Marxism in higher education – The Arlington Catholic Herald

Some years ago, Lee Edwards, a veteran conservative writer and a
friend of mine, launched an organization, the Victims of Communism Memorial
Foundation, dedicated to “commemorating the more than 100 million victims of
communism around the world and pursuing the freedom of those still living under
totalitarian regimes.”

Today, Victims of Communism is going great guns, with a small but
capable staff and a number of programs and projects designed to make people
aware that Marxist communism not only was but still is a really nasty piece of
work.

It’s a message that needs frequent repeating. Especially now,
when Marxism is alive and well on many college campuses and a disturbing
presence in the movement protesting — with good cause, to be sure — serious
abuses that have festered too long in America.

Lately, in the pages of the “Fellowship of Catholic Scholars
Quarterly” I came across an article that sheds interesting light on these
matters. The work of Jesuit Father Joseph Koterski, a former president of the
Fellowship and a philosophy professor at Fordham University in New York City,
it analyzes the “worrisome phenomenon” of what he calls “cultural Marxism.”

Noting that even to speak critically of Marxism is today regarded
as “illiberal” in some academic circles, Father Koterski reports having used
some of his pandemic-induced leisure to read “Witness.” For people with short
memories, the book, a recognized classic, is the 1952 autobiography of
Whittaker Chambers, the ex-communist whistleblower who caused a sensation in
the late 1940s by disclosing that State Department official Alger Hiss was a
Soviet spy. Controversial at the time, Hiss’ guilt is now recognized as
established fact.

Among the book’s merits, Father Koterski says, Chambers explained
“perhaps better than anyone else” why some well-intentioned people become
communists.

“In ways that never cease to surprise,” he writes, “educated
people have regularly found it possible to overlook the use of secret police,
re-education camps, and the techniques employed for arranging a coup d’etat
when they become convinced that only the human mind is capable of changing a
world that badly needs changing … This materialistic vision makes it possible
to rationalize all sorts of bloodletting out of the conviction that this will
end ‘the bloody meaninglessness of man’s history.’ ”

And so, he says, violence is excused as “an inescapable tactic”
of social transformation. Even worse, he adds, is the harm done by media reporting
that “incites or approves” mob action which ultimately threatens the existence
of a free press itself.

Father Koterski also cites an influential article called
“Repressive Tolerance” by Marxist intellectual Herbert Marcuse whose ideas
played an important part in the campus uprisings of the 1960s. Marcuse argues
for a form of selective toleration allowing free rein to the Left while at the
same time “restraining” the Right.

Similarly, he says, the ideas of New Left thinker Theodor Adorno
—who dismissed as “pathological phenomena” such things as parenthood, family
pride, patriotism, love of God and traditional gender roles — have become
“standard parts of (the) agenda pursued” in American academia today.

Chambers, who embraced Christianity after abandoning Marxism,
said the heart of communism was its vision of “man’s mind displacing God as the
creative intelligence of the world.” In this way, it exalted humanity “by the
simple method of denying God.”

There is no doubt that as individuals and a nation, we need to do
a better job of practicing justice and charity. But we also need constant
reminders of horrors that witnesses like Whittaker Chambers and groups like
Victims of Communism caution us not to forget.

Shaw writes from Washington. 

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