Anda di halaman 1dari 48

T R I A '

**i the French Journal La Veri


ollowed by further instalment!

t o e x p o s e a n d t o f i g h t the countless distortions


in the field of M arxist theory by Stalinism, past
and present, would require and indeed does re
quire a large num ber of analyses and even whole
books. The particular forms of class-collaboration
proper to the Stalinist bureaucracy and its appara
tus are always given unmistakable expression in
the revision of Marxism and in the debasem ent of
theory. O pportunism in the workers movement
has always been accompanied by revisionism,
which is always inevitably linked with a contem p
tuous and cavalier attitude towards theory, an
attitude well know n among the Stalinists.
Faced with an ever more blatant class-collaboration between the Stalinists and the bourgeoisie,
the working class and the youth are starting a
powerful movement for new alignments on an
international scale, nourished by the crisis of
Stalinism. Various groups are born and develop
which, as a reaction to Stalinist opportunism , seek
new roads to revolution. I t is inevitable and
quite natural th a t in these conditions there are
born and develop various theories, the only novelty
of which consists m ostly in a renewal of forgotten
and outdated doctrines. But there are m any who,
among these theoretical seekers, announcing that
they are seeking to rid Marxism ) of Stalinist
deform ations, manage to rediscover Marx.
If the international working class, despite its
efforts, has still not won the decisive battle against
capitalism, the reason lies undeniably in the poli
cies of class-collaboration practised by the Stalin
ist and reform ist leaders of the labour movement.
But, from another side, this situation also shows
the weakness of the F ourth International which, in
the face of Stalinism, has not yet been able to
defeat this leadership. So the reconstruction of the
F ourth International, and the building of its party,
is not only a political struggle, but a theoretical
one too. Engels long ago warned the labour move^
m ent of the capital im portance of the theoretical
struggle. He set an example with the decisive
battle against Diihring. Lenins fight for the build
ing of the Bolshevik Party was intim ately linked
to his theoretical struggle, to the development of
Marxism. For only a party guided by a vanguard
theory is capable of fulfilling the role of a vanguard
fighter. Our task of reconstructing the Fourth
International obliges us to pursue the theoretical
struggle for the defence and deepening of Marxism.
I t is w ith this perspective and this aim th a t we
m ust examine and criticize the various theories,
particularly those which proclaim themselves to be
anti-Stalinist,' referring to Marx and Lenin. A
special place belongs to Georg Lukacs, whom
many left intellectuals, even communists, regard
as the model of a M arxist who stood up to
Stalinism. Precisely in the last few years, at the
very tim e of the intensification of the crisis of
Stalini$m, there has been a growth of publicity
around Lukacs, publicity which presents him as
always being an anti-Stalinist, as one who
defended Marxism against Stalin and his sue1
cessors. Tl^efe are many who do not hesitate to
call Lukacs the only M arxist of our epoch, the
greatest M arxist thinker etc. We feel obliged to

78

look into all this, but within the restricted fram e


work of this article, it is, obviously, only possible
to trace out his political itinerary.
To begin with, it is im portant to note th at if, in
recent years, Lukacs audience has grown, it is
because he himself has become more active. Since
1964, Lukacs has intervened incessantly in the
most varied domains. W ithout speaking here of the
reason for this activity, which will be examined
later on, let us indicate some of his interventions.
Since 1967, he has made public declarations on the
following subjects: the Greek putsch; birth con
trol; discoveries in physics; St. Thomas Aquinas
philosophical system; cybernetic machines; plan
ning reforms; new Hungarian films; the form ation
of the galaxies; the present power of the Stalinists;
structuralism , happenings, etc. One could wonder,
is there any subject on which Lukacs has not made
a declaration?
Yes, there is. He has made no declaration
against the intervention in Czechoslovakia, nor
against the expulsion of Solzhenitsyn from the
Union of Soviet W riters. The very active only
M arxist' of our time has remained totally dumb.
Yet he would have risked m uch less than numerous
Hungarian m ilitants and intellectuals who raised
their voices in protest. Lukacs M arxism, just like
his political itinerary, which is inseparable from it,
appears in condensed form in this attitude.

Departure
In the last analysis, every man is the product of
his time. To understand Lukacs' itinerary we must
at least sketch out the historical conditions in
which he began his career and which have left
their stamp all along his path. These conditions
were determ ined by the defeat of the 1848-1849
revolution, a defeat in Germany and all the coun
tries of the Hapsburg empire. If we seek to under
stand the reason for the ease with which the Holy
Alliance, th at feudal enemy hated by all, won
through against the immense movement of the
springtime of the peoples, we find in the back
ground the complicity of the European bourgeoisie.
The English bourgeoisie, basing itself on a favour
able balance of forces, and inflicting a defeat on
the C hartist movement, was the powerful organizer
of the i victory of the Holy Alliance. As to the
German bourgeoisie, it had abandoned its own
revolution and throw n itself into the arms of
Prussian absolutism, frightened as it was by the
barricades of the Parisian proletariat. The power
ful revolutionary wave of 1848-1849 was in fact
the unmasking of the counter-revolutionary nature
of the bourgeoisie. The German revolution con
firmed this m uch more, since of all the bour
geoisies which had not yet made their revolution,
it was by far the m ost powerful. Even before 1848.
this bourgeoisie was brutal against the proletari;i(
and petty-bourgeoisie, cunning tow ards absolutism
and feudalism, as Mehring noted. From the first
days of the revolution, it was more frightened of
the tiniest popular movement than of the toUil of

Fourth International

Winter 197 1 / / ?

all the revolutionary plots of all the governments'.


Engels Revolution and Counter-Revolution in
Germany is the analysis of this betrayal. The con
clusion that M arx and Engels drew from it was
form ulated in 1850 in the famous Address of the
Central Committee to the Comm unist League.
We m ust quote a passage from the Address, whose
ten pages or so of text have, until now, been the
bugbear of all the revisionists and class collabora
tors who have tried to cast it into oblivion. Marx
and Engels w ro te :
Whilst the petty-bourgeois democrats want to
end the revolution . . . quickly if possible, our
interests and tasks lie in making the revolution
permanent, until all the more or less established
classes are swept aside, the proletariat conquers
power, and the unity of the workers is so advanced,
not only in one country but in all the dominant
countries of the world that competition among the
workers of these countries ceases, and at least the
derive productive forces are concentrated in the
hartcis of the working class.'
In Hungary, much more backw ard than Ger
many or even A ustria at the time, the very weak
nascent bourgeoisie was under the leadership of
the middle nobility, the leading class of the 1848
1849 revolution. But if the German bourgeoisie,
feeling the working class on its heels, could in
1848 only be counter-revolutionary, the middle
nobility in Hungary was, so to speak, naive. It
had seen nothing comparable to the revolt of the
Silesian weavers who in 1844 terrified the German
bourgeois. Thus the backwardness of Hungarian
conditions becomes the revolutionary virtue of i^s
middle nobility. The emancipation of the serfs,
the introduction of parliam entarism and dem o
cratic rights, could be more far-reaching than in
Germany since they were realized particularly
against the landowners, protected by the foreigner,
the house of A ustria. The rebellious middle
nobility could only hope to hold power thanks to
these measures. We m ust still not forget that the
passing of power into the hands of the most
Political Itinerary of Georg Lukacs

resolute f r a c tf o i^ o F ^ ^ ^ r S
^as^ec^^F ^?1
the activity and uprising of the poor population of
the capital. A nd this nobility remained revolu;
tionary to the extent to which is was to act under
the pressure of these masses.
In seeking the reasons for such an attitude,
which distinguishes a Kossuth so favourably from
the F rankfurt Assembly chatterboxes, we must, in
addition to more backward class conditions, raise
the question of nationalism. The middle nobility in
Hungary was a victim of the crisis of feudalism, a
crisis exacerbated by the subjection of the country
to the House of A ustria. The illegal attack of the
latter aggravated the nationalism of this nobility,
rich in the traditions of secular independence
struggles,
nourished
by
nascent
bourgeois
nationalism.
It is on the decades which follow, particularly
on the atm osphere at the time of Lukacs youth,
that the characterization of this nobility and its
nationalism throw s indispensable light. Engels saw
the significance and im portance of revolutionary
Hungarys war of independence in its immediately
European character. But if the revolutionary war
of independence objectively had this European
character, its leading class was above all charac
terized by its national narrowness combined with a
stupid sense of legality. It was a nationalism fed on
glorious traditions, with more nostalgia than
dynamism, drawing from the past rather than
turned towards the future. As the nobility was
historically condemned, its nationalism looked on
the past with a pride and melancholy full of
irritation and impatience for the present. Such a
nationalism could play a certain progressive role
in 1848-1849, despite its strong, reactionary stench.
But what about its future?
The combined strength of the Holy Alliance
crushed the revolution. This defeat became in turn
the source of a new delay in the countrys evolu
tion. The re-established order in Central and
Eastern Europe was based on the powerfully
79

Parti 1M 8 : lilgMa rd the

a l^ n ^ e v o lu tio n a r ^ p T o ts of all the governments


Engels Revolution and Counter-Revolution in
Germany is the analysis of this betrayal. The con
clusion that Marx and Engels drew from it was
form ulated in 1850 in the famous Address of the
Central Comm ittee to the Com m unist League.
We m ust quote a passage from the Address, whose
ten pages or so of text have, until now, been the
bugbear of all the revisionists and class collabora
tors who have tried to cast it into oblivioh. Marx
and Engels w rote:
Whilst the petty-bourgeois democrats want to
end the revolution . . . quickly if possible, our
interests and tasks lie in making the revolution
permanent, until all the more or less established
classes are swept aside, the proletariat conquers
power, and the unity of the workers is so advanced,
not only in one country but in all the dominant
countries of the world that competition among the
workers of these countries ceases, and at least the
d erive productive forces are concentrated in the
haridL of the working class.
In Hungary, much more backward than Ger
many or even A ustria at the time, the very weak
nascent bourgeoisie was under the leadership of
the middle nobility, the leading class of the 1848
1849 revolution. But if the German bourgeoisie,
feeling the working class on its heels, could in
1848 only be counter-revolutionary, the middle
nobility in Hungary was, so to speak, naive. It
had seen nothing comparable to the revolt of the
Silesian weavers who in 1844 terrified the German
bourgeois. Thus the backwardness of Hungarian
conditions becomes the revolutionary virtue of i's
middle nobility. The emancipation of the serfs,
the introduction of parliam entarism and dem o
cratic rights, could be more far-reaching than in
Germany since they were realized particularly
against the landowners, protected by the foreigner,
the house of Austria. The rebellious middle
nobility could only hope to hold power thanks to
these measures. We m ust still not forget that the
passing of power into the hands of the m ost
Political Itinerary of Georg Lukacs

baurgiQlBis Into ths arms of Prussian absolutism

)lute ffraction
r a c t? o r w
iT ^ ^ ^ S ^ ^ ^ w ! s decided hi
resolute
oT>Tinr"not>nnv~was
Dy
the activity and uprising of the poor population of
the capital. And this nobility remained revolu;
tionary to the extent to which is was to act under
the pressure of these masses.
In seeking the reasons for such an attitude,
which distinguishes a Kossuth so favourably from
the Frankfurt Assembly chatterboxes, we must, in
addition to more backward class conditions, raise
the question of nationalism. The middle nobility in
Hungary was a victim of the crisis of feudalism, a
crisis exacerbated by the subjection of the country
to the House of Austria. The illegal attack of the
latter aggravated the nationalism of this nobility,
rich in the traditions of secular independence
struggles,
nourished
by
nascent
bourgeois
nationalism.
It is on the decades which follow, particularly
on the atmosphere at the time of Lukacs youth,
that the characterization of this nobility and its
nationalism throws indispensable light. Engels saw
the significance and importance of revolutionary
Hungarys war of independence in its immediately
European character. But if the revolutionary war
of independence objectively had this European
character, its leading class was above all charac
terized by its national narrowness combined with a
stupid sense of legality. It was a nationalism fed on
glorious traditions, with more nostalgia than
dynamism, drawing from th t past rather than
turned tow ards the future. As the nobility was
historically condemned, its nationalism looked on
the past with a pride and melancholy full of
irritation and impatience for the present. Such a
nationalism could play a certain progressive role
in 1848-1849, despite its strong, reactionary stench.
But what about its future?
The combined strength of the Holy Alliance
crushed the revolution. This defeat became in turn
the source of a new delay in the countrys evolu
tion. The re-established order in Central and
Eastern Europe was based on the powerfully
79

K o M U th

favourably distinguished from Frankfurt chatterboxes

reinforced vestiges of the past. The development


of capitalism was, however, an irreversible process
despite the strait-jacket of feudal forces which
weighed so heavily. This was the fate shared by
Russia, Germany organized by Prussia, and the
monarchies, all under the political rod of the
feudal lords. This Prussian path of capitalist
development, realized from above, always behind,
m eant trem endous suffering for the workers and
accum ulated explosive national and social con
tradictions.
The revolution was the last historical gasp of
the middle nobility. Rebellious in 1848, it then
renewed its alliance with the aristocracy and, after
the reconciliation with the Hapsburgs, the whole
nobility was charged with maintaining order over
the peasantry and em erg ed working class, and
also over the nascent nations of the Serbs, Croats,
Slovaks and Rumanians. On the other hand it
obtained a relative political autonomy under the
henceforth A ustro-H ungarian monarchy. Under
this m onarchy capitalist development, although
distorted, restricted and deformed, was neverthe
less a real process.
However, although embedded in the state
apparatus, in the municipalities, thus continuing to
play a leading political role, the middle nobility
was in fact losing ground. Capitalist development
was mocking its existence. Set in an overdoBe,
limited and provincial nationalism nostalgic for a
past gone for ever, this proud nobility placed
itself outside of th at development. It looked on
industry, trade, the whole of capitalist evolution
as something unw orthy, especially as it was itself
being ruined at the hands of the bankers and
usurers, since it lacked capital. The life of its
members, socially useless, clashed with th at of
their own society in which these ruined nobles
led an existence reviving the glorious past, a life
of hunts and balls, even more costly than was the
state adm inistration in the hands of this closed
caste. This was the fate of the ruined nobility over
80

Tonio Krogers dilemma Lukac's quandary

the vast territory of a Europe fettered by feudal


vestiges and where capitalism was developing as it
had in Prussia. The Hungarian djentri had some
thing in common with the sad heroes of Gogol
or Goncharov.
Like industry, trade was regarded as unworthy
of the nobility, and they completely and voluntarily
left it to unw orthy beings, primarily to the popu
lation of German stock who were the agents of
German and A ustrian capital. The old national
pride, the kingly contem pt for the foreigner, were
confounded by the djentri with hatred towards
industry and trade, rendering nationalism even
more vacuous, sterile and aggressive, and making
industry and trade anti-national. The hatred of
society for the rich foreigners was even greater,
their social exclusion more complete than that of
the djentri, and the political regime was entirely
dependent upon them. The ideas of the glorious
ruling class penetrated all of Hungarian society; it
influenced the peasantry, it created a particularly
stifling atm osphere, an unsupportable aggressive
nationalism, a spirit of servility skilled in distin
guishing between the castes. But at the same time,
the traditional ruling but impoverished group only
lived thanks to the injections of gold from these
unw orthy bourgeois. And unw orthy they were,
Nourishing no less a hatred towards these useless
'djentri', the bankers, industrialists and even more
the big grain m erchants or usurers dreamed only
of becoming members of society, of obtaining
credentials of nobility. A m ong these pariahs, the
Jews, scarcely em ancipated and often traders or
usurers, were the m ost thorough outcasts. To be a
lew at th at time in Hungary was to suffer all the
contem pt, aggression and discrimination that the
dom inant nobility of traditional Hungary showed
towards that afflicted race. The Hungarian bour
geoisie was much more dom inated by the feudal
political order than in Germany. More dominated
envious hatred of the moneyed men towards the
'djentri', and the condescending and contem ptuous
Fourth International

Winter 1971/72

Kossuth
favourably distinguished from Frankfurt chatterboxes

reinforced vestiges of the past. The development


of capitalism was, however, an irreversible process
despite the strait-jacket of feudal forces which
weighed so heavily. This was the fate shared by
Russia, Germany organized by Prussia, and the
monarchies, all under the political rod of the
feudal lords. This Prussian path' of capitalist
development, realized from above, always behind,
m eant trem endous suffering for the workers and
accum ulated explosive national and social con
tradictions.
The revolution was the last historical gasp of
the middle nobility. Rebellious in 1848, it then
renewed its alliance w ith the aristocracy and, after
the reconciliation w ith the Hapsburgs, the whole
nobility was charged with maintaining order over
the peasantry and emergent working class, and
also over the nascent nations of the Serbs, Croats,
Slovaks and Rumanians. On the other hand it
obtained a relative political autonomy under the
henceforth A ustro-H ungarian monarchy. Under
this m onarchy capitalist development, although
distorted, restricted and deformed, was neverthe
less a real process.
However, although embedded in the state
apparatus, in the municipalities, thus continuing to
play a leading political role, the middle nobility
was in fact losing ground. Capitalist development
was mocking its existence. Set in an overdolie,
lim ited and provincial nationalism nostalgic for a
past gone for ever, this proud nobility placed
itself outside of th at development. It looked on
industry, trade, the whole of capitalist evolution
as something unworthy, especially as it was itself
being ruined at the hands of the bankers and
usurers, since it lacked capital. The life of its
members, socially useless, clashed with th at of
their own society in which these ruined nobles
led an existence reviving the glorious past, a life
of hunts and balls, even more costly than was the
state adm inistration in the hands of this closed
caste. This was the fate of the ruined nobility over
80

t nomas

nnn

Tonio Kroger's dilemma Lukacs quandary

the vast territory of a Europe fettered by feudal


vestiges and where capitalism was developing as it
had in Prussia. The Hungarian djentri had some
thing in common with the sad heroes of Gogol
or Goncharov.
Like industry, trade was regarded as unworthy
of the nobility, and they completely and voluntarily
left it to unw orthy beings, primarily to the popu
lation of German stock who were the agents of
German and A ustrian capital. The old national
pride, the kingly contem pt for the foreigner, were
confounded by the djentri with hatred towards
industry and trade, rendering nationalism even
more vacuous, sterile and aggressive, and making
industry and trade anti-national. The hatred of
society for the rich foreigners was even greater,
their social exclusion more complete than that of
the djentri, and the political regime was entirely
dependent upon them. The ideas of the glorious
ruling class penetrated all of Hungarian society; it
influenced the peasantry, it created a particularly
stifling atmosphere, an unsupportable aggressive
nationalism, a spirit of servility skilled in distin
guishing between the castes. But at the same time,
the traditional ruling but impoverished group only
lived thanks to the injections of gold from these
unw orthy bourgeois. A nd unw orthy they were.
Nourishing no less a hatred towards these useless
djentri, the bankers, industrialists and even more
the big grain m erchants or usurers dream ed only
of becoming members of society, of obtaining
credentials of nobility. Among' these pariahs, the
Jews, scarcely em ancipated and often traders o r
usurers, were the m ost thorough outcasts. To be a
Jew a t th at time in Hungary was to suffer all the
contem pt, aggression and discrimination that the
dom inant nobility of traditional Hungary showed
tow ards th at afflicted race. The H ungarian bour
geoisie was much more dom inated by the feudal
political order than in Germany. More dominated
envious hatred of the moneyed men towards the
djentri, and the condescending and contem ptuous
Fourth International

Winter 1971/72

because it was weaker and less national. The


familiarity of society with the usurers were also
more virulent. But to be a Jew or a big m erchant
with millions or perhaps a freshly-bought title
forced fine society to feign respect which exceeded
these limits. The dam ned and divided souls of the
bourgeoisie of th a t p art of Europe, a backward
bourgeoisie, in H ungary a sort of com prador,
ersatz by nature, was particularly sharply reflected
among the newly rich and ennobled Jews. It was
into such a family th a t Georg Lukacs was born.
He was born in Budapest in 1885 of a recently
ennobled Jewish family. To be born into such a
milieu, full of contradictions, forces every mind
to open its eyes, creates tensions and rebellions.
His consciousness was awakened very early. As he
wrote himself in his final autobiographical account
(in 1969), from the age of puberty he was against
his Hungarian milieu, against the world of Jews
and djentri, he was a fighter im pregnated with
the feeling of being a foreigner. He himself tells
how, at th at age, he had already generalized on his
rejection of the family milieu through to the rejec
tion of patricians and bourgeois and all of
Hungarian society. Knowing the stifling atm osphere
of the everyday life of all good families one can
fully understand and approve this juvenile revolt.
He sought refuge in contem porary foreign
literature. A t 14 to 15 he avidly read Ibsen and
Strindberg, Hebbel and H auptm ann, Flaubert and
Verlaine. These attem pted escapes from his milieu,
Lukacs tells us, were stressed by exaltation of
international modernism against Hungarianism,
narrow conservatism . In his short autobiography
w ritten in 1933 (My Path to M arxism, in Georg
Lukacs W ritings on Ideology and Politics,
Luchterband Verlag, 1967) he notes th at while
still at school he read both the C om m unist M ani
festo and the writings of Thomas Mann at about
the same time. He himself writes th at it was the
novels. M ann's novellas which impressed him.
Sixty years later he was to write of M ann:
Political Itinerary of Georg Lukacs

'I was still a schoolboy when I had the first


impressions of his work. The problem of Tonio
Kroger primarily determined the main themes of
youthful works.
W hat, then, is the problem of Tonio Kroger?
He is the isolated bourgeois, whose problem is
the impossibility of reconciling art .with bourgeois
life, whilst at the same time wanting both that
life and a rt itself. Mann throughout his life, with
great artistic force, expressed the fundam ental
dilemma of the bourgeoisie in the period of its
decline. N ot of a bourgeoisie in general, but
precisely one which had failed in its revolution, and
was no longer capable of fighting absolutism.
Mann, from his book Buddenbrooks (1900)
through Tonio Kroger and Royal Highness,
to The Magic M ountain describes, analyses and
interprets the decadence of the bourgeoisie. In a
m asterly manner, his novels express the anguish of
the bourgeoisie. He bases himself on sympathy
for th at class sliding down the slope of history. He
turns to the past with a certain nostalgia, to a
time when the bourgeoisie was strong and full of
life. In his works the proletariat is completely
absent, non-existent. A nd since the w riter main
tains the incom patibility of reconciling (bourgeois)
life with art and is unable to see the working
class, he is deeply pessimistic. From this pessimism
are sometimes born attem pts to regenerate the
bourgeoisie.
'
Here we grasp the meaning of th at internal
analysis of M anns writings, which occupied me
throughout my life, of which Lukacs speaks. His
interest in literature and particularly dram a grew.
He personally felt the attraction and tension of
contradictions, their tragedy expressed in drama
and also in the works of Thomas Mann. The basis
of these contradictions, reflected in contem porary
literature, is th at ultim ately there is no longer any
place in life for Life. In terminology familiar to
the period, the bourgeois intelligentsia expressed
the impossibility of realizing a human life in the
81

