1989: The Watershed Year
All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a Trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.
—Abraham Lincoln, in his 1838 “Lyceum Address”
In 1989, as the Soviet empire was crumbling, The New York Times noted an interesting new development: While millions who had lived under the brutal rule of communism for decades were finally throwing off their yoke, Marxist professors were taking over American academia:
As Karl Marx’s ideological heirs in Communist nations struggle to transform his political legacy, his intellectual heirs on American campuses have virtually completed their own transformation from brash, beleaguered outsiders to assimilated academic insiders. It could be considered a success story for the students of class struggle, who were once regarded as subversives.
So began the article, which ran under the headline “The Mainstreaming of Marxism in U.S. Colleges.” It was penned by a journalist trained in understanding communists, the paper’s 1985–1988 Moscow correspondent, Felicity Barringer. Her piece highlighted an important turning point in the history of modern Marxism and shone a spotlight on emerging trends and evolutions that, generations later, have now blossomed into full bloom. One such trend was that American Marxism was being liberated from Moscow’s shackles. Indeed, communism’s defeat in the Soviet Union and its captive nations behind the Iron Curtain seemed not to faze the Marxist academics Barringer quoted. “I’m very happy with what’s happening in these countries. I think it’s going to save socialism, rather than kill it,” said John Roemer, professor of economics at the University of California, Davis.
Another trend was the fact that capitalism’s victory was reduced to its superior ability to satisfy man’s needs and wants, one of communism’s greatest failures. Capitalism’s advantage as a provider of goods and services was derided as an illusory good: Prosperity came at the expense of conforming to the dictates of the marketplace, forcing people to live lives of quiet desperation. Capitalism’s superior ability to provide goods and services was also cast by the new Marxists as the harbinger of ugly consumerism. The free market’s ability to liberate the creative spirit and allow individuals to pursue human flourishing with their families was never acknowledged, and certainly never contrasted with Marxism’s inevitable despotism, something that Karl Marx himself had averred would be necessary.
Barringer was therefore right to note that inside the academy Marxism was growing especially in those areas that had to do with culture, because it had failed so badly in its economics:
Where Marxism is thriving, these scholars say, is less in social science courses, where there is a possibility of practical application than in the abstract world of literary criticism. It is also in this field that new radicals—from feminists who say class analysis leaves women out, to deconstructionists who say historical truth does not exist—have posed the sharpest challenge to those who back Marx’s theories of class struggle.
But that still left them with the problem that workers in the West were refusing to wage a revolution that they intuited would hinder their own economic interests and diminish their freedoms. Because of that, Marxism had to evolve to find other revolutionary agents: “'Marxism and feminism, Marxism and deconstruction, Marxism and race—this is where the exciting debates are,” Jonathan Wiener, professor of history at the University of California at Irvine said.
That insight from Professor Wiener was important, as it foreshadowed the identity-based Marxism of the 21st century. The struggle would no longer be based on economic class but on identity—based on ascribed characteristics, such as race, sex, or national origin, that are inherited at birth and over which the individual has no control. The reasons were simple: Economic classes fluctuate, especially under capitalism, where people can, and often do, change their stations in life. Race, sex, and national origin are, however, immutable. They are thus superior loci of revolutionary change. This is why the new Marxism emerged victorious on college campuses and elsewhere in American cultural centers starting in the late 1980s, whereas it had failed when it relied on social class and guns. This new mutation of Marxism was cultural—“cultural Marxism.” It began to be debated and written about in the 1920s and the 1930s, by Antonio Gramsci in Italy and the so-called Frankfurt School in Germany, but this cultural Marxism only came to full fruition in the late 1960s when Gramsci was first translated into English and the Frankfurt School’s Herbert Marcuse came to prominence among university students. Gramsci was translated by the British journal New Left Review, and Marcuse came to be known as the guru of the New Left. This Special Report discusses the dangers posed by this new mutation, one hatched by the 1960s’ New Left.
On American, Canadian, Western European, and even Japanese college campuses in the early 1960s, rebellion found fertile ground in a rising generation of students. It was there that the New Left was born. Universities then continued to serve the revolution by providing a supportive ecosystem to those radical students as they entered adulthood and became professors, where they could indoctrinate subsequent generations.
The strategy to achieve the new cultural Marxism was also no longer predicated on Marx’s original prescription, the violent overthrow of the system by the working class, or in Marx and Engel’s own words, “formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, [and] conquest of political power by the proletariat.” Rather, the strategy now draws on Gramsci’s concept: Ideologues must infiltrate institutions and all of society and “raise the consciousness of” the “oppressed” with a new cultural worldview, or narrative.
Marxism had failed in Western societies when it relied on economic status and violence. But this time it had a real chance of succeeding. This is the reason that cultural Marxism today presents a far more serious and existential threat to the United States than did Soviet communism.
Because of cultural Marxism’s inroads into the education system, many of America’s youth have already been raised on a diet of ideas that directly undermine the American Founding. They are not taught that all people are created equal; they are taught that some people are racially privileged due to structural racism. They are not taught individual rights so much as group rights. They are not taught that the United States, with its free markets and property rights, has brought more prosperity to more people than any other nation on earth. They are not taught that generation after generation has worked to achieve the Founders’ ideal that all men are created equal. They are taught that America is systemically racist, that its very laws were designed to uphold something called white supremacy—which refers not to the vile notion that the white race is supreme, but to all Western traditions, codes, societal arrangements, laws, and norms.
Many Americans are today experiencing firsthand the effect of the poison that is being fed to their children in schools. The majority of Americans pays thousands of dollars in taxes to have their children indoctrinated in public schools and universities. Another significant portion of the population is paying additional thousands, even tens of thousands, to have their children indoctrinated in private schools and universities. And nearly all parents are allowing their children to be continually bombarded with these same anti-American, anti-reality, counter-factual ideas through movies, television shows, books, comics, games, social media, search engines, and the news feed on their iPhones.
A growing number of Americans are aware of the depth of the infiltration of their culture by insidious ideas, but do enough understand the long-term ramifications? Americans’ first task therefore in reversing the tide of cultural Marxism is to ensure that more of the public understands both the roots and the consequences of these ideas.
Background to the Present Crisis
The year 1989 was an important inflection point in the nation’s history because it marked the start of a real takeover. Marxists had tried before to communize the United States, starting with Karl Marx himself. Indeed, in 1864 Marx wrote to congratulate Abraham Lincoln on his re-election, stating, “The workingmen of Europe feel sure that, as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American Antislavery War will do for the working classes.” But Marx was wrong in seeing the fight to end slavery as a movement into his communist ideal of a classless, godless society, as he was wrong about so many things.
When Marx and Engels published the Manifesto of the Communist Party in 1848, they described a world defined by structural conflict based on economic inequalities and social class. They advocated an uprising of the working class—the proletariat—against the wealthy owners of capital—the bourgeoisie. They had already called on the proletariat to capture state power through “revolutionary terror,” and in the Manifesto repeated the need to introduce dictatorship through “despotic inroads,” and then to progress to a state of communal ownership through the “abolition of bourgeois property.”
For nearly 70 years, Marx and Engels’s vision of industrial workers inevitably unleashing revolution never came about, however. In 1917, Lenin and his band of Bolshevik terrorists were able to bring this vision to fruition in Russia, and they did so through the self-conscious introduction of state terror. Using a similar combination of tyranny and terror, Mao was able to impose communism on China, as Castro did on Cuba, Kim Il-Sung on North Korea, and so on. None of these were industrialized societies, however, and Marx and Engels had so insisted that communism must come from industrialized nations that they called for a bourgeois transition before communists could attempt a revolution.
In spite of extensive efforts to galvanize workers across the globe, the Soviets failed to bring about their communist revolution in developed, industrialized countries, such as France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States. Gramsci, the founder of Italy’s communist party, was one of the first to propose a solution to this conundrum. He argued that workers had accepted the cultural institutions of their bourgeois oppressors, and therefore effectively imposed their own enslavement on themselves. Gramsci wrote that the worker had developed a “false consciousness”—the worker remained faithful to God, loyal to his family, patriotic to his nation, and he liked his private property, all things that Marx had said needed to be abolished. As Marcuse wrote years later in his essay on “Repressive Tolerance,” “false consciousness has become the general consciousness.”
The implications for those wanting to wage revolution were immense. In Western Europe and North America, where strong civil society strengthened traditional relationships, Gramsci argued that communists should abandon the dream of violent revolution, what he termed the “war of maneuver.” Rather, Gramsci argued, they should undertake a “war of position,” or hidden conflict. The supposedly oppressed groups would gain influence and power by taking over existing institutions. It would be the job of communist intellectuals to undermine the state’s “hegemonic narrative” and introduce into the minds of the people a “counter-narrative.” A war of position “was the only form possible in the West,” Gramsci wrote in the 1930s in what came to be known as his Prison Notebooks.
