By Paul Kengor
A colleague who has read my book on the left’s takedown of family and marriage, as well as my recent related articles here at American Thinker, has been urging me to write on Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner. I demurred, noting my training is in history, not psychiatry. But my friend persisted, sensing a connection between Jenner’s journey and the journey I track of communists, socialists, and progressives taking down family and marriage. Leading that charge was a group of cultural Marxists from the Frankfurt School, who targeted the culture with their extreme ideas on sex and gender, which they aggressively introduced through the medium of American higher education.
To be sure, I doubt Bruce Jenner is a Marxist. I don’t know the man’s politics, and I’m open to the possibility that this entire thing is a reality-TV ruse. That said, there’s something to the connection between Jenner’s situation — particularly the cultural acceptance — and the goals of cultural Marxism. The whole sorry episode, from Bruce/Caitlyn to the perverse culture that applauds him/her, is reflective of the mass sexual confusion that cultural Marxists sought to unload on America.
I cannot here do full justice to these Marxists, but a few extracts from my book may be helpful:
The Frankfurt School was neo-Marxist, a new 20th-century communist less interested in economic/class-redistribution than a remaking of society through the eradication of traditional norms and institutions. They brought to Marxist theory not a passion for, say, more equitable tax policy, but, rather, tenets of psychology, sociology, and even Freudian teaching on sexuality. This group, writes one historian of the Frankfurt School, “focused its energies on what traditional Marxists had relegated to a secondary position, the cultural superstructure of modern society.” For them, the missing ingredient in the Marxist mold was psychological, and their theory to fill it was Freudian.
Thus, they pioneered a Freudian-Marxism, bringing together Marx’s noxious ideas with Freud’s neurotic ideas under one mad-capped ideological roof. The Frankfurt School concocted a toxic ideological brew that eventually would be devoured by a thirsty 1960s sexual-liberation culture teeming with dreams of fundamental transformation. Though the Frankfurt School certainly wasn’t calling for same-sex marriage — pure madness to any people in any day beyond our own — its comprehensive push for unhinged sexual openness with no cultural or religious restrictions leveled the door for almost anything down the road.
Who were these people?
There were many key Frankfurt School figures. In Takedown, I have full chapters on several of them. Here, I’ll offer a snapshot:
The founder was Georg Lukacs. Born in Hungary in April 1885, Lukacs was raised with a silver spoon, and despised his world. This included a red-hot hatred of gender roles, marriage, and family. “Woman,” Lukacs sneered, “is the enemy. Healthy love dies in marriage…. The bourgeois family gives off swamp vapors.”
For Lukacs and a close coterie of comrades, including the extremely influential Willi Munzenberg, the key to undermining Western civilization was not the factory-emancipation of working classes but culture. “Politics is only the means,” wrote Lukacs, “culture is the goal.”
A primary method they employed, noted Ralph de Toledano, was to saturate Western culture with a “miasma of unrestrained sex.” “The destruction of the West,” stated Toledano, “was to be achieved by the combination of neo-Marxism, neo-Freudianism… wrapped up in what euphemistically became known as Critical Theory.”
The hard fact for these communists was that at the core of Western civilization was a pesky morality derived from the Old and New Testaments, from the traditional family and tradition itself, from an understanding that freedom was not license, and from the realization that one’s passions needed to be occasionally checked. To Lukacs, these vital human realities that undergirded Western civilization were repressive obstacles to the new society they envisioned. “Of these obstacles,” wrote Toledano, “the two greatest were God and the family… Lukacs hotly hated both God and the family.”
Quite catastrophically, the ideas of these men began emanating directly from American soil. Many were Jewish Marxists. Thus, in the 1930s, amid the threats of Hitler’s Germany, they fled Germany.
They were in desperate search of a home for their political pathologies. But was there any academic asylum willing to lay out the red carpet for fugitive freaks of Freudian-Marxism? Yes, there was: Columbia University. A group of socialist and communist Columbia professors, led by John Dewey, founding father of American public education, worked over the university’s president. President Nicholas Murray Butler was so won over that he vowed to make the Frankfurt School integral to Columbia, even providing a building for the Freudian Reds. The store was soon open for business, with cultural Marxism the Red candy for the college kiddies.
