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In Memoriam Győző Lugosi (1952-2021)

Our friend, Győző Lugosi – historian, social scientist, educator, culture worker, editor, former Associate Professor at ELTE University of Budapest – succumbed to complications he developed from a Covid19 infection on April 7, 2021. This is an unfathomable loss for his family, friends, colleagues, students, all his loved ones. After a twenty-eight-year service as editor, managing editor, and author, he left a sore void for the editorial collective of our journal, Eszmélet (Consciousness) as well. He was a deeply committed exponent of the journal and the ideas it represents. We know few examples of such engagement and responsibility in the field of scholarly journals in Hungary.

What he did, he did wholeheartedly and with devotion. That is why he never complained about the arduous, rarely rewarding work of the text editor. He has always worked for the intellectual and social causes of our journal – principles he had held since his youth.

In addition to his public activities, he has always had time for his family. The five children he left behind could testify to that. In addition to his family, he managed to find ways to engage in a broad range of undertakings. In addition to his leading role with Eszmélet, and his job at the University, he served as the Director of the Kossuth Klub (one of post-state-socialist Budapest’s leading cultural institutions that serve the cause of public scholarship), he was an active member of the board of the Free Press Foundation, he accepted an appointment as Vice President of the International Georg Lukács Foundation. He was a coordinator of the Attila József Open University and held a host of other social functions.

It is no exaggeration to say that Győző has always stood with the poor, the excluded, the oppressed, and the persecuted. There was not a trace of career consciousness or narcissistic performance ambitions in him. He was not “a hero of our time.”
He had a very broad and eclectic set of scholarly interests. He was a firm proponent of the world-systems perspective, with Samir Amin and István Mészáros as his two main intellectual interlocutors. From his youth, he had been strongly influenced by the legacies of the Enlightenment and rationalism—solidified in his location in the French Marxist tradition. In addition to Magyar, his main working languages were French—he had strong connections in the Francophone world—and English. His main area interests were focused on the “Middle East” and north Africa, but he has also written brilliant studies on post-socialist small pseudo-churches that work as business corporations, various aspects of Marxist social theory, and on racism. His writings are suffused with an unflinching, genuine commitment to social equality and a broad sense of the idea of liberty.

His love of nature and friendship with animals were legendary. He was considered to be a great expert of wild mushrooms—we are not sure how he found the time for practising that skill. He was a gleeful, excellent cook, often hosting his friends and colleagues – including members of the journal’s editorial and advisory boards – with great gusto. He valued community not only in public but also private life.

It is impossible to write an objective obituary for Győző. He approached the craft of a scholar with humility and respect. He treated his students with much attention and empathy. He brimmed with helpfulness, emotions and a genuine curiosity about others and the world. He never promoted himself to the detriment of others. His quiet, patient and peaceful demeanor was matched only by his resolution and readiness for debate. He was a teacher who never hid his activism. Using an old term: he was a true movement organizer.

A man of strong emotions, he was also to some extent defenseless against malice. He had a certain naiveté—who doesn’t? He would see only the good in people he would “fall in love” with, only to “fall out” of some genuinely good friends. He was not easy to offend though. On the contrary, he knew how to argue very well, he had enormous spiritual strength. He would defend the honor of Eszmélet, and his own, and even those who took offense never questioned his professionalism and commitment.

He knew how to love intensely. Hate was alien to him.
He only hated hatred. He could not stand any form of social exclusion or inequality. He abhorred hatred of the Roma—his commitment to the case of Roma rights was legendary. As Director of Kossuth Klub, he embraced the best traditions of self-help, the socially progressive effects of art and adult education, and organized exhibitions of Roma artists.

He fought against all forms of marginalization. He was a deeply committed antifascist, and it was that conviction that drove his work as an adult educator. He loathed all forms of anti-semitism, Islamophobia, Russophobia, i.e., racism, which he interpreted as the destruction of class consciousness. He read nationalism and neoliberal globalism as two sides of the same coin. As a historian, he was fully aware of the global historical roots of those phenomena. As a well prepared “Tiers-Mondist,” not only did he study the hierarchical-oppressive structure of the world-system; he also criticized those contradictions with strong critical edge and editorial attentiveness. He was particularly incensed by “Eurocentric” perspectives that naturalize the “West’s” rule over the world while sloganeering about “democracy” and “human rights.”

Győző’s life did not feature any dramatic political reversals. Throughout his life, he was a man of the Left, and the collapse of state socialism did not shake his Marxist outlook. He has never belied his progressive origins – he was a proud man with nothing to confess, and a straight shooter. We all loved him. It is very hard to take leave of him.

Almost all his life he worked for the Humanities Faculty at ELTE University in Budapest. His students respected him as a teacher who did all he could to pave the way for their progress. Many of them have given touching testimony about that. As his fellow co-editors and advisors at Eszmélet, we were very attached to him.
The career of Győző, our friend, is over. It is now the responsibility of the editors of Eszmélet to take account of and fortify the legacies of his oeuvre in the interest of the wretched, the oppressed, the working and the excluded majority of the world’s societies. He was convinced that capitalism, with its genocidal character, used not to exist and won’t exist forever. So, Győző dedicated his entire life to a communally organized, collectively liberating society; this is the stand that defined his conduct in his private life as well as in his public engagements. That is our cause as well. Eszmélet and many of Győző’s disciples will carry it forward.

The Editors and Advisory Board of Eszmélet