Meaning of the New York Times quote
This New York Times opinion piece says that antisemitism and cultural Marxism are "inseparable".
What that claim in question means is not that "cultural marxism" is connected to antisemitism via the alleged "Cultural marxists" being also antisemites.
It's the opposite.
Those claiming that there is a dominating "cultural marxism" are conspiracy theorists. And these conspiracy theorists are almost always anitsemites, sometimes without even knowing it, and almost always denying it. Partly as they do not understand or deny the concept of structural antisemitism.
The flavours of modern antisemitism
Modern antisemitism doesn't need any real Jews to function. It sufficed historically that the Nazis equated Jews with Bolshevism, running the world — despite the inability to prove that for example Lenin or Stalin were anything "Jewish". It now suffices that these 'hidden agents' are now supposedly promoting a Marxist agenda in for example the media, despite nothing of that kind to be found in reality.
What is antisemitism?
However one defines antisemitism, two points must be kept in mind: first, antisemitism presupposes that the Jews are radically “other.” This simple central point is a universal, timeless characteristic of antisemitism.
There is one other point to be made about antisemitism: Antisemitism is not a Jewish problem; it is a non-Jewish problem. There is nothing that Jews can do about antisemitism, other than monitor it and do some little counteraction. I will return to this matter later in the discussion.
— Leonard Dinnerstein: "My Assessment of American Antisemitism Today", in: Steven K. Baum (Eds): "Antisemitism in North America. New World, Old Hate", Brill: Leiden, Boston, 2016, p 53–60.
What is "cultural marxism", and where does that concept originate?
Radically "others", infiltrating America, destroying it, planned since the 1930s, invented by Jews, yeah, we get that now.
Case in point, but really stereotypical classic antisemitism paired with Holocaust denial from one of the inventors of that very concept:
William Lind has long been a point man for cultural conservatism, a key player in the world of right-wing politicians, and, in recent years, the head of the Free Congress Foundation's Center for Cultural Conservatism.
He also seems to be cultivating friends in some remarkable places. This June 15, at a major Holocaust denial conference put on by veteran anti-Semite Willis Carto in Washington, D.C., Lind gave a well-received speech before some 120 "historical revisionists," conspiracy theorists, neo-Nazis and other anti-Semites, in which he identified a small group of people who he said had poisoned American culture. On this point, Lind made a powerful connection with his listeners.
"These guys," he explained, "were all Jewish."
With "these guys" meaning the first generation of theorists from the Frankfurt School. One of them was Karl August Wittfogel, German name, German ancestors, and yes, a Marxist. Early on. But when he came to America – to "spread his influence in the culture industry"? — he even turned fierce anti-communist. Claiming that he was a "Jewish" is not even wrong. It's pure paranoia.
And in a quite direct line, in America, that has a very nice explanation 'for everything', even Hitler:
But the agitator's preferred method of establishing the connection between capitalism and communism is by suggesting that "atheistic Communism" was "originally spawned in Jewish capitalism and Jewish intellectualism." The most striking formulation of this theory traces all modernisms back to a common Jewish ancestor:
One must remove the causes to get rid of recurring effects … we are concerned with liquidating the causes which created the concept of Hitlerism in the minds of men. These causes run back from Stalin to Lenin; from Lenin to Marx; from Marx to the Rothschilds; from the Rothschilds to the Bank of England; from the Bank of England to the pack of usurers who transubstantiated a vice into a virtue in the sixteenth century…
— Quote: Coughlin, Social Justice, Dec.2, 1941, p4, quoted from: — Leo Lowenthal & Norbert Guterman: "Prophets of Deceit. A Study of the Techniques of the American Agitator", Harper: New York, 1970, p44.
What proponents of "cultural marxism" see is something like this:
A Flowchart History of "Cultural Marxism" according to 4chan's /pol/
And that looks pretty much like a duck.
The role of The Frankfurt School®
The Frankfurt School of Critical Theory, whether its members or their theories and other writings, can very well be criticised in many ways.
