Eradicating György Lukács’s heritage

György (Georg) Lukács (1885-1971), the Hungarian Marxist philosopher, might be controversial, but he was an important figure in twentieth-century western philosophy. Because of his life-long affiliation with the communist movement of the Soviet variety, however, the two far-right parties, Fidesz and Jobbik, have been doing their best to obliterate his name from the country’s collective memory.

These two parties found a willing accomplice in this task in József Pálinkás, president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences between 2008 and 2014. Pálinkás, who earlier was a member of the first Orbán government and later a Fidesz member of parliament, is one of those who find any remaining vestiges of liberalism or socialism in Hungary abhorrent. He is no friend of the United States either. As soon as Fidesz won the national election and a few months later the municipal election in Budapest, Pálinkás’s first act was to start a campaign to remove FDR’s name from the public square where the Academy’s building stands. That move launched a frenzy of street renaming, with the removal of all those names the Fidesz and Jobbik city leaders found suspect. It was the Pálinkás-led Academy that eventually came to the help of those hapless mayors who couldn’t, for example, decide on their own whether a street could retain the name “Peace” or “Constitution.”

It was just a question of time before Pálinkás and his right-leaning friends in the Academy would find something very wrong with Lukács, who had left his library and manuscripts to the Academy. The understanding was that the collection would remain intact in the apartment in which he and his wife lived for decades. The apartment didn’t belong to Lukács; he rented it from the municipality. So, after his death, it was the Academy that paid the rent on the apartment, which was open to researchers from all over the world who were interested in Lukács’s work. After 2010, however, it was becoming clear that the government wanted to put an end to this arrangement. A group of philosophers who once upon a time were close to Lukács were harassed and accused of misappropriating research funds. Rumors circulated that the Academy wants to break up the collection and close the Lukács memorial center.

Apparently, a decision on the matter was reached during Pálinkás’s tenure, i.e., before 2014, but it was handed down only in March 2016. By that time the Academy had a new president, László Lovász, a Hungarian mathematician best known for his work in combinatorics. Unlike his two predecessors who were committed to the ideology of the right, Lovász tries to be politically neutral, no easy task in Hungary today.

Just as predicted, it was decided that the collection will be broken up, with the books eventually being moved to a library that hasn’t been built yet and the manuscripts being moved to the archives of the Academy. Those who would like to save the collection as it is now received help from the International Lukács Association with headquarters in Germany. Soon enough 3,500 signatures were collected worldwide to support the effort. At the moment the fate of the collection hangs in the balance.

The Lukács library and archives are not the only Lukács-related institutions that have been under fire. Jobbik politicians who have been active in eradicating Lukács’s name from Hungarian history decided to go to court, arguing that the György Lukács Foundation bears Lukács’s name illegally. When the Academy’s Historical Institute was instructed to rule on the question of forbidden street names, Lukács’s name was on the list. Therefore, the suit contended, no foundation can bear his name either. The judge in charge was at a loss, but at least he had the good sense to turn to László Lovász, president of the Academy. Until then Lovász had said nothing about the Lukács case, for which he was criticized. But once, at the request of the court, he had to take a stand, he opted to defend Lukács. He emphasized Lukács’s place in the history of philosophy and stressed the indispensability of nurturing his intellectual heritage. The foundation serves this purpose. If it were deprived of the name of the philosopher, it would lose the very rationale for its existence. The court accepted his opinion and ruled against Jobbik. You can imagine what the anti-Semitic kuruc.info had to say upon hearing the news. Lukács, the author wrote, was “a Jewish Marxist philosopher” and the judge’s ruling was an example of “anti-Hungarianism.”

It will be removed soon

But that’s not the end of the Lukács story. Lukács still has a statue in a park in District XIII, where the socialist party is very strong. Right-wing politicians have been eyeing the statue for some time. The Fidesz-KDNP candidate for district mayor actually campaigned on the issue in 2014. If he becomes mayor, he said, Lukács will go. When that came to naught, local Jobbik leaders asked the socialist mayor to remove the statue, which he naturally refused to do. In fact, these Jobbik politicians were knocking on the wrong door because the land on which the statue stands is under the jurisdiction of the Budapest Municipal Council. Here they naturally had a much better chance. Mayor István Tarlós loves removing names of political undesirables. Marcell Tokody, Jobbik member of the Budapest City Council, proposed removing the statue to make space for a new St. Stephen statue for the 980th anniversary of St. Stephen’s death, obviously a very important anniversary. Of course, the overwhelmingly Fidesz City Council voted for it with enthusiasm: 19 city fathers supported Jobbik’s proposal, and three members–two from the Demokratikus Koalíció and one from MSZP–voted against it. One member abstained.

