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You are here: The Platypus Affiliated Society/Marcuse: Defended against his devotees

Marcuse: Defended against his devotees

Stefan Hain

Platypus Review 167 | June 2024

On January 27, 2024, Platypus Affiliated Society member Stefan Hain gave this teach-in as part of Platypus’s sixth annual European Conference at the Humboldt University of Berlin. An edited transcript follows.[1]

I WANT TO BEGIN WITH a quote that struck me when I read it:

We live in a stressful world that is dominated by money and lack of time. [M]an is much too caught up in his everyday life and rarely develops multidimensional. His dimension mostly consists of his job, his family and sometimes of his hobbies and what he calls his religious belief. So where does his development start and where does it end? What kind of knowledge does this man acquire? How much does he want to acquire at all?

The quote is not, as one might expect, taken from Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man (1964), but from an interview with a Black Metal band I knew in the days of my youth. The quote becomes more, not less interesting given the fact that this musician would probably not identify himself as a Marxist, and probably not even as a Leftist.

Marcuse had a way of addressing phenomena which still echo in today’s culture and everyday life. Marcuse consciously attempted to express himself less esoterically than his colleague and fellow thinker Theodor Adorno, in a way which seems strangely mirrored in a third, former colleague, Erich Fromm. But more on that later.

Marcuse’s more exoteric approach to critical theory brings forth its own problems. More than his enemies, Marcuse’s devotees have been the main reason for why Marcuse keeps being misunderstood, where he is not simply forgotten. But it would be too easy to say that the obscuration of the Marxism of Herbert Marcuse is due to his self-acclaimed followers. Under ongoing capitalism the dead Left has maneuvered itself into a situation where love and hate embrace intimately. Like the ouroboros, the ancient symbol of a snake eating its own tail, misrepresentations of devotees — lovers — and critics — haters — inform and mirror each other. False claims will be taken up, repeated and sold as the essence of Marcuse. Therefore to defend Marcuse against his devotees, we will also have to take a look at his critics.

I want to give a brief account of Marcuse as a political person and Marxist thinker. I aim to present Marcuse as a critic of the revolution betrayed, a product of the crisis of Marxism in the 20th century. My claim being, of course, that Marcuse’s intervention in the New Left and post-WWII society, cannot be understood without his earlier work — a point that Marcuse himself explicated several times, and which devotees and enemies seem to ignore quite actively.

To introduce Marcuse, I chose two events, which would influence and inform his thinking and political perspective for the rest of his life. Both were understood by Marcuse as betrayals of radical critique in the forms of praxis and theory. The betrayal of radicalism and its immanent critique would be the red thread running through Marcuse’s work, namely his Marxism.

He became a member of the SPD[2] in 1917, participated in the failed German Revolution of 1918–19 as a member of a soldiers’ council, and left the SPD in 1919, after it became clear that the Party was responsible for the assassination of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. This betrayal of the Revolution by the leadership of the working-class organizations would go on to inform Marcuse’s work until the end of his life.

Marcuse spent the 1920s working: reading and thinking. By the late 1920s he had begun to work toward a habilitation under Martin Heidegger, the text of which became Hegel’s Ontology and the Theory of Historicity (1932). This habilitation never came to be. Marcuse distanced himself from Heidegger, after Heidegger openly supported National Socialism on the rise. As Marcuse would put it later, “I did not see the fascism in Heidegger’s thought before, but after he had made his position clear, it became clear that this was also part of his philosophy.” Therefore, whatever Jürgen Habermas might have thought while saying this, it is not helpful to describe Marcuse as “the first Heidegger-Marxist,”[3] however much Marcuse’s earlier work might have pioneered ideas that later on would take form in the ugly oxymoron “Heideggerian Marxism.”

With the 1932 publication of the first Complete Works of Marx and Engels (MEGA),[4] Marcuse read Marx’s 1844 Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts. He got Hegel’s Ontology and the Theory of Historicity published, and commented on the central role of alienated labor in the aforementioned manuscripts, and their importance for Marxism.

