Given how often Conservatism Inc. labels even the most milquetoast Democrats “socialists” and/or “communists,” it can be easy to forget about the continued existence of genuinely Marxist intellectuals and activists — the kind that hate Democrats for being sellouts, neoliberals, and imperialists. As bad as the Cultural Marxists of the mainstream left are, they still don’t hold a candle to the evil of those who openly admire Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky.
A good example of this school of thought is Jacobin Magazine, which was recently profiled by the liberal website Vox. Named for the French revolutionaries who killed over 40,000 people in ten months, the publication’s radicalism knows no bounds. Some examples:
—It is a measure of our current ideological morass that liberals, in their own enlightened and open-minded way, still masochistically embrace a throne-and-altar orthodoxy that subordinates the people’s will to a virtually unalterable diktat handed down by an ancient council of aristocratic, semi-deified lawgivers. — “Burn the Constitution” by Seth Ackerman
—[T]he standard liberal motto — that violence is never legitimate, even though it may sometimes be necessary to resort to it — is insufficient. From a radical emancipatory perspective, this formula should be reversed: for the oppressed, violence is always legitimate (since their very status is the result of the violence they are exposed to), but never necessary (it will always be a matter of strategy whether or not to use violence against the enemy).
— “The Jacobin Spirit” by Slavoj Žižek—The populist reactionaries of the world — Ron Paul, Marine Le Pen, and others like them — propose to re-nationalize capital, which is a complete impossibility. It is for the Left to square the circle the other way, by globalizing labor; that is, eliminating borders….The unification of the world’s workers demands this. — “The Case for Open Borders” by Jesse A. Myerson
The trouble, as Vox more-or-less neutrally notes, is that Jacobin is winning. “The magazine [Jacobin is a print magazine and a website] is up to a paid circulation of nearly 20,000, from both subscriptions and individual issue sales. The website gets nearly 1 million unique visitors and 2.7 million pageviews a month.” Given that the magazine/website was only started five years ago, in the founder’s dorm room, this is shockingly impressive — can you name another politically oriented magazine founded in 2011 that has gotten such a following? It should also be mentioned that there is nothing in the magazine that has to be paid for that cannot be found online for free, and still nearly 20,000 people are buying it. By way of comparison for online popularity, Vdare currently ranks as the 19,166th most popular website in the US — Jacobin ranks 12,085th.
The numbers are pretty clear, and having spent plenty of time on more than one leftist college campus, I can vouch for how popular Jacobin is, but Vox misses the mark in its summary:
—Jacobin has in the past five years become the leading intellectual voice of the American left, the most vibrant and relevant socialist publication in a very long time. And in 2016 it’s bigger than ever, thanks to Bernie Sanders, who’s making his millions of supporters curious about what democratic socialism actually means. That’s an opportunity that Jacobin is seizing to great effect, even if Sanders isn’t far enough left for their taste.—The Sanders campaign “could begin to legitimate the word ‘socialist,’ and spark a conversation around it, even if Sanders’s welfare-state socialism doesn’t go far enough,” [Jacobin founder] Sunkara wrote earlier this year.—
The relationship between Jacobin and the Sanders campaign is much more symbiotic than Vox implies, and if anything, they have flipped the chicken and the egg — it was Jacobin (and outlets like it) that laid the groundwork for legitimizing radical leftism that has allowed the Sanders campaign to flourish.
The proof of this, like with so many things, is in the demographics. For starters, the supporters of Senator Sanders are overwhelmingly young. Only a fool would think a bunch of millennials got swept up in a radical presidential campaign by a relatively little known senator, and now, because of them, far-left ideologies are becoming more mainstream, thus popularizing a publication like Jacobin.
No, the kids were already filled with Jacobin-inspired ideas when Sanders came around, that’s why they supported him. After all, not only are Sanders supporters young, they also tend to be college educated — and an overwhelming number of Jacobin contributors are college professors, administrators, or grad students who teach undergraduates. Vox conveniently forgot to mention it in their profile of Jacobin, but here’s something of a list.
Seth Ackerman (author of the earlier quoted “Burn the Constitution”), grad student in history at Cornell University
Erin Schell (the magazine’s art director), a grad student in political science grad at the City University of New York
Jason Schulman (“Marx’s work still provides…. the only coherent critique of Enlightenment rationality with the notion that the Enlightenment was, in fact, a good thing.”), an adjunct professor of political science at St. Francis College
If this list seems exhaustive, it probably is not. I am sure an insider of Jacobin is reading this thinking, “well there’s a few you missed…” Insiders always know more, no matter how good the opposition research.—My point is that the university system is occupied territory. Frankfurt School transplants like Herbert Marcuse and Theodor Adorno who became American university professors may be dead, but their legacy lives on in the academy. The radical-chic of publications like Jacobin is the product of a kind of ideological trickle-down effect from the professors down to the students, who then turn around and vote for someone like Bernie Sanders.
And as much as both the Sanders camp and the Jacobin crew would like to see themselves as the heroes of the working masses, they are not. As liberals like Thomas Frank occasionally agonize over, the American proletariat is by-and-large on the right, and these days is supporting Donald Trump. The egalitarian dreams and critical theories that undergird both this socialist publication and this socialist presidential run are the playthings of our highly educated, affluent, overwhelmingly White or Jewish, cultural and academic elite who could care less about the fate of your average reactionary construction worker. Jacobin is but a small example of this. And when it comes to that elite’s stranglehold on our nation’s colleges, I am inclined to recommend the advice of a radical leftist from another era:—Tune in, turn on, drop out