Niall McCrae: We are the Resistance in the culture wars

They know not the name of their church. They know neither their creed nor their scripture, for the vast majority of the middle class have limited awareness of the Frankfurt School, critical theory or cultural Marxism, despite the pervasive influence of such contrarian forces. While the economics of communism and socialism failed every test, the Culture War has been won by the Left, a one-sided fight ending not with a bang but a whimper.

As eloquently described by Michael Walsh in The Devil’s Pleasure Palace (named after Schubert’s first opera), much of Western society’s ills can be traced back to the Institut für Sozialforschung at Goethe University in Frankfurt. Here in the 1930s emerged a system of thought aiming to overturn of the existing order of society. Unlike the crudely determined constructors of the Soviet Union, Antonio Gramsci and fellows were akin to anarchists. However, liberation was only for the like-minded: psychoanalyst Erich Fromm’s book Escape from Freedom rejected liberal enlightenment values in favour of ‘socialist humanism’ (that is, humanism in the way that East Germany called itself a democratic republic).

Wherever they settled after fleeing Nazi Germany, the Frankfurters did not present a clear prospectus by which they might be hauled before the court of public opinion; instead, they practised something akin to the Islamic tactic of taqiyya. Cultural Marxists proceeded by stealth against a weakening establishment, exploiting its liberal principles and claiming victimhood whenever obstructed. Herbert Marcuse argued that government should withdraw ‘toleration of speech and assembly from groups and movements which promote aggressive policies, armament, chauvinism, discrimination on the grounds of race and religion, or which oppose the extension of public services, social security, etc.’. Opponents’ freedom of speech would be squeezed by the Marxist python, ensuring ‘intolerance against movements from the Right and tolerance of movements from the Left’.

And gradually they marched through the institutions. Mainstream politicians, mollifying their electorate by denial and deceit, simply acquiesced. However absurd on initial airing, the assertions of counter-culture agitators ultimately prevail, as seen in schools, social services, housing, television, advertising, academe, policing, throughout government and civil service, and the law. Walsh, an American scholar, has witnessed the elevation of critical theorists from campus culture to the machinery of Washington. The Cold War, on reflection, was lost in extra time.

In Fools, Frauds and Firebrands, Roger Scruton fired a peashooter at a gallery of once-fashionable left-wing ideologues who wrested authority in the humanities and social sciences: Habermas in sociology, Hobsbawn in history, Lacan in psychology. You might think, reading Scruton’s critique, that Louis Althusser, leader of the intellectual revolution in the 1960s, is irrelevant today. But that would be complacent. The circular logic and impenetrable discourse of those Left Bank bores and Frankfurt emigrés did not need comprehension to make its mark. Forget the plot, it’s the story that matters.

We are all guilty of thinking of ourselves as rationalists, when we really live more by experience than by broader reasoning. Walsh uses the example of The Godfather. Viewers of this epic film will describe the power struggles of a Mafia family and its deadly deeds. But that is merely the plot. The tale has deeper meaning, in the primal (and Biblical) theme of destructive love. On another theme, Star Wars and Wizard of Oz are basically the same story. Cultural Marxism takes advantage of our tendency to focus on immediate detail while a much greater phenomenon (the elephant in the room) is allowed to grow. By the time people wake up to the monster in their midst, it’s too late.

We are walking exhibits of the philosophy of idealism. The tree that falls in the forest: if the great trunk crashed to the undergrowth unheard or unseen by us, it didn’t happen. Nothing, according to 18th century sage George Berkeley, exists beyond our perception. Surely that’s not how we think? Yet consider attitudes to immigration, and the unsustainable influx of hundreds of thousands per year. People are like the frog in gradually heated water, eventually boiled alive. The success of cultural Marxism is in making you doubt yourself, resulting in self-censorship. Revolutionary thinkers of the 1960s attacked scientific hegemony and promoted the relativist doctrine of individual truth, but now idealism is used against you: you can report what you see, nothing more. And then it’s dismissed as anecdote.

Meanwhile we continue on our supposedly deterministic, linear path. The Left rarely uses phrases such as ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ and ‘dialectical materialism’ nowadays, as more sentimental language is preferred. There are arcs of justice, and conservatives are on ‘the wrong side of history’. Language is a powerful tool, and whether we realise it or not, we are playing by the critical theorists’ rules.

