Against “Cultural Marxism”

Having spent 20 years studying the history and theory of Marxism, I can say with some confidence that… most American conservatives (as well as most white nationalists), know hardly a thing about it. – Michael O’Meara – The Next Conservatism?

I was once again reminded of the truth of Mr. O’Meara’s observation by Paul Gottfried’s recent article at Vdare, Yes, Virginia (Dare) There Is A Cultural Marxism–And It’s Taking Over Conservatism Inc.

In general, the theme of “Cultural Marxism” and its supposed triumph reflects the theoretical poverty of the American right – in both its mainstream and alternative varieties.  It is consistent with the tradition of blaming the “commies” (or, for some, the commies and “the Jews”) for everything, treating the globalist/multiculturalist order as something foreign to our system rather than the “natural” product of it.

Even worse, much of what passes for insight on the matter is of the crassest character. (See, for example, here and here.) While I will confess that I’ve never been a big fan of Gottfried‘s work, I expected something better from him and so was especially disappointed by the crudeness of his analysis in this particular effort.

While Gottfried expresses some general discomfort with the term “Cultural Marxism” and acknowledges a number of the ways in which it diverges from  class-oriented Marxism of one sort or another, he argues that it can be understood as fundamentally part of that tradition and seems to endorse the view taken by so many on the American right that all of today’s ills are traceable to the influence of that handful of  unorthodox Marxist theorists associated with the Frankfurt school.

Thus, in an earlier article Gottfried claimed that Cultural Marxism has been “successful… in taking over Western societies, through educational, social and political institutions” while in the current one, after some fretting over whether or not it still makes sense to talk about the influence of the original critical theorists given how far the corruption of the West has advanced beyond what they had imagined, he ultimately assures us that “Not only does Cultural Marxism exist” but that, given the embrace of a sort of political correctness-lite at home and “humanitarian” interventionism abroad on the part of the mainstream right,  “it now appears to be taking over Conservatism Inc.” and that “Conservatism Inc. … [has] become a Cultural Marxist puppet.”

In fact, the “Cultural Marxists” are able to hold the sort of institutional power which they do because they are doing the system’s dirty work – motivating and justifying the clearing away of all of those “irrational” obstacles – family, nation, tradition, etc – to the horizontal and vertical spread of the capitalist system in its globalist phase.  As Gottfried himself points out:

… nationalizing productive forces and the creation of a workers’ state, i.e. the leftovers from classical Marxism, turn out to be the most expendable part of their revolutionary program…. Instead, what is essential to Cultural Marxism is the rooting-out of bourgeois national structures, the obliteration of gender roles and the utter devastation of “the patriarchal family.”

So, far from representing the victory of the left, the rise of “Cultural Marxism” to prominence and intellectual power represents a victory over the left – its absorption by the current incarnation of the capitalist system rather than a subversion of it.

(The introductory quote is from and article published some years back by the now-silent Michael O’Meara on William Lind, who was an early proponent of the concept of “Cultural Marxism”. The piece is typical O’Meara – full of insights and energy but seriously marred by his habitual anti-semitism. Overall, much of his critique of the notion of the alleged role of “Cultural Marxism” remains valuable.  I will not repeat his analysis here, but I do suggest that you have a look.)

Georges Sorel on Donald Trump

Revolutions closely resemble romantic dramas: the ridiculous and the sublime are mixed so inextricably together that we are often unsure how to judge men who seem to be at one and the same time buffoons and heroes. – Georges Sorel, La Revolution Dreyfusienne

Sadly, as this performance plays out it seems that President Trump is more buffoon and less hero with each passing day…

On the Left and “Fascism”

“…most of what calls itself “the left” in the West has been totally won over to the current form of imperialism – aka “globalization”. It is an imperialism of a new type, centered on the use of military force and “soft” power to enable transnational finance to penetrate every corner of the earth and thus to reshape all societies in the endless quest for profitable return on capital investment. The left has been won over to this new imperialism because it advances under the banner of “human rights” and “antiracism” – abstractions which a whole generation has been indoctrinated to consider the central, if not the only, political issues of our times.” – Diane Johnstone – The Main Issue in the French Election: National Sovereignty

The collapse of the virtually the entire left into at best a mere loyal opposition within the capitalist order becomes clearer every day. Its recent and nearly unanimous rallying in support of the system’s candidate for the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, is yet another sad example.

