Spider and Fly: The Leninist Philosophy of Georg Lukács
Paul Le Blanc
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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.