The essay below is the latest in an occasional series by our expatriate English correspondent Peter on the history of the Socialist Left in Britain.
The Red Evolution IV: The Subversive Left, the Destabilising Left, the Antecedents of Generation Snowflake and the Ultimate Surrender of Rationality
Having lived through it, I believe the period from 1960 to 1975, commonly known as the ’60s, was a carefully devised trap into which we all propelled ourselves, willingly and of our own volition, a knot with a multitude of apparently loose strands which, when drawn tightly together, ensnared us all. The summer of peace and love did not happen, at least, not the way they said it did. With the wisdom of hindsight, I believe that what did happen in the 1960s was mass-indoctrination; the first of a succession of generations to move into Communism, not by force, but by stealth, subversion, sex, drugs and rock and roll by way of a process which began many years before.
World War II finally ended on 2nd September 1945 with the signing of the Peace Treaty with Japan on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo harbour, Germany having surrendered to the Allies four months earlier, after Hitler had thoughtfully put himself out of everyone’s misery. As a result, the Soviet Union had acquired East Germany and much of Eastern Europe, upon which by means of the eradication of political institutions, terror campaigns, purges of dissidents, mass murder and other tried and tested methods of enforcing totalitarian control, the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ruthlessly imposed communist rule in defiance of assurances extracted from him by his allies at Yalta in February 1945 that free elections would be held. He guessed rightly that Western leaders had had enough of war and would not take up arms again — at least, not then, and not over Eastern Europe.
Stalin and his cronies had planned the Communist takeover of Eastern Europe well before 1939, so that when the Red Army had ‘liberated’ those countries, police forces, both conventional and covert Communist party structures were already in place and awaiting activation. In the late 1940s, with the Soviet Empire now a work in progress, Stalin was intent on extending Soviet influence, believing it was only a matter of time before Western Europe fell into its clutches, but there were several restraining influences.
While Western Europe was nearly destitute and primarily engaged on rebuilding what remained of its society and its cities, thanks in a large part to the Marshall Plan, it was still prepared to defend itself, and if it were to fall short in this enterprise, then America stood ready, willing and able to pick up any deficit. Additionally, the Soviet Union had paid a terrible price for its own role in what it called The Great Patriotic War, far greater than any other participating country. Stalingrad was not the only Soviet City to have been reduced to rubble during hostilities. In Western Russia alone, the degree of desolation caused by a scorched earth policy exercised by both sides had all but obliterated 1700 towns and approximately 70,000 villages, along with 32,000 factories and 65,000 kilometres of railway track. In addition, the loss of life suffered by the population of the USSR as published by the current Russian Government totals 26.6 million people, two thirds of which were civilians, but this has been called a conservative estimate by Russian scholar Boris Sokolov, who believes there were around 43.3 million Soviet lives lost, 27 million of which were civilians.
Therefore Stalin’s options for Soviet expansion through direct assault appeared limited, but there was one option, a proxy war in the east. This would require a minimal call on Soviet manpower while ascertaining firstly whether the West still had the stomach for a fight, and secondly whether his newly-acquired Chinese allies would rally to the cause. The Korean Peninsula had been occupied by the Japanese since 1910, and following their surrender in 1945 had been divided along an area just north of the 38th Parallel between the Soviet-backed north ruled by the Communist Kim Il-Sung and the US backed south led by President Syngman Rhee. It would be fair to say that Soviet support for the North Korean leadership was lukewarm, while the Americans regarded Rhee as the best of a particularly nasty bunch, whose only positive characteristics were his fluency in English and his aversion to communism.
Throughout 1949 and 1950 the North Korean military had been receiving large quantities of Soviet tanks, artillery and aircraft as well as intensive combat training, while its numbers had been enhanced considerably by the return of battle-hardened veterans who had fought on the Communist side in the Chinese civil war. By contrast, the South Korean army had little more than small arms with which to defend itself. A North-versus-South conflict appeared to be a very unequal contest, and this encouraged Stalin to give the word for his North Korean client to invade the South, which it did on 25th June 1950.
Although the invasion caught the Americans by surprise, the UN reacted with amazing speed, compared to the lethargic Arab-dominated talking shop it has now become. On 27th June it authorized a US-led multinational force from what would eventually become twenty-one countries to repel the North Korean invasion. After the first months of the conflict, coalition troops were very much on the back foot until a seaborne UN counter-offensive landed at Inchon cut off North Korean troops and effectively altered the course of the war. The retreating North Korean forces were pursued northwards to an area close to the border with China, whereupon in response to an earlier commitment made to Stalin, Mao Zedong ordered the Communist Chinese army into the war, dispatching a massive force across the border into Korea, compelling the UN armies to retreat in the face of its ferocious advance.
