Johannes Agnoli

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Johannes Agnoli (born February 22, 1925 in Valle di Cadore , Italy ; † May 4, 2003 in San Quirico di Moriano near Lucca , Italy) was a German political scientist of Italian origin. The transformation of democracy , a critique of the regression of democracy to a neo-feudal or authoritarian form of rule, is considered to be his main political science work . The liberal democracy is actually a constitutional oligarchy.


Agnoli came from a wealthy Italian family in Valle di Cadore in the eastern Dolomites . His parents were Pietro Agnoli and Margherita, nee Ponte. The world economic crisis robbed the family of their economic basis. As a member of the fascist youth organization Gioventù italiana del littorio , he became provincial leader of the high school youth . He wrote laudatory writings on the war, the Duce and fascism .

After graduating from high school in May 1943 and the German occupation of Italy and after the fall of Mussolini in July 1943, he reported to the Waffen SS , which was responsible for foreign volunteers. She transferred him to the mountain troops of the German Wehrmacht , whose harshness he admired. He was used in the fight against the Yugoslav partisans .

In May 1945 he was captured by the British and was interned in the POW camp in Moascar, Egypt in the Suez Canal Zone . In the “Reeducational Work” he supervised the philosophy course, which he took with Windelband's history of philosophy. He was released in the summer of 1948.

In Urach, today's Bad Urach , he first worked in a sawmill until he was able to study in Tübingen in December 1949 with a military fellowship . In May 1955 he was naturalized in Germany. He received his doctorate with a thesis on Giambattista Vico's legal philosophy and took an exam in political science with Theodor Eschenburg .

In 1957 he joined the SPD , from which he was expelled in 1961 as a member of the Socialist Sponsorship Society due to the incompatibility resolution with the SDS .

In 1960 he became an assistant to the political scientist Ferdinand Aloysius Hermens in Cologne . After Agnoli had advocated recognition of the GDR at a conference, Hermens separated from him. On the recommendation of Wolfgang Abendroth , he became assistant to Ossip K. Flechtheim at the Otto Suhr Institute and completed his habilitation there in 1972. From 1972 to 1990 he was professor at the Otto Suhr Institute for Political Science at the Free University of Berlin .

Agnoli was one of the thought leaders of the 1968 student movement . The book The Transformation of Democracy , which he wrote in 1967 together with the social psychologist Peter Brückner , contains his essay with the same title on the radical democratic criticism of elections and pluralism in Germany. Supporters of the Socialist German Student Union (SDS) and the Extra-Parliamentary Opposition (APO) viewed this work as a central programmatic text in the late 1960s.

Characteristic of Agnoli is a clear rejection of the representative system, parliamentarism and the model of democracy conceived by the German Basic Law . In 1967 Agnoli was instrumental in founding the Republican Club in West Berlin and also in the debates and actions of the (APO).

When in 1975 the public prosecutor's office in Munich filed a criminal complaint against the editors of How everything started by Bommi Baumann , in which the latter described his development as an active urban guerrilla , and ordered the temporary confiscation, Agnoli was among those who published and distributed a new edition.

In June 1977 Agnoli was co-editor of a reprint of the Göttingen Mescalero text on the assassination of the Federal Public Prosecutor Siegfried Buback by the RAF , again with Peter Brückner. Agnoli was against the state's monopoly of force , but like the “Mescalero”, he emphasized: “The road to emancipation cannot be paved with corpses.”

Agnoli died in Tuscany on May 4, 2003 . In early 2006, his widow gave his estate to the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Berlin. The almost 1,500 books and brochures are presented there in the Johannes Agnoli Library .


A reception of Agnoli can be determined in several currents of the political left . For example at Ça ira Verlag , in the conflict and Agnoli dispute over editorial rights and anti-German positions, in the autonomous movement and in the libertarian-socialist spectrum around the magazines Schwarzer Faden and Graswurzelrevolution .

Hans Jürgen Degen described Agnoli as an excellent connoisseur of anarchism : Agnoli “interpreted 'his' Marx 'libertarian' because the 'Marxism' of the 'non-Marxist' Marx was for him a liberal 'doctrine'. Agnoli wanted the reconciliation of the two 'authoritarian bones' Marx and Bakunin: he wanted to 'bring the liberal elements of the fragmented socialist emancipation movement into action'. But this should by no means be done by blurring the different positions. ... Agnoli had a 'strong tendency' to be libertarian. That is why he regretted the 'social impotence' of the libertarians: 'It can go away with a shot of Marx.' "

Walter Euchner criticizes Agnoli for not understanding the original character of the theory of the social contract , although even Abbé Sieyès made a distinction between the multitudo (the mass of the population) and the pouvoir constituant . He admits to Agnoli that every political scientist knows that there is some truth in his statement that liberal democracy is actually a constitutional oligarchy, but it depends on the normative yardstick. Measured against a society of free and equals, the result is unacceptable, but if you ask about specific reform possibilities, you have to paint the picture in a more differentiated way: political changes of power are still possible and relevant in terms of the result.

Debate about Agnoli's handling of his past

The question of how Agnoli later felt about his commitment to the fascist movement, his reporting to the Waffen-SS in the Wehrmacht and his use as a soldier in the Wehrmacht in the fight against partisans has led to controversial discussions.

