Cultural Marxism is a branch of Marxist ideology formulated by the Frankfurt School, which had its origins the early part of the twentieth century. Cultural Marxism comprises much of the foundation of political correctness and wokeism. It emerged as a response of European Marxist intellectuals disillusioned by the early political failures of conventional economic Marxist ideology.
The central idea of Cultural Marxism is to soften up and prepare Western Civilization for economic Marxism after a gradual, relentless, sustained attack on every institution of Western culture, including schools, literature, art, film, the Judeo-Christian worldview, tradition, marriage and the family, sexual mores, national sovereignty, etc. The attacks are usually framed in Marxist terms as a class struggle between oppressors and oppressed; the members of the latter class allegedly include women, minorities, homosexuals, and adherents of non-Western ideologies such as Islam. Cultural Marxism has been described as "the cultural branch of globalism."
While Marx's Communist Manifesto focused on the alleged class struggle between bourgeois (owners of the means of production) and proletariat (workers), Marx did address culture, which he intimated would change after his economic vision was implemented. Patrick Buchanan argues that Cultural Marxism succeeded where Marx failed. Marxism has permeated the American Left.
Marx, Engels and Lenin on cultureThe cultural views of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were, in general, different from those of the 20th century Cultural Marxists. Marx and Engels were proponents of Realism in the arts and culture. They maintained that any honest artist who longs for truth and is guided by sincere ethics, would end up portraying the grueling realities of capitalism realistically without having to be a socialist. They give the example of their contemporary French writer Honoré de Balzac, who, despite being a staunch monarchist, his realist literary works laid bare the immorality of 19th century capitalist relations of production and thus Balzac's work is of great value to progressives even though his personal ideology was conservative. Engels called this the "Triumph of Realism" (Sieg des Realismus), explaining that Balzac's sincere ethics and the fact that his heart longed for truth and objectivity inevitably made him a realist critic of capitalist exploitation in his literature, although his personal political alignment always remained conservative. According to Engels:
Balzac boldly exposed the contradiction of nascent capitalist society and hence his observation of reality constantly clashed with his political prejudices. But as an honest artist he always depicted only what he himself saw, learned and underwent, concerning himself not at all whether his-true-to-life description of the things he saw contradicted his pet ideas.
Engels declared that Balzac was his favorite writer. Marx's Das Kapital also makes some references to the works of Balzac.
Vladimir Lenin was also a proponent of Realism and stressed its superiority over Modernism. He considered Leo Tolstoy to be the most effective depicter of the everyday life of Russian peasants, even though Tolstoy was a nobleman. Lenin once wrote to Maxim Gorky: "Until this Count, we had no real peasant in our literature." Here too, the personal merit of Tolstoy as an author, to Lenin, is not the superlative genius of Tolstoy that enabled him to represent both the Russian Kulaks as well as the Russian Muzhiks so effectively. Ultimately it was the compulsion for truthful representation that made Tolstoy do so.
Both the thesis of Marx-Engels on Balzac and that of Lenin on Tolstoy hold that it is the conditions of the class struggle which determine those of the cultural struggle, not vice versa (for it was the advent of French capitalism in Balzac's case and the fight of Russian peasants for emancipation in Tolstoy's case that "woke up" the two authors and oriented them towards social realism), and thus the cultural struggle must be subordinate to the class struggle.
In short, all three of Marx, Engels and Lenin considered culture to be part of the "superstructure" rather than the "base", and thus maintained that it is the change in the economy that leads to the change in a society's culture, and ran contrary to the thesis of the Cultural Marxists that a cultural revolution can be possible before the socio-politico-economic proletarian revolution.
Soviet Marxism against Cultural Marxism: Lukacs against the Frankfurt School
Knowing the above, one can more easily understand the nature of the cultural debates between Marxist intellectuals in the 1920s. The Soviet "orthodox" Marxists, such as Grigory Zinoviev, Nikolai Bukharin and Karl Radek, maintained that the revolution in capitalist countries will come only through the class struggle of the workers against the bourgeoisie and that culture plays a secondary role in this struggle. They also maintained that Marxist art should adhere to a simple, realistic and popularly understandable depiction of the evils of capitalism.
