You have no doubt noticed over the past few years – but accelerating wildly and widely in the last one or two – how everything now seems to problematic. The great Twitter parody account “Titania McGrath” has recently started compiling all things racist in her ever growing thread:
THINGS THAT ARE RACIST
• Mahatma Gandhi
• Cartoon characters
• Roads pic.twitter.com/2sGThU7Qio
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) July 9, 2020
In case you are wondering, we are now up to part 32.
Most people, having grown up with a more traditional, dictionary-based definitions of racism, struggle to comprehend the brave new world where “everything’s racist”. It seems ridiculous, like the Weimer-era hyperinflation, except with offence instead of German marks. How can anyone actually believe that? How did we get from Martin Luther King Jr. to fingering gardening, jigsaw puzzles and punctuality as redoubts of white supremacy?
Contrary to what you might assume, there is a method in this madness, but to answer the above questions we need to go back some 150 years in time. In developing his philosophy, Karl Marx posited human history as a struggle of two sections of society: the minority who hold the all power and the powerless majority. In Marx’s time, the minority was termed the capitalist class, the bourgeoisie, or simply The Capital, those controlling (owning and benefitting from) the means of production, while the majority was called the working class, or the proletariat, the masses who sell their labour, and whose collective toil makes the capitalists rich. The essential dynamic of a society is one of power: who has it and who doesn’t, and how it’s exercised (or as Lenin said, “who whom?”). It’s a zero sum equation: all or nothing, the one or the other, the powerful and the powerless, the oppressors and the oppressed. There is a moral dimension to this dichotomy: the former, by virtue of their position, are the villains, the latter the virtuous. It’s also absolutist: the individual doesn’t matter and individuality is an irrelevant illusion; you are the class to which you belong.
One of the most important aspects of this group dynamic is that the dominant class uses its position and power to shape the society in accordance with its needs. Thus, all the institutions, laws, traditions and phenomena reflect the interests of the ruling class; they are designed to benefit them and only them and keep their power entrenched. And what benefits one class invariably harms the other: the masses. You can thus say that in a capitalist society everything’s classist.
The twentieth century dashed the hopes of Marx’s disciples that the proletariat wouldrevolt against and overthrow their capitalist oppressors. The working class was bought off with better working conditions and rising incomes: a house, a car, and a football game. While elsewhere communism triumphed through coups and foreign invasions, in the Western world genuine revolutions did not happen; capitalism is still around. While the working class might have disappointed and let down Marxists, the basic Marxist thinking has not changed: the society is divided into two mutually hostile groups, the oppressors and the oppressed. Now we just need to find the different oppressed and we’ll have another crack at destroying capitalism and creating our socialist utopia. Out with the purely economic divisions, in with racial, gender and sexual ones. Goodbye the working class, hello to the wokeing class.
Fast forward to 2021, and the neo-Marxist struggle continues to gather wind in its sail. On the one side the power-holders: white, male, straight; on the other the powerless: women, people of colour, other sexualities. The actors might have been changed but the essential drama remains the same: the struggle of the virtuous but powerless oppressed majority against their dastardly rulers and the system created for their benefit and everyone else’s disadvantage. Just as in the past every aspect of society was biased against and harmful to the proletariat, so now it is against the proletariat 2.0: everything’s racist – and sexist, and homophobic and transphobic. This is also why the activists describe racism as “systemic”; not because there are still Jim Crow laws in existence, and legal segregation and discrimination, but because the system created by the “white” society by its very nature must be oppressive and hostile to anyone non-white. Piecemeal fixing problems and gradual reforms are useless; the only solution is a radical societal transformation that elevates the oppressed and casts down the oppressors.
While the neo-Marxism (or cultural Marxism, as some call it) is same shit, different assholes, it also represents a sort of a reverse Nazism. Where under the original Nazism, the Aryans were the master race of supermen, with all the other races inferior, and some (like Jews) not only inferior but positively dangerous and evil, now it’s the “whiteness” that is irredeemably tainted and the source of everything that is wrong with the world. If that sort of a Manichean world-view filled with hateful racialist (and increasingly eliminationist) rhetoric worries you, there is no need to – after all, the people who hold such opinions are “anti-fascists”.
There is nothing new under the sun, just the same old zombie ideas that refuse to die. Whether the old or new Marxism, the activists have the same simplistic, blinkered view of life and the same radical solutions. The irony in both cases is that their ideology reaches its peak popularity after the genuine grievances that gave rise to it in the first place have by and large been confronted and addressed. No matter. In the twentieth century, Marxists failed to replace liberal capitalist democracy with their utopia; in the twenty-first, they are trying their luck again. This time it will be “real” socialism, rainbows and unicorns and happily ever after. This time it will be different.