Barbarism on the horizon. An interview with István Mészáros

13.11.18_Barbarism on the horizonEleonora de Lucena interviews István Mészáros.

Leia a entrevista integral, publicada no suplemento
Ilustríssima da Folha de S.Paulo em português aqui.

The current crisis of capitalism, that has been causing protests all over the world, is structural and calls for radical change. This is the opinion of the hungarian philosopher István Mészáros, main disciple and conniseur of the work of György Lukács. Professor Emeritus at the University of Sussex, the marxist thinker argues that socialist ideas are today more relevant than ever. In this interview, carried out by e-mail by Eleonora de Lucena for Folha de S.Paulo, he states that the rise of poverty in rich countries demonstrates that “there is something deeply wrong with the way in which growth is pursued under capitalism”, that currently promotes a “destructive production”.

Mészáros will be in Brazil for lectures in São Paulo, Marília, Belo Horizonte and Goiânia, concerning his book Lukács’ concept of the dialectic, recently published by Boitempo and reflections on the State. For the event, entitled “Lukács’ concept of the dialectic and the enigma of the State”, Boitempo also published volume 2 of The Ontology of Social Being, by György Lukács, and the György Lukács e a emancipação humana, organized by Marcos Del Roio.

Mr. István Mészáros, you are coming to visit Brazil to talk about György Lukács. As a deep connoisseur of the work of the philosopher, how do you evaluate the importance of discussing the ideas of Lukács today?

György Lukács was my great teacher and friend for twenty two years, until he died in 1971. He started publishing as a politically conscious literary critic almost seventy years earlier, moving toward the discussion of fundamental philosophical issues as time went by. Three of his major works in that field – History and Class Consciousness (1923), The Young Hegel (1948), and The Destruction of Reason (1954) – will always stand the test of time. His historical and aesthetic studies on great German, French, English, Russian and Hungarian literary figures continue to be most influential in many university departments. Moreover, he is also the author of a monumental Aesthetic synthesis which, I am sure, will see the light one day also in Brazil. More fortunately, his equally monumental volumes on the problems of The Ontology of Social Being are being published right now in this country by Boitempo Editorial. They address some vital issues of philosophy which have far-reaching implications also for our everyday life and ongoing struggles. What is less well known about Lukács’s life-work is that he was once directly involved at a high level of political organization, between 1919 and 1929. He was Minister of Culture and Education in the short-lived revolutionary Government of 1919 in Hungary, which emerged from the great crisis of the first world war. In the Party he belonged to the “Landler Faction”, indeed he was its second in command. This Faction – named after Jenö Landler, who was a leading Trade Unionist before becoming a high-ranking Party figure – tried to pursue a broader strategic line, with much greater involvement of the popular masses. Lukács was defeated in direct politics in 1929. However, way back in 1919, in one of his articles (you can find it quoted in my book on Lukács now published by Boitempo), he warned that the Communist Movement could face a great danger whereby “the proletariat turns its dictatorship against itself”. He proved to be tragically prophetic in this warning. In any case, in all of his public roles, political as much as theoretical, one can find always in evidence his great moral stature. We read in our time so much about corruption in politics. One can see Lukács’s importance also as a positive example, showing that morality and politics not only ought to (as Kant advocated it) but also can go together.

Mr.Lukács and you have a life that united theory and practice. What is the difference in being a Marxist militant in the 20th century and today?

The painfully obvious big difference today is that the major Parties of the Third International, which had a significant organizational force and even electoral influence once upon a time, like the Italian and the French Communist Parties, imploded not only in the East but also in the West. Only very small Communist Paries remained faithful to their erstwhile principles in the West. This implosion happened a long time after Lukács’s death. Naturally, as a militant intellectual for more than fifty years, he would be today quite devastated by this development. But Parties are historical creations which respond, in good or bad ways, to changing needs. Marx was active well before the consitution of any major Party that later could join the Third International. As to the future, some radically effective Parties may well be reconstituted if the conditions significantly change. But the issue itself is much broader. The need to combine theory and practice is not tied to a specific organizational form. In fact one of the most crucial tasks in terms of combining theory and practice is the principled examination of the difficult question why the implosion of those Parties, East and West alike, had actually taken place, and how could it be attempted to remedy that historic failure in actual historical development..

