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Has the Ghost of Antonio Gramsci Returned?

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Under the Marxists, education had to be centralized in order to reshape the minds of the young so that they could more easily conform to the new social and political ideology. The State would become the educator, the new parent. While in a Christian context, schools act in a delegated capacity as en loco parentis (”in place of the parents”), under communism, the roles are reversed so that homes and schools reflect and perpetuate the agenda of the State. Like its future Nazi rival, the goal was to indoctrinate the youth with an alien worldview. Marxism’s optimistic although secular eschatology allowed it to purge the old from the new, generation by generation, and it was not averse to speeding up the process through systematic purges.

A large percentage of the generation that knew Joseph Stalin died as a direct result of his directives. These were purely political killings, “exterminations,” liquidations” of “the enemy class” and “undesirable elements.” How many were involved? Solzhenitsyn’s estimates reach as high as sixty million. Robert Conquest, author of The Great Terror,[1] fixed the number at well into the millions. It is doubtful if we will ever know the true total-God alone knows.[2]

Like Hitler, Lenin saw the value in monopolizing education and bringing it under the exclusive control of the State. He believed that time was on his side. The old order would pass away along with its outdated ideas regarding religion, family, and education. The process for change, however, had to begin with the children. The sooner they could be taken from their parents and broken from their links to the past, the sooner the reprogramming could take place. In his Principles of Communism of 1847, Engels had advocated the “education of all children, as soon as they are old enough to dispense with maternal care, in national institutions and at the charge of the nation.”[3] All facets of society must conform to the new ideology:

We are bringing the women into the social economy, into legislation and government. . . . We are establishing communal kitchens . . . infant asylums   . . . educational institutions of all kinds. In short, we are seriously carrying out the demand of our program for the transference of the economic and educational function of the separate household to society. . . . The children are brought up under more favourable conditions than at home. . . .[4]

Education was centralized. The “separate household” was transferred “to society.” Mothers would be encouraged to enter the work force in ever greater numbers. This would allow the State an opportunity to care for the children in “educational institutions of all kinds.”

The oppressive nature of the older Communism was noted by Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), a committed Marxist with a new approach to bring about cultural and social change. In order to capture democratic nations, a new model would have to be developed. Like the revolutionary Marxists before him, Gramsci considered Christianity to be the “force binding all the classes-peasants and workers and princes, priests and popes and all the rest besides, into a single, homogeneous culture. It was specifically Christian culture, in which individual men and women understood that the most important things about human life transcend the material conditions in which they lived out their mortal lives.”[5] Gramsci broke with Marx and Lenin’s belief that the masses would rise up and overthrow the ruling “superstructure.” No matter how oppressed the working classes might be, their Christian faith would not allow such an overthrow, Gramsci theorized. Marxism taught “that everything valuable in life was within mankind,”[6] but this unbridled secularism was rejected by Christians. Perceptively, Gramsci realized that in the long run what people did not ultimately believe in they would not fight for. Was Gramsci right? “The only Marxist state that existed” in Gramsci’s day “was imposed and maintained by force and by terrorist policies that duplicated and even exceeded the worst facets of Mussolini’s Fascism.”[7] The building of the Berlin Wall was the most visible evidence of Gramsci’s early critique of traditional Marxism. Walls had to be built to keep people from escaping the “Workers’ Paradise.” Today, a majority of Americans, including Christians, crave what Gramsci envisioned. Not a shot was fired or a wall built to bring Marxism to America.

While Gramsci was still a committed Marxist and “totally convinced that the material dimension of everything in the universe, including mankind, was the whole of it,”[8] he believed that the road taken to “utopia” by traditional Marxists was one lined with formidable obstacles. Gramsci began his re-imaging of Marxism by dropping the harsh slogans. “It wouldn’t do to rant about ‘revolution’ and ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ and the ‘Workers’ Paradise.’”[9] Instead, Marxism would have to put on a new face and talk about “national consensus,” “national unity,” and “national pacification.” The democratic process rather than revolution would be used to bring about the necessary changes. At first, pluralism would be promoted and defended. Further, Marxists would join with other oppressed groups-even if they did not share Marxist ideals-to create a unified coalition of voting power. After building their coalition “they must enter into every civil, cultural and political activity in every nation, patiently leavening them all as thoroughly as yeast leavens bread.”[10] To change the culture, Gramsci argued, “would require a ‘long march through the institutions’-the arts, cinema, theater, schools, colleges, seminaries, newspapers, magazines, and the new electronic medium [of the time], radio.”[11]

