Essays by Frank­lin Rose­mont, Dav­id Schanoes, and Peter Manti, pub­lished as a pamph­let by the Chica­go Sur­real­ist group around Frank­lin and Penelope Rose­mont on the occa­sion of Lukac­s’s death in 1971.

Franklin Rosemont: Georg Lukacs: Critique of an Insipid Legend

Lukacs pamphletHegel wrote, in 1796, in the diary of his sojourn through the Bernese Alps, that “…the Chris­ti­an ima­gin­a­tion has pro­duced noth­ing but an insip­id legend.“1 It is not acci­dental that the images asso­ci­ated with Chris­tian­ity – ser­vility, sick­ness, cor­rup­tion, weak­ness, degrad­a­tion, maso­chism, cow­ardice, pros­tra­tion – are the very images that define the life and work of Georg Lukács, who recently did us the long-over­due cour­tesy of drop­ping dead. Unit­ing the mystic’s propensity for sud­den con­ver­sion and the most obsequious real­ism since Aqui­nas, Lukács, for more than fifty years, spe­cial­ized in adapt­ing him­self to, and jus­ti­fy­ing, the giv­en real­ity in which he found him­self. Thus his philo­soph­ic­al eru­di­tion and ‘clas­si­cism’ were put in the ser­vice of the real­ity of forced labor camps, the Moscow tri­als, ‘social­ist’ real­ism, Stalin’s destruc­tion of the Bolshev­ik Party and the degen­er­a­tion of the Commu­nist International.

Mean­while, Lukács him­self became some­thing of an in­sipid legend. Exal­ted whis­pers through­out the world her­alded the ‘pro­found’, ‘import­ant’, ‘great’ and ‘gif­ted’ thinker whose works, how­ever, remained largely unknown, but eagerly awaited, like a Mes­si­ah. The moun­tains of this anti­cip­a­tion laboured long and hard and ulti­mately for noth­ing, for in the end Lukács , the most anaem­ic and blind of mice, returned to his point of depar­ture, dis­ap­pear­ing forever into the mouldy wood­work of abstrac­tion and eva­sion. The appear­ance of his works in trans­la­tion can in fact be wel­comed, for the myth of Lukács’ import­ance has been based on the wide­spread unavail­ab­il­ity and ignor­ance of his writ­ings. To actu­ally read Lukács is to know his total inad­equacy and irrelevance.

No one will have failed to notice, how­ever, that Amer­ican lib­er­als, polit­ic­al ‘sci­ent­ists’, lit­er­ary crit­ics, book­ review­ers, gradu­ate stu­dents of theo­logy and philo­sophy, pro­fes­sion­al aes­thet­i­cians, ‘rad­ic­al’ dilet­tantes, impost­ors and career­ists of every vari­ety – and even some individ­uals who pro­claim them­selves ‘Marx­ists’ – have formed a size­able and increas­ingly noisy chor­us of wor­ship­pers, tear­fully and vol­ubly ded­ic­ated to the dis­grace­ful pre­tence that Lukács was some­thing more than a grov­el­ling pimp in the ser­vice of Sta­lin­ist betray­al. For the sur­real­ists, on the con­trary – and I say this not without pride – the death of this two-bit schol­ast­ic para­site was the occa­sion for an authen­t­ic and inex­press­ible delight.2

Gyorgy Lukacs

The fact that Lukács’ works presently enjoy the favour of a sub­stan­tial por­tion of what passes for the Amer­ic­an Left, and that even among the revolu­tion­ary youth there appears to be a grow­ing interest in these works, must be regarded as signs of the deplor­able back­ward­ness of revo­lutionary thought in this country.

This epi­dem­ic of Lukác­sism requires a care­ful, detailed, many-sided, implac­able and sus­tained attack on the part of those who are truly devoted to the cause of pro­let­ari­an eman­cip­a­tion. The present inter­ven­tion of the sur­real­ist move­ment, an axe of crys­tal wiel­ded against the cages of dis­hon­our, is inten­ded above all to estab­lish a cer­tain in­ dis­pens­able pre­lim­in­ary clar­ity in this dis­cus­sion which has suffered so long from count­less obscur­ant­isms. Against the cock­tail ideo­lo­gists of so-called ‘neo-Marx­ism’ who offi­ci­ate at the rites ofLukács ‘ beati­fic­a­tion, and who have gone so far as to insist that Lukács has made “im­portant con­tri­bu­tions” to Marx­ism, the sur­real­ists main­tain that these ‘con­tri­bu­tions’ are empty abstrac­tions, his ‘advances’ merely retreats, and that no one was less qual­ified to expand or deep­en the per­spect­ives of Marx­ism than this unfor­giv­able cret­in whose entire life was noth­ing more than an inter­min­able series of exer­cises in belly­ crawl­ing, self-mutil­a­tion and per­man­ent confusion.

