One fundamental question motivated Antonio Gramsci throughout his life:
Why had it proven so difficult for Marxists to promote revolution in Western Europe and America?
The answer to that question is simple: the majority of European and American workers didn’t believe a word of what the Marxists had to say and neither did they want what they had to offer. Quite simply, workers didn’t want to be spoon-fed and led by a tiny elite (or a “revolutionary vanguard”) or very privileged Marxists/Leftists into a giant Gulag like the Soviet Union.
So what were Marxists like Gramsci going to do about that terrible non-revolutionary situation?
Simple: they were to “take over the institutions” and bring about “cultural Marxism” (the Frankfurt School’s own term) from the top. In other words, Gramsci offered his own version of what the equally totalitarian — at least at that time — Fabians had already done (from the 1900 onwards) in the UK.
And hasn’t cultural Marxism been successful! Students who were once intent on violent revolution later became the leaders of the BBC, members of the Labour Party, journalists at the Guardian or New Statesman, charity workers, top lawyers, and even activists or propagandists in the red sections of the churches.
These quiet Marxists, perhaps more importantly, have also taken over various ‘rights organizations’ such as Shami Chakrabarti’s Liberty in the UK. (Chakrabarti — along with the private-school boys and girls Gareth Peirce, Michael Mansfield, Phil Shiner, Clive Stafford Smith — is a big and systematic fan of the jihadist Moazzam Begg and other jihadists.) These people fight for their non-violent revolution through their work in the rights and race businesses. Specifically, they defend ‘revolutionary subjects’ such as Islamists, Islamic terrorists, sexual groomers, rapists, criminals, Leftist activists and so on. The rights of minorities are fought for and given a superior status vis-a-vis what they call the ‘dominant culture’.
The New Leftist Hegemony
One explicit way in which Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) stated that he believed that no revolution would be forthcoming in Europe was when he said that power is not something which you can “seize” in a revolution. In other words, Gramsci never talked about the “seizure of State power”. Despite that, in a certain sense he did indeed believe in seizing state power; though not, of course, through violent revolution. Instead he talked of “becoming State”. That is, the Marxist vanguard — on behalf of the working class (of course) — would become the state. Alternatively they would “take over the institutions” of the state (the police, the law, political parties, the civil service, councils, etc.) and even the institutions which are not ordinarily deemed to be directly part of the state (e.g., the churches, charities, regional/national newspapers, the universities, schools, etc.). (Rudi Dutschke called this the “Long March through the Institutions”.)
This new Leftist hegemony was to be imposed upon the working class via the schools, universities, local councils, the law, etc. (in exactly the same was as Marxists believe that the “capitalist-state hegemony” was imposed on the working class).
Leftists like Gramsci believed, and still do, that without an hegemony, the working class — or Muslims today — would remain ‘particularistic’ or individualistic. And that is useless for those Leftists who want radical change, if not revolution. After all capitalists, according to Leftists, form a ‘hegemonic class’. Therefore the working class — or Muslims today — must form a hegemonic class too.
In his own day, Gramsci didn’t believe that the working class had a collective will, unlike the capitalists. Instead that collective had to be created by middle-class Marxists such as himself. However, despite the abstract reality of the working class, it is still made up of a “plurality of demands, political initiatives, traditions and cultural institutions” (Ernesto Laclau). That plurality is inherently unstable from a Marxist perspective. And, again, this is where Gramsci and the Gramscians step in. It is up to them to provide a sense of stability to that plurality by creating a determinate class-consciousness — or a new hegemon — for the working class. And, in Gramsci’s case, that could only be done by “taking over the institutions” (or “becoming State”), not through the classical violent (Marxist) revolution.
However, traditional Marxists believed that such a hegemonic consciousness (or class consciousness) would come naturally to the working class as capitalism inevitably led to the increasing polarization of society. The more polarized, or poor, the working class became, the more class-conscious they would become. But, of course, that didn’t happen. There was no necessarily increased polarization. Thus the working class didn’t become more class-conscious, hegemonic, or revolutionary.
This is where the Gramscians, again, stepped in.
If economic alienation and polarization didn’t automatically make the working class more class-conscious (or if Marx’s prophesy of “pauperization” didn’t occur), then Gramsci and other middle-class Marxists would make the workers class-conscious. As I said, according to Marx’s “natural laws of capitalism”, the failures of capitalism would inevitably raise the consciousness off the working class and turn them into revolutionaries. That didn’t happen.
In other words, middle-class Marxists had to provide the “hegemonic articulation” of what was best for the working class. Capitalism itself, or its increased polarization, didn’t do that.
This means that the Gramscian position effectively turned the Marxist base-superstructure model on its head. Instead of the “modes of production” generating human consciousness (or class-consciousness), here we have Gramscians attempting to generate consciousness (or ideology) instead. In a sense, Gramsci had returned to Hegel’s position; which, of course, Marx himself had inverted.
Now how best to create a new working-class — or Muslim today — consciousness? Simple: take over the institutions in which ideas/ideologies — rather than “material conditions” — are primary. Or, alternatively, only by “becoming the State” — not by violently seizing the state (as in a revolution) — could the consciousness of the working class — or Muslims today — be changed in the ways middle-class Leftists wanted it to change.
Thus Leftists have conquered many institutions of the UK and America and therefore created, just as Gramsci wanted, a Leftist ‘hegemony’ (even if they have indeed “lost the economic war”). They have taken over large parts of the following: the legal system, the universities, councils, the charities, the BBC, the press, various churches, the police and so on.
Take the important example of the ‘rights’ industry. These members of the Leftist Establishment (or hegemony) fight only for the ‘rights’ of the Islamists, terrorists and Leftists who they see as being against the ‘capitalist state’. Fighting for the rights of these people will further ‘radicalize’ the situation in the America and UK.
UK’s Liberty, for instance, doesn’t fight for rights across the board. (Did Shami Chakrabarti defend the former leader of the EDL, Tommy Robinson, whose parents had their doors knocked down by the police on more than one occasion?) Leftist lawyers too are only concerned with the rights and freedoms of those Islamists and chosen minorities who will help them further their own political causes.
So this is not, then, about justice or the innocence of Muslim defendants (who often have a mountain of evidence against them). It’s primarily about cultural Marxism from the top; as well as the continuing Leftist Long March through those remaining institutions which are not, as yet, completely under their control.