Book Reviews

The Frankfurt School against the Nazis


A Review of Secret Reports on Nazi Germany: The Frankfurt School Contribution to the War Effort, edited by Raffaele Laudani

Mike Makin-Waite

Independent Researcher


The following is a review of a book which surveys the work of Herbert Marcuse and other members of the Frankfurt School when they were employed by the United States government during and immediately after the Second World War. It locates their reports for the Office of Strategic Services within broader trajectories of Frankfurt School thinking, and notes how Marcuse’s work in the 1940s anticipated themes that would be central to his 1960s writings, when he became a radical icon. The book under review shows how Frankfurt School methodologies and theories combined with immediate analysis of concrete developments to generate valuable insights into the complex interactions between capital, technology, militarism, politics, culture, and anti-Semitism in Hitler’s ‘Third Reich’. On this basis, Marcuse and his colleagues set out proposals for effective struggle against German fascism.


Frankfurt School – Herbert Marcuse – Max Horkheimer – Franz Neumann – Second World War – Office of Strategic Services – Cold War

Franz Neumann, Herbert Marcuse and Otto Kirchheimer, (2013) Secret Reports on Nazi Germany: The Frankfurt School Contribution to the War Effort, edited by Raffaele Laudani, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

‘New Left Guru’ with a ‘Scandalous’ Past?

In the late 1960s, Herbert Marcuse was widely seen as a ‘guru’ of the New Left and counterculture, and as the ‘father of the student movement’. Unlike other key thinkers in the Frankfurt School tradition, he explicitly endorsed and encouraged spontaneous and anti-authoritarian struggles. Here was a well-known left-wing theoretician whose books Eros and Civilisation (1955, reissued with a ‘political preface’ in 1966) andOne Dimensional Man (1964) had anticipated many of the causes and hopes which were now animating young radicals: sexual freedom; emancipatory culture; the need to link personal, social and political liberation; broad demands for ‘total change’; and the need for a ‘great refusal’ of all systems of repression and domination.

But, ‘although he was revered by many, for others he was a “revisionist”, “idealist philosopher” [and an] “elitist”’. And, in the fast-moving ferment of 1960s radicalism, a few critics even identified Marcuse as ‘a CIA agent’.[1]

Claims about Marcuse working for the Central Intelligence Agency were first promoted in the US by the Maoist organisation, the Progressive Labor Party, and then picked up in Europe. Rumours spread that Marcuse had worked for the US secret services until the 1950s, and possibly into the 1960s. When Marcuse tried to give a lecture in Rome in June 1969, he was repeatedly interrupted and goaded by Daniel Cohn-Bendit, famous since May the previous year as a figurehead of the Paris ‘events’. Cohn-Bendit demanded that Marcuse admit his role as an agent of the American state: ‘Marcuse, why have you come to the theatre of the bourgeoisie? Herbert, tell us why the CIA pays you?’[2]

Marcuse was angry about the false accusation of having been employed by the CIA. He was in fact a constant critic of the CIA, and the foreign-policy objectives which it served. His radical politics meant that he had been under covert FBI surveillance from the early 1950s, and this had become more intense and intrusive since the mid-1960s.

At the same time, the truth of his having been employed by the United States government during the Second World War was not something he wished to hide. On the contrary, Marcuse was proud of his record as a political analyst in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Amongst other tasks he carried out there, Marcuse had in summer 1944 written an early draft of the proclamation of the dissolution of the Nazi party which formed the basis of the actual proclamation issued in May 1945 (pp. 262–3). The fact that such service was being conflated with being ‘a CIA agent’ betrayed sloppiness in polemic, and a lack of interest in key shifts and changes which took place in American state structures during the 1940s.

In Marcuse’s eyes, as for the vast majority of people on the left at the time, the US involvement in the war against Hitler had meant that working for the state was a means of fighting fascism. But the end of the war saw the marginalisation and then, in October 1945, the closure of the OSS. Nearly two years later, in late 1947, the CIA was established as part of the promotion and pursuit of the Cold War: Marcuse had never worked for the Agency. But in June 1969, such subtleties and distinctions were lost on the red-haired heckler in the packed Eliseo Theatre, shouting out his demand that Marcuse own up to his scandalous past.