Marcuse found himself disillusioned by something he had thought to be a radical critique of society and reality as they were. But his reception of Marx and Hegel introduced him to the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research. The Institute had assisted the Moscow-based Marx Engels Institute in the publishing of the MEGA and taken notice of Marcuse. It was Adorno who reviewed Hegel’s Ontology and the Theory of Historicity in one of the first issues of the Journal of Social Research.[5] Marcuse and Adorno would make a strange pair of siblings for the rest of their shared lives. Often they chose to deal with similar subjects at similar times, share core concepts and key figures in the work, and treat each other with admiration and jealousy. But the family novel/drama shall be of no further importance here.

Marcuse would become one of the central members of the Institute for Social Research for the coming decade. The recognition of the Old Left, as Marxism, that had collapsed into Stalinism, anarchism, and revisionist Social Democracy, as well as the reinscription of Marxism as “ruthless critique of everything existing” were the point of departure for what the Frankfurters called “critical theory of society.”

While the Institute was well aware of the Trotskyist opposition of the 1930s, it did not see a possibility of contributing to this movement in a way that wasn’t already being done in the theoretical work of its members. None of the members were experienced organizers or political leaders. Instead, Marcuse tried to trace back the history of Marxist revolutionary thought, which had also been brought up by Karl Korsch and Georg Lukács in their respective works of 1923, Marxism and Philosophy and History and Class Consciousness. In his book Reason and Revolution (1941), Marcuse traced the essence of Marxist critique back to the negative character of Hegel’s dialectic. Moreover, Marcuse tried to combat the trope that Hegelianism was at the core of fascist ideas. It was by no means a “Heidegger-Marxist” approach to the question of Hegel. This did in fact happen in the 1930s, but in France and under the leadership of Alexandre Kojève. Marcuse explained not only why Marxism could not be a philosophy, but how it was the only genuine attempt to live up to the task that Hegel had given to it in the 19th century: to make the world philosophical. Marxism had to realize the socialist revolution that had been going on in society, and this revolution would pave the way for a society which could become philosophical to overcome the need for philosophy. Marcuse did not try to resurrect an ontology in his return to Hegel and Marx. It seems bizarre when Andrew Feenberg claims that Marcuse “failed to develop an explicit phenomenological ontology,”[6] because that clearly was not Marcuse’s aim. Marcuse truly became a Marxist, because he did not seek to provide a political philosophy, but explicate the political within the realm of philosophy and thought.

Marcuse, at the moment of Marxism’s self-liquidation in theory and praxis, outlined its critical kernel as not a positivist ideology, but a negative critique. At the same time, and with the shared aim, Adorno and Horkheimer wrote Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944/47). Reason and Revolution, possibly the best introduction to dialectics, was published shortly before Marcuse and the Institute parted ways. Much like Lenin went to the library to study Hegel’s Science of Logic (1812–16), Marcuse, Adorno, and Horkheimer wrote about Marxism and dialectics, while the world they came from was being snuffed out in gas and fire. While trying to uphold Lenin’s maxim to organize Marxism as “a club for the materialist friends of the Hegelian dialectic,”[7] they were painfully aware of the obscure and even necrophilic character of their enterprise.

Marcuse had to get a job on his own in 1942, because the Institute’s financial situation grew more and more desperate. But he and his former colleagues stayed in touch, and Marcuse drafted a piece in 1947, which was supposed to appear in a relaunch of the Journal for Social Research in Germany, but never did. Instead it was later published with the title “33 Theses.” This short text tried to take stock of the confused and disoriented concept of “Marxism” which appeared from under the smoke and ruins of WWII. Marcuse, like many Marxists, was afraid of a coming war between the Soviet Union-led bloc with the U.S.-led bloc, which he described as “neo-fascist.” In these theses Marcuse made clear where he stood with regards to Lenin, the proletariat, and its once revolutionary parties:

3. Under these circumstances there is only one alternative for revolutionary theory: to ruthlessly and openly criticize both systems and to uphold without compromise orthodox Marxist theory against both. In the face of political reality such a position would be powerless, abstract and unpolitical, but when the political reality as a whole is false, the unpolitical position may be the only political truth.

4. The possibility of its political realization is itself a part of Marxist theory. The working class and the political praxis of the working class, and changing class relations (at the national and international level) continue to determine the conceptual development of theory, as they in turn are determined by it—not by the theory without praxis, but by the one which “seizes the masses.” Realization is neither a criterion nor the content of Marxist truth, but the historical impossibility of realization is irreconcilable with it.