In a 1924 Soviet Communist Party congress, many Cultural Marxist and Modernist authors were harshly criticized by Soviet officials as "heretics". In his speech entitled The Struggle Against the Ultra-Lefts and Theoretical Revisionism, Zinoviev fiercely attacked Georg Lukacs' book History and Class Consciousness, declaring: ‘If we get more of these professors spinning out their Marxist theories, we shall be lost. We cannot tolerate theoretical revisionism of this kind in our Communist International.’ Nikolai Bukharin, soon to replace Zinoviev as Joseph Stalin’s chief ally in the Comintern, told Karl Korsch, author of one of the most influential Cultural Marxist texts: ‘We can’t put every piece of garbage up for discussion.’ Karl Radek also formulated the superiority of classical European Realism over Modernism, saying "If I were to write novels, I would learn how to write them from Tolstoy and Balzac, not from James Joyce." This year, which coincides with Stalin's takeover of the Party, marks the moment in which the Soviet Union closed its door to Cultural Marxism. Soon, the USSR made illegal such evils as homosexuality and abortion.. From now on, Cultural Marxists considered the USSR as the "betrayer of the revolution". The advent of the Hitler dictatorship in Germany also meant the Frankfurt School was closed, and from 1933 Cultural Marxists started emigrating to America.
Karl Korsch, Georg Lukacs (only in his early philosophical period) and Antonio Gramsci (see below) were the original founders of Cultural Marxism. Their thought influenced that of the members of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory (Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin, Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm etc.) who mingled Marxism with the theories of Sigmund Freud, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Immanuel Kant, something unacceptable for Soviet Marxists. For the Cultural Marxists, the world of ideas is equally important to the material one, and they maintained that it is possible for a revolution in the world of ideas to lead to a revolution in the material world. They also abandoned the defense of realism and instead championed modernism and abstract art, labelled as "degenerate" by both Nazis and Soviets. In response, they equated Nazism and Stalinism, being some of the first proponents of the theory of totalitarianism. The Frankfurt School's theories, akin to neo-Hegelian dialectical idealism and "Freudo-Marxism" focusing on "sexual liberation", are what forms the crux of Cultural Marxism.Lukacs, however, soon repudiated these theories and returned to a much more orthodox Marxist stance, coming at odds with his former Frankfurt comrades, whose theories he now labelled "Café Marxism". He chose to live in the Soviet Union and his native Hungary and became the Culture Minister of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution under Imre Nagy. He fiercely criticized those Frankfurt School intellectuals who instead went to live in the comforts of the United States and West Germany. In 1962 Lukacs wrote:
A considerable part of the leading German intelligentsia, including Adorno, have taken up residence in the "Grand Hotel Abyss" which I described […] as "a beautiful hotel, equipped with every comfort, on the edge of an abyss, of nothingness, of absurdity. And the daily contemplation of the abyss between excellent meals or artistic entertainments, can only heighten the enjoyment of the subtle comforts offered..
In the world of Marxist thinkers, what Lukacs said here is the equivalent of flashing a red cloth around at an angry bull. Lukacs said that the Frankfurt School thinkers started to become bourgeois idealists who didn't care about having an active hand in the fight against political exploitation and oppression. Now that they were famous and kind of moneyed, they were sitting at their cozy desks at the luxurious Grand Hotel writing about Marxism, but they were becoming increasingly detached from its political cause. He pretty much accused them of hypocrisy—of living like fat-cat capitalists and losing focus.
Think about this: These guys left, THESE GUYS LEFT NAZI GERMANY and Mussolini's Italy to come to California in the 1940's and they lived by the beach, and they were depressed by the relentless cheery-ness - the productivity; and the capitalism that they witnessed around them. And they came up with, at the end of the day; We can call it Cultural Marxism, but at the end of the day, we experience it on a day to day basis, by that I mean a minute by minute, second by second basis. It’s political correctness and it’s multiculturalism.
In the video, Breitbart discusses the Frankfurt School, Critical Theory, Herbert Marcuse, Antonio Gramsci, Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Bertolt Brecht, and others of the German School, many which emigrated to America. He further wrote about Cultural Marxism more in-depth in his book Righteous Indignation.
Antonio Gramsci was a lieutenant of Joseph Stalin who headed the Italian branch of the International Communist movement (Comintern). After several failed assassination attempts on Mussolini, Gramsci was imprisoned in 1926 until his death in 1937. While in prison Gramsci wrote his Prison Notebooks, speculating on the failure of violent revolution to materialize in Western Europe as Karl Marx had predicted. Gramsci's works are considered by Socialists to be foundational to modern public education and Cultural Marxism.
Gramsci's theory of "cultural hegemony" states that the ruling capitalist "oppressor" class uses cultural institutions, such as "traditional marriage," to maintain power. The "oppressors" develop a "hegemonic culture" using ideology unlike Socialists who use violence, economic force, and coercion. "Hegemonic culture" propagates its own values and norms so that they become "common sense" values and thus maintain the status quo. According to Wikipedia, this "Hegemonic power is therefore used to maintain consent to the capitalist order, rather than coercive power using force" as Marxism does "to maintain order. This cultural hegemony is produced and reproduced" by the dominant Christian oppressor class "through the institutions that form the superstructure."
