“Cultural Marxism” and the Nuclear Family
There’s a charge made by those on the right, one so common, so old, and so frequently parodied that conservatives who level it are often dismissed without rebuttal. Indeed, many well-meaning folks on the left find a reply unnecessary, since the accusation is self-evidently ridiculous. Here, more or less, is the indictment:
Liberals want to destroy the family.
This arrow is aimed at far too broad a target. The term “liberal” is, to say the least, protean. Whoever utters the above statement with confidence, no matter what evidence they’ve marshaled — and the evidence, we will show, is considerable — can be regarded, justifiably, as saying nothing. Most Democrats would never advocate for the family’s abolition. On the contrary, they might counter, the Democratic Party fights for policies designed to better the quality of working-class family life.
I hope in this article to examine, in a manner clear and brief, the source of conservative anxiety on this matter. The right’s fear, as stated above, is hardly baseless.
There is a considerable diversity of thought among those on the left. However, self-identifying moderates may, without their knowledge, be working on behalf of revolutionary forces. The moderate in any political movement serves, in times of crisis, the dual role of foot soldier and shield for radical elements seeking to remain, if only for a time, obscured.
The term “cultural Marxism” is being used in its broadest sense. It’s what James Lindsay calls “wokeness” or “critical social justice.” The Wikipedia entry on cultural Marxism calls it a “far-right antisemitic conspiracy theory.” This is strange, since most conservatives are ardent supporters of the Jewish people, and many of those I define as cultural Marxists call for the abolition of Israel. But, for those familiar with woke ways, it’s not strange at all — cultural Marxists, like many grifters, often accuse others of the crimes they themselves commit.
The right, for too long, has equated the liberal with the cultural Marxist. To pretend that these two terms represent a distinction without a difference is not merely reductive. It is a gift to the very enemies conservatives claim to oppose, as it provides deniability for those who seek to reshape, and ultimately undermine, the social fabric.
One can advocate for, say, gay rights or universal healthcare without in any way seeking to subvert the Republic. Recently, however, those barking marching orders at their more reasonable comrades have — motivated by arrogance or ignorance or both — elected to step into view.
In The Communist Manifesto, we find the following:
Abolition of the family! Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the Communists.
On what foundation is the present family, the bourgeois family, based? On capital, on private gain. In its completely developed form, this family exists only among the bourgeoisie. But this state of things finds its complement in the practical absence of the family among the proletarians, and in public prostitution.
The bourgeois family will vanish as a matter of course when its complement vanishes, and both will vanish with the vanishing of capital.
Do you charge us with wanting to stop the exploitation of children by their parents? To this crime we plead guilty.
But, you say, we destroy the most hallowed of relations, when we replace home education by social.
And your education! Is not that also social, and determined by the social conditions under which you educate, by the intervention direct or indirect, of society, by means of schools, &c.? The Communists have not invented the intervention of society in education; they do but seek to alter the character of that intervention, and to rescue education from the influence of the ruling class.
The bourgeois clap-trap about the family and education, about the hallowed co-relation of parents and child, becomes all the more disgusting, the more, by the action of Modern Industry, all the family ties among the proletarians are torn asunder, and their children transformed into simple articles of commerce and instruments of labour.
Above, an intimate connection is drawn between the bourgeois family and private property. The family, for Marx and Engels, is the foundation of the order they seek to dismantle — which is why, for them, society has deemed it “the most hallowed of relations.”
This claim is hardly a relic of nineteenth century revolutionary politics. Indeed, a 2019 headline in The Nation reads, “Want to Dismantle capitalism? Abolish the Family.” It’s an interview with Sophie Lewis, who is promoting her book Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family.
Certainly, not all feminism is Marxist. But the name of Lewis’s book makes its ideological pedigree clear. This is not a minority view — on the contrary, the abolition of private property, once anathema to Americans, is being advocated in the most unlikely of places.
It’s been four months since the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic first highlighted the failures of capitalism and the incompetence of the United States government. There was an opportunity for our country to become less horrible — to finally deal with some of our institutional failings. This, of course, did not happen.
The response to this crisis has made it even more clear that party politics are a sham, and the real political affinity lies within class and race. While we’re working to abolish the police, we must also work to dismantle what the police were put here to protect: property. What is more evident of the legacy of settler colonialism and its violence than the idea of the ownership of land? What helped shape the unequal distribution of wealth and enduring segregation of our cities quite like centuries of racist property laws?
As millions of people, particularly Black and Latinx Americans, are on the verge of eviction, it is time that we look at the idea of private housing and the role it plays in maintaining economic violence in those communities.
The Teen Vogue article, too, is unambiguous: we must abolish not only the police, but the system of private property the police exist to uphold. Colonialism and violence, the unequal distribution wealth and racial injustice — all of this could be solved with a simple, if drastic, solution.
For those versed in Marxist ideas, such talk won’t be unfamiliar. And for those versed in Marxist history, that this propaganda — there’s no kinder word for it — would appear between makeup ads, ready for the eyes of girls too young to vote, should be cause for alarm.
And it isn’t just talk. Before it was removed from their webpage, the official Black Lives Matter site featured the following language:
We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.
That this language echoes the words of Marx and Engels is no accident. Patrisse Cullors, one of BLM’s founders, says that the organization has “a clear ideological framework,” and identifies herself as a trained Marxist:
And what of this idea of “extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another”? The term “cultural Marxism” is seen, by those on the left, as a perennial conservative bugaboo. But if we examine another front of the culture war, we will find the same goals, explicitly stated, along with some unnerving new ones.
According to Boston Review, a movement called Gay Men’s Liberation (“one of the most significant Gay Liberation groups formed after the 1969 Stonewall riots”) arrived at the 1972 Democratic National Convention with a list of demands. Among them was the call to abolish the nuclear family:
Rearing children should be the common responsibility of the whole community any legal rights parents have over “their” children should be resolved and each child should be free to choose its own destiny. Free twenty-four hour child care centers should be established where [gay men] and lesbians can share the responsibility of child rearing.
Another so-called bugaboo is the fear that the “Gay Agenda” has, as one of its final goals, the normalization of pedophilia. Of course, many gay Americans would be outraged at such a statement, because, like any decent person, they find the the sexual abuse of children abhorrent. But we’re not talking about moderates — we’re talking about cultural Marxists, who have been responsible for the development of some truly extreme ideologies, and have gone to considerable lengths to mainstream radicalism.
This article from First Things, brief and adequately cited, demonstrates that, among the thinkers at the forefront of the sexual revolution, there was a clear advocacy for sex with children. Many of the French intellectuals — like Foucault and de Beauvoir — whose works were immensely influential on modern cultural Marxism, signed a petition against age of consent laws.
Cultural Marxism, it is clear, represents a tangible and urgent threat. And it is the right that bears the blame — perhaps the lion’s share, even — for rise and dominance of this subversive and despicable idoleogy.
For too long, the cries of the “least among us” — poor Americans, black Americans, immigrants — were met with silence by the conservative establishment. The identification of American values with Christianity is a profound error, one that subordinates transcendent principles to temporal power.
The critics of cultural Marxism charge the far left with nihilism: the woke, they say, don’t believe in any ultimate truth, only power relations based on race, class, sex, etc. Yet Christian right, for decades, supported war criminals, turning a blind eye to repressive and vile regimes, implicitly (and at times explicitly) defending racist and xenophobic policies — such actions may have been pragmatic, but they were undoubtedly hypocritical.
To an unbelieving world, it’s sure proof that we, as Christians, hold our convictions only to the degree that it secures our grip on power. So can we blame the marginalized — those to whom, far too often, our backs are turned — for following suit?