Over the weekend, a lot of interest was generated by the following video of James Lindsay at the EU parliament exploring the origins of woke ideology:
Here is a transcript of the talk provided by Gilas:
The definition of Equity – Woke is Maoism with Western characteristics.
Hello. Thank you. I’m glad to be here. I want to address something Tom just said, which is in fact that Woke is supposed to advance equity in Europe, so here’s the definition of equity and see if it sounds like a definition of anything else you’ve ever heard of.
The definition of equity comes from the public administration literature, it was written by a man named George Frederickson and the definition is an administered political economy in which shares are adjusted so that Citizens are made equal. Does that sound like anything you’ve heard of before?
Like Socialism, they’re going to administer an economy to make shares equal, the only difference between equity and Socialism is the type of property that they redistribute, the type of shares they’re going to redistribute, social and cultural capital, in addition to economic and material capital, and so this is my thesis when we say: what is Woke? Woke is Maoism with American characteristics.
If I might borrow from Mao himself, who said that his philosophy was Marxism Leninism with Chinese characteristics, which means Woke is Marxism, and it’s a very provocative statement, it’s something you will certainly hear that it is not that, it is different and the the professors and the philosophers will spend a large amount of time explaining to you why: No, no, it’s about economics when it’s Marxism. This is social, this is cultural, this is different.
It’s not different. I need you to think biologically for one moment, and I don’t mean about your bodies. We could do that that’s a different topic. I want you to think how we organize plants and animals when we study them. They’re species, but above species they’re the genus of the animals. So you think like the cats, all the cats, but you have tigers, you have lions, you have house cats, you have whatever, leopards, many different kinds of cats.
If we think of Marxism as a genus of ideological thought, with many different species in this genus, then classical economic Marxism is a species, radical feminism is a species in this same genus, Critical Race Theory (CRT) is a species in this genus, queer theory is a species in this genus, postcolonial theory that’s plaguing Europe is a species in this genus, and they have something that binds them together, called intersectionality, that makes them treat it as if they are all one thing. But the logic is Marxist and I want to convince you of that, because Marx had a very simple proposition.
We think that Marx was talking about economics, because he often talked about economics, he wrote a book called Capital, it’s a very famous book.
We think, well this is about economic theory, but this isn’t true, it’s only true on the surface. If we go below the surface, what Marx was talking about was something different, we know what Marx’s hypothesis was, it was that we must seize the means of production if we’re going to bring Socialism to the Nations, to the World.
We have to seize the means of production. So we have to ask: what does he mean, and if we think that it’s about capital then we miss what he means.
If you think it’s about the means of production, in the factory with a hammer, and in the field with a sickle, then you miss what it means, because Marx explained what makes human beings special in his earlier writings. And what makes human beings special is that man is a being that is incomplete, and knows that he is incomplete, he is a man whose true nature has been forgotten to him, which is social being. He is a Socialist at heart who doesn’t realize it and the reason he doesn’t realize it is because of the economic conditions operating as the means of production, not just of the economy but of him, of man, of society and, particularly, of History.
Marx said that he had the first scientific study of history. How is history produced by man? Doing man’s activity and man’s key activity was economic activity as he saw it and so economic production doesn’t just produce the goods and services of the economy, it produces society itself, and society in turn produces man. He called this “The inversion of praxis”, and so, when he says we must seize the means of production, and he’s talking about factories and fields, he’s actually talking about how we construct who we are as human beings, so that we might complete ourselves, so that we might complete history. And at the end of history mankind will remember that he is a social being and we will have a Socialist society, “A perfect communism that transcends private property” is how he put it.
He said in fact that communism is the transcendence of private property as human self-estrangement. That’s a quote from the economic philosophic manuscripts of 1844. So Marx was interested in controlling, or understanding and controlling how man produces himself.
He writes about this exclusively in the 1840s, very deeply: How do we do this? And he looks at the economic conditions and he says: This is where it is. And that’s why we get economic Marxism, and that’s why we think Marx was an economist.
But Marx was never an economist. He was a theologian, he wanted to produce a religion for mankind that would supersede all of the religions of mankind and bring him back to his true social nature.
This is the true fact of Marx and what the goal was, like I said, was to complete man, so what he said is: Well, how are we building man currently? All of his economic analysis is about how are we building man at present, through what he called material determinism, and he said: Well,what we have is a special form of private property in our society.
