In the recent cabinet reshuffle, Suella Braverman MP was promoted to Attorney General. In an ordinary world, this appointment would scarcely have registered in the consciousness of the mainstream and social media. However, these are not ordinary times and it looks as if the Twittersphere trolls, spearheaded by The Guardian, are about go off on one of their Snark hunts* again.
A tweet by Otto English (who is usually a good weather-vane for the Leftist Tendency on Twitter) had this to say about Mrs Braverman:
The accusation that ‘cultural Marxism’ is an antisemitic trope which is ‘right out of the far right gutter’ rather puzzled me. It also puzzled a number of the respondents to Otto’s tweet. To me, and to many others of a centrist persuasion, the term is factually accurate. It describes the origins and purpose of much of the current ‘woke’ nonsense that is afflicting political and social discourse in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.
The Guardian article linked to in Otto English’s tweet is here. It refers to a speech given by Mrs Braverman to the Bruges Group on 26th March 2019 in which she said: “As conservatives, we are engaged in a battle against cultural Marxism.” She went on to list some of the kind of things that were happening and which are associated with cultural Marxism: banning things generally; where freedom of speech is becoming a taboo and where universities are shrouded in censorship and a culture of no-platforming.
People are becoming more aware of much of what is happening and that these things are adversely affecting many people and events. The criticism looks real, and the label given to it describes the phenomenon rather nicely. Whether it really is an antisemitic term as described by The Guardian and the Board of Deputies, is a matter of debate.
To tease apart the threads in this story, it is necessary to go back to the origins of this particular strand of Marxist theory – to Antonio Gramsci (1891 – 1937). Gramsci was a Marxist journalist who was heavily influenced by the teachings of Lenin. He was considered so dangerous by Mussolini’s government that he was arrested and imprisoned on 8th November 1926. In January 1929, he was given permission to write things other than normal correspondence to his wife. He then began writing in what has become known as his ‘Prison Notebooks’. This collection of notes and theoretical discussion on his development of Marxist thought, was smuggled out of prison in the 1930s, but were not published until the 1950s in Italy; and in English in the 1970s.
His main development was the idea of hegemony – that is the dominance of one sector of society over others, such as to exercise control over them. Gramsci applied this principle to consideration of the ways society, culture and classes interact with each other. In this sense, his writings have influenced university studies in the humanities, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s, which brought about university courses in ‘Gramscian Cultural Studies’ and which went on to spawn the new social movements of women’s rights, gay rights, ecology, peace and postcolonial studies. In later years, Gramsci has been eclipsed by studies of the Postmodernists in universities. But that must not distract us from his enormous influence in the last two thirds of Twentieth Century academic thought. The seeds of what has become known as ‘political correctness’ were sown by Gramsci.
A further strand of Gramsci’s philosophy which is important to our subject, is his use of a military metaphor to describe the way that changes in society can be brought about. Marx thought that only way to achieve the transformation to a truly Communist society, was by means of revolution, which would necessarily be violent. Marx was influenced by the blood-letting of the French Revolution. Lenin and Stalin took this message to heart and instituted a period of unparalleled slaughter. However, Gramsci was in prison for most of the Stalinist era and did not know about the purges. His quasi-military metaphor was based around the First World War and its initial fast-moving campaign where the German army swept across France and Belgium. Gramsci called this ‘The War of Movement’. When the armies of France, Belgium, Italy, Britain and Germany ground to a halt and dug into trenches and a long war of attrition, Gramsci described this as ‘The War of Position’. For Gramsci, the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917 amounted to a War of Movement. The difficulty for Gramsci (and all subsequent Marxists) is that a similar revolution can only take place in a society where the social and economic extremes were as pronounced as in Tsarist Russia. In the rest of Europe, those extremes did not pertain. And so Gramsci thought that it was necessary for Marxism to dig in and engage in a ‘War of Position’.
In the 1960s a young German student activist called Rudi Dutschke was concerned by the violence that was sweeping German university campuses. To Dutschke, it was clear that bloody revolution would not suceed in bringing about a Communist revolution. He took Gramsci’s ‘War of Position’ idea and developed it into a theory of long term patience in penetrating institutions of the state, working within the existing system and slowly turning it round so that the idealised idea of truly Communist society would be achieved peacefully. He called this strategy ‘The long march through the institutions’ – the ‘Long March’ being a reference to Chairman Mao’s Long March when the Communists took over China.
Herbert Marcuse, a philosopher of the Frankfurt School, took up Dutschke’s idea of the Long March and commented :
“To extend the base of the student movement, Rudi Dutschke has proposed the strategy of the long march through the institutions: working against the established institutions while working within them, but not simply by ‘boring from within’, rather by ‘doing the job’, learning (how to program and read computers, how to teach at all levels of education, how to use the mass media, how to organize production, how to recognize and eschew planned obsolescence, how to design, et cetera), and at the same time preserving one’s own consciousness in working with others.”
