Stop Throwing Around the ‘Socialist’ Label Reply

By Paul Gottfried

The American Conservative

Several years ago I wrote an essay for TAC on what fascism is not. In that broadside I spared neither right nor left for their misappropriations of the F-word.

It may now be time to raise similar questions about the overuse of the “socialist” label by Republicans and Conservative Inc.

This task seemed particularly timely after I was paired last night on a podcast with Riva Enteen, the co-editor of the anthology Follow the Money: Radio Voices for Peace and Justice. Although Riva described herself as a Marxist and a “historical materialist,” just about everything she seemed passionate about was a contemporary cultural issue. She advocated for women’s “reproductive rights,” endorsed Black Lives Matter, and stressed the uphill battle still being waged by gays. And, oh yes, she was against war because she thought it was inhumane. Whatever her intent, Riva gave the impression that Marxism, and more generally socialism, is about being culturally progressive.

Yet I don’t think I heard much orthodox Marxism in what she had to say.

Unlike feminism and the LGBT lobby, Marxist regimes have historically been socially reactionary, with Russian, Cuban, and Chinese communists throwing homosexuals and drug addicts in labor camp, or worse. As I write in my book The Strange Death of Marxism, what our progressive culture now celebrates as new forms of liberation profoundly offended real communists when they were in power. In fact, communists treated groups that the contemporary left holds up as historical victims with contempt.

There is a long established practice of confusing what is misleadingly called “Cultural Marxism” with socialism and Marxist economics. The two are most definitely not the same. Those who invented what the Frankfurt School in interwar Germany called Critical Theory, and that was called by its friends and later adversaries “Cultural Marxism,” were intent on a cultural revolution. Critical Theory was only secondarily about changing the economic system, which is the primary interest of socialists and which real Marxists maintained could only come about through violence. Although the Frankfurt School and its descendants favored state ownership of productive forces, they took this stand only as a means towards a cultural end. They viewed socialism as instrumental for overcoming sexism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia. These things, which they equated with “fascism,” were their primary targets.

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Cultural Marxism and the Frankfurt School 1

Paul Gottfried is interviewed by Tom Woods. Listen here. For those who are unfamiliar with Paul Gottfried’s work, he is well worth checking out. Probably the best right-wing critic of the Left out there. You don’t have to be a right-winger to get something out of his work.

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Is there such a thing as “cultural Marxism”? If so, what is it? And what was the Frankfurt School, and what was it trying to accomplish? Paul Gottfried, who holds a Ph.D. in history from Yale and has written extensively on these subjects, joins me to get to the bottom of it all.

About the Guest

Paul Gottfried is professor emeritus of humanities at Elizabethtown College and a Guggenheim recipient.

Selected Books by the Guest

The Strange Death of Marxism: The European Left in the New Millennium
Fascism: The Career of a Concept

Previous Appearances

Ep. 977 Left, Right, and Charlottesville, with Paul Gottfried
Ep. 947 Divided Republicans, Unified Democrats, and Our Future
Ep. 889 The Biases of Historians, Beneath a Magnifying Glass
Ep. 862 The Alt Right
Ep. 650 Fascism: The Career of a Concept
Ep. 574 Neocon Says Word Neoconservative Is Outdated Now; I Remain Unmoved
Ep. 496 Wilsonianism: The Legacy That Won’t Die
Ep. 386 What Fascism Is, and Why It Isn’t Just a Name for Everything People May Oppose
Ep. 87 World War I: Sleepwalk to Suicide

Unraveling Political Theory: Cultural Marxism 1

Listen here.

To understand the world of politics and change it for the better, it’s paramount that people begin to study political theory and the ways in which it has manifest throughout history up into the present day. By bringing light to the origins of political and philosophical thought, the present day becomes all the more explainable because one is now able to see the logical progression of such manifestations.

With this urge to better understand the root of many of the common political ideologies present in the world, The Last American Vagabond has decided to team up with Keith Preston in a new podcast series in which the who, what, where, when and how of different political theories will be explored.

In this episode Keith and Tim Bryant take a look at Cultural Marxism, which is the transformation of the political left from a party focused on the eternal class struggle in society of labor workers vs. the elite owners of capital, to a party focused on cultural infiltration in order to weed out the “oppressors and oppressions” within society. Stemming from the commonly held belief that the workers of the world were bought off by the elite capitalists through consumerism, the left thought it was no longer fruitful to keep fighting capitalism. Instead, their new method of redefining Western society was to be carried out by infiltrating the culture and remaking it in the image of an equal world free of the old cultural and economic values.