Only the most hope­less idi­ot or gan­gren­ous sec­tari­an could con­fuse our ser­i­ous, lucid, poet­ic and above all rev­olutionary hatred for Lukács and his work with the frivol­ous, back­bit­ing, ghoul­ish and essen­tially  reac­tion­aryat­tacks against him by, for example, Maoists3, Althus­seri­ans or oth­er tra­di­tion­al pseudo-Marx­ists whose ‘Marx­ism’ con­sists of plat­it­udes bottled in form­al­de­hyde, irre­voc­ably sep­ar­ated from the life of the work­ing class, and serving only to inhib­it work­ers’ self-activ­ity. To under­mine and explode the abject myth of Lukács as ‘the finest Marx­ist since Marx’ as well as to reduce to their real insig­ni­fic­ance the sec­tari­an, dog­mat­ic and false deri­sions of his works by anti-Marx­ist and pseudo-Marx­ist ideo­lo­gists, is to assist in clear­ing the way for a true re­surgence of revolu­tion­ary thought and action. Let us have done with the cheap and indefens­ible bour­geois apo­lo­gists for Lukács’ ‘geni­us’, ‘pro­fund­ity’ and ‘rig­or!’ Away with these whim­per­ing, pampered ‘neo-Marx­ist’ Lukác­si­an lap-dogs whose incess­ant yelp­ing can be con­sidered only a pub­lic nuis­ance! Of course, as Len­in wrote, “What else are lap-dogs for if not to yelp at the pro­let­ari­an ele­phant?”4 But when this yelp­ing becomes an annoy­ing and waste­ful dis­trac­tion, an actu­al obstacle to revolu­tion­ary devel­op­ment, such miser­able curs become intol­er­able, and must be sent scur­ry­ing back to the ken­nels of their ego­ mani­ac­al petty-bour­geois hypocrisy.

Noth­ing would be more absurd than to expect us to con­fine ourselves to merely point­ing out the flies in the intel­lec­tu­al soup du jour. For the pro­let­ari­an ele­phant and the sur­real­ist anteat­er, nour­ished on mater­i­al­ist dia­lectics and the prin­ciple of cre­at­ive destruc­tion, this crit­ic­al ac­tivity is insep­ar­able from the whole pro­cess of the revolu­tionary trans­form­a­tion of the world. More than any­one we look for­ward to the day when, as Marx said, the weapons of revolu­tion­ary cri­ti­cism will give way to the revolution­ary cri­ti­cism of weapons – that is, to the seizure of power by the work­ers and the estab­lish­ment of the dic­tat­or­ship of the pro­let­ari­at. Mean­while, the demys­ti­fic­a­tion and demoli­tion of the insip­id legend of Georg Lukács and his ‘rig­or’ con­sti­tutes a small but essen­tial step along this road lead­ing to the tri­umph of work­ers’ power, genu­ine human free­dom and poetry made by all.

 

David Schanoes: Georg Lukács and the Pseudo-Marxist Goulash

It is a fit­ting indict­ment and a delight­ful irony that Georg Lukács and the new left should find each oth­er just as they tumble home­ward to a grave long since ready for their deaths. The mar­riage of Lukács and the new left­ — a uni­on built upon the sol­id bases of polit­ic­al incompe­tence, Sta­lin­ist treach­ery, and oppor­tun­ist deceit — finds its ulti­mate expres­sion in the pseudo-Marx­ist eclecticism that under­takes the jus­ti­fic­a­tion of Sta­lin­ist and Maoist bar­bar­ity in terms of ‘human­ism’, ‘neces­sity’, and a to­ tally reli­gious adher­ence to ‘inev­it­ab­il­ity’. This eclecti­cism finds strong, if uncon­scious, expres­sion among those ele­ments most removed from the prac­tic­al-ima­gin­at­ive revolu­tion­ary nex­us of Marx­ism. It provides for the clois­ter Marx­ists of Telos to pub­lish Lukács ’ naus­ea-indu­cing ‘On the Respons­ib­il­ity of the Intel­lec­tu­als’. In this scur­rilous essay, Lukács shakes his long and lep­rous fin­ger in front of the nose of his com­rades-in-impot­ence, the schol­astics; warn­ing them, in a voice creak­ing with supplica­tion, to avoid the pois­on of ‘irra­tion­al­ism’ and the moan of des­pair that accom­pan­ies the birth of fas­cist ideo­logy. Of course, Lukács under­takes all this on his knees before the pat­ron saint of bar­bar­ism, Joe Stal­in. The mem­bers of Telos, Lukács’ first­born, fail, of course, to remark upon this. The ghastly inco­her­ence of these philo­soph­ers can only breathe new life into the corpse of Lukács.

The insi­di­ous tentacles of this eclecticism st retch world­ his­tor­ic­ally into the activ­ity of would-be revolu­tion­ists. Paul Breines, for example, con­siders it a fit­ting out­growth of his study with Her­bert Mar­cuse to edit a book of es­says on the impact and mean­ing of Mar­cuse’s work. Un­fortunately this gem of a task is butchered unmer­ci­fully by a series of ten­nis court essays that extol the vir­tues of veget­ari­an­ism (and why not Yoga?) ; and the book itself bears the intol­er­able ded­ic­a­tion to Theodor Adorno and … Ho Chi Minh! Uncle Ho, who, with the bene­vol­ence of all uncles, slaughtered ten thou­sand revolu­tion­ists who refused to accept the Geneva ‘agree­ments’ as the final word con­cern­ing human emancipation.

Across the Atlantic, our leath­er chair edit­ors of the New Left Review, swim­ming eas­ily in their lack of Marx­ist rig­or, find it amus­ing to pub­lish and offer the works of Mar­cuse, Korsch, Adorno, and Lukács, while main­tain­ing pos­i­tions of prac­tic­al polit­ic­al idiocy based on the pseudo­ sci­ence of Louis Althusser, and the exhaust­ing if inex­haustible stu­pid­ity of the mum­blings from that fet­ish of repres­sion, Mao Tse-tung.