Blaming everything on those theorists as planned, and successfully conducting an un-American campaign for over 80 years? Without understanding in the slightest what that Critical theory is critical about?
"Cultural Marxism n. 1. A meaningless phrase used to signal that the writer or speaker has no idea what he or she is talking about."
This connection is analysed in quite a few books and articles about far right activists and haters. For example:
— Jérôme Jamin: "Cultural Marxism and the Radical Right", in: Paul Jackson & Anton Shekhovtsov (Eds): "The Post-War Anglo-American Far Right: A Special Relationship of Hate", Palgrave Macmillan: New York, 2014, p84–103. DOI: 10.1057/9781137396211.0009
Illustrating how the pro-Israel conspiracy theorist Breivik got into believing in 'cultural marxism'.
Although anti-Semitic attitudes are much more heavily stigmatised in post-Nazi Germany than other forms of racism, it is by no means true that there is no longer any anti-Semitism. On the one hand, there are phenomena known to researchers as ‘secondary anti-Semitism’ and ‘structural anti-Semitism’. ‘Secondary anti-Semitism’ refers to the cultivation of resentments against Jews not just by reference to the traditional prejudices that continue to exist, but also by using new motifs. One example of this is the idea that Jews, allegedly, prevent Germany from ‘putting its past behind it’. This is an ‘updated’ form of traditional accusations, such as greed and lust for power. Jews are once again painted as disrupting German national identity — but this time through Vergangenheitsbewältigung (the process of coming to terms with the [Nazi] past).
‘Structural anti-Semitism’ refers to ideas that are not explicitly directed at Jews, but are similar to anti-Semitic ideas in their concepts and argument. One example of this is the differentiation between and personification of ‘money-grubbing’ financial capital and ‘working’ productive capital (this refers to Hitler’s terms ‘raffendes/schaffendes Kapital’). This personalising and abbreviation of Marxist social criticism is structurally anti-Semitic and can also promote hostility towards Jews.
— Sabine Schiffer & Constantin Wagner: "Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia – new enemies, old patterns", Race & Class, Vol. 52(3): 77–84, 2011, DOI:10.1177/0306396810389927
The "Cultural marxism" theory is antisemitism
Now that the real origins of political correctness in the cultural Marxism devised by a clever bunch of foreign-born Jews had been revealed, the full extent of the damage they had caused could be spelled out. Here is a list cited verbatim from many of the websites devoted to the question:
- The creation of racism offences
- Continual change to create confusion
- The teaching of sex and homosexuality to children
- The undermining of schools' and teachers' authority
- Huge immigration to destroy identity
- The promotion of excessive drinking
- Emptying of churches
- An unreliable legal system with bias against victims of crime
- Dependency on the state or state benefits
- Control and dumbing down of media
- Encouraging the breakdown of the family
— Martin Jay: "Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat of the Lunatic Fringe", Salmagundi Magazine, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, 2011. (archive.org)
Or quite drastically summarised in this analysis:
Currently, the meaning of cultural Marxism is embattled and articulated for different political and ideological projects by the alt-left and alt-right, progressive and reactionary, socialist and fascist. The alt-right has constructed the meaning of cultural Marxism in a struggle to organize trans-national consent to fascism, and the alt-right’s meaning of Marxism is making an impression upon the minds of many. It is incumbent upon actual Marxists to look in the mirror held to them by the alt-right, and begin to counter the image and fascist movement behind it. This cognitive mapping of the alt-right’s discourse on cultural Marxism is a small gesture to that end.
— Tanner Mirrlees: "The Alt-Right’s Discourse of “Cultural Marxism”: A Political Instrument of Intersectional Hate", Atlantis Journal, Issue 39.1, p49–69 2018. (URL)
From the angle of philosophy:
The story, repeated again and again, tells of how a bunch of Jewish intellectuals infiltrated America through the minds of its youth, culminating in the sixties counterculture, which is framed as a low point in the culture war for preserving traditional American values. (In its traditionalism, and preoccupation with contamination, the concept can be seen to have a certain structural similarity to the charge of “cultural Bolshevism” which Weimar-era conservatives directed towards aesthetic modernists of their day.) This conspiratorial and often anti-Semitic concept imagines the corrupting and feminizing influences of European decadence as having spread octopus-like throughout the American body politic in particular via its infiltration of the academy (Walsh 2015).
