Mr. Kalsbeek is a teacher in Covenant Christian High School and an elder in Hope Protestant Reformed Chruch, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment.”

I Chronicles 12:32

The ideas of Lukacs, Gramsci, Adorno, and Marcuse have saturated Western civilization in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, yet only a tiny fraction of those who populate the nations with their roots in Western civilization have heard of even one of them.

And the consequences of their ideas have not been for the better! In fact the ideas of these men have had the effect that, “[i]n half a lifetime, many Americans have seen their God dethroned, their heroes defiled, their culture polluted, their values assaulted, their country invaded, and themselves demonized as extremists and bigots for holding on to beliefs Americans have held for generations.”1

Today we commonly label a consequence of their ideas as “political correctness.” Thus it is our intent in this article (and one to follow) to examine political correctness: what it is, where it came from, how it is being promoted, its serious consequences, and why present-day Issachar ought to be concerned.

What is it?

Political correctness is not all that easy to define. By Wikipedia we are told,

Political correctness is a term applied to language, ideas, policies, or behavior seen as seeking to minimize offense to gender, racial, cultural, disabled, aged or other identity groups. Conversely, the term “politically incorrect” is used to refer to language or ideas that may cause offense or that are unconstrained by orthodoxy.2

As can be seen from this definition, some key terms come into play when considering political correctness—terms that in themselves seem quite innocent and harmless, but terms nevertheless that are loaded with meaning when connected with their politically correct ideology. Brannon S. Howse writes about four of these terms and the ideas they represent when defined from a politically correct viewpoint:

Tolerance means that one person never expresses a judgment about someone else’s ideas, beliefs, and values from a worldview of absolute truth. Tolerance demands that you not only accept the other worldview but that you value their worldview—unless, of course, their worldview is Biblical Christianity. Tolerance is very intolerant of Bible-minded Christians. 

Diversity or sensitivity training is about the normalizing of the homosexual lifestyle. 

Multiculturalism is not the study of many cultures but the correctness criticism of the Western Culture and its founding worldview of Christianity. Multiculturalism also desires to destroy patriotism. 

Feminism is not about equal rights for women but about the destruction of a patriarchal society in favor of a matriarchal society. In other words, the goal of feminism is the destruction of the family by eliminating the husband and father as the provider, protector, and principled leader of his home.3

Consequently, according to the doctrines of political correctness, for one to say that affirmative action is unfair results in being labeled “racist.” Or to say that homosexuality is a disorder (as the American Psychiatric Association said it was prior to 1973) is to be labeled “homophobe.” Or to say that women should not be placed in military combat positions is to be labeled “sexist.” Or to say that your culture is superior to another is to be labeled “xenophobe.” Or to say that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation is to be labeled “bigot.” Or to say that radical jihadists have support for their actions in the Koran is to be labeled “Islamophobe.” And so it goes. By means of this labeling tactic, those advancing the cause of political correctness effectively stymie meaningful debate of their ideas.

Where did it come from?

Contrary to much conventional wisdom, the roots of political correctness can be found long before the hippies and the peace movement of the American student rebellion of the 1960s. Rather, the fascinating history of political correctness can be connected to the time of World War I. It may be worth the effort to examine this history in some detail, for the history of the movement explains why many refer to political correctness as “cultural Marxism.”

Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, and their disciples had confidently predicted that when war broke out in Europe the workers (proletariat) of those nations would rise up in rebellion against their rulers (bourgeois) rather than fight their fellow workers. But, alas, to their dismay it never happened.

When the call came, the worker, whom Marx declared to have no Fatherland, identified himself with country, not class. He turned out to be a member of the national family like anyone else. The force of his antagonism, which was supposed to topple capitalism, found a better target in the foreigner. The working class went to war willingly, even eagerly, like the middle class, like the upper class, like the species.4

Could it be that Marx had been wrong?

Two of Marx’s disciples, Georg Lukacs and Antonio Gramsci, concluded that indeed Marx had been wrong! They observed that capitalism was not impoverishing the workers as Marx had said, and the workers had not risen in rebellion. The reason: two thousand years of the indoctrination of Christianity had blinded them to their true class interests. The solution, they said, was to uproot Christianity and Western culture from the soul of Western man. Only then could Marxism proceed as Marx had said it would.

In keeping with this proposed solution, Lukacs, as Deputy Commissar for Culture in Hungary, put his self-described “demonic” ideas into action in what came to be known as “cultural terrorism.” Part of his program was to impose a radical sex education program in the Hungarian schools, where children “were instructed in free love, sexual intercourse, the archaic nature of middle-class family codes, the outdatedness of monogamy, and the irrelevance of religion, which deprives man of all pleasures. Women, too, were called to rebel against the sexual mores of the time.”5 Lukacs’s purpose, of course, was to destroy the family, which he believed was the core institution of Christianity and Western culture.

The second disciple of Marx who believed Marx had been wrong was an Italian Communist, Antonio Gramsci. As a communist, Gramsci was not welcome in Mussolini’s fascist Italy. Consequently he fled to Russia in 1922, only to discover that communism wasn’t working there. As Gramsci saw it, the Russian people loathed communism and were kept in line only by means of a reign of terror. Like Lukacs, Gramsci concluded that it was their Christian souls that had prevented the Russian people from embracing the Communist revolution. A regime grounded in Judeo-Christian beliefs and values could not be overthrown until those roots were cut. If Christianity was the shield of capitalism, then to capture the West, Marxists must first de-Christianize the West.6 The disillusioned Gramsci left Russia and returned to Italy to lead the Italian Communist Party. Upon his return, Gramsci would spend many years in Musolini’s prison and die shortly after his release in 1937. However, Gramsci left behind his Prison Notebooks containing his plans for a successful Marxist revolution in the West.

