Mark Levin’s American Marxism provides a thorough education in the intellectual foundations of the American left, and how it emerged from the dim fringes of academia to become the driving ideology of President Joe Biden’s administration.
One of the most important things Levin does at the outset is invert the left’s concept of history. Levin starts his book with the sentence: “The counterrevolution to the American Revolution is in full force.” Marxism is that “counterrevolution.”
That is the opposite of how Marxism portrays itself. The Marxist concept of history is that it moves forward, toward the utopian future — the dictatorship of the proletariat, the miraculous provision of all human needs through collectivism.
All efforts to oppose this movement and to defend an existing social order — whether it be traditional aristocracy or liberal, capitalist democracy — are portrayed as “counterrevolutionary,” opposed to progress, and to the motion of history itself.
Levin turns that on its head. In his view, it is liberty — as envisioned by the Founders of the United States, elevating the rights of the individual within a system of limited government bound by checks and balances — that is the culmination of human history, enabling the happiest, most prosperous society on earth.
It is Marxism and its various guises — socialism, “democratic socialism,” radical environmentalism, and so on — that destroy liberty, prosperity, and ultimately humanity.
American Marxism walks through various left-wing social movements and shows how each of them — Critical Race Theory; the movement for “amnesty” for illegal aliens; the push by environmentalists for “degrowth” — all have their roots in classical Marxism.
The most radical environmentalists, Levin notes, say that Marxism does not go far enough, because Marx still presumes economic growth. But all are hostile to America as it was founded, and as we know it today.
There is an interesting question at the heart of American Marxism: does Marxism take a peculiar form on American shores? Or is the American version the same as the Marxism that has failed across the globe, and across three centuries?
Marxists have been ambivalent about the United States. On the one hand, it stands for everything Marxism abhors. On the other, if there is any country wealthy enough to absorb the massive costs Marxism necessarily implies, it is this one.
Recent events have likely given American Marxists greater hope. The willingness of the U.S. government to spend vast amounts of money during the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the huge advantage of being the world’s reserve currency.
Though inflation has become a major threat, many on the left feel emboldened to argue that the supposed costs of their policies are illusory. In addition, more Americans than ever are dependent on government, limiting public opposition.
What is, perhaps, unique about Marxism in the U.S. is the extent to which it is bankrolled by the wealthy and by the institutions that Marxism intends to displace. Marxism is, Levin notes, the creed of a bizarrely self-destructive elite.
Instead of buying off the radicals, America’s “woke” corporations, tenured professoriate, and establishment journalists may take the rest of us down with them, wittingly or unwittingly.
Levin shows how pervasive the ideas of the radical left have become, and how deeply rooted they are. He thoroughly explores Critical Race Theory (CRT), for example, linking it not only to the legal scholarship of the late Harvard Law School professor Derrick Bell, but to the earlier work of Herbert Marcuse, who is “credited with hatching the Critical Theory ideology from which the racial, gender, and other Critical Theory-based movements were launched in America.”
Marcuse’s influence was also discussed by Andrew Breitbart in his 2011 memoir, Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World! Breitbart credited Saul Alinsky with “dumbing down Marcuse’s message,” weaponizing his esoteric ideas. Levin shows just how successful the left’s effort has been.
But American Marxism is not a prescription for despair. Levin spends an entire chapter on solutions, encouraging the ongoing effort to rid schools of CRT, by law if necessary. He aims to use his book to rouse Americans to action. Though heavy with ideas, American Marxism makes clear what the target of the new opposition must be.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.