Our society is organized around private property and so all of our thoughts organize around private property. In other words, there’s a special kind of property that the bourgeois elite class has access to and then they organize society to exclude everybody else from access to that property, through exploitation, through alienation, through estrangement, through oppression.
And so what Karl Marx was proposing is the economics becomes a vehicle to separate society into a bourgeois class that has access to a special form of property. The people who have access wish to
retain that, so they oppress people and keep other people out of that special form of property.
They erect a system of classism to do that. It’s enforced by an ideology called Capitalism, that believes that this is the right way to engage in the World. And what we have to do is awaken the underclass, the proletariat, to the real conditions and the fact that they are historical agents of change, and bring them to do a revolution, and transform society, so that we would have Equity, or Socialism, whichever word you want. They have the same definition.
Now let’s say that we step out, we step back from this species, this economic species, homo economicus and we step back to the genus and we look at this idea a special form of property that segregates society into people who have the bourgeois, and the people who do not have, who are in class conflict with an ideology that keeps this in place, and the underclass must awaken with consciousness to fight back, and to seize the means of production of that form of deterministic property.
Now we say: Change out class, put in race and watch. We get CRT fall out of the hat. Just like that. Very simple.
In 1993, Cheryl Harris wrote a long article for the Harvard Law Review called: Whiteness as Property. She explained that whiteness, or white privilege, constitutes a kind of cultural private property. She says it must be abolished in order to have racial justice. Just Like Karl Marx said that in the Communist Manifesto, he wrote: Communism can be summarized in a single sentence, the abolition of private property.
Well, this is why CRT calls to abolish whiteness, because whiteness is a form of private property. People who have access to this property are whites, or white adjacent, or they act white. These are words out of the American lexicon that they’ve used to describe how people gain access to the private property. People without that are people of color, and they are oppressed by systemic racism.
Systemic racism is enforced by an ideology of white supremacy, instead of Capitalism. If you think of whiteness as a form of cultural capital, white supremacy, as they define it, is identical to Capitalism. It’s not believing that white people are superior, it’s believing that white people have access to the control of society and should maintain that. Even if you don’t actually believe that, if you merely support that you have adopted the ide ology of white supremacy into your mind. And so you have the exact same system. And the goal is to awaken a racial consciousness in people so that they will band together as a class and seize the means of cultural production so that white cultural production is no longer the dominant mode.
It’s a big mystery in Europe, I know, in the UK, throughout Europe, I hear this question again and again. Why on Earth is this very American phenomenon about slavery and so on, that doesn’t apply to our country? Why is it popular here? It’s because it’s not about history at all. It’s not about slavery at all. Those are excuses that they use. It’s about creating a class consciousness that’s against this form of property called whiteness. That’s against the dominant culture that may just be a matter of fact, say, if you’re in Europe, that’s why. Because it becomes a site by which people can come together ,and they can channel resentment and try to claim power.
I wrote a book called Race Marxism and I defined CRT as it really is in that book on the first page. I said that CRT is calling everything you want to control racist until you control it. But couldn’t we say the same about Marxism? It’s calling everything you want to control bourgeois until you control it. But those mean the same thing. They mean exactly the same thing.
But what about, say, queer theory? How is that Marxist? It’s very strange, all this gender and sex and sexuality. Well, Tom said: Why does Woke attack the idea of being normal? Well, the queer theory thinks that there are certain people who get to set the norms of society. They are privileged. They call themselves normal. They say this is normal, it’s normal to consider yourself a man, and look like a man, and act like a man ,and dress like a man, and eat meat like a man. And then there are women that should be feminine, and pretty, and all these things.
And so they get to define what’s normal. They’re heterosexuals, so they get to define the heterosexuality as normal, and other sexualities are abnormal. And so you have a conflict across this cultural property of who gets to be considered normal, and who is a pervert, or a freak, or some other term that gets used in their literature. But technically, who is a queer? Which sounds like a slur, but they adopted it and it’s a technical academic term now. It means an identity without an essence, by the way. An identity that is strictly oppositional to the concept of the normal, as defined by queer theorist David Halperin in his 1995 book Saint Foucault, Towards a Gay Hagiography. I didn’t make that up. I’m not extrapolating. So, you see, queer theory is just another species of the genus of Marxism.