What does it mean to be a Marxist today?

Much the same as was envisaged by Marx in his own days, but of course in the light of the historically changed and changing circumstances. For Marx insisted right from the beginning that, in contrast to the past, a crucial characteristic of the socialist evaluation of the problems that must be confronted is self-critique. To be critical of what we oppose is relatively easy. This is because it is always much easier to say no than to find the positively usable leverages through which the necessary changes can be realized. A real sense of proportion, understanding both the negative factors, including their difficult part applying to one’s own position which call for self-critique, and the positive potentialities upon which progress can be made, are equally relevant in this respect. It is therefore essential to reexamine with uncompromising self-critique in our time even the most problematical historical developments of the last century, together with their once cherished expectations, if we want to overcome the contradictions of our side in the future and the great disappointment in perspective. The pressure of time and the ongoing conflicts of actual historical situations tend to divert us from following such course of action. But the orienting principle of combining critique with genuine self-critique will always remain an essential requirement.

After the end of the USSR, many predicted the failure of Marxism. Then, with the economic crisis that started in 2008, many predicted the end of neo-liberalism and the return of Marxist ideas. In your point of view, Marxism is an ideology expanding worldwide or not?

You are right, one must be careful about hastily drawing sanguine conclusions in either direction. They are often generated by wishful thinking, rather than historical evidence. The collapse of Gorbachev’s government did not solve in the USSR any of the problems themselves which were at issue. Even a boatload of senseless Fukuyamistic “end of history” fantasy would not make the slightest difference in that respect. Nor is it possible to dismiss neo-liberalism simply on the ground that its agressively promoted triumphalist ideas and policies are not only dangerously irrational – in view of their attitude to war – but in their day-dreaming advocacy of “liberal imperialism” today rather absurd. For under certain conditions even dangerous absurdities can command massive support, as we know from history. The real question is what are the underlying forces and determinations which make people follow blind alleys in opposite directions. The change in mood which puts Marx’s Capital on fashionable coffee tables – not for study, of course, but for show, as what they call a “conversation piece” – does not mean that Marxist ideas are now advancing world-wide. The deepening crisis we are experiencing in our time is of course undeniable, generating world-wide protest. But finding sustainable solutions to the causes which tend to erupt everywhere, requires the elaboration of appropriate strategies, and also corresponding forms of organization which could match the magnitude of the problems at stake.

And how about conservative ideas? Are they gaining more adepts or not?

At one level, they are undoubtedly gaining more adepts, even if not on the ground of sustainable conservative ideas. Not changing is often much easier than changing a formerly established mode of behaviour. It is the actual historical situation which induces people to go in one direction rather than the other on the ground of being more or less favourable to the chosen way. But the question remains: is the adopted course really tenable? There is a well known law of physics, in the field of electricity, which says that the electric current follows “the line of least resistance”. This is true also about the situation of many social conflicts which decide, even if only temporarily, in which direction is a given problem settled for the time being, depending on the relation of forces (i.e. the strength of the “resistance to the current”)  and on the realizability of suitable alternatives. The long term viability of one course to be followed rather than the other is by no means a guarantee of the success of the long term better one. Often the opposite is the case. In our historical situation, the long term viable answers would require incomparably greater effort than trying to follow the “course that worked in the past”, instead of facing the challenge and burden of a radical structural change. But the problems are enormous, and the interacting forces of society are always incomparably more complex than the direction of electric currents. For it is very doubtful that the “well tried” conservative line of least resistance could work even in the medium term, let alone in the long run.

What should be a good definition the current historical period?

