On 28 March, the statue of renowned Marxist philosopher George Lukács (1890-1971) was removed from Saint Stephen’s park in the 13th district of Budapest. The sculpture, commissioned by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and made by sculptor Imre Varga in 1985, was erected to praise Lukács for his contributions to philosophy.
The removal of the Lukács statue was accepted by the Fidesz-dominated Budapest City Council following a proposal from the fascist Jobbik party. Simultaneously, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences has decided to close the George Lukács Archives, which has received scholars from around the world, prepared manuscripts for publication, and collected writings from and about Lukács since its foundation in 1972. The fate of Lukács’ flat, where the Archives functioned, is unstable. All of this is at least in part to prevent the rebirth of any Lukács-related research in Hungary. While the books, manuscripts letters and documents are supposed to be housed at the Academy, in the foreseeable future the materials will be made unavailable to the wider public. Students, renowned scholars, members of the Academy, and serious academic societies protested this move in vain.
The removal of Lukács’ statue and the closure of the Lukács Archives is aligned with the official ideology of the authoritarian Orbán regime, in power since 2010, which denounces liberalism, anti-fascism, and socialism as subversive and harmful to the Hungarian nation. The presentation of Lukács as a ‘communist murderer’ (based on bogus accusations that he ordered the murder of Hungarian soldiers during the Hungarian Revolution of 1919), and as a Jewish ‘globalist’ intellectual, seeks to portray him and his ideas as ‘alien to the Hungarian spirit’. Such claims form part of a wider Kulturkampf that began following the regime change in 1989, but which has accelerated and taken on new and dangerous form under the Orbán regime (cf. attacks on independent media outlets, NGOs not aligned with government interests, and, most recently, threats to close the Central European University). It seems clear that semi-peripherial capitalism in Eastern Europe can no longer be managed by the methods of traditional bourgeois democracy. This is why the Orbán-regime is trying to close out any other alternatives to it’s own. This revisionism encloses Hungarian history from the present at a time when Hungarian citizens most need access to alternatives.
We, the undersigned, protest against the removal of the Lukács statue and the closure of the Archives, and hereby ask for the Budapest City Council and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences to reconsider their decisions!