What is the Long March, you may ask? Well, according to Marc Sidwell, it’s the infiltration and control of…all cultural and political institutions…by the Left…built upon theories expounded by Antonio Gramsci and Rudi Dutschke. Well, it certainly sounds intimidating, but what does this mean in practice?
Isn’t it spooky how all universities have a left-leaning bias? Sidwell does use a statistic here, that 85% of university lecturers are left-wing, but does that mean all of academia and all the kids going to uni are being indoctrinated? In one paper, Herman G. van de Werfhorst, finds that whilst there is a general left-wing majority within the humanities this is not the case for social sciences. Werfhorst concludes: ‘[i]f universities were exclusionary organizations where diversity of opinions is undesired and conservative scholars are excluded, one would expect this would have resulted in a high level of homogeneity of opinions. The fact that that seems not to be very clearly the case is reassuring for the contemporary debates on ideological diversity in higher education.’ Although certain intellectuals may be more left-leaning than the rest of society, there is little to no evidence on the impact this has on their teaching or what their students believe.
Uh, well that being said, what about the kids? Sidwell seems to think the high youth support for Labour could be due to universities, he cites John Gray as arguing that universities teach anti-Western values. Whilst this is certainly an interesting theory, I wonder whether living through two decades of neoliberalism could have radicalised these students instead. The tripling of university fees under the Coalition government might have had something to do with discontent towards the Tories. Not only this, but the general impact of austerity policies has done little in the way of wonders for young people, be it job opportunities or access to support for mental health. Living through uneasy times such as these could easily turn any individual towards even the mildest form of social democracy.
Sidwell quickly moves on to what he views as a disappointing lack of conservatism…in the Conservative Party. Apparently, their drive to make sex education more wide-spread and compulsory just doesn’t cut mustard. Sidwell draws comparisons between this policy effort and the beliefs of several Marxists who advocated for compulsory sex education. I for one, am shocked, shocked I say, that György Lukács rose from his grave and drifted across the Channel to educate our children about sex! This seems like a fairly inane point. Sex education is incredibly important and anyone who attempts to undermine the careful implementation of it as a programme should be ridiculed. As Marta Reis et. al. note, sex education leads to less sexual risks, less sexually transmitted diseases, and less unwanted pregnancies and abortions. Surely all these benefits would be of great interest to conservatives, the standard-bearers of the pro-life cause?
Enough about that! If people have proficient and positive knowledge about sex, they might have the wherewithal to spurn unwanted sexual advances. For example, in Sidwell’s case, why doesn’t anyone want to fuck Tories? This is surely a Marxist plot, and not the result of people freely choosing who they do and don’t want to sleep with. There is little to no evidence of dating apps using algorithms to prohibit conservatives from finding love, but if you put ‘Horny Thatcherite’ in your bio, there’s a large chance people aren’t going to send you nudes. Truly, the real bigotry isn’t racial violence by the police, the harassment and dehumanisation of trans people, the brutal treatment of migrants and asylum seekers, but the fact that Tories can’t get any if they vocalise their abhorrent ideology.
You can tell Sidwell is a very Serious Writer Man with his evocation of the ‘Blob,’ an amorphous concept that he uses to highlight any and all political correctness within institutions, because of course the best way to unravel a very complicated and multi-layered concept such as ‘political correctness’ is to give it a dumb monster movie label and hope that passes for a forceful argument. Did you know that the Blob (not the one trademarked by Paramount Pictures but close enough) is also everything to do with critical theory? And that this Blob accounts for feminism and anti-racism in academia? Boy, I sure wish Sidwell did a better job of tracing the intellectual and theoretical genealogy of a lot of the garbage he’s spouting. The problem with this analogy is that Sidwell uses it fairly intermittently. It’s hard to tell if the Blob is what infiltrated Liverpool City Council in the 80s or whether this was Cultural Marxism (more on that later) or something else.
At any rate, no progressive cause is legitimate because it could potentially have scary ties to *socialism*. The Militants that partly formed the Liverpool council certainly were controversial, but to say they were a ‘disaster in office, burning through the council budget,’ is a misnomer. They prioritised people over the budget and thought that Thatcher and central government had stolen millions, so they sought to take it back. Their urban regeneration provided new jobs, building new homes, sports centres, and nurseries, all vital for a thriving British society. Soon the Militants were ousted by Neil Kinnock, but Liverpool stayed Labour thereafter. Well, if urban regeneration doesn’t shiver your timbers (or something idk) how about the peace movement? Not only is peace disgusting and icky but it was all entirely funded by the Soviets! At least according to Sidwell, a very trustworthy and lettered man! Never mind the fact that British intelligence services have long considered the impact of the Soviets negligible on the peace movement, M15 has probably been infiltrated by degenerate Trotsky-Anarcho-Lib-Maoists.
Not only are the security and intelligence services bought and paid for members of the Коммунистическая партия Советского Союза, but New Labour as well. Their managerial class and target-driven policies derived from the Thatcher era is akin to Stalinism. Interestingly, Mark Fisher made a much more convincing case for neoliberal targets being akin to Market Stalinism and the goal of financialising everything possible. Instead of the more objectively traceable link of privatisation and targets with a profit-motive, Sidwell thinks the real aim of all this managerialism is an equality of social outcomes. There is something within Sidwell’s writing that correctly points to the wrongness of Blatcherism but he’s not sophisticated enough to really appraise the legacy of Thatcher through Major to Blair and Brown.