This is a most important question in our historical period of crises manifest on different planes of our social life. For if we are concerned with envisaging a historically sustainable solution to our grave problems, in that case the understanding of the real nature of the debated contradictions is essential. Epochal conflicts and antagonisms are amenable only to epochally lasting solutions. It is very confusing to talk about capitalism as a “world system”. Capitalism embraces only a limited period of the capital system. It is the latter that constitutes the real world system, extendable well beyond the historical sustainability of capitalism itself. Capitalism as a mode of societal reproduction is characterized by the overwhelmingly economic extraction of surplus labour as surplus value. However, there are also other ways of securing capital-accumulation, namely the already known and also in the future feasible modalities of the primarily political extraction of surplus labour, as done in the USSR and elsewhere in the past. In this sense, it is important to notice the fundamental difference between the traditional cyclic/ conjunctural crises of the past, belonging to the normality of capitalism, and the structural crisis of the capital system as a whole, which defines the current historicla period. This is why I always tried to stress that our structural crisis – which can be dated approximately to the late 1960s, and deepening since that time – needs structural change for its feasible lasting solution. And that certainly cannot be accomplished on the “line of least resistance”.

What are the three most important figures of the 21st century so far?

As we know, the 21st Century is still very young and many surprises to come are still in store. But the political figure who made the greatest impact in the unfolding history of the 21st Century – an impact which is bound to last and to be even extended – was the late President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez Frias, who died in March 2013. Of course, Fidel Castro was also still very active in the first half of this decade, but the roots of his major historical impact go back to the late 1950s. On the Conservative side, if he was still alive, I would not hesitate to name General de Gaulle. No one matches his historic stature on the Conservative side so far in this Century.

And how about the most surprising event so far?

It is probably the speed with which China succeeded in catching up with the US economy, reaching now the point when overtaking the US “engine of the world” (as complacently they call it) is considered to be only a matter of a few years. It was foreseeable for a very long time that one day this will happen, given the immense size of the Chinese population and the annual rate of growth in the economy. But many experts were putting the date of its happening several decades further ahead in the future. However, it would be very naïve to imagine that China can remain immune to the structural crisis of the capital system, just because its financial balance sheet is incomparably healthier than in the US. Even the Chinese surplus-Trillions of Dollars could evaporate from one day to the next in the midst of the turmoil of the not too distant future. The structural crisis, by its very nature, is bound to affect the whole of humanity. No country could possibly claim immunity to that, not even China.

The crises are part of capitalism. What is the balance of this latest crisis, which erupted five years ago? Who won and who lost?

Part of capitalism? Yes and no!! Yes in the limited sense that the financial crisis erupted with dramatic intensity in the most powerful capitalist countries of the world, which like to call themselves “advanced capitalism”. But so much of their “advancement” is built not only on (past and present) exploitative privileges in their relations of power (political as well as economic) vis-à-vis the so-called “Third World,” but also on the catastrophic indebtedness of their economic reality. I wrote in 1987, in an article published in Brazil in 1989, that “the real debt problem” is not – as was claimed at the time – the debt in Latin America, but the insoluble debt of the United States which is bound to end with a colossal US default and corresponding magnitude of economic earthquake for the entire world. Two years ago, when I last lectured in Brazil, I pointed out that the the US debt is counted in the astronomical sum of 14.5 Trillion Dollars, anticipating its inexorable increase. Today we are moving toward 17 Trillion Dollars, and we go on, and on, and on. Anybody who can imagine that this is sustainable in the future, or that it is not going to affect everybody in the world when the process of inexorably growing indebtedness is bound to drive to a paralyzing halt, must live on a different planet.

Capitalism is strengthened or weakened by the crisis?

The traditional cyclic/conjunctural crises used to strengthen capitalism in the past, since they weeded out unviable capitalist enterprises and thereby actively promoted what Schumpeter idealizingly called “creative destruction”. The problems are much more serious today, because the structural crisis affects even the most fundamental dimension of humanity’s social metabolic control, including nature in a perilous way. Thus talking about “creative destruction” under the present conditions is utterly self-complacent. Instead, it is much more accurate to describe what is happening today as destructive production.

The crisis provoked policy changes in many countries. It is possible to discern a general move more to the right or to the left?