- See also: Long march through the institutions
The Long march through the institutions is a Marxist concept formulated in 1967 by the West German student movement leader Rudi Dutschke. Dutschke reformulated Antonio Gramsci's philosophy of cultural Marxism with the phrase the long march through the institutions (German: Marsch durch die Institutionen) to identify the political war of position or incrementalism, an allusion to the Long March (1934–35) of the Communist Chinese People's Liberation Army, by means of which, the working class or "oppressed" would produce their own intellectuals, civil servants, and culture (dominant ideology) to replace those imposed by the bourgeoisie or "oppressor class."
Karl Marx spoke of a sudden revolution, where everything changes in a moment. Gramsci, the head of the Italian Communist party, was thrown in prison by Benito Mussolini, where he speculated on the failure of Marxist revolution in his Prison Notebooks, and attributed the failure to the cultural hegemony of the bourgeois oppressor class. Dutschke built on Gramsci's writings by proposing a long march through the cultural institutions of society - the church, entertainment, civil service, educational faculties, family institutions and marriage - to replace the dominant culture and replace it with revolutionary godless cultural Marxism.Dutschke said,
"Revolution is not a short act when something happens once and then everything is different. Revolution is a long, complicated process, where one [der Mensch] must become different...the process goes along this way, which I have once named ‘The Long March through the Established Institutions’, in which [institutions], through clarification [Aufklärung], systematic clarification and direct actions, awareness is brought [Bewusstwerdung] to further minorities in and outside the university, in schools, in trade schools, in engineer schools, also technical universities and finally in factories, where workers are currently worrying about their jobs. The process has begun, and that is a long story, which right now has been set on its course by us."
Gramsci theorized that if Communism achieved "mastery of human consciousness," then concentration camps and mass murder would be unnecessary. Mastery over the consciousness of the great mass of people could be attained if Communists or their sympathizers gained control of the organs of culture — churches, education, newspapers, magazines, the electronic media, literature, music, the visual arts, and so on. By winning "cultural hegemony," Communism would control the deepest wellsprings of human thought and imagination. One need not control all information itself if one can gain control over the minds that assimilate that information. Under such conditions, opposition would disappear since men are no longer capable of grasping the arguments of Marxism's opponents.
The entire left-wing denies (at least in public) that Cultural Marxism exists, dismissing it as a far right ‘conspiracy theory’ and calling the entire topic a ‘myth’ or ‘hoax’.  Wikipedia once provided a more honest article discussing the topic, before its irreversible slide into progressive bias compelled it to also write it off as a myth. Wikipedia has an entire section titled Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory within its page for the Frankfurt School. As of September 2020, Wikipedia has added an article titled "Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory," using the image of convicted terrorist and self-identified Nazi fascist Anders Behring Breivik to discredit its existence via guilt by association.  Virtually every single source trying to prove it’s a myth are blatantly biased towards the left or even come from fellow Marxists. Most egregiously, at least one widely cited source comes from the Frankfurt School itself.
Perhaps the most common method of ‘rebuttal’ is to accuse those who acknowledge Cultural Marxism’s existence of being anti-semetic. This arises from the tendency of a small minority on the far right to highlight the fact that many of the Frankfurt School’s members were Jewish. The issue with the Frankfurt School is that they are Marxists; their race, religion, or ethnicity is irrelevant. The overwhelming majority of those who know Cultural Marxism exists share this view, and furthermore don’t rely on finding out if the people responsible for creating and spreading it were Jews either. Indeed, Cultural Marxism’s existence doesn’t rely on any connection to Jewish conspiracy theories.
Other common ‘rebuttals’ include downplaying the impact of the Frankfurt Schools’ ideology on the world, in spite of the fact that its modern-day adherents have unprecedented power and the ideology can be found in the West’s most powerful institutions. There’s also accusations of equating the push for equality and civil rights with a ‘nefarious plot’. Communists have always sought to subvert and co-opt civil rights movements for their own ends, but the fact remains that civil rights and communism are inherently anathema. MLK, the leader of the civil rights movement in the ‘60s, also denounced communism. Cultural Marxism has never truly advocated for civil rights and equality beyond equal outcomes (which they call ‘equity’), the acquisition of which involves severe civil rights violations.