Where the Soviets failed to mobilize workers to engage in violent revolution, Gramsci succeeded in laying the groundwork for revolutionary change by focusing on culture and education. Thus, it was intellectual elites and students who picked up the revolutionary baton in the 1960s and successfully carried it into the heart of America.
A key moment came in 1960. C. Wright Mills, an influential sociologist at Columbia University, wrote a seminal article titled “Letter to the New Left,” which appears to have provided a name—the New Left—for a movement that wanted to bring about radical change but independently of Moscow. He dismissed the Soviet focus on the worker as Victorian Marxism and even “vulgar” Marxism. Instead, Mills wrote, “Who is it that is thinking and acting in radical ways? All over the world—in the bloc, outside the bloc and in between—the answer’s the same: it is the young intelligentsia.” He recognized that in many places around the world it was not workers but young people who were in fact sparking revolution, and by highlighting that fact, he provided inspiration to a generation of middle-class white students in the United States that they could be agents of revolutionary change.
This type of argument was able to take root in no small part because the ground had been well tilled for years by the New Left’s precursors. American students had been fed a steady stream of content critical of American power and prosperity, mostly written by socialists or inspired by socialist ideas—Jack London’s The Call of the Wild (1903); Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1906); Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt (1922); John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (1939); Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (1949) and The Crucible (1953); J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (1951); Allen Ginsberg’s Howl (1956); Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957); and John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society (1958), to name just a few.
These books, among many others, entered the mainstream and helped to shape an image of America’s middle class as pathetically conformist, pawns of their own consumerism, superficial, spiritually dead, and unhappy (though it is known from opinion polls and surveys that Americans were by and large happy in the 1950s). The writer and satirist H. L. Mencken described them as the “booboisie.” These books also demonstrated how much easier it is to bring about change by influencing the culture rather than by trying to organize a violent revolution of workers. And it was not only books, but all forms of culture. Todd Gitlin, a leader of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the pre-eminent institution of the New Left, wrote:
The future New Left read David Riesman and C. Wright Mills and Albert Camus, and found in them warrants for estrangement, but nothing influenced me, or the baby-boom generation as a whole, as much as movies, music and comics did. On the big screen, on posters, and in popular magazines, America was mass-producing images of white youth on the move yet with nowhere to go. What moved the new sullen heroes was the famous rebellion without a cause.
America’s youth were thus primed to be discontent, to disparage the prosperity that had given them their safety and ease and lives of comfort that others around the world could only dream of—and disparage it they did. One has only to think of the seminal “Port Huron Statement,” the opening salvo from SDS, issued at its first national convention in 1962:
We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit…. Some would have us believe that Americans feel contentment amidst prosperity—but might it not better be called a glaze above deeply felt anxieties about their role in the new world?
The fact that Fidel Castro, fresh from law school at the age of 32 and surrounded by a band of youthful revolutionaries, had successfully ousted Cuban president Fulgencio Batista in January 1959 also helped to fuel the spirit of revolution. In case any of America’s elite youth had missed that fact, Harvard’s chief academic officer, McGeorge Bundy (later to be President John F. Kennedy’s National Security Advisor, and later still, president of the Ford Foundation), welcomed Castro to the campus in April 1959. So many students were interested in seeing Castro that the event had to be moved from an auditorium to the football stadium. Capturing that shift in focus from the worker to the student, Castro explained that he agreed to speak at Harvard, because, “That is where you find the real ‘military spirit:’ in students, not in the barracks.” It should come as no surprise that within three years of Castro’s visit, Harvard’s chapter of SDS would have 600 dues-paying members and the mission of “shaking America to its roots.”
The year 1960 thus set the stage for the tumultuous decade that followed, though most Americans unwarily expected a continuation of the 1950s Eisenhower years. The New Left that emerged in the years that followed—not just in America, but also in Canada, Germany, Japan, and the U.K.—was made up of intellectuals, activists, and students who abandoned the economic determinism of Soviet communism and embraced the causes of civil rights and social democracy. This was a key steppingstone to today’s cultural Marxism. Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong, and Che Guevara replaced Lenin and Stalin as revolutionary icons. The Martinican revolutionary Frantz Fanon became the writer of choice for the New Left.
Fanon popularized the phrase first written by Jean-Paul Sartre, “by any means necessary,” which epitomized Marxists’ dictum that the ends justify the means. In the U.S. it was further propagated by Malcolm X. Fanon gave expression to the relativism of the New Left when he wrote, “Truth is that which hurries on the break-up of the colonialist regime; it is that which promotes the emergence of the nation; it is all that protects the natives, and ruins the foreigners.”
Fanon’s championing of anti-colonialist rhetoric and denunciation of all things Western was then imported domestically, and the same dynamic was repeated, only this time casting in opposition Western whites and the new minority categories that were hastily being created by activists and the bureaucracy. The writer Susan Sontag claimed “critical distance” from the New Left, but she perfectly captured the philosophical vibe of her era when she wrote in 1966, “The white race is the cancer of human history; it is the white race and it alone—its ideologies and inventions—which eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological balance of the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself.”
This is exactly what Columbia’s Maxine Greene had in mind when she taught that the “oppressive hegemony” of the capitalist social order “reproduces” itself through traditional schooling. In academia, after the late 1960s, the takeover was paved by Greene and other professors who prepared the radical students of the 1960s to become the radical professors of the 1980s. Studies show that teaching was one of the top occupations sought by members of the New Left, and that most maintained their ideological commitment for the rest of their lives. Unsurprisingly then, a 2006 study of professors by Harvard’s Neil Gross and Solon Simmons shows that by far the most radical cohort that year were those professors born between 1942 and 1956, or those who went to college in the 1960s or the early 1970s. Fully 50 percent of them were either extremely liberal or liberal, whereas only 8 percent were either conservative or extremely conservative. The number would be even more lopsided had the authors not collapsed “slightly liberal” and “slightly conservative” into a moderate middle. By comparison, those born before 1942 were much less likely to be radically liberal. The radicals were also most highly concentrated in social sciences and the humanities, where they, respectively, outnumbered conservatives by 58 to 5 and 52 to 4.
But, before going all in on Gramscian cultural indoctrination, the radical students of the New Left gave revolution one last try. The decisive turn toward totalitarianism and violence was not only noticed by intellectuals on the right. Irving Howe, one of the best-known socialist men of letters in the mid-20th century, wrote a searing 7,000-word essay for The New York Times Magazine in 1982 decrying how the New Left of the 1960s had turned American liberalism dogmatic and violent:
Each day the New Left kept moving away from its earlier spirit of fraternity toward a hard-voiced dogmatism, from the ethic of nonviolence toward a romantic-nihilist fascination with a “politics of the deed.” In the years of the Vietnam War the New Left grew rapidly, mostly as a center of opposition, but by locking itself into a politics more and more like that of the old left-wing sects, it made certain that in the end it would do no more than reenact their collapse.”
To see Stalin’s theory of “social fascism” refurbished by SDS leaders as a theory of “liberal fascism” played hell with one’s nerves. To see the Leninist theory of a “vanguard party” transformed into the New Left strategy of “confrontation politics” made one suspect nothing ever is learned from history. To see the Leninist–Stalinist contempt for liberal values elevated to Herbert Marcuse’s haughty formulas about “repressive tolerance”—formulas used to rationalize the break-up of opponents’ meetings by some New Left groups—made one despair of any authentic left in America.
The authoritarian debauch was soon all-encompassing: Ideology hates free spaces.
The SDS soon transfigured itself into a terrorist group known as the Weather Underground, while others created the equally violent Black Panthers, the Symbionese Liberation Army, the Puerto Rican National Liberation Front, and other groups. They set off bombs, tried to kill policemen and politicians and overthrow society to implement, in the words of the Weathermen, “world communism.” The New Left’s violent stage was of short duration, however; eventually the Weathermen unwittingly helped to cut short the armed revolution stage. They were mostly wealthy white kids from the suburbs with no idea of how to carry out revolt, and therefore ended up killing each other in higher numbers than they killed policemen or members of the bourgeoisie. The Weathermen thus showed in stark form the futility of violent revolution, especially if it was not preceded by cultural indoctrination. Most of the terrorist groups that emerged in the late Sixties and early Seventies had disintegrated by the early 1980s.
But the radicals did not abandon their dream of dismantling the United States. The radical students of the 1960s who had sought to emulate Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh by unleashing revolution in the United States, by the early 1980s were facing the reality that they would not topple the U.S. government through violence.
Their acceptance that revolution was futile was soothed by their new understanding that they could still overthrow society, but they would do so by infiltrating the institutions and acculturating Americans to such Marxist ideas as abolishing the family, property, the nation-state, and God. They would have to burrow in. If violence came in at all—as Marx had written that it must—it would be more as a final coup-de-grace, after the institutions had been taken over, than as a bloody, regime-changing revolution.
