West German Re-Engagement with Marx

The re-emergence of Marx-based critique in the West Germany of the 1960s is associated with many names. These names refer less to protagonists of specific readings of Marx in the narrow sense than to persons who prepared the ground for a new engagement with Marx and a renewal of "critique following Marx."

Alfred Schmid became the "pioneer of an undogmatic and emancipatory reception of Marx" in Frankfurt. This reception was associated with other students of Adorno such as Hans-Georg Backhaus, Helmut Reichelt and Hans-Jürgen Krahl. The political scientist and legal scholar Wolfgang Abendroth should also be mentioned; he and others, such the sociologist Werner Hoffmann, were associated with the Marxist "Marburg school" in political science. Frank Deppe is one of their "students." Other protagonists of a new engagement with Marx include Oskar Negt, Wolfgang Fritz Haug and Helmut Reinicke.

In the Federal Republic of Germany, re-engagement with Marx occurred mainly as part of the student movement, as well as in various academic institutions; later, it occurred in the "New Social Movements," but also, in part, within the classic parties and organisations of the left. Their motives were consistently identical: it was a question of critically confronting post-war society and renewing post-Marx critique. This renewal was achieved, on the one hand, via a return to and rereading of Marx's texts; on the other hand, it had, as it were, been prepared by left socialism and the various currents of "Western and Heterodox Marxism," in particular by Critical Theory.

Today, this re-engagement with Marx is continued mainly within critical sociology, within trade union circles, among left social democrats and, to some extent, within the Left Party and groups associated with social movements. Important forums of debate and theoretical work include the journals Das Argument and Prokla, for example.