“Critical race theory is the tip of a one hundred years long spear designed to gore the side of the Western civilisation,” said James Lindsay in a recent workshop on the topic of critical race theory (CRT). Although these words may seem dramatic, they accurately describe what CRT is: a set of ideological tools that are rooted in neo-Marxism, postmodernism and, some argue, Freudian psychology and are used to reeducate people by modelling their psyches.
Because CRT is Marxist in nature, the goal of creating the correct consciousness for the “new man” or the “socialist man” to be born remains well alive in CRT’s application anywhere in society. In the context of CRT, this “new man” possesses the “critical consciousness” that enables the individual to see power dynamics based on race relations everywhere and as the basis of everything in society and, importantly, to become an activist against these forces, trying to change the world by putting the ideology of CRT into practice.
After all, Karl Marx said that “the philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; our task is to change it”—in other words, critical race theory must be acted out in society in order for the “critical consciousness” to arise and the “new man” to be forged. To bring about this “critical consciousness,” the individual must go through a process of reeducation, aided by tools based on CRT, such as training in implicit bias, diversity and inclusion, or antiracism. These practices are already widespread in the Western world.
For example, during the Barack Obama years, the Department of Justice required some twenty-eight thousand employees to undergo training to “recognize and address implicit bias.” More recently, The Spectator wrote in 2020 that “Google, Facebook, the FTSE 100, government departments—including the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Justice—and non-profits proudly advertise the [implicity bias training] programmes they put their staff through.” In other words, the individual or the institution is required to “engage” with the presumed issue in order to change society. Failure to achieve a positive outcome is a sign of “false consciousness” under “critical theory” social justice or race relations.
Antiracist training involves confessing one’s thought crimes (the assumed innate racism of white people, for example); reporting on or being reported by friends, colleagues or neighbors for wrong ideas; being forced to listen how one has contributed to oppression because of views or ideas one has uttered or is assumed to hold; being more or less coerced to take “positive action” (or to “engage”) in changing the assumed state of oppression that one has been deemed guilty of; and justifications for ethnic monitoring and segregation (such as why there should be “spaces” for black people only). Once these ideas have been drilled down into someone’s psychological makeup, then the “critical consciousness” has been awakened and the person is the “new man.”
Critical race theory began as a field in critical legal studies based on the works of Derrick Bell, a law professor at Harvard. In particular, two of his books are regarded as the foundational texts for CRT: Race, Racism and American Law (1973) and Faces at the Bottom of the Well (1993). In these two texts, Bell lays down the arguments for what became the core tenets of critical race theory, which included that race is a by-product of social forces (social construction thesis); that white people are unlikely to be aware of their prejudices, which minorities must point out (voice-of-color thesis); that racism is a permanent feature of American society (invalidating the achievements of liberalism); and that societal forces oppress different minorities through “racialization” at different times, among others.
However, what exactly is critical race theory? When Bell was asked this question, he answered: “I don’t know what that is…. To me, it means telling the truth, even in the face of criticism.” This definition, as much as it appeals to our emotions, it is of no use to us in understanding what CRT is. Here are a couple of more complete definitions. From Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement (1996):
Organized by a collection of neo-Marxist intellectuals, former New Left activists, ex-counter-culturalists, and other varieties of oppositionists in law schools, the Conference of Critical legal Studies [where Critical Race Theory was developed] established itself as a network of openly leftists law teachers, students, and practitioners committed to exposing and challenging the ways American law served to legitimize an oppressive social order.
And from the World Socialist Web Site, “the online publication of the world Trotskyist movement, the International Committee of the Fourth International, and its affiliated sections in the Socialist Equality Parties around the world,” in an essay published in 2021 entitled “The Ideological Foundations of Critical Race Theory,” we learn that
critical race theory is a broad current, with many tributaries flowing into it and many offshoots flowing out of it…. In characterizing this whole current, it is therefore useful to begin at the most basic level with its fundamental philosophical conceptions, the heritage of which can be traced to postmodernism and the conceptions advanced by the Frankfurt School. This is the “critical theory” from which “critical race theory” emerges.… Critical race theory takes the rejection of the Enlightenment from the Frankfurt School and postmodernism and adds a racial spin.
Essentially, the works of Bell found a home right in the middle of left-wing thought, giving birth to the CRT we know today, which has been defined above, linking Bell’s works with Marxism and postmodernism.
However, it must be stressed that training based on critical race theory is a much milder form of Marxist reeducation. The Communist regimes of the last century were much more brutal in aiming to transform the psychology of the individual into that of the “socialist man.”
As detailed in a three-volume work by Romanian historian Mircea Stănescu, the idea and process of “reeducation” was central to the workings of the Communist regimes in their attempt to remodel human nature and fabricate the “new man,” the “socialist man.” It happened in China, North Korea, Vietnam, the Soviet Union, and Romania (known as the Pitesti phenomenon). In all of these instances, the process was broadly similar, although it was different in its brutality and duration.
In a nutshell, the Marxist reeducation process in Communist regimes involved substantial physical and psychological torture that forced the victims to confess thought crimes, to disavow their family and friends, to pledge lifelong commitment to the Communist ideal, to show ongoing loyalty to the party, and to completely abandon their previous faulty identities in order to become “clean slates” on which the “new man” could stand. As such, there are similarities between the Marxist reeducation process of critical race theory and that of the Communist regimes of the twentieth century. These parallels are summarized in the table below.
This article is based on the report titled Creating the “New Man”: Marxist Re-education under Communism and in the West Today.