'life1

because it was weaker and less national. The


familiarity of society with the usurers were also
more virulent. But to be a Jew or a big m erchant
with millions or perhaps a freshly-bought title
forced fine society to feign respect which exceeded
these limits. The dam ned and divided souls of the
bourgeoisie of that p art of Europe, a backward
bourgeoisie, in Hungary a sort of comprador,
ersatz by nature, was particularly sharply reflected
among the newly rich and ennobled Jews. It was
into such a family that Georg Lukacs was born.
He was born in Budapest in 1885 of a recently
ennobled Jewish family. To be born into such a
milieu, full of contradictions, forces every mind
to open its eyes, creates tensions and rebellions.
His consciousness was awakened very early. As he
wrote himself in his final autobiographical account
(in 1969), from the age of puberty he was against
his Hungarian milieu, against the world of Jews
and d je n tri, he was a fighter im pregnated with
the feeling of being a foreigner. He himself tells
how, at that age, he had already generalized on his
rejection of the family milieu through to the rejec
tion of patricians and bourgeois and all of
Hungarian society. Knowing the stifling atm osphere
of the everyday life of all good families one can
fully understand and apnrove this juvenile revolt.
He sought refuge in contem porary foreign
literature. A t 14 to 15 he avidly read Ibsen and
Strindberg, Hebbel and Hauptm ann, Flaubert and
Verlaine. These attem pted escapes from his milieu,
Lukacs tells us, were stressed by exaltation of
international modernism against Hungarianism,
narrow conservatism '. In his short autobiography
w ritten in 1933 (My Path to M arxism, in Georg
Lukacs Writings on Ideology and Politics,
Luchterband Verlag, 1967) he notes that while
still at school he read both the Com m unist M ani
festo and the writings of Thomas Mann at about
the same time. He himself writes that it was the
novels. M ann's novellas' which impressed him.
Sixty years later he was to write of M ann:
Political Itinerary of Georg Lukacs

I was still a schoolboy when I had the first


impressions of his work. The problem of Tonio
Kroger primarily determined the main themes of
youthful works.
W hat, then, is the problem of Tonio Kroger?
He is the isolated bourgeois, whose problem is
the impossibility of reconciling art with bourgeois
life, whilst at the same time wanting both that
life and a rt itself. Mann throughout his life, with
great artistic force, expressed the fundamental
dilemma of the bourgeoisie in the period of its
decline. Not of a bourgeoisie in general, but
precisely one which had failed in its revolution, and
was no longer capable of fighting absolutism.
Mann, from his book Buddenbrooks (1900)
through Tonio Kroger and Royal Highness,
to The Magic M ountain describes, analyses and
interprets the decadence of the bourgeoisie. In a
masterly manner, his novels express the anguish of
the bourgeoisie. He bases himself on sympathy
for th at class sliding down the slope of history. He
turns to the past with a certain nostalgia, to a
time when the bourgeoisie was strong and full of
life. In his works the proletariat is completely
absent, non-existent. And since the w riter main
tains the incompatibility of reconciling (bourgeois)
life with art and is unable to see the working
class, he is deeply pessimistic. From this pessimism
are sometimes D o rn attem pts to regenerate the
bourgeoisie.
Here we grasp the meaning of th at internal
analysis of M anns writings, which occupied me
throughout my life, of which Lukacs speaks. His
interest in literature and particularly drama grew.
He personally felt the attraction and tension of
contradictions, their tragedy expressed in drama
and also in the works of Thomas Mann. The basis
of these contradictions, reflected in contem porary
literature, is that ultim ately there is no longer any
place in life for Life. In terminology familiar to
the period, the bourgeois intelligentsia expressed
the impossibility of realizing a human life in the
81

LaM k
Influenced first class organization In 1868

conditions of bourgeois life, but also the impos


sibility of transcending them. Lukacs, as a student,
became one of the organizers in Budapest of a
free Theatre, the famous Thalia where with his
friends he staged Ibsen and Strindberg. This choice
of Ibsen is equally revealing.
But theatrical activity was only an intermediary.
He was already writing reviews for a journal, and
then began to study philosophy. I t m ust be
stressed, as he does himself, th at with this turn
foreign influences, particularly G erm an,-increased
especially that of Kant. A t university he was still
studying Marxs work, He read Capital, The 18th
Brumaire and Engels Origin of the Family. His
first M arxism he characterizes as follows:
This study immediately convinced me of the
correctness of some of the main points of Marxism.
In the first place the theory of surplus value, the
conception of history as that of class struggles, and
the division of society into classes influenced me.
However, as is usually the case with bourgeois
intellectuals this Influence was limited to economics
and above all to sociology. I held that the
materialist philosophy, in which I made no dis
tinction between materialism and dialectical
materialism, must be transcended from the point of
view of the theory of knowledge. The neo-Kantian
theory of the immanence of consciousness was in
perfect harmony with my class situation, my world
outlook at that time.' (My Path to Marxism op. cit.)

The imprint of this


starting point
It is now possible to summarize and charac
terize Lukacs starting-point. If our examination of
the milieu and awakening of his consciousness
seems to the reader lengthy, and perhaps super
fluous, it is nonetheless essential. This is because
certain
profound
characteristics of Lukacs
82

Ffw tal
Hungarian Communard
founded first workers party
s t a r t i n g - D o i n t w ill m a r k
s e q u e n t itin e ra ry .

h im

th r o u g h o u t h is s u b

W hat is particularly striking is that his awaken


ing and then his evolution and researches were
purely intellectual. He came to study Marx and,
later, even to know his works only through study
and reflection. He revolted against his milieu, and
sought the answer not in struggle but in reading
and reflection, trying thus to find both the
explanation and the solution for his position and
that of society. In his attitude there was not even
a break between theory and practice, but a pure
and simple non-existence of the latter. However,
the essence of his reflections is outstandingly rich
in social content. His autobiographical comment,
in which he explains that through his immediate
milieu, he broke with the whole of Hungarian
society, is revealing. W ritten almost 70 years later,
he does not even see to what extent he forgets
in his youth and still today that this Hungarian
society' was itself made up of classes. It was in
vain that the conception of history as a history
of class struggles, and the division of society into
classes, influenced him. For him, it is only theory
w ithout practical application. There is nothing
surprising in the fact that even at the time these
autobiographical notes were published, the Lukacs
of today does not notice th at this conception is
not th at of Marx, and has nothing Marxist in it.
Marx and Engels clearly explained th at they
borrowed it from the historians of the French
Revolution: Thierry, M ichelet and Guizot. This
conception appears at the summit of bourgeois
19th century thought. Marxism goes radically
further: it teaches the historical mission of the
proletariat in this class struggle, a mission written
into the laws and nature of capitalist society.
This intellectual stance of Lukacs, including his
reading of Marx, has no justification. The working
class was not absent from the H ungary of those
days. Its formation as a class begins from the
crushing of the 1848-1849 revolution. W ith the
Fourth International

Winter 1971/72

Influenced first class organization In 1868

Hungarian Communard
founded first workers party

conditions of bourgeois life, b u t also the im pos


sibility of transcending them. Lukacs, as a student,
became one of the organizers in Budapest of a
free Theatre, the famous Thalia where w ith his
friends he staged Ibsen and Strindberg. This choice
of Ibsen is equally revealing.
But theatrical activity was only an interm ediary.
He was already writing reviews for a journal, and
then began to study philosophy. I t m ust be
stressed, as he does himself, th a t w ith this turn
foreign influences, particularly G erm an,-increased
especially th at of Kant. A t university he was still
studying M arxs work. He read Capital, The 18th
Brumaire and Engels Origin of the Family. His
first M arxism he characterizes as follows:
This study immediately convinced me of the
correctness of some of the main points of Marxism.
In the first place the theory of surplus value, the
conception of history as that of class struggles, and
the division of society into classes influenced me.
However, as is usually the case with bourgeois
intellectuals this Influence was limited to economics
and above all to sociology. I held that the
materialist philosophy, in which I made no dis
tinction between materialism and dialectical
materialism, must be transcended from the point of
view of the theory of knowledge. The neo-Kantian
theory of the immanence of consciousness was in
perfect harmony with my class situation, my world
outlook at that time. (My Path to Marxism op. cit.)

starting-point will m ark him throughout his sub


sequent itinerary.
W hat is particularly striking is th at his awaken
ing and then his evolution and researches were
purely intellectual. He came to study M arx and,
later, even to know his works only through study
and reflection. He revolted against his milieu, and
sought the answer not in struggle but in reading
and reflection, trying thus to find both the
explanation and the solution for his position and
th a t of society. In his attitude there was not even
a break between theory and practice, but a pure
and simple non-existence of the latter. However,
the essence of his reflections is outstandingly rich
in social content. His autobiographical comment,
in which he explains th at through his immediate
milieu, he broke with the whole of Hungarian
society, is revealing. W ritten almost 70 years later,
he does not even see to what extent he forgets
in his youth and still today th a t this Hungarian
society was itself made up of classes. It was in
vain th a t the conception of history as a history
of class struggles, and the division of society into
classes, influenced him. For him, it is only theory
w ithout practical application. There is nothing
surprising in the fact th a t even at the time these
autobiographical notes were published, the Lukacs
of today does not notice th a t this conception is
n o t th at of Marx, and has nothing M arxist in it.
M arx and Engels clearly explained th a t they
borrow ed it from the historians of the French
Revolution: Thierry, M ichelet and Guizot. This
conception appears at the summit of bourgeois
19th century thought. Marxism goes radically
further: it teaches the historical mission of the
proletariat in this class struggle, a mission w ritten
into the laws and nature of capitalist society.
This intellectual stance of Lukacs, including his
reading of Marx, has no justification. The working
class was not absent from the Hungary of those
days. Its form ation as a class begins from the
crushing of the 1848-1849 revolution. W ith the

The imprint of this


starting point
I t is now possible to summarize and charac
terize Lukacs starting-point. If our examination of
the milieu and awakening of his consciousness
seems to the reader lengthy, and perhaps super
fluous, it is nonetheless essential. This is because
certain profound characteristics of Lukacs
82

Fourth International

Winter 1971/72

form ation of the trade unions, it fought for


decades, in a struggle rich in lessons, to tear
itself from the liberal bourgeoisie and form its
own political party. It was in 1868 th a t the first
political class organization was formed, under the
heavy influence of Lassalles ideas. A fter its
destruction by the police, the M arxist, Leo Frankel,
one of the leaders of the Paris Commune, returned
to his country of birth and founded the first really
socialist Hungarian w orkers party. M ovements of
the working class in the towns merged w ith great
peasant revolts. U nder the pressure of the bour
geoisie and the state, Frankel again being in
emigration, this new party succumbed to oppor
tunism. But in 1890 the Social Democratic Party
was formed. Powerful strikes and dem onstrations
in the towns and the countryside, shook the
regime. Lukacs had the chance to see th at the
class struggle is not a theory, but a reality that
theory only grasps and fertilizes.
Of course, the awakening of the consciousness
of intellectuals often proceeds by reflection and
not by the daily experience of class struggle. It is
not a question of reproaching the young Lukacs
with this characteristic of development. But
whether beginning from day-to-day experiences or
through reflection, once they have arrived at
Marxism the worker and the intellectual are
merged in this common struggle in which theory
and practice fuse in a constant interaction. W hat
is to be noted with Lukacs is that this intellectual
im print of his starting-point remains present
throughout his life, m arked by a split between
theory and practice.
His approach to the labour movem ent in the
course of the First W orld War is characterized by
discussions in different groups and lectures but at
no time does he participate in a trade-union or
political movement of the working class. It is
remarkable that in all his autobiographies w ritten
from 1933 to 1969 (we know of a t least three) he
explains in minute detail, although sometimes with
Political Itinerary of Georg Lukacs

some omissions and discrepancies, his intellectual


movement tow ards Marxism, but never explains
how he approached the labour movement. A nd
even when he states that, on the eve of the war
and during the first years of the war, anarchosyndicalist and Sorelian ideas influenced him, he
just does not think of explaining w hether or not
he did som ething in practice for these ideas. This
complete break between theory and practice was
later softened. But its foundation remained. Thus,
later, as a m ember or leader of the Communist
Party, he sees this party in itself, completely
detached from the labour movement as a whole.
The living dialectic between, on the one hand, the
labour m ovem ent and class struggle, and on the
other the Party, the vanguard, escapes him
completely.
The dialectical unity between the Party as an
emanation of the class and its struggles and as a
leader of th at class will never be grasped by
Lukacs. For him, the Party leads, it is something
finished, perfect, because Marxism conceived as a
totality of finished categories guides it. This is
precisely the realization of the Spirit in H istory of
which Hegel speaks. A nd one of the reasons, if
not the m ost im portant one, for this idealism is
the separation of theory and practice.
When he joined the Com m unist Party, he did
not only see it as a party in itself, detached from
the labour movement, but rather as a sort of life
buoy for culture through the building of socialism.
This statem ent is in no way a reproach to Lukacs.
It only shows th at for him, even when practice
appears close to theory, there is no organic link
between them. In fact, for a M arxist, the party of
the class leads the emancipation of the proletariat
and by that, perm its the salvation of all hum anity,
culture included. Consequently, the theoretical pre
occupations of a M arxist are intim ately linked to
th a t struggle (practice) and n o t to the problem s of
culture. There was only one period in Lukacs life,
from 1919 to 1930, when theory and practice
83

/ / / //?it // eVC
Kant

an early influence

Simmel

tended to fuse (for the m oment, we will leave


aside the political content of this fusion). This was
the tim e when he was one of the leaders of the
Hungarian Com m unist Party. Later, he again
becomes the saviour of culture, usually indepen
dently of the class nature of society.
The fact th at w ith Lukacs, even Marxism be
comes a sort of system w ith fixed categories, found
particularly in his A esthetics, clearly shows the
break between theory and practice. The Hegelian
ism for which he has been correctly reproached
finds its origin there.
A particularly eloquent example of the relation
between Lukacs theory and practice is his par
ticipation in the struggle of the opposition before
the Hungarian revolution of w orkers councils. In
June 1956, the Petofi Circle organized a public
debate on the theme, Present problems of Marxist
Philosophy. One of the notew orthy participants
was Lukacs, whose contribution constituted the
centre' of the debate. But instead of analysing, with
the weapon of dialectical materialism, the funda
m ental problems of a struggle which was to sweep
the entire country, he only spoke of the situation
of Marxism in Hungary, taken as a science apart.
A nd even from this standpoint, he made not the
slightest effort to show the irreconcilable opposi
tion between Marxism and Stalinism, for the
simple reason th at he did not want to see it him
self. In his contribution, as in several of his
writings, Stalinism in this respect consisted only
of a dogmatism, with no other content, stifling the
living m ethod of Marxism. He never poses the
main problem , even if here and there he touches
on it, of whether Stalinism falsified, deform ed and
perverted th at m ethod itself, dialectical m aterial
ism. A nd since he does not pose it, he tries even
less to reply to it in an overall and positive
m anner. Thus, in the Petofi Circle debate, the axis
of his contribution was the necessity to develop
Marxism in the form of applying it to particular
sciences.
84

'PMOMplqr of Lit* School*


DRthay
For today, there is no Marxist logic, no M arxist
aesthetics or M arxist ethics, M arxist pedagogy or
M arxist psychology, and so on.
So Marxism becomes a sort of philosophy to be
applied to the various sciences. Its development
thus becomes an intellectual task realized only by
intellectuals in their studies. A nd since, in this
way, his M arxism loses its raison d etre, as a
science of the proletarian class struggle, guiding
th at practice and gathering sustenance from it, it
ceases to be Marxism. It quite naturally gives way
to the idealist U topia of wanting to create, from
prefabricated elements, a M arxist pedagogy,
ethics, etc. Marx and Engels finished w ith philo
sophy as such. Lukacs recreates it. A nd the key
to its resurrection is the separation of theory and
practice, whereas its liquidation by Marx, sum
marized in the Theses on Feuerbach, on the con
trary, united them.
It follows that this rupture, if it distorts theory,
is also a danger for the practice. The latter becomes
crippled. Deprived of a theoretical support and
sustenance which are firmly linked to practice, it is
characterized in Lukacs by accommodation, some
times reticent sometimes not, to all situations. He
was criticized by Lenin in 1920 and he rapidly
made a self-criticism. Then in 1923-1924, the
Communist International criticized his book H is
tory and Class Consciousness; just as quickly, a
self-criticism. In 1929-1930 another criticism, and
another self-criticism by Lukacs, then more criti
cisms, but Lukacs always knows how to withdraw,
never hesitating to sacrifice his companions. Let
us not forget th at he is one of the few survivors!
In 1956 he follows the revolution and joins Imre
Nagys government; he is one of the seven leaders
founding the new Com m unist Party during the
revolution. But later all the leaders of the revolu
tion are executed or imprisoned, including the
founders of the new party, except Kadar and
Lukacs. For Lukacs a theoretical position is only
a theory w ith no link w ith the struggle, and can
Fourth International

Winter 1971/72

Kant
an early Influence

tended to fuse (for the moment, we will leave


aside the political content of this fusion). This was
the time when he was one of the leaders of the
Hungarian Com munist Party. Later, he again
becomes the saviour of culture, usually indepen
dently of the class nature of society.
The fact that with Lukacs, even Marxism be
comes a sort of system with fixed categories, found
particularly in his A esthetics, clearly shows the
break between theory and practice. The Hegelian
ism for which he has been correctly reproached
finds its origin there.
A particularly eloquent example of the relation
between Lukacs' theory and practice is his par
ticipation in the struggle of the opposition before
the Hungarian revolution of workers' councils. In
June 1956, the PetOfi Circle organized a public
debate on the theme, Present problems of Marxist
Philosophy'. One of the noteworthy participants
was Lukacs, whose contribution constituted the
centre of the debate. But instead of analysing, with
the weapon of dialectical materialism, the funda
m ental problems of a struggle which was to sweep
the entire country, he only spoke of the situation
of Marxism in Hungary, taken as a science apart.
And even from this standpoint, he made not the
slightest effort to show the irreconcilable opposi
tion between Marxism and Stalinism, for the
simple reason that he did not want to see it him
self. In his contribution, as in several of his
writings, Stalinism in this respect consisted only
of a dogmatism, with no other content, stifling the
living m ethod of Marxism. He never poses the
main problem, even if here and there he touches
on it, of whether Stalinism falsified, deform ed and
perverted that m ethod itself, dialectical m aterial
ism. And since he does not pose it, he tries even
less to reply to it in an overall and positive
manner. Thus, in the Petofi Circle debate, the axis
of his contribution was the necessity to develop
Marxism in the form of applying it to particular
sciences.
84

For 'today, there is no Marxist logic, no Marxist


aesthetics or Marxist ethics, Marxist pedagogy or
Marxist psychology, and so on'.
So Marxism becomes a sort of philosophy to be
applied to the various sciences. Its development
thus becomes an intellectual task realized only by
intellectuals in their studies. And since, in this
way, his Marxism loses its raison d etre, as a
science of the proletarian class struggle, guiding
th at practice and gathering sustenance from it, it
ceases to be Marxism. It quite naturally gives way
to the idealist Utopia of wanting to create, from
prefabricated elements, a M arxist' pedagogy,
ethics, etc. Marx and Engels finished with philo
sophy as such. Lukacs recreates it. And the key
to its resurrection is the separation of theory and
practice, whereas its liquidation by Marx, sum
marized in the Theses on Feuerbach, on the con
trary, united them.
It follows that this rupture, if it distorts theory,
is also a danger for the practice. The latter becomes
crippled. Deprived of a theoretical support and
sustenance which are firmly linked to practice, it is
characterized in Lukacs by accommodation, some
times reticent sometimes not, to all situations. He
was criticized by Lenin in 1920 and he rapidly
made a self-criticism. Then in 1923-1924, the
Communist International criticized his book H is
tory and Class Consciousness; just as quickly, a
self-criticism. In 1929-1930 another criticism, and
another self-criticism by Lukacs, then more criti
cisms, but Lukacs always knows how to withdraw,
never hesitating to sacrifice his companions. Let
us not forget that he is one of the few survivors!
In 1956 he follows the revolution and joins Imre
Nagys government; he is one of the seven leaders
founding the new Communist Party during the
revolution. But later all the leaders of the revolu
tion are executed or imprisoned, including the
founders of the new party, except Kadarand
Lukacs. For Lukacs a theoretical position is only
a theory with no link with the struggle, and can
Fourth International

Winter 1971/72

At Heidelberg.

Windelband and Rlckert

__________

__________

Baden School of Nm

________ _____

therefore be easily modified or abandoned. W hat is


im portant is to survive, and always be on the
winning side. Lukacs is always in the camp of the
exterminating bureaucracy, even if previously he
was to be found in the camp of the oppositionists.
A nother profound characteristic of his youth
accompanies Lukacs up to the present. It is closely
linked to the first. This is his attitude to the
fundamental antagonism between proletariat and
bourgeoisie.
Coming out against his environment, he did not
turn to the proletariat, but, as we have seen, to
wards lectures and intellectual research. More
exactly, as he expresses it, to international
modernism against conservative Hungarianism.
This m odernism is contem porary literature,
expressed particularly in the work of Thomas
Mann and in German neo-Kantian philosophy. In
order to define Lukacs relationship to the bourgeois-proletarian antagonism, an examination,
even a rapid one, of the class content of this philo
sophy and literature is necessary.
Engels summarily characterized the German
university philosophers of the second half of the
19th century as philistines, as posthumous abor
tions of German classical philosophy. The essence
of neo-Kantian philosophy lay in purging Kant of
his
m aterialist
inconsistencies
by
rejecting
materialism. Basically, the various neo-Kantian
schools in Germany represented a theoretical front
of the bourgeoisie against the dialectical m aterial
ism of the proletariat. The Baden School of neoKantians, with the Heidelberg professors Windeiband and Rickert, sought to transcend Kant by
rejecting the Kantian recognition of the materialist
Ding an sich (Thing in itself). This school busied
itself above all with intellectual and cultural
values. The other school, that of Marburg, tried to
reconcile K ants critique with modern logic and
to apply his ethics to social problems.
This philosophy expressed the situation and
specific interests of the bourgeoisie at a wellPolitical Itinerary of Georg Lukacs

...... .........

