Karl Marx and the Revolutionary Roots of Redefining Marriage

Dr. Paul Kengor’s “Takedown” traces the roots of the “anti-family” movement through the history of socialists and communists

While most commentators credit the sexual revolution and the Stonewall uprising of 1969 as the “beginning” of the gay rights movement that led to last week’s Supreme Court same-sex marriage decision, the reality is that the roots of the movement to drastically change the definition of marriage can be traced back to 1848 and the publication of Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto. Proclaiming that the “abolition” of marriage and the family was central to the fundamental transformation necessary to implement a “just society,” Marx wanted to transcend what he called “bourgeois” marriage, replacing it with a redefined marriage—a form of marriage that “moves beyond marriage.” For Marx, who predicted that “the bourgeois family will vanish as a matter of course,” the goal was always to move “beyond marriage.”

Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage (WND Books, 2015), a new book by best-selling author Paul Kengor, points out that “Marx showed blatant contempt for marriage not only in his public writings but in his private actions.” Tracing the roots of the “anti-family” movement through the history of socialists and communists—including Marx, Friedrich Engels, Margaret Sanger, Wilhelm Reich, and Herbert Marcuse—Kengor calls same-sex marriage a “Trojan horse for the far Left to do what it has always wanted to do: take down the natural, traditional biblical family and attack religion in the process.”

Kengor believes that the “takedown” of the traditional family unit has always been the goal of the same-sex marriage movement, and points to the ways in which Marx’s personal lifestyle redounded to the kind of revolutionary state that he not only wanted but needed for his own lifestyle. In 1862, Marx wrote a letter to Engels, his writing partner, noting that every day his wife expressed a wish to die; such was her misery. Later he asserted to Engels, “Blessed is he who has no family.” Quoting Aristotle’s statement that: “Men start revolutionary changes for reasons connected with their private lives,” Kengor concludes that “whatever Marx and Engels lived and meant with their writings, their ideological inheritors would not hesitate to seek to alter or abolish the family, marriage, the parental function, home education, and anything and everything else that stood in the way of their new utopia.” (p 30).

Chronicling the progression of the Marx-Lenin redefinition of the family, Kengor identifies how radicals from each decade throughout the 20th century attempted to implement Marx’s utopian world—one in which the State usurped the role of the family. From Margaret Sanger’s Birth Control League to Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse’s polyamorous relationships. Kengor helps us understand that the Supreme Court decision on marriage is just one more step toward the elimination of marriage because if marriage can mean “anything” then marriage becomes meaningless.

Marxist attacks continue today
There are several of Marx’s ideological inheritors active today, with some of them even teaching on Catholic campuses. In 2004, Sociology Professor Jodi O’Brien at Seattle University—a Jesuit-led school, gave a speech titled “Seeking Normal?” [PDF] promising to end all culturally accepted definitions of family. Appropriating Marxist language, O’Brien cautioned the audience to “pay more attention to the meaning and significance inscribed in particular cultural institutions, in this case, the institution of marriage…Feminist scholars, myself included, have been deconstructing the institution of marriage for decades; successfully demonstrating the tremendous social and economic burden this small unit (the ‘couple’) carries in a corporate capitalist economy.” (14)

Likewise, Georgetown University Law Professor Chai Feldblum has appropriated this Marxist language for theBeyond Marriage movement she has led for more than a decade now. In the statement Beyond Same Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision for all our Families and Relationships Feldblum claims to “seek access to a flexible set of economic benefits and options regardless of sexual orientation, race, gender/gender identity, class, or citizenship status…We declare ourselves to be part of an interdependent, global community…The struggle for same sex marriage rights is only one part of a larger effort to strengthen the security and stability of diverse households and families.”

For Feldblum, the goal is to “separate benefits and recognition from marital status, citizenship status, and the requirement that legitimate relationships be conjugal.” The Beyond Marriage movement promises the creation of “powerful and vibrant new relationships, coalitions, and alliances across constituencies—communities of color, immigrant communities, LGBT and queer communities, senior citizens, single parents families, the working poor, and more—hit hard by the greed and inhumanity of the Right’s economic political agendas.”

In addition to Georgetown University’s Chai Feldblum, the Beyond Marriage statement was co-authored by several Catholic college professors including Judith Plaskow, Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College; Manolo Guzman, Sociology Professor at Marymount Manhattan College; Ann Russo, Professor Women’s Studies at DePaul University; and Julie Shapiro, Professor of Law at Seattle University.

Polyamorous Percolations”
Some of those who signed the Georgetown University’s Beyond Marriage statement are also part of the newer movement to legitimate polyamorous relationships—the next logical step in redefining marriage—or moving “beyond marriage.” One of the signatures was from a group called “Polyamorous Percolations”—a group of polyamorous activists who have been lobbying for years for the right to plural relationships that will grant them all of the benefits of marriage in their “beyond marriage” world. The group sells tee-shirts on CafePress.com with slogans on them including “Whoever Said You Can’t Have your Cake and Eat it Too, Obviously Never Had Dinner at Our House” and the best-selling “Two’s Company, Three’s a Family”. There is also women’s underwear which reads: “Illegitimate Wife,” and coffee mugs which read: “The Best Part of Waking Up is Polyamory in Your Cup.”

Polyamorous advocates have been celebrating Chief Justice John Roberts’ predictions about plural marriage in his dissent to the June 26th decision for same sex marriage in Obergefell vs Rogers. Claiming that Justice Anthony Kennedy has “offered no reason at all” to prevent polygamous unions, Roberts wrote:

Although the majority randomly inserts the adjective ‘two’ in various places, it offers no reason at all why the two-person element of the core definition of marriage may be preserved while the man-woman element may not. Indeed, from the standpoint of history and tradition, a leap from opposite sex marriage to same sex marriage is much greater than one from a two-person union to plural unions, which have deep roots in some cultures around the world.

It nearly impossible to deny that Justice Kennedy has opened the door for plural marriages when he wrote that “the right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy.” And, not surprisingly, polyamorous advocates are seizing the moment. One of these advocates posted an article, “Polyamory Is Next, and I’m One Reason Why”, extolling the polyamory lifestyle on The Federalist site. At first read, it seems more like a satirical piece as one keeps waiting for the author, Sara Burrows, to admit that it is all a joke. But, there is no joke—except on the readers of The Federalist who usually visit the site for political content but were delivered a description of a polyamorous couple celebrating their lifestyle.

While it is difficult to take Burrows seriously—as her writing still seems more satire than serious—Burrows blogs at “Polyamory Diaries” and rhapsodizes about her polyamorous lifestyle. Burrows also posts her thoughts on polyamory on Facebook, claiming to be happy for same-sex couples who want to be married but drawing from the same Marxist language used by Professor Jodie O’Brien to complain: “I’m glad the definition of which adults are acceptable in our society is expanding, but how about expanding it further to include people in non-monogamous relationships.”

In the 1920 Marxist classic, Communism and the Family, Aleksandra Kollontai, the Bolshevik regime’s leading feminist wrote of a hoped for communist utopia when the family would “wither away…not because it is being forcibly destroyed by the state, but because the family is ceasing to be a necessity’” (Takedown, p 39). Kollontai believed that the family—like marriage, like property—would “be transcended and thus abolished as a matter of course.” Justice Anthony Kennedy has helped to bring us yet another step closer to the “utopia” that Marx envisioned so many decades ago.

Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage
by Dr. Paul Kengor
WND Books, 2015
Paperback, 256 pages

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About Anne Hendershott 101 Articles
Anne Hendershott is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.  She is the author of The Politics of Envy (Sophia Books, 2020)

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