The term “cultural Marxism“ is most commonly encountered as a snarl word decrying everything right-wingers don’t like, alluding to a conspiracy theory involving sinister left-wingers in the cultural and artistic spheres, including the media and academia, supposedly being engaged in a decades-long plot to undermine Western culture. With bonus anti-Semitism.
The conspiracist usage was prefigured in Nazi Germany, where Kulturbolschewismus (“Cultural Bolshevism”) was used as a term of political abuse.
In legitimate academic circles, the term was originally intended as a criticism of The Frankfurt School by more orthodox Marxists and Historical Materialists, to mock the lack of revolutionary Marxism inherent to the more Culturally inclined schools of social criticism. For this reason it has remained an informal term for describing the Frankfurt school.
The term “cultural Marxism” was first sighted around 1973, in The Critique of Domination: The Origins and Development of Critical Theory by Trent Schroyer.
In current wingnut usage, the term is a favourite of Pat Buchanan and, to the most dangerous extent, Anders Behring Breivik. It is a Cold Warrior‘s way of decrying “political correctness” or “multiculturalism.”
The associated conspiracy theory asserts that the Frankfurt School, instead of being the relatively arcane strain of academic criticism that it was, actually was a Marxist plot to destroy the capitalist West from within, supposedly spreading its tentacles throughout academia and indoctrinating students to hate America and freedom. Thus, rock’n’roll, the Sixties counterculture, the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement,homosexuality.
“Political correctness” had become the popular snarl word of choice after a 1991 speech by George H. W. Bush, with ensuing press coverage and a Washington Times op-ed by Laurence Jarvik of the Heritage Foundation decrying “storm troopers” attacking “Western culture.”
The first usage of the phrase “cultural Marxism” in the conspiracist sense was by William Lind of the Free Congress Foundation in a July 1998 speech, “The Origins of Political Correctness”, to right-wing group Accuracy in Academia, in which he described “political correctness” and “cultural Marxism” as “totalitarian ideologies” that were turning American campuses into “small ivy-covered North Koreas, where the student or faculty member who dares to cross any of the lines set up by the gender feminist or the homosexual-rights activists, or the local black or Hispanic group, or any of the other sainted ‘victims’ groups that revolves around, quickly find themselves in judicial trouble.” Lind gave this speech many times; a 2000 version sets out his thesis:
|Political Correctness is cultural Marxism. It is Marxism translated from economic into cultural terms. It is an effort that goes back not to the 1960s and the hippies and the peace movement, but back to World War I. If we compare the basic tenets of Political Correctness with classical Marxism the parallels are very obvious.|
|How does all of this stuff flood in here? How does it flood into our universities, and indeed into our lives today? The members of the Frankfurt School are Marxist, they are also, to a man, Jewish.|