“The death of mankind is not only a conceivable result of the triumph of socialism–it constitutes the goal of socialism.” – Igor Shafarevich, 1980
This publication looks at how critical race theory (CRT) is used to reshape the Western mind, in the light of the re-education process under communist regimes. In particular, it focuses on one such instance of re-education which stands out for its brutality and inhumanity: the experiment from the Romanian prison at Pitesti.
The essay aims to explore the parallels between the processes of Marxist re-education under communism and those in the West today (such as implicit bias training and diversity and inclusion training). More specifically, the goal is to show if and where there are similarities between what happened under communist regimes in the past and what is being done in our age in the West under the umbrella of CRT to draw attention to the dangerous road we are on and to sound the alarm about the final destination: total obliteration of the individual.
The publication is divided in the following parts. The first part discusses re-education under various communist regimes and then details the Pitesti Experiment, which Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn called the “most atrocious ferocity the contemporary era has ever invented”.
The second part looks at the origins of Marxist re-education inside the communist systems of Eastern Europe and then at the sources of Marxist re-education in the West today. Following from this discussion, we then move to the third part which looks at critical race theory, already contextualised by the assessment of Marxist re-education sources, and at implicit bias training in more detail. The final part concludes by drawing the parallels between the two Marxist re-education processes.
Part I: Marxist Re-education in Communist Regimes, A Short Overview
As detailed in a three-volume work by Romanian historian Mircea Stănescu, the idea and process of “re-education” was central to the workings of the communist regime in its attempt to remodel human nature and fabricate the “new man”, the “socialist man”.
In various environments, through tortures and brutalities, the communists pushed a kind of indoctrination that, when it came to light through the accounts of those who survived the process of “re-education”, it revealed the true intentions of those utopians who promised paradise.
For example, in China under Mao Zedong, millions of students and intellectuals were sent into rural areas for long-term settlement and “re-education”. Mao also had “thought propaganda teams” which were made up of “workers, peasants, and soldiers who were well-versed in quotations from Chairman Mao but otherwise often barely literate—took over the management of almost all educational institutions.”
As Aminda M. Smith explained in Thought Reform and China’s Dangerous Classes: Reeducation, Resistance, and the People (2012), the Chinese term for “brainwashing” is sixiang gaizao and translates into “thought reform” or “ideological remodelling”. It refers to a process that “attempts to refashion the mindsets and instil new ways of thinking. Thought reformers urge individuals to recontextualise their personal thoughts and experiences, to begin to interpret the world within the ideological framework favoured by the Communist Party.”
The preferred way of reshaping the minds of the dissidents was Laogai (re-education through labour) – a practice also adopted by the North Korean communist dictatorship. As David Aikman wrote for the Washington Examiner in 1997, the purpose of Laogai was twofold:
“The system was set up by the Communists in the early 1950s, primarily to deal with the millions of real and suspected opponents of China’s newly established regime. It had two main objectives. One was identical to that of the Soviet Gulag: the use of coerced labor for ambitious state projects for which ordinary workers could never have been found. […]
But the second objective, often cited by the Communist authorities as more crucial than the first, was actually far more sinister. It was not enough, the Chinese Communists believed, for a prisoner to admit his guilt. He (or she) had to be morally and spiritually broken down through “thought reform” (often referred to as “brainwashing”) — sessions of relentless interrogation, orchestrated emotional bullying by other prisoners, and sometimes the torture of sleep deprivation — to the point where he actually felt guilty for the crimes attributed to him by the regime.
According to Jean Pasqualini, a Corsican-Chinese whose 1973 book Prisoner of Mao, the first of its type, remains a classic account of the Laogai experience, the aim of the prison authorities was “not so much to make you invent nonexistent crimes, but to make you accept your ordinary life, as you led it, as rotten and sinful and worthy of punishment.” Mao Zedong’s police, Pasqualini noted, became extraordinarily adept at inducing such pitiful emotional breakdowns in their prisoners.”
In The Black Book of Communism (1997), the authors estimated that about 20,000,000 people died in China’s laogai system since the Chinese Communist Party took power in 1949. Other estimates differ but they all point to a minimum of 15,000,000 people.
Under Xi Jinping, the practice of “thought reform” continues to this day, targeting Uighurs. Amnesty International reported in 2018 that an estimated 1,000,000 people have been placed in “re-education” camps:
“The authorities label the camps as centres for “transformation-through-education” but most people refer to them simply as “re-education camps”. Those sent to such camps are not put on trial, have no access to lawyers or right to challenge the decision. Individuals could be left to languish in detention for months, as it is the authorities who decide when an individual has been “transformed”.”
We shall return to China’s “thought reform” prisons in due course, as some of these practices resemble what we shall describe in our case study. For now, let us remember another place in Asia where re-education camps were employed under communist regimes: Vietnam.
The conditions and aim of these camps was detailed in The Vietnamese Gulag (1986). Suffice to say here that these prisons were introduced in mid-1970s to “assimilate former South Vietnamese into the newly established Communist nation”, as Ayako Sahara detailed in a recent paper for The Japanese Journal of American Studies. Hien Van Le, a veteran of the Vietnamese war, recalled his experience in the re-education camp: “They [the communists] wanted to kill us slowly”.
To some extent, these re-education prisons were modelled after the Soviet gulag: a place for suffering and dehumanisation from which the “new man” ought to emerge. In Cogs in the Wheel: The Formation of Soviet Man (1988), Mikhail Heller unveils how the Marxist ideological tools manifested through the Bolshevik regime: the communists saw man as a by-product of his material environment, not as a unique individual, but as a perfectly malleable creature which had to be transformed into a true revolutionary for the socialist utopia. In a review of the book, Richard M. Ebeling details:
“[…] the Soviet authorities began a process to “infantilize” every Russian, i.e., to make every Russian completely dependent upon the Soviet State, and, therefore, moldable in a social cast constructed by the Party elite. No comer in the society would be left in which the individual could hide and protect any personal qualities and characteristics undesigned by the State […].
In the new social order, the individual could have no existence outside of the State—no plans, no identity, no sense of self other than his place as an assigned cog in “the people’s” machine.”
One can see above the similarities between the fascism of authoritarian Benito Mussolini who said “Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato” (everything for the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state) and the totalitarian regime of communist Russia.
To create the “new man”, the Soviets used a wide range of tools, including “the introduction of fear through an omnipresent and omniscient secret police; the control of labor through internal passports and the State as monopoly employer; the breeding of guilt through corruption, as the black market became a primary avenue for survival; the control of minds through an educational system that intrudes beyond the classroom to the family itself; the planning of culture via Party domination of literature and art; and the manipulation of language and, therefore, thought by a constant bombardment of slogans, phrases, and images that make it difficult to think of words or concepts other than in terms of the meanings bestowed upon them by Party ideology.”
As James Lindsay explained during a recent three hour lecture on Marx’s 1844 writings, “every man has to become social man in order for it [communism] to work. This is the contradiction that leads to the justification of killing millions who cannot be re-educated, this is the contradiction that creates the gulag; the gulag is not a prison; the gulag is a place where you were sent to be re-educated into socialist ideology”.
However, one particular instance of this process of re-education left a deep scar on the soul of those who suffered under international socialism: the Pitesti Experiment, sometimes called the Pitesti Phenomenon.
Case Study: The Pitesti Experiment, or “The Genocide of Souls”
In The History of Communism in Europe, volume two, Dumitru Lăcătus, reviewing Stănescu’s contribution, writes that: “[…] the (in)famous “Pitesti re-education” occupies a special place. […] Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn believed that the “re-education” practiced at Pitesti was the “most atrocious ferocity the contemporary era has ever invented”.”
Writer Virgil Ierunca, in the description of his book on the Pitesti Phenomenon, published in 1990, explained that “what happened in the Pitesti prison between 1949 and 1952 deserves a special place in the terrifying repertoire of horrors […] committed during the twentieth century”. Romanian filmmaker Sorin Iliesiu called what happened at Pitesti the “genocide of souls”. Although it may sound extreme, as we shall see shortly, words cannot describe the events that occurred in the darkness of the Pitesti prison under the orders of international socialist authorities.