Some­thing, of course, is behind this infatu­ation with dia­lec­ticians. In cap­it­al­ist soci­ety, infatu­ation inev­it­ably assumes the role of escape from real, that is mad, love. And infatu­ation is what we have before us. This love af­ fair with dia­lectics is merely the empty homage of an in­ fatu­ation that main­tains everything exactly as it is, and allows the lov­er to func­tion at the neces­sary level of stu­ pid­ity. This lip-ser­vice Marx­ism, per­haps the most effec­ tive weapon arrayed against Marx­ism itself, is noth­ing more than the scream­ing echo of social-demo­crat­ic and Sta­lin­ist capit­u­la­tion that has cursed human­ity for sev­ enty years. Homage is rendered to Marx­ism — it is paid to the liv­ing thereby ren­der­ing the liv­ing ‘offi­cially dead’ — and the hope on every­body’s lips from Brezh­nev to Lin Piao to Robin Black­burn to Henry Kis­sing­er to Michael Har­ring­ton is that the liv­ing will accept quietly the con­fines of this coffin of kisses, and cut out that damn scream­ing for release.

In essence, this week­end wor­ship of the dia­lectic is only one more attempt to expro­pri­ate the form of the dia­lectic — its vocab­u­lary — and thereby to sup­press the dia­lectic’s revolu­tion­ary and explos­ive con­tent. The dia­lectic is then turned back upon itself, and becomes the liv­ing noose around its own neck and the cat­egor­ic­al rejec­tion of its own essence; the essence as expressed by Marx that philo­sophy can only pre­serve itself by its neg­a­tion — by be­coming the meth­od for the actu­al sen­su­ous trans­form­a­tion of social real­ity and real­iz­ing itself, no longer as philos­ophy, but as the mater­i­al force of human activ­ity. Thus, the new left can have its philo­soph­ic­al mis­tress in dialec­tics, just as Stal­in could have his pimp Lukács to pay homage to the dia­lectic, while Stal­in amused him­self with the ‘human­ism’, the neces­sit’, the ‘inev­it­ab­il­ity’, and oh yes, Georg, the ulti­mate ‘ration­al­ity’ of slave labor camps. The dia­lectic too falls prey to com­mod­ity fet­ish­ism and smoth­ers in the worm bed of polit­ic­al cret­in­ism, on the mat­tress of Lukács , Stal­in, Mao, and the new left.

Infatu­ation stands in hyp­not­ic fas­cin­a­tion before the mys­ter­i­ous, and the career of Lukács has all the mys­tery and legend of a drowned man who haunts the lakes with a phantom reg­u­lar­ity. Lit­er­ary crit­ic, com­mis­sar, Marx­ist, extreme left­ist, and then the light­ning capit­u­la­tion and adher­ence to  Sta­lin­ism, hold enough mys­tery to breed a rev­er­ence for a type of Kan­tian unknow­able ‘Thing unto itself’. The ques­tion is breathed with a mourn­ful respect, “Will we ever know what Georg Lukács was rea11y like, what he really felt about Marx­ism and Sta­lin­ism?” Those who ask the ques­tion, of course, already believe in the impossib­il­ity of dis­cov­er­ing the answer and so feel secure to exer­cise their stu­pid­ity out­side the fright­en­ing intru­sions of real­ity. They seek only one more amuse­ment in the game of schol­ast­ic shad­ows. The ques­tion is substi­tuted for the answer and rev­er­ence replace­mer­ci­less crit­icism as the motor force for this ‘new Marxism’.

Need­less to say, the rev­er­ence that Lukács receives is deserving only of the gentle caresses of the nearest waste bas­ket. How­ever, the basis for so much of this mys­tery, com­ing as it does in the peri­od of sim­ul­tan­eous disinte­gration of the new left and the resur­gence of Marx­ism, this con­tinu­al ‘com­ing up for air’ by Lukács, resides in his anchor work His­tory and Class Con­scious­ness. This book is too faulty and too eas­ily mis­taken for ‘ori­gin­al’, ‘bril­liant’, ‘valu­able’, to be either sum­mar­ily dis­carded or repressed. If that course is taken, the ghost hands of homage may nev­er leave the throat of Marx­ism. The sig­ nific­ance of His­tory and Class Con­scious­ness is pre­cisely its pathet­ic weak­ness, its ortho­dox pos­tur­ing, its rigid and undia­lect­ic­al ana­lys­is, its betray­al of Marx­ism even with­in its most elab­or­ate of defenses. It is sig­ni­fic­ant only in that it pres­ages Lukács’ rap­id col­lapse into the lap of Sta­lin­ism, where his incom­pet­ence as a Marx­ist finds its deep­est and most anti-Marx­ist expression.

