All kinds of names have been used to describe the ideology of the new social revolution sweeping through the U.S. and the EU. These names include ‘cultural Marxism,’ neo-Marxism, gender theory, and quite a few others. But one word is customarily avoided when discussing this ideology: communist.
There are two major reasons for this. First, those on the Right fear being portrayed as alarmist. They worry that the use of this word will expose them to the charge of using highly pejorative—and even insulting—terms, given the genocide that was committed in the name of communism in the not-too-distant past.
The second reason is that the Right’s narrative, until recently, has been that communism was ultimately defeated in the 1980s. And indeed, after the ’80s, the Left has not attempted—at least openly—to explicitly defend communism. On the face of it, this is a good thing; but the problem is that those on the Left have in many ways become even more communist than their predecessors in the so-called ‘people’s democracies’—and far more so than the social democrats of old.
It is true that Marx’s prediction of the collapse of capitalism has failed to be fulfilled. The “workers of the world” did not unite, nor did they overthrow capitalism. Instead, the communist movement became dominated by Lenin’s party model, which emphasized the role of the proletarian vanguard within tightly knit parties controlled by their leaderships. Lenin termed this “democratic centralism.” This was the Soviet model which was replicated in many parts of the world.
But the goal of communism was not the creation of a state dominated by a single party. Instead, traditional communism was intended to create a world without nations, states, patriarchy, religion—the “opium of the people”—and exploitation of man and nature. These are goals which the Left has increasingly embraced in the 21st century.
The role of professional and managerial elites
Instead of the working class, it is the elites—the professional class—and the middle class who have become the social and electoral base of the new revolution. We saw the beginnings of this in 1968 with the student revolts of that year. After that experience, many on the Left began to give up on the working class. However, the move in that direction actually began earlier.
The strength of the Left within the world of managers, business officer, and white-collar workers began to grow soon after the end of the Second World War. The European Left, within its own democracies, developed a model of public ownership based on corporations accountable to governments. This model freed given industries, public utilities, and public services from the strictures and discipline of the marketplace. Instead of market pressures, the model introduced interference in the operations of these companies by politicians and trades unionists, and it introduced relatively lower levels of remuneration for their managers than were available in the private sector.
In the meantime, as the process of amalgamation continued in the private sector, managers began to look for new markets, for ways to free themselves from the influence of shareholders, and for ways to reduce competition on the market. They did not desire interference by politicians or unions; but they envied the way their public sector cousins were able to receive state subsidies while getting others (taxpayers) to bankroll any losses.
Private sector managers gradually found ways to circumvent both accountability to shareholders (through dispersed share ownership) and the marketplace (via creative accounting). And when the financial sector found itself in serious trouble in 2008, they even found a way of receiving state subsidies that their public sector predecessors had never dreamed of.
Public sector managers also found a way out of their problems. In some cases that was through quasi-privatization, which enabled them to manage natural monopolies without much accountability to the state or the marketplace. In other cases, this was accomplished by distancing themselves from the policy-making process and, instead, developing complicated structures such as ‘quangos’ (state-funded, semi-public administrative bodies located outside the formal civil service).
Politicians found the emerging arrangement agreeable as a way of avoiding responsibility and accountability. This was not accomplished exclusively (or even primarily) by privatizing or dispersing policy-making to quasi-independent institutions. In Europe, for instance, the most significant development has been the growth of the EU’s complicated and bureaucratic structure. The EU has enabled national-level politicians to hide behind decisions taken collectively at the European level and to blame others for them.
What has emerged is what we can call a circle of irresponsibility and unaccountability, in which politicians—as well as public and private corporate managers—operate. It’s not surprising that this arrangement has led to severe disillusionment on the part of the broader public. The non-executive workforce, as well as small- and medium-sized businesses, have had to operate in a real market situation in which their living standards and quality of life were clobbered by a pyramid of public and private corporate debt which led to unemployment, cuts in public services, price increases, and higher taxes. The managers and the politicians have, of course, largely protected themselves—and their pensions, salaries, and even bonuses—against these consequences.
The death of capitalism
The managerial class now sees globalization of the economy and internationalization of government as the primary means of retaining power. Differences between the traditional parties of the Left and Right have, by and large, become entirely irrelevant for them. Anyone attending the gatherings of the Bilderberg Group would not be able to tell who is, theoretically speaking, from the Right or the Left of the political spectrum. The goal is to enable international institutions, which take away or at least obscure national-level responsibility, to function. The workings of global institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF, and the EU are what preoccupies them.
Through this globalization process, their ultimate objective is to create a situation in which the sky-high mountain of debt that has accumulated will be swallowed up in a coordinated fashion, either by joint guarantees of international institutions or, in less auspicious circumstances, through coordinated devaluation—although it would be difficult to coordinate the sectarian interests involved. If this process fails, the fallback would be good old-fashioned military warfare that creates demand during and after the conflict, kills off surplus labor, and allows for extraordinary measures to deal with debts and dissenters alike. However, this is the weapon of last resort (pun intended).
What I have described above is not in any way a conspiracy. It’s simply a natural confluence of interests: those of managers from the public and private corporate sector, as well as those of politicians. These individuals did not sit down and work things out in this way. But now that such a situation has taken hold, it is in their interests to preserve it for as long as possible—and to stop any possible rebellion by those whose interests are adversely affected by this emerging paradigm.
