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Protest Against Closing Down the Lukács Archive.

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“Philosophy is transcendental homelessness; it is the urge to be at home everywhere”
György Lukács

Protest Against Closing Down the Lukács Archiv

We, the undersigned, wish to express our deepest worries about the resolution of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences to close down the Lukács Archives in Budapest. Görgy Lukács was one the significant philosophers of the 20th century, an author of modernity outstanding not only in philosophy but also in the fields of political mindedness, theory of literature, sociology and ethics An author of international renown, Lukács represented one of the intellectual peaks in Hungary’s history of civilisation, his works constitute a part of the treasures of humankind. For decades, the Lukács Archives has facilitated academic and non-academic circles to have access to the documents related to the philosopher’s life and professional achievements. As it is located in the philosopher’s home of his late years, it has also served as a memorial place devoted to a decisive personality of our era. Based on the above, we call on the authorities in charge to re-consider their decision, which took the international community of science and art by consternation and sorrow.

More information and signatures here.

In the Morning Star Edmund Girffiths reports,

WORLDWIDE anger has been sparked by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences’ announcement that it intends to close down the Georg Lukacs Archive in Budapest.

Lukacs (1885-1971) was one of the 20th century’s most eminent Marxist philosophers.

He first gained recognition as a writer in the tradition of classical German philosophy — the very tradition in which Marx and Engels reached intellectual maturity.

Probably his best-known early work is The Theory of the Novel, written “in a mood of permanent despair over the state of the world” during WWI.

It was Marxism and the Russian revolution that showed Lukacs a way out of his despair. In 1919, when Hungary was briefly ruled by a revolutionary Soviet Republic or Republic of Councils, the philosopher served as a people’s commissar with responsibility for culture.

He was to remain actively involved in socialist and communist politics throughout his life.

His most famous book, History and Class Consciousness, appeared in 1923. With unparalleled precision and clarity, Lukacs distinguishes between class consciousness itself — the way society must appear when viewed from a particular position within it — and the beliefs held by members of any given class at any given time.

For students of consciousness, reification and other central questions of Marxist philosophy, Lukacs’s work remains fundamental.

He also wrote extensively on literature. The Historical Novel, which came out in 1937, was an epoch-making study concentrating in particular on the works of Balzac and Scott.

Lukacs’s former pupils include Agnes Heller, Imre Lakatos, and other well-known Hungarian philosophers.

The Lukacs Archive is home to thousands of books, letters, manuscripts and other documents, including unpublished writings in Hungarian and German and correspondence between Lukacs and many leading 20th-century thinkers and writers: Ernst Bloch, Thomas Mann, Jean-Paul Sartre, Erich Fromm and others.

Situated as it is in the philosopher’s former home, in an apartment in Number 2, Belgrad Rakpart, it also serves as a memorial to him.

The Academy of Sciences now proposes to dissolve this important resource.

Dr Miklos Mesterhazi, of the Lukacs Archive staff, told the Morning Star: “If you decode the academy’s statement, it means that the Georg Lukacs Archive as it has existed for decades will be closed down. Lukacs’s apartment, where the archive has been housed, will be sold off, and my colleagues will be driven out — either reassigned or pensioned off.”

The decision to close the archive should be seen in the context of the increasingly reactionary cultural policy pursued by the country’s right-wing government.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who came to power in 2010, declared in 2014 that his government’s aim was “building an illiberal new state on national foundations.”

We have already seen the illiberal new state in action, most notoriously in the steel and barbed wire fences it has erected along its southern border to keep out refugees fleeing Syria and other warzones.

We have seen its objectives entrenched in a new constitution overflowing with references to Christianity, budget discipline, the nation, one man with one woman, the Holy Crown, the moment of conception, the “criminal communist dictatorship,” and other conservative talking points.

And we now see it trying to blot out the memory of Hungary’s most celebrated philosopher.

Zsuzsa Hermann, whose online petition against the decision to close the Lukacs Archive has already received more than 7,000 signatures, told the Morning Star that “this decision was crudely and exclusively politically motivated.”

And Sandor Radnoti, Professor of Aesthetics at Budapest’s Eotvos Lorand University, added: “It shows a complete lack of understanding of Lukacs’s significance.”

The decision has drawn wide condemnation in left and intellectual circles. Dr Ruediger Dannemann, the chair of the International Lukacs Society, told the Morning Star: “The struggle to save the Lukacs Archive is about preserving the priceless legacy of a great 20th-century intellectual and Marxist philosopher.

“But it is also about maintaining the heritage of radical philosophy (in Agnes Heller’s sense) and Marxist philosophy as part of our great cultural narrative.

“I hope the Hungarian Academy of Sciences will change course.”

But that might mean compelling Orban’s “illiberal new state” to reconsider the impoverished, mutilated version of Hungarian history and culture it has chosen to present as its “national foundations.”

More about György Lukács Wikipedia.