At this point, the socialist mayor of District XIII asked István Tarlós to allow the statue to be erected on soil that belongs to the District. Tarlós pointed out that it is not his decision but that of the City Council. He added, however, that he would not support such a move “because of [Lukács’s] oeuvre [munkásság],” as if Tarlós had the slightest notion of Lukács’s oeuvre. So, kuruc.info didn’t have to worry that District XIII will provide a place for “a rat’s statue.” Actually, Lukács wasn’t the only “rat.” Kuruc.info also included in this category Árpád Göncz, the beloved first president of the Third Republic (1900-2000). This whole sorry story tells us a lot about the state of Hungary at the moment.

March 25, 2017
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Robert Morrison
Guest

I am not surprised at all. Every political party eradicated or at least tried to their opposition from public memory. Rakosi and his gang did the same, Kadar followed suit and all after him did the same. The reason you feel so strong about this regime because they are not on your side. That’s all.

e-1956
Guest

This current regime is supported mostly by the same spineless, misguided, egoistic people like all other oppressive past fascist dictatorships. The few intellectual supporters of this gulash fascism are just senile or blind to see the nature of the OV circus.

The silent but decent majority is locked out, and not represented by anybody.

Robert Morrison
Guest

To e-1956 … “The silent but decent majority is locked out” .. as always in history. Just remember how the leader of the communist Hungary was “chosen”. Out of the 11 million Hungarians 700,000 party members elected 1,200 congress participant that named 20 Polit-Bureau members who chose 5 secretaries and that 5 backboneless Muscovites named Kadar Janos to be the First Secretary of the party. What happened to the”silent but decent majority”? Were they not locked out? Szabadság Elvtársak!

Ferenc
Guest

“silent but decent majority is locked out”
WHY do they let themselves be locked out?
If they are so decent they SHOULD, directly after the lost 2014 elections, have started OR rejuvenating old political parties OR start their own new (decent majority) party. Unfortunately now just a year till the next main elections it’s too late to be successful in one of the options.
But that decent majority should now start preparing for one of those major changes (rejuvenation or new party) to be implemented directly after the 2018 elections.

webber
Guest

Pardon???? Which political party in England ever tried to eliminate its opposition from public memory?
After c. 1994, which political party in Hungary tried to eliminate its opposition from public memory?
You are full of nonsense.

Observer
Guest

Robert M

“Kadar followed suit and all after him did the same. ”
Who were these “all” and how did they “eradicated or tried to..” ?
You promise a great surprise ….

Ferenc
Guest

I think I recognized the location of Lukacs’statue as St.Stephen’s Park, a nice park a little north of ‘Margit Hid’ along the Danube. Strange that it’s not under the responsibility of the 13.district’s municipality (may be that has something to do with the park being named after the first king of Hungary).
And the reasons some of these people find, mind boggling, to remember the 980th anniversary of something…… Better not lower your mind to their level in a quest to try to understand them.
Regarding the president of the Academy, László Lovász. If you want to know more about him, I can recommend this interview with him: http://hirtv.hu/alinda/lovasz-laszlo-1379326
Please note, that you’ll hear Alinda more than Laszlo himself, he obviously seems better with figures and numbers than with letters and words…….

dvhr
Guest

And also there was the entertaining debate on the number of soldiers Lukacs had executed (or perhaps not).

Guest

Of course “a Jewish Marxist philosopher” has to be eliminated from the Hungarian consciousness to leave space for all those antisemitic fascist people from Horthy times like Wass Albert that have to be remembered and revered as role models for Hungarian youth!

aida
Guest

Lukacs was a very important figure of the 20th century. Apart from being a hugely important Marxist Philosopher advocating a return to pre Stalinist Marxism he interpreted Lenin’s pragmatic utterings into a seemingly comprehensive whole. He was an eminent literary critic. Regrettably he was Culture Commissar of Bela Kun’s Government which mercifully was short lived.
The idea that Lukacs’s legacy can be eliminated just serves to show the primitive, petty and tyranny oriented mindset of the guys in charge in Hungary.

