communists in situ

leberwurst proletariat

Month: August, 2021

Correspondence on the German Student Movement: Adorno-Marcuse, 1969

[Image 1. Anti war protests at the University of California, San Diego, 1970. Credits: Fred Lonidier]

FIELD republishes today this 1969 letter exchange between Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse on the German student protest movement. First appearing in the New Left Review in January-February 1999, these letters are too relevant to the present moment to be consigned to the place of memorabilia. In them, we sense the foundational common code of friendship that tied these thinkers together, despite profound theoretical disparities which their words suggest are irreconcilable. Today’s urgency to engage politically with pressing matters such as the cost of human lives for the maintenance of the status quo, the resurgence of neo-fascist rhetoric in the public sphere, and the United States’ military involvement in foreign affairs, make these authors’ exchange as relevant as it was almost four decades ago. Like “Teddy” and Herbert, today’s academics need to reconsider how to reconcile theory with the violence of police brutality, imperialist intervention in remote geographies, and the need for new forms of political contestation. Writing at times of vigorous student protest movements in Germany and California, Adorno and Marcuse exemplified different takes on the political responsibility of scholars, poles that appear still unaltered in today’s multifaceted attack on the autonomy and sustainability of public higher education around the globe. Their conversation is testimony to the propensity of academic labor to forget its inscription in the world and its indebtedness to it. The original New Left Review publication (I: 233, January-February 1999) can be found here:

San Diego, November 2016.

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Karl Marx and the Iroquoi (Rosemont, 1989)

by Franklin Rosemont, 1989, in Arsenal: Surrealist Subversion


There are works that come down to us with question-marks blazing like sawed-off shotguns, scattering here and there and everywhere sparks that illuminate our own restless search for answers. Ralegh’s so-called Cynthia cycle, Sade’s 120 Days, Fourier’s New Amorous World, Lautremont’s Poesies, Lenin’s notes on Hegel, Randolph Bourne’s essay on The State Jacque Vaches War letters, Duchamp’s Green Box, the Samuel Greenberg manuscripts: These are only a few of the extraordinary fragments that have, for many of us, exerted a fascination greater than that of all but a very few “finished” works.

Karl Marx’s Ethnological Notebooks[1] -notes for a major study he never lived to write, have something of the same fugitive ambiguity. These extensively annotated excerpts from works of Lewis Henry Morgan and others are a jigsaw puzzle for which we have to reinvent the missing pieces out of our own research and revery and above all, our own revolutionary activity. Typically although the existence of the notebooks has been know since Marx’s death in 1883, they were published integrally for the first time only eighty-nine years later, and then only in a highly priced edition aimed at specialists. A transcription of text exactly as Marx wrote it- the book presents the reader with all the difficulties of Finnegan’s Wake and more, with its curious mixture of English, German, French, Latin and Greek, and a smattering of words and phrases from many non-European languages, from Ojibwa to Sanskrit. Cryptic shorthand abbreviations, incomplete and run-on sentences, interpolated exclamations, erudite allusions to classical mythology, passing references to contemporary world affairs, generous doses of slang and vulgarity; irony and invective: All these the volume possesses aplenty, and they are not the ingredients of smooth reading. This is not a work of which it can be said, simply, that it was “not prepared by the author for publication”; indeed, it is very far from being even a “rough draft?’ Rather it is the raw substance of a work, a private jumble of jottings intended for no other eyes than Marx’s own-the spontaneous record of his “conversations” with the authors he was reading, with other authors whom they quoted, and, finally and especially, with himself. In view of the fact that Marx’s clearest, most refined texts have provoked so many contradictory interpretations, it is perhaps not so strange that his devoted students, seeking the most effective ways to propagate the message of the Master to the masses, have shied away from these hastily written, disturbingly unrefined and amorphous notes.

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William Morris (1834-1896)


This is a brief sketch of what I am looking forward to as a Communist: to sum up, it is Freedom from artificial disabilities; the development of each man’s capacities for the benefit of each and all. Abolition of waste by taking care that one man does not get more than he can use, and another less than he needs; consequent condition of general well-being and fulness of life, neither idle and vacant, nor over burdened with toil. All this I believe we can and shall reach directly by insisting on the claim for the communization of the means of production; and that claim will be made by the workers when they are fully convinced of its necessity.”

William Morris Archive / wiki / News from Nowhere [PDF] / William Morris’s Utopianism [PDF]

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