Origins of P.C.

The Origins of Political Correctness

AnAccuracy in Academia Address by Bill Lind

Variationsof this speech have been delivered to various AIA conferences including the2000 Consevative University at American University

Where does all this stuff that you’ve heardabout this morning – the victim feminism, the gay rights movement, the inventedstatistics, the rewritten history, the lies, the demands, all the rest of it –where does it come from? For the first time in our history, Americans have tobe fearful of what they say, of what they write, and of what they think. Theyhave to be afraid of using the wrong word, a word denounced as offensive orinsensitive, or racist, sexist, or homophobic.

We have seen other countries, particularly inthis century, where this has been the case. And we have always regarded themwith a mixture of pity, and to be truthful, some amusement, because it hasstruck us as so strange that people would allow a situation to develop wherethey would be afraid of what words they used. But we now have this situation inthis country. We have it primarily on college campuses, but it is spreadingthroughout the whole society. Were does it come from? What is it?

We call it “Political Correctness.” The nameoriginated as something of a joke, literally in a comic strip, and we tendstill to think of it as only half-serious. In fact, it’s deadly serious. It isthe great disease of our century, the disease that has left tens of millions ofpeople dead in Europe, in Russia, in China, indeed around the world. It is thedisease of ideology. PC is not funny. PC is deadly serious.

If we look at it analytically, if we look atit historically, we quickly find out exactly what it is. Political Correctnessis cultural Marxism. It is Marxism translated from economic into culturalterms. It is an effort that goes back not to the 1960s and the hippies and thepeace movement, but back to World War I. If we compare the basic tenets ofPolitical Correctness with classical Marxism the parallels are very obvious.

First of all, both are totalitarianideologies. The totalitarian nature of Political Correctness is revealednowhere more clearly than on college campuses, many of which at this point aresmall ivy covered North Koreas, where the student or faculty member who daresto cross any of the lines set up by the gender feminist or thehomosexual-rights activists, or the local black or Hispanic group, or any ofthe other sainted “victims” groups that PC revolves around, quickly findthemselves in judicial trouble. Within the small legal system of the college,they face formal charges – some star-chamber proceeding – and punishment. Thatis a little look into the future that Political Correctness intends for thenation as a whole.

Indeed, all ideologies are totalitarianbecause the essence of an ideology (I would note that conservatism correctlyunderstood is not an ideology) is to take some philosophy and say on the basisof this philosophy certain things must be true – such as the whole of thehistory of our culture is the history of the oppression of women. Since realitycontradicts that, reality must be forbidden. It must become forbidden toacknowledge the reality of our history. People must be forced to live a lie,and since people are naturally reluctant to live a lie, they naturally usetheir ears and eyes to look out and say, “Wait a minute. This isn’t true. I cansee it isn’t true,” the power of the state must be put behind the demand tolive a lie. That is why ideology invariably creates a totalitarian state.

Second, the cultural Marxism of PoliticalCorrectness, like economic Marxism, has a single factor explanation of history.Economic Marxism says that all of history is determined by ownership of meansof production. Cultural Marxism, or Political Correctness, says that allhistory is determined by power, by which groups defined in terms of race, sex,etc., have power over which other groups. Nothing else matters. All literature,indeed, is about that. Everything in the past is about that one thing.

Third, just as in classical economic Marxismcertain groups, i.e. workers and peasants, are a priori good, and other groups,i.e., the bourgeoisie and capital owners, are evil. In the cultural Marxism ofPolitical Correctness certain groups are good – feminist women, (only feministwomen, non-feminist women are deemed not to exist) blacks, Hispanics,homosexuals. These groups are determined to be “victims,” and thereforeautomatically good regardless of what any of them do. Similarly, white malesare determined automatically to be evil, thereby becoming the equivalent of thebourgeoisie in economic Marxism.