A Place to Fight Fascism

To understand Marcuse’s actual war record, context is important. This review therefore details the formation and character of the anti-fascist intelligence agencies created by the United States from 1942. It then considers some of the work carried out as part of the American war effort by Marcuse and his fellow ‘Frankfurters’. This was shaped by and positioned within significant debates within the Frankfurt School, which are sketched here: these have been described as producing ‘a strange assortment of views on the correct interpretation of Nazism, and a peculiar dispute about … “state capitalism”’.[3] The review then tracks the shift into the Cold War period, when the types of contribution to official policy which the Frankfurt School members had made were no longer ‘needed’ – or welcome.

Marcuse had not been the first German-Jewish exile associated with the Frankfurt School to take up a job with the OSS. Franz Neumann had been the legal advisor to a range of trade unions, a party activist, and the most prominent lawyer acting on behalf of the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD) before Hitler’s seizure of power. He had then fled to London and studied at the LSE, beginning his association with the Institute for Social Research on Harold Laski’s recommendation. He moved to New York in 1936, and had been recruited to the OSS as it was being set up in spring 1942.

Early in 1943, the new intelligence agency’s Research and Analysis Branch (R&A) was established. It grew quickly, employing over 1,200 people, around two-thirds of whom worked in the USA, and the rest overseas, including in battlefield situations. These officers were chosen on the basis of their evident skills and abilities, and issues of political commitment do not appear to have blocked recruitment – though prospects for significant promotion were affected by judgements about ideological orthodoxy, and by ‘ethnic’ prejudice, i.e. anti-Semitism. Among the leftists who worked in R&A were Paul Sweezy, already recognised as a Marxist, and later to become a founding editor ofMonthly Review; his collaborator in Marxist economics, Paul A. Baran; and Arno J. Mayer, later a ‘left dissident Marxist’ and major historian, whose works include the important 1988 account of the Judeocide,Why Did the Heavens Not Darken? The ‘Final Solution’ in History.

In this context, Neumann soon became Deputy Chief of the R&A’s Central European Section, which employed over forty people. Marcuse joined this team in March 1943, and he quickly became ‘the leading analyst on Germany’.

The fact that Frankfurt School figures were taking up full-time government jobs was helpful in managing financial challenges facing the school’s organisational basis, the Institute for Social Research. Since 1937, this had been hosted by Columbia University on Morningside Heights, New York. Its director Max Horkheimer had pushed Neumann to take up the OSS role on the basis that the Institute could no longer afford him; and the same ‘push’ would be given to the Institute’s part-time associate Otto Kirchheimer in 1943.

          Marcuse left the Institute much more reluctantly, and with some emotion: alongside Theodor Adorno and Horkheimer himself, Marcuse had been one of its central members, and even with government job-offers in his hand, and with his wife urging him to finally move on from his dependency on the Institute, he had begged Horkheimer to keep him on. The power dynamic in this interaction reflected ‘the patriarchal and confidential’ – and self-interested – way that Horkheimer managed Institute resources. Since the late 1930s, when the endowment capital on which the Institute depended began to shrink, ‘Horkheimer’s main concern became to reserve a large enough share of the assets … to secure his own scholarly work on a long-term basis’.[4]

Whilst Horkheimer and Adorno applied themselves to the ‘philosophical fragments’ which would later be published as Dialectic of Enlightenment, working in R&A provided the opportunity for Neumann, Marcuse and Kirchheimer to apply the critical theory they had developed through the Institute for Social Research in the urgent struggle against the Nazis. The book under review collects and annotates nearly thirty reports and policy papers which they wrote for their governmental and military colleagues between 1943 and 1945, and which were declassified in the mid-1970s. R&A material was circulated without attribution, but using internal evidence, other archival material, and the reported recollections of the authors themselves, the volume’s diligent editor Raffaele Laudani has identified each item here as written wholly or mainly by one of ‘the Frankfurters’.

