Marxism and the Materialist Conception of HistoryThe antiauthoritarian majority wing of the student movement derived its main inspiration from Marx’s Early Writings (Frühschriften), but naturally from his Critique of Political Economy (Kritik der politischen Ökonomie) as well. But it was above all Marx’s Early Writings that influenced the antiauthoritarian `68ers, because they express an uncompromising humanism that gives way to objective analysis and cool systematization in Marx’s later works, although without disappearing entirely.
Marx’s Paris Manuscripts of 1844 (Pariser Manuskripte) acquired considerable significance in the protest movement because these manuscripts were rediscovered after having been lost, but were not published until 1932 and even then drew little attention. It is in this work that Marx’s decisive turn to hiostorical materialism takes place, in particular in relation to Hegel’s concepts of labor and alienation. Marx’s terminology and language here are still very philosophical (Hegelian) in tenor, but Hegel is “stood on his head in order to place him on his feet,” as Marx describes the transition from idealism to materialism. Above all, the materialist method has not yet been subjected to rigorous systematization in these texts. This latter aspect explains the fascination these texts held for the antiauthoritarian, spontaneist and situationalist left-wing students of the `68er generation.
In 1963, Eric Fromm singled out the most important sections of the Early Writings and made them available again to a broad-based critical readership among the New Left in his book, Marx’s Concept of Man (Das Menschenbild bei Karl Marx). A year later, Siegfried Landshut presented a more comprehensive anthology of the Early Writings with Kröner Publishers, rearranged by Oliver Heins and Richard Sperl and with a foreword by Oskar Negt, for its seventh edition in 2004. Landshut, a prominent expert on Marx, had previously compiled a volume with text passages that he organized under key concept headings and provided each section with an introduction. This book is very suitable as an undogmatic and readable introduction, even though it is always preferable not just to read excerpts. Those who wish to start out with the complete texts are advised to turn to the famous blue volumes of the Marx-Engels Werke (MEW) (i.e. Works of Marx and Engels) that were never absent from any leftist’s personal library and can be obtained inexpensively today through second-hand book dealerships, and also fresh off the press from Dietz Publishers.
Karl Korsch’s Marxism and Philosophy (Marxismus und Philosophie) and Georg Lukàcs’ History and Class Consciousness (Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein)Karl Korsch’s Marxism and Philosophy (Marxismus und Philosophie) and Georg Lukàcs’ History and Class Consciousness (Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein), both works that appeared in the wake of the collective experience of the First World War and the failure of the Social Democracy of the Second Internationale constitute the very first forays into methodological self-reflection within the framework of Marxist theory. They are among the most important writings of critical neo-Marxism and provide the basis for a critical theory in its subsequent programmatic formulation by Max Horkheimer. Both texts also played a central role in the theoretical searches of the ‘68er generation.
An uncritical response to Marxist theory and its revolutionary mentality was no longer possible after the failure of the proletarian revolutions in Europe (and most especially in the aftermath of Fascism and its Gleichschaltung - alignment or assimilation - of the working class). Both Lukács as well as Korsch revitalized Marxist theory by applying the materialist conception of history to the history of Marxism itself. The central issue for both authors was the reconstitution of Marxist dialectic in the form of an advancement of Marxist theory on the basis of this theory’s own core presuppositions. This mode of an “update” was decisively rejected by the Marxist orthodoxy of the Third – Communist – Internationale, that for its part was beginning to amputate Marxism and reduce it to a „science“ of legitimation, i.e. of apologetics. The Third Internationale was the context from which the authoritarian Soviet Marxism was to arise. While Lukács distanced himself from his book, Korsch, a consistent and forceful anti-Stalinist, stood firm and was therefore expelled from the Comintern (Communist Internationale). The antiauthoritarian student movement of the late 1960’s in turn sought to link up with an undogmatic interpretation of Marxism and thereby found a way to position itself critically towards both the authoritarian Marxism of the Soviet Union as it existed and acted in reality, and towards the capitalism of the West. This twofold critical stance was developed and adpoted by many Western Marxists; the works of Maurice Merleau-Ponty - a French philosopher who moved in the intellectual circle around Jean-Paul Sartre - Humanism and Terror (Humanisme et terreur 1947) and Adventures of the Dialectic (Les Aventures de la dialectique, 1955) are representative of this standpoint. German translations of his works were also available in the 1960’s.