The notion that Marine Le Pen was ready to install a Hitlerian dictatorship on France is absurd on the face of it and in fairness most commentators on the left acknowledged this however grudgingly, – usually just before arguing that she was still, however, so dangerous (a “canny fascist“, for example) that the left must unite behind  the candidate of the transnational elites instead (1).

In fact, there are a few on the left who dissent from this groupthink.  In addition to Johnstone, for example, James Petras argued in Twenty Truths About Marine Le Pen

Macron’s pro-war, anti-working class and ‘supply-side’ economic policies leave us with only one conclusion: Marine Le Pen is the only candidate of the left. Her program and commitments are pro-labor, not ‘hard’ or ‘far’ right – and certainly not ‘fascist’….

Le Pen is above all a ‘sovereigntist’: ‘France First’. Her fight is against the Brussels oligarchs and for the restoration of sovereignty to the French people. There is an infinite irony in labeling the fight against imperial political power as ‘hard right’. It is insulting to debase popular demands for domestic democratic power over basic economic policies, fiscal spending, incomes and prices policies, budgets and deficits as ‘extremist and far right’.

Unfortunately, however, the Johnstones and Petras’s are rare and to the extent that their efforts have been noticed, they have generally been denounced(2).

What characterizes the bulk of the left today is its ahistorical (and decidedly un-Marxist) approach to the populist movements of the right.  The left insists on understanding these movements in terms of a social reality that existed almost 100 years ago and is particularly unable (or unwilling) to recognize that the class content of movements and discourses changes over time – reflecting both the circumstances of a particular conjuncture and the overall arc of capitalist development.

Until roughly World War II capitalist classes in each country were fundamentally national.  In the moments of extreme crisis faced by certain of these countries, a sector of the ruling class opted for alliances with mass movements of the right in order to crush insurgent workers’ movements of the left, overcome the impasse created by non-functional parliamentary systems and better assert themselves internationally against their foreign rivals.  Once their radical wings were domesticated, in certain countries the fascist movements of the ’20s and ’30s suited the needs of much of the ruling class – at least for a time.

Unlike the interwar years, however, today’s ruling class has largely transcended national boundaries and is fundamentally globalist.  It is fundamentally committed to the multiculturalist ideology that is the natural world view that accompanies this.  Its fundamental enemy is nationalism and rootedness is all its forms.

In the current period the opposition to the ruling order is again based a sector of the popular classes and the ruling class is again mobilizing to destroy this opposition.  The difference is that today it is the so-called “fascists” who represent authentic resistance and it is the “left” that is being mobilized to stamp it out in the service of big capital and its globalist project.

In an typical article, which appeared on the blog Shiraz Socialist The Front National and fascism the author quotes Leon Trotsky’s description of fascism as:

“… a plebeian movement in origin, directed and financed by big capitalist powers. It issued forth from the petty bourgeoisie, the slum proletariat and even to a certain extent, from the proletarian masses… with its leaders employing a great deal of socialist demagogy. This is necessary for the creation of the mass movement.”

Although this apparently did not occur to the author, one is struck by how much more accurately this describes today’s left than today’s national populist right.

More than anything else, the left needs to learn to look in the mirror…

(For more on these issues see my previous posts Trump as National Bourgeois and On the Left and 2016 – Part 2. and Part 1.)

(1) The examples are endless but see here and here for a couple of representative samples from Jacobin.
(2) Thus, for example, Johnstone’s fellow CounterPunch columnist Louis Proyect denounced “Diana Johnstone’s poisonous nativism” in an article on his blog last year. More recently Tendance Coatesy attacked both “the notorious” Johnstone and Petras for their comments on Le Pen.

From Ireland

Vdare recently posted an excellent article from Ireland’s recently-formed National Party.

The party’s site is great – definitely worth the binge-reading I gave it this morning.  However, it isn’t just that it says all the right things.  What’s even more gratifying is that the organization  appears to be a real thing – or at least more than just a couple of guys with a grand-sounding name and a web site.