Kantian* a theoretical counterbalance to the theory of Permanent Revolution


defined period of its evolution. Just as the latter,
faced with a proletariat strengthening its struggle
and organizations, was sheltering in the arms o f
absolutism whilst debating against it, so neoKantian philosophy was the theoretical attem pt to
translate and so support this equilibrium. But
the latter never existed in social reality; the bour
geoisie had become once and for all counter
revolutionary, despite its intentions with regard
to absolutism. The realization of the tasks of the
bourgeois revolution, such as the dissolution of
the powerful feudal rem nants and the application
of democratic rights, henceforth required a pro
letarian revolution. This was the meaning of the
perm anent revolution advanced by Marx and
Engels as the principal conclusion of the 1848
1849 revolution. The Russian Revolution of 1905
verified it in practice, with much more force now
th at the working class and its organizations were
developing against the now reactionary bour
geoisie. All of this development was analysed and
expressed in Leon Trotskys major contribution to
Marxism, the theory of perm anent revolution
elaborated on the morrow of the Russian Revolu
tion of 1905.
In these conditions, neo-Kantian philosophy
could not be a balance, non-existent in reality,
between materialism and idealism, but just like
the bourgeoisie on the social and political plane it
was reactionary. It went back, not only in relation
to Hegel, not to speak of Marx and Engels, but
even in relation to Kant himself. Neo-Kantian
philosophy constituted the theoretical weapon of
the bourgeoisie to fight dialectical materialism, in
the form of a balance between materialism and
idealism. It insinuated itself as a noble attem pt
to rid materialism of its rigidity. It found its form
of penetration into the labour movement with
Diihring. Engels theoretical struggle against this
attem pt was thus the necessary condition of the
reinforcement of the conscious proletariat for its
historical role, as an independent class. But since
85

the principal social conditions rem ained the same,


the theoretical front of the bourgeoisie, namely the
different forms of neo-Kantianism, continued to
flourish. They underm ined the labour movement.
The appearance of Bernsteins revisionism, immedi
ately after Engels death, and its influence m ust
not be separated from the fact that the leaders of
German social democracy did not understand
Engels warning on the necessity of theoretical
struggle.
One of the m ost dangerous forms of neoKantianism then represented was Machism, against
which Lenin took up the struggle and thereby
won a decisive battle against neo-Kantiar.lsm.
Lenins Materialism
and
Empirio-Criticis.n,
w ritten in 1908, aimed a t the defence of m aterial
ism by developing it, was Lenins reply, fighting for
the proletarian revolution, to the attem pts of the
bourgeoisie to theoretically disarm it by an attem pt
at reconciliation of m aterialism with idealism. In
the same way, the theory of perm anent revolution
elaborated by T rotsky in 1906 constituted the
arming of the p ro letariat' against efforts to sub
ordinate it to the bourgeoisie. Between these two
theoretical works there is an intim ate link; they
arm the working class against the desperate
attem pts of the bourgeoisie to confuse the perspec
tives, aim and co n ten t of its struggle. W ithout this
theoretical preparation and struggle, the October
Revolution is inconceivable.
So the social significance of neo-Kantianism
rested on this, th at it assigned a progressive role
to the bourgeoisie. As such, this philosophy was
violently opposed to the independence of the pro
letariat, it constituted the theoretical counter
balance to the theory of perm anent revolution.
This sociological application of neo-Kantianism,
w ith borrowings from Marx, was also taken up by
contem porary academics, particularly Max Weber
and W erner Sombart. The philosophical transition
to this sociology was assured by the Philosophy of
life school of Dilthey and Simmel.
86

Lukacs was 21 in 1906, when he arrived in


Berlin to complete his studies, following the
course of the ageing Dilthey and Simmel. The
latter deeply influenced him, so much so that in
October 1918, on Simmels death, Lukacs devoted
a eulogy to him. In 1913 he left Berlin for Heidel
berg University because of the attraction the neoKantian Baden School had for him. He explains
his choice of Heidelberg in one of his auto
biographical notes.
I had always had reservations regarding extreme
subjective idealism (the Marburg school of neoKantianism as much as Machism). . . . However,
this fact did not lead me to materialist conclusions,
but on the contrary to approach the philosophical
schools which wanted to resolve this problem in an
irrational-relativist manner, sometimes making the
latter sparkle in mysticism.
A t Heidelberg, or the university near Friburg,
he finds a whole team whose names were, or were
to be, known as philosophical or sociological
representatives of a transcendence of Marx. Max
Weber was professor at Heidelberg until 1903 and
his influence had continued to grow. In fact Lukacs
himself was to write later:
Max Webers writings on Protestantism were
my models for a sociology of literature in which
elements taken from Marx, necessarily diluted and
paled, although still present were scarcely re
cognizable.
A t Heidelberg he found professors Wilhelm
W indelband, H einrich Rickert, those posthumous
abortions, along with Emil Lask and Paul Ernsi,
whose preoccupations, if not the same type, always
remain recognizable in Lukacs. As companions
there he finds E rnst Bloch, of his own age. Karl
Jaspers, then Karl Korsch and Karl Mannlu-im,
whilst M artin Heidegger was at Friburg, wlu-ir
Edmund Husserl was a professor. Quite a pro
gramme Lukacs was then no longer a youthful
beginner. From the age of 21 to 30 he basks in
the university milieu of Berlin and 1leulelU-i y.
Fourth International

Winter 1971/72

as one of its pillars. On the practical plane this


university milieu was the base and support of the
social study circles founded and organized by
W erner Sombart. This Breslau (now Wroclaw)
professor undertook to elaborate social reforms
in favour of the workers'. He was the pale
university reflection of Schultze-Delitzsch, whose
aim was to make workers believe th at it is pos
sible to reconcile their struggle for emancipation
with the maintenance of the social order.
The proliferation of this kind of professor is
characteristic in Russia, Germany and the A ustroHungarian monarchy of the time, which all had
fundamentally the same social and political con
ditions. But whereas in Russia a theoretical and
consequently political struggle was waged by
Lenin and Trotsky, by the Bolsheviks, against the
legal M arxists Struve, Tugan-Baranovski etc.,
in the other countries, because of theoretical
negligence and the consequent opportunism ram
pant in the labour movement, the influence of
conciliatory theories and their practical corollary
namely the attack on the independence of the
proletariat, seeking to subordinate it to the
bourgeoisie was considerable; For a long time
this characteristic was to leave its traces on the
subsequent development of the labour movement
in those countries. On the plane of philosophy
and theory a huge battle was to take place, the
price for which was to be the consciousness, and
therefore the class independence, of the proletariat.
A ttem pts to cloud the consciousness of the p ro
letariat were to be concentrated in Germany
where the working class was strongest: its actions
conditioned the victory of the European revolu
tion. It was not accidental that later, the Bol
shevik leadership of the Russian Revolution
looked precisely tow ards the German proletariat
and its revolution as the guarantee of the world
revolution and consequently the victory of
socialism. Theoretically, the perm anent revolution
linking the class conditions of revolutionary but
backw ard Russia to the revolution in the industrial
Political Itinerary of Georg Lukacs

countries was in fact stressing the capital role


of the German proletariat. Thus, the role of the
German working class against its bourgeoisie was
one of the im portant elements of the perm anent
revolution. Inversely, one could say w ithout
exaggeration that the relationship to the German
proletariat and its role determ ined the relation
ship to the perm anent revolution. In fact, to
this theory were opposed only ideologies of the
progressive role of the bourgeoisie and the sub
ordination of the German working class, just as
all variants of such an ideology remain enemies
of the perm anent revolution; as much then as
later, right through to the present.
Breaking from his milieu, and a complete
foreigner to the workers, Lukacs turned towards
international m odernism , particularly German.
Granted it expressed a struggle on all planes
against the backward state of feudal absolutism,
but in order to ensure the expansion of the
bourgeoisie. So if, then, such a hope seemed
futile to Lukacs in H ungary because of the weak
ness of the bourgeoisie and its consequent more
craven submission, in Germany all intellectual life
aspired to such a possibility, despite some pes
simistic notes. So, breaking from a backward and
deformed capitalism, Lukacs turned to a classical,
so-to-speak pure capitalism. His attachm ent to
the problems of contem porary literature in general
and to classical literature was conditioned by this
starting point. Throughout his subsequent evolution
he was m arked by it theoretically and politically.
We shall see that throughout his life he was
to remain a vicious and declared enemy of per
manent revolution. This is why it ,was quite
natural for him to repudiate his revolutionary
attitude at the time of the revolutions of 1917
to 1923.
In 1969 he wrote these significant lin e s:
Like most people who were drawn into the
revolutionary movement by the events of 1917, I too
was convinced that soon, by the revolutionary road,
socialism would replace European capitalism. Thif
87

sectarian fanaticism had not yet known the bureau


cratic restrictions of the later stages of development
. . . [it] was a Messianic sectarianism which be
lieved, despite all defeats and reversals, in the
rapid and radical rebirth of the world. It was this
kind of assimilation to Marxism in its early stages
that dominated for some years my position on inter
national development. [Our emphasis.]
Revolutionary politics is completely repudiated
by Lukacs, who identifies it with sectarianism
and fanaticism.
But if the European revolution is only fanatical
Messianism, the only possible path is socialism
in one country. Effectively, this is Lukacs funda
m ental position. His repudiation of revolution
dates from 1924. Lenin died in January 1924. In
the following m onth, Lukacs devoted a book to
him, in which although on the whole in an
ambiguous form appeared the first elements of
socialism in one country. Stalin himself only
arrived a t this position in the autum n of the
same year. But Lukacs is modest; he was never
to adm it that, in some way, he anticipated Stalin.
In 1967, w riting a long preface to the second
volume of his works published by Luchterhand
Verlag, he wrote:
After 1924 the Third International correctly
defined the position of the capitalist world as one
of relative stability. These facts meant that I had
to re-think my theoretical position. In the debates
in the Russian Party I agreed with Stalin about the
necessity for socialism in one country and this
shows very clearly the start of a new epoch in my
thought.
I t could not be clearer.
In this article we shall have occasion to dem on
strate this hostility to the permanent revolution,
and thus to revolution along with his hatred for
Trotsky and loyalty to socialism in one country.
For this reason, he was, throughout his life, not
an anti-Stalinist, as many would have us believe,
but on the contrary the ideologue of the Stalinist
bureaucracy who just made the mistake of going
forw ard too quickly for the bureaucracy, of
opening up the road which it was to travel before
the m odern variant of its counter-revolutionary
policy had been found. We must, however, raise
something which was to deeply m ark the begin
ning of this development his hostility to the
German proletariat, a hostility which, linked with
th at tow ards the perm anent revolution, is also
one of the characteristics of Stalinism.
In his youth Lukacs was a neo-Kantian, nostalgic
for the grandeur of the bourgeoisie. Thomas
M anns problem is his too. There is nothing sur
prising in the fact th at for Lukacs, Mann is not
only the greatest w riter, but also as he was to
say in 1955 a profound judge of the social and
cultural processes of his time, a man of great
political clairvoyance. But in fact, M ann was,
and reg ain ed so until his death, a bourgeois who
despised the working class. In 1914, M ann basic
ally supported the war of German imperialism,
hoping th at through it would come the regeneration
of the bourgeoisie. This profound judge of social
processes later wrote on the question of socialism
(in his study on Goethe and Tolstoy):
Its intellectual life was cramped for too long

88

in an inferior m aterialism , and for th at reason


its national task [is to] read Holderlin to Karl
M arx.
He too, wanted to rid Marxism of its rigidity
by proposing nothing l e t , than the mystical
romanticism of Holderlin. If Lukacs, in his works
on aesthetics, gives primacy to those writers who
bring out in their works the totality of society
and considers M ann as the greatest writer,
although the working class is completely absent
from his work, th at is his business as a literary
critic. But if he places M ann the politician on
such a high plane it shows th at he himself shares
the same basic stand, and literary criticism
reveals here only too clearly the political position.
It is in relation to fascism th at this bourgeois,
anti-w orking class position came out. Here again
Lukacs adopts exactly the same opinion as Stalin:
a profound contem pt not only for the proletariat
but for the whole of the German people and a
policy seeking to re-establish the dom ination of
the German bourgeoisie in its dem ocratic form.
Again he agrees w ith Mann. This contem pt for
the German proletariat goes as far as slander.
In 1942 he wrote:
The German people, confused by demagogy,
pushed forward with the whip of terror, a play
thing of its animal instincts, lurched on to its
death. l[Our emphasis.]
Like Stalin, he does not hesitate to slander the
German working class here, w ithout uttering a
word about the destruction of the German labour
movement as the aim of and reason for the fascist
government. For him it represented dark forces
come to power, and not the m ost aggressive form
of bourgeois power. For according to Lukacs,
just as Heinrich M anns subject he sees in
the German petty bourgeoisie the first traits which
will later lead to fascism . . . the disarray of all
moral instincts . . . because of the lack of free
dom, insufficiency of democracy, the degradation
of civil life.
Fascism, writes Lukacs, i s :
. . . the result of historical and political, spiritual
and moral tendencies and counter-tendencies,
which have fought for decades; it is the sudden
manifestation, in the form of crisis, of the ideolo
gical poisoning, prepared slowly and over a long
period, of the German people, a poison against
which it fought for a long time, but too slowly and
with too little vigour . . . real anti-fascism is thus a
struggle . . . against the dark forces . . .'.
So fascism is not a government of the bour
geoisie, but of dark forces against which real
bourgeois democracy m ust be re-established, for,
Lukacs stated in 1944, German history is poor
in revolutionary events, and even openly pro
gressive events. The slanderer knows no limits!
W hilst the working class is going through one of
the m ost difficult mom ents of its history, Lukacs
(to give himself confidence, perhaps) can do
nothing but slander it. An attitude radically
opposed to Engels, who on the m orrow of the
crushing of the German revolution of 1848-1849
sought precisely those means which would allow
the German workers to take confidence again.
It was this attitude which led him to w rite on
the German Peasant Wars.

Fourth International

Winter 1971/72

The short preface to Engels book begins w ith


these words: The German people too has its
own revolutionary tradition.
Then he w rites, 'Faced w ith a tem porary
relaxation . . . it is tim e to set out before the
German people the indom itable b u t hard, vigorous
figures of the great Peasant W ar.
Lukacs, precisely the opposite of Engels,
slanders the working class and the entire German
people. H e has been led to this position by his
hostility to th e perm anent revolution, his con
tinued attachm ent to th e im prints of bourgeois
ideology received at the beginning of his path.
From this attitude derives his idealist apprecia
tion of fascism. In his book The Destruction of
Reason, w ritten in 1952, he tries to prove th at
fascism in Germany was in some m anner con
tained in all the previous evolution of German
culture and, as such, is an ideological poisoning.
It is quite natural th a t Lukacs always supported
Stalins German policies, up to and including the
shameful division of Germany into two. He is
still, even today, the defender of this division.
The way in which he form ed his ideas and the
manner of their developm ent during his youth
left profound traces on Lukacs theoretical and
political positions. The separation of theory and
practice, along with his negative relationship to
the working class and its role will constitute the
background to all his theoretical work and every
political position. But they do not exhaust the
whole of his itinerary.

His approach to the


labour movement and entry
into the Communist Party
From his autobiographical notes, it is impossible
to determ ine the phases of his approach to the
labour movement, nor even the date when his
interest for this movement was first awakened.
Fixed in his neo-Kantian position and under the
influence of the Philosophy of Life, then one
of its forms, Lukacs for a long tim e adopted an
ethical, m oralist position in relation to social
problems. This position, before and during the
imperialist First W orld W ar, brought him to
anarchism, particularly in its Sorelian form.
Anarchism, the essence of which is petty-bourgeois
revolt within the fram ew ork of bourgeois society,
suited him down to the ground. All the more,
since it allowed him not to associate himself to
any movement, not even anarchist. In fact,
although during the war he took part in debates
in a group in Hungary which comprised different
tendencies, he belonged to none of them . He
remained an outsider with his ethical and moral
revolt, the aim of which was an internal transfor
mation of man'. Yet in 1969, he sets up as a virtue
the fact that I was never able to reconcile
myself to the social-dem ocratic theory of those
days, especially Kautsky, whereas basically he
rejected the entire labour movement, now justify
ing himself by the opportunism of Social
Democracy.

Political Itinerary of Georg Lukacs

But this self-justification is also false in itself.


First because until 1914, the Social Democratic
party was a party comprising all the political
forces of the working class, the sole framework
in which Lenin, Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg
fought for the proletarian revolution. Lukacs
rejection m eant not only the abandonm ent of
this struggle and the renunciation of a political
party of the proletariat, b u t also stresses Lukacs
incomprehension of the problem today. H e is
m uch more sincere when he w rites that, during
the war, I was not a socialist and could only
admire Liebknecht from afar, from outside. . .
But this rejection of Kautsky is n o t sincere, for
in reality, by ridding himself of his Messianic
fanaticism for the revolution, Lukacs finds him
self again, namely a M enshevik conciliator and
defender of the bourgeois order, no less tenacious
than Kautsky.
From his autobiographies, it is impossible to
establish if the influence of the ultra-leftists in
the labour movement affected Lukacs during the
war or if it only came afterwards. It is said th at
during the war, he was also under the influence of
the D utch ultra-lefts, through Roland-Holst. In
any event, this would not be surprising, b u t rather
in the order of things. It is known th at he knew
certain of Rosa Luxemburgs writings, which he
clearly admired, and some of the German
Spartacus League's.
W hat characterizes Lukacs political position at
this tim e is an eclecticism of different tendencies
which he tries to reconcile on the basis of
Kantian ethics. The O ctober Revolution made
such an attitude impossible, or rather hostile.
In fact, in M arch 1918, in a debate in Budapest
of progressive intellectuals, Lukacs was the main
inspirer of the opinion defending an ethical
idealism, as against materialism, for the rebirth
of the world. But there is worse. In November
of the same year, the Budapest liberal intellectuals
review Free Thought published a special edition
entitled Bolshevism on the occasion of the first
anniversary of the October revolution. In this
edition, Lukacs took a position against the October
Revolution!
We are all well aware of how embarrassing this
revelation is for left and even communist intel
lectuals, who are adm irers of Lukacs, the only
M arxist of our period. Lukacs was always tactful
enough not to mention this unfortunate position
against the October Revolution anywhere.
We do not have th at tact, and therefore quote
this article by Lukacs:
Can one attain good ends by bad means, freedom
through oppression? Can a new order of the world
be created if the means of its creation are only
technically distinguishable from those . . . of the
old order? . . . Bolshevism is based on the meta
physical supposition that good can come from evil,
that it is possible . . . to get to truth by way of
lies. The author of these lines cannot share this
belief.
Then, a few days later, the author of these
lines, Lukacs, joined the Com m unist Party of
Hungary. A nd from this membership of evil, his
entire political itinerary will be m arked by the

89

lie, an intellectual dishonesty th at he believes to


be Bolshevik, but which makes of him one of
the m ost em inent Stalinist gravediggers of Bol
shevism.
The man who quoted this article in a Hungarian
review (Volsag, No 10, 1968) is right to add that
this change, surprising to say the least, is m oti
vated in Lukacs by the acceptance of evil to
arrive, in a fanatical manner, a t revolutionary
activity. The key to this is given by Lukacs him
self in Tactics and Ethics w ritten in 1919 where
he quotes Judith, heroine of H ebbels drama,
If God placed crime between me and th at
destined for me, who am 1 to dispense w ith it?
Behind this Messianism, cost what it may, it is
easy to recognize the categorical im perative of
old Kant.
But what is more im portant, is th at when
Lukacs joined the Com munist Party, he did so

90

understanding nothing of Bolshevism, nor of the


revolution which he rejected, nor of the Party,
nor of the labour movement. He heroically
accepts revolution as a necessary evil, and against
his innerm ost conviction. It follows logically,
and the facts prove it, th a t after ridding himself
of th at fanatical and Messianic attitude in 1926,
he could only come back to himself, to his
position well established previously. A nd that
means that if Lukacs condemned the October
Revolution in 1918, he will condemn all revolu
tions after 1924, just as he was the enemy of
revolution previously. His political itinerary is
clearly expressed: his anti-revolutionary attitude
is an organic constant of his political life except
for his short period of revolutionary fanaticism
-through to the present. In the second part of
this article we shall analyse the forms and
m anifestations of this itinerary.

Fourth International

Winter 1971/72

20

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IN THE previous article, I tried to follow Lukacs development up to his


joining the Hungarian Communist Party. This was marked essentially by
a bookish assimilation of theories and social problems, and consequently
by a separation of theory and practice, and a very distant attitude to the
working class in general. These fundamental traits of the young Lukacs
will continue to mark him.