Andrew Endrey
Guest

Lukacs was also appointed to Imre Nagy’s even shorter-lived government, thereby earning the ire of Kadar’s regime in subsequent years, as well as being criticised for his individual views on literature and art. After his death in 1971, Lukacs’ students, including Agnes Heller, could not find employment and, in the case of Heller and her husband, Ferenc Feher, were obliged to leave Hungary in 1977 to take up an appointment in a new university in Melbourne, Australia.

Another victim of Communist oppression in this regard was the Chinese Marxist literary critic, Hu Feng, whose views on the purpose of literature and art which conflicted with Mao’s stress on socialist realism made him the centrepiece of a campaign against counter-revolutionaries in 1955, and resulted in his imprisonment until 1979. One of the charges levelled against Hu Feng was that he was “a disciple of Lukacs”. Hu had only ever read one of Lukacs’ essays in translation, but broadly agreed with his views on critical realism, while Lukacs never read anything by Hu, though he was known to have remarked: “I even have followers in China!”

wrfree
Guest

If Mr.Lukacs were alive today seeing the proceedings against on high from a ‘castle’ inhabited by the Fidesz/Jobbik thought-police I’d think he wouldn’t bat an eye as he would see how life can imitate art in his circumstances. I’d think he’d perhaps see himself in the opening sentence of Kafka’s ‘The Trial’..

‘Someone must have slandered Joseph K, because one morning, without his having done anything wrong, he was arrested’.

It would appear the atmosphere in the country has gone ‘Kafkaesque’ towards historians, artists, writers and philisophers. Menacing to say the least for all whose ideas and person are ‘out of favor’ and consequently do not ‘jell’ with the times.

Istvan
Guest
Of all things I read “History and class consciousness” in the english MIT translation around 1973 after serving in Vietnam and being assigned to NATO forces in then West Germany. I took what was then called an Army Correspondence Course Program (ACCP) for graduate credit in contemporary Western Marxist thought as part of a political science sequence at the cost of the US government. It was an extremely reading intense class that included even reading Antonio Gramsci and numerous other authors. This class at one point curiously became a point of questioning for me by military intelligence (MI) years later in relationship to what became called the Szabo-Conrad spy ring investigation that I have discussed this before on this blog. I was impressed at the intellectual scope of Lukács and his depth of philosophic knowledge of Hegel even though I rejected many of his premises on the cooperative nature of humanity and our supposed social instincts. I have read about the Lukács apartment and his study having been left intact including even hand written slips amongst the pages of books in his collection. It seems to me an act of barbarism against part of the tradition of European intellectualism to… Read more »
pappp
Guest
I think there’s a bit of a misunderstanding here. Orban, Tarlós, Maria Schmidt etc. are not doing these things because of any rational consideration or because of power plays or of catering to their constituencies (ok, maybe to some extent). It’s at least 80% about the joy of punishment – of the liberals, Jews, urban, left-leaning Budapest-dwelling people. Punishing people in itself is very satisfying. Voting for populists is very often simply about punishing the hated elites even if the vote will result in disadvantageous consequences to the voters themselves. Which is also why the left-wing is so unpopular in Hungary – people do want Orban and his friends/Strohmen/Family punished for their outrageous looting. The left-wing doesn’t seem to offer that – thus the leftists are seen both as impotent and being in cahoots with Orban. Why would opposition leaning people vote for the left-wing if they can’t deliver (and don’t even offer) justice? One of Trump’s main promise/offer was to punish liberals, “lock Clinton up”, punish Obama by repealing Obamacare etc. basically just for the heck of it and his tweeting is in significant part about being gleeful of seeing liberals outraged. This is populism. Hungarian “politologists” have been… Read more »
Joe Simon
Guest

Lukács was a Népbiztos under Béla Kun, responsible for the reign of red terror. As for FDR, a Canadian documentary considered the carpet bombing of German cities a war crime. So by implication FDR was a war criminal.
Still, let sleeping dogs lie.