The Frankfurt School, officially titled the Institute for Social Research, was formed in Frankfurt after the First World War. It comprised mostly Jewish academics who set out to fill the gaps left by Marx, with re-readings of Marx himself, Freud and Hegel. The school left Germany en-masse in 1935 because of impending persecution by the Nazis – and wound up in Columbia University, New York. At the end of the war, many returned to Frankfurt and some remained in the United States. Marcuse was one of those who remained in the US and he influenced social and cultural studies in the United States.
In post-war France, a group of young philosophers were flourishing and developing ideas of their own. Derrida, Foucault and Lyotard were initially all Marxists. However, the Budapest uprising in 1956 and the similar Prague Spring in 1968 were both put down with considerable brutality by the Soviet Union. Combined with the revelations within Khruschev’s ‘Secret Speech’ in 1956 where some of the extent of Stalin’s purges were admitted, Western Communism underwent a series of ideological convulsions. Many Communists suddenly became ex-Communists and were left bereft of a system of values by which to govern their lives. The French philosophers attempted to fill the vacuum and developed systems of thinking which have become known as ‘Postmodernism’. Whilst these ideas seemed like a break from conventional Marxism, all were shot through with the silver strands of Marxist thought.
Meanwhile, in the United States, Marxism was in a similar disarray. The arrival of Foucault in the University of California, Berkeley in 1980, created an intellectual stir. Foucault’s study of human sexuality, and in particular, his fascination with the Ancient Greek ideas of sex with young boys resulted in him indulging in a good deal of unprotected sex in gay bath-houses in California. Inevitably, he contracted AIDS and died in 1984. His ideas lived on, and influenced a new generation of American thinkers such as Judith Butler, who developed much of the thinking behind later manifestations of feminism and queer theory. Butler was also influenced by the work of Hegel and Marcuse, amongst others. From feminist thinking, which was accused of dealing only with the concerns of white middle class women, sprang other ideas of ‘intersectionality’ which widened the scope of feminism to include black women, transgender people and the disabled. And so the LBGT movement and its variations were born.
The whole spectrum of late Twentieth and Twenty-First Century ideas (which are often labelled ‘political correctness’ or ‘woke’) show little sign of acknowledging their Marxist antecedents, except for Butler who seems to be honest about it. There is a strong tendency for Intersectionalists to give the impression that their own thinking sprang up spontaneously from the harsh soils of oppression and exploitation. Because after all, Marx, Gramsci and the rest were all white men and if you are a strident feminist, you wouldn’t want to admit the debt you owe to white men. But a close reading of some of their literature suggests that Intersectionality is redolent with Marxist principles.
Third Wave Feminism, Intersectionality, Queer Theory, Critical Race Theory, Postcolonial Studies, LBGTQ Rights, Animal Rights, Environmentalism and so on, all owe their roots to the thinking of Marx, Engels, Gramsci, Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse, Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard and many others in the Marxist tradition. These modern manifestations of Marx all affect cultural matters, where Marx himself was concerned mostly with economics and political power.
All of these modern ideological fashions seek to divide society rather than bring it together. They induce acrimony and division; and demand power for those that advocate these ideologies. They bring about condemnation; and close down debate and freedom of speech for those who do not subscribe to their ideas. They twist and bend the meaning of language in ways to suit themselves – and in the process destroy truth, logic and justice. The ultimate application of these ideas brings us authoritarianism, and ultimately, totalitarianism.
There is no question that ‘woke’ political correctness is a product of the development of Marxist ideas and principles. Furthermore, it has permeated every level of public administration and the legal professions, the Police and social workers. The mechanism for this entryism is justified by Dutschke’s demand for a “long march though the institutions”. There is no doubt that it’s primary purpose and effect has been to damage the fabric of Western culture.
Cultural Marxism is therefore not a conspiracy theory, but is a real, present and dangerous movement which seeks to destroy our way of life. Should anyone be in any doubt as to the insidious nature of this phenomenon, read this.
Is ‘Cultural Marxism’ an antisemitic trope?
The Frankfurt School was staffed almost entirely by Jewish thinkers. With the onset of Nazism in the early 1930s, they all became very unwelcome in the fabric of German life. They had little option but to emigrate – not just because they were Jewish, but also because they were Marxists. Discussion of the influence of the Frankfurt School upon modern life does not, therefore, constitute an act of antisemitism.
