Spider and Fly: The Leninist Philosophy of Georg Lukács
Paul Le Blanc
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.
interaction’. In History and Class Consciousness he had gone somewhat further. ‘If every member of the party commits his whole personality and his whole existence to the party,’ according to Lukács, ‘then the same centralising and disciplinary principle will preside over the living interaction between the will of the members and that of the party leadership, and will ensure that the will and the wishes, the proposals and the criticisms of the members are given due weight by the party leaders.’ He
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the revolutionary perspective of Lenin that Lukács had embraced by 1922. The newly-discovered Tailism and the Dialectic (1926) comes third in the major works reflecting Lukács’s 1920s theoretical achievement, the others being History and Class Consciousness (1923), Lenin – A Study in the Unity of His Thought (1924) and ‘The Blum Theses’ (1929). The achievement involves what is in many ways an unsurpassed expression of Marxist and Leninist theory, an expression intimately connected in Hungary with
1923, ‘where workers’ councils still existed, they had effectively lost all their power’. Connecting threads with Trotsky’s critique could be imagined in the passages of Lukács’s book glorifying the soviets, which ‘had become a tragic reminder of the contradiction between the original aspirations of the revolution and the sociohistorical constraints which by then actually prevailed also in postrevolutionary Russia.’30 It could be argued that all of this was related to limitations in the Marxist