So, beyond his vast collection of histories and biographies, I was able to read great literature, including some classics of Catholic spirituality. In addition to Jonathan Swift, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Lewis Stevenson, there were the works of G. K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, and of the ancients, Plutarch’s Lives, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Dante, and most influentially, life-altering writings of the Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross. I mention these not to boast, but only to say that my year with Dr. Kirk was very fruitful in multiple ways that I only now fully appreciate.
As I reflect and write essays these days, scenes and quotations from many of those classics come back to me, and many times seem to fit and support my narratives. Preparing this essay a quote came to me. It is from Benjamin Disraeli, the great Conservative 19th century British prime minister, prominently featured in Kirk’s signature work, The Conservative Mind (1953). It comes from one of Disraeli’s novels, Coningsby. Here it is: "So you see, my dear Coningsby, that the world is governed by very different personages from what is imagined by those who are not behind the scenes."
Disraeli wrote those words over 170 years ago. But today, as we survey the decaying remnants of a culture that once was proudly the “Christian West,” that is, our inherited European civilization that has been with us and has shaped and annealed us for nearly two millennia—as we behold the no-holds-barred attacks on this legacy, it is apparent that the decay and decrepitude has arrived not by accident, or even by frontal assault. Rather, the great success of the Marxist Revolution has been to subvert and influence, to transform, the culture of the West from within, almost as if clandestinely.
Around the time of the First World War the Italian Communist philosopher, Antonio Gramsci, formulated a theory which included a discussion of what he termed “cultural hegemony.” The brilliant Gramsci, viewing the failure of “war communism” to overthrow the traditional order in Europe by military force, understood that Marxist Revolution could never be successful in its campaign against the historic Christian West through open armed conflict. Despite the ravages and debilitating effects of 19th century liberalism, an overarching, traditionalist cultural and religious template—a “cultural hegemony”—yet guided much of Western thought, set standards, and governed conduct. That cultural hegemony, Gramsci postulated, must be overturned and replaced. The West could only be conquered if its traditional cultural and religious bases, grounded in an orthodox Christian faith, were transformed.
And it was the Catholic Church and its social and political teachings that were the principle roadblock to and enemy of Marxism. Infiltration and subversion of the church, then, Gramsci highlighted as a paramount means of eventually effecting the Revolution. Western culture—Western civilization—was based fundamentally on and in the Faith, on the precious legacy and inheritance from Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome. Sever that connection, pollute and subvert that foundation, and a political and cultural transformation would inevitably follow.
In the late 19th century the great Catholic traditionalist writer, Marcelino Menendez y Pelayo, in his Historia de los Heterodoxos, warned Catholic Spain: “España, evangelizadora de la mitad del orbe; España martillo de herejes, luz de Trento, espada de Roma, cuna de San Ignacio...; ésa es nuestra grandeza y nuestra unidad; no tenemos otra.” “Spain,” he wrote, “evangelizer of half of the world; Spain, hammer of heretics, light of Trent, sword of Rome, cradle of St. Ignatius—this is our greatness and our unity; we have no other.”
Like Menendez y Pelayo, Gramsci understood this maxim, this truth about Europe and the West: if you infect the base of a culture, pervert and eventually alter its fundamental beliefs, its morality, its concept of right and wrong, its ideas about law, its very linguistic meanings—if you accomplish these things, you likewise will alter its politics and its culture. Without the Faith as its “shield and buckler,” Europe, then, was defenseless against the assaults of Marxism and the creation of a New World Order which was essentially God-less, paganized, and the authoritarian antithesis of Christian order established through the blood and devotion of martyrs, saints, and Christian kings.
This past century has witnessed the implementation of this strategy by “cultural” Marxists and revolutionaries in our midst. Opposition to the traditional Christian West from the more conservative Soviet Communists who challenged our institutions and culture frontally proved futile. But internal subversion and infiltration have been singularly successful.
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The Church under St. Pius X, and later, Pius XI and Piux XII, identified the pressing threat from Communism and socialism. Yet, Gramsci’s strategy took hold within its ranks, nevertheless, at first surreptitiously, but by the 1950s and 1960s, in the open with the success of the Personalism, Teilhard de Chardin, and the acceptance of the theories on the Church in society propagated by writers like Fr. John Courtney Murray, and a growing “neo-liberalism” in Germany and the Low Countries—Ralph Wiltgen’s “the Rhine flows into the Tiber.” And with the “apertura a sinistra” of Vatican Council II—that infamous “opening to the left”—the doors to Revolution, ecclesiastically, politically, and culturally, were thrown wide open.
In the United States the “cultural” Marxist long-march through our institutions began in earnest in the academy, in our schools and colleges. Various observers point to the tremendously wide-ranging success of the “Frankfort School” Marxist intellectuals, who, being Jewish, were driven out of National Socialist Germany in the 1930s, and thereupon set up shop in the United States at Columbia University. From that secure perch they exercised incredible influence in nearly every aspect of American (and European) intellectual life.
