Political and Cultural Hegemony – A Battlefield of Minds (Part 1)

Antonio Gramsci, Stefan George and Saul Alinsky are outstanding in their influence and their respective will and intention to be masterminds and guides for their followers. They had been clear, concise and brilliant thinkers with a tremendous impetus to influence the political and cultural minds of others aiming at creating a dominium spiritualis on which, according to them, the material world rests in all aspects.

Gramsci might be the most well known. He was Italian and a high ranking functionary of the Communist Party in the first and second decade of the last century. He was confronted with fascism, a phenomena not foreseen by any Marxist grandee and a well-established and influential Church which centred political considerations especially also of most militant anticlericalism and  mangiapreti. In addition, the political endeavours in Italy in the 19th century had been centred around the Risorgimento, the quest for national unity Italy had not experienced since Roman times. Gramsci was arrested by the fascist government, and he developed his philosophy in jail.

According to Gramsci, every group who intends to rule in a modern society must be ready to evaluate their economic and political interests and refrain from trying to enforce them one hundred percent. Further, it must be able to compromise with a multitude of political forces and to be able to form alliances. His tactic is therefore that of a ‘grand coalition’, or, as he called it, bloco storico. This block is the basis for an order of society in which the hegemony of the dominant class – which in itself is a coalition – is secured by an intense network of institutions, social relations and ideas. It is interesting that Benito Mussolini who started out as a radical Marxist followed this tactic during the pragmatic days of fascist rule until the mid of the thirties. We can easily defect in this concept a tactic which tries to unite an economic class with an intellectual class, in which the media, schools, universities, enterprises, trade unions and a certain stable block of voters are united. The concept aims to form an overwhelming majority which is able to isolate smaller groups and classes.

Basically, he turns Marx around, this ‘grand coalition’ is the superstructure which then influences and forms the fundament. Intellectuals are most important, not only the traditional ones, but the organic intellectuals which not only describe the life in society according to the rules of science but articulate through their cultural lingo the sentiments and experiences of the broad masses which those cannot yet articulate. This is, more or less, the creation of an intellectual priest cast which has the task to form the conscience of the masses. Of course, these ‘givers of sense and purpose’ are not inspired by the emanations of the masses, but create that which they know in their indisputable wisdom the masses should think. Gramsci did see the need to form a working class culture, but is this really a need of the masses or of the intellectuals?

The whole thing smells of establishing a cult following the example of the well-structured Roman Catholic Church. He aims to intellectualize nearly everyone, thereby producing a large social class consisting of producers of hot air. Therefore, he asks for a revolutionary change in the education system which can develop intellectuals from the working class. A new system of education free of the old, hierarchic and bourgeois type which follows the principles of the future society and of the Marxist theories.

We can see that since the 1960s these kinds of concepts and ideas had been step by step realized in Europe and North America, producing the intellectual types of millennials and bobos – hippies with money – which inhabit all the subsided realms of the state. In fact, at present, society and state are divided in the subsided segment full of organic intellectuals who by all means try to dominate the public discourse and the real productive part which labours and pays taxes to support the ‘givers of sense and purpose.’ In short, Gramsci was highly impressed by the ability of the Catholic Church to exercise a cultural hegemony and asked Marxism to start to satisfy the spiritual needs of men in order to be able to inherit the position of the Christian religion.

Marxism must be experienced by the masses as a part of their own experiences, must express the feelings and considerations of the masses. So what we can see is that Gramsci emphasises the mental and intellectual propaganda more than changing ownership within industry. Therefore, the base is following the ideas, not the base forming ideas.

His influence is far more evident outside Marxism or established Marxist or Leninist parties. Within that movement he was frustrated by Stalinism which corrupted Marxist thinking far beyond communist parties, as many leftist intellectuals remained and remain in shuddered fascination of brutal, uncompromising, terrorizing power. There is a slavish tendency to serve without any reservations, especially under intellectuals which call themselves critical, a need and a wish to slavishly serve the most brutal tyrants.

But if we look at the policies of social democratic parties and various left wing splinter groups, his advice has been followed. By now, in many countries, even centre and centre right parties are mentally ‘progressive’, not daring to challenge the basic assumptions of the left.

What Gramsci overlooked was the question of productivity – not an untypical error of Marxist intellectuals.  How productive the organic intellectuals really are and how much do they hamper productivity in the remaining ‘real’ segments of society and the economy. I believe this new class is rather an assembly of spongers who are eating away the moral, intellectual, spiritual and material substance of our societies.

The men trying to realize Gramsci’s doubtless brilliant concepts have proven themselves to be less realo than more and pure political romantics as defined and described by Carl Schmitt doing a finally sterile “thinking in occasions” based on subjectivity. Now we experience that this romantic class of organic intellectuals finally serving other unromantic energies, being Islamic fundamentalism, demands of militant migrants or concepts developed by globalists who really believe the whole world can be organized in one immense commando structure.

Dr Harald Sitta is a Contributor at the Rational Standard. He is an Austrian attorney emeritus and business owner who immigrated to South Africa in 2007. He obtained his postgraduate law degrees at the University of Vienna.