The Cultural Marxist narrative attributes incredible influence to the power of the ideas of the Frankfurt School to the extent that it may even be read as a kind of “perverse tribute” to the latter (Jay 2011). In one account, for example (Estulin 2005), Theodor Adorno is thought to have helped pioneer new and insidious techniques for mind control that are now used by the “mainstream media” to promote its “liberal agenda” — this as part of Adorno’s work, upon first emigrating to the United States, with Paul Lazarsfeld on the famous Princeton Radio Research Project, which helped popularize the contagion theory of media effects with its study of Orson Welles’ 1938 broadcast of The War of the Worlds. In an ironical sense this literature can perhaps be understood as popularizing simplified or otherwise distorted versions of certain concepts initially developed by the Frankfurt School, as well as those of Western Marxism more generally. One such example might be the concept of “the Cathedral” (Yarvin 2008), developed by figures in the so-called neo-reactionary movement on the far right as a kind of critique of the hegemonic, unconscious consensus between powerful figures within academia and the media who use the concept of “political correctness” as a tool of oppression developed by those who (falsely) imagine themselves as being oppressed. Although the narrative of Cultural Marxism’s ineluctable triumph, which one encounters in all of these texts, seems patently false, defenders argue that seemingly unbiased research supports the claim that academics have moved markedly to left of the rest of Americans in recent decades (Abrams 2016). The polarization of these contested findings have in turn helped to breathe new life into the Cultural Marxist conspiracy theory, turning university campuses into sites of far-right activism in recent years.
And though the analysis of Marxism proffered by this literature would certainly not stand up to scrutiny by any serious historian of the subject, we can nevertheless understand Cultural Marxism as a prime example of how the ideas of conservatism grow above all in reaction to those of the left (Robin 2011).
— Marc Tuters: "Cultural Marxism", Krisis Journal for Contemporary Philosophy, Issue 2, 2018, p 32–34. (PDF)
The following uses drastic language and hyperbole to illustrate how the New York Times article has to be read, and is therefore in quotes. You may read the above as the opinion of the author of this post. Please do not do that with the following material:
Anyone insane enough to speak in earnest of 'Cultural Marxism' is per definition a right-leaning wing-nut. Right-leaning conservatives are increasingly and uninterruptedly fascistic since the 1920s. Those are then perversely and 'progressively* antisemites, by ignoring precisely what Marx analysed about capitalism and blame all the misgivings that are inherent to "the system" or the structures of it, onto a small group of outsiders — to them, or those who should follow their idiotic ideas. For ordinary Nazis, these were the Jews.
These "unwanted elements" need not even be so much "real Jews", as 'Antisemitism' might imply. Right-wing antisemites find the Jews where they want to see them. This is "Structural antisemitism" or the anticapitalism as antisemitism of the idiots, as Kronawitter coined what is often ascribed to August Bebel.
In other words: anyone claiming that in an increasingly fascistic world — that marches firmly to the right-wing abyss with names like Trump, Bolsanaro, Orban, Putin, Duterte –'cultural marxism' would be an increasingly influential position,
says that what s/he sees in the world, or in his/her media-bubble, is not authoritarian, not fascist, not right-wing not inhumane enough for her/his likings.
signals immediately that s/he is an extremist on the 'right' side, therefore a Nazi sympathiser and that means ultimately pro-genocidal
Within the hermetic minds of those believing in 'cultural marxism', all of this answer is of course an example just proving their point. A maze without exits.
