Anda di halaman 1dari 13

Apotheosizing the Party: Lukcs's "Chvostismus und Dialektik"

Author(s): Lee Congdon


Source: Studies in East European Thought, Vol. 59, No. 4 (2007), pp. 281-292
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23317260
Accessed: 07-05-2015 19:43 UTC

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/
info/about/policies/terms.jsp
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content
in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship.
For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

Springer is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Studies in East European Thought.

http://www.jstor.org

This content downloaded from 129.128.216.34 on Thu, 07 May 2015 19:43:22 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Stud East Eur Thought (2007) 59:281-292


10.1007/s 11212-007-9039-2

DOI

the Party: Lukcs's

Apotheosizing
Dialektik
Lee

Chvostismus

und

Congdon

Published

online:

11 October 2007

Springer Science+Business

Abstract

Georg

Media

B.V. 2007

Lukcs's

recently

discovered

defense

of

Geschichte

und

Klassenbewusstsein, written in 1925 or 1926 in reply to critical attacks by Lszl


Rudas and Abram Deborin, is of a piece with that earlier work and his Lenin of
1924. In its emphasis on the pivotal role and absolute authority of the Communist
Party as the incarnation of the class consciousness of the proletariat, it is Leninist to

the core. For many contemporary Marxist theorists, including the Lukcs disciple
Istvn Mszros, such an apotheosis is precisely what is dead in Lukcs's thought.
Alienation Class consciousness Communist Party
Keywords
Dialectic of nature - Dialectics Leninism Mediation Tailism

Lukcs's

Chvostismus

und Dialektik

One week after Hitler ordered his armies into Soviet Russia, the NKVD
Georg
out

Lukcs.

It would

of Lubyanka,

be

cleared,

two

months

for the

before

moment,

the eminent

of charges

Marxist

that

he

arrested

theorist

spied

walked

for Hungary's

political police and orchestrated the activity of Hungarian agents in the U.S.S.R.1
During one of the lengthy interrogations to which he was subjected, he was asked if

he knew Lszl Rudas, another, though less sophisticated, Hungarian Marxist who
had

served

the NKVD

time
had

Hungarians
1
2

Sziklai
Hajdu

(2000:
(2000:

in a Soviet
already

taken

had organized

prison
Rudas

in 1937-1938.
into custody,

As

Lukcs

alleging

a Trotskyite espionage

undoubtedly

surmised,

that he, Lukcs,

ring.2 Lukcs

and

denied

other

any

35).
18).

L. Congdon

(E3)
Department of History, James Madison
e-mail: congdolw@jmu.edu

University, Harrisonburg, VA 22807,

USA

This content downloaded from 129.128.216.34 on Thu, 07 May 2015 19:43:22 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Springer

282

L. Congdon

wrongdoing, but resisted the temptation to even scores with Rudas; long years in the
Party had taught him that denunciations could boomerang.3
The

must,

temptation

have

however,

been

because

great

Rudas

had

by then

made

it his primary mission in Ufe to discredit Lukcs as a Marxist and Party loyalist. The
same

as his

age

bete

who

noire,

was

born

to wealth,

Rudas

was

one

of ten children

raised by poor working-class parents. At 18, he entered the socialist movement and
soon joined the editorial staff of the socialist daily Ne'pszava (Voice of the People).
After brief service in World War I, he undertook to deepen his understanding of
Marxism and subsequently helped to establish the Hungarian Communist Party.
During the short-lived Soviet Republic of 1919, he edited V'ros jsa'g (Red
Gazette), and when the government of Bla Kun collapsed he fled to Vienna, where
he sided with the Jen Landler (anti-Kun) faction and popularized the views of

Lukcs, chief ideologist in the Landler camp.4


In 1922, Rudas left Austria for the Soviet Union, where he launched a many
sided research and teaching career. With an eye to his political future, he shifted his
allegiance to the Kun faction and, as proof of his sincerity, published a scathing
attack

on

Lukcs's

brilliant,

but

Geschichte

controversial,

und

Klassenbewusstsein

(1923). His countryman, he charged, was guilty of the sin of idealism, an evil to
which he inclined as a result of his prewar associations with Max Weber, Emil Lask,
and Heinrich Rickert.5 As a result, he had had the temerity to criticize Engels for

holding that the dialectic operated in nature as well as history/society, and hence
that Marxism

was

a science

by natural

governed

laws.