Walsh’s book contrasts the creation and light of Milton with the nihilism of Marx. Like most insightful writers on our cultural malaise, he casts gloom on the reader. But there is also optimism in the human spirit, whether your salvation is in God or Joseph Campbell. We are not ants, and will never be content as pawns of ideological tyranny.

I often ask myself, what would George Orwell think? A man of the Left, Orwell saw the perils of a state oligarchy. More than anything, he valued candour, and the right to be candid. Ironically perhaps, social conservatives are carrying his torch today: The Conservative Woman, Guido Fawkes, Douglas Murray, Jordan Peterson, Ann Coulter. Spread their words widely – for they are the resistance.

Niall McCrae

  • Owen_Morgan

    I assume that this Michael Walsh is the same one that pretentiously discourses as “Mícheál Breathnach” on twitter (“breathnach” meaning either “Welsh”, or just “foreign”; “Welsh”, like “Walsh”, deriving from an Anglo-Saxon word for “foreign”). He is intensely anti-British and I shan’t be buying any of his books, thanks very much.

  • Colkitto03

    What is fascinating about cultural Marxists (or any Marxist) is that in any Communist, Marxist, or even hard line socialist state they are nearly always first against the wall once the revolution comes.
    Marxism cannot work with a large intelligentsia. History shows us that they kill or imprison their own at an astounding rate if they every gain totalitarian power.

  • Groan

    This should be required reading. It is just so frustrating to constantly see conservatives with a small and large “c” fall so haplessly into the traps set for them as they complacently traduce their own agenda. As you say the real “trick” of the cultural Marxists, and one that is no secret at all as its all set out in their pamphlets articles and books, is to direct education and “public discourse” to achieve precisely the current position wherein “the right” are automatically bad. Possibly the clearest example of this being a position wherein a leader of a Liberal Party is hounded out for simply being a Christian, becoming a symbol of “the right”. The real cleverness is that the success is essentially to have moved a large proportion of the “bourgeoisie” from enemies of socialism to agents of their own eventual demise. Identity Politics is the shorthand for this success, for in these there is generally little obvious challenge to the status quo and some useful perks thrown in. Modern popular feminism being a central example and plank of this. For as this blog repeatedly points out in the guise of doing that most deeply conservative thing of aiding women and children the middle class feminists have unpicked the bonds of society to “break” traditional society, even as they pursue the most “traditional!” lifestyles themselves. Though not the only such identity political movement it is perhaps the most obviously self serving in its agenda (I cannot think of any “feminist” policy proposal that doesn’t simply advantage females from already “bourgeois” backgounds). Whilst avoiding any actual fight with oppression, such as in Islamic communities; as so often observed here.
    It is only occasionally noticed but one of the “battles” within labour has and is between the revived “class war” leftists and the identity politics brigade. For the former regard feminism as simply an adjunct to social class and are impatient with concerns about female boards and executives, as of course they are still “class enemies” despite the genitals.
    No the really clever bit has been to focus on “institutions” and most particularly on education for now generations of the bourgeoisie, particularly those aiming for the salariat, are infused with “modern” ideas which are rarely presented as such but are the cultural Marxists’. A remarkable “counter enlightenment” of which Farron is as good an example as any, the death of the idea that there can be competing ideas and debate.

    • Niall McCrae

      Thanks for this considered comment. You rightly contrast the class war left and the identity politics of middle-class. Both vote Labour, but the latter is seen by the former as bourgeoise. And they are too (pseudo) intellectual to see that they’d be first to the guillotine.

      • Groan

        A while ago I attended a council meeting, the topic a planned move of a maternity unit to an hospital outside the borough. The council was and is solidly labour in nature. Long story short the most entertaining part was when a young Conservative councillor launched into a tirade about the “sexism” of the , much older, labour councillors. Apart from the amusement at this reverse to what one expected, two things struck me. First that the tirade was bravura “virtue signalling” and in our preparatory research the views the older labour councillors was reflected in the views of women. Essentially that it was a real concern that it may make it difficult for “mums” to visit etc. I big issue in a traditional Lancashire culture strongly matri-focal and where “mum” really is the key support. It wasn’t that the councillors didn’t think the father and “dad” shouldn’t visit, just that “mum” is who new mothers most expected to be almost constantly on hand (local maternity units in the region plan for births being followed by a cavalcade of family visiting with scant regard for “visiting hours”).
        So here one had a conservative busily setting out the need to imagine a brave new wold was right in situ. While to labour councillors were concerned about implications for “traditional” family: reflecting, from our research, precisely their constituent’s concerns.

