Paul A. Baran and Herbert Marcuse were close, life-long friends, both of whom had been attached to the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt in pre-Hitler Germany, and both of whom later emigrated to the United States—Marcuse to become a professor of philosophy at Brandeis University and Baran to become a professor of economics at Stanford. They corresponded frequently and met with each other when possible until Baran’s death in March 1964. (On the wider background of their relationship see the March 2014 issue of Monthly Review.)
As part of Monthly Review Foundation’s Memorial tribute to Baran on the 50th anniversary of his death we are posting on the MR website what we have entitled “The Baran-Marcuse Correspondence.” This correspondence does not pretend to be complete and it is quite possible that there are other extant letters between these two thinkers to be found elsewhere. Nevertheless the letters included here constitute a unit since they consist of the contents of a file labeled “Marcuse” to be found in the Baran Papers held by Nicholas Baran and the Monthly Review Foundation.
Although “The Baran-Marcuse Correspondence” is of considerable historical and theoretical significance we hesitated to make it public since it included sharp criticism of major intellectual figures, such as Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Erich Fromm, and others. However, operating on the principle that a half-century is long enough to wait to make sensitive papers public, and recognizing that the criticisms were of an intellectual nature, we have decided to make them available at this time.
The various exchanges between Baran and Marcuse were an effort—as Baran observes, quoting Marx—at the development of “self-understanding.” As noted, these letters contain strong criticisms of other major intellectual figures with whom they had contact. Moreover, Baran and Marcuse did not hesitate to debate outspokenly with each other—something that was made possible by their mutual understanding. These disputes, as Marcuse said, remained an “internal affair,” not affecting their strong commonalities with respect to the external world. This allowed them to engage critically and dialectically over crucial issues, such as the Cold War, the Soviet Union, Stalin, the monopoly capitalism, imperialism, art, Freud, and, above all, questions of the working class and revolutionary consciousness. Nevertheless, it should be borne in mind that these letters were not written with publication in mind. In that respect, their rich, uncensored content becomes even more valuable, as a guide to the uncertainties, aspirations, and revolutionary zeal with which they both approached the world.
For convenience of presentation the letters have been separated into two categories: (1) those written in English—for the most part earlier letters, and (2) those written in German and translated by Joseph Fracchia. The original German-language letters are also being posted in a separate document.—John Bellamy Foster
I. Letters Written in English1
Herbert Marcuse to Paul A. Baran [handwritten]
August 11, 1948
The big letter which you promised has not yet arrived. This gives me the idea to ask you for a favor.
I should love to teach summer school next year at Stanford. Could you recommend me highly to the chief philosopher there (I don’t know even who he is) or, if there are no philosophy courses, to the sociologist or political scientist? I could teach especially political philosophy, modern European philosophy, any kind of general introduction to philosophy and sociology. Please see what you can do—perhaps only introduce me and my work to the proper persons so that I can write to them subsequently.
It may please you to hear that I have celebrated my 50 birthday!
Have a good time!
Paul A. Baran to Herbert Marcuse
August 19, 1948
Your letter of August 11 reached me only today, as I had left Stanford on the 6th of August. No harm is done, however, by this mix-up since I mentioned your name to a number of people at Stanford on my own initiative. I am pretty sure that something can be worked out there, and, in fact, there may be a possibility of an arrangement which might be permanent. I would like very much to discuss the whole matter with you, but I am not sure at this point when I shall be in Washington. Do you plan to be in New York in the foreseeable future? There is a possibility that I may go away over the Labor Day weekend, but this is uncertain, and apart from that I shall be continuously in New York. It would be useful if we could get together at an early date, since there are a number of things which I would very much like to discuss with you.
I am sorry not to have been appraised in due time of your 50th birthday, since I would have made a point of expressing to you my appreciation of this occasion by something more tangible than congratulations only. I still hope to be able to do so as soon as I see you. In the meantime, however, please accept my most cordial greetings and wishes for another fifty years of equally fruitful activity.
How is Peter’s exploration of Europe coming?
With best regards for both of you,
Yours as Always,
Paul A. Baran
Paul A. Baran to Herbert Marcuse
May 17, 1954
Los Altos, CA
I feel terribly guilty about having delayed so badly writing to you about your manuscript.2 Although there were serious objective reasons for this dilatory behavior of mine, I would be less than candid if I did not confess that I find it extremely difficult to come to grips with your paper. I have read it twice, thought about it a good deal, and arrived at the conclusion that some of my resistance against it might be due to the fact that much of what it contains I used to believe myself, and believe no longer. It could be said perhaps that Koestlerism in reverse is just as bad as the original “ism.” I still would stick to it, rejecting the bon mot and the relativism that it implies, and argue that rebus orbis sic stantibus [things thus standing] I would wish to raise the banner of “Neo-Dogmatism of Reason” and stand and fall with it—in spite of some blemishes and spots that its surface may display.3
But to come more concretely to the “matter in hand”: I do not see much sense in an “immanent critique” if the immanence of the critique consists in examining a historical process in the light of abstract notions. You know better than I do that an operation of this type is utterly unrewarding: truth no less than history is always concrete, and no abstract concept—close to the essence of matters as it may be—will fully encompass the rich Mannigfaltigkeit [diversity] of the actual events. Whether therefore the Russian experience fully corresponds to what Marx and Engels thought about the nature of socialism and the transition to it—is not entirely immaterial but nearly so. What is relevant—in my opinion—is an immanent critique that is focused on the question: given the goal of socialist transformation of society—what should or could the Russian Party have done to make as full as possible use of such historical opportunities as were available to them to attain or to approach this goal? Such a critique can be fruitful because it can isolate mistakes, uncover errors and omissions that if studied may perhaps be avoided by the movement at other times and in other places. Indeed, how else is the problem to be approached? Nobody except perhaps some gehirnverkalkte SPD-Bonzen [brain-calcified SPD bosses] would seriously argue that the revolutionary party should wait with seizure of power until all “previously stipulated” conditions have been faithfully fulfilled. This would be a formula for the repudiation of revolution, a doctrinaire withdrawal from the struggle for socialism, a regression into the most childish of all utopianisms. But if it is possible—and historically it has proven to be possible—for a socialist party to seize power a long way before the conditions for a socialist society have materialized, all that can be reasonably demanded is that this party should do the best it can in promoting the cause of socialism at home and abroad. NB: the best it can is not the best one could think of—there is no more room for utopianism here than before. If this test is applied, I would submit that the Russians have done extremely well, so well in fact as to surpass the most optimistic expectations.
