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The Non-Synchronous Heritage and the Problem of Propaganda

Author(s): Oskar Negt

Source: New German Critique, No. 9 (Autumn, 1976), pp. 46-70
Published by: New German Critique
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The Non-Synchronous Heritage
and the Problem of Propaganda

by Oskar Negt
Systematic Aspects in Bloch's Philosophical Biography
Congratulating Ernst Bloch on his ninetieth birthday suggests taking a look
at the concrete utopia of a human life that has taken shape in him, a life
which had an almost unique opportunity, not only to experience more than
six decades of non-synchronous, even catastrophic developments, but also to
give them expression--in a continuity of conceptual analysis whose exertion
cannot be better documented than through the fact that the ruptures are
missing in his thought, that a renunciation of convictions and insights was
never necessary. To be sure, the objective meaning of a systematic theory
cannot be subsumed in its author's biographical background, but it would be
equally wrong to consider philosophy and the structure of personality as
totally indifferent to one another; they are connected in a very specific way.
When Fichte says that the sort of philosophy one has depends upon the sort of
person one is, then he does not mean the chance features of empirical
character, but rather the subject's capability for reflection and experience,
which however, as we know today, is also a product of the history of his
theoretical and political socialization.
Biography and philosophy stand in a necessary relationship to one another
only in so far as experience is the organizing center of reflection; experience
understood this way means primarily historical experience of the present. By
detaching themselves from this frame of reference, as Hans Mayer has justly
and emphatically pointed out in his article on "Three Difficulties with Ernst
Bloch,"' Bloch interpreters are able to gain free rein and to take segments of
his personality out of the context of his copious work as they see fit, to which
they then attach the theory as a whole; in this way Bloch becomes a mystic, a
theologian of hope, a prophet. Bloch's philosophical biography loses its
mystical ideological veil and gains the sobriety of a merely clarifying
description of human traits only under the doubtlessly over-simplified
presupposition that he is primarily concerned with the solution of present-day
problems; that the political-revolutionary substance of his theory is
detectable even in places where he is concerned with seemingly quite abstract
things, such as the "latent essence of world matter" or the "co-productivity of

1. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, May 17, 1975.


Anyone who knows Bloch from panel discussions, television discussions, or

from personal conversation will have noted the ridiculous contradiction
between the impressive pungency of his continuous flow of speech, in which
an entire universe of images, concepts and moral appeals is spontaneously
brought to the present and made tangible, and the more or less unsuccessful
attempts of his discussion partners to interrupt the flow of his speech, to pose
a few questions, or even, falling back upon their exact philological know-
ledge of his writings, to insert their own interpretation of his thought. Bloch is
distinguished by what one could call a mimetic character. The melodic verve
and staccato as he hums parts of Strauss' Electra or of Fidelio while
interpretating them betray a feeling of confinement by concepts, from which
he seeks to escape by means of music and stories. In his stature, his gestures
and his manner of speaking Bloch conveys the impression that what he is
describing is known to him, not from books, but from a living tradition of his
forefathers; as it, when he speaks of Amos, Joachim of Fiore or Miinzer, he
were not a modern interpreter, but their contemporary. Particularly at a time
when mankind's collective ability to remember is threatening to disappear,
Bloch's intellectual physiognomy, the breadth of his individual capacity to
remember, the sovereignty of his dealings with tradition and the pathos of his
practical intelligence suggest traits of a crafty, but statesmanly and
self-confident chief presiding over a tribe that has become somewhat alien to
us, rather than traits of a German professor of philosophy as represented in
biographies from Kant to Horkheimer.

Fascism as a Revolution gone wrong

All the same, it is correct to characterize Bloch as the German philosopher
of the October Revolution. The fact that he has a polyhistorical perspective
and an encyclopedic education does not make him a bourgeois philosopher,
even if many aspects of his mode of production remind one of the bourgeois
Age of Genius. How much this possible misunderstanding of the real
coordinates of his thought encumbers him can be surmised from the interview
about nonsynchronicity that appeared recently in Kursbuch 39. Almost forty
years after the historical experiences classified in Heritage of our Times as
non-synchronous contradictions, that is, contradictions resulting not simply
from backwardness; and almost fifty years after the first intimations of the
importance of this problem, above all for understanding Germany, "the
classical land of nonsynchronicity,"2 Bloch has retrospectively marked out
once more the political force field in which his philosophy as a whole, but

2. Erbschaft dieser Zeit (Frankfurt am Main, 1962), p. 113.


especially the historic-philosophical, sociological categories like synchronici-

ty, nonsynchronicity, and hypersynchronicity (Uebergleichzeitigkeit) are
located. There are two processes of development which seem at first glance to
run in completely contrary directions, but which display more points of
mediation that would be tolerable in a moral view: the tendency towards
revolutionary emancipation of society, borne primarily by the working class,
and fascism, which emerged and grew out of the material of nonsynchronous
contradictions. Both developments collided most explosively in Germany,
because they were most elaborated there.
In point of fact, one experiences great difficulties in understanding Bloch's
obsession with occupying historical material, his determination to make
concepts sensually understandable, tangible (perhaps also a partial
explanation for his Baroque language) and the pathos of practice in Bloch's
philosophy. In order to understand these things, one must trace them back to
their political motivation; and that means: to the decisive experience of this
polarity, which is in part mediated and obliterated by many objectifications.
This will to occupation, to enlivening with socialist fantasy the things of an
everyday, banal world which of its own accord is inclined to
counterrevolution, is born by the conviction that whatever is left unoccupied
and undetermined by socialist theory and practice, is also left without a
concrete alternative orientation. In the last resort, this means that, in
intensified crisis situations, when the solution of the contradictions within the
logic of capital is limited and the legitimating facade of the bourgeois state
breaks up, fascism in its manifold forms inherits all these things and
reinterprets them in the interest of reestablishing old master-slave
relationships. Between the two there is, in the historical perspective of the
present, no neutral zone, no third way. "What the party, that is, the CP, did
before Hitler's victory was perfectly correct, only what it did not do was
false."3 But precisely because this alternative possibility for devlopment lies
objectively within every thing, whether it be images of nature, works of art or
the ideas of freedom and equality, and because it presents itself to the
practical consciousness in crass non-mediation, every act of serious
revolutionary propaganda, which attunes itself to its addressee in order to win
him over and inspire him for one's cause, is combined with a conscious step of
dialectical labor of mediation (Vermittlungsarbiet).
Large segments of the Left in West Germany, however, hold fast to an
intellectual belief in agitation; they know Bloch neither as a critic of fascism
nor as a "propagandist" of revolution, for whom the relationship between

