Karl Korsch

August 15, 1886 — October 21, 1961

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August 15, 1886 — October 21, 1961


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About Karl Korsch

Karl Korsch (German: [kɔɐ̯ʃ]; August 15, 1886 – October 21, 1961) was a German Marxist theoretician and political philosopher. Along with György Lukács, Korsch is considered to be one of the major figures responsible for laying the groundwork for Western Marxism in the 1920s.

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This person has authored 35 documents, with 179,894 words or 1,222,505 characters.

First Published: in Living Marxism, Vol. IV, No. 6, April 1939, pp. 178-182. Transcribed: by Adam Burton, for marxists.org 2012; In a previous issue[1] we have endeavored to refute one of the main fallacies that conceal from the international-working class the particular importance of that new phase of the Spanish revolution which was inaugurated by the events of July 19, 1936. In spite of the rapidly increasing amount of literature on Spain today there is not available up to now any full report of what from our point of view we would call the real contents of the present struggles in revolutionary Spain. Of course, one would not expect such information on the really interesting facts from those progressively-minded people who e... (From : Marxists.org.)
First Published: in Die materialistische Geschichtsauffassung, 1971 Translated by Otto Koester Source: libcom.org; Transcribed: by Zdravko Saveski, for marxists.org 2012; 1 Marxism today is in the midst of an historical and theoretical crisis. It is not simply a crisis within the Marxist movement, but a crisis of Marxism itself. This crisis reveals itself externally in the complete collapse of the dominant position - partially illusory, but also partially real - that Marxism held during the pre-World War I era in the European working class movement. It reveals itself internally in the transformation of Marxist theory and practice, a transformation which is most immediately apparent in Marxists' altered position vis-à-v... (From : Marxists.org.)
First published: in Living Marxism, Volume 4, Number 3, May 1938 Source: Class Against Class; Transcribed: by Zdravko Saveski, for marxists.org 2009; In order to work out a realistic approach to the constructive work of the revolutionary proletariat in Catalonia and other parts of Spain, we must not confront its achievements either with some abstract ideal or with results attained under entirely different historical conditions. There is no doubt that the actual outcome of "collectivization," even in those industries of Barcelona and the smaller towns and villages of Catalonia where it can be studied at its best, lags far behind the ideal constructions of the orthodox socialist and communist theories, and even more so behind... (From : Marxists.org.)
First Published: in Neue Zeitung fur Mittelhüringen, Vol.3, March 1921.Source: the Collective Action Notes Website.Marked up: by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive. I The counterrevolutionary character of political developments in Germany since November 9, 1918 is most clearly demonstrated by the history of the political workers councils. Of those revolutionary councils of workers and soldiers which in November 1918 were generally recognized as platforms of sovereignty, and which exercised the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Reich, the state governments, the municipalities and the army, all that remained in November 1919 was a meager handful of “local workers councils”, deprived o... (From : Marxists.org.)
First Published: in Living Marxism, Volume 5, Number 2, Fall 1940, pp. 29-37 Source: Class Against Class; Transcribed: by Zdravko Saveski, for marxists.org 2009; What hope have we revolutionary Marxists, remnants of a past epoch, inheritors of its most advanced theories, illusions, ideologies-what hope have we left for a revolutionary turn of the sweeping counterrevolutionary movement of victorious fascism? The fate of France has finally proved that the old Marxist slogan of "world revolution" has in our epoch assumed a new meaning. We find ourselves today in the midst not of a socialist and proletarian but of an ultra-imperialistic and fascist world revolution. Just as in the preceding epoch every major defeat-the defeat o... (From : Marxists.org.)