In Eastern European states, too, above all in Czechoslovakia during the Prague Spring of 1968, the texts of Western Marxism were being read and were used to take critical aim at the old Stalinist nomenklatura. Western Marxism inspired Eastern European visions of “socialism with a human face.”
Max Horkheimer’s Geschichte und Psychologie (i.e. history and psychology) and his other writings from the 1930’s and `40’sMax Horkheimer’s writings from the 1930’s appealed strongly to the `68er generation, although Horkheimer himself was skeptical about their referencing of his work. In his view his strongly Marxist-oriented writings of the 30’s were not directly applicable to the times and conditions of the late 1960’s. In his view, the historical basis of their validity had faded.
But their application did not occur directly at all. Especially in the undogmatic Marxist environment of the SDS, people began to develop a sensitivity and attentiveness for the central points of intersection of the times with early Critical Theory. At least, Horkheimer’s texts belonged to the repertoire that one would have had to have read and taken note of. For example, his inaugural speech as director of the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research in 1931 (Die gegenwärtige Lage der Sozialphilosophie und die Aufgaben eines Instituts für Sozialforschung; trans. The Present Situation of Social Research and the Tasks of an Institute for Social Research) was included here, as well as Traditional and Critical Theory (Traditionelle und kritische Theorie 1937), his no-less canonical essay The Jews and Europe (Die Juden in Europa 1939), The Authoritarian State ( Autoritärer Staat 1940/42), and Vernunft und Selbsterhaltung (i.e. reason and self-preservation 1942).
In particular, Geschichte und Psychologie (i.e. history and psychology) from 1932 counted among his canonical writings. In this work, Horkheimer explores the question why people in an objectively revolutionary situation paved the way to power for their own hangmen – fascism - instead of carrying out a revolution. In his response he discusses why the materialist conception of history is no longer adequate without psychoanalysis as a supplementary science: fascism could prevail because of “an instinctual motor falsifying consciousness” from which false consciousness derives and that universally blocks revolutionary class consciousness. Horkheimer draws the conclusion that every form of historical teleology and automatism is obsolete. The telos must be transferred from history itself to history as a science. In this way, the approach to history remains normative; but history itself has only so much meaning as human beings consciously realize in it.
The Dialectic of Enlightenment (Dialektik der Aufklärung) by Max Horkheimer and Th. W. AdornoIn spring of 1948, a small publishing house in Amsterdam issued a small print run of the German translation of the philosophical fragments of The Dialectic of Enlightenment, written by Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno during their exile in the U.S.A. This volume of essays had already appeared in English in 1944 under the title Philosophical Fragments, by the publishers Social Studies Association, Inc. The book was soon sold out, but produced no noteworthy reactions at first. However, it was to advance to become one of the most influential books of the 20th century, although in a round-about way: Horkheimer and Adorno described their fundamental work of Critical Theory as “a message in a bottle” whose significance would become evident only in a distant future when the bottle would be found, uncorked, and its message decoded by a far-off generation. But when this in fact occurred a mere 20 years after the book’s appearance at the hands of the rebellious students of the late 60’s, the two authors reacted with astonishment. In The Dialectic of Enlightenment the authors formulate a radical critique of reason, and diagnose a fundamental failure of reason in modernity, rooted in its entanglement with instrumental rationality from the very beginning.
In 1946, Max Horkheimer’s main work, The Eclipse of Reason (Kritik der instrumentellen Vernunft) appeared in English. It contains, once again, the core thesis of The Dialectic of Enlightenment: Reason has become instrumental rationality, it no longer stands in the service of humanity, but has made itself available as an instrument of power to subjugate human nature.
Ernst Bloch’s The Principle of Hope (Das Prinzip Hoffnung)Ernst Bloch completed his work, The Spirit of Utopia (Geist der Utopie) in Locarno, Switzerland, in 1917. This work can be seen as the core of his main work, The Principle of Hope ( Das Prinzip Hoffnung), published during his exile in America (1938-1947) during the reign of fascism in Europe. It was first published in Germany by Suhrkamp in 1959. At that time it was already famous, although it had not been previously published in its entirety.