3. Kursbuch 39, 2.

truth and propaganda, theory and action is posed not only pragmatically or
as a problem of the theory of knowledge, but as a political problem of theory
itself. Considering the tenacity of a prejudice that has been in effect for over
two thousand years, Bloch raises, almost resignedly, the rhetorical question:
"Where did the superstition originate that truth opens up its own path?"4
What Bloch criticizes here as the superstition of left-wing propagandists of
reason and true theory has long since assumed the seemingly clearer, more
material language of the exemplary sacrifice, the practical signal
(Fanal) however, with the conviction corresponding to mere rational
propaganda, that the sacrifice will pay off some day, that some day the
masses, moved from a distance by reason, will wake up and orient themselves
according to the signals and "historicalsigns" that have been set up for them.
In the mid-1960s, the most militant segments of the West German Left
were close to seeing through the abstract dualism of revolution and fascism;
to grasping the ambiguity in every individual interest and need, and by means
of creative political case work bringing them into a political context of
interpretation. If they have once again fallen back upon foreshortened reified
formulas, this is certainly in part the result of the second period of restoration
currently being instituted in the Federal Republic and characterized by the
use of preventive and violent counterrevolutionarymeasures. But at the same
time it is also a product of the antiquated level of development of Marxian
theory. In the same measure as it limits the explanation of fascistic tendencies
in capitalist society to socio-psychological mechanisms, to sociological
dispositions defined at birth and to alliances of economic interests, that is,
ascribes to fascism a clearly limited, basically static realm of reality and
action, the theory alsoformalizes the content of revolutionary processes. The
criteria for success of revolutionary action are derived from the same
standards that were developed by the secret services and the state in their
attempt to find techniques for the suppression of revolution. Corresponding
to the "deficiency of socialist fantasy"is the constant lack of fantasy in the way
in which left-wing groups and parties deal with those powers and needs;
needs which display tendencies toward anticapitalist mentality, but which
cannot be transformed singlehandedly into revolutionary class consciousness
by rational persuasion and examplary action alone.
In one essential point Bloch goes beyond the existing analyses of fascism.
No matter how important socio-psychological dispositions and the dynamics
of human drives (as represented in ethnocentrism and the authoritarian
character structure determined by primary socialization) may be for mass
4. "Sokratesund die Propaganda" in: Vom Hasard zur Katastrophe (Frankfurt am Main,
1972), p. 103.

susceptibility to nationalist ideologies and imperialist adventures; no matter

how essential the economic investigation of class interests may be, as well as
the comprehension of the foundations for the emergence and political
effectiveness of these mechanisms - for Bloch only one side of the problem has
been touched upon. The more important side, because it is practically
relevant, is posed only when the substantial occupation of these motive forces
and interests is involved. The appropriation-occupation-contents, such as
blood and soil, leader, esprit de corps, images and archetypes with an
enormous power of attraction and mobilization, migrate publicly into private
daydreams and only by that fact help develop the dynamic impulses and the
largely ambivalent wants and interests. That these appropriation-contents
change socially is obvious; their function, however remains more or less the
Since Bloch is not at all affected by the taboo against touching the
"irrational," a sphere which he sees as merely excluded from abstract
rationality, it is not difficult for him to trace concretely the process of
transformation from revolution into fascism. Initially fascism has to do with
the same interests and needs as revolution; it is not the Beyond, the
completely Different of the revolutionary process, but rather an obstructed
revolution, produced in part by socialists' lack of fantasy, but reversed in its
teleological content and turned in a destructive direction. "After all, the
Hitler Youth is upholding the only 'revolutionary' movement in Germany;
and this after the proletariat has been cheated by the majority socialist leaders
out of its own revolution, the only valid one free of contradictions. A part of
fascism in Germany is, as it were, the false guardian of the revolution..."s
The double Emigration
If this polarity of fascism and revolution is the topical nucleus of philo-
sophical experience and the starting point for the question of the socialist
heritage in Bloch's work, a connection between biography and work becomes
apparent in a more definite sense. In 1935, when Heritage of our Times was
published in Zurich, all chances for a socialist inheritance of the great
bourgeois culture were totally squandered and would remain so for a long
time in that country for which Bloch, through all catastrophes and restau-
rations, has maintained an expectant affection to this very day. How else is
one to understand the astonishing demand "to bring German fantasy back
into Marxism" made by Bloch in 1974?
Fascism took over the complete heritage of non-synchronicity of contra-
dictions, with all its destructive consequences for the working class, which was
5. Erbschaft dieser Zeit, p. 164.

synchronous with capitalism. In so doing, it performed a labor of propagan-

distic mediation that in at least one respect was absolutely superior to the
rationalist beliefs of many Marxist theoreticians and politicians: in rein-
terpreting anti-capitalistic feelings and dreams, it viewed the stock of
"irrational" contents of the frightened middle classes and peasants as effective
"nonsynchronous-revolutionary opposition." Thus the concern with problems
of nonsynchronous development and with the emotionally impoverished
left-wing propaganda itself acquired of necessity traits of anachronism, of
thoughts out of season; there remains only the invocation, inspection and
salvation of a heritage that is already lost. This contradiction leads Bloch to
his first emigration, an emigration which, in two different respects, is the
result of the non-synchronism of his philosophy with respect to the tempo-
rarily halted and closed social reality: the actual flight from fascism on the
one hand, and on the other, his making way for that country in which
socialism had been saved-no matter how much one may criticize the
sacrifice of emancipatory elements by the October Revolution. If many
insecure left-wing intellectuals mentioned the Stalinistic bureaucratization in
the same breath with victorious fascism under the heading of totalitarianism,
Bloch on the contrary clung to the Soviet Union as the only dependable
bulwark against fascism; but even if he had been accepted as an emigrant, it
is certain that people in that country would not have known what to do with
his philosophy. 6
It is obviously difficult for Bloch to speak without a political addressee. The
addressee of his critique of fascism was the KPD of the Weimar Republic.
After the Second World War, at a time when anti-communist propaganda,
which had become a material force, suggested flight in the opposite direction,
he put himself to the test and decided to accept the appointment in Leipzig as
a way of contributing his share to the construction of a socialist society on
German soil. He steadfastly took sides for this construction; it is noticeable in
individual writings how much they are addressed to anti-Stalinist forces in the
SED; but the objective partisanship of his materialist mode of thought, which
certainly had a different effect under the economic starting conditions of a
classless society than it did within lingering class relationships, emphasized
the necessity of producing fantasy and criticism and thus can hardly be
assigned to the legitimatory framework of a party program. Hence, the
second emigration, his departure from the GDR in the beginning of the
1960s, is also the result of nonsynchronous contradictions, even if they are of a
quite different nature. For into these contradictions enters already the

