Levin

Mark Levin’s Mistakes Hurt Conservatives

4 ½ min

A devastating leftist critique of Mark Levin’s bestselling book American Marxism was posted by Zachary Petrizzo at Salon the other day. After reading Petrizzo’s remarks, I am left wondering about the colossal foolishness of Levin, who set out to write a book—which his celebrity would push to the top of the New York Times best seller list—on something it seems he never bothered to study.

Petrizzo notes that Levin refers to the Frankfurt School—which he attacks as the main source of American Marxist pollution—as the “Franklin School.” Levin also seems to be blissfully unaware that this school of radical social theory that he purports to be investigating developed in the German city of Frankfurt, not Berlin, after World War I.

Furthermore, Levin blames my former professor Herbert Marcuse for “hatching” this dangerous radical theory, which turned Marxism into a racially divisive ideology. But as Petrizzo notes, the Critical Theory in question was constructed by multiple theorists going back to the 1920s; in its earlier, more traditional forms, it had nothing to do with black/white confrontations in the United States.

Marcuse’s contribution to Frankfurt School theory was hardly foundational, as one learns from reading Rolf Wiggershaus’s massive study of this enterprise, which is now available in English. Marcuse achieved prominence as an exponent of Frankfurt School theory mostly after World War II, and his strongest influence was in the United States, whither he immigrated in the 1930s.

Moreover, the peculiar blend of Marxism and Freudianism produced by the Frankfurt School in Germany, and then in its American diaspora, offered not a traditional Marxist interpretation of history, but a psychological-cultural critique of bourgeois capitalist society. What came out of this interwar German institution and its reiterations can hardly be described as orthodox Marxism. Indeed, traditional Marxists in America and Europe regarded the Frankfurt School blend of ideas, with its emphasis on erotic deprivation, as a glaring departure from Marx’s socioeconomic critique of capitalist society.

Since Levin is a TV entertainer, it wouldn’t be surprising that he would not be aware of all these facts, but one might expect his editors to have noticed and corrected his more embarrassing errors. One does not have to be a trained research scholar to pick them up. As Salon points out, a search on Wikipedia would have turned up Levin’s more egregious bloopers in a few minutes. It seems the now familiar combination of self-importance and intellectual vulgarity that characterizes conservatism as media entertainment may be what lies behind this botched work. These performers should limit themselves to what they do best, which is entertaining, for they are neither equipped nor predisposed to pursue scholarly research.

Contrary to what Levin claims, I’m not sure why escalating racial tensions in the U.S., largely stirred up by white elites, prove that Marxism is gaining ground. These tensions can be explained without recourse to garbled histories of Marxist movements in the U.S. Racial animosities are real, and the woke left is doing all that it can to make sure that this hatred can be further inflamed.

Levin charts a tortuous course in trying to clarify how Marxism produced our present problems, but once again falls short. How for example did the Progressive educator John Dewey, who is one of Levin’s bête noires, contribute to our present woke insanity? Although Dewey was at least initially enamored of the Bolshevik Revolution—but later became quite disenchanted—and fathered the unsavory idea that public education should serve social engineering purposes, it is hard to see how Dewey caused or exacerbated our racial conflicts. Incidentally, Dewey was also never a Marxist.

Perhaps a more relevant case of what Levin is talking about is the civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. This is not said to demean King’s courage, but as an example of prominent leftist political figures who associated with Communists and preached socialist ideas. King surrounded himself with Communist advisers, as his admiring biographer David J. Garrow documents with detail in Bearing the Cross. King also filled his letters and diaries with defenses of socialism. In King’s case we are also dealing with a civil rights revolutionary, who loudly scolded white racism.  

But I’m not at all convinced that King would qualify as a Marxist. He appears to have been a Christian socialist who thought his Communist colleagues shared his indignation about what he perceived as social injustice. It is entirely possible to understand King’s career just like the activities of the present left without ascribing a Marxist lineage to either.

Thus, we come back to Levin’s expository problem of proving a connection between two forces that he finds objectionable, namely, the antiwhite woke left and Marxism. Although a connection between these two entities may be present, Levin certainly does not show that one exists. Meanwhile, Levin’s millions of fans will read the book and, confident in their knowledge, will debate with friends and family—only to be easily discredited.

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Flickr-Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0

Paul Gottfried

Paul Gottfried

Paul Gottfried is editor in chief of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is also the Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Elizabethtown College, where he taught for 25 years, a Guggenheim recipient, and a Yale Ph.D. He is the author of 13 books, most recently Fascism: Career of a Concept and Revisions and Dissents.

