From Frankfurt with Love

Photo source Jjshapiro | CC BY 2.0


Axel Honneth paces in a lavish office on an upper floor of a building overlooking the Main. In the middle of the room, a Ouija board sits on a table next to a bust of Vater Karl with papers strewn about. A pamphlet lies on top of the mess, entitled SMUSH: Special Methods Upholding Socialist Hegemony. The ghosts of Lukács and Gramsci shuffle around the room, sullen yet dignified. Behind the professor’s desk sits Rosa Luxembourg, water from the Landwehr mixing with her tears and dripping onto the carpet. In a dark corner Habermas is slumped over asleep in a captain’s chair, snoring loudly under a portrait of Max and Teddy. Surrounded by candles, Angela Davis sits cross-legged on the floor reciting incantations from Walter Benjamin’s personal notes on Kabbalah. On a far wall is an evidence board and under a subheading of Enemies is written: God, Country, Western Civilization.

(End Scene)

Such are the flights of fancy envisioned by today’s deluded, hysterical fascist lunatics. Many label anyone mildly socialist as treasonous, spouting vague platitudes about “cultural Marxists” or “postmodernists” while not understanding that the first phrase is completely meaningless, or having any comprehension of the second.

The undertones of racism, homophobia, sexism, and anti-Semitism of many of these wannabe blood and soil influencers are obvious. They have no shame or ethics.

Their goal is to cement and enshrine a Eurocentric patriarchal updated version of fascism with all of the segregated, structurally racist, and hierarchical elements. In public spaces fascists hide under the banner of “far-right” or “ethno-nationalist populists”. They should be confronted, physically if necessary. They should not be given outlets to the media, as the New York Times and many other publications did last year. They should be shunned, ignored- shown tough love.

On the flip side, we should encourage the teachings of and engagement with many of the German Jewish Marxist thinkers, including the Frankfurt School, their colleagues and intellectual descendants.

The historical amnesia is appalling. Who in mainstream media can recall the origins of Antifa? The lessons of the critical theorists? The lives and fates of Luxembourg and Liebknecht? Anyone? Bueller? We gave you the Art of Loving and all you did was hate on us. The One Dimensional Man (and woman, as Nina Power shows) continues to do everything in his/her power to Escape from Freedom.

Today the global situation is perilous. There is an overwhelming inertia at play here and the momentum is leading us off the rails. Or, rather, on the rails to 21st century concentration camps…as the threats of global warming, nuclear war, and worldwide pollution hang overhead as a modern-day sword of Damocles. To repeat a Benjamin quote which many have noticed for its prescience: “Marx says that revolutions are the locomotives of world history. But the situation may be quite different. Perhaps revolutions are not the train ride, but the human race grabbing for the emergency brake.”

Recall what Adorno said: “Wrong life cannot be lived rightly.” Exactly as Krishnamurti put it: “It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” The elites are planning to turn the biosphere into a technosphere (I prefer the term Chaospherewhich is really a Death Star-like non-future (Space Force! Pew pew!) of total control and genocide.

Keep moving, they say. Live Work Work Work DieThey might as well hang “work will set you free” over our places of employment. There can be no true “free time” or “recreation” in our system, only “spare time” or “recovery time” as Alex Thomson points out, explaining good ole’ Teddy’s thoughts on the subject.

Don’t look down, you might notice how the West has become enriched by genocide, slavery, and global exploitation of workers and nature. They don’t want to know that under the cobblestones lies the beach. That’s why I like to say resist rhizomatically. They certainly don’t want you to notice the Stolpersteine everywhere in the USA and the West.

It might seem tempting for some to toss much of the so-called doomerism here and elsewhere into a ready-made Grand Hotel Abyss category, as Lukács said, but that is missing the point. Rather, the aim is to prepare a fertile soil unencumbered by ideology, alienation, propaganda, etc. Put another way, the ingredients for revolution must be healthy for the Proustian madeleine moment to occur. As George Monbiot wrote last month, “remembering is a radical act.” Marcuse pointed this out as well in One Dimensional Man: “Remembrance of the past may give rise to dangerous insights, and the established society seems to be apprehensive of the subversive contents of memory.”

Of course, for many of those with no historical memory and no “feels” for a deep connection with world cultures and the natural world, the immense problems lie unresolved. Most people in the USA are content politically with a binary fight between Democrats and Republicans, two sides of the same coin of corporate rule and ecocide. Debating those fools is nearly an impossible task: listening to mainstream media’s black and white bullshit, I am constantly thinking of TV star Rachel Bloom’s epic line: “The situation’s a lot more nuanced than that.”

Regarding today’s digital, social media driven entertainment, it’s the old curmudgeon Adorno for the win in Minima Moralia: “Every visit to the cinema, despite the utmost watchfulness, leaves me dumber and worse than before.” In today’s world, the stupefication does not stop at the movie theater: nearly every social media outlet, TV channel, mainstream news source, public school, every pop art installation and music group is attempting to hypnotize, stupefy, and pacify us.

To be comfortable with life is to be comfortable with paradox, contradiction, and compromise. It’s no wonder that Marcuse was the guru of the New Left and the student movements in the 60s: he understood the forces of oppression were increasing as well as the forces for liberation. He thought dialectically; he spoke directly to civil society, and not in dogmatic orthodox terminology.

I must admit I (smugly? ruefully?) chuckle when I read of academics confess to not reading the members of the Frankfurt School until grad school, for instance. What insulation, what openly stated provincialism. For some of us it was a matter of necessity; a compulsion to understand what had happened. 

Thus, directly after 9/11, sixteen years old, I understood deep in my bones what was occurring with the anti-Muslim propaganda to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq: it had already happened two generations ago, and I had already scoured over the blueprints of the masters, gleaning what I could at that age. The mock outrage in my insulated suburban town made me sick: I was surrounded by weak liberals or worse, the new Gestapo imperialists planning and supporting genocide in the Middle East.

Recall Wesley Clark’s admission that directly after 9/11 the goal was to take out seven countries. The immediacy of that genocidal position being taken means that the plans were already made and taken off the shelf in response to the attack. Just the same, the Patriot Act and NDAA were taken right out of the pages of the Garden Plot and Rex-84 plans to detain mass amounts of citizens in response to “civil disturbances”, just as plans to assassinate Occupy leaders were already in place and copied from COINTELPRO.

Today, the words of Max and Teddy, Herbert, Erich, and all of their friends and heirs still haunt us: US citizens haven’t learned a thing. Mass murderer Bush Jr. is paraded around the media circuit, Obama is idol-worshipped after drone-bombing tens of thousands. Trump has increased the drone program dramatically. Tens of millions have died directly or indirectly through war, coups, proxy terror, “structural adjustment programs”, CIA backed death squads, etc.

As Adorno wrote, “the splinter in your eye is the best magnifying glass”. The suffering of a slave-labor precariat, global war, mass refugees, and the poor and oppressed can no longer be ignored in late capitalism. Our world has been smashed by totalitarianism and a loss of meaning, yet those broken shards still possess the possibility to “project negatively”, to illuminate the chance for a better world.

William Hawes is a writer specializing in politics and environmental issues. He is author of the ebook Planetary Vision: Essays on Freedom and Empire. His articles have appeared online at CounterPunch, Global Research, Countercurrents(.org), Gods & Radicals, Dissident Voice, The Ecologist, and many more. You can email him at Visit his website