Rather than seize power first and impose a cultural revolution from above, Gramsci argued, Marxists in the West must first change the culture; then power would fall into their laps like ripened fruit. But to change the culture would require a “long march through the institutions”—the arts, cinema, theater, schools, colleges, seminaries, newspapers, magazines and the new electronic medium, radio. One by one, each had to be captured and converted and politicized into an agency of revolution. Then the people could be slowly educated to understand and even welcome revolution.7

That plan Gramsci encouraged his fellow travelers to implement wherever, however, and whenever they could. That they did is obvious to all those who are “understanding the times.” A specific example of this was experienced by the undersigned in an assigned reading years ago for a college history class: The Greening of America, by Charles Reich. In the inside cover of this 1970 bestseller, Reich echoes Gramsci’s road-map for the future:

There is a revolution coming. It will not be like revolutions of the past. It will originate with the individual and with culture, and it will change the political structure only as its final act. It will not require violence to succeed, and it cannot be successfully resisted with violence. It is now spreading with amazing rapidity, and already our laws, institutions, and social structure are changing in consequence…. This is the revolution of the new generation.8

Step by step the ideas of Lukacs and Gramsci appear to be winning the day in the West, but how did their ideas wend their way to America? To answer that question we must direct our attention to the Frankfurt School. In 1923 Lukacs and members of the German Communist party set up at Frankfurt University an institute for Marxism originally named the Institute of Social Research. Later it would be renamed the Frankfurt School and here, to make a long story short, the difficult work of translating Marxism into the cultural terms of Lukacs and Gramsci took place. But in 1933 events in Germany interrupted their work when Adolf Hitler ascended to power. Since the leaders of the Frankfurt School were Jewish and Marxist, to put it mildly, they were less than a good fit in the Third Reich. Consequently they looked for a new home and found it at Columbia University in New York City, where they “redirected their talents and energies to undermining the culture of the country that had given them refuge.”9

A key weapon used by the Frankfurt School to undermine the culture of their adopted country was “Critical Theory.” Although the term sounds rather bland and harmless, what it stands for is not. A definition of “Critical Theory” by one of its adherents makes that clear: it is

essentially destructive criticism of all the main elements of Western culture, including Christianity, capitalism, authority, the family, patriarchy, hierarchy, morality, tradition, sexual restraint, loyalty, patriotism, nationalism, heredity, ethnocentrism, convention, and conservatism.10

“Critical Theory” is put into practice by the cultural Marxist by simply repeating over and over how the West is guilty of genocide against every culture. Over and over he repeats that Western societies are racist, sexist, homophobic, fascist, etc. Over and over an attitude of pessimism, hopelessness, and despair in Western society is promoted. The idea behind the theory is that by means of its continuous drum-beat criticism, the people (particularly the captive audience in the public schools, colleges, and universities) will be conditioned to see its society and country as oppressive, evil, and unworthy of its loyalty and love.

In 1950 Marxist Theodor Adorno promoted “Critical Theory” in his book The Authoritarian Personality. His book would become a handbook for a national campaign against any kind of prejudice or discrimination on the theory that if these evils were not removed, another Holocaust might occur on the American continent. This campaign, in turn, provided a basis for what we call today “political correctness.” Adorno’s book would also promote the concept of “cultural determinism.” Thus, according to Adorno’s way of thinking, for example, if a family is deeply Christian and capitalist, ruled by an authoritarian father, you may expect the children to grow up racist and fascist. One can easily see where this thinking leads: that which once was considered merely old-fashioned now becomes a psychological disorder, which very likely will need treatment. The “secret formula,” as described by psychologist Thomas Szasz, is this: “If you want to debase what a person is doing…call him mentally ill.”

With the Frankfurt School’s ideas of cultural Marxism in place, all that was needed was a “new” proletariat to replace the old one. Remember, Marx’s proletariat hadn’t come through; the working class had not risen to the task of the Marxist revolution. Enter Herbert Marcuse! Marcuse would provide the answer to the question: “Who will play the role of the proletariat in the coming cultural revolution?” His candidates for this important task would include radical youth, feminists, black militants, homosexuals, the alienated, the asocial, and Third World revolutionaries—in other words, all the persecuted “victims” of the West.11

Not only would Marcuse provide the manpower (person power?) for the revolution that would overthrow Western culture, he would also provide the revolution’s slogan. Against the backdrop of an increasingly unpopular Vietnam War his battle cry captured what the cultural revolution was all about: “Make love, not war.”

… to be concluded.

1 Patrick J. Buchanan, The Death of the West (St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York, 2002) 5.


3 Brannon S. Howse, “Political Correctness is Cultural Marxism,” Worldview Weekend Digest, Summer/Fall, 2008:16.

4 Barbara Tuchman, The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War: 1890-1914 (Ballantine Books, New York, New York, 1993), 462.

5 Buchanan, 75.

6 Gerald L. Atkinson, “What Is the Frankfurt School?” August 1, 1999, p. 2.

7 Buchanan, 77.

8 Charles A. Reich, The Greening of America (Bantam Books, New York, New York, 1971) 2. 

9 Buchanan, 80.

10 Michael Lowy, Georg Lukacs: From Romanticism to Bolshevism (London: NLB, 1979), p.112.

11 Buchanan, 85.