Keith Preston on the Roots of Political Correctness

Keith Preston

I think we can interpret this stuff with either a grand narrative or a focused narrative, depending on what direction we want to go.

I would agree that the fanatical political correctness we see coming from the cultural Left today is traceable to puritanism, but only in the sense that puritanism emerges due to certain strands in the human personality or human psychology. There’s been a great deal of discussion of to what degree modern totalitarianism is an outgrowth of puritan forms of Christianity. I’ve seen some on this site argue that the lineage of PC can be traced directly to old fashioned Calvinist puritanism, and it’s possible to outline a historical trajectory of that kind with a broad brush.

The way it seems to have happened is that puritanism emerged in the UK countries and then migrated to North America where it became the basis of the founding New England settlements. Over time, the Enlightenment overruns orthodox Calvinism but the puritan spirit remains and finds its way into neo-Protestant movements like Unitarianism and Progressive Christianity. (If you want to know what this spirit is like, just read the lyrics to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” the anthem of the Yankees during the American Civil War).

This kind of Progressive Christian neo-puritanism finds its way into secular progressivism in the 20th century (with movements like prohibitionism to use one of many examples), and creates the cultural and intellectual atmosphere for “cultural Marxism” to take root (the latter having been imported from Europe).

Some theorists of the European New Right like Alain de Benoist and Tomislav Sunic have argued that Marxism is a kind of secularization of Christian ideas like original sin (which becomes “alienation” in the Marxist outlook via Jean Jacques Rousseau), dualism, eschatology, egalitarianism, etc. Rothbard made a similar but narrower version of this argument regarding Protestantism as he tended to admire the Catholic emphasis on natural law. Catholic traditionalists like Erik von Kuehnelt Leddihn have actually argued that German Protestantism in the Lutheran tradition was a forerunner to Nazism. I also seen some Objectivist-influenced philsophers making arguments of this kind. And, of course, there’s the Nietzschean critique of slave morality that Nietzsche saw as having Christian roots.

But whatever the validity of these grand narratives, it seems to me we can also develop a more focused narrative. For example, the “privilege theory” that present day leftists (and, rather embarrassingly, left-libertarians) are obsessed with has its roots in American Marxist-Leninist theoreticians who developed the doctrine of “white skin privilege” in the 1960s, which then found its way into the New Left via Maoist groups like the Weather Underground. This privilege theory converged with Marcuse’s view that the working class had been bought off by consumer culture and integrated into capitalism. The extreme wing of the New Left adopted the view that the white working class in America had become collaborators with white skin privilege and that the black proletariat was the real revolutionary class. And then other groups like feminists, homosexuals, etc started getting added to this.

Paul Gottfried argues that this stuff took root in the American universities and among the American cultural elite first because the pre-existing cultural atmosphere of neo-Protestant puritanism had created an intellectual and cultural environment that was susceptible to it. Then the Europeans picked it up and ran with it.

For instance, I’ve heard it argued that PC takes on a different form in the historically Protestant European countries (i.e. the smug, smarmy moral puritanism of the progressives) than it does in the historically Catholic countries (where it more closely resembles the anti-fascism of the Old Left-for example, some of the first laws criminalizing Holocaust denial were introduced by the Communist deputies in the French Parliament, and the French CP was the last to de-Stalinize in Western Europe). Of course, Germany is a special case given their history.

As for the Jewish role in all this, its certainly true that historically speaking a lot of Jewish intellectuals and politicians have been leftists, but so have an awful lot of Anglo-Saxons, Americans, and continental Europeans. I think modern Jewish intellectuals tend to be liberals and leftists because modern intellectuals generally tend to be liberals and leftists. It’s true that some Jews have embraced multiculturalism on the grounds that Jews are ostensibly safer in a multi-ethnic society without a dominant ethnic majority (although I don’t know that’s actually the case). It’s also true that Jews were greatly disproportionately represented within the Communist movement, but much of this was more of repudiation than an embrace of Jewish identity. Its seems to me that, at best, liberal, socialist, or multicultural trends among Jews simply converged or ran parallel with trends of this type found among Gentile neo-Protestants or European intellectuals generally.