In the Hungarian
revolution o f 19184919
This revolution im printed a new orientation on
the life and thought of Lukacs, although beneath
his new com m unist skin he retained the main
characteristics form ed previously in the school of
posthum ous abortions of classical German philo
sophy.
A t the end of O ctober 1918, revoution broke out
in Hungary. But, because it had only a socialdem ocratic party which joined the governm ent led
by the liberal bourgeoisie, the working class was
unable to take power. Lukacs, rejecting Bolshevism
for reasons of bourgeois morality, rem ained at
first in the ranks of the so-called progressive
intellectuals. W ith his friend Karl M annheim, he
joined the N ational Council, supreme organ of
bourgeois power, on O ctober 29. This intelligent
sias position on a whole series of political prob
lems still churned along in the wake of the bour
geoisie. Thus, for example, on the national question
it stood on the bourgeoisies defencist policy in
the name of the territorial integrity of the old
Hungary.
But before the revolution, particularly since
October 1917, a m ore and more intense struggle
had developed for the founding of a revolutionary
party, against reform ist social-democracy. It grew
enormously from the first days of the revolution,
uniting those left-wing socialists breaking from
Social-Democracy. The m ost im portant anti
m ilitarist youth and the group th a t had joined the
Bolshevik Party in the 1917 Revolution came back
in November. A fter several more or less isolated
attem pts, the founding of the H ungarian Com
m unist Party was proclaim ed on November 23,
1918.
I t was this struggle for the building of an
organized vanguard of the proletariat th a t deter
mined the process of political differentiation within
the progressive intellectuals. This powerful current
tow ards a revolutionary party, expressing the revo
lutionary shift in the working class, also swept
Lukacs into the new party. Just a few weeks after
condemning Bolshevism, Lukacs joined that party
130

which, by applying the Bolsheviks tactics, was


rapidly winning the leadership of im portant num
bers of workers. Tension m ounted between the
working masses and the government. The revolu
tion moved forward. Terrified, the bourgeoisie
counter-attacked on a world scale. In January, the
assassination of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht m arked the determ ination of capital to
check the development of the revolution, w hat
ever the cost. On February 20, 1919, helped as in
Germany by social-democracy, the Hungarian bour
geoisie itself unleashed an offensive. A fter a cam
paign of provocations it banned the Communist
Party and arrested its Central Committee members.
But such were the conditions in the young, scarcely
formed and inexperienced party th at the intellec
tual Lukacs, only yesterday still an anti-communist,
was elected to the second central^ committee,
which was elected a t once.
He published the first leaflet announcing the.
form ation of the second central committee, and
which ought to have given clear \directives to the
masses. To characterize this leaflet, we need only
point out th at it contained no call for struggle, set
out no perspective, nor even less a form of
action against the governm ent and the ban on the
party. Terribly abstract", it was impregnated with
declarations as follows:
'
Great poets, the real judges of the human spirit,
have often shown of what men are capable to
liberate themselves from the torments of a guilty
conscience; how they immerse themselves in the
inextricable tangle of lies that they offer to them
selves and to others, how they founder in the
swamp of the most terrible crimes in order to
silence the rebukes of a bad conscience. If people
succeed in convincing themselves that what they
hate, because it embodies their own bad conscience,
does not represent the principle in which that con
science is embodied; if they succeed in convincing
themselves that it is something quite different, that
its own betrayal and cowardice is but a legitimate
defence against the wickedness of the other, then,
Fourth International Spring 1971

IN THE previous article, I tried to follow Lukacs' development up to his


joining the Hungarian Communist Party. This was marked essentially by
a bookish assimilation of theories and social problems, and consequently
by a separation of theory and practice, and a very distant attitude to the
working class in general. These fundamental traits of the young Lukacs
will continue to mark him.

In the Hungarian
revolution o f 19183919
This revolution im printed a new orientation on
the life and thought of Lukacs, although beneath
his new com m unist skin he retained the main
characteristics formed previously in the school of
posthum ous abortions of classical German philo
sophy.
A t the end of O ctober 1918, revoution broke out
in Hungary. But, because it had only a socialdem ocratic party which joined the governm ent led
by the liberal bourgeoisie, the working class was
unable to take power. Lukacs, rejecting Bolshevism
for reasons of bourgeois morality, rem ained at
first in the ranks of the so-called progressive
intellectuals. W ith his friend Karl M annheim, he
joined the National Council, supreme organ of
bourgeois power, on October 29. This intelligent
sia's position on a whole series of political prob
lems still churned along in the wake of the bour
geoisie. Thus, for example, on the national question
it stood on the bourgeoisie's defencist policy in
the name of the territorial integrity of the old
Hungary.
But before the revolution, particularly since
October 1917, a more and more intense struggle
had developed for the founding of a revolutionary
party, against reform ist social-democracy. It grew
enormously from the first days of the revolution,
uniting those left-wing socialists breaking from
Social-Democracy. The most im portant anti
m ilitarist youth and the group th at had joined the
Bolshevik Party in the 1917 Revolution came back
in November. A fter several more or less isolated
attem pts, the founding of the Hungarian Com
m unist Party was proclaimed on November 23,
1918.
It was this struggle for the building of an
organized vanguard of the proletariat th at deter
mined the process of political differentiation within
the progressive intellectuals. This powerful current
tow ards a revolutionary party, expressing the revo
lutionary shift in the working class, also swept
Lukacs into the new party. Just a few weeks after
condemning Bolshevism, Lukacs joined that party
130

which, by applying the Bolsheviks tactics, was


rapidly winning the leadership of im portant num
bers of workers. Tension m ounted between the
working masses and the government. The revolu
tion moved forward. Terrified, the bourgeoisie
counter-attacked on a world scale. In January, the
assassination of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht m arked the determ ination of capital to
check the development of the revolution, w hat
ever the cost. On February 20, 1919, helped as in
Germany by social-democracy, the Hungarian bour
geoisie itself unleashed an offensive. A fter a cam
paign of provocations it banned the Communist
Party and arrested its Central Committee members.
But such were the conditions in the young, scarcely
formed and inexperienced party that the intellec
tual Lukacs, only yesterday still an anti-communist,
was elected to the second central^ committee,
which was elected at once.
He published the first leaflet announcing the.
form ation of the second central committee, and
which ought to have given clear directives to the
masses. To characterize this leaflet, we need only
point out that it contained no call for struggle, set
out no perspective, nor even less a form of
action against the government and the ban on the
party. Terribly abstract1, it was impregnated with
declarations as follows:
Great poets, the real judges of the human spirit,
have often shown of what men are capable to
liberate themselves from the torments of a guilty
conscience: how they immerse themselves in the
inextricable tangle of lies that they offer to them
selves and to others, how they founder in the
swamp of the most terrible crimes in order to
silence the rebukes of a bad conscience. If people
succeed in convincing themselves that what they
hate, because it embodies their own bad conscience,
does not represent the principle in which that con
science is embodied; if they succeed in convincing
themselves that it is something quite different, that
its own betrayal and cowardice is but a legitimate
defence against the wickedness of the other, then,
Fourth International

Spring 1B7S

Lenins
telegram of
congratulation
to the
Revolutionary
Governing
Council of the
Hungarian
Council
Republic on
March 21, 1919

apparently, the aim is achieved. But only in appear


ance, for a few short minutes. Because truth cannot
be driven from the world . . . What human strength
can accomplish in history is no more than the
attainment of consciousness of the necessity of
world history. It is that necessity that we have
recognized . . . Against that, everything is futile;
truth is on the march, and witch-hunts against
those who announce it will only accelerate its
arrival. [Quoted by Tibor Madju: The Bourgeois
Democratic Revolution in Hungary, 1918, Budapest
1968, p. 317. I must stress that the translation of
this pamphlet is exact!B.N.]
A nd so on in this mumbo-jumbo. The revolu
tion is in danger; Lukacs, whose elastic conscience
will later lead him to support and justify Stalins
crimes, has only one thought; to assert his pettybourgeois, intellectual state of mind in a hopeless
search for norms of an abstract morality. From
this example, m ilitants can draw up an exact idea
of the abyss which was always to separate Lukacs
from the labour movement. Thus, it is easily
understandable th a t the growth of the party in
the revolution and the assertion of its influence
were not due to the work of such a leader, but to
th at of the members and other leaders of the party,
who led the struggle, at th at time, along the line
of Bolshevism.
As for the leader Lukacs, he was obsessed with
moral problems. But with this difference; as a
member of the party, he poses his ethical problems
from the standpoint of pure communism, but at
the same tim e as problem s of the individual.
During the revolution, his main preoccupation
consisted of publishing a pamphlet, Tactics and
Ethics in which, among other things, he w rites:
Political Itlnorary of Qeorg Lukacs

The class struggle of the proletariat is not just a


class struggle . . . but the means for the liberation
of humanity . . . Every compromise obscures this
aspect of the struggle, and for that reason . . . it is
fetal for that real final end.
He comes to this conclusion after posing the
question:
What moral consideration can provoke the in
dividuals decision, so that the necessary philoso
phical consciousness of history becomes in him
correct political action, namely the component of
a collective will? (History and Class Conscious
ness.)
It is easy to see that, immediately he joined the
Party, Lukacs moved tow ards ultra-leftism through
an individualistic and so-called ethical anarchism.
We cannot here deal with all the fundamental
problems of the 1918 Soviet Republic, however
rich its lessons. We must, however, define Lukacs
attitude in relation to the central problem, that of
the party.
The proletariats seizure of power was the result
of the total inability of the bourgeoisie to satisfy
democratic demands. Further, the bourgeois gov
ernm ent withdrew in the face of the ultim atum
from the im perialist powers. Its extreme weakness
was revealed in the fact that, faced with this ulti
m atum , it handed over the power to the proletariat
w ithout a struggle. The social-democrats, then,
faced with the need to take power, turned towards
the communists. Dumping the extreme right of the
party, they asked tne communists to take power
w ith them, on the condition th at the two parties
united. Bela Kun, who led the unification negotia
tions, drew up the conditions for this, summarizing
131

78
t$ *r

bU d3Pebt

3H d*i e
G |"

re ta jru q jL d e r

" jii^ n s c h G O

^ r a e t e r e p u b i i k stop
BUDAPEST 4 2 . | ~

s budapest de i r o s n ^ ' j
' - r
"
<*er-acfcte

" 1 1

uH
I u;
t 1

'

A 5

v *r *

tC

i i i

*o n e r e b S *der
komnr.un i s t e n p a r t e
r u s ^ ta n n s t e g r u e s s t reft e n t-u b ia st r u s die
i'fiiiarsche T o f e i e r e p j b i i k s t r;F c - r kcrgre
>ii>t u e b e r z e u g t c ^s s d i e z e n n r . - t i t r n s t i
L d e r kocic-ufr^m^ in dcr ^ n z e n e i t s i e * e n
sto p

die

jr-,e jte r

i-ia o s e

f r i t a u e i r was siG nur i<ann


d i e a r b i t e r der k m z e n

iS T n e i t e r e r t e i t f i e
3 3 2 a 2 E J? i i1 ifipgr i "ii. i t r r. : o r *, i **
m
apparently, the aim is achieved. But only in appear
ance, for a few short minutes. Because truth cannot
be driven from the world . . . What human strength
can accomplish in history is no more than the
attainment of consciousness of the necessity of
world history. It is that necessity that we have
recognized . . . Against that, everything is futile;
truth is on the march, and witch-hunts against
those who announce it will only accelerate its
arrival. [Quoted by Tibor Madju: The Bourgeois
Democratic Revolution in Hungary, 1918, Budapest
1968, p. 317. I must stress that the translation of
this pamphlet is exact!B.N.l
And so on in this mumbo-jumbo. The revolu
tion is in danger; Lukacs, whose elastic conscience
will later lead him to support and justify Stalin's
crimes, has only one thought; to assert his pettybourgeois, intellectual state of mind in a hopeless
search for norms of an abstract morality. From
this example, m ilitants can draw up an exact idea
of the abyss which was always to separate Lukacs
from the labour movement. Thus, it is easily
understandable that the growth of the party in
the revolution and the assertion of its influence
were not due to the work of such a leader, but to
that of the members and other leaders of the party,
who led the struggle, at that time, along the line
of Bolshevism.
As for the leader Lukacs, he was obsessed with
moral problems. But with this difference; as a
member of the party, he poses his ethical problems
from the standpoint of pure communism, but at
the same time as problems of the individual.
During the revolution, his main preoccupation
consisted of publishing a pamphlet, Tactics and
Ethics in which, among other things, he w rites:
Political Itinerary ol Gaorg Lukaca

:nr3

#ird

zu - i t 6 ko^nien si
l t .vtrden fcebpanft
und
werdeiT
en-
an ^e

Lenin's
telegram ol
congratulation
to the
Revolutionary
Governing
Council ol the
Hungarian
Council
Republic on
March 21, 191B

The class struggle of the proletariat is not just a


class struggle . . . but the means for the liberation
of humanity . . . Every compromise obscures this
aspect of the struggle, and for that reason . . . it is
fetal for that real final end.
He comes to this conclusion after posing the
question:
What moral consideration can provoke the in
dividual's decision, so that the necessary philoso
phical consciousness of history becomes in him
correct political action, namely the component of
a collective will? (History and Class Conscious
ness.)
It is easy to see that, immediately he joined the
Party, Lukacs moved tow ards ultra-leftism through
an individualistic and so-called ethical anarchism.
We cannot here deal with all the fundamental
problems of the 1918 Soviet Republic, however
rich its lessons. We must, however, define Lukacs
attitude in relation to the central problem, that of
the party.
The proletariats seizure of Dower was the result
of the total inability of the bourgeoisie to satisfy
dem ocratic demands. Further, the bourgeois gov
ernm ent withdrew in the face of the ultim atum
from the im perialist powers. Its extreme weakness
was revealed in the fact that, faced with this ulti
m atum , it handed over the power to the proletariat
w ithout a struggle. The social-democrats, then,
faced with the need to take power, turned towards
the communists. Dumping the extreme right of the
party, they asked tne communists to take power
with them, on the condition th at the two parties
united. Bela Kun, who led the unification negotia
tions, drew up the conditions for this, summarizing
131

Hungary 1919 : Red soldiers in action against counter-revolutionary troops

them in the programme of the dictatorship of the


proletariat, but w ithout even consulting the Com
m unist Party leadership. Yet there was a fairly
strong tendency in the Party, led by Rudas (one of
the leaders of the opposition which had fought in
the social-dem ocratic party since 1903, and one of
the founders of the CP) which was opposed to it,
preferring a coalition of the two parties (See L.
Rudas Abenteurer itnd Liquidatorum. Die Politik
Bela Kurt and Die Krise der KPU, Vienna, 1922,
p. 279). So the unification done in a putschist
manner by Bela Kun faced the party with a fait
accompli and completely dissolved it in the Social
Democratic morass. From the first days of the dic
tatorship, relations between the Social Democrats
and the comm unists began to deteriorate with
regard to the essential problem s of the dictator
ship, posing the need for an independent regroup
ing of the communists. In the discussioft, militants
more and more had to recognize the need to cut
themselves off from the reform ists and \e n trists.
Each clash with them over some problem devel
oped the struggle to set up an authentic com
m unist party.
From the beginning of May, faced with a new
ultim atum from the im perialist powers, and their
m ilitary attack (enemy troops were 30 km from the
capital) when the Social Democrats called for the
resignation of the dictatorship, Bela Kun himself
began to understand the terrible error com m itted
by an unprincipled unification. Mobilizing the pro
letariat in defence of the dictatorship, he began to
132

take up the clarification of the problem of the


party, although in an inconsequential manner.
W hilst the com m unists were looking for ways
and means of splitting from the reform ists and
centrists by building a communist faction, and then
organization, the newcomer Lukacs became the
mouthpiece of a liquidationist tendency. This
idealist philosopher, as Bela Kun called him in
1932 (See Bela Kun, La Repitbliqite hongraise des
Conseils. Budapest, 1962, in French, d . 41$)
represented that tendency which held that the
fusion of the two parties represented the unity of
the proletariat and, consequently th at class had no
longer need of a party. In the fourth chapter of
Tactics and Ethics already quoted above, entitled
Party and Class', Lukacs developed this theory
of the party. M aking an abstraction of the dia
lectic, he claimed that, within capitalism, the
dialectical contradiction is between on the one
hand, the action of the class, and on the other,
th at of the party. By thus opposing, m echanistic
ally, the party to the proletariat, he necessarily
arrived at the conclusion that the solution to this
contradiction is the dictatorship of the proletariat,
when the party becomes superfluous.
This was also the opinion of some of the German
KAPD leftists whom Lenin stigmatized in Left
Wing Com munism . From such a m echanistic
opposition of the party to the proletariat, which
obviously can be covered up by phrases about the
dialectic, can also result the inverse error, namely
Fourth International

Spring 1972

Recruiting Red Soldiers at the outbreak of the revolution

the substitution of the party for the activity of the


masses. This inversion of the same error will later
be Lukacs attitude, especially after 1924 at the
time of his definitive adaptation to the nascent and
trium phant bureaucracy. In his M emoires, Victor
Serge rem arked that at th at time (1924-1925)
Lukacs demanded, for example, that history only
be w ritten by Central Committee members of the
Party. In the first case, as in the second, is found
Lukacs organic inability to grasp the dialectical
relationship between party and class. There is a
break from the dialectical unity of the party and
the class in which unity gives place to identifica
tion or, inversely, rigid and mechanical opposi
tion, but in which the interaction of these oppo
sites, their
interdependence
and
reciprocal
conditioning, are totally absent.
The theoretical source of these two positions,
liquidationist opportunism and ultim atist leftism,
is idealism, which represents the basis of their
organic relationship. This idealism consists in
detaching the dialectic from its material essence,
in this case the labour movement, and making it
into a philosophy in itself, ready to discover con
tradictions or totality here, there and every
where. This is the general position of H istory and
Class Consciousness.
Let us return to 1919, and particularly to Party
and Class. For the liquidator Lukacs, the unifica
tion of the two parties was of historical im port
ance, for the dictatorship of th e-p ro letariat was
thus possible, making the organization of any party
superfluous. Moreover, this is even more im
portant since, according to Lukacs, the party,
Political Itinerary of Georg Lukacs

under capitalism is corrupted because it m ust


fight on the same plane as bourgeois society.
For the Communist Party, Lukacs continues, it is
no sacrifice to renounce its party organization,
for its entire existence was built on the negation
of the old forms of party. In this position we can
easily recognize the mixture of leftism with its
natural twin, opportunism. But Lukacs was soon
to go further still.
He raised to the level of a universal virtue the
terrible mistake of the Hungarian communists not
to follow through to the end the fight against
centrism and reformism. For him, the Bolsheviks
fight against the M ensheviks and the Socialist
Revolutionaries
was
a
rather
unfortunate
fratricidal struggle. In fact, contrary to the
Russian revolution, the Hungarian revolution
showed that revolution is possible w ithout a
fratricidal struggle of the w orkers.
Here, he goes much further in opportunism than
Bela Kun, identifying the proletariat w ith its official
leadership w hether it be centrist, reform ist, or
later Stalinist.
_
This was the first attem pt on his part to
repudiate, although still very prudently, the univer
sality of the lessons of the Russian revolution with
regard to opportunism.
This liquidator, who became Peoples Vice
Commissar of National Education and Cultural
Affairs, took no part in the m ost im portant dis
cussions and struggles in which the Communists
came to grips with the reform ists, centrists and
their own mistakes. W hilst bitter struggles were
taking place around vital problem s of the dictator
133

Mobilization of the proletariat In defence of the dictatorship

ship, of the proletariat, such as the defence of the


dictatorship and m ilitary affairs or agrarian policy
(the alliance of the proletariat with the peasantry),
his name is not to be found, even in the last
struggle waged, tow ards the end of the Council
Republic, for a new com munist party. In short, on
all these questions Lukacs was an opportunist
observer, busying himself mostly with relations
with writers and artists, and culture in general.
The only sphere in which he appeared as a
political leader was in organizing the youth, given
that it was already connected with the Commis
sariat of National Education. Already, this fact
shows the incomprehension of all the leadership
with regard to the revolutionary policy to adopt in
the ranks of the youth. That suited Lukacs. His
conception of the youth came out in his speech at
the Young Com m unists' conference in 1919. This
speech was conceived entirely in the liquidationist
spirit. Lukacs explained in it the necessity for the
youth to understand the change of function' of
struggle, because, he said the struggle for culture,
self-education and study must be the centre of the
work of the working-class youth'. He did not put
forw ard this education as did Lenin, who of course
gave the Young Comm unists the aim of studying
communism but, precisely, in and through struggle.
Instead of that, Lukacs calls for 'pure' study, for
according to him. the economic and political
struggle ceased with the seizure of power.
Even later, in 1921, when the emigre party pub
lished Lenin's speech to the YCL III Congress.
Lukacs wrote in his preface:
In his profound and monumental speech. Com
134

rade Lenin brings study right to the fore, as the


principal task of the working-class youth after the
conquest of power . . . The study of which Lenin
speaks will be the new front of the class struggle.
In order to accomplish it we must overcome
difficult struggles. Everyone knows that the task of
the working class is to occupy the front rank of
the vanguard of the revolutions.'
Again, he mechanically separates study after
the seizure of powerfrom struggle before the
revolution.
In an armed struggle to the death against
imperialist intervention and in the middle of all
sorts of difficulties. Lukacs said nothing on the
vital problems of the revolution. His theoretical
preoccupations were entirely detached from it. In
March he wrote W hat is O rthodox Marxism? and
in June The Changing Function of Historical
Materialism. These two studies, with slight modi
fications. were to become constituent parts of his
book, which appeared in 1923. H istory and Class
Consciousness. I shall return to an analysis of
this book. It should, however, be remembered
that these studies, striking in their abstract
nature, were w ritten in the middle of a bitter
struggle of the revolution, in which, as we have
pointed out. all the fundamental problems of the
revolutionary party and the dictatorship of the
proletariat were posed.
W hether Lukacs was a capable organizer of
cultural life, or rather a utopian (as he wrote hi m
self in 1967) is of secondary importance. What is
im portant here is to show that the halo later
built around the head of Lukacs. 'leading M arxist'
of the dictatorship of the proletariat, is simply
a mendacious legend.
Fourth international

Spring 1972

The struggle o f the Comintern


for the formation o f
Communist Parties
and Lukacs position
after
the
fall
of the Council Republic in
Hungary, Lukacs went to Vienna w ith other
leaders of the dictatorship. The reorganization of
the party began in difficult conditions in a state
of illusions, and in the isolation of internm ent,
many m ilitants lost hope. Even among the com
m unists, God-Seekers appeared, Tolstoyans, all
sorts of mystics. In such confusion, Lukacs
naturally became one of the leaders of the reorgan
ized party. The political basis of this reorganiza
tion was supplied by Bela K uns pam phlet From
R evolution to Revolution which appeared in
Vienna in January 1921. (In French, Bela Kun op
cit.)
In this pam phlet, Kun begins by not recognizing
the defeat suffered by the Hungarian working
class:
Even if the Hungarian workers have lost [the
republic] . . . they have lost it only from the
standpoint of the international class struggle.
He fixes as the im mediate task nothing more or
less th^n preparing to take power:
The next historical task of the working class is
the conquest of state power.
Then he draws these conclusions:
On the one hand, the white terror and demo
cracy are not, in the last analysis, obstacles, but
stimulants to the extension and deepening of the
revolutionary workers movement.
On the other hand tie retuses to use the fram e
work of legality, for it is impossible and futile
for a labour movement to work within the fram e
work of legality.
According to him, the immediate conquest of
power m ust be prepared.
However, to carry this through is not the busi
ness of the whole working class . . . but of the
revolutionary elite of that class (which) will or
ganize the elite troops of the revolutionary class
struggle and will galvanize the more or less in
different masses.
As we see, the ultra-leftists of today have
invented nothing. This ultra-leftism was not
peculiar to the Hungarian communists. It was
rife throughout Europe. The Com intern had
created two bureaux: one, at the beginning of
1920 in A msterdam for the western countries,
the other in September 1919 in Vienna for South
East Europe. Both bureaux were in the hands of
ultra-lefts: the first led by the Dutch Tribune