to Lukcs,

According

Rudas

concluded, "the dialectic is not an objective lawfulness independent of men, but a


subjective

of men"the

lawfulness

essence

of what

he characterized

as

"subjective

idealism."6
A similar criticism was leveled at Lukcs by the Russian philosopher Abram
Deborin. A former Menshevik and follower of Georgi Plekhanov, Deborin, like
Lukcs, had been profoundly influenced by Hegel. In fact, he was shortly to become
the leader of the so-called Dialecticians, who wagedand by 1929 wonan
war

ideological

against

the Mechanists,

who

maintained

that

science

had

rendered

superfluous. Nevertheless, Deborin adopted a tone of righteous


indignation while condemning Lukcs for his alleged idealist heresies and his
effort to play a sophisticated Marx off against a simple-minded Engels.
philosophy

Deborin
which

claimed

he saw

as

to be
a logical

rejection

of the dialectic

repudiation

of materialism.

by Lukcs's

appalled
consequence

of his

of nature,
After

all,

he wrote, "from the standpoint of dialectical materialism, nature is dialectical in


itself."7 This, Deborin said, was not only the view of Engels, but also of Marx, for
the

two

men

fundamental
3

had

always

disagreement.

worked
Only

"an

closely
idealist

together;
from

See the transcript (in Hungarian translation) of the NKVD's


Sziklai (2002: 71-75).
4
Feitl (1985: 6), and Erzsbet Andics in Rudas (1950: 5-9).
5
Lszl Rudas in Krausz and Mesterhzi, I (1981: 191).
6
Lszl Rudas in Krausz and Mesterhzi, I (1981: 203).
7
Deborin (1924: 627).

head

they

had

to foot"

never
could

interrogation of Lukcs,

had

argue

any
to the

July 13, 1941 in

Springer

This content downloaded from 129.128.216.34 on Thu, 07 May 2015 19:43:22 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Lukcs's

Chvostismus

und Dialektik

283

contrary.8 The most subversive aspect of Lukcs's idealism, Deborin argued, was
his identification of subject and object, of thought and Being. On such a view,
was

thought

as important

as material

a heresy

existence,

that Lenin

had

condemned

in Materialism and Empirio-Criticism.

Lenin's
As

Party

far as

defense

of Geschichte

never

Lukcs

knew,

anyone

recent discovery in Moscow

to Rudas

replied

and

Deborin's

attacks.

The

of Chvostismus und Dialektik, a spirited rejoinder and

und

was

Klassenbewusstsein,

therefore

totally

unexpected.

Lukcs seems to have written it in 1925 or 1926, a year or two after his critics'
review

essays

that would

in Arbeiter-Literatur.

appeared

buttress

his claim

to be

Not

a true Leninist

without
whose

he

reason,

chose

were

antagonists

a title

"tailists,"

from the Russian word "khvost" (tail). Lenin had chosen that word to characterize
his Party opponentsthe Mensheviks and "Economists"in What Is to Be Done?
In that famous tract, Lenin had taken up the question "of the relation between
consciousness

and

or

spontaneity,"

"unconsciousness."9

His

he

adversaries,

charged, held

the quietistic view that the working class would develop a


consciousness on its own
revolutionary (he called it a Social-Democratic)
a
result
of
economic
evolution.
Such a view was "tailist"
spontaneouslyas
because it relegated the Party to the tail end of the movement, transforming its
leaders

mere

into

followers

of the

masses,

of an

observers

passive

automatic

and

advance.

guaranteed

That, Lenin argued, was a serious misreading of Marx's theory. By their own
effort,workers could develop only trade-union consciousness; they could recognize
the need to combine in unions in order to secure higher wages, shorter hours, and
greater

benefits.

But

they

could

not

achieve

true

class

consciousness,

which

by

he

meant recognition of their assigned historical role, which was to overthrow the class
rule of the bourgeoisie and usher in a classless society. That was why the Party and
bourgeois intellectuals turned revolutionaries had to intervene. By some means
Lenin did not say whatintellectuals such as Marx and Engels (and he himself)
intuited

the

proletariat's

Rousseau's

General

awareness

of what

Will,

true,

as

the

class

workers

to

opposed

its

consciousness
but

want,

actually

merely
of

what

they

will.

empirical,

the

was

proletariat
to want

ought

Like
not

and

an

would

want if they were fully conscious of their historic mission.


It followed,
workers
leaders.

At

whatever

to Lenin,

according

from

without,

times,

the

in fact,
to

cost,

that class

"imputed"
the

awaken

Party
them

to
had
to

them

consciousness
by

to force
the

the
the

necessity

had

workers
of

to be brought

which

Party,
a

is

to be
total

to

free.

to the

say

Party

It had,

reconstruction

at
of

society; small, even large, improvements in working conditions would only weaken
resolve.

revolutionary

8
9

Deborin

(1924:

Lenin (1929

622).

[1902]:

31, 44).