Marxist Re-education in Communist Romania
“In the Gulag Archipelago, from the Russian steppes to central Europe, everywhere where the Soviet empire extended, the arsenal of cruelty has developed as if in a natural environment. Everywhere existed sadistic executioners, unimaginable tortures, false confessions and just as fake trials, systematic murder through all sorts of methods, from inanition to mutilations. However, nowhere in this evil empire do we find the essence of the Pitesti Experiment which was the systematic transformation of the victim in executioner and their psychological degradation through tortures inflicted by other victims.” – Virgil Ierunca, Fenomenul Pitesti (Pitesti Phenomenon)
The communists took power over Romania’s political class in 1947. The reign of the far-Left regime can be divided into two eras: from 1948 – 1965, under Gheorghe Ghiorghiu-Dej and from 1965 – 1989 under Nicolae Ceausescu. Terror and hardships existed across the communist period, but the brutalities, executions and mass imprisonments took place predominantly in the first era, under Gheorghe Ghiorghiu-Dej.
Although during Ceausescu’s reign the Secret Police (Securitatea) was still quite active in spreading fear, making illegal arrests, disappearing people and so on, the years between 1965 – 1989 were marked more by physical hardships, such as the famine in the later years of Ceausescu regime, rather than the psychological terror that dominated the first period. What we are about to relate happened between 1949 – 1952 at the Pitesti prison.
When the re-education process began on 6 December 1949, this incarceration building was earmarked for students and what was going on inside its walls had only one purpose: to destroy the psychology of the individual and create the “new man”. However, as we shall see, the Pitesti prison was not the only place where the process of re-education was attempted by the communists: indeed, considering what the torturers “achieved” at Pitesti, the authorities high up in the Party decided to extent the process to other prisons and forced labour camps.
According to a detailed document published in 2007 by the Presidential Commission for the Analysis of the Communist Dictatorship in Romania, between 1948 – 1964, around 2,000,000 people were killed, tortured, deported or made to disappear by the Securitatea. The re-education process that started at Pitesti made hundreds of victims, the exact number is unknown.
The architect of the project was Alexandru Nikolski (Boris Grunbergher-Braunstein), who was the head of the Secret Police during the reign of Gheorghe Ghiorghiu-Dej and wanted to annihilate the moral and psychological constitution of young Romanian intellectuals, most of whom were students. These young people posed a specific threat for the communist regime: they were an intelligent and unforeseen social force which had to be annihilated.
Nikolski was by any measure a KGB agent. From the “Securitatea, Volume I”, page 703: “He was involved in everything that related to the communist activity during that period: arrests, tortures, forced labour, assassinations. It appears that he was the one who initiated the “re-education through torture” process from Pitesti. He remained loyal to the Soviet interests and implemented various KGB operations, including the strict oversight of the communist party in Romania. He did not hesitate to arrest his previous superiors and protectors: Vasile Luca and Teohari Georgescu.”
Nikolski’s tools were Cornel Dulgheru and Cornel Sepeanu (the former was a Soviet spy), Eugen Ţurcanu, a man of an impressive inclination towards torture who led a group of already “re-educated” students (these were people to whom Securitatea promised favours if they helped with its project), the Pitesti prison’s director, Captain Dumitrescu and the political lieutenant Marina. Others who were directly or indirectly implicated included Cornel Zeller and Ana Pauker.
Ţurcanu and his team of roughly 20 men formed the ODCU (The Organization of Convicts with Communist Believes). When the re-education process began, the ODCU were waiting for the students to arrive in their cell. The students were divided into four groups, based on how likely each student was to crack under torture and be re-educated. The exact process of re-education will be detailed below. At this stage, we shall only sketch it and recall a few memories of what went on in the Pitesti prison.
The re-education system, or the creation of the “new man”, aimed at the complete annihilation of national values, the moral devastation of the victim, the self-denial of personal convictions, political believes and religious values and, finally, the destruction of the victim’s entire personality to the point of absolute ideological obedience. As Alexandru Ratiu recalled in his book, The Stolen Church¸ parts of which I translated and uploaded on this website, the motto from Pitesti was: “Destroy them through themselves.”
The process began with the victims being introduced to Ţurcanu and his men who greeted the students with a friendly air: the aim was to gain their trust and make them confess their real views about what was happening with them, as well as their thoughts on the communist Party and ideology. Then, when their trust was fully gained, Ţurcanu and his torturers assaulted the students who did not expect the attack, destroying their trust in their fellow prisoners and subjecting them to a series of horrific actions. These included both physical abuse (to the point of death in some cases) and psychological violence (to the point of severe trauma). Here are a few examples, procured from Anti-Humansand Pitesti Phenomenon:
“[…] different body parts were burnt with the cigarette, some prisoners had their buttocks burnt until the flesh fell off. Others were forces to eat a bowl of faecal matter and when they threw up, the vomit was stuck in their throats.”
“[…] some were “christened” every morning: their head was pushed into the toilet full of urine and faeces while others around mocked the words of the christening. This process lasted until the water bubbled. When the prisoner was about to suffocate, his head was pulled out, the torturers waited for a moment and then the process restarted. One of the students who suffered this torture systematically developed an automatic behaviour which lasted for about two months: every morning he would go alone and put his head into the toilet.
[…] the students of theology were forced by Ţurcanu to hold black masses, especially during the Easter period and the Resurrection night. […] Ţurcanu’s liturgy text was pornography, paraphrasing, in a demonic way, the original text. Holy Marry was called “the great harlot”, Jesus was referred to as “the idiot who died on the cross”.
The theology student who was playing the priest in Ţurcanu’s liturgy was undressed to the skin and then covered with a sheet covered in faeces and around his neck the tortures hanged a phallus made out of bread and soap. During the Easter night of 1950, the prisoners forced to be re-educated were made to kiss the phallus and say “Christ has risen”.
Ţurcanu was closely observing the body language of every student who considered themselves to be re-educated, who were forced to denounce all his friends and acquaintances, who were forced to describe how they slept with their mothers and who they raped their sisters, and if these individuals displayed even the slightest hesitation in the face of such blasphemies, the torture process began anew.”
“During the night, the prisoners could sleep only on their backs, entirely naked, with their hands laid on top of the blanket. If, through sleep, they made even the slightest move, […] they were hit in their head with an iron ball […]”.
Note the attack on religion – the far-Left hates religion and everything that is related to it. For them the Party is God. This topic will be explored in detailed in an upcoming report on Marxist ideology and its view on religion.
Needless to say that what we observed above were just some of the many inhumane actions inflicted on the students to be re-educated. If Ţurcanu was not convinced that the victim was re-educate, the torture restarted. And so on until the individual was no more. Suicide was almost impossible – the prison authorities took extraordinary measures to ensure that the prisoners could not kill themselves.
The way the outside world began to find out about what was going on at the Pitesti prison was not because of any official reports. Rather, as the “re-educated” students were moved to other prisons (such as the one at Gherla where many more died) and to the forced labour camps, in order to expand the process which the Securitatea considered a success, the word got out.
When, finally in 1954, because more reports were coming out as to what was happening in these communist islands of horror, the Secret Police decided to stop the experiment of creating the “new man”, the “socialist man”, and Ţurcanu and his squad were asked to “show their loyalty” towards the Party and sign a document which stated that what happened at Pitesti was without the communist authorities’ knowledge. Feeling betrayed, the torturers refused, and many of them were executed. The Party, as it did in other communist countries, ate its own children.
Let us know explore the re-education process in more detail. We shall look at what happened in different stages, to try and isolate certain components of the process as we want to highlight the similarities between some of these dynamics and unconscious bias training in the West today.
The Re-education Process
“The new man is the invention that has costed mankind the most. The damage caused by this invention is, in principle, impossible to calculate,” wrote Antoaneta Tănăsescu in 1997 book entitled The Myths of Romanian Communism.
The “new man”, or the “socialist man”, was to be achieved through a process of re-education which, in the Pitesti prison, involved the following stages:
Stage one: The Shock
This was the initial betrayal of the prisoners’ trust in those who befriended them when they first arrived in the cell. The surprised attack and the total change of dynamics within the cell (with Ţurcanu and his men asserting a violent domination over the students) involved physical tortures which were designed to destroy the will of the victims, pushing them towards accepting the next steps of the re-education process.
Stage Two: The Demasking or “Unmasking”
This step was divided into two “levels” – the external demasking and the internal demasking. Dumitru Bacu, in his book Anti-Humans, describes this stage as “the outer and the inner demasking”. However, the concepts are interchangeable as the process is the same.