Istvan
Guest

Joe I believe Eva is an academic expert on the 1918 revolution. You would do well to go back and read https://hungarianspectrum.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/a-short-history-lesson-about-1918-1919-in-hungary/

Eva provides her readers with this legitimate warning: “After the arrival of the counterrevolutionaries the history of these years was rewritten. And today the rewriting of history is again proceeding apace. Black (or red) and white, evil and good, non-Christian and Christian, international (and by implication treasonous) and national. But a binary history is a false history, whichever side writes it.”

Guest

Joe, just google Guernica! After that …

Tyrker
Guest

What exactly do you mean by that unfinished remark. wolfi? Do you seriously think that just because the Condor Legion that bombed Guernica was staffed by German airmen, the USAF somehow acquired a right to slaughter German civilians at will?

Guest

Tyrker, you never cease to amaze me – of all the important things written here about Hungary you chose “FDR” …
PS:
What about that Italian businessman living in Hungary and his Ferrari with the Slovak licence plates – still no answer from you?
PPS:
How much do you get paid for following HS and finding “faults” in the articles and comments? Is it worth your time and effort?

aida
Guest

Was FDR’s name removed from the pretty square outside the Academy in Budapest because OV believed he was a war criminal? Whether or not he and Churchill were such, and the RAF Bomber Command was not far behind. I believe the offence did not exist before the Nuremberg war crimes trials.

Ferenc
Guest

“FDR’s name removed from the pretty square outside the Academy”
First didn’t understand what this is about, to my knowledge there’s ‘Roosevelt Ter’. So checked this and well it’s currently called ‘Szechenyi Istvan Ter’ (and ‘EotvosTer’ on the south side, don’t know if this was before already or also name-changed). Found a small article about the 2011 name-change, http://www.politics.hu/20110426/us-embassy-says-understands-renaming-budapests-roosevelt-square/ . From that this quote “There are plans to name a park in front of the US Embassy after Roosevelt, mayor of the Inner City, Antal Rogan told MTI earlier.”, wondering now if that plan materialised and/or Rogan was really telling the truth then.
A completely different, but somehow related, thing I remember, before the 2002 elections there was an interview with OV (probably on M1 then). Remember this for one specific thing: next to OV’s head was very pathetically in view a book about a famous Hungarian, the name of Szechenyi Istavn had to be pushed next to OV himself (remember Fidesz government had plan then named after the man………)

Ferenc
Guest

Actually good Hungarian comedians/humorists could make a complete fool of OV, using such sort of pathetic things. But have serious doubts if there are any good Hungarian C/Hs, and if there is even one, he will probably not get any space in any media. That shows the state the very country is in at this very moment……….

Ferenc
Guest

e.g.any Heineken/Red Star jokes in Hungary now?

dvhr
Guest

But then Tarlos named a square of Budapest after Elvis Presley.

petofi
Guest

” An eye for an eye”

–Before the carpet-bombing of German cities, you had the German attack on British cities.

–People still fail to evaluate the dropping of the two bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The very fact that the Americans had to drop a second bomb justifies the use of the bomb in the first place. Had the Japanese surrendered after Hiroshima, it might have been argued that it should not have happened at all (The bombs power might have been demonstrated in an unpopulated area of Japan.)

Tyrker
Guest

‘An eye for an eye” is an ancient and barbaric principle, which was denounced two thousand years ago by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, and is no longer considered acceptable by civilised societies (that’s why there’s no capital punishment in Europe, even for murderers). I’m not arguing the RAF didn’t have a right to fight back and bomb military targets in Germany – of course they did. But they definitely had no right to bomb e.g. Dresden the way they did. It was clearly a war crime.

petofi
Guest

@ Tyrker

re: “eye for an eye”–Ancient it is; barbaric, it’s not.

One of the problems with banning the death penalty is that murderers and their lawyers have infinitely finessed the situation. Moreover, a deterrent is useful and necessary.

