Tucker, Aviezer

From Kosik to Havel: Debating the meaning of 1968

e-mail: avitucker@yahoo.com

The historical end of humanist Marxism as a viable political philosophy in Czechoslovakia and the rise of non-Marxist alternatives can be traced to the conflicting interpretations of the collapse of reformed Communism between Karel Kosik and Vaclav Havel.  The debate on the final issues of the journals Flamen and Tvař, attempted to come to grips with the failure to resist the Soviet invasion and the beginning of normalization.  For Kosik, 1968 was an open future.  He kept using the jargon about workers and intellectuals, ignoring reality, and believing in continuity.  For Havel, it was a closed past.  The future lay elsewhere and in understanding the reasons for the historical Czech weakness.  In this debate we encounter the young Havel’s thought before Patocka’s influence as it was shaped in debate against humanist Marxism and reformed Communism.  As a political philosopher, Kosik has not been able to advance beyond 1968, even in later texts like the Third Munich and despite his acceptance of phenomenology and acknowledgement of the mistake in his earlier rejection of Patocka.