The Anti-Church of Antonio Gramsci

In recent months, mob unrest has been on the rise throughout Europe. Overpaid and underworked bureaucrats and other entitlement classes have taken to the streets in Greece and Spain threatening to topple their governments if they must sacrifice any financial or welfare benefits to help save their countries from fiscal and economic ruin. In Britain, indignant students have wreaked havoc outside Parliament because the government, to balance its budget, has dared to increase college tuition to $5,000 a year.

Lately, gangs of British hoodlums have rioted and looted neighborhoods in and around London. They have broken into shops and assaulted passersby to steal the material goods they believe they’re entitled to have. Prime Minister David Cameron, reacting to the turmoil, rejected the social justice crowds’ excuse that poverty is the culprit and blamed it on a culture of laziness, irresponsibility and selfishness: “We have been too unwilling for too long to talk about what is right and what is wrong.” He added: “We have too often avoided saying what needs to be said about everything from marriage to welfare to common courtesy.” 

This is the same Cameron who a few months ago publicly announced that “multicultural” diversity policies have failed because they have been destroying the language and cultural foundations of Britain, have segregated minorities, and heightened social discord.

Britain is one of many Western nations suffering from the effects of “diversity” policies. And no one should be surprised by this crisis because the blueprint for destroying Western culture – designed by the Italian communist Antonio Gramsci – has been in circulation for almost a century.

Gramsci (1891-1937) was born in Sardinia, studied philosophy at the University of Turin, became a member of Italy’s Socialist Party and editor of L’Ordine Nuovo (The New Order). Shortly after founding the Italian Communist Party (1921), Gramsci, fearing imprisonment by fascist leader Benito Mussolini, fled to the Soviet Union. 

In Moscow, Gramsci shocked his hosts by daring to dismiss Marxist nostrums on dialectical materialism, economic determinism, and the violent overthrow of capitalist systems by the proletariat. Instead, he argued that Marx’s “Worker’s Paradise” could not be realized as long as Christian culture had a hold on the masses. For Gramsci, the number one enemy was the Roman Catholic Church, not capitalism.

Realizing Stalin was not happy with his unorthodox views, Gramsci returned to Italy and in 1924 became leader of the communist delegation in Parliament. In 1926, Mussolini ordered his arrest and a mock trial sentenced him to a twenty-year prison term. Gramsci spent the remaining nine years of his life in his cell writing critiques of Marxism-Leninism and drafting plans communists could follow to conquer the West.

Unlike some anti-Catholics today, however, Gramsci was well versed in Thomistic philosophy. He warned Marxists that Christian workers were not defined by capitalist oppressors but by their faith-based culture. Hence, he believed, Marxists who violently seize power, eliminate private property, and govern by terror will ultimately fail.

In the post-World War II period, the Polish people were to confirm Gramsci’s contention. Communist tyranny only intensified their devotion to Christ and his Church. And it was the Church led by a Polish pope that brought down that totalitarian government.

Gramsci advised Marxists to achieve power by democratic means and then to use it to destroy Christian hegemony. “Gramsci’s principle,” French journalist Jean-François Revel pointed out, “was that [Marxists] must begin by influencing the culture, winning the intellectuals, the teachers, implanting itself in the press, the media, the publishing houses.” Somewhat surprisingly, Gramsci pointed to the Jesuits’ response to the Reformation as a model: Marxists had to create a cultura capillare (“capillary culture”) that would infuse itself into every nook and cranny of the body politic.

Radical leftists in the United States, Europe, and Latin America have adopted Gramsci’s methods and have made a point of infiltrating churches, universities, and media outlets. Ecumenical movements and peace and justice commissions have grown and have marginalized basic Catholic doctrine. University curricula teach that all cultures must be equally respected – even the ones that directly contradict Christian values. In the name of human rights, secular humanist organizations have promoted policies that have eliminated Judeo-Christian moral restraints.

Liberation theology based on Marxist doctrines and cloaked in Christian vocabulary became a force in many third-world nations.  Though it retreated somewhat after the fall of the Soviet Union, it remains the basic social template among radicals. Malachi Martin observed that “Liberation theology was a perfectly faithful exercise of Gramsci’s principles. . . . It stripped . . . any attachment to Christian transcendence.  It locked both the individual and his culture in the close embrace of a goal that was totally immanent: the class struggle for socio-political liberation.”

