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  • Caitlyn Burge-Surles

Marxism in Broad Daylight: A Review of Sen. Ted Cruz's "Unwoke"

Book cover of Senator Cruz's book "Unwoke: How to Defeat Cultural Marxism in America"

Senator Ted Cruz’s newest book Unwoke: How to Defeat Cultural Marxism in America, finds its way onto the shelves November 7, and grips readers from the beginning with a legitimate, front row seat to communism’s brutalities and insidiousness. Cruz’s family, freedom fighters from Cuba, are no strangers to the demands that cultural Marxism makes on the nuclear family, education, media and beyond – and Cruz methodically demonstrates this threat’s existence in every facet of American life.

From the prologue and introduction, Cruz details his father Rafael, whose humble beginnings left him a prime target to be recruited as an activist for Fidel Castro’s revolution. “Marxist revolutions have always begun with the children,” Cruz notes. “Young and idealistic and passionate and oh-so-unaware of the vicious perils that await them, teenagers can easily be swept up in the currents of revolution.” Rafael continued his activism in Texas as a young UT college student, struggling upward in the community. But when the tides turned and Rafael realized that the current dictator had just been replaced by another, this time imbued with dangerous Marxist ideals, he committed to apologizing to each institution he had spread Castro-style Marxism to. Cruz describes the reprogramming of school children his mother witnessed, training them to worship Castro and receive things from him instead of the God they had been raised to worship: “Devotion to family must be destroyed.”

The history of Marxism in America is varied and subversive. The Unwoke reader learns of the Marxist sympathy groups arising across college campuses in the 1960s such as The Weather Underground, groups that caused violence to surface at the 1968 Democratic Convention and soured America’s opinion of these young activists.

The founder of Marxist ideology himself is painted bleakly, with Cruz writing: “From the moment Marx was old enough to be responsible for himself, he refused to—instead taking advantage of everyone in his life, refusing to work or become a productive member of society. He lived in a series of squalid apartments in different parts of Europe, writing poetry about the allure of Satan (yes, seriously) as well as the long, turgid pieces of political philosophy for which he would soon become a household name.” Cruz takes no qualms in displaying Marx for the drunk, unhygienic, lazy political figure he was, and uses original police reports to affirm these qualities.

The mental image of Marx’s chaotic, messy household gives the phrase “get your own house in order” a new meaning. “Marx was, in short, not the kind of person you’d want to be stuck on an elevator with for a few minutes, let alone someone you should look up to and trust to solve the world’s problems.” Cruz writes. “But for over a century left-wing activists have looked to his dense, borderline-unreadable works and found the blueprint for a revolutionary worker’s utopia—one that they have tried, with absolutely no success, to bring about in countries all over the world.”

Although it stung momentarily hearing Cruz identify Marx’s loyal supporters as “wayward English majors and self-serious left-wing activists” (of which I identify as one of the former groups), Cruz isn’t wrong. I’ve sat through enough English critical theory university classes to know that an endless study and high esteem of theory for the sake of theory can eventually lock an impressionable student into an echo chamber of their own mind.

A la Animal Farm, all knowledge accumulations are valuable but some are more valuable than others.

Cruz has clearly done his homework on the philosophical spread of Communism in America, from Marx to Gramsci to academics like Dutschke and Marcuse. He details how students left the outright displays of violence behind for more subtle tactics, leading institutions like Hollywood to take on the ideas of victimhood, class struggles and critical race theory and propagate them in film. Some of these revelations may not be new to conservatives of today, but I found myself pondering Cruz’s assertion that “many Americans are so used to this idea that they don’t wonder where it came from.” As a born and bred conservative, I’ve believed the reality of communist infiltration for as long as I can remember – but can many of my fellow Americans say the same? Can most Americans identify when these ideas ceased to be novel and morphed into the garden variety propaganda we witness in almost every blockbuster film or young adult novel? Cruz promises to reveal the slow and steady pathway of communism in America within the pages of Unwoke.

