In the 1960s the Frankfurt School of sociology bridged a gap between the works of Freud and Marx, describing a psychological class struggle which stretches beyond crude economics to manifest through culture and consumption habits. It was the class war of the classroom, its lens set on formulated artistic taste rather than economic waste. This ‘Cultural Marxism’ – a term never used by its alleged architects Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer – became an antisemitic conspiracy theory about left-wing Jews wishing to subvert the white race: a new age Judeo-Bolshevism.
This myth metastasised so widely that in 1991 a former MI6 officer accused Theodor Adorno of creating and directing the rise of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in conjunction with the social science think-tank the Tavistock Institute. His aim, according to the conspiracy theory, was to provoke a sexual and cultural revolution to undermine the traditions of western civilisation, which as a Jew and a leftist Adorno must despise according to hard-right gospel. Adorno never actually worked with the Tavistock Institute, and of the Beatles he remarked, in his trademark vitriolic fashion, that their music is ‘something that is retarded in terms of its own objective content’.
Cultural Marxism’s re-emergence into the lexicon of the internet-plagued 21st century was inevitable. From the darkest alt-right forums it permeated the mainstream after Anders Breivik made a central theme of his manifesto. Just 8 years after the event – an attack so vast that one in four Norwegians know someone involved personally – its vocabulary has managed to sneak into the governments of both Britain and Australia.
In March, the British MP Suella Braverman told a Westminster conservative conference that ‘as Conservatives, we are engaged in a battle against cultural Marxism’. This incident was conceivably a mistake: Braverman is a woman of colour and a former HuffPo columnist – hardly a prime suspect for far-right radicalisation. Damningly, however, it came at the end of a year when both Roger Scruton and Toby Young were both expelled from the party after their obsession with the conspiracy theory was revealed.
In October 2018 the Australian Senator Fraser Anning posted on Facebook that ‘Cultural Marxism and communism is [sic]being peddled in our universities’. It was shared by over 12,000 people. Less than 6 months later an Australian man slaughtered 50 Muslims in Christchurch, citing both ‘Cultural Marxism’ and ‘White Genocide’ in South Africa – another myth which Anning preached to a crowd of over 1,000 people in Brisbane in March 2018. He later claimed that Muslim immigration into Oceania was actually responsible for the atrocity in Christchurch and remains in the Australian Senate to this day.
In the US two quite separate branches of the right have fallen down this antisemitic rabbit hole. The libertarian and former Republican nominee Ron Paul posted an image straight from 4Chan in his blog post ‘You’ve probably heard of ‘Cultural Marxism,’ but do you know what it means?’ Anyone who is unfortunate enough to have spent an afternoon browsing the recesses of any Chan image board immediately recognises the images of each racial stereotype: a hooked-nose Jewish man and a large-lipped, ape-faced African man punch Uncle Sam with an arm which bears the hammer and sickle.
In August 2017 a group of high-level national security advisors were sacked for co-authoring a memo which claimed that President Trump is facing adversity for providing ‘an existential threat to cultural Marxist memes that dominate the prevailing cultural narrative’. The Gab posts of Robert Bowers, an-alt rightist who committed the deadliest attack on Jews in American history in the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue, echo these same concerns about a Cultural Marxist infestation of American culture which aims to replace the white race by promoting mass-migration and ‘degeneracy’ in place of traditional family values.
In the case of Braverman, it’s quite likely that she accidentally landed on tropes by combining two words and expressing something completely unintentional. One cannot deny, however, that we are witnessing an unprecedented adoption of 4Chan ‘memes’ about cultural subversion into the lexicon of mainstream conservatism across the Anglosphere, which disturbingly feeds into or at the very least parrots the rhetoric of white supremacist terrorists.
It doesn’t help that the curators of this new discourse in the right-wing press remain both employed and ,in most cases, more successful than ever. The columnist Melanie Phillips still writes for the Daily Mail and still appears on primetime BBC political programming despite her work being cited several times in Anders Breivik’s ‘A European Declaration of Independence’. The Spectator has hit record subscribers in reward for them publishing their golden boy Douglas Murray every week, whose ‘The Strange Death of Europe’ is like the Moby Dick of the alt-right.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that nobody is taking this seriously as we drift from one Christchurch to another.
Has anyone come across this term in real life or browsing online?