“And I looked, and behold, a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.”
~ Revelation 6:8
Last month’s keynote-address-turned-column, “Understanding What Is Happening in America: A Christian Response,” garnered a lot of attention. In those discussions I connected the dots from Karl Marx and Saul Alinsky to Black Lives Matter and the physical assaults on American cities. And the dots do connect.
But much remained unsaid, unwritten. Among them, what of “white privilege”? What is the connection with the LGBTQI movement? What is Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality? And what, if anything, has Karl Marx to do with them and should you care?
First, a bit of history.
What is “Marxism”?
Prussian political theorist and revolutionary Karl Marx (1818-1883) didn’t invent the idea of socialism any more than the French invented strikes, but each put their own stamp on these practices. That idea—loosely, that wealth should be redistributed equitably—has no absolute beginning. “Marxism” is Marx’s particular variation on a theme. His contributions to socialism were chiefly in systematizing it, popularizing it, and militarizing it.
Just as Darwin saw unguided biological processes at work in natural history, Marx likewise believed that human history was swept along by impersonal economic forces. History would move irresistibly from one economic stage to another until it reached the utopian stage called communism.
If, in the Christian paradigm, faith in Jesus Christ the size of a mustard seed can move mountains, Marx’s faith in these mysterious evolutionary forces of history (called dialectical materialism in Marx-speak) seems to have been something less than that. To help history along, Marx called for the violent overthrow of the ruling classes. But such revolts in continental Europe were easily put down, and Marx, rightly seen as an instigator, was expelled from Germany, Belgium, and finally France.
When he arrived in Britain in 1849, Marx and his equally fanatical colleague Friedrich Engels found a labor force that had been calling for some form of socialism long before anyone had heard of Karl Marx. Full of revolutionary fire, Marx preached his famous message of bloody revolution—“Workers of the world unite!”—in the expectation that the laborers (proletarians in Marx-speak) would rise up and burn the country to the ground.
But it didn’t happen.
“I’ll have the socialism with a side of democracy, hold the revolution”
British laborers, though receptive to Marx on many levels, were largely uninterested in Marxism. It wasn’t that socialism had no appeal to them. It did. Rather, they rejected the violence Marx demanded. They hoped to achieve their goals via democratic means. They had good reason to be hopeful. A series of parliamentary reform measures saw both improved working conditions and an expansion of the electorate.
Furthermore, a robust, Bible-centered Christianity flourished in Britain in a way that it simply did not in continental Europe. When asked the name of the person he most detested, Engels’ response was unequivocal:
This was a reference to the great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon (about whom I have written extensively here), who regularly drew audiences in excess of 10,000. Royalty and “proletarians” alike were drawn to his straightforward messages of the forgiveness, hope, and meaning to be found in the person of Jesus Christ. Engels well understood that a people who possess these things do not, as a rule, overthrow governments.
But it wasn’t just Spurgeon. This was also the Britain of William Booth’s juggernaut, The Salvation Army, which pioneered large-scale Christian benevolence. (A generation later, George Bernard Shaw, a hardcore communist who hated Booth’s “Army” of volunteers for the same reason that Engels hated Spurgeon, attacked the organization in a play called Major Barbara.) The Christian faith of the working class went far to satisfy the needs of the soul. These simply were not a people possessed of the revolutionary spirit that Marx demanded. Embittered, Marx broke with socialists in England while continuing to predict a workers’ uprising in the industrialized countries of the West until his death in 1883.
But it didn’t happen.
Antonio Gramsci and the Marxist Trojan Horse
Enter Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937). Marx’s prediction of revolution led to disillusionment among subsequent Marxists who awaited that day the way Heaven’s Gate cult members awaited the Hale-Bopp comet.
While languishing in one of Mussolini’s prisons, the dwarfish Gramsci filled a series of secret notebooks with his own Marxist ideas, among them, an explanation for Marx’s failed prophecy of a coming proletarian uprising against the ruling classes. According to Gramsci, Marx had grossly underestimated the strength of Western society. In 1917 Russia, an armed insurrection had worked because the state and its primary institutional support, the Russian Orthodox Church, were weak and rotten. One swift kick had brought them tumbling down.
