Wokeism as Salem Daydream

In Plato’s Republic, a speaker proposes that justice is helping one’s friends and harming one’s enemies. This definition of justice is burdened by the need to know who are friends and who are enemies.

Today on the Right, it is commonly thought that cultural Marxism is our enemy. Antonio Gramsci’s formula of cultural hegemony has led to the success of Marxism and Marxist variants over and against the ideas which animated the America birthed by revolution in 1776. Is this right? 

New Left Marxist ideologies animate Antifa and the “1619 Project” and its major and minor offshoots. The intellectual defeat of these secular Marxist and postmodern ideologies, it is supposed, is essential to the restoration of the principles of 1776. In a certain way, this is wrong. The spirit of 1776 is up against something categorically different, and we are in no battle of ideas but of corrupted pieties and religious fanaticism.

Religious Fanatics

Marxism is merely the patina; our enemies are neither Marxist (nor culturally Marxist) in any serious sense of the word. Frankly, they lack the intellectual heft for that. Instead, they are Christian heretics.

Wokeism is not so much Marxism as it is a splinter heresy of Puritanism. Wokeism’s antecedent is not 1950s communism, but late 1600s Salem. The Woke, while they may be superficially atheist, represent repackaged and corrupted vestiges of Puritan religious belief.

In lieu of God, the Woke speak of History. Where once you found a priesthood of all believers, you find today “my truth” as a restatement of justification by faith. In lieu of redemption by belief in Jesus Christ, the Woke adopt redemption by belief in Wokeism. 

Each class of intersectionally oppressed peoples—black, brown, immigrants, refugees, LGBTQ+, it doesn’t really matter—are transmutations and contortions of the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. Eschatological doctrine becomes environmental Armageddon. Systemic racism and intersectional oppression incorporate an invisible (other than to the specially trained) world of pervasive evil, Satan’s unseen and cunning corruption of the Sinners (who have no rights the Saints are bound to respect). 

Jesus may be so Woke that he’s mostly out of the picture, but even He is called upon from time to time to attack an actual Christian for not understanding the true teaching of Jesus, which is, regardless of the actual words in the Gospels, super-Woke. 

It may be objected that to suggest the fundamental roots of Wokeism are Christian rather than Marxist is an attack on Christianity. This is incorrect.

Instead consider this a defense of reason and Christianity against a dangerous Christian heresy. Historically, there have been many such dangerous heresies. For example, Fra Dolcino, a 14th Century heretical fanatic, splintered from Franciscan thought. Fra Dolcino was so enamored with the poor that he and his followers attacked and burned villages, in his twisted mind redeeming himself and the villagers he liberated from their homes (and lives).

It would also not be the first time that a Christian heresy embraced a secular doctrine, eluding identification of their thought as Christian at all. The Averroists of the University of Paris in the 13th Century, dispensed with revelation altogether in favor of Averroes’—also known by his Arabic name, Ibin Rushd—understanding of Aristotle.

Finally, central to this thesis are the American Puritanical heresies of Salem, heresies so corrupting they induced the once upright and far-seeing American Puritans to twist their understanding of law and morality until, on the basis of “spectral” evidence, they were hanging young girls like geranium plants in spring.

Wokeism is a child of Salem’s twisted gospel, a radicalized version of the Christianity, rooted in a tapestry of heresies and perversions of the Christian faith.

Making Marx and the Puritans Serve the Oligarchy

Marx is part of the picture, but for reasons that largely (though not entirely) Marx himself explains. For Marx, the relationships of human beings and social classes, men, and the ideas—intellectual and spiritual—that animate them, arise deterministically from the relationship with production. One of the structural defenses of capital is the interweaving of religious morality to defend oligarchic interests. What Marx called the proletariat, and we can call unskilled and semi-skilled labor, is drugged (or just enough of it is drugged) into cooperating by virtue of religious beliefs. 

Thus, while the Woke adopt Marxist and postmodern concepts to articulate their claims, oligarchic interests simply have taken Marxism and translated it into a religious zealotry which furthers oligarchic interests, inducing key portions of labor (or what used to be the middle class) to defend open borders and global interests against the interests of unskilled and semi-skilled labor of a high value.

More by accident than design, out of self-interest rather than any plot or conspiracy, oligarchic interests have taken the vestiges of American Puritanism—which is bred in the American bone—and created a redemptive theology which co-opts Marxism and Progressivism to support the interests of oligarchic monopolies. “Workers of the world unite, to support intersectional interests!” 

How does one know Wokeism is not Marxism? Everything is on Wokeism’s list to implement except the only important thing for a Marxist: actual revolution. 

The concerns of Wokeism are irrational for a reason: oligarchic interests will accept any candidate for intersectional oppression because the chief motive of Woke policy is not to relieve the condition of unskilled and semi-skilled labor, but rather to align enough of it with oligarchic protection of the rents commanded by their monopolies. 

Absent Wokeism’s religious teaching, unskilled and semi-skilled labor—the forgotten middle class—would overturn the oligarchic order. It came very close to doing so in 2016. Is it any wonder that these oligarchic interests are now doing whatever they can to malign, suppress, and persecute the opinions—and the people—that led to the short-lived political revolution of 2016?

This eroded American middle class, once the envy of the world, now 74 million Trump voters who according to the Brookings Institution represent only 30 percent of GDP, is at this moment ridiculously identified by Wokeism as counterrevolutionaries undermining the benign advances of Progressivism. 

As Jonathan Swift noted, one can’t reason people out of a position that they have not been reasoned into. We are in for a long religious struggle with Wokeism and oligarchy. It will be a battle, but I predict not one of reasoned ideas in the rarified intellectual circles of Marxists and Classicists. Rather we are in for an unpredictably fierce clash with a corrupted but no less intractable religious piety that has been harnessed by an uncommonly selfish interest.

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About Jay Whig

Jay Whig is an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness. Whig practices law in New York and a resides in Connecticut, specializing in insolvency and restructuring. Opinions are his own.

Photo: (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)