The emergence of identity politics in Western Europe has come swiftly and aggressively. One key figure in the mainstreaming of Marxism in Europe, who enjoys little popular recognition for his success, is Antonio Francesco Gramsci. Gramsci, an Italian philosopher and politician who was imprisoned during Mussolini’s reign, wrote more than 30 notebooks and 3,000 pages of history and analysis during his imprisonment. Many of his writings can be found in his three-volume Prison Notebooks.
Gramsci sought to break with Karl Marx’s economic determinism and base his theory on wielding and maintaining power by the ruling class, which has commonly become known as his theory of cultural hegemony. Gramsci believed that the ruling class, the bourgeoisie, used cultural institutions to maintain power. They use ideology, rather than violence or economic force, to propagate their own values by creating the capitalist zeitgeist. Cultural hegemony is maintained by the capitalist ruling class through the institutions that make up society’s superstructure. Gramscian Marxists define the superstructure as everything not directly having to do with production such as family, culture, religion, education, media, and law.
Gramsci’s counter-hegemony is also deeply rooted in today’s theory of intersectionality. It seeks to dismantle the existing cultural hegemony by ideological subversion and opposition, challenging the legitimacy of existing super-structural institutions like family, religion, and political power. Saul Alinsky describes the modus operandi for such an enterprise in the introduction to his book Rules for Radicals: “What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.”
A counter-hegemony, in essence, is an alternative ethical view of society that seeks to challenge, undermine, and replace the existing bourgeoisie power structure. It has been described by Neo-Gramscian theorist Nicola Pratt as the creation of a rival hegemony on the terrain of civil society in preparation for political change.
In Gramsci’s own words, he viewed the task thus: “Socialism is precisely the religion that must overwhelm Christianity. … In the new order, Socialism will triumph by first capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches, and the media by transforming the consciousness of society.”
One of the underlying problems with this type of Marxism is that an attack on the family and the Judeo-Christian values that sustain it leads to catastrophic economic and social effects. For example, in 2014 former British Welfare Minister Lord David Freud suggested that the breakdown of the family in the United Kingdom would cost taxpayers an estimated £46 billion. In America, the Brookings Institution’s Isabel Sawhill calculated that the breakdown of the family extracted $229 billion from U.S. taxpayers between 1970 and 1996. This figure includes the toll caused by teen pregnancy, crime, poverty, drug abuse, and health problems that have resulted from divorces or broken families. Benjamin Scafidi’s 2008 study for the Institute for American Values found that divorce and out-of-wedlock childbirth cost the American people $112 billion each year. Pope Saint John Paul II could not have been more correct when he called the natural family the building block of society.
This phenomenon, underpinned in part by the Gramscian Marxist rejection of institutions like Christianity and family, has also been premised on greater interference by national authorities into family privacy, whereby governments feel empowered to usurp the parental mantle from families themselves. The UK’s Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, for example, has reported a nearly 150 percent increase in the number of new child care cases since 2005-2006. To put that into perspective, the number of cases in a little more than a decade’s time increased from 6,613 new cases a year to 15,485 new cases. The figures from the first five months of this reporting year have shown an increase of 23 percent since the corresponding period last year. The situation has led experts such as Dave Hill, president of the Association of Director’s Children’s Services (ADCS), to call the situation a “national disgrace.”
A similar phenomenon is happening in Scandinavia. In 2015, 53,440 children received care from the Norwegian Child Welfare Services, the Barnevernet. This is a one-percent increase from the previous year and represents nearly three percent of all children in Norway. A disproportionate number of these children were taken from families where at least one of the parents is an immigrant.
Christianity and the concept of the natural family have been the twin anchors on which European culture has relied over the centuries for stability. Gramscian Marxism offers, at best, a self-inflicted wound to culture. At worst, it represents a path to totalitarianism which breeds anarchy and tribalism along the way. In the end, Alexis de Tocqueville’s words ring as true today as they did in the nineteenth century: “Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty; socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”