A closer look at Marxist ideology and critical race theory
U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop, R-NC, made headlines last week by introducing a resolution condemning critical race theory (CRT) and acknowledging its roots in Marxism.
The Daily Caller quoted Bishop saying, “CRT proponents cannot be allowed to conceal the Marxian foundations of their racist ideology.” Bishop continues, “This resolution allows Congress to do what has always been essential to defeating Marxism — calling it what it is and exposing those who consort with it.”
While I agree with Bishop’s well-put-together analysis connecting CRT to Marxism, there is one line I cannot get on board with and that is the view that CRT is a Marxist ideology.
I think the best we can say about CRT and its relationship to Marxism is that it is a form of racialized Marxism. However, this does not make it a Marxist ideology.
It would be like calling Christianity a Jewish ideology or Islam a Christian ideology because the later form of the Abrahamic religion took passages from what came before. Yes, there are many similar themes that run across CRT and Marxism.
Bishop correctly notes the antiracist’s use of the false dichotomy of oppressed and oppressor and the exaggerated and often incorrect use of social structures keeping groups marginalized is a natural bridge to the Marxian dialectical materialism (Karl Marx’s theory of history). However, CRT is in a class of its own. At best, it is a derivative of critical Marxism, which is itself an attempt to salvage Marxism after people started to realize how anti-humanistic the Soviet Union was. Furthermore, economic Marxist theory wasn’t sufficient enough to win converts.
Accordingly, the only place one will find true subscribers to Marxist ideology will be in a university faculty lounge. True Marxists are few and far between in the West.
Individuals like Rep. Bishop, social critic James Lindsay, and psychologist Jordan Peterson criticize what is colloquially called cultural Marxism or neo-Marxism. This is a kind of pop-culture form of Marxism, whereby late 20th century and early 21st-century activists use the term Marxist to describe themselves. For instance, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors is a cultural Marxist. However, these individuals are not Marxist in all matters of economic theory.
To call yourself a Marxist or to subscribe to Marxist ideology, you must start from Hegelianism and end with dialectical materialism. One must have a comprehensive knowledge of Hegelian philosophy before even beginning the process of becoming a Marxist. From there, a person must understand the difference between the Old Hegelians and the Young Hegelians. After understanding Marx’s years as a Young Hegelian, one can then start to engage the Marxist ideology in “The German Ideology,” “The Communist Manifesto,” and “Das Capital.” Once one has successfully understood these texts, then they can call themselves a proper Marxist. Anything less is a fake.
To be a critical Marxist, one must first acquire a deep knowledge of Marxism. However, the cultural Marxist never put in the “work” to gain such knowledge. The cultural Marxist don’t know the Old Hegelians followed a more conservative reading of Hegel, whereby the state defines rights, and the rule of religion over consciousness is deemed legitimate. They don’t know that the Young Hegelians followed a more progressive reading of Hegel, whereby they believed the rule of traditional structures is a usurpation of human freedom. They don’t know the Old Hegelian view that an organic society—through the process of history—moved to know itself and true freedom by being completely and perfectly rational. They don’t know the Young Hegelians rejected the metaphysical thinking of Hegel and that society—also through the process of history—moved to negate all that restricted human freedom. They don’t know how influential Ludwig Feuerbach and Max Stirner were on the young Marx. They don’t know anything about the philosophy that drives the Marxian view that material well-being for society will only be achieved when the proletariats seize control of the means of production from the bourgeoisie.
Because these pseudo-Marxian activists that advert CRT have no structural or critical (pun intended) knowledge of Marxist ideology, we should not label them as such.
While I understand why Rep. Bishop thinks CRT is a Marxist ideology, trying to force them together distracts from why one should reject Marxism as understood by philosophers and sociologists.
Marxism is a failed social ideology. Even a more charitable view of it—critical Marxism as a critique of social structures and institutions—would still not save it. Its biggest prophecy and claim to the end of history failed to realize capitalism’s capacity for self-correction as a function of the market and social forces. Marx’s ideas are inherently anti-libertarian and indifferent to individual well-being, which is why the Bolshevik Revolution under Vladimir Lenin, and the Cultural Revolution under Mao became totalitarian regimes—and gave rise to authoritarian leadership in Soviet Russia and Communist China.
Cultural Marxists are not intellectuals. They are merely activists masquerading as intellectuals. To say CRT is a Marxist ideology gives them too much credit. If anything, they are Marxist fanboys. And just like most fans, they lack actual talent.
Joshua Peters is a philosopher and social critic from Raleigh. His academic background is in western philosophy, STEM, and financial analysis. Joshua studied at North Carolina State University (BS) and UNC Charlotte (MS). He is a graduate of the E.A. Morris Fellowship for Emerging Leaders.