Political Itinerary of Georg Lukacs

group Pannekoek, G orter and Roland-Holst, the


other by the Hungarian emigres Bela Kun, PoganyPepper, Varga and Lukacs. These two centres
contributed enormously to reinforcing the u ltra
leftism th a t was already strong in Germany with
the KAPD splinter party, in Italy w ith Bordiga
and his group, in England with Sylvia Pankhurst,
etc. It is interesting to note here th a t Lukacs
had already been influenced during the war by
the D utch ultra-left Roland-H olst, a poetess
whose socialism was mainly stamped by moral and
ethical considerations. The revue of the South
East-Europe bureau in Vienna, Kom m unism us,
was the hotbed of the ultra-lefts, having special
relations with the Am sterdam Bureau.
W hilst it was fighting opportunism in the new
parties, the Communist International had to attack
its corollary, ultra-leftism , not just once but from
its creation and throughout the period of the
first four congresses. The main attention of the
International, particularly its real leaders Lenin
and Trotsky, was centred on the education of the
young communist movement, explaining to them
the necessity of winning the decisive forces of the
proletariat, and consequently, of the ways and
means of doing so. In April 1920 the ECCI dis
solved the A m sterdam Bureau, whose work was
transferred to Berlin. In June of th at year, Lenin
opened fire with his fundam ental work, L eft Wing
C om m unism , A n Infantile Disorder, and on June
12, he addressed a letter to the revue K om
m unism us which openly criticized Bela Kun and
Lukacs. His criticism of Lukacs was particularly
sharp, as his article w ent further in u ltra
leftism than even Bela Kun. Firstly, Lenin stated
th at the revue contains an article by Comrade
G.L. entitled On the Question o f Parliamentarism,
which the editors designate as controversial, and
from which Comrade B.K. directly dissociates
himself (fortunately), i.e., declares th a t he is in
disagreement with it.
Among other things, we find in this article,
Parliament is the oldest weapon of the bour
geoisie, and can therefore only be a defensive arm
of the proletariat, or again, Thus, the admission
of parliamentary activity signifies for communist
parties the consciousness and admission that revo
lution is inconceivable in a more or less foreseeable
future. (Lukacs, Collected Works, Vol. 31, p. 97.)
135

The struggle o f the Comintern


for the formation o f
Communist Parties
and Lukacs position
AFTER THE f a l l of the Council Republic in
Hungary, Lukacs went to Vienna with other
leaders of the dictatorship. The reorganization of
the party began in difficult conditions in a state
of illusions, and in the isolation of internm ent,
many m ilitants lost hope. Even among the com
m unists, God-Seekers appeared. Tolstoyans, all
sorts of mystics. In such confusion, Lukacs
naturally became one of the leaders of the reorgan
ized party. The political basis of this reorganiza
tion was supplied by Bela K uns pamphlet From
Revolution to Revolution which appeared in
Vienna in January 1921. (In French, Bela Kun op
cit.)
In this pamphlet, Kun begins by not recognizing
the defeat suffered by the Hungarian working
class:
Even if the Hungarian workers have lost [the
republic] . . . they have lost it only from the
standpoint of the international class struggle.'
He fixes as the immediate task nothing more or
less th?n preparing to take power:
The next historical task of the working class is
the conquest of state power.
Then he draws these conclusions:
On the one hand, the white terror and demo
cracy are not, in the last analysis, obstacles, but
stimulants to the extension and deepening of the
revolutionary workers movement.
On the other hand he retuses to use the fram e
work of legality, for it is impossible and futile
for a labour movement to work within the fram e
work of legality.
According to him, the immediate conquest of
power m ust be prepared.
However, to carry this through is not the busi
ness of the whole working class . . . but of the
revolutionary elite of that class (which) will or
ganize the elite troops of the revolutionary class
struggle and will galvanize the more or less in
different masses.'
As we see, the ultra-leftists of today have
invented nothing. This ultra-leftism was not
peculiar to the Hungarian communists. It was
rife throughout Europe. The Comintern had
created two bureaux: one, at the beginning of
1920 in Am sterdam for the western countries,
the other in September 1919 in Vienna for South
East Europe. Both bureaux were in the hands of
ultra-lefts: the first led by the Dutch Tribune

Political Itinerary ol Georg Lukacs

group Pannekoek, G orter and Roland-Holst, the


other by the Hungarian emigres Bela Kun, PoganyPepper, Varga and Lukacs. These two centres
contributed enormously to reinforcing the ultra
leftism that was already strong in Germany with
the KAPD splinter party, in Italy with Bordiga
and his group, in England with Sylvia Pankhurst,
etc. It is interesting to note here th at Lukacs
had already been influenced during the war by
the Dutch ultra-left Roland-Holst, a poetess
whose socialism was mainly stamped by moral and
ethical considerations. The revue of the South
East-Europe bureau in Vienna, K om m unism us,
was the hotbed of the ultra-lefts, having special
relations with the Amsterdam Bureau.
W hilst it was fighting opportunism in the new
parties, the Communist International had to attack
its corollary, ultra-leftism , not just once but from
its creation and throughout the period of the
first four congresses. The main attention of the
International, particularly its real leaders Lenin
and Trotsky, was centred on the education of the
young communist movement, explaining to them
the necessity of winning the decisive forces of the
proletariat, and consequently, of the ways and
means of doing so. In April 1920 the ECCI dis
solved the Amsterdam Bureau, whose work was
transferred to Berlin. In June of that year, Lenin
opened fire with his fundamental work, Left Wing
Com m unism , A n Infantile Disorder, and on June
12, he addressed a letter to the revue K om
munismus which openly criticized Bela Kun and
Lukacs. His criticism of Lukacs was particularly
sharp, as his article went further in ultra
leftism than even Bela Kun. Firstly, Lenin stated
that the revue contains an article by Comrade
G.L. entitled On the Question of Parliamentarism,
which the editors designate as controversial, and
from which Comrade B.K. directly dissociates
himself (fortunately), i.e., declares that he is in
disagreement with it.
Among other things, we find in this article,
Parliament is the oldest weapon of the bour
geoisie, and can therefore only be a defensive arm
of the proletariat, or again, Thus, the admission
of parliamentary activity signifies for communist
parties the consciousness and admission that revo
lution is inconceivable in a more or less foreseeable
future. (Lukacs, Collected Works, Vol. 31, p. 97.)
135

Lukacs crowns this ultra-leftism with the state


m ent, wherever a w orkers council is possible,
parliam entarism is superfluous. (Ibid p. 104.)
In these lucubrations can be found the argu
m ents of the ultra-left majority of the foundation
Congress of the German Communist Party of
December 1918, which against the advice of Rosa
Luxemburg, for example, came out against p arti
cipation in the parliam entary elections.
This is the paragraph from Lenins letter on
Lukacs article:
G.L.s article is very Left-wing and very poor.
Its Marxism is purely verbal; its distinction between
"defensive and offensive tactics is artificial; it
gives no concrete analysis of precise and definite
historical situations; it takes no account of what is
most essential (the need to take over and to learn
to take over all fields of work and all institutions
in which the bourgeoisie exerts its influence over
the masses, etc.).
A pitiless critique. Lenins tone is very hard,
m uch different from th a t used against Bela K uns
article, although he made no concessions to him
either. In Lenins short sentences, there is a
complete characterization of Lukacs. There is
nothing surprising th at in this letter Lenin excludes
Lukacs from the ranks of M arxists, as his M arx
ism is only nominal, and will remain so through
out his later life. It was in the spirit of struggle
against ultra-leftism th at the Executive Committee
prepared the Second Congress of the International,
held from July 17 to A ugust 7, 1920. The fight
was mainly devoted to consolidating the new
parties and, within this framework, to the struggle
against both opportunism and ultra-leftism . The
fact th at it turned its fire against the hangers-on
of reform ism (e.g. by the 21 Conditions of Admis
sion) m ust not let us forget the struggle against
ultra-leftism . To this end, the congress stressed
th at the principal task was to win the majority
of the working class from the reform ists and
centrists, stressing the decisive im portance, from
this point of view, of work in the trade unions
and participation in parliament.
During the congress, Hermann G orter, the
spokesman for the D utch and German ultra-lefts,
published his Reply to Lenin (Hermann G orter,
Reply to Lenin on Left W ing C om m unism ,
Librairie Ouvriere, Paris 1930, p. 112, reprint.)
G orter challenged the validity of the Bolsheviks
experience for the more developed western coun
tries, refused to work in the trade unions and
use parliam ent, basing himself solely on activity
and the education of a pure organization, as
opposed to the proletariat which was infected
with bourgeois and reform ist ideology. H e just
stops short of accusing Lenin and the Bolsheviks
of being backw ard peasants who, according to
him, are in search of the masses. The Communist
International had to intensify its fight against
ultra-leftism . All the more so as the imminence
of the revolution shown, inter alia, by the advance
of the Red Army on W arsaw (the delegates to
the 2nd Congress followed it enthusiastically on
a map), seemed to justify the ultra-lefts. Among
th e delegates Bela Kun echoed G orters concep
tion loudest.
136

In November, there was an extended session


of the Executive Com m ittee where G orter per
sonally defended his position. It was Trotsky, not
Lenin, who replied to him. Criticizing the whole
of G orters conception, he saw its sources in fear
of the masses, which led him to speak in such
an arrogant way of the Third International in
search of the masses . . . (because) he lacks
confidence in the material base of the revolution
the working class.
Trotsky a sk s:
What does Comrade Gorter propose? What does
he want? Propaganda! This is the gist of his
entire method. Revolution, says Comrade Gorter, is
contingent neither upon privations nor economic
conditions, but upon mass consciousness; while
mass consciousness is, in turn, shaped by pro
paganda. Propaganda is here taken in a purely
idealistic manner, very much akin to the concept
of the eighteenth century school of enlightenment
and rationalism. If the revolution is not contingent
upon the living conditions of the masses, or much
less so upon these conditions than upon propaganda,
then why havent you made the revolution in
Holland?
He goes o n :
What you now want to do amounts essentially
to replacing the dynamic development of the Inter
national by methods of individual recruitment of
workers through propaganda. You want some sort
of simon-pure International of the elect and select,
but precisely your own Dutch experience should
have prompted you to realize that such an approach
leads to the eruption of sharpest divergences of
opinion within the most select organization.
Trotsky does not release his grip.
According to him [Gorter] we must begin anew
and start off withthe head, i.e., with select
groups, who, separate and apart from the old forms
of organization, will carry unadulterated truth to
the proletariat scrub it clean of all bourgeois pre
judices and, finally, spruce it up for the proletarian
arrogance of this type is the obverse side of the
profoundest scepticism.
The bond between the party and the class is
fixedaccording to Gorterthrough a purely
pedagogic interrelation between a small propa
ganda society and the proletariat infected with
bourgeoisification. But it is precisely in organiza
tions of this sort, organizations where the fear of
the masses reigns, where there is no confidence in
the masses, where members are recruited individu
ally through propaganda, where' activities are con
ducted not on the basis of the class struggle but
on the basis of idealistic enlightenmntit is pre
cisely within such organizations that the leaders
are bound to play a disproportionate role. (Trotsky,
First Five Years of the Communist International,
Vol. 1, pp. 137-152).
We have had to quote Trotskys reply to Gorter
at length, as it shows up all the mechanism of
the ultra-left position. The analysis is fully justified
and applicable to the m ajority of the Hungarian
group in Vienna with Bela Kun and Lukacs. Before
the meeting of the executive committee, immedi
ately after the second congress of the In ter
national, there was a conference of 3,000 H un
garian Communists in Moscow. It did not manage
to sort out ultra-leftism , but a part of the leader
ship who were already doubtful about the correct
ness of Bela K uns and Pogany-Peppers position,
such as Landler and Rudas, had begun to take up
Fourth International

Spring 1972

the struggle to correct these errors. The fight be


tween the two factions broke out at the beginning
of 1921. A fter the unfortunate M arch A ction in
Germany, Bela K uns act of stupidity as Lenin
called it, it took on a virulent form. We must stop
at this episode for a mom ent in order to get a
better grasp of Lenin's and T rotskys conception
and of the significance of the faction fight in the
Hungarian Party and Lukacs position.
In M arch 1921, Bela Kun as Zinovievs emis
sary in Germany played a dom inant role in unleash
ing the March Action, which led the revolutionary
workers into an insurrectionary struggle without
the Com m unists having been able to tear the
majority from the reform ists and centrists. The
lessons of the M arch A ction clearly showed the
futility of ultra-leftism its negligence with regard
to the masses of the proletariat, its criminal aban
donm ent of seeking ways and means of winning
the majority of the class, a m ajority which still
followed the reform ists and centrists. Much later,
in The Third International Af t er Lenin, Trotsky
wrote of the March Action.
In iMarch 1921, the German Communist Party
made the attempt to avail itself of the declining
wave in order to overthrow the bourgeois state
with a single blow. The guiding thought of the
German Central Committee in this was to save the
Soviet republic (the theory of socialism in one
country had not yet been proclaimed at that time).
But it turned out that the determination of the
leadership and the dissatisfaction of the masses do
not suffice for victory. There must obtain a number
of other conditions, above all. a close bond between
the leadership and the# masses and the confidence
of the latter in the leadership. This condition was
lacking at that time.' (Vol. 1. p. 186 French ed.).
Political Itinerary of Georg Lukacs

Top: Joseph Pogany addressing troops in 1919.


Above: Bela Kun in his study; Hungarian emtgrts who
enforced the ultra leftism that was already strong
in the German KAPD and in Italy and England.

137

It was necessary to m arch tow ards the conquest


of power by previous conquest of the masses in
their daily life and struggle.
Lukacs opinion is quite different; however, after
Lenins sharp letter and the second Congress of
the International, he quickly splits from Bela Kun
and joins the faction led by Landler and Rudas.
In his article O rganizational Questions of Revo
lutionary Initiative, he w ro te :
It is not correct to say that the action of the
German Commupnist Party was wrong, given that
it was not grasped by the mass of the proletariat
and, therefore the party was again led into isola
tion . . . The great weakness of the March Action
(not in its idea but rather in its application) rests
rather in this that it was not grasped rapidly,
sufficiently by the revolutionary vanguard itself.
(V/erke, op cit pp. 148-149.)
The contradiction between the ultra-leftists and
Lenin and Trotsky is obvious. W hereas Trotsky
stresses the necessity of politically winning the
m ajority of the working class, what is essential for
Lukacs is the understanding by a vanguard of
the need to launch an assault for power. There
we put our finger on the fundam ental difference.
From a revolutionary situation, the ultra-lefts,
falling into a mechanical objectivism, conclude the
inevitable victory of the revolutionary party,
thanks to its determ ination and propaganda;
whereas Lenin and T rotsky insisted that revolu
tionary victory is the work of the m ajority of the
proletariat on condition th at the revolutionary
party conquers th at m ajority by political means
and not by simple propaganda.
In these conditions, the third Congress of the
International, from June 22 to July 12, 1921,
sharpened the struggle against ultra-leftism and
the young parties incom prehension of the struggle
to win politically the working masses. The Con
gress generalized on the experience of the fight
against ultra-leftism , making an im portant step
forw ard with the elaboration of the strategy of
the united front of the proletariat, as a m ethod of
winning the masses in conditions where the
m ajority still followed the reform ist and centrist
leadership. Lenin and T rotsky led an implacable
struggle for the united front against the ultra-left
m ajority at the congress, one of whose leading
spokesman was Bela Kun, with the German Thaelm ann. Finally the Congress m ajority voted for
Lenins and T rotskys line, and in the Theses on
Tactics d eclared :
From the first day of its foundation, the Com
munist International gave itself the aim, clearly and
without equivocation, not of forming tiny com
munist sects seeking to exercise their influence over
the working class solely by agitation and pro
paganda, but to take part in the struggle of the
working class, to guide this struggle in the com
munist sense and in the process of the struggle to
build big revolutionary communist parties.
It can be said w ithout exaggeration that the
battle against ultra-leftism particularly for the
young parties to go out to win the masses instead
of mechanically concluding from an objective
revolutionary situation the victory of the revo
lution and the party this was one of the greatest
th a t the International led by Lenin and Trotsky
138

had led. Of course, warning against opportunism,


th a t other weakness of the young parties, Lenin
and Trotsky did not speak of winning the masses
at any price. As T rotsky later stated in the Third
International A fter Lenin, the Third International
did not simply say Towards the masses , but
Towards power through the previous conquest
of the masses .
In the course of the first four congresses of the
International, the struggle to assimilate this line
took on a more and more elaborate and generalized
form. The second Congress stressed the importance
of work among the masses in the trade unions
and the use of parliam ent. The third Congress
elaborated and adopted the strategy of the united
front. And we m ust add at once th at the fourth
Congress was to adopt a resolution on the task of
elaborating a transitional programme for the
International.
In this resolution, we read :
The theoretical foundations of all transitional
partial demands must be formulated within the
general programme. The fourth Congress is as
resolutely against the attempt to represent the in
troduction of transitional demands into the pro
gramme as opportunism as it is against the attempt
to tone down or replace fundamental revolutionary
objectives by partial demands.
This resolution of the fourth Congress was later
to be buried, and only realized by Leon Trotsky
elaborating the Transitional Programme of the
Fourth International in 1938 which is, from this
point of view, too, the continuation cf the first
four congresses cf the Communist International.
Let us return to the struggle at the time of the
Third Congress. Even during the congress, Trotsky
wrote an article in Pracda where he characterized
ultra-leftism and the review K om m unism us in the
following way :
A purely mechanical conception of the pro
letarian revolutionwhich proceeds solely from the
fact that capitalist economy continues to decay
has led certain groups of comrades to coftstrue
theories which are false to the core: the false
theory of an initiating minority which by its
heroism shatters the wall of universal passivity
among the proletariat. The false theory of uninter
rupted offensives conducted by the proletarian van
guard, as a new method" of struggle: the false
theory of partial battles which are waged by apply
ing the methods of armed insurrection. And so on
and so forth. The clearest exponent of this ten
dency is the Vienna journal Communism. It is
absolutely self-evident that tactical theories of
this sort have nothing in common with Marxism.
A t the congress of the Youth International, on
July 14, 1921, he continued :
You are probably aware that there was advanced
the so-called theory of the offensive. What is the
gist of this theoryIts gist is that we have entered
the epoch of the decomposition of capitalist society,
in other words, the epoch when the bourgeoisie
must be overthrown. How? By the offensive of the
working class. In this purely abstract form it is
unquestionably correct. But certain individuals
have sought to convert this theoretical capital into
corresponding currency of smaller denomination
and they have declared that this offensive consists
Fourth International

Spring 1972

the m aterial base of the revolution is not the


working class as Trotsky said, but the objective
situation carrying the revolutionary party, alm ost
of necessity, a t the head of the masses. This
explains why the Landler-Rudas faction condemned
Bela K uns ultra-leftism in H ungary while approv
The faction struggle th a t was raging in the
ing of it in Germany for example. In the M arch
Hungarian party, particularly after the 3rd Con
A ction it only criticized Bela K uns ill-considered
gress of the International, was obstructing its
behaviour, on a so to speak psychological plane.
work. In A ugust 1921 the International had to
But there is still another thing: this conception
intervene. The Executive Committee, after calling
also stated Lukacs position, which established a
together th e representatives of b o th factions,
rigid and mechanical opposition between offen
passed a resolution in accordance w ith the 3rd
sive tactics and defensive tactics, denounced by
Congress, and then appointed a provisional central
Lenin along w ith th a t between legality and
committee of five members, three of whom sup
illegality. This rigid opposition comes back to
ported Bela Kun, and two from Landlers tendency,
opportunism in the measure in which it prevents
laying down for the party the struggle to apply
the party using every possibility of legal work, its
the resolution on the basis of dem ocratic cen
appearance as a party w ith its own programme,
tralism. Then, in the autum n, the faction struggle
leaving this sphere to reform ist and centrist cur
developed to the point where an opposition was
rents and organization.
form ed which repudiated Bela Kuns leadership
There was, then, a mechanical contradiction
and founded its own journal. Its viewpoint was
between the historical programme of the party,
developed in Rudas book, already cited, which
which was hidden from the workers, and its
was published in January 1922.
programme for immediate demands. So both
If in the early period, as a reaction to their
factions were based, in the last analysis, on
opportunism in relation to the problem of the
mechanically opposed conceptions, thus vacillating
party in 1919, the Hungarian Com munists had
between ultra-leftism and opportunism . The basis
fallen into the inverse error of ultra-leftism , the
of this was th at neither faction understood th a t
struggle of the International was to develop a
the emancipation of the w orkers is the task of
tendency
against
the
incorrigible
ultra-left
the w orkers themselves, and so the real task of
adventurism of Bela Kun and Pogany-Pepper.
the party consists of leading them from their
Rudas book, however, and the subsequent evolu
immediate demands and situation to the achieve
tion of the party show th at even this faction did
m ent of the revolution. This opposition was never
not grasp the essence of the problem.
to be resolved by the CPs, for it was to find its
Bela Kun and his faction set out to build in
solution only in the Transitional Programme of
the immediate future a mass com m unist party,
the 4th International elaborated by Leon Trotsky,
leading whole sections of w orkers into offensive
a programme which constitutes the necessary
actions leading to large-scale arrests of party
bridge over which workers find the road from
organizers, at the same tim e imposing a tactic
their immediate demands and situation to the
which led to their expulsion from the trade
victory of the revolution. So the united front is
unions. Rudas violently attacked this liquidationist
only the organizational expression of this path,
and adventurist tactic. W ith the Landler faction,
as the w orkers are divided by enemy organizations.
he advocated setting up illegal cells of communist
Consequently, it is also the m ethod of building
workers, working in the trade unions and entering
real communist parties, with confidence in the
the legal social-democratic party where a strong
masses.
opposition had, indeed, begun to form. Beyond
For this reason, the strategy of revolution
a doubt, this conception, taken abstractly, was
which mechanically opposes offensive and defen
correct.
sive tactics has no meaning.
The argum ents of this faction, however, re
We m ust stress th at these problems constitute
mained typically ultra-left, in another form. Its
proposed tactic was justified by the fact
th at inthe basis of Lukacs evolution. M ore exactly, they
motivate his reversion to the anti-revolutionary
Hungary after
the defeat, there was not an
person he had always been. In 1922, he had still
immediately revolutionary situation, and th a t for
not draw n definitive conclusions. But the fact th at
this faction the slogan conquest of the masses,
for him the revolutionary programme was only
along with the united front, was only applicable
applied to an immediately revolutionary situation,
in a so-called defensive situation, at the tim e of
which for him was something objective, already
the ebb of the revolution. This was precisely the
shows his personal solution which will be the
position of G orter, who in his pam phlet declared
abandonm ent of every revolutionary programme,
that work in
the trade unions, the use
of
when, as he will say, the objective situation is
parliam ent and joining the legal w orkers parties
no longer revolutionary. Its real nature is expressed
are only justified in conditions of illegality of the
in the various studies which he published in 1923
revolutionary party. (See his pam phlet op cit p. 85.)
in his book H istory and Class Consciousness.
In short, this particular ultra-leftism held th at
of a successive number of smaller offensives. Thus
arose the theory, whose clearest exponent is the
Vienna journal Communismthe theory of pure
offensive owing to the revolutionary character of
the epoch. (First Five Years, Vol. 1, pp. 296-303).

