Gramsci, cultural Marxism and the cost of dismantling the natural family

6 November 2019

The Christian Legal Centre’s Roger Kiska provides an in-depth look into the real cost of cultural Marxism on the family.

The emergence of identity politics in Western Europe has come swiftly and aggressively. Identity politics, in essence, politicises and priorities certain ‘minority’ characteristics such as race, class, sexual orientation and religion; weaponising them against traditional norms.

While many attribute this phenomenon to the ideology of intersectionality (a philosophy which likewise tribalises people using these same labels by suggesting that culturally privileged classes and institutions have created overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination which have kept these other segments of the population marginalised), its roots are actually decades older.

Intersectionality is, at its core, a form of cultural Marxism. One key figure in the mainstreaming of cultural Marxism in Europe, despite not enjoying the popular recognition for doing so, is Antonio Francesco Gramsci. Gramsci, an Italian philosopher and politician who was imprisoned during Mussolini’s reign, wrote more than 30 notebooks and 3000 pages of history and analysis during his imprisonment. Many of his writings can be found in his 3 volume Prison Notebooks.

Cultural hegemony and the ruling class

Gramsci sought to break from Marx’s economic determinism and base his theory on the wielding and maintaining of power by the ruling class which has commonly become known as his theory of cultural hegemony. Gramsci believed that the ruling class, the bourgeoisie, used cultural institutions to maintain power. This he called hegemony. They would use ideology, rather than violence or economic force, to propagate their own values in creating the capitalist zeitgeist. Cultural hegemony is maintained by the ruling capitalist class through the institutions that make up the superstructure. Cultural Marxists define the superstructure as everything not directly to do with production such as family, culture, religion, education, media and law.

Gramsci’s counter-hegemony is also deeply rooted in today’s theory of intersectionality. It seeks to dismantle the existing cultural hegemony by cultural subversion and opposition, challenging the legitimacy of existing super-structural institutions like family, religion and political power. Saul Alinsky describes the modus operandi for such an enterprise in the introduction to his book Rules for Radicals thus:

What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe is should be. The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold [onto] power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.

A counter-hegemony, in essence, is an alternative ethical view of society that seeks to challenge, undermine and replace the existing bourgeoisie power structure. It has been described by Gramsci-ite Nicola Pratt as the creation of an alternative hegemony on the terrain of civil society in preparation for political change.

The attack on the family

In Gramsci’s own words, he viewed the task thus:

Socialism is precisely the religion that must overwhelm Christianity…in the new order, Socialism will triumph by first capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches, and the media by transforming the consciousness of society.

One of the underlying problems with this type of cultural Marxism is that an attack on family and the Judeo-Christian values that sustain it leads to economic and social effects which are catastrophic. In this sense, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights could not have been more correct when it referred to the family as the natural and fundamental group unit of society.

One such attack has been on so-called heteronormativity. Heteronormativity is defined as the belief that heterosexuality is the normal or default sexual orientation and the basis of family. At its heart, detractors suggest, that such beliefs breed homophobia and the disenfranchisement of those who identify as LGBT. In fact, some of the key figures in the ‘No Outsiders’ primary school programme have suggested that we must ‘queer up’ the primary school classroom in order to redefine these norms, including the belief in the traditional family, by creating new norms early in our children’s education.

This redefinition of the very substance of family has been quickened by the sexual revolution of the 1960’s, which itself was largely based on the Cultural Marxist machinations of the Frankfurt school of philosophers such as Herbert Marcuse, Max Horkheimer and Erich Fromm. The ideals of permanent and monogamous relationships were replaced by concepts of radical sexual autonomy, underpinned by the mainstreaming of contraception, pornography and abortion. The toll on the family has been seismic.

The consequences to the family

For example, former British Welfare Minister Lord Freud, in 2014, suggested that the breakdown of the family in the United Kingdom would cost taxpayers an estimated £46 billion. A 2018 updated estimate from the Relationships Foundation suggests that figure is now £51 billion. In America, the Brookings Institution’s Isabel Sawhill calculated that the breakdown of the family cost American taxpayers $229 billion between 1970 and 1996. This figure includes the toll caused by teen pregnancy, crime, poverty, drug abuse and health problems which have resulted from divorces or broken families. Benjamin Scafidi’s 2008 study for Institute for American Values evidenced that divorce and unwed childbearing cost American taxpayers $112 billion each year.

This phenomenon, underpinned in part by the cultural Marxist rejection of institutions like Christianity and family, has also been premised on greater interference by national authorities into family privacy, whereby governments feel empowered to usurp the parental mantle from families themselves. The United Kingdom’s Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, for example, has reported a nearly 150% increase in the number of new child care cases since 2005-2006. To put that into perspective, the number of cases in just over a decade’s time increased from 6, 613 new cases per year, to 15, 485 new cases. The figures from the first 5 months of the current reporting year have shown an increase of 23% since the corresponding period last year. The situation has led to experts, such as Dave Hill, President of the Association of Director’s Children’s Services (ADCS), calling the situation a national disgrace; and Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, labelling it as a public crisis.

A similar phenomenon is happening in Scandinavia. In 2015, 53,440 children received care measures from Norway’s Barnevernet. This is up 1 percent from the previous year and represents nearly 3 percent of all children in Norway. This number becomes even more shocking when we look to the fact that the 3% figure is inflated because of the disproportionate number of children taken from families where at least one of the parents is an immigrant.

Seeking equality in liberty

The simple fact is that Christianity and the concept of the natural family have been the twin anchors on which European culture has relied on over the centuries for stability. Cultural Marxism offers, at best, a self-inflicted wound to culture. At worst, it represents a form of totalitarianism which breads anarchy and tribalism. Cultural Marxism is socialism, nothing more and nothing less. In the end, Alexis de Tocqeuville’s words ring as true today as they did in the 19th century:

Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty; socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.


A version of this article was originally submitted to the Religion and Liberty journal and can be found at Acton Institute.
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