I have the feeling that in appraising the whole matter you brush aside too lightly the problem of the transfer of the class struggle upon the international arena.4 It is undoubtedly true that Marx never conceived of it otherwise. Yet to Marx the international class struggle was a struggle between pre-capitalist and capitalist formations—violent, to be sure, but nothing compared with the class struggle between capitalism and socialism. It is this violent international struggle that has to be kept in the center of attention if the entire story of Communism is to be understood. I do not think that Stalin was ever in the dark on the terribly high internal price that had to be paid for trying to win in the external struggle. The tempo of the industrialization, the resulting privatizations and repressions, the application of terror—all this is a straight function of the external constellation. Similarly only in terms of the international “two camps” situation can the relationship between the USSR and the Communist Parties [CPs] elsewhere be properly understood. It is altogether unforgiveable to say as you do on p. 82: “The class interests of the Western proletariat (and for that matter of the entire proletariat) are sustained in Soviet policy only to the degree to which they promote the political interests of the USSR.” This is a worn cliché that does not become any better through innumerable repetitions! After all, if the USSR and the CP’s in other countries are in one camp (and the other camp puts them very accurately in the same camp!)—how should they operate but by coordinating their sections? If a revolution in Italy or in France in 1947 would have been casus belli for the U.S., and if the danger was paramount that in a war at that time all would perish—the French and the Italian Revolution and the USSR—isn’t it plain common sense that such a revolution should be held back? Or is freedom to be understood so that if a local CP organization wishes to putsch while the national CP isn’t ready, the local organization say in Lyon has to be given freedom of action, the opposite being “bureaucratic repression of proletarian spontaneity”? One cannot have it both ways from an abstract vantage point of “freedom”: if the Russians promote a revolution where and when there is a chance one regards it damnable because the revolution was not spontaneous; if the Russians insist on going slow in another case, one regards it as damnable because it prevents spontaneity (from being dressed up in blood!). I sympathize very much with the idea that spontaneity of the masses is not a means but an end in itself, that it is this spontaneity that constitutes the real liberation from the existential conditions (and ideological shackles) of the capitalist age—but I am not prepared to sacrifice socialism to spontaneity, as I am not willing to sacrifice reason to majority.
That the external clutches have done much to cripple internal developments in Russia (and are now doing much to cripple the internal developments in China) is beyond doubt. Still I believe that there is more to nationalization etc., than you seem to suppose. Those foundations are very massive, very firm, and much that is ugly today will perish, while those foundations will last. Moreover you make one critical mistake in continuously talking about the “underlying” population. Do you really believe that what has been accomplished in the Soviet Union, in China, in Poland, etc., could have been accomplished without a genuine enthusiasm of the broad popular masses? And do you really believe that the enthusiasm is not a reflection of a far-reaching identification of people with their country, their society? I agree with you that under the present circumstances the Rückbesinnung auf das Individuum [Return to the Individual Consciousness] has a progressive element in it. In the Soviet orbit it is too early for it—it will be timely sooner than we think.
At the present time to speak of the repression of human potentialities in the USSR and the countries of the socialist camp is simply “hanebüchen” [outrageous]—it is probably the time of the greatest upsurge of human abilities, creative possibilities ever experienced in human history.
Now a few specific points: I cannot make anything out of what seems to me to be a figment of your imagination, namely “reorganization and reconstruction of the Western world,” “intercontinental political economy” (p. 23) and so forth. Where is that “suspension of the capitalist contradictions on the basis of a truly ‘political economy’” (p. 48)? They are all Traeumereien an Washingtoner Kaminen [reveries while sitting around Washington fireplaces] that dissolve in smoke and dust before the ink writing those sentences has dried. And what is to be made of the remark that the Soviet Union perpetuates the capitalist environment and even promotes its international unification (p. 85)? What should the Soviet Union do about it? Should they “drop dead” because their continuous existence and progress rouses the anger of the capitalists elsewhere? Should they dissolve their military establishment hoping in this way to pacify Mr. Dulles?
There are a number of things I would like to say on the subject of art, but it would get me too far afield.5 So much only: all that you say about Soviet art would be only right if the Soviet reality is as you imply an irrational, a bad reality. If it should be otherwise—why shouldn’t Soviet art reconcile rather than arouse, soothe rather than embitter, harmonize rather than revolutionize? If truth is no longer the nearly exclusive domain of art, why shouldn’t art become part and parcel of truth embodied in the structure of society?
Finally, I think that your remarks are inadequate where you speak (on p. 148) about the “maximum profits” of Stalin.6 The fact that all profits are subject to averaging in the arithmetical sense is not the issue. Ex post for purposes of some calculations you can average out the profits of your corner grocer and of GM—this is of no consequence. Marx assumed—and rightly so for a competitive economy—that the averaging out process takes place in reality (not merely in statistics), i.e. that equal capitals earn equal returns in different employments in reality. What Stalin points out is that monopolistically employed capitals are no longer entering the averaging process in reality, that they manage to get higher profits than the average. Never mind the ex post possibility of statistical averaging! I think that Stalin’s remarks on that are terribly important. Until now the political theory of Marxism-Leninism recognized the existence of imperialism etc. and stuck at the same time to the competitive model underlying Capital. What Stalin essentially does is to invite a rewriting of political economy in terms of monopoly capitalism recognized not only on the imperialism level but also on the level of value, price, etc.
I am now exhausted. I hope you won’t be cross with me for the abruptness and defensiveness of my comments. This is the best I could do in a spontaneous way. There are many more things I would like to discuss with you—in particular your “anarchistic” notions of freedom, but this will have to be left to another occasion. I plan to be in New York early in June, and hope to see you.
Herbert Marcuse to Paul A. Baran
September 22, 1959
In the bulk of the article rennen Sie offene Türen ein [you are charging through open doors]. You construct on page 1 a perfectly legitimate model of “socio-psychologism” which fits practically all neo-Freudian and other schools of psychology but—does not fit Freud at all. In spite of this, you treat Freud on page 2 as the “mainstay of socio-psychologism.” Freud would have endorsed most of your statements, which you advance as refutation of Freud.