For the time being, more to the right than to the left. All governments of the capitalistically advanced countries – and by no means only them – adopted policies which try to remedy the problems through “austerity” and cuts in real wages, as well as in the already precarious standard of living of those who are often described as “the under-privileged”. And the “line of least resistance” helps the extension, or at least the toleration, of the dominant conservative institutional responses to the crisis. But it is very doubtful that such policies, which now tend to favour the right, can produce lasting remedies.

As you predicted, poverty has increased in recent years, even in the core countries of capitalism. In the USA, inequality increased. In the UK there is a move to give food to the poor – a thing that did not happen since the 2nd World War. What is wrong with capitalism? Is it possible that capitalism can no longer generate enough growth to humanity?

Food parcels given to the very poor are not the only visible signs of this aspect of the crisis, nor are they confined among the capitalistically advanced to the UK. I wrote in Para além do Capital (published in English in 1995 under the name Beyond Capital) about the coming soup kitchens. In the last two or three years we could see them on our television screens on a major scale also in the most “advanced” (and privileged) country, the USA. Certainly there is something deeply wrong – and totally unsustainable – with the way in which growth is pursued under capitalism. For some forms of by their nature cancerous growth are prohibitive even in terms of the elementary conditions of a sustainable ecology, because they are blatant manifestations of destructive production. At the same time so much is squandered as profitable waste, while countless millions now even in the capitalistically most advanced countries have to endure extreme hardship. A few days ago the former Prime Minister of Britain, John Major, was complaining that this winter so many people in Britain have to “choose between food or heating”. I quoted him in 1992, at the time still Prime Minister, when he was asserting with utmost self-complacency: “socialism is dead, capitalism works”. And I added, “we must ask: capitalism works for whom and for how long?” The choice between “heating or eating” which he is now forced to acknowledge, is not exactly a proof of how well “capitalism works”. In reality the only meaningful growth is what responds to human need. Destructive growth, including the vast “military/industrial complex”  – call it “creative destruction” – can demonstrate only failure. The only historically sustainable growth for the future ahead of us is what provides both the goods in response to human need, and the resources to those who need them.

The crisis increased unemployment in many regions and rocked the welfare system in Europe. In contrast, crowds are on the streets to protest (in Portugal, Spain, France, England, Greece etc). In the United States, the Occupy Wall Street disappeared.What should be the result of these movements? Are any connection between them? Are leftist parties benefiting from these movements or not?

In contrast to its propagandistic idealization, the “Welfare State” in actuality was always limited to a mere handful of capitalist countries, and even there it was build on very shaky foundations. It could never be extended to the rest of the world, despite the uncritical promotion of “development theories of modernization”, which always had to be fitted into the contradictory framework of the capital system. The longer term real trend of development pointed in the opposite direction to the idealized “Welfare State”. The objectively identifiable trend was characterized by me already in 1970 as the “downward equalization of the differential rate of exploitation”. This included the striking differences in hourly wage levels for workers for exactly the same work in the same transnational corporations (e.g. on the assembly lines of the Ford motor car company) in “metropolitan” as opposed to “periferal” countries. And the trend continues to assert itself, being still very far from its necessary extension. Protests in many capitalist countries are understandable and are bound to intensify in the future. They arise from the ground of this important long term socioeconomic trend of perverse “equalization”. Understandably, the parties operating within the framework of parliamentary politics cannot benefit from them, because they themselves tend to accommodate their objectives to the constraining limits from which the negative consequences for the welfare system necessarily follow.

Lukács saw the unions as the most important organization of civil society. In your view, is it still valid?

Lukács’s views on this subject were rightly influenced by his earlier mentioned comrade and friend, Jenö Landler, who was a leading union militant before becoming the head of the same Party faction in which Lukács also played a leading role. Lukács is right about the continuing importance of the unions, with one major qualification. For what cannot be stressed enough is that the potentiality of trade unions has been (and continues to be) very badly affected by the division of the organized working class movement into the so-called “industrial arm” (the trade unions) and the “political arm” (the parties) of labour. The positive potentiality of the unions cannot be realized until this harmful division, which damaged both of them, is significantly remedied.