Bloch, like Lukács and others, is situated in the tradition of Western Marxism. He originated the concept of “concrete utopia.” Bloch traces the utopian reservoir in all traditions and human sensations: in day-dreams, for instance, in the actions of daily life, and in fairy tales. He speaks of what has not yet been fulfilled and of a utopian surplus that does not merge and disappear in societal existence (NochNicht-Sein – being as an ontological “not yet”; as objective future possibility) and aspires to realization, i.e. to transcend itself.
Bloch followed the student protests with critical solidarity, but at first only a small number of ‘68ers had taken cognizance of Bloch’s The Principle of Hope. One of them was Rudi Dutschke, with whom Bloch shared a close friendship. Block’s central work received wide-spread recognition among the `68er generation only later, beginning in the mid- `70’s. It reflected the attitude towards life of an entire generation and was received world-wide and translated into more than 30 languages. But no philosophical school exists today that derives from Bloch.
The Dual State (Ernst Fraenkel), The analyses of fascism from the standpoint of political science in Ernst Fraenkel’s The Dual State (Der Doppelstaat 1941), Franz Leopold’s Behemoth (Behemoth 1942) and Eugen Kogon’s The SS State (Der SS-Staat 1946) are among the very first studies that set the standard for those to come and have become and remained classics to this day, and still count among the most indispensable works on the National Socialist system of terror and injustice that have been written to date.
Behemoth (Franz Neumann)
and The SS-State (Eugen Kogon)
In The Dual State, Fraenkel distinguishes between a „state of instrumental measures“ and a „ normative state,“ both of which existed parallel to each other as a dual structure in National Socialist Germany. The term “state of instrumental measures” refers to the sphere in which the Nazis established a system of domination in which unrestricted despotism held sway and whose violence could no longer be controlled by legal guarantees of any kind. This system primarily targeted Jews, but also Communists, Sinti and Roma, homosexuals, and other minorities that were excluded from the so-called Volksgemeinschaft (National Socialism’s concept of an “aryan” racial community) and deported to concentration camps or death camps. On the other hand, the term “normative state,“ according to Fraenkel, refers to the sphere in which the structures of jurisprudence and legal accountability remained largely intact. This distinction makes it possible to research the role of justice and law in the „Third Reich“ in a precise and differentiated manner.
In contrast to Fraenkel, Franz Neumann characterizes the „Third Reich“ as an „Unstaat“ – a mutated, deformed caricature of a state – in which chaos ruled absolutely and in which the sphere of law had completely given way to a state of lawlessness. Eugen Kogon, who spent six years of his life in Buchenwald concentration camp, examines the system of German concentration camps in his book, The SS State (Der SS-Staat).
All three books mark the beginning of the analysis of fascism, that ultimately reached its culmination in the 1970’s
The Inability to Mourn(Alexander und Margarete Mitscherlich)In the post-war period, the Germans’ way of dealing with the crimes of National Socialism and to the issues of guilt and responsibility was largely characterized by denial, repression and projection. At the same time, in the course of reconstruction, many old Nazis returned to positions of public prominence and responsibility. All too often, the past was simply written off even before the work of coming to terms with it had begun. Change came only in 1963 with the start of the Auschwitz trials, which continued into the 1970’s.
22 years after the end of the Second World War and the defeat of German fascism, Alexander and Margarete Mitscherlich, a married couple, published their joint work, The Inability to Mourn (Die Unfähigkeit zu trauern 1967). Alexander Mitscherlich was a co-founder of the Humanist Union and director of the Sigmund Freud Institute in Frankfurt from 1959 – 1976. Margarete Mitscherlich was employed at the same institute.
The book was an instant bestseller and influenced the student movement’s confrontation of their parents’ generation concerning the National Socialist past. To this day, the book’s title is a standard term; it refers to the inability of this parental generation to work through their own guilt and entanglement with the crimes of the Nazi regime and to mourn its victims.
