Mario Keßler: Scholarship and Biographical Experience: Franz Borkenau, Richard Löwenthal, and Ossip K. Flechtheim as Founder Figures of West German Research on Communism

Abstract

In: Jahrbuch für Historische Kommunismusforschung 2013. Berlin: Aufbau Verlag, pp. 169-182.

After WWII Franz Borkenau (1900–1957), Richard Löwenthal (1908–1991), and Ossip K. Flechtheim (1909–1998), who coined the term »Futurology«, were major founding figures of West German research on communism, then known as Sovietology. They were active in the German Communist Party, broke with it and had to leave the country after Hitler’s rise to power. They returned after the war. Their scholarly research was shaped by their personal and political experience: the collapse of the German labour movement in 1933, the rise of Stalinism, and the Holocaust (they all had a Jewish background). Borkenau interpreted the peculiarities of Soviet history »from above«, as product of internecine party fights. While Borkenau emphasized that the Soviet Union remained a totalitarian state, Löwenthal considered a transformation towards an institutional authoritarianism. Flechtheim insisted that the policies of communism have to be criticized according to the standard of its own ideology. He was one of the first political scientists who insisted that the divergences within the communist world could lead to more pluralistic forms of rule, despite the resistance of the party bureaucracy.

Über den Autor

Mario Keßler, Prof. Dr. phil., geb. 1955 in Jena, 1974–1979 Studium der Geschichte und Germanistik in Jena und Leipzig, 1979 Diplomhistoriker, 1982 Promotion in Leipzig, 1990 Habilitation an der Akademie der Wissenschaften der DDR. 1991 Ford Foundation Scholar an der Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore), 1992–1995 bei der Förderungsgesellschaft für wissenschaftliche Neuvorhaben, seit 1996 am Zentrum fur Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam, seit 2001 Lehrtätigkeit an der Universität Potsdam. Gastprofessuren an der University of Massachusetts (Amherst), der Columbus State University (Georgia) und dreimal an der Yeshiva University (New York). Forschungsaufenthalte in den USA, Israel und verschiedenen Ländern Europas. Jüngste Veröffentlichungen: Historia magistra vitae? Über Geschichtswissenschaft und politische Bildung, Berlin 2011; Klios Jünger. 100 Historiker-Porträts von Homer bis Hobsbawm (mit Werner Berthold), Leipzig 2011; Kommunismuskritik im westlichen Nachkriegsdeutschland: Franz Borkenau-Richard Löwenthal-Ossip Flechtheim, Berlin 2011. Demnächst erscheint im Bohlau-Verlag eine Biografie Ruth Fischers.