  • John Birch

    This is the best article I have read on these problems.
    There are five pages.
    I’ve Worked with Refugees for Decades. Europe’s Afghan Crime Wave Is Mind-Boggling. | The National Interest

  • therealguyfaux ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    “The Cold War, on reflection, was lost in extra time.”

    On an own-goal from the goalkeeper, sure looks like…

  • CRSM

    I thought that was Erdoğan in the picture at first!

    Unless we can start a movement to take back our country it will all be irrelevant in a decade or two.

  • Groan

    “Only in one of the four themes looked at did the NHS perform poorly compared with the other nations – health outcomes.” The BBC trumpets a health “think tank” in America judging health systems. Its like the ofsted approach and other of our bodies. They do supposedly all the “modern” things but fail on the most crucial. So the NHS may be good at equality and so on and is “top” . Yet on actual health outcomes (jargon for preventing, treating or curing illness) its bad. Fascinating the illogic of it being the best but apparent one of the worst at doing its job!
    As another expert points out.
    “It is not just low-income earners who receive poor care, the NHS’s provision of care is equally poor for everybody, irrespective of income.” So in fact its no 1 in being “equal”.
    And so a Conservative minister trumpets the “good news” further cementing our belief in a system as the “best”, but because its poor results are shared by all its users.

  • Great article, full of content that needs to be repeated over and over. Hopefully then progressives will realise that it is not unguided “social evolution” that created their supposedly morally superior worldview but the purposeful and “Intelligent Design” of subversive social engineers intent on destroying Judeo-Christian civilisation from within! They are the epitome of the term “fifth column”!

    • Groan

      Most importantly read by conservatives who constantly fall into doing the “progressives” work for them.

  • Terry

    The Conservative party is now onside with, or at least does not oppose, the new order – picture Maggie supporting LGBT stuff? No? Didn’t think so. We need a new movement which UKIP could have been, but getting out of the EU will be a start.

  • Daniel

    Good article, one point I would make is we are not alone in this, your list is missing notable U.S publications such as The American Conservative and The Imaginative Conservative which is amongst the best conservative publications.

    • Cassandra

      The Conservative Woman is superb and very much needed because a rather lonely voice of true conservatives.

      The Americans have a range of blogs, including those you mention. I would also add Town Hall and Pat Buchanan’s blog.

      Buchanan is a palaeocon who was senior advisor to three Republican Presidents and was himself a Presidential candidate. He is now a writer and commentator.

      His books, including State of Emergency and Suicide of a Superpower ( about the leftist / liberal destruction of the USA with third world immigration etc) and The Suicide of the West on similar themes, are well worth reading.

  • Emma Green

    Most accurate analysis of current society i’ve read for a long long time.

  • JabbaPapa

    This is a very good analysis, although in fine I find it to be relevant to the English-speaking world rather than the West generally.

    One point though : The circular logic and impenetrable discourse of those Left Bank bores is actually almost completely out of favour at the vieille Sorbonne herself, where all but the small number of the genuinely adept technically critics and theorists of the 1970s have been jettisoned in favour of a revitalised traditional method of analytic and the non-flaky ideology that it requires.

    This is because, just from the technical point of view, the results that you can achieve from such things as post-structuralism, structuralism itself, and deconstructionism are essentially worthless, and do not lead to useful research.

    It will likely take a long time for this revolution at the Left Bank to trickle down into mainstream teaching, and from there into mainstream thinking — but these Culture Wars are no more over than the fall of the Iron Curtain started the “End of History”.

  • Jolly Roger

    Another tale about destructive love is C S Lewis’ Till We Have Faces.

  • Condelfan

    The culture war has been won by the left.
    Agree, no argument.
    The left took over our media, the BBC, the choice of them and C4 of only having pro lefty comics, pro lefty talking heads, pro lefty audiences, pro lefty dramas, shoehorning diversity into every programme.
    They own the airwaves, our lefty leaders, more than Goebbels ever dare dream to do. Lefty propaganda being fed to us for years.
    And the cccconservatives ? They saw nowt, heard nowt and said nowt,