Springer

This content downloaded from 129.128.216.34 on Thu, 07 May 2015 19:43:22 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

284

L. Congdon

That was the Lenin whom Lukcs memorialized in a small book of 1924, and to
whom he had deferred in the early 1920s, after the Bolshevik leader criticized one of
his essays: "G. L.'s article is very left-wing and very poor. Its Marxism is purely
verbal... it gives no concrete analysis of precise and definite historical situations; it
no

takes

account

of what

is more

essential."10

From

he

the moment

accepted

that

criticism to the day he died in 1971, Lukcs was a dedicated Leninist.


when

Thus,

he

wrote

Chvostismus

und

the

Dialektik,

Marxist

master

was

defending not only himself but the man whom he had come to idolize. In a sense, he
was

What

rewriting

Is

to Be

in

Done?

an

effort

to

combat

a new

of

generation

Mensheviks

(Deborin) and tailists (Rudas). In tilting against "subjectivism," for


Rudas
and Deborin were, in Lukcs's judgment, waging war against
example,
Bolshevism itself. Like Mensheviks and tailists of old, they sought to reduce

Marxism to a bourgeois sociology with trans-historical laws, a theory that ruled out
action on the part of human beings; revolution would come about mechanically, as
the

end

result

Lukcs

of unconscious

economic

did not, of course,


but

development,

he

that

insisted

forces.

deny that there was


at various

an objective

historical

human

"moments,"

key

beingsor

to be more specific, the class-conscious proletariathad to take conscious and


decisive action. That did not mean that the subjective "moment" was divorced from
the objective process that occasioned it. That would be true only if one viewed them
separately, apart from their dialectical reciprocity," their unity in revolutionary

praxis. Rightly regarded, the subjective moment was objective as well; upon
"inserting" itself into the objective sequence, it became a member of it. The
was

argument

for it managed

clever,

to portray

circumstance

objective

and

decisive

action, necessity and freedom (fully conscious action), as one. And if the price of
calling particular attention to the latter weakened the sense of historical
inevitability, so be it; it helped to explain the receding of the revolutionary wave
and to rescue faith in the future.

Mediation
As a philosophically
role
as

was

to induce

Lenin

had

class
would

and

it was

because

consciousness
were

the

out,

on

"the

deceived
to ensure

to workers,

attribute

they

fully

role

to carry
proletariat

In order

permanent.

have

hinged

the proletariat

pointed

consciousness
stable

more learned Lenin, Lukcs

had

Klassenbewusstsein

conscious

out

insisted that Geschichte


in the Revolution."12

of the Party

tasks.

its revolutionary

could
into

thinking

success,
to them
of their,

no

develop

that

the Party

the thoughts
hence

Unfortunately,
than

bourgeois

therefore,

and

more

and

und
That

trade-union
society

had

feelings

humanity's,

was

to impute
that they

true

interest

and historic mission. In plain language, the Party had the right, indeed the duty, to
coerce workers for their own, and History's, good.
10
11
12

V.l. Lenin in Lukcs


Lukcs

(1996:

Lukcs,

(1996:

(1975:

xvi-xvii).

14).
8).

Springer

This content downloaded from 129.128.216.34 on Thu, 07 May 2015 19:43:22 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Lukcs's

Chvosttsmus und Dialektik

285

Perhaps because he came from a working-class background, Rudas had taken


exception to that idea. In "Die Klassenbewusstseinstheorie von Lukcs," he had
complained that "in the best (or worst?) case the 'imputed' consciousness of
Comrade L. is a hypostatised consciousness-very similar to a divine conscious
ness."13 As far as he was concerned, individual workers or the proletariat as a whole
could become class conscious; there was no other possibility. However far he was
from matching Lukcs's
consciousness

an

was

intellect, he recognized that his so-called comrade's class

ideal

class

consciousness

of

contemptuous

what

workers

actually thought. As the custodian of authentic class consciousness, Lukcs had


maintained, the Party alone possessed truthand the authority to see that it prevailed.
He

had

never

bothered

to explain

how

we

know

that

the

incarnates

Party

the

true

will of the proletariatother than to say that Marxism proclaimed it.


No

more

than

Geschichte

und

Klassenbewusstsein

itself

is

Chvostismus

und

Dialektik a work of philosophy; it is the systematization and explication of a faith.


