Thursday, March 22, 2012

Encyclopedic scholar

Multiplicity of Aspects and the Unity of Truth: Hans Heinz Holz in 2007-2011
Written by Friedrich-Martin Balzer  

Prepared Speech at the event "The Unity of Politics and Philosophy in the Struggle for Communism," February 25, 2012 in Berlin, Germany.



Exactly five years ago, here in Berlin, we celebrated the 80th birthday of the Marxist philosopher Hans Heinz Holz at the symposium "Passion for Contradiction" in the historic site for philosophy, Humboldt University.

It was with satisfaction that Holz, then 80 years old, looked back on a long life's work. He was an elected member of the World Academy of Letters. He was an honorary director of the Biographical Center in Cambridge, England. He was honorary president of the International Society for Dialectical Philosophy. He was a fellow of the Leibniz Society.

In 1997, he received an honorary doctorate at the University of Urbino and was awarded the honorary medal of the League of German Engineering. In Great Britain he was awarded the Order of Merit. In the United States he was awarded the Legion of Honor by the American Institute of Biography. On his 80th birthday the first comprehensive bibliography of his works was published. It includes 2400 titles. Parts of his work are translated into 14 languages. The number of libraries in the world where his published works are held totals more than 6,000.

That's reason enough to downshift a gear and stay away from the strife of the world, or stay out of the world altogether, to concentrate fully on his last magnum opus.

He would have none of the above. With extraordinary diligence, with a passion for contradiction, in the past five years the philosopher produced a tremendous wealth of publications on a variety of issues, always keeping an eye on the unity of truth.

Osteoporosis had him chained to his home at Lake Maggiore. Every effort he made was possible only with increasing pain.

In the last years of his life, he could no longer be publicly seen in his role as inspiring orator in meetings large and small. His last major public appearance was in 2005 at the 17th Congress of the DKP at Mörfelden where, already on crutches, he walked up the aisle to the podium and called himself an "old comrade" who had remained loyal to the party for 60 years.

He was then ruled by the will to complete his great life's work and not only in one magnum opus.

This was done by the expansion and completion of his monumental History of the Dialectic, which amounted to two more volumes (Antiquity and Middle Ages, 2011) supplementing and completing the five, and the three-volume edition of "Transcendence and Realization of Philosophy" (2010-2011); his anthology "Picture Languages. Collected Essays on Art and Artists "(2009); and the enlarged edition, after almost 50 years of his classic "Power and Powerlessness of Language. Research on Language Comprehension and Style of Heinrich von Kleist "(2011), first published almost 50 years ago. As a parting gift, he sent it to his closest friends and comrades shortly before his death.

In that period alone twenty-two hefty book chapters were added, in dictionaries on basic concepts of philosophy, in Festschriften for Erich Hahn, Wolfgang Eichhorn, Peter Hacks, Siegfried Wollgast, Kurt Gossweiler, Heinz Kessler, another book review about his teacher, Ernst Bloch, for the artist Rolf Isels, and for the associate editor of "Topos," Domenico Losurdo.

Last but not least, he added a foreword to the book authored by his loving and helping wife Silvia Holz-Markun, whom he married in 1979 in Marburg. She helped him with her self-sacrificing love in their years spent together, and she stood with him to the bitter end. ("Forays into the Unknown," 2009) In the Buddhist tradition, familiar to him since youth, it was written by Marie Mannschatz: "A restless spirit needs clear leadership, discipline and loving understanding." Hans Heinz had all these in abundance.

Topics of his work were, among others: "A System of Analogies. On the Concept of Nature in Chinese Philosophy "(2007). "Differentiation in the Concept of Irrationalism " (2008)," "Marxism or Marxisms" (2008), "On the Problem of Speculative Materialism" (2008), "Science and Responsibility" (2008), dedicated to the highly esteemed physicist and philosopher Klaus Fuchs, "Dialectics" (2009), "The Imperialist Dismantling of International Law," (2010), "Monism or Dualism" (2010), "Dogma or Dogmatism" (2010), "Materialist dialectics" (2010), "The Marxist Concept of Science" (2010), "Philosophy, Science and Ideology "(2010), "Ideology and Scientific Belief "(2010), "Plato's High Parable" (2009)," "Remarks on the Phenomenon of Revisionism" (2011).

His foreign contributions were published in England, Ireland, Italy, and Catalonia. The translation of his lecture in Girona [Catalonia] in 2001, "Metaphysics, Logic, Reflection. My Philosophical Path in the Context of Post-1945 Philosophy," shows his internationalist outlook, too.

