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Herbert Marcuse Denounces the Vietnam War (May 22, 1966)

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I am not speaking of the communist world as a counterforce opposing the capitalist world, since I am convinced that this configuration is still very much in flux. The important thing here is the trend towards convergence between Soviet society and American society and towards the division of the peoples of the communist world into “haves” and “have nots,” which would greatly facilitate such assimilation.

In closing I would like to answer a question you asked me: Is there any real basis of solidarity for all these socially and geographically so distinct and isolated counterforces? Is there a basis for a concrete form of solidarity?

My answer is: none besides the solidarity of reason and sentiment. This instinctive and intellectual solidarity is today perhaps the most powerful radical force we have. Such solidarity should not be underestimated, especially not the instinctive, spontaneous solidarity of sentiment. It goes deeper than organized solidarity, without which it cannot become effective. It is part of the power of negation that initiates the upheaval.

[ . . . ]

The question remains whether the university should have something to do with politics, if one should engage in politics at the university. To be sure, political science is an established discipline at the university, but it is supposed to have as little as possible to do with politics. Ethics certainly has a legitimate place at the university, and one of the things that I learned, and that many of my friends, socialists, Marxists, have learned, is that morality and ethics are not merely superstructure and not merely ideology. In history there is something like guilt, and there is no necessity—neither strategic nor technological nor national—that could justify what is going on in Vietnam: the slaughter of the civilian population, of women and children, the systematic destruction of foodstuffs, carpet bombing of one of the poorest and most defenseless countries in the world—that is guilt and we must protest against it even if we believe that it is hopeless, simply in order to survive as human beings and perhaps to make a dignified existence possible for others, perhaps only because it could possibly shorten the terror and the horror, and today that is already a great deal.

Source: Herbert Marcuse, “Vietnam – Analyse eines Exempels” [“Vietnam – Analysis of an Example”], Neue Kritik 7, no. 36–37 (July-August 1966), pp. 30-40; reprinted in Wolfgang Kraushaar, ed., Frankfurter Schule und Studentenbewegung. Von der Flaschenpost zum Molotowcocktail 1946-1995 [The Frankfurt School and the Student Movement. From the Message in the Bottle to the Molotov Cocktail 1946-1995]. Hamburg, 1998, vol. 2, pp. 205-09.

Translation: Allison Brown

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