How about the so-called Arab Spring. It ended ? No link between the European and the movements in the Arab region? Some see a new imperialist struggle in the region. Does that make sense?

The impact of the “Arab Spring” tended to be greatly exaggerated at the time when we witnessed the first dramatic events, and then quite unreasonably it was minimized when the mass demonstrations in North Africa receded. Yet, none of the underlying problems have been resolved so far in a single one of the countries concerned. Thus the protests are bound to continue in the future, focussing also on some grave economic contradictions (which resulted in food riots in the past, reluctantly acknowledged even by prominent establishment journals, like The Economist in London),  and not only on the political/military dimension. The upheavals will continue, whatever the name of the season attached to them in the media. Also, it should not be forgotten that some European countries once had massive colonial interests in North Africa and in the Middle East, and there are attempts to revive them, quite visible also today. No one should imagine that imperialism has been consigned to the past.

Brazil is also in a phase of many protests. How do you analyse these manifestations here? Is there a connection to what happens in the world?

It is impossible to find today any part of the world in which there are no serious social protests. They also seem to focus on many different issues, creating the superficial impression that there is no connection between them. But that is also a self-deception. Often in the past many of these protests used to be dismissed as “single issue movements,” with no implication to the overall health and stability of the established social order. Nothing could be more distant from the truth, complacently turning one’s back to the warning signs by “singing in the dark”, as the adage puts it about unfounded self-encouragement. It is true that the great variety of protests we witness today in different parts of the world do not fit into the channels and modes of action of traditional politics. But it would be foolish to take that as reassurance about their irrelevance, On the contrary, they point to the much deeper grounds of the accumulating problems and contradictions. At the moment no strategic coalescence is visible. Their general characteristic seems to be that they are probing the constraints and searching for more effective ways of articulating their concerns. We are witnessing an unfolding process. Its significance is likely to greatly extend in the future.

Some see the USA action in these manifestations around the world, with the aim of destabilizing governments. Does that make any sense?

That is a great over-simplification. The US is undoubtedly in the forefront of the international conflicts and conflagrations, as the overwhelmingly dominant power of global hegemonic imperialism. But the causes go much deeper than what could be settled by “destabilizing governments”. In some limited cases that can happen, and indeed can be successfully pursued by the most extreme forces within the overall decision making organs of the US administration. Yet, there are limits to everything, even to the most sanguine neo-liberal and neo-con adventurism.

How the internet changes the political struggle today?

The internet certainly helped in the communication and cohesion of protest movements, as evidenced in the recent past. But it should not be forgotten that it has also provided major resources – indeed, given the direct assistance of the various capitalist states much greater resources – to the forces on the other side of the confrontation. But in any case, on both sides the internet can provide only subsidiary help, no matter how weighty. The issues themselves can only be resolved on the very ground from which they arise. And that concerns the fundamental structural determinations of our social order.

How do you evaluate today the relationship between capitalism and democracy? Are they incompatible?

Capitalism and democracy are not incompatible, save in situations of extreme crises which bring to the fore the Hitlers and the Pinochets, wherever such crises erupt, even in Brazil in the not so distant past. The normality of capitalist production is more akin to be sustained under formally democratic rules of control and regulation. This is why dictatorial regimes are in the longer run unsustainable and they tend to revert, even in Pinochet’s MiltonFriedmannized Chile, to politically more manageable mode of formal democratic regulation in the overall framework of capitalist interchanges.

In the USA, the radical right – that do not accept a little reform in the health system that will benefited the poor – led the country to the edge of the abyss (I am writing before the solution of the deadlock). This situation put risks for big business and finance. How to explain this?

The health service in the US is only a part of the recently witnessed crisis. More fundamentally, it is inseparable from the astronomical near 17 trillion dollar indebtedness mentioned earlier. For the moment a parital accomodation has been made between the Democrats and the Republicans, so that the next date for the unsolved “Trillionnade” issue – namely the very end of 2013, when it is expected to come up again – is not likely to bring an international suspense again. But we can be sure that that grave issue will arise before long, with increasing severity. For the 17 (or more) trillions are so huge that we cannot find in the entire world such a big carpet under which they could be swept, as before, in tune with the customary way of postponing the problems.

