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Herbert Marcuse and the Student Revolts of 1968: An Unpublished Lecture

German philosopher Herbert Marcuse was a leading source of inspiration for the New Left in Europe and the US during the 1960s. In this lecture from May 1968, never previously published in full, he discusses the student revolts in Paris and Berlin with an audience in San Diego.

Herbert Marcuse giving a lecture in Berlin, 1967. (Jung / ullstein bild via Getty Images)

The movement started quite innocently, as a movement for the reform of the university. The whole thing was apparently sparked by a demonstration in Nanterre, the new branch of the University of Paris, and ensuing disciplinary measures against students who had participated in a demonstration against the war in Vietnam. That was followed by demonstrations in Paris itself, in the Sorbonne, and the demands were the usual ones, namely radical reform of the totally outdated and medieval structure of the university.

The demands were mainly for the hiring of a thousand new professors, the building of new classrooms and facilities for library study, and a thorough reform of the fantastically rigid and crazy examination system. In order to give more weight to these demands, the students demonstrated in the courtyard of the Sorbonne. For a reason nobody understands — the demonstration was perfectly peaceful — the rector of the university, apparently on the suggestion of the minister of the interior, asked for the police to clear the courtyard. The police appeared and invaded the Sorbonne, for the first time in the history of this university.

This was indeed a historical novelty. European universities are immune against the police. The police are not supposed to enter the universities, and that is one of the age-old traditions which is actually adhered to in France and other countries. It was the first time in history that the police intervened and by force cleared the courtyard, with several hundred students injured.

There followed the larger and larger demonstrations, beginning in very remote parts of Paris and all converging on the Latin Quarter. The Sorbonne in the meantime had been closed and the entire region around the Sorbonne occupied by the police and blocked. The students now demanded that their university be opened again to them, and that the Latin Quarter, which they considered as their own quarter, be cleared from the police and become again their quarter.

Building the Barricades

They converged on the Sorbonne and, since the news had come out that the police would again by force clear the region, the barricades were built. This was a really spontaneous event. What happened is that the students simply took the numerous automobiles that were parked, not only on the streets but as usual in Paris on the sidewalks too, and without the slightest regard for private property, overturned the cars and put them straight across the streets. Not on the wide boulevards, which would have been impossible, but in the narrower old streets, in the rear of the Sorbonne.

On top of the cars, they put all kinds of wooden stuff, garbage, cartons, garbage cans — whatever they could find. Then they tore out the street signs — “One Way,” “Stop,” or whatever — and with the street signs they loosened the pavement of the street. I’m not going to tell you this here in order to tell you how to make a revolution — you couldn’t do it anyway here, because the pavement is much too tight. With these street signs they loosened up the good old cobblestones of Paris, which had already served in the revolution of 1848 and 1870, and used them as weapons against the police.

They also armed themselves with the lids of the garbage cans, and with steel chains, and they put on top of the barricades, of the automobiles, whatever they could find, especially these iron rings that were around the trees on the street. They built them up to a height of about three and a half to four meters, and the slogan was not to attack the police but to confront them on the barricades.

Everything went all right until about 2:30 in the morning, when the police finally got the order to clear the streets and to remove the barricades. What happened is that the police used gas grenades, tear gas — allegedly also gas with a chlor base. They deny it, but the evidence seems to corroborate it. I myself have seen the students with their faces all in red, inflamed wrinkles, the eyes all inflamed. They used this gas with the result, of course, that the barricades had to be evacuated.

Nobody can, without a gas mask, stand these gases. If they would have had gas masks, they probably would have been able to defeat the police, because the Paris police do not shoot. They do not have pistols and revolvers. They have only their nightsticks and they have a very vicious weapon, these capes, which are loaded with lead, and they hold them together and they hit with these leaden capes.

The security companies also have rifles, carbines, which is a protection for the students, because they cannot simply and quickly shoot a rifle in a hand-to-hand melée as you can shoot a pistol and a small gun. The gas forced the students to leave the barricades, and to flee, whereupon the police apparently shot incendiary grenades, and put the barricades on fire.