What about post-colonial theory, which is plaguing Europe, thanks to Franz Fanon and his biggest European fan, Jean-Paul Sartre? What about this? Well it’s the same, you have the West as the oppressor. They have access to the material and cultural wealth of the World because they’ve decided their culture is the default and have gone and colonized the World, to bring culture to the World, as they say. And so the oppressed, the natives around the World have to band together, and their activity is going to be called decolonization. They have to remove every aspect of Western Culture, so when they come to Belgium, or they come to France, or they come to the United States and they say we’re going to decolonize the curriculum, or they go to the UK and say we’re going to decolonize Shakespeare, this is what they mean. We’re going to remove the cultural significance of your cultural artifacts because those cultural artifacts themselves are oppressive to us.
This is the same system. It’s another species and the exact same genus. And that genus is Marxism, which is a way of thinking about the World, and the goal is always to seize the means of control of the production of man, and history and society. Marx merely believed it was through economic means. Now it’s through socio-cultural means. The evolution into this, sometimes called Western Marxism, began in the 1920s. We had a Russian Revolution in 1917 and this did not happen in Europe. And the Marxists in Europe were confused, and so Antonio Gramsci sat down and wrote out some things. And George Lucasz sat down and wrote History and Class Consciousness, after the failure of the revolution in Hungary, and they wrote what became Cultural Marxism.
The idea is that we have to enter the cultural institutions in order to change them from within, because Western Culture has something about it that’s repelling Socialism. So we have to go inside and change the culture to make it Socialist. Now you aren’t allowed to talk about Cultural Marxism, they’ve categorized this as a conspiracy theory, they say that it is anti-Semitic. This is not true. Antonio Gramsci wrote books. George Lucasz wrote books. You can read those books, they have a philosophy. If they don’t like the name Cultural Marxism we can use the name that other people at the time used: Western Marxism.
So, much like a virus adapting to the conditions, it changed to try to infect a new host. It worked in feudal societies. Marxism took over in Russia, it took over later in China, it took over in all of these agriculturally driven feudal societies. But it wouldn’t work in actual capitalist Nations because Marx was wrong.
Then several Germans from the Frankfurt School started to study this phenomenon in more depth, and they evolved the idea further. They evolved the idea into what’s called Critical Marxism. They developed what’s called the critical theory. And Max Horkheimer, who designed critical theory, explained the critical theory. And what did he say? He said: “Well, what we came to realize was that Marx was wrong about one thing, Capitalism does not immiserate the worker, it allows him to build a better life. So I developed the critical theory because it is not possible to articulate the vision of a good Society on the terms of the existing Society.”
So Critical Marxism criticizes the entirety of the existing Society. Everything is somehow needing to be subjected to Marxist conflict analysis. But how is that to be done? They sought an answer through the middle part of the 20th century and World War II breaks out. The Frankfurt School comes to America, which in this metaphor is the Wuhan Institute of Virology, because gain of function began to happen on the Marxist virus very quickly in America.
American universities adopted these professors from Germany and Herbert Marcuse, writing in the 1960s, clearly said this, writing in 1969, not only did he say: “Capitalism delivers the goods, gives people a good life, makes them wealthy, comfortable and happy.” He also said that the working class is no longer going to be the base of the revolution because of these things. In other words we don’t have to be responsible to the working class anymore. Which opens up the ability for Marxists, who are seeking power, to make friends with the corporations. The bosses are no longer the enemy, they’re an opportunity, because the working class is irrelevant. He said the energy is somewhere else. He said it’s in the racial minorities, the sexual minorities, the feminists, the outsiders. That’s who have the energy for a Marxist revolution in the West, not the working class.
And so Marxism was able to evolve to abandon the working class. And so what did they do? Well, all they had studied for 30 years was what they called the culture industry, an industry that commodifies and packages culture and sells it back to people, supposedly stripped of what it actually is, empty, abstract now. And so what did they do? They seized the means of production of the culture industry, because that’s what they do. And so they started to transform the culture industry to sell racial, sexual, gender, sexuality based agit-prop as though that were genuine culture. And so we get concepts like cultural appropriation, we get concepts like cultural relevance, cultural this, cultural that, cultural everything.