The real sadness of Sidwell’s writing comes across when he starts to criticise the Arts Council. Sidwell argues that the Arts Council is funding art to a political end (no-one tell him all art is political) and supposedly ‘despite championing ‘ambition and quality’, the plan explicitly rejects the tradition of valuing high art.’ Now, here’s the thing. I don’t know for certain whether Sidwell actually read the Arts Council’s public statement because he only cites a Telegraph journalist and not the Arts Council itself. However, I can attest to having read the ongoing and future goals of the Council and can only argue that they seem genuinely admirable and touching. Sidwell seems angry that the Council wants to make sure art is diverse and accessible to the entire country. The statement draws inspiration from what can only be described as a form of mass performance art piece, titled ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here.’ On July 1st 2016, 1,600 people across the UK appeared in military uniforms to mark the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, where total causalities and deaths reached one million. These volunteers occupied everyday places like train stations and shopping centres, they were silent to the members of the public around them, but if approached they would hand a card over with the details of the soldier they represented. Public reaction to this artwork was immensely positive, and notably, not only was it performed by volunteers, but it was publicly funded. Surely, if this is the kind of publicly accessible as well as publicly funded art the Council has in mind, what objection could Sidwell have? Unless of course, Sidwell’s objections to the Council’s future plans are arbitrarily and childishly centred around fear of the words ‘diversity’ or ‘inclusion.’
The jab at the Arts Council is but one of several examples Sidwell makes to show how ‘political elites’ have invaded the cultural beaches of Great Britain (or something else equally stupid sounding). Another example of culture war casualty, at least to Sidwell, is the Starbucks Mermaid Cookie which gave 50p of each sale to the Mermaids Charity. I’m not sure exactly what it is Sidwell wants to say here because he doesn’t elaborate as to why this is bad. I mean, there are plenty of good reasons to criticise Starbucks; they avoid paying taxes, they use cut-throat business practices to undermine competitors, and their coffee tastes pretty bad. But no, showing minor support for a very important charity invested in the wellbeing of transgender youth is taking things too far. This is where Sidwell draws the line. Next, you’ll say we have to respect trans people, as well as giving them vital services for their wellbeing. The nerve!
Sidwell states that ‘Britain’s post-Blairite political class – the final product of the left’s long march into our institutions – has failed. It has been rejected decisively at the ballot box.’ Here is the thing about that…I don’t think any serious analysis would suggest the reason Labour lost at the last election is because of the institutional leftist boogeyman but a myriad of complicated factors surrounding Brexit as well as issues like the Anti-Semitism Crisis which were dominant in the media at the time of the election. Take for example, the infamous Red Wall, the Northern constituencies which traditionally voted Labour but turned Conservative. It was not a repulsion towards Corbyn but a desire to see Brexit finished which compelled many voters to swing Conservative. There is no stand-out culture war in the Red Wall area, the values there typically align with the rest of the country in terms of immigration, free speech, transgender rights, and teaching about Britain’s colonial history.
If Britain is fed up with all this wokeness and political correctness, then what will it take to see it gone? Sidwell turns to the edgy bad-boys of the right, be they Laurence Fox, Andrew Doyle, James Lindsay or Helen Pluckrose. Who else has the fortitude to take on the amorphous and largely imaginary politically correct machine than an uneducated actor from Harrow, a Twitter comedian who relies on 2015 humour, or two academics who submitted articles to pay-to-publish journals to try and make some sort of point about postmodernism? Sidwell also points to online groups like the Daily Wire (he smartly omits mentioning Ben Shapiro by name because that would be incredibly embarrassing) as well as grifters like Dave Rubin, who nobody, right or left, seems to take seriously.
Sidwell concludes that the Conservatives ‘as cultural exiles’ are in an ideal position to fight back against the ‘elite consensus,’ I suppose despite the fact the Conservatives are elite in every serious meaning of the term. This is the tragedy or comedy of conservatives like Sidwell, they are the winning side, situating themselves within the most efficient political machine on the planet, but ultimately their cultural values will become undermined through progressive struggle. Racism will continue to be countered, transphobia will be challenged, and class struggle will be waged. Sidwell will have to content himself, like the rest of the poor-hating twits at the New Culture Forum, with the production of flimsy publications like the one I have just spent the afternoon reading through. The work here is a scattered mess of ideas that lack nuance, relying on the old framework of ‘Cultural Marxism,’ the far-right conspiracy theory which lunatics like Anders Breivik evoked in his manifesto before subsequently murdering over seventy people, most of whom were democratic socialist youths. As Joan Bruane writes ‘[p]roponents of this theory, whether they quietly write books or livestream themselves conducting mass shootings, are perpetuating untruths that make the world more dangerous and less humane.’
The Long March: How the left won the culture war and what to do about it: https://1518bef4-bd8f-4123-a4c4-d07f5878f592.filesusr.com/ugd/e42793_b3a9c979e20b414e943212ef97b1c28b.pdf
Are universities left-wing bastions? The political orientation of professors, professionals, and managers in Europe: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1468-4446.12716?campaign=wolearlyview
The effects of sex education in promoting sexual and reproductive health in Portuguese university students: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042811027273#:~:text=Results%20showed%20students%20who%20had,less%20unwanted%20pregnancies%20and%20abortions
Militant Tendency Liverpool: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Militant_in_Liverpool#Illegal_budget
Soviet Influence on Peace Movement: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_influence_on_the_peace_movement
Arts Council ‘Let’s Create’ Statement: https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/letscreate
Is the stereotypical image of ‘Red Wall’ residents actually accurate?
Who’s Afraid of the Frankfurt School? “Cultural Marxism” as an Antisemitic Conspiracy Theory: http://transformativestudies.org/wp-content/uploads/Joan-Braune.pdf