I would like to point out that during all this time — and this is the greatest difference between the events in Paris and here — the population of the quarter was definitely and decisively in sympathy with the students, and they threw all kinds of stuff out of the apartment windows on the police. There are still chamber pots used in Paris, and they did that and all kinds of garbage. The police shot back gas grenades into the apartments.

Now they had to leave the barricades. They tried to flee, and now it turned out that their own barricades became an obstacle to them, because they had barricaded the street at two ends, at each end, and just couldn’t find a way out. They were literally beaten, and one of the professors [as well] — by the way, I would like to add that whatever professors were present sided from the beginning to the end, very energetically, with the students. They went out on the streets; they were with them on the barricades, and they helped wherever they could.

The barricade on the other side of the street blocked their flight, and the police had an easy game. There were altogether about eight hundred injured that night, and out of eight hundred, about three hundred [and] fifty to four hundred police, which is not a bad ratio.

The General Strike

This did by no means finish the demonstration and the protest. Their young leader, [Daniel] Cohn-Bendit — who organized the barricades and was with them all the time, until 6 o’clock in the morning, when the street battle was lost — said: “Now there is only one thing to be done, the general strike.” And within one hour, he went to the powerful trade unions in France; within one hour, he got the great unions to declare the general strike for the following Monday. As you know, the strike order was followed one hundred percent.

At this point, I would like to suggest to you why I believe this event is of such great importance. In the first place, it should once and for all heal whoever still suffers from the inferiority complex of the intellectual. There isn’t the slightest doubt that, in this case, the students showed the workers what could be done, and that the workers followed the slogan and the example set by the students. The students were literally the avant-garde — not of a revolution, because it isn’t a revolution, but the avant-garde of an action which indeed turned spontaneously into a mass action. That is here in my view the decisive point.

What we have witnessed in Paris during these three weeks is the sudden resurgence and return of a tradition, and this time a revolutionary tradition, which had been dormant in Europe since the early twenties. We have seen the spontaneous enlargement and intensification of demonstrations, from the building of barricades to the occupation of buildings — first the university buildings, then theaters, then factories, airports, television stations, whatever it is. Occupation, of course, no longer by the students, but then gradually by the workers and employees of these institutions and enterprises.

The whole protest movement was at first violently condemned by the Communist-controlled trade unions and by the Communist daily L’Humanité. They were not only suspicious of the students; they vilified them, and they suddenly remembered the class struggle which the Communist Party has for a long time, for decades, put on ice, and denounced the students simply as bourgeois children.

They didn’t want to have anything to do with bourgeois children, and they wouldn’t accept any orders from the bourgeois children — an attitude understandable if we keep in mind that the student opposition from the beginning was not only directed — I will come back to that — against the capitalist society of France beyond the university, but also against the Stalinist construction of socialism.

That is a very important point. It was also very definitely directed against the Communist Party in France, which was considered, and is considered — strange as it may seem in this country — as part and parcel of the establishment. It is a party which is not yet a government party, but would like nothing better than to become a government party as quickly as possible. That has indeed been the policy of the Communist Party in France for years now.

When we ask how it came about that the student movement turned into a mass movement, the answer is very hard to find. As I said, the movement was first confined to the university, and the demands were at first academic — demands for the reform of the university. But then came a recognition that the university is, after all, only a part of the larger society, of the establishment, and that unless the movement extends beyond the university, and hits at the more vulnerable spots of the society as a whole, it wouldn’t do. It would remain isolated.

Therefore, a long time before the eruption of these events, there was a systematic attempt to win over, actively, workers against the trade-union prohibition to join the protest movement. The students were sent into the factories, into the plants in Paris and in the Paris suburbs. There they talked with the workers, and apparently found sympathy and adherents, mainly among the younger workers.