The external demasking involved, as Virgil Ierunca explained in the previously cited paper, the following: “the prisoner had to show his loyalty towards the Party and the O.D.C.C by telling everything that he did not say during the initial interogation done by the Secret Police, disavowing all his links that he had outside of the prison walls as privileges from which he benefited. […] The confessions were made orally, even under physical torture, then written on a placard made of soap, checked by someone who was in charge of re-education, often by Ţurcanu himself, and then put on paper and handed to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.” (the O.D.C.C was the ODCU).
However, this stage was only initiated when the will of the victim was already severely weakened, if not annihilated. As Alexandru Ratiu recalled in The Stolen Church:
“After a month and a half of torture, the students became very vulnerable. Those who were experimenting on them managed to penetrate deep into their psychic and to annihilate their personality and denigrate their humanity. At this point, the student would identify themselves with a criminal and a monster.
Those who were demasked (i.e. their previous personality was destroyed and replaced with that of Homo Sovieticus), were asked to confess their crimes on paper and in extreme detail. Nothing ought to have been omitted from these fake crimes. Through this process, the communists were violating the thoughts of these prisoners. The aim of all of this was to destroy every trace of who these students were before they entered the Pitesti prison.
The students were forced to negate their own identities – their “masks” – writing down a false autobiography in which they were defaming themselves, reaching conclusions from fabricated events which the communists alleged the students harboured in their subconsciousness.”
Dumitru Bacu in Anti-Humans provides grim details about this process too:
“The first [outer unmasking] was but an intensification of Communist Securitate’s usual investigative methods involving not only some torture but much that was grotesque and irrational. […] The first phase carried to completion the secret police’s earlier investigations through a torturing system whereby they sought to squeeze a man into the position of declaring all, but absolutely all, that he had done or intended to do prior to his arrest.
He had to name and denounce all persons he had been in contact with, all who helped him with money or food, advice or moral encouragement; all who had sheltered him; all who knew of his activities even if they did not participate in them; all who did not sympathize with the Communist regime; all whom he suspected of having infiltrated the Party or having joined it opportunistically; anybody who seemed likely later to engage in anti-Party activity; maligners of the Party; etc.
Then he had to tell whether he had any ideological material — books, documents, newspapers, circulars, etc. — which he had not declared during earlier questioning; where they were hidden; who else knew of their existence; whether he possessed firearms; if so, where hidden. Particular emphasis was placed on firearms, especially those stored away by peasants as the German troops retreated in 1944; and on any individuals of the “people’s army” who might later, through bribery or corruption, place at the disposal of the “enemies of the people” weapons or anything else that could be used against the Party […].
The individual under interrogation had to confess all the discussions he had had with his fellows, report in detail all educational meetings that had dealt with citizenship and political events, and denounce all who had shown attitudes hostile to the prison administration or made sarcastic remarks in connection with interpretation of Marxism, or jokes about Stalin the “teacher. “
Answers were required to such questions as who among the students had a “fanatical” attitude; or was better informed; or was capable of polarizing the younger members around him; who gave medical help to those condemned to hard labor — all this in order to determine precisely the classification of individuals for eventual use in “unmasking” those who as yet had not walked through the fire.” (Bolded text my own).
The external demasking required the student to completely betray his family, friends and everything he believed in. All of this “confession” had to be done with outmost sincerity. If there was a single doubt that the victim was not convinced about something he said during his “confession”, the torture would restart.
Only after the outer or external demasking was completed, the real hell began: the internal or inner demasking. This involved not only turning on the other students and “confessing” about their supposed crimes against the Party, very often made up crimes, but, as Bacu explained, the annihilation of the victim’s soul. Once more, I quote from Anti-Humans:
“When the student had declared all, or as much as he had to in order to convince the re-education committee that he was hiding nothing, only then began the real tragedy, the “inner unmasking,” the attempt to annihilate the soul. Through the first unmasking he had given over enough information and names to the Securitate to destroy collaborators still free; now he would be forced to yield up his own personality for immolation. The re-educators hoped to destroy the moral and psychological strength of his inner being and transform him into amorphous material, to be shaped by them into a “new structurization. “
To this end the students were obliged to crush underfoot everything they held most sacred — God, family, friends, love, wife, colleagues, memories, ideology — everything which bound them to the past, anything that might give them inner support while in prison.
When the student had passed this test also, to the satisfaction of the re-educators, he became an “honest and clean” vessel worthy of receiving the new doctrine of Marxist humanism, embodied at that time in the person of “the genial leader of the peoples,” Mr. J. V. Stalin.” (Bolded text mine).
The inner or internal demasking was not done only in writing but also orally, before other prisoners. Ierunca recalled how the young men who were the sons of priests from villages were forced to blaspheme against God and their families:
“[…] they were forced to detail erotic scenes in which their father supposedly made advances to them [the young men] even in the altar as the Body of Christ was prepared. Their mother was supposed to be depicted as a prostitute, the prisoner being forced to invent detailed sexual scenes to which he himself witnessed.”
Their confessions, even if they were based on invented events and actions, were not taken as expressions of regret but as admissions of guilt. Only after their personality was “exploded”, as Makarenko designed, through these tortures and their souls violated, the next phase of the re-education process can begin.
Stage Three: The Victim becomes the Torturer
The student who suffered physical and psychological tortures for a prolonged period of time, once the ODCU was satisfied that the victim was no longer an individual and thus, the man was no longer capable of thinking for himself, the re-education process was deemed completed: the “new man”, the “socialist man” was born.
It was now time that this Homo Sovieticus to begin re-educating others. Through this stage of the process, the communists wanted to achieve one thing above all: to eliminate the possibility of innocence and instil in the victims the permanent feeling of guilt.
This part of the process was also meant as a show of loyalty to the communist Party.
The End of the Experiment from Pitesti
What happened inside the Pitesti prison occurred in a similar fashion in only one place on Earth, from the data I have gathered: in some prisons in China. As Historia.ro details:
“Not even in the Soviet gulags can we observe such methods. The only place where a similar experiment was conducted was in Maoist China in the Pekin prisons. There, all the prisoners were re-education through a similar process after which they became devoted communists. At Pitesti and at Pekin, the system of re-education had the same aim: the transformation of prisoners in torturers and to use them against other prisoners until the final goal was achieved – the re-education in the communist creed. The Pitesti Phenomenon would excel in terror, but not in duration, the Maoist re-education camps.”
What happened at Pitesti stopped not because anyone in the communist Party was concerned about the horrors committed. Rather, as re-educated students were transported at other prisons and forced labour camps, reports about their violence and desire to torture spread like wildfire. This meant that the Party’s “good name” was in danger.
But where did the ideas for the “re-education” process come from?
Part II: The Origins of Marxist Re-education
Although the idea of re-education can be traced back to Marx’s writings (as we shall see shortly), when talking about the origins of the re-education process, we need to differentiate between the re-education under communist regimes and its much milder sibling which is present today outside these totalitarian regimes.
When it comes to the communist re-education process in the USSR and in the Eastern Bloc, aside from Marx’s ideas of the “new man”, the first and most widely cited source of origin is the pedagogical methods of Ukrainian born, Anton Semionovici Makarenko.
We examine this two sources in detail before moving on to the source of today’s re-education process in the West, which comes from “critical theory” applied to race and pedagogy.
The concept and process of re-education to create the “new man” is baked into the Marxist thought itself. Lindsay explains this concept of the “socialist man” as “man dialectically reinvented to live in society” but this society is not built on unique individuals; rather, it is the by-product of every single member of that society thinking the same way so that the diversity of thought which leads to things such as competition and spontaneous order, is completely obliterated, because the egalitarian utopia promised by the socialist creed cannot come about without this “hive mind” or “correct consciousness” (everyone thinking the same).
The dynamic explained above is revealed in Marx’s 1844 Economic & Philosophic Manuscripts, which also represent the basis for Lindsay’s analysis. From reading the Manuscripts, we can see that Marx’s ideas on human nature, God and society are a combination of Feuerbach’s writings on Christianity, of the Hegelian philosophy and of the romantic subjectivism of French socialists like Saint-Simon. From this vortex of ideas, man is put in the place of God as creator alongside the notion that human nature is malleable to any length and thus it can be manipulated to bring about the “socialist man” – the only creature that can inhabit the world of socialist utopia.
