Fidel Castro on the Frankfurt School

One of the last Cold War­ri­ors left stand­ing fi­nally bit the dust last night. If we’re lucky, Henry Kis­sing­er will also be dead by year’s end. Good fuck­ing rid­dance. Com­rade Emanuel San­tos put it splen­didly: “Fi­del Castro, Sta­lin­ist butcher and en­emy of the work­ers, is dead. The work­ing class won’t be happy un­til the last bur­eau­crat is hung with the in­test­ines of the last cap­it­al­ist.” [Fi­del Castro, ver­dugo Es­ta­linista y en­emigo de los obrer­os, ha falle­cido. La clase tra­ba­jadora no estará con­tenta hasta que el último burócrata cuelgue de las entrañas del último cap­it­alista].

An­oth­er com­rade, Ash­meet Teemsa, ex­claimed that “the en­emy of Cuban pro­let­ari­at is dead, a man no more a friend of the work­ing class than Thatch­er,” adding: “Shame on the ‘an­arch­ists’/’com­mun­ists’ who eu­lo­gize or mourn!” He then quoted from the In­ter­na­tion­al Com­mun­ist Cur­rent’s Ba­sic Po­s­i­tions: “The strat­i­fied re­gimes which arose in the USSR, east­ern Europe, China, Cuba etc and were called “so­cial­ist” or “com­mun­ist” were just a par­tic­u­larly bru­tal form of the uni­ver­sal tend­ency to­wards state cap­it­al­ism.”

There is no such thing as so­cial­ism in one coun­try, and na­tion­al­ism (wheth­er Amer­ic­an or Cuban, “right-wing” or “left-wing”) is noth­ing more than the con­sort of war, de­signed to fa­cil­it­ate the di­vi­sion of the world pro­let­ari­at, to lead the work­ing-class onto the bat­tle­field, march­ing un­der “its own” na­tion­al flag, and pre­pare the sep­ar­ated sec­tions of the work­ing class for re­cip­roc­al slaughter, all this in the name of “their” na­tion­al in­terest, the in­terest of “their” na­tion’s bour­geois­ie. The self-pro­claimed Castroite “anti-im­per­i­al­ists” (i.e. anti-west­ern im­per­i­al­ism) fail to un­der­stand that im­per­i­al­ism is simply the lo­gic of world cap­it­al­ism’s atom­ic com­pon­ents, na­tion-states — im­per­i­al­ism is cap­it­al­ism’s meta­bol­ism in a world di­vided in­to na­tion-states. As com­pet­ing zones of ac­cu­mu­la­tion with­in this world-sys­tem, na­tion-states are led to clash with one an­oth­er. Only the dis­sol­u­tion of na­tion-states, as politico-eco­nom­ic units, can put an end to this sys­tem, and hence bring about world pro­let­ari­an re­volu­tion.

What we see in Cuba, Venezuela, etc., con­trary to tankie/Chom­sky­ite non­sense, is noth­ing pro­gress­ive, no step for­ward for the work­ing class. The dis­place­ment of the old bour­geois­ie and their re­place­ment by a new, “red” bour­geois­ie and the re­place­ment of privat­ized in­dus­tries and free-mar­ket cap­it­al­ism with na­tion­al­ized in­dus­tries and state-cap­it­al­ism (and a flour­ish­ing black mar­ket) are ir­rel­ev­ant. The ob­vi­ous fea­tures of cap­it­al­ism, as de­scribed by Marx in Cap­it­al — the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of value, com­mod­it­ies, the ex­ploit­a­tion of work­ers, etc. — re­main the same. In­ter­na­tion­al­ists re­ject the choice between “cap­it­al­ist” bosses, po­lice and pris­ons and “so­cial­ist” bosses, po­lice and pris­ons. Between “right-wing”/pro-Amer­ic­an and “left-wing”/anti-Amer­ic­an re­gimes or coun­tries. This is all su­per­fi­cial, left­ist (left of cap­it­al) non­sense. In­ter­na­tion­al re­la­tions are in­her­ently flu­id. Those who eu­lo­gize or pro­pa­gand­ize on be­half of the “red” bour­geois­ie help to foster and re­in­force il­lu­sions about the “re­volu­tion­ary” or “pro­gress­ive” nature of vari­ous anti-pro­let­ari­an, na­tion­al­ist re­gimes and state-cap­it­al­ism. We have reas­on neither to mourn nor cel­eb­rate.

My own thoughts add little to this, though one might also con­sult the ex­cel­lent 1966 bul­let­in on “Cuba and Marx­ist The­ory.” Leav­ing aside the egre­gious treat­ment of LGBT in­di­vidu­als in Cuba un­der Fi­del, forced in­to labor camps from 1959 to 1979, a few words might be said.

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Castro was a na­tion­al­ist strong­man first, and a Marx­ist second. He was some­how naïve enough to be­lieve that the United States would smile upon his pop­u­lar up­ris­ing against Batista’s dic­tat­ori­al re­gime, be­cause of the USA’s sup­posed com­mit­ment to “demo­cracy.” After it be­came clear that they ac­tu­ally didn’t give a shit about demo­crat­ic gov­ern­ment, just want­ing a friendly dic­tat­or to run its trop­ic­al re­sort off Flor­ida, Fi­del went win­dow shop­ping for ideo­lo­gies. Khushchev’s So­viet Uni­on and Mao’s China were already a couple years in­to the Sino-So­viet split, com­pet­ing for he­ge­mony with­in the non-aligned or “Third World” sphere.