Writ­ten between 1919 and 1923, His­tory and Class Con­sciousness has finally re-emerged in full access to those who knew of it only through the whispered ref­er­ences in philo­soph­ic­al journ­als. The book con­tains eight essays in which Lukács attempts to explore the Marx­ist dia­lectic, defend the dia­lectic total­ity from the frag­ment­ary crav­ings of oppor­tunism, and devel­op the inter­re­la­tion­ship of Marx and Hegel. All of these, we might add, are noble pro­jects, but Lukács is chron­ic­ally incap­able of bring­ing any but the most con­fused res­ults. Included in the new edi­tion is a spe­cial intro­duct­ory essay writ­ten by Lukács in 1967, devoted in large part to answer­ing the ques­tions of his idi­ot wor­ship­pers. The real Georg Lukács has stood up. Lukács makes it quite clear that he has aban­doned the realm of revolu­tion­ary Marx­ism and feels that His­tory and Class Con­scious­ness has only doc­u­ment­ary value. It is a test­a­ment, he claims, to the “revolu­tion­ary messian­ism” (Lukács’ words) he exper­i­enced in his youth (he was a tod­dler of age thirty four). And we are com­pelled to take this whim­per­ing self-cri­ti­cism as indic­at­ive of this ‘finest Marx­ist since Marx’. For Lukács was ‘con­ver­ted’ to Marx­ism, and brought to it all the zeal of a pre­vi­ous des­pair, and the’ destruct­ive evan­gel­ism that sub­sti­tutes fer­vor and shrieks for revolu­tion­ary reas­on. This furi­ous evan­gel­ism quickly bows in pray­er before the self-cre­ated mon­ster gods who are reli­giously abstrac­ted from the Marx­ism itself. Lukács’ col­lapse towards Sta­lin­is­rn is merely the com­ple­ment­ary oppos­ite, the reflec­ted iden­tity, of his cru­sad­ing left­ism of 1918–1924. It is the per­verse unity of appar­ent oppos­ites, this infant­ile left­ism and senile Sta­lin­ism — the evan­gel­ist who trans­forms him­self into the cath­ol­ic priest, each time claim­ing know­ledge of the real god and sac­ri­fi­cing at the altar of bru­tal­ity, as testi­mony to his’ belief’, Marx­ism inter­na­tion­al revolu­tion, the finest cur­rents of Bolshev­ism, and the pro­let­ari­at itself.

Lukács nev­er enter­tained, for the slight­est moment, any attrac­tion to or solid­ar­ity with Trot­sky and the Left Oppo­sition; and while Trot­sky and the inter­na­tion­al oppos­i­tion struggled fever­ishly to pre­serve by trans­form­ing Bolshev­ism and the whole of revolu­tion­ary Marx­ism, Lukács slipped eas­ily and will­ingly into the folds of  Sta­lin­ist butchery. There he oscil­lated forever and nowhere around the axis of infin­ite sub­mis­sion. Indeed, the career of Lukács might be entitled ‘per­man­ent vacil­la­tion’, as he spins per­petu­ally on the fringes of the truth, main­tain­ing enough dis­tance from the storms of life to avoid the nec­ essity of a truly dia­lect­ic­al par­ti­cip­a­tion and inter­ven­tion in his­tory. Lukács recan­ted (it is of utmost sig­ni­fic­ance that reli­gious descrip­tions grav­it­ate so eas­ily to this ‘Marx­ist’) His­tory and Class Con­scious­ness, because a refus­al — an act of res­ist­ance — would have res­ul­ted in his expul­sion from the Comin­tem. If this were to hap­pen, rea­ soned this finest Marx­ist, he could not join the ‘anti-fas­­cist struggle’. What con­crete insight! What bril­liance! We are well acquain­ted with the Comin­tern ‘s bril­liant record in the ‘anti-fas­cist’ struggle. The string of its vic­tor­ies echoes with the hol­low laughs of graves ones of the pro­let­ari­at — Ger­many, Spain, France. What a fine Marx­ist this finest Marx­ist is!

These mis­takes, these vacil­la­tions and pseudo-ana­lyses by Georg Lukács do not fall from the sky, but res­ult from Lukács’ con­cep­tion of the dia­lectic. And it is pre­cisely this dia­lectic (or lack of one) that is the object of so much romance among the inher­it­ors of Lukács’ crum­bling castle. Des­pite the appar­ent atten­tion to the Hegel­i­an dia­lectic, Lukács con­sist­ently makes the most crit­ic­al of mis­takes ­ he sub­sti­tutes a notion of dir­ect and imme­di­ate iden­tity of oppos­ites for Hegel­’s unity of oppos­ites. The col­lapse of oppos­i­tion­al unity into an imme­di­ate iden­tity of appear­ ance deprives the dia­lectic of its motor force — the ten­sion of move­ment between what is and what could be, in short, becom­ing. Des­pite Lukács’ protests, the real is not imme­diately identic­al with the pos­sible, but is uni­fied with :it to the degree that the real con­tains the pos­sible. This con­tainment requires human inter­ven­tion and the rich draw­ ing forth of hid­den cap­ab­il­it­ies (anot her pro­cess of be­ com­ing), that Lukács nev­er under­stands. To col­lapse real and pos­sible into an imme­di­ate iden­tity is to pre­serve a his­tor­ic­al situ­ation as time­less- to re-cre­ate from the left the vari­ous net­works of capitalism.

The implic­a­tions of this mis­take for Marx­ism are dis­astrous. As the case of Lukács exhib­its, it leads to the sub­stitution of an image of the pro­let­ari­at as it should be in place of the pro­let­ari­at as it is and could be. This substi­tution, this reli­gious abstrac­tion, acts as anoth­er ros­ary of spikes around the neck of human lib­er­a­tion. This schol­astic hal­lu­cin­a­tion, in fact, deprives the pro­let­ari­at of its own move­ment and self-trans­form­a­tion as it is made into the already exist­ing ideal, which it isn’t! The move­ment of becom­ing drops out of this ana­lys­is, the notion of po­ ten­tial van­ishes, and sub­sti­tuted for the real pro­let­ari­at and the real tasks of eman­cip­a­tion, we have reli­gious dogma, the wor­ship of the abstract, and the capit­u­la­tion to the imme­di­ate. Moreover, the col­lapse of this ten­sion in becom­ing forces revolu­tion to present itself only as a moment , a mys­ter­i­ous moment, instead of the leap of the dia­lect­ic­al pro­cess that has been build­ing its force with­in the very chains of cap­it­al­ism. If Lukács’ ana­lys­is were cor­rect or even mean­ing­ful, we would be faced with an abstract pro­let­ari­at devoid of life and real­ity, which, be­ cause it had no becom­ing could not recog­nize its own de­sires in its day to day activ­ity and there­fore nev­er demand more Life, more desire. The pro­let­ari­at could not, in fact, make the revolu­tion or truly win its self-eman­cip­a­tion, because it should have done both yes­ter­day! Or the day before!

