07 December 2016

Identity Politics and the Myth of Cultural Marxism

The nightly news seems to be dominated by police shootings. A seemingly endless stream of racial tensions have dominated American culture over the past couple of years prompting a call to revisit the unresolved questions of the Civil Rights Era. A new generation is wrestling with the issues, and minority communities have been forced to grapple with the reality that a Black president did not signify the end of racial tension. In fact many have come to believe the election of Obama has inflamed simmering passions and instead of moving our culture closer to a state of peaceful coexistence, things have taken a bad turn.

We live in a time that calls for recognition of minority identity and amidst the confusion these same calls have blended with voices that seek 'identity' in self-referential, solipsistic and even fantastical categories of gender and sexuality. The cultural confusion is palpable and the consequences are tragic.

And with these voices, some old and some quite new we are also witnessing a resurgence of the 'Cultural Marxist' moniker. This label a favourite in Right-wing circles is actually a form of Red Baiting, a means to discredit their opponents by associating them with something that is a known evil. And yet it does not reflect reality.

Cultural Marxism as propagated by the American Right is a Leftist conspiracy to destroy culture. Marx talked of alienation and thus Cultural Marxism seeks (it is argued) to re-assert identity through various forms of 'identity politics' which destroy traditional cultural norms. They believe that Cultural Marxism seeks to destroy convention thus sowing the seeds for the new era. It's a form of social revolution that will set the stage for a new basis of social cohesion and consensus.

It's a very interesting theory but it has absolutely nothing to do with Marxist thought.

What do the actual Marxists say about police killings and the Left's focus on race and identity politics? They will consistently point out that Marxism does not identify race as the primary problem of society. Anyone who's bothered to spend five minutes learning about Marxist thought will realise the school is dominated by questions of class. They see the police shootings as the Establishment or Ruling Class warring on the Working Class. They will admit that Blacks are killed at a disproportionate level and that there is plenty of racism in society but the real overarching problem is one of class warfare. They will point out that just as many Whites are killed by the police etc. The one thing all police victims have in common is that they are members of the working class.

In fact the focus on race and identity serves to only divide the working class and bring into a war against itself. One might even posit that such divisions are generated and perpetuated by interests in the Ruling Class as a means to divide and conquer.

Cultural Marxism is actually something of a myth. The values this faux-position espouses actually have nothing to do with Marxism. The Right will often appeal to a conspiracy with regard to the Frankfurt School and yet even a cursory examination will show that they're guilty of not only misunderstanding the questions being asked but are also reading in a lot of assumptions that aren't really there.

Cultural Marxism as presented in the American context is a way of organising the Right-wing attack on multiculturalism and is used as means to rally support for a monolithic and often sacral vision of society.

While Political Correctness is indeed out of control, both sides are guilty of this tendency. The doctrine seeks to charge its enemies with thought-crimes even to the point of controlling speech patterns. The Right argues that political correctness is a means employed by 'Cultural Marxism' in order to advance its agenda. 

The Right is just as guilty of 'thought crime' and will attack both 'incorrect' concepts and the words attached to them. Look at the history of Right-wing regimes from World War II and in the generation succeeding it. The Right often allied with ecclesiastical authorities engaged in censorship, often employing violent means to do so. In the United States this sort of thought-censorship and political correctness reached its zenith under McCarthyism, an inquisition that sought to punish thought-crime along with past sentiments and affiliations.

Cultural Marxism is a largely mythological concept employed by the Right to describe the social trend away from traditionalism and the narratives which support their agenda. If it is a genuine concept then it would have to be admitted that thus far it has failed. The Right would see things in a different light and they view themselves as on the retreat and yet despite the recent victories in the Supreme Court for homosexuals, most advocates of Identity Politics can identify as many setbacks as victories.