It is possible to say that the Democratic Party has gone far to the right and failed to isolate the radical right of the Republican Party?

It is difficult to say which of the two parties is more to the right than the other. But they are both equally wrong in being too far to the right to be able to face the grave problems of their society.

How do you analyse the Obama administration and the state of democracy in the USA?

President Obama promised so much that never materialized under his Presidency. It is enough to think of Guantanamo in this respect. But this is not a matter of any particular President. Power structures cannot be understood in personalized terms. We should recall a television interview with former Democratic President Jimmy Carter who cried, with tears in his eyes, saying that “the President is powerless”. In fact he accomplished much more since he left the Presidency than what he could do during the years of his office. We haven’t seen President Obama crying on television so far. But “there is a first time for everything”, as the famous adage puts it.

The USA spy worldwide. Recently it was revealed the scheme of American espionage in Brazil, involving interests in oil and minerals. What Brazil must do to defend its sovereignty?

This issue borders on insanity. Spying on everybody as a potential enemy, even on Heads of State of friendly governments. One could laugh of it if the underlying problem was not so serious. What must be also remembered is that protecting sovereignty cannot be confined to the domain of international law and politics. International law is pathetically weak in this respect, not to mention the intitutions charged with its global respect. It is worth recalling the title of a book by a prominent liberal international lawyer, Philippe Sands. It reads Lawless World: America and the Making and Breaking of Global Rules. These matters are decided by the actually prevailing power relations. And, of course, the preponderant forces of global capital have the lion’s share in such process of decision making. Sovereignty cannot be protected without attending to that critical side of the problem, inseparable from the preponderant power of the giant corporations of transnational capital.

Is the USA power rising or falling?

It would be more accurate to say that it is stationary but still the most dominant. The conditions that make such dominance still prevail are quite tangible, from the US “military/industrial complex” (warned about by President Eisenhowever unfortunately only in his farewell speech) to the World Bank and the US Dollar as the world’s exchange currency. No other country than the US can even dream about imposing 17 trillion dollar indebtedness on the rest of the world. But dominance resting on such foundations can only be unstable.

How do you analyse the China position in the world? There, poverty declined. Is there socialism in China?

China’s achievements in the field of production, including the decline of poverty in the country mentioned in your question, has been monumental. But there are very big question marks for the future. Above all: how long can the productive achievements be maintained without inflicting irreparable damage through the gigantic resources required also in the domain of ecology? Moreover, how long can the striking inequalities be accepted between the absolutely minimal wage level of the working population and the wealth of the highly privileged? For socialism is quite inconceivable without substantive equality also in China.

In the past, disputes have resulted in capitalist world wars. Is this hypothesis on the horizon?

Opting for war used to be in the past an integral part of trying to solve the otherwise unmanageable problems among the contending parties under the rule of capital, including all-out war twice experience in the twentieth century. With the “weapons of mass destruction” it has become impossible to envisage the compatibility of such “all-out” solutions with the elementary conditions of rationality. But there are representatives of the “radical rights”, etc., who do not hesitate to “play with fire” and even openly advocate the full legitimacy of playing with fire. Some of them are very high in the established rank of political office. Thus President Clinton, for instance, declared that “there is only one necessary nation, the United State of America”. At the same time British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s officially acknowledged Guru and Xavier Solana’s foreign policy adviser, Robert Cooper, sings the praises of aggressive “liberal imperialism” in his writings. Equally, President George W. Bush’s director of policy planning in the State Department, Richard Haass, insists on the need for more aggressive imperialist strategy, writing that “Imperial understretch, not overstretch, appears the greater danger of the two,” in the interest of asserting the global hegemony of the United States by whatever means, explicitly even war. Rationality is obviously a great handicap in the pursuit of such strategies. No one should therefore say that the possibility of even a world conflagration must now be excluded from our historical horizon.

Is it possible to say that USA influence in Latin America has declined in the last decade?