All of Lukács ’ spine-twist­ing pos­tures about subject­ object iden­tity are merely the empty rat­tlings of a hol­low gourd. The main­ten­ance of cap­it­al­ism is the con­sist­ent and cease­less attempt to col­lapse the pro­let­ari­at into the realm where the sub­ject is in fact the object and is only the object. Lukács’ attempts to reverse this situ­ation with­ out first stand­ing it on its head can only reflect the con­ditions of slow bru­tal­ity without chan­ging them.

Hegel, whom Lukács nev­er fully under­stood, insisted upon this ten­sion, this prime cat­egory of becom­ing as the key to the dia­lectic. For Hegel, the move­ment of becom­ing is con­scious­ness; for Marx, how­ever, the mov­ing force be­comes mater­i­al, in the uni­ver­sal-prac­tic­al sense as human labor. This mov­ing force, the cease­less inter­play and ten­ sion of growth, absorbs the world, draws it to man’s needs, and makes it the prac­tic­al basis for the very becom­ing which is at the ori­gin of activ­ity. Thus the ten­sion of man and the world is con­tinu­ously over­come and cre­at­ively re-cre­ated by labor itself. Lukács, whom the new left nev­er fully under­stands, nev­er grasped this pivot of Marx­ism and the dia­lectic. Rather than praise for his feeble attempts, Lukács deserves only to be fought to a fin­ish. If the pro­let­ari­at is sac­ri­ficed upon Lukács ’ altar of the stat­ic image and there trans­formed into a reli­gious icon, Lukács cre­ates an equally abstract and undia­lect­ic­al con­ception of the party. The party is the “self-con­scious­ness of the pro­let­ari­at incarn­ate” — the beacon on the coast of revolu­tion. The fact, how­ever, remains that the proletar­ian clip­per needs both beacons and rud­ders to sail into the har­bors of delight. It needs self-con­scious­ness, not on the shore, but in its very sails! This abstrac­tion trans­forms the party , a tool for lib­er­a­tion, into the organ of per­petu­al oppres­sion. Lukács claims, in ‘Towards a Meth­od­o­logy of the Prob­lem of Organization’:

We said then that the dis­cip­line of the Com­mun­ist Party, the uncon­di­tion­al absorp­tion of the total per­sonality in the prax­is of the move­ment was the only pos­sible way of bring­ing about an authen­t­ic freedom. 

Lukács is too busy cross­ing him­self to notice that this ab­straction can have mean­ing only if the party becomes the prac­tic­al tool for the total lib­er­a­tion, the total release of the cre­at­ive ener­gies of the human per­son­al­ity and not just the chant­ing sub­ser­vi­ence of its mem­bers. Such fer­vor, the com­pens­a­tion for ignor­ance, can only be met with a sad smile and a f erocious attack, oth­er­wise the eccles­iastical exal­ta­tion is only the fore­run­ner of com­plete sup­plication before an inver­ted Bolshev­ism a Bolshev­ism that is only an abstract form without a revolu­tion­ary con­tent. This spir­itu­al hum­bling, this cath­ol­ic grov­el­ling, pro­vides a smokescreen of obed­i­ence for the bru­tal­ity of stal­ inism in that it abdica tes the respons­ib­il­ity of a penna­ nent revolu­tion with­in the struc­tures of organ­iz­a­tion. The party and the pro­let­ari­at can only pro­pel each oth­er to con­scious­ness and power through the dia­lectic of becom­ing mani­fes­ted in work­ers’ coun­cils. Lukács’ absorp­tion of the per­son­al­ity is dir­ectly par­al­lel to the absorp­tion of the work­ers by the ‘work­ers’ state’ — a dir­ect reversal of the dia­lectics of pro­let­ari­an dictatorship.

Much has been made by the cheap bur­lesque comedi­ans of the ‘new Marx­ism’ of Lukács ’ silly polem­ic against Engels in the essay ‘Reific­a­tion and the Con­scious­ness of the Pro­let­ari­at’. Engels dis­missed Kant’s unknow­able ‘thing unto itself’ by an appeal to the use of exper­i­ment, sci­ence and industry as the final refut­a­tion of this mys­ticism. Lukács takes it upon him­self to refute Engels’ for­mu­la­tion by his typ­ic­al (if not fun­da­ment­al to the very name Georg Lukács) mis­guided meth­od. Lukács points out the vocab­u­lar­ic mis­take Engels makes in con­fus­ing the ‘thing unto itself’ and the ‘thing for us’. How­ever in doing this, and insist­ing that exper­i­ment and inven­tion under­go inver­sion with­in cap­it­al­ist soci­ety, his form­al cor­rect­ness totally obscures and misses the impli­cit thrust of Engels’ argu­ment. It is clearly, although not immedi­ately, evid­ent that Engels approached the ques­tion from the cor­rect stand­point. The appeals to sci­ence, industry, exper­i­ment, are in fact the attempts to give mater­i­al roots to Hegel­’s a rgu­ment “to know the poten­ti­al­it­ies of a thing is to know the thing in itself.” Engels, unlike Lukács, is con­cerned at all points with trans­lat­ing Hegel­’s know­ledge into human praxis.