Political Itinerary of Georg Lukacs

y Balazs Nagy
his a rtic le is tra n s la te d from the F ie n c b Jo urna!

hird and concluding instalment

The Political Itinerary of Georg Lukacs


(Third and concluding instalment)
IN OUR analysis of Lukacs itinerary we have
arrived at his book H istory and Class Conscious
ness. It seems to me im portant to devote the whole
of the present article to it. As a preliminary, how
ever, I m ust reply to certain rem arks made about
the first tw o articles. Some have expressed the
opinion that it is wrong to criticise points of view
expressed by Lukacs a long time ago which he
now repudiates. I do not agree. M arxist criticism
does not content itself with a simple refutation of
such and such a wrong opinion. It m ust take the
erroneous thought in its development, follow its
evolution, dem onstrate its internal contradictions
and links, penetrate through to its root in order to
grasp its organic character, its essence. Now such
a self-criticism has never been undertaken by
Lukacs, a fact which allowed him to have funda
mentally the same theoretical position that he
took in H istory and Class Consciousness whilst
later criticising the idealist aspects of the book.
But we m ust go beyond the aspects to reach the
essential. In this way, criticism, from a single
refutation or opposition which it was previously,
becomes a real development.
M oreover, this problem is not limited to the
person of Lukacs. Against the betrayals of Stalin
ism and the painful experiences of its practice and
its theoretical falsifications, numerous theoretical
undertakings claim to be the bearers of 'true
M arxism. The relative weakness of the Fourth
International has allowed these attem pts to be
made by petty-bourgeois left intellectuals, gener
ally disillusioned as to the role of the proletariat,
and, by their nature, mistaking bladders for
lanterns. Their main concern is to discover real
M arxism', and their attem pts find much support
in the bourgeoisie: they also benefit from the
benign attitude of the bureaucracy which gradually
adopts these theoretical lucubrations.
C entrists of every variety then hurry, dazzled,
to put their stamp of authenticity on these
theories. I t is on such a composite and very
24

fertile dung-heap th a t Lukacs popularity has


grown.
The re-publication of H istory and Class Con
sciousness (in France 1967, in Britain 1971) and
the great am ount of publicity surrounding this
book have played a particularly im portant role in
this concerted attack against Marxism. Its extent
is shown by the fact th a t criticism of Lukacs still
meets with a certain resistance even among revo
lutionaries who have been influenced by what
Axelos, for instance, w rote: according to him,
H istory and Class Consciousness is one of the
masterpieces of M arxist thought of the 20th
century. We m ust therefore give a detailed refuta
tion of this lying statem ent.

On the Circumstances of the Books Birth


An analysis of Lukacs H istory and Class Con
sciousness cannot consider the book as a thing in
itself; we m ust place its birth and content in a
definite historical fram ework. This framework is
the condition of the class struggle at th at time
and also the theoretical essays linked to that
struggle. It is only through such an analysis th at
Lukacs conception becomes comprehensible, and
a t the same time loses the aura of originality th at
his enthusiastic, but ignorant, admirers of today
try to give it.
The deep crisis provoked by the im perialist F irst
W orld W ar and collapse of the Second In ter
national could not be entirely overcome by the
October Revolution and the founding of the Third
International. The revolutions in Germany, H un
gary and Italy were unsuccessful; the m ajority of
the proletariat remained under the influence of
reform ist social democracy. In such a situation,
m ultiple attem pts were made, politically and
theoretically, to palliate this state of affairs in
the name of a dem and to go further in the struggle
against social-democracy than the Third Inter
Fourth International

Winter 1972/73

national had done, according to the authors of


these attem pts. Their roots lay in a petty-bourgeois
impatience closely linked to a d istrust of the
proletarian masses. Politically, this tendency was
expressed in ultra-leftism , or a despair which
pushed its representatives openly tow ards the
bourgeoisie. In both cases, they spoke of the in
capacity of the proletariat to resolve the problem s
of hum anity, or a t least the crisis of the proletariat,
thus identifying it w ith its reform ist leadership. In
fact, they did not set about just this leadership,
b u t rather the whole of the labour movement,
whose history and continuity they did n o t recog
nise. Theoretically they directed their attacks
against the dogmatism of Social-Democracy th a t
they saw essentially and above all residing in its
vulgar materialism. A lthough this critique, along
with th at against Social Democracys political
opportunism , was entirely justified, they w ent so
far as to eliminate m aterialism to the benefit of
various form s of the neo-Kantian theory of
knowledge.
We cannot here take up an analysis of ultra
leftism in general, and Lukacs in particular, which
was done in my previous article. H istory and Class
Consciousness is its theoretical corollary. As such,
this book is not separate from the other books of
this type, seen especially in Germany
1923, when Lukacs book appeared, was also the
year when M arxism and Philosophy by Karl
Korsch appeared, which also fought for the
recognition of the reality of forms of conscious
ness and intellectual life against vulgar Marxism.
He too w anted to re-establish the theory of
spiritual realities, like Lukacs, w ith the help of
Hegels philosophy, or rather K ants. Concretely,
w hat was under discussion was the relationship
between consciousness and being, which is also at
the centre of Lukacs preoccupations.
Korsch declared th at
*. . . on this .. . point, the conclusions of my book
are in many ways close to George Lukacs dialectical
studies .. . (and despite some differences). . . 1 think
I am objectively alongside Lukacs in a critical posi
tion with regard to the old and new Marxist
orthodoxy
(Karl Korsch, Marxisme at Philosophie, Editions de
Minuit, Paris 1964 pp. 22-23, not in the English
edition.)
An exam ination of Korschs position would,
regrettably, take us too far. It is enough to recall
th at later Korsch openly abandoned Marxism.
On the other hand, we m ust stress th at because
some groups were advocating these positions,
Zinoviev and Bukharin at the Fifth Congress of the
Com intern criticised Lukacs and Korsch, character
ising their ideas as anti-M arxist and idealist. H ow
ever, this criticism did not go further despite the
more developed articles of Deborin and others
than a limited num ber of summary statem ents.
This fact enabled Lukacs, in quickly repudiating
his book, to make an equally summary and super
ficial self-criticism whereas an analysis would
have forced him to real discussion and a real
clarification; such a clarification was necessary
and is still necessary today.
Political Itinerary of Lukacs (part 3)

For Lukacs aim is nothing more or less than


to understand the essence of Marx method . . . an
interpretation, an exposition of Marx theory as
Marx understood it.'
(History and Class Consciousness, Merlin Press,
pp. xlii-xliii, Lukacs' emphasis.)
This intellectual impulse is so strong th at it
even drives him against certain statem ents of
Engels. For oh modesty! the author . . . is
defending orthodox Marxism against Engels him
self (Ibid xlii).
In the preface, this M arxist has already
stated th a t in M arxist theory and m ethod the
true m ethod by which to understand society and
history has finally been discovered.
It follows that it m ust be constantly applied to
itself, for its pre-em inent aim is knowledge of
the present. We can see clearly the direction this
interpretation takes against Engels. According
to Lukacs, knowledge is a category apart, con
sidered in itself, for it is the aim of the Marxist
method. As if M arx had never w ritten th at the
task is no longer to explain the world but to
change it. Later we shall see th a t Lukacs does
not mean it in this way, but in the sense of
distinguishing the superior role of knowledge.
There is nothing surprising in the fact that
Lukacs takes up arm s against the vulgar
materialists (it should be noted th a t throughout
his book, m aterialists invariably receive the
epithet vulgar or m echanical), who believe in
M arx own characterisation (in the preface to
Capital) of his m aterialist relationship with Hegel.
But if knowledge is considered in itself, if it m ust
be applied to itself, and if th at is the real interpre
tation of Marx, Lukacs can state th at it is com
mon knowledge th at M arx himself conceived this
idea of w riting a dialectics. For such is Lukacs
understanding of Marx even if he did not con
ceive of such a plan, he would have had to do so.
Fortunately and despite the vulgar Engels, Lukacs
has arrived. But he is modest. In his Preface he
does not promise this dialectics. N ot yet. He only
proposes to open up a discussion on the dialectical
method to establish the real relationship between
Marx and Hegel.
Such a claim deserved more attention from the
Third International. Mere refutation did not go
far enough in answering so am bitious an enter
prise. It did not allow the dem onstration of
its organic kinship with the conception shared
by various groups of com m unist intellectuals, but
particularly with the attacks of bourgeois intellec
tuals against dialectical materialism. Of these I
shall mention only Karl M annheim, Lukacs former
friend.
Mannheim also came from the neo-Kantian
circle of Berlin, Heidelburg and Freiburg, along
with Lukacs and Korsch. But, as against these, he
did not join the Communist Party. He remained
a bourgeois. He consequently did not have to dis
guise his neo-Kantianism with M arxist phrase
ology. He had no complex preventing him from
openly developing what remained more or less
hidden w ith the Korsch of those days and Lukacs.
It is revealing th at 1922 was the year he had
26

published his Structural Analysis o f the Theory


o f Knowledge from which he developed to elabo
rate Sociology o f Knowledge. This conception,
proceeds, just as all of H istory and Class Con
sciousness and K orschs books do, from the prob
lem of the relationship between being and con
sciousness, object and subject. But M annheim is
m ore consistent: at the point where as we shall
see Lukacs stops half-way, he goes further, so
far as to raise consciousness (and w ith it, the
intellectuals) to such a determ inant position th a t
the sociology of knowledge can take finished form.
But this difference between Lukacs and Mannheim
is n o t fundam ental. I t is only quantitative. Therein
lies the umbilical cord which theoretically links
Lukacs to M annheim, th at is to the bourgeoisie.
This is a brief sketch of the fram ework in which
Lukacs book m ust be placed. It is p a rt of a huge
a ttem p t to take the labour movement beyond the
limits of M arxist dogmatism. Exactly the same
as the present attem pts. This explains Lukacs
attraction nowadays. A critique of his book is
therefore as pressing as a t the time of its
appearance.

On the Dialectics of Nature


As he prom ised in the Preface, Lukacs straight
away launches a frontal attack on Engels. Under
various form s and on different subjects, this attack
really constitutes the pivot of his book. His pre
tention to present M arxs real thought against
the dogm atists thus takes the form of a separa
tion, if n o t an opposition, between M arx and
Engels. This attem pt, which in places becomes
really savage, unmasks and characterizes his funda
m ental position.
Obviously, from this point of view, the first
target is precisely the dialectic in nature, developed
in particular by Engels; for it is on the rejection
or recognition of th e dialectics in nature th a t ones
conception of the essence of dialectics depends.
So Lukacs writes :
The misunderstandings that arise from Engels
account of dialectics can in the main be put down
to the fact that Engelsfollowing Hegels mistaken
leadextended the method to apply also to nature.
(Op cit, note p. 24)
We note in passing th a t Lukacs here puts
Hegel in the dock alongside Engels; they are
banished from the realm of those who understand
dialectics. This gives us an idea of the size of the
horse m ounted by the real dialectician, Lukacs !
The problem of the dialectics of nature is of
capital im portance. It is no accident th at an
entire legion of theoreticians has been attack
ing, and today w ith redoubled effort, dialectics
in nature. Particularly active in this attack are
certain so-called left intellectuals who in other
fields have a rath er suspect predilection for dia
lectics. The basis of the problem rests in this,
th a t those who reject the dialectic in nature are
opposed to its universality, to the fact th a t the
dialectic and its laws are inherent in existence
no m atter w hat form it takes. They only recog
26

nize it in thought, or in society made by man.


W hat emerges clearly from this conception is
th at it makes the dialectic derive from man, as
his creation, and thus leaves the door wide open
to idealism. In fact, this is the foundation of
idealism. For, at one blow, those who deny dia
lectics in nature establish a dualism: on the one
hand there is society, and thought, where dialectics
are valid, and on the other hand there is nature
where there is no dialectic. So this dualism rejects
as a principle the organic unity of the world, the
universe. Hence, inevitably, we arrive at idealism,
since the unity of the world, the unity of the
universe, rests in its m ateriality, as the slandered
Engels explained.
The supporters of this position are particularly
m odest and laconic when the question is asked:
if there is no dialectic in nature, w hat then is to
be p u t in its place? As far as Lukacs is concerned
he quite simply refuses to answer the question.
This great dialectician excludes the examination
of nature from his field of investigation. Is it not
surprising th at the one who claims to explain
the foundations of dialectics treats nature as
a negligible quantity? To the decisive question,
by w hat m ethod m ust we begin to explain nature,
Lukacs answers, U nfortunately, it is n o t possible
to undertake a detailed analysis of these questions
here. (Ibid p. 24.)
I m ust immediately add th at it remained im pos
sible throughout his lifetime. In other words, his
position against dialectics in nature rem ained
fundamentally the same.
Now if there is no dialectic in nature, there are
n o t many avenues left open only two possibili
ties: either run back to God in his theological or
scientific form, or adapt the developed concep
tion based on New tons mechanics, behind which,
again, God can be found. Lukacs carefully avoids
this pitfall by renouncing any explanation. But we
shall follow him right into his last retreat.
On w hat basis does he oppose the dialectic in
nature? Because:
the crucial determinants of dialecticsthe inter
action of subject and object, the unity of theory
and practice . . . etc.are absent from our
knowledge of nature. (Ibid)
A lm ost as m any m istakes as there are words!
Firstly because these relations are n o t the crucial
determ inants of dialectics. They raise precisely
the problem of the opposition between materialism
and idealism: in themselves subject and object
can have as m uch an idealist relationship as a
m aterialist one.. Consequently, they can be given
a crucial place in dialectics only on condition th a t
the dialectic is envisaged only as a m ethod of
thought, born and developed in itself. Effectively
this is Lukacs conception.
He sets out his aim :
We must extract the practical essence of the
theory, starting from the theory and from its
relation to its object.
(This passage is wrongly translated in the English
edition p. 18.)
Fourth International

Winter 1972/73

F or this reason he attacks Engels writings. He


finds th a t
this aspect is nowhere treated in them. . . . He
contrasts the ways in which concepts are formed
in dialectics as opposed to metaphysics.' (Ibid, p. 20.)
If we strip this statem ent of its terrible neoKantian slang, the unfortunate thing, according to
Lukacs, rests in this: Engels opposes th e dialectic
which is in the essence of things to a m ethod
which purports to exist within itself. Now, Lukacs
continues: in the dialectical m ethod, the m ost
vital interaction (is) the dialectical relation between
subject and object in the process of history, and
Engels error is this, th a t in A nti-D uhring, this
problem is not even m entioned . . . let alone given
the prom inence it deserves. (Ibid). But the subjectobject relationship is the decisive question of
materialism . Engels has a firm m aterialist position
in this sphere, and it is this position Lukacs
attacks in reproaching Engels for not diluting the
m aterialist relationship between subject and object
into an indeterm inate, supposedly dialectical rela
tionship.
Finally, it is false to say th a t these determ ina
tions do not exist in our knowledge of natu re.
Some com m ent is required here: Lukacs speaks
of a knowledge of natu re which he accuses of
not being dialectical. The ignorance of the natural
sciences a t a tim e when they are bringing major
discoveries definitively proving th at our knowledge
of nature, and consequently nature itself, can only
be dialectical such crass ignorance is rath er sur
prising in a corrector of Engels and Hegel.
Probably to correct this crying error of his youth,
Lukacs later condescended to recognize the dia
lectic in the natural sciences. But as to nature
itself, for him it rem ains non-dialectical. Finally,
it is equally false to state th at these reciprocal,
actions do n o t exist in nature itself. I shall retu rn
to this problem . But I m ust rem ark here th a t such
a statem ent is valid only if man is excluded from
nature by mechanically opposing him to it.
To give a sounder base to his hostility to the
dialectics of nature, Lukacs undertakes a syste
m atic attack against the natural sciences. From the
fact th a t the sciences begin to examine facts by
isolating them , this illustrious dialectician deduces
th a t they only busy them selves w ith these isolated
facts. W hereas it is well known - and Lenin
showed this in M aterialism and Empirio-Criticism
th at physicists, chemists and other scholars
concerned w ith nature can only conduct their
researches as dialecticians. (It is only in the
explanations or philosophical generalizations of
their researches th at they repudiate the dialectic).
W ith this duplicity, characteristic of the greater
part of Lukacs statem ent, he quite freely assimil
ates the sciences to capitalist society.
A ccording to Lukacs facts are,
*... precisely in their objective structure the products
of a definite historical epoch, namely capitalism.
Thus when "science maintains that the manner in
which data immediately present themselves . . .
is the appropriate starting point for the formation
of scientific concepts, it thereby takes its stand
simply and dogmatically on the basis of capitalist
society.
(Ibid, p. 7.)
Political Itinerary of Lukacs (part 3)

The m ethod of scientific investigation is here


identified with fragmented thought, a product of
capitalist society. Moreover, in order to strengthen
his attack, Lukacs identifies these separate facts
with physical constants, for it m ust be borne in
mind th at scientific exactitude presupposes th at
the elements remain constant (Ibid, No. p. 2425). Here we have an extraordinary confusion, the
result first of all of a preconceived hostility to
the dialectic and the natural sciences, and then
of ignorance. The notion of a constant in science
is not at all the same as facts imagined by Lukacs
to be rigid and immovable. W hat is more, the
fundamental physical constants such as the speed
of light, the elementary electric charge, Plancks
constant, etc. have, in their very essence, the
eminently dialectical characteristic th a t they are
susceptible to variation; to such a point th at there
are physical theories according to which, with
time, there is a variation of these fundamental
constants. But there is an even more im portant
fact: all the great theories of m odern physics
operate w ith these fundam ental constants, and
the heart of these theories is precisely the dialectic.
Thus, constants are inseparable from the dialec
tical movement shown by the invariance of these
constants. I t is precisely the invariation of the
speed of light which has allowed us to explain the
non-constant universe by the theory of relativity,
in which the invariance of so fundam ental a
physical notion as time is abolished. Thus, by
denying the dialectics of nature, Lukacs inevitably
arrives at a mechanical, non-dialectical thought
which separates the unity of opposites by making
an absolute of one of its terms.
It could be, however, th at he was not thinking
of fundamental constants in speaking of elements
being constant. But what then does he mean by
elements? Those of Mendeleevs table or Euclidean
geometry? Precision is not the strong point of this
philosopher. In any event the closer we get to
these elem ents the more we see th a t their invari
ance is quite relative. For example the elements of
Euclidean geometry cease to be true with that of
Riehmann: in our physical universe, the latter con
forms to the curvature of space in the general
theory of relativity.
Lukacs conception of a science which sought
to grasp facts in their purity, the foundation of
this being the way in which facts are immediately
given, is a m alevolent fabrication. The whole of
quantitative mechanics, for example, is a thorough
going refutation of this statem ent. I t is precisely
this theory which grasps facts as semi-facts (if
such an expression may be used), and which ela
borates a m athematical symbolism to take account
of facts incomprehensible in their unity. Heisen
bergs famous uncertainty principle, which form u
lates the unity of an undulatory and a t the same
time corpuscular movement of particles by an
uncertainty of their relations, well expresses the
dialectic of nature and unm asks Lukacs. The
author of H istory and Class Consciousness wrote
his book at a time when the theory of relativity
at least was known to the general public.
Lukacs anti-dialectical m anner of opposing,
27

from this point of view, society to nature appears


here even more clearly; he declares th at the
natural sciences m ust eliminate contradictions,
whereas contradictions in the social sciences reflect
actually existing contradictions.
The methodology of the natural sciences . . .
rejects the idea of contradiction and antagonism
in its subject matter.
(Ibid, p. 10.)
In social reality, on the other hand,
These contradictions are not a sign of the imperfect
understanding of society . . . (but) . . . belong in
an insoluble manner to the nature of reality itself.
(Ibid.)
Lukacs here maintains and tends to reinforce a
dualism between society and nature. According to
him, w ith nature there is no contradiction in the
essence of reality itself'. He avoids stating, how
ever, his conception of a nature w ithout contra
diction, well knowing th a t in th a t case it could
only be mechanical. I t would be useless to discuss
such a reactionary view in the second half of the
tw entieth century, just as it was a t the time of its
form ulation. W hat should be stressed, however,
in Lukacs dem and th a t the natural sciences
m ust elim inate contradictions or at least tend
tow ards this, is th a t it coincides with Einsteins
dogmatic position in his famous discussion with
Niels Bohr and his school.
Einstein then insisted upon the necessity to
overcome the contradictions in quantitative
m echanics in the sense of an absolute determ in
ism, whereas Bohr and his school, in introducing
the dialectical concept of com plem entarity anji
arguing against such determ inism , fell into the
inverse extrem e of agnosticism; Louis de Broglie
tried, drawing inspiration from Einstein, to get
out of the impasse w ith a sharpened idealism
through his conception of a sub-quantitative field.
It was no accident th at official soviet physics
under Stalin followed de Broglie. Lukacs instinct,
in this problem as in so many others, preceded
the Stalinist bureaucracy by a long way. Moreover,
nor was it an accident th a t Soviet scholars who
tried to develop the dialectical conception of
nature were w itch-hunted under Stalin.
'T he first attem pt, to my knowledge, to inte
grate the recent results and theories of science
into th e dialectics of nature is th at developed by
R obert Havemann in his work at Berlins Hum
boldt U niversity (Robert Havemann, Dialektik
Ohne Dogma, H am burg Row ohlt 1964) but
Havemann was severely criticized and driven
from the University by the IJlbricht bureaucracy.
(Nevertheless, I m ust point out th at if Havemman
sets out the dialectic of nature, he ceases to be a
dialectician when he discusses the problems of
society, liberty, m orality, etc. It is the same as
Lukacs dualism, but in the inverse sense: dialec
tics in nature, no dialectics in society. Its basis is
equally a negative relation to materialism).
Once Lukacs has refused to recognize the dia
lectics of nature, once the dualism of his concept
is defined, this dualism will grow throughout the
book. I t orientates Lukacs thought (and of course
28

the readers) tow ards the real spheres of the dia


lectic, society and more particularly knowledge,
human thought. Therein, again, can be seen the
organic kinship binding him to Mannheim: there,
the dialectic, supposed to exist only in its human
determ ination, dialectical materialism, and even
Hegels dialectic give way to speculation. The dia
lectic, as the general laws of motion of m atter
and society, and of thought inherent in these, dis
appears and in its place appear categories. Lukacs
arbitrarily chooses them as fruits of knowledge,
but goes very carefully in th at they are appar
ently very dialectical categories. W ith this
wretched duplicity, he uses these fixed categories
as if they were the dialectic. These categories
replace m aterialist analysis and of course, thus
suppress the dialectic in the name of the dialectic.
These categories of praxis, the subject-object
relationship, totality, etc., give him full rein.
Quite naturally, in this he clashes w ith Hegel
who, in his Logic resolutely condemned categories
in themselves :
. . . as pure and simple forms distinct from the
content, they (categories) are taken in a determina
tion which stamps them with the seal of finity, and
renders us unable to understand the truth which is
infinite in itself.
So one of Lukacs greatest discoveries is the
category of totality (very dialectical!) which he
uses as a card-player uses the joker. From this
standpoint, he condemns, for example, the sciences
which only examine facts instead of looking at
totality, etc.

