberately obfuscate and mislead. This is not the only reason, however; such ideology is meant to be fluid, adapting and changing wherever necessary, especially in the face of failure (of which there are countless examples in history). While Leftists never admit these failures, inevitably blaming them on their opponents, they’ve become experts at moving from one target to the next, without revealing their identity.

By the time you realize this, it’s usually too late to do anything about it—you must accept that the Left will burn something to the ground before they relinquish it. Only the most observant or informed individual can spot this before it goes that far—the kind of person that believes leftist ideology is somehow benevolent or misapplied certainly can not.

A popular term to describe this fluid strategy is ‘cultural Marxism.’ While the Left is quick to call this a ‘conspiracy theory’ (like almost anything else they deny), it’s a good way to describe the transformation of the Left over the decades, albeit we must be careful to define this properly.

Undoubtedly, the modern Left is overwhelmingly focused on culture, though this isn’t as far removed from Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels as you might think. Rather, modern Leftists have taken the classical Marxist cultural critique much further.

The Communist Manifesto was very open about culturally transforming society, setting this out in chapter two. Here Marx and Engels made it abundantly clear that they sought to abolish the nation, religion, and family. They state that, “Communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality.”

As well as literally saying they would, “Abolish the family,” they go on to explain, “The bourgeois clap-trap about the family and education, about the hallowed co-relation of parents and child, becomes all the more disgusting, the more, by the action of Modern Industry.” Subsequently, they state, “The bourgeois sees his wife a mere instrument of production,” going on to dismiss how “Communists are further reproached with desiring to abolish countries and nationality.”

How anyone would dispute the cultural focus of Marxism, when from its very inception this was so transparent, is quite astonishing. I would go as far as to question whether it’s changed much at all in this regard, even if this expanded over time. What’s actually changed is very much a semantical sleight of hand. It comes down to two schools of thought within Marxist circles, which began almost as quickly this came about. The first revolutionary Marxists believe that only through violent struggle will communism be realized. Conversely, gradualist Marxists took issue with this method, arguing for a gradual transition to communism by transforming society from within.

Anyone with a modicum of historical knowledge and honesty will know that revolutionary Marxism was a total disaster. It led to around one-third of the world’s population suffering horrendously under communism, resulting in around 100 million deaths (conservatively speaking) from bloody, brutal, and cruel acts of democide. To this day, there are still countries like North Korea and Cuba living in the throes of this system. Other countries, like China and Vietnam, have taken some meaningful steps toward reform, but are still highly repressive and undemocratic one-party socialist states.

While very few know about the history of revolutionary communism, fewer still know about the gradualist form it took. It existed before the Russian revolution led to the first communist state, particularly the Fabians in England and the Mensheviks in Russia, Leon Trotsky being the most prominent example of the latter. Mensheviks fiercely disagreed with their Bolshevik counterparts over whether they should take a revolutionary or gradualist approach. When the Bolsheviks took power in Russia, these differences were set aside, although Leftists always eat themselves in the end. Thus Stalin eventually purged Trotsky and many others from the government.

Although there are numerous other examples of gradualist Marxism, from György Lukács and his sex education in Hungary to the Italian Antonio Gramsci’s long march through the institutions, it was arguably the Frankfurt School that had the most far-reaching influence on the modern cultural adaptation of the Left. When the Nazi Party came to power, its members were exiled from Germany, settling in the United States, and bringing their cultural interpretation of Marxism with them—critical theory, quite literally the bedrock of modern leftist thought.

Critical theory is a fluid template that applies Marxist class struggle to any aspect of life, as opposed to being purely driven by economic class, as classical Marxists set out. Wherever differences in society exist, this theory teaches that oppression is the cause, therefore becoming another opportunity for class struggle in society, albeit not always in the classical Marxist sense of proletariat versus bourgeoisie. Due to the fluidity of this theory, class struggle can be applied to anything from gay versus straight, male versus female, cis versus non-cis, trans versus heteronormative, black versus white, and anywhere a division can be fomented, just as I explained at the start, and just as we see today.

Cultural Marxism is a very effective way to explain this technique because anywhere that culture exists, modern Leftists use critical theory to sow division in society that they can turn to their advantage. The idea that this is some sort of conspiracy theory rests purely on the basis that Leftists don’t use the term. But whether or not it has ever been embraced by the Left is irrelevant. Not only is it a useful way to describe critical theory, and those that push this in society, but it becomes even more irrelevant when Leftists inevitably change their name the moment this becomes politically expedient.

Cid Lazarou is a blogger, writer, and freelance journalist from the UK.

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

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