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We know where these insights are coming from.

The Frankfurt School not only had its admirers but also severe critics and enemies. One of them (again a professor of philosophy) claimed that they were Soviet agents. This was considered a base calumny: there was no hard evidence to this effect and we know from their private correspondence that they were quite critical of Soviet politics and conditions. They merely thought that open criticism would put them in the camp of the reactionaries and warmongers.

But it is also true that they did not know much about the Soviet Union (perhaps did not want to know too much) and many years later, after the breakdown of the Soviet system, it appeared that Neumann had indeed passed on information to KGB agents; his handler was the wife of the KGB resident in the US, a lady of Romanian origin and a relation of the famous Ana Pauker. In his defence it could be argued that such collaboration lasted only for a year, that the Soviet Union was not an enemy but an ally at the time, that the Soviets could not possibly benefit much from the information he conveyed — and that, as so often, they disbelieved the information they received from him anyway.

 And yet, how to explain such behaviour but for the presence of a great deal of political naivety? According to many of his students, Neumann was not a fanatic but a man of sterling character. Moreover, unlike many Marxists he was a strong believer in the rule of law. He was firmly convinced that unless the wartime alliance between the West and the Soviet Union continued, Nazism in Germany would undergo a revival.

The idea that passing on information to the Russians would somehow prevent a return of Nazism was far-fetched, to put it mildly. But it may perhaps help to understand the strange political psychology of a misguided individual.

The historical fate of the Frankfurt School has been described and discussed in many books and articles. After the end of the war some of the functions of OSS were taken over by the State Department, others by the Pentagon. Eventually, following the National Security Act of 1947, the CIA was established. Marcuse and Kirchheimer continued to work for a number of years for various agencies of the American government. Neumann became a professor at Columbia University. He died in a traffic accident in Switzerland in 1954.

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September 15th, 2013
3:09 PM
People who live in ivory academic towers are destined to intellectually suffocate in them. The so-called left had a problem with National Socialists, it currently has problems with Islam. Anti-semitism is a thread running through some "left" world-views. Might secular/atheistic Jewish "antisemitism" have contributed to this? That beginning with Marx.

Russ Davis
September 9th, 2013
2:09 PM
As usual, the whole vacuous consideration of motives and notions misses the most important, underlying matter of man's rebellion against God from the beginning with Adam & Eve. Because Jews & Christians are in varying aspects objects of God's Covenant, they are thus likewise the devil's objects of persecution and destruction before, above and beyond all other considerations, as America's Founders of her Christian endeavor understood (no matter the blind, ignorant, groundless bigotry of those in antiChristian denial). See and for a true understanding of this.

September 8th, 2013
2:09 PM
I think this analysis is somewhat misguided. The spearhead theory, as articulated in this review, might seem unpalatable, but Horkheimer and Adorno's explanation of antisemitism and the threats of fascism in Dialetic of Enlightenment offer a more nuanced view. The legacy of the Frankfurt School argument on antisemitism and genocide is, in my opinion, this: The extermination of the Jews in Nazi Germany was not just a singular, local, delimited event in history, but rather represents a dangerous potential within the structure of late capitalism itself. When ideology combines with limitless technological mobilization, evil on a grand scale is possible. I have always seen, therefore, the "conservative" strain of thought in the later Horkheimer and Adorno as being an attempt to preserve humanism against this dangerous potential. These OSS papers might not make this argument clearly, but the seminal works of the school hold up better to criticisms of naivete.

September 8th, 2013
4:09 AM
Hitler's madness may have come from influenza.

Wim Schul
September 5th, 2013
8:09 AM
I do not consider the spearhead concept as essential element in Frankfurter thought. This alarmist consideration can be found in nearly every consideration of nazism that calls to action. The legacy consists in taking attention from social and geopolitical images to that of the mindset of fascism, later autoritarism, more parallel to lines of thought of Wilhelm Reich or someone like Walter Benjamin. Apart from onesidedness and narrowness there still remains this lasting legacy of the Frankfurters in connection with fascism, as well as - contrary to some of the others - the obligation to take sides in practice, that was the Allied cause.

Granite Sentry
September 5th, 2013
2:09 AM
Not especially surprising; the record of Leftist intellectuals woefully misunderstanding, misinterpreting, and misstating political developments around the world during most of the last 100 years is unfortunately quite extensive. But to this day they still think they're the smartest guys and gals in the room. Go figure.

Ted Schrey Montreal
September 2nd, 2013
6:09 PM
This is one sad story. It is depressing in the extreme to realize activist-theorists of this calibre didn't amount to a whole-hell-of-a-heap of useful thought. It is quite incredible, actually, coming from those who lived close to the abyss, and obviously blinded by their own precious ideas. Yuck.

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