“For Marxist theology, man is actually free if all men are doing this, in which case all men are enslaved by the need to do it”, quotes Lindsay from Voegelin’s Science Politics Gnosticism. “This” in the paragraph cited means the work needed to develop the “correct consciousness” in order for one to become the “socialist man” so that egalitarian society – egalitarian in all aspects – can finally come about.
From the Manuscripts we learn that “[…] socialism is man’s positive self-consciousness, no longer mediated through the abolition of religion, just as real life is man’s positive reality, no longer mediated through the abolition of private property, through communism. Communism is the positive m ode as the negation of the negation, and is hence the actual phase necessary for the next stage of historical development in the process of human emancipation and rehabilitation. Communism is the necessary form and the dynamic principle of the immediate future, but communism as such is not the goal of human development, the form of human society.”
Note that communism is not “the form of human society”. In my view, this is because communism is international socialism but, in the final stage – socialism, there are no nations and therefore, the “international” aspect of it can be scrapped. Thus, “the form of human society” is egalitarian utopia, i.e. socialism.
However, it is the concept of consciousness is what interest us here: it is the idea that one should be possessed by the right consciousness (by the correct ideas and ways of looking at the world) that is required for revolution, communism and eventually utopian paradise to come about.
Marx’s concept of consciousness is divided into two notions: class consciousness and false consciousness. A concise way of understanding class consciousness is given by Ashley Crossman for ThoughtCo. Magazine: “an awareness of one’s social and/or economic class relative to others, as well as an understanding of the economic rank of the class to which you belong in the context of the larger society”. Meanwhile, the latter concept refers to Marx’s idea that workers, before they become revolutionaries towards a socialist utopia, they were living with a false consciousness which needs to be destroyed and replaced with the right type of consciousness. “Broadly defined, false consciousness refers to a distorted understanding of one’s class identity and interest,” according to Encyclopædia Britannica.
Class consciousness is derived from Marx’s ideas of how society is organised. The German thinker viewed society as being composed of two parts: the Base and the Superstructure. The former is where the means and forces of production found themselves (workers, raw materials, labour-bourgeois relations and so on). The Base generates the goods that are bought and sold in the economy. It is the part of society which allows the Superstructure to exist.
Meanwhile, the Superstructure is the part of society where we find culture, ideology, norms and identities that people inhabit. It is from the Superstructure that the forces of the bourgeoisie come and distort the class consciousness of the proletariat, forcing the workers to gain a false consciousness. All of this “mental battle” needs to be “solved”: man must think the right way for socialism to triumph.
These notions – the contradiction discussed above and the dynamic between false and class consciousness – were central to the eventual development of “critical consciousness” through the works of Herbert Marcuse and Antonio Gramsci, among others, which in turn led to the development of “critical pedagogy”. More on this later on. For now, we need to stress the following dynamic between the notions of consciousness in Marxist thought.
For socialism to be achieved the right type of way of thinking must be development in man. This correct way of looking at man, society, nature and God, is the “socialist consciousness”. However, this secret knowledge that can be gained through the emancipation of class consciousness, i.e. by making one aware of where one sits in the world, but this realisation is distorted and hidden by evil forces that come from the bourgeoisie which create a false consciousness.
As such, for the “socialist consciousness” to be brought to light, one must destroy the class consciousness of the bourgeoisie while also remodelling the false consciousness of the workers – in essence, this results in the need to re-educate man in order to become the “new man”, the “socialist man” with the “socialist consciousness”.
The Origins of Marxist Re-education in Communist Eastern Europe
Anton Semionovici Makarenko
As Luminiţa Banu wrote in a document with the translated title Re-education – possible occidental origins?, which was uploaded on the website of CNSAS (The National Council for the Study of National Archives), Makarenko’s method developed in “experiments to create the new men through work “in collectively and for the collective”. Makarenko’s system was exercised on young convicts […] There was no free time and, besides work, they were indoctrinated with Marxist-Leninist theories. The merit of Makarenko was that he discovered the role of the collective in the shaping of the de-constructed individual (the pedagogue [Makarenko] uses the term “explosion” to point out the mental and spiritual states through which the person being re-educated goes through).
When Makarenko links the “explosion” to the collective, he transforms a simple technique, used quite successfully by CEKA during interrogations, in something superior: a method of re-education. The collective is the framework within which the personality of the victim is destroyed (de-constructed) into small piece, blow up, “exploded”. [The collective] is the place where the individual cannot hide because they are surrounded from all corners, and nobody can save them. […] The Soviet pedagogy is one of the collective in which the individual does not matter.”
Makarenko was heavily influenced by Maxim Gorky, the Russian writer with a love-hate relationship with communism (he was a Marxist before growing increasingly disappointed with Lenin, left Russia but return under Stalin to support the dictator’s thinking). Makarenko enjoyed Gorky’s work so much that he named the ‘Colony for Juvenile Delinquents’ – the group of young people to whom he exercised his pedagogical methods – the Gorky Colony.
Eventually, Gorky met Makarenko and he was most pleased with his work: “For twelve years you have laboured, and the results of those labours are priceless. Your revolutionary and astonishingly successful pedagogical experiment is, in my opinion, of world-wide significance.”
In the Journal of Orthodox Theology, in 2014, Silvia Negruțiu, a PhD Associate Professor at the University of Arts from Tîrgu-Mureş (Romania), detailed Makarenko’s methods as applied by the communists. The title of the paper is The Pedagogical System created by Anton Semyonovich Makarenko – a “profitable” Loan for “Re-education”. We shall quote the following relevant parts:
“He [Makarenko] later confessed that “our understanding for history was awakened by Bolshevik propaganda and the revolutionary events themselves.” […] The objective of his scientific endeavours was implementing education in institutionalised environments (colonies for young offenders) with the purpose of “creating the new man”, the communist. He began his work in the recently established soviet school. […]
Makarenko had a particular propensity for certain topics relating to the education through and for the group: “building the group and the personality”, “the collective’s cell”, “parallel action”, “pedagogical technique”; […]”
Anton Semyonovich Makarenko promoted an education within and through the collective, being convinced that:
- the individual cannot be understood apart from the society or the group;
- one must create the collective and set its interests above all else;
- people must not be educated in view of personal, but common happiness, and for the common struggle;
“Shortly after the Russians had occupied Romania, reading Anton Semyonovich Makarenko’s works became compulsory in our country for certain categories of people: party activists, pupils, students, and even political prisoners.
The indoctrination was cemented by way of regulations; those who rebelled against the regime’s “education” were destined to fall prey to the “re-education” carried out within the communist prisons which soon became too small for the vast numbers of intellectuals (literati, priests etc.) and simple faithful who would not accept losing their freedom and being manipulated.
In 1949 the communist officials decided to implement Makarenko’s “pedagogical” methods with the help of the secret police, the Securitate, such “practices” having been successfully employed in communist China. Thus the Romanian communist regime started its frightful experiments on people, the most notorious of which was the Pitești Experiment. Its subjects were over 1000 students aged 18 to 25, arrested throughout the country.
Why students? Because they possessed the capacity to challenge the system. Why challenge it? Because the communists planned to destroy the Romanian intellectual tradition. The general target of this experiment was to annihilate the country’s intellectual potential that might pose a threat to the communist regime, because the latter did not need elites but rather people obeying the system, easily manipulated, people it could form and re-form as it pleased.”
A final resource that I would like to bring to the attention of the reader is an archived document from the CNSAS website: “[…] the pedagogy of Anton Makarenko, which stated that the personality of the individual is, fundamentally, the result of social influences and therefore, it was possible to modify one’s personality in order to respond to the dynamic and everchanging needs of the regime, was part of the Soviet pedagogical thought”. The document links as source the book published in 1997 by Vladimir Tismăneanu, a Romanian political scientist, called The Crisis of Marxist Ideology in Eastern Europe: The Poverty of Utopia.
The aim of applying Makarenko’s insights to the re-education process was complete ideological conformity.
From the above, we can extract the following contribution made by Makarenko to the re-education process used by the communists: the collective was used to create the environment or framework in which the entire psychology of the individual was de-constructed (“exploded”) through torture and then re-made through physical work (such as exhausting exercise routines and little food regimes) and ideological indoctrination in the communist quest for making the “new man”.