Eros and CivilizationThe social philosopher Herbert Marcuse had by far the greatest influence on the protest generation of the late `60’s in the West. He is the Critical Theorist of advanced industrial and late-capitalist consumerist society par excellence.
and Repressive Tolerance (Herbert Marcuse)
Eros and Civilization was published in the U.S.A. in 1955 (the German edition of 1957 was entitled Eros und Kultur, in later editions Triebstruktur und Gesellschaft, i.e. instinctual drives and society). In this work, Marcuse examines the relationship between individual freedom and the progress of civilization in capitalist modernity. Its point of departure is Sigmund Freud’s thesis in Civilization and Its Discontents (Das Unbehagen in der Kultur), that the pleasure principle, according to which the individual desires unhindered satisfaction of his or her instinctual drives, is necessarily subjected to limits by society’s prevailing reality principle, but that this sublimation generates at the same time a potential of discontent that can develop into a threat to society. Under the domination of the reality principle, thus Marcuse, surplus repression over and above the socially necessary measure of repression develops, which Marcuse defines as “surplus repression.” This is what must be identified and resisted. With this combination of Freudian and Marxist analysis Herbert Marcuse became one of the most important theorists of the sexual revolution set in motion by the `68’ers, apart from Reimut Reiche.
But Eros and Civilization also derives directly from Max Horkheimer’s and Theodor W. Adorno’s The Dialectic of Enlightenment, although it should be pointed out that the latter authors regarded Eros and Civilization as an oversimplification of what they themselves had written in The Dialectic of Enlightenment – they may well have disapproved of the effect Marcuse’s book had on the protesting students.
Nine years later, in 1964, One Dimensional Man appeared in the U.S.A. (appearing in Germany in 1967 with the title Der eindimensionale Mensch). The book, although its assessment of the options for action available to an emancipatory practice on the part of the dominated in contemporary late-capitalist society was far gloomier, had an even greater impact on the `68er generation. In this work, Marcuse analyses the connection between the manipulation of consciousness on the part of the culture industry and conformism in human behavior. Conformism as a product of the culture industry, the reification of need structures as well as the adaptation to capitalist modes of behavior support the stabilization, i.e. the passive recognition and acceptance of an otherwise antagonistic and therefore continually erosive system of society. Only marginal groups, outsiders, have the option of developing a non-conformist consciousness. These groups generate protest, but their protest has little, if any, far-reaching effect.
Nonetheless, Marcuse advocates education and the development of critical consciousness, and sympathizes with the rebellions of the oppressed. In Repressive Tolerance (Repressive Toleranz ), his widely-read and discussed essay, written in 1965 and dedicated to the students of Brandeis University, Marcuse even speaks of a “natural law of resistance,” that is proprietary to oppressed minorities and gives them the right to “apply extra-legal means as soon as legal means have proven themselves to be inadequate.” Marcuse criticizes the existing practice of the prevailing form of tolerance in the public sphere of democratic states, a tolerance that endorses aggressive policies: military buildup and war, chauvinism, racism and discrimination towards minorities and exploitation of the Third World: Intolerance towards such policies is necessary and legitimate. Tolerance has no purpose other than the truth and the development of a liberated society.
The Wretched of the Earth (Frantz Fanon)„Europeans, open up this book, delve into it deeply. (...) Have the courage to read (Fanon) for this one reason, that he will make you feel ashamed, and as Marx said, shame is a revolutionary feeling. “ These lines are from Jean-Paul Sartre’s foreword to the book, The Wretched of the Earth (the German edition of 1966 entitled Die Verdammten dieser Erde), that appeared in 1961 in French by a Third World farmer’s son, Frantz Fanon. Fanon was born in Martinique in 1924 and went to Algeria in 1953. Prior to this he had studied philosophy and medicine in France, and had fought as a partisan against the Nazis in the Second World War.
The Wretched of the Earth struck like a bomb upon its publication. The book was termed “the Communist Manifesto of the anti-colonial revolution.” Its title is a quotation from the first verse of the Internationale („Arise, ye wretched of the earth!”) According to Sartre, the book’s central statement is a vindication of liberating violence as a reaction to an existing system of oppressive violence: colonialism. Fanon writes: “This people of which it has always been said that it only understands the language of violence, resolves to express itself through violence. Basically, the colonial overlord has always shown it the way that it must choose if it wishes to free itself.”