During the next two and a half years, hostilities degenerated into a war of attrition in and around the 38th parallel until an armistice was signed on 27th July 1953. This was not followed by a formal peace treaty, and North and South Korea are still officially at war, facing off on a daily basis across a demilitarized zone. Nearly 40,000 Americans were killed in battle and over 100,000 were wounded, while British casualties were 1,078 killed in action and 2,674 wounded, with another 1,060 missing or taken prisoner. The North Koreans lost about 215,000 killed, 303,000 wounded and over 101,000 captured or missing, whilst their Southern adversaries lost 46,000 killed and over 100,000 wounded. Chinese losses have been estimated by the Pentagon to be in the region of 400,000 killed, 486,000 wounded and 21,000 taken prisoner. Officially, the Soviet Union was not an active participant in the war, although it did provide weapons, advisers, medical services, pilots and aircraft, and admitted to incurring losses of 335 aircraft and 282 pilots — just as well for them that they were not actively involved.
To ordinary people, the consequences of such an intense encounter incurring such an overwhelming number of casualties might have dissuaded the leadership of any sensible state from pursuing their expansionist policies further, but these were committed communists led by a despot who once said to US Ambassador, Averell Harriman, “A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.” If nothing else, the Soviet Union created many such statistics, as did the People’s Republic of China, and they were more than happy to continue doing so even without Stalin, who died on 5th March 1954 at the age of 74.
The bloodletting continued as Communist-led insurgencies erupted in Asia for decades, particularly in Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma, Thailand, India, Nepal, Laos, Cambodia and the Philippines, mostly fomented by the People’s Republic of China, but not all. The Vietnam war proved to be the most brutal and intense confrontation of the 1960s and early ’70s, demonstrating that while lessons had been learned from the Korean War, it was the Soviet bloc rather than the United States that had learned them.
I do not propose to go into a long history or examination of the Vietnam War, its causes or its consequences, except to say that, the US Government saw its action as an attempt to reverse an ongoing Communist initiative to absorb and subjugate Eastern Asia. Unlike the Korean conflict, the Communist North did not invade the non-Communist South, at least, not at first. Instead, it pursued a guerrilla war, into which the United States allowed itself to be drawn, bled and ultimately defeated. The Communist bloc played America beautifully by containing and frustrating a superior force, while at the same time using the war to foment discontent in the American homeland and sow the seeds of dissent and leftism. Those seeds had been carefully sown over decades of infiltration, subversion deceit and mendacity, of which the following are but a small example.
There have always been communist sympathisers in the USA ever since the Russian Revolution, and three of them, Bill Haywood, the prominent labour organizer, Charles Ruthenburg, the founder of the US Communist Party and John Reed, author of October: Ten Days that shook the World, had the dubious distinction of being interred by the Soviets in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis along with many other dead comrades. At least they were unable to incite any further unrest in their homeland, but there were others who could and did.
In the early 1920s, one György Lukács, a lapsed Hungarian aristocrat, co-founded the Institute for Social Research at the University of Frankfurt, known more popularly as the Frankfurt School. Most people reading this will be familiar with its activities, aims and objectives which, put simply, involved trying to spread the communist revolution to Europe and the rest of the West, and, in so doing seeking to analyse why the revolution had not spread to those places automatically. The answer, of course, was that the leadership and citizens of those countries had more sense. While the democratic systems of government operating in the West in the early 20th Century were by no means perfect — women in the UK only receiving the vote in 1918, and then only if they were over 30 — people were aware of what was being imposed on post-revolutionary Russia and, quite sensibly, they wanted no part of any of it. But try telling that to a committed communist. Try telling anything to a committed communist.
Those involved with the Frankfurt School were a motley collection of Marxists, apostate Jews, unaligned political theorists, free-thinkers and a number of all-purpose crackpot academics with a few Freudians and members of the “Cult of Astarte” thrown in to take matters a little further into the absurd. Yet the Frankfurt School’s influence was as toxic as it was far-reaching. Using a form of analysis they called Critical Theory, they attacked and deconstructed Western society, its customs, culture and traditions as well as political parties and institutions. Their major target was Judeo-Christianity, followed by democracy, nation states and a multitude of other Western institutions, probably including the Brooklyn Dodgers and Ma’s apple pie as well, so that Western civilization found itself under attack from the most extraordinary selection of Communist academics ever assembled for the purpose. Yet most citizens of Western countries had no idea of what was happening, and many are just as ignorant today.