My second major point of criticism is your cliché-use of Marxian concepts. It is about time that Marxists come to grip with the problem that the traditional conflict between the irrationality of the whole and the rationality of its parts does not exist anymore in the nineteenth century form. You know damn well that it is precisely through waste and destructiveness that the system maintains itself—and even progresses. You also know that in the most advanced regions of this society, it is precisely this “irrationaliy” which renders possible an increasingly higher standard of living, employment, and other comforts (or discomforts experienced as comforts). Ergo: the irrational turns into the rational. Because you have no right to condemn existing improvements in the struggle for life, and even existing satisfaction, in in the name of a future society. More people are less miserable than they were before, and signs are that this trend will continue. Nobody knows better than I that happiness is an objective content, and that a lot is wrong with the experienced happiness of the administered masses under capitalism. Still: we should have a little bad conscience, which would make us hesitant to restate simply the familiar propositions.
I have made some self-explanatory remarks on the galleys. Those which are not self-explanatory must be discussed orally—I have no time to do so in letters.
[Handwritten] Sorry, old boy. I consider yourself as one of the very few—that’s why I write so emotional.
Herbert Marcuse to Paul A. Baran
July 6, 1961
You ask me to comment on your article “The Commitment of the Intellectual.”9 I have read it, as I read everything you publish, and I cannot give you my criticism because I agree with what you write. What disagreement there is between us, is, as it were, an internal affair. It concerns the manner in which you handle the basic concepts of Marxian theory as if you were dealing with unchangeable ontological categories rather than with inherently historical concepts. The result is an undialectical discrepancy between theory and reality (I emphasize “undialectical” and I don’t believe that you will misunderstand me as advocating a positivistic correspondence between theory and reality), which makes all too often concepts appear as clichés. I repeat: this is an internal affair, and I hasten to add that in the present state of the world, even the most ossified Marxism (I don’t mean yours) still tells the truth, probably alone still tells the truth. So let’s leave it by that. The critical reexamination has no place in what we have to say about Cuba, about the U.S., about Arschlesingers [A pun expressing a somewhat disrespectful opinion of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr ], etc.—it is something that has to be done almost under Ausschluss der Oeffentlichkeit [behind closed doors], or at least as an academic matter (academic in the best sense). The upshot of this long-winded communication is that we are with all our heart and brain following you, agreeing with you, admiring you in rebus politicicis [in the political arena]. Es ist eine Wohltat [It is a job well done.].10
As to us: we are preparing for our departure to Paris, where we hope to spend the next academic year (my sabbatical). Is there any chance of seeing you before August 25, and if not, over there? I would love to talk with you, also about my book, which I hope to complete within the next year (working title: essays in the dialectic of advanced industrial society).
Keep it up, old man! May the gods be with you!
With best wishes also from Inge.
[P.S.] Aren’t you lucky to get the fatter half of Dissent to Stanford?11
Paul A. Baran to Herbert Marcuse
July 11, 1961
Big Sur, California
Much obliged by your kind letter of July 6th which reached me here via Stanford. My sitting in this rat hole in the midst of nowhere is what the British call a command performance. The M.D.s who make an organized effort to crush a man’s life before it leaves him on its own accord, have ordered me to “withdraw” from the world for a while because in the course of my usual routine I was apparently unable to get rid of various sequels of last December’s heart attack. There may have been some wisdom in that: I feel much better out here “wo sich die Hexen gute Nacht sagen” [where the witches bid themselves goodnight] although it annoys me no end that in this way I am not going to Europe this August as was originally planned. But D (and M.D.) V [Latin: God (and Mother of God) Willing] —I’ll go next Spring; let me know how you can be located in France.
What you say about the intellectuals article is entirely justified. As Alfred Marshall used to remark (unaware of the contradiction he was getting into) “all short statements are false,” and I realize fully the lack of the historical dimension in my treatment of the matter. This will be mended—I hope—in a somewhat expanded and worked over version of the story which should come out sometime next year in a volume of assorted tidbits.12 At the present time I am too busy trying to finish a book (together with Sweezy) on American capitalism, and must leave for the time being all other things aside.13
Your remark that even the most ossified Marxism is these days a fountain of truth compared with what parades as social science and philosophy was to me a particularly à propos since I had just finished reading the Introduction by Fromm to a paperback edition of Marx’s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (Marx’s Concept of Man, New York, 1961).14 You must have a look at this thing, if you haven’t yet. This outpouring of Fromm’s setzt wirklich dem Fass die Krone [really tops it all off]. After Mr. Strachey and Co. have turned the old man into a meritorious—if somewhat confused—predecessor of Keynes and Gaitskill, Mr. Fromm promotes him to a follower of Meister Eckhart and to a Zen Buddhist thus providing him with the distinction of having anticipated no less a figure than Erich Fromm himself.15 On all of the 80 pages of the rubbish that he wrote about Marx—in order to acquaint the American public with thoughts of “that great thinker”—Fromm managed not to mention once the class struggle, not to use once the word revolution, not to say anything about the development of the forces of production, about antagonistic interests. I don’t think that I have ever read anything as scandalous and at the same time as manifestly dishonest. The fellow falsifies outright, misquotes, garbles. Even by the current standards the whole thing is an absolute outrage. By the way, since he finds it expedient to lick your boots on a couple of occasions, it would be most desirable if you reviewed this thing somewhere. Rejecting positivism is one thing, sinking into the mud of mysticism is another. And surely there is nothing that is more conducive to discrediting Marx in the eyes of such young people who at least potentially might begin to understand something than exposing them to the gibberish that Mr. Fromm has the temerity to call Marxism.
