Cultural Marxism: One of Those Legitimising Ideologies that Come and Go

Cultural Marxism:
One of Those Legitimising Ideologies that Come and Go
Sean Gabb

10th December 2017

Last month, I wrote a defence of Charlie Elphicke, my Member of Parliament. He had been suspended from the Conservative Party while the Police investigated him for an alleged sexual assault. He has still not been arrested or charged. He has still not been told the nature of the complaint against him. It may be that he is about to be unmasked as a serial sex-murderer. More likely, the sinister clowns who direct law enforcement in this country have found nothing that even they regard as an assault worth prosecuting. But, if the former of these possibilities might embarrass me, the general reflections I made on his case stand by themselves. What I wish now to do is to elaborate on these reflections.

I begin by granting that ideologies are in themselves important. They are sets of propositions about the world that are true or false in much the same way as a scientific hypothesis is true or false. They are true or false regardless of what motives people may have for adopting them. This being granted, every person is born with a set of dispositions that draws him to accepting a particular ideology. Some of us are born with a dislike of pushing others around. This will not invariably make us into free market libertarians. But it will incline us to less intrusive formulations of whatever ideology is accepted. There are liberal Catholics and liberal Moslems. There have even been liberal Marxists. Others are born with a will to dominate. These will gather round the most fashionable intolerant ideology on offer.

Last month, I used the examples of Calvinism and Cultural Marxism. These were and are legitimising ideologies. Each has different formal propositions. Each has different enemies. Each has different effects on the character. But their essential function, so far as they can be made hegemonic, is to justify the gaining and use of power by an authoritarian élite – or by “The Puritans.”

If you want to see this case made at greater length, I refer you to my earlier essay. The case briefly stated, I turn to what may follow from it.

This is to suggest that direct argument with the Puritans is of limited value. Our own Puritans are Cultural Marxists for reasons other than the truth or falsehood of Cultural Marxism. Because its surface claims about treating people as individuals, and not being rude to them, are broadly in line with public opinion, it is an ideal legitimising ideology. If our Puritans had, after about 1970, taken up traditional Calvinism, or Orthodox Marxism-Leninism, or National Socialism, they would have got nowhere. The social liberalism of the previous two decades would have rolled straight over them. Instead, there was the combination, in Britain and America, of a large cohort of those inclined to Puritanism and an ideology, or set of ideologies, that could be shaped into a powerful legitimising ideology. It may be that the universe as a whole is locked into a rigid scheme of cause and effect. In this case, what happened was inevitable. But looking only at those parts of the universe we can understand and control, I think there was an element of contingency here. We are where we are because of a largely accidental discovery by the Puritans of a legitimising ideology that worked for them.

I suggest that direct argument is of limited value. This is not to deny that argument has some value. No point of view should be rejected without examination. It may be correct, and there is an obvious benefit in knowing the truth. Before we reject anything, we should assure ourselves of its falsehood. We discover its falsehood by arguing about it. Direct argument is also useful, so far as it brings over the uncommitted, or simply immunises them intellectually against otherwise hegemonic propaganda. It can be useful for giving comfort to the victims of an ideology, and for giving them their own ideology of reaction against what is established. But anyone who thinks that bombarding people like Theresa May and Hillary Clinton with memoranda on the error of their ways will be disappointed. Lecture even a junior Puritan, and the most effect you will produce is a momentary annoyance. They will ignore you. If that fails, they will smear you. If that fails, they come after you.

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When argument does appear to work, it is generally because a legitimising ideology is wearing thin. When this happens, there are defections. In the short term, the loss of unanimity can make an established order more liberal. But these defections will be to a different ideology of control. What may be called a “liberal interglacial” can be prolonged by secondary causes for several centuries – as happened in England after 1660. Or, as with the social liberalism that followed the Second World War, it can last just a few decades. Whatever the case, Puritanism is not defeated by direct argument.

I say, then, that setting up institutes to fight a direct war of ideas with Cultural Marxism – or whatever you want to call it – is not in itself a sufficient response. Indeed, so far as it absorbs clever liberals into the details of ideology, it may be a dangerous waste of effort. We already know enough about the present legitimising ideology of the Puritans to know it is false. We can also see that it is not fit for purpose.

Let us compare it with Christianity – and I ask my Christian readers to look beyond questions of theological truth. Once its more liberal formulations – Marcionism, Pelagianism, and so forth – had been marginalised as heresy, the Christianity of the Church Fathers became a fine legitimising ideology for the Puritans of their age. There was a nexus without seam between the bishops about the Emperor and the Desert Saints. There was eventually no intellectual production outside the Church. Christianity may have disrupted the civilisation of Late Antiquity. It gave a voice to Semitic nationalists in Egypt and Syria who had previously been silent or ignored. Overall, though, it saved what could be saved of that civilisation. It allowed the Western Barbarians to be integrated into territories they would have invaded in any event. It allowed those Eastern Provinces that were Greek in language and Orthodox in religion to hold together for centuries after the disintegration of the Western Empire.

Or we can look at Calvinism. Again leaving aside questions of truth, this poisoned lives with visions of unavoidable hellfire. It encouraged waves of hysterical persecution. But the Calvinist rulers of England and Holland presided over a rise to wealth and greatness, and may have been part of the cause.

