The Connection between Feminism, Critical Race Theory and Marxism: An Outline
Kolakowski noted that once-popular philosophies ‘never die out entirely…Marxism drags
on its poor existence….supported by certain intellectually miserable but loud movements
which look for issues that can, however vaguely, be presented as issues of capitalism or
One of these movements is radical feminism, and its roots are in the Frankfurt School,
founded in 1923 by some young German intellectuals. Having originally planned to call it
the Institute for Marxism, they chose the Institute for Social Research to be more subtle.
But they clung to the Marxist analysis of society in terms of abstract categories. Marx’s
daughter said, ‘women are the creatures of an organised tyranny of men,’ and Critical
Theory, developed by the Frankfurt School, also regards race this way.
Following the failings of the German Social Democrats in the 1920s, the Frankfurt School
thinkers modified Marxism from economic to cultural terms. They wanted to infiltrate what
Marx called the ‘hidden abodes’ of social power and considered the family ‘the central
The Marxist attack on the family started when Engels studied the German attorney
Bachofen’s theory in ‘The Mother Right’ (1861) that there had been a matriarchal stage in
human history. There was no war; the sexes were equal; and people were promiscuous.
Engels then traced civilisation’s problems to the invention of animal husbandry. He
believed this meant private property developed. Men then controlled women’s sexuality to
ensure their real heirs inherited their property. Engels called this the ‘world historical
defeat of the female sex’.
Erich Fromm, a Frankfurt School member, also found in the theory of matriarchy ‘a close
kinship with the ideals of socialism, especially because private property does not yet
exist’. ‘The theory of matriarchy’, he argued, ‘could not but win the sympathy of Marxists.’
Fromm even termed the ‘psychic basis’ of Marxism the ‘matricentric complex’. Matriarchy
became ‘a canon of Marxist thought’ despite no archaeological or ethnographic evidence
of an actual matriarchy. There is also no evidence of human life without private property.
If the family is intrinsic to capitalism, and capitalism is corrupt, then the family must be
corrupt. The Soviet Commissar of Education said, ‘our problem now is to do away with the
household and to free women from the care of children’.
Marx is the prophet, Marcuse is his interpreter, Mao is his sword, said the revolutionaries.
Marcuse saw feminism as ‘a revolt against decaying capitalism’ and ‘the most important
and potentially the most radical movement that we have’.
Will Knowland, Jan 2022