Rudi Dutschke, the West German radical and disciple of the Frankfurt School revolutionary kingmaker Marcuse, titled this Gramscian strategy “The Long March through the Institutions” (a communist nod to Mao’s Long March in China in the 1930s). This became the philosophy that guided how the Marxist penetration of American society and her institutions would be affected. No figure better personified this metamorphosis from armed revolution to cultural infiltration than Bill Ayers, who went from being one of the main architects of the Weather Underground, designated by the FBI as a domestic terrorist organization, to getting a PhD in education in the 1980s and being called “a school reformer” by such figures as NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw. Ayers, however, knew what he was doing when he reposted on his website classic lines by Gramsci, such as:
The history of education shows that every class which has sought to take power has prepared itself for power by an autonomous education. The first step in emancipating oneself from political and social slavery is that of freeing the mind. I put forward this new idea: popular schooling should be placed under the control of the great workers’ unions. The problem of education is the most important class problem.
By 1989, the year that Barringer discovers it, that penetration of American citadels of thought had reached a tipping point. The now middle-aged radicals were deeply ensconced in the faculties of the campuses they had once disrupted. Not only did they have professorships, but they had also trained two decades of students in their radical ideologies. Now those students were developing their own radical ideas and casting aside the older generation. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the rejection of the mostly white, male professors of law who had established the critical legal studies (CLS) movement by the heavily minority and female professors of law who created critical race theory (CRT). This was key in the transition from the Marxism of the New Left, which was ascendent in the 1960s and 1970s, to the next generation of Marxism, which took hold in the 1980s and had its coming out party in 1989, when CRT was first named and formally founded. It happened at a convention held at a convent in Madison, Wisconsin, when black and other non-white law faculty and students who were members of the CLS movement decided to strike out on their own, establishing CRT as a race-based offshoot of CLS.
Should there be any doubt about the foundational role of Karl Marx and Antonio Gramsci in the emergence of this new, cultural Marxism, one has only to recall an interview with Richard Delgado, a Mexican-American law professor who helped to found CRT, who said this of CRT’s ironic beginnings in a religious setting: “So we gathered at that convent for two and a half days, around a table in an austere room with stained glass windows and crucifixes here and there—an odd place for a bunch of Marxists—and worked out a set of principles.” Marx and Marxism comes up often in the writings that formed the movement. Gramsci, meanwhile, is quoted approvingly by several authors in the 1995 anthology of essays that serves as the bible of CRT, Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement—which CRT adherents, in another reference to Mao, refer to as the “Big Red Book.” And, lest anyone forget, Frankfurt’s Institute for Social Research, which originated from the German antecedent of CRT, critical theory, was founded by members of different communist parties in 1922 to help to promote Marxism in the West.
The decade of the 1980s, which followed the political and social paroxysms of the 1960s and 1970s—and was ironically the decade of the Reagan revolution and the collapse of Soviet communism—was a halfway point between the cultural spasms of the 1960s and today’s near-total takeover of Western cultural institutions by the Left. It was also the point at which the Marxist Left made the all-important pivot from class-based or economic Marxism to cultural Marxism. Thomas Klingenstein, the chairman of the board of the Claremont Institute, has independently come up with an alternative name for the phenomenon: Woke Communism (Woke Comm for short).
This Special Report presents a strategy to counter the threat to America’s liberties that this ideology poses. It is not a strategy to fix all the threats. It says nothing about the administrative state, or about the “Great Reset” economic strategy of the World Economic Forum. It examines the origins of today’s cultural Marxism as well as lessons learned from other great ideological conflicts, particularly the Cold War, to develop a strategy for turning back the radical takeover of American institutions and thus preserve American principles and freedoms, which are the only true path to equality and opportunity for all.
The Fundamental Design of Cultural Marxism
Today’s cultural Marxists believe that the reason economic, social, cultural, academic, and health outcomes (to name just a few) show persistent racial disparities is because of a pervasive, systemic racism that can only be eliminated by smashing the system itself. The quickest way to do that is to create a never-ending number of racial and country-of-origin categories (such as Hispanics and Asian Americans, both created by government fiat in 1977 at the insistence of leftist activists), the members of which would be instilled with grievances about the disparity of these outcomes, to the point that they will want to become active soldiers in smashing the system. The Marxist narrative that all of society for all of history has been divided into categories of the oppressed and their oppressors is played over and over. The government, and all society, the purveyors of CRT say, must thus treat people not as individuals with liberties, but as categories that deserve special treatment and benefits as members of these categories.
What is happening today, therefore, is nothing more than this age’s identity category version of Marx’s 19th-century claim that, because individuals have different abilities, and because they belong to different classes, their rights must differ. According to Marx, if government or society in general were to grant people equal individual rights (such as to consumption and services), material inequality (the bugaboo of all Marxists then and now) would ensue. Another reason why Marx thought that government needed to distribute goods and services unequally until the point that communism reached its final stage (a completely elusive target date), was that “socialism inherits inequalities from capitalism that can’t be wished away.”
Fast forward to today, and famed “anti-racist” Ibram X. Kendi declares that “[t]he only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” The government, Kendi—a retail promoter of CRT—is saying, must discriminate in favor of the members of the categories deemed oppressed. But, as Klingenstein rightly observed at the Third National Conservative Conference, held in Miami in September 2022, “A free society will necessarily lead to different outcomes. The more outcome equality, the less freedom there is.”
Marx, an economic determinist, believed that the different outcomes depended on different classes, and these depended on their relationship to the factors of production. Basing their views on race and other immutable traits, America’s cultural Marxists explain the different outcomes in terms of categories that are racial and sexual. To them, the racial disparities that so bedevil today’s society happen because the dominant sets of practices and institutions, the rules for the construction of all authorized institutions and activities, codify “white supremacy.” To cultural Marxists, all the rules, norms, behaviors, traditions, and mores of Western civilization constitute white supremacy. White supremacy is totalizing—it is the American Revolution, the Enlightenment, the Renaissance, the Reformation—everything. It is that which needs to be torn down. Capitalism, for both earlier Marxists as well as today’s, must be demolished—for Marx because he sought “the abolition of private property,” for cultural Marxists, because it rewards the wrong norms and forms of conduct.
The revolution as originally envisioned by Marx and Engels would not only abolish private property and the right of inheritance; it would also centralize credit and communications; factories and instruments of production would be communally owned; it would abolish the family and create “an openly legalized community of women.” It would even abolish countries and nationality. All this, theoretically, to end gradations of social rank or class, which Marx described as having simplified in his day into two antagonistic classes—the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The Marxist revolution must thus begin with the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie. All this is consonant with today’s cultural Marxists.
Cultural Marxism adapts Marx’s foundational concepts. Marx believed that revolutions would invariably result when “the material forces of production in society come into conflict with the existing relations of production.” Cultural Marxists, abandoning economic determinism, substitute culture for economy and racial and sexual identities for the proletariat. They agree with Gramsci that “popular beliefs and similar ideas are themselves material forces.” And immutable traits, such as race, will now trump class. To the 21st-century communist Eric Mann, “the racialization of all aspects of political life operates as a material force in itself.”
Cultural Marxism is thus a remodeled Marxism, a mutation; but it is Marxism nonetheless, something Americans in the 21st century need to understand. It is entirely distinct from other forms of garden-variety left liberalism, whose proponents are being displaced by cultural Marxists—in the Democratic Party, for example, socialist members of the so-called Squad, such as Representatives Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (NY), Ilhan Omar (MN), and Corey Bush, (MO), receive levels of attention denied to their moderate colleagues, such as Representatives Henry Cuellar (TX) and Carolyn Bourdeaux (GA). The cultural Marxists’ goal is not to improve the system, but to overturn the existing social order entirely—which they consider to be an enforcer of “white supremacy.”
Because of that absolutism, cultural Marxism cannot tolerate or co-exist with other worldviews. It demands censorship, which began as “political correctness” but has since veered into the far more insidious censorship, which leads inevitably to tyranny (as Marxism always has everywhere it has been tried). It punishes alternative views by attempting to drive those who express them from public life, a phenomenon dubbed “cancel culture.” As Klingenstein said in his September 2022 speech, “if the Woke Comms want to overthrow our system, we have to overthrow theirs.” The new Marxists play for keeps, just as the old ones did. Marx’s favorite phrase came from Goethe’s Mephisto (the devil): “Everything that exists deserves to perish.” Cultural Marxists took over the universities and transformed the class struggle into one over race, sex, and other immutable traits, and used these positions of power to reinterpret not just history but reality itself. Cultural Marxists also abandoned violent struggle in favor of indoctrination. Socialism evolved from preaching government ownership of the means of production to putting socialists in charge of “the means of meaning production.”