  1. The only content of this learned essay with which I can agree is the reference, albeit rather weak and tentative, is the involvement of some Jews in political correctness. My belief is that it has been dominant!! First, I totally agree with the idea mentioned that the Jews saw a multi-racial society as a safer environment for themselves in that if the main population were occupied with dealing with the effects of mass immigration attention would be diverted from them. I came to that conclusion years ago because they had to have a motive for their promotion of the various Race Relations Acts. The first was introduced in 1965 by immigrant Jew Home Secretary Frank Soskice. When that failed to shut up objections more and more serious Acts were introduced by people like Lithuanian Jew Home Secretary Leon Brittain. In the Jewish Chronicle I saw a picture of Home Secretary Willie Whitelaw grovelling on a platform with the Board of Deputies. The Jewish Chronicle has also boasted that whenever a Cabinet Minister made a speech on Race Relations the text was always drafted by the Jewish head of race relations at the Home Office,Neville Nagler.
    That is the aspect of the problem from the top down perspective but many patriots seeking to protect their liberty from th eimmigrant invasion will know that attacks on their public meetings came from Jewish Marxist rentamobs.
    While the Jews maintain a strict and formulated method of bringing up their children Anglo-Saxon Chrisitian society is disintegrating as our guilt indoctrinated white youth is mixed up with the immigrants. In his book “You Gentiles” Maurice Samuel wrote in a moment of honesty “We Jews are destroyers, there is nothing you can do to please us, for we need a world of our own”.

    Many years ago I acquired Oswald Spengler’s formidable tome “Decline of the West” because I had come across the following enigmatic quote of his elsewhere “There is no proletarian, not even a communist movement that has not operated in the interests of money, in the direction indicated by money, and for the time permitted by money, without the idealists (sic) amongst its leaders having the slightest suspicion of the fact”. A couple of years ago this riddle unravelled when I read the first few pages of “The Rulers of Russia” by Rev. Denis Fahey and Times correspondent Douglas Reed’s “Controversy of Zion”, both available on line.

    • I would not deny the role of many individual Jews or Jewish organizations in the fostering of political correctness and its predecessors. But I think the question is one of who is the dog and who is the tail? The first problem I have with the “Jew-centric” interpretation of the origins of PC is that it seems that at the very least if “the Jews” are responsible for fostering these kinds of things, they have had a great deal of assistance from the Gentiles along the way. I agree that Jews tend to be overrepresented among both intellectual and socioeconomic elites given their rather small demographic size, but it still seems to me that the currents within Jewish intellectual culture that have contributed to the development of PC have merely been a subset of wider cultural, intellectual, and political currents whose principal figures and movers have been Gentiles. For example, in the US today, WASPish liberal Episcopalians, progressive Lutherans, liberal Catholics, and Reform Jews all have virtually identical views on social and cultural issues. One group is as politically correct as the other. From what I have seen, it is the same way in Europe.

      Jewish thinkers were generally sympathetic to the Enlightenment-inspired revolutions of the eighteenth century, but no more so that plenty of left-wing Christians of the era and the liberal European bourgeoisie. There were certainly plenty of Jews in the international Communist movement, and disproportionately so, but I disagree that Communism can be characterized as a Jewish movement per se. Particularly when one considers the actual Nordicism of Marx and Engels, and the fact that Communism traveled so well in cultures where Jews were not particularly present or prominent (e.g. Northern and Eastern Asia). Jews were also prominent in the New Left, and disproportionately so, but a bigger question is why did the New Left happen when it did and in the places that it did? It seems that there was a pre-existing cultural and intellectual environment in which “cultural Marxism” was able to develop via the influence of currents like the Frankfurt School and what might be called “Western Maoism.” It seems that Progressive Christianity, rooted in puritanism, and its secular Progressive offspring created this cultural and intellectual environment in America northeastern universities (with this subsequently spreading to the West Coast). And again, there was at the very least plenty of Gentile abetting of the “Jewish influence.” For instance, of the two founders of “white skin privilege theory” I mentioned, Noel Ignatiev is/was Jewish. But Ted Allen was a Gentile from the American Midwest. This illustration represents a kind of microcosm of the Jewish and Gentile relationships in most leftist movements.