He maintained special relations with Turkish organizations and institutions; several of his articles appeared translated into Turkish. The ties go back to a speech Hans Heinz had given in Istanbul on May 8, 2005. What outstanding European philosopher, starting well into the new millennium, has given a speech at a seemingly remote place like Istanbul?

As founder and guiding spirit of the periodical "Theory and Practice," Hans Heinz again combined practice with his thought in the ongoing debates and conflicts in the DKP. Indicative are his comments on the position of the party, which were drafted with the aim of activating and stabilizing the party to which he belonged, the DKP.

As a philosopher, in collaboration with Domenico Losurdo, he had founded the journal "Topos: Contributions to Dialectical Philosophy "(1993-2011), and in it he used the "philosophical and political perspectives of Marxism "(2007). He explained "a revolution of a new type." In a special issue it sketched and compared "From 1789 to 1917. Two Revolutions"(2008).

A total of ten issues were published after 2007, where among others "The Legacy of Hegel and the Transformation of Philosophy" (2008), "Language Forms, the Myth," and "Fragmentary Reflections on the Dialectics of Nature and Natural Philosophy" and "The Scientific Form of Dialectics" were published.

"Topos" was also the place where Hans Heinz remembered his contemporaries, like Leo Kofler (2007), Dieter Frielinghaus (2008), Robert Deinhammer (2008), and Alessandro Mazzone (2011). He was grateful to them despite all the differences on other things, until in this area too his strength dwindled and the magazine had to be set aside – one hopes only temporarily.

Hans Heinz, as he told me in person at one of our stimulating and lively discussions, said he consumed himself as if a candle lit at both ends, until, after a lengthy illness, the pain became unbearable. His journalistic activity was a struggle for survival, literally to the last breath.

In the strict sense, Holz worked as a journalist for daily and weekly newspapers. While Holz published before 2007 a total of 50 contributions in Unsere Zeit, his contributions decreased markedly in 2007: A letter on "Marxism in the 20th and 21st Century " and his contribution to the cultural and political debate with his characteristic title of "Develop Concepts" are the only texts that appeared in the party newspaper.

His main and customary vehicle was the newspaper "Junge Welt," to which he delivered 34 contributions in the period from 2007, after he had already contributed 19 items in 1996-2006. He remained faithful to the themes of his life. He directed particular attention to "Georg Lukács. Militant Humanist "(2010) and Ernst Bloch "At the Threshold Age," and "The Unfinished World." These latter two were people with whom he was close, personal friends by the 40s of the last century.

As a recognized historian of religion Hans Heinz Holz, [1] appealed repeatedly to philosophers to seek debate with contemporaries such as Pope Benedict XVI. Infallible, however, Hans Heinz was not. Occasionally, he failed in his judgments and shot past the mark. He was, however, devoted and loyal to those who sided with him.

Under the title "Collection of Outcasts" (2007), he recalled Peter Hacks and engaged in a lively correspondence with him, which appeared as a book, of which Dietmar Dath wrote "it belonged to the liveliest writings both have left."

Holz published in "Junge Welt" two articles under the headings "Struggle for Culture" and "Left Turn Traditions" (2007) on Antonio Gramsci, about whom he had written in 1980, when Gramsci had not yet risen to be a hot tip of the Left.

With Robert Steigerwald he tackled political-theoretical development, in the article "The Revisionist Turn" (2007). In the quest for determining a political position, he dealt with the situation of workers today, 'Class In Itself and For Itself" (2008).

As an anti-imperialist, he was not at all afraid, despite necessary individual criticism, to take sides for the Soviet Union and he criticized "Pseudo-revolutionary Maximalism" (2008) and held firm in "The Revolutionary Dimension" (2008).

He sent to a commemorative event for Friends of RotFuchs (Red Fox) [an independent left-wing publication in Germany], on the occasion of the 190th birthday of Karl Marx, the greetings "Beyond Using Magical-Mythical Thinking"(2008). His lecture was published in RotFuchs (2008).

On the 85th anniversary of the death of Lenin,"The Compass of Revolution. The Second Stage of Marxism" (2009) appeared. On the 100th anniversary of Lenin's pamphlet "Materialism and Empiriocriticism," there appeared "Partisanship in Philosophy" and "The Thrust of Kant," again in two parts.

He asked Wolfgang Fritz Haug whether "Marxism without Lenin?" (2009) is possible.

On the 190th anniversary of the birth of Friedrich Engels he published his article "The Rigor of the Concept. On the Political Economy of the Scientific Worldview" (2010), followed by "From Concept to Action. Friedrich Engels and the Development of the Scientific Worldview."