Out of the two main brands of “ac­tu­ally-ex­ist­ing so­cial­ism,” Castro ended up go­ing with the USSR, op­por­tun­ist­ic­ally de­clar­ing him­self a Marx­ist-Len­in­ist (long after the fact). So his per­son­al polit­ic­al his­tory was largely re­writ­ten from this point on­ward to re­flect his later dis­pos­i­tion as if it had been the case all along. Fol­low­ing the col­lapse of com­mun­ism in 1991, Cuba’s eco­nomy went in­to a tailspin, since the is­land na­tion didn’t have big daddy Brezh­nev around to pay its bills any­more. Even Castro began openly ad­mit­ting that “the Cuban mod­el” nev­er worked, and had been overly re­li­ant on sub­sidies from its so­cial­ist al­lies.

What les­sons did Castro take from this? Nat­ur­ally, that so­cial­ists ought to be more in­dul­gent of re­li­gion and na­tion­al­ism. Hence his cor­di­al vis­its with three sit­ting popes, in­clud­ing the vir­u­lent an­ti­com­mun­ist John Paul II. Be­low one can read an art­icle by Mar­tin Jay on Castro’s sur­pris­ing en­dorse­ment of an an­ti­semit­ic con­spir­acy the­ory ori­gin­ally by Daniel Es­tulin. It ap­peared in 2010, and can be ac­cessed in the ori­gin­al Span­ish by click­ing here. The the­ory has cir­cu­lated even more re­cently, with the rise of the so-called “alt-right.” Don’t mourn Comand­ante Castro’s passing too much, though, com­rades. Fi­del’s son and Par­is Hilton have joined forces of late, so Cuba’s fu­ture is clearly in good hands.

Dia­lectic of counter-en­light­en­ment:
The Frank­furt School as scape­goat of the lun­at­ic fringe

Mar­tin Jay
Fall 2010

On Au­gust 18, 2010, Fi­del Castro con­trib­uted an art­icle to the Cuban Com­mun­ist Party pa­per Granma in which he en­dorsed the bizarre al­leg­a­tions of an ob­scure Lithuani­an-born con­spir­acy the­or­ist named Daniel Es­tulin in a 2005 book en­titled The Secrets of the Bilder­berg Club.1 In an As­so­ci­ated Press wire story writ­ten by Will Weis­sert, which was quickly picked up by scores of sites on­line, Castro’s in­fatu­ation went vir­al, and sud­denly Es­tulin was un­known no more. Soon after, he was in­vited to Havana for a meet­ing with his new ad­mirer, who was un­troubled by Es­tulin’s am­bigu­ous polit­ic­al af­fil­i­ations, and be­fore the day was out, the aging Cuban lead­er and his un­ex­pec­ted friend had de­clared that Osama Bin Laden was really a secret CIA agent and the United States was plan­ning to des­troy Rus­sia’s still po­tent mil­it­ary forces, if ne­ces­sary by nuc­le­ar means.2

Es­tulin’s claim in the book that cap­tiv­ated Castro goes something like this: be­gin­ning with a meet­ing in 1954 in the Bilder­berg Hotel in a Dutch town, a group of power­ful men — heads of state, eco­nom­ic ty­coons, even the oc­ca­sion­al mon­arch — have gathered an­nu­ally in or­der to de­cide the fate of the world. Among the usu­al sus­pects, the Rock­e­feller fam­ily, the Roth­schilds, Prince Bernhard, and Henry Kis­sing­er are prom­in­ent em­in­ences grises. With the ul­ti­mate goal of in­stalling a world gov­ern­ment — or more pre­cisely, a “one-world cor­por­a­tion” — un­der their con­trol, they pull the strings of the eco­nomy, aim­ing to cre­ate chaos, and plot to nar­cot­ize the pop­u­la­tion by any means pos­sible. Per­haps their most ef­fect­ive gam­bit has been the con­coc­tion and dis­sem­in­a­tion of mass cul­ture, in par­tic­u­lar the rock and roll that turned po­ten­tial so­cial re­volu­tion­ar­ies in­to coun­ter­cul­tur­al stone­rs.

After dec­ades of bat­tling ac­tu­al con­spir­acies ded­ic­ated to over­turn­ing his Re­volu­tion, the 84-year-old Castro is, I sup­pose, as en­titled as any­one to para­noid fantas­ies. But what makes his em­brace of Es­tulin’s book es­pe­cially ris­ible is the sub­or­din­ate ar­gu­ment — and this is the part that most con­cerns me here — that the in­spir­a­tion for the sub­ver­sion of do­mest­ic un­rest came from Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Ad­orno, Her­bert Mar­cuse, Leo Lowenth­al and their col­leagues at the In­sti­tute for So­cial Re­search in the 1950s. To cite the As­so­ci­ated Press con­densed ver­sion: “The ex­cerpt pub­lished by Castro sug­ges­ted that the eso­ter­ic Frank­furt School of so­cial­ist aca­dem­ics worked with mem­bers of the Rock­e­feller fam­ily in the 1950s to pave the way for rock mu­sic to ‘con­trol the masses’ by di­vert­ing at­ten­tion from civil rights and so­cial in­justice.”3 The Ra­dio Re­search Project un­der the dir­ec­tion of Paul Laz­arsfeld, which had hired Ad­orno when he came to Amer­ica in 1938, had, after all, been fun­ded the Rock­e­feller Found­a­tion. It was here that the tech­niques for mind con­trol via pop mu­sic had been de­veloped. And then ac­cord­ing to Es­tulin, the task of real­iz­ing their sin­is­ter po­ten­tial was giv­en to no less a lu­minary than Wal­ter Lippmann (!), who was some­how able to en­gin­eer the Beatles’ con­quest of the Amer­ic­an me­dia in the 1960s. What fol­lowed was a new and more power­ful opi­um of the people (al­though, to be sure, opi­um or sub­sti­tutes were do­ing a pretty good job as well). For after all, didn’t John Len­non ad­mit as much when he so mem­or­ably sang, “you say you want a re­volu­tion… you know you can count me out, don’ you know it’s gonna be all right, all right, all right.”