The resulting collection is an important addition to literature about the Frankfurt School. It adds depth and nuance to those parts of Stuart Jeffries’s accessible overview of the tradition which deal with the Second World War;[5] complements Thomas Wheatland’s work on the Frankfurt School’s influence on American academic and political life, which particularly focuses on the postwar period, and the ways Marcuse inspired the New Left;[6] and provides evidence to support Tim B. Müller’s assertion of the considerable continuity between the work carried out by the Frankfurters for the OSS, and their subsequent interpretations of the postwar political landscape.[7] Müller also traces how the wartime research, particularly that of Marcuse, fed directly into the radical critique of Western modernity which was so influential in the 1960s, and which many consider to have relevance for contemporary social movements, ecological politics, and other radical initiatives.[8]

Who Makes the Nazis?

In order to produce their briefings and policy papers for OSS directors and operatives, R&A analysts had access to a wide range of material: well-stocked libraries, including newspapers and other publications quickly sourced from within ‘the Third Reich’; tapes of Nazi radio broadcasts; classified intelligence documents; reports from front-line military units; transcripts of intercepted telephone calls; and notes from Prisoner of War interrogations.

The resulting reports cover many issues. There are assessments of periodic changes in Reich government composition, and the elevation of particular figures such as the technocrat Albert Speer and the SS leader Heinrich Himmler; analyses of ‘social stratification’; surveys of civilian morale at such moments as the Nazi army’s defeat in Tunisia; insights into the psychological effects of air raids on German cities; and a prompt explanation of the factors behind the attempted assassination of Hitler by Claus von Stauffenberg and others in July 1944. There are also substantial accounts of the parties, organisations and networks which maintained some clandestine opposition to the Nazis inside Germany, as well as from their bases in exile – in particular, the SPD and the Communist Party.

The Frankfurt School members toned down their established practice of foregrounding ‘philosophical and theoretical categories for an analysis that was apparently more descriptive’ (pp. 7–8). The varied pieces in Secret Reports on Nazi Germany do, of course, include a great many factual details that will interest those studying the period.[9] Nevertheless, Neumann, Marcuse and Kirchheimer always shaped and organised their ‘empirical’ material on the basis of critical understandings. Their analytical skills, coherence and preparedness to follow and adapt to the OSS’s procedural requirements meant that they were able to shape the work programme of the entire Central European Section in line with their broad approach. Whilst incorporating theoretical perspectives drawn from the Hegelian-inflected critical Marxism of the Institute, their reports met managers’ expectations by displaying immediate practical intent, and almost always pointed to particular steps for the military and US agencies to take. Some of these fitted with the overall established policies of the US government. Others did not, and these proposals sometimes provoked ‘veritable “political” battles inside the administration’ – battles which Marcuse and his colleagues almost always lost (pp. 7–8).

One of these ‘battles’ concerned the extent to which prominent businessmen (sic) within Reich systems of governance should be considered as key members of the regime, and therefore as ‘economic war criminals’ to be brought to justice once the Nazis were defeated. As it became clear that there would be an Allied victory, the Frankfurt group urged

a radical policy of denazification that [should extend] beyond merely purging the Nazi political and military leadership [but] should also undermine Nazism’s ‘economic base’, which had been promoted and sustained by elements external to the party. (p. 14.)

On this basis, Marcuse drew together a list naming 1,800 businessmen, industrialists and bankers who belonged to apparently ‘independent’ organisations and companies, but who in fact played a crucial role in the rise and maintenance of Nazism. Since they were exerting considerable direct control over the Reich economy, the analysts of the Central European Section argued that these figures needed to be added to the approximately 220,000 ‘active Nazis’ whom the American military was already planning to capture and put into custody, if found alive at the time of Nazism’s defeat. Marcuse and his colleagues urged that dealing with these chiefs of industry and finance was far more important than finding those old men responsible for the culture of ‘Prussian militarism’ which Roosevelt and Churchill had declared they aimed to annihilate.[10]

Their focus on the importance of modernising economic agents expressed the Frankfurt group’s understanding of the Nazi system – and the ways that their understanding differed from that of their old colleagues back on Morningside Heights. All Frankfurt School members held that Nazism was but one expression of an emerging ‘single paradigm of domination’ in the world, which also included Soviet Communism and liberal democracy. They did not believe that there was an absolutely distinct and unique German path to modernity: such a perspective would have been a mirror-image of the exceptionalist claims promoted by Nazi ideologists. But Horkheimer, Adorno and Friedrich Pollock saw Nazism’s driving forces in the increasingly autonomous dynamics of politics and technological developments, to which the economy was subordinated.

