IN Friday’s Long Letter, reader Ian McQueen of Dumfries responded to Pat Kane’s column in last Saturday’s edition of The National (‘Cultural Marxists’ have become the demonic other of the alt-right ... and the indy movement can’t escape this war, March 30).

He wrote that he was “appalled at the level of naivete displayed by Pat Kane throughout his article” and described his writing about the Frankfurt School as “so deceptively bland and smiling it could have been made up by Orwell”. Here, Pat Kane responds...

MR McQueen seems to miss the central point of my article about the current resonances, and historical roots, of the term “cultural Marxism”.

There’s a central irony about the alt-right pointing to this intellectual tradition as an example of the sinister manipulation of the collective mind of a society. That’s exactly what the alt-right, and indeed neo-liberalism since the Second World War, has been doing itself.

The “Mont Pelerin Society” was started in the late 40s to counteract the appeal of Soviet Communism, at a root level – by mobilising journalists, academics and politicians to keep the argument for free-market economics alive. It’s part of the reason why, after the radical left-liberal culture of the latest 60s and 70s, the Reagan-Thatcher era was able to proceed apace: a lot of the policy and intellectual work had already been done. They were able to provide fresh language and rhetoric in a moment of crisis.

My point in the piece – and sorry for not stating it more clearly – is that both left and right are using the same propaganda and message tools that cultural Marxism had established. If you want to win “hegemony”, as Antonio Gramsci put it, you have to win the battle for the defining stories and concepts of the public conversation.

And you do that by starting up media, or triggering public events, or promoting certain arts and culture, that starts to get at the underlying emotional and metaphorical “frameworks” by which citizens make sense of their reality.

Now, look at the operations of someone like Trump associate and alt-right guru Steve Bannon. He’s on every television interview couch, setting up media networks in America and Europe, making documentaries and tv shows, dropping controversial and taboo-busting statements everywhere he goes. In terms of his technique, Bannon is more Gramscian than Gramsci is – except he’s driven by a commitment to radical inequality, rather than radical equality.

I would say that the progressive Left will always be outgunned in a cultural war, taking place in media and promotional strata that just assault human minds from the outside.

It’s why I ended my piece praising the fact that the Yes movement urges people to unplug from their machines, and meet each other as free citizens and friends in a public space. Feeling that you control your society more and more, with diverse people you respect and recognise, is surely the way to get to modern “norms” that make you “happy and secure”, as Mr McQueen craves. Call it “cultural social-democracy”, if that helps.

A reader has also responded:

IT would take too long and be, frankly, too tiresome to try to tackle all the idiocies in Ian McQueen’s long letter. Suffice to say these idiocies result when you allow your political prejudices to dictate your attitude to different viewpoints you have no interest in analysing honestly, the very thing Mr McQueen accuses – incorrectly – Pat Kane, the Frankfurt School and every other leftie of doing.
Colin Dunning
Port Glasgow