That Mr. Howe is coming to Stanford is a serious blow. My position at the University has become very precarious indeed—as a consequence of the Cuba uproar primarily—and his arrival on the scene won’t make things any better. They cannot fire me without a scandal and I am not prepared to offer my resignation to oblige them—for reasons all of which are obvious—but there are now more and more influential people on the Campus who would accept the scandal and get it over with. Mr. Howe will undoubtedly join this distinguished brigade. The main trouble is, by the way, that the University is engaged in a big money raising campaign (which is not an exceptional situation) and a number of potential donors (or previous donors) have diverted their munificence from Stanford to other institutions explicitly because Stanford employs an individual like me. Und wenn es zu Geld Kommt, hoert die Gemuetlichkeit auf [and when it comes to money, here stops the amiability.] But we’ll see what happens. Our illustrious President has called me in once, another encounter is scheduled for August. Incidentally, our Department has appointed Emile Despres (you must remember him from OSS) who will become a major figure here. I am not sure what effect this will have for somehow I don’t trust the guy. Good old conservatives are a hell of a lot better to deal with than those “former radicals” who have to live down their earlier sins.
I might go with Nicky for a week or so to Martha’s Vineyard toward the end of August in which case there is a chance of my being in your proximity and seeing you. If this should not work out—next year in France. But let me know where you’ll be.
All the best and regards for Inge.
Paul A. Baran to Herbert Marcuse
October 30, 1962
Palo Alto, California
Only a few words in re: publishing.16 I assume that you have been in touch with Cameron at Knopf. Another possibility is Athenaeum in New York. But if all those commercial publishers do not work, you may want to consider Stanford University Press. Its Director, Leon Seltzer, is a very enterprising man and might very well be inclined to publish a “prestige item,” even if it is not altogether comme il faut [proper] on other grounds. I know him quite well, but I could easily have someone else talk to him so as not to burden the project with my “recommendation.” If this should also fail, you should definitely give some thought to finding an English publisher. Most of them have the drawback of being terribly slow; there is one, however, who is both perfectly respectable and efficient: MacGibbon & Kee, London. They are nice people, quite progressive and would undoubtedly swallow your book immediately. Also Routledge’s would do it, except they take their time.
But I would by all means try the Stanford Press; the chances are very good that they’ll take it; there are also enough admirers of yours on the Campus to give Seltzer a push.
The last week I spent in a state of suspended animation but now I resume suffering on the MS which should be finished before too long.17
On other things some other time.
Tout à vous [Everything to you]
Herbert Marcuse to Paul A. Baran [handwritten]
March 22, 1963
Lieber [Dear] Paul:[In German] Believe it or not: still no proofs of my manuscript available: two went to Europe for translation, and one is here for (hopefully) the final corrections.18 [In English] This is your just punishment for simply not having answered my long letter of November 16, 1962!19
However, I remain your obedient servant.
Paul A. Baran to Herbert Marcuse
April 18, 1963
Palo Alto, CA
Thank you very much for your letter of April 14th. On its substantive part, some other time before too long. Meanwhile only a reiteration of my plea to send me a copy of the MS as soon as one becomes available.20 The political developments in Argentina render my expedition there increasingly questionable: the people at the University don’t even answer letters any more. If this falls through, as it well may, I shall go in August for 6-8 weeks to Europe from where I received a number of invitations. In that case I would turn up in the East early in August (or late in July) and would very much like to have an opportunity of holding a Summit Meeting with you on matters of mutual interest. Where do you plan to be at the time. Chez vous [home] or vacationing somewhere? Let me know, please, at your convenience; I might be able to arrange matters so as to visit you for a day or two.
“Recommend me” to Inge and Michael,
As ever, [Paul]
P.S. I must take some time off from other things and express my weighty views of the Sino-Soviet stuff; the relevant literature is interesting and exasperating.
II. Letters Translated from German*
Paul A. Baran to Herbert Marcuse
October 7, 1962
Palo Alto, CA
Oo, oh! Where did your manuscript get stuck?21 I am lusting after it like a thirsty man for water and I don’t know how I can get hold of it. Send it to me, I beg you, even if it has not yet attained a condition of absolute perfection and even if you are still caught up in the process of revision and “purification”. It will be sent back to you as quickly as possible and I will be infinitely indebted to you in gratitude.
Several days ago I received two volumes from Frankfurt: (1) M.H. [Max Horkheimer] & T.W.A. [Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno], Reden und Vorträge [Speeches and Lectures] and (2) T.W.A. Noten zur Literatur II [Notes on Literature, Vol. 2]. I have not yet read everything, but what I have read, I find repulsive. That Mr. Adorno calls Marx impudent after scolding Lukács like a schoolboy (largely unjustly) is only a question of taste. But that Mr. Horkheimer in his lectures on “Philosophie als Kulturkritik” [“Philosophy as Cultural Critique”] and “Verantwortung und Studium” [“Responsibility and Study”] exudes his shallow moralizing snobbery; and on the one hand he does not disdain putting in a good word for the dueling fraternities, while on the other hand condescendingly grinning down at the undeveloped nations that are intent on increasing their consumption as quickly as possible – that is already a sign of “dialectical” degeneration that only makes one want to vomit. And I have to say that the whole thing is especially disgusting coming from him (of all people!)! Where, when, how has there ever been a situation of freedom in which one could be “one’s own master.” And what is the meaning of being one’s “own master” if that “own master” exercises his freedom according to the principle of “let the Kaiser be absolute, as long as he does our bidding” [“auch der Kaiser absolute, wenn er unseren Willen tut”]? What sense does it have – dialectically, nota bene – to get all agitated about conformism etc. without explaining what kind of conformism it is that one is speaking about? Of all the idiotic mouse traps that here are set everywhere, this conformist nonsense is the most dim-witted. There would certainly be nothing to say against a conformism that consisted of saving a drowning child or that one takes care when driving not to squash any pedestrians! And there is certainly nothing more dumbing, nothing more dishonest than the current celebrated “controversy” over whether it would be better to invade Cuba or to strangle it through a blockade or whether it would be better to spend more money for the study of bad sociology or of equally bad philosophy. – The dialectic of these gentlemen, from which all history and all philosophy has fallen away, has been transformed into pure obscurantism despite all of Adorno’s sharp-sighted observations and deep insights. With Horkheimer, even all of these have disappeared and what remains is an old well-to-do gentleman who yearns for the good old days when there were servants and when one could pursue his “fine self-cultivation” [feine Bildung”]. What is disturbing to one who knows him is the psychological falsity of the whole affair; the knowledge that if there is someone who has only acted in the light of “subjective reason,” then it is the speaker himself; the conviction that can’t be gotten rid of is that he is concerned only with the master and not the servant despite all sentimental niceties.