Though a range of nuances and differing emphases distinguished their individual positions, these three thinkers all saw Hitler’s regime as a form of ‘state capitalism’, characterised by a tendency to eliminate market autonomy, with the profit motive increasingly replaced as the economy’s motor by the ‘motivation of power’. In this way, ‘state capitalism’ was a new phase, succeeding monopoly capitalism. It could take a liberal, democratic form, as in the emerging ‘managerial capitalism’ in the USA: one of the areas of debate between these Frankfurt School members was about the extent to which the liberal or fascist form would prove the more effective in atomising and integrating the working class. Horkheimer and Adorno’s analyses also drew from the work of Ernst Bloch, Erich Fromm and Wilhelm Reich, who had in various ways highlighted the complex psychological dynamics informing the appeal and effectiveness of fascism. This cultural level of analysis drew upon the Frankfurt School’s prewar Studies on Authority and the Family, and would inform the major postwar project carried out in the USA,Studies in Prejudice, which generated the volumeThe Authoritarian Personality.

For Marcuse, Neumann and Kirchheimer, however, the driving force and key explanatory factors of Nazism were primarily economic – and wholly capitalist. As Alberto Toscano has stated, this was at one with wider Marxist theory, which focused on

the interface of the political and the economic, seeking to adjudicate the functionality of the fascist abrogation of liberal parliamentary democracy to the intensified reproduction of the conditions for capitalist accumulation. This entailed identifying fascism as a ruling-class solution to the organic crisis of a regime of accumulation confronted by the threat of organised class struggle amid the vacillations of an imperialist order.[11]

Frankfurt School theorists like Pollock and Neumann also recognised and emphasised ‘the contradictions between the autonomy or primacy of the political brutally asserted by fascist movements and the possibility of a reproduction of the capitalist mode of production’.[12]

Neumann had developed his analysis along these lines before joining the OSS. His 1942 book Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism had emphasised the ways that ruling groups in Nazi Germany controlled the population through bureaucratic systems and the promotion of racist ideology, but also showed how Hitler’s regime maintained and developed capitalist social relations, through encouraging ‘monopolistic concentration, reinforcing the power of industrial potentates and weakening the position of the middle and working classes’ (p. 5).

The Nazi economic system was a particular instance of monopoly capitalism, which benefited large companies and cartels. It sought to integrate workers, having smashed their collectivist class organisations, by providing ‘full employment’, and promoting a racist, ambitious mass culture through which individual ‘Germans’ could identify with each other through their shared relationship to the state. Nazi rule was a means to adapt society to the requirements of large-scale industry, through which monopolies and state-orchestrated cartels continued to accrue great profits: German people were organised to serve these ends through becoming subject to an all-embracing apparatus of domination.

On some other important issues which were key to understanding Nazism, disagreements and differences of emphasis between Frankfurt School figures took a different pattern. In 1943, Neumann had succeeded in getting the OSS to accept his views on the function and workings of the Nazis’ anti-Semitism. He defined it as the ‘spearhead’ of the terroristic approach that Nazis were planning to apply to ever larger circles of intended enemies:

The persecution of the Jews … is only the prologue of more horrible things to come. The expropriation of the Jews … is followed by that of the Poles, Czechs, Dutchmen, Frenchmen, anti-Nazi Germans, and middle classes. Not only Jews are put in concentration camps, but pacifists, conservatives, socialists, Catholics, Protestants, Free Thinkers and members of the occupied peoples. Not only Jews fall under the executioner’s axe, but countless others of many races, nationalities, beliefs and religions … the extermination of the Jews is only the means to the attainment of the ultimate objective, namely, the destruction of free institutions, beliefs and groups. (pp. 27–8.)