Here are a few samples of what the National Party has to say:

We contend that the first duty of an Irish government is to an Irish people and that this duty can only be served by the National Idea. Ireland cannot simply be a transport hub for a global citizenry. It must be rooted, coherent and authentic to itself.About

And:

The organising unit of society must be a social unit. And that social unit must be as organic and cohesive as possible. The family, the parish, the nation. It is a social communitarian ethos which is the organising basis of everything human-beings create. – #WeAreIrish – Twitter Hashtag Reveals the Contradictions in How Liberals View Ethnicity

And:

… to a liberal and a globalist, nationalism is always something lurking in the shadows. It is a kind of Other. A kind of Id. Something monstrous and irrational which constantly threatens to plunge an ordered society into chaos. It is associated with darkness and danger. Nationalism, one might say, is the foreign element in a globalist society. What does globalism exclude if not nationalism?Is Irish Nationalism Dead like Dan O’Brien Says?

Where do I sign up?

More on the National Party:

For a hostile take on the party see Who is National Party leader Justin Barrett?.

For a selection of videos (mostly) on the party, see Mashpedia.

Here’s the Wikipedia entry.

Don’t Trust Anyone Over 53?

The task to be accomplished is not the conservation of the past, but the redemption of the hopes of the past. – Theodor Adorno & Max Horkheimer – Dialectic of Enlightenment

In a couple of recent posts Vanishing American II has justly chastised those modern-day Jack Weinbergs of the right who seek to blame baby-boomers as a group for our current woes. Denouncing the “nasty rhetoric, based… on some kind of visceral resentment and animus” of one anti-boomer commentator, in his post Dear Boomer-bashers Mr. American II ably rebuts the notion of our generation as the prime source of all political and cultural evil.

Unfortunately, VA II then proceeds to fall into a similar stance of generational finger-pointing, now, however, directed against the boomers’ parents. Thus:

… this PC nonsense wasn’t started by the Boomers. It was started by the previous generation. You know, the ones who elected LBJ. The ones who pushed the Civil Rights movement. The ones who took over academia for the Left. The ones who gave the Cultural Left a stranglehold on the media. All of these things were achieved by the generation born in the 1925-1945 period.

If you want a generation to hate then the generation born 1925-1945 is well worthy of your hatred.

While I’m reluctant to lump VA II in with the anti-boomers, unfortunately all of their comments seem to reflect the same ignorance of the history of American populist identitarian struggle over the course of much of the 20th Century and, worse than that, echo the left’s version of the history of that period in which the massive defensive struggles of the white working and middle classes largely disappear.

The decades from World War II until the 1980s saw intense social conflict over the transformation of the United States.  Not surprisingly, this process is now portrayed as one in which only the “progressives” – the civil rights movements, the new left and liberalism in general – had any real agency.   At best, the defenders of the traditional American nation end up portrayed as a mob of faceless, mindless “deplorables” when they are noticed at all.

While these struggles were overwhelmingly locally-focused – over neighborhood and school boundaries, public recreational spaces, urban re-development, busing, property taxes, crime, and school books – all directly resisted in one way or another the processes through which America was re-made.  (These intensely local roots were at once the source of their strengths and eventual failure.)

Looking back, the breadth and militance of these struggles is almost hard to believe – from what Arnold Hirsch calls a state of “chronic urban guerilla warfare” in Chicago in the 1940s to the inspiring mass mobilizations, boycotts and riots of Boston’s “Southies” (and “Easties”) against busing in the 1970s.

So, when saboteur365 says regarding the baby-boomers: “Not all of us were left wing, hypocritical zealots. Just most of us” he is not simply wrong but also complicit in the left’s re-writing of history – privileging the new left (mainly drawn from the youth of the elite and upper strata of the white middle classes) over the populist right which represented a far larger segment of our people.

My objection to the alt movement’s historical amnesia is not, however, simply motivated by self-defensiveness (as a boomer myself) by an abstract desire for historical accuracy or even by the recognition of the respect we owe our forbears.  In fact, we have a tremendous amount to learn from the rise, the at least partial successes and the ultimate disappearance of these movements.

The general failure of the anti-system right to orient toward and learn from the movements of the past is a sign of its apolitical (or at best, pre-political) nature.  Up to now, we have functioned mainly as cheerleaders and scolds rather that real participants, often hiding behind a fundamentally abstentionist understanding of “metapolitics”.

By far the most valuable thing about Trump’s rise is not what he will accomplish as president (as we are coming to see more and more each day) but the re-emergence of a mass populist movement of the right.  Understanding the experiences of our past is a necessary element in determining how we orient toward this movement, working to build it and, at the same time, to radicalize it.