But all that just in passing; the typewriter has a momentum of its own that encourages one to write more than was originally intended. I hope that you will forgive me and attribute it to my Siberian exile in California where there is no one “to talk to” [“zur Ansprache”] and that you will soon send me the intellectual nourishment that I so desperately need.
Extend my best wishes to Inge and Michael. The latter especially I heartily congratulate on the success of his election campaign; but he should not imagine that his candidate will end up in the Senate. Democracy does not yet reach that far.
Herbert Marcuse to Paul A. Baran
October 27, 1962
Your letter did, despite everything, gladden my heart.
Where is my manuscript stuck? As I predicted: massive difficulties in getting it published. At present there are three copies with different presses. At least one of them said candidly that there are political grounds against publication – the others are less candid, but the result is (thus far) the same. On the one hand, I am pleased once again to confront the world spirit [Weltgeist]; on the other hand, I can’t understand how, given the current situation, this world spirit finds the time and concern to become alarmed by my manuscript! Be that as it may: the copy intended for you is with some publisher. When I get it back, I will send it to Stanford (although I do not know what my philosophical scribblings have to offer you).
As for Messieurs Max and Teddy: unfortunately, I am d’accord avec vous [in accord with you]. I haven’t read Max’s lecture: I have always found Teddy’s “political” utterances rather abhorrent and have told him so in writing. Incidentally, privatim Horkheimer talks very differently! I was especially pleased by what you had to say about conformism: why not a small treatise to this effect? Conformism has as its prerequisite the adaptation of one’s (own) thinking and feeling [des (eigenen) Denkens und Fühlens†] to that which is socially demanded and dominant – we are further along today: thinking and feeling for oneself are a priori identical with that of the society that has become the state. Result: lunacy as the normal condition.
About the so-called world situation—I don’t need to tell you anything. The only question: where does one go???
No one has any illusions about Hughes’s chances. And yet, one must put everything into him receiving at least an impressionable number of votes. – And how is it going with your book???
In this spirit, also from Inge
very much so
Did you see Frank Manuel?
What does he say? [handwritten]
Paul A. Baran to Herbert Marcuse
November 5, 1962
Palo Alto, CA.
Since I received your letter of 27 October, I have thought about a comment in it that pertains to something that interests me very much. You say “conformism has as its prerequisite the adaptation of one’s (own) thought and feeling to that which is socially demanded and dominant – we are further along today: one’s own thinking and feeling are a priori identical with that of the society that has become the state.” There is no doubt about the facts of the matter themselves and the second comment describes them precisely. The first comment however points to a situation that is less clear to me. Whence comes the initial thinking and feeling “of one’s own” that is to conform, which, as must be assumed, characterized earlier times (not “today”)? If one does not want to accept the foolery [Unfug] about the erstwhile “autonomous individual,” then one must assume too that one’s “own” thinking and feeling was also in the past somehow socially constituted and that an aspect of this feeling and thinking “was precisely its individual uniqueness [Eigenheit]. One cannot explain psychologically the difference between then and now (where this, as you say, no longer holds). Although the structure of the family, the Oedipus complex etc. have changed considerably, I do not believe that the changes are so radical that they could be held responsible for such a thoroughgoing reorganization of thinking and feeling. (And incidentally, if they could be, they would themselves have to be explained.) – The hypothesis that comes to my mind which might make the matter more comprehensible (and about which I would gladly know your opinion) is the following: the bourgeoisie an sich [per se] and bourgeois thinking in general has existed for centuries and its thinking (and feeling) also existed in the “good old days” in a more or less disorganized, spontaneous and amorphous condition. Elements of feudal thought and feeling formed important components of the whole; under competitive conditions there were groups and individual differences between bourgeois and bourgeois.
Neither monopolistically concentrated nor seriously threatened in its position of dominance in society, the bourgeoisie did not need to consider itself a whole [Ganzes]; the state did indeed represent the class as a whole; but in the representation, it did not need to synchronize [gleichzuschalten] the interests, indeed the thinking and feeling of the individual bourgeois. The class existed “in itself” without necessarily existing in the head of each individual capitalist “for itself”. Thus the possibility of “one’s own” thinking and feeling (like the possibility of one’s own business) that was bourgeois through and through but which also admitted all possible shades. (The same thing, incidentally, [occurs] within the working class where the interest of the class as a whole was only realized by radicals like Rosa and Lenin while the others represented everyday or partial interests and for that reason also put much thinking of one’s own on display). Under fascism (and monopoly), the interest of the class as a whole (whether understood rightly or wrongly, which is not the decisive matter) becomes the only measure; synchronization [Gleichschaltung] excludes everything of “one’s own”; the class interest (or rather: the interpretation of the class interest) is decreed from above, and even for the child still suckling mother’s milk. Here too, moreover, a parallel with the workers’ movement: aside from all of his personal abominations, Stalin’s function was indeed also to hammer a conception of the interest of the whole into the Russian working class, to synchronize [gleichschalten] it [the working class] at the costs of partial considerations and partial interests which ran counter to it [the interest of the whole]. (Here too the question, whether his interpretation of what the interest of the class as a whole was right or wrong, is for the moment incidental).
– From all that would follow that if (a) the class increasingly organized and concentrated itself and peeled off the pre-capitalist organizations and forms of consciousness (as well as those corresponding to the period of competition), and (b) the class struggle (in this case in the international arena) sharpens, then the space for “one’s own” will be narrowed on both sides of the front line and will wholly disappear. It is never a matter of a plurality of different interpretations of what the class interest is, nor is there any longer a possibility of pursuing (and expressing) partial interests – now it is an either-or; either synchronization [Gleichschaltung] with the interpretation of the interest of the class as a whole (and this interpretation is delivered by 500 American corporations and their scientists and scribes)‡ or banishment into nothingness.