When the students really went out on the street, and when they started occupying buildings, these workers followed their example and joined their own demands, mainly for higher wages and working conditions, with the academic demands of the students. The two came together again in a rather spontaneous and by no means coordinated way, and in this way the student movement actually became a larger social movement, a larger political movement.

At this turn of events, when already hundreds of thousands of workers were on strike and had occupied the factories of Paris and the suburbs, the Communist-controlled union, the CGT, decided to endorse the movement and make it an official strike and official demonstration. This is the policy they have followed for decades. As soon as they see that a movement threatens to get out of hand, and no longer remain under the control of the Communist Party, they quickly endorse it, and in this way take it over and organize it.

The Demands of the Movement

As to the political demands of this movement, they may be summarized as being against the authoritarian regime in France, and for the politicization of the university — that is to say, for establishing a visible and effective link between what is taught in the classroom and that which is going on outside the classroom; to bridge the gap between a medieval, outdated mode of teaching and curriculum, and to meet the reality — the terrible and miserable reality — which is outside the classroom.

They demanded politicization of the university, complete freedom of speech and expression, with one very interesting qualification. Cohn-Bendit has declared on several occasions that it would mean an abuse of the freedom of speech and expression to tolerate the protagonists of American policy and the defenders of the war in Vietnam. The right to freedom of speech was not to be interpreted as tolerating those who are, by their policy and by their propaganda, working on bringing down the last remnants of liberty still existing in this society, and who are turning the world, or rather a large part of the world, into a neocolonial domain. This was very clearly stated.

Another student demand was the creation of jobs. One of the grievances, one of the real fears besetting the students is that, after having been educated and trained for years in the university — mainly among the sciences as scientists, engineers, technicians, and so on — when it comes to getting a job and earning a living, they find no jobs, because unemployment is again rather large in France, and this entire generation is faced with the danger of not being able to get a job. This too joins directly an academic demand with a political demand, and with the protest against the established society.

The movement is, or became, again spontaneously, very decidedly a socialist demonstration and socialist movement but — as I said, as I want to stress again — a socialist movement which rejects from the beginning the repressive construction of socialism which has been prevalent in the socialist countries up to this very day. That may explain the allegedly Maoist tendencies among the students, again primarily used by the Communist press in denouncing the students as Trotskyists, revisionists, and Maoists — Maoists in the sense that Mao is in one way or another a symbol for the construction of a socialist society which avoids the Stalinist bureaucratic repression characteristic of the socialist construction of the Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc.

This also brings out another very essential aspect of the student movement, and I think here there is a common ground between the American movement and the French one. It is a total protest — not only because it certainly was sparked by a protest against specific evils, against specific shortcomings, but at the same time, a protest against the entire system of values, against the entire system of objectives, against the entire system of performances required and practiced in the established society. In other words, it is a refusal to accept — to continue to accept — to abide by the culture of the established society. Not only the economic conditions, not only the political institutions, but the entire system of values which they feel is rotten at the core.

In this respect, I think one can indeed speak there, too, of a cultural revolution — a cultural revolution in the sense that it is directed against the entire cultural establishment, including the morality of that existing society.

French Conditions, French Traditions

If you ask now the question: how can we explain [that] in France the student movement found spontaneous help and sympathy on the part of the population — and found very definite support among the working class, organized as well as unorganized — whereas in this country the exact opposite is the case, the answer that comes to mind is twofold.

First, France is not yet an affluent society. That is to say, the living conditions of the majority of the population are still far below the level the American standard of living, which of course makes for a much looser identification with the establishment than prevails in this country. Secondly, the political tradition of the French working-class movement is still alive to a considerable degree.

I might add a rather metaphysical explanation, namely, the difference between the prospects in France, the prospects of a radical movement in France and in this country, may also be summed up by remembering that France after all went through four revolutions within a hundred years and this apparently establishes such a thing as a revolutionary tradition which can be sparked and brought to life and renewed when the occasion arises.