In Gramsci’s view, the West, chiefly Britain and America, were different. The diminutive Italian spoke in terms of “hegemonies,” that is, of power structures. Where Marx divided the world into a single hegemony of haves and have-nots, Gramsci divided it into more hegemonies: families, education, government, morality, the church, law, and civil society as a whole. Just as Marx had argued that capitalism was a system designed to keep the haves in a master-slave relationship with the have-nots, Gramsci argued that these additional hegemonies were yet further insulation for the powerful against the masses.
The “frontal assault” strategy would not work in the West, he said, at least not in the beginning because these institutional pillars of Western society were much too strong. These must be subverted from within first, softening them up for the frontal assault when the Western colossus was sufficiently weakened. Gramsci’s strategy was, in effect, that of the Trojan Horse.
“Socialism will triumph,” he wrote, “by first capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches and the media by transforming the consciousness of society.”
This Trojan Horse approach is called “Cultural Marxism.” Subvert families, traditional morality, and the touchstones of national identity, and penetrate educational institutions, the church, and the legal system, and eventually that country will fall like a ripe fruit into the hands of Marxists.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that Gramsci’s notebooks, which had been smuggled out of the prison, were published posthumously in Italian. It was another twenty years before they were published in English translation. By then, with multiple Marxist genocides and all, one might have thought that the evils of this system were so well established that no one in their right mind would ever think of implementing it again.
But Leftists are not ones to give up on a murderous, unworkable, failed utopian ideology simply because it is a murderous, unworkable, failed utopian ideology, and Gramsci’s notebooks breathed new life into Marxist hopefuls. By the 1980s, Gramsci’s ideas had achieved something of a cult status among a generation of Western academics.
The degree to which Gramsci’s infiltration tactics have worked needs little commentary from me. The Left began occupying powerful positions in, if not outright control of, each of the aforementioned societal pillars. Revolution was nigh.
But it didn’t happen.
Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and the Victim Mentality
This brings us to two pernicious additions to this toxic Marxist cocktail: Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality.
Whether you have heard these terms or not, you have seen them at work in such seismic cultural events as the legalization of gay marriage, the “Me Too” movement, and the still smoldering cities of Minneapolis, Portland, and Kenosha. These ideas expanded the definition of oppressed peoples to include everyone but white heterosexual males (and conservatives, of course).
Antonio Gramsci’s “hegemonies” paradigm, an idea that was more or less being simultaneously developed by Gramsci and a group of Marxist scholars in what was then called the Frankfurt School, has become known as “Critical Theory.”
Marx saw one vast group of oppressed people: proletarians. Since Western proletarians were too complacent for violent revolution, Gramsci and the Critical Theorists divided society in such a way as to identify still more oppressed people. For example:
- Traditional marriage and family are patriarchal institutions and are therefore instruments of oppression.
- The church, with its message of peace and otherworldly bliss, oppresses the masses by sapping them of their revolutionary spirit.
- Educational institutions oppress the lower classes by teaching them to love their countries and instilling them with patriotic fervor, thus protecting the ruling classes.
And so the argument went with every other institution.
Atomizing society still further was Kimberlé Crenshaw, a legal scholar who coined the terms Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Intersectionality in the late eighties. In CRT she applied the hegemonies/Critical Theory model to race, arguing that black people are victims of white hegemony, white supremacy, or what is sometimes called “white privilege.”
Are you black? You’re oppressed whether you know it or not.
Are you white? You’re an oppressor whether you know it or not.
Crenshaw argued that America is guilty of “systemic racism”—sound familiar?—because, she claimed, it is deeply ingrained in every aspect of our society. A civil war, constitutional amendments, affirmative action, and a multitude of government programs designed to help black students, would-be homeowners, and businesses are not enough. Nothing will ever be enough. If a black man or woman fails to succeed in America, it cannot be the result of his or her own choices or limitations; it is always the fault of a racist system. And if you are white, you are part of that racist system and you must be made to pay for your sin.