6. Erbschaft dieser Zeit, p. 159.


practical demand for the realization of the socialist heritage, whose dialectics,
however, is blocked by the fear of really unleashing fantasy as a productive
mode of experience for the masses.
These two emigrations were not able to drive Bloch into resignation. After
the debacle of the 1848 revolution (to which proletarian hopes had been tied
to a certain extent) and in view of the upcoming period of restoration and the
time-consuming but useless activity of left-wing sects, Marx spoke in 1851 of
the "necessity for an authentic isolation." With this he certainly did not mean
the disavowal of practice and the desperate retreat to mere theory, but rather
their opposite: the conscious seizing of the historical task of a redefinition of
revolutionary practice, which in any case requires theoretical preliminaries.
Something similar is true for Bloch: the isolation he describes, the indu-
bitably feels at times, is authentic because the theory produced from the
immediate context of a committed intellectual's political work has clung to
two basic principles: to the necessity for practical labor of mediation, and to
the progressive determination of the real teleological content of the
revolutionary process; to the realm of freedom, which does not remain
inconsequentially in the emotional, unoriented darkness.

The real Genesisis yet to come

The dialectical unity of motion and final goal, reform and revolution,
which is invoked again and again by Marxian orthodoxy of all shades gets lost
not only if it is broken up and smoothed over in favor of pure motion and the
day-to-day struggle for reforms, as in the revisionism of the Second Inter-
national as well as the later Social Democracy; this dialectic is also dissolved if
it is transformed into a mechanistic world view, if thefinal goal is adhered to
in theory, but has no practical-sensual power to motivate the actions of men.
Already at a time when the fate of the German revolution was by no means
finally sealed, Bloch saw a politically threatening shortcoming in this
vacuum, one especially characteristic of the Western European Left, from
which the final goal was pushed ever further into the hazy distance of
abstraction. In the Spirit of Utopia one reads: "... we have no socialist
thought. Rather we have become poorer than the warm animals."7
For Bloch, the determinations of the realm of freedom are by no means the
simple result of consequential self-reflection of theory, which as an objective
fantasy contains of necessity, if not always explicitly, the social teleological
content and partisanship within itself. Nor are they the result of tactical
considerations, a painting of pleasant pictures for general consumption,
showing harmonious, even unmaterial, conditions awaiting those who trust in
7. Geist der Utopie (Frankfurt am Main, 1964), p. 12.

the future of socialism. The "realm of freedom" is not a finished state at all,
towards which one advances step by step; instead it is a process, which has
motivating power for people by designating the direction of a possibility of
articulating present hopes, interests and needs.
From this foundation in the revolutionary teleological content of socialism,
Bloch conceives of nothing less than the new epochal task of philosophy; it is
first of all related concretely to the socialist construction of the GDR, but the
task is not merely seen in terms of day-to-day politics. Philosophy now
consciously has "the active task of Pre-View (Vor-Schein) and specifically the
Pre-View of an objectively real vision of the world in process, the world of
hope itself... Catching sight of this genesis is the organ of philosophy; the
dialectically directed, systematically open view into matter in the shape of
tendency is its new form."8 By seeking to regain philosophy as a living,
creative productive force of its own type, in accordance with specific laws of
the objective fantasy and the critical appropriation of reality, Bloch frees it
from the deadly embrace of the theory of knowledge, logic and epistemology,
which it also experiences in a Marxism deformed beyond recognition by
functions of legitimation. If one wished to localize philosophy in this sense of
anticipation, one would have to settle it upon the apex between the conditions
of tendency and latency of prehistory and its objectively possible end. "With
this insight (of philosophy) one realizes: Mankind still lives in prehistory
everywhere, indeed everything awaits the creation of the world as a genuine
one. The real genesis is not at the beginning, but at the end, and it only
begins when society and existence become radical, that is, grasp themselves at
the root. The root of history, however, is Man, working, producing,
reforming and surpassingthe givens around him. If he has seized himself and
what is his, without externalization and alienation, founded in real
democracy, then something comes into being in the world that shines into
everyone's childhood and where no one has yet been: home."9
Bloch ascribed great importance to the images and concepts that aim at the
realm of freedom as a nonalienated place of production; in which, in the
words of Marx "the production of the forms of relation (Verkehrsformen)
themselves"is the primary object of social production; in which therefore not
only other products are produced, but the "development of human
productive forces, that is, the development of the riches of human nature"
counts as an end in itself. In order to understand why this is so, one must
recall how impoverished and anemic the conceptions of the revolution and

8. Das Prinzip Hoffnung, III (Berlin, 1955), p. 488.

9. Ibid., p. 489.

the classless society are in the works of his Marxist contemporaries. The
conceptual horizon of some of these contemporaries hardly encompassed
more than the special economical, power-political problems of smashing the
State apparatus and abolishing the capital properties of productive forces,
which had become a fetter, as well as organizational problems of nationali-
zation, planning and socialization; at best (as in the case of Korsch) the
conceptions went so far as to define the function of soviets. In the work of
others, who were yoked into the principle of negative dialectics, especially
adequate to an intellectual mode of production which permits only the deter-
minate negation of domination and repression, the conceptions of a classless
society hardly surpassed the broadly interpretable perspective of a rational
organization of society; a perspective which was without practical orientation
and received its tangibility (Sinnlichkeit) at best from a light dose of
traditional Jewish-mystical anticipations. 10
For Bloch, this process of social production, as he characterized the "realm
of freedom" with its atmosphere of security and belonging to "Home," is not
detached from its economic and political conditions, and the "thorn, the
restlessness of the utopian function" remains in effect, because at least two
contradictions conditioned by matter persevere: the contradiction of the
subject with its objectivations, and that of the "totality of the real, as what has
absolutely not yet come into being, with everything that has become and is
inadequate to it." It is characteristic of this production process, which will by
then have been released from the distorting pressure of ideologies, that it is
filled with continuously effective, constantly changing energies drawn from
the reservoir of cultural surplus deriving from the entire prehistory; the
partisanship with which history is examined is based in this production
process, which remains to be established in full capacity. In such an
encompassing sense Bloch has taken up and developed further the Engelsian
concept of heritage, which for him covers more and other things than the
temporal and systematic predecessors of the Marxian theory referred to by
Engels. To be sure, Engels' programmatic objection to bourgeois historians in
1844, " We reclaim the content of history," already hints at this universalizing
tendency to a deepening and enlargement of the concept of heritage; it
remained, until Bloch, a largely unfilfilled plank in the program of Marxism,
for this "content of history" is nothing other than the history of the unsatisfied
and the unfinished (das Unabgegoltene und Unerledigte), of everything that
constitutes the socialist heritage. "But once again: one cannot think closely
enough of the central content of this fantasy (in the horizon of socialism); for

10. Das Materialh'smusproblem (Frankfurt am Main, 1972), p. 407.


it requires the very longest of telescopes: Utopia, in order to see what is

closest, the planet Earth, and the thing that appears as central in it is then
Man and the secret of his 'Abide, thou art so fair.' The 'highest ideal,' like the
'highest object,' is enclosed in the immanent immanence, in the containing
content of the realm of our freedom." 11 This content consists in the
development of the riches of human productive powers, which in this way
appropriate the possibilities that have already been worked out and specified
in history and in nature.