Even those essays of His­tory and Class Con­scious­ness that show the flashes of crys­tal insight (in par­tic­u­lar the essay ‘Class Con­scious­ness’) lack that prac­tic­al-ima­gin­at­ive revolu­tion­ary ker­nel that could sus­tain the ideas against the ebb of revolu­tion, and the tend­ency of the au­thor to capit­u­late at the slight­est move­ment of a feath­er. Lukács liv­ing in the world of abstrac­tion could do noth­ing but capit­u­late, capit­u­late, and capit­u­late to the world of the con­crete. Lukács deprived Marx­ism of its strongest weapon, the ima­gin­a­tion. Marx­ism without ima­gin­a­tion, we might add, is sim­il­ar to sur­real­ism without revolt — an empty play­ground for schol­ast­ic voyeurs.

This same lack of dia­lectic per­vades Lukács’ ‘lit­er­ary work’. With shame­less ignor­ance of the revolu­tion­ary ex­plosions of poetry, paint­ing, the entire lumin­ous sphere of cre­ation, Lukács hawked the nov­el as the time­less achieve­ment of human­ity. It is worth­while to note that Lukács attacked Trot­sky’s con­cep­tion of revolu­tion­ary cul­ture on the grounds that it could nev­er be. In fact, Trot­sky, who under­stood Hegel, Marx, dia­lectics, and real­ity, poin­ted to a revolu­tion­ary cul­ture that is only in its becom­ing. that exists only to go bey­ond itself.

As for Lukács’ Sta­lin­ism, we are sure that the con-artists and infatu­ated eclectics of the new left will find more than a few excuses for Lukács in their garbage dumps of in­finite capit­u­la­tion. The more they defend Lukács, the more they reveal their own inab­il­ity to con­trib­ute any­thing mean­ing­ful to the rise of pro­let­ari­an revolu­tion. For every excuse offered, it must be asser­ted again and again — Revolu­tion demands an iron will, a dic­tat­or­ship of in­tegrity, a will­ing­ness to fight the degen­er­ate tend­en­cies with­in the very revolu­tion itself. It is pre­cisely this lack of dia­lectic, this lack of integ­rity that makes Lukács, the almost-Marx­ist, what he is and was — The Sponge King.

 

Peter Manti: Anti-Realism: St. Georg’s Revelation in Aesthetics and the Outcome of Classical Bourgeois Realism

1. Elements of a Dossier Concerning a Truly Scarlet Case

Son of a wealthy Bud­apest fam­ily, before the First World War Georg Lukács was a prom­in­ent mem­ber of the ideal­ist school of Ger­man philo­sophy and soci­ology, and par­ti­cip­ated in a group whose cent­ral aim was to dis­ cred­it the mater­i­al­ist con­cep­tion of his­tory, to prove that cer­tain etern­al prop­er­ties of the mind, forms of think­ing, were the real forces of his­tory. In a magazine devoted to the first anniversary of the Octo­ber Revolu­tion, Lukács wrote in Novem­ber, 1918:

Is it pos­sible to arrive at good by evil means. to arrive at free­dom by oppres­sion? Can a new world order be cre­ated  if the means for its cre­ation are indis­tin­guish­able, except tech­nic­ally from those of The old order?…
  Bolshev­ism bases itself on the meta­phys­ic­al assump­tion that good can come out of evil, that it is pos­sible to arrive through lies at the truth. The author of these lin es can­not share that belief.

A few days after this state­ment, Lukács joined the Hun­garian Com­mun­ist Party. In the abort­ive Hun­gari­an Rev­olution of 1919, under the 180 days of Bela Kun, Lukács accep­ted the post of Min­is­ter of Culture.

From 1924 onward, Lukács came to sup­port the Stal­in fac­tion in the Rus­si­an Com­mun­ist Party. Accept­ing the “the­ory of social­ism in one coun­try,” and the con­sequent bur­eau­crat­ic purges, Lukács found himse lf hor­ri­fied by the ultra-left­ism of Third Peri­od Sta­lin­ism after 1929, a turn pav­ing the way to Hitler­’s vic­tory in Ger­many. Resi­ dent in Ber­lin in the years 1931 and 1932, Lukács was a bit­ter oppon­ent of Trot­sky, who was strug­gling for the policy of the united front.

To clear my own mind and to achieve a polit­ic­al and the­or­et­ic­al self-under­sland­ing. I was engaged at that time on a genu­ine left-wing pro­gramme that would provide a third altern­at­ive to the oppos­ing fac­tions in Ger­many. I nev­er suc­ceeded in solv­ing it to my own sat­is­fac­tion and so I did not pub­lish any the­or­et­ic­al or polit­ic­al con­tributions on the inter­na­tion­al level dur­ing this peri­od.

Lukács claims he did con­trib­ute cri­ti­cisms with­in the Hun­gari­an Com­mun­ist Party. He writes:

My intern­al . private self-cri­ti­cism came to the conclu­sion that if I was so clearly in the right, as I believed. and could still not avoid such a sen­sa­tion­al defeat. then there must be grave defect in my prac­tic­al abil­it­ies.
  There­fore. I fell able to with­draw from my polit­ic­al career with a good con­science, and con­cen­trate on the­or­et­ic­al mat­ters. I have nev­er regret­ted this decision.

And more clearly:

When I heard from a reli­able source that Bela Kun was plan­ning to expel me from the Parry as a ’ Liquid­at­or,’ I gave up the struggle, as I was well aware of Kun­’s prestige in the Inter­na­tion­al and I pub­lished a ’ Self-Criticism’.

