The current crisis of capitalism, that has been causing protests all over the world, is structural and calls for radical change. This is the opinion of the hungarian philosopher István Mészáros, main disciple and conniseur of the work of György Lukács. Professor Emeritus at the University of Sussex, the marxist thinker argues that socialist ideas are today more relevant than ever. In this interview, carried out by e-mail by Eleonora de Lucena for Folha de S.Paulo, he states that the rise of poverty in rich countries demonstrates that “there is something deeply wrong with the way in which growth is pursued under capitalism”, that currently promotes a “destructive production”.
Mészáros will be in Brazil for lectures in São Paulo, Marília, Belo Horizonte and Goiânia, concerning his book Lukács’ concept of the dialectic, recently published by Boitempo and reflections on the State. For the event, entitled “Lukács’ concept of the dialectic and the enigma of the State”, Boitempo also published volume 2 of The Ontology of Social Being, by György Lukács, and the György Lukács e a emancipação humana, organized by Marcos Del Roio.
Mr. István Mészáros, you are coming to visit Brazil to talk about György Lukács. As a deep connoisseur of the work of the philosopher, how do you evaluate the importance of discussing the ideas of Lukács today?
György Lukács was my great teacher and friend for twenty two years, until he died in 1971. He started publishing as a politically conscious literary critic almost seventy years earlier, moving toward the discussion of fundamental philosophical issues as time went by. Three of his major works in that
field – History and Class Consciousness (1923), The Young Hegel (1948), and The Destruction of Reason (1954) – will always stand the test of time. His historical and aesthetic studies on great German, French, English, Russian and Hungarian literary figures continue to be most influential in many university departments. Moreover, he is also the author of a monumental Aesthetic synthesis which, I am sure, will see the light one day also in Brazil. More fortunately, his equally monumental volumes on the problems of The Ontology of Social Being are being published right now in this country by Boitempo Editorial. They address some vital issues of philosophy which have far-reaching implications also for our everyday life and ongoing struggles. What is less well known about Lukács’s life-work is that he was once directly involved at a high level of political organization, between 1919 and 1929. He was Minister of Culture and Education in the short-lived revolutionary Government of 1919 in Hungary, which emerged from the great crisis of the first world war. In the Party he belonged to the “Landler Faction”, indeed he was its second in command. This Faction – named after Jenö Landler, who was a leading Trade Unionist before becoming a high-ranking Party figure – tried to pursue a broader strategic line, with much greater involvement of the popular masses. Lukács was defeated in direct politics in 1929. However, way back in 1919, in one of his articles (you can find it quoted in my book on Lukács now published by Boitempo), he warned that the Communist Movement could face a great danger whereby “the proletariat turns its dictatorship against itself”. He proved to be tragically prophetic in this warning. In any case, in all of his public roles, political as much as theoretical, one can find always in evidence his great moral stature. We read in our time so much about corruption in politics. One can see Lukács’s importance also as a positive example, showing that morality and politics not only ought to (as Kant advocated it) but also can go together.
Mr.Lukács and you have a life that united theory
and practice. What is the difference in being a Marxist militant in the 20th century and today?
The painfully obvious big difference today is that the major Parties of the Third International, which had a significant organizational force and even electoral influence once upon a time, like the Italian and the French Communist Parties, imploded not only in the East but also in the West. Only very small Communist Paries remained faithful to their erstwhile principles in the West. This implosion happened a long time after Lukács’s death. Naturally, as a militant intellectual for more than fifty years, he would be today quite devastated by this development. But Parties are historical creations which respond, in good or bad ways, to changing needs. Marx was active well before the consitution of any major Party that later could join the Third International. As to the future, some radically effective Parties may well be reconstituted if the conditions significantly change. But the issue itself is much broader. The need to combine theory and practice is not tied to a specific organizational form. In fact one of the most crucial tasks in terms of combining theory and practice is the principled examination of the difficult question why the implosion of those Parties, East and West alike, had actually taken place, and how could it be attempted to remedy that historic failure in actual historical development..