CRT is being used to pave the way for massive reparations for slavery because it overcomes—not logically, but emotionally—the chief hurdle facing those demanding such reparations: How to make white people of today co-conspirators in the crime of an institutional slavery that ended more than 150 years ago.
As you might have guessed, Intersectionality simply takes the atomizing process beyond Marx’s economic divisions, beyond Gramsci’s institutional divisions, and even beyond Crenshaw’s own CRT racial divisions. At the intersection of society, she says, one finds that women are victims of men; non-heterosexuals are victims of “heteronormativity”; non-Christians are victims of “Christian hegemony”; non-Americans are victims of Americans, and on and on it goes.
The Marxist constructs of hegemony/Critical Theory, Critical Race Theory, and Intersectionality see society in terms of victims and victimizers. It has often been said that Marxism can never work because it fails to understand human nature. There is much truth in this. That said, Marxists have proved to be astute, if cynical, observers of human nature to this extent:
- Contrary to what is frequently alleged, Marxism, much more than capitalism, appeals to our greedy natures because it says that what is yours should be mine. Indeed, I have the right to take it—by force, if necessary.
- Marxism appeals to our desire to tell other people what to do. Marxist societies are the very picture of legalism, making as they do a tyranny of community. Think religious people are legalists? Wait until you get a load of these secularists.
- Finally, Marxists know that it isn’t hard to convince a man that his own failures are the result of someone else’s treachery. Hitler convinced an entire country. Now Black Lives Matter would do it to America. The evil in this cannot be overstated. It is the sort of warped logic that progresses from a soft persecution, to pogroms, and eventually to gas chambers.
Black Lives Matter and American Jenga
Remember the game Jenga? Players remove wooden blocks from a tower until the integrity of the structure is compromised and collapses.
Every step in the ideological genealogy of Black Lives Matter is designed to remove those blocks that support government and society—religion, tradition, patriotism, education, etc.—until a tipping point is reached and a Marxist seizure of power is possible. It’s a tried-and-true formula. Just look at history. Dozens of lesser towers have already fallen into total Marxist ruin:
Albania, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Benin, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Congo, Croatia, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Ethiopia, (East) Germany, Hungary, Laos, Latvia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Mozambique, North Korea, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, and Vietnam. And this isn’t even a comprehensive list.
None were/are what one might call models of freedom, prosperity, and stability. And yet, this is what the neo-Marxists would give us under the guise of “social justice.” Don’t be naïve. This isn’t about social justice. It is a pretext for injustice. It is about the weaponizing of a fictional guilt for the seizure of assets and power. History has demonstrated all too well that Death and Hell follow Marxism wherever it goes.
* * * * * *
One might reasonably wonder why the United States has proved so resistant to Marxism when so much of the rest of the world has fallen prey to it. The answer is simple: Christianity. America has the largest Christian population in the world, and Christians have generally recognized Marxism’s inherent godlessness. For their own part, Marxists recognize that Christianity is the key Jenga block supporting the whole of American society.
To quote T.S. Eliot, “If Christianity goes, the whole culture goes.”
Larry Alex Taunton is the Executive Director of the Fixed Point Foundation and a freelance columnist contributing to USA Today, Fox News, First Things, The Atlantic, CNN, Daily Caller, and The American Spectator. He is also the author of The Grace Effect, The Gospel Coalition Book of the Year The Faith of Christopher Hitchens, and the soon-to-be-released Around the World in (More Than) 80 Days. (Available for pre-order now) You can subscribe to his blog at larryalextaunton.com and find him on Twitter @larrytaunton.
Do you appreciate the content of this website?
We are a nonprofit. That means that our work is made possible and our staff is paid by your contributions. We ask you to consider supporting this important work in an ongoing basis or, if you prefer, perhaps you will drop a few bucks in our “tip jar.”
All contributions are tax-deductible