George Lukacs

George Lukacs

George Lukacs was born in Hungary in 1885. He studied in Budapest, Berlin and Heidelberg and published his first book on literary criticism, Soul and Form in 1910. This was followed by The Theory of the Novel (1916).

In 1918 Lukacs joined the Hungarian Communist Party and supported the Soviet Republic established by Bela Kun in 1919. Admiral Miklos Horthy, commander-in-chief of the Imperial and Royal Fleet, returned to Hungary in November 1919 and led the overthrow of the Soviet Republic.

Lukacs was forced into exile and lived in Vienna for ten years. In 1923 he published History and Class Consciousness. In 1930 he moved to the Soviet Union where he remained until the final stages of the Second World War. In 1944 Lukacs returned to Hungary.

Lukacs was highly critical of the government of Matyas Rakosi and became a supporter of the reformers led by Laszlo Rajk.

The Hungarian Uprising began on 23rd October by a peaceful manifestation of students in Budapest. The students demanded an end to Soviet occupation and the implementation of "true socialism". The following day commissioned officers and soldiers joined the students on the streets of Budapest. Stalin's statue was brought down and the protesters chanted "Russians go home", "Away with Gero" and "Long Live Nagy".

On 25th October Soviet tanks opened fire on protesters in Parliament Square. One journalist at the scene saw 12 dead bodies and estimated that 170 had been wounded. Shocked by these events the Central Committee of the Communist Party forced Erno Gero to resign from office and replaced him with Janos Kadar.

Imre Nagy now went on Radio Kossuth and announced he had taken over the leadership of the Government as Chairman of the Council of Ministers." He also promised the "the far-reaching democratization of Hungarian public life, the realisation of a Hungarian road to socialism in accord with our own national characteristics, and the realisation of our lofty national aim: the radical improvement of the workers' living conditions."

Nagy appointed Lukacs as Minister of Culture. However, on 4th November 1956 Nikita Khrushchev sent the Red Army into Hungary. Lukacs was deported to Romania but was allowed to return to Budapest in 1957.

George Lukacs died in 1971.

Primary Sources

(1) George Lukacs, Radio Kossuth (28th October, 1956)

I consider it of great importance that a Government has been formed representing every shade and stratum of the Hungarian people that wants progress and socialism. It was a great mistake of the previous regime to become isolated from those creative elements with whose help the Hungarian road to socialism could have been successfully taken. The main task of the new Government is to make a most radical break with narrow-minded and petty trends, and to make use of every sound popular initiative, so that every true Hungarian can look upon the socialist fatherland as his own. The task of the Ministry of People's Culture is the realisation of these principal aims in the sphere of culture. The Hungarian people have an exceptionally rich tradition in almost every field of culture. We do not want to build socialism out of air; we do not want to bring it into Hungary as an imported article. What we want is that the Hungarian people work out, organically, and by long, glorious and successful work, a socialist culture worthy of the Hungarian people's great and ancient achievements, and which, as a socialist culture, can place Hungarian culture on even broader foundations with even deeper roots.

(2) Victor Woroszylski, Nowa Kultura (2nd December, 1956)

Naturally I imagined that, one day, I would meet George Lukacs. If I had asked myself what we would have to talk about, I should have thought of - what do I know? - Hegelian aesthetics, or critical realism, or Thomas Mann. But I never imagined making Lukacs' acquaintance under such dramatic circumstances, or that the first words out of his mouth would be: "Let's leave culture aside, shall we? We have more important questions to settle."... Lukacs is Minister of Cultural Affairs in the Nagy Government.

The windows of the comfortable apartment look out on the Danube. Walls of many-colored book-covers surround us .. .We sit around a large family table and we talk of things more important than culture.

The professor's son, an engineer who was ousted from the Hungarian Planning Commission a year ago, tells how the glory and riches of Hungary - its vineyards - have been ruined. Then, he explains how the mechanism for increasing production in the People's Democracies is seemingly very effective but sterile and ruinous in fact.

Finally, the conversation turns to the problem of the Party. It seems that in the present leadership of the Party, a bitter struggle is raging between two tendencies. One aims to pursue a slightly more moderate line, but actually it is the same old line. The other is revolutionary, desiring to break completely with the Stalinist traditions of the Hungarian Workers' Party, wanting to create a completely new Marxist party. Professor Lukacs naturally supports the latter tendency.

"Who else?"

"Nagy, Losonczy, Szanto, Donath, Kadar ..."

"Radar, too?" I ask ...

The professor does not understand why this name should raise any doubts.

The new Party will not be able to expect rapid success - Communism in Hungary has been totally disgraced. Collected around the Party will probably be small groups of progressive intellectuals, writers and a few young people. The working class will prefer to follow the Social Democrats. In free elections the Communists will obtain five percent of the vote, ten percent at the most. It is possible that they won't be in the Government, that they will go into opposition. But the party will continue to exist; it will save the idea; it will be an intellectual center, and after some years or some decades from now, who knows.

But at the moment, one has not yet managed to form it. In an effort to assess the situation incessant discussions are going on. All the other parties are constituting themselves today, and the Communists are again at least 24 hours behind.