Or we can look at the Jacobins. Once the lunatics had been guillotined or sent off to die of yellow fever, the moderates gave France a rational system of laws and a system of government more suited to its people than the Old Order had been.

What use is Cultural Marxism? It is the intellectual equivalent of a parasite that kills its host. Its alliance with big business has imported enough unskilled immigrants to bring on a visible collapse of working class incomes. Immigration has led to a rise of crime and disorder. It is also allowing parts of the country to become alien and hostile enclaves. The taxes and regulations that enable a Puritan bureaucracy are harming economic performance – this at a time when the coloured races are waking from their inertia of the past five hundred years.

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The ideology is even eating itself. The immediate effect of the sexual assault mania is a random destruction of men. Its longer term effect will be a regulation of contact between the sexes to make it impossible for women to have dealings with men outside the household. Homosexuals are now part of the ruling coalition. Their status as historic victims will not save them when, in the next ten years, homosexuality is reconflated with pederasty. Leftist Jews are being quietly eased out of the ruling coalition. Israel is approaching the same pariah status as South Africa once enjoyed. Again in the next ten years, only those Jews will be left in leading positions who make public and continuing declarations of anti-Zionism.

No doubt, there are Cultural Marxists for whom none of these are unintended consequences – or who will shut their eyes and carry on. But most of them, I think, like to believe they are doing those they rule a favour. When it is plain they are not – and when it is plain they are held personally responsible, and hated, for what is happening to us – prepare to see them stop being Cultural Marxists. Like a hermit crab dissatisfied with its existing shell, the Puritans will go looking for a new ideology of legitimisation.

What will be their replacement ideology? I used to think it would be radical environmentalism. With its call to guilt and self-denial, and its need for despotic intrusions, this has obvious appeal to any Puritan. Its disadvantage is that it rests on a set of scientific claims that are manifestly false. Even real scientists are not always disinterested seekers of the truth. But there is a limit to how far they can be paid to lie; and you do not need a degree in Statistics to see the fudged temperature readings and the failed predictions. The Puritans could convert to Islam. Some of them appear to be edging in that direction. But Islam has about as much appeal to the rest of us as pristine Calvinism.

My suspicion is that the Puritans will find their new home on the nationalist right. At the moment, I have friends within that set of movements. These generally embrace the more liberal formulations of their ideology. This is because some of them passed through libertarianism on their journey, and they have not wholly shaken off what they used to believe – or because they are born liberals who are scared by what is being done to us. It is also because the logic of their position makes them contingent libertarians. Because they are victims of censorship, they believe in freedom of speech. Because they are not left in peace, they believe in freedom of association. Let the spiritual children of Polly Toynbee and George Monbiot decide that the White Race is in peril, and you will see the implicit authoritarianism of the ideologies in question become very explicit.

This is why I doubt the value of making any big fuss about Cultural Marxism. It will collapse by itself. Harness oceans of money and terabytes of brain power into a refutation of the Frankfurt School, or whatever, and it will be as useful as if a formal anti-Jacobite movement had been created in, say, the 1720s that then continued publishing and holding conferences into the 1790s.

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Beyond the level I have accepted, there is no point in giving attention to Cultural Marxism in itself. The real strategy should be to work towards a set of institutional arrangements that marginalises the Puritans. This brings me to my usual remedy, which is a radical shrinking of the State and an embrace of subsidiarity. We stop the Police from warning us that kissing under the mistletoe is rape not by telling them to go looking for burglars, but by abolishing them – or at least by breaking them up into small units under the close direction of local juries chosen by lot. We stop the war on smoking, drinking and eating and looking at naughty images by a ban on state-funding of charities, by deregulating the medical professions, by scaling back on patents and the regulation of medical research, and by a gradual switch from state welfare to the voluntary mutualism that was destroyed in this country after 1911. The Cultural Marxists were able to become so hegemonic so quickly because they were able to colonise a state apparatus that had already been constructed, if for less malevolent purposes. Clear out the Cultural Marxists, and do no more than that, and we simply leave ourselves open to colonisation by some other variety of Puritanism.

Every essay should have a conclusion. Here is mine. Our enemy is not a shelf-load of more or less unreadable books. It is the people who have decided to read those books. Let them find other books – they will be the enemy still.


  1. [quote]”Let the spiritual children of Polly Toynbee and George Monbiot decide that the White Race is in peril, and you will see the implicit authoritarianism of the ideologies in question become very explicit.”[unquote]

    What will guide them is money and status: one reason I do not accept the Puritan hypothesis.

    • I don’t think the concepts are mutually exclusive. The Puritans of the American colonies developed self-aggrandizement into an art form. I think the Puritan hypothesis makes perfect sense. It is easier to deceive, exploit, and expropriate a population which is viewed as not only morally inferior, but absolutely irredeemable. The relentless pursuit of status and enrichment is symptomatic of the vainglory that characterizes the Puritan worldview. As is the will to power – to compel the wicked to behave according to the moral preference of the righteous elite, or to provide them with a level of wealth and status suited to their dignity.

        • You may very well be correct there, but people are socialized and acculturated to act on some base-desires and to suppress others, or to channel them into socially acceptable pursuits. So the question becomes – what permits or even encourages the pursuit of some desires by anti-social means in some people, while discouraging the use of such means in others? This is where culture, ideology and so forth come into play and where the Puritan Hypothesis takes on its explanatory value.

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