Let me add a few words on the student movement in Germany. I can only speak of the student movement in Berlin; I did not visit any other place in Germany this time. A considerable change has been taking place since I visited Berlin [the] last time last year. The movement has become much more radical in the sense of clamoring for constant action and rejecting any kind of talk, discussion, theoretical effort. The desire to become and remain immediately practice [sic] is so strong that it asserts itself almost daily.

Meetings in the Free University of Berlin are literally taking place daily. The largest classroom is at the disposal of the students for political meetings and is used constantly. By the way, the university of Berlin is to my knowledge the only one in which the charter provides for representation of the students on the faculty. Representatives of the students are sitting in the Academic Senate and have their voice and vote in appointments and dismissals of faculty members. This is the charter of the university, which was established, I think, in 1948.

This radicalization — and I think we can discuss it — has its danger, namely [that] it exposes the student movement to far superior forces with which they cannot cope. In mere terms of numbers, the student movement in Paris counted from, let’s say, a beginning of ten thousand to fifteen thousand in Paris, to about eighty thousand to one hundred thousand. Now with that number, you can occupy buildings — you can even hold buildings for a very long time — especially if in addition you have the support of the population.

In Berlin, [there is] nothing of that sort. The student movement is very definitely faced with the outspoken hostility of the people of Berlin and with the outspoken hostility of organized labor. In this respect, it is very much like here in the United States. Under these conditions, a policy of intensified demonstrations — demonstrations with the intent to go beyond a ritual and indeed to risk confrontation with the police — is a dangerous undertaking. But I want to say that here very clearly and honestly is a tendency which at present I think cannot be effectively opposed.

Even I have tried to do so, and to point out these dangers. It is of no avail, because they have lost patience. They don’t believe — and nobody can blame them for that — they don’t believe in the democratic process as it prevails in Germany. They know perfectly well the brutality of the police in Germany. They also know to what extent the government of the Federal Republic is still permeated with the heirs of the Nazi system, and they also know the still very authoritarian structure of the university itself and the hostile attitude of the majority of the professors, the members of the faculty — again in contrast to the situation in France.

Under these circumstances, they simply believe that unless they act — unless they act in such a way that the people really see and listen with their own eyes and with their own ears [to] what is going on — unless they can impress, bodily and directly, their demands on the society, it would be of no avail. The conclusion now is that the more radical, the more nonconformist the expression of the opposition, the better it is. In other words, from the burning down of insignia to the smashing of window displays, and efforts or actions like that, all this is tried, and all this one tries to organize, as a means of being heard and a means of being seen — that is to say, as a move to counter the absorbing power of this society.

This assumes, especially for nonstudents, sometimes slightly disagreeable forms, especially in the university and at meetings. It also has a very definite tendency to condemn everything that is not in line with this intensified “action for the action’s sake” policy, to condemn all that is liberal — well, I don’t want to use the term that is used in this connection, and that is constantly shouted as soon as somebody tries to express an opinion which is a little less radical. In any case, liberal has become a curse-word. There is no doubt about that, and again if we look at the tradition of German liberalism — and not only of German liberalism — it is at least understandable that it has become a curse-word.

Again, it is very difficult today to counteract this tendency effectively, because if you look at the entire movement — if you look at the amazing degree to which it has become, against its own intentions, an international movement, and indeed the only effective international opposition we have today — then you feel highly hesitant and highly reluctant to indict even the disagreeable and even the all-too prematurely radical features of the movement. You feel you do have to identify yourself with it, hoping that through trial and error, the movement will gain strength and will at the same time tighten its international organization and coordination.

Well, I think that is all I want to say at the beginning.

Questions

Following his speech, Professor Marcuse answered questions from the audience. Asked whether he supported the view that one should not be able to speak in favor of the Vietnam war, he replied:

I am on record for supporting this view, yes. I didn’t say that those who disagree with me should not be tolerated. I said explicitly, and mentioned it, that those who defend and propagate the war in Vietnam, should not, in a truly democratic society, enjoy the democratic right of free speech. Their policy necessarily undermines the democracy as much as it still exists. So it isn’t a question of disagreeing with me at all.