Just as a Christian dogmatics constitutes an effort to elucidate the truths and
implications of a prior commitment, so Lukcs's Marxism is a rendering of that
political faith to which he had converted in 1918. No evidence can be adduced to
disprove the dogma, which is internally consistent and self-certifying. We can know
the truth,according to Lukcs, by adopting the standpoint of the proletariat, which
can be done only by participating actively in the communist movement. Those who

remain outside the Party cannot possibly know the truth,because it is nothing but
the

self-awareness

of the movement.14

It angered Lukcs that there remained within the Party some, like Rudas, who
failed to recognize its indispensability. One of his critic's fundamental errors, he
believed, was his naive belief that proletarian class consciousness was a mechanical
of

product

the

immediate

economic

situation

of

the

workers.15

Rather

like

Protestants who believe that one may have direct dealings with God, unmediated by
church

or

Rudas

clergy,

missed

the

completely

role

Party's

as

an

agent

of

mediation; his tailist ignorance served to point up the pressing need "to abandon
immediacy."16
That

was

a restatement

of the argument

Lukcs

made

famous essay in Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein,


Bewusstsein

des

Proletariats."

Only

in section

of the most

"Die Verdinglichung und das


he

thinkers,

bourgeois

three

insisted

viewed

there,

the world in its immediacy; for them, reality was immediately given, natural, the
unalterable
order
abandon
class

anything

other

abstract,

formal

dominance

consciousness

13

15
16

Lszl

was

thinkers

bourgeois

14

of contemplation.

object

as

that

(1991:

They

the

sum

rationality,

a temporal,

were

not

distorted

Rudas in Krausz

Congdon

than

they

not

willfully
ultimate

and Mesterhzi,

could

of

would

an eternal,
and
reality

II (1981:

not regard
isolated

eternal,

have

the world

in the interest

that

To
but

obtuse,

the social

Were

to recognize

phenomenon.

cynically

and

"facts."

be

sure,

they

of their

they

to

bourgeois
the best

possessed

class.

26).

61).

Lukcs

had already condemned

Lukcs

(1996:

such a belief in Lukcs

(1967

[1924]:

28).

25).

Springer

This content downloaded from 129.128.216.34 on Thu, 07 May 2015 19:43:22 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

L. Congdon

286

The privileged epistemological standpoint of the proletariat was also a function


of class interest. Precisely because it was not in that class's interest to view reality in
its factual immediacy, it was capable of achieving a mediated view for which facts
derived their meaning from their relation to the whole, or the totality, of history.

What for bourgeois thinkers were static, isolated "things" were for the proletariat
dynamic aspects of processes, immanent tendencies and possibilities. Rightly
understood, reality was not, it became; hence, the proper cognitive relationship to

reality was not contemplation, but action. "The philosophers have only interpreted
the world, in various ways," Marx had written. "The point, however, is to change
it."17
Mediation

was

und

Geschichte

most

Klassenbewusstsein's

important

It

concept.

provided Lukcs with a theoretical weapon to use against "tailism" and against the
utopianism by which, as a younger man, he had been led astray. "Comrade Rudas,"
he wrote with obvious irritation in Chvostismus und Dialektik, "knows very well
that I have broken completely with my past, not only socially but philosophically as
The

well."18
learned

from

already

present

movement

of mediation

concept
Lenin

and

in each

that

was

viewed

"moment"

the key

the

to the revolutionary
future

socialist

of the revolutionary

not

as

realism

yet to come,
mediated

movement,

that he
but

as

by that

in its totality.19

Lukcs returned again and again to the crucial mediating function of organiza
tional

forms,

author

of

the Party
Das

first and
but

Kapital,

foremost.20
the

founder

he pointed

Marx,
of

the

out,

Communist

was

not

League

only

the

and

the

International, while Lenin founded the Russian Communist Party and the Third
International. Such organizations mediated between the proletariat's real situation
and

its consciousness;

line

with

for one

the former

part
out

by working

of the working
"practical

class,

measures

they
from

brought

the latter

the correct

into

knowledge

of the historical process as a whole, from the totality of its economic, political,
etc.

ideological,

moments."21

The dialectic of nature


"In the previous considerations," Lukcs wrote in the section of Chvostismus und
Dialektik

devoted

to the

dialectic

many

operated

in nature

otherstook
as well

"we

came

up

repeatedly

against

the

Rudas and Deborin had been highly critical of what

problem of mediation."22
theyand

in nature,

to be Lukcs's

as society/history.

rejection
According

of the idea
to Rudas,

single lawful regularity (in nature as well as in society):

that the dialectic


"there

is only

the dialectic,

17
See the dense, but not incomprehensible, section three, "Der Standpoint des Proletariats"
and Congdon (1991: 60-61).
(1970/1923: 267-355),
18
Lukcs (1996: 44).
19
See the chapter "Revolutionre
Realpolitik" in Lukcs (1967/1924).
20
in Lukcs (1970/1923).
zur Organisationsfrage"
See the essay "Methodisches
21
Lukcs (1996: 34).
22
Lukcs (1996: 44).