And it’s all provided in pastiche, it’s all provided as a mockery of what’s really going on. And this evolved in America’s highly racialized context, and we ended up with Woke, a form of identity-based Marxism, a constellation of Marxist species that all work with the same operating premise but locate themselves in different – and I’ll use the German term here for this – Volk. LGBTQ is a Volk, and they get Volkish identity there and become activists. The black community is a Volk, how do I know? That’s what W.E.B Du Bois said it would be when he laid down the foundations that became CRT later. They think of themselves as Nations, don’t they all have flags? Don’t they put them on your buildings like colonizers? Don’t they hang them in your streets?
They think of themselves as occupying Nations but they see themselves as bound together, just like the various colonized Nations around the World, and seeking liberation from Western Civilization. And so we end up with Western Marxism, taking many forms, but with one overarching approach, and the approach that they use I started off by saying is Maoist, not merely Marxist.
Now, you know the theory is Marx, it’s just evolved into different species, to attack the West at its weakest points, through our tolerance, through our acceptance, through our openness, through our generosity through our best traits actually, the things that we should be proud of being, the things that we are proud of being. But Mao Zedong knew how to use identity politics.
I don’t know how you study in Europe, but in America we have very redwashed education, as we might say. The Communists have stripped out all education about Communism entirely. You don’t learn about it in America at all. So we don’t learn anything about Mao, and maybe you don’t know this, but I tell this to American audiences and they’re shocked.
Mao used identity politics. He created 10 identities in China. Five, he labeled red for communist. Five, he labeled black for fascist. And he categorized people into these identity categories. What they are doesn’t really matter. Of course they were Communists, they were things like landlord and rich farmer and things like this. Right winger is a bad category in and of itself, by the way. Conservative, all of them bad, bad influences. That’s another one, you could be a bad influence for just thinking the wrong thing or saying the wrong thing at any time, or because the government decides it doesn’t like you. These are the bad categories, and if you have a bad category, very importantly, your children have a bad category by default. So they create a social pressure for your children to identify as revolutionaries, at which point they get a red identity, a Communist identity, a good identity, and they get rewarded for it.
And the youth led the revolution in China because Mao did this identity politics through the children in the schools, this should feel very uncomfortable to you because here we have, at least in the United States, we tell our children being white is bad, being white is oppressive. You automatically hurt people of other races by your very existence but, by the way, if you become queer, we’ll celebrate you.
And you can create a radical Army of people who identify as gender minorities and sexual minorities at seven years old. You can lead them into paths of puberty blockers and transition, medical transition which, of course, big Pharma profits off of at seven years old, behind their parents back.
There’s a reason for this, it’s the same program that Mao Zedong used to radicalize the youth in China, the only thing different is the identity categories have shifted. It’s Maoist Cultural Revolution with American characteristics, and it’s being exported to Europe. And just like how CRT has come to Europe even though it doesn’t make sense, it will come to Europe, whether it makes sense or not, and you will have a Cultural Revolution here, too.
You guys even had a kind of offshoot one in 2020, George Floyd dies in Minnesota, which has nothing to do with you, and you guys have statues coming down in Europe. Total nonsense. It doesn’t matter though, the point is to destroy Western Civilization from within, using Maoist techniques.
One last point about Mao, to drive that point home. Mao said in 1942 that his formula to transform China was called Unity Criticism Unity. First you try to create the desire for Unity, then you criticize people for not living up to that, then you bring them into Unity under a new standard. Does that feel like what you’re being put through? But the words are different. We use words like Inclusion and belonging, we’ll have a place where everybody feels like they belong, we just want to have an inclusive space, but unfortunately you have racist ideas and we have to criticize you for those. You need to criticize yourself for those, you need to go study shuishi, in Mandarin, exactly like Mao said. And then we can bring you into Unity under a new standard, which Mao called Socialist discipline, which we in the West would not buy. We call it in the West: Inclusion. And so we have this new program, and above Inclusion we have Sustainability. We have a sustainable and inclusive future.