Another Russian intellectual who made (an indirect) contribution to the re-education process was Pavlov. Although the psychologist denounced the dogmatic approach to science by the communist regime, the Soviets did not stop at employing his insights into various processes of torture. This was recalled by Alexandru Ratiu in The Stolen Church as well as it was mentioned by Luminiţa Banu in the document cited above and by Dumitru Bacu in Anti-Humans.
Pavlov’s findings about the potential to automate behaviour can definitely be seen in certain instances during the Pitesti Experiment, such as the poor man who, out of automatism, went every morning for about two months and put his head in the toilet.
“When the Communists apply this technique to their human subjects, they must first reduce their victims to the condition of animals. When one destroys in man the moral and intellectual foundation of his being, his consciousness of personal identity and superiority, and thus deprives him of control over his own faculties by reason and will, man ceases to be a superior being. There is no longer any difference between man and animal. He will submit, as do animals, to biological impulses,” wrote Bacu.
However, these pedagogical and scientific methods were not the only sources that gave birth to the re-education process. In fact, it is the core of the Marxist doctrine that gives the impetus for such a process to exist in the first place.
The Origins of Marxist Re-education in the West today
“Critical Pedagogy”: Blending Neo-Marxism, Freudian Psychoanalysis and Postmodern Thought
In our age, the manifestation of the re-education process does not (thankfully) manifest through the gore methods described above, although as we shall see soon, the essence is the same. Today, in the West, we face a new form of Marxian re-education process known as unconscious (or implicit) bias training, which is part of a broader arsenal of notions that have the word “critical” before them, the most important two being critical race theory and critical pedagogy.
Before we discuss what this process is, we need to explain how it relates to Marxist thought. In this sub-section we shall explore the evolution of the notion of re-education outside the Soviet Union. Without this information one cannot understand how critical race theory and its related tools (unconscious bias training and diversity and inclusion training) came to be and how it relates to the re-education process described above. Remember, re-education was designed to destroy the old individual and create the “new man” by developing a new form of consciousness – “socialist consciousness”.
Reading from the works of Isaac Gottesman and Paul Freire, James Lindsay, in a two hours lecture called Paulo Freire’s Politics of Education and a New Hope, briefly explains that “critical pedagogy” was built on three pillars: the introduction of Marxist critique regarding culture and education itself, post-structural feminism (which is the interpretation of postmodernism by the American feminist writers) from which standpoint epistemology came from and critical race theory. As we can see, these concepts are all related through the thin but very visible strain of Marxist thought and postmodern subjectivism.
Let us take a closer look at the concept of “critical pedagogy” because it is in this analysis that we shall find the bridge between the re-education processes in the communist regimes of the twentieth century and the unconscious bias training in the West today. Because of “critical pedagogy”, when schools are accused of teaching critical race theory, they can defend themselves for not teaching but doing critical race theory – this is because, as we shall see, under “critical pedagogy”, the application of critical race theory happens under the shield of transforming teachers and students into political activists.
The first pillar of “critical pedagogy” which Lindsay referred above – the introduction of Marxist critique regarding culture and education itself – was built through and upon the work of Neo-Marxists. The prefix “neo” comes from Greek and means “new” or “recent”. When speaking about Neo-Marxism, we typically refer to the writings of Cultural Marxist Antonio Gramsci and of Critical Theory Marxists from the Frankfurt School, such as Herbert Marcuse.
Cultural Marxism refers to applying Marxist ideological tools – such as the dialectical method borrowed from Hegel – to the vague and vast body of culture and the institutions from which it arises and upon which culture rests. In the most practical terms, Cultural Marxism refers to the process of making people more acceptable of socialist views, including of the utopia that international socialism (communism) is as well as of the need of constant cultural change to ensure a permanent fertile ground for revolution.
Gramsci is widely referred to as “the father of Cultural Marxism”. The bedrock for this statement is a body of essays which the Italian published while being imprisoned by the fascists in the 1920s and 1930s. Indeed, the slogan of Rudi Dutschke, a German communist, was “the long march through the institutions”, echoing Gramsci’ “war of position”, a roadmap of infiltrate Western culture and use Marxist thought to conquer it from within.
Most pertinent to our discussion on re-education is Gramsci’s concept of “cultural hegemony” which should be the target that is to be taken down for socialism to prevail. The two important essays written by Gramsci which are of key importance here are The Intellectuals and On Education.
The notion of “cultural hegemony” is similar to Karl Marx’s idea of superstructure. As we have already stated, Marx viewed society as being composed of two parts: the Base and the Superstructure. The former is where the means and forces of production found themselves (workers, raw materials, labour-bourgeois relations and so on). The Base generates the goods that are bought and sold in the economy. It is the part of society which allows the Superstructure to exist. This part of society is where we find culture, ideology, norms and identities that people inhabit.
As sociologist Nicki Lisa Cole explained, in the Superstructure there are also the “social institutions, political structure, and the state—or society’s governing apparatus. Marx argued that the superstructure grows out of the base and reflects the ruling class’s interests. As such, the superstructure justifies how the base operates and defends the power of the elite.”
Gramsci’s “cultural hegemony” refers to this part of society where culture, ideas, traditions, laws, education and so on are to be found – in schools, universities, the courts, churches and families. He even criticised the “traditional” intellectuals (those who are intellectuals by profession) for aiding the ruling class in maintaining this “cultural hegemony” and thus preserving the false consciousness of the working class. Gramsci however is fond of a certain type of intellectual: the “organic” intellectual.
The idea is rooted in two notions: the proposition defended by the Young Hegelians that all men can be philosophers and the Leninist view that “all distinctions between workers and intellectuals […] must be obliterated”, as Lenin wrote in What is to be done. Gramsci argued that the working class can develop its own intellectuals who arise “organically” from this part of society and who have as function the directing of ideas and aspirations of the proletariat. Here we can also see the Marxist declaration that “the philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; our task is to change it”. Thus, what we can take from this essay, is that Gramsci calls for a certain type of political activist to arise from the proletariat as intellectuals of the working classes (the oppressed) and lead the masses towards their revolutionary destiny.
In On Education, Gramsci links his thoughts on these “organic” intellectuals, who are essentially activists for the socialist cause, with his view on shaping the minds of the youth through the power of education. He also noticed the role of education in maintaining what he called the “cultural hegemony” – the threat that must be obliterated for communism to prevail.
From the above, to conclude on Cultural Marxism, the following notions have been put forward towards the fostering of “critical pedagogy”: by applying the Marxist techniques, the pillars of culture in the Western world (or any society that is deemed capitalist) must be infiltrated in order to shape the values and ideas of the people, making them more inclined towards communism.
As Lindsay explained: “Gramsci identifies that the “cultural hegemony” of Western cultures prevented communism from having any chance of taking root, so he recommended a strategy that seeks to tear apart and capture major cultural institutions, including religion, family, education, media, and law. Mao understood this clearly and used it to devastating effect.”
Next, we shall look at the other strain of Neo-Marxism that emerged from the Frankfurt School. Of core importance to our discussion here is the “critical theory” that this Frankfurt School, which can be thought of as the Western European Marxist centre, gave birth to.
The term “critical theory” was defined by Max Horkheimer in his essay Traditional and Critical Theory. In it, the German thinker explained that “critical theory” sits in opposition to “traditional theory” and while the latter seeks to provide a basis, often rooted in reason, from which an explanation of a part of our world can be built upon, the former seeks primarily to have a practical purpose of liberating the oppressed. As Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains: “[…] such theories aim to explain and transform all the circumstances that enslave human beings, many “critical theories” in the broader sense have been developed.”
Two things to note from the start are that “critical theory”, by sitting in opposition to “traditional theory”, is a subtle but important criticism of reason and enlightenment and, secondly, because “critical theory” is primarily concerned with altering rather than explaining the world, it echoes Marx’s dictum about their [the Marxist’s] role of changing the world, as opposed to philosophers who “have only interpreted the world”, via praxis.
Indeed, “critical theory” starts from how society should be (a normative moral version) and then describe through criticism how society fails to live up to that version and prescribe action to change it. This is perhaps an application of the Hegelian dialectical method of thesis (society should be like this), anti-thesis (why society fails to be like this) and synthesis (how society still fails to be this), and the process repeats in a continuous change for the sake of change motion.
