Elitists of the World Unite

What happens if you get your Marxism upside down?

By Clint Roberts Published on June 14, 2024

The French Revolution — it was the best of times, it was the craziest of times. All those hungry peasants rose up in righteous revolt against the institutions hoarding the nation’s resources and ignoring the citizens’ suffering. What followed wasn’t the ideal some people had hoped for, but it wasn’t grounded in the best matrix of ideas, which is another story for another time.

What would have been even wilder is if the privileged elites had been the ones marching on the very capital they controlled. Can you imagine a Catholic archbishop and an aristocrat (the “Marquis de Fanciepantz”) storming the Bastille together?

Neither can I. That wouldn’t make sense.

You Say You Want a Revolution

It’s an old story, often repeated. People rise up, people take to the streets, people demand change. Sometimes they overpower their oppressors and take the reins. Historically, there’s been plenty of blood in the proverbial government square.

I’m interested, however, in the theories and motives of the people whose influence leads the charge of a mob. What is the moral cause that drives and justifies the violence and destruction of revolutionary campaigns?

Among the famous figures who inspired revolutions in history, a perennial favorite in the West is Karl Marx. His last name, adopted by his father as an altered form of the Jewish family name “Mordechai,” became synonymous with large-scale Communist revolutions in several countries.

But it later came to describe a morphing version of Marxist philosophy that moved from a focus upon economic and class hierarchy to all sorts of other perceived divisions between “good guys” and “bad guys.” Marx believed that in every age of civilization, the “haves” and “have nots” played their roles in the unending conflict. It always ends in a necessary revolution that moves history forward. As he and Friedrich Engels put it in The Communist Manifesto (1847):

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

The Modern Class Struggles

Marx imagined that in his own time and place, the wealthy, private owners of business and property were the oppressors, and the numerous low-paid workers were the downtrodden. He borrowed old French terms to classify them as “bourgeois” (middle-class owners/leaders of industry) and “proletariat” (commoners selling their labor for low wages).

Marx both predicted and called for revolution in order to topple the” abusive” class and liberate the “victim” class. “Workers of the world, unite!” he famously wrote. “You have nothing to lose but your chains.”

It sounds obvious, but in any rebellion of this kind, the people being called to unite and rise up are not the ones in the positions of power. The rebels may have numbers but they don’t have the privileged positions in society.

Down with the Powerful?

Today’s protestor has a view of the world largely shaped, knowingly or not, by this same perspective. It’s been a few generations in the making, but neo-Marxists have been wielding their intellectual influence in numerous academic disciplines for years. Their brand of Critical Theory has found root in studies of law, history, humanities, and more.

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Marx advocated the “ruthless criticism” of the oppressor’s narratives, systems, and values. That is what’s behind the apparent self-loathing of many a young protestor today. With the added accelerants of social media and influences in entertainment culture, they’ve developed an instinct to despise everything they were ever taught about history, government, patriotism, religion and morality — and to do it self-righteously.

But there is something especially strange about their new perspective as converts to this quasi-religion. Having been born again into wokeness, they realize the need to dismantle the power structure and overthrow the oppressor — but where exactly does the power reside? From where is today’s “hegemonic dominion” exercised?

When we consider who holds the reins of culture and society, it seems fair to look at things like: who has the money, who controls information, who sits in the seats of government power, who stands atop the corporate world, who guides the education of the next generation, and whose vision of things dominates channels of influence.

In terms of the standard left/right spectrum in which more traditional, conservative views are on one side while more progressive views are on the other, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which has had more power in government the last several years? The political left has controlled the executive branch for 12 of the last 16 years. The legislative houses have gone back and forth, but still in favor of the left. It has become clear that leftists now dominate the leadership of the powerful government agencies (IRS, FBI, Justice Department, etc.). As we’ve now seen, they even have the power to prosecute political rivals on manufactured charges.
  • Where is most of the money in politics these days? Democrats currently raise far more campaign dollars than Republicans. When you have the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, IBM, Intel and others on your side, you are sitting on a fortune.
  • Which side is better positioned in the major corporate board rooms? As we’ve seen the last several years, when leftists make demands, major corporations cater to them. They fall all over themselves to push diversity, to appear as progressive as possible, to give big dollars to the cause of the month, to create new positions for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion officers, to force employees into Orwellian reeducation seminars.
  • Which side has more influence in the world of education? This one hardly needs defending. The political activism and money of the teachers unions tells the story. And obviously higher education is in dutiful lockstep with the political left.
  • Whose version of reality is reflected in the realm of entertainment and pop culture? Again, this is a no-brainer. Hollywood and the streaming services hold enormous sway in pop culture. They reward progressives and punish conservative perspectives. The overwhelming majority of today’s endless content slants hard to the left.
  • Who are the gatekeepers of information? The major, big-name media companies (what some call the “legacy” media) are all in service to the left. They’ve got the history, the logos, the tradition, and the money. These days a lot of people get their information through social media. They use Google to find out about a given subject. Who do you suppose controls those algorithms? What do you think the TikTok consensus is on most topics?

The Privileged Protestor

Given the traditional Marxist construct, you would expect the revolutionary to be the blue-collar, working-class person. But today’s revolutionary is not that. Political surveys of different industries show that the “bluest” jobs (most liberal) are in tech, media, academics, law, and entertainment, while the “reddest” jobs (most conservative) are in construction, farming, trucking, policing, and church-related work.

People began to see the upside-down nature of today’s street protests when they noticed during the widespread looting and vandalism of 2020 just how many of the perpetrators appeared to be from affluent suburbs. It’s hard to convince people that you’re downtrodden as you carry flat-screen TVs and designer purses that you stole back to your shiny SUVs.

Likewise, the campus protests for Palestine have not been waged by low-income students at community colleges. They’ve taken place primarily at the Ivy League schools, where the connected social elites send their kids and where a student who pretends to be victimized by the system turns out to be a child of wealth with one parent who is a CEO and the other a national TV star. It was surreal listening to a Columbia doctoral candidate and protest spokesperson demand food and drink be supplied by the school administrators. The protestors should have made a sign: “Give me Grubhub or give me death!” (Not a hunger strike, I guess. “The revolution will not be televised. The revolution will be catered.”)

Their ill-conceived project can’t get off the ground because it isn’t properly grounded to begin with. The uppity class can’t force their romanticized vision onto the regular people because the latter have eyes and can think for themselves. It’s why no Hispanic Americans want to use the word “Latinx” despite how hard the self-appointed elitists try to shove it down everyone’s throats.

To summarize, the quasi-Marxist revolutionary protestor of today needs to take another look at where the hegemonic power is centered: government, education, entertainment, media, social media, and corporate America. And they need to realize that all of them already lean heavily in their favor. The protestor belongs to the power class. They ARE the bourgeoisie, while the people they are opposing and wish to overthrow are the underprivileged “normies” — the average guy, the blue-collar employee, the grunt worker.

Even if Marxism provided a solid framework for history, a worthy philosophy of man and society, and a workable plan for centralized governance — which it doesn’t — it still wouldn’t help today’s confused, bougie revolutionaries, since they’re doing it backwards.

 

Clint Roberts is an adjunct professor at the University of Oklahoma and Southern Nazarene University.

Originally published on Roberts’ substack,  Fallacy Fight Club. Republished with permission.  

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