The Marxist Conquest of Liberal America is Proceeding Apace. By Yoram Hazony. Long but important.
For a generation after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, most Americans and Europeans regarded Marxism as an enemy that had been defeated once and for all. But they were wrong. A mere 30 years later, Marxism is back, and making an astonishingly successful bid to seize control of the most important American media companies, universities and schools, major corporations and philanthropic organizations, and even the courts, the government bureaucracy, and some churches.
As American cities succumb to rioting, arson, and looting, it appears as though the liberal custodians of many of these institutions — from the New York Times to Princeton University — have despaired of regaining control of them, and are instead adopting a policy of accommodation. …
Liberalism is being expelled from its former strongholds, and the hegemony of liberal ideas, as we have known it since the 1960s, will end. Anti-Marxist liberals are about to find themselves in much the same situation that has characterized conservatives, nationalists, and Christians for some time now: They are about to find themselves in the opposition.
This means that some brave liberals will soon be waging war on the very institutions they so recently controlled. They will try to build up alternative educational and media platforms in the shadow of the prestigious, wealthy, powerful institutions they have lost. Meanwhile, others will continue to work in the mainstream media, universities, tech companies, philanthropies, and government bureaucracy, learning to keep their liberalism to themselves and to let their colleagues believe that they too are Marxists — just as many conservatives learned long ago how to keep their conservatism to themselves and let their colleagues believe they are liberals.
This is the new reality that is emerging. There is blood in the water and the new Marxists will not rest content with their recent victories. In America, they will press their advantage and try to seize the Democratic Party. They will seek to reduce the Republican Party to a weak imitation of their own new ideology, or to ban it outright as a racist organization.
And in other democratic countries, they will attempt to imitate their successes in America. No free nation will be spared this trial. So let us not avert our eyes and tell ourselves that this curse isn’t coming for us. Because it is coming for us.
The branding has changed, but it’s still Marxism:
The new Marxists do not use the technical jargon that was devised by 19th-century Communists. They don’t talk about the bourgeoisie, proletariat, class struggle, alienation of labor, commodity fetishism, and the rest, and in fact they have developed their own jargon tailored to present circumstances in America, Britain, and elsewhere. Nevertheless, their politics are based on Marx’s framework for critiquing liberalism (what Marx calls the “ideology of the bourgeoisie”) and overthrowing it. …
Instead, they disorient their opponents by referring to their beliefs with a shifting vocabulary of terms, including “the Left,” “Progressivism,” “Social Justice,” “Anti-Racism,” “Anti-Fascism,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Critical Race Theory,” “Identity Politics,” “Political Correctness,” “Wokeness,” and more. When liberals try to use these terms they often find themselves deplored for not using them correctly, and this itself becomes a weapon in the hands of those who wish to humiliate and ultimately destroy them.
The best way to escape this trap is to recognize the movement presently seeking to overthrow liberalism for what it is: an updated version of Marxism. …
The kernel of truth in Marxism:
Marx argues that, as an empirical matter, people invariably form themselves into cohesive groups (he calls them classes), which exploit one another to the extent they are able.
Marxist theory then builds this up to justify revolution and a communist government:
A liberal political order is no different in this from any other, and it tends toward two classes, one of which owns and controls pretty much everything (the oppressor); while the other is exploited, and the fruit of its labor appropriated, so that it does not advance and, in fact, remains forever enslaved (the oppressed). In addition, Marx sees the state itself, its laws and its mechanisms of enforcement, as a tool that the oppressor class uses to keep the regime of oppression in place and to assist in carrying out this work. …
Even the working class may not know that they are exploited and oppressed. This is because they all think in terms of liberal categories (e.g., the individual’s right to freely sell his labor) which obscure the systematic oppression that is taking place. This ignorance of the fact that one is an oppressor or oppressed is called the ruling ideology (Engels later coined the phrase false consciousness to describe it), and it is only overcome when one is awakened to what is happening and learns to recognize reality using true categories.
Marx suggests that, historically, oppressed classes have materially improved their conditions only through a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large — that is, through the destruction of the oppressor class, and of the social norms and ideas that hold the regime of systematic oppression in place.
Marx promises that after the oppressed underclass takes control of the state, the exploitation of individuals by other individuals will be “put to an end” and the antagonism between classes of individuals will totally disappear. How this is to be done is not specified.
Marxists are applying this old framework in the USA today, after “teachable moments” such as the death of George Floyd:
[“Marxism”] includes the “Progressive” or “Anti-Racism” movement now advancing toward the conquest of liberalism in America and Britain. This movement uses racialist categories such as whites and people of color to describe the oppressors and the oppressed in our day. But it relies entirely on Marx’s general framework for its critique of liberalism and for its plan of action against the liberal political order. It is simply an updated Marxism. …
Why are liberal societies so vulnerable to Marxism?
