Tory MP Miriam Cates thinks ‘cultural Marxism’ is ‘destroying children’s souls’. No, seriously

Miriam Cates, in a blue dress, speaking at the National Conservatism conference.

Tory MP Miriam Cates has claimed that “cultural Marxism [is] destroying our children’s souls” during a speech at this week’s National Conservatism Conference.

But what is “cultural Marxism” and is it really destroying UK children?

The Conservative member for Penistone and Stocksbridge, in South Yorkshire, made several claims during her speech on Sunday (15 May) at the hardline right-wing conference, including stating that UK institutions were “powerless to resist” this seemingly worrying threat to the nation’s youth.

“When culture, schools and universities openly teach that our country is racist, our heroes are villains, humanity is killing the Earth… is it any wonder that mental-health conditions, self-harm and suicide, and epidemic levels of anxiety and confusion characterise the emerging generation?” Cates asked.

During their 13 years in power, the Conservatives have been criticised for their lack of support for mental health services for people of all ages in the UK, and overseeing the number of NHS mental health beds dropping by 25 per cent since they came to power in 2010.

According to research from the UK mental health charity Mind, on average, about one in four people experiences a mental health issue of some kind in England each year, while one in five reports experiencing anxiety or depression in any given week.

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Young people in the UK today face societal problems such as LGBTQ+ and racial discrimination, climate change, the cost of living crisis, economic disparity and an inability to get on to the housing ladder – none of which seem to have anything to do with so-called cultural Marxism.

What is ‘cultural Marxism?’

The term originally referred to a right-wing conspiracy theory that alleged socialists and Jewish people are attempting to subvert so-called Western societal norms by taking over institutions.

It has several ties to the term “cultural Bolshevism”, which was used in Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler to condemn Jewish people and opponents of the Nazis.

Miriam Cates, wearing a burgundy dress, speaks at the House of Commons.
Miriam Cates used the term “cultural Marxism” at the National Conservatism conference. (YouTube)

Cultural Marxism, in its current usage, is believed to have derived from a 1992 essay titled The New Dark Age: The Frankfurt School and Political Correctness, written by Michael Minnicino.

It upholds a conspiracy theory that Western society has entered a “new dark age”, following what he said at the time was the abandonment of Judeo-Christian ideals, and accuses the Frankfurt School (a band of German philosophers, most of whom were Jewish, that was founded to debate theories by communist Karl Marx), of developing social progressivism to destroy Western culture.

Seemingly inspired by the teachings of infamous conspiracy theorist, convicted fraudster and antisemite Lyndon LaRouche, Minnicino accused the Frankfurt school of using institutional brainwashing to control society and covertly creating the counter-culture movement of the 1960s.

Minnicino later expressed sincere regret for creating the term after Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik used it as a justification to kill 77 people in a series of bombings and mass shootings, with the essayist saying his research had been “hopelessly deformed by self-censorship and the desire to, in some way, support LaRouche’s crack-brained worldview”.

But by then, the term had taken hold as a dog-whistle among fringe far-right groups across the world, to either note antisemitic and/or anti-socialist beliefs.

It has since been used as justification for a number of right-wing attacks against members of the public and left-wing individuals, including by BNP supporter and child-sex offender Jack Renshaw, who was jailed for attempting to assassinate Labour MP Rosie Cooper.

Additionally, right-wing conspiracy theorist John T Earnest wrote in a manifesto before perpetrating the Poway synagogue shooting in 2019 that he believed cultural Marxism was responsible for a “genocide of the European race” which he alleged was perpetrated by “every Jew” in Western society.

PinkNews contacted Miriam Cates to ask if she was aware of the historic significance of the term.

A spokesperson for Cates said she would not comment, but instead issues a response from the conference organiser, doubling down on her use of the term and denying any links to antisemitism.

“The term cultural Marxism is as an apt phrase to describe the cultural agenda promoted by many on the left today,” Yoram Hazony, the conference organiser said, through Cates’ office.

“The Edmund Burke Foundation offers no platform to antisemites. We are proud to number Miriam Cates among our speakers and friends.”

On Wednesday 17 May, the National Conservatism Twitter account posted, then deleted, a tweet quoting David Starkey, in a speech made at the conference, suggesting “the left” is “jealous” of Jewish people.

‘Cultural Marxism’ in the mainstream today

The term has since been popularised in mainstream discourse by hardline conservative pundits in North America, such as Andrew Breitbart and Jordan Peterson, who typically used it to refer to progressive policies, as well as the very idea of trans people existing.

It is now mentioned frequently among right-wing groups, political organisations and social commentators, who still use it to attack LGBTQ-rights supporters, calls for racial justice and general progressive policies.

Home secretary Suella Braverman has used the term on a number of occasions, including in 2019 when she claimed that the Conservative Party was “engaged in a battle against cultural Marxism” with then-opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Following the statement, Braverman was criticised for using the “antisemitic trope” by the Board of Deputies who, after a discussion, said she was “in no way antisemitic”.

Cates’ use of the term was a similarly shocking but unsurprising representation of how the Conservatives often use progressive issues and “culture wars” to shy away from pivotal issues in society today, such as the economic crisis and climate change.

Her suggestion that the cultural Marxism conspiracy is somehow to blame for what she views as “woke” rhetoric is also not strictly true – a 2022 poll of 5,000 Britons by the More In Common initiative found that only two per cent of UK citizens think that trans people are an issue.

Meanwhile, the study showed that far more people (32 per cent) felt that supporting the NHS, the war in Ukraine (29 per cent), and the cost of living crisis (64 per cent) were priorities that the government needs to address.

It is argued that the term’s meaning has changed since its original inception to a phrase criticising so-called woke ideologies, it’s worth noting that cultural Marxism has always been used in the context of suggesting that there is an underlying conspiracy that makes progressive ideas popular.

Not once has the term been used by left-wing political activists to refer their own beliefs, and it is seen in those circles for what it is: at best, an insult, and, at worst, an antisemitic slur.

PinkNews has contacted Miriam Cates for comment.

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