Pete Buttigiegs Father: A Marxist Professor Who Lauded Communist Manifesto

A Rethinking Marxism academic advisor who frequently spoke at gatherings of prominent Marxists

By Emily Larsen & Joseph Simonson


The father of Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg was a Marxist professor who spoke fondly of the Communist Manifesto and supported an updated version of Marxism that jettisoned some of Marx and Engels more doctrinaire theories. He was undoubtedly Marxist.

He dedicated a significant portion of his academic career to the work of Italian Communist Party founder Antonio Gramsci an associate of Vladimir Lenin.

Paul Kengor a professor at Grove City College and an expert in communism and progressivism said Buttigieg was among a group of leftist professors who focused on injecting Marxism into the wider culture.

Theyre part of a wider international community of Marxist theorists and academicians with a particular devotion to the writings of the late Italian Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci who died over 80 years ago.

Gramsci was all about applying Marxist theory to culture and cultural institutions what is often referred to as a long march through the institutions such as film media and especially education Kengor told the Washington Examiner earlier this year.

Gramsci thought cultural change was critical to dismantling capitalism. Although critical of certain aspects of Bolshevism Gramsci endorsed Vladimir Lenins maximalist" politics and identified within the Leninist faction of the Italian communists.


Joseph Buttigieg who died in January at the age of 71 just days after Mayor Pete announced his 2020 Presidential Exploratory Committee immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s from Malta. In 1980 he joined the University of Notre Dame faculty where he taught modern European literature and literary theory.

He was an adviser to Rethinking Marxism an academic journal that published articles that seek to discuss elaborate and/or extend Marxian theory" and a member of the editorial collective of Boundary 2 a journal of postmodern theory literature and culture.

He spoke at many Rethinking Marxism conferences and other gatherings of prominent Marxists.

In a 2000 paper for Rethinking Marxism critical of the approach of Human Rights Watch Buttigieg along with two other authors refers to the Marxist project to which we subscribe.

In 1998 he wrote in an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education about an event in New York City celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Manifesto. He also participated in the event.

If The Communist Manifesto was meant to liberate the proletariat the Manifesto itself in recent years needed liberating from Marxisms narrow post-Cold War orthodoxies and exclusive cadres. It has been freed he wrote.

After a musical interlude seven people read different portions of the Manifesto. Listening to it read one could not help but be struck by the poignancy of its prose he wrote.

width=319The readers had implicitly warned even us faithful to guard against conferring upon it the status of Scripture a repository of doctrinal verities.

Equity environmental consciousness and racial justice are surely some of the ingredients of a healthy Marxism. Indeed Marxisms greatest appeal undiminished by the collapse of Communist edifices is the imbalances produced by other sociopolitical governing structures" Buttigieg wrote.

Pete Buttigieg an only child shared a close relationship with his father. In his memoir Shortest Way Home Pete called his dad a man of the left no easy thing on a campus like Notre Dames in the 1980s."

He wrote that while he did not understand his parents political discussions as a young child:

The more I heard these aging professors talk the more I wanted to learn how to decrypt their sentences and to grasp the political backstory of the grave concerns that commanded their attention and aroused such fist-pounding dinner debate."

Gramsci went to Moscow in 1922 as the official representative of the Italian Communist Party and returned home to lead the resistance against Italys Prime Minister Benito Mussolini on the orders of Lenin while his new wife and children stayed in the USSR.


Those efforts landed Gramsci in an Italian prison where he lived much of his brief life which ended in 1937 at the age of 46. Yet his time behind bars was also some of his most prolific leading to a collection of essays called the Prison Notebooks.

Buttigieg completed the authoritative English translation of Gramscis Prison Notebooks and his articles on Gramsci have been translated into five languages.

The elder Buttigieg was best known as one of the worlds leading scholars of Gramsci.

Buttigieg was a founding member and president of the International Gramsci Society an organization that aims to facilitate communication and the exchange of information among the very large number of individuals from all over the world who are interested in Antonio Gramscis life and work and in the presence of his thought in contemporary culture."

Lis Smith communications adviser for Buttigiegs presidential exploratory committee declined to comment on how his father influenced his political beliefs or on Pete Buttigiegs thoughts on Marxist thinkers such as Gramsci.

Pete Buttigieg said in an MSNBC interview on March 20 2019 that he considers himself a capitalist but that the system needs changes.

The biggest problem with capitalism right now is the way its become intertwined with power and is eroding our democracy" Buttigieg said noting the influence of big businesses in government.

A self-described progressive Buttigieg has called for:

  • Abolishing the Electoral College System
  • Supporting a Pathway to Citizenship for Illegal Immigrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program and
  • Thinks that Climate Change is a National Security Threat

In another MSNBC interview in February Buttigieg said that socialism is a word in American politics that has basically lost all meaning" and has been used as a kill switch to stop an idea from being talked about."


After his son won his mayoral election in 2011 Joseph Buttigieg told the Notre Dame student newspaper that he never expected him to run for office.

I know Peter has been interested in politics for a long time" Buttigieg said.

At home we always discussed government affairs but never in that way … Im very pleased because hes doing something he genuinely likes.

Pete wrote that his dad was supportive when he came out as gay. He and his husband bought a house in South Bend around the corner from his parents which gave the couple a good support network despite our work and travel schedules" when they decided to get a dog.

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