Empirical case in point, from a now deleted comment:
TL:DR: "A bunch of people who have ideological reason to like things that constitute cultural Marxism wrote pseudo-scholarly wording that amounts to "Anyone who disagrees with us must be an anstisemite, even if they are Jewish, the proof being that we said so". The fact that there can be non-antisemitic proponents of the theory doesn't get disproved, merely rejected based on no theoretical or empirical evidence.
Well, brilliant. The theory is that "Cultural Marxism" is a "Jewish Invention" and "conspiracy to destroy". That is at the very core antisemitism.
Now, conservatives can very well say "homosexuals no likey" for example. That is one questionable opinion that's tolerable to a certain extant. That is not antisemitic, 'merely' homophobia.
But to say that "homosexualism gets promoted — by a conspiracy — to destroy American families and values — since the 30s" is just plain insanity on the one side. On the other side is that person an antisemite that says and does antisemitic things. The whole theory of "Cultural marxism" is antisemitic and anyone adopting an antisemitic theory is therefore an antisemite.
It were those people who coined that theory that said "…and it was those Jews who did that, to the last man." If that is not recognised as plainly open antisemitism, we're lost here.
On the genealogy of the very term "cultural marxism":
The same scholarship that supports Schroyer’s analysis, for example, gives a degree of superficial credibility to the likes of Lind, Buchanan, or Breivik.
Scholars such as Schroyer and Dennis Dworkin do not, however, suggest that the Frankfurt School or other “cultural Marxists” ever had a plan to destroy the moral fibre of Western civilization, or to use their critique of culture as a springboard to a totalitarian regime. That would be difficult to argue in all seriousness because Western “cultural Marxists” going back to the 1920s have typically been hostile to state power, social oppression of the individual, and Soviet Marxism itself. Moreover, they have shown considerable variation among themselves in their attitudes to specific social, moral, and cultural issues. There is no cultural Marxist master plan.
More generally, serious intellectual history cannot ignore the complex cross-currents of thought within the Left in Western liberal democracies. The Left has always been riven with factionalism, not least in recent decades, and it now houses diverse attitudes to almost any imaginable aspect of culture (as well as to traditional economic issues). Many components of the Western cultural Left can only be understood when seen as (in part) reactions to other such components, while being deeply influenced by Western Marxism’s widespread criticism and rejection of Soviet communism.
In the upshot, all the talk of cultural Marxism from figures on the (far) Right of politics is of little aid to understanding our current cultural and political situation. At best, this conception of cultural Marxism is too blunt an intellectual instrument to be useful for analysing current trends. At its worst, it mixes wild conspiracy theorizing with self-righteous moralism.
Right-wing culture warriors will go on employing the expression “cultural Marxism” (or “Cultural Marxism”) in a pejorative way, attaching it to dubious, sometimes paranoid, theories of cultural history. There is nothing I can do to discourage this usage, and nor can I deny that it includes grains of truth in, for example, associating a more culture-oriented approach to Marxism with the Frankfurt School. I assume that this weaponized usage will continue.
— Russell Blackford: "Cultural Marxism and our current culture wars: Part 2", Cogito – Philosophy in the real world, The Conversation, August 2, 2015.
More to he point:
MacDonald was one of the earliest proponents of the concept of “cultural Marxism.” In The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Social Movements (1998), he argued that Jews criticize non-Jews’ desire to form “cohesive, nationalistic, corporate gentile groups based on conformity to group norms” while hypocritically pursuing their own cohesiveness. Jews, in other words, foist multiculturalism on the rest of us while maintaining their own ethnic enclaves.
The phrase “cultural Marxism” had first appeared in right-wing circles only a few months before, in July 1998, when William Lind, leader of the far-right Free Congress Foundation, gave a speech he titled “The Origins of Political Correctness.” Lind described political correctness and cultural Marxism as totalitarian ideologies that were transforming American college campuses into “small ivy-covered North Koreas, where the student or faculty member who dares to cross any of the lines set up by the gender feminist or the homosexual-rights activists, or the local black or Hispanic group, or any of the other sainted ‘victims’ groups that revolves around, quickly find themselves in judicial trouble.”
