When the Secular Saints Go Marxing In
REVOLUTION WITHOUT END
Alexander Riley, in a review of Mark Levin’s recent bestseller American Marxism, charges the radio and television star with failing to understand his subject. Levin characterizes some left-wing hooligans in the United States as “Marxist anarchists,” thus glibly combining two movements that, historically, have been bitterly at odds. Riley, a Bucknell University sociology professor, writes, contra Levin, that “any competent Marxist understands that Marx’s worldview and that of the anarchists are fundamentally incompatible. Any serious critic of Marxism and anarchism should certainly know this, too” (Chronicles, Aug. 2022). Riley explains:
The incompatibility of the two political philosophies — Marxism and anarchism — has to do with their opposite views on the organizational forms and composition of the revolutionary movements they desired. Marxists saw the organized industrial working class as the agent of revolution. The state was ultimately to be destroyed, but it would need to be operational for a time in the dictatorship of the proletariat until capitalist society had been wholly transformed. Anarchists rejected the centrality of the working class. They focused instead on “propagandists of the deed” drawn from the alienated middle class and underclass. These radicals would destroy capitalism not by seizing the factories and the state, but through violent uprising and terrorism. They championed spontaneity, while the Marxists preached party discipline and organization. Both philosophies fail when faced with the crude facts of reality, but a “Marxist anarchist” is a contradiction in terms.
Earlier, at the magazine’s website, Paul Gottfried, Chronicles editor-in-chief and a highly respected expert in the history of fascism, took Fox News to task for claiming to be conservative while celebrating Pride Month, featuring a transgender announcer, and employing an on-air personality whose personal life is marked by affairs, divorces, multiple remarriages, and children sired out of wedlock. Contrast this to the Frankfurt School, a group of early-20th-century cultural Marxists who set up shop in the United States after being run out of their native Germany and who “never endorsed gay marriage or celebrated transgendering.” The Frankfurt consensus, Gottfried writes, “seems to have been that homosexuality is a psychiatric disorder.” Yet today’s so-called conservatives who “lash out against cultural radicals are well to the left of the first generation of the Frankfurt School…. In comparison to Fox News producers and many of their stars,” Gottfried writes, those early cultural Marxists “were paragons of bourgeois virtues” (“Faux Conservatism at Fox News,” June 14).
Riley and Gottfried are right, of course. Fox News is not conservative. It is, in fact, much less conservative than Theodor Adorno (1903-1969) and Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979), leaders of the Frankfurt School. And Levin is no scholar of Marxism. That much is clear from his book.
But Riley and Gottfried are wrong — about Marxism.
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