The first chapter begins with Cruz’s trepidation at giving a commencement speech at UC Berkeley in 2007, and his assumptions of what the experience would entail. He was to be that year’s token Republican speaker.

He draws from his exploits in Princeton student government as one of the only conservatives alongside his good friend David Panton, calling for votes to abolish affirmative action and learning to respect his left-leaning yet reasonable fellow students. Cruz decided at the time, reflecting on his fond experiences of bonding even with those who disagreed with him, that the topic of his Berkeley speech would be “intellectual diversity.”

Instead, Cruz faced student activist objections and protests, from students who clearly did not model the values of intellectual diversity and open-mindedness. Although the senator was able to win over his audience and avoid outright rebellion, he notes that this has not been the case with hosts of conservative speakers from Condoleezza Rice to John McCain. This phenomenon will be familiar to conservative readers, in light of such debacles as pro-swimmer Riley Gaines being attacked and held hostage at San Francisco State University for her speech about her experiences competing with a transgender athlete. Cruz aptly notes that this censorship is almost exclusively towards one party, and directs the blame towards the spread of Marxism in universities, nurtured by liberal professors.

However, Cruz acknowledges that the academic field of economics is one in which professors often show their cards at the outset of the class: the “neoliberalism” of the University of Chicago vs. the Marxism of Harvard and Berkeley. Even after the “fall of communism” when the Iron Curtain was destroyed, economics professors who instructed on Marxism were rewarded with promotions.

Essentially, as Cruz demonstrates, when Marxist economic philosophy was undoubtedly a failure, Marxism as a general critical theory emerged like a phoenix as “the new Marxists decided to get more theoretical and abstract.”

Cruz admits that even at the time he couldn’t have predicted the beast that university Marxism would become. But instances such as seeing Judge Duncan shouted down by the Stanford Law student body and patronized by school administration have assuredly convinced the senator, as well as conservatives at large, that all is not well on American campuses.

However, in spite of Cruz’s pokes at young American college students, he acknowledges that the path to redeeming and reclaiming universities is through embracing the younger generation. When speaking about his podcast at the conclusion of chapter one, Cruz remarks “As I travel the country, I can almost always predict, as folks come up to me, that, say, a twenty-four-year-old man with a ponytail and multiple tattoos is overwhelmingly more likely to be a subscriber to Verdict than to be a regular viewer of Fox.” Cruz describes a productive student Q&A at Yale which not even university faculty bothered to attend. He attributes this to “a palpable hunger among young people for free speech, civility, and reasonable discourse—and that is reason for hope.”

But according to Cruz, the Marxists aren’t interested in stopping at a university level. Communist hero Che Guevara called children “malleable clay” and Karl Marx insisted that education belongs entirely to the state. Which, Cruz writes, “made sense, given that Karl Marx saw his own family mostly as an inconvenience.” Marx’s mistreatment of his family (including his two daughters who killed themselves rather than continue existing in the misery he produced) makes for a shocking read. The activist’s poor track record didn’t stop his Bolshevik followers from building a school in 1917 to copy and paste little revolutionaries.

To a modern conservative reader, it is almost surreal to learn of the methods of the school in Hungary that copied the original Bolshevik school: “Special lectures were organized in schools and literature printed and distributed to ‘instruct’ children about free love, about the nature of sexual intercourse, about the archaic nature of bourgeois family codes, about the outdatedness of monogamy, and the irrelevance of religion, which deprives man of all pleasure. Children urged thus to reject and deride paternal authority and the authority of the church, and to ignore precepts of morality.”

As Cruz mentions in the chapter on higher education, Marxism was thus spread out of its original economic sphere and into the critical race and gender theories students are taught today. And why wouldn’t it be, if Marx’s followers are convinced that society will never work until we are all brought to view the world as institutionally cruel and prohibitive?