First Published: in the American journal Living Marxism, Spring 1941;Source: John Gray’s Archive;Transcribed: by Andy Blunden, for marxists.org 2003;Proofread: by Chris Clayton 2006. There is no better means of finding out how far we have traveled since the 19th century workers’ movement collapsed in the cataclysm of the first world war than to raise the question of the war aims of the international working class today. There is nothing left in 1941 of that misleading simplicity in which for the class conscious minority of the social democratic parties of 1914 the problem of a true or false war policy resolved itself into a choice between outright betrayal and an unswerving allegiance to the revolutionary duty of an unconditi... (From : Marxists.org.)
First Published: in Marxist Quarterly, 1937;Source: Class Against Class;Transcribed: by Andy Blunden, for marxists.org 2003;Proofed and corrected: by Chris Clayton 2006; Ulli Diemer 2011. Marxism versus Sociology WHAT IS the relationship between Marxism and modern sociological teaching? If we think of the sociology originated by Comte, and first named by him, as a special section in the system of constituted sciences, we shall find no link between it and Marxism. Marx and Engels paid no attention to either the name or content of this ostensibly new branch of knowledge. When Marx felt himself compelled to take notice of Comte’s Cours de Philosophic Positive, thirty years after its appearance, ‘because the English and French ... (From : Marxists.org.)
First Published: in Internationale, 1924 Translated by Roy Jameson Source: Class Against Class; Transcribed: by Zdravko Saveski, for marxists.org 2009; I The first item on the agenda of the Fifth World Congress of the Communist International reads: "Lenin and the Comintern. On the Basic Principles and Propaganda of Leninism." This indicates not only a commitment by the Congress to the spirit of Leninism and a widely perceivable declaration of the will of the participants to solve all questions which stand before them in the spirit of true Leninism. This does not merely indicate that particular problems which have entered into the focal point of the struggle in the last year of the Communist International in Central and Wes... (From : Marxists.org.)
First Published: in the American council communist journal edited by Paul Mattick, Living Marxism, November 1938; It had first been written for the Institute for Social Research (Frankfurt School) journal Zeitschrift fur Sozialforschung but was not accepted. A French translation was published as an appendix in the Spartacus Editions version of Lenin as Philosopher, and it was reprinted in the Merlin Press english language edition. In the latter it is wrongly attributed to Paul Mattick.Source: John Gray’s Archive;Transcribed: by Andy Blunden, for marxists.org 2003;Proofed and corrected: by Chris Clayton 2006. Some additional remarks to Anton Pannekoek’s recent criticism of Lenin’s book “Materialism and Empirio-C (From : Marxists.org.)
Source: Marxism and Philosophy, Monthly Review Press, 1970, reproduced in its entirety;Transcribed: by Andy Blunden for the Value_of_Knowledge archive, 1998;Proofed and corrected: by Chris Clayton 2006. Until very recently, neither bourgeois nor Marxist thinkers had much appreciation of the fact that the relation between Marxism and philosophy might pose a very important theoretical and practical problem. For professors of philosophy, Marxism was at best a rather minor sub-section within the history of nineteenth-century philosophy, dismissed as ‘The Decay of Hegelianism’. But ‘Marxists’ as well tended not to lay great stress on the ‘philosophical side’ of their theory, although for quite diffe... (From : Marxists.org.)
First published: in Living Marxism #4, 1938 Source: Class Against Class; Transcribed: by Zdravko Saveski, for marxists.org 2009; Let the dead bury their dead. The proletarian revolution must at last arrive at its own content. Marx Of Karl Marx may be said what Geoffroy St. Hilaire said of Darwin that it was his fate and his glory to have had only forerunners before him and only disciples after him. Of course, there stood at his side a congenial life-long friend and collaborator, Friedrich Engels. There were in the next generation the theoretical standard-bearers of the "revisionist" and the "orthodox" wings of the German Marxist party, Bernstein and Kautsky and, besides these pseudo-savants, such real scholars of Ma... (From : Marxists.org.)
Written: by Karl Korsch in 1924;Source: Marxism and Philosophy. Karl Korsch, translated and with an Introduction by Ferd Halliday, Monthly Review Press, 1970;Transcribed: by Andy Blunden for marxists.org, 2004. On 28 September 1864 it was decided at an international meeting of workers in London to found the International Workingmen’s Association. On 25 July 1867, Karl Marx wrote the preface to the first edition of the first volume of Capital. Within one single period of history, in the 1860s, both aspects of Marxism attained their full realization: the new autonomous science of the working class attained its developed theoretical form in literature at the same time as the new autonomous movement of the proletariat achieved its practi... (From : Marxists.org.)
