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You are here: The Platypus Affiliated Society/The failure of the Antideutsch: A response to Max Hörügel

The failure of the Antideutsch: A response to Max Hörügel

Michael Fischer

Platypus Review 147 | June 2022

This article originally appeared as “Das Scheitern der Antideutschen,” Die Platypus Review 17 (Herbst 2021), available online at <>. It has been translated into English by Tamas Vilaghy.

“Who are these Antideutsch, really? Maybe everyone, and the government first off.”

Wolfgang Pohrt[1]

WE LEARN IN Die Platypus Review that the Antideutsch have failed.[2] One can hardly object to these findings, as it was the Antideutsch’s goal to be the wrecking ball of the Left. For its part, the Left enjoys stable popularity in society at large, and has degenerated, despite all interventions, into the last defensive ideological bulwark of the declining neoliberal order. Yet for Platypus activist Max Hörügel, this failure stems from the fact that the earlier Antideutsch already couldn’t accomplish what happens to be the goal of his own organization, which for fifteen years now also couldn’t realize its idealized panoply of wishes: to form the workers into a conscious social actor and lead them to revolution. In short, to mold a cadre party which the working masses will then magically follow, because a few students dream of and hold lectures on socialism. However, one doesn’t like to talk about anti-Semitism within the Left. This becomes obvious as the article only marginally treats the enthusiasm of the  New Left for the anti-imperialist struggle. The hope for socialism, disappointed in the metropoles, was merely shifted to other regions of the world. This is at least the well-meaning interpretation.

And yet the painless change of scenery from Vietnam to Palestine implies something else. Maybe it was the anti-civilization, anti-West undercurrent spoken of by Adorno which kindled the enthusiasm for these anti-colonial struggles, an enthusiasm borne of a milieu which only decades earlier had largely rallied behind national socialism. What the student youth in Germany lacked — the struggle against the West, Mammon, and the Jews, now called Zionists— they found in tricontinental nationalism, which merged with the “fascist ideal” (Adorno): “Already during the war the slogans* about Western plutocracies and proletarian nations expressed sympathy with those who felt shortchanged in the imperialist competition and also wanted a place at the table.”[3]

Hörügel’s critique does not hit the mark even where it at least seems to be on the right track about dragging along the bad inheritance of the New Left with respect to the working class. The outsourcing of production to the capitalist peripheries, which followed the oil shock of 1973, increasingly impeded the Western proletariat’s ability to strike. The Death of the Subject proclaimed by postmodern thinkers affirmed this apparent defeat and aided the breakthrough of Left-liberal identity politics. Wolfgang Pohrt perceived the specifically Antideutsch form of this phenomenon almost twenty years ago. Following a completely failed event where he, together with Henryk Broder, actively scandalized the Antideutsch public that had eagerly gathered there to listen, Pohrt polemicized against that part of the Left, whose leading thinker he was considered to be: “While the unemployed are thrown back to pauperism and working people become dependent on speculation for their pensions — pieces of paper which secure the sellers a place in the sun, but the owners, a place in the poorhouse — during all this, this Left no longer recognizes any classes, only races.”[4]

A whole host of these pop-Antideutsch Leftists, who had fought earlier against antisemitism, racism, and German conditions with blue-and-white flags — but who didn’t want to hear anything about class and exploitation — likely discovered their love for gender stars,[5] skin colors, and whimsical minorities at their precarious university jobs. Anyone left out of an academic career despite their most industrious will to adapt landed in the Greens, or fought in Die Linke for their Greenification. The Antideutsch, meanwhile, split in the middle of the 2000s into Soft and Hard factions, whereby the latter increasingly distanced themselves from the term Antideutsch and came to understand themselves exclusively as ideology critique. The slightly soporific periodical sans phrase was established in Vienna around a dispute over whether the alleged gaps in the determinist Adorno should be supplemented with Sartre’s concept of freedom; and the division into Left and Right Antideutsch proceeded through the refugee crisis. Although the article leaves all of this in the dark, it reveals something about Platypus itself. The guiding principles of one’s actions and thoughts are no longer the changing economic constellations which a materialist critique of society aiming at communism must constantly take up so as not to falsify itself, but rather insights from specific conditions, congealed into doctrinaire ideas. Even historical materialism regresses into a variety of idealism when, as reified theory, it no longer takes up the experience which transforms it; thereby unfettered from the dialectic — like the much-discussed-by-Platypus Georg Lukács — it obtrudes, from above, upon a society meant only to be understood. Taking aim at this materialism become dogmatic, Friedrich Engels wrote in a letter to Werner Sombart shortly before his death that, “Marx’s way of viewing things is not a doctrine but a method. It does not provide ready-made dogmas, but criteria for further research and the method for this research.”[6]