As Lindsay explains in his commentary on “critical theory”, the main driver behind the work that gave birth to the notion itself was a motivation to seek and understand (and remedy) why and how Marxism failed. “The big-picture agenda of the Frankfurt School was to marry Marxian economic theory to Freudian psychoanalytic theory in order to explain both the rise of fascism and the reasons that the communist revolutions were not taking place in Western democracies as had been predicted.”
Another important Frankfurt School thinker was Herbert Marcuse who, like his contemporaries, was preoccupied with why and how Marxism failed to bring about the promised land of socialist utopia. As I wrote in Why many young Westerners hate Hitler but are unsure about Stalin?, Marcuse reached a similar conclusion as other neo-Marxists that what prevented the working class from revolting against the many oppressions of capitalist society was the very benefits of capitalism, economic and cultural.
One-Dimensional Man is arguable Marcuse’s most important publication. The socialist publication, Jacobin, wrote that “in the upheavals that rocked universities during the first half of 1968, Marcuse, the “prophet of the New Left,” was suddenly everywhere. Students in Berlin held a banner proclaiming “Marx, Mao, Marcuse!” — an alliterative slogan more elaborately formulated by demonstrators in Rome: “Marx is the prophet, Marcuse his interpreter, and Mao his sword!” Although dismissed by most liberal critics and increasingly denounced by a motley chorus of conservatives, left sectarians, and Soviet apparatchiks, One-Dimensional Man maintained its position as the “bible” of the New Left through the end of the decade […].”
This “bible” however was e deeply pessimistic in tone and outlook. Marcuse felt defeated in his hope for Marxism to prevail because, in a similar vein with the Cultural Marxists, he viewed the cultural forces of liberal Western democracies as a threat to socialist utopia. In building his arguments, Marcuse deviated from Marx’s ideas to some extent but, of course, not in totality.
As Robert Langston wrote in Herbert Marcuse and Marxism in 1968, Marcuse maintained several important aspects of Marxist thought in his assessment. Of particular importance to our discussion is that Marcuse viewed praxis (the fusion of theory and action, or the application of theory in practice) as the way to “produce true consciousness where hitherto false consciousness prevailed, so that men can act against their enslaving social conditions.” Here we see again the idea of the right consciousness, the “socialist consciousness” being stressed out.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, in Brazil, building on the ideas surrounding “critical theory”, Paulo Freire, an educator and thinker and the leading advocate for “critical pedagogy”, constructed the notion of “critical consciousness”. In essence, this notion refers to having a critical mindset in the sense of “critical theory” – to look at the world through the lens of “critical theory” and therefore, to view society in terms of dynamics of power, privilege, dominance, oppression, marginalisation and, alongside these perspectives, to have taken up a commitment to become an activist to solve these issues.
In a 2019 journal article entitled Becoming Teachers for Social Justice: Raising Critical Consciousness, the authors define the term as “the core of social justice teaching, is a heightened awareness of the world and the power structures that shape it.” In other words, “critical consciousness” is the correct form of consciousness that the “new man” possess and through which he sees the world. This “critical consciousness” is that of a political activist for socialist causes.
Rooted in “critical consciousness”, are a myriad of related concepts, including anti-racism (an important tool of critical race theory), diversity and inclusion training and others. Freire contextualise “critical consciousness” in the education system through the term “critical pedagogy”, developed in his work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. The goal of “critical pedagogy” is to liberate from oppression through an awakening of “critical consciousness” which, when achieved, the individual is able to change the world through criticism and political action.
On top of all these developments, a layer of psychoanalysis has been placed as a way of justifying indoctrination with critical race theory ideas. Some say it is rooted in Freud’s theories while others disagree. In my view, it is irrelevant on what theoretical grounds this is based. By “this” I mean the “unconscious bias” or “implicit bias”, a notion which asserts, and in my view not entirely wrongly, that people have prejudices about which they are not aware of, but they come to light when they act.
The issue is not with making the case for these types of “biases”, but the ideas that a) they are entirely the result of social forces of identity-based systems of power (such as the assertion that Western civilisation is a straight white man’s construct designed to oppress anyone who is not a straight white man), b) that they are always and everywhere negative (which is false, as some of these unconscious biases are prejudices developed through evolution, such as fearing colourful snakes because colour equals poison) and c) that they can be removed from the human psyche through “training” (unconscious bias training’s results being then used to justify diversity and inclusion training, rooted in critical race theory).
Importantly, “implicit bias” is central to critical social justice (critical in the sense of “critical theory”) which, according to Robin DiAngelo, “recognizes inequality as deeply embedded in the fabric of society (i.e., as structural), and actively seeks to change this. The definition we apply is rooted in a critical theoretical approach.” But this is not limited to social justice, it applies to race (in critical race theory), to gender, to body image and any aspect of culture.
Where “critical theory” is applied to, “critical consciousness” needs to be arisen and for this to happen the “implicit biases” need to be destroyed. In schools, this is done by “not-teaching” teaching critical race theory under the veil of “critical pedagogy” which enables teaching institutions to justify their political bias, while in other parts of society, such as companies, implicit bias training and diversity and inclusion training are the ways through which critical race theory is “done”.
Now to summarise before we move on to the next part of the essay. In traditional Marxist thought, we had the notion of “false consciousness” that prevented the workers from becoming socialist revolutionaries.
This “false consciousness” was the result of the Superstructure from where the cultural forces of the bourgeoise came to cloud the workers’ minds. Then, Cultural Marxist Antonio Gramsci developed this theme further into the “cultural hegemony” that needs to be torn down from within with the help of “organic” intellectuals. Meanwhile, in Germany, the Frankfurt School thinkers developed “critical theory”, a methodology of action to liberate the oppressed. This was then turned into “critical pedagogy” and “critical consciousness” by Paul Freire which represents the correct consciousness of the “new man”, the “socialist man” in the West today.
To bring about this “critical consciousness”, alongside the cultural barriers that need to be torn down, the psyche of the human being must be altered by removing “unconscious biases” through training.
Part III: Marxist Re-education in the West today through Critical Race Theory
1989 can be viewed as the year in which the communist dictatorships of Eastern Europe received their death blow. In Poland, the anti-communist movements which gained traction a year prior materialised in August when Tadeusz Mazowiecki was nominated as Prime Minister, the first non-Communist leader since the post-war years. Hungary followed Poland and, after a peaceful demonstration (Pan-European Picnic) on the Austrian-Hungarian border, the country is freed from communist rule. Then, the Berlin Wall fell, on 9 November, making Germany whole again. A few weeks later, during the month of December, the Romanian revolution put an end to Ceasuscu’s dictatorship and to communist rule.
Europe was not the only place where the fight against this ideology and its totalitarian manifestation was taking place: in China, where the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) ruled with a regime of terror since it took power in 1949, protests in Tiananmen Square took place as the Chinese people hoped for a freer society. However, unlike in other countries (such as Romania where the communist authorities shot in the people and ran them over with armoured vehicles, but to no avail), in China the CCP managed to stop the demonstrators through a devastating massacre. You can read in great detail what happened between April and June 1989 in Tiananmen Square on this website.
However, as these peoples were fighting for liberation and freedom, the seed of socialist ideology was replanted with plenty of faith right in the land of the free, the home of the brave. In 1989 in Wisconsin (USA), the first conference on critical race theory (CRT) was held. As a paper from Boston University’s School of Law which commemorated 20 years of CRT described the event:
“On July 8, 1989, more than twenty scholars “who were interested in defining and elaborating on the lived reality of race, and who were open to the aspiration of developing theory” gathered together at a workshop in Madison, Wisconsin. […] The first CRT workshop resulted in the continued growth of an intellectual movement that has made significant contributions to the American and international legal academies.”
And then the article goes on to praise how CRT has expanded through many aspects of people’s lives, focusing mostly on the legal profession. CRT has not remained confined to the remits of legal textbooks – it has spread across all facets of Western society. However, before we continue with our essay, one thing needs to be stressed: discussions on race relationships in the past and today are important in order to foster a society in which history of mankind with its episodes of slavery as well as its achievements in abolishing it are explored so that such developments are prevented from occurring. But the framework of how these discussions are being held is important.
CRT can be thought of as Identity Marxism – terms coined by James Lindsay. I have explored in greater detail the history of Identity Marxism in an earlier essay, “Why many young Westerners hate Hitler but are unsure about Stalin?”. Here we shall confine ourselves to just a few points that are pertinent to our discussion.
