The long march through the institutions (German: der lange Marsch durch die Institutionen) is a slogan coined by Communist student activist Rudi Dutschke around 1967 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.
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 maneuver.” Degroot also identifies Ernst Bloch as a major influence. Bloch met Dutschke at Bad Boll in 1968 and admired his integrity and determination, qualities that he had written about in ‘The Principle of Hope‘ (Das Prinzip Hoffnung) as being essential for the achievement of utopia.
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…” 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.
The long march includes the concerted effort to build up counterinstitutions. They have long been an aim of the movement,but the lack of funds was greatly responsible for their weakness and their inferior quality. They must be made competitive. This is especially important for the development of radical, “free” media. The fact that the radical Left has no equal access to the great chains of information and indoctrination is largely responsible for its isolation.
The Frankfurt School and Critical Theory – Cultural Marxism
The Four stages of ideological subversion