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kentclizbe
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Excellent overall critique. There is in-depth research and analysis that actually explains the operations that planted the seeds that grew into Politically Correct Progressivism (PC-Prog), hate-America-first. It's there for all to see and explore in the book: Willing Accomplices: www.willingaccomplices.com For 10 years now, I've warned of the danger of Normal Americans being infiltrated by neocons and others with ulterior motives. One common theme between these two camps, however, has been a counter-productive insistence on tagging PC-Progs and their policies and beliefs as "communist, Marxist, cultural Marxism," and related terms. This is stupid. Using this counter-factual terminology results in a backlash of facts, destroying "conservative" critiques of PC-Progs. Prior to Levin's neocon babbling about Marxism, there was Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism," which used similar idiotic terminology that made him, and all "Conservatives," in whose camp he was at the time (typical neocon, he decamped soon after), look like idiots. One of the most enigmatic spreaders of the "Marxism!" school is a strange fellow named Trevor Loudoun. A cult member (ZAP--a blend of Scientology and John Birch) from New Zealand, he traveled across the USA speaking at Tea Party meetings, spreading his pitiful analysis of "Marxists everywhere!" Normal Americans ate it up. It all sounded so good, in his accent. It was clear there was/is an effort to destroy the credibility of Normal Americans criticizing PC-Progs by implanting easily refuted idiocy--Marxists! Communists!--into actual American grassroots organizations. It's not apparent who/what/why is supporting this nonsense. But Levin's recent book demonstrates that the effort continues to receive huge monetary support. By the way, the Frankfurt School was simply a manifestation of Willi Muenzenberg's covert influence operations to destroy Normal American culture. See Willing Accomplices for full details.
 
 

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Laurentius-Ridens
Good points. The neo-con fans of guys like Levin & Shapiro & Prager simply don't have a deep understanding of what's what (or they avoid it). In contrast, guys like Gottfried and the folks from Mises Institute (Tom Woods, Thomas DiLorenzo, Jeff Deist, Stephan Kinsella, Walter Block, Bob Murphy (just on Jordan Peterson's podcast) have a much deeper understanding of how things work, and they don't polish shoes for the military-industrial-complex and confuse it with freedom.
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kentclizbe
LR: "Levin & Shapiro & Prager simply don't have a deep understanding of what's what" Those neocons themselves do not have a deep understanding--or if they do, they actively work to obfuscate the truth. It seems--and I've been on the front lines with them--the neocons are terrified that it may be revealed that fellow adherents of their hostile foreign sponsor were heavily involved in Bolshevism/Trotskyism, and the covert influence operations designed to destroy Normal American culture.
SparkyVA
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Ah yes the expert on old fashion communism. He does not believe that communism doctrine is evolving and blending with similar doctrines on how to control the masses. Of course it is evolving. The only "successful" communist country is China, and the purists would denounce how they have compromised and changed their pure doctrine. Die Frankfurt Schule tried to incorporate human nature and human desires into their utopia to make it more palatable to the mases. But liberty is also one of the human longings which control of the masses must suppress. And since communism in all of its forms eventually leads to corruption, there is always the threat of that barbaric cry of "Freedom" and the masses revolt. Marxism as developed by Lenin is kaput. But tyrants keep trying to improve on it. CRT is simply employing envy of the better off to ignite revolt. That is not such a great leap from the original envy of the rich. Explore diversity of talent and diversity of drive to find the right mix for society. You can't do a Cambodia and kill off all the educated and expect the result to be utopia. Communism and Socialism in their fundamentals tries to change human nature though force or threat of violence. The Frankfurt School struggled with that concept and came up empty. Governments may grow corrupt over time and need to be reinvented. But communism is flawed because it has an unrealistic view of humanity and will never produce what it promises.
 
 

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Canute
T his is my third try to post - logged in , but obviously expressing the wrong truths. Mark Levin has nothing to do with liberty or Western Civilization - he is merely an operative of the Neocon narrative. Let's see if I get through this time. Tom Woods thinks you are great - but I am beginning to see just another front organization for the eternal movement toward world domination. The is only a single people who believe in this path.
Laurentius-Ridens
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Gottfried deftly and accurately skewers the assumed competence of Levin, who will be lionized by his equally unperceptive army of sycophants. Just as the socialist left presumes a lot of nonsense to arrive at its conclusions, the socialists of the right do likewise. Unlike the disgusting left, the right-socialist acolytes of Levin are blissfully unaware of their rabid socialism and buffoonery.
 
 

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thureo
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Mr. Gottfried, similar types of national destabilizing activities that are occurring here in America are happening in South America. Reports from people in the region say Cuba and China are deeply involved. I wonder whether there are struggles among globalists who (like Paul Adler) believe in a global centralized government who are trying to overcome Chinese and other totalitarian forces. If this is a real scenario how would we know?
 
 

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Leem
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Teacher in Orange Country, California, just removed from classroom after taking down the American flag, because it made her feel "uncomfortable", and asked the class to pledge allegiance to the LBGBTQ+ flag instead. When does the new-left go too far? There it is. [search on Kristin Pitzen]
 
 

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Leem
Are you saying Marcuse did not influence the New-Left, or that Marcuse himself would say they mostly misunderstood his writings and teaching? Funny, he's on video saying just that, and also that his brand of Marxism requires constant dialectic. Perhaps if he were alive today his views on Freud, Jung, and his idea of "Orphic Marxism" would be quite different, unlike yours, which is marbled in stone.
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