The capture of the university has paid huge dividends, for it is from the university that so much of a nation’s culture emanates. But the takeover by Marxists has been far more totalizing. In fact, sex, sexual orientation, climate, and other issues have been used indiscriminately to advance revolutionary goals, something that Marxists themselves sometimes admit. The former Marxist David Horowitz, for example, quotes an SDS radical as having once written, “The issue is never the issue. The issue is always the revolution.” Horowitz explains, “In other words the cause—whether inner city blacks or women—is never the real cause, but only an occasion to advance the real cause which is the accumulation of power to make the revolution.” Eric Mann, the communist and former Weatherman who trained Black Lives Matter (BLM) co-founder Patrisse Cullors for a decade on Marxism–Leninism and how to be an organizer—drove this point home when he told an interviewer in 2015 that whether the issue is race, sex, gender, or the environment, the goal is overthrowing the U.S. system, and the rest is just “a little division of labor.” Even the drug culture falls under that division of labor. Horowitz says that SDS leader and progressive firebrand Tom Hayden once described the utility of the drug culture to him: “Once you get a middleclass person to break the law, he said (and he was thinking of students), they are on their way to becoming revolutionaries,” wrote Horowitz.
A few examples of what this looks like in practice should suffice to demonstrate the impact the cultural Marxists have had.
Cultural Marxism’s Infiltration of the Institutions
Education. Universities today have almost completely succumbed to the ideology imposed by those who have followed the cultural Marxist pioneers of the 1980s. As the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression pointed out in its 2022–2023 College Free Speech Rankings report, 42 percent of conservative students “are most likely to feel they cannot express their opinions,” compared to 13 percent of liberal students saying the same. The report, shockingly, has a list of 772 professors who have been fired, suspended, or sanctioned because of conservative speech, and another long list of speakers who have been disinvited to speak at American universities. Not surprisingly, political science professor Samuel Abrams found that “academic faculty report a six-to-one ratio of liberal to conservative professors.” College administrators are far worse, sporting a 12-to-one ratio of liberal to conservative members. First-year students, meanwhile, reported a much smaller but still significant two-to-one ratio. “It appears that a fairly liberal student body is being taught by a very liberal professoriate—and socialized by an incredibly liberal group of administrators,” concluded Abrams.
The university officials most involved with enforcing the cultural Marxist ideology generally fall under the heading of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). These are positive terms (who could be against diversity, equity, or inclusion?) but they have been distorted into meaning almost the exact opposite. James Lindsay, Bruce Gilley, and Peter Boghossian, three dissenting academics, have drafted a “Cheat Sheet for Policy Makers” that provides a glossary of what they found working inside the American university system. The trio define today’s diversity as “[a]n identity-based approach to society; includes only those who agree with Social Justice, which is a violation of individual identity; enforced intellectual conformity, political quotas; an attack on merit and a form of soft bigotry.” Equity, they write, now means the new inequality that we have seen, and “equality of outcomes plus reparations, which is a violation of equality before the law, a dismantling of the foundations of a free society [and] state management of society by redistributing resources, opportunity, and access.” Inclusion, the three write, now means “restricted speech and justification for purges,” which is, “an attack on freedoms of association and speech [and] an enforced separation of people by race (‘neo-segregation’).”
Nonetheless (or perhaps, unsurprisingly), a 2021 study of 65 of the largest universities by The Heritage Foundation’s Jay Greene found that the average American university has 45 DEI personnel who act as political commissars enforcing the cultural Marxist ideology of DEI. (The University of Michigan alone has 163.) That means that universities have 40 percent more DEI staff than history professors. Greene’s study examined campus climate survey results to see if the number of DEI staff made campuses more welcoming or inclusive, and unsurprisingly he found that the opposite was the case.
In the 1980s, when the takeover of campuses by cultural Marxists started to become evident, a number of leading intellectuals published books that either directly or indirectly tried to alert the general public to what was happening in the universities, including Allen Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students (1987); John M. Ellis’s Against Deconstruction (1989); Roger Kimball’s Tenured Radicals: How Politics has Corrupted Our Higher Education (1990); and Dinesh D’Souza’s Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus (1991). But those warnings had little effect. As John Ellis, a professor of German literature at the University of California at Santa Cruz, reflected some 30 years later:
Radical politics was a rising force on the campuses, and we were trying to draw attention to the dangers in what was happening while there was still some chance of arresting it. But it’s now clear that we failed to stop the slide, because the political radicals on campus never had any interest in what we had to say. Their purposes were not ours. We were interested in the quality of higher education, but what they cared about was getting control of the campuses so they could use them to promote their political ideology, one so unpopular with the general public that it could not have been advanced in any other way.
In reflecting on what allowed the advance of radical politics on campuses and the failure of these and other warnings to slow those advances, Ellis blames “factors that are always present in human life: the complacency of those many people who are always prone to think alarms overwrought.” Too many Americans are still willing to think the alarms overwrought. Parents are willing to overlook the far-left leaning of universities, and to pay large sums or incur debt for the privilege of having their children indoctrinated into the anti-American cult of modern academia. As Andrew Breitbart once famously said, “You send your kids off to college. They love you. You walk away with a Cornell mom T-shirt. You are walking away going this is great, and come Thanksgiving, your kid tells you that you are an imperialist and a racist and a homophobe.”
Universities are, of course, not the only place where cultural Marxists indoctrinate students. The CRT spread in K–12 classrooms accelerated after the social upheaval of the BLM riots of 2020, giving rise to widespread opposition by parents starting in early 2021. CRT, as explained earlier, is a revolutionizing method that also focuses on outcomes as measured by race, and therefore in its practices violates the Civil Rights Act and the Constitution’s provision for “the equal protection of the law” when students are treated differently because of their race, sex, or national origin. “Critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law,” acknowledges Delgado. Despite this reality, President Joe Biden has made CRT part of the nation’s hegemonic narrative, directing his Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, to favor schools practicing CRT when distributing taxpayer dollars.
Many studies by different scholars have concluded that the nation’s schools of education, where K–12 teachers are trained, have been turned into veritable cultural Marxist madrassas. One such study, by Jay Schalin of the James G. Martin Center, analyzed nearly 300 syllabi used at three prominent colleges of education. Schalin said the evidence was “unequivocal”: The “most influential thinkers in our education schools are radicals who adhere to a collectivist, utopian vision.” Critical pedagogy, a version of CRT, elevates group membership defined in terms of race, sex, or sexual orientation over the individual. Like CRT, critical pedagogy is based on the teachings of Gramsci, who sought to use education to advance socialism by imposing a “counter-narrative” that would produce students who were ready to install the socialist revolution.
Sex and Gender. The sexual revolution, of which critical theorist Herbert Marcuse was also a guru, has been clearly part of the strategy, as are today the advances of gender theory and critical pedagogy. Gender theory—or gender ideology—derives from feminism, critical theory, and Marxist–Freudian thought. One of the intellectual forefathers of gender theory is Michel Foucault, the French poststructuralist who philosophized that gender, commonly understood in society, was a social construct imposed by oppressive forces. Operating from Marxist postmodern terminology of “autonomy” and “liberation,” Foucault believed that deconstructing the norms of gender would bring about “greater autonomy and creativity in human identity.” To Foucault, sex was not binary, and the “naturalness” of gender and sex was dubious. Foucault’s thought represents a cultural Marxism that also transcends class struggle—as seen with race—and bases the “oppressed vs. oppressor” dynamic on sex. It asserts that individuals need to be liberated from societal norms and commonly understood notions of gender and sex in order to achieve liberation.
From Foucault and the French second-wave feminist Simone de Beauvoir, one can track the development of gendered pronouns and the transgender phenomenon that is being imposed on students in schools and universities across the country today. Kate Millett, whose Sexual Politics is an example of the distinction between sex and gender, was a Marxist feminist who argued for a reconstruction of academic disciplines in order to reflect the “structures of gender oppression that have subjugated women.” Sexual Politics is replete with citations of Engels, Marx, and Stalin. Millett, dubbed the “Karl Marx of the women’s liberation movement,” or “The Mao Tse-Dong of women’s liberation” (the latter by The New York Times), personified this new form of Marxism that is triumphant in America today.
Finally, there are academics, such as Dean Spade, a law professor at Seattle University who helped to found the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a nonprofit organization inspired by the 1969 Stonewall Riots and the activism of Marsha Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, two transvestites who founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) in 1970. Spade is an academic and activist who supports a “Critical Trans Politics” that embraces many tenets of Marxist thought. Spade has contributed to an anthology titled Towards an Ethics of Activism, in which BLM co-founder Alicia Garza is also featured. This current generation of gender theorists, like Spade, Wendy Brown, and Judith Butler, urge the dismantling of the American status quo and criticize the emphasis that others place on equality. “Gender equality” as civil rights and law issues is not enough. Instead, they believe the entire system is corrupt and in need of liberation.