The narrative surrounding VIncent Lloyd, the professor from Philadelphia who watched his entire class of gifted high school students turn from eager learners into dogmatic, bitter mouthpieces, is particularly sobering. In response to the rabid hostility, Cruz proposes a solution: be aware of what children learn in their classes, talk to them regularly, and remind them of the value in remaining even-handed about the unavoidable facts of history. All people groups across the ages have focused on conquering each other in more ways than one. We don’t have to excuse true history to learn about it.

Unfortunately, when the new students of Marx grow up, some become media staffers and journalists. And as Cruz demonstrates in Unwoke, he is no stranger to witnessing the rabid control of the media and the hatred of objective reporting. The 2016 elections set these young protegees loose. “Journalists . . . “ Cruz writes, “were not supposed to be activists.” Of course, readers had access to “yellow,” partisan journalism in the 1800s, but modern day media outlets were supposed to be the even-handed answer to that. Journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame are mentioned as shining examples of what this long-lost type of media has always strived to be – as a young conservative journalist, these are the figures my parents pointed me to, reminding me of what good qualities the industry was capable of.

The underpinning of hope defines Unwoke, as Cruz explores the monuments of American education and media and the exalted state they can return to if conservatives are sober-minded and conscious of the roots of subversive ideologies. Marxists believe that it is their responsibility to use journalism to warn the world of systemic dangers made up by a drunken philosopher. Cruz urges his readers to remember the smaller right-leaning media outlets that stand up against news suppression . . . and to keep in mind the predatory nature of the Big Tech beast on free expression.

Cruz tackles the realities that are familiar to smaller news outlets and independent conservative creators: shadow banning, demonetization, and engagement loss. Social media was a valuable tool for Cruz in his early campaign days and during the 2013 filibuster that skyrocketed Cruz to national attention in which he read tweets using the hashtag #MakeDCListen. But the political boon that was social media would soon sour. Despite Twitter exec’s insistence in 2018 that “We do not shadow ban....And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology,” it is apparent to anyone who uses the app that Twitter is no friend to free speech (a quality that Elon Musk’s ownership has yet to completely mend – but that’s a conversation for another time).

A constitutional lawyer such as Cruz is an able opponent to the outcry that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to tech companies. It wouldn’t apply, Cruz notes, “Unless . . . unless, as the Supreme Court has repeatedly held, the private company is acting as an instrument of the government. And that’s exactly what Big Tech began to do.”

From the revealed strategizing emails shared between Mark Zuckerberg and Dr. Fauci to the accelerated account growth conservative figures experienced after Musk’s purchase of Twitter, Marxism has allowed for the further suppression of news in a way even mainstream media was incapable of doing alone. “Today, the very means by which most Americans get their news and interact with one another have been twisted and poisoned by partisan actors who believe it is their duty to spread radical leftist ideas far and wide, and to suppress any ideas that might compete with them, often under the cover of algorithms and other formulas that are too complicated for the average American to understand.” Cruz references a time before Marxism had its claws in American social technology (a time that I, a 25 year-old conservative used to dealing with the wasteland that social media has become, can scarcely conjure). Again, the underpinning of hope arises that the tide can be reversed. From Cruz’s lengthy and specific advice on how Big Tech overreach can be reversed, it’s clear that the issue is near to his heart.

But how does a nation march lockstep to the beat of cultural Marxism? It requires the state itself to be infiltrated by Marxist ideology, through the participation of lawmakers and appointees who sometimes blatantly espouse Marxist beliefs, such as Biden nominee for comptroller of the currency Saule Omarova (recipient of the Lenin Personal Academic Scholarship at Moscow State University). “Equity” is the word of the hour for the Biden administration, which according to Cruz means that “the federal government cannot stop until all outcomes are equal.”

Cruz makes a crucial point when discussing damaging state laws (specifically in California) that seek to remove transgender children from their parents’ care – harkening back to Marx’s advice that the state should manage child-rearing. “This law,” writes Cruz, “and the many others like it that will surely be up for debate in state houses all over the country, reveals the most sinister thing about Cultural Marxism: that beneath all the nice talk about ‘equity’ and ‘antiracism,’ it is about power.”