In Search of the Unsatisfied

What Bloch calls the cultural surplus is not something neutral that one
could avoid at will by not caring to hear or see it; rather, it is something
objectively present, which confidently expects our involvement. Certainly,
with the question of the heritage underlying cultural formations, political
ideas and programs as well as images of nature, the continuum of time and
the unqualified simultaneity of space are consciously broken up, and a
selection is made in the cosmos of cultural objectifications. But the cultural
meanings of these phenomena cannot be understood as if they were fastened
to a "firmament of values" where they are accessible to everyone. Southwest
German neo-Kantianism and Max Weber had conceived of culture as a more
or less neutral sphere, split off from the economic genesis but not accidently
abstracted from economic value concepts. In this cultural sphere "objective
obligations" are basically established only by the subjective meaning of the
individuals relating themselves to them. For Bloch, on the contrary, the
cultural heritage gains value and binding force only from that which is
objectively unsatisfied, which points beyond its own time in its implications of
concrete utopia or pushes towards realization in the original meaning of
culture: cultivation. "Thought cannot push forward to reality if the latter
does not push forward to thought: this Marxian insight is also true for the
reality that exists as cultural heritage."12 And it is this reality and history of
the unsatisfied which is imbued in the nowness (Jetztzeit) of progressive
transformation and "instead of lying to the rear" stands "at the front, in the
midst of the production and articulation process."13
Of what is this "unsatisfied"composed, and what are the conditions for the
continued validity of the cultural heritage? Socialism not only takes possession
of the heritage of the tendencies of historical matter crystallized into a dif-

11. "Hat der Wille keine Grenzen?--Probleme des Reichs der Freiheit" in: Philosophische
Aufsatze (Frankfurt am Main, 1969), p. 179.
12. Das Materialismusproblem (Frankfurt am Main, 1972), p. 412.
13. Ibid., p. 416.

ferentiated form in works of genius, as radical cultural criticism would lead

one to assume, it also inherits those very elemental daydreams, needs and
hopes which could not be realized; in which the suffering of what has been
violently ruptured is stored up, or where "at any rate, the remnant of a
utopian image" remains "in the realization." "The Tomorrow lives in the
Today, it is always being asked for. The faces turned in a utopian direction
were different in every age, just as was that which, from case to case, they
believed they saw in detail there. In all these cases, however, the direction of
looking is similar, indeed it is the same in its still-hidden goal. It appears as
the only unchanging thing in history. Good Fortune, freedom, nonalienation,
golden age, Land of milk and honey, the eternal feminine, the trumpet signal
in Fidelio and the Christ-like nature of the succeeding resurrection day: there
are many witnesses and images, and all of various values, but all are arranged
around that which speaks for itself while it still keeps silence. The direction to
this thing that is materially and not merely logically evident must be
invariant; that is discernible in every place where Hope opens up its In
General and attempts to read in it."14
The materialist conception of history is distinguished from all other
conceptions of the course of history by the fact that it inquires into the social
process of cultural production. In so doing, it seeks to make Shakespeare or
the Attic tragedy, traditional nature scenes or philosophical systems
transparent and more easily comprehensible by uncovering the basis upon
which everything rests: the production of the material context of life at a
given stage of social productive forces; class interests and the corresponding
political, juridical and religious forms in which people carry out their class
struggles and become conscious of them in the formulation of definite
positions; and finally, the level of development of commodity production and
social forms of intercourse.
But that is only one side of the problem with which we are dealing here. In
the analytical text that has been decoded and made transparent by critically
exposing the earthly nucleus of the "ideological fog patterns" there remains a
synthetic remainder, a surplus, and this is more emphatically the case, the
more differentiated the cultural formations are. This surplus, however, refers
to something essential even from a phenomenological point of view, for this
synthetic remainder provides the reason why we find ourselves touched and
challenged by Shakespeare and Attic tragedy, even when the interests of
professional knowledge do not mandate our occupying ourselves with cultural
productions; and even though the economic foundation of these productions

14. Das Prinzip Hoffnung, III, p. 488.


has long since faded away. This synthetic remainder, to which no substance is
added even by the most apt derivations, does not disappear even when the
dialectic of form and content immanent in the worksin question is carried out
and its inner consistency elevated to a standard and norm worthy of
imitation; at best, classicistic renaissances result from this.
Engels in his later years already had to struggle against the euphoria for
derivation; Bloch by no means disputes the necessity of economic investi-
gations; on the contrary, he considers them indispensable. But the problem
of a Marxist philosophy that has recognized the connection between Engels'
concept of heritage and the Marxian allusion to the nonsynchronous
development of economic basis and cultural superstructureonly begins when
the path of analytical knowledge has been pursued to its end. Scientific
knowledge begins for Marx only where it can be demonstrated how the
production of ideological products of the superstructure arise as something
necessaryand synthetic from the contradictory conditions of society, from the
inner strife of existence itself; that is, where, in Kantian terms, judgements of
extension and not mere judgements of explication emerge. Consequently,
difficulties of derivation and understanding do not lie in the fact "that Greek
art and the Greek epic are connected to certain forms of social development."
For Marx, the real difficulty lies in establishing how production relations as
legal relations enter into an indifferent development with respect to one
another. In this way the civil law formed under the conditions of
slave-holding society in Rome can be utilized almost completely for the
governmentally sanctioned regulatory functions of modern commodity--
producing society. To give a more specific example, which is at the same time
more general because it is related to the more mediated, creative processes
involved in the production of the wealth of cultural forms: how can Greek art
and epics "still provide us with aesthetic pleasure and be considered, in a
certain sense, as norms and unattainable models"?15 This difficulty can
hardly be removed by Marx's allusion to the wish to remember a society
grown old, succumbing again and again to the "eternal attraction" of the
historical childhood of mankind, which will never return. The difficulty
concerns the entire cultural surplus, the Unsatisfied of the whole of
By thematizing the differentiations alluded to by Marx in the concept of
progress, Bloch moves the complex labor of mediation between economic
genesis and cultural validity into the center: "... the observer is overcome by
a sublime feeling when he enters the halls of art and wisdom, and not without