The manifesto is written in the language of the colonial overlords. But it is not addressed to Europeans, but to Fanon’s “brothers” in the Algerian liberation struggle and on the African continent, for whose benefit he seeks to explain and thereby demystify European culture so that they can free themselves from it. And Sartre: „As a European I steal a book from an enemy and turn it into a means of healing Europe. Profit from it!” This book became a basic text of the anti-colonial liberation movement of the `68er generation. By then, Algeria had already won its struggle, gaining independence in 1962; in the late 1960’s anti-colonial movements were to be found primarily in Vietnam, but also in Biafra, Palestine and elsewhere. The anti-colonial liberation movement found solidarity in the struggle against imperialism in the Western centers of the student protests: in West Berlin, London, Paris, Chicago, New York and San Francisco.
- Karl Marx: Die Frühschriften edited by Siegfried Landshut, 7.edition, rearranged by Oliver Heins and Richard Sperl, foreword by Oskar Negt, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN: 3-520-20907-1.
- Erich Fromm: Das Menschenbild bei Marx: mit den wichtigsten Teilen der Frühschriften von Karl Marx, Frankfurt am Main 1988, ISBN 3-548-34487-9. Translation: Marx’s Concept of Man (Milestones of Thought) Erich Fromm and T.B. Bottomore, 1963.
- Karl Korsch: Marxismus und Philosophie, Gesamtausgabe (i.e. complete works) of Karl Korsch, Vol. 3: Schriften zur Theorie der Arbeiterbewegung 1920 – 1923 (i.e. writings on the theory of the workers’ movement), edited and with an introduction by Michael Buckmiller, Amsterdam 1993, S. 299-367, ISBN: 90-6861-079-1. Translation: Karl Korsch, Marxism and Philosophy, translated and with an introduction by Fred Halliday, Monthly Review Press, 1970.
- Georg Lukàcs: Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein. Studien über marxistische Dialektik, Darmstadt 1976, ISBN: 3-472-61011-5 (out of print). Translation: History and Class Consciousness. Studies in Marxist Dialectics, trans. Rodney Livingstone, 1972.
- Max Horkheimer: Geschichte und Psychologie, in: Gesammelte Schriften (i.e. collected writings), Vol. 3, edited by Alfred Schmidt and Gunzelin Schmid Noerr, Frankfurt am Main 1988, ISBN: 3-10-031813-7.
- Max Horkheimer / Theodor W. Adorno: Dialektik der Aufklärung. Philosophische Fragmente, Frankfurt am Main 1992, ISBN: 3-596-27404-4. Translation: The Dialectic of Enlightenment (Cultural Memory in the Present) M. Horkheimer, Th. W. Adorno, G. Schmid Noerr and trans. by E. Jephcott, 2002.
- Ernst Bloch: Das Prinzip Hoffnung, 3 vols., Frankfurt am Main 1982. Translation:The Principle of Hope, E. Bloch, N. Plaice, S. Plaice, trans. by Paul Knight, 1995.
- Ernst Fraenkel: Der Doppelstaat, edited and with an introduction by Alexander v. Brünneck, Hamburg 2001, ISBN: 3-434-50504-0. Translation: The Dual State, E. Fraenkel, trans. by E.A Shils, New York, 1941.
- Franz Neumann: Behemoth. Struktur und Praxis des Nationalsozialismus 1933 – 1944, edited and with a postscript by Gert Schäfer, Frankfurt am Main 1984, ISBN: 3-596-24306-8. Translation: Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism, 1977.
- Eugen Kogon: Der SS-Staat. Das System der deutschen Konzentrationslager, München 1998, ISBN: 3-453-02978-X. Translation: The SS State: The system of German concentration camps, E. Kogon, 1946.
- Alexander und Margarete Mitscherlich: Die Unfähigkeit zu trauern. Grundlagen kollektiven Verhaltens; München 1991, ISBN 3-492-10168-2. Translation: The Inability to Mourn: Principles of collective behavior, 1975.