Fourth, both economic and cultural Marxismrely on expropriation. When the classical Marxists, the communists, took over acountry like Russia, they expropriated the bourgeoisie, they took away theirproperty. Similarly, when the cultural Marxists take over a university campus,they expropriate through things like quotas for admissions. When a whitestudent with superior qualifications is denied admittance to a college in favorof a black or Hispanic who isn’t as well qualified, the white student isexpropriated. And indeed, affirmative action, in our whole society today, is asystem of expropriation. White owned companies don’t get a contract because thecontract is reserved for a company owned by, say, Hispanics or women. Soexpropriation is a principle tool for both forms of Marxism.

And finally, both have a method of analysisthat automatically gives the answers they want. For the classical Marxist, it’sMarxist economics. For the cultural Marxist, it’s deconstruction.Deconstruction essentially takes any text, removes all meaning from it andre-inserts any meaning desired. So we find, for example, that all ofShakespeare is about the suppression of women, or the Bible is really aboutrace and gender. All of these texts simply become grist for the mill, which provesthat “all history is about which groups have power over which other groups.” Sothe parallels are very evident between the classical Marxism that we’refamiliar with in the old Soviet Union and the cultural Marxism that we seetoday as Political Correctness.

But the parallels are not accidents. Theparallels did not come from nothing. The fact of the matter is that PoliticalCorrectness has a history, a history that is much longer than many people areaware of outside a small group of academics who have studied this. And thehistory goes back, as I said, to World War I, as do so many of the pathologiesthat are today bringing our society, and indeed our culture, down.

Marxist theory said that when the generalEuropean war came (as it did come in Europe in 1914), the working classthroughout Europe would rise up and overthrow their governments – the bourgeoisgovernments – because the workers had more in common with each other across thenational boundaries than they had in common with the bourgeoisie and the rulingclass in their own country. Well, 1914 came and it didn’t happen. ThroughoutEurope, workers rallied to their flag and happily marched off to fight eachother. The Kaiser shook hands with the leaders of the Marxist Social DemocraticParty in Germany and said there are no parties now, there are only Germans. Andthis happened in every country in Europe. So something was wrong.

Marxists knew by definition it couldn’t be thetheory. In 1917, they finally got a Marxist coup in Russia and it looked likethe theory was working, but it stalled again. It didn’t spread and whenattempts were made to spread immediately after the war, with the Spartacistuprising in Berlin, with the Bela Kun government in Hungary, with the MunichSoviet, the workers didn’t support them.

So the Marxists’ had a problem. And twoMarxist theorists went to work on it: Antonio Gramsci in Italy and Georg Lukacsin Hungary. Gramsci said the workers will never see their true class interests,as defined by Marxism, until they are freed from Western culture, andparticularly from the Christian religion – that they are blinded by culture andreligion to their true class interests. Lukacs, who was considered the mostbrilliant Marxist theorist since Marx himself, said in 1919, “Who will save usfrom Western Civilization?” He also theorized that the great obstacle to thecreation of a Marxist paradise was the culture: Western civilization itself.

Lukacs gets a chance to put his ideas intopractice, because when the home grown Bolshevik Bela Kun government isestablished in Hungary in 1919, he becomes deputy commissar for culture, andthe first thing he did was introduce sex education into the Hungarian schools.This ensured that the workers would not support the Bela Kun government,because the Hungarian people looked at this aghast, workers as well as everyoneelse. But he had already made the connection that today many of us are stillsurprised by, that we would consider the “latest thing.”

In 1923 in Germany, a think-tank isestablished that takes on the role of translating Marxism from economic intocultural terms, that creates Political Correctness as we know it today, andessentially it has created the basis for it by the end of the 1930s. This comesabout because the very wealthy young son of a millionaire German trader by thename of Felix Weil has become a Marxist and has lots of money to spend. He isdisturbed by the divisions among the Marxists, so he sponsors something calledthe First Marxist Work Week, where he brings Lukacs and many of the key Germanthinkers together for a week, working on the differences of Marxism.

And he says, “What we need is a think-tank.”Washington is full of think tanks and we think of them as very modern. In factthey go back quite a ways. He endows an institute, associated with FrankfurtUniversity, established in 1923, that was originally supposed to be known asthe Institute for Marxism. But the people behind it decided at the beginningthat it was not to their advantage to be openly identified as Marxist. The lastthing Political Correctness wants is for people to figure out it’s a form ofMarxism. So instead they decide to name it the Institute for Social Research.