Today, Catholics are witnessing the effects of Gramsci’s “anything goes” strategy. In Europe, Catholic Churches are empty on Sundays.  Fewer than 10 percent of baptized Catholics attend Mass. In 2009, 37.4 percent of all European children were born out of wedlock – up from 17.4 percent in 1990. The number of births is significantly below the replacement rate. In fifty years the majority of the populations in the heart of old Catholic Europe – Italy, France, and Spain – may well be Muslim. Crime is also rampant. Between 2002 and 2008, violent crime rose in France by 15 percent, in Italy by 38 percent. 

Pope Benedict XVI has wisely warned that the replacement of the West’s Christian roots with moral relativism has ushered in a “confused ideology of liberty [that] leads to a dogmatism that is proving ever more hostile to real liberty.” Because Gramsci’s heirs have “developed a culture that in a manner hitherto unknown to mankind excludes God from public awareness,” the Holy Father fears that the West may be entering a new Dark Age in which man exists solely for the benefit of a divinized state and will be stripped of his God-given human dignity.

George J. Marlin

George J. Marlin

George J. Marlin, Chairman of the Board of Aid to the Church in Need USA, is the author of The American Catholic Voter, Narcissist Nation: Reflections of a Blue-State Conservative, and Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy. His new book, Sons of St. Patrick, written with Brad Miner, will be published on St. Patrick's Day.

  • Eric Giunta

    An excellent piece on Gramsci’s forgotten influence, but it bears reminding that Gramsci reconciled with the Church on his deathbed. See “Founder of Italian Communist Party Converted Before Death” at the Catholic News Agency.

  • Dave

    Mr. Marlin, thank you for a terribly important article. I think few people are really aware of the perniciousness of Gramsci’s thought and the success of the Long March through the institutions. What Communists attempted to do by force immediately , Gramsci proposed doing by stealth, little step by little step until the bulk of the population first begins to accommodate on “small” matters then finally reaches the point at which en masse it rejects its traditional, Christian culture — however deep or attenuated that culture may be.

    There is no overnight fix to this danger, barring a new Pentecost (for which we ought to pray most assiduously), as there is never a quick fix to problems long in the making. So the importance of World Youth Day really comes into focus, for the antidote has to entail an intense apostolate with the young that really proposes the beauty, peace, and joy of the Faith when it is embraced and lived in its fulness and shared with others. Our Catholic young need integral presentations on the beauty of Christian marriage — including the beauty of living the sacrifices that Christian marriage entails — and indeed of the entirety of Christian life, including the beauties of celibate life, whether as priest, religious, or lay faithful.

    Right now much depends upon the lay faithful, married and celibate. There are simply vastly more numbers of us than there are of priests and religious — as indeed there has always been; and the Second Vatican Council made it clear in any case that the role of the clergy is to activate the laity through Word and Sacrament so that the lay faithful can assume our duties and sanctify secular realities according to the mind of Christ. Those realities include both the private sphere and the public sphere.

    All this can happen; prayer moves the heart of God, who told St. Teresa of Avila when she asked him why he appeared to be so parsimonious in distributing his gifts, “I am willing, Teresa; people aren’t.”

    Prayer, however, is just the beginning: we Catholics must become men and women of deep learning and deeper virtue so that each one in one’s own environment can be sowers of peace and truth able to confound the lies that beset Western culture and take the hits that inevitably come when we stand for truth in the public square — the servant is not greater than the Master.

    So my suggestion is for much prayer and sacrifice for the renewal of interior life. Once Catholics, whatever their state, are really corresponding to the graces offered in prayer, the interior life overflows and one begins to see the specific mission and tasks our Lord asks each of us. Not for us any form of quietism, nor a withdrawal from the hurly-burly of life. Now is a time for great optimism, as the fields are white for the harvest and we know that if we pray for laborers for the harvest, our Lord will grant the request. This is not the optimism of wishful thinking, but one borne on deep meditation on the Cross and Resurrection of our Lord, and of real learning in Church history, too, which is replete with examples of triumph in the face of apparent hopelessness.