15. Grundrisse der Kritik der politischen Oekonomie (Berlin, 1953), p. 31.

reason, and this feeling marks the difference in height, the difference in
mediation between Athens as a trading center and as the location of the
Parthenon, which grew up like Athens in a festive peace. This difference in
mediation is also the reason why demonstrating the economic basis of sonatas,
tragedies, temples and so forth is particularly shocking to the idealist and
particularly pleasing to the materialist; for the first wishes to hear nothing of
mediation, while the second wants to understand it from top to bottom and
from bottom to top. Now it is true that the problem of this mediation,
ultimately the problem of the production of culture, is least suited to being
treated dualistically... The attempts to conceive of the production of culture
from the basis of isolated economism call to mind the equally dualized
perplexity with which people in the Baroque sought transitions between the
'substances' body and soul, extensio and cogitatio, spatiality and
The materialist dialectics that sublates the abstract dualism between
economy and production of culture in the concrete development of genesis
and validity is the same one that criticizes the fragmentation of the
components of time and space as much as the quantifying, formal logical
connection of the two. The unity of world matter, which includes history,
requires for the establishment of its inner connection neither teleological
principles, such as Schelling's substances, nor a philosophic-historical
"natural motive force," which from time to time calls people's attention to the
unsatisfied, unfinished aspects of history, and motivates them to new solutions
of old tasks.
For this contradictory unity of the world in the process of constituting itself
is at first something secular-materialistic: namely, the unity of prehistory,
where it has always been seen to that the roof would collapse above man's
head, where it was assured that the utopian contents of tendency and the
goal, no matter how harmonious, perfect and finished they presented
themselves in the richness of their formation, would collide again and again
with the objective power of existing conditions, would shatter in part from
this and would frequently be fragmented.
By seeking to wrest themselves free from the gravitational force of material
conditions, from the negative invariance of history as it were, such as
domination, exploitation, concealment and deceit, the utopian teleological
contents represent something twofold: they anticipate a state in which the
latent essence of nature and history will be freely determinable, without the
constant danger of interruption by crises and catastrophes. Because of pre-

16. Das Materialismusproblem, p. 395f.


historical blockages we do not yet know what potentialities are present in

nature and history and can be "processed out" of them. These utopian
teleological contents refer on the other hand to the present content of
unsolved questionings of the past, to the unity of problems with which the
people of prehistory were concerned, in spite of the radical differences in the
social definiteness in the form of these problems. It is the unfinished aspects of
these problems in which they continue to have an effect, in which they
contain a hypersynchronous,not yet harvested aspect. In a certain respect the
Blochian philosophy, as far as its relation to the present, its inner connection,
and the unrealized hopes and problems projected in utopias are concerned, is
a positive theory of invariants; in it he develops the thought that, if not
always, nevertheless as a rule and on the basis of historical experience, it is
false and useless to see only the aspect of misery in misery.
Doubtlessly, genius as a mediating natural force is for Bloch the expression
of a creative productivity, which already broke forth under class conditions
and which points into the future as a model; it is the center of action for the
formation of that objective Pre-View in the successful work of genius; this
Pre-View contains a promise of happiness (promesse de bonheur, such as
Stendhal reservedfor art), but neither in its origin nor in its perception can it
be lodged in the ghetto of art. Instead, one can say of this Pre-View that for
moments, or for entire periods, it seems as if it were tangibly and
experientiably true that the end of prehistory, the end of all suffering had
really come. It is true that this feeling is equally present in the programs of
Miinzer and the rebelling peasants or in the few days of existence of the Paris
Commune, in a collective atmosphere of liberation, in which history seems to
begin anew, where a new, continually valid side of historical matter is opened
up and determined as a real possibility for coming generations. Pre-View in
this encompassing sense means: the becoming-experientiable of the end of
prehistory--under the conditions of prehistory. That may explain why for
Bloch a separated aesthetic theory is not necessary, in fact even impossible.

Supplementary Space and the Degree of Concentration

in the historical Timeline
It may sound paradoxical to say that one of the most difficult problems for
Marxism is the development of a materialist concept of history; now as before
there is an inclination to suppose a stringent sequence of epochs according to
the principle of more or less successful "sublation"of the past. Bloch certainly
proceeds from the rough division of history into a democratic primeval
society, class society, and a communistic organization of social conditions, but
he dissolves the compact structure of the unity of historical time and space,

reified by value abstraction and oriented to the time-series index of the

accumulation of productive forces, in order to designate more precisely the
"knotted lines of determinate relationships" (Knotenlinien von Massverhailt-
nissen) (Hegel). The unity of the world consists, as Engels said, in its
materiality, but this definition only lays the epistemological foundation for
the investigation of processes permeated by contingency, of specific material
constellations that require their own logic and their own forms of expression,
but which are not the binding products of a logical connection; it turns out
that there are particular, non-repeatable distributions and concentrations of
historical matter, in which nonsynchronicity of historical time and
synchronicity of historical space play a contributory role. A universal
historical classification of topoi, such as Claude Lkvi-Strauss, for example,
has attempted at least for primtive social organizations, presents, therefore,
much greater difficulties than the previously preferred periodization. In order
to accomodate the gigantic historical material of the Earth, "a kind of
supplementary space in the historical time line should be considered," far
removed from all theories of cultural groups and the statics of geographical
localizations. ". . . In other words, it should be considered whether as many
synchronous or temporally contiguous scenes are not necessary and
representable within history, which has become entirely processual, as are
required in epic art in order to have something pure."17
These differentiations of time and space in the concept of progress also
change the overall structure from which a socialist heritage can be achieved.
Bloch decisively opposes the classicists of the socialist heritage who believe
that a cultural surplus which would have validity and meaning for the
struggle for working class emancipation can only come into being in periods
of revolutionary ascent. He insists emphatically that utopian lines, marked by
the sharpened gaze of decline, not only become visible in the works of Joyce,
Kafka, and Proust in the period of bourgeois decadence, but also in the
relatively static great age of cathedrals, which created in the choral, in the
fugue, in Gothic lineation archetypes of "calm" and "order," which are not
only ideologically understandable. Bloch asks, in respect to feudal society and
its church: ". .. are there not also implications at work here that require no
Middle Ages in order to be understood, to be brought forth? These very
implications, neither limited by nor disposed of by feudal society,
implications of 'calm' and 'order' and 'hierarchy' of what is important?... are
they unproducible, not to be found in a classless society? Certainly not,

