Controversial University of Toronto professor Jordan B. Peterson begins this video thus:
Now the Marxist ideas are predicated on the fundamental assumption that, I would say, individualistic western capitalist culture is corrupt beyond redemption, and that it's fundamentally erected to nothing but benefit those who have maximum power. So then you get the racial issue like white privilege and you get the patriarchy idea, that it's white men in particular who've created this only for themselves and that all of the processes that are used to support this system, including logic, rationality and dialogue, all of those things, are only offshoots of the desire for that small group of power mad creatures to maintain their dominance over the rest of the world, and the only reason that there's any wealth associated with that is because the wealth was generated as a result of oppression. Now, the thing is is that story is partially true.What parts would be true, I wonder? That Marx's works critiqued white privilege or patriarchy? These had very little to do with Marx, for whom oppression was a matter of economic relations, as were most things. He and Engels touched on the implications of women's reproductive role in their broader subordination to men (Engels would pursue this much more thoroughly than Marx), but otherwise had little to say about identity and culture except that it was ultimately derivative from economics. Base and superstructure, remember?
Patriarchy did not enter into the leftist lexicon until the late 1960s and early 70s, with Kate Millet's Sexual Politics, published in 1970 being exemplary, and white male privilege would have until feminist theorist Peggy McIntosh unpacked that knapsack in 1989. In both cases, more than a full century after the publication of Das Kapital.
A more apt comparison would be with Lenin, and his authoritarian notions of a vanguard party that would exist only to advance the interests of the social class whose identity it usurped in order to justify its extremely machiavellian and opportunistic approach to gaining and wielding power for power's sake. Whether what happened in the USSR was truly in line with Marx's hopes for the future development of man is highly debatable. Replace a romanticized notion of a red flag waving working class with a romanticized construction of women, people of color and other marginalized identities to emerge out of the new social movements of the summer of love era, led by a vanguard of academics schooled in critical race theory and feminist theory, and you have the basis of today's SJW regressive left.
What are these "Marxist ideas" which hold that logic and rationality were to be dismissed as tools of the white male oppressor? Really? Marx regarded his take on historical materialism as a scientific means of understanding history and society. Its core problem might be that it's too logical and rational. Two words that all too often fail to accurately describe human behavior. That it claimed a foolproof means of understanding human social organization. This was precisely the kind of thing that postmodernism, with its rejection of "metanarratives" and skepticism towards absolute truth and universal morality arose in opposition to. And this is what's crucial here. Postmodernism arose out of disillusionment with Marxism (and other strands of western philosophy), not as an extension of it.
Likewise for critical theory. While it began with a view of social conflict between oppressed and oppressors as an axiomatic principle of social organization that was modelled on Marx's analysis of class conflict, their critique went well beyond mere relations of production to posit that western civilization itself was somehow fundamentally wicked and oppressive. This view was based on the observations that nationalism and racism seemed to trump class consciousness during the era of the world wars, just as Trump uses nationalism and, some would say, racism to similar effect today. However, the idea that culture and identity, not economic relations, drove history and social relations was a 180 degree deviation from core Marxist thinking.
Leftist identity politics arose out of a quasi Marxist oppressed/oppressor dynamic, but crucially divorces the concept of class struggle from class itself, defined by Marx in terms of relations of production. Privilege and marginalization in identity politics become intrinsic characteristics of certain racial and gender identities, and so no means of resolving the contradiction via politics - through the creation of a democratic system of universal suffrage and individual rights or via economics - via the social ownership of capital, becomes possible. What we are left with, then, is a darwinian struggle between the races, defined by relationships of zero-sum adversity. While it won't be phrased specifically in this way, implied is the notion that noble races must strive against naturally exploitative races for mastery of the world.
Where have we seen this before?
It's worth noting that the whole reason that the fascists and Nazis of early 20th century Europe hated both socialists and liberals is because the primacy of identity and race was to take a backseat to universal ideas of liberty and equality. This is why Hitler and Mussolini railed against them back in the early 20th century, and why paleo-cons and the alt-right go so wrong when they attack "cultural Marxism" today. Cultural Marxism is an inherent contradiction in terms. Any philosophy in which culture and identity are to be axiomatic in social relations, that philosophy ceases to be, by definition, Marxist.
Today's regressive left, which Professor Jordan Peterson rightly criticizes, doesn't hold to postmodern philosophy or Marxism in any principled sense. Much like their predecessors in Bolshevik Russia and Fascist Europe, today's militant feminist and critical race theorists cherry pick Marxist and postmodern kinds of ideas for their own ideological convenience. Marxism and postmodernism both have their flaws, but these flaws are not what is wrong with the regressive left.
What drives them is no core philosophical or moral convictions at all, but rather raw machiavellian collectivist egocentrism and opportunism. To advance their own group interests ahead of all else, at all costs. They must be stopped, but before that, they must first be properly understood. This will not be successfully done by a reactionary right that can't let go of its cold war era obsessions with anti-Marxism.