One of the fun­da­ment­al work-rules of bur­eau­cracy requir­ing the lop­ping-off of those heads which appear above the gen­er­al mass, Lukács con­fined him­self to snip­ing fire at some ele­ments of Zhdan­ov’s bulls con­cern­ing cul­ture. Of course. Lukács did not really with­draw from polit­ics. Adding his intel­lec­tu­al repu­ta­tion to the chau­vin­ist­ic pro­pa­ganda of Stal­in in 1942, Lukács wrote:

The Ger­man people. made drunk by dem­agogy. whipped for­ward by ter­ror. plaything of its bes­ti­al instincts, went stag­ger­ing to its ruin.

We may unhes­it­at­ingly state that the struggle of even the most obscure Left Oppos­i­tion­ist against Sta­lin­ism con­trib­uted infin­itely more to the cause of the pro­let­ari­an revolu­tion than did the entire out­put of Lukács in this period.

Feel­ing obliged to speak out when the Chinese Com­munist Party made form­ally cor­rect cri­ti­cisms of ‘peace­ful co-exist­ence’, Lukács said noth­ing about the 1956 Hun­gari­an Revolu­tion in which he joined the reform­ist Sta­lin­ist gov­ern­ment of Imre Nagy which was about to be swept away by the Hun­gari­an work­ers in order bet­ter to repulse the Rus­si­an tanks. For this mis­de­mean­our, he suffered brief exile in Rumania. Con­cern­ing the inva­sion of Czechoslov­akia in August 1968 and the Pol­ish work­ers’ upris­ing in 1970–71, Lukács was silent.

What can be the mean­ing of Lukács’ ”con­tri­bu­tion’ to Marx­ism”, giv­en these ser­vices to the counter-revolu­tion? To the seekers after the mantle of Lukács: servil­ity was nev­er a revolu­tion­ary virtue.

2. The Defense of the Accused and the Statements of Material Witnesses, Including the Works of the Author Himself

Hav­ing failed ever to con­demn the assas­sin­a­tion of Trot­sky and the liquid­a­tion of the Left Oppos­i­tion, Lukács in his latest writ­ings attemp­ted shame­lessly to ex­cuse his dec­ades of silence to the point of pos­ing as some bat­tler against Stal­in. In the pre­face to his book Writer and Crit­ic (revised 1970), Lukács states:

It is not hard to see today that the main dir­ec­tion of these essays was in oppos­i­tion to the dom­in­ant lit­er­ary the­ory of the time. Stal­in and his fol­low­ers deman­ded that lit­er­at­ure pro­vide tac­tic­al sup­port to their cur­rent polit­ic­al policies. As every­one knows, no open polem­ics were pos­sible at that time.

From the same preface:

Con­scious res­ist­ance breaks the magic circle restrict­ing and degrad­ing men.

Leav­ing aside the inac­curacies, dis­tor­tions, lies and con­tradictions con­tained in these state­ments, Lukács, hav­ing the char­ac­ter of a jelly­fish, remains “restric­ted and degraded.”

Com­ment­ing on Lukács’ 1918 art­icle in the journ­al Kom­mun­ismmus, Len­in wrote (June 12, 1920):

G.L.‘s art­icle is very left-wing. and very poor . Its Marx­ism is purely verbal. its dis­tinc­tions 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.).
Len­in, Col­lec­ted Works, Vol . 31, p. 165) 

In his 1967 pre­face to His­tory and Class Con­scious­ness, Lukács says:

In the debate in the Rus­si­an party I sided with Stal­in about the neces­sity for social­ism in one coun­try and this shows very clearly the start of a new epoch in my thoughts.

This is most reveal­ing and has the vir­tue of frank­ness. Len­in denounced Lukács’ Marx­ism as purely verbal and now Lukács tells us that if there was any great change it came with the new Sta­lin­ist epoch! We would be hard put to find a clear­er expres­sion of abject wor­ship of the accom­plished fact.

In writ­ing his col­lec­tion of essays that became His­tory and Class Con­scious­ness. Lukács was bat­tling the bour­geois the­or­ies of Hegel and Sorel. From Hegel, Lukács took the concept of total­ity, which he coun­ter­posed to the eco­nom­ic determ­in­ism of Kaut­sky, Adler, Bern­stein and oth­er the­or­ists of Social Demo­cracy. Lukács, by show­ing that the incom­pat­ib­il­ity of bour­geois the­ory and Marx­ism lay not at the level of data but at the level of logic­al struc­ture posed the ques­tion cor­rectly. Need­less to state, he was and remained con­gen­it­ally incap­able of answer­ing it.

For Lukács , Marx­ism goes com­pletely back to Hegel in the worst sense, becom­ing a closed sys­tem for contempla­tion instead of a meth­od of struggle to change the world. His­tory and Class Con­scious­ness is fun­da­ment­ally ideal­ist and con­sti­tutes a rejec­tion of mater­i­al­ism. The dialec­tical total­ity of which Lukács speaks is a purely men­tal cat­egory; he rejects Engels’ con­clu­sion: “The unity of the world con­sists in its materiality.”

Lukács’ book, Len­in, is unfor­tu­nately based on a string of lies — for example, Lukács claims Len­in was ini­tially alone in oppos­ing the First World War from a revolu­tion ary defeat­ist pos­i­tion. Not to men­tion the fact that he here presents the Party not as a devel­op­ing unity of the­ory and prac­tice, but as a fixed star, jus­ti­fied in im­ pos­ing its guid­ance on the work­ing class by any means. Unlike His­tory and Class Con­scious­ness, which was roundly con­demned by the Comin­tern and which Lukács him­self later renounced, Len­in was able to slip by unnoticed.

