I didn't realize Mayor Pete Buttigieg's recently deceased father Joeseph Buttigieg was the Antonio Gramsci scholar/cheerleader at my grandfather's school, Notre Dame.
Antonio Gramsci was an Italian communist that was jailed and killed by Mussolini's regime. As an undergraduate Gramsci (pronounced GRAM-she) fascinated me because of his unique take on Marxism which was focused on understanding how communists might conquer the West. At that time, the Bolshevik revolution proved to many like Gramsci that the forces of economic production weren't the only thing that could cause a revolution of the workers. CULTURE had as much to do with it.
In the 20s Lenin challenged theorists to consider how a revolution could be fomented across the West and in other places. More infamous theorists that found "local recipes" for a communist revolution like Mao may have been more "successful" historically, but Gramsci's analysis - focused on the Christian West - simply took a bit longer to see fruition. In fact, Gramsci's analysis became the fountainhead of what we today call "postmodernist" theory.
Gramsci saw Christianity as by far the greatest obstacle to communist revolution in Europe and America. As a good Marxist, Gramsci wasn't an idle theorist by any means, his program was very specific on how a "united communist front" should go down - by having a central political goal, and then challenging, subverting, and replacing all cultural institutions with a new "communist hegemony" as he called it to counter the middle-class capitalist culture and ethical superstructure that held up capitalism.
In conquering the West, his the primary target was the Catholic church and Christianity in general, but all social institutions would have to be infiltrated or built anew to make culture accept a centrally planned communist paradise of the workers. The creation of a new cultural homogeny of the worker. That meant EVERY institution. The family must be destroyed and rebuilt. The arts must be remade. The academy, press, and everything else. Subterfuge was the most effective means according to Gramsci. He called it cultura capillare - or capillary culture. So activists should enter cultural institutions through the capillaries and then move to the very arteries of the body politic to either take it over or kill off the organ if it threatens the goals of the revolution.
Universities are one of the clearest examples of Gramscism in action here in the United States. Gramsci's views have fully permeated academia and the view that every facet of society must be judged and dealt with against the political goal of a fundamental reorganization of society from the culture up.
In the 1990s as an undergrad, reading Gramsci hit me hard. I recognized his almost ubiquitous influence throughout academia, his copious references in almost everything I read in the social sciences, and the deliberate influence his ideological offspring had in the arts. In a very real sense, reading Gramsci made me choose to create Liberty Maniacs. I was completely convinced, and still am, that culture leads policy, and that confronting authoritarianism through art and culture was my path.
I would be remiss to not admit Buttigieg'a candidacy now more than disquiets me. He was reared as a Gramsci communist from the leading Gramsci advocate in the world. He went from a mayor of a small town, to basically #3 in Iowa and New Hampshire in the primaries right now. Cultura capillare isn't some idle notion. It's a central aspect of Gramsci's 4 strategies for conquering the West. Gramsci's radicalism is powerful stuff. It's not something that Joseph Buttigieg would devote his life to creating the International Gramsci Society and translating his prison notebooks and not pass down to his only son.
Must a son necessarily share his father's ideological devotion to communism? Of course not.
Can a son whose father was a world class devotee of critical theory and communist cultural homogeny be motivated by completely different political agendas? Certainly!
Mayor Pete has described himself has a progressive and advocate of "democratic capitalism" which in effect is about as American as apple pie. So despite his erudite progressive tact, he appears to be somewhat in the allowable scope of acceptable mainstream ideology in America. At least as it stands now.
I have my suspicions, however.
Mayor Pete is a trained counter-terrorism naval intelligence officer, Afghan War vet, Harvard grad, Oxford Pembrook Rhodes Scholar - which is nothing if not a pipeline to the British/American intelligence community - an alumnus of the most prestigious corporate/government consultancy agency in the world, McKinsey & Company, and young director of former Secretary of Defense William Cohen's strategic consulting firm, The Cohen Group. And he's only in his 30s.
In other words, if his father and Antonio Gramsci themselves sat down and tried to design the ideal curriculum vitae for the ultimate cultura capillare agent to surreptitiously enter the White House and lay the cultural groundwork for a radical restructuring of the West, it's difficult to imagine a better candidate to do so that young Mr. Buttugiegig. His credentials are almost inconceivably perfect, however unlikely it sounds and circumstantial the evidence to prove it.
All I know is that it gives me pause. Just as it would give me pause to learn that a Republican candidate for president's father was a lifelong advocate of clandestine Nazi world domination. It's a little weird, and Gramsci shook me as a young man and apparently still does.
We have entered a stage of American politics that we have never seen. Whether one loves him, hates him, is terrified or overjoyed to see him in power, one thing we would be wise to acknowledge is that we've never had a president so untethered from the requirements of political patronage as Donald Trump.