Although we have focused on the Wisconsin conference of 1989 as the point which propelled CRT into the wider society, Identity Marxism is a combination of a decades-long march of pro-socialist schools of thought as discussed in Part II of this paper (summarised below).
These forces culminated in the 1980s to begin the “movement”, as a recent article from Columbia University explains: “Critical race theory was a movement that initially started at Harvard under Professor Derrick Bell in the 1980s.” As the New Yorker wrote in September 2021, part of what motivated Bell was his doubts about the impact which civil-rights cases had in reducing racial prejudices against people of colour in America:
“Bell spent the second half of his career as an academic and, over time, he came to recognize that other decisions in landmark civil-rights cases were of limited practical impact. He drew an unsettling conclusion: racism is so deeply rooted in the makeup of American society that it has been able to reassert itself after each successive wave of reform aimed at eliminating it. Racism, he began to argue, is permanent.” With the last sentence, Bell eliminated all the achievements made by Western nations in rooting out racism from society: the abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement and so on.
Nevertheless, the two crucial texts that gave birth to Critical Race Theory come from the legal scholarship field and are Race, Racism and American Law (1973) and Faces at the Bottom of the Well (1993), both books challenging the impartiality of the law and setting out the foundations of CRT which argues, among other things, that race is by-product of social forces (social construction thesis), white people are unlikely to be aware of their prejudices which minorities must point out (voice of colour thesis), racism is a permanent feature of American society (invalidating the achievements of liberalism), societal forces oppress different minorities through “racialisation” at different times and the intersectionality and anti-essentialism views. The final one, anti-essentialism, is a stark anti-Western position as it goes against Plato’s philosophy of essence (however, this is a subject for another time).
But what exactly is Critical Race Theory? How is it defined? I have already pointed out that it is Marxist at its core, but what it is exactly. When Bell was once asked what Critical Race Theory is he answered:
“I don’t know what that is. […] To me, it means telling the truth, even in the face of criticism.”
This definition is not helpful. Here are more rounded definitions. From Richard Delgado, a legal scholar who teaches CRT at the University of Alabama, who wrote in Critical Race Theory: An Introduction (2017):
“The critical race theory (CRT) movement is a collection of activists and scholars engaged in studying and transforming the relationship among race, racism, and power. The movement considers many of the same issues that conventional civil rights and ethnic studies discourses take up but places them in a broader perspective that includes economics, history, setting, group and self-interest, and emotions and the unconscious. Unlike traditional civil rights discourse, which stresses incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law.” (Bolded text is mine).
From the World Socialist Web Site, “the online publication of the world Trotskyist movement, the International Committee of the Fourth International, and its affiliated sections in the Socialist Equality Parties around the world”, in an essay published in 2021 entitled The ideological foundations of Critical Race Theory, we learn that:
“Critical race theory is a broad current, with many tributaries flowing into it and many offshoots flowing out of it […]. In characterizing this whole current, it is therefore useful to begin at the most basic level with its fundamental philosophical conceptions, the heritage of which can be traced to postmodernism and the conceptions advanced by the Frankfurt School. This is the “critical theory” from which “critical race theory” emerges.” (Bolded text is mine).
The WSWS publication, which is actually a speech given at the Socialist Equality Party (US) 2021 summer school, then explores in detail how elements of postmodernism and neo-Marxism come together to give birth to critical race theory which has an added element of identitarianism based on race.
“Critical race theory takes the rejection of the Enlightenment from the Frankfurt School and postmodernism and adds a racial spin. […] This reactionary racial sectarianism—which is reflected in demands within and around the Democratic Party for racial reparations, racial quotas and racial preferences, together with racially segregated classrooms, which they call “safe spaces,” or “African-American cultural immersion programs”—is entirely consistent with the essential theoretical framework, conceptions and methods of critical race theory.” (Bolded text is mine).
Finally, the Heritage Foundation – on the opposite political spectrum to the WSWS – defines CRT in a similar way:
“Critical race theory (CRT) makes race the prism through which its proponents analyze all aspects of American life, categorizing individuals into groups of oppressors and victims. It is a philosophy that is infecting everything from politics and education to the workplace and the military.”
The link between Marxism and CRT has drawn some criticism in recent years, despite the very clear relationship between the two ways of looking at the world. As Dr Paul Macomb in a conversation with political analyst Pascal Robert pointed out in the summer of 2021, there is the branch of legal analysis developed by Bell which does not have a relationship with Marxism necessarily (or, rather, directly) and then the Marxist version of CRT developed by Left-leaning intellectuals (like Cornel West) by combining things such as Ardono’s “negative dialectics” into the application of Critical Race Theory.
It is very interesting indeed that even when this distinction is made, as it is in the podcast linked above, the Marxist ideas of praxis, of a society divided in oppressed and oppressors with the capitalist system being the root of that division, are evident and acknowledged by the two speakers. Not only this, but there are academics who have linked Bell’s legal work to the “critical theory” of Frankfurt School before the likes of Cornel West. See for example Words That Wound, Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, and the First Amendment published in 1993 by Mari J. Matsuda. In the book, the author states on page five that the critical race theorists drew from “liberalism, Marxism, the law and society movement, critical legal studies, feminism, poststructuralism / postmodernism, and neopragmatism” and began to examine the “relationship between naming and reality, knowledge and power.”
Matsuda goes further and highlights the tenets of CRT, which include: racism is endemic to American life (similar to what Bell proposed), scepticism towards legal claims of “neutrality, objectivity, color blindness and meritocracy”, racism has contributed “to all contemporary manifestations of group advantage and disadvantage along racial lines, “recognition of experiential knowledge of people of color” (the voice of color thesis proposed by Bell), “works towards the end of eliminating racial oppression as part of a broader goal of ending all forms of oppression” through a “fundamental social transformation” (“critical theory” Marxist analysis).
Essentially, the works of Bell found a home right in the middle of Left-wing thought, giving birth to the CRT we know today and has been defined above, linking Bell’s works with Marxism and postmodernism. For a very detailed analysis of CRT’s ideological background, I encourage you to watch the video below.
Because CRT is Marxist in nature, the notion of creating the correct consciousness for the “new man” to be born remains well alive in its application anywhere in society: this “new man”, in the context of CRT possesses the “critical consciousness” that enables the individual to see race-relations everywhere and as the basis of everything in society and, importantly, to become an activist (through the means provided by “critical pedagogy” for example) against these forces, trying to change the world by putting the ideology of CRT into practice.
Alongside the notions derived from Marixst thought which we have discussed at length already, a few concepts key need to be explored in order to understand the link between CRT and the creation of the “new man” in the West today.
The first one – implicit racism – is essentially the idea that the vast majority of us are infested with implicit racial bias. This notion was pushed by a lot of Left-leaning politicians and academics, including the former US President, Barack Obama. This claim has enabled the rolling out of implicit bias training, which was designed by researchers at the University of Washington in late 1990s.
The test (abbreviated as IAT) measures the speed with which a person associates positive or negative words to different categories related to identity, such as skin tones (black or white) and genders (male or female). The idea is that if one takes too long to associate positive words with a category, then the sole reason for that outcome is because the person is doomed by some sort of negative implicit bias towards that part of a person’s identity (like race, gender etc.).
The results of the test then inform whether diversity training needs to be undertaken by the individual in question (to demolish his or her prejudices), how much affirmative action needs to be implemented (such as hiring quotas or university admissions) and other race-based practices.
For example, during the Obama years, the DOJ required some 28,000 employees to undergo training to “recognize and address implicit bias.” Meanwhile, the Spectator wrote in 2020 that “Google, Facebook, the FTSE 100, government departments — including the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Justice — and non-profits proudly advertise the programmes they put their staff through” IAT. In other words, the individual or the institution is required to “engage” with the presumed issue in order to change society. Failure of a positive outcome, under “critical theory” social justice or race relations, is a sign of “false consciousness”.
Note that we are not concerned here with whether the IAT works – it doesn’t, is the simple conclusion from many assessments – but with its ideological underpinnings and the way these underpinnings manifest in a Marxist re-education process: give up your previous sinful, guilty and wrong psychological make-up (the mask) and develop the “critical consciousness”.