From the late 1920’s onward, Lukács advances the the­ory of phe­nom­en­al, as opposed to struc­tur­al, real­ism in art- evid­enced in The His­tor­ic­al Nov­el and The Mean­ing of Con­tem­por­ary Real­ism. This ulti­mately mean­ing­less dis­tinc­tion was used in an attempt to show how the products of high bour­geois art and the ‘social­ist real­ism’ of Sta­lin­ist Rus­sia could be com­bined. Lukács, par­tic­u­larly in these two books, suc­ceeds in restruc­tur­ing Marx­ism so as to make it pal­at­able to the petty bour­ geois­ie he had rejec­ted as sterile in the face of the ef­fectiveness of Marxism.

3. The Judgment

A fear­some Don Quix­ote mas­quer­ad­ing as Saint George, Lukács has been called, and has accep­ted as title, “the world’s finest crit­ic.” It should be added with a note of black humor — in par­ti­bus infi­deli­um.

The infant­ile dis­order of the young­er Lukács as Min­ister of Cul­ture (sic!) in the Hun­gari­an Soviet under the 180 days of Bela Kun was cured irre­medi­ably as uneasy pan­egyr­ist to Stal­in. Lukács ’ trans­ition from interest in class-con­scious­ness to cri­ti­cism and defense of spe­cific­ally bour­geois con­scious­ness is trans­par­ently explic­able. His good coin in par­tic­u­lar circles of the Imper­i­al West is itself suf­fi­cient proof of this.

The ulti­mate indefens­ib­il­ity of real­ism and the per­fidy of Lukács has been mani­festly exposed and enables us to state: the foam­ing hydras and their mates shall be put to the mir­ror rather than the wall. And see­ing the stark cube of sui­cide they will with­er hor­ribly, know­ing that they are no longer cap­able of even that. And Saint Georg too will have dis­in­teg­rated and no longer be their defend­er, most able, puff­ing up the stink­ing corpse of real­ism which is both their shad­ow and sub­stance, from which even the least sens­it­ive of their num­ber reel in ennerv­at­ing disgust.

In death as in life, blast­ingly ennervated.

Peter Manti: Theses on Realism

I

Accept­ing the bour­geois pre­cept of sole and lim­it­less quant­it­at­ive addi­tion as the highest expres­sion of sci­ence and cul­ture, Lukács above all (twice) has refused to accept its inev­it­able con­sequence: a mon­ster. This under­lying equa­tion of all hor­ror tit­il­la­tions is at the same time the birth sign and tomb inscrip­tion of the bour­geois order.

II

Frantic­ally ply­ing their catar­act-crowned cereb­ral noses for new inspir­a­tions, bour­geois artists again pro­duce noth­ing but real­ity warmed-over, reified fac­tu­al moments on whatever strictly ver­tic­al plane palmed off as life in spec­tacle. The mar­velous to them is first: a book; second: a book sealed with sev­en seals.

III

Though not gen­er­ally giv­en to accre­tions of hoard­ing, this pecu­li­ar redund­ant psych­ic struc­ture is·still mani­fest: the con­tra­dic­tion most poin­ted in col­lec­tions, private col­lections, and private showings.

IV

The lim­its and con­dem­na­tion of bour­geois cul­ture are thus the museum and the market.

V

The activ­it­ies and sterile eman­a­tions of the crit­ics are them­selves suf­fi­cient to expose them as eye­less without form, and gen­er­ate a con­clu­sion as to the even­tu­al and def­in­ite extinc­tion of this cat­egory of being. Sec­ond­ary though neces­sary extru­sions. Tics!

VI

Throw­ing off vari­ous tan­gen­tial and car­ni­val ‘isms’, the entire his­tory of bour­geois cul­ture nev­er­the­less essen­tially resolves itself into the his­tory of realism.

VII

In struc­ture and intent, the nov­el was and remains the most aus­pi­cious form for the dis­sem­in­a­tion of real­ism. The nov­el is to bour­geois cul­ture as money is to bour­geois economy.

VIII

The “psy­cho­lo­gic­al insights” of real­ism, this flat and mech­an­ic­al reflect­ive the­ory of know­ledge, a later bour­geois refine­ment, finally runs up against the wall of its cage from the inside.

IX

Shakespeare did not write nov­els. Bre­ton and Per­et could not write novels.

X

The death of real­ism is a fact. It is its wake which is in progress.

XI

Real­ists have suf­fi­ciently described their world; the point, how­ever, is to des­troy it. The sur­real­ists are already sur­passing this task.

Blake’s step bey­ond was to not only read The Bible  , but to write one

Notes

  1. Quoted in Wal­ter Kauf­man, Hegel: A Rein­ter­pret­a­tion (Doubleday Anchor, 1966) p. 310.
  2. I for­get wheth­er it was the May­or of Newark, or some Sen­at­or or Gov­ernor, who, some years ago, hor­ri­fied by the car­ni­val atmo­sphere of the black insur­rec­tions, likened this atmo­sphere to laugh­ing or dan­cing at a funer­al. Pre­cisely so. And be assured that at the twin funer­al of cap­it­al­ist and Sta­lin­ist civil­iz­a­tion, the sur­real­ists and the pro­let­ari­at will laugh and dance like no one has ever laughed or danced before.
  3. See for example the ridicu­lous pamph­let by Lin Mo-han, Raise High­er the Ban­ner of Mao Tse-tung Thought on Art and Lit­er­at­ure (Pek­ing. 1961).