My liberal friends tend to believe that oppression and exploitation exist only in traditional or authoritarian societies, whereas liberal society is free (or almost free) from all that.
But this isn’t true. Marx is right to see that every society consists of cohesive classes or groups, and that political life everywhere is primarily about the power relations among different groups. He is also right that at any given time, one group (or a coalition of groups) dominates the state, and that the laws and policies of the state tend to reflect the interests and ideals of this dominant group.
Moreover, Marx is right when he says that the dominant group tends to see its own preferred laws and policies as reflecting “reason” or “nature,” and works to disseminate its way of looking at things throughout society, so that various kinds of injustice and oppression tend to be obscured from view. …
This is the principal reason that Marxist ideas are so attractive. In every society, there will always be plenty of people who have reason to feel they’ve been oppressed or exploited. Some of these claims will be worthy of remedy and some less so. But virtually all of them are susceptible to a Marxist interpretation, which shows how they result from systematic oppression by the dominant classes, and justifies responding with outrage and violence.
Of course, liberals have not remained unmoved in the face of criticism based on the reality of group power relations. Measures such as the US Civil Rights Act of 1964 explicitly outlawed discriminatory practices against a variety of classes or groups; and subsequent “Affirmative Action” programs sought to strengthen underprivileged classes through quotas, hiring goals, and other methods. But these efforts have not come close to creating a society free from power relations among classes or groups. If anything, the sense that “the system is rigged” in favor of certain classes or groups at the expense of others has only grown more pronounced. …
The flaws that make Marxism fatal:
While Marxism proposes an empirical investigation of the power relations among classes or groups, it simply assumes that wherever one discovers a relationship between a more powerful group and a weaker one, that relation will be one of oppressor and oppressed. This makes it seem as if every hierarchical relationship is just another version of the horrific exploitation of black slaves by Virginia plantation owners before the Civil War.
But … much more common are mixed relationships, in which both the stronger and the weaker receive certain benefits, and in which both can also point to hardships that must be endured in order to maintain it. …
If it is possible for weaker groups to benefit from their position, and not just to be oppressed by it, then we have arrived at the possibility of a conservative society: One in which there is a dominant class or loyalty group (or coalition of groups), which seeks to balance the benefits and the burdens of the existing order so as to avoid actual oppression. In such a case, the overthrow and destruction of the dominant group may not be necessary. …
How will the Marxists who have overthrown liberalism be able use the state to obtain the total abolition of class antagonisms? At this point, Marx’s empiricist posture evaporates, and his framework becomes completely utopian. When liberals and conservatives talk about Marxism being “nothing but a big lie,” this is what they mean. The Marxist goal of seizing the state and using it to eliminate all oppression is an empty promise. Marx did not know how the state could actually bring this about, and neither have any of his followers.
In fact, we now have many historical cases in which Marxists have seized the state: In Russia and Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, and Cambodia, Cuba and Venezuela. But nowhere has the Marxists’ attempt at a “revolutionary reconstitution of society” by the state been anything other than a parade of horrors. In every case, the Marxists themselves form a new class or group, using the power of the state to exploit and oppress other classes in the most extreme ways — up to and including repeated recourse to murdering millions of their own people. Yet for all this, utopia never comes and oppression never ends. …
Liberalism leads to Marxism:
It is often said that liberalism and Marxism are “opposites,” with liberalism committed to freeing the individual from coercion by the state and Marxism endorsing unlimited coercion in pursuit of a reconstituted society.
But what if it turned out that liberalism has a tendency to give way and transfer power to Marxists within a few decades? Far from being the opposite of Marxism, liberalism would merely be a gateway to Marxism. …
The American constitutional revolution of the 1960s, whose purpose was to establish the rule of liberalism, has in fact brought about a swift transition to a “Progressive” politics that is, as I’ve said, a version of Marxism.
The weakness of liberalism:
Enlightenment liberalism is a rationalist system built on the premise that human beings are, by nature, free and equal. It is further asserted that this truth is “self-evident,” meaning that all of us can recognize it through the exercise of reason alone, without reference to the particular national or religious traditions of our time and place.
But there are difficulties with this system. One of these is that, as it turns out, highly abstract terms such as freedom, equality, and justice cannot be given stable content by means of reason alone. To see this, consider the following problems:
- If all men are free and equal, how is it that not everyone who wishes to do so may enter the United States and take up residence there? …
- If all men are free and equal, how is it that not everyone who wants to may register for courses at Princeton University? …
- If all men are free and equal, how can you justify preventing a man who feels he is a woman from competing in a women’s track and field competition in a public school? …
Such examples can be multiplied without end. The truth is that reason alone gets us almost nowhere in settling arguments over what is meant by freedom and equality. So where does the meaning of these terms come from? …
Every society consists of classes or groups. These stand in various power relations to one another, which find expression in the political, legal, religious, and moral traditions that are handed down by the strongest classes or groups. It is only within the context of these traditions that we come to believe that words like freedom and equality mean one thing and not another, and to develop a “common sense” of how different interests and concerns are to be balanced against one another in actual cases.