First published: in Imprekorr, 1923 Translated by Karl-Heinz Otto Source: Class Against Class Transcribed: by Zdravko Saveski, for marxists.org 2009. The immense significance of Marx's theoretical achievement for the practice of proletarian class struggle is that he concisely fuzed together for the first time the total content of those new viewpoints transgressing bourgeois horizons, and that he also formally conceptualized them into a solid unity, into the living totality of a scientific system. These new ideas arose by necessity in the consciousness of the proletarian class from its social conditions. Karl Marx did not create the proletarian class movement (as some bourgeois devil-worshipers imagine in all seriousness). Nor ... (From : Marxists.org.)
First published: in Living Marxism #2, 1938 Source: Class Against Class; Transcribed: by Zdravko Saveski, for marxists.org 2009; Communism, for us, is not a state of things to be established nor an ideal to which reality must adapt itself; we call communism the actual movement which transforms existing conditions. Marx We have to deal here with an especially pointed example of the striking discrepancy which in one form or another is noticeable in all phases of the historical development of Marxism. It may be characterized as the contradiction between the Marxian ideology on the one hand, and the actual historical movement which, at a given time, is concealed beneath that ideological disguise. It is now almost a cen... (From : Marxists.org.)
First Published: in Politics magazine (New York, May 1946);Source: Bureau of Public Secrets;Transcribed: by Andy Blunden, for marxists.org 2003. The documents here assembled are not meant as a contribution to the discussion for or against Marxism that has been conducted in this magazine for so many months. There is no use in discussing controversial points in any social theory (not even in that social theory which is commonly described as religion) unless such discussion is part of an existing social struggle. There must be several possibilities of action for the party, group, or class to which the social theory in question refers. The difference may concern social aims, tactics, forms of organization, or the definition of the enem... (From : Marxists.org.)
Karl Korsch, 1931 1) There is little use in confronting the subjectivist doctrine of the decisive role of the individual in the historical process with another and equally abstract doctrine that speaks of the necessity of a given historical process. It is more useful to explore, as precisely as possible, the antagonistic relations that arise from the material conditions of production of a given economic form of society for the social groups participating in it. 2) Much light is thrown on history by countering every alleged necessity of a historical process with the following questions: a) necessary by the action of which classes? b) which modifications will be necessary in the action of the classes faced by the alleged hi... (From : Marxists.org.)
First published: in Internationale, 1924 Translated by Karl-Heinz Otto Source: Class Against Class; Transcribed: by Zdravko Saveski, for marxists.org 2009. Vladimir Ilich Lenin declared two years ago in his article "Under the Banner of Marxism," published in issue no. 21 of the journal Communist International, that one of the two great tasks which communism must deal with in the field of ideology is "to organize a systematic study of Hegel’s dialectic from a materialist standpoint; that is to say, the dialectic which Marx so successfully employed in a concrete manner not only in Capital but also in his historical and political works." Lenin then did not share the great anxiety that someone just might "via the ideal... (From : Marxists.org.)
Published: in International Council Correspondence Vol. 1, no.4, January 1935, pp 15-25.Source: Antonie Pannekoek ArchivesTranscribed: by Graham Dyer The first question to be put with reference to the statement of principles of a revolutionary labor party has to do with whether and how far that program really breaks with the existing capitalist order of society. The A.W.P. is not lacking in the subjective will to make that break. It rejects not only the hitherto existing form of the bourgeois social order and its economic foundation, but also the previous and future forms of the Rooseveltian New Deal inclusive of inflation, “social credit”, and “state socialism”; it recognizes Fascism as merely an at... (From : Marxists.org.)
