Shortly before his death, Georg Lukács wrote a brief and elliptical autobiographical sketch. Unable to expand further in writing, he reflected on the events of his life in two long interviews, recorded in 1969 and 1971, with István Eörsi and Erzsébet Vezérs. These documents were collected and assembled as Record of a Life, published by Verso in a translation by Rodney Livingstone in 1983.
In the excerpt below, Lukács discusses his experiences during the years of World War I, the Russian Revolution, and the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic, for which he served as the People's Commissar for Education and Culture.
Western Marxism as a whole, when it proceeded beyond questions of method to matters of substance, came to concentrate overwhelmingly on study of superstructures. Moreover, the specific superstructural orders with which it showed the most constant and close concern were those ranking "highest" in the hierarchy of distance from the economic infrastructure, in Engels’s phrase. In other words, it was not the State or Law which provided the typical objects of its research. It was culture that held the central focus of its attention.
"The year 1917 was an epic, a concatenation of adventures, hopes, betrayals, unlikely coincidences, war and intrigue; of bravery and cowardice and foolishness, farce, derring-do, tragedy; of epochal ambitions and change, of glaring lights, steel, shadows; of tracks and trains...
This was Russia’s revolution, certainly, but it belonged and belongs to others, too. It could be ours. If its sentences are still unfinished, it is up to us to finish them." — China Miéville
One hundred years on from the Russian Revolution we look back at the events that turned the world upside down and how they resonate today with new books from China Miéville and Tariq Ali, and classic texts from the Verso archive, made newly available for the centenary.
All the books on this reading list are 50% off until May 28 at midnight UTC. Click here to activate your discount.
This piece first appeared in LookLeft.
The statue of a Jewish Marxist intellectual in Budapest is being taken down, while at the same time, the statue of an anti-Semite fascist (Bálint Hóman) is being raised up. This is a deep insult to all those who fought against fascism. A trampling of history typically accompanies any fascist regime. One need only look at Spain under Franco, Greece under the Colonels, Brazil under Vargas and so on: a recurring trend is the revision of history and the expulsion of facts that don’t gel well with the predominant narrative.