- Liberal values
- Anthropological Revolution
- Critical theory
- Equity literacy
- Destroying the family
- Biden/Harris War on Parents
- Dialectical unity of self-contradictions
- Cultural Revolution
- Frankfurt School
- Nimrodian aspirations
- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
- cf. External source: Cultural Marxism: The Corruption of America is a James Jaeger Film with ambition to show how a love affair with collectivist ideologies has lead to ever bigger government and the welfare-warfare state. Lead by a Marxist splinter group called the "Frankfurt School" -- "the long march through the institutions" has infiltrated every corner of Western culture to corrupt traditional Christian values with "political correctness," another name for "cultural Marxism."
- Ludwig, E. Jeffrey (October 23, 2019). Communist influences are destroying the US, faster and faster. LifeSiteNews. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
- Svab, Petr (November 25, 2019). School Programs Mixed With Social Marxism Spread Through America. The Epoch Times. Retrieved November 25, 2019.
- Solway, David (August 23, 2018). Karl Marx hated marriage, and Marxism is marriage’s enemy. LifeSiteNews (from the American Thinker). Retrieved August 28, 2018.
- cf. The tendency of dictatorial ideologies to influence public institutions etc. so that these would serve their agendas is termed as Gleichschaltung.
- Warner, Gerald (February 4, 2015). For the First Time in History, ‘Conservatives’ Are at the Forefront of the Cultural Revolution. Breitbart News. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
- "By the post-War era the Cultural Marxist programme had a wide-reaching agenda of destruction. It aimed to destroy the family, denying the specific roles of the father and mother, and advocated the teaching of sex and homosexuality to children; mobilisation of women as revolutionaries against men, through aggressive feminism; large-scale immigration to abolish national identity; dependency on the state and state benefits; control and infantilisation of the media."
- Cultural Marxism is the #1 Enemy of Western Civilization. Western Mastery. March 23, 2017. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
- Buchanan: ‘Cultural Marxism’ Has Succeeded Where Marx and Lenin Failed, CNSNews
- Kirk, Charlie (September 27, 2020). Far From Being “Dead,” True Marxism Is Very Much Alive. Human Events. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
- The Frankfurt school, part 3: Dialectic of Enlightenment
- Dialectic of Enlightenment was written in 1944 by Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer
- Newman, Alex (August 29, 2018). Socialists Urge Infiltration of Government Schools. The New American. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
- Newman, Alex (February 6, 2019). Education’s Future: Globalization of Indoctrination. The New American. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
- Andrew Breitbart - Media War
- Gramsci, Buttigieg, Joseph A, ed., Prison Notebooks (English critical ed.), p 50 footnote 21, archived from the original on 2010-06-16, https://web.archive.org/web/20100616163619/http://english.nd.edu/faculty/profiles/joseph-a-buttigieg/, "Long March Through the Institutions21"
- Buttigieg, Joseph A. (2005). "The Contemporary Discourse on Civil Society: A Gramscian Critique". Boundary 2 32 (1): 33–52. doi:10.1215/01903659-32-1-33. ISSN 0190-3659.
- Davidson, Carl (6 April 2006) (web log), Strategy, Hegemony & 'The Long March': Gramsci's Lessons for the Antiwar Movement, http://carldavidson.blogspot.com/2006/04/strategy-hegemony-long-march.html .
- See also Carl Davidson
- Marsch durch die Institutionen|Marsch durch die Institutionen at German Wikipedia.
- Antonio Gramsci: Misattributed at English Wikiquote for the origin of “The Long March Through the Institutions” quotation.
- On the Myth of "Cultural Marxism"
- Frankfurt School - Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory
- Cultural Marxism Explained in 7 Minutes, by Joseph T. Salerno at the Mises Institute
- What is cultural Marxism?, at GotQuestions
- Political Correctness / Cultural Marxism, Discover the Networks
- The Roots of Political Correctness, by William S. Lind
- Cultural Marxism Is Destroying America, by Moses Apostaticus, September 29, 2016, The Daily Caller
- Cultural Marxism Is the Enemy: Review of Michael Walsh’s Book ‘The Devil’s Pleasure Palace’, by Austin Ruse, Breitbart News, November 19, 2015.
- Cultural Marxism: The Corruption of America, 99 min. documentary film.
- How the Specter of Communism Is Ruling Our World. The Epoch Times.
- The Sacred Mission To Destroy Normality, by Rod Dreher
- Duke, Selwyn (July 18, 2019). The Left Is Following Communism’s Playbook for Revolution. The New American.
- The Fake Fall of Communism - Behind the Deep State, The New American.
- Antonio Gramsci & Cultural Marxism, John Birch Society, Feb 1, 2021. youtube