lukacs cultural marxism
A number of commenters on a recent piece questioned my use of the term Cultural Marxism, and so I thought I'd give a little explanation as to why I believe the term to be not just an apt one, but also historically accurate.

I rather got the impression - rightly or wrongly - that the assumption behind the questions was that by using this phrase, I am pinning a label on those who disagree with me on many of the important social questions of the day. Not at all. I am simply using the term to describe a very real ideology, espoused by a tiny number of people who can quite properly be termed "Cultural Marxists". The fact that they have been hugely successful in promoting their agenda does not in any way mean that those who have accepted it are themselves Cultural Marxists.

Nor is my use of the phrase anything to do with Jordan Peterson, who I have watched only in one or two interviews, and have not read any of his books. It is a phrase that I used long before I had even heard of him.

The soul of Marxism, according to the great Alexander Solzhenitsyn, is not to be found in the state ownership of property, but in the concept of Dialectical Materialism. According to John Laughland:
"...the true core of Marxist-Leninist doctrine, according to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, was the ideology of dialectical materialism. Derived from Hegel and ultimately Heraclitus, this doctrine - on which Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin all wrote extensively - holds that the world is in a constant state of flux, that nothing is absolutely true or false, and that progress comes from the constant union of opposites. Milovan Djilas, the Yugoslav communist intellectual who turned against the system, said in the opening paragraphs of his seminal work on communism, The New Class, that the key to communist ideology was the belief in the primacy of matter and the reality of change."
History, for the Marxist, is defined as a series of social and revolutionary struggles all leading inexorably to the final "truth" and the end of history - a stateless, borderless, globalised world; a New Earth with a New Man who has been thoroughly cleansed of his need for private property.

At the start of the 20th Century, many followers of Marx quite expected that they were at that point in history where the revolution of all revolutions would occur, with the workers of the world uniting to "throw off their chains." Yet, to their surprise, this did not happen. They were especially surprised to see the working classes going off to fight for what they saw as their bourgeoise overlords in the First World War. And when the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917 failed to spread throughout the globe, as anticipated, many were dismayed.

However, rather than abandoning the theory that lay behind their hopes, some began to theorise that the reason that working man wasn't throwing off his chains and rising up in revolt was because working man had been too thoroughly conditioned by the bourgeois cultural norms he had been brought up in to see what was in his best interests. Working man was generally Christian - at least nominally - and held to the cultural customs and traditions that Christian civilisation had passed on to him. And it was this that, according to the Dialectical Materialists of the early 20th century, stood in the way of the spread of the revolution throughout the globe.

The answer to the conundrum, some theorised, was that in order for working man to cast off his chains, he first needed to be reconditioned against those cultural norms that he had learned, especially with regard to marriage and the family, but also including other traditional institutions. Put another way, for New Man to be created, he first had to be weaned from his attachment to Christian civil and cultural norms before he could be weaned from his love of private property. Hence, the cleverer Marxists began to call not for the grand, global revolution they had previously been hoping for, but rather for a subtler and more lengthy cultural revolution, aimed at destroying the existing Christian culture.

Antonio Gramsci is perhaps the most famous. After living for a time in Russia under the Bolshevik regime, he saw for himself how the proletariat were far from grateful for their alleged emancipation, and could only be compelled to obey through a reign of terror. His conclusion was that the problem was their cultural and civilizational heritage. As Patrick Buchannan writes:
"Gramsci concluded it was their Christian souls that prevented the Russian people from embracing their Communist revolution. 'The civilized world had been thoroughly saturated with Christianity for 2,000 years,' Gramsci wrote; and a regime grounded in Judeo-Christian beliefs and values could not be overthrown until those roots were cut. If Christianity was the heat shield of capitalism, then, to capture the West, Marxists must first de-Christianize the West."
Gramsci came to believe that rather than upfront revolution, what was first needed was to change the mindset of ordinary people. This would be done through cultural change, via what has been called a "long march through the institutions" (this famous quote probably did not actually come from Gramsci, but has been used to describe what he was advocating). Again Buchannan writes:
"Rather than seize power first and impose a cultural revolution from above, Gramsci argued, Marxists in the West must first change the culture; then power would fall into their laps like ripened fruit. But to change the culture would require a 'long march through the institutions' - the arts, cinema, theater, schools, colleges, seminaries, newspapers, magazines, and the new electronic medium, radio. One by one, each had to be captured and converted and politicized into an agency of revolution. Then the people could be slowly educated to understand and even welcome the revolution."
Gramsci was an unashamed Marxist, but one who advocated a cultural revolution. You might almost say he was a "Cultural Marxist" and that the doctrine he espoused could be called "Cultural Marxism"!