Neumann’s analysis touched directly on issues which were already beginning to be controversial by the last years of the fight against the Nazis, and which have not become less so: the importance of positioning the murderous horrors suffered specifically by Jewish people in the Judeocide; the extent to which these are to be highlighted as exemplifying Nazi barbarism; and the political problems and divisions that can result from emphasising these in contradistinction to the millions of deaths of other people during the Second World War.

As Neumann was establishing his perspectives as government policy, Leo Lowenthal was working back at the Institute with Horkheimer and Adorno on the ‘Elements of Anti-Semitism’ chapter for Dialectic of Enlightenment. He wrote to Marcuse, and persuaded him that there were major problems with Neumann’s ‘spearhead’ theory. Lowenthal instead favoured the ‘scapegoat’ theory, which positioned Nazi anti-Semitism as a diversionary strategy, enabling the regime to blame all manner of problems on Jews, and to channel popular hatreds, anxieties and fears.

Victory – and Marginalisation

Marcuse, Neumann and their colleagues maintained an ‘internal debate’ on the nature and roles of Nazi anti-Semitism until the end of the war. But they converged around the understanding that, as the war developed, anti-Semitism increasingly ‘served the purpose of forcing all Germans either to identify themselves with Nazism or pay the price of dissent’ (p. 97). Their continuing differences of emphasis did not get in the way of the important work of assembling material which evidenced specific crimes against Jewish people, and the overall scale of the Judeocide. Their files and reports informed and underpinned the prosecution of war criminals at the Nuremburg Trials.

More generally, the ‘Frankfurt’ R&A analysts helped inform the US government’s thinking about what to do once Hitler had fallen. They prepared several reports anticipating ‘possible patterns of German collapse’, and directly intervened in policy debates over whether and how to promote postwar reconstruction. Marcuse argued that the Allied approach should not involve the economic destruction of Germany, or any repeat of the steps taken by the US, Britain and France after Germany’s defeat in the First World War: plans to agrarianise the vanquished ‘Fatherland’, which Churchill sometimes appeared to favour, would be entirely counter-productive.

In promoting his perspectives, Marcuse could be bluntly explicit in his criticisms of US policy and practice. In a 1943 piece he pinpointed

the gravest mistake of our [psychological warfare] against Germany, namely the failure to show the German people a way of terminating the war and overthrowing the Nazi regime without surrendering its national independence to a foreign conqueror. (p. 150.)

Confirming that the Frankfurt tradition was by no means pro-Soviet, such arguments were sometimes linked to warnings that the Soviets might succeed in engaging effective opponents of the Nazis, where the US might fail. Marcuse counselled that not acting on the perspectives of R&A’s Central European Section could lead to the unintended result of Stalin controlling and influencing postwar Germany, rather than the US.[13]

If some of their arguments were accepted, to some degree, many of their more important points were not. As already stated, the Frankfurt group had argued that denazification procedures – and war crimes trials – should not focus too exclusively on high-profile members of the Nazi party and the military, while allowing equally, if less directly, responsible businessmen and other economic agents to escape justice. But their arguments on this matter did not shape policy. Nor was the legal system cleared out of those who had promoted and enforced Nazi laws – partly because of the effective cultures of solidarity between top lawyers and legal professionals during the years after the war, but largely because denazification of judges was not a priority for the US and Britain.

There was no attempt to hide the political choices being made on such matters. On several occasions, Justice Robert H. Jackson, the American Chief Prosecutor on the International Military Tribunal, simply ignored the well-evidenced recommendations of the top R&A analysts over such matters as selecting defendants to bring to trial. In reaction to such decisions, for which no explanation was ever given, Neumann resigned as the head of the research team on war crimes a few days into the main Nuremburg trial. He headed for academic jobs in New York and Berlin, whilst many of the people he had helped identify as ‘economic war criminals’ resumed positions of significant responsibility in the postwar German economy.

