Theses on Hegel and Revolution
by Karl Korsch, 1931
first published in Politics magazine, 1946; prepared for marxists.org by Andy Blunden
I. The Hegelian philosophy and its dialectical method cannot be understood without
taking into account its relationship to revolution.
- 1) It originated historically from a revolutionary movement.
- 2) It fulfilled the task of giving to that movement its conceptual expression.
- 3) Dialectical thought is revolutionary even in its form:
- a) turning away from the immediately given – radical break with the hitherto existing – “standing on the head” – new beginning;
- b) principle of contradiction and negation;
- c) principle of permanent change and development – of the “qualitative leap.”
- 4) Once the revolutionary task is out of the way and the new society fully established,
the revolutionary dialectical method inevitably disappears from its philosophy and
II. The Hegelian philosophy and its dialectical method cannot be criticized without
taking into account its relationship to the particular historical conditions of the
revolutionary movement of the time.
- 1) It is a philosophy not of revolution in general, but of the bourgeois revolution of
the 17th and 18th centuries.
- 2) Even as a philosophy of the bourgeois revolution, it does not reflect the entire
process of that revolution, but only its concluding phase. It is thus a philosophy not of
the revolution, but of the restoration.
- 3) This twofold historical nature of the Hegelian dialectic appears formally in a
twofold limitation of its revolutionary character.
- a) The Hegelian dialectic though dissolving all pre-existing fixations, results in the
end in a new fixation: it becomes an absolute itself and, at the same time,
“absolutizes” the whole dogmatic content of the Hegelian philosophical system
that had been based on it.
- b) The revolutionary point of the dialectical approach is ultimately bent back to the
“circle,” that is, to a conceptual reinstatement of the immediately given
reality, to a reconciliation with that reality, and to a glorification of existing
III. The attempt made by the founders of scientific socialism to salvage the high art
of dialectical thinking by transplanting it from the German idealist philosophy to the
materialist conception of nature and history, from the bourgeois to the proletarian theory
of revolution, appears, both historically and theoretically, as a transitory step only.
What has been achieved is a theory not of the proletarian revolution developing on its own
basis, but of a proletarian revolution that has just emerged from the bourgeois
revolution; a theory which therefore in every respect, in content and in method, is still
tainted with the birthmarks of Jacobinism, that is, of the revolutionary theory of the
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