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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, Chairman of the Board of Aid to the Church in Need USA, is the author of The American Catholic Voter and Sons of St. Patrick, written with Brad Miner. His most recent book is Mario Cuomo: The Myth and the Man.