 5. . . . Outside the Soviet camp there is no workers’ movement “capable of revolution.” The social democrats have become more rather than less bourgeois. The Trotskyist groups are divided and helpless. The communist parties are not willing (today), and thus also not capable of revolution, but they are the only anti-capitalist class organization of the proletariat and thualso not capable of revolution, but they are the only anticapitalist class organization of the proletariat and thus the only possible basis for revolution (today). But they are at the same time the tools of Soviet politics and as such hostile to the revolution (today). The problem lies in the unity within the communist parties of forces potentially capable of revolution with others hostile to revolution. . . .

32. While the unions in their traditional structure and organization represent a force hostile to revolution, the political workers’ party remains the necessary subject of revolution. In the original Marxist conception the party does not play a decisive role. Marx assumed that the proletariat is driven to revolutionary action on its own, based on the knowledge of its own interests, as soon as revolutionary conditions are present. In the mean time monopoly capitalism has found the ways and means of economically, politically and culturally leveling (#12–15) the majority of the proletariat. The negation of this leveling before the revolution is impossible. The development has confirmed the correctness of the Leninist conception of the vanguard party as the subject of the revolution. It is true that the communist parties of today are not this subject, but it is just as true that only they can become it. Only in the theories of the communist parties is the memory of the revolutionary tradition alive, which can become the memory of the revolutionary goal once again; only its situation is so far outside the capitalist society that it can become a revolutionary situation again.

33. The political task then would consist in reconstructing revolutionary theory within the communist parties and working for the praxis appropriate to it. The task seems impossible today. But perhaps the relative independence from Soviet dictates, which this task demands, is present as a possibility in Western Europe’s and West Germany’s communist parties.

The reconstitution of revolutionary parties through the reconstruction of revolutionary theory for Marcuse meant what Lukács, Lenin, and Marx had meant when they were speaking about the party: the living memory of revolutionary experience, the carrier of class consciousness, that is, historical consciousness of the struggle for socialism. Marcuse was not trying to develop a theory for how to overthrow the international, totalitarian Bonapartist state. He was trying to rescue the last sparks of consciousness, that socialist revolution had this aim, and deemed society ready to realize this.

Instead of a rebirth of Marxism, capitalism and its international order of domination rose like a phoenix from the ashes. Marcuse saw that capitalism had rebirthed itself in the destructice orgy of WWII, that liberalism in the West and Stalinism in the East were rejuvenating themselves through a growing technological capacity for production and control, which seemed to integrate the working class ever more into its mirage of on-going and unstoppable progress.

The death of Stalin in 1953 and the rising Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. expressed a crisis of the status quo and seemed to open a chance for the renewal of emancipatory politics. Yet, Marcuse, once more parallel to Adorno, saw not only the lingering potential for a utopian perspective, but also its flipside: Just like the Marxist parties had turned into counter-revolutionary forces, all other means of liberation and production could and would become means of domination and destruction, as long as there was no subjective factor to seize these means for the goal of socialism.

Erich Fromm, who later on praised Reason and Revolution, had been asked to leave the Institute for Social Research in 1939. Fromm personally identified as a humanist, socialist, informed by religious ideals, and a fairly unpolitical Marx, with a complete avoidance of Lenin. But Fromm’s political impact was not in the realm of politics, but in his writings on psychoanalysis, which Marcuse deemed to be an expression of a dominant trend, he found worthy to criticize in his book Eros and Civilization (1955).

Here Marcuse addresses capitalist society after “the collapse of the liberal era and of its promises” and the spreading totalitarian trend it had hailed in.[8] Liberalism for him had become a rescue of individuality at the cost of the individual; the ways to achieve happiness had been welded together with practices that perpetuated domination, servility, and other perverse forms of aggression against oneself and others. Marcuse flipped the argument that man was violent, animalistic, antisocially horny and far too limited by nature to ever be free from domination. Marcuse did not pose a better version of human nature against the conservative advertisers of proper psychoanalytic domestication, nor did he deny the dimension of nature and its influences.