<) Springer

This content downloaded from 129.128.216.34 on Thu, 07 May 2015 19:43:22 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

one

and

in Lukcs

Lukcs's

Chvostismus

und Dialektik

287

everything that happens in the world, everything is subject to the natural laws of the
dialectic."23 Rather surprisingly, Lukcs protested that he did accept the idea that
the dialectic determined nature's development. How, after all, could anyone doubt
that nature and its lawfulness existed before there was any society, that is before
there were human beings? But he quickly added that social development could
new,

produce

equally

forms

objective

of

movement24a

Klassenbewusstsein

was

that

the

dialectic

of nature

move

necessary

wished to avoid having to accept a scientific determinism.


Moreover, Lukcs continued, what he had written in
could

not

if he

Geschichte

be

known

und

directly.

And that was indeed the case; he had faulted Engels for "extending the dialectic
method to the knowledge of nature as well."25 For good political and philosophical
reasons,

he

however,

chose

not

to pursue

Dialektik he did. "Our consciousness


of nature,

is determined

nature

its

in

by our

social
in

was

immediacy

the

matter

In

further.

Chvostismus

und

of nature," he wrote, "that is our knowledge


What

being."26

fact

nature

as

men

viewed

and

women
a

from

took

to be
class

particular

standpoint, nature as mediated by a person's social being.


At firstblush that would seem to imply relativism, but Lukcs denied that it did
because

some

some

standpoints,

of vision,

angles

were

better

than

others.

For

him,

that is, it was not the discovery of new facts that yielded deeper theoretical insights.
It was

something

social

change.

external
Thus

to scientific

it was

no

research:

accident

that

economic

under

that

change
the

capitalism,

resulted

most

in

advanced

socio-economic

system prior to the advent of socialism, science reached its zenith


(thus far). Would, then, those in possession of the class consciousness of the
arrive

proletariat

at the correct

theoretical

of the natural

understanding

world

in the

same way that they did of the historical worldby simultaneously changing it? Can
nature be changed as history/society can? Lukcs sidestepped the issue:
To

what

extent

their

structure

considered
when

it

Unable

(or

seems

of nature
there
so

for human

to

us

character

that

cannot

to resolve

development

do

only

changes

historical

social

all knowledge

that is whether

knowledge,

are

over

clearly

be transformed

facts

in nature
of time

cannot

be raised

developments

have

into

historical

that never

that

they

here
taken

change

cannot

because

be
even
their

place,

grasped.27

Lukcs

a superior

ever

periods

knowledge)

the dilemma,
produced

such

historical
be

can

material

simply

reiterated

understanding

that a clearer

vision

of

of nature.

For what my critics call my agnosticism [or relativism] is nothing other than
denial

my

relationship
and

23
24
25
26
27

naturally

that

there

of humans,
I decline

Lszl

Rudas in Krausz

Lukcs

(1996:

Lukcs

(1970/1923:

Lukcs

(1996:

49).

Lukcs

(1996:

63).

is

unmediated,

socially

to nature
to argue

and Mesterhzi,

in the present
about

Utopian

II (1981:

stage

that

is

of social

possibilities

an

unmediated

development

of the future.

I am

48).

51).
63n).

Springer

This content downloaded from 129.128.216.34 on Thu, 07 May 2015 19:43:22 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

L. Congdon

288

of the opinion, therefore, that our knowledge of nature is socially mediated


because its material foundation is socially mediated; and thus I remain true to
the Marxian formulation of the method of historical materialism; "it is social
that

being

determines

consciousness."28

It follows from that that non-communist scientists, though they may obtain valid
scientific results, remain oblivious to the fact that their interpretations of those
results are mediated by their social identity. Nor do they notice that their attitude is
merely

contemplative,

human

society.

not

in the

"practical"

materialist

historical

sense.29

Hence

they never place their findings in the service of History's movement toward a truly
could,

practical

attitude

yes;

make

this

they

toward

better

could

scientists
even

'truth,'

(unless

J. D.

as

Bernal

members,

Party

J. B.

and
the

adopt

S.

correct

Lukcs

scientists?
from

nature

"in

an

have

would

probably

itself'

to a "for

us."

answered
But

despite

genius for obfuscation, it is difficult to see how such politically

the Hungarian's
committed

materialists

transform

consciously

such

and

researches.

their

them

men

scientists,

historical

as

Haldane,

Does

communist

Only

truth about

create

in the process

nature

is

nature,

concerning

what

only

it

of discovering

advances

the

communist

cause). And it is equally difficult to believe that Chvostismus und Dialektik will
erase the suspicion that dialectical thinking, as Lukcs practiced it, is a slippery
business.