And businesses across America have not been shy about flexing their muscles to demonstrate the power they hold. Cruz takes care to identify the nature of the relationship that Marx-aligned lawmakers have with corporations: “They have effectively turned the Fortune 500 companies—many of which are staffed, and even led, by people with extreme left-wing views already—into their personal political enforcers.

For the past few years, whenever Democrats lose at the ballot box or fail to get their way in Congress, many of the major corporations of this country have stepped up and tried to implement radical, Marxist change anyway, often against the will of the American people.” The underpinning of the conservative frustration with Target’s Pride onesies or Disney’s subversive media content rears its ugly head as the product of American industry in bed with Marxism.

Cruz shares downright shameful accounts of CEOs bending the knee to their employees who demanded, first and foremost, outrage over legislation they disagreed with. He touches on what he calls “The Big Three'': BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street – companies that, Cruz reveals, are using investment funds to promote leftwing, Marxist activism. The roots of Marxist control run deep in America’s corporations, using initiatives like the “Corporate Equality Index” to hold companies morally hostage.

Fortunately, we conservatives find ourselves in a new era of boycotts. As someone who admittedly doubted the efficacy of boycotts on corporations in the past, I find myself wholeheartedly agreeing with Cruz: “historically conservatives have been terrible at boycotts, and the harm from giving in was minimal . . . Bud Light and Target may have helped change that calculus.”

Regardless of the success consumers might witness from boycotting businesses, can conservative boycotters face the same results at the box office? It’s obvious that Hollywood is no longer friendly to anyone outside their bubble of thought (Cruz compares the “blacklist” occurring to any dissident ideologies in Hollywood as the McCarthy era “red scare” that sought to boot communist creatives from Tinseltown). And again, the vein of Marxism emerges from behind the curtain: “Once art and politics begin to mix, we are left not with art, but with propaganda.”

Cruz finishes with a discussion of Marxism’s infiltration of the study of science – and the nation of China. Tying these two issues together is the thread of Covid-19. After all, Covid-19, Cruz asserts, is the product of China. China has also exported its own particular brand of Marxism – the ideology which, unsurprisingly, caused health practitioners who dared to speak against the mainstream opinions regarding Covid-19 at large to lose their livelihoods. Cruz warns us that “in recent years, we have seen a sharp increase in actual scientists—that is, people with degrees in the hard sciences from major universities who regularly receive money to conduct actual scientific research—using their credentials to parrot the talking points of the woke neo-Marxist Left.”

When power is on the table, Marxist ideologues flock to eat. The sinister conversation between Cruz and Chinese ambassador Qin Gang surrounding “re-education” camps frames the risks of allowing Marxism into the fabric of a country and its state. Cruz doesn’t dance around the issue: he admits that he “hates communists.” He calls China the “central nexus intertwined with it all.” Cruz is determined to stop the decades of brutal violence that accompanies communism without fail from gaining a last and final foothold in American culture.

Cruz’s Unwoke pulls no punches when putting the dirty work of Marxism on full display. From the very beginning, the Cruz family narratives that the senator threads through Unwoke add a layer of legitimacy and generational passion to his dire warnings, and his repeated references to political battleground conversations and specific legislation he has passed categorize him firmly as a fighter against cultural Marxism.

I couldn’t help but wonder if Cruz has identified an “emperor has no clothes” situation. He is careful to lay out the evidence of Marxism’s constant failures throughout history, and yet displays time and time again how education, policymakers, corporations, and the media all bow the knee to a pervasive yet useless ideology created by a man with little personal responsibility or success to speak of.

Cruz seeks to peel back the curtain for Americans to see clearly who their enemy is, and where it emerged from, doing so pithily and effectively in Unwoke. He threads hope throughout, and reminds the reader of an America freed from the thumb of oppressive, divisive ideology. An America within reach for those brave enough to recognize the threats and reveal the emperor.

Unwoke: How to Defeat Cultural Marxism in America reaches shelves on November 7.


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