The Ghost of Antonio Gramsci
By Gary DeMar

For a long time American Vision has been calling on Christians to understand that social change comes from the bottom up, not the top down. This does not mean that the top should be ignored. There were converts in “Caesar’s household” (Phil. 4:22). Political involvement is God-ordained and “ministerial” (Rom. 13:1, 4), not redemptive (John 19:15; cf. Acts 17:7). With these principles in mind, more attention should be given to  family, church, education, business, law, art, journalism, and entertainment while not ignoring politics.

The Left learned this in the 1960s when their political agenda failed to accomplish their stated goals. Their radical agenda was shot down politically because the majority of Americans still retained a remnant of the older Christian worldview. The Left knew it would be necessary to capture those institutions that shape and mold children who will one day become leaders. Once the heart and mind are captured, everything else follows, including politics. This is a major tactical maneuver that most on the Right did not understand.

Antonio Gramsci’s philosophy for cultural and social change was the model for the new Leftists. Gramsci (1891–1937) considered Christianity to be the “force binding all the classes—peasants and workers and princes and 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.”[1] 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. Marxists taught “that everything valuable in life was within mankind.”[2]

The Christian masses rejected the secular foundation of Marx. 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.”[3] The building of the Berlin Wall was the most visible evidence of Gramsci’s 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,”[4] he believed that the road taken by traditional Marxists to “utopia” 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.’”[5] Instead, Marxism would have to put on a new face and talk about “national consensus,” “national unity,” and “national pacification.” Sound familiar? 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.”[6]

Even after all of these successes, Gramsci still understood that Christianity remained his biggest obstacle in achieving his newly formulated Marxist goals. He had to strip the mind 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.”[7]

The pagan notion of the separation of the two realms that has dogged orthodox Christianity since the first century had to be reintroduced.

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.[8]

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.”[9] Has Gramsci been successful? Most definitely. You’ve heard it said:

  • 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.

The transcendent is no longer a viable reference point in Blue America. All of life is immanent, that is, all that counts is the here and now. Establishment Republicans want to silence Christians. Democrats liberalized the Bible. They pick and choose only those Bible passages that they claim support their statist agenda. Libertarians, like Gramsci, believe “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.” America is haunted by the ghost of Antonio Gramsci.

[1] 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.

[2] Martin, The Keys of This Blood, 245.

[3] Martin, The Keys of This Blood, 248.

[4] Martin, The Keys of This Blood, 248.

[5] Martin, The Keys of This Blood, 249.

[6] Martin, The Keys of This Blood, 250.

[7] Martin, The Keys of This Blood, 251.

[8] Martin, The Keys of This Blood, 251.

[9] Martin, The Keys of This Blood, 251.