Such managers and politicians have plenty of instruments of both persuasion and coercion at hand. Persuasion occurs through the media and via electoral bribes. Coercion, in turn, takes place through surveillance, law enforcement, and the judicial system. If this balance of persuasion and coercion is disturbed the system stops working. Another threat to this balance is a potential ‘quarrel at the top,’ in which the benefactors of the new paradigm would begin to fight amongst themselves for the spoils. This can occur if there are not enough spoils to go around.
Whatever happens, traditional capitalism appears to be dead, and it’s the managerial class—not the workers—that has killed it. True, capitalism could only be revived if the current paradigm were to collapse. However, the problem with such a collapse is that it would be worse for those who oppose it than for those who support it. The victims of wars and economic depressions are rarely to be found inside boardrooms. So, the show will go on.
In the end, the poor and small businessmen will pay for the crisis. What is fascinating in all this, however, is that the communists of the 21st century don’t care about the fallout and are, instead, staying focused on the building of a future society according to Marx’s dreams.
The collapse of the command economies and one-party communist states was a setback for the Left—but only to an extent. In the long-term, getting rid of an obsolete model based on autarchy and heavy industry benefitted the Left, which could concentrate on trying to achieve communism—this time without the grubby working class and its hang-ups about nation and family. And in attacking the church, heavy industry, family, and the nation-state, the communists now have a powerful ally: international corporations, for whom families, religion, heavy industry, and national boundaries and limitations are obstacles to development. They very much desire a world in which movement of labor is free, so that its costs could be kept down.
In the meantime, politicians from the traditional parties also began to see benefits in supranational solutions (that is, passing on responsibility onto others for unpopular decisions) and in building niche electorates centered around gender politics, multiculturalism, and ecology (the latter to accelerate the dismantling of traditional heavy industry).
It would only be through attacking the military with pacifism that the Left would encounter major resistance. And pacifism is the one strand of communist thinking which has remained on the backburner ever since the collapse of the USSR. Communists no longer favor the one-party model that prevails in China, nor do they have much time for Islamism. But they will not confront either because their primary objective is to focus on seizing power in the West, not waging war on the West’s enemies.
Calling out today’s communists
The way the communists of the 21st century have operated has been versatile and effective. They rightly saw that the old ways of political organization in the new post-industrial order would not work. Mass parties of the Left and trade unions were yesterday’s news. Instead, they sought ideological hegemony through what Gramsci described as the “march through the institutions.” This was carried out working in small circles or cells of influence—in the media, in education, in the professions, and in emerging civil society non-governmental organizations.
The 21st century communists have proved to be far more flexible, pragmatic, and versatile than the old communist or social democratic parties of the 20th century. They are far more prepared to infiltrate existing political structures and collaborate with unlikely allies. They exert enormous influence on the political scene in Europe, with their ideas accepted by political forces that comprise the socialist, liberal, and even right-of-center European parties in the European Popular Party (EPP). Even the British Conservative Party has accepted parts of that agenda. In the U.S., the ideas of this agenda are now widely accepted within the Democratic Party. There are very few bastions of politics, commerce, the professions, the media, or showbiz in which their ideas are not dominant. They have defined political correctness—and now control the language and the agenda of political discourse.
The ideology of the largest supranational structure, the EU, is no longer Schuman but Marx. This was confirmed when Jean-Claude Juncker presided over the unveiling of a giant statue of Karl Marx in Germany that was paid for by—wait for it—the Chinese. Eurocrats, of course, talk of universal liberal values such as human rights—but these values are increasingly defined by communist conceptions of the human person.
The conservatives in Europe and the U.S. have been in retreat throughout the 21st century. The days of Reagan and Thatcher are long gone. Brexit, Trump, Orbán, and Kaczynski are evidence that there is still some resistance out there. But the problem for American Republicans, British Conservatives, and for those in Hungary and Poland is that they have to fight not just external foes who oppose democracy and freedom (such as China, Islamism, and Russian imperialism) but, first and foremost, communist ideas that are attacking them from within—and on a scale that neither Reagan nor Thatcher ever had to face.
Although Orbán, Kaczynski, Trump, and the Brexiteers in the UK have given those defending the nation-state, Christianity, and the family some breathing room, if conservatives elsewhere in Europe do not get their act together, they—like General Custer—will not be able to hold out forever.
The communist revolution of today is far more difficult to fight than that pushed by the communist states of the 20th century. Perhaps the first thing that needs to be done to bolster our fight is admit that what we are facing is essentially a revolution aimed at moving the world towards communism. And since the objectives of this revolution are communist, then let us call them and their advocates by that very name. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. Today’s communists should not be allowed to triumph—nor should they be allowed to escape the legacy of communism in the 20th century, with its many failed attempts to create a communist paradise in the USSR, China, North Korea, or Cuba.
Krzysztof Mularczyk is a broadcast journalist who works for TVP World where he hosts the “World Today” programme. He has in the past written for Political Economy and Warsaw Business Journal, as well as the Polish language press such as Wprost, Rzeczpospolita, and Życie. He has also worked extensively in senior management of civil society organizations and public relations, as well as for foreign public and private donors during the pre-accession phase in Central Europe and the Balkans.