The second concept we need to lay out is antiracism. As far as I can tell, the notion was developed by Ibram X. Kendi in How to be an Antiracist. “The opposite of “racist” isn’t “not racist.” It is “anti-racist.” […] It is descriptive, and the only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it—and then dismantle it.”
As Lindsay explains: “This definition, which does not merely mean “against racism,” as one might assume of the term, is absolutely standard in Social Justice. In fact, it reflects the core tenet of Critical Race Theory that racism is ordinary and pervades everything. As may be seen in Kendi’s use of the word “inequities,” antiracism is to be thought of in terms of equity, not equality.” (Bolded text mine).
“White fragility” is another concept linked to being an antiracist and thus to critical race theory. The notion was developed by Robin DiAngelo, a CRT educator. The main idea behind “white fragility” rests on the following claims: all white people are naturally racist and when confronted about this fact they display a range of defensive behaviours which, in turn, perpetuate the state of racial injustice of a white supremacy society upon which America and the broader Western world was built.
Around “white fragility”, one can find phrases such as “white woman tears” (a false display of empathy towards people of colour), “white privilege” (Caucasians are treated better in all, if not most, situations in life because of their skin colour while those with darker tones are oppressed in all, if not most, situations), “white complicity” (regardless of the good intentions of white people, they are complicit in oppressing people of colour – systemically (i.e. in and through every institution in society) – unless they actively become antiracists) and “white innocence” (white people are guilty of racism even if they do not realise so), among others. To get rid of these psychological defaults one must develop a “critical consciousness” and one way of doing so is through the faulty IAT or via a broader antiracist (diversity and inclusion) training.
Matt Taibbi, in June 2020, in a newsletter entitled On “White Fragility” wrote:
“A core principle of the academic movement that shot through elite schools in America since the early nineties was the view that individual rights, humanism, and the democratic process are all just stalking-horses for white supremacy. The concept, as articulated in books like former corporate consultant Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility (Amazon’s #1 seller!) reduces everything, even the smallest and most innocent human interactions, to racial power contests. […]
DiAngelo isn’t the first person to make a buck pushing tricked-up pseudo-intellectual horseshit as corporate wisdom, but she might be the first to do it selling Hitlerian race theory. White Fragility has a simple message: there is no such thing as a universal human experience, and we are defined not by our individual personalities or moral choices, but only by our racial category. […]
White Fragility is based upon the idea that human beings are incapable of judging each other by the content of their character, and if people of different races think they are getting along or even loving one another, they probably need immediate antiracism training. […]
One of the central tenets of DiAngelo’s book (and others like it) is that racism cannot be eradicated and can only be managed through constant, “lifelong” vigilance, much like the battle with addiction.”
The last line provides a key insight: like Paulo Freire and his Canadian disciple, Henry A. Giroux argued that the hope for Marxist dogma to bring about society closer to socialist utopia is via a constant revolution of change for the sake of change; and so does DiAngelo who argues that antiracism is a lifelong commitment to political activism to gaining a new consciousness (perspective on the world and mankind).
Indeed, part of being antiracist, especially in the context of diversity training that aims to tackle negative unconscious bias towards race, is to confess the thought crime of racism, like the Northwestern University Law School administrators did, after a critical self-examination. RT reported on A&T requiring its employees to do so, stating that those “who would not “confess their complicity in ‘white privilege’ and ‘systemic racism,’” get punished by getting lower rankings on performance reviews.” It also involves calling others out as racists – not just individuals but also institutions – including members of one’s family (like Meghan did with the UK royal family) and community.
For example, in 2021, writing for the Hungarian Conservative, Robert Koons, a professor of philosophy at University of Texas at Austin, gave a chilling image of the Marxist thought police on campuses:
“At my university last year, the administration posted flyers around campus giving a phone number to which students were instructed to leave anonymous complaints about “bias incidents” and “hateful comments” on the part of the faculty or other students. The information was to be collected by the ominously named ‘Campus Climate Response Team’. Recently, the University of Texas has jumped on another widespread trend in academia – that of adopting a new ‘equity and inclusion’ policy. This is a truly Orwellian name, since the intent of the policy is explicitly to exclude from future faculty anyone who has failed to demonstrate, through their public statements and political activism, sufficient commitment to the equity and inclusion agenda”.
Koons is by no means alone in seeing the Marxist plight ruining the bastions of higher education. Let’s take another example. The Atlantic published in 2020 an article written by John McWhorter in which we see the appalling and frightening reality of Marxist dogma in American universities:
“Overall I found it alarming how many of the letters sound as if they were written from Stalinist Russia or Maoist China. A history professor reports that at his school, the administration is seriously considering setting up an anonymous reporting system for students and professors to report “bias” that they have perceived. One professor committed the sin of “privileging the white male perspective” in giving a lecture on the philosophy of one of the Founding Fathers, even though Frederick Douglass sang that Founder’s praises. The administration tried to make him sit in a “listening circle”, in which his job was to stay silent while students explained how he had hurt them – in other words, a 21st-century-American version of a struggle session straight out of the Cultural Revolution”.
The attentive reader would note that in both quotes the “administration” is a principal venue for Marxist dogma. This a topic worthy of exploring in itself and I encourage you to watch this short video by Dr. Lyell Asher on how administrators have become political activists of the Left.
However, to conclude this part of the essay, let’s identify the Marxist concepts in what we have said so far.
First, critical race theory was born out of the Neo-Marxist school of “critical theory” (which is primarily concerned with liberating the oppressed) discussed in the second part of this essay, in combination with radical postmodern ideas. The postmodernists, as I showed in a previous publication in which I used the works of Stephen Hicks and Helen Pluckrose, were not necessarily Marxists but they were strongly on the Left and promoted, among other things, extreme subjectivism, nihilism (especially in an epistemological sense) and a revolutionary ethos of breaking down power structures. To understand the link between postmodernism (as a tool) and critical race theory, see Cynical Theories.
The race overlay of CRT is of course obvious and, like the national socialists used race to divide the population into categories deemed morally clean and vice versa, so are the current Identity Marxists doing through CRT. This can be seen in the table below which compares Woke-ism (another term for Identity Marxists) with the international and national socialists of the last century.
We have also seen that part of the Critical Race Theory repertoire of ideas two are of crucial importance: implicit or unconscious bias and antiracism. The first refers to ways of perceiving the world which are outside the control of our mind but which, nevertheless, are reflected in our behaviour. Such biases, hidden deep in our psyche – real as they are – in the CRT vocabulary are negatives that have to be rooted out so that “racial justice” can prevail.
One tool of going inside the human psyche and seeing just how biased one is has been provided by the implicit bias tests which, as faulty as they may be, have become widely used in the Western world, especially the United States of America. The results of these tests are then informing the broader antiracism training (named in various ways, such as diversity and inclusion training) which is designed to bring about the “critical consciousness”, the right consciousness, so that the “new man” (the antiracist in this Identity Marxist context) can be born.
Part of the antiracist training involves confessing one’s thought crimes (the assumed innate racism of white people, for example), reporting on or being reported by friends, colleagues or neighbours for wrong ideas, forced to listen how one has contributed to oppression because of views or ideas uttered or assumed to hold, more or less coerced to take “positive action” (or to “engage”) in changing the assumed state of oppression that one has been deemed guilty of and justifications for ethnic monitoring and segregation (such as why there should be “spaces” for black people only). Once these ideas have been drilled down into someone’s psychological makeup, then the “critical consciousness” was awakened and the person is the “new man”.
Conclusion: The parallels between the two types of Marxist Re-education
Thank you for reading thus far. I am aware that this has been a rather difficult paper to go through and digest: the topics discussed here are dark and morally wrong – but they are part of human nature and that is why we must tackle them head on, like King Théoden did on the Fields of Pelennor. The only thing that is left is to draw the parallels between the Marxist re-education process under communism and in the West today.
Many commentators have rightly pointed out that the process of Marxist re-education in the West today is more akin to Mao’s Cultural Revolution, although it has elements of Stalinist practices as well. I agree. However, I wanted to focus on what happened in the Romanian prison of Pitesti for a couple of reasons: firstly, to bring to light an episode which is not known to many in the West of what the communists were capable of doing and secondly, to draw attention to the end point that we are galloping towards if we do not change course.
With these final observations stressed, below is the conclusion of this paper – the parallels between the two types of Marxist re-education.
Thank you for reading.