Less famous than Gramsci, but equally influential, was the Hungarian revolutionary, György Lukács. He was Deputy Commissar for Culture in the short-lived Bela Kun Bolshevik regime in Hungary in 1919, and like Gramsci he came to believe that in order for the conditions for revolution to emerge, the existing culture must first be destroyed:
"I saw the revolutionary destruction of society as the one and only solution to the cultural contradictions of the epoch.... Such a worldwide overturning of values cannot take place without the annihilation of the old values and the creation of new ones by the revolutionaries."
He instituted a reign of what he called "cultural terrorism," posing the question, "Who will save us from Western civilization?" One of his chief lines of attack was to introduce sex education into Hungarian schools, with the explicit purpose of driving a wedge between the morality of parents and their children. As Victor Zitta writes in Georg Lukács' Marxism Alienation, Dialectics, Revolution: A Study in Utopia:
"Special lectures were organized in schools and literature printed and distributed to 'instruct' children about free love, about the nature of sexual intercourse, about the archaic nature of the bourgeois family codes, about the outdatedness of monogamy, and the irrelevance of religion, which deprives man of all pleasure."
If some of that sounds familiar, it is because many of his ideas have long since been embraced by most educational establishments in Western countries, and most parents have come to see it as something that is perfectly normal, and not the revolutionary act that it actually is (personally I find it creepy that paid strangers should be talking to other people's children about such matters).

Sadly for Lukács, but perhaps happily for the Hungarian people, the Bela Kun regime lasted just six months. However, Lukács continued to promote his ideology, and four year later he was invited to take part in the Erste Marxistische Arbeitswoch (First Marxist Work Week) in the German town of Ilmenau, which was funded by the wealthy heir, Felix Weil. Lukács' ideas were received with fascination, and when Weil decided to set up the Institute for Social Research - later known as the Frankfurt School - Lukács' concept of translating Marxism from economic terms into cultural terms, with a view to overthrowing the existing cultural norms, became foundational to the institute. This can be seen, for example, in regard to its espousal of Critical Theory, which is an unashamed attempt to subject all traditional and Christian cultural and social institutions to endless, unrelenting criticism, so that they might be rejected and overthrown by society.

And so just as Gramsci was a Marxist, but one who advocated a cultural revolution, so too was Lukács and his followers. You might almost say he and they were "Cultural Marxists" and that the ideology they espoused could be called "Cultural Marxism"!

With the rise of Hitler, the Frankfurt School left Germany in 1933, and after a period in Geneva, eventually settled in New York. There, from the foundations that had been laid by the likes of Gramsci and Lukács for cultural rather than economic revolution, their heirs - avowed Marxists all - went about developing their ideas and theories, many of which we see today and which have largely replaced traditional Christian culture. The belief that male and female categories are outdated and should be increasingly blurred. The belief that patriarchalism is inherently evil and must be destroyed. The creation of new victim classes, in the place of the traditional Marxist category of the proletariat, who are perpetually oppressed (what is known as identity politics). The idea that traditional values are somehow full of prejudice, whereas the values that are to replace them are enlightened and the epitome of tolerance.

This last idea is especially ironic, since the man advocated for it most of all, Frankfurt School Professor Herbert Marcuse, clearly believed that tolerance was a one-way street, and that it involved unashamed intolerance towards the old thought forms:
"Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left."
And again:
"Moreover, the restoration of freedom of thought may necessitate new and rigid restrictions on teachings and practices in the educational institutions which, by their very methods and concepts, serve to enclose the mind within the established universe of discourse and behaviour - thereby precluding a priori a rational evaluation of the alternatives."
How very tolerant!

Furthermore, in his Essay on Liberation, Marcuse proclaimed his goals of a radical transvaluation of values; the relaxation of taboos; cultural subversion; Critical Theory; and a linguistic rebellion that would amount to a methodical reversal of meaning. This linguistic rebellion is what has come to be known as Political Correctness, and it is basically a project to control language, so that certain thoughts are made unthinkable and certain beliefs are made unsayable. Anyone who does utter these unsayable beliefs earns for themselves a nice little label - a juvenile taunt, usually incorporating the word "phobia".

Now, you may think this is all wonderful. You may think it's all so much more enlightened and jolly than the Christian worldview we've abandoned. That's your prerogative, just as it is mine to believe that it's an unmitigated disaster, the results of which are becoming clearer and clearer with each passing year in the misery of family breakdown, the erosion of trust (why would anyone expect there to be anything like trust in a society, when that which is the cornerstone of trust in a society - the lifelong, covenant marriage bond - has been deliberately and wilfully trampled to the dust?), the prescription of millions of psychotropic pills to deal with emotional and behavioural issues, the huge explosion of crime which has occurred at the same time as the cultural revolution, etc. But what you can't do is deny that something seismic has happened, or that there has been a very obvious agenda behind it. To claim that there has been no cultural revolution and no long march through the institutions is simply a denial of plain reality. There has, and the changes didn't just happen by their own accord.

However, of course it is not the case that those who disagree with the view taken by folks like me are necessarily Cultural Marxists. That is not a claim I am making. What I would claim, however, is that the vast majority of people in the West today have been heavily influenced - albeit indirectly - by an ideology and worldview put forth by a few very determined people who, whilst never giving up their claims to being Marxists, called not for the seizure of the means of production, but rather the slow but certain overthrow of the existing Christian culture, which they despised. They are indeed Cultural Marxists, but if that term doesn't appeal, there's always the one used by one of the father's of the movement, Lukács himself. Cultural Terrorism was the term he used.