In Part I, we investigated the history of leftist philosophy, growing out of the Age of Reason or the Enlightenment, through the mid-19th century explosion of leftist political thought in Europe from Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. From these beginnings stemmed the socialist–Marxist Fabian Society in Great Britain, with its goal of destroying capitalism and infiltrating Western institutions by stealth.
Even more pernicious than the Fabians was the Frankfurt School. It was founded in 1923 at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, under the innocuous name “The Institute for Social Research” (Institut für Sozialforschung). Its aim was the development of Marxist studies in Germany.
In the same vein as the Fabians, the Frankfurt School bypassed Marx and Lenin’s ideas of violent revolution and instead concentrated on developing alternative and insidious ways to impose its ideology and destroy the institutions of Judeo-Christian, Western civilization.
The movement, distinct from economic Marxism, has become commonly known as “cultural Marxism.” The founding philosophers included Herbert Marcuse, Max Horkheimer, Erich Fromm, and Theodor Adorno.
Horkheimer developed a study curriculum labeled “critical theory,” a rambling, philosophical ideology in direct opposition to the tenets of Western civilization, which became the Frankfurt School’s raison d’étre.
Critical theory postulated that anyone living under a capitalist society was, unbeknownst to them, enslaved, oppressed, and vulnerable to fascism. Any topic, therefore, that attacked capitalist institutions, was legitimate fodder for critical study and repudiation. It was only natural that U.S. educational institutions would eventually be in their crosshairs.
During the 1930s, the “Red Decade,” Frankfurt School members gained increasing importance in leftist pedagogical circles. But with the rise of Adolf Hitler, they realized they would have to leave Germany; the founding philosophers of the school were primarily secular Jews. From the United States, an angel arrived in the form of socialist, Soviet-duped educator John Dewey, the father of “modern education” in the United States.
With financing from the Rockefeller Foundation and other institutions, he brought standout members of the Frankfurt School to welcoming top universities such as University of California–Berkeley, Princeton University, and Brandeis University—but the most prestigious recipient was Columbia University in New York and their well-known Teachers College.
Within a few years, Adorno, Fromm, and Marcuse would be “tearing down campuses, vilifying decency, glorifying violence and pornography, and Nazifying the spelling of ‘Amerika,’” wrote journalist and researcher Ralph de Toledano in his book “Cry Havoc!: The Great American Bring-Down and How it Happened.”
The prospects for influence were so far-reaching that de Toledano described the naive United States as “a cow mooing to be milked.” The great foundations of America would now be at their disposal, underwritten by “a vast pool of corporate funds set up to avoid taxation … ready to pass on their millions and billions to those dedicated to destroying the system that provided this wealth … by a managerial staff that despised the [American] society.”
Thus was born the slow, unrelenting shift to the left for American academia.
A major tenet of the Frankfurt School’s philosophy, developed by Georg Lukacs, Adorno, Fromm, Wilhelm Reich, and others, was the sinister belief that unrestrained sex could be a useful and devastating instrument if prompted to run rampant. They promoted “compulsory promiscuity, one-parent households, premarital sex, and homosexuality,” which struck at the heart of the core values of family and child-bearing as mainstays of Western society. Critics were condemned as fascists and accomplices of capitalist depravity.
Lukacs, along with a small handful of intellectual theoreticians at the Marx-Lenin Institute in Moscow in 1922, formulated the outline the Frankfurt School would follow, the goals being the “abolition of [Western] culture” and Marx’s goal for “the ruthless destruction of everything existing.”
As the Minister of Education and Culture in the brief, bloody, Hungarian–Soviet communist government under Bela Kun in 1919, comrade Lukacs introduced the insidious plan to remove children from parental care, while also introducing sex education in the elementary school curriculum—precursors to the Frankfurt School’s development of the philosophy they dubbed “Freudo-Marxism,” even though Freud referred to the adherents as “morally insane” and felt that their ideas were “complete lunatic,” according to Paul Kengor in his book “Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage.”
During the 1960s and 1970s in the United States, students were being educated within the framework of Fabian and Frankfurt School socialism and cultural Marxism, with the heady mix of open sexuality and anything-goes societal upheaval. They gravitated to Frankfurt School demagogues such as Marcuse, heralded as the “father of the New Left” and the leading academic in the “sexual revolution.” He encouraged not only revolutionary militancy of groups like the Black Panthers and the Weather Underground, but also inspired widespread agitation, student unrest, and control of campuses.
It’s not surprising that these new ideas were eagerly internalized among the ranks of newly “liberated” young men and women at our colleges and universities. This was the precursor of the stifling political correctness that has set the tone for the cultural and political instability we have witnessed over the past decades.
Members of the Frankfurt School did not stop at the cultural–social science–political door; they also were able to gain a foothold in the arts, Hollywood, and the media—all ripe targets.
In the scientific arena in the United States, beginning in the 1980s, leading professors such as Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin, themselves educated within the Marxist realm, became the leading spokesmen for the fields of anthropology and evolutionary science. From their pulpits at Harvard University, Columbia University, and other institutions, they proudly proclaimed their Marxist beliefs as a credible foundation for their scientific theories.
Together, with their fellow scientific comrades, they freely expressed their socialist–Marxist ideology in radical publications like Solidarity, Science for the People, and Rethinking Marxism. Gould was also on the advisory board for the Marxist Brecht Forum and a sponsor of the New York Marxist School. His impact in the field of science has been profound.
Thus, thanks to the “Enlightenment,” Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the Fabians, the Frankfurt School, the radical science movement, and so much more, the education system in the United States has been indelibly scarred by this slow march of destructive leftist idealism.
The results that are finally being revealed represent a litany of assaults on not only traditional Western values, but attacks on fundamental free speech. Political correctness has become such a commonly used term that it is easy to overlook its fundamental purpose—namely, the stifling of free speech and opposing viewpoints, amounting to tyranny and suppression on campuses and in the public square.
The continual revolution called for by Marx is alive and thriving in the form of constant agitation and division sown by the left, from the springboard of academia. Marx and Lukacs would be gratified at the carnage they have spawned.
But the curtain is finally being pulled back, revealing the true nature that dominates higher education. And when light is shed on truth, the possibility for reclaiming our institutions may at least stand a chance.
Mike Shotwell was raised in a Marxist home and is intimately familiar with American communist history and its effects on the 20th century. He is the author of “Immersed in Red: My Formative Years in a Marxist Household.” He is also a lecturer, a Civil War scholar, and a retired forensic architect who lives with his wife in Atlanta, Georgia.