This is a book all serious Marxists will have read: History and Class Consciousness

Written between 1919 and 1922, History and Class Consciousness (1923) initiated Western Marxism.[10] Lukács emphasizes concepts such as alienation, reification and class consciousness.[11]

Lukács argues that methodology is the only thing that distinguishes Marxism: even if all its substantive propositions were rejected, it would remain valid because of its distinctive method:[12]

Orthodox Marxism, therefore, does not imply the uncritical acceptance of the results of Marx’s investigations. It is not the ‘belief’ in this or that thesis, nor the exegesis of a ‘sacred’ book. On the contrary, orthodoxy refers exclusively to method. It is the scientific conviction that dialectical materialism is the road to truth and that its methods can be developed, expanded and deepened only along the lines laid down by its founders.

— §1

He criticises Marxist revisionism by calling for the return to this Marxist method, which is fundamentally dialectical materialism. Lukács conceives “revisionism” as inherent to the Marxist theory, insofar as dialectical materialism is, according to him, the product of class struggle:

For this reason the task of orthodox Marxism, its victory over Revisionism and utopianism can never mean the defeat, once and for all, of false tendencies. It is an ever-renewed struggle against the insidious effects of bourgeois ideology on the thought of the proletariat. Marxist orthodoxy is no guardian of traditions, it is the eternally vigilant prophet proclaiming the relation between the tasks of the immediate present and the totality of the historical process.

— end of §5

According to him, “The premise of dialectical materialism is, we recall: ‘It is not men’s consciousness that determines their existence, but on the contrary, their social existence that determines their consciousness.’ …Only when the core of existence stands revealed as a social process can existence be seen as the product, albeit the hitherto unconscious product, of human activity.” (§5). In line with Marx’s thought, he criticises the individualistbourgeois philosophy of the subject, which founds itself on the voluntary and conscious subject. Against this ideology, he asserts the primacy of social relations. Existence — and thus the world — is the product of human activity; but this can be seen only if the primacy of social process on individual consciousness is accepted. Lukács does not restrain human liberty for sociological determinism: to the contrary, this production of existence is the possibility of praxis.

He conceives the problem in the relationship between theory and practice. Lukács quotes Marx’s words: “It is not enough that thought should seek to realise itself; reality must also strive towards thought.” How does the thought of intellectuals be related to class struggle, if theory is not simply to lag behind history, as it is in Hegel’s philosophy of history (“Minerva always comes at the dusk of night…”)? Lukács criticises Friedrich EngelsAnti-Dühring, saying that he “does not even mention the most vital interaction, namely the dialectical relation between subject and object in the historical process, let alone give it the prominence it deserves.” This dialectical relation between subject and object is the basis of Lukács’ critique of Immanuel Kant‘s epistemology, according to which the subject is the exterior, universal and contemplating subject, separated from the object.

For Lukács, “ideology” is a projection of the class consciousness of the bourgeoisie, which functions to prevent the proletariat from attaining consciousness of its revolutionary position. Ideology determines the “form of objectivity“, thus the very structure of knowledge. According to Lukács, real science must attain the “concrete totality” through which only it is possible to think the current form of objectivity as a historical period. Thus, the so-called eternal “laws” of economics are dismissed as the ideological illusion projected by the current form of objectivity (“What is Orthodoxical Marxism?”, §3). He also writes: “It is only when the core of being has showed itself as social becoming, that the being itself can appear as a product, so far unconscious, of human activity, and this activity, in turn, as the decisive element of the transformation of being.” (“What is Orthodoxical Marxism?”, §5) Finally, “orthodoxical marxism” is not defined as interpretation of Capital as if it were the Bible or an embrace of “marxist thesis”, but as fidelity to the “marxist method”, dialectics.

Lukács presents the category of reification whereby, due to the commodity nature of capitalist society, social relations become objectified. This precludes the spontaneous emergence of class consciousness. In this context, the need for a party in the Leninist sense emerges, the subjective aspect of the re-invigorated Marxian dialectic.

In his later career, Lukács repudiated the ideas of History and Class Consciousness, in particular the belief in the proletariat as a “subjectobject of history” (1960 Postface to French translation). As late as 1925-1926, he still defended these ideas, in an unfinished manuscript, which he called Tailism and the Dialectic. It was not published until 1996 in Hungarian and English in 2000 under the title A Defence of History and Class Consciousness.

Lukács and Stalinism.

