Otto Rühle 1937
Mexico D. F. Versalles 84.
Dear Comrade Schlamm!
When we had read your book, and thought of a critical stance on it, I suggested sending you Marx’s “The German Ideology” as a contrast, because I thought that it contained everything I had to say to you in reply. But then I considered that Marx was no longer an authority, or to say it better: No orientation for you anymore. So I stopped writing, because it seemed hopeless to me to discuss under these circumstances.
Now Alice has taken on the obligation to write, and she will send you a critique, which is roughly the reflection of our joint debate on your book. I agree with her on almost all the essential points. But since Alice is urging me to write a few lines to you, and reminded me that you yourself expressed this desire I would also like to say the following.
You are right to complain that, in the present form of proletarian class struggle the living person with its contribution has been neglected. But you're reversing the inadequacy simply and mechanically into the opposite inadequacy. By putting everything on the human being, the rest of the world falls short in its contribution. This is the antagonistic method by which the good citizen suddenly becomes a wild rebel instead of becoming revolutionary. Exactly the same thing happens when you only accept the sentence “The end justifies the means” in its negative reversal. If the end justifies the means, then, as we have experienced, we come to Rome, Berlin and Moscow. But if it in principle does not justify the end, you do not come from the spot at all. But now we want to get away from the spot without landing in Berlin, Rome or Moscow. In other words, we don’t want to be good citizens and rebels, but revolutionaries who come to socialism. Alice told you that this is not possible with antagonistic logic. And you claim that “dialectics” don’t work either. Both are right – what to do? Well, let’s try dialectics (without quotation marks). Because “dialectics” is just falsification, distortion and corruption of dialectics. If adulterated or diluted milk does not affect the patient, you have to grab true, good milk. You however, smash the bottle and scold the cow. Marx is just as unprotected from those rogues who turn a fanfare into a chamade, as Hegel was in his time when the Prussian Junkers saw in his dialectic the guarantee of the perpetuation of the three-class system. But the counterfeiters and misinterpreters of Hegel did not succeed before history with their rubbish and nonsense. And I am convinced that the same will happen to the counterfeiters and bumblers of Marx. You make the mistake, dear Schlamm, of directing all that you rightfully object about the “dialectic” at Marx’s address, instead of throwing it at the heads of the bad epigones and foul counterfeiters. Tell all this to the “dialecticians,” but not to the dialecticians.
The same goes for the thesis of justification of the means by its end. Both sides are wrong with yes or no. The revolutionary formula is in the middle or better: In harmony of means and end. Not the end, but success justifies the means. Please do not hesitate to argue that the thesis then loses its meaning as a slogan or direction. That’s just what matters. The authoritarian element of this Jesuit dogmatism is not compatible with the actual dialectic. We can’t use it either positively or negatively. It’s different when success is the deciding factor. Here we have a factual statement in front of us, from which the time-, fact- and environment-related use-application results of its own accord. The rigid system of the preconceived directive gives way to the elastic system of dialectics. That is where its methodical superiority lies.
Unfortunately, dear Schlamm, you have, through a chain of disappointments, yielded yourself out of the psychological and spiritual balance and let yourself be led to a purely analytically passive defeatism. But the disappointments have already arisen from a moral and sentimental romantic attitude which, instead of being reversed and discarded as paralysing, you now want to take up in an intensified and seemingly verified form and make it the axis of the new orientation. Weakness remains weakness, even if it is elevated to principle.
I've experienced the same thing you've experienced in the last ten years. But I have only been reinforced and strengthened by my Marxism. Is that supposed to be a coincidence? Or is it more evidence that one is looking for weakness and the other for strength? For me, socialism has never been either a mere destiny nor a task, but both in one. That is why I have always been both politician and teacher at the same time, sometimes more one than the other, depending on the circumstances and conditions. Today it seems that once again – in this letter to you – I am about to fall into the role of a teacher. Then at least I want to be a modern and not an old-fashioned authoritarian teacher, in which I do not say: “You have done badly!,” instead (and I'll give you a friendly and gentle nudge): “I think you can do a lot better!” So – to speak with your title – instead of the “dictatorship of criticism” the “dictatorship of courage.”
In this sense and in an old way your