The relation between theory and practice, Marxism and politics has been very problematic for decades with times of total rupture because a primitive, fake Marxist ideology edged in between the two, which served only for legitimation. Since neither the serious Marxist research nor the results of the really Marxist social science could question the rule of this ideology, the public holds Marxism responsible for our current economic and political crisis. For the same reason politics and Marxism are likely to follow admittedly different paths in the foreseeable future – and for the time being this will be not only inevitable but also undoubtedly advantageous for Marxism. The group of young scholars, who enthusiastically support the foundation of this journal, does not wish to be engaged in purely academic philosophy, saloon Marxism and professorial science. On the contrary, this journal intends to demonstrate that Marxist thought is able to inspire the disciplines even today and this has and will continue to have an ideological and political significance. We trust that our articles can give reliable information and points of reference to many thinking people, and we can contribute to the gradual improvement of the present intellectual and political life.
After the above introduction it may be needless to stress: this journal does not belong to any political party, movement or society. Its colleagues and authors express only and exclusively their individual opinion. There will be debates in the journal, the editorial board is open to many different approaches and ideas in the spirit of a “scientific and artistic journal” entitled “Eszmélet” (Consciousness), founded in 1956, which could count George Lukács among its first editors.
I dare not say that Eszmélet will have a “sweeping success” in the Hungarian intellectual life. We cannot expect this today from any other intellectual current. When I recommend this new journal to the Reader, I do this in the hope that it won’t disappoint anybody and it will be worthy of the attention of those interested in a moderate voice even in the face of fierce competition characteristic of today’s media.
What does this journal want?
Today, when it is very fashionable to establish new journals, why do we need one more? After the rejection of our initiative five years ago, why did we consider it necessary to make a new try in 1988?
Because in spite of the proliferating new publications and periodicals we still miss the one, which represents the school and thought with which the founders of this journal identify.
What does this journal want, after all? What justifies the foundation of this new periodical?
This is a leftist journal, whose editors are convinced that the events of the past decades have got little to do with Marxism if we bracket the hypocritical slogans and, more regrettably, the faith of many people. Therefore the past cannot refute the validity of Marxist principles. The editors of this new journal believe that it pays to live in accordance with these principles but we have to start from the beginning and we have to follow a totally different path than what was taken by the movement, which was organized along the principles of Marxism, in the past 100 years. Consequently the journal intends to participate in the destruction of the established structures but it also seeks to oppose the processes, which Marx characterized as “the reproduction of the old trash” when speaking of the foreseeable failure of the society, which levels people on the basis of poverty.
Our journal principally opposes any inequality in power and any privilege regardless of whether inequality originates in economic power or the hierarchy of state administration. It is on the side of the subordinated, the exploited and the needy but it does not accept a leveling, which degrades everybody to a uniform state of subordination and poverty but its ideal is a world where everybody can have a share in everything that human efforts create. It seeks for the future in the name of the thousand-year-old longing for real freedom and equality. In the present it likewise refuses the compromises of the various (economic, power, intellectual) elite groups that they make with the exclusion of the masses, who constitute the majority of society. It holds that it is unavoidable and absolutely necessary to involve every member of society in decisions, which affect their lives. It holds that it is important to unite all progressive forces in Hungary, in Eastern Europe and in the world, which seek to render human life more human.
The journal aims to pursue these general goals firstly by means of theoretical analyses. We are trying to map the present opportunities of the left in the world and in Hungary; to interpret the ongoing economic, political, social structural and intellectual-cultural processes; and to introduce and evaluate from the perspective of the left the events of the past decades in the light of historical documents primarily in the countries, which called themselves socialist, and in the leftist movements with an emphasis on the positive tendencies, which were not but could have been carried further.
As for the present we would like to introduce the various forms of struggles against social injustices. Our column, which is dedicated to the various initiatives, methods and events of the trade union movements of the world, intends to promote the safeguarding of workers’ interests.
Next to workers’ solidarity our priority is to support social self-organization and the establishment of self-governments, which are organized along various interests, or co-ordinate working or living communities. By introducing such initiatives we are trying to promote the process through which the members of society can indeed take their fate in their hand.
Out of the program proposals of the various alternative organizations we publish those, which in our opinion can increase social justice independently of the character of the whole program.
And last but not least we would like to relate all the above to the development of the international leftist thought: we intend to publish articles by thinkers all over the world so that we could confront their thoughts and ideas with each other and the social phenomena that they want to describe.
Our journal admittedly represents a school. We think that the decade-long practice of editing journals in Hungary, the simple juxtaposition of totally different viewpoints (“on the one hand – on the other hand”) is nothing else but a return to the principle of “divide et impera” and a refusal to think seriously and sincerely. We publish only the articles, which in our opinion can facilitate the realization of our goals listed above. This, however, does not mean homogenization: a sensible purpose can always unite various energies coming from different sources.
We are consequently fighting against any form of social injustices but we do not want to fight this battle in the manner of a tavern brawl. We are trying to give arguments to the efforts of those who oppose both the currently triumphant advance of capitalism and the dictatorial mechanisms, which discredited the idea of people’s power. But we definitely reject any rude, demagogical and extremist writing because we believe that by defaming enemies we are defaming ourselves. We cannot fight for humanistic goals by giving up humanity; we have the right to speak of social justice only as long as we respect humanity in everybody, including our enemies.