      • I am glad that Keith mentions his belief that any Jew-centric PC has had a lot of help by the Gentiles along the way. I agree but probably not from his standpoint. By Gentiles I presume he really means Gentile politicians. Gentile politicians have either been blackmailed into co-operating ( the newspapers who ran the story of Prince Andrew and his unfortunate “friendship” with Epstein were thankfully not afraid to mention Epstein’s methods of blackmail (getting people into compromising positions in order to control them), or politicians have been terrified of being labelled “racist” because if you are a racist, whatever that is supposed to mean, you then want to put people in gas chambers. That is absurd, but we all know which group was implying that as the dark motive of any objector to multi-racialism.

        This label could make you unacceptable to any political party including the current alleged alternative, UKIP.. I cannot imagine a genuinely English politician consenting willingly or happily to the sort of mass immigration that has changed the very foundations of parts of Britain (especially the capital city) and therefore they must have been co-erced or incredibly feeble. Among these were those who had shown great physical valour during the war. Indeed, when Enoch Powell warned of “rivers of blood” (which may yet come) while we all know what the official shock-horror response was, we all have met ordinary people who still say “Enoch was right”.. Not only did Tony Blair say that his party had a “dirt book” on all MPs so that if they stepped out of line they could be stamped upon (www.camrecon.demon.co.uk) but recently on BBC Neil Hamilton of alleged “cash for questions” fame also stated that the Tories have a similar system up and running. That confirms to me that such an “industry” of blackmail for political control exists, a further reason for being disgusted with party politics..”Fear of the Jews” is nothing new and goes back to Matthew’s Gospel. After the Charlie Hebdo affair in Paris there was quite a comment that some British Jews were thinking of upping sticks and going to Israel.They may well need to as revisionist history makes further revelations.

  2. As Thomas is fond of telling us “Political Correctness” was first used by the orthodox Marxists, people who followed the Moscow line.

    However, it was soon take over by the Frankfurt School of Marxism – formally a heretical branch of the Marxist faith, although it has the common aim of destroying “capitalism”, dragging down “big business” and so on,

    The Frankfurt School Marxists noted that most German industrial workers did not support Marxist revolution after the First World War – that they (the industrial workers) mostly supported Noske (and other “Majority Socialists”) against the Revolutionaries.

    The idea developed by the Frankfurt School was to encourage people to blame problems (real or fantasy problems) faced by various groups on “capitalist society” – to organise people on the basis of race, or gender or sexual orientation to first think they were persecuted (the first stage of the P.C. project – the public face of the movement) and then (the second stage of the P.C. project – the private face of the movement for activists) to blame this persecution on “capitalist society”.

    In this way the mass of racial minorities, women, homosexuals (whatever) could be manipulated by socialist activists to help bring down “the capitalists”.

    The aim of Marxism (the destruction of the “capitalists”) would remain the same – only the means would be different, with instead of industrial workers taking the lead, other “victim groups” being manipulated to take the lead instead – this was the heresy of the Frankfurt School.

    Some of the leading Frankfurt School thinkers were indeed from Jewish families – and so were some of the leading foes (Jews can always be found in intellectual movements, normally engaged in fighting other Jews in opposing movements – this is because Jewish people tend to take ideas seriously, most people seem not to).

    For the impact of the Frankfurt School in the United States (and the American left generally) see “Liberal Fascism” by Jonah Goldberg.

    For an insight into the American left generally (not specifically the Frankfurt School) see David Horowitz (a classic “Red Diaper baby” who turned against the left when the Black Panthers murdered a friend of his – and the American “liberal” movement showed indifference to the murder of the lady, indeed just wanted to cover up this and other murders by the Panthers and others) “Radicals”.

    Frank Meyer (long dead now) the leading “Fusionist” (the alliance of conservative and libertarian thought ) started off as a Marxist, as did Thomas Sowell.

    As for today – the modern American left has a deep hatred of Israel (as David Horowitz records almost every day) which often spills over into coded anti Semitism.

    This would have shocked the first generation of Frankfurt School “Politically Correct” thinkers – as they hoped Israel would develop into a socialist society (although not with the concentration camps and so on of Stalin’s Soviet Union), Israel developed rather different – as modern “liberals” whine “we want to live in California but Israel is more like Texas” (well then go and live in California – who is stopping you?)

    Today one is likely to find a “Palestinian” flag (really a Jordanian flag designed in the First World War period by a British gentleman) in the office of some P.C. academic or media type, and books by Edward Said (the friend of Barack Obama) on their shelves.

