What is Cultural Marxism, anyway?

I remember many years ago when Sarah Palin was in the spotlight and she accused Obama of socialism. Back then, I thought this was nonsense and I couldn’t see why conservatives in the US hated Obama so much. However, coming from my academic and cultural background I should know better.

This year we have presidential elections in Brazil. After many years we have presidential candidates who unapologetically call themselves right-wing. Until not many years ago, people in Brazil were simply ashamed of describing themselves in this way. Maybe it has to do with the military dictatorship Brazil was under from 1964 to 1985. Back then, to be “right-wing” was to be in favor of the dictatorship. To be left-wing was to oppose it. The armed forces took power in Brazil to avoid the communists of doing so. I am every day more convinced that this backfired. Because they were fought by the military, communists posed as victims who were simply fighting for democracy. Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth: they were terrorists who wanted to transform Brazil into a South American USSR. But the communists-as-democrats is the narrative I and many Brazilians learned in school.

Brazil has a long history of communist influence. Since the 1920s the USSR tried to influence politics in my country, including a failed coup in the 1930s, the Brazilian uprising of 1935. However, communists eventually learned that Brazilians were socially too conservative to accept communist rule. That’s about when they discovered cultural Marxism, especially Antonio Gramsci and the Frankfurt School. Brazil’s strongest socialist party, the Worker’s Party (PT) is much more influenced by Gramsci than by Lenin or even Marx. Marx is more like a shadow, a mythical figure that very few people actually read.

Cultural Marxism is not a well defined academic paradigm. It is a political program. For some years the main leaders of PT were not even secretive about this. They accepted in their economic policy many of the basics of the Washington Consensus. In their cultural agenda, however, they took in anything that would help overturn conservative values (I mean here Judeo-Christian). But even here, they would not fight it openly. Jesus was not entirely overthrown. Instead, he turned into a revolutionary, a 1st century Che Guevara,  by Liberation Theology. In the political program of winning culture, any help is welcome. That’s how Foucault, Derrida, the Frankfurt School, anything that questions modern liberal capitalist society, is used to question “everything that is.”

Cultural Marxism, in sum, is nihilism. They don’t really have anything to substitute the culture they want to overturn. That is why it sounds so abstract. Academically, that’s exactly what it is. Politically, however, it serves a very specific purpose: power.

Feeling Cynical in San Francisco

I never thought I would say this, but I hate San Francisco. Having worked here full time for one month, I have found little to enjoy about it and much to despise. This, despite growing up very close by, having near monthly access to it, and conceiving of it for the first 23 years of my life as a damn good place to be.

But, I have come to a conclusion: San Francisco is emotionally, spiritually, and sexually dead. Not that people don’t have emotions, experiences of spirit, or sexual escapades here. Au contraire! Such things are legion. Rather, that there is behind much of what goes on… a great emptiness. There is no longer anything in this city for an individual of substance but decay and the new cult religions spawned by progressivism: what I’ve begun to call market optimism, the erroneous faith that the next great invention will cure all social ills and forever, eternally, place us in the light of the sun.

It’s all hogwash. If you spend 40 hours per week streamlining the method for buying a car, that may be useful, but it will never prove true the prognostications of our high priests. Giving rich tourists a better way of buying tours will never solve the gulf people feel between what they are doing, and who they want to be.

I’m weary of it here, but I swear if I see someone smile, I’ll take it all back. I’ve written more on my personal blog. Check it out.