Here we have clearly broken through the look­ing glass and entered a par­al­lel uni­verse in which nor­mal rules of evid­ence and plaus­ib­il­ity have been sus­pen­ded. It is a mark of the sil­li­ness of these claims that they have even sub­jec­ted to ri­dicule by Rush Limbaugh on his Au­gust 20, 2010 ra­dio show. Even he had to point out that the Beatles were on the side of so­cial change, not op­posed to it. Limbaugh, to be sure, ig­nored the oth­er most blatant ab­surdity in Es­tulin’s scheme, which was at­trib­ut­ing to the Frank­furt School a po­s­i­tion pre­cisely op­pos­ite to what its mem­bers had al­ways taken. That is, when they dis­cussed the “cul­ture in­dustry” it was with the ex­pli­cit cri­ti­cism, iron­ic­ally echoed here by Castro, that it func­tioned to re­con­cile people to their misery and dull the pain of their suf­fer­ing. Wheth­er or not the Frank­furt School’s ar­gu­ment is fully plaus­ible is not the is­sue here, but rather the pathet­ic mis­com­pre­hen­sion of Es­tulin and the credu­lity of Castro in see­ing them as agents of the Bilder­berg project to make the world safe for cap­it­al­ist elites. The even weirder fantasy about their as­sign­ing Lippmann the job of re­con­cil­ing the­ory and prac­tice is so out­land­ish that it is im­possible even to guess how it might have been con­cocted.

I have no stake in ex­on­er­at­ing or blam­ing the Bilder­berg gang for ru­in­ing the world. Un­til this epis­ode, I had, in fact, nev­er heard of them. Like oth­er can­did­ates for the role of chief con­spir­at­ori­al clique — the Ma­sons, the Il­lu­minati, the Tri­lat­er­al Com­mis­sion, the den­iz­ens of Bo­hemi­an Grove, take your pick — they can surely take care of them­selves. Any­one, moreover, who be­lieves, to take one of Es­tulin’s sil­li­er claims, that Wa­ter­gate was a frame-up de­vised by Bilder­berg king­pin Kis­sing­er to get rid of Nix­on be­cause he was fail­ing to carry out their or­ders is not go­ing to con­vince many sober-minded ob­serv­ers. What con­cerns me here in­stead is the trans­form­a­tion of “the Frank­furt School” in­to a kind of vul­gar meme, a charged unit of cul­tur­al mean­ing that re­duces all the com­plex­it­ies of its in­tel­lec­tu­al his­tory in­to a sound-bite sized pack­age avail­able to be plugged in­to a para­noid nar­rat­ive able to suck­er no less a fig­ure than Fi­del Castro.

Al­though the pro­cess was fore­shad­owed in the 1960s when Her­bert Mar­cuse be­came the me­dia’s fa­vor­ite “guru” of the New Left and was of­ten por­trayed in simple-minded terms, it wasn’t really un­til a dec­ade or so ago that the School as a whole entered the neth­er­world of garbled meme­dom, and began cir­cu­lat­ing in a wide vari­ety of nar­rat­ives, such as that pro­moted by Es­tulin and Castro. Most of these, to be sure, came from a very dif­fer­ent polit­ic­al dir­ec­tion. Patrick Buchanan’s 2001 best-selling screed against the ne­far­i­ous im­pact of im­mig­ra­tion, The Death of the West, was one ma­jor source, stig­mat­iz­ing as it did the Frank­furt School for pro­mot­ing “cul­tur­al Marx­ism” (a re­cyc­ling of the old Wei­mar con­ser­vat­ive charge of “cul­tur­al Bolshev­ism” aimed at aes­thet­ic mod­ern­ists). But the open­ing salvo had, in fact, been fired a dec­ade earli­er in a lengthy es­say by one Mi­chael Min­ni­cino called “New Dark Age: Frank­furt School and ‘Polit­ic­al Cor­rect­ness’,” pub­lished in 1992 in the ob­scure journ­al Fi­delio.4 Its proven­ance is par­tic­u­larly telling: it was an or­gan of the Lyn­don La­rouche move­ment cum cult, one of the less sa­vory curi­os­it­ies of night­mare fringe polit­ics.

La­rouche and his fol­low­ers have, to be sure, al­ways re­mained on the fringe of the fringe, too con­fused in their ideo­logy to be taken ser­i­ously by either rad­ic­al left or right, with little, if any sig­ni­fic­ant im­pact on the real world. But the germ sown by Min­ni­cino was ul­ti­mately to bear re­mark­able pois­on­ous fruit. The har­vester was the Free Con­gress Found­a­tion, a pa­leo-con­ser­vat­ive Wash­ing­ton think tank foun­ded by Paul Weyrich, who was also in on the cre­ation of the Her­it­age Found­a­tion and the Mor­al Ma­jor­ity move­ment. Much of the fin­an­cial sup­port came from his col­lab­or­at­or Joseph Co­ors, who knew how to turn all that pure Rocky Moun­tain wa­ter in­to a cash flow for the rad­ic­al right. The FCF sponsored a satel­lite tele­vi­sion net­work called Na­tion­al Em­power­ment Tele­vi­sion, which churned out slickly pro­duced shows pro­mul­gat­ing its vari­ous opin­ions.

