According to the Cultural Marxists, the Western working class was too culturally conservative to be attracted to revolutionary communism. Therefore, in order to undermine capitalism, a cultural change had to occur before any successful revolution would be possible in the West. Culture war thus replaces class war. By converting the Western elite to Cultural Marxism through the indoctrination process of university education, the Cultural Marxists hoped to change the culture of the West through the promotion of gay rights, immigration, multiculturalism, political correctness and other causes designed to weaken the traditionally conservative (and therefore anti-communist) culture of the West.
Acuña's dissection of the Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory is quite extensive so I do not wish to repeat many of his points here (please read his blog post and his more detailed paper on the subject). However, I do want to discuss two of Acuña's points that I find particularly relevant for cultural conservatives.
First, Acuña points out that multiculturalism and political correctness are not necessarily anti-capitalist either in origin or in their operation in the real world. Quoting Noam Chomsky, Acuña states that multiculturalism and political correctness aid the capitalist system's endless drive to turn individuals and groups into interchangeable cogs, differentiated only by their roles as workers and consumers. For example, by promoting multiculturalism and political correctness the capitalist class can more easily promote the importation of cheaper Third World immigrant labor to the First World. Opposition to discrimination based on categories such as race and gender becomes essential to the theory of meritocracy that forms the most important legitimizing myth in contemporary capitalism.
Second, Acuña discusses the hypersexualization of modern culture, yet another phenomenon that cultural conservatives often blame on Cultural Marxism. But as Acuña notes, the hypersexualization of contemporary culture owes more to the sales efforts of modern businesses that use sex in advertising than to Marxist intellectuals. Even though Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud's nephew, worked for corporations and suggested that they appeal to baser human instincts to sell their products, his connection to the Frankfurt School psychoanalysts is largely coincidental. The fact remains that capitalists will seek to accumulate capital through any means necessary, and this includes using sex to sell their products.
Acuña's deft analysis of the Cultural Marxism myth reveals that it is primarily a convenient story utilized by conservatives who must explain why capitalism is producing social and cultural results that they find distasteful. The myth of Cultural Marxism is useful for two broad classes of conservatives. The first are those who, for whatever reason, cannot bring themselves to criticize capitalism so they must engage in self-deception to absolve capitalism of any blame for the destruction of their cultural and social environment.
The second group consists of right-wing propagandists who use the myth of Cultural Marxism to deceive culturally conservative workers and prevent their turn toward anti-capitalist ideologies. This group often cynically conscripts religion to the cause of capitalism, as exemplified by well-heeled think tanks such as the Acton Institute and the American Enterprise Institute.
Cultural conservatives who bemoan their losing efforts in the Culture War should understand that their recent defeats on issues such as gay marriage are due to their inability to understand who (or really, what) their enemy is. Amintore Fanfani, in his seminal work Catholicism, Protestantism, and Capitalism, described how the capitalist state reduced the influence of Christianity and other forces that might impede the rationalization of society along capitalist lines. As Fanfani wrote:
"The one endeavor of capitalism has been to emancipate itself from ideas, or institutions based upon ideas, that impeded the economic rationalization of life." (Fanfani 1934: 92).Fanfani also noted that state socialism, as practiced in the Soviet Union, engaged in the same economistic endeavor; the reduction of all aspects of human life to economic analysis and
As long as cultural conservatives continue to buy into conspiratorial myths such as Cultural Marxism, there will likely be no progress in repairing the cultural and social devastation wrought by capitalist efforts to completely rationalize human existence along economic lines. Cultural conservatives will remain an impotent faction of useful idiots who are fed nothing but red meat and empty slogans to prevent them from understanding the real forces behind the destruction of their cultural and social environment.
Acuña, Michael E. "On the Myth of 'Cultural Marxism.'" Common Ruin blog. Posted February 2, 2014.
Acuña, Michael E. "The Origins and Ideological Function of Cultural Marxism." January, 2015.
Fanfani, Amintore. Catholicism, Protestantism, and Capitalism. 1934. Reprint. (Norfolk, VA.: IHS Press, 2003).