William Lind described the origins of cultural Marxism as follows:
Following World War I, European Marxists faced a difficult question: why did the proletariat throughout Europe not rise in revolution and establish a new, Marxist order, as their ideology said it would? Two prominent Marxist thinkers, Antonio Gramsci in Italy and Georg Lukács in Hungary, came up with an answer: Western culture. Western culture so blinded the workers to their true, “class” interests that they could not act on them. So before socialism could come to power, Western culture had to be destroyed. Lukacs in 1919 posed the question, “Who will save us from Western civilization?”
This goal, of “saving” us by destroying the villain, Western civilization, was pursued through a multi-pronged attack. This was dubbed, by Marxist activist Rudi Dutschke, “the long march through the institutions.” Western civilization would be eradicated by gradually undermining the family, the local community, the church, the school, and perhaps most especially the university. Easy divorce, abortion on demand, heavy-handed interference with local autonomy, the infiltration of churches by radical priests and ministers preaching revolution instead of Christianity, the replacement of pro-American school curriculum with leftist agitprop, and the denigration of standards of excellence in the humanities as “dead-white-male hegemony” are all examples of the program in action.
By such means, the project of wrecking Western civilization has progressed pretty far. So why isn’t the proletariat casting off their chains and revolting?
Asking a different question leads us to the answer, and that question is, “Why have corporations enthusiastically joined the cultural Marxists in their program of civilizational destruction?”
First off, do you know the old aphorism, “If you’re at a poker table and you don’t know who the mark is, you’re the mark”? If you answered, “Because corporations care about these issues,” well, you’re the mark. The NBA plays games in China, where people are enslaved in sweatshops. Do you really think they moved the all-star game out of Charlotte, where men are shut out of women’s bathrooms, out of a great concern for human rights?
Many of our most “social justice”-oriented corporations have manufacturing facilities located in China as well. Our big banks are great pals with the Saudi royal family, people who execute homosexuals. I would think that is a little more serious than declining to sell a lesbian couple a wedding cake, but what do I know?
Those at the top of our giant corporations generally don’t care about these issues, at least not in any serious way: they care about becoming richer and richer and securing their positions against any potential threats.
The right answer as to why corporations have “joined” (“co-opted” is more like it) the cultural Marxists is that at some point, our corporate masters figured out that as the progress of wrecking Western culture progressed, people were becoming not revolutionary agents of change, but passive consumers of corporate swill and compliant workers penned in cubicles, nourished by fluorescent grow-lamps. (I am not claiming that corporate CEOs and boards are sophisticated social theorists who have explicitly traced this connection, just that at some point, they noticed, “Hey, this is working out pretty well for us!”) A key point in this learning process was likely when corporations found out that if they just offered “counter-cultural” rock stars enough money, those rock stars would happily would sell soda or credit cards. And such ads, offering packaged versions of sixties-era “individualism” and “rebellion,” were very effective at selling products, enabling marketing messages to slip right past the flower children’s wariness of big corporations.
Corporations found out that without a healthy culture, people are not natural Marxists but natural couch potatoes. With no extended family, no effective church, and no healthy local community to support their lives, people don’t form revolutionary cells: they buy a case of beer or renew their Xanax prescription and spend their non-working hours watching NFL games and the Lifetime network and various types of pornography. This dull, sedated existence is punctuated by certain “feast days,” such as Black Friday, when one can turn over lots of one’s money to corporations; New Year’s Eve, when one can consume lots of the mind-altering substances they sell; and the Super Bowl, perhaps the high holy day of American consumptionism, when the NFL tells us that we don’t even need real families, because “Football Is Family.” Or alternatively, we might watch Walmart, coopting counter-cultural icon John Lennon, telling us to “Come together [as a family] right now, over” … Walmart.
Thus we arrive at a rich irony: the cultural Marxists filling our academic departments of X and Y studies and serving as Chief Inquisitors for Diversity Complaints are acting not as the vanguard of the proletariat but as the unwitting foot soldiers of the corporate elite.
Gene Callahan teaches economics and computer science at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn and is the author of Oakeshott on Rome and America.