Jason Wilson's article - published last week - is entitled 'Cultural Marxism: a uniting theory for rightwingers who love to play the victim'. Its subtitle reads:
“The culture war that so defines current debates between the left and right sides of politics has its history in the barmy theory of 'cultural Marxism'.”
The Guardian itself says that Jason Wilson “is a visiting fellow at Swinburne University's Institute for Social Research, and lives in Portland, Oregon”.
Recent Guardian articles by Jason Wilson's include:
- 'Charlie Hebdo could be published in Australia' (which argues against free speech on issues of “religion or religious identity”)
- '#illridewithyou: do Australia's rightwingers hate it because they don't know their own readers?' (which is about “right-wing racism against Muslims” in Australia) and
- 'The right has won control of the English-speaking world' (whose title is self-explanatory).
Basically, then, Jason Wilson is protecting his own political and ideological fiefdom. Partly because of that, Jason Wilson rather predictably features Anders Breivik and anti-Semitism in his article. Added to that, the Guardian itself uses a photo of Breivik as its main image.
Now isn't that a rather crude ad hominem?
Wilson and the Guardian are saying the following to their readers:
The mass killer Anders Breivik also talked about 'cultural Marxism'. Therefore all statements about it – from other people - must surely be politically suspect if not downright false.
Of course the term “cultural Marxism” is sometimes overused. It's also sometimes used by people who've never actually read any Gramsci, Adorno or even any other Marxist. However, that's true about all political terms and of many people. Legions of Leftists, for example, can hardly utter a single sentence without including the word “Zionist” or “neoliberal” in it. (Jason Wilson himself obliges us with uses of the words “conspiracy theory”, “patriarchal authority” and “capitalism”.)
Jason Wilson is a Marxist
Is Jason Wilson a Marxist? Yes; though probably not a pure one because - in certain senses - there's never been such a being. Not even Lenin was a pure Marxist. And Gramsci and the Frankfurt School (who basically turned Marx's base-superstructure model upside down) evidently weren't.
Jason Wilson is most certainly some kind of Marxist. He may not class himself that way; though that shouldn't concern anyone: what he writes in this article shows us that he is one.
In any case, Wilson doesn't exactly hide his Leftism/Marxism when he says that cultural Marxism “distracts from the most important factor in these changes [brought about by capitalism]” and that capitalism's “crises have eroded living standards”.
Jason Wilson then goes on to say that those evil people who endlessly talk of cultural Marxism have “dragged politics as a whole a little further right”.
In other words, Wilson is offering a fairly traditional Marxist analysis of those of us who have a problem with the wide-ranging cultural and political power of institutional Marxists/Leftists.
Thus there's no escape from Marxist theory – not even in an article about the critics of Marxist theorists.
You'll quickly see that Jason Wilson hardly ever argues against what people say about cultural Marxism (or against anything else for that matter). Instead he simply states what he thinks “right-wing conspiracy theorists” take cultural Marxism to be. (He also uses a lot of self-conscious poeticisms; perhaps because he's taking a break from university academese.) And then, after putting the conspiracy theorist's position, he just sneers at it.
Jason Wilson simply assumes that what the critics of cultural Marxism say is all just plainly false (or at least politically nefarious). In only two paragraphs (perhaps one) out of fifteen paragraphs does he mount a argumentative defence of that sneering.
Take, for example, a passage in which he states what he takes to be the right-wing position on cultural Marxism:
“The conspiracy theorists claim that these 'cultural Marxists' began to use insidious forms of psychological manipulation to upend the west.... they had, the story goes, a chance to undermine the culture and values that had sustained the world’s most powerful capitalist nation.”
For a start, why does Jason Wilson put the words “cultural Marxists” in scare quotes? The Frankfurt School itself, for example, used those words about itself! What's more, many academic and political fans of this the individuals within the Frankfurt School (people not that unlike Jason Wilson) have called them “cultural Marxists”. So is this term only wrong when used critically or negatively?
Not only that: the Frankfurt School also more or less said that its role and aim was to “undermine the culture and values” of capitalist states. Walter Benjamin, Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer (as well as Saul Alinsky later) can easily be quoted saying this.
Indeed if the Frankfurt School didn't want to undermine the culture and values of capitalists states, then what the hell did they want to do? What was it all about?
Exactly the same kinds of thing can be said of Jason Wilson's comments about Antonio Gramsci and György Lukács. He writes:
“[Gramsci and Lukács believed that] culture and religion blunted the proletariat’s desire to revolt, and the solution was that Marxists should carry out a 'long march through the institutions' – universities and schools, government bureaucracies and the media – so that cultural values could be progressively changed from above.”
Yes, and that is false, misguided and conspiratorial because....?
And, finally, this is also true of Wilson's comments about Anders Breivik. He writes:
“Anders Breivik killed young social democrats because he believed that their party was involved in a cultural Marxist plot to undermine traditional European values by means of mass immigration from the Islamic world.”
Yes, and Jason Wilson's argument against that is?
Anyway, even if Anders Breivik's position is flawed in some - or even in many - ways, must Guardian readers simply assume that mass immigration isn't a Leftist social experiment? After all, leaders figures in the British Labour Party explicitly admitted (if after loosing power) that New Labour's policy on immigration (roughly between 2000 and 2010) was exactly that: a socialist experiment in mass immigration which was partly intended to “rub the noses of the Right in diversity”! (Up to five million immigrants entered the UK in that period; the lowest figure is around three-and-a-half million.)
There is No Leftist Hegemony?
As I said, Jason Wilson hardly bothers to argue against the supposedly right-wing conspiracy theorist position. Though there is one such paragraph which seems to do so. Wilson writes:
“If humanities faculties are really geared to brainwashing students into accepting the postulates of far-left ideology, the composition of western parliaments and presidencies and the roaring success of corporate capitalism suggests they’re doing an astoundingly bad job.”
Jason Wilson hasn't read his Antonio Gramsci. Or, more correctly, he has read Gramsci; though he's (kind of) pretending that he hasn't.
He talks about “western parliaments and presidencies” not being overrun with Leftists. Indeed Leftists haven't gained total control because - unlike Swinburne University's Institute for Social Research (where Jason Wilson works) - the people in parliaments require votes to get there. They require popularity as well as working-class support. That's why Gramsci focused on those “institutions” - such as universities, schools and the law – which don't require the vote or such working-class support.
Such institutions, therefore, are ideal for those middle-class Leftists/Marxists who are generally despised by the majority of the working class and by most other people too. Thus Gramscians (to use one term) have “taken over the institutions” instead. And despite what Leftists and others say, members of Parliament and councillors do, at first, require the vote and popular support (regardless of what they do after they gain power). Not so Marxist/Trotskyist/communist academics, lawyers, journalists, teachers human rights activists, bureaucrats, civil servants, etc.
If Leftists like Jason Wilson himself really don't have much influence or much political/ideological power (as Wilson claims), then why did he write this article on the critics of cultural Marxism? Indeed why is Jason Wilson a Leftist sociologist at Swinburne University's Institute for Social Research? (Though he be in it just for the money.) So what Jason Wilson is really crying about is the fact that American and European Leftists haven't gained the total and complete political power that Trotsky, Gramsci and the Frankfurt School fantasised about throughout the 20th century.Yes, Jason Wilson wants yet more political power for the Left. Power which doesn't have to rely on votes, popular support or the working class. In other words, power which relies very heavily on people like him “taking over the institutions” and then propagating cultural Marxism (yes, cultural Marxism) from above.