Pushing Back Against Cultural Marxism
Dan Liddicott Midlands Region Coordinator and Young Libertarians Coordinator
It has been said that those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it. While this is true of so many things, the cultural marxist revolution we are now experiencing is perhaps the most insidious of them.
One of the most infamous movements of the cultural marxist revolution of the last century was kicked off in Peking University in 1966 at the hand of the Red Guard. In his book, The Cowshed: Memories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Xi Xianlin, a professor of Eastern Languages, recorded his first hand account of the events of those days, as they transpired right there on the Peking campus. From his descriptions one would be forgiven for drawing a comparison with the ‘activism’ of modern western student bodies, faculties, government departments, and court judgements over recent months and years. The similarity is chilling, and ought to serve as a stark warning of how far things have gone.
Cultural revolution was a term coined by Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci in the 1920s and 30s. It was he who theorised that the new marxism could only be held in place, without constant force and violence, by the overthrow of pre-existing cultural institutions in addition to the political ones. While major marxist revolutions in the east began with violence quickly followed by cultural revolution, the proletariat uprising predicted by Marx to kick off in Britain failed to materialise. The reality was that the British working classes actively enjoyed the rising living standards of capitalism and free trade and so the necessary catalyst was missing. A different approach to bringing about marxism was needed in those western countries resistant to violent marxist revolution. That alternative approach was to bring about the cultural revolution first. This is what we see happening now.
Back in 1960s China the stated aim of the cultural revolution was to erase the past. This campaign came to be known as the destruction of the four olds: Old Customs; Old Culture; Old Habits; and Old Ideas. This destruction was not limited to property or artefacts, every thought, word and deed, that could support the four olds had to be expunged as well. The destruction of property was straightforward enough, the destruction of ideas less so.
This freedom, essential to life itself… this root of self-determination and self-hood, did not escape the invasion of marxist cultural revolutionaries then, and it is not escaping it now.
How does one destroy an idea, a belief, a way of thinking, without destroying in large part the individual who holds them? This freedom, essential to life itself, this holy of holies, this root of self-determination and self-hood, did not escape the invasion of marxist cultural revolutionaries then, and it is not escaping it now.
In 1960s China it began, for the lucky ones, as ‘criticism meetings’, where individuals who had committed ‘thought errors’ would take part in public self-criticism and receive verbal attacks. For the unlucky ones it started by being denounced on large posters stuck up around campus and then, after being stripped of their jobs, in public ‘struggle sessions’ in which the hopelessly outnumbered victim was publicly humiliated, denounced and tortured by none other than their own former colleagues and students. Whatever anyone said by way of criticism in these meetings became true by default, regardless of facts, accusations stuck.
In today’s marxist cultural revolution we get away without the physical trauma by and large, but the psychological bullying still takes place, the self-criticism is still mandatory, the public denunciation is just par for the course whether based on truth or not and, in the end, failure to change your thinking and adopt the new culture will ultimately result in persecution and the application of state violence against you. We don’t have to look very far to find contemporary examples of all these aspects of marxist cultural revolution in the west. Simply Google ‘celebrity apology’ to find anything from the hapless to the hilarious in response to public castigation for some ‘thought crime’ or other. Where 1960s China brought us ‘Big Character’ posters, today we have Twitface, ‘dank memes’ and trial by media. The result is the same – public criticism followed by public apology and changed behaviour, soon to be forgotten by the next news cycle if they do it right. Make no mistake, these highly publicised examples are intended to be our schoolmasters showing us how we are supposed to behave in this new era.
If we ever needed proof that the marxist revolutionary destruction of the ‘four olds’ is alive and kicking in the west it is plain for all to see. And while the cultural revolution for us comes first, the violence is not far behind.
Many of us will be well aware of a number of freedom battles taking place and be equally aware of cultural revolution pressure groups and events that sometimes include pockets of violence, though we may not have realised their revolutionary role. A creeping equality legislation, accompanied by mandatory training, encroaches on free speech threatening the jobs and livelihoods of any who dare to reject the newspeak. ‘Black-lives-matter’ seeks to revive and exacerbate racial tensions and divisions where individuals might otherwise cooperate for mutual gain. Cake bakers are denied basic freedoms and lose their businesses as flawed discrimination law forces a clash between two cultures that might otherwise peacefully coexist. Antifa seeks to catalyse students and youth into more direct action and violent revolutionary activity not unlike the student factions in communist Peking. ‘Punch a Nazi’ directly promotes violence and persecution of non-marxists (a concern for libertarians when Tory leaders lump them with the far-right). ‘Safe spaces’, ‘trigger warnings’ and ‘no-platforming’ become mechanisms for silencing free speech and open debate and become an excuse to attack those who disagree with approved opinions (people lose their jobs and university places over such things). Those same ‘safe spaces’ simultaneously inoculate those already completely sold on the marxist agenda from having to hear its critics or any alternative opinion. Major purveyors of information including education and the media, are heavily dominated by marxist culture and have become places where true liberals are afraid to speak their opinions. Policing resources are diverted from protection of rights and property to promoting political correctness. Students apply pressure to faculties and universities to change their curriculum to avoid anything ‘uncomfortable’ (or counter revolutionary). History is rewritten as monuments and historical figures are denounced, torn down and wiped from public memory. The list could go on.