[Asked if he would support suppressing any other system of philosophy, such as Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, Marcuse replied:] No. I like, as you know, philosophy very much. I know of no philosophy today which would be a real danger to the existing system or to the change of the existing system in the direction of a better one. I make it perfectly clear that the concept of repressive tolerance has absolutely nothing to do with any censorship of art, literature, music, philosophy or whatever it may be. That is absolutely excluded. I only speak about the withdrawal of tolerance from those movements which have demonstrated their aggressive and destructive character.

On the emergency laws being passed in West Germany at the time:

The emergency legislation which is now being discussed in the German parliament and in all likelihood will be voted [through], is in my view one of the most sinister pieces of legislation which we find today. It gives the government power in an emergency situation to suspend the most important constitutional guarantees and for example — and this is the fantastic stipulation — to mobilize the armed forces in the interior. It is no wonder that the student movement in Germany today is primarily directed against this emergency legislation. I am afraid it will remain without success and the emergency legislation will be voted [through] with the support of the Social Democratic Party.

I would like to add here [that] it is a typical example to refute the familiar argument which has been brought up again and again in connection with the present student rebellion, that this radicalism of the left, in the prevailing situation, can only serve to strengthen the right. That is to say, the famous argument of antagonizing the opponent. I still have [yet] to see an opposition that doesn’t antagonize the opponent. That is the very purpose of the opposition.

But aside from what is said and what is being done now — and this too is an international conspiracy — the left, especially the student left, is already blamed for the possible or probable intensification of extreme rightist movements in Europe, and not only in Europe. The same has been said about the Communist and Socialist opposition in the pre-Nazi period and so on. I think one should here once and for all brand this argument as a blatant historical falsification.

Hitler came to power not because the left was too radical and too strong, but because the left was not radical enough and was not strong enough. The left was divided and this division made it possible for the right to come to power.

What has happened, for example, during the Weimar Republic? Hitler came to power not because the left was too radical and too strong, but very definitely because the left was not radical enough and was not strong enough. The left was divided and this division, this weakness on the part of the left, made it possible for the right to come to power. This argument can be refuted with historical facts.

On the prospects of a worker-student alliance in France:

It is quite possible, I think it is very likely, that the movement will be divided again and that the issues will be decided separately. The extreme right is relatively inactive [in France]. As usual today, the opposition against the protest movement does not seem to center so much in what is called the extreme right as in the center — that is, in the established government itself. I think that is a very important change — a change which I think is still to be explained in terms of the war against Nazism and fascism, where of course extreme rightist parties are in bad odor from the beginning, and they are not exactly the most adequate and suitable representatives of the right.

[The total attack on] the society is conscious or at least semiconscious mainly among the students. As far as the workers are concerned, this seems to be still the old trade-union protest. I said seems still to be the old trade union protest, because apparently that is not the case with the younger workers, who are highly dissatisfied with the trade unions and who want more than wage increases and improved working conditions.

For example, they add the very definitely political demand of an end of the personal regime [of Charles de Gaulle] and a real and effective freedom of speech, expression, assembly and soon. This total character of the movement is not something that is consciously and methodically declared and practiced. It comes clearly out of the statements of the students. Among the working-class opposition, this is still far more precarious.

On the situation in Eastern Europe, in particular the “Prague Spring” then unfolding in Czechoslovakia:

Czechoslovakia still had stuck to the tradition of the Stalinist period to a considerable degree. This — one can safely say — terroristic repression, this complete control of all expression of thought, and this swift repression of all divergent opinions, appeared more and more arbitrary and unnecessary as the economic as well as the political situation appeared to be secured.