Indeed, as a grad student I remember that various works by Herbert Marcuse (in philosophy), Theodor Adorno (in sociology and music theory), Max Horkheimer (in social psychology), Erich Fromm (in psychoanalysis), and Jurgen Habermas (in history) were all the rage—several of my grad professors enthusiastically imposed them on me and my fellow grad students. What I began to realize even then was, taken as a whole, and with additional ideological support from such influential writers as Frantz Fanon (on colonialism, imperialism and “white oppression”) and Michel Foucault (on the transformation of social and political structures, and critical theory), that an immense and universal effort was occurring to alter not just thinking patterns and social and political objectives, but our very language, itself.
And there was very little effective opposition: the dominant intellectual force in the West through the 19th and much of the 20th century was a pliant and intellectually bankrupt liberalism, which could not withstand the withering critiques launched against it by cultural Marxism. Indeed, it can be argued that liberalism prepared the terrain for Marxist success.
Those older “liberal” writers and professors had done their best to critique and bring down an even older, traditional order, politically, socially, and religiously, but they had nothing better or more permanent to replace it with. Their theories about “liberal democracy,” “equality,” “civil rights,” and “liberalization,” advocated and implemented to take the place of fealty to inherited tradition, belief in religious orthodoxy, and the existence of social orders and the inherent recognition that inequality is a natural condition of life—those liberal nostrums, having weakened both the political and social fabric of historic Western society, left Europe and America open to the seductive attractions of a Marxism which was not, like the Soviet brand, stodgy and kleptocratic.
The future of the world lay not with those septuagenarian and fossilized commissars standing immobile in Red Square annually on May Day to review Soviet armed might; it was with the cultural Marxists, who had, over the decades, revolutionized the thinking, goals, and very language of the West—and whose mindset, whose template, had not only re-invigorated a once-thought-dead Marxism, but had established its preeminence and “cultural hegemony” across the broad spectrum of all Western thought and culture.
This, then, is what those of us yet faithful to that much older tradition, that orthodox Christian and Western inheritance, face. Across the political and cultural landscape even those supposed opponents of this advancing Progressivism—and their final assault on what is left of our inherited but severely endangered legacy—those supposed opponents employ its language and tacitly accept its ultimate objectives. Thus, the so-called Neoconservatives and their many Republican camp followers serve, in their own circuitous manner, to both enable and sanctify the conquests of the Progressivists and the latest Marxist advances.
And, likewise, amongst the supposed “religious opposition” to the Revolution those whom we term “Neo-Catholics” ratify and sanctify the radical changes emitting from Vatican II, and attempt to defend them as conservative.
Yet, the universal conflict, which apparently had seemed lost for us, is not over. Last November proved that politically—and culturally. The fitful awakening here in the United States and the growth of a nationalist, conservative and populist and traditionalist reaction in Europe, illustrate that. And the growth of organizations and associations dedicated to Catholic orthodoxy and a defense of the traditional Faith continues apace with the latest inanity coming from “occupied Rome.”
That is precisely why we see the increased, feverish, and hysterically unbridled reactions by the multifaceted forces of the Progressivist “Deep State” and the international forces of the New World Order. That reaction takes many forms, most particularly in the United States by the open warfare waged on President Trump (and even more on his agenda) by the Mainstream Media and its acolytes in both political parties, in academia, and in popular culture. And, religiously, by the attempts to silence and sideline those orthodox clergy who stand against the auto-destruction of the Church.
Among the influential, worldwide “gray eminences”—political and spiritual “godfathers”—of the global Progressivist offensive is the international billionaire George Soros, whose tentacles reach into nearly every corner of the world and whose Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) work on the ground to influence and subvert any nation that may resist incorporation into a New World Order, the actual and ultimate objective of the Deep State, and, thus, the final stage and triumph of a new “cultural hegemony” envisaged by Antonio Gramsci.
Soros’s bloody vision conveniently coincides with the overall goals of Deep State/globalist establishment. With his pyramid of pass-through funding foundations, his NGOs, and his close linkage and connections to leaders in the European Union, in Washington, on Wall Street, and in the Vatican, he pushes his agenda. But you will hear nary a word about his nefarious tentacles of influence from the Mainstream Media. If you mention him and his international, behind-the-scenes influence, you are immediately labeled a “conspiracy theorist nut” or worse.
Yet, Soros fits Disraeli’s description of 170 years ago; if there ever was confirmation, he exemplifies it. He epitomizes that occult face of the “blood dimmed tide” of Revolution against God and man that poet William Butler Yeats warned of in 1919—at the very same moment in time when Antonio Gramsci was authoring his theories that would prove so fatal to the West--and in the same epoch in which St. Pius X warned the Christian world of the fatally infectious bacillus of Modernism.
He who would know the truth, must then act upon it. Over the past year the actual character, the real face of the Revolution, has been revealed as perhaps never before. Although lacking many of the resources and weaponry of our Enemies, those of us resolved not only to defend what is left of our cultural patrimony and our Western Christian civilization, and, if possible, to restore it, must be bold and cunning; as wise and prudential as Robert E. Lee, and as patient and calculating as our Enemies who understood that to conquer the seemingly unconquerable, it would take time, and above all, persistence, intelligence and constancy. And for us, at the foundation of it all, is our Faith.