He treated the theme of art and proletarian utopia in a two-part piece about Fernand Léger, "Understanding Art" and "Things and Happiness" (2008). In fine arts, he contributed "Plato on the Lotus Blossom. Gandhara. Culture without Struggles" (2009). On Heinrich Kleist his contribution was "Kleist and Classicism. Approach to a Generic Concept"(2010).

For all the relativization of morality as the exclusive criterion for the assessment of historical phenomena, he kept in mind Johannes R. Becher, "The Near-Distant Future," (2008) and, as his moral duty, he wrote a political-poetic commentary on the 20th century.

He occupied himself with historical themes in the narrower sense, in the masterfully analyzed, far-reaching philological essay, based simply on the three-volume documentary book ("The Trial of the KPD", "The Premature Death of the German Constitution" and "Outlawing the KPD: the Precedent for the Erosion of Democracy." (2009).

On the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party, his essay, "Vanguard of Progress" (2008/2009) was published in two installments. In it he pointed out that a world-historical idea, despite all errors and aberrations, cannot be uprooted.

Given the widespread glorification of the Dalai Lama, he intervened and he recalled the liberation of Tibet under the title, "The End of Slavery" (2009).

Convinced that the direction of struggle must be contested, he repeatedly took positions in current debates about the reclaiming of Marxism and its future. According to Dietmar Dath, he never understood himself as "heir of a defeated Marxist scholarship."[2] Holz published an essay with the title "Socialism in One Country?" in 2008 in "RotFuchs", "The Dialectic of Reason," "Morality and Historicity, a Confusion of Terms "(2011), and "Explain, Don't Play Down"(2011).

The depth and breadth of his work, which he wrested from himself in the fight against pain, are unbelievable.

What is the legacy of Holz, the encyclopedic scholar, one of the most important Marxist and Leninist philosophers of past decades, one of the foremost political thinkers, writers and actors of the Communist movement?

In the nearly ninety years since the death of Lenin, said Hannes A. Fellner, there were not very many people able to develop original Marxist philosophy, and to develop systematically their own ideas on its own foundation.

What Friedrich Engels said of Karl Marx at his grave, namely, that he was "one of those great men," "of whom a century produces only a few," one can also say about Hans Heinz Holz.

Following the example of Friedrich Engels, who had his remains scattered in the sea at Beachy Head in Eastbourne in the land of his exile, Hans Heinz Holz, living most of his time in exile in Switzerland, wanted his ashes to disappear in Lake Maggiore.

In his last hours, Hans Heinz may have thought of the verses of Louis Fürnberg. They may also accompany us in our ongoing struggle:

Every dream on which I squandered myself,
Every fight, because I did not spare myself,
Each ray of sunshine that dazzled me
Everything was worth it in the end.
Every fire that caught my heart,
Every pain that crept over my heart,
Although it was often difficult, it was nonetheless possible.
Scars remain, but it was worth it.
Our life is not easy to bear.
Only he who holds his heart in his hands,
Has the power to say yes to life,
And to fight, to fight for a new world.

To conclude, the title of his far-reaching thought might be the title of one of his last essays, "The alternative has to be fought for. Capitalism in its imperialist stage, poses for the human race the question: revolution or perpetuation of exploitation, oppression and crisis." (2011)

Given the time available to me, it was not possible for me to elaborate on substantive aspects of the publications of Hans Heinz Holz in the last five years.[3]

But to gain even only a vague notion of what Hans Heinz has created in recent years, with an almost Promethean strength, we owed him at least these short, bullet-like summaries.

Who of us would not be happy when life's work is done to leave the footprints that Hans Heinz has made in just five years?

They are a final reflection of his outstanding creativity.

Endnotes
1. Hans Heinz Holz, The Big Den of Thieves: Religion and Class Struggles in the Christian Middle Ages, Bielefeld 1999

2. Dietmar Dath, Lively Teacher of Concepts. On the Death of the Philosopher Hans Heinz Holz. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, December 13, 2011, p.32

3. For the journalism of the early years, see: Friedrich-Martin Balzer, "Hans Heinz Holz as a Journalist. An Interim Report." In: Christoph Hubig and Jörg Zimmer (Ed.), Difference and Contradiction. Perspectives on the Work of Hans Heinz Holz. Cologne 2007, pp. 229-245. The text, together with the completed bibliography up to 2011 and more than 500 publications in full text, including contributions to the arts and culture, theater and literature, philosophy and history, politics current events are on the CD-ROM, Friedrich-Martin Balzer (ed.), Hans Heinz Holz for Beginners and Advanced, Bonn, 2007, 4th expanded edition 2011, available at www.friedrich-martin-balzer.de.

Translated by F. M. Balzer, Priscilla Metscher, and Bill Miller

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