The current social irrelevance of the radical Left, including that of its communist remnants, is also a result of its notorious unwillingness to really understand the circumstances under which it operates. This inclination towards idealism follows from an unquestioned class position as intellectual workers, unconsciously proceeding from the transformative power of ideas, since they themselves produce nothing else. The legacy of the New Left which was to be composed entirely of new members of the middle class, also bequeathed to Platypus, explains their resistance to the critique of the professional managerial class (PMC) which Barbara and John Ehrenreich developed from a materialist class analysis of progressivism around 1900 and the New Left. The Ehrenreichs cautioned that unless it buried its class interests, Left ideology ran the risk of establishing a dictatorship of the PMC instead of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Even the idea of a cadre party is borne of a contempt for the workers: corruptible and easily influenced, they only need the right leadership to bring them towards socialism.

In times of sharpened economic inequality, in which capitalist contradictions do not develop into contradictions against capitalism itself — since the antagonisms are increasingly controlled ideologically and less by the welfare state — it is nevertheless irrelevant “whether the idea of this upheaval has already been expressed a hundred times.”[7] In the suspension of class conflict beginning with the first half of the last century, the new middle classes, which as opposed to the petty bourgeoisie control no means of production, have played a prominent role. The class position of teachers, social workers, psychologists, actors, journalists, and engineers relegates them to the task of reproducing capitalist culture and sustaining class relations. From here follows the pipe dream of a harmonious and pluralistic society, which finds expression in a peculiar anticapitalism directed against the possibly egoistic and simultaneously divisive objectives of the bourgeoisie and the working class.

            One would need to intervene against those Left / Left-liberal forces who make the growing economic dislocations disappear behind categories of exclusion, and thereby act as ideological lightning rods for social criticism. The current culture war originates from the class interests of the PMC on the Left, and those of the old petty bourgeoisie on the Right, interests which cannot be countered by focusing on supposedly pure economic questions, since they are themselves an expression of these questions. Postmodern identity politics thus reveals itself to be capitalism’s miserable but extremely inexpensive promise of emancipation, which assures a fair distribution of misery according to skin color, gender, and sexual orientation, thereby perpetuating and hierarchizing exploitation instead of overcoming it. The critique of these identity politics and the Left which supports them is a quite desperate attempt to restore the basis for radical social critique. To Platypus, however, this appears as a false struggle per se, only fueling the opposition of workers’ identity politics to that of minorities. This way one can steer clear of actually dealing with the current conditions and dedicate oneself to the texts in the reading group, none of which may be younger than fifty years old. |P

[1] Wolfgang Pohrt, “FAQ,” in Werke, Band 9, ed. Klaus Bittermann (Berlin: Edition Tiamat, 2021), 25.

[2] Max Hörügel, “Die frühen Antideutschen und die Arbeiterklasse,” Die Platypus Review 16 (Herbst 2021), available online at <>, and translated into English in this issue.

[3] Theodor Adorno, “Was bedeutet: Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit,” in Gesammelte Schriften, Band 10, Kulturkritik und Gesellschaft II, ed. Rolf Tiedemann (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2003), 565; available in English as “The Meaning of Working Through the Past,” in Critical Models: Interventions and Catchwords, trans. Henry W. Pickford (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), 89–103, and in Can One Live after Auschwitz? A Philosophical Reader, ed. Rolf Tiedemann, trans. Rodney Livingstone, et al. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 3–18. The asterisk denotes that Adorno used the English word in his German text.

[4] Pohrt, “FAQ,” 28.

[5] A nonstandard, gender-neutral writing convention since ca. 2013 for nouns relating to people: e.g., Fahrer*innen, “drivers, both male and female” encompassing masculine Fahrer, feminine Fahrerin, and plural forms.

[6] Letter from Friedrich Engels to Werner Sombart (March 11, 1895), in Karl Marx / Friedrich Engels — Werke, Band 39 (Berlin: Institut für Marxismus-Leninismus beim Zentralkomitee der SED, 1968), 428, available online at <>.

[7] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Die deutsche Ideologie: Kritik der neuesten deutschen Philosophie in ihren Repräsentanten Feuerbach, B. Bauer und Stirner, und des deutschen Sozialismus in seinen verschiedenen Propheten, in Karl Marx / Friedrich Engels — Werke, Band 3 (Berlin: Institut für Marxismus-Leninismus beim Zentralkomitee der SED, 1978), 39; in English: “Concerning the Production of Consciousness,” in The German Ideology: Part I, in The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert C. Tucker, 2nd ed. (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1978), 165.