Spider and Fly: The Leninist Philosophy of Georg Lukács

Spider and Fly: The Leninist Philosophy of Georg Lukács

Paul Le Blanc

Language: English

Pages: 29

ISBN: 2:00195921

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

From 1919 to 1929, the great Hungarian Marxist philosopher Georg Lukács was one of the leaders of the Hungarian Communist Party, immersed not simply in theorising but also in significant practical-political work. Along with labour leader Jenö Landler, he led a faction opposing an ultra-left sectarian orientation represented by Béla Kun (at that time also associated with Comintern chairman Zinoviev, later aligning himself with Stalin). If seen in connection with this factional struggle, key works of Lukács in this period – History and Class Consciousness (1923), Lenin: A Study in the Unity of His Thought (1924), Tailism and the Dialectic (1926) and ‘The Blum Theses’ (1929) – can be seen as forming a consistent, coherent, sophisticated variant of Leninism. Influential readings of these works interpret them as being ultra-leftist or proto-Stalinist (or, in the case of ‘The Blum Theses’, an anticipation of the Popular Front perspectives adopted by the Communist International in 1935). Such readings distort the reality. Lukács’s orientation and outlook of 1923–9 are, rather, more consistent with the orientation advanced by Lenin and Trotsky in the Third and Fourth Congresses of the Communist International. After his decisive political defeat, Lukács concluded that it was necessary to renounce his distinctive political orientation, and completely abandon the terrain of practical revolutionary politics, if he hoped to remain inside the Communist movement. This he did, adapting to Stalinism and shifting his efforts to literary criticism and philosophy. But the theorisations connected to his revolutionary politics of the 1920s continue to have relevance for revolutionary activists of the twenty-first century.

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moral superiority’, at certain points in the political process ‘have decisive predominance’, although they cannot play their role independently of social and economic development. Over time the dynamic and interactive blend of objective and subjective factors can result in the emergence of a Communist Party which could have the potential to concentrate and advance the subjective factor to such an extent that – at the decisive moment – it would provide effective leadership for a socialist

revolution. ‘The subjective moment 34. Lukács 2000, pp. 101, 50–1. 35. Lukács 2000, pp. 52, 55. P. Le Blanc / Historical Materialism 21.2 (2013) 47–75 65 reaches in this “moment” its comprehensive significance precisely because and inasmuch as it has already acted consciously and actively during earlier developments.’36 Lukács quotes Lenin: ‘It depends on us.’ He is referring to the more conscious and organised activists and revolutionaries in the working-class movement. This does not

not even as an immanent result of its immediate economic position and the inevitable class struggles that develop from it at the base.’ He goes on to affirm Lenin’s notorious point in What Is to Be Done? that socialist consciousness (what Lukács calls ‘correct class consciousness’) must be brought to workers from outside of the working class.44 If one believes that Marxism provides the best orientation for workers to understand and change the world, of course, then, there is a case to be made for

life of the pre-1917 Bolshevik party, but they were – by the late 1920s – increasingly eliminated within the mainstream of the Communist movement.50 Nor is there any discussion of the relationship of member parties of the Communist International to each other, and in particular to the Russian Communist Party. The way that Lukács discusses the abstract conception of revolutionary party, or Communist Party, one would assume that it is akin to the historical Bolshevik party in being a relatively

Historical Materialism 21.2 (2013) 47–75 61 Germany – pointing the finger at Zinoviev who (he emphasised) had displayed similar hesitations on the eve of the 1917 October Revolution.28 Zinoviev and those around him defended their authority by orchestrating a generalised campaign against ‘Trotskyism’ (alleged to be anti-Leninist and a deviation from Marxism) in the Communist movement, and also by tightening organisational norms and the borders of ‘political correctness’ in the Comintern. This

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