What Is American Marxism? A Critique of Mark Levin’s Claim

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "American Marxism" by Mark R. Levin. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is American Marxism, really? Is the label fair and accurate?

In American Marxism, Mark Levin argues that Democrats and leftist organizations are fueling a Marxist revolution against American culture and society. Critics claim that Levin uses the term “Marxism” too broadly.

Let’s take a look at Levin’s argument and explore its validity.

Levin’s “American Marxists”

What is American Marxism, according to Mark Levin? He argues that leftists and the Democratic party, whom he refers to as “American Marxists,” are encouraging Marxist movements and ideologies that will lead to an eventual overthrow of American society. Levin claims that, when this happens, the Democrats will take control of the government and create a leftist totalitarian society.

These Marxist movements encourage revolution by emphasizing the dichotomy of oppressors and oppressed and indoctrinating the public with the idea that American society is inherently unjust and evil. And, according to them, the only solution to this injustice is to destroy American society and establish an improved “egalitarian” society in its place.

However, Levin warns that this egalitarian society will more closely resemble the former Communist Soviet Union—Americans will be stripped of their freedom of speech, free-market capitalism, private property rights, individualism, and ultimately their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Are Levin’s “American Marxists” Actually Marxists?

In American Marxism, Levin centers his argument around the rise of Marxist ideology in mainstream American culture, and he argues that this surge in Marxist thought could eventually lead to revolution and the rise of a left-wing communist dictatorship. However, some critics argue that Levin seems to mislabel many leftists and leftist ideas as “Marxist.” To fully contextualize Levin’s argument and evaluate his claims, let’s explore what Marxism is, what Marxists believe, and how Levin may misapply these terms.

Marxism is a set of doctrines developed by Karl Marx (and partly Frederich Engels) that seek to explain human nature and societal development. As explained in The Communist Manifesto, Marx theorizes that all societies and economic systems throughout history have developed through a class struggle between oppressors (Bourgeoisie) and oppressed (Proletariat). The oppressors exploit the labor of the oppressed to continue developing society; however, this system is unsustainable, and every social and economic system that develops from it (including our latest system, capitalism) will eventually fail. 

Marx’s theory also states that the oppressed will eventually rise up to overthrow the oppressors and will implement a sustainable social, political, and economic system that will end class inequality. Marx theorized what this system would entail and called it communism

In American Marxism, Levin tends to label any movement, organization, or person that distinguishes between oppressors and oppressed as Marxist. However, a Marxist is someone who believes in Marx’s analysis and prediction of society, and the vast majority of “American Marxists” that Levin mentions do not match this description. Most of the people Levin calls “Marxists” all believe (1) that society has a group of oppressors and a group that’s oppressed, and (2) that systematic changes need to occur to lessen inequality—but these beliefs don’t make them Marxists.

To correctly label these people as Marxists, they would have to additionally believe (3) that America’s current system (constitutional federal republic and capitalist economy) is unsustainable and must end; (4) that the working class should and will eventually overthrow this system; and (5) that the most sustainable system to replace it is communism (as defined by Marx). The majority of leftists and leftist ideas Levin mentions don’t express these beliefs (as we’ll see in the rest of this guide). Consequently, Levin incorrectly labels many moderate and less radical (compared to classical Marxism) leftist ideas as Marxist.

What Is American Marxism? A Critique of Mark Levin’s Claim

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Mark R. Levin's "American Marxism" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full American Marxism summary:

  • Why Mark Levin thinks leftist organizations are fueling a Marxist revolution
  • Who the American Marxists are and what ideologies they’re pushing
  • What American patriots can do to maintain their freedom

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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