In this situation, what happened was essentially economic difficulties, and the demand for economic reforms which would relax or to a considerable extent eliminate the highly centralized control and introduce into the socialist economy features characteristic of the capitalist economy — for example, incentives, profit as incentive, a large degree of authority granted to the management of the individual enterprises, and so on.

The movement in Czechoslovakia is not directed against the established society as such, but is directed at the post-Stalinist controls which are considered to be detrimental to the socialist society itself.

This economic relaxation was used to demand correspondingly a cultural relaxation — that is to say, the abolition of the censorship and pre-censorship, and of the rigid party control imposed upon writers, philosophers, professionals at large, whatever it may be. The movement is not directed against the established society as such, but is directed at the post-Stalinist controls which are considered to be detrimental to the socialist society itself.

If student rebellion is not a revolution, how should it be categorized?

What you call, quite correctly, the pragmatic character of the movement is, I think, an aspect of the deep-lying suspicion against all traditional ideologies, which have proved to be false. A decisively pragmatic character. I would not and I did not call the movement revolutionary, because I believe that neither in France nor certainly here in this country are we in a revolutionary or even a pre-revolutionary situation. I think we have to operate on this assumption, if we understand what is going on, and it is irresponsible to throw about the concept of revolution or revolutionary for the protest movement we have today.

Certainly the students in France don’t do it, and I don’t think we have to do it. They don’t consider their own movement already as a revolution. It may well be one link in the chain of events, internal and external, which may change the situation as a whole, I believe, and I think the experience of the last months has strengthened my faith.

I think [there is] one thing we can say safely: that the traditional idea of the revolution, and the traditional strategy of the revolution are out. They are outdated, they are simply surpassed by the development of our society. I said [this] before, and I’d like to repeat it — because I think in this situation nothing is more seriously required than a sober mind: the idea that one day or one night, [a] mass organization or mass party or masses of whatever kind march on Washington and occupy the Pentagon and the White House and set up a government is, I think, utterly fantastic, and simply in no way corresponds to the reality of things.

If there ever would be such masses and this would happen, within twenty-four hours, another White House would have been set up in Texas or in North Dakota, and the whole thing would quickly come to an end. We have to forget this idea of the revolution, and that is why I believe that what is taking place in France today is so significant and may well be decisive, and that is exactly why I stress the spontaneous character of this movement and the spontaneous way in which it spread.

I said spontaneous, and I stick to this concept, but you know, I suppose, that there is no spontaneity which doesn’t have to be helped on a little in order to become really spontaneous. That was exactly the case in France, and that was why I mentioned the preparatory work of students in factories in discussing with laborers and so on. But nevertheless, compared with [the] traditional organization of the opposition, this has been a spontaneous movement, and has been a spontaneous movement which, as long as it could, didn’t give a damn about the existing organizations, party as well as trade union, and simply went ahead.

In other words, for one reason or another, the time had come when hundreds of thousands, and, as we shall see now, millions of people didn’t want to do it anymore. They didn’t want to get up in the morning and go to their job and go through the same routine and listen to the same orders and comply with the same working conditions and perform the same performances. They simply had it up to here, and so if they didn’t stay home or didn’t take a walk, they tried something else.

They occupied the factories and the shops, and they stayed there, by no means as wild anarchists — for example, only yesterday came a report that they took meticulous care of the machines, and saw to it that nothing would be destroyed, and nothing would be damaged. They did not let in any outsiders and so on. In this act, they demonstrated that they consider this business in one way or the other their own and they are going to demonstrate that they know it is their own or ought to be their own and that is why they occupied it.

I think that is one of the expressions of the total character of the protest, because, as you know, the traditional working-class strategy does not officially endorse occupation of factories, and in this tradition, too, private property retained a certain sanctity. When this had happened, it was usually against trade-union policy and to a great extent spontaneous. This spontaneous character by which change announces itself, is, I think, the new element which surpasses all traditional organization and grips the population directly and immediately.

