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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ouroboros and the Left

"Ryan" makes reference in a comment on my previous post, to the "Gramscian left". I was too busy in the 70s, trying to get a degree, to look at yawn-inducing Marxist theory, but perhaps I was wrong. For following up this reference I find Wikipedia explaining Gramsci's notion of "cultural hegemony" and how to subvert it:

Gramsci therefore argued for a strategic distinction between a "war of position" and a "war of manoeuvre". The war of position is a culture war in which anti-capitalist elements seek to gain a dominant voice in mass media, mass organizations, and educational institutions to heighten class consciousness, teach revolutionary analysis and theory, and inspire revolutionary organization. Following the success of the war of position, communist leaders would be empowered to begin the war of manoeuvre, the actual insurrection against capitalism, with mass support.

Is it too much to say that in British schools at least, there has been a "war of position"? Hymns in assembly, RE, British history, the cane, the authority of the teacher - all in the bin. And all since, oh, I would say the mid-80s*. Now, the teacher is a kind of Lyons nippy, swiftly and attentively addressing every need of every child, and with no expectation of a tip.

And as the revolution approaches its moment of crisis, the Government (members of which have assisted with the first phase) has sealed itself into its Downing Street compound, like the East German rulers before their fall. Gordon Brown, formerly the student Rector of Edinburgh University, learned early how the power system had loopholes and having exploited them, is closing them. So the surrounding area is legally a protest-free zone and our new Stasi is set on harmless teenage student demonstrators.

Despite these efforts, and like Kronos, the Revolution may eat its children. Yet Zeus survived because Kronos was given a Rock to eat instead...

* after first flutterings with the William Tyndale affair (1974), Chris Searle's "Classrooms of Resistance"(1975) and other inputs.


Anonymous said...

Older than that: the pernicious influence in Teacher Training probably goes back to the 50s. When a new Rector (Principal, Headmaster) took over my old school in the mid 60s, his first act was to write to the local worthies who funded prizes to tell them to keep their money since "prizes are unfair" to those who don't win them. In a rural Scottish Academy, for God's sake. Commie shit.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post. There are definitely elements of this in American schools, media, etc.

Anonymous said...

Far too big a topic to deal with in one short comment, but just to say that whilst they Gramscians tried to brainwash me during my journey through education, it didn't work. In fact it probably backfired completely. Children, especially teenagers, are contrary things. Tell them to do one thing and they do the opposite. So tell them to be good Marxists and you can be sure they will have a poster of Boris Johnson on their bedroom wall within a week. Marxists are really too dim to imagine that things could be so complicated. They think they are being clever because they can plan a strategy one step ahead - but they don't realise that most of us can see two steps ahead.

Sackerson said...

Thanks for all comments. DM, there's always been that sort of element, hasn't there - from the Puritans in Elizabeth 1's day to the Diggers and Levellers of the English Civil War. But now that the State has weakened the Church and taken over education, the use of schools as propaganda centres may have come closest to a kind and scale of revolution we haven't seen in four centuries.

Sackerson said...

Matt: my brother teaches in an American university, it all seems geared to sports and business studies!

Ryan: agree with you on the contrariness of kids - of humans generally. Maybe the closer the Left comes to dominating, the nearer it comes to a sudden backlash. But it could be a nasty backlash - the more power used in compressing a spring etc.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Sackers. I'm not sure that the spring is quite the right analogy. In this case the spring tends to push back (voting for Thatcher) and then the spring is pushed down harder (the creation of the NuLabour facade, inviting Thatch round to tea, replacing the right-wing newspaper proprietors with left-wing owners). But I also believe that the "spring" will win in the end. Each new generation finds itself more remote from "socialism" and the Russian revolution that made socialism exciting and a plausible route to a new utopia. These new young people come along to help the spring push back, whilst the Gramscian left becomes old and frail.

The only question is, will the Gramscian left finally feel they have to crush the spring completely, or risk losing forever? If they try something like that, the backlash could be truly bloody. There is some evidence on the statute books that they are preparing for that time. But nevertheless, I believe the fight against socialism will likely be won within the next ten years. There are too many of us now to be crushed by an unpopular political ideology.