17. "Differenzierungen im Begriff Fortschritt"in: Tabinger Einleitung in die

Gesamtausgabe XIII, p. 128.

instead the same utopia, 'calm,' which as such gave the feudal ideology its
cultural surplus, will and must permit the forming of a Pre-View that does
not permit one to rest and, let it be understood, is absolutely
It can never be abstractly determined which aspects of the past enter into
the socialist heritage, for example, under the plausible but frequently fore-
shortened point of view of topicality. On the contrary, concrete
decipherability is required. Thus, in a time of disappearing ornamentation,
Bloch distinguishes in the chapter on ornament in Spirit of Utopia lines of
functional form and of multiple expression with the obvious secondary motive
of rehabilitating a bit of Egypt, contrary to the "logical" progress of
ornamentation: "the expressive constructedness and immanence in stone,
dictated not by efforts at stylization, but by the spirit of the material itself."'19
But connections also result whose direct political urgency is obvious. Socialist
heritage includes as well the unsatisfied, pre-capitalist neutral scenery, in
which a piece of "unsold nature" is represented: Bloch considers as
intolerable and wrong the idea that objective nature should be so constructed
that it exactly corresponds to the commodity form, the calculating abstract
thought of the bourgeois class, that it should have its only correlate of
perception and knowledge in this thought. In just this sense of a real ecology,
of a "constitutive connection between an inner household of plants and
animals and a landscape adequate to it,"20 there is a material heritage of
earlier natural scenery, directed towardsperception of the object itself, which
preserves mimetic qualities, contained in mythologies, symbolism and
animistic magic.

The Problem of Contingency

The practical construction of the "realm of freedom," of a socialist society
in which the productive potentials and modes of production of all previous
history are stored up and creatively transformed, is by no means assured. The
"logic of progress"of successful sublation has its ruptures, and certainly not
always productive, but sometimes totally senseless, bloody detours. The
concept of contingency expresses in substance a variety of things which are
difficult to bring together into a comprehensible definition: the Not-Yet,
which can also get lost or lead a merely subversive existence in privatized
daydreams for a long period; latency, which can also remain in the unarti-

18. Das Materialismusproblem, p. 406.

19. Geist der Utopie, p. 35.
20. Das Materialismusproblem, p. 433.

culated darkness, or whose foundations can even be destroyed by natural

catastrophes, technical accidents, crises and social involutions. In their effect
and in part even in their causes, these are the forms of eruption of suppressed
qualitative structures, end results of a "poorly mediated abstract relationship
of people to the material substrate of their action."21 But all these forms of
historical contingency constitute an essential feature of a materialism that
understands itself to be dialectical. It may be considered a programmatic
reference in this direction of the processual openness of the philosophical
system as well as of the unassured nature of revolutionary action that Bloch
dedicates to the memory of Rosa Luxemburg his latest work, the
Experimentum Mundi, a sort of category table of practice, of "bringing
What Rosa Luxemburg formulates in connection with the problem of
contingency goes back to allusions of Marx and Engels. Yet considering the
palpably approaching catastrophes of the bourgeois order and the perspec-
tives of revolutionary upheaval one has become able to experience, it is
sharpened to a contradiction, to an alternative of political practice-to the
alternative of socialism or barbarism, affecting equally the actions of classes
and individuals. This alternative has not become visible in its entire political
import until the present: after the experience of fascism and in the presence
of the atomic threat to mankind but also of the ever greater penetration into
the context of people's lives by the microstructure of capitalist production,
which "[only develops] the technologies and combination of the social
production process by simultaneously undermining the sources of all wealth:
the Earth and the
Here, however, in order to avoid a misunderstanding of principles, the
reminder is necessary that it is of essential and not merely atmospheric
importance for the formation of Marxist theory what systematic and
epistemological status is assigned to the utopias of action and to objective
fantasy, consciously pushing forward hidden tendencies; for a materialist
science can neither be founded nor can the revolutionary behavior of people
be understood if one only directs a stationary, though extremely reflected
gaze at the interrupted or destroyed possibilities to put an end to prehistory or
if one has a theory bound to the "context of guilt of the living" and the
negative utopia of the present without a conscious anticipation and the inte-
gration of the promises relevant to action in socialism. Revolutionary people
only persevere against all "rational" estimates of the situation through
resistance, through the struggle of their class for a better life; they can only
21. Ibid., p. 434.
22. Karl Marx, Das Kapital, I (Berlin, 1955), p. 532.

give meaning to their sacrifices and suffering, if socialism appears to them as

an objectively unavoidable, naturally necessary stage in the development of
humanity. 23
By obtaining their identity from this "scientific assurance" ("Gesetz-
m~issigkeit")of victory, they contribute to the success of the revolutionary
process, since no one can say for sure whether in the final analysis it does not
depend upon each individual. Inversely: theory and actions that are directed
toward the emancipation of mankind subjectively, that is, by intention but
not by form of organization, because they search for the positive, liberating
aspects of development exclusively in the solid frame of reference underlying
their endangerment and destruction, inadvertently become victims
themselves of the fascination emanating from the order and stability of a
continually effective, mythical aspect of thought, and they thus become a
part of the blocking of these possibilities for development. This change often
occurs quite independently of the moral integrity of the individual. From
these considerations, the conclusion can be drawn that the unprejudiced
analysis of the stabilization mechanisms of the system of domination,
supported by all available empirical material, will only lose its objective
partisanship for the status quo on the basis of a theory of revolution that
comprehends current history, from which the necessity of an active inter-
vention in latent tendencies and processes results even under strictly scientific
Proceeding from this position of the revolutionary, Bloch traces historical
contingency within the ambivalent thinking and behavior of the non-syn-
chronomous social classes: the middle classes and the peasants. Their fate in
recent history has been to be squeezed between the industrial bourgeoisie and
the working class and to be threatened in their illusions by both. Marx and
Engels ascribe great political importance to the middle classes, as not only the
18th Brumaire but also allusions of the late Engels show. Yet the equally
bitter and inevitable path of these groups into the working class, itself
synchronous with capitalism, into the slavery of wage labor, is the only event
for them which has historical meaning; the historical dialectic, which these
groups do not understand because of their conditions of existence, is taught to
them by capital itself. They take part in and are able to comprehend history
only through their downfall.