Weil is very clear about his goals. In 1971,he wrote to Martin Jay the author of a principle book on the Frankfurt School,as the Institute for Social Research soon becomes known informally, and hesaid, “I wanted the institute to become known, perhaps famous, due to itscontributions to Marxism.” Well, he was successful. The first director of theInstitute, Carl Grunberg, an Austrian economist, concluded his opening address,according to Martin Jay, “by clearly stating his personal allegiance to Marxismas a scientific methodology.” Marxism, he said, would be the ruling principleat the Institute, and that never changed.
The initial work at the Institute was rather conventional, but in 1930 itacquired a new director named Max Horkheimer, and Horkheimer’s views were verydifferent. He was very much a Marxist renegade. The people who create and formthe Frankfurt School are renegade Marxists. They’re still very much Marxist intheir thinking, but they’re effectively run out of the party. Moscow looks atwhat they are doing and says, “Hey, this isn’t us, and we’re not going to blessthis.”

Horkheimer’s initial heresy is that he is veryinterested in Freud, and the key to making the translation of Marxism fromeconomic into cultural terms is essentially that he combined it with Freudism.Again, Martin Jay writes, “If it can be said that in the early years of itshistory, the Institute concerned itself primarily with an analysis of bourgeoissociety’s socio-economic sub-structure,” – and I point out that Jay is verysympathetic to the Frankfurt School, I’m not reading from a critic here – “inthe years after 1930 its primary interests lay in its cultural superstructure.Indeed the traditional Marxist formula regarding the relationship between thetwo was brought into question by Critical Theory.”

The stuff we’ve been hearing about thismorning – the radical feminism, the women’s studies departments, the gaystudies departments, the black studies departments – all these things arebranches of Critical Theory. What the Frankfurt School essentially does is drawon both Marx and Freud in the 1930s to create this theory called CriticalTheory. The term is ingenious because you’re tempted to ask, “What is thetheory?” The theory is to criticize. The theory is that the way to bring downWestern culture and the capitalist order is not to lay down an alternative.They explicitly refuse to do that. They say it can’t be done, that we can’timagine what a free society would look like (their definition of a freesociety). As long as we’re living under repression – the repression of acapitalistic economic order which creates (in their theory) the Freudiancondition, the conditions that Freud describes in individuals of repression –we can’t even imagine it. What Critical Theory is about is simply criticizing.It calls for the most destructive criticism possible, in every possible way,designed to bring the current order down. And, of course, when we hear from thefeminists that the whole of society is just out to get women and so on, thatkind of criticism is a derivative of Critical Theory. It is all coming from the1930s, not the 1960s.

Other key members who join up around this timeare Theodore Adorno, and, most importantly, Erich Fromm and Herbert Marcuse.Fromm and Marcuse introduce an element which is central to PoliticalCorrectness, and that’s the sexual element. And particularly Marcuse, who inhis own writings calls for a society of “polymorphous perversity,” that is hisdefinition of the future of the world that they want to create. Marcuse inparticular by the 1930s is writing some very extreme stuff on the need forsexual liberation, but this runs through the whole Institute. So do most of thethemes we see in Political Correctness, again in the early 30s. In Fromm’sview, masculinity and femininity were not reflections of ‘essential’ sexualdifferences, as the Romantics had thought. They were derived instead fromdifferences in life functions, which were in part socially determined.” Sex isa construct; sexual differences are a construct.

Another example is the emphasis we now see onenvironmentalism. “Materialism as far back as Hobbes had led to a manipulativedominating attitude toward nature.” That was Horkhemier writing in 1933 inMaterialismus und Moral. “The theme of man’s domination of nature,” accordingto Jay, ” was to become a central concern of the Frankfurt School in subsequentyears.” “Horkheimer’s antagonism to the fetishization of labor, (here’s werethey’re obviously departing from Marxist orthodoxy) expressed another dimensionof his materialism, the demand for human, sensual happiness.” In one of hismost trenchant essays, Egoism and the Movement for Emancipation, written in1936, Horkeimer “discussed the hostility to personal gratification inherent inbourgeois culture.” And he specifically referred to the Marquis de Sade,favorably, for his “protest…against asceticism in the name of a highermorality.”

