Keith Preston on the Cultural Marxism Hypothesis
I generally agree with Michael Enoch’s article, with several qualifications.
First, it is indeed problematic to identify as Marxism a theory that is not rooted in economic determinism and the view of class conflict as the defining element of capitalist society. Marx and Engels themselves had many ideas that would be considered “far right” today, particularly their views on racism and imperialism. Leftist anti-racism really doesn’t take off until the post-WW2 era (mostly as a backlash against Nazism, in my view).
Marx and Engels were essentially Germanic or at least Nordic supremacists, viewed indigenous peoples as non-historical, and regarded Western imperialism as a historically progressive force (they had the same view of capitalism). The early anarchists took an anti-imperialist position but Marxist anti-imperialism really begins with Lenin. At best, the Frankfurt School’s “cultural Marxism” is a revision of orthodox Marxism…at the very best. These are among the reasons I prefer the term totalitarian humanism for PC rather than cultural Marxism.
Second, aspects of political correctness seem to have been imported from Maoist China during the Cultural Revolution era rather than through the Frankfurt School. Remember the reverence that hard core New Left radicals often had for Mao in the late 60s and early 70s. Notice the similarities between a Maoist self-criticism session and the self-flagellation common among adherents of PC.
Third, I don’t think the Marxist influenced hard left alone is responsible for the growth of PC. There’s also progressive Christianity, and progressivism in general, which has much different roots than Marxism. See Paul Gottfried. (Maybe Ian B. can add some thoughts on this as well?)
Fourth, this quote:
“If humanities faculties are really geared to brainwashing students into accepting the postulates of far-left ideology, the composition of western parliaments and presidencies and the roaring success of corporate capitalism suggests they’re doing an astoundingly bad job. Anyone who takes a cool look at the last three decades of politics will think it bizarre that anyone could interpret what’s happened as the triumph of an all-powerful left.”
I would agree that while the totalitarian humanists often have their roots in anti-capitalism, it is certainly true that they have since made their accommodations to capitalism and are now trying to use capitalism to their own ends. See Tomislav Sunic’s article “The ’68ers” on this. This is not particularly surprising. Totalitarian movements often start out as anti-capitalist but use capitalism as a tool once they obtain power (see Mussolini’s fascism, Hitler’s NSDAP, and even Lenin’s “New Economic Policy.”) For that matter, see present day China.
Lastly, PC and capitalism are not necessarily in conflict. Capitalism wants workers, consumers, investors, and new markets. This means operating among an ever greater number of demographics. It is therefore perfectly logical that capitalism would embrace anti-racism, feminism, gay rights, etc. They want to sell products to minorities, women, and gays, and hire them as workers and managers, not discriminate against them. (See Noam Chomsky’s comments on how big business supports anti-racism). I suspect the serious thinkers among the cultural Left realize this, which is part of the reason why they have softened their anti-capitalism in their old age. This also explains why the corporate class has mostly rolled over in the face of PC. Remember that Singapore (which the Left considers to be fascist, and which free market conservatives often hold up as a model) also has strict “hate speech” laws.