Meanwhile, the OSS was being marginalised, and would be closed down by October 1945. Marcuse and Kirchheimer were transferred to the State Department’s Research and Intelligence Division which, by spring 1946, was itself the focus of ongoing suspicion and frequent attack for alleged ‘Communist tendencies’. As the Cold War developed, however, they held onto their jobs for some years: Marcuse’s personal situation, and in particular the terminal cancer of his wife Sophie, meant that he did not feel he had the option to leave Washington. But his government work seemed less and less useful, both to him and to his employers, and it certainly did not influence policy. In the summer of 1949 he collated a long report on ‘The Potentials of World Communism’. The Introduction to this report, which closes this volume, argued that there was no ‘Communist threat’ of the kind that the US Cold Warriors were inventing and inflating to justify their foreign-policy objectives and military ambitions.

In 1951, Sophie died. Horkheimer, Adorno and Pollock returned to West Germany to re-establish the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt, Horkheimer having more-or-less made clear that Marcuse would not be a paid member of the school ‘back home’. In these circumstances, Marcuse was pleased to secure a scholarship which enabled him to take up the first of a series of posts in American universities.

Frankfurt Questions

Beyond the intrinsic value of the ‘secret reports’, how does the work gathered in this volume illuminate wider issues about the Frankfurt School: its concerns, debates, illuminations and evasions? Neumann, Marcuse and Kirchheimer distinguished the ‘ideological’ levels and performances of Nazism from the regime’s real social and economic logic. Many passages in this book demonstrate that beneath its ‘Wagnerian’ posturing, and its indulgence of obscurantist medievalism, Nazism was a thoroughly modern movement, attacking and dispensing with tradition in a relentless drive to achieve technical efficiency, realise infrastructural projects, build its war machine, and promote highly integrated economic structures in order to serve the regime’s objectives.

The reports are more specifically marked by their authors’ connections to the Institute for Social Research through repeated and more-or-less explicit returns to typically Frankfurt School considerations: what forms is modern society taking? How should radicals understand and engage with these social forms and dynamics? What are the cultural and psychological impulses which are interacting with social, economic and political trends to shape the specific conjuncture being considered?

Secret Reports on Nazi Germany provides a rich case study in how to analyse the shifting relationships between different sites of social power, and the modalities of decision-making across networks of technocrats, industrialists, factory managers, business owners, and those holding state power. The book details a particular instance of connections between capitalism, technology, forms of cultural domination, oppressive politics and the trends which the primary authors saw across the modern world towards ‘total socialisation’.

There is an important piece by Marcuse on these themes which is not collected here, as it pre-dates his government employment, but is worth consulting as a complement to this book.[14] As Douglas Kellner has stated, ‘“Some Social Implications of Modern Technology” … contains Marcuse’s first sketch of the role of technology in modern industrial societies and anticipates his later analysis in One Dimensional Man’: it even points towards his pioneering advocacy of ecological politics in the 1970s. The article, which was published in the Institute journal, sets out theoretical assumptions that shape most of the arguments in the ‘secret reports’. Marcuse’s 1941 argument was that the development of modern industry and technological rationality led to individuals becoming subject to increasing domination by the ‘technical-social apparatus’.[15] The result was the closing-down of space for ‘critical rationality’. On the basis of this understanding, Marcuse ‘presents National Socialism as an example in which technology and a rationalised society and economy can serve as instruments of totalitarian domination, describing the Third Reich as a form of “technocracy”’.[16]

At a time when such labels as ‘fascism’ and ‘extremism’ are being used to try and characterise phenomena from the Trump presidency to ethno-nationalist and racist movements and parties in various European countries, it is useful to be reminded of the need to combine urgency with thoughtfulness in applying critical concepts to achieve materialist analysis which has real explanatory power, and the potential to inform progressive and effective political action. Secret Reports on Nazi Germany, and the tradition of work it forms part of, stands as such a reminder.

About the Reviewer

Mike Makin-Waite is the author of Communism and Democracy: History, Debates and Potentials (Lawrence and Wishart, 2017). He is a member of the editorial board of Socialist History and has written for Soundings, Radical Philosophy, New Humanist and Twentieth Century Communism.


Abromeit, John 2013, Max Horkheimer and the Foundations of the Frankfurt School, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Biro, Andrew (ed.) 2011, Critical Ecologies: The Frankfurt School and Contemporary Environmental Crises, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Jeffries, Stuart 2016, Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School, London: Verso.