Once more, Marcuse’s devotees don’t fail to surprise when they bring up that Marcuse wanted to go back to something. While Marcuse was well aware that humanity as a species-being needed to be redeemed, and that this could only happen in the future, the origin of man had yet to be reached. As he puts it his essay “Repressive Tolerance” (1965): “In the interplay of theory and practice, true and false solutions become distinguishable—never with the evidence of necessity, never as the positive, only with the certainty of a reasoned and reasonable chance, and with the persuasive force of the negative. For the true positive is the society of the future and therefore beyond definition arid determination, while the existing positive is that which must be surmounted.”[9]

Another banger which the devotees love to throw on the record player is “Marcuse created a synthesis of Marx and Freud.” Whatever this might be, Marcuse did no such thing. Marcuse showed how psychoanalysis, which had become a tool of oppression far more than emancipation, through Marxist critique, could still be understood as pointing to humanity’s potentials at least as much as to its limitations, by submitting it to immanent dialectical critique. Marcuse showed the productive character of this negative approach: he did not try to make it into something else.

Eros and Civilization tried to deal with the most developed elements of bourgeois society in crisis, not fall behind them. If this is to be understood as a concession, it should be clear what kind: Marcuse understood Freud’s psychoanalysis as the last bourgeois critique of bourgeois society. That Marxism failed to overcome bourgeois — really capitalist — society was not the fault of psychoanalytic theory. But the failure of the revolution and the defeat of Marxism made it impossible for Marcuse to ignore what role this new science played in society. Marcuse tried to point out the revolutionary potential in the mass de-subjectification through psychic mechanisms, much like Lenin tried to point out the revolutionary potential in imperialism. In this Marcuse demonstrated the intimate connection of critique and utopia in Marxism.

I do not know if the American hippie Jerry Rubin was inspired by Eros and Civilization, but Leszek Kołakowski was intellectually dishonest when he claimed that Rubin “is expressing . . . the true essence of Marcuse’s Utopia,” when Rubin claimed that “machines will henceforth do all the work and leave people free to copulate whenever and wherever they like.”[10] It is dishonest, because Marcuse himself is clear that the limitation of sexuality to genital activity was itself a symptom of the deformation of human sexuality. Marcuse also did not think that work would simply be done by machines, but that humanity would use machines for stupefying work — as a means so that human work can be transformed from “life’s prime need to life’s prime want.”[11] Marcuse’s utopia was meant to be a critical function of the society he sought to overcome.

Marcuse’s direct criticism of Fromm and other “revisionist psychoanalysts,” and the whole of Eros and Civilization itself was intended as a means to combat the illusion that post-WWII liberalism could simply be reformed into a liberated society, without a fundamental transformation of everything existing. Marcuse’s critique of the new psychoanalytic movement initiated by Fromm, et al. was a sophisticated argument for Adorno’s statement that wrong life could not be lived rightly.[12] Marcuse's goal after WWII was to show the deep and problematic gap between socialism and liberalism that Marxism’s critique had sought to overcome in the proletarian socialist revolution.

Psychology for Marcuse was a tool that had become central to the form that domination took in the 20th century. It had become part of political economy indeed, and it had gained this function in the counter-revolutionary movements of fascism and Great Society liberalism, which, to remind us, Marcuse had termed neo-fascism. Marcuse was dealing with questions of psychology because he sought to understand how the working class could have been integrated into the authoritarian society so smoothly after the defeat of Marxism.

Devotees and critics have often voiced a point of view, which is probably best addressed through Kołakowski once more, who was a passionate hater indeed, when he said that what Marcuse had to offer was “Marxism without the proletariat (irrevocably corrupted by the welfare state)” and “without history (as the vision of the future is not derived from a study of historical changes but from an intuition of true human nature).”[13]

Once more: Nature for Marcuse was not what “is” already, but what “ought” to be, following the Hegelian notion of true essence as a process, humanity’s nature first and foremost as the ability to transform one’s own nature in the process of history.