I think it will be a very different Britain in ten years, that will likely lead Europe in an entirely new direction.

Sackerson said...

Quiet the stuff of a "future history" novel, Ryan. Got the time?

RobW said...

Could well be true.

Anonymous said...

Well no, I don't have time to write a political prediction like "1984". For one thing, I don't think the gatekeepers of the literary left would allow it the oxygen of publicity that would gain it a wide readership!

I am keen to take the opportunity to spread the understanding I have gained over the years about the Left and how it achieves power and clings to it.

There are two points I would make about the Gramscians. Firstly, when these ideas were first presented to me, I considered the Gramscians as a kind of conspiracy. Not being one to believe in conspiracies, I dismissed these ideas. Since then, I have developed a more sophisticated understanding. My parents are both Christians. The are firm believers, but they never go to church. Does that mean they do not promulgate their Christian belief to others? Certainly not. Despite having no direct command from a Christian church, all three of their children were educated in a CoE school and raised as Christians. My parents make no secret of their Christian beliefs and demonstrate how this impacts their outlook, opinions and approach to life. Thus they promulgate their Christian views quietly, without ever being part of some Christian conspiracy. So it is with the Gramscians. They simply believe in the Gramscian approach to socialist revolution. They believe the prevailing culture is evil. They don't care what the rest of us believe - they consider us as brainwashed by the culture. They may be part of a Marxist conspiracy, colluding with like-minded individuals, but they don't need to be.

The second point I would make is that Gramscians ARE NOT AIMING AT INFILTRATING BRITISH SOCIETY WITH MARXISM. I didn't grasp this right away. They believe in Marxism so you expect them to spread Marxism, right? But unlike the Christians in our example the Gramscians are not trying to build something. They merely want to destroy what is already present - the prevailing culture. They believe that once destroyed Marxism will easily take the place of the prevailing culture. This is why we have so many things happening in the UK that seem destined to lead only to chaos. It is easy to destroy something. It takes considerably more effort to build something.

So the Gramscians are happy to see crime to rise. They don't care if the nation is full of Muslims. They applaud the re-writing of history. They disseminate falsehoods in the education system, and promulgate lies through the media. If the economic system of the UK collapses - why should they worry. It is a capitalist system! Its collapse would be welcomed by the Gramscians!

None of this is aimed at spreading the view that "Karl Marx was a living god". It is simply aimed at destroying or at least severely weakening the prevailing culture. You don't need a conspiracy to spread a gospel of destruction. One history teacher acting on his own spreading lies and half-truths about the history of Britain will poison the minds of thousands of children. He doesn't need to put anything in its place that those kids can believe in. He only needs to sow the seeds of mistrust in the system as it is.

But as I say, the Gramscians are only clever up to a point. As we see, their methods of spreading destruction and chaos only work up to a point. New cultures spring up where the prevailing culture was weak, and these new cultures are not Marxist (although people like George Galloway may play a dangerous game of infiltrating those cultures too). The public are far from stupid. They lay the blame for increasing chaos squarely at the feet of those that support the causes of that chaos - and the causes are always promulgated by the left. Unfortunately the Gramscian mind-set can justify all manner of manipulation of the people, just as it has done for decades. We need to watch them for what they try next. More of the same? Or outright revolution?

Today we saw Alistair Darling try to extend the Gramscian approach. He has given the BoE "more powers" to "guarantee economic stability". But we know that really he is passing the buck to the BoE so that when the bottom falls out of the economy he can blame them. Its transparent, but nevertheless an attempt at Gramscian dissembly and misdirection. On its own it doesn't mean much, but considered as a part of a 10 year policy of lies and deceit within NuLabour, we can see it as just another application of the Gramscian methodology that created the NuLabour facade. It won't work. So what will NuLabour do when the Gramscian method is seen to fail them?

Sackerson said...

So presumably they think, with Mikhail Bakunin, that "The urge to destroy is also a creative urge."

Wolfie said...


Thank you for opening my eyes to this insidious school of thought. Most enlightening.