Against Lenin's
who

Those

were

Party
are

and

with

sympathetic

Marxism

Lukcs's

to be

can,

sure,

benefit

from a close reading of his recently discovered workif they focus their attention
on his concept of mediation. Even without having read Chvostismus und Dialektik,
for example,
version
has

Mszros

Istvn

One

of Marxism.

distanced

nevertheless

had

the

placed
best

of Lukcs's
himself

from

at the

concept
and

students

center

the Communist

of his

faithful

most

updated

disciples,

he

Party.

Born in Budapest in 1930, Mszros is, like Rudas, of poor working class origin.
As

a young

called

to the

a year
"Lukcs

of a Party

Lukcs,

then

consolidated

in full
and

inquisition,

and
the

once

swing;
again

once

soon

social

in Hungary.

again
played

Lukcs

among

the

very

few

who

as

though

were

he

willing

had

contracted

found

the role

to risk

contagion,

the

then

he
in

the so

himself

the

of Torquemada.30

plague.
and

to read

College

By

Fearful studentsthis was the time of the Purge Trial of Lszl


a professor,

began

background,

Etvs

prestigious
power

Rudas

and

Engels
requisite

of Budapest's

University
was

Debate"

target

and

determination

the communists

after

Marx

he discovered

to personal

admittance

gained
1949,

worker,

factory

Thanks

Lukcs.

as

Rajktreated
Mszros
a result

was
he

was

nearly expelled from the University. He managed, however, to complete his degree
28
29
30

Lukcs

(1996:

53-54).

Lukcs

(1996:

70).

See Ambrus (1985).

Springer

This content downloaded from 129.128.216.34 on Thu, 07 May 2015 19:43:22 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Lukcs's

Chvostismus und Dialektik

289

in 1953, and two years later earned a doctorate in philosophy at East Germany's
Friedrich Schiller University. The following year, 1956, he accepted an appointment
as Associate Professor of Philosophy in the University of Budapest and joined the
reform movement that helped pave the way for the fall Revolution. When Soviet
forces crushed that great popular uprising, he decided to emigrate, and did so
legally.

Eventually, Mszros found his way to the University of Sussex, where he taught
until his retirement in the early 1990s. Despite his academic career, however, he has
always identified more closely with the working class into which he was born than
with

the

intellectual

class

which

by

he

was

"Intellectuals

co-opted.

of bourgeois

origin, like Lukcs," he has written rather pointedly, do not share the workers'
experience of life and thus they "know/ar less about 'what is to be done'" to make
socialism a reality.31
Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein

rather

than

Utopian

did, Mszros

the

to

approach

thinks, present a realistic

to

presentand

the

future

it contained.

Socialism, he has learned from his experience in Stalinist Hungary, cannot be


summoned into existence overnight by an act of political will. On the other hand,
reforms

that

are

treated

as

ends

fully socialist societyin


existence.

What

are

in themselves,

unrelated

a word, revisionismcan
he concludes,

needed,

are

to the

ultimate

of a

goal

only prolong capitalism's

mediationstransitional

stepsthat

never lose sight of the final goal, that are socialism in the process of its realization.
It was with that Lukcsian conviction in mind that Mszros set to work on the
book that firstestablished his reputation in England, Marx's Theory of Alienation.
Following Marx, he argued there that alienated, that is wage, labor was the root
cause

of all

other

forms

of human

alienation.

In

order

create

to

genuine

human

who, while maintaining their


relationships between "social individuals"those
fulfill
their
in
and
individuality,
identity cooperative
equal association with others
forms
and
institutions
would
have
to
act
as
mediations. "To do away with all
proper
Mszros argued, "is the most naive of all anarchist dreams." It
represented the denial of "first order mediation"productive activity (labor)that
mediation,"
is

"ontologically

means
Marx

and

to human

necessary"

by which

one

Lukcs

itself which
mediations."34

could
were

objectify
right to see,

existence
and

as

realize

Mszros

concluded,

is at fault but the capitalistic


those

Among

second

order

such.32

one's

Labor,

that

is, was

that

"it is not mediation

form of reified second

mediations

the

essence."33

"species

Mszros

listed

order
private

property and division of labor; they "interpose themselves between man and his
activity

and

prevent

him

from

finding

fulfillment

in his

labor,

in the exercise

of his

productive (creative) abilities, and in the human appropriation of the products of his
activity."35 They were alienated, historically specific, and therefore transcendable

31
32
33
34
35

Mszros

(1995:

396).