But what happens if you dispense with those traditions? This, after all, is what Enlightenment liberalism seeks to do. Enlightenment liberals observe that inherited traditions are always flawed or unjust in certain ways, and for this reason they feel justified in setting inherited tradition aside and appealing directly to abstract principles such as freedom and equality.
The trouble is, there is no such thing as a society in which everyone is free and equal in all ways. Even in a liberal society, there will always be countless ways in which a given class or group may be unfree or unequal with respect to the others. And since this is so, Marxists will always be able to say that some or all of these instances of unfreedom and inequality are instances of oppression.
The dance of liberalism to Marxism, which we’ve seen on issue after issue since 1970:
1. Liberals declare that henceforth all will be free and equal, emphasizing that reason (not tradition) will determine the content of each individual’s rights.
2. Marxists, exercising reason, point to many genuine instances of unfreedom and inequality in society, decrying them as oppression and demanding new rights.
3. Liberals, embarrassed by the presence of unfreedom and inequality after having declared that all would be free and equal, adopt some of the Marxists’ demands for new rights.
4. Return to #1 above and repeat. …
Liberals progressively adopt the critical theories of the Marxists over time, whether the subject is God and religion, man and woman, honor and duty, family, nation, or anything else.
Features of the dance:
First, notice that the dance is a byproduct of liberalism. … Like the sorcerer’s apprentice, it constantly calls into being individuals who exercise reason, identify instances of unfreedom and inequality in society, and conclude from this that they (or others) are oppressed and that a revolutionary reconstitution of society is necessary to eliminate the oppression.
It is telling that this dynamic is already visible during the French Revolution and in the radical regimes in Pennsylvania and other states during the American Revolution. A proto-Marxism was generated by Enlightenment liberalism even before Marx proposed a formal structure for describing it a few decades later.
Second, the dance only moves in one direction. …
[Third,] while Marxists know very well that their aim is to destroy the intellectual and cultural traditions that are holding liberalism in place, their liberal opponents for the most part refuse to engage in the kind of conservatism that would be needed to defend their traditions and strengthen them. Indeed, liberals frequently disparage tradition, telling their children and students that all they need is to reason freely and “draw your own conclusions.”
The result is a radical imbalance between Marxists, who consciously work to bring about a conceptual revolution, and liberals whose insistence on “freedom from inherited tradition” provides little or no defense — and indeed, opens the door for precisely the kinds of arguments and tactics that Marxists use against them. This imbalance means that the dance moves only in one direction, and that liberal ideas tend to collapse before Marxist criticism in a matter of decades. …
On current trends, the end of Democracy is nigh:
Under democratic government, violent warfare among competing classes and groups is brought to an end and replaced by non-violent rivalry among political parties.
This doesn’t mean that power relations among loyalty groups come to an end. It doesn’t mean that injustice and oppression come to an end. It only means that instead of resolving their disagreements through bloodshed, the various groups that make up a given society form themselves into political parties devoted to trying to unseat one another in periodic elections.
Under such a system, one party rules for a fixed term, but its rivals know they will get to rule in turn if they can win the next election. It is the possibility of being able to take power and rule the country without widespread killing and destruction that entices all sides to lay down their weapons and take up electoral politics instead.
The most basic thing one needs to know about a democratic regime, then, is this: You need to have at least two legitimate political parties for democracy to work.
By a legitimate political party, I mean one that is recognized by its rivals as having a right to rule if it wins an election. For example, a liberal party may grant legitimacy to a conservative party (even though they don’t like them much), and in return this conservative party may grant legitimacy to a liberal party (even though they don’t like them much). Indeed, this is the way most modern democratic nations have been governed.
Democracy and Marxism are incompatible:
But legitimacy is one of those traditional political concepts that Marxist criticism is now on the verge of destroying. …
Marxist political theory confers legitimacy on only one political party — the party of the oppressed, whose aim is the revolutionary reconstitution of society. And this means that the Marxist political framework cannot co-exist with democratic government. Indeed, the entire purpose of democratic government, with its plurality of legitimate parties, is to avoid the violent reconstitution of society that Marxist political theory regards as the only reasonable aim of politics. …
A Marxist cannot grant legitimacy to liberal or conservative points of view without giving up the heart of Marxist theory, which is that these points of view are inextricably bound up with systematic injustice and must be overthrown, by violence if necessary.
The USSA today:
This is why the very idea that a dissenting opinion — one that is not “Progressive” or “Anti-Racist” — could be considered legitimate has disappeared from liberal institutions as Marxists have gained power.