In 1999, it broad­cast an hour-long, skill­fully craf­ted exposé of “Polit­ic­al Cor­rect­ness: The Frank­furt School,” which was put to­geth­er largely by Wil­li­am Lind, one of Weyrich’s col­leagues at the Found­a­tion and head of its Cen­ter for Cul­tur­al Con­ser­vat­ism. Weyrich him­self ap­peared only at the end dur­ing a ques­tion-and-an­swer ses­sion with view­ers who called in. In ad­di­tion to Lind, a num­ber of the usu­al sus­pects — the right-wing pun­dits Ro­ger Kim­ball and Dav­id Horow­itz, and the former foot­ball star and ho­mo­phobic re­li­gious preach­er Reg­gie White — com­ment on the School’s his­tory. There is as well one an­om­al­ous fig­ure, the au­thor of the first his­tory of the Frank­furt School, The Dia­lect­ic­al Ima­gin­a­tion. The book was it­self dis­played at the end of the show, and re­com­men­ded to any­one in­ter­ested in the full story, al­beit with the cau­tion­ary re­mind­er that its au­thor was him­self a dan­ger­ous apo­lo­gist for the School’s philo­sophy. Later Lind would crow in a column in The Amer­ic­an Con­ser­vat­ive, “The video is es­pe­cially valu­able be­cause we in­ter­viewed the prin­cip­al Amer­ic­an ex­pert on the Frank­furt School, Mar­tin Jay, who was then the chair­man of the His­tory De­part­ment at Berke­ley (and ob­vi­ously no con­ser­vat­ive). He spills the beans.”5

Ever since that lam­ent­able broad­cast I have of­ten been asked how I fell among such du­bi­ous char­ac­ters, and so let me beg the read­er’s in­dul­gence for a mo­ment to ex­plain be­fore mov­ing on to the lar­ger is­sues at hand. When I was ap­proached for the in­ter­view, I was not in­formed of the polit­ic­al agenda of the broad­casters, who seemed very pro­fes­sion­al and cour­teous. Hav­ing done a num­ber of sim­il­ar shows in the past on one or an­oth­er as­pect of the his­tory of the Frank­furt School, I na­ively as­sumed the end res­ults would re­flect my opin­ions with some fi­del­ity, at least with­in the con­straints of the ed­ited fi­nal product. But what happened in­stead was that all my crit­ic­al re­marks about the hy­po­crisy of the right-wing cam­paign against polit­ic­al cor­rect­ness were lost and what re­mained were simple fac­tu­al state­ments con­firm­ing the Marx­ist ori­gins of the School, which had nev­er been a secret to any­one. In­ter­weav­ing my ed­ited testi­mony in­to the lar­ger nar­rat­ive may have giv­en it an un­earned le­git­im­acy, which I now, of course, re­gret, but it’s likely the ef­fect would have been pretty much the same without my par­ti­cip­a­tion as “use­ful idi­ot.” Those beans I al­legedly spilled had already been on the plate for a very long time, and it would have taken no ef­fort at all to con­firm that, yes, they were Marx­ists, and yes, they thought cul­tur­al ques­tions were im­port­ant, and yes, they — or at least Mar­cuse — wor­ried about the ef­fects of “re­press­ive tol­er­ance.”

In any event, the “doc­u­ment­ary,” soon avail­able on the net, spawned a num­ber of con­densed tex­tu­al ver­sions, which were re­pro­duced on a num­ber of rad­ic­al right-wing sites. These in turn led to a wel­ter of new videos now avail­able on You Tube, which fea­ture an odd cast of pseudo-ex­perts re­gur­git­at­ing ex­actly the same line. The mes­sage is numb­ingly simplist­ic: all the ills of mod­ern Amer­ic­an cul­ture, from fem­in­ism, af­firm­at­ive ac­tion, sexu­al lib­er­a­tion and gay rights to the de­cay of tra­di­tion­al edu­ca­tion and even en­vir­on­ment­al­ism are ul­ti­mately at­trib­ut­able to the in­si­di­ous in­flu­ence of the mem­bers of the In­sti­tute for So­cial Re­search who came to Amer­ica in the 1930s. The ori­gins of “cul­tur­al Marx­ism” are traced back to Lukács and Gram­sci, but be­cause they were not ac­tu­al émigrés, their role in the nar­rat­ive is not as prom­in­ent. Nor do most of the com­ment­at­ors at­trib­ute re­spons­ib­il­ity to the Com­mun­ist In­ter­na­tion­al, al­though oc­ca­sion­ally, as in the case of Cry Hav­oc!, a 2007 book by a founder of the Na­tion­al Re­view, Ral­ph de Toledano, the crack­pot claim is ac­tu­ally ad­vanced that the Frank­furt School was a Com­mie front set up by Willi Muen­zen­ber­ger.6

There is a trans­par­ent sub­text in the ori­gin­al CFC pro­gram, which is not hard to dis­cern and has be­come more ex­pli­cit with each telling of the nar­rat­ive. Al­though there is scarcely any dir­ect ref­er­ence to the eth­nic ori­gins of the School’s mem­bers, subtle hints al­low the listen­er to draw his own con­clu­sions about the proven­ance of for­eign­ers who tried to com­bine Marx and Freud, those gi­ants of crit­ic­al Jew­ish in­tel­li­gence. At one point, Wil­li­am Lind as­serts that “once in Amer­ica they shif­ted the fo­cus of their work from des­troy­ing Ger­man so­ci­ety to at­tack­ing the so­ci­ety and cul­ture of its new place of refuge,”7 as if the very people who had to flee the Nazis had been re­spons­ible for what they were flee­ing!8 Air­time is also giv­en to an­oth­er of Weyrich’s col­leagues at the FCF, Lazlo Paszt­or, who is in­no­cently iden­ti­fied as a “lead­er of the Hun­gari­an res­ist­ance against Com­mun­ism,” but had already been dis­cred­ited a dec­ade earli­er as a former mem­ber of the pro-Nazi “Ar­row Cross,” who had to leave the Bush cam­paign in 1988 when he was outed.