    But the objective of P.C.,the wiping of “the capitalists”, remains the same. The “Third World” (including the “Palestinians” – but also American blacks and Hispanics) are seen as the new “proletariat” and Israel (and so on) is seen as a “capitalist” – a sort of “J.R”. of the old television show “Dallas”.

    Mean spirited (envy driven) “intellectuals” have hated businessmen (especially rich businessmen) since the time of Plato. “You are not rich because of your intelligence and hard work – you are rich because you EXPLOIT people”, this has been the line of every envy driven (and power mad – “the point is not to understand the world, the point is to change it”, “change it” as in “ME in power – telling everyone else what to do”) “intellectual” for thousands of years.

    Karl Marx did not event this hatred – he did not even invent his own terms of abuse (as Paul Johnson pointed out a lot of the abuse that Karl Marx throws at businessmen is taken, sometimes word-for-word from Martin Luther’s ranting against the Jews). although Karl Marx’s line that a businessman is an “inwardly circumcised Jew” does appear to be an original term of abuse (one that showed a wilful blindness to the origins of Karl’s own family…..)

    Under the crap about race, gender, sexual orientation……. the Frankfurt School P.C. stuff is just pushing the same hatred, it has the same desire to pull down the wage payer claiming this will improve the lot of the wage earner.

    In reality a “capitalist” such as Josiah Wedgewood in the 18th century or Jon Huntsman (senior) today, do more good in the average day – than all the P.C. scribblers of all time have done in their entire vile lives, it is unfortunate (to say the least) that the universities (and so much else) is dominated by these P.C. “anti Capitalist” people.

    By the way…..

    To use the term “P.C.” or “Political Correctness” is rather old fashioned now – the up to date name for the “anti capitalists” (for the people who are undermining Western civilisation and pushing things towards a new Dark Age) is “Critical Theory”.

    In everything from the law to literature – even fantasy literature and science fiction and gaming.

    Indeed their is a major conflict going on right now against the P.C. forces in this area.

    Sad Puppies!

    • “As Thomas is fond of telling us “Political Correctness” was first used by the orthodox Marxists, people who followed the Moscow line.”

      Yes, and you found it among the more extreme tendencies on the New Left as well, i.e. the Western Maoist groups like the Weather Underground and the Black Liberation Army.

      I agree with much of what Paul says here about the influence of the Frankfurt School, and I’ve written about that myself, as well as promoted William S. Lind’s analysis of the Frankfurt School question. But it’s interesting that the Frankfurt School ideas first took root in American universities with a lengthy history and legacy of neo-puritan Progressive Christian influence. It seems that the latter paved the way for the former.

  3. “As Thomas is fond of telling us ‘Political Correctness’ was first used by the orthodox Marxists, people who followed the Moscow line.”

    Nope. It was first used by American non-Communist-Party socialists to DESCRIBE Communist Party members who “people who followed the Moscow line” no matter which way that line flip-flopped (which group constituted “orthodox Marxists” is an interesting question). It later became an internal laugh-line in the New Left.

  4. According to David Horowitz, in his “In-Depth” interview by C-Span’s BookTV, it was Mao who invented the term “political correctness” (or, perhaps, “politically correct” — whichever). He said it is in Mao’s book.

    • Horowitz’s claim would make sense, because in my efforts to track the roots of the term, it seems to start appearing in the rhetoric of the Maoist-influenced groups of the New Left. Plus, I’ve always thought that the Maoist concept of self-criticism was an important influence on the development of political correctness in the West, e.g. white guilt, the idea that no effort to combat “oppression” is ever good enough, neutrality is collaboration, etc. Among leftists today, you will literally see them holding workshops with titles like “Overcoming White Supremacy in the Anti-Racist Movement” or “Sexism in the LGBTQ Community,” and they take all of this very seriously.

    • Mao certainly used the term Julie – but he may not have been the first to use it (I am prepared to believe Thomas on that, if on little else)

      As you know Mao was the largest scale mass murderer in human history (murdering even more tens of millions that Stalin did) – the fact that most of the “New” left seem to have admired him tells me all I need to know about them.

      And the fact that both Richard Nixon and Edward Heath crawled (like worms) to Mao tells me all I need to know about these “Progressives”.

      There were a handful of American socialists (such as Sydney Hook) who really did hate the Marxists and backed the United States against them in Korea, Vietnam and so on.

