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What has Marx to do with Minneapolis?

What has Marx to do with Minneapolis?

By Melvin Tinker
Special to VIRTUEONLINE
www.virtueonline.org
June 15, 2020

The seismic effects of the disturbing death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in June 2020 are being acutely felt, particularly in the West. What is designated as mass protests in major cities in the USA, UK and Europe involving tens of thousands of people under the banner of 'Black Life Matters' have taken many by surprise for their magnitude and stridency. In Britain such mass gatherings are considered to be of greater virtue than that of 'saving lives' from the Covid 19 menace through social distancing and observing strict societal lockdown. The former Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, applauded these illegal gatherings in a Tweet, as 'fantabulous'. The Bishop of Dover, the Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, who is the Church of England's first female black bishop, told BBC Breakfast racism was killing people. Accordingly in her mind they were necessary as "sadly the world pays no attention when we do not stand up," adding, "Most people have responsibly weighed up the risk that they would be taking in order to stand up....There has been a greater pandemic throughout the world that no one has seen or heard or actually stood up for in a real way....And so people are thinking 'We're dying anyway, so we're going to stand up now.'"

How might we begin to understand what is happening?

Any situation is usually more complex and messy than appears at first sight and we must be careful not to simplify what has been happening in a reductionist way. However, it is not that difficult to detect in the rhetoric being used concerning 'white privilege', the call, even from the Archbishop of Canterbury, for white Christians to 'repent of their racism', the pictures posted of white men and women on their knees before people of colour begging for forgiveness, that the narrative which is framing these events is largely a cultural Marxist one.

In what was to become one of the foundational works of identity politics, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, wrote Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, which builds on Gramsci in order to find a way for the Left to establish its own hegemony to bring about what they term, 'radical democracy.' They argue that given the social complexity that now exists, what is required to effect social change is not simply the mobilisation of a single class (the proletariat) but a bringing together under one umbrella all the diverse groups which are engaged in their own struggles: urban, ecological, feminist, anti-racist, ethnic, sexual minorities. They argue that the narrative which will enable the energy of these disparate groups to be harnessed for social change is the use of power. This is a product of the social organisation of Western society, they say, which is not only capitalist but inherently sexist, patriarchal and racist. Whilst in recent years many shrill voices have been raised highlighting the 'big three' evils of our day, it is the last one- that of inherent racism- which has taken centre stage and is the concern of many in the mass crowds on the streets of our cities accompanied by a good deal of rage.

Laclau and Mouffe propose that part of the socialist strategy to bring about the new Hegemony of the Left is for what they call external 'actors' to those who are in unequal power relations to draw attention to the fact. Thus advocates of identity politics and intersectionality incessantly remind us that our societies are racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic and the list goes on. These oppressions form part of an interlocking web which somehow must be unpicked if radical democracy is to be achieved. Such an 'unpicking' is now occurring big time on both sides of 'the pond'.

At the moment, racial oppression is the blue touch paper being lit by 'external actors' such as the Bishop of Dover, Labour MP, Dawn Butler and many others (including celebrities in the USA who have paid the bail of those arrested for rioting). When it is claimed (but not empirically shown) that English or American society is 'systemically' racist and that not to explicitly support BLM is itself a racist act ('silence is violence') then the neo-Marxist meme is very much in evidence. This is not to deny that individuals or political groupings exist who are avowedly racist and need to be challenged, or that none of us have prejudices, racist or otherwise which need to be checked; but to see everything in terms of identity politics is hardly a formula for harmony, quite the opposite, it will harden present divisions and give rise to new ones.

The Marxist basis for BML is clear in their website with the aim 'to dismantle imperialism, capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy and the state structures.' Elsewhere they say they want to free black people from oppression by disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure, to be accomplished by fostering a queer‐affirming network, and freeing society from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, dismantling cisgender privilege. Here is one vibrant offspring of the Frankfurt School.

There are three destructive effects of the Laclau and Mouffe strategy which is now in full flow in our Western societies.

First, everything becomes politicised and weaponised. In this respect Marx has won in that everything has taken on universal political significance. This is simply part of the intuitive way in which we all think about society--whether we're on the Right or the Left or somewhere in between.

The tragic case of George Floyd is a prime example of this. The leap from the savage taking of the life of a black man, regardless of what he may or may not have done by a rogue policeman, to the claim that racism is systemic in the Minneapolis police force or every police force or Western society as a whole, is a massive one to make. Why could this policeman not simply be one 'bad apple' who in due course will get his just desserts? Must this dreadful event invariably be construed as the tip of an iceberg- the unacceptable face of white racism which runs wide and deep throughout American society? The answer is 'yes', if a priori according to the neo-Marxist paradigm all capitalist societies are inherently racist (and you would expect nothing less from the guardians of such societies, especially if they are white and male). Surely in such cases time needs to be taken to delve a little deeper and think a little more clearly on what other explanations might exist? But if the issue is the revolution, allowing time for reflection is the last thing you want to encourage.