Kellner, Douglas 1998, ‘Introduction’, in Kellner (ed.) 1998.

Kellner, Douglas 2004, ‘Introduction’, in Kellner (ed.) 2004.

Kellner, Douglas (ed.) 1998, Collected Papers of Herbert Marcuse, Volume I:Technology, War and Fascism, London: Routledge.

Kellner, Douglas (ed.) 2004, Collected Papers of Herbert Marcuse, Volume III:The New Left and the 1960s, London: Routledge.

Lamas, Andrew T., Todd Wolfson and Peter N. Funke (eds.) 2017, The Great Refusal: Herbert Marcuse and Contemporary Social Movements, Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Leslie, Esther 1999, ‘Introduction to Adorno/Marcuse Correspondence on the German Student Movement’, New Left Review, I, 233: 123–36.

Marcuse, Herbert 1998 [1941], ‘Some Social Implications of Modern Technology’, in Kellner (ed.) 1998.

Müller, Tim B. 2010, Krieger und Gelehrte: Herbert Marcuse und die Denksysteme im Kalten Krieg [Warriors and Scholars: Herbert Marcuse and Cold War Culture], Hamburg: Hamburg Institute for Social Research.

Neumann, Franz, Herbert Marcuse and Otto Kirchheimer 2013, Secret Reports on Nazi Germany: The Frankfurt School Contribution to the War Effort, edited by Raffaele Laudani, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Toscano, Alberto 2017, ‘Notes on Late Fascism’,, 2 April, available at: <>.

Wheatland, Thomas 2009, The Frankfurt School in Exile, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Wiggershaus, Rolf 1995, The Frankfurt School: Its History, Theories and Political Significance, translated by Michael Robertson, Cambridge: Polity Press.


[1] Kellner 2004, p. 22.

[2]In later years, Cohn-Bendit denied he had raised the question of the CIA, and sought to make peace with Marcuse. See Leslie 1999.

[3] Wiggershaus 1995, p. 280.

[4]Wiggershaus 1995, p. 261. For a major contribution to Horkheimer’s intellectual biography, see Abromeit 2013.

[5] Jeffries 2016.

[6] Wheatland 2009.

[7] Müller 2010.

[8] Biro (ed.) 2011, and Lamas, Wolfson and Funke (eds.) 2017.

[9] Alongside information on the Nazis and the war, there is much useful material on aspects of German left history. For example, a report by Neumann includes a concise summary of successive ‘National Bolshevist’ initiatives between 1923 and 1932, in which communists attempted to directly connect with and re-articulate the agendas and hopes of Nazi supporters (Neumann, Marcuse and Kirchheimer 2013, pp. 153–9). Such episodes are often quickly and simplistically condemned as the result of self-defeating opportunism by German communists, or as a baleful consequence of the Comintern seeking ‘national roads to socialism’. Neumann’s account has the merit of explaining the contexts in which this tendency developed.

[10]A short report by Marcuse and the non-Frankfurter Felix Gilbert (Neumann, Marcuse and Kirchheimer 2013, pp. 61–70) convincingly explains how the ‘problem’ of Prussian culture was not in fact a real issue, and that the Nazis had actually dismantled the Junkers’ power bases and marginalised their traditions. The sources of Nazi aggression were to be found in the policies of the resurgent ‘industrial bourgeoisie’ – not amongst the hierarchical trappings of nineteenth-century Prussian culture.

[11] Toscano 2017.

[12] Ibid.

[13] This point about Frankfurt School politics is not contradicted by the fact that Franz Neumann was – for a short while and during his OSS service – a KGB informant, providing his contacts with highly classified US material which he accessed through his R&A job. Even more remarkably, it is possible and even likely that the American secret services knew of Neumann’s activities, ‘without any accusations of treason or conspiracy against him having arisen’ (Neumann, Marcuse and Kirchheimer 2013, p. 7).

[14] Marcuse 1998, pp. 41–65.

[15] Kellner 1998, p. 4.

[16] Kellner 1998, p. 6.