Socialism and the Provinces

By thematizing the relationship between metropolis and provinces, city and
23. One of the most impressive documents for this is: Julius Fuciks, Reportage, unter dem
Strang geschrieben (Report, written beneath the noose).

country, not under the formal sociological aspect of backwardness, but under
the political aspect of nonsynchronicity, of a contradiction in process between
social being and consciousness, Bloch seeks to make those "irrational"
contents and emotional drives (which by themselves are not dead-ends but
rather "fog spots" of specific social contradictions as well as of theory)
discernible for the socialist heritage and utilizable for revolutionary practice.
Nonsynchronicity is a critical category that points out fractures in the
relationship between being and consciousness; it is the vigorous criticism of
the idea that consciousness is the direct, adequate, mechanical product of
conditions of existence, that proletarian consciousness must follow from the
proletarian being of peasants and the petty bourgeoisie, if not immediately,
then surely from educational efforts to make them conscious of their
alienation. If Bloch still says in 1974 that the "category 'provinces' must be
merged into the hypersynchronicity" of socialism,24 this does not arise from a
romantic mourning for what is threatened with consumption by capital;
rather it is the result of the insight that, especially in Germany, "world history
was by no means always urban history." 25
Fascism comprehended very accurately and exploited propagandistically
the ambivalence and contradictoriness inherent in the late bourgeoisie
towards the city, that prototype for the bourgeois form of organization of
social emancipation, which is no less discernible in the utopian idea of the
"kingdom" than in St. Augustine's notion of civitas (a utopia that only
became reality once in recent history, for a few moments and under a quite
different aegis: in the days of the Paris Commune). On the one hand, the
urban forms of socialization, the possibilities of public communication, of a
seemingly total egalitarian margin of movement for each citizen, and the
means of sensual representation of programs, mythologies and history are
utilized with extreme technical efficiency as parades and national party
conventions, radio addresses and athletic events, colossal train stations and
expressways show. On the other hand, fascism lives from anti-urban feelings,
it attempts to oppose organic growth and ties to the soil to circulating capital;
"the Nazi loves what has become, not what has been made; in this way he
need not intervene in what has been made, to wit, the capitalist economy...
peasant blood is supposed to create health ab ovo, even if it is weakened by
incest and other damage, in contrast to the sporting types in the big cities.
Cities are be destroyers of the people's strength..."26

24. Kursbuch 39, 8.

25. Erbschaft dieser Zeit, p. 114.
26. Ibid., p. 94.

This chance, released by the dynamics of the capitalist crisis, to mobilize

the contradiction between the city and the country, between advanced
technical rationality and "irrational"hopes, was only able to succeed because
the non-synchronouscontradictions produced by capitalism were mixed as in
a melting pot with especially rich precapitalistic material, with pre-industrial
modes of producing experience and social intercourse. Only the fact that this
urban form of socialization remained isolated within the society as a whole
explains why the revolutionary slogans picked up by fascism could be twisted
into their opposite so effectively and with consequences reaching to the
present day. By reconstructing the original history of the "Third Reich,"
Bloch uncovers the subversivelayer in the mass dreams of the savior and the
Reich, which, constantly fed by imperial hopes for liberation, as well as by the
social revolutionary dreams of Christian heresy, by the third gospel and its
realization, enter into a compact and usually completely unconscious
connection with those hopes for the future that are attached to the socialistic
"realm of freedom."
How important a role this irrational assimilation of totally mediated
socialization and rough (though frequently contrived) immediacy plays, even
today in the consciousness of many people in West Germany--and by no
means only those who experienced the Third Reich themselves--is shown by
the admiration expressed for the self-confident direction of the organization,
for the camaraderie in the trenches, and for the experience of the world the
individual could make on marches through conquered countries. Ironically
enough it was through this very mobilization of precapitalist and
nonsynchronouspotentials that fascism urged on the socialization process, the
destruction of the remaining "native" structures in the provinces, in the
country and even in the city, at a tempo that would be unthinkable under
ordinary conditions of capitalist development in Germany. It is therefore
dangerous to think that one could recognize the fascism of our times by its old
features. "The extent of nonsynchronicity is no longer the same..."27 The
irrational hopes need no longer be occupied exclusively by blood and soil or
by manorial estates to be conquered; they can be occupied by more tangible
things, by commodities, at least as long as these are available in sufficient
As correct as Bloch's fears are that commercial interests threaten to devour
the remnants of the provinces, placing dead blocks of concrete in place of the
ornamentation, comfort and social life that gave bourgeois urban culture its
climate, it is equally clear that today capitalism is revealing inherent

27. Kursbuch 39, 8.


problems of expansion--immanent limits to this destructive logic of

subsumption. By attempting to reduce the survival chance of the revolution,
it affects its own; a socialization and education of children organized
completely according to the temporal structure of capitalist production would
endanger the basic equipment of the labor force and make people unfit for
work in the long run. Hence, there necessarily arise areas and capacities in
capitalism which, since they are fundamentally removed from subsumption
by capital, simultaneously prevent the extent of the nonsynchronous from
shrinking to zero.
These areas and capacities, which have unsatisfied modes of producing
experience as their foundation, develop specific potentials for protest. Bloch
has investigated the explosive power of these potentials as no one else has, yet
the chief burden of his argument, surely more so in Heritage of our Times
than in the 1960s, rests on the question of how these potentials, in the interest
of the success of the revolutionary process and the realization of the
Unsatisfied, can be removed from reactionary perversion and harvested by
the working class, at the height of its powers and synchronous with capitalism.
It is false "to find merely dead ends in 'irratio,' instead of those explosivities of
hope, which were never alien to the economic motive for revolution and
cannot be artificially cut off... How else could Lenin's Russia already have
installed homeland and folklore (the proto-communist tribes are shining
through)." 28
The surpassing importance Bloch ascribes to nonsynchronous develop-
mental structures in their dialectical relationships to the movement of
capital as well as to the working class is emphatically confirmed today in every
respect; it is the theories of marginal groups and disparities that attempt to
answer scientifically the state of affairs pointed out by Bloch. They get
entangled in abstractions because they are unable to develop substantially the
historical dialectic of metropolis and provinces, city and country, capitalist
and pre-industrial modes of production. Here, too, it is not a question of a
mere analysis of mechanisms, whether of integration into the system or of the
formation of protest initiatives, but rather a question of occupying them
No matter how one investigates the conditions for the origin and success of
the autochthonous revolutions in the 20th century, one common feature is
striking, whether one is concerned with Russia, China or Cuba, or with
beginnings, as in Chile, Portugal or the Spain of the popular front. There
have only been socialist revolutions in those places where the capitalist form of