In practice, this academic jargon has tragic consequences, such as minors undergoing the routine amputation of perfectly healthy body parts, and hormonal interventions that fill their young bodies with toxins. “These are deeply invasive and often irreversible procedures that destroy functioning and alter visible physical structures,” explained former Heritage Foundation analyst Ryan Anderson. And here, again, the institutions in charge of the culture exercised their ruthless censorship over those who would dare question the new cultural Marxist regime. In February 2021, Amazon banned sales of Anderson’s book When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment.
It is not by any means the first time that Marxists used sex and children to undermine the authority of parents, the church, and the state. One particularly disturbing example occurred in the early 20th century during the short-lived Hungarian Soviet state of 1919. Its education and culture commissar Georg Lukacs ordered schools to instruct young children on sexual perversions like those of today. According to his biographer,
Special lectures were organized in schools and literature printed and distributed to “instruct” children about free love, about the nature of sexual intercourse, about the archaic nature of bourgeois family codes, about the outdatedness of monogamy, and the irrelevance of religion, which deprives man of all pleasure. Children [were] urged thus to reject and deride paternal authority and the authority of the church, and to ignore precepts of morality.
Climate. America’s wars over climate are also a part of a Marxist strategy. No less a figure than Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore says he walked away from environmentalism in the late 1980s because it was taken over by Marxists. He said in a 1997 interview that composition of Greenpeace changed dramatically after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Communism’s demise behind the Iron Curtain brought with it the growth of anti-corporate extremism. According to Moore,
suddenly, the international peace movement had a lot less to do. Pro-Soviet groups in the West were discredited. Many of their members moved into the environmental movement, bringing with them their eco-Marxism and pro-Sandinista sentiments. A lot of those in the peace movement were anti-American and, to an extent, pro-Soviet. By virtue of their anti-Americanism, they tended to sometimes favor the communist approach. A lot of those people, a lot of those social activists, moved into the environmental movement once the peace movement was no longer relevant.
Social activists, Moore told Insight on the News, “are now using the rhetoric of environmentalism to promote other collectivist agendas, such as class struggle—which I personally believe is a legitimate area, but I don’t believe it’s legitimate to mix it up with environmentalism.”
One can see why Van Jones, at one time President Barack Obama’s “green jobs czar,” found it so easy to go from being a self-described communist who in 1994 co-founded the collective Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM), which trained young activists on Marx and Lenin, to joining the Apollo Alliance, which promoted environmental efforts, after STORM disintegrated in 2002.
Cultural Marxists have used the climate debate to take over the corporate world to advance their cause. They do this mainly through the use of environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) rules. ESG is a nebulous and even benign-sounding term, and hence many people unwittingly sign on to it believing it to mean simply more conscientious behavior by corporations. In fact, ESG is the framework through which corporations adopt policies which are socialist and collectivist in nature and directly counter free-market principles. Under the guise of ESG, a public company must place the ends of environmentalism, diversity, and equity above the traditional ends of efficiency, innovation, and excellence, which are the normal drivers in the free market, and which are, ultimately, the factors that drive wealth creation—not just for corporate owners and employees, but for all investors—and that means many ordinary Americans whose retirement funds are invested in American corporations. Investment firms and proxy advisory service companies that provide advice to asset managers on how to vote on proxy proposals at shareholder meetings, will, for example, instruct companies to bend to their will.
The point man for ESG is Larry Fink, the chief executive of BlackRock, an asset company that has a $10 trillion global portfolio. “Fink leverages this immense power to compel companies that BlackRock invests in to comply with an aggressive climate change and diversity agenda in their operations,” writes Heritage Foundation fellow Richard Reinsch. Fink’s closely read annual letter to CEOs makes clear his commitment to both climate extremism and DEI. His 2020 letter warned that BlackRock “will be increasingly disposed to vote against management and board directors when companies are not making sufficient progress on sustainability-related disclosures and the business practices and plans underlying them.”
The following year, Fink’s 2021 letter paid homage to the wave of destruction that the cultural Marxist leaders of BLM had inflicted on the United States in 2020, but which Fink referred to as “a wave of historic protests for racial justice in the United States and around the world.” He then added, “we ask that your disclosures on talent strategy fully reflect your long-term plans to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion, as appropriate by region.”
Assets worth $10 trillion can bring a lot of leverage. That is a gargantuan amount, which means that most investors—that is, most people reading those words—will directly or indirectly own funds managed by BlackRock. (Fidelity Investment, in but one example, has formed a strategic alliance with BlackRock.) All of which means that investor money is being used to force companies into taking a knee for cultural Marxist policies. But just in case businesses try to opt out of ESG, activists will force companies to adopt the Marxist practices. As Reinsch explains it,
to woke activists and government officials, opting out of ESG is not an option. So, they force noncompliant businesses to conform to ESG by artificially creating real costs for not doing so. They do this through litigation. They will sue companies—often with dubious or plainly meritless cases—just to create litigation risk and costs. Even if the claims are meritless, businesses face real costs measured in lawyers’ fees, litigation costs, and the risk—however small—of a monetary judgment. As companies plan, they must consider such costs. Activists in and out of government deliberately create these costs to make it less attractive for companies to refuse to adopt ESG priorities.
Software giant Oracle, for example, was sued by shareholders insisting that Oracle had “breached its fiduciary duty by failing to have meaningful diversity on its board and workforce.” Oracle won dismissal of the suit, but the case was costly.
One can therefore see why companies such as Starbucks set targets on the percentage of “diverse people” who have to be hired, why they set executive bonuses according to the attainment of these targets, or why Coca-Cola stated that any outside law firms it hires must have a certain percentage of minority representation.
It is important to recognize and declare exactly what ESG does—it coerces. It forces companies to invest in issues that are not directly relevant to their business and to neglect their fiduciary duty to investors. It forces them to judge in favor of some individuals and against others for such immutable qualities as skin color, race, or sexual orientation. As West Virginia’s State Treasurer Riley Moore has put it, “ESG redefines capitalism so that it serves the purposes of the left.”
The Post-Soviet Consolidation. This all-out demolition of all the foundations of American and Western society has succeeded beyond what most people thought possible following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 2017, on the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik victory in Russia, Anne Applebaum wrote in The Washington Post:
So discredited was Bolshevism after the Soviet Union’s demise in 1991 that, for a quarter of a century, it seemed as if Bolshevik thinking was gone for good. But suddenly, now, in the year of the revolution’s centenary, it’s back.… In the United States, the Marxist left has also consolidated on the fringes of the Democratic Party—and sometimes not even on the fringes—as well as on campuses, where it polices the speech of its members, fights to prevent students from hearing opposing viewpoints, and teaches a dark, negative version of American history, one calculated to create doubts about democracy and to cast shadows on all political debate. The followers of this new alt-left spurn basic patriotism and support America’s opponents, whether in Russia or the Middle East. As in Britain, they don’t remember the antecedents of their ideas and they don’t make a connection between their language and the words used by fanatics of a different era.
Whether they all recognize themselves as Marxists or not does not matter. They are heirs to the “fanatics of a different era” and must be confronted.
The Fundamental Purpose and Identity of the United States
[T]o form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.
—Preamble to the Constitution
It is important to take a look, albeit briefly, at what exactly the cultural Marxists are in the process of trying to destroy. The Marxists’ lust for societal destruction would annihilate not an old and immoral European monarchy, a Tsarist empire, or a corrupt third-world dictatorship, but one of man’s most successful and noble experiments—the United States. It has been an immeasurable force for good for Americans and for the world.
The fundamental purpose of the United States, as conceived by the Founders, was to create the optimum conditions for human flourishing. The Founders drew from the knowledge and experience of millennia to craft a society in which they believed the greatest good could accrue to the greatest number. They never set out to create a perfect society; they knew that sin and imperfection affected all men, and therefore perfection on this earth was not possible. But they believed they could create a better political order than the monarchies and aristocracies that existed at the time by learning from and building on what had come before. They respected self-governance; they recognized fallen humanity; they checked ambition with ambition; they recognized individuals rights and the right to private property as well as the rights of minorities; and they believed strongly in limiting the power of government.
What the Founders crafted succeeded far beyond what most Europeans of the time expected. Never has a country been established with such high aspirations and unbridled optimism. Indeed, never had a country been created with such forethought and planning. As Alexander Hamilton put it in Federalist No. 1,
it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country to decide, by their conduct and example, the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend, for their political constitutions, on accident and force.
What emerged was a country deeply and profoundly committed to ordered liberty.