      But it really was just a handful.

  5. O.K. Thomas – but how was the objective of the non Moscow line Marxists really any different from the Moscow line Marxists?

    And do not give the “they wanted DEMOCRATIC socialism” response – as there was no sign of that when the “New” left (most of whose leaders were red diaper babies) supported Castro, Uncle Ho, “Che”, and Mao (and on and on).

    When the test came, the Vietnam War, they were on the enemy side – just as the “old” left had been on the Communist side in the Korean War. So the “New” left would appear to be the old left – with longer hair.

    Nor do I see any real difference between the Red Flaggers and the Black Flaggers – after all they both march together around the United States and work together in organisations such as the Chicago Teachers Union. “We are anarchists – we believe in THE PEOPLE not THE STATE” seems to be hollow, as hollow as when Rousseau went on about he supported “freedom” and “the people”.

    Keith – you may well be correct. It is the Ian B. thesis that Frankfurt School Marxism had most success in places (such as Columbia university and so on) where Progressivism had been strong – and this is undoubtedly true.

    But does one need a theological reason for this.

    They (the previous generation of academics) hated “big business” and viewed political action as the Saint George against the Dragon of “business” (very Plato).

    The new generation of academics added longer hair and chanting about “Uncle Ho” – that took collectivism further (the official political line of the older Progressive academics was more like the politics of President “War on Poverty” Johnson, than the people of 1968), but they were all pushing in the same direction.

    Do they really mean the crazy things they say?

    I guess they do.

    The end of “Che” (the Marxist Argentine mercenary who made his name working with the Castro brothers in Cuba) is instructive.

    He went to Bolivia in 1967 – and made long speeches to the peasants about the need to kill the landlords and take the land (leaving out the little detail that he did not intend to allow individual peasants the land – but then Marxists tend to leave that bit out).

    Two problems – the speeches were in Spanish (a language most of the indian peasants could not speak) and the landlords in Bolivia had their land taken after the Revolution of 1952. One of many Latin American Revolutions and Coups where land was taken for “redistribution” (which is why it is pointless to do any long term investment in most of Latin America – you are likely to lose your estate in the next Coup, so just loot the place and run).

    “Che” came from Argentina (next door) and boasted how, as a young guy, he had driven his motorcycle everywhere – but he knew nothing.

    Objective reality did not matter to him – it was just the “shadows on the cave wall” as Plato put it.

    What mattered to “Che” (as with Plato or Karl Marx) was the pictures in his head – in this case peasants “exploited” by non existent landlords.

    It is the same with modern collectivists, whether Red Flag collectivists or Black Flag collectivists.

    In reality American companies are being hit by some of the highest levels of company taxation, and some of the most extreme regulations, in the Western World. But in the Hollywood style fantasy world of the collectivists (whether Red Flag ones or Black Flag ones) the “corporations” control everything and crush women, blacks, Hispanics, homosexuals….. (name the random “victim group”) under their expensive shoes.

    And whether the collectivists claim to be standing for the state or denounce the state (saying they stand for “the people” against the state) makes no difference to this.

    • Dear Mr. Paul Marks: What you say is unbearably repulsive–cloying to the highest degree.

  6. And when the collectivists take to the streets in 2018 – both to celebrate 1968, and two centuries since the birth of Karl Marx (celebrate in their special way – smash-burn-rape-kill) and to denounce the “collapse of capitalism” (which they will blame for the terrible economic conditions that will indeed exist in 2018), will the Black Flaggers be fighting the Red Flaggers?

    I doubt it (but I am open to changing my opinion if the facts turn out otherwise – although I will not be around at the time) – I think the Black Flaggers will be fighting along side the Red Flaggers (not against them), smashing, burning, killing……..

  7. My apologies – when mentioning “Che” I should have said the racist, sexist and homophobic, murdering Argentine Marxist who made his name working with the Castro brothers in Cuba.

    Not the Hollywood view of course – the “Motorcycle Dairies” even has music in the score that “Che” banned in Cuba (he liked banning stuff).

    Hard to take seriously a movement that claims to be about the rights of women, blacks, homosexuals (and so on), yet has “Che” as a hero.

    However, yes, I am prepared to accept that the average foot soldier in the P.C. (or “Critical Theory”) movement, is honestly unaware of the contradictions.

Leave a Reply