If there is one clear lesson from the 20th century, it is that all ideologies are dangerous. As Russell Kirk wrote, conservatism is not an ideology, it is the negation of ideology. Conservatism values what has grown up over time, over many generations, in the form of traditions, customs and habits. Ideology, in contrast, says that on the basis of such-and-such a philosophy, certain things must be true. When reality contradicts that deduction, reality must be suppressed. And when an ideology takes over a state, the power of the state is used to accomplish that suppression. The state’s citizens are forced to mouth lies.
One of the new facts the next conservatism must address is the fact that America, for the first time in its history, has become an ideological state. The ideology commonly known as “political correctness” or “multiculturalism” now shapes the actions of government in thousands of ways. Under the rubric of “hate crimes,” it sentences American citizens to additional time in jail for political thoughts. As “affirmative action,” it “privileges” women, blacks and homosexuals over heterosexual white males. In some cases, it requires private businesses to give their employees “sensitivity training,” psychological conditioning in obedience to the state ideology, including its demand that everyone express approval of homosexuality. Employees who demur lose their jobs.
It is ironic that after the catastrophic failure of ideologies in the 20th century in Russia, Germany, Italy and many other countries, America should now head down the same road. How did it happen? While conservatives slept, ideology crept in on little cat feet, taking over all our cultural institutions, just as Gramsci demanded in his “long march.” As I have said before, culture is more powerful than politics.
What should the next conservatism do about it? First, it needs to reveal this ideology for what it is. In terms of its historical origins and basic nature, it is Marxism translated from economic into cultural terms. The translation was undertaken largely by the unorthodox Marxists of the Frankfurt School ? Horkheimer, Adorno, Fromm, Reich and Marcuse, to name the most important players. Contrary to Marx, they said that the culture is not just part of society’s “superstructure,” but an independent and very important variable. They concluded that for Communism to be possible in the West, traditional Western culture and the Christian religion first had to be destroyed ? a destruction to be accomplished by “critical theory” and “studies in prejudice,” to use their terms. Most important, they realized they could not destroy our historic culture through philosophical arguments. They turned instead to a much more powerful weapon, psychological conditioning, in effect crossing Marx with Freud. Marcuse then injected the whole poisonous brew into the baby boom generation in the 1960s. The result? A brilliant success for them: America now has a Marxist ideology, not the Marxism of the Soviet Union but cultural Marxism, imbedded in and supported by the power of the state.
The next conservatism needs to shout from the housetops, “People, here’s what this stuff really is. It’s not about ‘being nice’ or ‘toleration.’ It’s about destroying our culture and our religion, and it is succeeding.”
Then, when we have the American people behind us, which we will once they learn the real nature of “PC,” we need to comb through every law, every government regulation, every federal office and department and weed the cultural Marxism out. The goal should not be to replace it with any ideology of our own ? again, if we are real conservatives, we don’t have one ? but to restore a non-ideological American state, which is what we had up until the wretched 1960s.
Cultural Marxism is a particularly nasty ideology, as we see all around us in its products (just turn on the television; the cultural Marxists took over Hollywood decades ago). But all ideology is wrong, because the concept of ideology is wrong in itself. Society cannot be made to fit some abstract scheme dreamed up by this or that thinker, and attempts to make it do so always result in disaster. To see the truth, all we need to do is compare most aspects of life in America in the 1950s, our last non-ideological decade, with life now. The next conservatism should work to get our old country back.