First Published: in International Council Correspondence, Vol. 3, Number 11&12, December 1937 Source: Class Against Class; Transcribed: by Zdravko Saveski, for marxists.org 2009; Nothing reveals in such glaring colors the enormous contrast which have existed in the last thirty years between the being and consciousness, between the ideology and the actuality of the proletarian movement as does the final issue of that great dispute whose first passage at arms has come down in the annals of party history under the name of the "Bernstein Debate." Having to do with both the theory and the practice of the socialist movement, it erupted publicly for the first time in the German and international Social Democracy... (From : Marxists.org.)
First Published: in Jahrbuch der Arbeiterbewegung (Frankfurt, 1974), pp. 146-148. Translated by Douglas Kellner Source: Class Against Class; Transcribed: by Zdravko Saveski, for marxists.org 2009; In the time after Lenin's death and after the current "stabilization" of capital domination on a world-wide scale, and the year's long "prosperity" in some countries, especially the USA, many people have newly come to "communism" or "Soviet Russia" who cannot at all understand the critique of today's Russia and the Communist party which we developed in the first decade of the Revolution 1917-1927. These people, whom I have for a long time designated in conversations as the "second wave of conscripts of Leninism," have themselves... (From : Marxists.org.)
Written: by Karl Korsch in 1930, as a response to criticisms of Marxism and Philosophy;Source: Marxism and Philosophy. Karl Korsch, translated and with an Introduction by Ferd Halliday, Monthly Review Press, 1970;Transcribed: by Andy Blunden for marxists.org, 2004, in its entirety. I Habent sua fata libelli [To each text its own fate]. In 1923 there appeared a work on a ‘problem of the greatest theoretical and practical importance: the relationship between Marxism and Philosophy’. It had a rigorously scientific character, but did not deny that the problem was practically related to the struggles of our age, which were then raging at their fiercest. It was prepared to receive a biased and negative theoretical reception from the... (From : Marxists.org.)
First Published: in Die Aktion #19, 1929 Translated by Andrew Giles-Peters and Karl-Heinz Otto Source: Class Against Class; Transcribed: by Zdravko Saveski, for marxists.org 2009; I What should every class-conscious worker know about the revolutionary commune in the present historical epoch which has on its agenda the revolutionary self-liberation of the working class from the capitalist yoke? And what is known about it today by even the politically enlightened and therefore self-conscious segment of the proletariat? There are a few historical facts, together with a few appropriate remarks by Marx, Engels, and Lenin, which now after half a century of Social Democratic propaganda prior to the Great War and after th... (From : Marxists.org.)
I A great shortcoming of the form in which the discussion of crises took place hitherto, especially m the circles of the left and far-left wings of the workers movement, was to be found in their search for a "revolutionary" crisis theory per se, just as in the middle ages one searched for the philosopher’s stone. Historical examples, however, can demonstrate quite easily that possession of such a supposedly highly revolutionary crisis theory says little about the actual level of class consciousness and revolutionary preparedness for action of a group or individual believing in the theory, thus it is well known that for thirty years, from 1891 to 1921, the Social Democratic party of Germany had in the crisis section ... (From : Marxists.org.)
First Published: in Die Neue Rundschau, September 1931 Translated by Karl-Heinz Otto, Andrew Giles-Peters, and Heinz Schutte Source: Class Against Class; Transcribed: by Zdravko Saveski, for marxists.org 2009; I The last foreign minister of the fallen Spanish monarchy, Count Romanones, reports that the overpowering victory of the republican parties (who in the municipal elections of April 12, 1931, obtained the overwhelming majority of votes in almost all - 47 out of 51! - provincial capitals) and the fall of the Bourbon monarchy which resulted in a few hours "was a surprise for all." And Leon Rollin, correspondent of "New Europe," who is familiar with the most intimate secrets of the Spanish opposition, has explicitl... (From : Marxists.org.)