About Dresden, let me point you to an inhabitant’s view during/after the bombing.
Read “I Will Bear Witness” by Viktor Klemperer.

wrfree
Guest

From Fodors 1964 guide to Germany:

‘But to English visitors particularly a visit to Dresden is more than a homage to the Sistine Madonna and all other great treasures of the Zwinger ; for this great city of art, set so graciously in the Elbe, was destroyed by British and American bombers partly in retaliation for German attacks on Britain’.

If we think about it war and battle itself subsists on ‘eye for an eye’. In the matter of individual and national life or death both indeed knew the cyclops would be king relative to the land of the blind.

Observer
Guest

The truth about Dresden: a very detailed research debunking the gross exagerations re the victims number in Lying About Hitler, by prof. Clark (?).

Ferenc
Guest

OT – but related…..
Tudta? – Did You Know?
That in 1945.Feb on their way to Dresden some bombers got lost, and dropped their load on Prague. (BTW Prague was agreed between the forces at war to be spared in WW2)
Some bombs fell on the house next to where the young Vaclav Havel was living. Some 50 years later a, by American archtect Frank O Gehry designed, office bulding was completed on that very spot. The building called ‘Dancing House’ and/or ‘Fred and Ginger’ was (and may be still is) very controversial. I have seen it standing on the banks of the river with my very own eyes, and still don’t know what to really think about it.
The building on it’s own can be considered funny, but on that location it may as well be seen as asking to be bombed…….
Here’s the wiki info about it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dancing_House

webber
Guest

Coventry, Tyrker. When you mention Coventry, I will take you seriously.
Sadly , Dresden was not a war crime at the time. And neither was Coventry before it. And neither were Hiroshima or Nagasaki.
You see, what is considered a war crime changes over time, dear Tyrker, and you cannot judge the past on the standards of the present.

Nándor Sztankó
Guest

I will quote a passage from Lukacs, which is his potentially most important statement. This is part of an interwiew conducted in German.
“Ein Sein im strengen Sinne gibt es gar nicht, eben das Sein, das wir das Alltagssein zu nennen pflegen, ist eine bestimmte, höchst relative Fixierung von Komlexen innerhalb eines historischen Prozesses. … Für den Bereich der anorganischen Natur besteht natürlich die große Schwierigkeit, ihre Historizität zu bestimmen. Aber obwohl ich in Fragen der Naturwissenschaft ein Dilettant bin, glaube ich doch, daß wir am Vorabend einer ganz großen philosophischen Revolution, hervorgebracht durch die Naturwissenschaften, stehen …”

I call this statement Lukacs-prophecy. In the spirit of that prophecy I have managed to write a paper titled ‘A New Chance for an Idealist Philosophy’.
Here in Hungary I have been denied the opportunity to get published it. Thus I am compelled to be a ‘freedom fighter’ in philosophy. The Lukacs statue and the Lukacs-anniversaries are relics to the fighting to a wider pluralism.

Observer
Guest

Guys,

The Lukács episode is just another indication where are we heading here:
Count M.Karoly’s statue was also removed, hundreds of Horthy, Wass, turul monuments have been erected, streets and squares have been re-named, history has been re-written (school books censored) or falsified by the Schmitt, Szakály/Veritas et al, hard Kulturkampf is being fought against dissenting individuals and organizations, total media dominance is near, etc. etc. They are not publicly burning the books yet – just packing them away out of sight/reach.

Sounds familiar, perhaps late 30s early 40s? Forget communism, think it’s cousin – the fascism.

Robert
Guest

#Observer, Why do we have to forget communism? When you denounce dictatorships and cultural/history rewriting why would you like to give a free passage to the communist?

TKT
Guest

This website makes me puke! 1919 133 days of red terror was not enough? 1948-1989 was not enough? People, please do move to North Korea! And take your Lukacs statues with you!

Robert
Guest

#TKT ARe you kidding someone? They cannot take the statue on the plain. It would be grossly overweight 🙂

Ferenc
Guest

Today Lukács statue in St.Istvan Park (XIII.District) has been removed
article: https://444.hu/2017/03/28/elhurcoltak-lukacs-gyorgy-szobrat-a-xiii-keruletbol
picture:comment image?oh=6df935f8d41c9aa8d0678c7f3be3a1ca&oe=5968CFD2

Ferenc
Guest

another picturecomment image

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