James Madison, reflecting on the Founding, said, “The happy Union of these States is a wonder; their Constitution a miracle; their example the hope of Liberty throughout the world,” then adding, “woe to the ambition that would meditate the destruction of either.” That dual spirit of aspiration and optimism has allowed Americans, where others might give up or simply not try in the first place, to carve a home out of wilderness, to break free from a great empire, to end the scourge of slavery, and to defy assaults both from without and within. That dual spirit of aspiration and optimism emboldened America’s Founding Fathers to write into the Founding documents what Martin Luther King, Jr., would later describe as the promissory note of equality. “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence,” King said in his famous speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial, “they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
In the 400 years since the first seeds of the American idea were planted with the Mayflower Compact, Americans have experienced extraordinary opportunity, prosperity, and freedom—characteristics which in themselves do not define human flourishing, but which are the necessary preconditions.
Has it been a perfect experiment? No earthly thing can be. But where it has erred, Americans have demonstrated both the flexibility and the will to self-correct. As Abraham Lincoln said on June 26, 1857: The Founders
meant to set up a standard maxim for free society, which should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere.
A standard maxim, familiar to all, revered by all, constantly approximated. This was a formula for human flourishing grounded in a profound understanding of human nature, of the invariable tendency to corruption and tyranny, of the limitless potential for human suffering—but also of the capacity of men to understand better than anyone else their own interests. The American experiment has retained its vibrancy and relevance through the centuries exactly because so many have sought respite from corruption and tyranny.
The Founders’ commitment to liberty has not just served Americans well but has marked America as the beacon of freedom around the world. At his acceptance speech for the 2022 Bradley Prize, the Chinese dissident Chen Guangsheng said,
Truly, in the hearts of those who refuse to be enslaved, America is the land of the free and the home of the brave. It is a beacon of freedom and a model of democracy. America holds the hopes and dreams of humanity. The Constitution and the rule of law guarantee democracy, freedom, human rights, and social justice. With the three branches of government, power is limited, and freedom of speech and religion are protected. The people are free to pursue their dreams. So, America is the most dynamic nation on earth, not only a superpower in wealth and strength, but also in goodwill and potential.
This is what cultural Marxists and their associated movements seek to end. They want to destroy the American experiment. BLM co-founder Alicia Garza is clear that her organization seeks to “chang[e] how we’ve organized this country…. I believe we all have work to do to keep dismantling the organizing principle of this society.” Her co-founder, Patrisse Cullors, says: “It is going to take complete transformation—at all branches of government—to change the fate of this country.” They have dispensed with the primacy of reason in favor of the primacy of power—their power. Cultural Marxists are brazenly candid that it is power they seek. “Life without power is death, a world without power would be a ghostly wasteland, a dead planet,” wrote Alinsky in Rules for Radicals, where he uses the word “power” 72 times. “Organize for power,” instructed Alinsky. Garza adds, “Power is very much about deciding who gets to make decisions, and who doesn’t…. The struggle right now is not a moral one, it is a struggle over power.”
A Strategy for Defeating Cultural Marxism
The United States has faced communists intent on taking power before, and won the struggle, as Felicity Barringer noted, just as a new struggle was being birthed at home. The Cold War focused the minds of this country’s best and brightest. National Security Council Paper 68, referred to as NSC-68, written in 1950 as the struggle against the Soviet Union was taking a pivotal turn, provided the blueprint for how America would defeat that communist threat. The military and political threat would be defeated by: (1) building up the U.S. military to guarantee victory in a kinetic war (and by doing so deter pre-emptive action by Moscow); (2) providing economic and military aid to U.S. allies in Europe, strengthening NATO, and thus creating a bulwark against expansion by the Soviets; and (3) changing the inimical and belligerent nature of the enemy through a targeted informational campaign delegitimizing its oppressive regime and promoting dissent among its citizens and the captive nations within the Soviet bloc.
These objectives were, for the most part, driven by the federal government. However, nongovernmental organizations and actors were also crucial to the victory against the communist threat and their role must not be underestimated, especially given the impact of Saint John Paul II’s anti-communist actions as Pope and the influence of dissident intellectuals, such as Alexandre Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov. However, today’s threat environment, with a largely internal adversary, requires a different framework for its strategic response.
Focus Locally. Cultural Marxists have already shown the way. Their “long march through the institutions” should inform the counterstrategy. While conservatives focused on the high-level aspects of American politics—national races, general elections, presidential campaigns, and policies that were driven from the top down—the Gramscians took monies from left-leaning donors and mega-foundations and focused their sights on local centers of political and cultural dominance. From using Soros money to fund “social justice” candidates for district attorney’s offices, to installing pro-CRT officials on schoolboards, the approach eschewed the obvious and national for the far more impactful subtle and local centers of power. Conservatives must take back these territories first. This is cultural trench warfare that will be needed to win back every inch of political territory ceded to an adversary that thought globally but acted locally for decades. Many of the different strategies laid out here thus involve action at the state level and local level. Until a new President replaces Joe Biden, it is unlikely that those who want to resist can look to Washington, DC, for answers.
National Leadership. The importance of local action is not to say that national action by national figures is irrelevant. When President Donald Trump signed an executive order to ban divisive and racist anti-American “diversity training” within the federal government and companies contracting with the government, he placed an important marker in the sand. The war against the internal threat of cultural Marxism will require a type of strategy that combines local and state activists with national centers of influence and power in novel ways. Here are some examples of how an effective multilevel response could be built: Whoever succeeds Joe Biden in the Oval Office, of either party, should do the right thing and sign new executive orders and laws that target the nonprofit status of colleges with mega-endowments that promote racist policies, such as segregated graduations or violations of freedom of speech, or any practice that contravenes existing law. Non-governmental not-for-profit initiatives to exert financial and political pressure on the most woke universities would be an essential force multiplier in weakening the grip of cultural Marxists upon academe.
Reversing the Takeover of Educational Institutions. Americans must recognize that universities have become incubators of Marxism, and even K–12 education has now been caught up in the culture war with the widespread use of CRT, sexual indoctrination, gender ideology, and DEI in classrooms.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) showed one path for accomplishing the reversal of these evolutions through tackling the issues of tenure, viewpoint diversity, and accreditation. It may be hard for small-government conservatives to accept, but government can use its legitimate power to make changes that will lessen the grip of cultural Marxists on American institutions.
Additionally, Americans at all levels of government should:
Help Employers to Move Away from the Bachelor’s Degree as a Proxy for Employability. Ever since Griggs v. Duke Power, the 1971 Supreme Court decision that said that companies may not use job requirements that exclude members of a certain race from employability even if no discriminatory intent exists, employers have tended to use a bachelor’s degree as a proxy for employment capabilities tests. Subject-specific tests are already legal, however, and government can take steps to help employers expand the use of tests. The technology sector is leading the way. The Supreme Court can also make things easier by revisiting Griggs, which the National Association of Scholars’ Neetu Arnold calls “a logical next step.” The federal government can also be induced to relax its requirements for employment.
Limit Federal Higher Education Subsidies. This is the obvious alternative to President Biden’s student loan forgiveness. Representatives Virginia Foxx (R–NC), Elise Stefanik (R–NY), and Jim Banks (R–IN) have introduced the Responsible Education Assistance Act which, among other things, would help Americans excluded from the post-secondary education system to gain access to high-quality short-term programs that would give them marketable skills.
Cap “Indirect Costs” at Universities Subsidized by Federal Taxpayers. As Heritage’s Jay Greene has pointed out, taxpayers fund the cultural Marxist agenda at universities to the tune of $100 million per university, per year. This is mostly through federal grants for research, which ends up subsidizing the research agendas of the Ford Foundation, George Soros’s Open Society Foundation, and Google Research. Universities also use taxpayer dollars to fund DEI activity. Greene proposes that Congress
cap the indirect rate federal agencies pay for research overhead so that it does not exceed the lowest rate that a university accepts from a private organization. This market mechanism will force all funders to pay the true indirect cost rate, thereby eliminating the taxpayer cross-subsidy of private organizations and reducing the ability of universities to fund ideological and illiberal activity on campus.
Ban Mandatory DEI Statements and Bias Response Teams at Public Universities. This obvious and necessary step can be achieved by defunding DEI staff and offices at public universities, making DEI statements voluntary, which would effectively eliminate them. It would be incumbent on political leaders to make clear how these terms have been reinterpreted by cultural Marxists: Diversity means numerical proportionalism and can only be achieved through violating the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and by using coercion; equity means treating Americans differently because of their race; and inclusion has come to mean language codes. The organizations Speech First and the Goldwater Institute have produced model legislation that states:
A public university or community college of this state shall not establish nor use public resources to support any office, position, or system whose function is to:
A) Investigate, threaten disciplinary action, or otherwise punish enrolled students for expressions of speech protected by state or federal law, including but not limited to speech pertaining to disagreements of opinion; political beliefs or affiliations; or perceived bias, prejudice, stereotypes, or intolerance.