The aforementioned cult of Astarte deserves a little expansion, as its own influence on the ’60s was only too clear. Astarte is the Hellenised form of the goddess Ishtar, Aphrodite or Isis, a female pagan entity worshipped throughout the Levant, North Africa and the Middle East from the Bronze Age onwards. Its practitioners probably believed that after Christianity had been neutralized by Marxism, Astarte could be resurrected as an alternative deity, which, if nothing else says a great deal about the Frankfurt School and its supporters.
The Cult of Astarte has been credited with the foundation of “New Ageism” and a load of other bizarre nonsense that cluttered up and largely reduced to ridicule and irrelevance the 1960s Counter-Culture. Most of it first saw the light of day in Ascona, a small village in Switzerland. By 1918 it had attracted legions of occultists, leftists and other pseudo-intellectuals and space cadets, and has subsequently been compared to 1960s hippie hangouts like the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, Camden Lock in North London, the Greek islands of Hydra and Mykonos, the Freak Street area of Kathmandu, Arambol Beach in Goa and Bangkok’s Khao San Road with peddlers hawking beads, Tarot readings, health foods, cannabis, opiates and hammocks to long-haired tattooed F-wits in their robes, ponchos and sandals. There were other such places, too, like Amsterdam, Marrakesh, Istanbul and Kabul along what became known as the hippie trail. It appeared there was nothing new about the New Age after all, and when the Looney Left came out to play, it was often to places such as these.
One Otto Gross, an early associate of György Lukács, has been credited as being the dominant influence in establishing the Cult of Astarte in Ascona with a view to starting a sexual revolution aimed at destroying the “bourgeois concept of family.” As a result, many celebrities of their time were attracted to this tiny village, including D.H. Lawrence, Franz Kafka, H.G. Wells, Isadora Duncan and Herman Hesse. The female lodge of the Satanist Aleister Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis was also established here.
When Hitler became German Chancellor in 1933, the Institute was compelled to vacate the University of Frankfurt, and in July 1934 relocated to New York’s Columbia University, from which the most significant of Frankfurt’s intelligentsia, including Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm and Theodor Adorno emerged to continue their subversive activities. Much of the work of the Frankfurt School centred upon mass psychology, mass indoctrination and other ways to persuade people of otherwise sound mind that Marxism was a good idea. Marcuse and Adorno were probably the most outstanding practitioners of these dark arts, and went on to achieve the greatest degree of notoriety for their efforts.
Through his contacts at Columbia University, Adorno — an accomplished musician — obtained the post of Head of the Music Section at the Office of Radio Research at the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Princeton. Popularly known as the “Radio Project,” and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, which was hardly an altruistic organisation even then, but they did recognise the possibilities for social control and had begun funding research into mass media and its effect on the American public at an early stage of its development. The Radio Project was staffed by a number of talented individuals, most of whom went on to greater things, but the real purpose of the project was to critically analyse and thoroughly test a thesis by Adorno and his more gifted Frankfurt School collaborator Walter Benjamin on how the media could affect the population and increase their susceptibility to mass indoctrination and control techniques — or brainwashing, to you and me.
While considering social control, one should not overlook the significance of Project MK Ultra and its influence on the Sixties. In the early 1950s the CIA launched an illegal programme of experiments on American and Canadian citizens, often without their consent or knowledge, with the intention of using the results in interrogation and torture techniques to weaken the recipient and elicit confessions from them. Later these experiments concentrated increasingly on the use of LSD and Mescaline, primarily to investigate their potential for social control.
Project MK Ultra continued into the 1970s. It became the subject of scrutiny in 1975, firstly by the Church Committee of US Congress and then by the Gerald Ford Commission set up to investigate CIA activities within the United States. These efforts were obstructed by the then-CIA director, Richard Helms, who in 1973 ordered all documentary records of MK Ultra to be destroyed, leaving the investigating committees to rely on the sworn testimonies of the victims and the comparatively small amount of paperwork that survived Helms’ purge. During the late 1950s LSD became the subject of recreational drug use within the CIA itself, and it was being provided to their friends and close associates, including people such as Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, who actually participated voluntarily in CIA experiments. Other recipients of CIA-supplied LSD at this time included members of the rock band The Grateful Dead, Timothy Leary and the beat poet Alan Ginsberg — which, in hindsight, probably explains a lot.