A num­ber of years later a fringe neo-Nazi group called “Storm­front” could boldly ex­press what had hitherto only been in­sinu­ated, and in so do­ing really spill some foul-tast­ing beans:

Talk­ing about the Frank­furt School is ideal for not nam­ing the Jews as a group (which of­ten leads to a pan­icky re­jec­tion, a stub­born re­fus­al to listen­ing any­more and even a “shut up”) but nam­ing the Jew by prop­er names. People will make their gen­er­al­iz­a­tions by them­selves – in the pri­vacy of their own minds. At least it worked like that with me. It was my light­bulb mo­ment, when con­fus­ing pieces of an alarm­ing puzzle sud­denly grouped to a vis­ible pic­ture. Learn by heart the most im­port­ant prop­er names of the Frank­furt School­ers – they are (ex­cept for a hand­ful of minor mem­bers and fe­male “groupies”) ALL Jews. One can even quite in­no­cently men­tion that the Frank­furt School­ers had to leave Ger­many in 1933 be­cause “they were to a man, Jew­ish,” as Wil­li­am S. Lind does.9

Now that the real ori­gins of polit­ic­al cor­rect­ness in the cul­tur­al Marx­ism de­vised by a clev­er bunch of for­eign-born Jews had been re­vealed, the full ex­tent of the dam­age they had caused could be spelled out. Here is a list cited ver­batim from many of the web­sites de­voted to the ques­tion:

    1. The cre­ation of ra­cism of­fenses
    2. Con­tinu­al change to cre­ate con­fu­sion
    3. The teach­ing of sex and ho­mo­sexu­al­ity to chil­dren
    4. The un­der­min­ing of schools’ and teach­ers’ au­thor­ity
    5. Huge im­mig­ra­tion to des­troy iden­tity
    6. The pro­mo­tion of ex­cess­ive drink­ing
    7. Empty­ing of churches
    8. An un­re­li­able leg­al sys­tem with bi­as against vic­tims of crime
    9. De­pend­ency on the state or state be­ne­fits
    10. Con­trol and dumb­ing down of me­dia
    11. En­cour­aging the break­down of the fam­ily10

Well, I sup­pose at least the second plank has been real­ized, with per­haps the self-in­flic­ted help of the sixth. In this con­fused world, it is only a short step to blam­ing everything from Ro­man Po­lanski’s lust for un­der­age girls to the al­legedly lib­er­al cur­riculum at the Nav­al Academy to Obama’s health care ini­ti­at­ive — these are among many of the wild as­ser­tions one can find on­line — on the sin­is­ter in­flu­ence of Horkheimer and his friends. One site even as­serts that the Fa­bi­an So­ci­ety, the re­form­ist in­tel­lec­tu­als of late 19th-cen­tury Brit­ish so­cial­ism, was “a di­vi­sion of the Frank­furt School,” which sug­gests that lin­ear chro­no­logy can be swept aside when it comes to ex­pos­ing the work of the dev­il. The ul­ti­mate goal of “cul­tur­al Marx­ism” in their telling is thus far more than the left­ist thought-con­trol that denies al­tern­at­ive po­s­i­tions un­der the guise of re­strict­ing hate speech. It is the sub­ver­sion of West­ern civil­iz­a­tion it­self.

It is, frankly, very dif­fi­cult to know what to make of all of this and even harder to ima­gine a way to counter it. The rad­ic­al Left, it has to be con­ceded, has at times also scape­goated émigré in­tel­lec­tu­als for their sin­is­ter, cov­ert in­flu­ence. After Bush’s in­va­sion of Ir­aq, the neo­con­ser­vat­ives sup­posedly in­spired by Leo Strauss and his fol­low­ers were blamed for in­spir­ing a for­eign policy that was ul­ti­mately in Is­rael’s in­terest. Here too a cer­tain anti-Semit­ic sub­text could eas­ily creep in­to the dis­course.11 And as we see in the un­holy al­li­ance of Castro and Es­tulin, the Frank­furt School could be as­signed the same role by left­ists also fight­ing against the shad­owy string-pullers al­legedly run­ning the uni­verse. In­deed, if we go back to Es­tulin’s ori­gin­al Span­ish text and look for the source that he cites to make his ab­surd claim that was swal­lowed whole by the gull­ible Castro, we find the very same 1992 es­say by the Lyn­don La­rouche min­ion Mi­chael Min­ni­cino that was the source of the Free Con­gress Found­a­tion video!12 But the vast ma­jor­ity of ac­cus­a­tions of this sort come out of a swamp of shock­ingly ill-in­formed, lo­gic­ally chal­lenged dem­agogues on the rad­ic­al right, whose easy ac­cess to the in­ter­net al­lows them blithely to spread the most egre­gious non­sense.

Does the sheer quant­ity of sites de­voted to dis­sem­in­at­ing it, al­most al­ways draw­ing on the same ob­sess­ively re­peated pseudo-facts and un­foun­ded spec­u­la­tions, sug­gest a genu­inely wide­spread phe­nomen­on? Al­though it may be hard to gauge its real ex­tent, the mo­mentum of the dis­sem­in­a­tion has cer­tainly ac­cel­er­ated in the past few years. What began as a bizarre Lyn­don La­rouche coin­age has be­come the com­mon cur­rency of a lar­ger and lar­ger pub­lic of addled enragés. As the case of Pat Buchanan shows, it has entered at least the fringes of the main­stream. In­deed, if you in­clude right-wing ra­dio dem­agogues with size­able audi­ences like the thug­gish Mi­chael Sav­age, it has now be­come their stock in trade as well.13 Can it be doubted that if you polled the crowds at Tea Party ral­lies about the in­flu­ence of “cul­tur­al Marx­ism” on the de­cline of Amer­ic­an cul­ture, which they want to “take back” from im­mig­rants, re­cent and oth­er­wise, you would find sig­ni­fic­ant fa­mili­ar­ity with this dis­course?