B) Solicit the reporting of incidents of student speech protected by state or federal law, including but not limited to speech pertaining to disagreements of opinion; political beliefs or affiliations; or perceived bias, prejudice, stereotypes, or intolerance.
Pass Legislation Banning the Implementation of CRT and Gender Theory in K–12 Classrooms. Together with Heritage’s Jonathan Butcher and Heritage’s sister organization Heritage Action, the authors of this Special Report have helped leaders in 20-plus states to write or enact legislation that bans the implementation of CRT practices that violate the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act. Establishing parental rights in every state as well as reconfiguring funding for K–12 education so that the funds follow the student rather than the institution would also go a long way in redressing the current ideological conformity in schools.
Prosecuting the Sexualization of Children. One of the most grotesque ways in which the cultural Marxists negatively affect people’s lives comes at the confluence of sex and children as early as elementary school. This includes pernicious instruction on sexual practices, the rush to respond to any sign of gender dysphoria with opposite-sex pronouns and names behind the back of unsuspecting parents or, worse, with the amputation of healthy reproductive organs—against the will, or without the knowledge, of parents. And as described earlier, Georg Lukacs revealed how Marxists are intent on using sexual depravity to overthrow existing society.
Society must fight back, but how? The Biden Administration is not only of no help, it is the main culprit pushing this ideology. President Biden’s top people behave more like Lukacs than like statesmen looking after the interests of the American people. The Administration insists that “gender-affirming” care, an Orwellian euphemism for the horrific practices detailed above (the amputations, the toxic therapies that leave children sterile for life, the indoctrination), is the best medical approach. Indeed as Emilie Kao at the Alliance Defending Freedom writes, the federal government is enacting policies in both education and health care that could override state protections of parental rights. The Administration also issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that reinterprets “discrimination on the basis of sex” in Title IX of the 1972 Educational Amendments to include “gender identity.” This will make it impossible to do anything to stop those adults who prey on children, including those with gender dysphoria.
Congress must, therefore, do all it can to protect the right of parents to be in charge of their children’s upbringing, and to ensure that courts apply the highest legal standard of review and strictest scrutiny of federal government policies. This high standard will strengthen the ability of parents to challenge federal policies that exclude them from making crucial decisions for their children. For that to happen, both houses of Congress must be held by conservatives, and these conservatives must find the courage to protect parents. President Biden is sure to veto any legislation of this type, of course, so Congress must attach it to “must-pass” bills and stand its ground.
And, of course, there are the states. Kao points out that Arizona, Florida, and other states have enacted parental rights laws that recognize and strengthen the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their children. The Surgeon General of Florida has challenged the Administration’s “gender-affirming” approach. States are prohibiting the use of Medicaid funds for gender transition and banning these procedures on minors.
This is an area where being one of the most litigious societies on earth will help. Parents and the burgeoning number of “detransitioners” must avail themselves of the many legal foundations willing to work with them to sue the unethical medical practitioners engaging in this medieval-style butchery, or against adults who are clearly grooming young children to satisfy their own perverted urges. Americans should look across the Atlantic and take their cues from a lawsuit brought by a female detransitioner against the Tavistock Clinic, Britain’s main gender clinic. It highlighted the lasting physical, emotional, and mental damage experienced by thousands of young people. It may also spark a wave of class action lawsuits.
Dismantling the Racial Taxonomy. The cultural Marxist strategy of instilling grievances based on racial and sexual categories depends on the creation of the categories themselves. Government played the indispensable role that only government can play in the creation of the racial identities we have today by making them official. Even when these identities were synthetic constructions of cultural Marxists, government gave them its imprimatur when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1966 started asking companies with more than 100 employees to collect information on “Negro, American Indian, Oriental and Spanish-surnamed” employees. In 1977, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) made official the five categories of “white,” “black,” “Hispanic,” “Native American,” and “Asian” (what demographers sometimes call “the ethno-racial pentagon”). Government, therefore, bears the responsibility for getting rid of these identities that have become the instruments of cultural Marxist organizers. Activists effectively turned the original goal of the Civil Rights Act—to force government to adopt race-neutral policies—on its head.
Because of the OMB’s Policy Directive No. 15, the Census now demands that Americans identify themselves as one of these categories. If people refuse to think of themselves in this manner, the government will make that decision for them. The Census Bureau allocates Americans to one of the minority OMB categories if they put a check mark on the “other race” box, using neighborhood data as guide. Social scientist David Hollinger has explained that, in the rush to make America a “majority minority” nation, the OMB has instructed the Census Bureau to “allocate” responses that “combine one minority race and white” to “the minority race.” As Hollinger puts it, “thus the federal government quietly reinserted into the tabulation of the census the principle of hypodescent”—the technical term for the old segregationist one-drop rule—“that the opportunity to make ‘more than one’ was publicly said to repudiate.”
There is, in other words, no escape. All levels of government follow this scheme, which is now being copied by virtually all institutions—public and private.
What can be done about this? In 2018, Mike Gonzalez co-authored with Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese a solution that was published in The Wall Street Journal. They wrote:
Mr. Hollinger has proposed to do away with the pan-ethnic groups altogether and “count instead those inhabitants who identify with descent communities from specific countries.” The 2020 census starts down that path by adding a “write-in area” for countries of descent for both whites and blacks, as well as Hispanics, but will still divide them under the pan-ethnic umbrellas.
Sociologist Nathan Glazer, co-author with Daniel Patrick Moynihan of the classic 1963 study “Beyond the Melting Pot,” has similarly proposed asking only questions on national descent, and going back only as far as grandparents, “because by the third generation and certainly the fourth, the mix of ethnicities is extensive,” as he wrote in 2002.
President Biden surely will not do it, but his successor can make sure that the 2030 Census is rid of this problem by issuing an executive order that directs the OMB to rescind Directive No. 15 and a revision that the OMB issued in 1997. The executive order must also instruct all other agencies to stop collecting this data.
The next President should also disband the Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations (NAC), which was chartered by President Obama in 2012. It controls how the Census (and therefore the nation) approaches race. Its membership is made up of all the groups of the identitarian left—Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), the Mexican–American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF), the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO), the National Urban League, the Alliance of Iranian Americans, the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, Asian American Decisions, the Japanese American National Museum, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Native American Rights Fund, the Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander National Network, Plataforma Afrodescendiente, the U.S. Indigenous Data Sovereignty Network, and the Supreme Court Committee on Minority Concerns. Other members are mostly academics involved in ethnic studies, critical race theory, and multiculturalism.
These groups forged these identities with power in mind. As the writer Benjamin Francis–Fallon suggests, “ethnic leaders and elected officials sought to forge several peoples into one” because they recognized that ethnic solidarity was “an instrument of political power, one that could produce the society that they desired.” These activists wanted to prevent the new immigrants, from places such as China, Colombia, Cuba, Korea, Mexico, and Vietnam, from going through the assimilationist process that had made millions of Armenians, East European Jews, Greeks, Irish, Lebanese, Sicilians, and Swedes into Americans. The activists instead sought to create the victimization of collectives. They wanted to change America. As Courtney Jung, one of the cultural Marxist theorists, put it in a 2006 paper,
a political identity does not arise spontaneously. Instead, by using categories of race, gender, and class to define an unequal distribution of rights and privileges, liberal democratic societies compel some of their members to identify with others of a similar ethnic, sexual, or economic character.
The NAC charter and the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) give the Secretary of Commerce the authority to terminate the committee. According to the FACA, “Determinations of action to be taken and policy to be expressed with respect to matters upon which an advisory committee reports or makes recommendations shall be made solely by the President or an officer of the Federal Government.” Since the Secretary of Commerce established the NAC in 2012, under the FACA, the Secretary is authorized to terminate the NAC. The next President must see to it that it happens.
ESG: Fight Fire with Fire. ESG is another area where the states are leading, and this will probably need to remain state-led, given that state pension funds controlled by state financial officers are asset behemoths that can get the attention of woke financial companies. It is therefore a welcome sign that more than a dozen states are drafting or considering plans to punish banks and other financial asset managers who impose ESG rules on companies in their states. State financial officers in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming are considering barring major financial asset managers from doing business with the state.
These states were led by West Virginia’s State Treasurer Riley Moore, who on July 28, 2022, placed five major financial institutions—Larry Fink’s BlackRock, as well as Goldman Sachs Group, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo—on a “Restricted Financial Institution List” that restricts their activities in the state because of their boycott of the fossil-fuel sector. Inclusion on the list authorizes the state treasurer to take the following actions:
- Disqualify a restricted financial institution from the competitive bidding process or from any other official selection process;
- Refuse to enter into a banking contract with a restricted financial institution based on its restricted financial institution status; or
- Require, as a term of any banking contract, an agreement by the financial institution not to engage in boycott of energy companies for the duration of the contract.
