The label “Cultural Marxism” has been used for a while now by some people to describe a particular wave of activism that we’re increasingly seeing across our western liberal democracies.
What’s happened more recently is a push back against the label. Critics suggest that it’s not accurate and therefore not useful, even misleading.
So I have a simple question. If that’s not the correct label then what is?
It’s a question I think needs answering because, on reflection, “Cultural Marxism” seems to be a very good label to describe what we’re seeing around us.
I’ll try and make my case by looking at the two most prominent such movements to impact upon Australia; “Safe Schools” and “Black Lives Matter”. For both of these I’m going to look at the organisations themselves, not the wider movements.
First Safe Schools. Safe Schools has had a profound impact upon our schools and young people, arguing that gender is entirely fluid and that young people’s self-identification as “transgender” or “gay” (or whatever label they choose) ought to be affirmed and acted upon. Of course, on one level we all want to agree that schools ought to be entirely safe places for everyone to be different. But that’s not what is driving Safe Schools.
Roz Ward, the founder of Safe Schools, has been abundantly clear about the Marxist basis of the programme. In a well-publicised speech she gave to the 2015 Marxism Conference (mislabelled as 2016 in the video) she stated:
“…LGBTI oppression and heteronormativity are woven into the fabric of capitalism.”
“So the question I guess I’m asking is “what role can and does the Left play in this struggle from where we are now to what we might consider liberation?”.
“What I want to argue is that only Marxism provides both the theory and the praxis of genuine human liberation.”
Of course, listen to the whole thing to hear the argument fleshed out in detail. But I trust this framework, set out by Ward herself, is clear.
She explicitly links the cultural/social harms of the oppression of LGBTI people as an integral outworking of capitalism and then presents Marxism as both theory and praxis to provide liberation. And all this in the context of discussing the work of Safe Schools which she founded.
Black Lives Matter
The Black Lives Matter organisation is entirely open about what it stands for. Founder Patrisse Cullors has been clear on how she sees the same links between these social/cultural issues and economic frameworks:
“Racism is still the same, capitalism is still the same, sexism is still the same…”
“We actually do have an ideological frame. Myself and Alicia [Garza] in particular, we’re trained organizers. We are trained Marxists. We are super-versed on ideological theories.”
It’s quite obvious to see how this then plays out in their stated beliefs which call for the breaking of accepted societal structures well beyond a simple economic change.
Marxism has always been about the radical overhaul of all of society and so Black Lives Matters promotes things that will be very familiar: “dismantle cisgender privilege”, “dismantle the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work “double shifts” so that they can mother in private even as they participate in public justice work.”, “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement”, “freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking” and so on.
If not “Cultural Marxism”, then what?
Hence my original question. If it’s not “Cultural” Marxism” then what exactly is it? It’s Marxist, that’s for sure. It seeks to promote deep cultural change, that much is obvious.
So if the “Cultural Marxism” label doesn’t work then what label does? What describes this movement even better?
I realise that this post is going to upset some. Fair enough. If you’re going to rail against me then can I ask you to bear a few things in mind:
- I defend Roz Ward’s right to speak her mind.
- You can recognise the Marxist roots of these movements irrespective of whether you share some or all of their concerns.
- Here’s a great “middle-ground” article by Eternity