First Published: in Modern Quarterly, 1939 Source: Class Against Class; Transcribed: by Zdravko Saveski, for marxists.org 2009; I More than any preceding period of recent history, and on a much vaster scale, our period is a time not of revolution but of counter revolution. This is true whether we define this comparatively new term as a conscious counter-action against a preceding revolutionary process or whether we describe it as do some Italians and their ideological forerunners in pre-war France, as an essentially "preventive revolution." It is counter-action of the united capitalist class against all that remains today of the results of that first great insurrection of the proletarian forces of war-torn Europe which ... (From : Marxists.org.)
Translated: by Andrew Giles-Peters. From TELOS #26 (Winter 1975-76);Source: the Collective Action Notes Website. 1. It no longer makes sense to ask to what extent the teaching of Marx and Engels is, today, theoretically acceptable and practically applicable. 2. Today, all attempts to reestablish the Marxist doctrine as a whole in its original function as a theory of the working classes social revolution are reactionary utopias. 3. Though basically ambiguous, there are, however, important aspects of Marxian teaching which in their changing function and applying to different locations have until today retained their effectiveness. Also, the impetus generated by the praxis of the old Marxist labor movement has been presentl... (From : Marxists.org.)
Submitted to the 1902 Convention of the Société Française de Philosophie, by Georges Sorel 1) For investigating a period (of history) it is of great advantage to find out how society is divided in classes; the latter are distinguished by the essential legal concepts connected with the way in which incomes are formed in each group. 2) It is advisable to dismiss all atomistic explanations; it is not worthwhile to inquire how the links between individual psychologies are formed. What can be observed directly are those links themselves, that which refers to the masses. The thoughts and activities of individuals are fully understandable only by their connection with the movements of the masses. 3) Mu... (From : Marxists.org.)
First Published: in Gegner #6, 1932 Translated by Karl-Heinz Otto and Andrew Giles-Peters Source: Class Against Class; Transcribed: by Zdravko Saveski, for marxists.org 2009; 1. Exposition "The modern state, whatever its form may be, is essentially a capitalist machine, the state of the capitalists, the ideal aggregate capitalist" (Engels, Socialism: Scientific and Utopian) 1. The fascist state is a modern state. It does not signify a return to pre-bourgeois state structures. The corporative state has nothing to do with the "state of estates"-fascism as "counter-reform." 2. The fascist conception of state is grounded in the negation of the early bourgeois ideal of the state. It signifies disillusionment vis-&agrav... (From : Marxists.org.)
First Published: in Modern Quarterly 1935, translation revised by the author;Source: Class Against Class;Transcribed: by Andy Blunden, for marxists.org 2003;Proofread: by Chris Clayton 2006. Instead of discussing Marxism in general I propose to deal at once with some of the most effective points of Marxist theory and practice. Only such an approach conforms with the principle of Marxian thought. For the Marxist, there is no such thing as ‘Marxism’ in general any more than there is a ‘democracy’ in general, a ‘dictatorship’ in general or a ‘state’ in general. There is only a bourgeois state, a proletarian dictatorship or a fascist dictatorship, etc. And even these exist only at determinate s... (From : Marxists.org.)
First Published: in the American journal Living Marxism, Winter 1941;Source: John Gray's Archive;Transcribed: by Andy Blunden, for marxists.org 2003;Proofread: by Chris Clayton 2006. “Democracy” – a self-styled name for the traditional set-up of present day capitalist society – is fighting a losing battle against the attacking forces of fascism (nazism, falangism, iron guardism, and so forth). The workers stand by. They seem to say again what their predecessors, the revolutionary workers of Paris in 1849, said in regard to the final struggle between the leaders of a self-defeated liberal democracy and the quasi-fascist chief of a new Napoleonic imperialism, Louis Bonaparte. They say (as int... (From : Marxists.org.)


An icon of a baby.
August 15, 1886
Birth Day.

An icon of a gravestone.
October 21, 1961
Death Day.

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March 1, 2021; 5:55:16 PM (America/Los_Angeles)
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March 1, 2021; 5:56:15 PM (America/Los_Angeles)
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