Saying that Marcuse’s Marxism was “without the proletariat” is a prime example of shooting the messenger: while Marcuse was painfully aware that the proletariat was in no way ready to (re-)form a party, pick up guns, and overthrow the government in either the capitalist center or in the Soviet bloc, the proletariat, through the loss of its revolutionary leadership, had lost far more than its leadership; it had lost its historical mission of bringing about socialism. Marcuse was sober and correct when he pointed out that the masses of workers could not be mobilized in the way that its revolutionary organizations had thought hitherto. But this did not lead Marcuse to kiss the proletariat goodbye: Marcuse would repeat until the end of his life that no socialist revolution was possible without the independent political action of the proletariat. In no way, shape, or form did Marcuse claim that “a new revolutionary subject” was needed, that the students and radical minorities would take the place of the proletariat or that you didn’t need a party for the revolution. Nonetheless, this is where enemies and devotees, lovers and haters of Marcuse, embrace each other and hold hands once more.

But it is impossible to speak about these aspects without closer examination of the relationship of critical theory and the New Left.

As we heard yesterday,[14] the New Left did not begin in 1968, but rather in the early 50s. When Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man was published in 1964, both he and Adorno had been teachers of the New Left for about a decade. Both thinkers were emphasizing what they took as the most important lessons of Marxism after World Revolution had failed: the non-identical character, the gap between theory and praxis, how this gap had been turned into a seemingly insurmountable abyss, and the fact that this was historically produced and thus could be changed again.

One-Dimensional Man focused on the depth of the lack of revolutionary subjectivity and its objective conditions in what Adorno called “the administered society.” These objective conditions for Marcuse were expressing themselves in the ever more encompassing technology of everyday life, but also its ideological and intellectual forms. One-dimensionality for Marcuse meant “the neutralization of opposites”: “The avenues of entrance are closed to the meaning of words and ideas other than the established one—established by the publicity of the powers that be, and verified in their practices. . . . Thus the process of reflection ends where it started: in the given conditions and relations. Self-validating, the argument of the discussion repels the contradiction because the antithesis is redefined in terms of the thesis.”[15]

It is important to emphasize that for Marcuse this wasn’t only the case for the “bourgeois” public sphere, but also in the self-acclaimed “Marxism” of the time. Yet, both Adorno and Marcuse saw the Leninist party conception as a necessary precondition to forge the proletariat into a political agent that could bring about socialism. But both of them also remembered Lenin’s dialectical maxim, that revolutionary strategy always needed to focus on the next step.[16] For both, this meant to make conscious that the working class had not been undone by industrial society after WWII, but that proletarian class consciousness did not exist anymore, because Marxism in its defeat, through Stalinism and Social Democracy, had been turned into anti-Marxism, a mechanical doctrine of the unstoppable socialist revolution, which no longer needed an international organization. Both Marcuse and Adorno emphasized that the student movement, the New Left, could not organize a revolutionary mass workers’ party, because there simply were no masses of revolutionary workers to organize. And the idea of an underground party for Marcuse would have been ridiculous, were it not so dangerous: Marcuse made clear to his followers that at the new height of capitalism’s power, trying to form such a party would have been suicide, politically as well as in the flesh.

Lovers and haters, devotees and enemies, of both Marcuse and Adorno, were and are not willing to engage with the depth of the conflict that arose between Adorno and Marcuse, instead falling into what Adorno called “identity thinking” and Marcuse “one-dimensionality”: they would fall into black-and-white thinking and turn the critical theorists into symbols for perceived programs. Marcuse and Adorno are turned into actors of a bad play, forced to embody the false antinomies the Left inhabits instead of critical thinking. In this, they almost resemble the roles Lenin and Luxemburg are forced to play in the dead Left’s storytelling. This is not because Adorno and Marcuse played similar political roles, or had the same importance as Lenin and Luxemburg. Rather, for the dead Left, historical political content is turned into a projection screen for their own inner war, which is not the last, dire link in the historical chain of Marxist thought: indeed it’s little more than a specific version of the all-encompassing one-dimensionality, which has to snuff out even the smallest spark of ambivalence.