“We’re not going to pay for our own destruction, we’re not going to subsidize that,” Moore told Fox Business in an interview. “They [ESG activists] have weaponized our tax dollars against the very people and industry that have generated them to begin with. That is why we’re pushing back against this ESG movement.” Moore gained an immediate victory when Bancorp pledged not to boycott fossil fuels to avoid being placed on the list.
The chief financial officer in DeSantis’s Florida agrees, saying in July 2022 that
[f]or years now, the cult of ESG economic activists has been working overtime to infuse unwanted, woke ideology into the American economic system because they know their social policies wouldn’t pass the sniff test from voters. It’s anti-American, anti-freedom, a deliberate attempt to subvert our democracy and not in the best interest of Florida businesses, retirees, or investors.
Governor DeSantis himself proposed legal and administrative actions banning fund managers of the State Board of Administration surrendering to ESG scoring for Florida’s investments under the state’s retirement system. All this has potentially huge ramifications at all levels across American politics and culture, and it shows that state leaders can fight and resist cultural Marxism.
Investigating the BLM Organizations. Because they have been the vector for the introduction of cultural Marxism into the lives of all Americans, getting serious about the threat that the BLM organizations represent is the most immediate, and easiest, thing that Americans can do to confront Marxism. That will have to involve Congress, which has the power to hold hearings. Congressional investigations are one of American society’s best self-defense mechanisms. Since 2020, all American institutions have been turned upside down, in what the media has mindlessly called a “racial reckoning.” Everything has been impacted—every institution, from school to the office, houses of worship, the military, sports leagues, and the corporate world, has been tinted with a heavy dogmatic hue that is new to American shores. Hundreds of riots and an estimated 12,000 demonstrations shook U.S. cities after the death of George Floyd in May 2020, which left in their wake some $2 billion in property damage, making it the costliest disturbance in U.S. history, and at least 25 people dead as of Halloween that year. The murder rate went up 30 percent in 2020 alone, far surpassing the highest previous spike of 12 percent in 1968—another politically charged year—and leaving open the question of whether some sort of “Ferguson” or “Minneapolis” effect, where crime rises because police pull back after riots, was at fault.
It is high time, therefore, for Congress to hold hearings on BLM, especially the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation (BLMGNF), the mothership of the movement, on its activities since 2013, but especially from the time of the Ferguson riots to the present, and on the 2020 riots. This is all the more important because BLMGNF was set up by women who were recruited and schooled by Marxists trained in the cultural Marxism discussed in this Special Report. These BLM architects have embraced violent action. They have called for the “complete transformation” of “all branches of government,” and for “dismantling the organizing principle of this society.” They then went about achieving this through violence, intimidation, and infiltration. They were instructed on how to overthrow the United States and then set about doing exactly that. Any rational society would have already investigated them. The only reason this has not happened is that America’s political leaders, especially in Congress, are too cowed to investigate an organization with the words “Black Lives Matter” in its title, too afraid to be labeled as racists. Members themselves have been too scared so far to do what is right, and they have surrounded themselves with staff who seek only to protect them from controversy. Because congressional staff tend to be young, and all have gone through the “higher education” system, these staff members have also bought at least partially into the oppressor/oppressed narrative and third-world superiority that the U.S. educational system currently teaches.
Congress must therefore put Cullors, Alicia Garza, Melina Abdullah, Opal Tometi-Black, and others under oath, and ask them how much of the mayhem they coordinated, or BLMGNF coordinated. Congress must also question their intent. Congress must ask whether the BLM organizations really want to dismantle the nuclear family, embrace central planning—as the LeftRoots organization, of whose coordinating committee Garza is a member, aims to do. Members should also ask Garza what she means when she says, “It’s not possible for a world to emerge where black lives matter if it’s under capitalism. And it’s not possible to abolish capitalism without a struggle against national oppression and gender oppression.” She made these statements at the 2015 annual convention of the Marxist organization Left Forum. Members of Congress should ask Tometi what she meant when she lauded Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro’s “participatory democracy.” They should ask Cullors why she wants to not only defund the police, but also to abolish the prison and courts systems. What does she envision will happen to society, and is the dismantling of society precisely what she intends through all these steps?
Such a committee looking into BLM must of course avoid the credibility deficiencies that plagued the January 6 panel. Both Republicans and Democrats must be allowed to appoint members, because cross-examination is indispensable in eliciting the truth. Even if they want to overthrow the Constitution and the constitutional order, the leaders and architects of BLM have constitutional rights as Americans. They have the right to try peacefully to convince their fellow Americans that it would be best to overthrow the country and start anew. But their fellow Americans also have a right to know what BLM stands for and what it is working toward. This is all the more true given the enormous resources that corporate America has poured into BLM, and the popular support the group still enjoys, although it has waned since its high of 2020. Ordinarily this would have been the job of the press, but whether because of newsroom coercion or because they were ideologically in synch (dare one say “fellow travelers”?), the press not only refused to do its job, but even prepared the ground for BLM’s work by changing the language itself. And of course, BLM did use violence to accomplish its aims.
There are also a number of different approaches that can be part of the overall anti-woke strategy. Congress should:
Re-classify Social Media Providers as Public Utilities. The inordinate political power of the left-wing social media platforms that dominate information flows today will only be broken as the result of a multifront, multi-actor war against the likes of Twitter and Facebook. As conservative foundations and citizens’ groups convince Capitol Hill and the executive to reclassify social media as a public utility and common carrier—à la Bell Corporation—and so ban them from censoring content, First Amendment–based private initiatives, such as Rumble and Truth Social, must multiply and flourish with the support of conservative investors who understand what Andrew Breitbart meant when he observed that “politics is downstream from culture.”
Fight the Battle in the Courts. Across all sectors of this endeavor, case law must be established, and battles must be fought in courtrooms across America and at the highest level in the Supreme Court. Society must make a much greater investment in seminal cases that can reverse the cultural and political victories of the domestic Marxists. The impact of private organizations, such as Judicial Watch and the Alliance Defending Freedom, cannot be overestimated, especially given the reversals that conservatives have realized recently with such tectonic results as Dobbs v. Jackson on abortion and NYSRPA v. Bruen on the Second Amendment. Those fighting cultural Marxists must be willing to fight in the courtrooms across the land, not just at schoolboard meetings and during election season.
Re-engage in the Culture. Perhaps most important of all, donors must build a new ecosystem for the provision of cultural content if the ultimate victory against those who hate America is to be achieved. Hollywood is starting to pay the commercial price for the near-absolute wokification of its output. From the disastrous results of making massive moneymaking franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek woke, to the stock market losses incurred as a result by the likes of Netflix and Disney, it is plain that a significant portion of the American people have had enough with being politically preached to through their TV and movie screens. The time is more than ripe for those who want to take back the culture to follow the lead of such un-woke present-day movie blockbusters as Top Gun: Maverick. Reagan was right. He who tells the better story will win this war. But conservatives must do more to engage and invest in the culture, and they must recognize that the TV shows and movies their children watch, the books they read, the social media platforms they hang out on will all profoundly impact their children’s worldview.
America is facing a new mutation of Marxism, but it is Marxism still. Nearly 30 years after Felicity Barringer wrote her 1989 article on the Marxist emergence in universities, the philosophy professor Jason Barker celebrated the bicentennial of Marx’s birth (yes!) by writing another piece for The New York Times. In it, he made clear what is documented in this Special Report, by observing that
[r]acial and sexual oppression have been added to the dynamic of class exploitation. Social justice movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, owe something of an unspoken debt to Marx through their unapologetic targeting of the “eternal truths” of our age. Such movements recognize, as did Marx, that the ideas that rule every society are those of its ruling class and that overturning those ideas is fundamental to true revolutionary progress.
Leaving aside that, once again, The New York Times is covering for BLM, Barker was on point. Only, this country was not made for Marx; it was made for liberty-minded people. Proposals in this paper do not intend to root out necessary right-left debates on the size and role of government, American foreign policy, etc. This paper merely exposes attempts to dismantle and remake the United States through the use of an oppressor-oppressed narrative, and proposes antidotes. Americans need to take this issue seriously and take action—now—by taking the corrective steps detailed here.
Mike Gonzalez is Angeles T. Arredondo E Pluribus Unum Senior Fellow in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. Katharine C. Gorka is former Director for Civil Society and the American Dialogue at The Heritage Foundation. The authors would like to thank Emilie Kao, a Visiting Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and Vice President for Advocacy Strategy at Alliance Defending Freedom. Her upcoming paper on parental rights and protecting children from gender ideology informs the section titled Prosecuting the Sexualization of Children. They would also like to thank Kurt Gmunder and Braden Spurlock, members of Heritage’s Young Leaders Program, for their help in researching this paper.