Douglas Murray makes the shrewd observation that in the presentation of 'rights' the social justice campaigners tend to make their case at its most inflammatory. He writes, 'Their desire is not to heal but to divide, not to placate but to inflame, not to dampen but to burn. In this again the last part of the Marxist substructure is glimpsed. If you cannot rule a society- or pretend to rule it, or try to rule it and collapse everything- then you can do something else. In a society that is alive to its faults, and though imperfect remains a better option than anything else on offer, you sow doubt, division, animosity and fear. Most effectively you can try to make people doubt absolutely everything. Make them doubt whether the society they live in is good at all. Make them doubt that people are really treated fairly. Make them doubt whether there are any such groupings as men and women. Make them doubt almost everything. And then present yourself as having the answers: the grand, overarching, interlocking set of answers that will bring everyone to some perfect place, the details of which will follow in the post.'

Secondly, we are doomed to perpetual conflict. The cultural Marxist focus on groups, at the expense of the individual, coupled with the fact that equality of outcomes can never be realised, means that conflict will be endless. One of the desperate features of our society is that of grievance and vengefulness which are multiplied and amplified with breathtaking speed via the social media. The rage, what Nietzsche called ressentiment, displayed towards those who are 'Other', is both frightening and shameful and we are seeing this being unleashed almost without restraint in many of the BLM demonstrations across the United States and Europe. The very real danger, of course, is that there will be a terrible pushback, for how much longer will, for example, young white blue collar men, put up with being berated as the cause of inequalities simply because they are white males? If such pushback occurs, this will simply reinforce the Cultural Marxist narrative like a self-fulfilling prophecy- white men are oppressive.

Thirdly, truth is sacrificed on the altar of ideology. When Heather Mac Donald, the author of The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Unsafe, was invited to speak at Claremont McKenna College in 2017, many students objected to her being given a platform because it would be tantamount to 'condoning violence against Black people'. The students wrote, "Historically, white supremacy has venerated the idea of objectivity, and wielded a dichotomy of 'subjectivity vs. objectivity' as a means of silencing oppressed peoples. The idea that there is a single truth- 'the Truth'- is a construct of the Euro-West..." Matters of truth are simply discarded as a case of 'Euro-West construction' in order to silence oppressed people groups. This is as clear an instance of what C. S. Lewis terms, 'Bulverism'. The fallacious nature of this is easily exposed by simply asking whether the statement that the alleged dichotomy between subjectivity and objectivity is itself an objective statement, in which case it is conceded that there is such a thing as objectivity and therefore not the sole preserve or construction of the Euro-West. If it is subjective, it can be discarded as being of little consequence and we can all move on. The important point is that reasoned discourse is at a discount thus leaving society vulnerable to the prey of those who have the loudest voices. Truth is essential to freedom.

In the West we are living at a time when heresy is alive and well together with its accompanying hysteria and derangement.

The high priestess of modern feminism, Germaine Greer, has been excommunicated from the 'church' of feminism- declared to be a 'non-feminist' by Eve Hodgson.

Global star Kanye West has been thrown out of the 'church' of black, denounced as being non- black by T- Nehisi Coates.

The entrepreneur, Peter Thiel, though 'married' to a man, has been evicted from the 'church' of gay by Jim Downs.

What is striking is the religious 'feel' of street level cultural Marxism. This is again illustrated by protests sparked by the death of George Floyd and the action of the BLM movement. The act of 'taking the knee' has a decidedly religious association. This is not a mere bow of the head, but a genuflection, a sign of reverence or obeisance of the kind required by Roman Emperors which the early Christians refused to do. It is considered an act of racism not to openly declare that one is anti-racist, again resembling what was required of the populace by Rome in relation to confessing fealty to Caesar. The kneeling of white people before black people confessing the sins of their race echoes the doctrine of original sin and the act of repentance in hope of atonement. The tearing down of statues allegedly associated with racism bears more than a passing resemblance to the destruction of the altars to Baal and Asherah poles (2 Kings 23), as well as the desecration of the dead, as happened with the body of John Wycliffe.

So many are willingly disappearing down the rabbit hole in order to embrace the semantic laissez-faire of Humpty Dumpty with a vengeance, such that words not only mean whatever we want them to mean, but become weapons of mass deception to denigrate those considered to be violators of the new sacred orthodoxy of identity politics: the brutal game in which winners are victims, and losers are the privileged. We all now find ourselves in the Orwellian world of Cultural Marxism.

Christians are to demonstrate a better way, with the conviction that God has ordered reality for human flourishing as he deems it, providing a firm basis for individual dignity, justice, morality and freedom. It also injects that dose of realism which all Utopian ideologies ignore, that the world is fallen and fractured, with humans riddled with the virus of sin- such that we are, in the words of Kant, 'warped wood'. It was to deliver us from this, to form new communities called churches and ultimately a new creation, that God sent his Son into the world to die, rise again and reign from heaven, sending his life giving Spirit. It is within the church especially that the transforming power of forgiveness and reconciliation should be displayed. We should not be daunted by the challenge, for as that one man dissident movement, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, reminded us, 'One word of truth outweighs the entire world.'

1. Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy,(Verso, London, 1985).
2. Douglas Murray, The Madness of Crowds, (Bloomsbury Continuum, 2019),pp 247-248
3. https://blacklivesmatter.com
4. Letter of April 17th to be viewed on http://archive.is/Dm2DN

The Rev. Melvin Tinker is an Anglican priest and the author of 'That Hideous Strength: How the West was Lost-The Cancer of Cultural Marxism'

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