The long march through the institutions

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Assassinations Series no 15 Rudi Dutschke ‘long march through the institutions of power’.jpg
Rudi Dutschke
Mao on the Chinese Red Army's Long March

The long march through the institutions (German: der lange Marsch durch die Institutionen) is a slogan coined by neo-Marxist and student radical Rudi Dutschke to describe his strategy for establishing the conditions for revolution: subverting society by infiltrating institutions such as the professions. The phrase "long march" is a reference to the prolonged struggle of the Chinese communists, which included a physical Long March of their army across China.[1]


The main influence on Dutschke's thinking is commonly thought to be the work of Italian communist Antonio Gramsci who, while imprisoned by Mussolini, wrote about cultural hegemony and the need for a "war of position" to establish the conditions for a revolutionary "war of manoeuvre".[2] Degroot also identifies Ernst Bloch as a major influence.[3] Bloch met Dutschke at Bad Boll in 1968 and admired his integrity and determination – qualities which he had written about in Das Prinzip Hoffnung (The Principle of Hope) as being essential for the achievement of utopia.[3]

Herbert Marcuse corresponded with Dutschke in 1971 to agree with this strategy, "Let me tell you this: that I regard your notion of the 'long march through the institutions' as the only effective way..."[4] In his 1972 book, Counterrevolution and Revolt, Marcuse wrote

To extend the base of the student movement, Rudi Dutschke has proposed the strategy of the long march through the institutions: working against the established institutions while working within them, but not simply by 'boring from within', rather by 'doing the job', learning (how to program and read computers, how to teach at all levels of education, how to use the mass media, how to organize production, how to recognize and eschew planned obsolescence, how to design, et cetera), and at the same time preserving one's own consciousness in working with others.


As a result of the conditions after the Second World War, including the baby boom, the Cold War and the sexual revolution, a counter culture developed in the 1960s which culminated in the protests of 1968. That young generation then became established in the institutions of society which then reflected their views but, in western societies, this did not immediately result in full-scale revolution.[5]

Relevant works

  • Dalton, Russell (1987), "Generational Change in Elite Political Beliefs: The Growth of Ideological Polarization", The Journal of Politics, Vol. 49 (4): 976–997, doi:10.2307/2130780<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Davidson, Carl (2006), Strategy, Hegemony and the 'Long March': Gramsci's Lessons for the Antiwar Movement, ISBN 9781430329589<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Degroot, Gerard (2014), "Rudi Dutschke's Long March", Student Protest: The Sixties and After, Routledge, ISBN 9781317880493<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Flechtheim; Rudzio; Vilmar; Wilke (1980), Der Marsch der DKP durch die Institutionen: Sowjetmarxistische Einflußstrategien und Ideologien, Frankfurt am Main: Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, ISBN 3-596-24223-1<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Horchem, Hans Josef (1975), Extremisten in einer selbstbewussten Demokratie, Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, ISBN 3-451-07515-6<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Horchem, Hans Josef (1973), "The Long March Through the Institutions", Conflict Studies, Institute for the Study of Conflict, Vol. 33<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Marcuse, Herbert (2014), Marxism, Revolution and Utopia: Collected Papers of Herbert Marcuse, Vol. 6, Routledge, ISBN 9781317805564<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Kimball, Roger (2001), The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America, Encounter Books, ISBN 978-1893554306<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Niedenhoff, Horst-Udo (1979), Auf dem Marsch durch die Institutionen, Köln: Deutscher Instituts-Verlag, ISBN 3-88054-325-9<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Ross, Robert (2010), "Reflections on the Sociology Liberation Movement of 1968", Crisis, Politics and Critical Sociology, BRILL, ISBN 9789004179486<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Rudorf, Reginald (1994), Die vierte Gewalt, Frankfurt am Main: Ullstein, ISBN 3-548-36635-X<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Schelsky, Helmut (10 December 1971), "Die Strategie der „Systemüberwindung". Der lange Marsch durch die Institutionen.", Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Suri, Jeremi (1 February 2009), "The Rise and Fall of an International Counterculture 1960–1975", The American Historical Review, 114 (1): 45–68, doi:10.1086/ahr.114.1.45<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Waldman, Eric (1976), Deutschlands Weg in den Sozialismus, Mainz: V. Hase + Koehler, ISBN 3-7758-0922-8<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  1. Kimball 2001, p. 15.
  2. Davidson 2006, p. 261.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Degroot 2014, p. 110.
  4. Marcuse 2014, p. 336.
  5. Suri 2009.

See also