Eduard Fuchs: Collector and Historian - Walter Benjamin

Eduard Fuchs portrait
Eduard Fuchs, 1905 portrait by Max Slevogt

Benjamin's 1937 article on the Marxist scholar and art collector Eduard Fuchs (1870–1940), hailed as 'pioneer of a materialist consideration of art'.

Submitted by Noa Rodman on January 1, 2018

See pdf-attachment.

Works online by Fuchs are found at Hathi and Archive. A biography (in German) by Thomas Huonker here.

Of the three big volumes on the history of erotic art (Geschichte der erotischen Kunst), which each contained several hundreds illustrations, only the first volume is online (and only the first edition, at that).

Band 1: Das zeitgeschichtliche Problem: 385 Abb. u. 36 Farbtafeln; 7, XXII, 412
Band 2: Das individuelle Problem. Erster Teil: 350 Abb. u. 51 Farbt; 7, VII, 439
Band 3: Das individuelle Problem. Zweiter Teil: 416 Abb. u. 50 Ft; 7, VIII, 400

Among other collections of caricatures (e.g. about Jews and women), he also composed two volumes on matriarchy in history (Die Weiberherrschaft), again with several hundreds of illustrations (both are online).

Fuchs was a political figure too, e.g.:

Eduard Fuchs (1870-1940) was instructed by the headquarters of the Spartakusbund to get directly in touch with Lenin and other influential representatives of the RCP(B) and the Soviet state. He offered his services because during the war he had met Lenin several times in Switzerland, had his confidence and had been entrusted by the Soviet government with the function of Civil Commissioner for the Russian prisoners of war in Germany. Using this mission he travelled to Soviet Russia where he spoke with Lenin between the 26th & 28th December in Moscow. Edward Fuchs handed over the letter and draft programme written by Rosa Luxembourg entitled What does the Spartacusbund Want?


We must urgently (to be endorsed in the C.C. before departure of the Spartacist{Fuchs}) prepare an international socialist conference for founding the Third International. (in Berlin (openly) or in Holland (secretly), say, for 1.11.1919)


Incidentally, in Benjamin's text there is a passage about Kautsky whose meaning I think escapes most readers:


Later, in revisionism, the evolutionary view of history burdened the concept of "development" all the more, the less the party was willing to risk what it had gained in the struggle against capitalism. History assumed deterministic traits: "the victory of the party was inevitable." [...] At that time, a man like [Enrico] Ferri not only traced the principles of Social Democracy, but also its tactics, back to natural laws. Deficiencies in the knowledge of geology and biology were held to be responsible for anarchistic deviations. Certainly leaders like Kautsky fought against such deviations.(footnote) Nevertheless, many were satisfied with theses which sorted historical processes into "physiological" and "pathological" ones.

Benjamin in the footnote refers to Kautsky's 1895 critique of Ferri. Kautsky says there for instance: "The desire to prove the necessity of socialism not by certain historical conditions, but by a natural law, amounts to everything else, but not to Marxist thought."

The unclarity of the passage is due to Benjamin himself, because he gives the impression that Kautsky fought anarchist deviations [Abweichungen] mentioned in the previous sentence. Of course Kautsky opposed anarchism. But the deviation Benjamin has in mind here is actually the revisionist distortion of Marxism. Thus, Benjamin, unlike most of his modern-day interpreters, correctly recognised Kautsky as a critic of such a vulgar "evolutionary view of history".



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Submitted by Entdinglichung on January 2, 2018

Fuchs left the KPD in 1929 to join the recently expelled "moderates" around Brandler, Thalheimer, Froelich and Walcher who formed the CP-Opposition which rejected the pseudo-radicalism of the Komintern's "third period"