Is the current left Marxist? In a provocative commentary, Bill Lind explores this genealogical question, and, unless I’m mistaken, the left and much of its media opposition would second his conclusions. Since Antifa describes itself as Marxist, when it’s not calling itself anarchist, and since leading figures of the Democratic Party, like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have certainly not shunned the Marxist label, it would seem today’s left is authentically Marxist.
But, except at its edges, the present left is not what it claims to be. Today’s left has a different origin and orientation from what has been historically understood as Marxist or Marxist-Leninist; and using that term to designate the characteristics of our current left is at best problematic. Neither Marxists nor Marxist-Leninist governments evidenced the cultural radicalism that today’s left expresses every day. Although there have been Communist Party members in Western countries who have been sexual exhibitionists, and even a brief period in Russia after the November 1917 Revolution when free love was allowed, generally communists have been on the conservative side of issues like homosexuality and the questioning of fixed sexual identities. The traditional left would have attributed our LGBT activities to “bourgeois decadence.” The Strange Death of M... Best Price: $20.62 Buy New $21.95 (as of 05:20 EST - Details)
In the Soviet Union and for a long time throughout the Soviet bloc, artistic experimentation was frowned upon, including music of the Second Viennese School’s twelve-tone technique, as well as abstract expressionism. Communist regimes sent gays to labor camps, and communist revolutionaries like Fidel Castro and Che Guevara raged against homosexuality and, in Guevara’s case, blacks.
It is hard to view these Marxist revolutionaries as precursors of the present intersectional left. Indeed, corporate capitalists stand much closer to this force than traditional Marxists do or did. Are the executives at PepsiCo, Citibank, and the NFL, who support Black Lives Matter (BLM) and wish to stamp out opposition from the cultural right, economic revolutionaries yearning for a socialist society? Pardon my skepticism!
Real Marxism has been about socioeconomic contradictions and transformations, not about the need for transgendered restrooms and the abolition of gender roles. Communist parties in Western Europe after World War II vehemently opposed the immigration of cheap labor from abroad, viewing it as an attack on the indigenous workforce. The current left, by contrast, is about open borders and filling Western countries with impoverished Third World populations as an act of contrition for white Christian racism, or as a source of so-called cultural enrichment. After Liberalism: Mass... Best Price: $24.30 Buy New $27.80 (as of 03:40 EST - Details)
The Soviet regime and Communist parties outside the Soviet Union condemned the Critical Theory philosophy of the Frankfurt School as a distortion of Marxism. One can only imagine what they would have thought of the further evolution of what Lind and others have styled “cultural Marxism.” Lind correctly observes that the Frankfurt School in interwar Germany provided the cradle for this movement, which tried to fuse Freud’s theories about sexual repression with socialist economics. But the result looked much more like a cultural war against reactionary social attitudes than a serious effort to plan a Marxist economy.
After Critical Theory migrated to the U.S. by way of Columbia University in the 1930s, it came to look even less like Marxism and much more like a prelude to our current cultural revolution. Some socialist boilerplate remained attached to this brand of thinking, but it became extraneous to its real message, which is the subversion of what seemed to me as a child in the 1950s to be a normal society.