Un­til very re­cently and then only in passing has the rad­ic­al right’s ob­ses­sion with “cul­tur­al Marx­ism” and the Frank­furt School even been no­ticed, let alone sys­tem­at­ic­ally ana­lyzed.14 There has, in con­trast, been a sus­tained schol­arly in­terest in the ways in which Crit­ic­al The­ory has been re­ceived in Amer­ica, in­clud­ing scru­pu­lously re­searched and ju­di­ciously ar­gued new books by Dav­id Jen­neman and Thomas Wheat­land about the ways in which they in­ter­ac­ted with Amer­ic­an cul­ture dur­ing their ac­tu­al time as émigrés.15 But only their in­flu­ence on and in­ter­ac­tion with oth­er in­tel­lec­tu­als has at­trac­ted real at­ten­tion. There is little, if any, con­nec­tion between this re­cep­tion and the one de­tailed above. The lat­ter func­tions in­stead on the far lower level of the dem­agogic pro­pa­ganda spewed by the very “proph­ets of de­ceit,” to cite the title of Lowenth­al’s con­tri­bu­tion to the In­sti­tute’s Stud­ies in Au­thor­ity, who were ana­lyzed sixty years ago by the Frank­furt School it­self.16

It is very dis­heart­en­ing to see how ro­bust this phe­nomen­on re­mains today, and a source of bit­ter irony to ob­serve how the School it­self has be­come its ex­pli­cit tar­get. But if there is one pos­it­ive im­plic­a­tion of these de­vel­op­ments, it is the per­verse trib­ute today’s rad­ic­al right pays to the School’s acu­ity in re­veal­ing the work­ings of their de­plor­able ideo­logy and its ori­gins in their polit­ic­al and psy­cho­lo­gic­al patho­lo­gies. In look­ing for a scape­goat for all the trans­form­a­tions of cul­ture which they can’t abide, they have re­cog­nized the most acute ana­lysts of their own con­di­tion. In the fog of their blighted un­der­stand­ing, they have dis­cerned a real threat. But it is not to some phant­asm called “West­ern civil­iz­a­tion,” whose most valu­able achieve­ments they them­selves routinely be­tray, but rather to their own pathet­ic and mis­guided world­view and the dan­ger­ous polit­ics it has spawned in our cli­mate of heightened fear and des­pair.

The an­swer should not be to re­place one scape­goat with an­oth­er and trace all cri­tiques of polit­ic­al cor­rect­ness and the anxi­et­ies of those who level them back to the mach­in­a­tions of an ex­trem­ist cult. Only a solu­tion in which the deep­er sources of those anxi­et­ies can be re­duced will lessen the at­trac­tion of such the­or­ies to the people who find them per­suas­ive. But per­haps at least ex­pos­ing the pa­per trail lead­ing from Lyn­don La­rouche to both Paul Weyrich and Fi­del Castro can cause some of the more gull­ible to pause be­fore they leap in­to the abyss. If not, at least we can al­ways fall back on those death pan­els man­dated by our for­eign-born Muslim so­cial­ist pres­id­ent, him­self a tool of the Frank­furt school,17 to keep those who res­ist our plot to des­troy West­ern civil­iz­a­tion in line. Oops, sorry, more beans spilled…


1 Ori­gin­ally writ­ten in Span­ish as La Ver­dadera His­tor­ia del Club Bilder­berg, the book is trans­lated as The True Story of the Bilder­berg Group (Wa­terville, Or., 2007). In the Eng­lish trans­la­tion, all ref­er­ences to the Frank­furt School, Wal­ter Lippmann, and the Beatles are purged.
2 Daniel Es­tulin and Fi­del Castro, “Hu­man­ity Must Pre­serve It­self in Or­der to Live for Thou­sands of Years,” Granma In­ter­nacion­al, Tues­day, Au­gust, 31, 2010.
3 Castro’s para­phrase of Es­tulin reads as fol­lows: “The re­spons­ib­il­ity of de­vis­ing a so­cial the­ory of rock and roll fell to the Ger­man so­ci­olo­gist, mu­si­co­lo­gist, and com­poser Theodor Ad­orno, ‘one of the lead­ing philo­soph­ers at the Frank­furt School of So­cial Re­search…’ Ad­orno was sent to the United States in 1939 to dir­ect the Prin­ceton Ra­dio Re­search Project, a joint ef­fort between Tav­is­tock and the Frank­furt School with the aim of con­trolling the masses, which was fin­anced by the Rock­e­feller Found­a­tion and foun­ded by one of Dav­id Rock­e­feller’s trus­ted men, Had­ley Cantril…” One of Es­tulin’s main play­ers in the Bilder­berg con­spir­acy, it should be noted, is the Tav­is­tock In­sti­tute for So­cial Re­la­tions in Lon­don.
4 Mi­chael Min­ni­cino, “New Dark Age: Frank­furt School and Polit­ic­al Cor­rect­ness,” Fi­delio, 1 (1991-1992); re­prin­ted by the Schiller In­sti­tute.
5 See here.
6 Ral­ph de Toledano, Cry Hav­oc! The Great Amer­ic­an Bring­down and How it Happened (Wash­ing­ton, 2007).
7 In later in­carn­a­tions of his nar­rat­ive, Lind would elab­or­ate this point, ar­guing in a chapter of a 2007 book ed­ited by Pat Boone and Ted Baehr, The Cul­ture-Wise Fam­ily: Up­hold­ing Chris­ti­an Val­ues in a Me­dia-Wise World: “The Frank­furt School was well on the way to polit­ic­al cor­rect­ness. Then sud­denly, fate in­ter­vened. In 1933, Ad­olf Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power in Ger­many, where the Frank­furt School was loc­ated. Since the Frank­furt School was Marx­ist, and the Nazis hated Marx­ism, and since al­most all its mem­bers were Jew­ish, it de­cided to leave Ger­many. In 1934, the Frank­furt School, in­clud­ing its lead­ing mem­bers from Ger­many, was re-es­tab­lished in New York City with help from Columbia Uni­versity. Soon, its fo­cus shif­ted from des­troy­ing tra­di­tion­al West­ern cul­ture in to do­ing so in the United States. It would prove all too suc­cess­ful.”
8 Here. For a sim­il­ar anti-Semit­ic rant, see here.
9 Here. Al­though it’s not clear that the web­site really rep­res­ents a group or just a lone psy­cho, he is clearly not alone. For sim­il­ar anti-Semit­ic rants against the Frank­furt School, see here; and here. Kev­in Mac­don­ald, a Pro­fess­or of Psy­cho­logy at Cali­for­nia State, Long Beach, has writ­ten sev­er­al un­apo­lo­get­ic­ally anti-Semit­ic books blam­ing the Jews for the fall of West­ern civil­iz­a­tion, in which the Frank­furt School fig­ures prom­in­ently.
10 Timothy Mat­thews, “The Frank­furt School: Con­spir­acy to Cor­rupt”, Cath­ol­ic In­sight, March, 2009.
11 When the in­va­sion took place, I was asked to sup­port a com­mis­sion set up in Bel­gi­um by Lieven de Caut­er on the mod­el of the Rus­sell Tribunal dur­ing Vi­et­nam to have a pub­lic tri­al of the per­pet­rat­ors, who turned out in the first ver­sion of the ini­ti­at­ive to share cer­tain eth­nic traits. When I poin­ted this out to de Caut­er, he pub­licly ac­know­ledged my warn­ing. See his blog of March, 18, 2003.
12 Es­tulin, La Ver­dadera His­tor­ia del Club Bilder­berg, p. 15, foot­note 25.
13 See Sav­age’s show on You Tube en­titled “Lib­er­al­ism and Frank­furt School Marx­ism” where he blames Obama on the in­flu­ence of the evil Her­bert “Mar­coosee.”
14 See the in­cred­u­lous re­sponse to one of the more prom­in­ent con­ser­vat­ive voices, An­drew Breit­bart, in the May 24, 2010 New York­er by Re­becca Mead and the in­ter­net piece by John Knesel on May 18, 2010. They fo­cus on Breit­bart’s claim that Obama was a tool of the Frank­furt School, but do not com­ment on the lar­ger phe­nomen­on.
15 Dav­id Jene­mann, Ad­orno in Amer­ica (Min­neapol­is, 2007) and Thomas Wheat­land, The Frank­furt School in Ex­ile (Min­neapol­is, 2009).
16 Leo Lowenth­al and Norbert Guter­man, Proph­ets of De­ceit: A Study of the Tech­niques of the Amer­ic­an Agit­at­or (New York, 1949).
17 For an ex­ample of the link, see James Simpson, “Frank­furt Reigns Su­preme at Notre Dame,” Amer­ic­an Thinker, Septem­ber 8, 2010.