Dewey was beside himself with joy. The Frankfurt School could partner with his Columbia Teachers College and, most exciting, could do cutting-edge research for his beloved National Education Association. The primary target would be the educational system to which naïve American parents delivered up their children. These communists and their “progressive” friends looked to the Greatest Generation to hand them a new generation of children to take down America. Those children would include the likes of Bill Ayers, Mark Rudd, Kate Millett — all Columbia students — Tom Hayden, Angela Davis, Bernardine Dohrn, and many more.
Pointing to the universities, Willi Munzenberg had urged, “We must organize the intellectuals.” And so they did.
Each of those intellectuals is a stunning story, but among the most influential were Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse.
Reich, born in Austria-Hungary in 1897, desperately searched for a unifying theory of Freudianism and Marxism. The theory could become therapy, a grand cure for individuals, for cultures, for the world.
After a series of lectures in the Soviet Union, Reich composed his manifesto, The Sexual Revolution. He was impressed by what the Kremlin was doing, but he underscored some shortcomings in areas of sexuality and family. He warned that the banning of homosexuality in Russia and any abortion restrictions would foretell “the demise of the Revolution.” For Reich, full revolution required full sexual license.
In Germany, Reich established the Association for Proletarian Sexual Politics, which reached a membership of 40,000. Like other Jewish Frankfurt Marxists, he fled Germany and, with the help of yet another Columbia professor and FDR’s State Department, immigrated to America, where he taught a course on “character formation” at the New School for Social Research in New York, founded by “progressive” educators, most notably Professor Dewey. Wilhelm Reich was now free to spawn his ideas in America.
Even more damaging than Reich was Herbert Marcuse.
Marcuse has been called the Father of the New Left due to his huge impact on ‘60s radicals. The European transplant uncorked his ideas at Harvard, Yale, Brandeis, the University of California system, and, naturally, Columbia.
Among Marcuse’s many revolutionary nostrums, he advocated what he called “polymorphous sexuality” or “polymorphous perversity,” which allowed for sexual gratification outside conventional channels of sexual behavior — really almost any means of gratification, including stimulation from or intercourse with the same sex, and at very young ages. Erotic pleasure could be derived from any part or portal of the body. An instructive description comes from the entry on Marcuse at the GLBTQ website, “GLBTQ: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture:”
Marcuse proposed sexual liberation through the cultivation of a “polymorphous perverse” sexuality (which includes oral, anal, and genital eroticism) that eschews a narrow focus on genital heterosexual intercourse.
Marcuse believed that sexual liberation was achieved by exploring new permutations of sexual desires, sexual activities, and gender roles — what Freud called “perverse” sexual desires, that is, all non-reproductive forms of sexual behavior, of which kissing, oral sex, and anal sex are familiar examples.
Marcuse was himself heterosexual, but he identified the homosexual as the radical standard bearer of sex for the sake of pleasure, a form of radical hedonism that repudiates those forms of repressive sexuality organized around genital heterosexuality and biological reproduction.…
Marcuse, like other leading theorists of sexuality, such as Freud and Wilhelm Reich, argued that homosexuality was a form of sexuality of which everyone was capable — that in fact, everyone was fundamentally bisexual.
This Father of the New Left was so influential in sexualizing Marxism and “deconstructing” traditional understandings of marriage and family that he is today celebrated for his “enormous influence” at the GLBTQ website: “Many young people in the 1960s adopted Marcuse-like sexual politics as the basis for the counter-culture’s radical transformation of values.”
We’re living that radical transformation right now, which brings us full circle to Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner.
In short, Jenner may never have been a card-carrying cultural Marxist, but his/her culture today stands in the perverse footprint set in part by the Frankfurt School on our culture and country. No, those old cultural Marxists did not invent same-sex marriage, but they helped ready the soil for today’s prevailing sexual-gender anarchy. Their giant collective petri dish was the American university, and much of what they planted is finally coming to fruition.
If Herbert Marcuse and Wilhelm Reich and their Frankfurt School comrades were around today, they would be awarding Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner an honorary degree for his/her recent feat, or at least a gold medal.
Paul Kengor’s newly released book is Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage. His other books include The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor and Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.