And the interpretation, that is now coming into question, is accepted by the individual as necessarily the only truth; for indeed, in monopoly capitalism there are really almost no partial interests; the interests of the 500 corporations are the interests of all bourgeois (and at least in the short run also the interests of the entire nation!) That it is otherwise in the socialist world is completely understandable: the interests of the class as a totality are perpetually in contradiction with the interests hic et nunc [here and now] (more iron works for the future or more to eat today) and the interests of individual parts of the class are in immediate conflict with the interests of the entire class. Therefore actually, the synchronization [Gleichschaltung] [is] there [in the socialist world] much less reliable; and therefore too [there are] so many currents and tendencies etc. in their thinking, and I therefore believe it thoroughly probable that there is more of “one’s own” than under monopoly capital…
There is much more to say about all of this; this in part – as the old man said for the purpose of self-understanding, but also in order to learn of your reaction concerning this matter.22 I must apologize for my noticeably fading German, but hope that the main components of that which I intended to say are more or less clear.
Dark clouds are gathering on the Stanford horizon; the breadgivers§ are becoming increasingly nervous and are desperately seeking an appropriate formula to dangle that same bread higher. On verra! In the meantime I have been invited to Buenos Aires for a semester (August – December 1963) and will see if it perhaps somewhat more bearable there. …
Write when time permits.
All the best and best wishes also to Inge + Michael
Herbert Marcuse to Paul A. Baran
November 16, 1962
Newton 58, Mass.
Your letter of 5 November is so weighty that it cannot be responded to in one letter: nothing can replace a personal discussion here. But I will attempt to address at least some points.
You state: the “thinking for oneself” that is to be adapted is itself already “somehow socially constituted”, and you explain the “relative” independence of thinking and feeling in pre-monopolistic bourgeois societies by means of the class situation in “liberal” capitalism (one’s own business, control, competition). This situation is decisively transformed in the monopolistic period: total synchronization [Gleichschaltung] in all areas becomes an economic, political, intellectual necessity. – I am in complete agreement. Also with your reference to the “feudal elements” in bourgeois culture I agree even more fully: “even more fully” because I have already for a long time defended the thesis that in the strict sense, there is no bourgeois culture – that everything in it that is “culture” originates in the feudal period (and then becomes bourgeoisified). So far so good. BUT: as correct as it is that all of the thinking (and feeling) of one’s own is “somehow socially constituted”, just as correct, it also seems to me, is that this constitution “in itself” goes beyond the given class determination, that it “transcends” the real possibility. Here you must also obligingly accept the philosophical terminology, and you will perhaps do so if I assure you that this transcendence is, in a strict and exclusive sense, historical transcendence. “Thinking for oneself” can simply be foolishness or craziness, and the contradiction to the society only nonsense or appearance or (today!) bred, manipulated, rewarded by the society itself. Where thinking for oneself really stands in contradiction, it contains an intention toward real historical possibilities – and the memory of the not-realized (the betrayed or defeated) historical possibilities. Then too the concepts of this thinking are “somehow” socially constituted – there are no other concepts; but the (past and present) society is at the same time (in thinking) “sublated” sublimated?? [aufgehoben], negated (in thinking) on the basis of its own possibilities. Abstractness in this sense bears witness to the authenticity of this thinking until it finds its concreteness in the real movement of society (in which it is itself a co-worker!).
Just one more thing: you speak of the “function” (in an objective-historical sense), to “indoctrinate” or to “decree” for a class the interest of the whole (its) interest as a whole, and you add in a parenthesis: “(whether understood rightly or wrongly, which is not the decisive matter)”. Really not decisive??? I believe that we can never and may never avoid the question of what the criteria for the determination of the interest of the whole are or could be, where its legitimation is, and whether it can ever exculpate itself from the mass victims of its “immediate” interests (exculpate itself not before God but rather before the victims themselves). I am practically daily faced with this question by my students – and, good Paul, I don’t know the answer! I can say that nobody ever gave a damn about the victims of history and that I refuse to apply a double standard of morality beginning with the Bolshevik Revolution – but this does not satisfy me and my students. I WANT YOUR ANSWER!
Still no decision about the publication of my book. The problem is with the “outside readers.” The book contains extremely sharp (and in part really unacademic and impolite) critique of the dominant Anglo-American philosophy and sociology (positivism; the misplaced concreteness” of empirical sociology; Wittgenstein, etc.); everyone who identifies with these positions (and what outside reader doesn’t?) will probably deliver a negative verdict. Given these conditions, is there really any sense in trying with Stanford – aside from the outspoken political character of the book???
How can Argentina be more bearable? Do you not have any better idea of where one can go to?! For good – i.e. with the possibility of “earning a living”.
Heartfelt greetings also from Inge and Michael,
Paul A. Baran to Herbert Marcuse
March 27, 1963
Palo Alto, California
Unfortunately I must agree with you: as regrettable as it is that I still have not been able to see the manuscript of your book, it is true that I completely deserve this punishment. I have long intended to respond to your letter of 16 November, but I have not been able to get to it because of overwork, general sloppiness and above all a miserable mood. Hopefully you will forgive me for that and give the following a few minutes of your attention.
I am completely in agreement with you that “thinking for oneself” transcends the social status quo and contains an implicit and explicit intention toward real historical possibilities. It is less clear to me that it also contains a memory of not-realized (betrayed or defeated) potentialities, because I am not so convinced that such have ever existed… This memory and this thinking back to that which humanity could have done but missed the opportunity to do has a strong unhistorical aftertaste and can very easily be reformulated into an idealization of a crazy past which is then nothing other than reactionary. But much more important is: is it possible for this “thinking of one’s own that is oriented toward historical possibilities”¶ really to be one’s own and to slip away from class determination? Isn’t it precisely therein that lies the difference, that you rightfully emphasized, between foolishness and the “social critique” cultivated by the powers that be on the one hand and authentic revolutionary thinking on the other, and that the latter reflects the objective interests of the oppressed. I am very aware of the fact that it is not so simple with the interests of the oppressed as it appeared to Marx and Engels and many others after them; it is especially fully clear that the objective interests and the subjective consciousness of the oppressed are miles apart. What is still worse: it is precisely this distance between objective interests and subjective consciousness that represents the decisive attribute of the oppressed themselves. Nonetheless, if one cuts through the relation between the thinking that intends toward historical possibilities and the interests of those who alone could realize those possibilities, even if only virtually, then doesn’t one transform one’s “own” thinking precisely into that foolishness against which we both protest? The difference between relevant future-bearing utopia and the usual nonsense is not – I believe – to be seen in the fact that the former is more significant (or more abstract) than the latter; the difference – I would opine – is that it is possible, even if only with a magnifying glass, in the one case to discover the as always small sprouts of a better society, while the nonsense exists nowhere except in the head of him who thinks of it. And if one considers the sprouts of a possible historical possibility, then one must just think that the truth is the whole, that the Occident, that will perhaps (highly probably) perish, is not the only relevant region and that perhaps the good God has now decided to recompense the children’s children of Ham for the injustice that was originally done to them. That does not mean that the historical possibilities that are perhaps being realized in Asia, Africa, Latin America, will be realized just as we imagine them or as we would like, but Clio is, as is well-known, a capricious deity; one cannot dictate to her, one can however extract from her much that is useful.