The conflict between Adorno and Marcuse, which was mainly carried out in private correspondence, lasted for only about half a year, February to August 1969, and was ended by the sudden death of Adorno. Not two years before, Marcuse had advised his most prominent student, Angela Davis, to study philosophy with Adorno, Horkheimer, and Habermas in Germany, as Davis said in one of the best interviews that has ever been published in our newspaper, the Platypus Review.[17] In the same issue, we also published Davis’s 1967 seminar paper “Introduction to negative dialectics.”[18] Adorno’s Negative Dialectics (1966) itself is saturated with the work and thought of Herbert Marcuse. Negative Dialectics should be read in tandem with Reason and Revolution, and should be understood as a critique of Heidegger and positivism. Adorno and Marcuse may have had issues with one another, but they were comrades, as far as this concept makes sense for people who were not party members. Both felt compelled to continue their shared project from the 1930s and early 40s. Without their shared understanding and critique of the Old Left, their differences on the New Left won’t make any sense.

Both Adorno and Marcuse were aware of and did not brush aside the earnest critique they had earned from fellow travelers in the 1930s and 40s: critical theory, if it was to be taken seriously, always pointed to praxis as well. With the student movement, which was to transform the Left fundamentally, both theorists were aware that they carried responsibility for this movement and its ideas. Marcuse and Adorno had a conflict about how to take responsibility for their teachings and how the critical kernel of Marxism could be carried through the student movement — which they knew couldn’t simply implement apparent solutions from another time — to make Marxism a living force again.

The event that started the correspondence was the occupation of the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt, which prompted Adorno to call the police. As one student of Adorno who was present back then told me, the occupiers claimed that they were going to “smash the capitale fixe,”[19] that is, steal typewriters. The same strongmen later attacked other students in the middle of taking tests by throwing tear-gas bombs into the classroom, and smashed the apartment of a student who was deemed insufficiently involved in radical action.[20] Adorno did not, like Habermas and Horkheimer, use the description of “Red fascists,” but he saw elements of fascist political action becoming more dominant within the student movement. Marcuse on the other hand, had decided to call the U.S.-led world bloc “neo-fascism”: Marcuse thought that thinking, acting, and feeling could not be free of this element. He therefore did not want to denounce the students publicly, even though he publicly spoke out against the same kind of actions as Adorno did. But Marcuse was not willing to concede one inch to the powers that be and its special bodies of armed men.

In their correspondence both reminded each other of their shared work, their shared Institute in the 30s. While Marcuse wrote that the new Frankfurt Institute was not the same anymore, he did not contradict Adorno, when the latter said, “our shared work lives on in Germany in my books, doesn’t it?”

The more Marcuse experienced the sensationalist extravaganza of the European New Left, the more he understood what Adorno had meant, it seems. Both expressed the urgent need to meet and talk to each other about their differences and what they might learn from them.

This never happened. Not three weeks after Adorno’s death, Marcuse stated in a television interview that the differences between Adorno and him had “well- and ill-meaningly” been distorted, disfigured.[21] Both were aware that the movement was struggling to develop adequate forms of organization. Marcuse said that the differences arose from their shared position and solidarity, both of which had not been diminished by the differences. Marcuse goes on to say that Adorno’s radicalism and ruthless critique at no point had been compromised. In fact, that Adorno’s verdict of students’ actions as “pseudo-praxis” arose from his orthodox understanding of Marxism, Marcuse continued.

Neither Marcuse nor Adorno had thought that the other had given up Marxism: they were instead discussing what the events and tendencies meant for the long-standing problem of theory and praxis. Marcuse put it well when he said that their main difference was that Adorno didn’t think the New Left was a force capable of influencing society, while Marcuse thought so. Marcuse said that this political conflict had died with Adorno, because no one else could hold Adorno’s position.

Looking back, it seems that both Adorno and Marcuse were right and wrong. Adorno was right that the New Left would not bring forth any force capable of implementing Marxist praxis again, and that pseudo-praxis would damage and deform the concepts of theory and praxis and their relation even further. And Marcuse was right that the New Left would change society, and constituted an avant-garde, hinting at a new society to come. While the concept of the Left would never be the same again after the New Left, the new society of neoliberalism, for which the New Left was the avant-garde, would indeed be the ever-same, the eternal recurrence of democracy with fascist characteristics.

While Marcuse never condemned the New Left, of which he was thought to be a part, he did never claim that it was or could be a revolutionary agent or that it had lived up to the tasks Marxism had proclaimed as the necessary next step. Marcuse’s wager was that the New Left could have become a mediation that might help to bring forward a situation in which socialism could become a practical task once more. This has yet to happen. In the 21st century, the Old and New Left seem equally dead.