If you assume that the paralysis in France goes on, and spreads, that the government does not succeed — I repeat, this is an unrealistic assumption, as it will succeed, but just make for experiment’s sake this assumption — then you indeed have a vision of how such a system can collapse, because no society could for any length of time tolerate such a paralysis.

The protest against the values of bourgeois society comes out not only in the rather disrespectful attitude toward private property, but also in the rejection of other values, for example — and [this is] one of the things where you may agree or may not agree — the revulsion against the traditional way of teaching and the traditional bourgeois culture. I will give you one very concrete example in order to show you what I mean — and I want to add that in this case I was not on the side of the students.

It was a year ago, but the same situation has repeated itself this year, my friend [Theodor] Adorno was invited to come to Berlin and to give a lecture on Goethe’s play Iphigenia, a play with the classical theme of Iphigenia in Tauris. [He was] invited by the German seminar. The auditorium was overflowing with students who simply wouldn’t let him speak, because they considered it outrageous that, in a situation which prevailed after the killing of one student in the demonstration against the Shah of Persia, and in the heated political climate in Berlin, there is a lecture on a classical humanistic drama. They just couldn’t take that, and there was really a revolt in the classroom, and it took a long time at least to pacify them to the degree that the lecture could be given.

A similar reaction I experienced this year in Berlin. For example, there were several occasions of interruptions of the lecture with the cry: “This is no time to worry about concepts, this is not time to worry about theory. Instead of discussing here, let’s go out right away on the street and demonstrate in front of the Maison Française.” I give you that only as an attitude, as an example to what lengths this opposition can go, that it affects, indeed, the entire established culture, even in its most sublime manifestations.

It doesn’t make much sense to them anymore. It may be beautiful, it may be very profound, it may be very elevating, but somehow it doesn’t fit. There is no connection between what is really going on out there in Vietnam or on the barricades, or in the ghettos, and these beautiful verses and these high ideas, so let’s forget about it and see what we can do with our hands and also with our minds in the immediate reality. Now it is — I don’t have to add that — a dangerous attitude but an attitude which is, I feel, very difficult to refute.

I’ve always held the position that the universities in this country are still enclaves of relative — and not only relative — freedom of thought and expression. There is still plenty of opportunity and room for learning things which are relevant to what is going on today. The university certainly needs a radical reform, but this radical reform should be carried through in the university itself and should not take the form of destroying the university. Destroying the university, I think, would indeed mean that we reduce or eliminate altogether one of the — let me put it in a very extreme and provocative way — in a sense, destroying the university is cutting off the branch on which we are sitting.

After all, it is in the university that the opposition has grown, that the opposition has been educated and is being educated. Destroying the university may well do greater damage to us than to them. After all, we — and I, as you know, count myself among the opposition — I think we are a living example that the university cannot be all that bad.

At the end of his lecture, Marcuse was asked to comment on his own view of the relationship between his thought and the current crisis in Western Europe:

If you want to bring this personal question down to manageable proportions, the only fact I can mention is that, for example, in the statements of Cohn-Bendit and in other statements, echoes of my essay on “Repressive Tolerance” are obvious, so that no further evidence is required. In addition, many of the students themselves say so. Why that is, is a question which I should not answer, but [rather] the students themselves.

I have, as a philosopher and theoretician, tried to point out, to offer a critique of the existing society which keeps itself free as much as possible from all traditional ideology, be it Marxist or otherwise socialist. In doing so, I think I have pointed out certain aspects which, in the traditional ideologies, have simply not been adequately dealt with.

I think another thing I have pointed out is that no matter how radical the new institutions may be which are supposed to be characteristic of a socialist society, unless these institutions are controlled by a new type of man, with really new values, and without the hypocritical morality and the repressive and competitive values of the established society, no real change will have taken place and all we will have done is to replace one form of domination by another.

What is actually in my view essential for real and qualitative change is a break in the continuum of domination and repression. Only when you have done that — even in a socialist society — can you speak of a society really and qualitatively different from the existing ones. That is the only short answer I can offer you.