That brings me to another problem that is raised briefly in your letter. There is very much and very little to say about it. Lenin’s well-known statement that the one who accepts only a pure, snow-white revolution de facto repudiates all [revolutions] is treated as a banality, but it contains nevertheless a significant truth content. If the moral question only consisted of whether one is for virtue or sin, then there would not be any moral question. The whole joke is finally whether one also accepts sin in the sense of an “ethics of responsibility” if one is convinced that the historical possibilities cannot otherwise be realized. Much more important, however, are two considerations. First, it can – I think – be convincingly shown (Fleming’s two volumes over Soviet-Western relations since 1917 delivers part of the proof) that all Soviet swinishness [Schweinereien] were reactions to Western swinishness. I would go so far as to say that without Hitler, there would have been no Stalin (although Stalin in and for himself carried in himself all the potentialities for all swinishness of all kinds). The case of Cuba is even more instructive: if there has ever been a true, beautiful [schöne], humane, renewing and rejuvenating revolution made by the people, then it was the Cuban Revolution. And if a modicum of swinishness developed there (I don’t know whether and how much), then there is in this case really no doubt who caused it… Moreover, with this swinishness of revolutions it is a little like it goes in the anecdote where the youth who has murdered his father begs the judge for recognition of mitigating circumstances, for he is an orphan… Secondly, however – and your students who burden you with questions should also consider this – it is a well-known and completely naturalized [eingebürgert] trick (naturalized [eingebürgert] in both senses of the word**) to calculate the costs of revolutions not only precisely, but also to exaggerate them without having even thrown the costs of the status quo onto the scales. Is the one who has been hanged at the command of the revolutionary tribunal more dead or more valuable than the one dying of hunger under a counter- revolutionary regime? According to everything I have heard and read, no one dies of hunger today in China; in the “good old days” there were millions who did. Enclosed a small excerpt from the San Francisco Chronicle (please send it back to me) which speaks volumes. “Nobody ever gave a damn about the victims of history” and you refuse “to apply a double standard of morality beginning with the Bolshevik Revolution.” Completely d’accord. But then let us really apply only one stand of morality, and not judge the status quo according to that which we see in Palo Alto, Newton or Paris, but also according to that which is going on in Mississippi [sic], Detroit, French coal cities, Calcutta and Sicilian villages! Nothing could suit the bourgeois better than to emphasize the costs of the revolution and to appeal to the moral feeling of those who do not want to forget the victims of history, and yet at the same time to view the costs of the status quo as the normal course of history where all dying proceeds in an orderly and legal manner. Of all the dishonest swindles with which we are surrounded this is perhaps the most deceitful… if one abhors the costs of the revolution – and I abhor them no less than you do – then one should also keep the other costs plainly in view and unfortunately – here I am perhaps being to much of an economist – draw comparisons! I would bet my head on the wager that up till now revolutions (all, inclusive and no exceptions) have been “cheaper” than counter-revolutions and the maintenance of law and order. And if one thinks about Madagascar or the Philippines, about Vietnam or now Iraq, about Greece and Turkey, about Kenya or about African-Americans without even considering now Auschwitz and Belsen and without speaking about 30 million war causalities (that are Hitler’s victims); I do not know whether, without a double standard of morality, there could be much doubt about the account balance. One could naturally say that the realization of historical possibilities should use other means than those that are used for the maintenance of the existing mess [Sauerei]. Naturally. But it takes at least two to play the game and the rules are not formulated by only one of the players. Finally: one could say furthermore that that which is being realized there [in the Soviet Union] is not that which we imagined as the realization of historical possibilities. That too is true, but shouldn’t one really have in this case a bit more patience? I am in any case convinced that there the foundations of a better society are being laid and in that I am a vulgar Marxist who believes that the private property of the means of production is no peripheral quirk, but lies at the very center of the matter. Already in the last ten years, more has happened there that points toward historical possibilities than in any other decade in history.
All of that does not mean that it is not, hic et nunc [here and now], enough to make one vomit and the question of what kind of a sense there is in all this dreck here is not easy to get free of. Mais que faire [But what]?
Do not take revenge on me and write what you think about the above as soon as time permits. Most heartfelt greetings to Inge and Michael,
Herbert Marcuse to Paul A. Baran
Unfortunately I have little to say about your letter of March 27: I am in almost complete agreement with that which you said. On some point there must however be a misunderstanding: I thoroughly insist on one†† morality and on the fact that the status quo has always demanded more victims than the revolution. To whom are you saying this?
Your differentiation between “relevant utopia pregnant with the future and pure idiocy”: certainly, the former must point toward historical possibilities, but the trouble is that there are always different and antagonistic historical possibilities. One must therefore have recourse to the “objective interest” – namely, that [objective interest] in the construction of a free society. Only, in order to be historical and as such real, this interest must itself be verifiable: as the interest of specific social classes, as their vital need. Such a vital need to get rid of truly intolerable conditions – where is it today? With the last of the underprivileged in the underprivileged areas of our world, with the starving and outcast. And it seems to me that there, this need is channeled in the wrong direction!
I am having two copies of my manuscript prepared – one is intended for you if you haven’t already departed for Argentina. Furthermore, I find it shameful that you are not coming here first!
In this spirit,
Asterisk Notes (Footnotes to Section 2 by translator)
- * Notes on the Translation: Words that appear in the translation in languages other than English or German were written in that language in the original. Words in the original that were typed with letters separated for emphasis have been italicized. In addition, all translations of the phrase “das eigene Denken” and its variations have been italicized (see following note).