Individualism and its degenerate offspring Narcissism are an essential component or force (among many) at work in driving the trajectory of our culture. The Enlightenment tradition regarding individualist rights and confidence in the individual's cognition and rationality drive the consumer culture and are assumed in its modeling. And yet the model has clearly produced decadence and while the Right is correct to be upset over this tendency they have demonstrated an amazing ineptitude in grasping its foundations and are woefully misled in terms of the corrupting nature of wealth and what the quest for it does to the human soul and the culture at large.

It is noteworthy that Identity Politics and these extreme and decadent manifestations of Individualism are virtually nonexistent in poorer countries. The truth is that Identity Politics (as well as the Christian Right's Dominionist and Vocational paradigms) are largely the offspring of bourgeois society and its impulses. These tendencies represent the downgrade and self-destructive impulses of a middle class society built on Classically Liberal, Democratic and Capitalist foundations and arise in that context.

The truth is Cultural Marxism is something of a faux-paradigm created to channel emotions and generate a narrative regarding the social breakdown. It's a bait and switch method of identifying the political enemy. The Right doesn't really believe in democracy or classical liberal values... that is, outside the social consensus which is based on common race and culture. Therefore the values held by the Christian Right are decidedly non-universal which overthrow the claims of the Americanist paradigm of 'self-evident truths'. If they're not universal, they're not self-evident and vice-versa.

The charge of Cultural Marxism is little more than a racist trick to 'trump' counter arguments and once again is reminiscent of the tactics of red-baiting. It's no accident that the concept appeared in the American Right's lexicon during the late 1990's just as the Culture War was becoming white hot.

It is reminiscent of the Right's misunderstanding of terms like Communism, Socialism and on an even larger scale, that of Fascism.

Socialism sought among other things to synthesize classical liberalism's understanding of liberty as individual autonomy and the notion of liberty as individuals being granted access to the benefits of social participation. This represents a huge difference even today in how many Europeans view the question of liberty vis-à-vis the United States. Liberty as access creates the conditions for individual flourishing. A liberty based on autonomy and self-interest is a reversion to the law of the jungle and only those who sit atop the power structure will actually enjoy liberty. Those at the bottom enjoy new forms of serfdom and slavery.

An excessive focus on the individual as found in many forms of Libertarian ideology is not only anti-collective but essentially anti-social. This narcissistic and sociopathic schema represents a degenerative stage of Classical Liberalism's concept of the individual. This is the individual as a society in and of himself and thus he is essentially at war with those around him. With this type of individualism there can be no society. It is man abandoning the image of God embracing the heart of a beast. Beyond one's immediate familial pack, all are enemies. Society is viewed as the Wild West... missing the point that the American West was considered anti-Society and non-civil. It was 'wild' connoting barbarism and bestial conduct. The call wasn't to celebrate the chaos but to tame it and eradicate its wild nature.

Just as Classical Liberalism birthed Capitalism, the same forces which celebrate and empower the individual and the pursuit of self-identity and happiness have created a cancerous monstrosity. It has manifested itself within the US Left and is championed by the pro-Wall Street and pro-Pentagon Democratic Party, itself a Right-wing movement.

Identity politics and the various impulses which have falsely been constructed in the fictional concept of Cultural Marxism may represent 'liberal' impulses but have nothing to do with actual Marxism.

In terms of sociology Marxism is about the surrender of the individual to the collective. The goals of the revolution and the support of the social vision become paramount. Expressions of self-focus, self-praise and self-pity are actually expressions of decadent Capitalist society. In explaining the current state of affairs in our society, with the ascendancy of spoiled children, sodomy and even identity politics... these parties and the parents and institutions that produced them, need look no further than the mirror. It is the Capitalist system championed by the Right which has produced these societal poisons.

The fact that Black Americans have fallen back on race as a battle cry is also no great surprise. They have been manipulated by the pro-Wall Street and pro-Pentagon Democratic Party. This racial politic is a means of marshalling their frustration and anger and channeling their fury into the DNC's political machine. The problems in our society are bigger than race and the story of their exploitation and present condition is both more complicated and sinister. As stated at the outset, the continued focus on race and identity hinders the lower classes from uniting and truly representing a threat to the powers that be.

See also: