What is cultural Marxism? GOP lawmakers in FL want little kids and teens to learn the dangers of it
Florida Phoenix | By Jackie Llanos | February 6, 2024
Florida public school students start learning about communism in 7th grade. That’s too late for some Republicans in the Florida House, who want teachers to instruct students as young as kindergarteners on concepts such as “cultural Marxism.” But what is it?
The House bill moving in the Legislature doesn’t provide a definition for the term, raising questions about how little kids could understand cultural Marxism.
The Senate version of the bill doesn’t include cultural Marxism in its legislation.
Nevertheless, HB 1349, passed in a House committee on Feb. 1. The bill analysis says that starting in the 2026-27 school year, the history of communism must be included in instruction in grades K-12 in Florida’s public schools. (Currently, there are no standards for the history of communism from kindergarten to 6th grade.) The legislation would include “the philosophy and lineages of Communist thought, including cultural Marxism.”
The bill involves a task force — the governor would appoint the members — to come up with age-appropriate curriculum and academic standards for K-12 instruction of the history of communism and its dangers. The task force would report its findings no later than July 1, 2025, and it “must also make recommendations to the Legislature regarding the creation of a Florida Museum of Communist History,” according to the legislative staff analysis.
The House proposal, from Republican Reps. Chuck Brannan and James Buchanan, gained enough support last week to move forward in the Legislature. But Democrats criticized the inclusion of cultural Marxism as one of the things students will learn about. Brannan represents North Florida counties and a part of Alachua, and Buchanan represents part of Sarasota.
From terrorist manifesto to K-12 curricula
Democratic lawmakers pointed to far-right groups’ usage of cultural Marxism in relation to antisemitic beliefs.
“If you look up the term cultural Marxism, what comes up is the term cultural Marxism refers to a far-right antisemitic conspiracy theory, so that’s also concerning to me,” Palm Beach Democratic Rep. Katherine Waldron said during the Choice and Innovation subcommittee meeting last week. “I’m all for kids learning about government and political systems. But I would be against this very specific terminology in training or in trying to educate them on this.”
Marilyn Mayo, a senior research fellow with ADL’s Center on Extremism, said in a statement to Florida Phoenix that antisemites also use the term to reinforce their longstanding antisemitic trope that communism is “Jewish.”
“‘Cultural Marxism’ is a term, typically used by right-wing ideologues, to attack an array of ideas and concepts they oppose, including multiculturalism, globalism, feminism, and LGBTQ+ rights, among others. The term often functions as an antisemitic dog whistle or codeword,” Mayo wrote in the statement.
“Promoters of the term often invoke a conspiracy theory that falsely claims such progressive ideas originated with the so-called Frankfurt School, a leftist intellectual collective active in Germany between the two World Wars. Exploiting the fact that a number of the Frankfurt School intellectuals were Jewish, antisemitic versions of this conspiracy theory link the Frankfurt School, and thus ‘cultural Marxism’ itself, to Jews, claiming that Jews seek to subvert and weaken Western (and Christian) society by imposing their left-wing and politically correct (or ‘woke’) views.”
Over the years, cultural Marxism has gone from being linked with the far-right through terrorists’ manifestos to seeping into the vocabulary of mainstream politicians, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has said he views wokeness as a form of cultural Marxism.
“Most of the most violent, the deadliest acts of hate, perpetrated against Jewish people especially in the United States in the last 10 to 15 years have been by far-right extremists. We don’t have cultural Marxists shooting up synagogues. If it were the case, then we should talk about it, but it isn’t,” said Jon Lewis, a research fellow at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. “You have white supremacists, anti-government extremists who are embracing antisemitism. Of course, antisemitism is on the far-left as well. There has been a rapid, marked increase in antisemitic rhetoric coming out of the far-left as well.”
The terrorist who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011 and another who killed a woman in the attack at the California Chabad of Poway synagogue in 2019 left manifestos denouncing cultural Marxism’s effect on Europe and blaming Jews for coming up with it, respectively.
Groups like the Proud Boys have also used cultural Marxism as a catch-all term for anyone they view as an enemy, Lewis said.
“What we’ve seen in recent years has been an intentional effort, by far-right extremists to launder antisemitism, launder white supremacy, launder anti-LGBTQ narratives and hate speech against everyone who’s not effectively in this in-group, which is largely white, largely Christian,” he said.
Dangers of communism
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, published a 45-page report in 2022 about how cultural Marxism threatens the U.S. In it, the think tank states cultural Marxists have infiltrated the country through college campuses and public schools. They also credit DeSantis for showing a path to dismantle cultural Marxism.
“Today’s cultural Marxists believe that the reason economic, social, cultural, academic, and health outcomes (to name just a few) show persistent racial disparities is because of a pervasive, systemic racism that can only be eliminated by smashing the system itself,” the report states.
Subcommittee chair Republican Rep. Alex Rizo of Miami-Dade, last week defended the bill, stating that students don’t learn enough about communism.
“When we talk about antisemitism I equate antisemitism a lot with communism. … I love that this bill will come up with some sort of curriculum to start teaching what communism really does other than an economic theory that was brought up by Marx and Engels, two philosophers, and I use that term very loosely, in the 19th century. Because we do have curriculum in almost every single grade level K through 12 that talks about the sins of slavery, that talks about the horrors of the Holocaust, but does not yet really address the over 100 million people who were victimized, murdered, displaced in about 100 years worth of communism in our society,” he said.
The Florida Department of Education standards related to communism include the evaluation of economic systems in seventh grade and the identification of political ideologies (communism and totalitarianism) that conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy in high school.
Lawmakers also discussed last week how the material would be taught in an age-appropriate manner to younger students. Republican Rep. Thad Altman of Brevard said his wife, a first-grade teacher at a Catholic school, teaches kids through hands-on simulations.
“I think these kids understand capitalism and communism more than a lot of college students, especially if they go to an Ivy League,” he said.
Other things students would learn about through the House bill or analysis include atrocities committed in foreign countries under the guidance of communism, the Cultural Revolution in the People’s Republic of China, the communist policies of Cuba, and the spread of communist ideologies throughout Latin America.