Mszros

(1972

[1970]:

Mszros

learned this from Lukcs;

Mszros,
Mszros

(1972
(1972

[1970]:
[1970]:

79, 285).
see the latter's introduction to Lukcs

(1970

[1923]).

285).
78).

This content downloaded from 129.128.216.34 on Thu, 07 May 2015 19:43:22 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Springer

L. Congdon

290

forms of human labor. And those forms had to be transcended/negated if alienation


to be

was

overcome.

Prime examples of the kind of firstorder mediations Mszros had in mind were
so-called "workers' councils" that operated effectively and independently of self
appointed leadership vanguards like the Communist Party.36 Such spontaneously
organized, grassroots councils have appeared on the historical stage in various

places and at various times: France in 1871; Russia in 1905 and February 1917;
Germany in 1918-1919; and, most important to Mszros, Hungary in 1956. In
case

every

surrounds

were

they

but

suppressed,

that

adds

only

the

to

Romantic

aura

that

them.

Mszros was quick to note that Lukcs, even though he ultimately opted for the
Party and its dictatorship, had himself spoken in praise of workers' councils in
und

Geschichte

Klassenbewusstsein.

The Workers' Council [Lukcs had written] is the politico-economic conquest


of capitalist reification. In the situation after the dictatorship, it ought to
overcome the bourgeois separation of legislative, executive and judiciary;
similarly, in the struggle for power it is called upon to end the spatio-temporal
fragmentation of the proletariat, and also to bring economics and politics
together into the true unity of proletarian activity, and in this way to help
reconcile the dialectical opposition of immediate interest and ultimate aim.37
In his

magnum

Beyond

opus,

a Theory

Towards

Capital:

should

mediations

but once

assume,

eventually

again

Mszros

of Transition,

institutions/firstorder

to say precisely what form restructured social

declined

he called

to workers'

attention

councils as among "the most important potential organs of material and political
mediation in the age of transition from capital's rule over society to a socialist
He

order."38
to reject

any

claim

Party

in their

or act

to speak

of the workers

the self-organization

that is, to champion

continues,

name.

on

Precisely

and

issue

that

he

asserts his theoretical independence.


in Demokratisierung

Even

of

suppression

the

"Prague

und

Heute
Spring,"

written

Morgen,

Lukcs

could

not,

at the time
according

of the
to

Soviet

Mszros,

break with his dogmatic outlook.


In 1968,

after nearly

What

of Lenin's

years

seventy

Is to Be

Done?

also

(which

means five decades of Soviet power), Lukcs still has to idealize the strategy
of

successfully

outside"
point

36
37

into
of some

Mszros

(1972

Lukcs

class

self-perpetuating

[1970]:

fine

day,

outside"

hierarchy

ruling

"from

consciousness

socialist

... ["From

means:]
society

from

from

the vantage

above.39

287).

(1970 [1923]: 168-169).


translation slightly.
38
Mszros (1995: 371).
39
Mszros (1995: 399).

one

introducing,
the working

Cited in Mszros

(1972

[1970]:

287).

I have modified Mszros's

Springer

This content downloaded from 129.128.216.34 on Thu, 07 May 2015 19:43:22 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Lukcs's

291

Chvostismus und Dialektik

For Lenin's
Mszros's

Party
of Lukcs's

rejection

is all the more

of imputation

theory

because

telling

it comes from a lifelong disciple and a Marxist who has known life under Party rule.
he

As

has

reason

to

neither

know,

und

Geschichte

nor

Klassenbewusstsein

Chvostismus und Dialektik can be read today as though nothing has happened since
the 1920s. One cannot divorce Lukcs's ideas from the record of Communist parties
in power; Lukcs himself refused to do so. By the time he sat down to write his
defense of his famous book, he could already see that Stalin was likely to succeed
Lenin

as

and

leader

Party

he

therefore

hastened

to call

attention

the

to

Man

of

Steel's ideological acuity.40


Throughout the years that Stalin ruledand

afterLukcs submitted to the


Party's will and discipline; hence, while he sometimes had reservations concerning
Party policy, he never contemplated apostasy. By thinking "dialectically," he knew
that he could justify anything to himself and to others. One is reminded of Albert
Camus's

words: "The

miracle is the decision

dialectic

to call total servitude

freedom."41

It is not surprising, then, that Lukcs


und

Geschichte

eventually repudiated his defense of

that almost

Klassenbewusstsein;

accounts

certainly

for the fact

that

he never made mention of Chvostismus und Dialektik in any of his later writings or
interviews. During his first sojourn in Moscow, 1929-1931, David Ryazanov
showed him Marx's unpublished Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts. On reading
them, he

gratified to have

was

Klassenbewusstsein
same

time,

that

of alienation
convinced

the manuscripts

however,

confirmed his

the problem

claim

was
him

in

Geschichte

to Marxism.