In 1950 Adorno co-authored what purported to be a sociology work entitled “The Authoritarian Personality”, which concluded that society was divided into two main groups, oppressors and victims — a theory which is still very much with us today and flows neatly into Marcuse’s theory of repressive tolerance which, simply put, encouraged tolerance of ideas and propositions from the left and intolerance of those coming from the right. Again, this is still with us today.
Since leaving Germany in 1933, Marcuse had had a varied career. During World War II he worked firstly for the US Office of War Information formulating anti-Nazi propaganda, before progressing to the Research and Analysis Branch of the Office of Strategic Services, where by 1943 he had become the leading US authority on Germany. After the OSS disbanded in 1945 he moved to the US State Department where between 1947 and 1951 he became the department’s top analyst of Soviet Policy until he retired when his first wife died.
1952 saw Marcuse begin a teaching career in the field of political theory, firstly at Columbia University and then Harvard. From 1958 to 1965 he taught at Brandeis University, where it is said he influenced the hard-left black power activist Angela Davis and Abby Hoffman, who would later co-found the Youth International Party (the Yippies) with Jerry Rubin. It was also during his time at Brandeis that he published One Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society, the work that made him famous. The book engaged in a wide ranging critique of capitalist and Soviet Communist society, demonstrating an intensification of social repression in both societies along with a decline in opportunity for revolution in the West. Against this backdrop, Marcuse advocated the “great refusal” as the only way to oppose the all-embracing instruments of control. On the surface, this represents a volte face from the aims and intentions of the Frankfurt School, and begs the question whether or not he was still a communist by this time, but his later activities more than confirm that he was.
In 1965 Marcuse’ teaching contract at Brandeis was not renewed, and he moved on to the University of San Diego where he remained until he retired, becoming known — for good reason — as the “Guru of the New Left.” Both Horkheimer and Marcuse realized early on in their American adventure that the working classes would not be participating in the Marxist Revolution any time soon. After all, why should they? They were too busy working, earning money, feeding and sheltering their families and acquiring the good things in life. Why should they put all that at risk by rising up in support of a system of government that has only ever delivered poverty and repression? So, who then would bring the Marxist Revolution about? Marcuse found the answer.
His time at Brandeis and San Diego coincided with the rise of a multitude of movements demanding social, legal and economic change, many with good cause, for instance the black Civil Rights movement, which achieved international recognition following the March on Washington on 28th August 1963. Here Martin Luther King delivered his “I have a dream” speech, which became the inspiration for all such movements. Marcuse saw the instigators, activists and agitators advocating black power, feminist, gay and sexual liberation as the harbingers of his new Marxist insurgency and an ideal means of propagating Marxist ideology, which, once activated, spread very rapidly throughout US universities.
So it was that the new Marxist revolution would be pursued by a coalition of self-proclaimed victims — blacks, women, minorities and gays under the guidance and counsel of Marcuse, who demonstrated the ability to communicate so successfully with young people that he became the “intellectual guru” of the hippie movement, providing them with a constant supply of disinformation and dogma as if to make sacred their nihilism, drug-induced inertia and anti-social activities. Indeed, in 1969 Lucien Goldmann, visiting professor at Columbia University, stated of Marcuse that:
“The student movements… found in his works and ultimately in his works alone the theoretical formulation of their problems and aspirations.”
Marcuse understood students protesting against the Vietnam war and the likelihood that they would be drafted into it and killed. He incorporated this into his overarching message of nihilism, the twisting of negatives into positives so that left became right and right became wrong, and the bowdlerizing of language so as not to cause those he’d coached into feigning offense to prematurely ejaculate into manufactured hysteria. He also opposed many other things, such as work and personal hygiene, declaring the one to be a repressive aspect of civilization, while arguing that personal hygiene was an obstacle to embracing a “body unsoiled by plastic cleanliness,” thereby validating laziness and making a virtue of wallowing in one’s own filth. Maybe he was trying to recreate the excesses of Ancona.
Throughout the 1960s, many of the various “rights” movements that slowly bubbled beneath the surface continued to seethe incrementally, until in 1968 they finally exploded into an orgiastic manifestation of riot, havoc, civil upheaval, and violent confrontation with the armed enforcers of the state.
Meanwhile, over here in Europe, we had our own problems.
To be continued…
Peter is an English expatriate who now lives in Thailand. For his previous essays, see Peter’s Archives.