| | | |
Even as traditonal Communism expanded its dominion and gained starry-eyed converts outside its borders,
a competing brand of Marxism emerged. Shifting Marx's focus on economics to the culture, it replaced the worker as Marx's victim of choice with homosexuals, women, and ethnic minorities. Its method mixed Marx with Freud. The result was something alternatively called Critical Theory, Cultural Marxism, or the Frankfurt School. Communists fumed over Critical Theory's loose reading of Marx. With the establishment of the Soviet Union in 1917 and the subsequent spread of so-called workers' states around the world, doctrinaire Marxists questioned the need for this heretical strain of Marxism. Within a generation of the October Revolution, however, the allure of socialism was on the wane. No one, save true believers, claimed that the economic condition-even for workers-was preferable in Communist nations than in free-market ones. By substituting racism, sexism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and a host of other "isms" and alleged pathologies for the traditional Marxist bogey of capitalism, Critical Theory ensured that Marxism would thrive long after the fall of the Iron Curtain.
As its name implies, Critical Theory criticizes. It eschews a positive program in favor of dissecting a society to point out its perceived flaws. Whereas traditional Marxism focuses on economic inequality, Critical Theory highlights inequalities with regard to race, sex, and sexual behavior.
The group using Marx to assail Western civilization, rather than just Western free-market economics, was known collectively as the Frankfurt School. Max Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin, Erich Fromm, Theodor Adorno, Leo Lowenthal, Herbert Marcuse, and Georg Lukacs were among the more noteworthy intellectuals in the group. Founded in 1923 as the Institut fur Sozialforschung, its association with the recently founded University of Frankfurt gave the school of thought its name. Initially, the institute was to be called the Institute for Marxism, but its founders artfully deduced that they would find greater mainstream acceptance for their Ideas if they settled on an innocuous name. Thus, the Institute 0f Social Research was born.
"Who will free us from the yoke of Western Civilization?" Frankfurt School theorist Georg Lukacs asked. Yet it is clear Cultural Marxists themselves did not want to be free of civilization. When Hitler came to power, the Institute of Research emigrated to New York rather than Moscow. The Thousand Year Reich came to a premature end in 1945 and the Institute of Social Research returned to Germany. Never did these academicians employing Western ideas to criticize western civilization ever seriously consider leaving the society that they claimed was so oppressive. Their hypocrisy was indicative of the hollowness of their theories.
The Frankfurt School's greatest success in influencing the mainstream came via its postwar Studies in Prejudice series, of which the lengthy Authoritarian Personality was the most important
volume. Written by a team of psychologists led by Theodor Adorno, the 1950 study characterizes America as a Nazi Germany waiting to happen. Its introduction declares, "the present writers believe that it is up to the people to decide whether or not this country goes fascist." Later the reader is ominously warned, "we are living in potentially fascist times."
What was it about America that in the minds of the authors the nation precariously close to fascism? The family structure was "authoritarian" (i.e., ruled by parents) rather than "equalitarian," people were obedient to religion and God, patriotism ran high, and the free-enterprise system exalted the strong. Rather than characteristics of actual fascists, these traits seemed instead to be aspects of America that the Left had long bemoaned. To deflect America from its fascist course, the authors suggested a number of left-wing solutions-abandon capitalism, give children a say in democratic families, discourage patriotism, and push God and religion out of its central role in the lives of many.
The authors' assertion that fascism and conservatism are in some way connected is a secondary theme of the book. Sold as a rigorous study in empirical social science, The Authoritarian Personality was based on interviews that gauged not whether an individual was an actual fascist but whether he or she was a "potential fascist," whatever that meant. Based on a series of questions, the authors rated interview subjects on scales that purported to measure such things as fascism, anti-Semitism, ethnocentrism, and political conservatism. Many of the survey's standard questions that sought to highlight hidden prejudices, however, did nothing to illustrate the interviewee's affinity for antidemocratic attitudes, as the authors claimed. On a scale measuring prejudice, subjects were asked to agree or disagree on such statements as "Now that a new world organization is set up, America must be sure that she loses none of her independence and complete power as a separate nation," " America may not be perfect, but the American Way has brought us about as close as human beings can get to a perfect society," and "The best guarantee of our
national security is for America to have the biggest army and navy in the world and the secret of the atom bomb."
Affirming these statements might indicate a tendency toward conservatism, yet the authors characterized agreement with any of these statements as the mark of an antidemocratic individual. The only possible reason for including questions that might indicate whether one was a conservative-but told us next to nothing about one's tendencies toward ethnocentrism on a questionnaire designed to gauge ethnocentrism would be to establish a phony connection between political conservatism and racial prejudice. This is precisely what The Authoritarian Personality attempted to do. In fact, so rigged was the "scientific" survey that at least one question used to indicate political conservatism was also used to indicate fascism. By these methods, one could find a direct link between any two things. The authors did not discover a link between conservatism and fascism; they concocted one.
Throughout the Studies in Prejudice series, ideology trumped scholarship. Despite anti-Semitism being a key focus of the series, the program's overseers made it clear that criticism of the anti-Semitism of key political allies would be off limits. A book in the series that claimed disturbing levels of anti-Semitism within organized labor was spiked because its discoveries were contrary to what the left-wing ideologues running the program had hoped to find. The initial overseer of he project went further than merely covering up politically inconvenient prejudice, choosing to serve as an apologist for one of the world's worst offenders of anti-Semitism. At the height of Stalin's power, Institute of Social Research director Max Hiorkheimer amazingly claimed, "at present the only country where there there does not seem to be any kind of anti-Semitism is Russia. This has a very obvious reason. Not only has Russia passed laws against anti-Semitism, but it really enforces them; and the penalties are very severe." Conspicuous throughout The Authoritarian Personality is the association of totalitarianism and authoritarianism with fascism but not with Communism. Indeed, the book actually suggests a connection between anti-communism and totalitarianism, equates Communists with members of persecuted "out groups," and states that hostility toward the Communists may be a displaced form of anti-semitism. Released at a time when fascists controlled virtually no countries but Communists controlled nations representing more than a third of humanity, the decision to airbrush out the relationship between Communism and totalitarianism seems quite peculiar.
