Neo-Marxist European intellectual

Georg Lukacs (1885-1971, pronounced approximately "Loo-catch"), or György Szegedy von Lukács, as was his full Hungarian name, was an influential 20th century European leftist intellectual. During the years around the 1968 Paris student revolt, Georg Lukacs became an almost inescapable household name among European leftist intellectuals. His neo-Marxist societal, literary and esthetic analyses had impressed members of the Frankfurt School (Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse) and Walter Benjamin, among others. Early in his career he had associated with Max Weber, the founding father of modern sociology.

Action as well as essays

Lukacs didn’t leave it at just writing revolutionary philosophical and literary essays. He also left his study to take an active part in two ill-fated revolutionary ventures, both times miraculously managing to come down on his feet, while his comrades ended up shot. As a young but already widely recognized philosophical and literary analyst he served as Commissar of Public Education in 1919, during Béla Kun’s 133-day communist reign over Hungary. Kun’s regime was overthrown and Lukacs fled to Vienna and later to Berlin.

Life-saving attack

When Hitler staged his Machtübername in 1933, Lukacs managed to escape to the Soviet Union. But here one of his works, a Hegel- and Kirkegaard-inspired collection of essays about literature and politics (History and Class Consciousness, published in Vienna 1923), came under attack by one of the top leaders of the Russian Communist Party, Grigory Zinovyev (also spelt as Grigorii Zinoviev).

The identity of the attacker probably saved Lukacs’ life. Stalin saw Zinovyev as a dangerous competitor in the power struggle and had him killed. Lukacs’ old comrade Bela Kun was also shot in 1936, but Georg Lukacs himself remained unharmed throughout Stalin’s terrible purges in the 1930’s, when millions lost their lives.

Hungarian uprising of 1956

After World War II Lukacs returned to Hungary, disillusioned by the Stalinist brand of communism and advocating “socialist humanism”. This was hardly deemed appropriate by official Communist Party ideologists, who attacked Lukacs for “bourgeois realism”. When popular discontent led to the Hungarian anti-Soviet uprising of 1956, Georg Lukacs became Minister of Culture in Imre Nagy’s short-lived free Hungarian government. But Soviet tanks soon invaded Hungary. The members of the free government were deported to Romania, where Prime Minister Imre Nagy was shot. Georg Lukacs, however, was unharmed and allowed to return to Budapest a year later. From the 1960’s onward he regained official favor. Georg Lukacs died in Budapest in 1971 and was buried with full Party honors.

Among Georg Lukacs’ major works are History and Class Consciousness (1923), Studies in European Realism (1948), The Destruction of Reason (1955), and Social Ontology of Being (uncompleted).


International Georg Lukacs Society (Germany):

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