If we ever needed proof that the marxist revolutionary destruction of the ‘four olds’ is alive and kicking in the west it is plain for all to see. And while the cultural revolution for us comes first, the violence is not far behind. We see it not only in campus unrest and Antifa demonstrations, but more subtly in application of policy against employees or students who won’t show contrition in the face of newthink, or in the application of state force against peaceful entrepreneurs who fall foul of equality regulations. We see it in the slow creep of legislation that encroaches on basic civil liberties. Even traditionally small state conservatism has been normalised to embrace much marxism, evidenced by recent Tory leaders branding lovers of liberty ‘far-right’ and declaring war on libertarians in their party. In the end, whether by uprising, application of policy or state force, the violence is coming against all who reject the aims of the marxist revolution.
The terrifying thing is that this revolution is winning. The reason for this is because too many are supportive of tyranny when it agrees with them. But this can never be acceptable to a libertarian, who recognises that it is one thing to hold an opinion firmly and sincerely, and quite a different thing to force others to comply with that opinion. The revolution also wins because too many others play dead, keeping their head down, so long as they are not in the direct firing line, hoping to not be noticed. Xi Xianlin back on campus in Peking thought he too had got away with it by carefully playing the game, but in the end he was in the wrong faction and finally faced his own struggle sessions. As Martin Niemöller so aptly warned, “…then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
So we do need to speak out. In speaking out we don’t escape the firing line, but we do get to make our stand and not be a ‘miserable worm’ as Professor Jordan Peterson put it. And he would know. Peterson shot to notoriety by his refusal to use gender-neutral pronouns which started a heated campus battle that still splits student bodies in two. While some say he is simply an advocate for free speech, the rest paint him as a transphobic bigot who must be silenced. The sad thing is that many non-libertarians who might read this this would think there is nothing wrong with enforcing this agenda, and that Peterson is fighting something that ought to go ahead. And that is how this happens. As in the experience of Xi Xianlin, so the experience of Peterson, and countless others, a braying unthinking majority seek to wipe out the individual in return for homogenous compliance and ‘feels’. Well, if a marxist ever made a tactical error other than following after Marx, it was to take on Peterson who, not only defends his own free speech liberties but encourages everyone else to defend theirs too. “I know something about the way that totalitarian, authoritarian political states develop and I can’t help but think I’m seeing a fair bit of that right now” he says, and he is right.
Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Association, Free Trade and Freedom of Conscience. By upholding and defending these four freedoms, and bringing their importance to the attention of all around us, we can put a halt to the marxist cultural revolution and protect our individual liberties.
The battle for the ‘old’ customs, culture, habits and ideas continues today in the west. In order to resist this attack we must see this for what it really is, we have to peel back the veneer of the stated aims of marxism because they lie even to themselves. Rather than old things (a red herring) it has everything to do with your things; your customs, your culture, your habits and your ideas. Replace the word ‘old’ with the word ‘your’ and you have nailed its true aim. What your stance is on the gender question, on cake baking, or anything else is irrelevant to whether you are allowed to have it, what matters is that it is your stance. As Professor Peterson said of the demands made on his free speech by cultural revolutionaries: “I think they’re connected to an underground apparatus of radical left political motivations. I think uttering those words makes me a tool of those motivations. And I’m going to try and be a tool of my own motivations as clearly as I can articulate them and not the mouthpiece of some murderous ideology.”
In promoting freedom libertarians become an easy target for accusations of bigotry, or of being apologists for distasteful views. This is a misrepresentation we must be ready to counter most strongly. While we accept that some people will use their liberty in ways with which we disagree (the non-aggression principle being inviolate), we also accept that to deny their liberty is one day to find ourselves denied freedoms we value on exactly the same principle. An attack on the freedom of one is an attack on the freedom of all. The legitimate reply to free speech with which we disagree is our own free speech, not state violence.
It is individual freedom that the marxists are after, because it is their greatest threat. Cultural marxist revolution absolutely depends on being able to define what is culturally acceptable, and individuality gets in the way of that. (We only need to look at the Chinese experimental ‘Sesame Credit’ to see where cultural marxism can lead, the ‘appification’ of total cultural compliance.) So we defend individual freedom by not giving in to the marxist pressure of political correctness, or of self-censorship, but by speaking the truth as we honestly understand it, and by defending the right of others to do the same. To do this we must be self-reliant in upholding liberty, we cannot expect anyone else to do it for us. The institutions are being usurped and the culture of freedom is already undermined. The upholding of our liberty is in our hands, this is not something we can leave to government to fix. (Becoming active in the Libertarian Party is one way you can make a difference.)