28. Erbschaft dieser Zeit, p. 159.


the law of value, commodity production on an expanded scale, is not yet so

developed that it constitutes the unity, the inner connection of the society in
question. In these countries there is, to be sure, weighted according to
regions, cities and industrial branches, an industrial production connected to
the laws of the world market, frequently strongly centralized and
technologically advanced, with the corresponding proletariat; but it would
be false to say that the capitalist mode of production had permeated all
important areas and covered them over with value abstractions that dissolve
the traditionally determined and naturally produced relationships of people
to each other and to nature. The explosive point is rather one at which,
within the "historicalmilieu" (Marx) of a society, modes of production, forms
of appropriation and contexts of life from quite different levels of
development collide, where the capitalist development of the law of value has
not yet totally consumed forms of common property, of artisan and peasant
modes of production, of remnants of tribal constitutions (Gentilver-
fassungen), and collective rights to use land and means of production, but
where these are permanently questioned and threatened. The scale of these
traditional communal constitutions and modes of production with a mainly
pre-industrial, one can say more precisely caring relationship to the natural
foundation for producing material life, reaches from the Asian mode of
production, founded on a natural economy, as in China, to the Russian agri-
cultural community, the last phase of the primitive formation of society.
Their inner structure, penetrated by private elements, already marks the
transitional phase from a society based on common property to one based on
private property. That these traditional elements, in isolation, cannot be the
foundation for socialist transformations is shown by historical experience;
what Engels stated apodictically applies here: "The agrarian communism
descended from tribal society (Gentilgesellschaft) has never developed by
itself into anything but its own destruction."29
Marx and especially the later Engels again and again, and with various
localizations, discussed the problem of the revolutionary impulse, the place
where the revolutionary process erupts. They were obviously conscious of the
fact that with the accelerating spread of the capitalist mode of production,
the time and place of the impulse and substantialfulfillment of the revolution
increasingly defy unambiguous or at least plausible estimation. At first it was
France; after the defeat of the Paris Commune hopes were directed at
Germany; finally the impulse was expected from Russia, the country with the
most marked nonsynchronicity of development, since it extended from the

29. Marx-Engels Werke, vol. 28, p. 666.


primeval community to modern industry and high finance. But it is always

the provinces, the periphery of the capitalistic cosmos in which the eruption is
expected. Marx already emphasized the importance of these sources of
conflict in 1850: "Just as the period of crisis occurs later on the continent than
in England, so does that of prosperity. The original process always takes place
in England; it is the demiurge of the bourgeois cosmos. On the continent, the
different phases of the cycle through which bourgeois society is ever speeding
anew occur in secondary or tertiary form... If therefore the crises first
produce revolutions on the continent, the foundation for these is, never-
theless, always laid in England. Violent outbreaks must naturally occur
earlier in the extremities of the bourgeois body than in its heart, since the
possibility of adjustment is greater here than there. On the other hand, the
degree to which the Continental revolutions react on England is at the same
time the barometer which indicates how far these revolutions really call into
question the bourgeois conditions of life, or how far they only hit their
political formations."30 But today it is a question whether the "revolutionary
impulse" which Engels says could be brought about by a handful of
determined Blanquistes in Russia, does not express, as an obviously aporetic
category, a general and systematic problem of Marxist theory. That
revolutions spread like a prairie fire and penetrate from the periphery into the
center is certainly a very false conception. Since the revolution has its own
"laws of motion" in every country, even if these are quite susceptible to
modification by learning processes, impulse and social fulfillment,
revolutionary will and ripeness of conditions are not external to each other,
but belong constitutively together. In no case, however, can they be
split up
and localized in different places.
The primary importance for the revolutionary process of provinces and
periphery, both in backward and in nonsynchronous forms, does not lie with
their function as external impulse. It comes rather from the fact that, in such
social niches, qualitative modes of production and experiencing, entire
contexts of life, with the corresponding "irrational" contents, can maintain
themselves or develop anew, elements which by themselves certainly have no
revolutionary potential. But in the existential confrontations between expec-
tations and hopes and the capitalistic cosmos of perverted and reduced
possibilities of life, and in assimilation with more politically conscious parts of
the working class, there arises a high degree of militancy which breaks
through the periphery of wage demands and goes for the realization of
substantial programs for changing production. What the phenomena such as

30. Marx, The Class Struggles in France (Moscow, 1952), pp. 125-6.

the North Italian class struggles, LIP and protest movements (which in other
respects seem so different) have in common is, first of all, that here the zones
of conflict and struggle are determined by the collision of different modes of
producing experience; it is this form of nonsynchronicity in the capitalist
countries which is gaining ever greater importance for the genesis of revo-
lutionary actions and the articulation of needs and political demands, even as
regards to the class-conscious parts of the proletariat.

Truth and Propaganda -as a Problem of Truth

Since the establishing of a separate ministry for propaganda in the Third
Reich, which proved to be an extremely efficient central distributor of lies,
the concept of propaganda has been thoroughly discredited. But the Nazis
neither invented the thing it designates, nor were they able to abolish it by
corrupting the word; for the circumstances which are thought through in the
concept of propaganda refer to nothing less than the historical temporal
nucleus of truth. If the theory wishes to obtain a consciousness of its own
preconditions, then the problem of pedagogical mediation belongs
systematically to this not only as a methodical-technical or
agitatorial supplement that one could also omit under certain circumstances
without having to fear consequences for the truth content of the theory.
Marxist theory, more than all others, cannot viably exist without an
addressee; Bloch coins a concept of propaganda which adds to the concept of
truth itself those mimetic approaches to people and things excluded by the
scientific mode of production; unless the theory, recognized and represented
as true, joins in with the context of individual lives that is to be explained
and opened up, the circuit is not closed which would connect those who
produce true insights into nature and society and know how to use them and
those who urgently need these insights for the overcoming of their own state of
unconsciousnessand unhappiness. Where the conception of two kinds of class
consciousness can arise, Marxist theory has always lost its liberating truth
content; it is academically preserved and repeated, as if it could seize the
masses by itself.
Already in 1924, when Hitler had just emerged, Bloch described the
fascination emanating from his speeches and resisted the temptation to
underestimate his importance for the youth and the dispossessed and
impoverished masses. While Marxists continued to adhere to a rational belief
in educative propaganda and spread the truth in an administrative style,
Hitler mobilzied the people's anxieties with symbols and archetypes of
salvation and strength.
"Revolution not only intervenes in the understanding, but equally in the

fantasy, which has for so long been undernourished in socialism. It intervenes

precisely in the fantasy of the understanding, in the extraordinary tension
between processual reality and that which has not yet come into being within
it--as our world. The Nazis spoke deceptively, but to people; the socialists
spoke completely truthfully, but about situations; it is our task now to speak
completely truthfully to people about their situations."31 Socialism, this most
human of all concerns, requires a human face at the top.

31. "Kritik der Propaganda" in: Vom Hasard zur Katastrophe, p. 197.

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University, St. Louis, Missouri 63130 USA. [Make checks payable to "Telos."]