From the Rejection of Materialism


to Vulgar Humanism
If, unlike Lukacs, who uses this category with
out ever defining or, still less, clearly establishing
w hat determ ines it, we analyse his own attitude
tow ards this totality, we get quite a surprise. In
fact, the rejection of the dialectic in nature, by
establishing a dualism in the conception of the
world, destroys its unity. So the famous totality
dem anded by Lukacs is destroyed by his own
needs. The development of such a conception
has its own logic. The more the natural sciences
develop, the more this dualism becomes a grow
ing gap between one thought reserved for society
and another reserved for nature. In the first con
ception, there is a division and then opposition
introduced into dialectical materialism, which not
only prevents dialectical materialism from integrat
ing the results of the sciences into its develop
m ent, but, moreover, declares its weakness as a
global conception. Such a view m ust inevitably
be presented as anthropocentrism .
Lukacs writes,
Hegel does perceive clearly at times that the
dialectics of nature can never become anything
more than a dialectics of movement witnessed by
the detached observer, as the subject cannot be
integrated into the dialectical process, at least not
at the stage reached hitherto.
This anthropocentrism , according to which the
real dialectic is th at in which the subject is inte
Fourth Internationa!

Winter 1972/73

grated, i.e., the bearer of the dialectic is man,


necessarily and ineluctably ends w ith the category
of m an in general, and founders in th at flat hum an
ism so dear to Lukacs. From here it is b u t a short
step to transform M arx into a vulgar hum anist,
one which Lukacs easily takes and was to
develop later: at the end of his life he busied
himself writing a M arxist ontology (?) based on
hum an existence.
But a t the very time Lukacs anthropocentrism
appeared and developed, th e sciences, particularly
astrophysics, biochem istry, and biology, liquidated
anthropocentrism w ith supporting proof. Even if,
a t the tim e Lukacs w rote his book, th e possibility
of life on other stellar systems, i.e. the organic
unity of the universe, had still n o t been dem on
strated , the deeply reactionary character of his
opinion comes o u t quite clearly. It throw s back the
scientific conception of the world to th a t of the
19th century, and w ith the help of such a con
ception, transform s dialectical m aterialism into
anthropocentrism .
Lukacs fractious
attitu d e
tow ards the sciences, arts and m odern literature,
just as m uch as his reduction of dialectical
materialism to a flat, vulgar humanism, an attitude
so well know n today, is thus already condensed,
and n o t only in germ, in H istory and Class Con
sciousness. One can recognize th at intim ate nostal
gia w ith regard to the bourgeoisie of the 19th
century which was so great, so fine, so m uch less
decadent. . . .
But in Lukacs position expressed above we
find yet another thing. We find the theoretical key
to this viewpoint in the form of a mechanical
separation, and therefore opposition, between man
and nature: a man stripped of nature, and a
dehum anized nature. It is absolutely wrong to
abstract man from nature as Lukacs does through
out his book. It is doubly wrong then to affirm
th a t in the movem ent of nature, man (the subject,
as Lukacs says) is not and was n o t integrated.
The developm ent of the relationship between man
and nature is a central problem of dialectical
materialism , m ore particularly of historical
materialism. The b irth and development of man,
emerging from the animal world, passing from a
state of identity with nature to a state which is
distinct from nature but not breaking the unity
with it, has been a long process flowing entirely
from the dialectic of nature itself. In the course
of this- process, in which, contrary to Lukacs
statem ent, there has been an uninterrupted in ter
action between man and nature, it is the second
which produced the first, but not in an autom atic
way. A nd this interaction has not yet ceased.
W hat changed w ith the birth and developm ent
of man is n o t this interaction b u t its content.
Marx and Engels dem onstrated and m odern
palaeontology confirms this analysis in its general
line th a t the b irth of man is based at the point
where man intervened in the dialectical movement
of nature by his transform ation of nature itself. . . .
But the unity of man and nature does not not
cease to exist by this transform ation, i.e. produc
tion. In fact a new phase is then opened up in
the history of nature in which one of the elements
Political Itinerary of Lukacs (part 3)

of nature, man, undertakes a long struggle for the


dom ination of all the other elements, including
man himself. This struggle is itself developed in a
process of dialectical unity in which nature,
changing through the action of man, constantly
acts as a source, inspiration and stim ulant to new
developments by man himself. This dialectical
interaction constitutes the whole of the develop
m ent of, among other things, hum an knowledge.
But this long process knows no subject, th at
asexual (?) jargon of philosophy. Man (subject)
did not emerge from nature as such, b u t by trans
forming nature through production. H ere we m ust
consider the meaning of M arxs famous preface
to A Contribution to the Critique o f Political
Economy:
In the social production of their existence, men
inevitably enter into social relations, which are
independent of their will, namely relations of pro
duction appropriate to a given stage in the
development of their material forces of production.
(1971 edition, p. 20.)
Production, as the transform ation of nature in a
struggle tow ards controlling it, is therefore the
decisive act by which man is born, and differenti
ates himself from nature, and certain determ ined
social relations. Man, by his very essence, is
social and the forms of society constitute the
necessary m ediation between him and nature.
Inversely, if production is the act by which man
distinguishes himself from nature, it is th at same
production which links him to nature, as its
element. This organic unity between man and
nature is constantly reproduced, although its con
tent is in perpetual change, in the direction of the
domination of nature by man.
The dialectics of nature alone allow us to grasp
the organic unity of the universe, the unity
not identity between man and nature. The point
at which this unity is welded is the foundation
of historical materialism, conceived not simply
as an explanation of history w ritten by man b u t
as the m aterialist and dialectical conception of
the development of th at species of nature called
man. If Lukacs rejects the dialectic of nature, he
does so the better to falsify historical materialism.

Lukacs Attacks Historical Materialism


Abolishing the scientific foundation of his
torical materialism, Lukacs undertakes a theore
tical explanation in which this m aterialist concep
tion of history is valid only for capitalist society.
In a number of places in his book, he develops
an argument according to which, on the one
hand, historical materialism will no longer be
valid, in a socialist society, and on the other
hand, its application is extremely difficult for pre
capitalist societies; although this latter application
has been not w ithout success (and) at any
rate . . . has resulted in some very interesting
discoveries'. (Op cit, p. 232). Condescendingly, he
gives Engels a cavalier pat on the head; well done,
son. You produced some interesting results, but
all in all, you understood neither Hegel nor Marx,
and even then you were misled. As the reader will
29

note, Lukacs does not attack Engels all the time:


he is sometimes indulgent w ith him.
But why does this great man insist on limiting
historical m aterialism essentially to the epoch of
capitalism? Why is this m ethod valid especially
to th at period? In several studies in the book,
Lukacs puts forw ard and develops his argument.
I t is founded on a particular conception of w hat
historical materialism is. To present it in the
form ulations of Lukacs himself, we have plenty
to choose from ; we could compose an ample selec
tion w ith his characterizations. We will begin as
follows :
It is not the primacy of economic motives in
historical explanation that constitutes the decisive
difference between Marxism and bourgeois thought,
but the point of view of totality. (p. 27.)
We will pass over m otives and totality, and
continue. According to Lukacs, dialectics did not
become the algebra of revolution simply by giving
. . . it a m aterialist t w i s t . . . In Marx, the dialec
tical m ethod aims a t understanding society as a
whole, (pp. 27-28.)
Even the m aterialist polemics were
against the epigones of Hegel, and less
the m aster w h o . . . stood m uch closer
than Marx himself may have realised . . .

directed
than at
to Marx
(p. 34.)

So it seems th a t M arx himself was unaware of


his intim ate links with Hegel. Fortunately Lukacs
is here to explain that, contrary to M arx opinion,
the m aterialist overthrow of dialectics was only a
secondary, negligible act. F or w hat is wrong in
Hegel was criticised by M arx who then extended
the system . . . (p. 44.)
H ere we have an attem pt to present Marxism as
idealism. It is done by establishing a line of
peaceful continuity between Hegel and Marx.
From this idyll, every trace of split, every break
in continuity has disappeared. More precisely,
th a t w retched m aterialism is expelled from M arx
ism to allow for the reign of totality.
For,
when confronted by the overwhelming resources
. . . which . . . the bourgeoisie possesses . . . the only
.effective superiority of the proletariat, its only
decisive weapon, is its ability to see the social
totality as a concrete historical totality, (p. 197.)
H ere, in Lukacs conception, appears historical
m aterialism for, according to him, The m ost
im portant task of historical materialism is to
deliver a precise judgement on the capitalist social
system, to unmask capitalist society. (Op cit, p.
224.)
Elsewhere he defines it as the self-knowledge
of capitalist society, (p. 224.)
So it gradually appears that, according to
Lukacs, historical m aterialism is not the general
revolutionary theory and m ethod for the under
standing of the laws of history past and recent
through its determ ination of the mode and rela
tions of production (and classes) in which, by its
own internal laws, is inscribed the mission of the
proletariat to bring down the bourgeois order.
30

Lukacs launches an attack on the basis of this


M arxist concept. H e dilutes this scientific deter
mination into a vague concept of totality. Then,
when he sets about defining its meaning, this
totality is concretised as being made up of
interhum an relations. On this basis he criticises
(from this aspect wrongly) bourgeois historical
sciences for being incapable of comprehending
th a t the real nature of socio-historical institutions
is th at they consist of relations between men . . .
(which is) . . . the true source of historical under
standing. (p. 48.)
F or Lukacs, these relations between m en
appear as such, in themselves, as though they are
not m aterialised as definite relations of production.
Having done this, Lukacs then strives to put an
equals sign between Marxism and bourgeois
theories by speaking about the relation of his
torical materialism to comparable trends in bour
geois thought (such as Max W ebers ideal types),
(p. 81.)
W hat is obvious is the intrinsic relationship of
Lukacs totality and his undefined relations
between m en (undefined, hence arbitrary) and
W ebers equally arbitrary typology.
Since knowledge of this totality and its rela
tions between m en is particularly difficult within
capitalism, the means of such knowledge had to
be given by historical materialism.
It emerged o n l y . . . because for the proletariat
the total knowledge of its class situation was a
vital necessity, a m atter of life and death, (p. 20.)
So it emerged as an attem pt at self-perfection
by knowledge, for, with the particularly difficult
conditions w ithin capitalism, a better m ethod of
thought was required. So Lukacs thinks. From this
standpoint he gives his explanation of capitalism.
I t appeared as a social order the essential charac
teristic of which the one at the centre of the
relations between m en which realises totality
is reification.
So there we are, slap in the middle of Lukacs
theory, adopted by all of todays petty-bourgeois
theoreticians. For page after page, Lukacs explains
th at reification finds its basis in the division of
labour, but forgets to qualify the definite class
nature. H e even adds,
If we do not emphasise the class character of the
state in this context, this is because our aim is o
understand reification as a general phenomenon
constitutive of the whole of bourgeois society.
(p. 210.)
We are entering a particular world where
everything, w ithout exception, is reified; whereas
for Marx, the propertied class delighted in alien
ation as its own power (The H oly Family) whilst
the working class feel destroyed by it, Lukacs
devotes an entire book to explaining reification
as the essence of the bourgeois order, of which
everyone is equally the victim.
In Lukacs own little world, the following are
reified in turn. State officials including of course
those in high posts of authority, who suffer
terribly: Lukacs the hum anist therefore com
miserates over the fate of these unfortunate agents
Fourth International

Winter 1972/73

of the bourgeoisie (such as Nixon today). The


m odern theories of a reified technocracy find their
basis here. Then comes science, equally a victim
of reification and debarred from understanding
. . . the social character of its own m aterial base
(p. 105). So Lukacs does not speak of educated
lackeys of the bourgeoisie, as though Lenin had
never thus characterised those reified wretches.
But according to Lukacs, the characteristics of
reification are m ost grotesque in journalism ,
where prostitution and lack of conviction are the
apogee of capitalist reification, (p. 100.)
Jacques Fauvet, the poor devil. Let us be
hum anistic and understanding; he is n o t conscious,
he is reified!
We can now understand th a t to unravel all
of this reified knowledge, to cure hum an knowledge
of this sickness, we need a remedy. F or Lukacs this
rem edy is historical materialism. For this reason,
according to him, it is linked to capitalist society.
Reification of knowledge as a general sickness,
and historical m aterialism as a general cure go
together and properly speaking belong to the
bourgeois order. I t should be considered.
Even the definition is, historical m aterialism in
its classical form . . . means the self-knowledge
of capitalist society. (Op cit, p. 229.)
The game is over. By means of his idealist
m ethod, raising the phenomenon of the reification
of thought to the level of an abstract generality,
identical w ith itself in all men, and endowing it
w ith autonomy, historical materialism, now dis
torted , is presented as a theory of knowledge.
M annheim had the same preoccupation and the
same aim. If he ended up establishing a sociology
of knowledge openly declared as such, Lukacs does
exactly the same thing w ith historical materialism,
b u t as a falsifier and distorter. Eventually, histori
cal m aterialism as such will disappear from his
investigations and its place will be taken by a sort
of sociology of literature.

Consciousness and Knowledge


The content of so anti-M arxist a conception of
historical m aterialism as a special theory of
knowledge to unravel reified thought is clearly
the dissolution of the class antagonism between
bourgeoisie and proletariat. Lukacs takes the
bourgeoisie not as a class w ith its own interests,
b u t as a group of reified individuals: and, as it
is reified, bourgeois thought observes economic
life consistently and necessarily from the stand
point of the individual capitalist, (p. 63.)
This is particularly untrue for the working class
faced w ith a very precise political economy of the
bourgeois state, and a no less precise class
position of economic thought in the bourgeoisies
lackey scholars. Finally, with a new trick I
repeat, a characteristic of Lukacs he mixes up
two very different notions: knowledge and con
sciousness. It is well known, since the days of
M arx and Engels, th a t the bourgeoisie, because of
its class interests is incapable of an objective
knowledge of society; Lukacs naturally and
completely wrongly then concludes th a t there
Political Itinerary of Lukacs (part 3)

are limits to its class consciousness, incarnated in


its parties, states and all its institutions, which
prevent the bourgeoisie from reaching objective
knowledge. But according to Lukacs, the whole
ideological history of the bourgeoisie is a des
perate resistance . . . to a real understanding of its
class situation, (p. 66.)
But the opposite is true: th a t history is pre
cisely one of a struggle to impose its own
bourgeois class consciousness on the whole of
society, on every class. Lukacs completely over
throws the real facts of the class struggle. So
w hat does he want? Where is he going? We shall
see.
Since, according to him, the struggle of the
bourgeoisie to reach an understanding (!) is des
perate, and since historical materialism is very
good theory and knowledge, the bourgeoisie is
unable to dispense with the scientific m ethod of
the proletariat, adm ittedly in a distorted form.*
(pp. 227-228.)
Adm ittedly . . .
In this light, revisionists do n o t appear as
labour lieutenants of capitalism , but represent
the fact of the capitulation of the bourgeoisie
before historical m aterialism , (p. 228.)
He enumerates several signs of this capitulation,
such as the idea of conscious organisation of the
economy by the trusts (!), planned economy (con
ceived) as a theoretical experim ent (pp. 66-67) etc,
and to conclude, . . . the capitulation of the class
consciousness of the bourgeoisie before th at of the
proletariat is striking, (p. 75. I have slightly
altered the published English translation to con
form to the next paragraph, Trans.)
Now what is striking, is th at Lukacs regards as
a gain for the proletariat, the presence, in the
ranks and around the Labour Movement, of
bourgeois scholars who have in no way broken
with bourgeois ideology, b u t only concretise the
penetration of the bourgeoisie w ithin the Labour
Movement. But de te fabula narratur (this story
is about you), for here is exposed the intim ate
meaning of Lukacs entire thought. H e joined the
Labour Movement w ithout ever belonging to it;
it looks just as if, on the plane of ideas, he could
only capitulate before Marxism, which appeared to
him to be a form of thought. W hen he discusses
it, he can do so only according to his bourgeois
nature. In this false consciousness, reality is over
thrown, and bourgeois consciousness appears
unconsciously. This is not psychology. Lukacs the
idealist identifies consciousness w ith knowledge:
he diagnoses its general sickness, reification: and
then proposes historical m aterialism as a universal
remedy. So there we have the great class concili
ation, and Lukacs bourgeois nature rests precisely
in th a t organically conciliatory attitude. It deter
mines his views on the proletariats struggle.
But before examining his reactionary views on
the struggles of the working class, we m ust raise a
fundam ental problem of historical materialism.
This is the confusion Lukacs makes of knowledge
and consciousness. H e identifies them , for, as a
31

perfect idealist, he regards them both as fruits of


thought alone, as autonom ous instances, which
have no determ ination or m aterial form. Now
already hum an knowledge is closely bound to the
fundam ental struggle between man and nature. It
is both the product and the means of th at struggle,
these two functions being in dialectical relation
ship throughout the developm ent of humanity.
Since this struggle can only take place in the
framework of definite social relations, the so-called
social or hum an sciences themselves have the
m aterial developm ent of hum anity for their base.
M arx and Engels explained on several occasions
th at hum an knowledge is a long process and th at
mankind . . . inevitably sets itself only such tasks as
it is able to solve, since closer examination will
alway show that the problem itself arises only
when the material conditions for its solution are
already present or at least in the course of forma
tion. (Preface, Contribution to the Critique of
Political Economy, p. 21.)
Class consciousness is something very different
from knowledge. As a finished idealist Lukacs
understands nothing whatsoever about it: himself
a representative of the bourgeoisie in the w orkers
ranks. He spirits away the essential. For him,
class consciousness is also a product of speculative
thought. In reality, however, it is by expressing
its interests in and through struggle th a t a definite
social group determ ined by its place in the social
relations constitutes itself as a class. In a long
historical process, through its struggles, the class
becomes conscious of its own interests. But it does
not become conscious any old way, a t school or
through reading. It is only through its successive
struggles, necessarily giving them an organizational
form more and more adapted to its interests, that
a class is form ed and thus becomes conscious. Its
class consciousness is not some sort of cognisant
thought, b u t the expression of its interests em
bodied in its independent organization, in its
institutions. The class as such is m aterialized in its
organization, and cannot exist if it does not have
class consciousness. Thus, class consciousness
only exists in its m aterially incarnate form, and not
as thought suspended in the air like Mohammeds
coffin. For this reason the highest level of his
torical m aterialism , the m ethod and theory of the
njission of the proletariat, rests in the problems of
organization of th at class in which the whole of
theory is concentrated. It is not by chance that
Lukacs dissolves class consciousness into a selfknowledge of society and spirits away the decisive
problem, th at of organization.