I see the agenda 2030 here with an X over it. The sustainable and inclusive future is the new Socialist standard, that we will have freedom under Socialist discipline, and Mao said the way that that will work is through what he called Democratic Centralism. We call that Stakeholder Capitalism. And my shot at the World Economic Forum is taken, because it’s one of the things coordinating this. My shot at the United Nations is taken, because it’s one of the things that’s coordinating this. So Woke is Marxism, it’s advancing through Maoist Cultural Revolution. It’s using Americanized identity categories, and while some of those will not work in Europe, I guarantee you the colonial aspect will. They will find your weakness, they will adapt the theory to fit, because it’s like a virus that will evolve to its host. And Europe is at great risk.
Now the last thing I’ll mention is this risk is twofold, When you endure Marxist provocation, Marxist strategy is always of the same type. It’s called middle level violence. They don’t come at you with full-blown Bolshevik assault very often. It’s middle level violence. They provoke, which means that if you give in, and you do like John Paul Sartre said, in his forward to The Wretched of the Earth by Franz Fanon, THE post-colonial book, he said the violence is coming, so Europe’s best bet is to give it away, so that they don’t kill you. They’ll murder you and take it, or maybe you can give it away, give your culture away, give your countries away and they’ll let you live. They’re coming for you, and this is what Europe needs to learn. That’s what he says in the forward of The Wretched of the Earth. You can read it for yourself, probably in the original French that I can’t read.
And I think that’s the path Europe has followed. So you can give away, that’s one side, because they provoke at the middle. Or you can react and overreact, which sadly Europe has had a rough history in the last century with overreactions. And if they if you overreact, what will they do? They will weaponize your overreaction for a century, forever, and gain moral authority so that you end up having to give it away later anyway.
So you have to stand firm on your principles, but you have to do so cleverly. You have to do so understanding that you’re being provoked, which means you don’t react as the pro the provocateur wants you to react. You have to outsmart them, which is not possible, unless you know the diagnosis of your problem.It’s a Polish proverb: “Never attempt to cure what you don’t understand”
Woke is Marxism evolved to attack the West. If you don’t understand that, you will not act correctly, you will not cure it and it will conquer your countries. It will conquer all of Europe, and we will have a very, very long sustainable and inclusive future with absolutely no freedom. Because the goal is to make us into what they call Global Citizens. Have you heard this term? This term is nonsense. There’s no Global Sovereign, so there is no Global Citizenship. There’s no relationship, because there’s no ruler, and we don’t want a ruler of the Globe. It’s a nonsense term. But they will tell you, if you actually read their literature: what is a Global Citizen? It’s somebody, I kid you not, I make no joke, they say this themselves, it’s somebody who supports the 17 sustainable development goals of the United Nations agenda 2030. That’s a Global Citizen. And they say: what are the rights of a Global Citizen? This is in a book about Global Citizenship education, published two years ago.
What are the rights of a Global Citizen? And the answer one paragraph later is: we’re not that interested in rights with Global Citizenship. It’s more about Global responsibilities. In other words, slavery. This is a pivotal moment in the history of the Western World.
The model that they are pushing us towards, using the means and mechanisms of that place, is the model we see in China. If you want to know what your future looks like if we don’t stop the Woke, look at China, look at the social credit system, look at the oppression, look at people disappearing for having the wrong opinions. One of their greatest billionaires, Jack Ma, said the wrong thing about the government and disappeared. A billionaire.
If you want to know what the future of Europe, and America, and the Five Eyes, or whatever the country, it’s China. That’s the model. So we have to fight back against Woke, but to fight back against Woke we have to understand it.
And I will close by restating my thesis: Woke is Marxism evolved to take on the West, and it’s been very successful so far, because we haven’t known our enemy, we cannot name our enemy, and I’ve come here to name our enemy.
So thank you for your time and attention and letting me do that.
I think there are some glaring weaknesses with this account and they appear right at the outset. Equity does not mean ‘equal shares’, it means justice and fairness or a concern with substantive justice. The second is his distinction between Marxism as a genus and classical Marxism as a species. The identification of the first with the idea of social being would make Aristotle a socialist, but even a liberal a socialist as well. In other words, it is far too broad and seems to be deliberately so in order to include all that follow under the heading, ‘Marxist’.
For an alternative view of the origins of Woke ideology, Patrick Deneen offers us the following in UnHerd, JS Mill and the despotism of progress. It will not be a surprise to you which I find the more compelling.
Note: Thanks again to Gilas for compiling and editing the transcript of Lindsay’s speech.