21 thoughts on “Fidel Castro on the Frankfurt School

  1. Ross Wolfe, why the cheap shot against Paris Hilton?

    On Sat, Nov 26, 2016 at 6:35 PM, The Charnel-House wrote:

    > Ross Wolfe posted: “One of the last Cold War­ri­ors left stand­ing > fi­nally bit the dust last night. If we’re lucky, Henry Kis­sing­er will > also be dead by year’s end. Good fuck­ing rid­dance. Com­rade Emanuel > San­tos put it splen­didly: “Fi­del Castro, Sta­lin­ist butcher a” >

  2. Right-wing critiques of the Frankfurt School’s The Authoritarian Personality go back to the 1950s, way predating the LaRouchite article. Much later, both Kevin MacDonald and Jewish paleoconservative Paul Gottfried focus on that specific work in their attacks on the Frankfurt School.

  3. Do you really care about something an almost senile man wrote at his 84?

    By the way, ditching whole processes without realizing there’s something to save it’s something I don’t see you doing with Russia (using that kind of reasoning, all things done and said by Lenin should be ditched because of -i.e.- NEP famines). Even trots, anarchists, ‘libertarian’ Marxists and other collectivist anti-capitalists in the Island want to save the process in some way -it doesn’t matter if they hate Castro or not (some of they do, some of they don’t).

    For somebody who has studied so much about dialectics and history, you aren’t considering how Castro’s Cuba -as a totality- emerged from particular historical conditions (including how Stalinists and Trotskyits alike twisted Marx and Engel’s thought here in Latin America during the whole 20th century). Castro was brutal and he was a beast from his era, he was totalitarian and succumbed to the typical traits of the leftist third world leaders of the Cold War. All of that is true. But it’s also true that it’s because of his regime that Cuban education raised, universal health-care was possible in a small island, HIV transmission from mother to child was eradicated, and a big “Etc.” a lot of hypocrite unapologetic tankies are already spreading like fire.

    I’m not saying we have to support what Castro did, I’m certainly critic of his legacy with a bittersweet sentiment. The fucker was a bureaucratic dictator and imprisoned a lot of comrades, indeed, but if we are going to analyze the Cuban process, we need to do more than echoing liberal cries. I have been reading you for a whole year now, and I know you usually do more than that, at least with American, Slav and Jewish worker movements.

    PS: In another whole different subject, I think you should take a look at Fernando Salinas’ work, he was a really interesting figure of Cuban architecture (before Castro destroyed architecture as a professional discipline). A good start point would be contacting Ernesto Oroza (, he’s a Cuban artist from Miami interested in Cuban’s DIY culture. You both are leftists and hate that dead, maybe you could get along.

  4. I agree broadly with Diego’s comments on Castro (warts and all) and also commend Ross for owning up to “paint[ing] with too broad a brush”.

    He might also undertake a thought experiment in alternate history. Imagine if the folks who landed in Cuba aboard the Granma had been of like mind and philosophy as the new left. They (or their offspring) might still be sitting on the beach trying to come to a consensus on strategy and tactics because they didn’t believe in hierarchical structures.