At first, liberals capitulated to their Marxist colleagues’ demand that conservative viewpoints be considered illegitimate (because conservatives are “authoritarian” or “fascist”). This was the dynamic that brought about the elimination of conservatives from most of the leading universities and media outlets in America.
But by the summer of 2020, this arrangement had run its course. In the United States, Marxists were now strong enough to demand that liberals fall into line on virtually any issue they considered pressing.
In what were recently liberal institutions, a liberal point of view has likewise ceased to be legitimate. This is the meaning of the expulsion of liberal journalists from the New York Times and other news organisations. It is the reason that Woodrow Wilson’s name was removed from buildings at Princeton University, and for similar acts at other universities and schools. These expulsions and renamings are the equivalent of raising a Marxist flag over each university, newspaper, and corporation in turn, as the legitimacy of the old liberalism is revoked.
This is why Trump was de-legitimized and “resisted:”
Until 2016, America sill had two legitimate political parties. But when Donald Trump was elected president, the talk of his being “authoritarian” or “fascist” was used to discredit the traditional liberal point of view, according to which a duly elected president, the candidate chosen by half the public through constitutional procedures, should be accorded legitimacy. Instead a “resistance” was declared, whose purpose was to delegitimize the president, those who worked with him, and those who voted for him.
I know that many liberals believe that this rejection of Trump’s legitimacy was directed only at him, personally. They believe, as a liberal friend wrote to me recently, that when this particular president is removed from office, America will be able to return to normal. But nothing of the sort is going to happen.
The Marxists who have seized control of the means of producing and disseminating ideas in America cannot, without betraying their cause, confer legitimacy on any conservative government. And they cannot grant legitimacy to any form of liberalism that is not supine before them. This means that whatever President Trump’s electoral fortunes, the “resistance” is not going to end. It is just beginning.
With the Marxist conquest of liberal institutions, we have entered a new phase in American history (and, consequently, in the history of all democratic nations). We have entered the phase in which Marxists, having conquered the universities, the media, and major corporations, will seek to apply this model to the conquest of the political arena as a whole.
How will they do this? As in the universities and the media, they will use their presence within liberal institutions to force liberals to break the bonds of mutual legitimacy that bind them to conservatives — and therefore to two-party democracy. They will not demand the delegitimization of just President Trump, but of all conservatives. We’ve already seen this in the efforts to delegitimize the views of Senators Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton, and Tim Scott, as well as the media personality Tucker Carlson and others. Then they will move on to delegitimizing liberals who treat conservative views as legitimate, such as James Bennet, Bari Weiss, and Andrew Sullivan. …
The choice is now between democracy and Marxism, but most lefties don’t realize it yet:
I know that many liberals are confused, and that they still suppose there are various alternatives before them. But it isn’t true. At this point, most of the alternatives that existed a few years ago are gone.
Liberals will have to choose between two alternatives: either they will submit to the Marxists, and help them bring democracy in America to an end. Or they will assemble a pro-democracy alliance with conservatives. There aren’t any other choices.
Read it all. This is the most penetrating article on today’s trends — with the most explanatory power — that I’ve seen in the last couple of years.
Karl Marx always thought that communism would first take root in the USA, because it was the most advanced industrial country. Marxist theorists regarded it as a perverse accident of history that communism instead occurred first in backward Russia — where it was always doomed to failure, in their opinion.
Much of the blame can be laid at the feet of those running our economic system. Our modern system of the manufacture of money (did you get your share?) channels an ever-greater proportion of society’s wealth to the asset shufflers and borrowers of newly manufactured money. This system arose as finance freed itself from the constraints of gold, finally breaking free in 1971 when Nixon severed the last link between gold and paper money. (Hence all the breaks in trends around 1971.)
Modern finance has created more people who see themselves as oppressed. Fewer young people have a stake in the system — fewer than ever can afford a home, because the prices of homes are sky high by historical standards. This is mainly because of the ready availability of newly manufactured money for loans. The housing market is a never ending auction, fueled by infinite credit, where we must bid all our future productive ability in order to buy a home for our family, and then for the next thirty years must pay off the interest to financiers who created the money out of thin air. (The other reason for abnormally high house prices is the increase in zoning laws, which inhibit building of new homes and force up the prices of the homes owned by decision makers.)
More people than ever in the West feel they would be better off giving wholesale changes a shot. If everyone who worked a decent job could afford a home and a chicken in the pot, then there would be no Marxism revolution underway.
But no. Our dopey and out-of-touch elites got too greedy, they didn’t buy off enough people, and Marxism is resurgent as a result.
To the left of center people gleefully joining in the de-legitimization of Trump and conservatives, wake up — this is not in your interests. It’s short-sighted. It will soon lead to dictatorship of woke as all non-woke ideas are de-legitimized, including yours.
And finally, watch out for that signature feature of Marxism: its lack of humor.