Yes, the countries relevant in this respect are listed in your next question. And others may well be added to them in the future.

How do you analyse the experiences of countries like Venezuela (which speaks of 21st century socialism ), Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Argentina?

They have embarked on a very difficult road on which, undoubtedly, many obstacles will be erected by the dominant imperial power in the future. For the United States openly declared Latina America a long time ago to constitute its “backyard”, with claims to legitimacy of domination over it.

How do you evaluate Brazil after ten years of PT governments?

I first visited future President Lula’s Headquarters in 1983. At that time I took a picture there of an office on which one could read the illuminated word: “Tiradentes”. I wondered then, and I continue to wonder even today, how much longer will it take before we can say that the national office of “Tiradentes” had succeeded in pulling out all those infected teeth which cause so much pain even in a greatly resourced country, in every sense, like Brazil.

What is your vision about the relevance of socialist ideas today?

I mentioned earlier that our problems can find only epochally sustainable solutions. Other ways of attending to them can be reversed, as we have actually experience it in the past. Socialist ideas have been defined from the beginning as requiring for their realization a historical epoch, although the immediate problems from which they must start, as their points of departure, are very painful. In other words, they require not only the urgent services of “Tiradentes” but also the prevention of painful infections in the longer run. Socialist ideas are therefore more relevant today than ever before.

What countries (or parties) represents the socialism today?

Only some very small parties proclaim today their allegiance to the ideas of socialism. And there are no countries which would even call themselves socialist.

In the past, you used the term “Mickey Mouse socialism” for parties who just fancied the idea of ​​socialism. This continues to occur? Where?

Not exactly. Mickey Mouse socialism has become even weaker. The Italian Communist Party – once Antonio Gramsci’s Third International Party – at first converted itself into what it called “Democrats of the Left”. And then it found even the word “Left” far too compromising. So it rebaptized itself as the “Party of Democrats”. No more Mickey Mouse. It is more like Popeye who lost all his spinach.

What are your expectations about socialism or communism in the future. It will happen? It’s just an unattainable goal? How about the risk of barbarism?

I wrote in a book [O século XXI: socialismo ou barbárie] published also in Brazil that if I had to modify today Rosa Luxemburg’s famous words about “socialism or barbarism” I would have to add: “Barbarism if we are lucky”, because the extermination of humanity is the unfolding menace. For as long as we fail to solve our grave problems which extend over all dimension of our existence and relationship to nature, that danger will remain on our horizon.

Where a Marxist militant should be today?

Contribute everything that he or she can to the lasting solution of these major problems.

What you plan to in the near future?

Carry on working on some long-standing projects which concern all of us.

Rochester, 1 November 2013.


Hoje, István Mészáros aparesenta a conferência “A dialética em Lukács e o enigma do Estado” em São Paulo. Com entrada gratuita e sem necessidade de inscrição, o evento ocorre no Teatro TUCA, da PUC-SP. Clique no cartaz abaixo para mais informações:

cartaz_mészáros no brasil_FINAL


István Mészáros é autor de extensa obra, ganhador de prêmios como o Attila József, em 1951, o Deutscher Memorial Prize, em 1970, e o Premio Libertador al Pensamiento Crítico, em 2008, István Mészáros se afirma como um dos mais importantes pensadores da atualidade. Nasceu no ano de 1930, em Budapeste, Hungria, onde se graduou em filosofia e tornou-se discípulo de György Lukács no Instituto de Estética. Deixou o Leste Europeu após o levante de outubro de 1956 e exilou-se na Itália. Ministrou aulas em diversas universidades, na Europa e na América Latina e recebeu o título de Professor Emérito de Filosofia pela Universidade de Sussex em 1991. Entre seus livros, destacam-se Para além do capital rumo a uma teoria da transição (2002), O desafio e o fardo do tempo histórico (2007) e A crise estrutural do capital (2009), A obra de Sartre, e O conceito de dialética em Lukács todos publicados pela Boitempo. 

1 comentário em Barbarism on the horizon. An interview with István Mészáros

  1. poder global é tudo gente.

    ass. hospedagem


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