On the Struggle of the Proletariat


for its Emancipation
Bourgeois thought and consciousness are pre
sented by Lukacs as given once and for all. W ith
out the material base of th at consciousness,
w ithout the developm ent of the class struggle, it
thus appears uniform. For Lukacs, imperialism,
the highest stage of capitalism , does not exist in
the evolution of bourgeois class consciousness.
Thought, consciousness, are not determ ined by
existence. The very ideas of evolution completely
escape him. He then applies this conception of a
class consciousness given once and for all, w ithout
32

development and w ithout history, to th at of the


proletariat.
He writes,
The essence of the class struggle of the pro
letariat can in fact be defined by its unity of theory
and practice, so that knowledge leads to action
without transition. (p. 225.)
The necessary m ediation of the organization as
the em bodim ent of consciousness and, as such,
placed a t the centre of the interaction between
theory and practice, is sw ept under the carpet.
This is even clearer when he writes, The relation
ship between class consciousness and class situa
tion is really very simple. (p. 70.)
It can be seen that, in the case of the proletariat,
Lukacs commits the same idealist error, b u t in an
inverse form. W hereas for the bourgeoisie class
consciousness if it existed was self-contained,
with the proletariat it flows directly, w ith no
m ediation, from its knowledge of its own situation.
The common ro o t of these apparently opposed
views is idealism. Since the bourgeoisie is incap
able of reaching an objective knowledge of reality,
it is, according to Lukacs, equally incapable of class
consciousness. Since the proletariat alone can have
such knowledge, class consciousness comes to it
quite naturally. This mechanistic idealism con
stitutes Lukacs general position in problems
relating to the struggle and organization of the
proletariat.
The proletariat constituted itself as a class when,
through its struggles, it defined itself in relation to
all other classes by forming its independent organ
ization. This was a process of repeated, often
blind struggles going as far, for example as the
destruction of machines in the course of which
the workers progressively recognized their real
interests and the necessity to unite. Class con
sciousness thus appeared on the basis of workers
struggles being materialized in organization. Class
consciousness is not an autonom ous thought, but
is acquired in and through struggle. Moreover, it
is not disembodied but is summed up in the
organization. This is its necessary form of exist
ence. Reality is diam etrically opposed to Lukacs
idealist notions. The class consciousness of the
proletariat is not a knowledge, it is in no way
identified w ith knowledge conceived as a collection
of notions in ones head. From the beginning
of its form ation and throughout its development,
it is m aterially determ ined, in the last analysis,
by the relations of production, by their degree
of development, as m uch as by the material gains
of the proletariat in its struggle. It is not, however,
a direct product of these relations but the result
of experiences made in the class struggle itself,
appearing as the generalization of them. This
appearance and developm ent of consciousness,
sustained and materialized in the gains of the
struggle, in w orkers conquests, is itself material
and not spiritual: it is founded in organization.
The evolution and analysis of proletarian class
consciousness do not constitute the object of an
abstract investigation of its reified knowledge, as
Lukacs pretends, but the concrete historical pro
cess of the struggle of th at class against the
Fourth International

Winter 1972/73

bourgeoisie, through the m aterial historical stages


of its gains and organized em bodim ent: trade
union, party, w orkers state.
The working class could only be formed
beginning from its imm ediate interests, against the
exploiters, on the basis of its position in produc
tion. Its first step tow ards independence was
achieved w ith the forming of trade unions, which
represent the consciousness of the proletariat with
regard to its own interests against those of the
bourgeoisie in the relations of production. Con
sequently if Lukacs states th a t the relation
between its class position and its class conscious
ness w ith that stage of its development, i.e.
w ith trade union. (It should be noted th a t the
form ation of the trade unions itself was a historical
process of difficult, m aterial struggles.) H e limits
it to the level of trade union consciousness, in
contradiction to several of his own statem ents.
Lukacs m echanistic and idealist thinking here falls
into its own contradictions. In fact, this trade
union level of consciousness, whilst real, is still
limited. It only reaches as far as the form ulation
of the p roletariats interests within the bourgeois
order. Left a t this stage the proletariat is still
politically dependent on the bourgeoisie. The
relation betw een its class position and its class
consciousness, contrary to w hat Lukacs says, is
so far from simple th a t a long struggle was
necessary, w ith all its experiences, for the w ork
ing class to gain its political independence by the
forming of a class party, the em bodim ent of a
higher level of consciousness.
To go beyond this stage of the developm ent of
consciousness, the proletariat needed something
qualitatively superior to the simple direct reflec
tion of its place in the relations of production and
its experience of struggles. Class consciousness is
not the simple fruit of the m aterial data of the
p roletariats position and the experiences it goes
through, and the party, em bodim ent of this con
sciousness, is not a spontaneous product of the
class, beginning w ith its daily experiences.
Such mechanical determ inism does not exist.
To liberate itself from the influence of the b our
geoisie, it had to raise itself to the level of its
historical mission: to defeat the bourgeois order,
and establish its dictatorship in order to build a
classless society. This historical mission was and
is inscribed in the internal laws of capitalism it
self. But by the very fact of their existence, these
laws do not produce such a raised level of con
sciousness. It was still necessary to integrate with
the p roletariats class consciousness, in a critical
way, the achievem ents of all human knowledge by
going beyond them (Hegels dialectics and classi
cal political economy for example). Marx and
Engels accomplished this work, by fusing the
critical elaboration of the achievements of the
developm ent of all hum an knowledge w ith the
experience acquired by the proletariat, thus forg
ing M arxist theory. But on the other hand, they
did not do it, and would not have been able to
do it, as drawing-room scholars. It was a struggle
w ith an intim ate connection with the struggle
Polltlcal Itinerary of Lukacs (part 3)

and experiences of the proletariat being m aterial


ized in organization.
The German Ideology can only be understood
as the programme Of the organization founded by
Marx and Engels at the very m om ent of writing
it the Communist Correspondence Committees.
The C om m unist M anifesto and the Communist
League are inseparable from each other, and it is
only thus that they were a decisive stage in the
development of the proletariats consciousness.
A t the same time, they could only be born at that
definite stage of the development of the relations
of production and of the experiences of the pro
letariats struggle: whilst integrating with these
the developments of hum an knowledge. This dia
lectical relationship of the developments of class
consciousness is not given once and for all, at the
birth of the party, for the development of theory
itself is a function of the class struggle and its
experiences. The necessity of the dictatorship of
the proletariat is form ulated in the M anifesto, b u t
Marx could analyse the w orkers state, and thus
develop theory, only by beginning with the ex
periences of the Paris Commune. On the other
hand, theory and its development are inseparable
from organization and only thus do they form
class consciousness, do they express the degree of
its development. Marx worked out Capital whilst
forging the First International, which embodied
a decisive stage in the developm ent of class con
sciousness.
Now Lukacs, on the other hand, presents class
consciousness as self-knowledge, some sort of
thought detached from th a t necessary material
form, organization. He also analyses it as a single
phenomenon acquired once and for all through
th at knowledge. This view, a t the same time
idealist and mechanical, breaks the unity between
the development of the class struggle and th at of
organized consciousness. Theory and practice are
dissociated, their fusion in organization has dis
appeared. Lukacs writes th a t w hether or not the
final aim remains hidden depends entirely upon
the class consciousness of the proletariat and not
on victory or defeat in isolated skirm ishes, p. 173,
authors emphasis.)
But it is precisely victories and defeats which
influence, in some cases for a long time, the con
sciousness of the proletariat, and it is impossible
to introduce such a split between the class struggle
and proletarian class consciousness. Everyone
knows th at the defeat of the German proletariat,
the destruction of its organizations and liquida
tion of militants by H itlerism signified the des
truction of its class consciousness.

A Disembodied Class Consciousness


Lukacs spirits away organization, the essential
weapon of the proletariat. A t the same time he
completely covers up the fact th a t this weapon
could and can only be won historically, in the
development of the class struggle, through bitter
battles. We can well understand why, in speaking
of determ inations of the dialectic, he repeats
totality, carefully omitting to raise contradic
33

tion. In reality there is a continuous struggle


betw een the proletariat and the bourgeoisie; class
consciousness, embodied in the party, is the prize.
This historical struggle has known its ups and
downs, it has gone through a development full of
contradictions and reverses w ith stages of pro
gressive evolution along with jumps and sharp
breaks. The relationship between class situation
and class consciousness is not simple, it is so
com plicated th at after the bourgeoisie had suc
ceeded in corrupting class consciousness, i.e. in
the Second International, Lenin devoted the rest
of his life to resolving this problem through the
difficult building of the Bolshevik Party. But
Lukacs sweeps aside W hat Is To Be Done, the
Bolshevik Party and the Third International with
a stroke of the pen. For him they have nothing
to do w ith class consciousness, which is a know
ledge of the class situation, disembodied like the
spirit, w ithout history-like God.
Having thus accomplished a complete reversal
Lukacs treats class consciousness as an immu
table ideology, floating above everything. A ccord
ing to this conception, since under capitalism reifi
cation of knowledge is the dom inant phenomenon,
the class consciousness of the proletariat is neces
sarily contam inated. Thus, Lukacs manages to dis
cover an ideological crisis of the proletariat of
which the Menshevik parties are the expression
(p. 314). Thus for Lukacs, the phenomenon of the
labour aristocracy is inadequate to explain Menshevism (p. 305). Such a statem ent, apparently
correct, is nevertheless duplicity on Lukacs part,
for its purpose is to cover up the fact that the
labour aristocracy is not the explanation of Menshevism but its material basis, the foundation of
its explanation as the foundation of its being. One
further wonders how to explain the so-called
ideological capitulation of the bourgeoisie to a
proletariat in ideological crisis.
The circle is completed: according to Lukacs,
it is not the bourgeoisie, through the interm ediary
of its reform ist lieutenants, which attacks the
labour movement. No, reform ist parties are not
the expression of the bourgeoisie within the pro
letariat, but of the proletariat and, what is more,
of its ideological crisis. Of course, if it is an ex
pression of the proletariat itself, moreover an
ideological sickness, the task to be carried out
clearly cannot be the construction of the revolu
tionary party against reformism. Instead, when
Lukacs asks the question: what is to be done?,
or as he form ulates it is it possible to make the
objective possibility of class consciousness into a
reality (p. 79), he gives the following reply:
(It is) the question of the inner transformation of
the proletariat, of its development to the stage of
its own objective historical mission. It is an ideolo
gical crisis which must be solved before a practical
solution to the worlds economic crisis can be
found.
N ot a single w ord about the party.
For someone posing as a leader of a party, it
would be a mistake to launch a frontal attack
against the party. Lukacs never commits such an
34

e rro r: always he advances his bourgeois concep


tions just up to a certain limit. Thus, in H istory
and Class Consciousness, after fundamentally
diluting class consciousness into idealism and
liquidating the party, he returns to an analysis of
party organization which is hesitant, ambiguous,
formalist.
The idealist nature of Lukacs conceptions
appears under the form of spontaneity when for
the first tim e (1921) he speaks eulogistically of
Rosa Luxemburg.
I quote:
Rosa Luxemburg grasped the spontaneous nature
of revolutionary mass actions earlier and more
clearly than many others . . . she was also quicker
to grasp the role of the party in the revolution. . .
Rosa Luxemburg perceived at a very early stage
that the organization is much more likely to be the
effect than the cause of the revolutionary process.
(P-41.)

Despite its m a t e r i a l i s t appearance, this spontaneity-ism is directly linked to an idealist and


mechanistic opinion on the supposed coincidence
between self-knowledge and proletarian class
consciousness. Organization, as the material form
of consciousness and therefore a necessary media
tion in the revolutionary process, is replaced by
a fatalistic spontaneity which, contrary to Rosa
Luxemburgs conception, rejects the previously
existing organization, namely the historical con
tinuity of proletarian consciousness, present in
every spontaneous mass action. It is no accident
if Lukacs is fundam entally hostile to the con
tinuity of the organized labour movement.
Organization thus conceived is not a weapon of
struggle for him but a sort of warehouse of
knowledge, storing it up in the measure in which
the proletariat deposits it.
So it is not surprising when he w rites: Class
consciousness is the ethics of the proletariat
. . . the true strength of the party is m oral (p. 42).
Capitalism, w ith its relations of production, its
state, its army and police, this real force,
disappears behind reification, and the party, the
organization of the strength of the proletariat and
its struggle, is presented as an ideological institu
tion.
Because, the strength of every society is . . .
a spiritual strength. A nd from this we can only be
liberated by knowledge (p. 262, authors em
phasis).
Lukacs continues, w ith regard to the revolu
tion Only ideology stands in thg way of such
opposition.
This is the voice of the liquidator, the one who
in 1919 during the dictatorship of the proletariat,
wanted to dissolve the party. The one who, after
the defeat of the revolution at the time this book
was published, was given the responsibility, with
others, of rebuilding the party. In this work he
does not simply make a total abstraction of the
real problems of the reconstruction of party at
th at time b u t develops the opposite point of
view: theoretically liquidating the party, under
Fourth International

Winter 1972/73

the form of an attem pt to transform it into an


ideological circle.
But like every idealist brought face to face
with reality Lukacs is contradictory even in his
conception of the party, alongside his liquidationist opinions he develops apparently opposed views
of an om nipotent party. According to Lukacs,
once it is founded, the revolutionary party is
complete once and for all. In one place he u tters
a correct idea: th a t from day to day experience
the w orker becomes conscious of his situation
and tasks. But in this analysis (ibid. p .317) he
speaks of the w orker as an individual. W hilst the
process of becoming conscious effectively pro
ceeds thus, this analysis covers up the essential
ppint. I t covers up the fact th a t this process
applies n o t only to the individual w orker but
above all to the class as such: Lukacs conception
is th a t once the revolutionary party is founded,
interaction between the class and its party ceases.
This is the natural consequence of his conception
of class consciousness which has no history b u t
is reduced to a com pleted knowledge. Lukacs
party imm ediately influences the action of each
individual, and consciously determ ines develop
ment. Now the central question is precisely how
it can and m ust do so. For Lukacs this question
does not exist, whereas only the correct theoretical
and practical reply to this question can allow the
construction of the party.
In fact the party can consciously determ ine de
velopm ent only by correctly understanding and
expressing w hat is already given in and through
th at development. On the one hand it cannot
ravish history, on the other it cannot make the
revolution in place of the masses. The idea th at
the finished party is autom atically destined to lead
the class is typically ultra-left and bureaucratic.
On the contrary, it m ust constantly win and win
again the confidence of the m ajority of the class.
This is the whole problem of the Transitional
Program m e of the F o u rth International and the
discussion launched by Lenins and T rotskys
Third International against the ultra-left who,
like Lukacs, took the party once founded as
sufficient to carry through the revolution. Then
again Lukacs develops such a conception a t the
very tim e the H ungarian CP is destroyed and dis
jointed, when its reconstruction is the order of
the day, in conditions where social-democracy
dom inates the great m ajority of the Hungarian
working class, after its great defeat. So it is more
than an abstraction. I t is an inverse liquidation.
The Class and Its Party
I t takes on a clearer form when Lukacs sets
out the problem s of revolution and, more pre-'
cisely, of the transition to socialism after the
revolution.
According to him It is certainly true th a t even
those groups and masses whose class situation
gives them a direct interest, only free themselves
inwardly from the old order during (and very
often only after) a revolution (p. 258).
W ith a single blow he sweeps aside M arxs
prime conclusion th a t the emancipation of the
Political Itinerary of Lukacs (part 3)

working class will be the work of the workers


themselves. In fact according to Lukacs, the party
accomplishes the revolution not leads it. In this
connection we ca n . seen not only Lukacs u ltra
leftism of th at time, but also the anticipated
justification of the bureaucracy, these tw o ele
ments being twins in a common attitude w ith
regard to the link between party and masses.
Lukacs form ulates it very precisely: The revolu
tion itself can only be accomplished by people . . .
who have become intellectually and emotionally
em ancipated from the existing system (p. 257).
There we have ultra-leftism quite ready to pass
into the service of the bureaucracy.
But he goes further still, again posing the
problem
of the relationship
between the
bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
He dares to say th at The proletariat is forced
to take power at a tim e and in a state o f m ind in
which it inwardly still acknowledges the bourgeois
social order as the only authentic and legal one
(p. 266, authors emphasis). For the proletariat
cannot possibly gain a consciousness of its
own legality through the fact of a single victory,
(p. 267).
Everything is contained in these insults to the
working class. First, for Lukacs, the workers
state in no way represents a new stage in the
development of proletarian class consciousness.
Then, this w orkers' state, in its turn, will not be
the revolutionary work of the workers themselves,
in the course of their struggles, and therefore of a
heightening of their consciousness, and the
m aterialized product of th at consciousness. It is
a pragmatic projection of the H ungarian Councils
Republic of 1919. True, in th at case the
bourgeoisie handed over power to the proletariat
without a struggle. A nd the m ajority of the
class rem ained under the influence of social
democracy which through the m outh of the trade
union bureaucracy effectively declared the dic
tatorship of the proletariat illegal. But Lukacs, in
stead of drawing M arxist conclusions, pragm ati
cally raises these facts to the level of a generalised
theory. The results are: the identification of the
trade union bureaucracy (and with it all of socialdemocracy) with the proletariat which theoreti
cally prepares the later association w ith the
Stalinist bureaucracy and the responsibility for
the defeat of its dictatorship is throw n on to the
working class.
In a theoretician, this impressionism can only
be explained by his relationship to the
bourgeoisie. In this relationship, irreconcilable
antagonism, and therefore merciless struggle,
disappear, giving way to an adm ittedly ideologi
cally opposed relationship, b u t which is resolved
by the peaceful conquest of power, obtained
through the development of knowledge.
Inevitably, Lukacs manages to justify in ad
vance, although implicity, the bureaucracy and
its theory Socialism in one country. For accord
ing to him Despite the victory gained by the pro
letariat, its struggle with the bourgeoisie is still
unequal and it will remain so until the proletariat
35

acquires the same naive confidence in the ex


clusive legality of its own system of law (p. 268).
So it is n o t the world revolution which is
necessary for victory, but a feeling of legality
which, at the outset, is here denied to the pro
letariat as if the destruction of the bourgeois state
had not been its own work. Lukacs does not deny
the proletariat the possibility of gaining this feel
ing of legality, but of course this can be done
w ithout the w orld revolution and consequently
in a single country.
To the question: w hat is required for the pro
letariat to have th a t legality? Lukacs replies: The
recognition of Soviet Russia by the bourgeois
powers . . . (is to) recognize the legitimacy of
the w orld revolution (op. cit. pp. 269-270).
So we have to ask the bourgeoisie! According
to Lukacs the proletariat has to have its work
sanctioned by the bourgeoisie! So the proletarian
revolution becomes legitimate only with that
sanction. If the world bourgeoisie was forced by
the proletariat to recognize Soviet Russia, it
never looked on the proletarian revolution as
being legitim ate.
Only a bourgeois posing as a com munist, such
as Lukacs, and the Stalinist bureaucracy could
see things in this way. We can easily recognise
not only socialism in a single country but also
peaceful co-existence.
I t is impossible for me critically to sieve through
all of Lukacs statem ents on the problems of the
class struggle and, particularly, on organization
an d the w orkers state. We need only say th a t in
his analyses there is lacking the dictatorship of
the proletariat and its functioning, instead we
have a vague ram bling about violence in general:
he never speaks of the world revolution, but
presents Soviet Russia as being com pleted when
it comes to an understanding with the bourgeoisie.
The basis of this whole book, H istory and Class
Consciousness, is an attem pt to reconcile
m aterialism
and
idealism,
proletariat
and
bourgeoisie. Lukacs is a born conciliator who in
this book, w ithout even realizing it, is preparing
to serve the Stalinist bureaucracy in which all
these reconciliations are united. He goes so far as
to form ulate concretely some im portant program
m atic points for the bureaucracy before it grasps
them itself. In his pam phlet w ritten a year later,
Lenin, he goes even further along this road.

Some Final Remarks


W ithout being able to develop a detailed
analysis, this critique would, however, be incom
plete w ithout a few remarks. The first concerns
Lukacs attem pt to give a philosophical basis to
his idealism. It is done by an attem pt to reconcile
materialism and idealism, resorting to Kant. He
defends Kant against the criticisms of Engels whom
he accuses of misunderstanding him. Putting the
subject-object relationship at the centre, and basing
himself on the conception that the dialectic is de
term ined by the subject, quite naturally he ends
up alongside Kant against Engels.
He takes a stand against a rigid opposition
between thought and being (p. 202) not quite as
Kant did, finding rather a solution w orthy of
36

Mach: It is true that reality is the criterion for the


correctness of thought. But reality is not, it
becomes and to become, the participation of
thought is needed.
So he tries to find the same bridge between
materialism and idealism of course to the benefiit of the latter th at Lenin criticized in M achs
theory of knowledge.
The second rem ark concerns Lukacs inde
scribable attitude to Rosa Luxemburg. In his
first work devoted to her, he puts Rosa Luxem
burg above everything else for example, he puts
her Accum ulation of Capital in first place, not
mentioning Lenins Imperialism.
A year later he completely changed his opinion
and launched a brutal, disloyal attack against
her just as Stalin did later, to which Trotsky
replied that for Stalin, Rosa Luxemburg is:
'An ever new and isolated figure about whom
he must in each new situation ask the question:
is she a friend or an enemy? (Trotsky, Ecrits,
vol. 1, p.330)
This evaluation applies to Lukacs too. First as
a spontaneist, Lukacs could use Rosa Luxemburg
by distorting her thought. Then Lukacs moved to
a position which crystallized in that of the
bureaucracy: from a friend, Rosa Luxemburg
became an enemy. Lukacs uses Lenin's criticism
of the Junius Pamphlet*. But if we compare the
tone used by Lenin to Lukacs, we are struck by
the latters brutal invective as against Lenins
fraternal attitude. According to Lukacs, Rosa
Luxemburg only made propaganda w ithout
organizing the party whereas Lenins criticism,
w ritten before Rosa Luxemburg became founder
of the German CP, is circum spect, characterized
by this passage:
On the whole, the Junius pamphlet is a splendid
Marxist work, and its defects are, in all probability,
to a certain extent accidental. (Collected Works,
Vol. 22, p. 306.)
Lukacs accuses Rosa Luxemburg of being a
spontaneist, of underestim ating organization,
although she had been founder of the German
Communist Party. Lukacs continues to pour in
sults on Luxemburg, for she dared criticize the
Russian revolution. But contrast this outraged
neophyte to Trotskys article Hands off Rosa
Luxemburg w ritten a long time afterwards.
There Trotsky characterizes Rosa Luxemburgs
position very differently: she . . . incorrectly
criticised very severely and in its entirety Bol
shevik policy, whilst she was in prison in 1918.
But even in this work, which counts among her
worst, we can still see her eagles Rings.
A ttacks against Engels, Rosa Luxemburg,
sometimes against Hegel, eulogistic quotations
from philosophical abortions like a Simmel, or
a Lukacs, benevolent condescension towards
Bukharin, and here and there towards Engels, an
obsequious attitude tow ards Lenin and Trotsky
th at is the style of H istory and Class Conscious
ness, w ritten in the jargon of the neo-kantians. It
is a milestone in the peaceful and natural pas
sage of Lukacs from the bourgeoisie after the
accident of revolutions-into the camp of the
Stalinist bureaucracy.
Fourth International

Winter 1972/73