Eventually and most importantly, the mission of our journal is a quest. It seeks for the new arguments, new purposes, a new face and a new voice of the left; for the sources and opportunities of its new advance. We are on a quest. We are inviting the Reader to join us in this quest.
To the title
It is not the first time that this word borrowed from the poet Attila József appears in the history of Hungarian journals. István Mészáros wrote of the antecedents, which seemed to be the most significant at the time in the first, immigrant issue of “Eszmélet”, which he published in England (Christ Church, Oxford, October 1958): „The foundation of ESZMÉLET was one of the most important results of the national unity in the Hungarian intellectual life, which was achieved during 1955-56. Its editorial board consisted of Aurél Bernáth, Tibor Déry, Gyula Illyés, Zoltán Kodály and George Lukács. It was the first time that we witnessed such wide-scale and really ideological union in Hungary. The editorial board started its work in the summer of 1956 and it appointed István Mészáros as editor-in-chief of the journal. After months of wrangling and fighting the highest power organs eventually permitted the publication of ESZMÉLET (…).” The events of 1956, however, prevented the publication of the journal in Hungary; István Mészáros published two issues after his immigration to England.
At the end of the 1960s and in the beginning of the 1970s Béla Horgas tried to establish a journal under the same title, which intended to mobilize the most progressive forces of the Hungarian intellectual life, who sought for progress in different forms according to the new circumstances. This was, however, an unsuccessful attempt because of the resistance of contemporary cultural politicians. The students of the Faculty of Teacher Training of ELTE (Eötvös Loránd University of Budapest) have recently published a journal under this title at the university.
We thank for their agreement to launch our journal under the title which they have (also) chosen.
(translated by Eszter Bartha)
Attila József: Consciousness (Eszmélet)
The dawn dissevers earth and skies
and at its pure and lovely bidding
the children and the dragonflies
twirl out into the sunworld’s budding;
no vapor dims the air’s receding,
a twinkling lightness buoys the eyes!
Last night into their trees were gliding
the leaves, like tiny butterflies.
Blue, yellow, red, they flocked my dream,
smudged images the mind had taken,
I felt the cosmic order gleam–
and not a speck of dust was shaken.
My dream’s a floating shade; I waken;
order is but an iron regime.
By day, the moon’s my body’s beacon,
by night, an inner sun will burn.
I’m gaunt, sometimes bread’s all I touch,
I seek amid this trivial chatter
unrecompensed, and yearn to clutch,
what has more truth than dice, more matter.
No roast rib warms my mouth and platter,
no child my heart, forgoing such–
the cat can’t both, how deft a ratter,
inside and outside make her catch.
Just like split firewood stacked together,
the universe embraces all,
so that each object holds the other
confined by pressures mutual,
all things ordained, reciprocal.
Only unbeing can branch and feather,
only becoming blooms at all;
what is must break, or fade, or wither.
Down by the branched marshaling-yard
I lurked behind a root, fear-stricken,
of silence was the living shard,
I tasted grey and wierd-sweet lichen.
I saw a shadow leap and thicken:
it was the shadow of the guard–
did he suspect?–watched his shade quicken
upon the heaped coal dew-bestarred.
Inside there is a world of pain,
outside is only explanation.
The world’s your scab, the outer stain,
your soul’s the fever-inflammation.
Jailed by your heart’s own insurrection,
you’re only free when you refrain,
nor build so fine a habitation,
the landlord takes it back again.
I stared from underneath the evening
into the cogwheel of the sky–
the loom of all the past was weaving
law from those glimmery threads, and I
looked up again into the sky
from underneath the steams of dreaming
and saw that always, by and by,
the weft of law is torn, unseaming.
Silence gave ear: the clock struck one.
Maybe you could go back to boydom;
walled in with concrete dank and wan,
maybe imagine hints of freedom.
And now I stand, and through the sky-dome
the stars, the Dippers, shine and burn
like bars, the sign of jail and thraldom,
above a silent cell of stone.
I’ve heard the crying of the steel,
I’ve heard the laugh of rain, its pattern;
I’ve seen the past burst through its seal:
only illusions are forgotten,
for naught but love was I begotten,
bent, though, beneath my burdens’ wheel–
why must we forge such weapons, flatten
the gold awareness of the real?
He only is a man, who knows
there is no mother and no father,
that death is only what he owes
and life’s a bonus altogether,
returns his find to its bequeather,
holding it only till he goes;
nor to himself, nor to another,
takes on a god’s or pastor’s pose.
I’ve seen what they call happiness:
soft, blonde, it weighed two hundred kilos;
it waddled smiling on the grass,
its tail a curl between two pillows.
Its lukewarm puddle glowed with yellows,
it blinked and grunted at me–yes,
I still remember where it wallows,
touched by the dawns of blissfulness.
I live beside the tracks, where I
can see the trains pass through the station.
I see the brilliant windows fly
in floating dark and dim privation.
Through the eternal night’s negation
just so the lit-up days rush by;
in all the cars’ illumination,
silent, resting my elbow, I.
Translated by Zsuzsanna Ozsváth and Frederick Turner
The Hungarian Quarterly formerly The New Hungarian Quarterly
Published by the Society of the Hungarian Quarterly
The Hungarian Quarterly, © Copyright 2006