Gramsci has long been held by some self-proclaiming Trotskyists as a revolutionary figure who complements Trotsky. This was always an attempt to assimilate Trotskyism to neo-Stalinism, Eurocommunism and Maoism, as currents within Euro Marxism. Today it is a more global attack on Trotsky and Lenin to boost the appeal of Menshevism when capitalism faces a terminal crisis that raises the spectre of revolution. Lukacs on the other hand, is less in favour with self-proclaiming Trotskyists because of his open capitulation to Stalin.
Yet as we will see on the most important question of the vanguard party, Gramsci submitted to Stalinism whilst Lukacs never abandoned his position. Lukacs was a defender of Bolshevism against Menshevism and therefore against the influence of Gramsci in the formation of Euro Marxism. Here we will examine Lukacs on dialectics to critique the Euro-Marxism that falls short of a Leninist-Trotskyist standpoint.
For Lukacs the Hungarian Revolution was an abortion. A popular front of communists with social democrats, lacking a Leninist party, and with no successful German revolution to back it up. Lukacs (in History…) and his later defence of it (‘A Defense…’) argued that it was possible that the Hungarian revolution could have deepened as part of the European revolution, throwing out the social democrats and arming the workers, and so on. But the vanguard party was missing everywhere in Europe so ultimately the revolution was doomed.
Despite his theoretical brilliance and commitment to Marxism, Lukacs’ political life fleshes out Marx’s famous dictum that philosophers interpret the world but (in the absence of an international vanguard party) cannot change it. His devotion to Lenin and the Leninist Party, while second to none, didn’t survive the degeneration of the revolution. In that sense we cannot discount the implications of Lukacs’ capitulation to Stalinism.
Yet, the Bolshevik revolution proved his analysis of the necessity of the proletarian party as the class-conscious subject of history, correct, and made him the equal of the leading Bolsheviks. Then, when that party degenerated under Stalin into the instrument of the bureaucracy, Lukacs was again proven correct, but in the negative. So Lukacs was with Lenin and Trotsky, that without the democratic centralist party, organised as an international to make the revolution global, revolution was doomed to defeat.
When Zizek claims (in his post-face to ‘A Defence…’) that Lukacs' view of the party was to ‘fill the gap’ (lack) between objective and subjective reality, he was incorrect. There is a world of difference between Zizek’s voluntarist Lenin as the messianic figure above the party who wills the revolutionary ‘event’ (act) into being, and Lukacs’ conception of the democratic centralist party being the proletarian ‘subject’ as the class-for-itself.
If Lukacs held onto his Leninist position on the vanguard party despite his practical capitulation to Stalinism, Gramsci actively adapted to Stalinism on the question of the Party and program. Gramsci covered the bureaucratisation of the party with his theory of intellectuals. Traditional intellectuals served the ruling class while organic intellectuals served the revolutionary class. But in practice the party served the bureaucracy and its program therefore served the interests of the bureaucracy.
Communist Parties henceforth followed the line of the Third International, that in each country the international revolution had to be subordinated to Soviet foreign policy. The program of building socialism in one country, the SU, translated into a two-stage theory of revolution elsewhere. Gramsci disguised the Stalinist stage theory as a tactical question. In backward countries such as Russia the party could mount a ‘war of maneuver’. In the advanced European countries the necessary tactic was the ‘war of position’ – a euphemism for the democratic revolution. In fact both tactics were variants of the popular front between the working class and the democratic bourgeoisie to build alliances with the SU.
In reality Gramsci rejects Lenin and Trotsky’s view (shared by Lukacs) that the German, Hungarian and other revolutions failed because they did not apply the Bolshevik model of an international permanent revolution. With this theory, Gramsci provided the theoretical cover for Menshevik stageism and the Eurocommunist rejection of Bolshevism which was already present in the Second International, and Kautskyism. It gave rise to a Euro Marxism from Kautsky to Althusser and Zizek.
In fact, Zizek’s idealist take on the subject-object split resolved by a messianic leader such as Lenin, is a play on the Euro-Marxist tradition of Menshevik objectivism. It takes Euro-Marxism to its anti-Marxist extreme as it accompanied the decline and fall of Soviet world in the 1980s and 1990s. Zizek returns to Lukacs, like Derrida returns to Marx, (see ‘St Jacques…’) to ‘praise him’ and turn him into a post-modernist who in the end has no faith in the proletariat to complete its historic mission but must turn to a messianic leap of faith.
If we trace the origins and evolution of Euro-Marxism we can easily see the influence of Gramsci. What begins as the degeneration of the vanguard party from democratic centralism to bureaucratic centralism is actually the programmatic victory of Menshevism over Bolshevism. The party no longer represents the proletariat-for-itself, but the petty bourgeois/bureaucratic intelligentsia-for-itself.
On the other hand, there is no doubt Lukacs follows Lenin and Trotsky on the Party and program as overcoming one-sided objectivism and subjectivism that must be resolved dialectically by the democratic centralist international communist party. The Bolshevik Party, led by Lenin and Trotsky and their successors in the ILO and the Fourth International tested theory in practice to develop revolutionary class consciousness. While Gramsci reified the Leninist party as a bureaucratized “intellectual” vanguard, Lukacs never changed his view that the party was the revolutionary subject, the class-in-itself, capable of changing objective reality.
Lukacs failure was to capitulate to Stalin and his unreconstructed Menshevism and not to publicly defend his conception of class-for-itself. The bureaucratic party now dictated the consciousness of the working masses. For that crime Lukacs’ revolutionary past was written off retrospectively as tainted by his Stalinist retreat.Yet it was Gramsci who actively served Stalin against Trotsky. He opposed the International Left Opposition in the Chinese Revolution. That betrayal alone condemns those today who want to rescue Gramsci as a revolutionary. Trotsky was always willing to enter practical agreements with centrists to win them to the ILO, but never with those who had embraced Stalinism and Menshevism. For in that capitulation the Lessons of October are lost.