Further confusion is created around another similar phrase used by the Nazis: Kulturbolshewismus (Cultural Bolshevism) was a pejorative epithet directed at the modern art movement. This included everything from music to fine art, architecture and design such as the Bauhaus movement. The Nazis described this as ‘degenerate art’ and instead propagandised their own artistic styles which relied upon references to Aryan and Germanic folklore and so on. The Institute of Social Research probably did not fall into the category of ‘degenerate art’, but it doesn’t matter because the Frankfurt Institute was seen as a Jewish undertaking, which was also Marxist. The learned professors were caught both ways.
The Frankfurt School was undoubtedly caught up in the Nazi repression of Jewish intellectuals in the early 1930s. That this rapidly escalated into the Holocaust by the early 1940s, does not mean that we should not discuss either that repression, who it was directed at, or what the objects of that repression influenced in post-war years. There is no reason at all why Marx (an ethnic Jew) or any of his followers regardless of their ethnic origins, should not be discussed in the context of Marx’s influence upon the culture of Twenty-First Century western civilisation. The random attribution of ‘antisemitic trope’ to this discussion is just mindless name-calling.
Why is this happening?
The answer to this question almost certainly lies in the beliefs and principles by which Mrs Braverman lives her life and her expectations in politics. It would seem that she is a practicing Buddhist. She is married to a Jew. She is a govenor of Michaela School in Wembley, whose headteacher is Katherine Birbalsingh (and who is upsetting the Woke educational establishment by imposing strict discipline upon her pupils and simultaneously achieving excellent academic results by children who are all from challenging backgrounds). In addition, Mrs Braverman has studied the practice of judicial review and is an outspoken critic of the recent abuses of this principle which have been carried out recently by parties anxious to reverse the result of the 2016 Referendum.
There is nothing wrong with any of this. But The Observer, like its sister publication The Guardian, is on the offensive with this headline: Attorney General Suella Braverman belongs to controversial Buddhist sect. This has unearthed a sex scandal from some years ago within the Buddhist sect that Mrs Braverman is a member of.
Now consider this: The Catholic Church has recently become embroiled in activities involving widespread abuse of vulnerable children and adults in the UK, Ireland and the United States. The Church of England has a similar problem but on a smaller scale. But do we suggest that politicians who are Catholics or Anglicans are unfit to hold office? For this is what the Guardian and all those trolls are intimating. Just because someone holds religious or philosophical views of a particular kind, does not necessarily make them unsuitable for public office. It has not prevented Muslims from holding high office, so there is no reason why a Buddhist should be any different.
The nature and direction of attack is now apparent. The charge of antisemitism is one of the most powerful charges of racism that can be levelled against a politician. If it were substantiated for any Conservative, it would normally bring about the end of their career in politics. For good measure, if allegations of belonging to a minority religion (especially one that might be implied as being a bit cultish) can also be levelled, then it justifies more attacks. Bear in mind that most of the rabid Left are atheists and consider anyone who has religious beliefs to be on the verge of insanity.
That the Attorney General has taken an interest in the excesses of politically motivated lawyers, including the Supreme court, is a certain indicator that the Leftist establishment will carry on attacking her until they have succeeded in discrediting her.
Cultural Marxism is a real political movement, whose origin is sketched out above, which describes recent cultural activities such as the insistence that men should share women’s toilets and compete in women’s sport because they ‘self identify’ as women. It has brought sex education to ever younger children who are also expected to learn about anal sex and LGBT issues from drag artists. It has created what looks like a complete moral defeat and abject cowardice amongst many of our senior police officers. These have, over the course of two or three decades, failed to protect young vulnerable white girls from grooming and rape by organised gangs of predominently Pakistani origin men.
Cultural Marxism is not a ‘conspiracy theory’. Neither is it an antisemitic trope. It is a legitimate and accurate description of a real and present threat to society and culture in the West. Suella Braverman should ignore the frothing Left and carry on with her work, safe in the knowledge that the vast majority of the British public are behind her and want her to succeed.
* The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll – the pursuit of a mythical animal by a bunch of inadequates and weirdos. Also: Snarky (adj) Sharply critical, cutting.
 Hoare, George and Sperber, Nathan (2016): An Introduction to Antonio Gramsci – his life, thought and legacy. Bloomsbury Publishing, London.
 Marcuse, Herbert (1972) Revolution and Counter Revolution (quotation copied from Wikipedia).
 Foucault, Michel (1988): The History of Sexuality, Volume 3, The Care of the Self. Penguin Books, London.
Excellent, informative article.
Plenty of academic coverage on this (including with a British flavour) going back 20 or more years.
Excellent article. ‘They don’t like it it up ’em Mr Mainwairing’ springs to mind.