Wolfgang Kraushaar criticized Agnoli's recourse to the pre-fascist theorist Vilfredo Pareto . The political scientist Michael Hewener came to the opposite conclusion in his examination of this thesis: Agnoli quoted Pareto with a clearly critical intention: to refer to what, in his opinion, contemporary political science is too close to the state. The appeal to Pareto in Agnoli's work stands for a biographical-theoretical break, not for continuity. Kraushar also accused Agnoli of largely remaining silent about his past, so that for a long time it was only known to the initiated. After "more and more leaked through" in the 1980s, it was not until 2004 that the biography Johannes Agnoli - a biographical sketch written by Barbara Görres Agnoli was published "coherently" into the fascist past of Agnoli.

Agnoli's colleagues, such as Wolf-Dieter Narr and Richard Stöss , contradict Kraushaar's presentation. Agnoli liked to talk about his youth "in good company" and made no secret of his enthusiasm for the fascist movement at the time.

According to Götz Aly , Agnoli announced that he had belonged to the Italian fascist party, but withheld his report about the Waffen SS to the Wehrmacht in 1943 and his involvement in the fight against partisans in Yugoslavia. Agnoli's wife, Barbara Görres-Agnoli, did not report any details of his mission in her “biographical sketch” either, but she stated with judgment: “Agnoli may not have suppressed his fascist past - he dealt with fascism all his life - but he did showed her a lot. "

Even three years after the collapse of the Nazi regime, Agnoli had formulated his admiration for the Germans in a manuscript in the prisoner-of-war camp in 1948 with the words: “I want the German wind to blow again, for the German people to have the opportunity to Penetration and penetration wins. ”One looks in vain for a critical preoccupation with his commitment to fascism and his work against the partisans in Yugoslavia.

The historian Rudolf Walther points out that in 1986 Agnoli “wanted to gain something positive from the term ' left fascism ' coined by the Catholic theologian Luigi Sturzo in 1926 ”.

Fonts (selection)

Literature (biographical)

Literature (on the theory of Agnolis)

  • Joachim Bruhn , Manfred Dahlmann, Clemens Nachtmann (eds.): Patience and irony. Johannes Agnoli on his 70th birthday. ça ira publishing house, Freiburg i. Br. 1995, ISBN 3-924627-42-8 .
  • Joachim Bruhn, Manfred Dahlmann, Clemens Nachtmann (ed.): Criticism of Politics - Johannes Agnoli on his 75th birthday. ça ira publishing house, Freiburg i. Br. 2000, ISBN 3-924627-66-5 .
  • Michael Hewener: Economic Democracy in the State of Capital? In: Axel Weipert (Ed.): Democratization of Economy and State - Studies on the Relationship between Economy, State and Democracy from the 19th Century to the Present. NoRa Verlag, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-86557-331-5 , pp. 182-191.
  • Stephan Grigat : Subversive thinking in post-fascism and the state of capital. A memory of Johannes Agnoli. In: Merlin Wolf (Ed.): Irrwege der Kapitalismuskritik. Aschaffenburg 2017, 149–171.
  • Michael Hewener: The Theory of the Extra-Parliamentary Opposition: Johannes Agnolis "Transformation of Democracy. In: Magic of Theory - History of the New Left in West Germany. Special Issue . (= Work - Movement - History . Issue II / 2018). P. 39–45 .


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Who's Who in The World. 21st edition. 2001, p. 22.
  2. ^ Richard Saage, Gunnar Berg: Between Triumph and Crisis: On the state of liberal democracy after the collapse of the dictatorships in Eastern Europe . Springer-Verlag, 2013, ISBN 978-3-322-97375-7 ( [accessed March 17, 2019]).
  3. Who's who in Germany. 1990, p. 16.
  4. Johannes Agnoli in the Munzinger archive ( beginning of article freely available)
  5. Buback - an obituary at Glasnost Archive
  6. ^ B. Görres Agnoli: Johannes Agnoli, a biographical sketch. Hamburg 2004, p. 76.
  7. ^ Ekkehart Krippendorff : Rebelling is always fair: on the death of the Berlin political scientist Johannes Agnoli. In: Der Tagesspiegel . May 7, 2003, accessed January 22, 2020 .
  8. Constantin Mavromatidis: Agnoli in the RLS archive. In: New Germany . March 5, 2016, accessed January 22, 2020 .
  9. Johannes Agnoli Library. In: Website of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. Retrieved January 22, 2020 .
  10. from conversations with Agnoli, quoted in in Grassroots Revolution No. 338, 4/2009.
  11. ^ Richard Saage, Gunnar Berg: Between Triumph and Crisis: On the state of liberal democracy after the collapse of the dictatorships in Eastern Europe . Springer-Verlag, 2013, ISBN 978-3-322-97375-7 ( [accessed March 17, 2019]).
  12. Michael Hewener: The Theory of the Extra-Parliamentary Opposition: Johannes Agnolis "Transformation of Democracy. In: Magic of Theory - History of the New Left in West Germany. Special Issue of Work - Movement - History , Issue II / 2018, pp. 39–45.
  13. Wolfgang Kraushaar: Agnoli, the APO and the constitutive illiberalism of his criticism of parliamentarism. In: Journal for Parliamentary Issues. 38, 2007, p. 176f. ( PDF file )
  14. ^ Wolf-Dieter Narr, Richard Stöss: Johannes Agnolis "Transformation of Democracy". A contribution to socially critical policy analysis. In: Journal for Parliamentary Issues. 38, 2007, pp. 833f. ( PDF file )
  15. The perpetrators were not primitive . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. December 22nd, 2009. “Which K-Group were you in?” Daily newspaper interview with Götz Aly and Katharina Rutschky, December 29th, 2007, accessed August 17th, 2012.
  16. Johannes Agnoli 1948 ( online access January 15, 2020 )
  17. Rudolf Walther: "Behind this is a stubborn head" In: taz from December 15, 2006 ( online access December 27, 2019 )