Hey! Cultural Marxism! III: Like Rain At Your KKK Rally, Research Time, 28/08/2017

Yeah, it’s a pretty deep irony. Better men than me have described the utterly weird way the Frankfurt School thinkers have become the bogeymen of the radical white supremacist and libertarian set these days.

The Frankfurt School became the ideological prototypes of the cultural marxism that folks all over the far right see spreading everywhere.

Here’s something that tends to happen in the far-right of America since the Tea Party first blew up – they tend to mistake having been in the class of a professor for being the loyal soldier of their ideas.

The John Birch Society believed crazy shit like how a bunch of old
men who found most American culture totally distasteful and had no
experience or history of radical politics beyond the trade union and
international workers' associations could secretly direct a
revolution along completely different lines. Breitbart (the
network) took that conspiracist paranoid blindness to the
mainstream of American culture.
Barack Obama once took a course from Bill Ayers, who’d been in the radical anarchist Weather Underground decades before. Therefore, Obama was a disciple of Ayers, bringing the older radical’s politics to the Presidency.* Well, the same thing happened when Angela Davis was in a couple of classes by Herbert Marcuse.

* I think this is one reason why many Trump supporters throughout middle class Republican Party members aren’t concerned by the current President’s tacit support of extremist racist militias. They’re so accustomed to the notion that Obama was an extreme left-wing radical that they consider the President’s office long-radicalized.

Obama and Marcuse are – to a very special audience – a great triumph and a founder of ‘cultural marxism.’ The way it’s often used today, the term follows how from Andrew Breitbart understood it in most significant book, Righteous Indignation. Breitbart studied the works of the Frankfurt School himself – Marcuse, Theodor Adorno** – and came to a very unorthodox reading.

** Andrew Breitbart strikes me as a man who couldn’t appreciate Walter Benjamin. I don’t mean whether or not he’d agree with him – I’m talking about the value of his essays as a work of art and craftsmanship in philosophical writing.

Granted, it’s now a popular reading, thanks to him. It starts with his picture of the intellectual storehouse of communism.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau develops a concept of humanity that requires deep harmony with your community to complete yourself as a person. Georg Hegel transforms community into State, Karl Marx elaborates the theory into economic theories and real political movements.

The last of these was the Frankfurt School, the marxist theorists that fled Nazi Europe for the United States – all Jews, of course. They develop the idea that successfully changing society along a socialist line requires more than economic control, but changing the culture and moral values of the society.

The liberation movements of the 1960s were doing exactly that. Breitbart understood these movements as an explosion of marxism, but along cultural lines with activists instead of economic vectors with state planners.

He saw – as these philosophers had just developed their central theories of culture and social change – these threatening liberation movements emerge. He saw America walking the path to communism while singing songs of freedom.

The irony is that these movements had little to do with the cabal of refugee philosophers. Adorno and Horkheimer both found black culture distasteful, and Adorno developed a complex aesthetic theory which happened to justify his extreme hatred of jazz.

They were no directors of the revolutionary network. Women, black people, gay people, Indigenous people – they had nothing to do with a proper marxist revolution. That was for workers.

A very sarcastic ending. I want to talk more about this tomorrow.


  1. FYI, when Adorno refers to jazz, he means Tin Pan Alley jazz, which was SUPER white.

    1. Shit. I always thought it was jazz in general. I knew one very dedicated Adorno head back in the day who said that his theory stood against pretty much any departure from classical and into popular or commercial music.

  2. He has no problem with folk music, for instance, and it's music's relationship to capitalism that is the problem. You might argue that black jazz was somewhat outside the popular music industry. The real question is the extent to which bebop, for instance, was subject to capitalist logics, and therefore was structured by standardisation and pseudo-individualisation. As a jazz fan, I want to say Adorno could conceivably put good jazz on par with good classical (classical was his go-to example, but not the be-all-and-end-all of serious music), but I'm no musicologist.