The phrase quickly became popular not just among white nationalists but also among paleoconservatives such as Patrick Buchanan, who, while campaigning for the presidency in 2000 on the Reform Party ticket, said, “America’s history and heroes and Western civilization itself are under relentless attack. The violence of this political correctness is nothing less than cultural Marxism.”
The Council of Conservative Citizens warned in one of its videos: “Racism, sexism and chauvinism are powerful weapons in the Marxist psychological warfare against traditional American values. Political correctness, the product of critical theory, is really treason against the US Constitution and against America.”
The concept was similarly popular with the lingering remnant of white supremacists, Klansmen and neo-Nazis who remained active on the political fringes well into the twenty-first century. Indeed, many of these people and entities also embraced white nationalism through the 1990s and beyond in an effort to downplay their overt hostility to minorities and in hopes of making inroads into the political mainstream.
— David Neiwert: "Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump", Verso, 2017.
Any German origins for "Cultural Marxism"?
Since Frankfurter Schule was indeed real and was a German thing, but almost everything else in this crazy conspiracy and what supposedly 'follows from it' is not,
let's look at the German word for 'Cultural Marxism': Kulturmarxismus.
Google says: "Ngrams not found: Kulturmarxismus or kultureller Marxismus" (Although at the latest to be found in 1923 albeit clearly in a different sense.)
And the DWDS – Digitales Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache shows the following corpus search chart:
And curiously, most of these hits discuss Anders Bering Breivik and his world view or manifesto.
This shows quite convincingly, that the 'Cultural Marxism' is a late, American invention. Invented by the radical right (— Thomas Grumke: "'Take this country back!' Die neue Rechte in den USA", in: "Die Neue Rechte – eine Gefahr für die Demokratie?" VS Verlag, 2004, p177.)
If 'cultural marxism' was a thing, being that old, and an ideology of German origin, one should be able to find traces of it in some German books?
Anyone who reproduces this conspiracy 'theory' should therefore have an easy time to reference the big word Kulturmarxismus (KM) in a book? Marxismus is no secret, gives you plenty of hits — thousands — in any search engine or library catalog.
Google books gives for 'before 1990' almost exclusively false positives, hits based on bad OCR. Hamburg university library: 2 hits (0 before 1990), Bavarian state library: 3 hits (1). Dresden SLUB: 0 (0).. German National Library (Leipzig/Frankfurt): 2 (0). Google Scholar: 120 (2). Frankfurt University Library: 2 (0)!
Academic cultural marxism was a tiny niche of analysis that lost almost all of its appeal and has barely any adherents now.
Those antisemites and right-wingers that claim that cultural marxism exists in the way they want it to be — as a big conspiracy of 'praxis', and even based on this academic, sociologic analysis of music industry and theatre — stand there without any evidence: completely naked, empty handed and intellectually as well as morally bankrupt.
The term “Cultural Marxism” seems to have originated from a work by Trent Schroyer in his book The Critique of Domination: The Origins and Development of Critical Theory from 1973, in an attempt to synthesise Marxism and the Frankfurt School. The term was not meant as to be referring to a conspiracy, before the far right hijacked it.
The usage and spread of the term Cultural Marxism referring to the conspiracy started in the USA via figures such as Paul Weyrich, who amongst others “hosted weekly lunches for Republican leaders, mentored a generation of ultra-conservative politicians, started his own TV channel and founded both the Heritage Foundation and ALEC,” and William S. Lind, a conservative American author believing in a Marxist plot, appearing regularly on Weyrich’s TV channel.118 Ever since, the term has been used increasingly by cultural conservative nationalists as a pejorative term for its political opposition, crossing the ocean to Europe where the conspiracy soon got caught on, […]
— Laudy van den Heuvel: "Who is (still) afraid of spectres haunting Europe? Comparing the concepts of “Judeo-Bolshevism” and “Cultural Marxism” in their respective notions of ecology", Master Thesis, Lunds Universitet, 2020. (PDF)