- † The idea expressed in this phrase, “das eigene Denken ind Fühlen” (in genetive case in the passage here) becomes a major topic of discussion in the following letters and the phrase itself recurs often. The reference here is to the traditional, at one point also revolutionary bourgeois notion of the autonomous individual who thinks and feels for himself and creates his [the traditional bourgeois subject was certainly conceived as male] own individual and independent thoughts and feelings. In this passage I have translated it literally as “one’s own thinking and feeling”. In some occurrences in the following, however, such a rendering of the phrase would result in a rather awkward sentence and fail to convey the meaning. Depending on context therefore, I have also rendered the phrase as “thinking and feeling of one’s own” and “thinking and feeling for onesself”. In the following, as here, I will italicize each translation of “das eigene Denken und Fühlen“ as a reminder that they are variations of the same German phrase.
- ‡ The closed parenthesis was lacking in the original.
- § Brotgeber – in English idiom, “keepers of the purse strings”
- ¶ closed quotation mark added.
- ** It is impossible to translate the German verb einbürgern and yet retain the two senses to which Baran refers. These are on the one hand to “naturalize”, “acclimatize”, “acculturate”, and on the other the allusion of the verb’s root to the noun “Bürger” or “bourgeois”. In referring to “both senses of the word”, he is pointing both to the “naturalizing” the trick, or rendering it commonplace, but doing so in a particularly “bourgeois” manner, that is as a particularly “bourgeois” trick.
- †† all words in italics were written in English in the original
Numerical Notes (Endnotes by Editor)
- ↩All endnotes in this document (including both sections 1 and 2) are by the editor. Footnotes in section 2 are by the translator. Square brackets in the text in section 1 are by the editor.
- ↩A manuscript version of Marcuse’s Soviet Marxism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1958). The original page numbers in Baran’s letter have been retained but do not relate to the published version of the manuscript. Where possible appropriate citations to the published book are given in the endnotes here.
- ↩Baran is referring to Hungarian-born Arthur Koestler and his novel Darkness at Noon (New York: New American Library, 1941) dealing with the purge in the Soviet Union and the Moscow show trials. Baran (and Paul Sweezy) were strong admirers of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Humanism and Terror (Boston: Beacon, 1969), which they thought of as a strong response to what Baran refers to here as “Koestlerism,” and which they tried to get published in English. (Sweezy to Baran, January 20, 1951, Sweezy to Blackwell, May 26, 1951, , Sweezy to Baran, June 29, 1951, and Sweezy to Baran, January 25, 1953, in Baran and Sweezy Correspondence, Baran Papers, Monthly Review Foundation).
- ↩Baran here is raising questions about Marcuse’s discussion of the “two camps” interpretation of the international split during the Cold War and the nature of Soviet foreign policy. See Marcuse, Soviet Marxism, 56-77.
- ↩See Marcuse, Soviet Marxism, 129-35.
- ↩In this paragraph Baran is replying directly to Marcuse’s presentation of Stalin’s ideas on the importance of “maximum profit” under monopoly capitalism and the declining meaning of average profits—explaining the economic significance of the notions that Marcuse has quoted. See Marcuse, Soviet Marxism, 165. See Joseph Stalin, Economic Problems of Socialism in the U.S.S.R. (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1952), 43.
- ↩The galleys referred to here were to Paul A. Baran, “Marxism and Psychoanalysis,” Monthly Review, 11, no. 6 (October 1959): 186-200.
- ↩See Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization (New York: Vintage, 1955).
- ↩Paul A. Baran, “The Commitment of the Intellectual,” Monthly Review, 13, no. 1 (May 1961): 8:-18.
- ↩Marcuse is referring to Paul Baran’s very public defense of Cuba on the radio and in print for which he was being persecuted at Stanford.
- ↩The reference is to Irving Howe.
- ↩This undoubtedly referred to Baran’s planned book The Longer View, which was delayed, however, and was not published by Monthly Review Press, until 1969, five years after his death.
- ↩This refers to the manuscript for Paul A. Baran and Paul M. Sweezy, Monopoly Capital (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1966)—published two years after Baran’s death.
- ↩The reference is to Erich Fromm, Marx’s Concept of Man (New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1961). Baran, as his letters to Sweezy indicate, was very enthusiastic about Fromm’s earlier book The Sane Society (New York: Rinehart and Co, 1955). On this see “Letter Three: Paul Baran to Paul M. Sweezy, November 28, 1956,” Monthly Review 65, no. 10 (March 2014): 43. Fromm, like Baran and Marcuse, had been associated with the Institute for the Study of Social Research in Frankfurt in pre-Hitler Germany. Baran and Marcuse, however, both treated the development of “socialist humanism” by Fromm and others with some suspicion due to its one-sided approach to Marxist theory (even if in many ways a corrective to previous distortions of Marxism). On this see Herbert Marcuse, “Baran’s Critique of Modern Society and the Social Sciences,” Monthly Review 65, no. 10 (March 2014): 20-29.
- ↩Baran’s comment on Fromm and Zen Buddhism was probably meant to refer to D.T. Zuzuki, Erich Fromm, and Richard De Martino, Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis. (New York: Harper and Row, 1960).
- ↩Marcuse was having trouble finding a publisher willing to take on his new book One-Dimensional Man eventually published by Beacon Press in Boston in 1964.
- ↩Baran is probably referring here to the manuscript to Monopoly Capital with Sweezy.
- ↩The book manuscript referred to here is One Dimensional Man.
- ↩Marcuse’s November 16, 1962 referred to here was written in German and has been translated by Joseph Fracchia in section 2 of this document, followed by Baran’s letter of March 27, 1963 also translated by Fracchia and included in section 2 here.
- ↩Baran is referring to the manuscript to Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man. Marcuse sent him a manuscript copy, which Baran commented on in his letters to Sweezy. Baran’s copy of the manuscript was found in Baran’s papers upon his death. (Paul M. Sweezy to Herbert Marcuse, March 29, 1964).
- ↩The manuscript to One Dimensional Man.
- ↩Karl Marx, A Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1970), 22.