    The gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church. All our Lord asks of us is faithfulness — but the kind of faithfulness that bravely acknowledges those many ways in which we are not faithful and works to overcome those ways by paying any cost that must be borne, mindful that our Lord himself supplies through Word and Sacrament the grace and strength we need to maintain our faith, hope, and charity and to allow Him to extend those virtues through us to others.

    It’s the best possible time in the history of the world to be a Christian.

  • Dave T

    France has already fallen. The total number of mosques has doubled to over 2,000 within the last 10 years, with plans to double that number according to France’s most prominent Islam leader in a recent interview. 20 new Catholic churches have been built in the last decade while 60 have closed, many of them destined to become mosques. I have seen videos of Parisian streets closed off in the middle of the day for Muslims to pray, to the consternation of everyone else. Muslims are becoming bolder by the day over there. It will not end well for the French.

  • Grump

    Gramsci’s negligible impact pales in comparison to Catholicm’s self-inflicted wounds, which have done more to empty European churches than anything else.

  • Kenneth

    Grump, care to put any substance to your claim that the ideas, of which Gramsci held, is negligible? And in how these ideas had no relation to the actions of a certain few in the Church who left a bad name in their wake? Show us your thought processes in formulating your opinion.

  • Thomas C. Coleman, Jr.

    Thank you Dr. Marlin! I have forwarded this to all I know. The Gramschi’s efforts have not been neglible; no chruch scandal could promote the idea that The Church is the enemy of freedom and fulfillment because it preaches monogamy. Long before any of these scandals came to light Catholic universities had been taken over the way healthy cells are taken over by viruses that make them replicate the infiltrators. Thank you so much, Dr. Marlin, for telling the truth and providing me the proof that I’m not the only one who can see what has been going on.

  • Grump

    Kenneth, not negligible in and of itself but when compared to the damage wrought by self-inflicted wounds. Disgraced priests have done much more to harm the Church than a dozen Gramscis.

  • c matt

    Well, yes, it is generally true that a false step by those within an institution do the damage of a hundred detractors from without, but that does not mean a particular outsider doesn’t buck the trend. Because of its insightfulness and effectiveness, Gramsci’s method did great damage. He understood what made culture, and unfortunately used that knowledge to much harm.

  • Cavaliere

    Disgraced priests have done much more to harm the Church than a dozen Gramscis.

    Or as some like Bishop Sheen have stated long before the scandal broke, the communists had a plan all along to infiltrate the priesthood with the objective of bringing disgrace to it. Unless you think that some of the notable communists that he helped convert were simply red herrings?

  • Ray Hunkins

    David Cameron for President!

  • Achilles

    What mass myopia prevents many from seeing is that the disgraced priests, in many cases, have been infected with Gramsci’s ideology from outside the Chruch before they entered. We can play chicken and egg mental games for as long as we like, but to untie the Gordian knot we must see things for what they are and call things what they are.

  • Chris in Maryland

    Achilles is right…the problem of problematic priests is merely a symptom…the entire Body of Christ is polluted…the sewage ebbs and flows for 2,000 years…thanks to those baptized who have been/are executing the Gramsci model…it now flows strongly in or around every Catholic home, school, parish, and bishop’s chair. The only way for the Church is to wage spiritual war on evil…when the Church (i.e., us) gets comfortable and plays defense, we are disobeying (i.e., we are not loving) Jesus.

  • Sean

    I’d add only that the Gramsci tactic of democratization was manifested in the modernization of the Mass, eradicating the Latin in favor of a vernacular version. The Catholic Church herself fell prey to socialist errors when her Churchmen internalized the modernist errors. As a man prays, so he believes and lives; bring back the Tridentine Mass that produced 2,000 years of saints, Doctors, martyrs, and heroes for the Faith.

  • Dennis

    It is the collapse of the episcopate during and after the Council that made the following errors so monumental. There have been scoundrels among the clergy and the laity for 2,000 years. But evil bishops allowed scoundrels to take command.