central

that his earlier

work

und

At

the

in fact

was

idealist and hence fundamentally un-Marxist. He would have to begin anew from a
properly Marxistthat is, materialiststandpoint42
Lukcs may in fact have recognized that he simply could not maintain the
position he defended in Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein after he had accepted,
or been obliged to accept, the dialectic of nature. "The idea of the unity of subject
and object," Leszek Kolakowski has pointed out, "cannot survive if the dialectic
relates

to external
truth

possesses

nature."43
dictated

that

Moreover,

the logic

he

a member

remain

of his

belief

whatever

that
the

the Party
And

price.

alone
so

he

committed himself to ideas he had once rejected: the dialectic of nature and the
"theory

of reflection."

Lukcs
Marx,"

and

made that commitment public in his essay of 1933, "Mein


in the

lecture

1934

that he delivered

to members

of the Soviet

Weg zu
Academy

of Sciences, assembled to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the publication of


Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. "My battle against the theory of reflection and
the

Marx-Engels
"a

occasion,
40
41
42
43

conception
typical

Lukcs

(1996:

27).

Camus

(1956

[1951]:

Kolakowski,

the

dialectic
of

that

of

nature

'subterranean

was,"

he

idealism'"

said

on

that

that

(an

234).

On this matter, see Congdon


m (1981:

of

manifestation

(1991:

180-184).

274).

Springer

This content downloaded from 129.128.216.34 on Thu, 07 May 2015 19:43:22 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

L. Congdon

292

undialectical) Lenin had condemned in his major work of philosophy.44 He was,


after all, guilty of the sins with which Rudas and Deborin had charged him a decade
before. And if he retained any doubts, he kept them to himself, because for him
there was neither truth nor life outside of the Party.

References
Kiad.
(1985). A Lukdcs-vita (1949-1951).
Budapest: Mzsk Kozmvelodsi
[1951]). The Rebel. New York: Vintage Books.
Congdon, L. (1991). Exile and social thought: Hungarian intellectuals in Germany and Austria, 1919
1933. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Deborin, A. (1924). Lukcs und seine Kritik des Marxismus. Arbeiter-Literatur, 1/2, 615-640.
Ambras, J. (Ed.).
Camus, A. (1956

Feitl, I. (1985). Rudas Lszlrl. Ne'pszabadsg,


February 21, 6.
Hajdu, T. (2000). Lukcs Gyrgy a Lubjankn. Mozgo' Vilg, 8, 16-21.
Kolakowski, L. (1981). Main currents of Marxism, III. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Krausz, T., & Mesterhzi, M. (Eds.). (1981). A "T'rtnelem e's osztlytudat" a 20-as e'vek vitdiban, III.
s Informcis Kzpontja ELTE Bolcsszettudomnyi
Budapest: Filozfia Oktatk Tovbbkpzo
Kar s Lukcs Archvum s Konyvtr.
Lenin, V. I. (1929 [1902]). What is to be done? New York: International Publishers.
seiner Gedanken.
Lenin: Studie ber den Zusammenhang
G. (1967
Lukcs,
[1924]).
Luchterhand.
Lukcs,

G. (1970
G. (1970

[1923]).

Geschichte

und Klassenbewusstsein.

Neuwied:

Neuwied:

Luchterhand.

Verlag.
[1933]). Marxismus und Stalinismus. Reinbek: Rowohlt Taschenbuch
New York: Harper and Row.
Lukcs, G. (1975). Tactics and ethics: Political essays, 1919-1929.
Lukcs, G. (1996). Chvostismus und Dialektik. Budapest: ron Verlag.
Mszros, I. (1972 [1970]). Marx's theory of alienation. New York: Harper Torchbooks.
Lukcs,

Mszros, I. (1995). Beyond capital: Towards a theory of transition. London: Merlin Press.
Rudas, L. (1950). Elmlet e's gyakorlat. Budapest: Szikra.
Sziklai, L. (2000). "41-ben mgis lebuktam": Lukcs Gyrgy vallatsa a Lubjankn. Kritika, 29/12, 33
37.
Luka'cs Gyrgy vizsgalati
Vallats
a Lubjankn:
L. (Ed.).
Sziklai,
(2002).
Archvum.
dokumentumok. Budapest: Argumentum KiadLukcs

44

Georg Lukcs,

"Mein

Weg zu Marx"

in Lukcs

(1970

[1933]:

gyiratailetrajzi

11).

Springer

This content downloaded from 129.128.216.34 on Thu, 07 May 2015 19:43:22 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions