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Wed Feb 27, 2013, 01:17 PM

What The People Ted Cruz Describes As ‘Communists’ Actually Believe

Recently, it came to light that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) suggested that roughly a dozen professors at Harvard Law “would say they were Marxists who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government.” Through a spokesman, Cruz doubled down on these comments, saying “Senator Cruz’s substantive point was absolutely correct: in the mid-1990s, the Harvard Law School faculty included numerous self-described proponents of ‘critical legal studies’ — a school of thought explicitly derived from Marxism – and they far outnumbered Republicans.”

Not only is Cruz’s follow-up not a defense of his original statement, but it’s wrong in and of itself. Critical Legal Studies (CLS) isn’t “derived from Marxism;”although the movement was influenced by some Marxist ideas, it’s explicitly designed to be a critique of Marxist approaches to the law rather than an extension of them.

[blockqseves “would say” that they were revolutionary Marxists. ThinkProgress reached out to Georgetown University law professor Louis Michael Seidman, a leading “crit” (the term CLS exponents use for themselves). Here’s what Seidman told us:

I don’t have anything that’s not obvious to say about Cruz’s disgusting comments. A lot of early crit work was designed to refute Marxist theories of law, although some crits were also influenced by Marx. I know of no crit who thought of himself as a communist or who supported the regimes in the Soviet Union or China.

A 1992 article by crit Richard Michael Fischl backs up Seidman. As if anticipating Cruz, he wrote “Those of us associated with cls think it grossly unjust when our critics make an analytically identical move and argue that Stalinist totalitarianism is the ‘best worked-out, most consummated’ version of our position — in the face of the fact that a common intellectual thread that ties together virtually all cls work is its rejection of the authoritarianism and vulgar determinism suggested by the Stalinist label.”
So it’s clear enough: crits aren’t revolutionary Marxists. But Seidman’s suggestion that CLS “was designed to refute Marxist theories” implies that even Cruz’ spokesperson’s reformulation was inaccurate: far from being “explicitly derived” from Marxism, CLS was explicitly seen as a critique of Marxist thought. So not only did Cruz get it wrong, but in a certain sense he got it backwards.


Clearly, Cruz is the new McCarthy.

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