The legacy of The Authoritarian Personality was to give an air of scientific respectability to smearing right-leaning arguments with terms denoting mental sickness-for example, xenophobe, racist, and homophobe. Conservatism was not a political outlook to be debated but a psychiatric condition to be treated. A second legacy was to implant the seed in the brains of the intellectual class that America, the country most responsible for the defeat of Nazism, was not far from being a Nazi state itself. The calumny has stubbornly remained an article of faith for many on the Left.
The Frankfurt School's most influential member curiously had no involvement in its most influential project. Herbert Marcuse came to the United States with his cohorts when Hitler came to power in Germany. Unlike most of his associates, he remained in America after the war. Teaching at such campuses as Columbia, Brandeis, and the University of California-San Diego gave Marcuse an ideal perch from which to oversee the burgeoning counterculture.
Heretofore overlooked amidst his famous colleagues, Marcuse began to make a name for himself in 1955 with Eros and Civ ilization. Like his later offerings, the book would become scripture to the leading figures of the New Left of the 1960s. Eros and Civilization gave Marx a fitting makeover for the era of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Whereas Marx opposed the exploitation of labor, Marcuse opposed the very idea of labor. Similarly, Marcuse expanded Marx's "To each according to his needs" to include the libido's "needs" as well. Eros and Civilization argues that man's "labor time, which is the largest part of the individual's life time, is painful time, for alienated labor is absence of gratification, negation of the pleasure principle." Work was to be replaced with a big party. Not surprisingly, Marcuse's message was endorsed as super-groovy by the Flower Power generation.
It was not just a sexual revolution that Marcuse sought. America was so intrinsically evil that its government and guiding principles needed to be overthrown as well. Marcuse called for violent revolution in the era of peace and love, convincing his followers that the three principles were harmonious. Making hypocrisy seem principled would be a running theme throughout his work.
How did the New Left mesh its support for violent radicals with its professed stand of pacifism? Practicing nonviolence for the Left really meant committing violence against the establishment. Defending such violent groups as the Black Panthers and the Weathermen, Marcuse remarked, "If they use violence, they do not start anew chain of violence but try to break an established one."
How can one at once claim to be a part of a "free speech movement" and censor opposing views? Marcuse gave the 1960s generation the answer in 1965. "Liberating tolerance," he famously wrote in his essay "Repressive Tolerance," is "intolerance against movements from the Right, and toleration of movements from the Left." His words became so influential on the Left that even those who have never even heard of Marcuse follow his counsel, particularly denizens of the campuses. Marcuse's screed went even further, calling for the "[w]ithdrawal of tolerance from regressive movements before they can become active; intolerance even toward thought, opinion, and word, and finally, intolerance ...toward the self-styled conservatives, to the political Right."
How could Marcuse reconcile the New Left's professed support for freedom and democracy with its veneration of totalitarian dictators? It is because the "ideology of freedom" is actually "repressive." Marcuse affirmed Rousseau's notion that the people "must be 'forced to be free.' " Thus, Marcuse named : Vietnam, Cuba, and Mao's China as living examples of the freedom he was referring to. "[F]or a whole generation, 'freedom,' 'socialism,' and 'liberation' are inseparable from Fidel and Che and the guerrillas," he later wrote; "they have recaptured ...the day-to-day fight of men and women for a life as human beings." America, on the other hand, he likened to Hitler's Germany and its policemen to the SS. "[I]s there today, in the orbit of advanced industrial civilizations," he asked in One-Dimensional Man, "a society which is not under an authoritarian regime? " Marcuse's inference was that Great Britain, the United States, Australia, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Japan were among the many despotic regimes that populated the First World.
After indulging in a steady diet of Marcuse, the New Left was inspired to unleash a wave of violence against the "establishment." In what was to become a recurring cycle of events on campuses, Columbia University students rioted in April 1968, tearing up the campus that had housed the Institute of Social Research during its sojourn in America. Paris erupted in violent chaos shortly thereafter, with agitators seen holding up placards reading, "Marx/Mao/Marcuse." The Weather Underground, a group that adopted a spread-fingered greeting to symbolize the fork that the Manson family had stuck into one of its victims, bombed the Pentagon, Manhattan banks, the New York City police headquarters, and numerous other sites. For Black Panthers, the revolution sometimes meant murdering law enforcement officers. Marcuse's own student, Panther camp follower Angela Davis, went on the run after purchasing the guns used for a failed raid on a Marin County, California courthouse that resulted in several deaths, including the decapitation of a judge. Davis's efforts were rewarded with tenure at University of California-Santa Cruz. Typically, Panthers received lifetime appointments of a different sort. Romain "Chip" Fitzgerald, Anthony Jones, Eddie Conway, Mumia Jamal, H. Rap Brown, David Rice, and Ed Poindexter are among the Black Panther alumni serving life sentences for murdering law enforcement officials. The tumult of the 1960s was too much for some members of the Frankfurt School to handle. One thinks of Dr. Frankenstein and his monster when encountering Theodor Adorno's incredulous utterance, "when I created my theoretical model, I could not have guessed that people would try to realize it with Molotov cocktails."