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International Socialism, Spring 1967


Godula Castles



From International Socialism (1st series), No.28, Spring 1967, pp.28-29.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Marxismus and Philosophie
Karl Korsch
Europäische Verlagsanstalt, Frankfurt a.M.

Korsch sets out to criticise the undialectical rejection of Marxism as philosophy, by the orthodox Marxists of his time on die one hand and the bourgeois philosophers on the other. In Marxismus und Philosophie, which first appeared in the early Twenties, he shows that the connection between theory and practice cannot be understood if the historical significance of the relationship between Marxism and philosophy is not taken into account. Marx’s system is the theoretical expression of the proletarian revolutionary movement. As such it emerges with historical necessity from German idealist philosophy, just as the social and political practice of the proletariat is an historically necessary successor to the practice which led to the emancipation of the bourgeoisie. As a revolutionary movement, the proletariat must also have a revolutionary theory, which must extend the struggle which is being waged in all other fields of society and attack the existing philosophy. This philosophy, though not itself material, is based on material conditions. Theend of philosophy cannot simply mean the abolition of philosophy, but the spiritual emancipation of the proletariat, which can only be achieved through its physical emancipation.

Korsch criticises the so-called orthodox Marxists, Lenin and Kautsky, who, he says, wanted to bring socialism to the workers ‘from without,’ as an inflexible, pre-formulated ideology. For Korsch, Marxist theory is always the theoretical result of the new experience gained in the progress of the class struggle. He therefore rejects the opinion of Rosa Luxemburg and Trotsky that the proletariat could only achieve its own theory of society after its emancipation.

Korsch insists that one must be ready to give up any belief which conflicts with newly gained experience. It was for this reason that Korsch came to be known as the undogmatic Marxist – the first person to bring Marx’s method to bear on Marxism itself. (See Erich Gerlach’s article in IS 19.)

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