- Herbert Marcuse: Eros and Civilization. A philosophical inquiry into Freud, 1987. Translation: Triebstruktur und Gesellschaft. Ein philosophischer Beitrag zu Sigmund Freud, Frankfurt am Main 1995, ISBN: 3-518-01158-8.
- Herbert Marcuse: One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the ideology of advanced industrial society, 1991. Translation: Der eindimensionale Mensch. Studien zur Ideologie der fortgeschrittenen Industriegesellschaft, Darmstadt 1984, ISBN: 3-472-61004-2.
- Herbert Marcuse: Repressive Tolerance, 1970. Translation: Repressive Toleranz, in: Robert Paul Wolff, Barrington Moore, Herbert Marcuse: Kritik der reinen Toleranz, Frankfurt am Main 1973, ISBN: 3-518-00181-7.
- Frantz Fanon: Les damnés de la terre, foreword by Jean-Paul Sartre, Maspero 1961. Translation : The Wretched of the Earth, foreword by Jean-Paul Sartre, 2005.
- Wilhelm Reich: Die Massenpsychologie des Faschismus, Köln 1986, ISBN: 3-462-01794-2. Translation: The Mass Psychology of Fascism, trans. by Vincent Carfango, 1980.
- Max Horkheimer u.a.: Studien über Autorität und Familie. Forschungsberichte aus dem Institut für Sozialforschung (i.e. studies on authority and the family: studies of the Institute for Social Research), Frankfurt am Main, Reprint of the Paris edition of 1936, ISBN 3-924245-08-8.
- Peter Brückner: Sozialpsychologie des Kapitalismus (i.e. social psychology of capitalism), Gießen 2004, ISBN: 3-89806-260-0.
- Maurice Merleau-Ponty: Humanisme et terreur, Gallimard, Paris, 1947. Translation: Humanism and Terror, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, translated by John O’Neill, 2000.
- Maurice Merleau-Ponty: Les avantures de la dialectique, Gallimard, Paris, 1955. Translation: Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Adventures of the Dialectic, trans. by Joseph J. Bien, 1973.
- Jean-Paul Sartre: Critique de la raison dialectique, Gallimard, Paris 1960. Translation: J.-P.Sartre, Critique of Dialectical Reason vol. 1, trans. by Alan Sheridan Smith, vol. 2 trans. by Quintin Hoare.
- Wolfgang Abendroth: Aufstieg und Krise der deutschen Sozialdemokratie. Das Problem der Zweckentfremdung einer politischen Partei durch die Anpassungstendenz von Institutionen an vorgegebene Machtverhältnisse (i.e. the rise and crisis of German Social Democracy: The problem of the misappropriation of a political party due to tendencies on the part of institutions towards adaptation to prevailing power relations) Köln 1978.
- Jürgen Seifert: Kampf um Verfassungspositionen. Materialien zur Bestimmung von Grenzen und Möglichkeiten der Rechtspolitik (i.e. the struggle for constitutional positions. Studies on determiningf the limits and possibilities of legal policy), Köln 1974, 3-434-20061-4.
- Johannes Agnoli / Peter Brückner: Die Transformation der Demokratie (i.e. the transformation of democracy), Hamburg 2004, ISBN: 3-89458-232-4.
- Peter von Oertzen: Betriebsräte in der Novemberrevolution. Eine politikwissenschaftliche Untersuchung über Ideengehalt und Struktur der betrieblichen und wirtschaftlichen Arbeiterräte in der deutschen Revolution 1918/19 (i.e. managerial councils in the November Revolution: a political examination of the concepts and structures of the managerial and economic workers’ councils in the German revolution of 1918/19), Berlin 1976, 3-8012-1093-6.
- Michael Vester: Die Entstehung des Proletariats als Lernprozess. Die Entstehung antikapitalistischer Theorie und Praxis in England 1792 – 1848 (i.e. the emergence of the proletariat as a learning process: the emergence of anti-capitalist theory and practice in England from 1792 – 1848), with a foreword by Alfred Krovoza and Thomas Leithäuser, Dissertation Hannover 1968, Frankfurt am Main 1972, ISBN: 3-434-45024-6.