Lukács: ‘concrete analysis is not the opposite of ‘pure’ theory’

For Marxists the concrete analysis of the concrete situation is not the opposite of ‘pure’ theory; on the contrary, it is the culmination of all genuine theory, its consummation, the point where it breaks into practice.” – György Lukács, Lenin, A Study on the Unity of His Thought

Lukács on the Leninist theory of imperialism

“So the choice is not whether the proletariat will or will not struggle, but in whose interest it should struggle: its own or that of the bourgeoisie. The question history places before the proletariat is not to choose between war and peace, but between imperialist war and war against this war: civil war. […]

“With the correct instinct of a habitual ruling class, conscious that the real social basis of its authority narrows as the extent of its rule grows and its power apparatus increases, the bourgeoisie makes the most energetic efforts both to broaden this basis (alignment of the middle class behind it, corruption of the labour aristocracy, etc.), and to defeat its chief enemies decisively before they have organised for real resistance. Thus, it is everywhere the bourgeoisie abolishes ‘peaceful’ means of conducting the class struggle, on the temporary, if highly problematic functioning of which the whole theory of Revisionism was based, and which prefers ‘more energetic’ weapons (one only needs to consider the situation in America). The bourgeoisie increasingly seizes control of the state apparatus, in identifying itself so completely with it that even demands of the working class which appear only to be economic are increasingly blocked by it. Thus, if only to prevent the deterioration of their economic condition, the workers are compelled to take up the struggle against state power (in other words, though unconsciously, the struggle for state power). This forces the proletariat into using the tactics of the mass strike, in the course of which, for fear of revolution, the opportunists are always intent on giving up positions already gained rather than on drawing the revolutionary conclusions from the situation. But the mass strike is by its very nature an objectively revolutionary weapon. Every mass strike creates a revolutionary situation in which the bourgeoisie, supported by its state apparatus, takes the necessary steps against it wherever possible. The proletariat is powerless against such measures. The weapon of the mass strike is also bound to fail against them if the proletariat, faced with the aims of the bourgeoisie, does not also take to arms. This means that it must try to equip itself, disorganise the army of the bourgeoisie – which of course consists mainly of workers and peasants – and turn the weapons of the bourgeoisie against the bourgeoisie. (The 1905 [Russian] Revolution offered many examples of correct class instinct, but only of instinct, in this respect.)

“Imperialist war means the sharpening of this situation to its utmost extremity. The bourgeoisie confronts the proletariat with the choice: either to kill its class comrades in other countries for the monopolistic interests of the bourgeoisie and die for these interests, or to overthrow the rule of the bourgeoisie by force. All other methods of struggle against this wholesale assault are powerless; all without exception would smash themselves against the military apparatus of the imperialist states. If the proletariat wants to escape this ultimate onslaught, it must therefore itself take up arms against this apparatus, undermine it from within, turn the weapons which the bourgeoisie was forced to give the people against the bourgeoisie itself, and use them to destroy imperialism.

“So here too there is nothing theoretically in the least unprecedented. On the contrary, the core of the situation lies in the class relationship between bourgeoisie and proletariat. War is, as Clausewitz defined it, only the continuation of politics; but it is so in all respects. In other words, it is not only in foreign affairs that war is merely the ultimate and most active culmination of a policy which a country has hitherto followed ‘peacefully’. For the internal class relations of a country as well (and of the whole world), it only only marks the intensification and ultimate climax of those tendencies which were already at work within society in ‘peacetime’. Therefore war by no means creates a totally new situation, either for the country or for the class within a nation. What is new about it is merely that the unprecedented quantitative intensification of all problems involves a qualitative change and for this – and only this – reason creates a new situation.” – György Lukács, “Imperialism: World War and Civil War” in Lenin: A Study on the Unity of His Thought.

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