So… here’s some homework:

While books on the movements of the left vastly outnumber those on the populist right, there are a number of important studies of this period which are worthwhile correctives to the dominant narrative (although one often has to read around the authors’ leftism).  Here are a few things to start with:
Boston Against Busing: Race, Class, and Ethnicity in the 1960s and 1970s – Ronald Formisano
Canarsie: The Jews and Italians of Brooklyn Against Liberalism – Jonathan Rieder
Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago, 1940-1960 – Arnold R. Hirsch
Behind the Backlash: White Working-Class Politics in Baltimore, 1940-1980 – Kenneth D. Dur
Philadelphia Divided: Race and Politics in the City of Brotherly Love – James Wolfinger
The Slaughter of Cities: Urban Renewal as Ethnic Cleansing – E. Michael Jones –  This is an important book and one of the few on the topic that doesn’t require a “subversive reading”.  As interesting as it is however, it desperately needs a merciless editing and would be far more useful at half its almost 700 page length.
Race, Riots, and Roller Coasters: The Struggle over Segregated Recreation in America – Victoria W. Wolcott
Why Busing Failed: Race, Media, and the National Resistance to School Desegregation – Matthew F. Delmont

A Note on the South: One will notice that I’ve largely ignored the experience of the struggle in the South during this period. This is partly due to my rejection of the apartheid order, but also to the fact that its political lessons seem much less relevant today than those drawn from the rest of the country. That said, the story of “massive resistance” is not without interest. Here are a couple of things to start with:

Massive Resistance: The White Response to the Civil Rights Movement – George Lewis
Massive Resistance: Southern Opposition to the Second Reconstruction – Cliff Webb

On the Alt Right and the 59 Missiles

I’m not giving up on the God-Emperor yet…. But this is a very good reminder that he wasn’t ever anything more than a long shot. – Vox Day – Blunder or complete debacle?

Many of us, myself included, were willing to give working with the system a try to see what would happen. A dismal Trump failure will only mean that we will revert to the position we were in prior to 2015, when we were encouraging people to think outside the establishment and business as usual. – John Morgan – Trump’s Red Line . . . & Ours

The national bourgeoisie is a class which is politically very weak and vacillating…. They are part of the broad masses of the people but not the main body, nor are they a force that determines the character of the revolution. – Mao Tse-Tung – On the Question of the National Bourgeoisie and the Enlightened Gentry (1)

Not surprisingly, the Trump administration’s attack on Syria has caused consternation and anger across the spectrum of opinion of the nationalist right, especially given the on-going and apparently successful efforts of the military, financial and mainstream GOP to marginalize the Bannon wing of the Trump administration.

While much of the alt right and especially the alt lite blogosphere continues to (correctly) support the Trump regime at least critically, it is safe to say that the honeymoon is over.

Trumps reversion to a Clintonian foreign policy is, of course, disappointing but the response within the alt circles is also rather a let-down. Comments like Mr. Morgan’s reflect the fundamentally naive and apolitical nature of most of this movement – its inability to understand that the system and the elites behind it are fundamentally committed to globalism and multiculturalism and that only a mass, radical and independent movement of our nation’s working and middle classes will be able to challenge the current trajectory of development of 21st century capitalism in any meaningful way. Further, Mr. Morgan’s implication that the creation of such a movement is counter-posed to electoral work misses the point that, approached correctly, there is an important synergy between the two strategies.

Trump’s campaign, as important as it was in stimulating this movement, was too successful too quickly. Consequently, with no real political power base to counter the pressure on him from the political-military-economic establishment, the nationalist elements of his program are being blocked or dropped. And so, the recent events in Syria, however unfortunate, are no surprise and should be seen as a reminder that the hard work of real-world organizing lies ahead.

(1)See my previous post, Trump as National Bourgeois.

Surround the Cities!

… the imperialists usually begin by seizing the big cities and the main lines of communication, but they are unable to bring the vast countryside completely under their control. The countryside, and the countryside alone, can provide the broad areas in which the revolutionaries can manoeuvre freely. The countryside, and the countryside alone, can provide the revolutionary bases from which the revolutionaries can go forward to final victory. Precisely for this reason, Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s theory of establishing revolutionary base areas in the rural districts and encircling the cities from the countryside is attracting more and more attention among the people in these regions. – Lin Biao – Long Live the Victory of People’s War!

(Graphic from The New York Times via Platypus Review #94.)