How does all of this stuff flood in here? Howdoes it flood into our universities, and indeed into our lives today? Themembers of the Frankfurt School are Marxist, they are also, to a man, Jewish.In 1933 the Nazis came to power in Germany, and not surprisingly they shut downthe Institute for Social Research. And its members fled. They fled to New YorkCity, and the Institute was reestablished there in 1933 with help from ColumbiaUniversity. And the members of the Institute, gradually through the 1930s, thoughmany of them remained writing in German, shift their focus from Critical Theoryabout German society, destructive criticism about every aspect of that society,to Critical Theory directed toward American society. There is another veryimportant transition when the war comes. Some of them go to work for thegovernment, including Herbert Marcuse, who became a key figure in the OSS (thepredecessor to the CIA), and some, including Horkheimer and Adorno, move toHollywood.

These origins of Political Correctness wouldprobably not mean too much to us today except for two subsequent events. Thefirst was the student rebellion in the mid-1960s, which was driven largely byresistance to the draft and the Vietnam War. But the student rebels neededtheory of some sort. They couldn’t just get out there and say, “Hell no wewon’t go,” they had to have some theoretical explanation behind it. Very few ofthem were interested in wading through Das Kapital. Classical, economic Marxismis not light, and most of the radicals of the 60s were not deep. Fortunatelyfor them, and unfortunately for our country today, and not just in theuniversity, Herbert Marcuse remained in America when the Frankfurt Schoolrelocated back to Frankfurt after the war. And whereas Mr. Adorno in Germany isappalled by the student rebellion when it breaks out there – when the studentrebels come into Adorno’s classroom, he calls the police and has them arrested– Herbert Marcuse, who remained here, saw the 60s student rebellion as thegreat chance. He saw the opportunity to take the work of the Frankfurt Schooland make it the theory of the New Left in the United States.

One of Marcuse’s books was the key book. Itvirtually became the bible of the SDS and the student rebels of the 60s. Thatbook was Eros and Civilization. Marcuse argues that under a capitalistic order(he downplays the Marxism very strongly here, it is subtitled, A PhilosophicalInquiry into Freud, but the framework is Marxist), repression is the essence ofthat order and that gives us the person Freud describes – the person with allthe hang-ups, the neuroses, because his sexual instincts are repressed. We canenvision a future, if we can only destroy this existing oppressive order, inwhich we liberate eros, we liberate libido, in which we have a world of“polymorphous perversity,” in which you can “do you own thing.” And by the way,in that world there will no longer be work, only play. What a wonderful messagefor the radicals of the mid-60s! They’re students, they’re baby-boomers, andthey’ve grown up never having to worry about anything except eventually havingto get a job. And here is a guy writing in a way they can easily follow. Hedoesn’t require them to read a lot of heavy Marxism and tells them everythingthey want to hear which is essentially, “Do your own thing,” “If it feels gooddo it,” and “You never have to go to work.” By the way, Marcuse is also the manwho creates the phrase, “Make love, not war.” Coming back to the situationpeople face on campus, Marcuse defines “liberating tolerance” as intolerancefor anything coming from the Right and tolerance for anything coming from theLeft. Marcuse joined the Frankfurt School, in 1932 (if I remember right). So,all of this goes back to the 1930s.

In conclusion, America today is in the throes of thegreatest and direst transformation in its history. We are becoming anideological state, a country with an official state ideology enforced by thepower of the state. In “hate crimes” we now have people serving jail sentencesfor political thoughts. And the Congress is now moving to expand that categoryever further. Affirmative action is part of it. The terror against anyone whodissents from Political Correctness on campus is part of it. It’s exactly whatwe have seen happen in Russia, in Germany, in Italy, in China, and now it’scoming here. And we don’t recognize it because we call it Political Correctnessand laugh it off. My message today is that it’s not funny, it’s here, it’sgrowing and it will eventually destroy, as it seeks to destroy, everything thatwe have ever defined as our freedom and our culture.