In 1956 Lukács became a minister of the brief communist revolutionary government led by Imre Nagy, which opposed the Soviet Union. At this time Lukács’ daughter led a short-lived party of communist revolutionary youth. Lukács’ position on the 1956 revolution was that the Hungarian Communist Party would need to retreat into a coalition government of socialists, and slowly rebuild its credibility with the Hungarian people. While a minister in Nagy’s revolutionary government, Lukács also participated in trying to reform the Hungarian Communist Party on a new basis. This party, the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party, was rapidly co-opted by János Kádár after 4 November 1956.[9]

During the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, Lukács was present at debates of the anti-party and revolutionary communist Petőfi society, while remaining part of the party apparatus. During the revolution, as mentioned in Budapest Diary, Lukács argued for a new Soviet-aligned communist party. In Lukács’ view, the new party could win social leadership only by persuasion instead of force. Lukács envisioned an alliance between the dissident communist Party of Youth, the revolutionary Hungarian Social Democratic Party and his own Soviet-aligned party as a very junior partner.

After 1956 Lukács narrowly avoided execution. Due to his role in Nagy’s government, he was no longer trusted by the party apparatus. Lukács’ followers were indicted for political crimes throughout the 1960s and 70s, and a number fled to the West. Lukács’ books The Young Hegel and The Destruction of Reason have been used to argue that Lukács was covertly critical of Stalinism as an irrational distortion of Hegelian-Marxism.

Following the defeat of the Revolution, Lukács was deported to Romania with the rest of Nagy’s government. Unlike Nagy, he survived the purges of 1956. He returned to Budapest in 1957. Lukács publicly abandoned his positions of 1956 and engaged in self-criticism. Having abandoned his earlier positions, Lukács remained loyal to the Communist Party until his death in 1971. In his last years, following the uprisings in France and Czechoslovakia in 1968, Lukács became more publicly critical of the Soviet Union and Hungarian Communist Party.

In an interview just before his death, Lukács remarked:

Without a genuine general theory of society and its movement, one does not get away from Stalinism. Stalin was a great tactician… But Stalin, unfortunately, was not a Marxist… The essence of Stalinism lies in placing tactics before strategy, practice above theory… The bureaucracy generated by Stalinism is a tremendous evil. Society is suffocated by it. Everything becomes unreal, nominalistic. People see no design, no strategic aim, and do not move…” Thus Lukács concludes “[w]e must learn to connect the great decisions of popular political power with personal needs, those of individuals.

— Marcus & Zoltan 1989: 215–16

Lukács, Georg (1885-1971).

Hungarian Marxist philosopher, writer, and literary critic who influenced the mainstream of European Communist thought during the first half of the 20th century. His major contributions include the formulation of a Marxist system of aesthetics that opposed political control of artists and defended humanism and an elaboration of Marx’s theory of alienation within industrial society. His What is Orthodox Marxism? and The Changing Function of Historical Materialism, demonstrated his creative and independent approach to Marxist theory.

Born into a wealthy Jewish family, Lukács had read Marx while at school, but was more influenced by Kierkegaard and Weber. He was unimpressed with the majority of the theoretical leaders of the Second International such as Karl Kautsky, but had been impressed by Rosa Luxemburg. In the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution, Lukács joined the Hungarian Communist Party in 1918. After the overthrow of Béla Kun‘s short-lived Hungarian Communist regime in 1919, in which Lukács served as Commissar for Culture and Education, the Hungarian white terror brutally persecuted former government members.

Fleeing the White Terror, Lukacs moved to Vienna, where he remained for 10 years. He edited the review Kommunismus, which for a time became a focal point for the ultra-left currents in the Third International and and was a member of the Hungarian underground movement. In his book History and Class Consciousness (1923), he developed these ideas and laid the basis for his critical literary tenets by linking the development of form in art with the history of the class struggle. He came under sharp criticism from the Comintern, and facing expulsion from the Party and consequent exclusion from the struggle against fascism, he recanted.

Lukács was in Berlin from 1929 to 1933, save for a short period in 1930-31, at which time he attended the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow. In 1933 he left Berlin and returned to Moscow to attend the Institute of Philosophy. He moved back to Hungary in 1945 and became a member of parliament and a professor of aesthetics and the philosophy of culture at the University of Budapest. In 1956 he was a major figure in the Hungarian uprising, serving as minister of culture during the revolt. He was arrested and deported to Romania but was allowed to return to Budapest in 1957, where, stripped of his former power and status, he devoted himself to a steady output of critical and philosophical works.

In later years, Lukács repudiated many of the positions put in his early works which had formed the starting point for such writers as Adorno and Fromm, and other tendencies which not only rejected the Stalinised version of Marxism, but departed from Marx’s central principles. He frequently clashed with Jean-Paul Sartre and others who combined Marxism with psychoanalysis, structuralism and other philosophical currents inherently incompatible with Marxism.

Lukács wrote more than 30 books and hundreds of essays and lectures. Among his other works are Soul and Form (1911), a collection of essays that established his reputation as a critic; The Historical Novel (1955); and books on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Hegel, Lenin, Marxism, and aesthetics. In his Destruction of Reason, he launched a furious attack on Heidegger‘s accommodation with Nazism and the whole current of irrationalism which was dominant in the pre-war years.


Written by Andrew Coates

March 19, 2016 at 4:59 pm

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