Following Gramsci’s paradigm, the mind had to be stripped of any notion of the transcendent-”that there is nothing beyond the matter of this universe. There is nothing in existence that transcends man-his material organism within his material surroundings.”[12] The pagan notion of the separation of the two realms[13] that has dogged orthodox Christianity since the first century had to be reintroduced and reinforced:

In the most practical terms, he needed to get individuals and groups in every class and station of life to think about life’s problems without reference to the Christian transcendent, without reference to God and the laws of God. He needed to get them to react with antipathy and positive opposition to any introduction of Christian ideals or the Christian transcendent into the treatment and solution of the problems of modern life.[14]

The here and now must be absolutized and made the reference point for everything we think and do. “Everything must be done in the name of man’s dignity and rights, and in the name of his autonomy and freedom from outside constraint. From the claims and constraints of Christianity, above all.”[15] Has Gramsci been successful? You be the judge:

  • What a person does in his private life does not affect his ability to govern.
  • It’s just about sex, even if it’s adultery.
  • Religion and politics don’t mix.
  • You can’t impose your morality on others.
  • You can’t legislate morality.
  • Religion has no business in the classroom; it’s a private affair.
  • There’s a separation between church and state.

The transcendent is no longer a viable reference point in American public schools. All of life is immanent, that is, all that counts is this world. America is haunted by the ghost of Antonio Gramsci, and the specter of his image that haunts the halls of every public school in America also haunts the corridors of political power in Washington.

Footnotes:
[1] Conquest has a done a major revision of this work using newly available evidence from the glasnost era: The Great Terror: A Reassessment (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990). Also see Mark Kramer, ed., The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999).
[2]
Lloyd Billingsley, The Generation that Knew Not Josef (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1985), 37. During the era of glasnost, Stalin’s past had literally been dug up. “A government commission has found that thousands of skulls and bones buried in a mass grave outside Kiev were those of victims killed during dictator Josef Stalin’s repressions, not by Nazi soldiers, Tass, the state-run news agency, has reported.” (”Mass Grave Near Kiev Holds Stalin’s Victims, Panel Says,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch [March 26, 1989]). Under Stalin, “more than 600,000 death sentences” were meted out and “at least five million” people were arrested “in the worst years of 1937-38. He destroyed children as well as old people, nobodies and party favorites. . . . In the countryside in 1932-33, as many as eight million starved to death in accordance with an agricultural policy based on killing kulaks (farmers) outright or just wasting their lands.” (Peter Keresztes, “Murder of Millions,” The Wall Street Journal [August 31, 1989], A13).
[3]
Quoted in Francis Nigel Lee, Communist Eschatology: A Christian Philosophical Analysis of the Post-Capitalistic Views of Marx, Engels and Lenin (Nutley, NJ: The Craig Press, 1974), 351.
[4]
Quoted in Lee, Communist Eschatology, 350.
[5] Malachi Martin, The Keys of This Blood: The Struggle for World Dominion Between Pope John II, Mikhail Gorbachev and the Capitalist West (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990), 245.
[6]
Martin, The Keys of This Blood, 245.
[7]
Martin, The Keys of This Blood, 248.
[8] Martin, The Keys of This Blood, 248.
[9] Martin, The Keys of This Blood, 249.
[10] Martin, The Keys of This Blood, 250.
[11]
Patrick J. Buchanan, Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization (New York: St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne Books, 2001), 77.
[12]
Martin, The Keys of This Blood, 251.
[13]
See Peter E. Gillquist, Why We Haven’t Changed the World (Fleming H. Revell, 1982), 43.
[14]
Martin, The Keys of This Blood, 251.
[15]
Martin, The Keys of This Blood, 251.

 

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