Thursday, July 27, 2017

Why The Long March?

     After undertaking a brief, informal survey, I concluded that (much to my surprise) Antonio Gramsci’s call for “cultural hegemony” – i.e., his exhortation to Marxists to undertake a campaign of conquest of the West’s systems of education, information, and culture – is not yet known to many American conservatives. (More recently, we have Rudi Dutschke’s “long march through the institutions,” which drew the enthusiasm and support of Herbert Marcuse.) Oh, they’re adequately aware of the damage that’s been done to education, journalism, and entertainment; those things are too obvious for anyone to be unaware of them. However, they appear unaware that the Left mounted a systematic drive to conquer those industries.

     I recently wrote about this with a particular emphasis in mind: that the Left has become desperate. While I do believe that to be the case, I also recognize the power that inheres in longstanding institutions. That power, like Tolkien’s Sauron, can withstand a long series of defeats without suffering worse than temporary setbacks. It cannot be offered an armistice; rather, it must be destroyed root and branch.

     That aspect of the Left’s institutional campaigns has thrown a new shadow for me, owing to Bookworm’s latest piece:

     What the Marxists figured out during WWII, thanks in no small part to the Left’s huge push to bring America to the aid of the Soviet Union once Hitler invaded Russia, was that, while Americans were not amenable to hard Marxism, they could be totally swayed by soft Marxism. This idea landed hardest and best in America’s colleges and universities. There, mild-mannered professors in rumpled, tweedy suits carefully indoctrinated their students in a whole new way of thinking about America’s liberties.

     Mostly, these academics inculcated in their middle-class students a sense of guilt about America’s bounty — never mind that the bounty resulted from hard work and innovation. To the Leftists, America’s wealth, no matter that it was earned, not inherited, was evil, and young people had to pay for their countries’ sins. Moreover, when students protested against this indoctrination (and yes, back in the day, some did), the same Marxists hid behind the Constitution’s protections.

     This was a brilliant strategy. If you’ve got the college students, you’ve got the next generation of elementary and high school teachers, and the next generation of news people, and the next generation of screenwriters, and the next generation of women’s magazine writers, and the next generation of college professors. And with each iteration, with each generation that passes through, you can dig in the messageharder and deeper, until you end up with the insanity of intersectionality, cultural appropriation, safe spaces, triggers, political correctness, and all the other tropes that work as vehicles for intellectual tyranny.

     There’s an insight buried in those three paragraphs it could cost the life of our nation to overlook.

     Consider for a moment the drive of recent decades to put essentially all of our high school graduates into college. Whose idea was that? Why has “higher education” – why yes, those are “sneer quotes!” – become the one and only respectable destination for a high school grad? And why on Earth did Americans ever accept that funding colleges and universities is a legitimate function of the federal government?

     Until the post-World War II repatriation of our overseas forces and the passage of the “GI Bill,” “higher education” was regarded as appropriate for only a minority of high school graduates. College was understood to prepare the collegian for a rather narrow range of futures:

  • Scientific research;
  • “Captain of industry;”
  • A college professor.

     Of those three, “captain of industry” was the most significant: the most common motivation for sending one’s high schooler to college was so he might become well acquainted with the scions of other rich men highly placed in American corporate life. It was quietly accepted that not a lot of “real learning” would occur. The most important thing was connections: making them and solidifying them, that the family lines of the great men of industry and commerce would remain firmly allied with one another. Smith’s spratling would become a chum of Jones’s, and would like as not marry Jones’s sister.

     The rush into the colleges that followed the war changed all that. The acceleration of technological progress and the desire of many to participate was part of the propulsion. However, an even greater part, fueled by a systematically nurtured “New Deal” anticapitalist-egalitarian sentiment, was the desire to penetrate the haunts of the rich and influential, especially those that separated them from the hoi polloi. If the sons of grocers could attend the same institutions as the sons of industrialists and financiers, perhaps in time the grocers’ sons might become industrialists and financiers as well: “cargo cult” thinking as applied to “education.”

     Yet owing to the determined efforts of John Dewey and his fellow thinkers, as early as the late Forties America’s colleges were firmly in the hands of the Left, which had no intention of turning out patriotic, well educated, or productive young persons. Quite the reverse.

     Totalitarianism, regardless of the “flavor of the week,” is inherently centralist. A “decentralized totalitarianism” is a contradiction in terms. Moreover, totalitarianism doesn’t centralize political power alone. It demands the centralization of everything that’s important to the life of Man.

     When totalitarians acquire power by revolution, they immediately move to occupy the news media and the schools. James Clavell’s cautionary tale The Children’s Story was intended to warn us about that. However, totalitarians are quite willing to work in the opposite direction: to occupy the news and educational institutions first, then to use them as instruments for attaining power.

     (In America, adding the entertainment industry to the Left’s quiver took longer, because the original attempt was too overt. Cf. The Hollywood Ten)

     The Left’s Triple Alliance of education, journalism, and entertainment has proved deadly to Americans’ comprehension of freedom, of the intent of our Constitution and constitutionalism’s conceptual foundation, and of the dynamic of power and the motives of the power-seeking. More, those industries have been relentless in their efforts to suppress emergent competition. Though they seem to be fighting a defensive, holding action at the moment, their endurance is considerable. They might yet outlast the recent developments in “citizen journalism,” homeschooling, and indie fiction and filmmaking, whose financial bases are tenuous and uncertain.

     They’ll surely bend all their power, resources, and political influence to the effort.

     If there’s a central point to this tirade, it’s that The Left’s strategists know what they’re doing. They do it consciously and with malice aforethought. Indeed, in light of the many parallels in journalism and entertainment, it’s reasonable to suspect that the push to get everyone from high school into college is a conscious component of Leftist strategy. No other aspect of the educational system has been as effective at occluding American history and inculcating Leftist sentiments in our young people. Moreover, it’s “philosophically compatible” with the Left’s overall instinct toward centralization. Feeding all the meat through a single grinder gives the best chance of producing a uniform product.

     It’s somewhat heartening that an increasing number of young men have been exploring the trades and other alternatives to “higher education.” But don’t expect the Left to let that trend pass unchallenged. It has already struck back on two fronts: social altitude (i.e., occupational “prestige”) and marital prospects. There might be other strokes to come.

     Food for thought.


Oldfart said...

Katyn Forest, the Killing Fields of Cambodia, the Holodomor and countless other instances where collectivists have "collected" select groups to be exterminated are all examples of a brutal but successful tactic intended to eliminate an idea by eliminating those who hold it. I am uncomfortable with - but grudgingly accepting of the fact that to combat Marxism and Islam we of the west might have to resort to some similar tactic.

Francis W. Porretto said...

A horrible thought, Derald...but I'm afraid you're right: it's all too possible that we might.