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The Refined Marxism of Black Lives Matter

By William Yarwood, Digital Media Officer 

We all know that Black Lives Matter is a far left Marxist organisation that seeks to defund the police, abolish conservative social norms like the nuclear family unit and bring an end to capitalism. The academics, journalists and activists who told us that BLM was really only about fighting for ‘justice’ and ‘combating racism’ have proven themselves to be liars who were, at best, too scared to call BLM what it really was or, at worst, on board with the whole project since the start. Luckily the evidence is on our side as BLM’s very own website is packed to the brim with Marxist talking points and we know for a fact that the heads and founders of the movement are - as BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors said in a newly surfaced video from 2015 - ‘trained Marxists’.

But while this fact enables us to understand the real meaning of BLM, I feel obliged to point out that this is not the first time a Black Power or black nationalist group has aligned itself with far-left politics. On the contrary, the links between the far left and black power movements go back half a century and the modern BLM movement and its leaders and supporters take influence and direction from the far-left Black Power movements of the past. But on a deeper point, while the influence and direction from previous movements are important, it is key to understand that BLM is more refined in its Marxism than previous groups were, as I will explain shortly.

The most obvious comparison one can make in relation to BLM is the Black Panther groups of the 1960s. While King’s peaceful protests against segregation were by far more popular and garnered more public support from across racial and class lines, the Black Panther party drew a large degree of support for its radicalism and its connections to the far left. Like BLM, the Black Panthers was set up by a group of black Marxists, namely two Marxist college students named Bobby Seale and Huey Newton. In October 1966, they formed the Black Panther party which Seale described as “a righteous revolutionary front against this racist decadent, capitalistic system.” From the start, their concern was ending capitalism and bringing about a socialist society in which black people could live in, which is evidenced by their ‘Ten-Point Programme’ which is riddled with radical socialist policies: demanding free housing and mass employment, an end to ‘the robbery by the capitalists of our black community’ as well as the releasing of every black person imprisoned across the United States.

This is somewhat similar to BLM, who also hates capitalism, but their ‘What We Believe Page’, which lists their demands, is more akin to a list of desires for social change rather than economic change. This is how people can decry those calling BLM ‘Marxist’ as ‘politically illiterate conspiracy theorists’ as BLM’s demands are cultural and social and not economic. But to the contrary, this shift from the economic to the social and cultural is what makes their Marxism more refined. Instead of concentrating on housing and economic structures it focuses on using terms such as ‘hetronormative’, ‘patriarchal’ and they make constant use of (what I enjoy calling) the ‘unholy trinity’ of sexism, racism and homophobia. This proves that, unlike the Black Panthers who were typical economic Marxists in the sense that they thought that once capitalism was removed racism would be eliminated – a view shared by old Marxists such as Lenin and Trotsky – Black Lives Matter is more concerned about changing the culture and society.

The focus on combating social ills such as racism and sexism as well as a desire to, as their website says, ‘dismantle cisgender privilege’ is where their Marxism can be found. People often use the term ‘Cultural Marxism’ to refer to this and, on the face of it, this seems like an accurate term to use. The turning of class conflict into racial, sexual, etc., conflict or ‘identity politics’, the desire to undermine Christian and conservative social norms and the hatred of anything smacking of ‘whiteness’ are all components of undermining a society and a culture rather than an economic system. But I think a more accurate and more academic term for ‘Cultural Marxism’, and the desire to undermine social structure, would be cultural hegemony; an idea invented by the early 20th century Italian communist Antonio Gramsci.

Gramsci was thrown into prison by Mussolini during the 1920s and spent a great deal of time wondering why his socialist revolution had failed and why working-class people aligned more with the fascists than his communist party. He ended up identifying that the reason Mussolini was able to win was that he made use of ideas related to culture, history and tradition. Unlike the communists, the fascists drew upon ancient Rome, the Catholic church, the unification of Italy and other institutions, myths and events that galvanised public support across classes. The way Gramsci and the Italian communists agitated about class and economics was not effective as a means of creating mass support on the same level that Mussolini could.

Gramsci thus concluded that political hegemony - the control over the state and support of the public - is mostly enforced not through overt power, threats, and violence, but by an overarching societal ‘Superstructure’ that propagates culture and ideology. Obviously, a political elite can theoretically maintain their power through overt violence and force, but they run a much greater risk of being thrown out of power if they use just those tools. So Mussolini was making use of a cultural ‘Superstructure’ to maintain his power. In modern society, the ‘Superstructure’ consists of all of the social institutions that are responsible for controlling culture and ‘programming’ the populace: education, church, arts, literature, theatre, TV, radio, news media, corporations, etc. Thus, Gramsci concluded that attaining cultural hegemony should be achieved before attempting to attain political hegemony as one can more easily undermine culture than overthrow an economic system or take over a state.

This is what much of the modern left and BLM does. They have flipped their concentration from the economic and political realms to the realms of social and cultural issues. So while BLM is still somewhat concerned with ending capitalism, as the closely related Black Panthers were, its Marxism is more refined and sophisticated as it pertains to cultural and social issues which are far more effective ways to galvanise support and allow it to attract a wide base of supporters too.

This is why it is so dangerous, as it enables BLM to fool a large amount of people who would otherwise not support any radical movement. Even some mainstream conservatives and libertarians have taken a more conciliatory and even supportive tone towards BLM because BLM is not perceived to be as radical as previous black power groups. Their hatred for capitalism is not their main objective but their desires to radically change the police, overcome ‘systematic oppression’ and pull-down statues of historical figures who were ‘racist’ have interested and rubbed off on some of the more moderate and socially liberal libertarians, including the Libertarian presidential candidate Jo Jorgenson who has consistently supported BLM on her Twitter account.

My message to any classical liberal, libertarian or anyone who has, or continues to, sympathise with BLM is this: do not be fooled.

While Black Power groups have always been full to the brim with Marxists, BLM is different and is actually, in my opinion, far more dangerous than the Black Panthers of decades gone by. Their economic demands will likely never come to fruition but that is irrelevant as that is not their main aim. Their desires to have mandatory unconscious bias training in every institution, for the nuclear family unit to be undermined more than it already has been and for every norm or social value perceived to be ‘systematically oppressive’ to be torn to the ground, have far more traction than one might think. Just look at how the so-called darling of the modern right Priti Patel has pledged to implement diversity and unconscious bias training in the Home Office to combat ‘systemic racism’. If they can get Patel, they can get anyone.

Any self-respecting conservative, libertarian or right winger of any sort should not just oppose Black Lives Matter itself - and those journalists, politicians and academics that attempt to promote it as something that it is not – but recognise its refined Marxism for what it is: a desire to subvert the culture and social norms in order to gain actual power. BLM is Gramsci-like, through and through. So again, do not be fooled. BLM’s Marxism is much more refined, more corrosive, and more dangerous to the liberties and traditions that make this nation, and so many like it, great.

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