    In faulting Castro for not aligning with Cuba’s workers enough, one might also look at the trajectory of the new left in America. Following the views of C. Wright Mills and Marcuse into a movement which in theory urged bypassing old Marxist and social democrat “workerism” into student and lifestyle oriented, and essentially, liberal directions. Those that weren’t eventually sucked into the Democratic party took off into ultra-left Maoism and/or the Weather Underground – and see how well that turned out.

  5. There is a photo in this article depicting Fidel Castro saluting militarily next to Pinochet. Probably it is aimed at presenting Fidel Castro as a fascist. This is not peculiar from someone rejoicing at the death of Castro or that the USSR exists no more (incidentally Trotsky would not have rejoiced for such events [very far from it], had they occurred in his own lifetime. But then again what does most of ‘Trotskyism’ have to do with Trotsky’s thought and practice anyhow?).

    Anyway, to proceed to my point, the photo is from Castro’s visit to Santiago (Chile) in 1971, when Pinochet was Allende’s appointed army chief. It is really very-very sick to post such a photo without any comment on where and when it was taken.

  6. Needless to say, there are those on the left (SEP) who also demonize the Frankfurt School for trashing the idea of “Progress” and traditional forms of political organization, blaming them for sapping the working classes of their ‘revolutionary potential’.

    We should not forget that Castro and his regime found themselves hostage to the logic inherent in wielding state power within the larger context of imperialism, the cold war and the global scheme of accumulation. I’d like to see you do better. All leftist revolutions suffered the same fate because as Leslie White once pointed out: a capitalist state remains a capitalist state even if is run by ‘labor’ politicians.

    I am reminded of Pontecorvo’s film Burn! and the scene where the leader of the slave rebellion, Jose, is confronted with the reality of wielding state power in the form of markets and contracts. He quickly discovers how little room he has to maneuver and his dreams of freedom for his people quickly vanishes under the pressing forces tirelessly at work transforming the planet into grist for the mill of capital.

    Its seems to me that Castro’s regime were insufficiently skilled and sophisticated enough to transform Cuba and were unable to maintain power through much softer means of social control – obviously something that takes a long time to accomplish. They had to rely on the more crude methods to defend themselves from the 50 years of hostility and aggression by the US and the world system.

    Having sneaked into Cuba 20 years ago and spent a month traveling around the country staying with everyday Cubans, if you can judge a political system by the people who live under it, Cuba was an exceptional experience. There was no fear for the most part anywhere except in Habana. Even there I was able to walk the streets in the worst parts of the city without much to worry about. Police presence was rare on the street and the entire city was for the most part, dark as there were few working street lights. The high point of these nocturnal ventures was walking the arcades that were vacant and largely boarded up. Instead of shopping, people sat on the doorsteps of their homes, the interiors illuminated and the thousands of conversations were like the singsong of crickets on a summer eve. People would immediately take notice that you were not one of them and strike up a friendship, if only for 10 mins. Would that happen here if a Cuban immigrant was walking down an average street in the US? – hardly.

    Cubans were very joyous, relaxed and welcoming – and well fed and healthy from what I could see and I was over most of the island. Cities, towns, villages, hamlets. I would often find myself invited into homes for coffee and snacks just to talk politics and world events. Children were joyous and curious and the overall climate highly social and engaged. Peoples’ self-built homes were remarkably charming, warm, clean and well cared for…. the public spaces ,too.

    Since I had a car, it would be constantly filled to the gills with hitchhikers of all kinds – young, old, professional, worker, male/female – the entire day of driving. And that was really an enlightening experience to listen to the stories of everyday life. I found no real immiseration, material or otherwise, although the country was quite poor. There was, strangely, no trash to be found for the most part – everything was recycled out of necessity. It was a very human-scale society with much face to face.

    My travels to Eastern Europe after the fall, was the exact opposite, not surprisingly: dirty, mean, shabby – you could buy a ten year old girl for a couple dollars. In Cuba, you would have probably been killed if you were caught trying to procure a child.

    Habana was another story. The only fear I found there was among the black marketeers who wanted to avoid the ever watchful eyes of the state security forces. I ended up staying an apartment controlled by one and got a call at 3:00 in the morning by police asking how much I was paying to stay there. Police probably looking for cut of the action – most likely why they were looking to evade them.

    • Very interesting comment and very informative description of life in Cuba during your visit.

      I would just like to point out that, since you mention that your journey there occurred 20 years ago, your visit took place during the so-called ‘special period’. That is, the period following the fall of the USSR when Cuban GDP was reduced by almost 1/3 and foreign trade virtually collapsed.

  7. Pingback: Wilhelm Reich’s synthesis of Marxism and psychoanalysis | The Charnel-House

  8. I’m from Spain. From Galiza, in the north-west of the country, and Fidel Castro’s father was from there. In 1992 Fidel visited his father’s birthplace, His Cicerone during that trip was Manuel Fraga, former big boss of the Franco fascist regime (later turn into one of the “fathers of our democracy”) and president of our autonomous community at that time. The visión of Castro, the “revolutionary communist” and Fraga, “the defender-of-the-West hunter of marxists” playing checkers like good old Friends is a the perfect picture of what really Fidel represented. Apart from this, in 1975, after Francisco Franco’s death, he ordered three days of mourning for him… He was always a fake, talking and writing all these screeds to say absolutely nothing (at least Mao did some interesting theoretical work). One must recognize the “genious” of this man: Not everyone is able to keep the fidelity of his loyal “revolutionary” followers after so many decades of (not revolutionary, as Lukács once said about Lenin) realpolitik. A myth and only a myth, and real revolutionaries don’t base their praxis on anything like that, only the fascists.

  9. Pingback: For Trotskyist Political Revolution to Defend and Extend the Gains of the Cuban Revolution! A Response to Ross Wolfe | Independent Workers Party of Chicago

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