Andrew Feenberg complains that Marcuse is being forgotten. Feenberg claims that Marcuse was the forethinker of the New Left, and that the political horizon of the New Left was the only thing we still have in the 21st century, that New Leftism was the only Leftism we were capable of. While the latter might be true, selling this as virtue, as progress on the critical thought of Marcuse, might be devotion. But it’s a cannibal’s devotion to the victim, whose brain he is chewing.

Like almost no one on the Left, Marcuse never backed down from his responsibility as a teacher and a theorist. Being true to Herbert Marcuse’s Marxism must mean to defend him, not only against his enemies, but especially against his devotees. |P

[1] Video of the teach-in is available online at <>.

[2] Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (Social Democratic Party of Germany).

[3] Jürgen Habermas, “Psychic Thermidor and the Rebirth of Rebellious Subjectivity,” Berkeley Journal of Sociology 24/25 (1980): 1–12. This was given as a talk on March 14, 1980, on the occasion of a “Symposium on the thought of Herbert Marcuse,” hosted by the Philosophy Department of the University of California San Diego, and was included in Marcuse: Critical Theory & the Promise of Utopia, eds. Robert Pippin, Andrew Feenberg, Charles P. Webel, et al. (South Haley: Bergin & Garvey, 1988).

[4] Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe.

[5] Theodor Wiesengrund-Adorno, “Hegels Ontologie und die Grundlegung einer Theorie der Geschichtlichkeit,” Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung 1, no. 3 (1932): 409–10.

[6] Andrew Feenberg, “Marcuse: Reason, Imagination, and Utopia,” Radical Philosophy Review 21, no. 2 (2018): 271–98, available online at <>.

[7] V. I. Lenin, “On the Significance of Militant Materialism” (1922), in Lenin Collected Works, vol. 33 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1972), 227–36, available online at <>.

[8] Herbert Marcuse, “Critique of Neo-Freudian Revisionism,” in Eros and Civilization (1955), available online at <>.

[9] Herbert Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance,” in Robert Paul Woff, Barrington Moore, Jr., and Herbert Marcuse, A Critique of Pure Tolerance (Boston: Beacon Press, 1965), 87.

[10] Leszek Kołakowski, “Herbert Marcuse: Marxism as a totalitarian Utopia of the New Left,” in Main Currents of Marxism: Its Origin, Growth, and Dissolution, vol. III, The Breakdown, trans. P. S. Falla (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), 406.

[11] See Karl Marx, “Part I,” in “Critique of the Gotha Programme” (1875), available online at <>.

[12] See Theodor Adorno, “Asylum for the homeless,” in Minima Moralia (1951), available online at <>.

[13] Kołakowski, “Herbert Marcuse,” 415.

[14] See Ewgeniy Kasakow, Dieter Ilius, Spartakist-Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands, “Krise im sozialistischen Lager: Revisionismus und Anti-Revisionismus” (January 26, 2024), which was part of the Platypus European Conference, available online at <>.

[15] Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance,” 96.

[16] See, for example, V. I. Lenin, “Some Conclusions,” in “Left-Wing” Communism, an Infantile Disorder: A Popular Essay in Marxian Strategy and Tactics (1920), available online at <>.

[17] Erin Hagood and Duyminh Tran, “Bridging theory and practice: An interview with Angela Davis,” Platypus Review 138 (July–August 2021), available online at <>.

[18] Angela Davis, “Introduction to negative dialectics,” Platypus Review 138 (July–August 2021), available online at <>.

[19] [French] Fixed capital.

[20] See Theodor W. Adorno, “Marginalia to Theory and Practice” (1969), in Critical Models: Interventions and Catchwords, trans. Henry W. Pickford (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), 263.

[21] Herbert Marcuse, “Reflexion zu Theodor W. Adorno: Aus einem Gespräch mit Michaela Seiffe,” Hessischer Rundfunk, August 24, 1969, published in Theodor W. Adorno Zum Gedächtnis: Eine Sammlung, ed. Herman Schweppenhäuser (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1971), 47–51, available online at <>.